A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Author Archives: The Crafty Crusader

Once again Halloween rolled around and once again it was a week before a party that I started thinking about a costume. I had a little time in central London so wandered around a ‘vintage’ store for some inspiration. I wanted a costume that would work with my teeny weeny Afro. Initially I was thinking Moss from the IT crowd.

As I looked at the dubious vintage items (a bugbear of mine is ‘vintage’ stores that are overpriced and have crappy, samey clothing), I started to feel inspired. I quite wanted to go for an It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia costume but didn’t want to buy a new wig- maybe I’ll go as Ango Goblogian if I stumble across the right secondhand wig another time.

I had just seen the new Joker movie and wondered whether there was mileage in that as a concept. I’ve seen on Instagram (good targeted advertising I guess) that they sell hair wax that’s capable of producing vibrant temporary colour on Afro hair and doesn’t look crispy and awful.

Note: I’ve been meaning to write about the experience of cutting my hair but haven’t got around to it. I definitely surprised myself with how strongly my feelings about my gender were tied up with my long hair. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that I felt much more drawn than usual to dressing as a male character.

Anyway, when I went charity shopping a couple of days later, it was the character of the Joker that appealed to me the most. I spotted a red jacket and went to look at some reference images. What would the odds be that I could find a red suit, green shirt and yellow waistcoat all in my size in five days? Would I become desperate enough to violate my ethics and buy something new?

Spoiler alert

I visited the secondhand shops near my work and came away feeling a little apprehensive. I made the decision to just buy any item I could find that suited my needs- more on this later. As I returned to my office after lunch, I recalled that nearby Chiswick High Street has a fantastic selection of charity shops. Since I had some containers and could pop into the Source as well, I hopped on my bike and went over that very afternoon.

Chiswick sorted me out beautifully. The first thing I spotted in the Shelter store was a bright red jacket for £15. I tried it on and it fit. I decided not to buy it immediately just in case I came across something better.

The next shop came up trumps with a pair of red trousers- I had to ask the volunteer to take them off a mannequin for me. Not perfect but definitely good enough for my needs, especially since they were £6.50. I bought them straightaway so the lady wouldn’t put them back on the mannequin.

The thing I was most worried about was the waistcoat. I’d hardly seen any waitscoats at all on my search, and is a yellow waistcoat an item anyone would want aside for for costume purposes? But the Barnado’s shop contained a golden floral one. Again I didn’t buy it straightaway. It wasn’t quite perfect and I had a couple more shops to visit.

I wandered down to the shop at the end of the road, where my eye was immediately caught by a green silk shirt. It was more olive than I wanted, but a beautiful silk shirt from Whistles seemed too good an offer to pass up at £20- it’s something that can definitely slip into my work wardrobe when spooky season is over and done.

Classy AF

I quickly walked back up the street to collect the waistcoat and jacket, which was a great match for my new pants. It seemed silly to waste time looking any further. I was irrationally terrified that other shoppers would have snapped my items up, but I needn’t have worried.

The only big misstep I made was with the very first item I bought; another red jacket. For the first time, I investigated a weird junk shop that’s opposite my office. There’s no indication of what it is on the outside, just some rails of clothing. I went in and there are hundreds of poorly sorted items and no lighting. It’s so strange. There were people wandering about using their phones as torches. I wish I knew the story behind it.

I found a red men’s jacket in there and hastily bought it for £15. In the gloom of the shop, it had looked okay if a little big. As soon as I tried it on in a proper changing room, I realised that it wouldn’t do. I looked like a little kid in their dad’s suit. When I bought the second jacket, I donated the first one at the same time. No sense bringing it home to take up space when I have absolutely no use for it. I hope that Shelter will be able to make some money back from it at least.

Overall it felt really serendipitous that I was able to get everything I needed within only a couple of hours. Normally my cardinal rule of secondhand shopping is not to go looking for something specific. But this time, it worked for me. As my friend Cayleigh pointed out, perhaps even the men’s red jacket was part of the magic of that day of shopping. There may be some reason that it needed to find its way to the Shelter store in Chiswick.

In the end I paid £49.50 (not including the stupid second jacket) for my costume, which I know is far from cheap. The silk shirt I know will go into my normal wardrobe. And, in fact, I felt really fabulous in the red suit. I wonder if there’s a viable market for renting a single costume only suitable for a size 10 woman. Actually, two costumes since I still have my Wonder Woman dress from last year. I feel grateful that I am fortunate enough to be able to pay a premium to live according to my principles.

The one thing I bought new was the hair wax for £11. I had to use around 1/3 of the pot to get decent colour on my hair. I quite liked the definition that it gave my curls, though it did make my hair quite hard.

Yes I did go out for dinner dressed as the Joker. And yes my two companions were wearing normal clothes.

Candid Joker

This bubble tea tastes funny

How dare you take the Joker's photograph

It was so much fun to dress up in a completely different way to normal. I’ve never worn a trouser-suit before and actually I was living for it. In fact, I don’t think I’ve worn a suit as an adult full stop. I will 100% be looking for any excuse to wear my red suit again. The biggest surprise was probably how hot I was! I suddenly have a new respect for men in three-piece suits on the tube. Continue reading


I’ve finally managed to get some pictures of my mermaid Humboldt sweater! I finished knitting it months ago, but it was far too warm to wear it for some modelled pictures. I took the sweater up to Edinburgh, where I was competing with my quidditch team in Highlander Cup VII (we won by the way) and managed to get some pictures.

All in all, I spent over a year working on this project. I consider that to be time very well spent. I was able to transform two garments that weren’t getting any love into a new sweater that I hope will bring me joy for many years to come.

Sweaters taken from Ravelry

When I first learnt to knit ten years ago, I was definitely more of an ‘item’ knitter than a ‘process’ knitter. I was desperate to finish projects, sometimes staying up all night to get them done. As the years have gone on, I’ve become aware of how important it is to plan a project. To swatch, to measure, to research yarn. As I’ve spent time on these preparatory stages, I’ve started to enjoy them for their own sake. I feel confident that all the work will pay dividends. And there is pleasure to be taken from the planning itself- from being meticulous, from experimenting and thinking deeply about what I am creating.

Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with my burgeoning anti-consumerist values. Just because you’re a maker doesn’t make you immune from the pernicious influence of fast fashion. It’s easy to feel like you need to churn out a certain number of projects each month, or that you need to compulsively buy yarn or fabric for your stash. I don’t want to become a Smaug enviously guarding a big pile of fibre. I want a carefully curated wardrobe full of items that I enjoy making and wearing.

This is probably the most alterations I have made to a pattern:

  • Very different gauge
  • Worked pattern with less ease than recommended
  • Held yarn triple to incorporate ombre effect
  • Provisional cast-on and tubular cast-off used throughout
  • Altered neckline

I also did so much ripping that I have probably knit this sweater 1.5 times:

  • Unravelled a load of the body because I wasn’t happy with the ombre
  • Unravelled most of a sleeve to incorporate all of my remaining turquoise yarn
  • Unravelled the neckline twice to get it to look the way I wanted

I’m glad that I am much more at peace with ripping and re-knitting these days. Again, it is part of the process.

Pattern

Humboldt by Anna Maltz

Yarn

3 skeins Malabrigo sock

4 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze*

2 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour*

I have nearly one ball of the lightest blue Kidsilk and a couple of small balls of the sock yarn remaining

*I held the Rowan yarn double, which is why I used so much

Original cost of materials

Sock yarn: £39

Kidsilk: £50-60 (six balls @8.95 = £53.70 but I can’t remember what I actually paid)

Cost of additional materials

Two balls of KidSilk haze @ 8.95 each = £17.90

Ravelry project page

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

WiP Weds 2

WiP Weds 3

WiP Weds 4


I put my OddBox subscription on hold when I moved house and I haven’t felt ready to restart deliveries. In the end, I was lured back by a 50% discount code. I followed in the footsteps of my colleague (another vegan OddBoxer- am I a stereotype?) and ordered a large box to maximise value for money. I got all of this for £9.24.

Since I read some posts saying that the sweetcorn would quickly start to use its sweetness, I was keen to use that first. I made a vegan corn chowder and it’s absolutely delicious. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly since I was using the produce I had on hand. I had around 1.2kg of baby potatoes and three large ears of corn. I also used up some spring onions in place of the onion. And used orange carrots. I ended up with five large and filling servings.

I followed the recipe OddBox sent for stock using the corn cobs and husks. I used it in the risotto I made with the butternut squash. I veganised (aka subbed vegan parmesan for dairy) this recipe that I’ve had for years.

With the rest of the veg, I made a big stir fry/noodle type extravaganza. I stir-fried the spring onions, peppers, broccoli, beans and chard. I added various Asian sauces (soy/sweet chilli) and a couple of packets of cubed firm tofu. I also boiled two nests of the wheat noodles I get from the zero waste store and chucked that in. This is the sort of thing I make when I’m lacking in cooking time and want something easy, tasty and plentiful. I ended up with 8 servings that put me in excellent stead for the following week’s meals. I had to stick some in the freezer so I will have to keep my fingers crossed that it freezes well.

I think I flew a little bit too close to the sun with the vegetable stir-fry. Because I had so much veg in the pan, it started to stew. The noodles still taste fine, I just think it would have been better if I hadn’t cooked quite so much in one go.

I also made some porridge using some of the apples and pears. It wasn’t as delicious as normal because I’d run out of ground cinnamon. I did chuck in a cinnamon stick but I don’t think I left it to infuse for long enough to impart much flavour.

Having the large box was kind of a game-changer. The problem with the small box I normally get is that the smaller quantities are not conducive to batch cooking (aka meal prepping). As you may have noticed, I love to batch cook. It means that I can eat almost exclusively home-cooked food while only needing to cook a few times a week. Although I love cooking, time is a very precious commodity for me.

The only slight problem with the large box is that it includes a lot of fruit. While I love fruit, I generally try not to eat more than 2-3 servings a day since it is quite high in sugar. I use OddBox to support their efforts to prevent food waste, so I would be heartbroken if I had to compost any of it.  I might try out different boxes over the next few months- trying a vegetable-only box would mean that I am not overloaded with fruit. Or perhaps a medium-sized box would be more manageable (I cooked more than usual this week to ensure that all the produce would get used). In any case, I’m so pleased I tried out the large box using the half-price code. I got so many delicious, fresh meals for a very reasonable price.

Hit me up if you want to give them a try! I can even give you a sweet £5 referral code. Not a sponsored post (I wish), I just think they are great.

 


I got the knitting equivalent of an ear worm as soon as I read Cassy’s post about her ripple bralette. I instantly found myself looking up projects on both Instagram and Ravelry. Within twenty-four hours, I had purchased the pattern, identified suitable sock yarn from my stash and reacquainted myself with the old Norwegian cast on (I think I’ve previously encountered it under another name).

I’m using the leftovers of the pastel mini skein set I got for my aubergine rainbows sweater. I’ve considered using these for various projects, but I think they’re ideal for this one. I didn’t want to use self-striping yarn because I don’t think I would like the way the colours would pool across a larger circumference.  If I hate the bralette, I can always unravel and reuse anyway.

It’s nice to feel inspired about a project. My main WiP- a cardigan– is in an incredibly boring stage so I was hoping for a small project that would provide more instant gratification. I don’t really like hand knitted socks. For me, they are too thick to be worn with shoes and I don’t really wear socks around the house. I have plenty of winter accessories already. It’s exciting to think that there is a whole new category of knit thing available to me.Lemonade Shop pastel rainbow mini skeins

Cassy mentioned that this pattern is everywhere on knitting Instagram and she’s right. Yet somehow I had missed the boat. I think it’s because I am really bad at the social part of social media. I’m trying to get better but it’s not something that comes naturally to me.

 

As most others have noted, the idea of a hand knitted bra does seem strange. I always wear a soft bra or tight tank top to sleep. As a person with a larger bust, I don’t feel comfortable otherwise. I’m hoping a ripple might be useful for that purpose.

Pattern: Ripple bralette

Yarn: Gumdrop mini skein set from the Lemonade Shop

Ravelry project page


It’s been a while since my last LTT post! I’ve still been doing my best to reduce my impact on the planet within the constraints of our incredibly wasteful society. For example, I made what the Vegan Society claims is one of the meals with the lowest carbon footprint (it’s dal with roasted potato and cauliflower).

Something I’ve been wanting to get back into for ages is COMPOSTING. In my previous house-but-one we had communal compost and it was bloomin’ sweet. However, my two most recent rooms have been in a different borough that does not offer food waste collection and there doesn’t seem to be any community compost.

After hearing about the Bokashi method at a friend’s 40th birthday I had hoped to start composting in my previous flat, which had no suitable outdoor space. Unfortunately the kits were totally sold out. I have now moved into a place with a small garden and so I’ve been able to buy a compost bin! Also, typically, Bokashi bins are back in stock.

I wish I had checked the small print on the ‘get composting’ website because it can take up to 28 days for them to deliver your order. I ordered my bin on 20th August and arrived home in the early hours of 8th September to find it waiting on my doorstep.

While I was waiting for the bin, I stored my food waste in the freezer. It seemed like I had loads until I decanted it into the compost bin and it didn’t even cover the bottom.

I’m not sure I’ll be in the house long enough to actually get any compost from the bin, but that’s not the point. The point is to keep food scraps out of landfill, where they won’t break down fully and what little breakdown there is releases harmful methane.

The borough is good at making announcements about the climate crisis (recently ‘declaring a climate emergency’) but bad at doing anything to tackle it. Since I both live and work in the area, I get to see what goes on from two different perspectives. I’ve signed up to a couple of eco-type workshops and they always get cancelled. The borough pays lip service to recycling in office spaces but people do not recycle properly. I have never seen an uncontaminated recycling bin and I am the sort of person who does not mind sorting others’ rubbish within reason. Similarly, walking around my neighbourhood on rubbish collection day is almost unbearable. There are so many bin bags in the street and the recycling bags (which are clear) are almost all contaminated.

I know that I should take action by contacting my local politician (though I still don’t know whether that should be my MP, councillor or both) but I am very prone to becoming paralysed in situations that I perceive as hopeless. I think that there are some fairly straightforward solutions to the problems I observe and it kills me that no one cares enough to do anything.


The international feminist craft swap is done and dusted! I have to say it was such a lovely experience for my first ‘proper’ craft swap.

I knitted my second Funkopop pussy hat. As I mentioned in my last post, the colourway is also called pussy hat. Here it is being modelled. I believe that Deidre is planning to customise this pop, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how she turns out. I didn’t even know that people customised pops because I am super behind the times as always.

Now we come to the really exciting part- my fabulous quilted items.

I think the Serena-inspired pillowcase came out beautifully. I haven’t purchased a pad for it yet- partly because I feel it’s too lovely to use. I really can’t wait until the day I have my own house so that it can take pride of place in my favourite crafting swap.

Deidre also surprised me with a bonus gift- the cute mug rugs emblazoned with the sentiment create the things you wish existed; create the world you wish existed. I will certainly try my best to do my small part in fulfilling that mantra.

You can check out more of Deidre’s amazing quilting over on her blog. I look forward to continuing our relationship through our blogs. This swap has reminded me of the amazing side of the internet, in opposition to the more scary and disturbing side.


For some reason, I’ve been more prone to shopping over the past month or so. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve been a bit stressed out and feel the need to buy myself presents to give myself the illusion that life is worth living. When I received a Kate Davies newsletter saying that her dyed shades of buachaille were on sale, I knew that my credit card was likely to take a hit. I love to support small female-led businesses when I can.

Oran do Chaora

Copyright Kate Davies

I ended up buying a kit to make the Oran do Chaora cardigan.

I got the blue colourway, which is called between weathers. I love the way Kate’s work is inspired by the natural world around her. Luckily the pattern was included because I thought that it was included in Inspired by Islay, of which I have a copy, but I was wrong.

Sinister catdigan

Copyright Marna Gilligan

When I was clicking through Ravelry looking for inspiration pictures, I remembered the Sinister Catdigan that I’ve had saved in my favourites for a while. I just love the way the kitties look.

I’d seen that someone had knitted a plain Oran do Chaora. My initial (mean) thought was that it was silly since the cables are the main feature of the pattern. But then I started to wonder whether I could incorporate a colourwork yoke into the cardigan. I wear a lot of blue and have a RTW navy blue cardi that I wear a lot already. I feel like a cute cat cardigan could add a lot to my life.

I dug through my stash to see what I could use for the contrast colours and I’m thinking about the leftovers from my She Loves Wool sweater.

I like the way the colours look together, but I am a little apprehensive about using two such different yarns in the same garment. Buachaille is a relatively rustic and sheepy yarn (for me), while sugar baby alpaca is super soft and feels a bit more processed. There is also a slight difference in my gauge. However, I am drawn to the idea of using the yarn that I already have rather than buying something new.

I think I’m going to steam ahead regardless. Oran do Chaora is knit from the bottom up, so I can always unravel and re-knit the yoke if I find that the alpaca really doesn’t work. I haven’t quite decided yet whether to buy the sinister catdigan pattern. I’m pretty sure that I could recreate the yoke without needing to purchase the pattern, but I also feel that the designer has created something very cool and unique and should be remunerated for that. I prefer the cardigan style of ODC so the fair isle will most likely be the only design element I use from the other pattern.

As always, I’d forgotten how boring it is to knit flat stocking stitch- though not quite as bad as the long stretch of ribbing. As usual, I used a tubular cast on (Ysolda method) because I love the way it looks. I’m sure no one else will ever notice this little detail, but it’s still worth the extra time to me. As I also often do, I forgot that you’re meant to knit the ribbing on a slightly smaller needle. That’s something that I don’t think makes a big enough difference to re-do, so I will be leaving it.

Yarn: Buachaille by Kate Davies

Pattern: Oran do Chaora x The Sinister Catdigan

Ravelry project page