A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Author Archives: The Crafty Crusader

With the festive period well and truly upon us (i.e. it is December), it’s time to foist lovingly bestow gifts of homemade preserves upon friends and family. After my jam– and chutney-making exploits of the late summer, I had a LOT of jars to shift.

In order to jazz up my random assortment of recycled jars, I made some labels.

I was inspired to do the cute faces by one of my favourite instagram accounts, @parade.made, who did an adorable challenge called #100daysofkawaii I recommend checking it out!

I considered making rubber stamps but thought it would be easier just to hand-draw each label.

I had to check the timestamps on my photos to remember when I made the jam and chutney. They should be nice and mature for consumption in the new year.

These look pretty different to the last jars of jam I bothered to label. Aww, past me.

Labelled jars

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I already wrote about the substantive making of my Port Charlotte jumper, but I added a few elements to make it ‘more Christmassy.’ Even though I knit this sweater specifically for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I was very clear that if I was going to invest so much time (and money) in a project, it had to be something I would love in its own right.

The words on the front are simply some chain-stitch embroidery. A top tip that really helped with this (thanks Jane) was to baste on the design with cotton first, to give myself a guideline. The only time I had to do it was on the train from London to Dorset, hence the uneven appearance. I’m definitely going to remove the embroidery once Xmas is over and done with.

I wore my jumper out and about on lovely day out in Bristol with my friend Jane to get some pictures. Here we are being geeks on the open-topped bus tour.

The yoke looks just as beautiful from the back.

I think this jumper fulfils its purpose of looking good with waisted skirts and dresses.

I STILL cannot pose for pictures.

Something that I wish I’d had some more time to work on was the light-up element of this jumper. I’ve been interested in incorporating lights into my knits for a few years now- this was my reason for backing a project on Kickstarter about making light-up cards.

The card kit didn’t really translate into wearable tech, but I backed another TehnoChic project that came with a load of cool LEDs, which were perfect for this. If I’d had more time, I would probably have knitted little pockets behind the sweater to hold the batteries. In the end, I just slapped them on using Velcro! I’ve been too lazy to get the LEDs out again since the filming, so they’re not pictured in this post.

If you want to see more about this sweater and see how I got on in the Christmas jumper knitting competition, you can see my second small screen appearance of the year at 5pm on Thursday 14th December on Channel 4. I imagine it will be available on demand after that (I hope so because I won’t actually be home when it’s on).

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.

I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.

Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.

I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.

I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.

I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.

Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:

  • Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
  • Seriously, don’t!
  • Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
  • Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.


I haven’t been able to do as much making as normal since I hurt my thumb at quidditch practice a couple of weeks ago.

I actually think I was rather lucky. The injury was absolute agony at the time. I was convinced my thumb was broken. On the way to get it x-rayed, I felt like I was cursed. Images of hand surgery, weeks of recovery and permanent damage to my dominant hand filled my mind. What if my fine motor skills were affected? What if I no longer hand the ability to take a project from idea to reality?

The x-ray revealed no fractures, for which I was incredibly grateful. But that was where the diagnosis ended. My thumb was either sprained or strained, I was told not to play contact sport for at least two weeks, given a splint and sent on my way. I was so worried that I went to my GP on the Monday, but they weren’t able to give me any clearer information, apart from telling me again that soft tissue damage takes 2-6 weeks to heal.

I spent the next few days pretty depressed. You don’t realise how much you use your right thumb until it’s hurt. Everything was an inconvenience, I couldn’t craft or exercise and the splint hurt my wrist. In addition to all of this, our regional quidditch tournament was taking place the week after the injury. How could I lead my team and feel I’d made a contribution if I couldn’t play?

I went to therapy and my analyst asked if I’d seen a physio. I laughed- I’ve never been to a physiotherapist in my life. We spoke about how she kept coming up with solutions and advice for me. Was this a response to my feeling powerless in getting better?

Even though it was expensive, going to see the physio was a massive relief. She carefully assessed my hand and told me what she thought was wrong with it- a strained muscle. The power and movement in the thumb was normal. I was unlikely to do more serious damage if I played at the weekend.

Psychologically, I think that having the input from the physio allowed me to switch from feeling like a victim to feeling resilient. Perhaps I was recovering more quickly than expected because I am strong. I also think it was important that I took action and helped myself.

I rested the thumb for the rest of the week and then tried some gentle throwing and catching on Friday. My hand was okay! Amazingly, I was able to play in the tournament with very little pain or loss of function.

Photo credit: More Quidditch Photos on Facebook

Knitting isn’t too painful, so I’ve been making some slow progress on the last long rows of my Wonder Woman shawl. I think it’s looking great! I’m going to Bristol for a conference this week, so hoping I’ll get to finish it up.

Here we have yet another instance of craft reflecting life. Being able to bounce back from an injury and lead my team in the tournament has helped me to feel like a strong and capable woman. A bit like a certain superhero.


I can finally reveal the sweater that took up every minute of time I had available in late September. It’s Port Charlotte by Kate Davies, and I made it for a secret reason that I hope I will be able to talk about soon.

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I had three weeks and two days to knit a whole jumper. Including getting hold of the wool.

Port Charlotte is a pattern I coveted from the moment I saw Kate Davies post about it on Instagram. I have always been obsessed with rainbows, and I thought the design looked so clean.

I used a tubular cast-on throughout. I just love how it looks even though it’s a massive pain to do. I used Ysolda’s method, since I couldn’t figure out how many stitches I needed to cast on using the Brooklyn Tweed method.

Note for future me: do not use a smaller needle for the Ysolda tubular CO. After knitting the cuff, I realised that the cast-on was way too tight, so I decided to knit on a bit and use the sleeve as a swatch-in-the-round. It’s just as well I did- the gauge on the sleeve was quite different to the gauge square I knitted (back and forth) on the same size needles for my League sweater. The difference is so substantial that I need to knit a different size (4 rather than 3). So this was definitely one of those mistakes that turned out to be important.

Made some errors due to the lack of planning time I had for this project. I forgot to take into account that this pattern has bracelet-length sleeves, which is not a design choice I would normally make. However, the sleeves are made to fit that way so I just decided to follow the pattern.

I also cast on the body (the tubular CO took FOREVER) without thinking, and forgot that I am making this a cropped jumper. This means that I really cast on too many stitches. Rather than re-doing the CO, which would have destroyed my soul and taken too long, I decided to make the waist decreases in the ribbing. I’d never seen this done in a pattern so  worried it would look bad, but I have so little time for this project that I just have to plough on and hope for the best.

I did most of the knitting on a yoga retreat I happened to be going on during this time. I managed to finish the first sleeve in London, then cast on the rest of the pieces before setting off. I knew there wouldn’t be any wifi on Silver Island, so I didn’t want to risk drama with the tubular CO. This is what the sweater looked like when I was in Athens, the evening before I got the bus to the retreat.

For the week of the retreat, if I wasn’t doing yoga or eating, I was knitting.

Fortunately I had nice surroundings while I knit yard after yard of plain white stocking stitch.

The yoga helped stave off the RSI I’d started to feel in my wrist after a few days of intensive knitting. Having a digital detox was also a big help as I seem to use exactly the same muscles and tendons for knitting and swiping.

I did my cast off on the plane back to London.

Used Ysolda’s tubular BO. It was a stressful experience because I didn’t put in a lifeline, so couldn’t afford any mistakes. Fortunately it turned out fine.

I added some extra decoration to the sweater to make it more Christmassy. I’ll reveal all in a Friday post once I know when the episode is going to be aired.

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


The stars aligned for one of my increasingly rare opportunities to bake. I was hosting a gathering at my house for my quidditch team, one of whom was having a birthday the next day. Since she is lactose intolerant, I decided to have a go at a dairy-free bake. I looked specifically for a recipe that still included eggs, since I’ve had mixed success with vegan bakes in the past. This Nigella recipe popped up on Pinterest, so I decided to give it a go. The cake is also gluten-free.

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The recipe states that the cake is best eaten warm, so I made the apple sauce in advance to save some time. The apple sauce was delicious- I might well make that again. I enjoyed this cake, especially considering it’s a ‘free from’ type recipe. Not the best pictures I’ve ever taken. I may have already started drinking when I was making this cake.

Candles


Homework for the Sew Over It class this week (after week three) was super arduous. I spent the best part of two days working on it.

I started by unpicking part of the collar to insert a hanging chain.

I then tacked the edges of the fronts and collar down in preparation for pressing. That took ages and was quite stressful as my fabric doesn’t like steam. I also had to hand stitch the neckline facings together, which apparently stops the inside of the collar ripping when you hang the coat up.

Another task was putting the lining together, also known as making a second coat to put inside the first one.

The final thing I did was tack the sleeves into the coat so I can check the fit properly. The shoulder pads aren’t inserted in these pics, which is why the shoulders look a bit droopy.

I felt like there was still an awful lot of work to do during the final class, but I spent hours on the homework, so I just had to hope that I  wouldget closer to the finish line during the lesson.

After the lesson

Much of the lesson was spent inserting the shoulder pads and wadding. It was quite fiddly and I needed a lot of help from Julie to get the shoulder pads in the right place- this was my first time using them. Inserting wadding wasn’t in the instructions, but it was necessary in my fabric because the seam allowances were showing through at the shoulders, making them appear wavy.


The only other thing I managed to do was attach the lining to the facings of the coat. This was extremely fiddly and required me to go over a couple of bits. The wool and lining are very different weights, so I had to work to get them to feed through the machine at the same rate.


It’s not perfect, but I’m happy enough. The coat looks so much more finished now that all of the guts are covered up.

This is what the coat currently looks like on.

For the first time, I feel cautiously optimistic about coming out with a coat that I’m happy with. I now need to:

  • Steam the collar to get it to lie flat
  • Hem the sleeves
  • Trim and hem the coat
  • Buy buttons
  • Mark buttonholes and take to DM Buttons to get them done
  • Attach buttons
  • Remove tacking and gently and press the coat

Still a way to go, but hopefully I will manage to get everything finished for when the cold weather truly comes to London.