Sashiko stitching with Craftiosity

After I finished university I went and taught English in Japan for six months – I totally fell in love with the country and the culture. Sashiko has been on my (very long) list of crafts I’ve wanted to try ever since I lived in Japan but I found it a bit daunting to undertake by myself…

So when the lovely Moira from Craftiosity asked if I’d like to review one of her craft boxes I jumped at the chance to try sashiko. Each month they design a box around a new craft and inside the box is everything you need to complete the project. The sashiko box included indigo cotton to make two placemats, as well as authentic sashiko needles, sashiko thread, tailor’s chalk, a pattern, full colour instructions and a pretty greeting card.

Sashiko involves marking the pattern onto the fabric with chalk before you begin, and the geometric pattern was really easy to follow and mark up. The colour instructions are brilliant but if you need further guidance Moira also puts together video tutorials for all the boxes in case you get stuck. Once the pattern is marked on you can start stitching – sashiko differs from normal embroidery by holding multiple stitches on your needle at once, hence the longer needle. This also helps you get them even in size and is incredibly satisfying to do. It was definitely one of those of projects you don’t want to put down!

What I really love about the boxes is that the projects are beautifully designed and will look amazing in your home, but also that the kit includes proper tools that will enable you to pursue the craft as a hobby if you want to carry on. The needles are fantastic (and I doubt you could pick them up in a normal craft shop) and there’s advice about what fabric to choose if you want to make more sashiko projects.

I’d bought my first Craftiosity box the previous month and tried my hand at copper embossing which was awesome! Here’s a pic of the copper embossed lid I made for the wooden box (which was also included)!

For disclosure I bought the copper embossing box myself, Moira kindly sent me the sashiko box to review, and I have since bought myself the July box so I can try cyanotype printing 💙

If you’d like to try a Craftiosity box you can enter HOLLYPIPS at the checkout and get free postage! The August box is going to be macrame so order before the end of the month so you don’t miss out ☺️

Happy crafting everyone!

Natural Dyeing Workshop

We popped to Lytes Cary last month which is a beautiful National Trust property, and I picked up a leaflet about their Contemporary Craft Weekend in partnership with Somerset Art Works. They were running a series of workshops and one in particular caught my eye – Practical Dyeing Workshop and Foraging Walk, with Flora Arbuthnott. I’d seen something similar on Countryfile recently (apparently I’ve reached that age where people watch it, or maybe it’s the move to the country…), and it sounded intriguing. Little did I know that it was actually Flora who had been on Countryfile!

Anyway the workshop was so popular that I ended up on a waiting list, but thankfully Flora decided to do two workshops so I quickly booked a place. Last Sunday I headed back to Lytes Cary for the workshop set in one of the rustic barns on the property. Flora had brought along her collection of dried and fresh flowers and talked us through the colours we could get using them, some of which were surprising. For example buddleia makes yellow! She taught us about mordants such as symplocos which helps brighten colours, and showed us her copper and iron solutions made from soaking metal in water and vinegar. We used silk, and bundle dyeing using steam to ensure we could make a dyed piece in the time we had.

I couldn’t resist buying some extra fabric to compare the delicate silk with the raw silk so I made two separate pieces. Firstly in the raw silk which is a bit thicker, I used hibiscus, buddleia, rose petals, symplocos and copper solution (basically a bit of everything, I couldn’t help myself!).

And for the more delicate silk I used onion skins, sunflowers seeds and madder, which is a root that produces a gorgeous red colour.

After tightly wrapping the bundles and putting them on to steam, Flora took us on a walk through the gardens where she talked us through both the wild and cultivated plants that could be used for dying. From ivy, to tree bark, berries, to nettles and docks roots, she is a font of knowledge! The foraging walk was a real eye opener and has inspired me to gather more from my garden.

So back to the dyeing….the thinner silk didn’t take as long so I unwrapped that one first, and I wasn’t disappointed, the colours were amazing! All from natural plants and flowers found in the garden! A beautiful mix of orange and purple.

My raw silk piece could not be more different but turned out equally as well – a combination of mustard yellow, green, purply-pinks and even a hint of blue, darkened slightly by the copper.

My raw silk piece is third from the left, and my other piece is next to it on the right

The ease with which you can use plants from the garden for this is amazing, and it is such a simple process when you know more about it. If you get the chance I’d highly recommend going to one of Flora’s workshops (she’s based in Bristol) or take a look at her website – you’ll learn more from one of her workshops than you could learn from a pile of books on the subject. 

I’ll definitely be trying this again at home, and I’m going to be gathering up flowers and plants from my garden – jars of petals would look gorgeous on a shelf, and why waste them? Silk scarves would make lovely presents, and I’m thinking of turning the raw silk I dyed into some lavender bags for Christmas gifts.


A Roald Dahl Quilt

I’ve made a few quilts before…the very simple, all squares the same size, then sewn together types…which are lovely but I always felt like I was muddling through it a bit, and wanted to learn how to do it properly. Well luckily after dropping (not so subtle) hints to the husband, he bought me a place on a Patchwork Quilting course! Ten Thursday evenings of learning how to make a proper quilt step-by-step, learning different quilt blocks and producing my first sampler quilt – I loved every second, and think I’ve caught the quilting bug! Check out the quilt course here run by Butterfly Bright in Sherborne, Dorset.

Here’s a couple of pics of my sampler quilt using Dashwood fabrics.

Anyway so after finishing this quilt, I wanted to get started on another one to keep those skills fresh in my mind…and with Pip’s birthday approaching I set about planning a quilt for her. She is a little  bookworm and we often find her in the morning curled up in bed with a pile of books she’s been reading after waking up too early. She’s got a real passion for it and despite just turning 4 this week she’s now at the stage where she can read children’s books to herself. We also listen to audio books in the car (we’ve had some long journeys back and forth to Dorset in the last year and the CDs have been a god send!) Through these she’s discovered the magic of Roald Dahl – I think we’ve actually read/listened to all of them now and she adores them – particularly Matilda who seems to have become a bit of a hero to her (well they’re the same age and both love books!) So when I discovered Ashley Wilde’s Fantabulous Roald Dahl range that was my mind up – they’ve captured all the classic stories we grew up with into a gorgeous range of fabrics – go take a peek! There are various stockists in the UK but I found most were only selling it by the metre, and as I only wanted to do one block per story it would have proved pricey…however I found sellers on eBay who while mainly selling it by the metre, also sold A4 size samples – perfect! Now it is a bit risky as you don’t know what part of the fabric you’ll get, but I only had to reorder one extra sample to get the centre piece I wanted.

Each story has a main fabric and a corresponding fabric e.g. James and the Giant Peach has a main fabric featuring James and the various insects and then a corresponding fabric of peaches. I wanted to use both so opted to use Churn Dash blocks for my quilt. I used a transparent 4.5″ square to fussy cut the centre piece for each block which made it really easy to line up and frame the picture. The stories I picked were

  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The BFG
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Esio Trot
  • Matilda
  • The Enormous Crocodile
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine
  • The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me

There’s also The Witches, The Twits and Dirty Beasts in the range but I only needed 9 for my 3×3 quilt (and they weren’t quite as pretty as the other fabrics). I added in pastel fabric to frame the churn dash blocks – pale yellow, lilac and pale green. And then for the sashing I chose Lewis & Irene Vintage Circus stars (I love the circus range and am now very tempted to make a circus quilt next!)

For the backing fabric Pip chose a gorgeous tropical floral print after visiting Butterfly Bright’s shop. Coincidentally also from Lewis and Irene, but from their Tropicana range.

For the quilting I outlined the centre of each block and the churn dash frame with a zigzag stitch in pale blue thread, before using Dashwood Studio’s Twist fabric in Honey yellow for the binding.

Despite moving house in the middle of all this I’m thrilled I got this finished in time for her birthday (with 5 hours to spare!) – her little face lit up when she opened it on Thursday and it makes the late nights of sewing all worthwhile. I see many years of it being used to curl up in with a good book…and I can’t think of anything better.

Anyway thanks for reading and look out for another post coming soon where I’ll be reviewing a brand new crochet book, and they’ve also given me an extra copy to give away – watch this space!


Christmas C2C Crochet Blanket

A few weeks ago the most adorable pictures started popping up on my Instagram feed.  The very talented Sarah aka Repeat Crafter Me started releasing the patterns for her Christmas Character Afghan and while I managed to resist for a couple of weeks, I just knew I had to try out some of the squares she had written. 

I’ve made C2C blankets before but only in single colours or stripes so this was my first time making a ‘graphgan’.  Quite a few people have been asking what yarn I used and for tips on the colour changes.  I used multiple small balls for the different colours so I didn’t have to carry the yarn through too much. For some instances I did – if it was just once pixel of a colour before reverting to the other colour it’s easier to just crochet over your second colour.

I used Stylecraft Special DK yarn for all my squares – it’s DK thickness, and I used a 3.5mm hook.  I also did the traditional C2C method using DC (US terms, or TR in UK terms) rather than the modified version Sarah (Repeat Crafter Me) recommended. She was however using Aran yarn so as mine was thinner I opted for the normal stitch.

Here are the squares I made and the Stylecraft Special DK shades needed:

  Santa: Matador, White, Silver, Black

  Elf: Aster, Green, Matador, Gold, Soft Peach, Fondant and Black

  Snowman: Cloud blue, White, Black, Matador, Green and Spice

  Gingerbread Man: Matador, Walnut, Gold, White, Black and Green

  Rudolph: Sunshine, Walnut, Mocha, Gold, Matador. Black and White

  Sleigh: Sherbert, Matador, Sunshine, Green, White and Black

  Christmas Tree: Green, Greengage (a variegated yarn), Sunshine, Aster, Matador and Brown


Stocking: Silver, Matador, White, Green, Fondant, Claret, Aster, Sherbert and Sunshine

  Christmas Pudding: this square was designed as an alternative by Elemelo Crafts – Repeat Crafter Me designed a wreath but I already had the Christmas tree square which was very green so I chose the Christmas pudding (it’s hubby’s favourite!). Other alternatives are on RCM’s blog.  Colours for this one are: Turquoise, Brown, Matador, Green and White.  I also added in some black pixels at random to make it look like raisins in the pudding.

As suggested on Sarah’s blog I did a SC edge around each square which made joining them easier. Just when I thought the pattern couldn’t get cuter, Sarah released a header and footer banner pattern to top and tail the blanket.  Here are the pics of mine made up:


Yarn: White, Matador, Meadow, Turquoise, Sunshine and Black.

I can’t tell you quantities of yarn used as I was using up my stash but White, Matador and Green were the shades used most, and I didn’t use more than 3 balls of White and 2 balls of Matador.


I chose to crochet my squares together – wrong sides facing each other and SC along the edge.  This gives a raised ridge join which I liked for this design.  I did this for all the squares and then to join the header and footer.  To make sure I evenly spaced the header and footer I found it helpful to use stitch markers to hold the pieces together (in theory you should have the same number of SC on both but in practice it’s tricky adding SC to C2C blocks).



As if the blanket wasn’t festive enough I decided to add a Candy Cane effect border! Firstly I did a round of White SC around the outside of the blanket, followed by a round of Green HDC to make the colours pop.  Then onto the Candy Cane border – I’d seen this method on Pinterest ages ago and after a bit of searching found these instructions here.  I just changed the colours to White and Matador – and also added 2 extra chains to the corner spaces to stop it curling up.  This border did make the edges of my blanket ruffle a bit (might be worth trying it with 3ch instead of 4?) but blocking sorted most of this out.


And Voila! Here’s my finished blanket! Pip loves it and I can’t wait for her to curl up under it at Christmas and we can watch movies together.  It’s bigger than I anticipated ( 46″x56″ ) so it’ll easily cover her bed, which is perfect for Christmas Eve!

 A big thank you to Sarah aka Repeat Crafter Me for designing such a brilliantly fun and festive pattern – this is going to be a Christmas heirloom in our house!x

A handmade Dinosaur birthday party….*roar*

I’ve now had a couple of weeks to recover from Pip’s birthday party – it’s hard to believe my little girl is two already! Since February she’s been adamant she wanted a dinosaur birthday party (and I was secretly very relieved she didn’t choose Frozen) so I had plenty of time to get planning.

Dinosaur egg party bags

Early on I knew I wanted to make some cool party bags, and inspired by Pinterest I decided on making paper mache dinosaur eggs. This was by no means a quick process and after I’d make a couple I found myself quietly cursing Pinterest! Here’s a quick tutorial:

– using regular balloons, blow up to a size that will fit your party bag bits in (the tallest thing in Pip’s party bags was a pencil so the balloons had to be big enough to fit those in). Don’t make them too big as it will take longer to do the paper mache!

– using newspaper cut it into strips. Mix pva glue and water (2 parts glue to 1 part water) and glue the strips onto the balloon.  You can do a couple of layer before leaving to dry.  Once dry do a couple more layers and leave to dry – the newspaper should then feel pretty sturdy and you can then stick a pin in the side and pop the balloon.  I found it helpful to stand the balloon in a bowl while doing the paper mache to stop it rolling around all over the place.

-once you’ve popped the balloon, you can cut a slit at the top (where the balloon knot was).  I cut a couple of slits  of about 7cm coming out from the top at wider than a right angle.  I found I could then get all the goodies in the egg without creating a big hole (You can also try and remove the popped balloon from the middle at this stage if you can). You then need to do a couple more layers of paper mache to seal it up.

– then it’s on to painting! I got hold of some bright crayola paint – it took a couple of coats to cover up the newsprint but I think they turned out pretty well, and I added a few spots to make them look a bit more ‘dinosaury’ 


NB. I would not recommend these for a large party – I made 10 and it took a fortnight!! Also warn parents of small children that there may be bits of popped balloon inside! I’m sure the kids will need a hand opening them – though one child successfully managed to rip his open on the car ride him 😉

Dinosaur garlands

As Pip is pretty active these days I wanted to get her involved in making the decorations for the party. A really simple activity was making a dinosaur garland.

With the help of my lovely friends we drew some dino outlines on bright coloured card and cut them out. We then let Pip and my little god-daughter Izzy decorate them with googly eyes and sticker spots.  Really simple and fun, the girls loved it and I think they did a great job!


Whilst I had my little helpers to hand we also set about making some jungle leaves garlands to decorate the living room.  I stuck some green card to our easel and the girls did some hand painting with orange, yellow and green onto the sheets of card.

I then cut them into leaf shapes and punched holes in the top.  They would have been a bit tricky to tie onto a garland individually so I crocheted a chain of chain stitch (slip stitching into the leaf holes to join them).


Dinosaur cape

Well it wouldn’t be a proper dinosaur party without a costume would it! 

Having looked around for dino costumes I just couldn’t find any cute ones, but I did find a great tutorial here to sew a dinosaur cape.  I adapted it a bit as it suggests using fleece and as this was a summer party I thought cotton might be better, but not much of a difference, I just added a few hems.  I used some stick-on Velcro at the front as a fastening (I didn’t want it to be a choke hazard!) and tada!


 Photo collage

We made Pip a large ‘1’ last year made out of photos from her first year, and we had so many nice comments that I wanted to do another this year – it’s nice to reflect on the last year.  It’s very simple to do – just get a large sheet of rigid cardboard and a stack of printed photos – I used pics from age 1-2 this time.  A bit of arranging, cutting and glueing and voila! It was also a nice activity for me and hubby to do one evening after Pip had gone to bed (no he didn’t manage to escape the crafting!)



And of course the birthday girl needed a suitably dinosaur-themed present.  I’m a huge fan of Heidibears patterns and have made the Happypotamus and Owl designs previously.  But the stegosaurus pattern is adorable! You can see all her patterns here .

These are not quick but once you get the hang of the African Flower pattern the motifs aren’t difficult.  I started this in February to give me plenty of time (and with all those dinosaur eggs I’m glad I did!).  I used Stylecraft Special DK yarn and a lot of toy stuffing! The finished dino is 90cm long, nearly as big as Pip- but she loved it and that’s all I can ask for 🙂


Anyway if you’ve got to the end of my dinosaur ramble thank you for reading! At this rate I should start planning now for Pip’s 3rd birthday! 😉





Painted Roses Blanket

I have a crazily long list of crochet things I want to make and this Painted Roses blanket has been on it ever since I spotted a picture while browsing on Pinterest.

The pattern is by super-talented Sandra Cherry Heart and is truly beautiful. I decided to make a toddler-bed sized blanket for when Pip moves out of her cot (poor child will be drowning in blankets I’ve made for her by the time she’s a teenager!) and handily Sandra had included instructions for how many rose squares to make for different size blankets.

Caron Simply Soft yarn was my first choice for the blanket rather than the Stylecraft dk suggested as I wanted it a bit thicker, and the Caron yarn is lovely and soft. The shades I used were
– Lemonade (yellow)
– Strawberry (pink)
– Autumn Red
– Berry Blue
– Duck Egg


The squares themselves aren’t the quickest to make so this has taken me a while! They’re also quite solid once made which means the blanket is thick and cosy.


Once I’d made 40 (5×8) I joined them with Berry Blue yarn – this is darker than the Sky colour suggested but I think it works really well with the duck egg and makes the colours pop! The border pattern was really well written and gave a really flat, neat edge, and the ‘leaf’ final round finished it off perfectly.

I’m so happy with this blanket, it has to rate as one of the prettiest things I’ve ever made! And Pip has already told me she likes the colours and flowers so I hope she’ll treasure this as she grows up x






Christmas Crochet Wishlist

My brother told me recently that he went into a yarn shop and asked them what he could get his sister for her birthday as he wanted to get me something crochet related. They basically told him if she has hooks and yarn then there’s nothing else you really need for crochet! Bless him, he got me some sewing bits and pieces instead, but it got me thinking about what gifts you could get for keen crocheters.

The first thing that springs to mind is a magazine subscription – I love getting a magazine through the post each month and they are an endless source of inspiration. My current favourites are Simply Crochet (which I think has a more fun slant on crochet) and Inside Crochet (which is a bit more serious and features more clothing item patterns). A relatively new magazine is #Crochet – it’s quarterly but packed full of fun things to make.

Carrying on with the idea of inspiration, there are some fantastic crochet books out there. I’ve put together this collage of my favourites!

So what about hooks? The basic aluminium ones are fine, but if you’re working on a big project it’s nice to have a really comfy hook. I’m a big fan of the Clover hooks and have them in mid-range sizes from 4-6mm. I’ll probably expand my collection over time but these are the sizes I mainly use. I stumbled upon these Cornerstone Crochet Lite Illuminated hooks the other day…


I’ve not tried them but they look fun! I’m not sure I would crochet in the dark just using this but they do say it helps when using dark coloured yarns…and at £5.99 they make a fun little stocking filler!

I’ve also seen a few people on Instagram using these pretty Brittany birch crochet hooks:

They look beautiful! I don’t know what they’re like to work with but I’m quite keen to find out!

Another wishlist suggestion, and I’ve been dying to play with one of these for ages, is a yarn winder! I’m pretty sure if I suggest one of these to my husband he’ll jump at the chance to get out of being the one that sits there with his arms out holding skeins of yarn while I manually wind a ball! A quick search on Amazon suggest this one has good reviews but I’d love to hear from people who’ve tried it or who have alternative suggestions!

And finally what about the ultimate crochet christmas present – well for me it would have to be a yarn bowl. If you haven’t already seen Earth, Wool, Fire’s creations on Etsy you definitely need to have a look! I know you can use a colinder to stop your yarn rolling all over the floor but these are just amazing! Here are a couple of pics (not mine – they are Earth, Wool, Fire’s)



So what’s on your crochet christmas wish list? I’m sure there’s some brilliant items out there I haven’t heard of, and I’d love to hear everyone’s suggestions – especially as my husband is yet to organise my christmas present!!

Craft Day with DryNites

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to be invited to a craft event organised by DryNites. It was hosted by Tamara Melvin (from the Great British Sewing Bee) and was at Tea & Crafting’s beautiful studio in Camden.

The event was organised to bring Mums together to discuss potty training particularly at night. Psychologist Emma Kenny was on hand with the DryNites team to provide a whole range of advice throughout the day (though not on the craft front as she was quick to point out!)

So to the craft bit! Tamara had come up with a couple of projects we could make to help our children feel safe and reassured during the night. First up was a lamp for their room. We’d all brought along some old plastic toys – in my case chickens (Pip is a little bit obsessed with farm animals at the moment). Using Annie Sloan chalk paint (which comes in a fantastic range of colours) we painted the lamp base and toys.


The paint went on brilliantly and only took a couple of coats (we sanded the lamp first to help it stick better). While they were drying we started on our lampshades – made of card and which Tamara had helpfully cut to size in advance! Using a star template we drew stars along the length of the card, then cut them out with a craft knife, keeping the cut outs as some were used later. After they were cut out we used pretty coloured paper behind some of the holes, and then glued the card to the lampshade that came with the lamp. A slightly tricky process but rolling and sticking as you went seemed t work well.

We then folded some of the cut out stars in half and glued them on, giving a nice 3D effect, and added some trim to the top and bottom of the shade. We then glued our painted toys onto the lamp base and ta-dah!


After lunch when we had a good chance to chat to the other mums, it was back to Tea & Crafting for the afternoon session, where we made beautiful pinboards for our child’s room. We’d all brought in an old sheet/pillowcase to use, and by layering two layers of wadding onto a canvas frame, followed by our fabric, we could use a staple gun to quickly and effectively secure them to the back.


Then we positioned pretty elastic diagonally across and used the staple gun to fix in place. We used butterfly pins to poke though where the lines of elastic met, and glued some buttons on top. Using some ribbon we then made a cute bow to use to hang it and voila – a fantastic, quick and easy project to make at home.


It was a fantastic day out and a great opportunity to meet some fellow mums. Pippa is still a bit young for potty training but she is starting to tell me when she’s done a number 2, so it was really helpful to get some advice on how and when to start. My NCT mum friends and I are all equally clueless as we’re on our first children so it was great to hear from people who are tackling this currently or who had advice to share. I wasn’t even aware of DryNites pads for the bed, for when they are transitioning to making it through the night without accidents – such a good idea! It was very much a case of you don’t know what you don’t know, but I now feel pretty confident we’ll manage ok when we start potty training, and we’ve introduced a potty in the bathroom for pre-bathtime (when she’s running around in the nude!). We’ve also been and got some stickers to decorate it with as a little activity to do together.

All in all a brilliant event. It’s also got me thinking about ideas for what else I can upcycle for Pip’s room. I’ve kept some of our favourite baby clothes and I’m planning on turning these into a quilt, and I might use some old fabric to make a reading cushion as well (a cushion with a pocket on the front for a book). So many ideas so little time!…..

Big thanks to the DryNites team, Tamara, Jane from Tea & Crafting and Emma Kenny.