Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Assemble the Minions!

Well look at this! No posts for a month and then two come along at once! I have to say, I enjoyed writing my last piece about Harriet's lovely cushion that I was spurred on to tell you about my minion making adventure over the weekend. I have made a few other things and I will take you through them some time but as making this little guy at the weekend was just so much fun I thought I would bring him to the front of the queue!

After wracking my brains as to what to make my two year old niece for Christmas (she is going through short phases with her toys so I have been struggling to find something which is flavour of the week) I popped round for a visit and found her watching the despicable me film with her mum. Every time a minion appeared on screen she giggled and said 'Minion!' so I thought I should get to work making her one of her very own...

...And here he is! Meet 'Dave' the minion.

I worked on him in between batches of mincemeat and my mince pies at the weekend, and while we watched lots of cheesy Christmas films. It was great just making something up as I went along, referring to the picture and just making each piece to order.

The body was worked as a spiral from the top of the head with about 5 increase rounds, then worked down to where the dungarees start, then I switched to blue to finish off and decrease. I made a flat piece for the front of the dungarees and stitched it to the bottom after stuffing then a smaller rectangular piece for the back, with long rectangles for the straps. tubes for the arms and legs, which I only stuffed at the ends to make it more drapey and cuddly, and simple shapes for the goggles.

 Once you start looking all the bits are easy enough to work out, you just need to keep looking back at the images on the web to make sure the positioning and scaling are correct. Maybe one day I will get my act together write the pattern out but there are lots out there already, I just wanted mine to be more 'Dave'.

I had so much fun making this guy although there was a bit of unraveling, accompanied by a lot of cursing and I am hoping he will be well received on Christmas day!

Hope you are all having fun crafting your Christmas gifts. Remember it should still be fun so don't set yourself impossible tasks and stress yourself out. Take it from a girl who's been there!

Chevron addiction is spreading!

My friend Harriet was quite taken with my chevron cushion pattern and has made five cushions to date using this pattern. I am amazed at how quickly she is turning them out! What a star! And they have all been selflessly donated to various friends and family members as gifts. Maybe she will get around to making one to keep soon!

Harriet has a lovely little blog with details of her crafting endeavours and all sorts of reviews. She has written a lovely little post confessing her chevron addiction and showing off some of her finished items. I love the way she has finished her cushions with machine sewn envelope backs using contrasting and complimentary fabrics. Her friends have all been so happy with their gifts and it is so nice to think that all these people are sitting on their sofas with such a carefully thought out item made by their friend!

I have more things to tell you as there have been no updates for a while. Things have been made, ideas have been thought of, wheels are in motion. But more of that soon when I get my head around it all. In the meantime, take a look at Harriet's post here, it makes for a lovely read.

Happy Hooking,

Anna x

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Blog feature on Stitch Craft Create!

Yay! My Neon Cushion photo was featured in this post on Stitch Craft Create's blog! I am flattered. Thanks guys! The post is all about supercharging your blog and it is well worth a read if your blog is feeling a bit sad.

I'll be back soon with the Christmas gift making progress (slow!) and other news.

Anna x

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Book Review: Hoop-La! By Kirsty Neale

There is a real trend amongst embroiderers to display their finished works using the very hoops they were stitched in. Kirsty Neale's new book Hoop-La! is a celebration of the embroidery hoop as a framing device and the circular format in general. It is packed full with 100 projects over just 128 pages which makes for cover to cover colourful pages, resplendent with full bleed images of the projects, maximising the space whilst making room for the clear, simple instructions.

Here is just a small selection of projects in the book. Kirsty has created colourful characters in her distinctive style, explored interesting embroidery techniques such as Crewel and Redwork and even invented practical uses for the hoops such as the Spring Mobile and the noughts and crosses travel game. The colour palettes used throughout are considered and beautiful in their own right. Kirsty has a great eye for colour.

One thing which really sets the hoops apart from other designs I have seen is the use of decorative techniques on the hoops themselves, from a simple wood stained or painted edge, to washi tape covered and even crocheted edgings (my particular favourite!), these techniques are all clearly detailed and photographed in the front of the book so that you could choose one in a mix and match approach to decorate your chosen hoop design.

I can't get over how many creatively imagined ideas there are in this book. I particularly love the pizza hoop, the christmas reindeer head and the aptly named 'Manbroidery' section. There is something for everyone in this book. 

The range of techniques and ability levels is wide too. For someone such as myself who is less comfortable using a sewing machine there are many hand stitched embroidery hoops to try. There are even hoops for papercrafters, stencilers and screen printers as well as some more basic ideas for displaying vintage items or fabric patterns, using low or no sew techniques. All projects are beautifully finished, no matter the level of skill required to make them and full instructions and techniques are covered at the back of the book for the more complicated projects.

This wise old owl peeps shyly out from behind the front cover flap - Kirsty Neale original.
I love this book and am glad it is part of my craft library. I think it would be a marvellous source of inspiration for any crafter, regardless of their specialism but particularly anyone who wants to get into embroidery and hoop based projects. This book can be bought in paperback from Stitchcraftcreate with a free hoop, or from amazon. If you prefer a digital copy it is available as PDF and ebook too, although I love to flick through paper pages when it comes to a craft book.

If any of you have posted reviews on this book, or have a copy and wish to add your comments I would love to hear them. Kirsty put together this fabulous little video with some previews of projects:

Her blog, ginger and george is a great one to keep in your bookmarks as it is often updated with cute designs and new ideas to try. Oh, and I just went there to copy the link and found there is a big blog tour on a the moment with reviews from far loftier places than my little corner of the web! Emma Lamb, Wild Olive, blueberry park plus nine others! Some have been posted but there are more to come in November. Details can be found here. By the time you have read all of these reviews you will know you need this book on your shelf!


Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Neon Chevron Cushion is here!

I actually finished this a little while ago but didn't a moment to photograph it! I have been snapping away tonight so I can show you the finished cushion I made using the chevron pattern I wrote earlier in the month. Well, here it is!

The huge brightness of this cushion makes me grin every time it catches my eye - which it seems to be able to do even from behind a closed door, so vivid are the man made, graphic hues!

When I wrote the pattern I did not make instructions for how to make the back, mainly as I had not decided what to do back then. After much hemming and hawing and looking at this fabric and that yarn, I decided to crochet a great swathe of white trebbles with a smaller swathe for the closing flap.

I stitched on some cute little buttons I found in this great little independent shop and then single crocheted it all into place, creating a piped looking edge at the same time. I am very proud of myself for spending all that time sticking to just plain white. It is hard for me when surrounded by lots of other colourful yarn all the time to just leave it on the shelves!

Cushion is in Dorothy's loving embrace for now but I really need to bring her up to date with a nice crochet cover. She is looking dowdy in comparison to the gaudy colours of my 'psychotic rainbow' colour scheme everywhere else! Yet another project to get started on. It will have to wait now as I need to get into Christmas gift production mode!

I hope you liked seeing my neon cushion. If you want to make one yourself or even a chevron blanket, my free pattern is here.

Happy hooking,


Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A Yarndale Tale

Last weekend I was lucky enough to travel all the way from Devon up to Skipton for the fibre festival known as Yarndale. This was the first year for the show and judging from the number of excited crafters in attendance it will not be the last!

The show ran on both Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th in a most unusual display of late September sunshine!

My Mum standing next to a complimentary blanket. Cute Knitting Kits from Sheapknits. A rainbow of yarn at the Easy Knits Stand.

There were 161 stalls - I went on both days and I still didn't get to see all of them as it was so busy! Entry fees were very reasonable as were stall rentals. This was calculated deliberately to encourage the smaller companies and individuals and it made for a startling array of materials such as hand dyed yarns and roving from various animal and plant fibres plus beautifully crafted equipment for a range of crafts such as knitting, spinning, dying, weaving, braiding and of course crochet! There were also many exhibitors selling handmade clothing, accessories, jewellery and more - usually relating in some way to yarn, plus many clever entrepreneurs like Rose Cottage Crafts and Catchee Monkey who had created their own ranges of craft kits or workshops.

Me and my Auntie Linda meeting Lucy in the Knit and natter lounge. The lovely Attic24 display. One of Lucy's beautiful work in progress blankets!

In the centre of it all I found a little slice of Attic24. A knit and natter lounge had been set up with sofas and chairs, artfully draped with Lucy's very own creations to make us feel at home. It was wonderful to see them close up in person. Marooned on this colourful island, Lucy stood firm, smiling and chatting with a sea of delighted fans swirling about her. I don't know how she found the energy for it all. Of course I had to meet her myself. I am one of her many fans as it was her blog (suggested to me by my wonderfully creative Auntie Linda), which got me started on my hooky journey in 2011. It was great to meet her face to face and be able to tell her what an inspiration she has been to me. I wasn't disappointed, she is just as lovely as her blog would suggest and had time for everyone who approached her.

The Oxfam Yarn Amnesty was really successful! A gorgeous crocheted blanket from The Spanner Works. Busy crafters in the workshop area.

A separate area had been set aside for workshops on all manner of subjects. These were available to book ahead of the show, or, places permitting, on the day. One of my instagram pals A Bunch of Buttons attended one of the courses and her thoughts on this make for a great read. She was so busy that we didn't get a chance to meet up before she headed home. Next time maybe!

My amazement at all the bunting! All those pins are clever crafters who sent in their crocheted flags. An amazing scene from the Attic24 banner, hooked up for decoration by Little Tin Bird.

The entrance hall was festooned with miles of hand crocheted bunting flags - over 6000 in total from crocheters all over the world. It was such an amazing spectacle to see on arrival.

The IG Crowd - photo courtesy of @ballyfuller instagram feed. You get a great view of all my chins in this one!

On the Saturday there was an Instagram meetup arranged at lunchtime and I approached the knit and natter lounge feeling much apprehension. I needn't have worried as they were all such a lovely friendly bunch! We were all so excited to be sitting in the same room as the great Lucy, full of chatter about the day so far and we all agreed that we would all be trying to make it for next year!

There was a big, red London bus by the name of Jean who took me into town to visit Lucy and Tracy's studio. Tracy of the Patchwork Chicken greeted me and showed me around. What a lovely space they have. So light and pretty with such beautiful accessories and items on display.

I walked down through the park up to the canal where there was a final yarny treat for us! The Yarndale team had created a host of yarn bombs which they had tied to trees, railings, lamp posts and more, throughout the park. My favourite was the rows of ducks on the lock by the canal. Just after I snapped this two things happened simultaneously - my phone battery finally died just as a flotilla of real ducks swam right by the yarn bomb which would have made for the best photo ever!

Of course, I spent way too much money, but it was worth the second mortgage to meet such great makers and artisans which I wouldn't normally get the chance to do when buying online or shopping for more conventional materials. I got some new things to try too! Tunisian crochet hooks, a peg loom, t-shirt yarn, jute twine and some really posh Merino yarns from For the Love of Yarn and which are going to look and feel fantastic once I work out what I am going to make with them!

As you can see from this massive and enthusiastic post, I loved every minute of Yarndale and can't wait for next year!

Anna x

Monday, 23 September 2013

Chevron design update


I promised you an edging and I wasn't lying! I have updated the Chevron pattern post here to include an edging pattern to square off the top and bottom. That way you can turn it into a cushion cover, bag or anything else you might like!

Happy hooking!

Anna x

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Crochet Neon Chevrons

I've been obsessing about crocheting with neon colours for ages now. After finishing my ripple blanket, I really missed working on it, so I thought chevrons would be a similar project. As usual, I couldn't quite find one I got on with so I made up my own. 

Here is the pattern for the chevrons with an option to square off the edges if you are making a cushion cover like mine. You could use this for a blanket or anything else you would like a chevron pattern on.

So here is the chevron pattern I worked out. It is a properly pointed one, rather than a soft ripple as the blanket I made before. I wanted the chevroniest chevrons I could make!

3mm crochet hook (or 4mm if you are making a blanket - for better drape)
Double knit yarn in your chosen colours
Yarn needle

US Terms throughout:
ch = Chain
sk = Skip
st = Stitch
hdc = Half Double Crochet
dc = Double Crochet

Make your starting chain to your desired width.
You need to make 21 ch for each chevron, plus 12 ch at each end for the half chevrons and turning ch...

...So when you know how many chevrons wide you want your piece to be, times that number by 21 then add 24 for the two half chevrons and turning ch.

To work out how many chevrons you will need, make a test swatch with 43 chains and follow the pattern a few rows to see how it turns out. You can then measure your swatch and do the maths!

As a guide I made mine four chevrons wide, plus two half chevrons - one each end - to fit a larger size  cushion. So thats 4x21=84, +24=108.

If you are like me and prone to winging it, just be prepared to buy a different size cushion inner than you originally had, or play it safe and make a blanket! They are not size critical!

The first 2ch counts as a stitch at the start of each row.

I hope that isn't too confusing. It really is the only fiddly part, once you start your first row you are away!

hdc in 3rd ch from hook, hdc in next 9ch, *sk2ch, hdc in next 9ch, 3hdc in next ch, hdc in next 9ch*

repeat between ** until 12ch remain, sk2ch, hdc in next 9ch, 2hdc in last ch.

ch2, turn, hdc in same st, hdc in next 9st, *sk2st, hdc in next 9st, 3hdc in next st, hdc in next 9st*, repeat between ** until 12st remain, sk2st, hdc in next 9st, 2hdc in last st.

Repeat row 2 until the piece reaches your desired length.

My stripes are 8 rows for the white, then 6 rows for the colour. You can make the stripes as narrow or wide as you like but it is easier if you stick to even numbers of rows for continuity.

Attach ending colour to last st of last row, ch1, turn, *sc in next 4 st (including the same st as the ch1), hdc in next 2 st, dc in next 2 st, dc2tog, tr in next st, dc2tog, dc in next 2 st, hdc in next2 st, sc in next 4 st.* Repeat between ** to end.

Ch1, turn, *sl st in first 2 st, sc in next 2 st, hdc in next 2 st, dc in next 3 st, tr in next st, dc in next 3 st, hdc in next 2 st, sc in next 2 st, sl st in next 2 st.* Repeat between ** to end.

Hdc in every st. Repeat for more rows as needed to square off the cushion.


For the bottom edge, turn the cushion 180 degrees and join the edge colour as per ROW1. Follow the instructions as above except for the first and last sections (where you need to fill in a half triangle).

To begin, ch4 (counts as tr), dc2tog, dc in next 2 st, hdc in next2 st, sc in next 4 st. Then follow as per ROW1 between ** up to the last half triangle. Then finish with - sc in next 4 st, hdc in next 2 st, dc in next 2 st, dc2tog, tr in last st.

On the next row begin with ch4 (counts as tr), dc in next 3 st, hdc in next 2 st, sc in next 2 st, sl st in next 2 st. Then repeat ROW2 between ** until the last half triangle and finish off with - sl st in first 2 st, sc in next 2 st, hdc in next 2 st, dc in next 3 st, tr in last st.

The last row is exactly as ROW3 above.

I added a round of single crochet stitches all the way around the edge of my square once the edge was finished so that when I attach the back I have a good foundation to stitch or crochet into.

You could make an identical piece for the back, or crochet a square of the same size using a different stitch pattern. The possibilities are endless!

I hope you have fun with this and if you want to share any of your creations with me tag me on facebook, twitter or instagram.

All the Best,
Anna x

As with all my patterns, please feel free to sell anything you make with this one, but don't sell the pattern. If you use the pattern elsewhere please link back to me for credit.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Welcome to Dotty Doily!

Many of you already know me under the name of 'Two Birds Craft'. I started my crafting and blogging journey with that name along with a second bird. Unfortunately the second bird has now flown the nest! Starting a family, going back to work part time and other commitments just don't leave her with enough time remaining to squeeze in a bit of craft. As this will be the case for a good while I felt I needed to change the name to something which was a bit more on the singular side and something which would sum me up as an individual a bit more. Thus 'Dotty Doily' was born!

I am Dotty about crafting and in particular crochet. Doilies are crocheted in the main so I thought this would be a nice, succinct way of putting it!

It remains to be said that if ever my crafty friend flies back and wants to resume her activities, I will of course welcome her back with open wings, but for now I am a solo act.

I hope to be posting more regularly in the future. My lovely man Mr D is going to be working away during the weekdays so I will be filling the lonely nights with design, craft and blogging! In addition I am teaching a few others to crochet so if I come up with any good tips for beginners or tutorials which are useful I will add and link these in a new section. There is also hope that enough people locally will be interested in a regular craft group so fingers crossed as I think that would be fun!

Content will progress in a similar way; things I have been trying out, ta-dah's, highlights of other blogs, books or forums I am loving, tutorials, patterns and tips etc. I will expand and organise this as I progress but for now, bear with me!

My main progress reports are through my instagram feed. My username there is @dottydoily and this will just be changed over from the @twobirdscraft name so my feed should show the same images etc.

Don't forget to drop into my shop from time to time - 'Dotty Doily Handmade' on Etsy. I add all sorts of things here and as I am now experimenting with patterns etc, I will be adding some of these for sale for nominal amounts. Other patterns will be free on this blog. The rest of my items at the moment tend to be jewellery and cute little stitch markers for crocheters.

I look forward to any feedback you might have for me on the new theme and any suggestions of things you would like me to cover in my posts. I usually have something to say but I am always open to comments!

Anna x

Monday, 19 August 2013

Pattern Designing

This is my first go at writing a proper pattern. I took a lot of time over it and have worked with the design of the PDF to make it pretty - I hope you all agree!

I decided to write this pattern for simple little booties after having not quite found any that I was perfectly happy with. I wanted them to work up quickly and easily, without separate parts which have to be stitched together so that they can be crocheted with colour changes all the way to the end.

Gumdrop booties are designed for teeny tiny babies aged 0-3 months and they make me go "Awwww" every time I look at them! I named them for the little drop shape the opening at the top makes. They work really well for both boys and for girls and are really easy to work up without lots of complicated stitches. They only tricky stitch has been written out in a really detailed way and it is a lot easier than you would first think.

Here is the first page of instructions as a little taster of the layout. It is the first page of instructions so you could test them out to make sure you get on with the layout and style.

I have given it lots of space and images as it is a digital download so there is no need to worry about paper and ink. I also thought that patterns written with comma separated instructions are easy to get lost with when you are looking back and forth from your work. I have gone instead for numbered instructions for each step of each round. As space is not a concern I thought I might aswell!

I would really welcome any feedback you would like to offer about this pattern. Layout, design, instructions etc. The pattern is just £1 from my Etsy shop. I am running this like a test. There are lots more ideas brewing and I would like to create a series of patterns but the design process is time consuming so lets see how this goes first.

Happy hooking everyone!

Anna x

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Craft Room Renovations

Since moving into our new home replete with the man-cave for MrD and the dinky third bedroom for my crafting endeavours, I have been acquiring furniture; painting said furniture; arranging yarn onto new shelving (lovingly put together by MrD in said man cave) and generally making myself at home in my new creative space.

Here is a series of photos showing how I did up an old bureau bought through Gumtree. I love that site now! It is slightly addictive, scrolling through all the old junk and imagining what it would look like with a bit of tlc. I just have to make sure I don't buy things which won't fit in the house!

To renovate this item I first took all the handles off and separated out all the internal parts. Then I borrowed a sander and took off a layer of varnish, filled a few holes and painted over a layer of white primer. Next, I applied two coats of a dulux eggshell for wood in a lovely bright turquoise on the outside and a chalk white on the inside of the hutch and drawers, masking off the leather inlay in the desk. Finally, once completely dry, I buffed over a coat of dark oak Briwax which dulled it down slightly and gave it a slightly aged look. It also stained the new wood handles and got into the details of the mouldings, making them stand out nicely.

I am so happy with my bureau. It is the right size to write at, make jewellery, package up orders and sometimes I just love to sit at it and feel inspired, thinking happy, crafty thoughts...

I wanted a stool to sit on at my desk so I went hunting in the thrift shops and found this one for a fiver. It was upholstered in the latest linoleum of all things! I removed the lino and there was some good, firm foam underneath.

I then found this lovely pattern on Solvieg's blog. I have mentioned her before here - she is one clever mama! Although the pattern is for a cushion I adapted it to make a long piece to fit over the seat and created two striped panels for the sides. Amazingly, with only one drama when my staple gun broke and I had to borrow my Grandma's (seriously, that woman has everything!) it all came together really nicely and here is the finished item.

Next, a lovely thing happened to me. A brilliant lady at my work - Debbie, Gave me a massive spool of Hoooked Zpaghetti yarn (a kind of t-shirt yarn) in hot pink to play with.

I had a wander through blogland and found this great pattern from the talented young Wink of for her Mandala Floor rug. I adapted it slightly as I have a small space and only had one ball of the yarn. Still, I was really happy with the result and I may just have enough room for another one when I get more yarn. I recommend the t-shirt yarn to anyone and reckon it would be great for beginners. I used a 15mm hook and it was great working on such a giant scale after all the double knit I normally use!

I really enjoyed stashing all my yarn into the massive shelves MrD put up for me. Here are a few sections - I couldn't get back far enough to fit it all into one shot!

I decided with my acrylic yarns to organise them by colour onto the larger shelves, but I kept my posher, cotton yarns in their weight categories. They make me so happy, sitting together so harmoniously on the shelves!

The last thing I made for my craft room was a door stop. During these warm, Summer months we have had nearly all the windows in open and this had created a few crosswinds at times! My door kept slamming shut so I thought about making something I could prop it open with.

I decided on a cute little toadstool, making it up as I went along. I filled the base with pebbles and gravel inside some old tights, and the cap with stuffing. I attached crocheted circles and pale buttons to make the spots. I love how cute it looks!

So you can see that a great creative space is coming together. I am so very nearly there! The only problem now is that I really need a chair, a comfy one with arms for hooky time, but one which is small enough not to take up the whole room. Once I have this final item I can really start using the space as I intended. Until then, my hooky time will be spent on the sofa downstairs, although I have a great jewellery making station and desk to sit and type my blog posts at!

I think that's enough for now but I'll be back soon with news of a craft group I am working to form -  our first social is next week!