Just Like Me Knits by Brandy Fortune

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The unique concept behind ‘Just Like Me Knits’ by Brandy Fortune is to give knitters the opportunity to make matching clothes for children and their favourite toy. There seems to be a real craft movement online at the moment for making clothes for dolls, honestly I don’t really get it. However I thought I’d give this book a try as my youngest daughter has her favourite teddy glued to her side at all times, so I knew she’d absolutely love to wear matching clothes with him!

IMAG0129-tilekhlkjh(Love the reindeer jumper.)

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this is actually one of the first children’s knitting books I’ve seen full of cute wearable patterns. There are no block garter stitch jumpers (yuck!) or mini baggy granny cardigans (double yuck!!) just adorable patterns designed with kids in mind. Also the wool choices are stunning and although I never get round to buying the exact wool in the exact shade featured, I’m really tempted to here! Oooh and there is a good selection of patterns for boys too, a real bug bear with craft books.

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My only real gripe is that I’m not sure why it suggests to use circular needles to knit everything! Of course this is an easy problem to solve, you just use the corresponding normal needles, but it did take me a few reads through to realise everything wasn’t actually knitted in the round.

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So far I have made one sock and two cardigans and not noticed any mistakes in the patterns, my sock did end a bit weird but that’s because I didn’t place stitch markers, I just didn’t realise how totally essential they are for socks! Both projects were knitted with the intention of them being for Lily, even though Lily is tall for her age and has big feet I’d still recommend sizing up as there is nothing worse than spending hours knitting something to realise it only just fits and they’ll have grown out of it a couple of months (which is why it’s great to have two girls!).

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Although I’d tried to jump on board with making something for Mr Bear when it came to the knitty gritty of actually spending real time making something for a toy, I kind of lost my enthusiasm and doubt I’ll do it again (unless Rosie begs me of course).  However there are other patterns I will be knitting up for the girls. I’m really impressed with large age range covered (2-10 years), it makes sure its not one of those book where they will outgrown all the patterns before you get round to knitting them.

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The dolls recommended are cute, but rather expensive at around $200. I stopped getting excited about dolls and teddies in my teens so I just don’t get the whole Blythe/Bamboletta thing. That’s why its helpful that included in the book is a really clear guide to grading the patterns to fit the toy your knitting for, as you can see I managed to size down Mr Bears cardigan and I’ve never done pattern grading before.

hats(Such cute hats!)

Brandy Fortune used to host a knitting podcast, which I never even knew existed but now i’m excited to check out what’s out there! She has a blog called Pixie Purls , if you want to see more of the projects included in the book and finished ones then check out the Ravelry page here.  

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‘Just Like Me Knits’ by Brandy Fortune, Published by Potter Craft, RRP £12.99, Available on Amazon UK here.

The Belle & Book Book of Craft

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Belle and Boo are nostalgic fictional characters created by the talented illustrator Mandy Sutcliffe, they appear in a number of children’s books always playing and going on sweet adventures. Belle & Boo is now also a gorgeous kids brand specialising in high quality, vintage inspired pieces for children, you have to check out their shop, if I could I would literally buy everything!

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The Belle & Boo Book of craft contains a number of projects to help bring the world Sutcliffe has created to life, including a pirate play tent, a stunning quiet book and a cute playtime headdress. There are also ideas for homeware projects inspired by their adorable fabric line, I especially like the idea of making a quilt from old baby clothes and using just a small amount of one their prints to tie the whole project together.

Here are some of my other favourite projects from the book:

IMAG0047Camera Bag

IMAG0042Meadow Picnic Blanket – Totally in love with this simple idea to jazz up a plain green blanket!
IMAG0034Explorer Satchel
IMAG0032Snowflake Mittens
IMAG0029Little Helpers Apron – You can never have too many Aprons!

Soap Ice lolly

Lollipop Soaps – To be honest I’m not too sure about these soap lollipops for kids, I just know my girlies would try and eat them and end up with mouths full of bubbles! However I do have a couple of friends who would love these and I think they would make great bathroom decoration (totally in love with little wooden boats too!).

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As always I attempted one of the projects from the book and of course I had to make a Boo for Rosie! She’s always loved teddies,  forever picking a favorite which has to come everywhere until it gets lost (which is why we have so many back up favorites!).  Rosie’s Boo is made from a vintage pillowcase and some fleece I had left over from another project, I love the suggested idea of felting an old jumper but as most of mine are acrylic blends it wouldn’t have worked so well! I couldn’t find toy eyes at any of my local craft shops so I just made some simple felt ones, I’m really not happy with how they turned out (they look a little creepy!). So next time (Lily wants a Boo too!) I will definitely seek some out and probably even add them to this one too. All the pattern piece templates are actual size, which is so helpful as it means I didn’t have to battle with the photocopier at the library! Also the directions are clear and simple making them easy to follow, all I would say is that it would have been nice to have a little tutorial on french knots at the back of the book along with the other stitches needed. I’m forever forgetting how to do them properly! But this is only a tiny niggle as a quick Google search uncovers loads of brilliant tutorials (like this one).

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The next thing I made isn’t actually a set project from the book, but that’s the great thing about good craft books you can just take elements and inspiration from projects and make up your own! A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to make a little feature wall in the girls bedroom of needlecraft pictures and since Boo is so cute I had to add him to the collection!  It’s just  simple embroidery using some of the templates at the back of the book, I then made a crochet frame to add a little more detail (if you want to make your own crochet picture frame there is a great free pattern here).

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As you can see from the pictures of this book, it really is stunning and would make the most wonderful baby shower gift for a crafty mum. The other great thing is how uni-sex most of the projects are, the problem with a lot of craft books aimed at making things for children’s is that they tend to just totally forget about little boys, but this has loads of  bits they’d love.

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The Belle & Boo Book of Craft is published by Quadrille, RRP £14.99, available here from Amazon UK.

The Belle & Boo Book of Crafts -Photography © Laura Edwards

Another Amazing 80s Knitting Book!

IMAG2542I love 80s knitting books and look out for them every time I go to a charity shop, car boot or secondhand book shop, not only are they hilarious (hopefully not just to me?) but they’re actually always filled with good basic patterns. This one comes from Copperfield secondhand book shop in Wimbledon which is just a treasure trove and if you’ve ever in the area you have to pop in to have a look around. This book is simply called ‘Knitting’ there’s no author credits but it’s published by treasure press.

IMAG2544The stitch guides in these 80s knitting books are brilliant, they’re so easy to follow.
IMAG2555These whole outfits are great I really want to knit one of these jumpers and make a comfy wool skirt ready for autumn.

IMAG2558Lol! Token mustache dad
IMAG2559Perfect matching jumpers for those days when you’re just taking a stroll in the rain with your violins!

IMAG2561I love they’re matching hair! Not sure about the flocked jumpers though!IMAG2562To cute! I really want to make these!
IMAG2565Aww, beautiful babies!IMAG2567 Somehow I don’t think this girl wanted to be a knitwear model?! IMAG2568 The girls would love a set of these!IMAG2571 A lot of work, but I quite like its Art Deco feel.IMAG2573I don’t think the lamb wanted to be in the book either!

This book is available from these links: Amazon uk, abebooks, etsy. You can check my other’s 80s knitting book reviews here (just scroll to the bottom).

Pattern Cutting made easy – Gillian Holman

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Pattern cutting made easy: a step-by-step introduction by Gillian Holman is a simple guide to pattern drafting and modification. As a teacher of pattern cutting and sewing for over twenty years Holman knows just what information is helpful to dressmakers. Its brilliantly concise and straight forward to use, each guide has a simple set of images on one side and numbered bullet point instructions on the other.

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Although there are instructions for creating block pattern pieces from scratch Holman suggests using manufactured patterns as a base, because drafting your own without guidance is difficult and prone to mistakes. This makes sense, if your not planning on using the pattern for a commercial purpose then why make life more complicated? It’s much simpler to use a basic pattern block you’ve already used and worked out the fit issues with.

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The book is split into three main sections, skirts, sleeves and bodices with added instructions for creating trouser and jacket blocks. Within the three main sections are multiple variations of cuts, for example within the skirts section there is a circle skirt, fish tail and box pleat just to name a few, all of which have clear instructions on how to modify a basic skirt block to the desired design. The same is done for sleeves and bodices with a wide range of collars and pockets to.

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I used this book to draft my own pattern inspired by the straight cut 1940’s dresses I’ve been reading about recently. As a base pattern I used Colette ‘Pastille’ it’s a good simple base and I’m pretty much a set size with only a few fit adjustments needed. I’ve wanted to make a wrap dress for ages and even tried drafting my own pattern about a year ago but it turned out terrible with a huge gaping gap at the front!

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So when I saw the instructions in this book to do it properly I jumped at the chance, reading through before I started I was a little worried they were to complicated, but once I started sketching it out on paper it all came together and they really made sense. I also modified the skirt block to make it more a-line and created yolk blocks all with help from the instructions in this book. Here are probably to many photo’s of the finished dress, I’m really pleased with how it came out I love contrast of the king fisher blue bias and the bright pink floral fabric:

IMAG2482(lol! not the most flattering camera angle!)dress 3

dress 29781849940733-826x1024Pattern Cutting Made Easy: A Step-By-Step introduction by Gillian Holman
Published by Batsford, RRP £16.99, Available here on Amazon.

Fashion Crochet – Claire Montgomerie

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‘Fashion Crochet’ includes 30 stylish projects for clothes and accessories inspired by modern catwalk pieces. Each project is laid out with the design it takes its inspiration from and gorgeous fashion sketches.

Fashion Crochet 2The first thing I noticed about this book is how great the variation of projects is, so many knitting/crochet books tend to be filled with things you can only wear in the colder months, but there are things for every season here. Also there are projects for every skill level from beginners (like me!) to intermediate right up to advanced (which even have helpful charts for the most complicated bits!).

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Most of the ideas are very wearable, some are a little more out there, but that’s to be expected from designs inspired by the runway. I quite like them and life is to short to worry about what other people think of your clothes. Although a couple of the dresses are slightly more revealing than I would be comfortable wearing, I think that just by adding a simple jersey/cotton lining they’d make lovely day or evening dresses.

bag fashion crochet

So far I have finish one project from this book, however I’m still learning so it’s riddled with mistakes! Its says a lot about how well drafted the pattern is that it looks like anything even remotely resembling a bag!!

fashion crochetWhen I first received this book I fell in love with the Janis waistcoat design and the granny square cowl, but at the time they both felt a little out of my skill level. I feel a lot more confident now I’ve completed one project, so I’ve already made a start on the Janis waistcoat and hopefully the sun will pop its head out for long enough over the summer so I can wear it!

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It does not include a how to guide to learn the basic crochet stitches (I’d recommend “Chicks with sticks guide to crochet“). However there is a lot of other useful information on more advanced techniques including a brilliant yarn guide and very helpful advice on finishing techniques. Overall I’d say if your looking for a crochet book packed with modern ideas and fashionable clothes you’d feel comfortable wearing then this really fits the bill!

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Fashion Crochet by Claire Montgomerie

Published by Carlton Books – RRP £16.99 – Avaliable here

Knit Your Own Moustache – Vicky Eames

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Knit your own Moustache is the imaginative creation of Vicky Eames, I was really excited about receiving this book as it’s just so different from all the other knitting books available! Included are 20 different designs for disguises (not just moustaches) including animal ears, an eye patch, a blue rinse wig and even a top hat! It’s also packed full of humor and interesting anecdotes/facts making it the perfect coffee table book for friends to dip in and out of.

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Although the knits are easy to follow and quick to make I wouldn’t really say this book was for absolute beginners purely because the instructions on how to knit are very basic. But combined with a good ‘how to’ knitting book (I’d recommend Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel)  I’m sure even a beginner could manage most of the knits. I haven’t attempted any of the crochet projects yet as I’m still learning, but they seem very simple and straightforward.

Moustache - Rosie

There was no way I could review this book without actually knitting my own moustache! I choose the handlebar, because you just can’t go wrong with a handlebar and don’t you just love Rosie’s ‘don’t mess with me’ face! It was really quick and easy to make, taking under an hour from start to finish as the instructions are very clear.

Loopy Beard

I also decided to make the loopy beard, as I’ve never knitted loops before I thought it would be a good chance to learn. I was a bit worried at first because there are no diagrams on the knitting techniques pages, however the notes on how to knit loops are really clear and I managed to do them first time. They are a little time consuming so the beard was a longer project, I think this may also be down to the textured wool I used being a bit tricky to manipulate. I think it was the perfect choice though as it creates a lovely fluffy texture and of course with two little girls I went for bright pink (I had to model it myself as Lily is staying with her nanny for a couple of days).

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Above are the bunny ears which I’m planning on making this evening while catching up on the last few episodes of mad men, aren’t they adorable! Of course I’ll have to make two pairs, but looking through the pattern they seem like a quick knit, I’ll keep you posted with how they turn out.

Vicky Eames who is behind the kitsch patterns in this book works in theater which has no doubt influenced her designs, she has a etsy shop called ‘Wife of Brian‘ where you can buy her knitted creations and a blog of the same name

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Knit your Own Moustache by Vicky Eames

Published by Collins & Brown, RRP £9.99, Available on Amazon UK here.

DIY Fashionista – Geneva Vanderzeil

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DIY Fashionista encourages you to rejuvenate your wardrobe in new and cost-effective ways, through refashioning items you already own and making low-cost pieces look high-end. The variety of the 40 projects is brilliant there is everything from how to draft your own simple shorts pattern from scratch to updating an old pair of boots with fabric inserts. Throughout the instructions are very easy to follow and each project is given a time frame, so before you even start you’ll know if it’s something you can do quickly before you walk out the door or if it’ll take a couple of evenings. However most of the projects should take under an hour to make, so are perfect for those with busy lives, Geneva even makes the great suggestion of inviting your friends round to a DIY fashion party!

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Its packed with useful information including lists of the basic equipment you’ll need, where to source items and of course step by step instructions to creating some stunning pieces. This book is the perfect springboard for anyone considering refashioning their wardrobe, it’s even full of inspiration to start thinking up your own projects.

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As I’ve only really refashioned clothes before and never even thought about updating accessories I was really excited about this part of the book. It didn’t disappoint as the 15 projects included are super stylish and wearable! I made two accessories projects, the Cap-toe shoes and Peter Pan Collar necklace.

DIY Projects

To make the necklace I used broken chains I had in my jewellery box and a pair of tweezers, it was really simple and quick to make. The final necklace is really cute and a great way to update a plain top or dress.

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While I bought these pink H&M shoes in the sale a couple of weeks ago, but since I haven’t got round to wearing them yet I figured they were ripe for a refashion. I followed the instructions, but added an extra layer of varnish over the paint. They’re cute but I think they need a little extra something, maybe some lace or ribbon across the join?

Shoe refashion

There are a lot more projects I’m planning on attempting once I’ve sourced the right bits and pieces. I especially love this dip dye dress it’s so pretty and simple to do, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect plain dress. While these glitter straps are going to make me look at sandals shopping this summer in a whole new light. The watch idea is great and I know I have a watch face with a broken strap knocking about somewhere so when I eventually find it I’ll definitely be adding fabric straps!

Diy fashionista projects

Geneva Vanderzeil founded the most amazing and inspiring fashion DIY website called ‘ A pair and a spare‘.  Her projects have been featured in popular fashion magazines and websites including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

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DIY Fashionista by Geneva Vanderzeil

Published by Carlton Books Ltd, RRP £16.99 , Available on Amazon UK here