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!

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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.

1940’s Fashion – The Definitive Sourcebook by Emmanuelle Dirix

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I’ve always loved art that comes out of war (that makes me sound odd right??) it’s just so full emotion, whether it be hatred, repulsion, fear, compassion, loss it’s just all there in front of you. I even wrote my dissertation at university on how the Nazi party influenced art in the 20th century, I guess your wondering how all this relates to this book? Well Emmanuelle Dirix begins this book with the most fascinating essay about how much the war and its after effects influenced fashion in the 1940’s.

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She goes into detail not just about how rationing affected the style and cut of clothes throughout Europe, but also how america coped being cut off from their fashion mecca – Paris and had to learn to design there own clothes. How the couturiers handled the German occupation and why they choose to continue to make high quality fashion throughout the war and how the Nazi party failed in there attempts to force their female citizens to dress in classic Bavarian style. All this history flows over the pages as Dirix’s writing style is conversational and easy to read.

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Before I received this book I was expecting something much more easy going, more of a coffee table book stuffed with dazzling inspirational illustrations of 40’s clothing, which it is but I also learnt an awful lot to. Now looking through the book I can quickly spot when and where the outfits were made, just by the cut of the clothes. There are hundreds of stunning illustrations and photographs covering the austerity war years, Hollywood glamour and Christian Dior’s ‘new look’ which was to revolutionize fashion. As someone who enjoys making and designing there own clothes it’s a real well of inspiration, from little things like collars and sleeves I want to copy right up to whole dresses I now have to own!

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If you can’t tell already I love this book, I’ve literally looked through it everyday since it arrived a couple of weeks ago and I’ve already added the other two from the series to my amazon wish list! I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the 1940’s or just fashion in general, it would also make the most amazing present!!!

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How fabulous is this hat?!

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 1940s Fashion: The Definitive Sourcebook by Emmanuelle Dirix, published by Goodman Fiell, £30, available from www.carltonbooks.co.uk. Follow @carltonbooks

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.

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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

Me Made May – Round-Up & Ideas for June.

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Ok so the last week has been a total fail! I kind of gave up after the last post 😦 At the beginning of the month it was fun and inspiring to find new ways to work with the clothes I’d made or refashioned but by the end it was becoming a chore. I probably still wore something handmade/refashioned everyday, but it just wasn’t fun anymore to photograph and document what I was wearing every single day, I don’t know how the fashion bloggers do it!

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My favorite outfit from MMM13 – only because I love this vintage cardie!

 I did learn a lot about my wardrobe though, most of my clothes come from only three shops :/ so maybe I need to branch out and shop around a bit more. I also spotted the holes in my wardrobe, I need a lot more plain/simple items (the lure of bright fabrics is just too strong!) and I also probably own too many dresses. Style-wise I’m definitely more 80’s than 50’s which is a shame because I love that look, but it’s just not me. So while I learned a lot about the way I think about clothes and the items I’ve made, I doubt I’ll do it again. I will in future however try to post at least one picture of me wearing the clothes I make as well as on the hanger (not always decapitated either!).

Ideas for June

My boyfriend has been pestering (guilt tripping!) me about never making him anything, so I’m going  to make one piece of  Mens/boys wear every week in June. Not just because he’s been annoying me, but also as a challenge I hope I’ll enjoy and learn from.

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This week my mother brought back lots of amazing fabric from Texas (i’ll share it all tomorrow) including some great cowboy prints to make a shirt for my nephew. Boyfriend also wants a shirt and there is a great Burda pattern with the Sewing Vintage Modern book I’ve just managed to borrow again from the digital library. I also want to make something for my brother, I guess it’s all planned out now I just hope I can managed to get it done!

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I know I keep saying this but I really want to launch my Esty shop soon, I’ve found a great tutorial here for making your own labels through Spoonflower and there are shops on eBay sell the washing instruction ones super cheap! I just need to muddle through and make more stock, I really don’t want the shop to launch half empty. Also this way if they don’t sell I’ll have enough to set up a stall one weekend at one of the many London craft markets. With this in mind I’m going to do a weekly post on what I manage to turn all the old bedsheets, curtains and tablecloths into, hopefully it’ll also inspire others to think differently about unused textiles.

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I have some really great new release craft book reviews in the pipeline for June, I really enjoy making the projects and sharing them with you all! I’m going to try and add some more fashion related books and antiquarian books, I also own loads of rare art books too if you want to see them??