Making the granny squares for the blanket is fun. Sewing them all together is not so much.
If you learn how to join as you go, you can make a few squares, join them together, then make a few more until your blanket is completed. I’m doing this with a blanket I’m making, and I’m sure this is the main reason why I haven’t given up yet!
It also means that if you don’t actually know how many squares you need to make, you can just stop once the blanket is big enough.
Making a blanket in this way has the added benefit that you can keep the blanket on your lap while you’re making it, keeping your knees nice and warm!
Use Pencil Grips If You Don’t Have Ergonomic Hooks
Hooks with ergonomic handles cost more than the sort that don’t, but if you do a lot of crocheting, it can get uncomfortable and you might develop pain in your hands.
Once you start to acquire a collection of crochet hooks, you’ll need somewhere to keep them. I like to keep mine handy, safe and all together. It would be no good throwing them all in the box thing by the sewing machine as it’s a mess in there and they’d get lost!
My crochet hooks live in a Lego pen pot on the bookshelf above the sewing machine.
Use a Bowl For Yarn, Especially If You Have Toddlers or Cats
You can buy yarn bowls, which are bowls that have a notch in them and prevent the yarn from rolling all over the floor and being tangled up by your cat or your toddler! There are some lovely ones here on Etsy.
You don’t have to buy a special bowl though, unless you want to!
Just pop the yarn in a mixing bowl on the floor. I’ve seen pictures of bowls with bulldog clips on them to guide the yarn, colanders and shoe boxes with holes in them.
Learn to Read Visual Patterns
Sometimes it’s easier to figure out how to crochet bigger stitches from a diagram than it is from written instructions. If your having difficulties figuring out a particular stitch or pattern from a written pattern, a visual pattern might be more helpful.
Some of us are visual learners anyway, which means that we find it easier to absorb information if it’s presented to us in a visual form.
If you decide that you want to develop your own crochet patterns, sometimes drawing them out in diagram form first makes things easier, before writing that patterns out. And if you include the diagrams in the finished pattern, your readers will thank you for it!
Download Digital Patterns To Your Phone
Although you can still buy crochet patterns the old fashioned way in printed form, there are also lots of patterns out there that are digital.
You might still want to print these out, especially if you want to write on them.
But you can also download them to your phone and there are advantages to doing this too.
It means that you always have your crochet pattern with you! If you have a few minutes you don’t have to hunt for your pattern (as long as you can remember where your phone is!) and you don’t have to remember the pattern when you go out if you want to take your crochet with you.
It also means that broken printers, children who’ve used up all the paper, wind and rain won’t be able to stop you from crocheting wherever you are!
Keep Your Crochet in a Bag With Handles
Keeping your crochet in a bag with handles means that when you go out, you can grab the bag, hang it off your arm and crochet wherever you are.
The bag thing has meant that I have crocheted at the bus stop, while waiting for my boys to go into school and during days out that have involved tedious things like car museums.
Bonus Tips From the Facebook Page
Here are 2 more crochet hacks!
There’s a tip for making crocheted baskets firmer using sugar and water, and another for starting off a project with foundation single/ double crochet instead of a chain (there’s a tutorial here on One Dog Woof).
Do you have any other crochet hacks? Add them below in the comments!
***Please note that I have no medical qualifications and the things I say shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. If you need a doctor, please go and see one!***
Why Can’t I Concentrate?
All kinds of things can affect our concentration.
Stress is often a cause. It can be hard to concentrate when you are worrying about something in particular, whether it’s a situation at work, your children or other members of your family.
Poor concentration is to be expected after a stressful event like a bereavement, marriage breakdown or an accident.
Sleeping problems can be caused by stress, and lack of sleep can affect concentration too. Diet can be a factor, also made worse by stress if you’re not eating properly or snacking on sugary things instead of eating healthy meals.
It’s not just stress that affects concentration. Hormonal changes, depression, anaemia, thyroid problems (Hashimoto’s) and pain all have an impact as well.
It’s also possible for adults to have ADD/ADHD, and if you think you might, you need to visit the doctor.
My own concentration isn’t great at the best of times. Inside my brain is a kaleidoscope of butterflies, each one of them an idea and it’s hard to ever focus on just one! When I get tired, the butterflies get jittery, which makes it even harder to focus. I’m having difficulties with sleeping at the moment and the butterflies are very jittery, so my attention span is shorter than usual.
The Benefits of Crafting on Mental Health
So far there hasn’t been extensive research on the extent to which crafting can help people who are experiencing mental health problems. What evidence there is however indicates that it does help.
In this article on the CNN website, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says that when somebody is concentrating on a craft activity, they don’t have enough attention left over to focus on other things that are going on in their lives. They lose themselves in the activity and everything else is temporarily suspended. It’s believed to have a similar affect on the brain as mindfulness and meditation.
Knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery, and other crafts are believed to help people with mild depression, PTSD and short term memory problems associated with old age. There is evidence to suggest that crafting even helps with pain. People have reported that their pain is diminished, they can manage it better and they sleep better.
So making stuff definitely makes us feel better, But what should you do if you can’t seem to concentrate for long enough to actually get anything made?
Here are some tips for what you can do when you want to make stuff but you can’t concentrate.
Tips For Making Things When You Can’t Concentrate
Avoid Projects That Involve Getting a Lot of Stuff Out
These kind of projects require time, space and concentration!
If your concentration is poor, the chances are you won’t get the thing finished, assuming you even manage to start it after you’ve got everything out.
Not being able to eat at the table or do anything in the living room because there’s yards of fabric or scrapbooking stuff all over the floor is inconvenient, but our families can cope if it’s only for a couple of days. And the results will be worth it! However if it’s likely to be longer because you can’t concentrate for very long, it’s probably best to avoid these kind of projects until things improve.
Choose Something That Can Be Picked Up Then Put Down Again Easily
This ties in with the point above. If you can choose a project that doesn’t involve pulling a load of stuff out, you can work on it for a few minutes at a time when you feel up to it.
A crochet project, some knitting, embroidery or a little bit of hand sewing are ideal. You can work on it for a few minutes at a time, you won’t have to get masses of stuff out, and if you suddenly feel sleepy, you can put it down and take a nap, ready to return to it later.
Choose Things That Are Quick to Make
When your concentration is bad, a quick and easy project is more likely to be completed than something longer and more involved. It will feel achievable and you’ll gain a sense of satisfaction from finishing it.
Avoid Anything With Lots of Steps
Projects with lots of steps can seem overwhelming at the best of times! When your concentration is suffering, it may well prove to be all to much and end up on the unfinished projects pile. Instead, choose something straightforward that doesn’t have lots of steps.
Don’t Attempt Anything Too Fiddly or Complicated
Like with projects with lots of steps, a certain amount of gratification comes with completing fiddly, complicated things. But when your concentration is bad, it will probably be overwhelming and frustrating. It’s probably better to stick to simpler things until you feel better.
Think Twice About Starting a Project That Involves Learning New Stitches or Techniques
It’s fun to learn new things, but when you can’t concentrate, it’s probably safest to stick to things you already know how to do. Because your brain has already learnt how to do these things, and you’ve probably practised them before, it requires less mental effort than learning something new.
Take Plenty of Breaks
Taking breaks enables you to concentrate for longer. On a good day, I can manage about 45 minutes, but much more than that and I lose concetration. Once it’s gone it’s hard to get it back! So I work for 45 minutes, make another cup of tea and put another load of washing on, maybe do some washing up, then go back to it.
When I was making the pin cushions last week, 15 minutes was about my limit, and after a couple of hours, even with breaks, I’d had enough!
FInd out what your limit is and stop just as your brain starts to fizzle. Take break, then come back to it later. Working on something for several short spells is likely to be more productive than one long spell when you can’t concentrate.
Take Care of Yourself in Other Ways
It’s frustrating, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to be busy and get lots of stuff done. But sometimes it’s just not possible.
At these times, it’s important to give yourself some grace. Sleep if you feel you can. Eat properly, don’t skip meals and don’t eat too much sugary rubbish. Go out for a walk. Spend time with people you love. Do things that fill up your soul. Don’t worry too much about the other things, and if you think you might need medical attention, go and see a doctor.
Although I’ve got better over the last few years, I still have a tendency to start things but not finish them, which is why lots of the projects on Tea and a Sewing Machine are usually fairly quick things! That way I stand more chance of getting them finished, although I do have an impressive pile of unfinished projects as well!
At the moment my concentration is so bad I’m even wondering whether I might have a grown up version of ADD!
Sometimes we want to make stuff even if we can’t concentrate, and doing something creative is believed to help with all kinds of issues relating to mental health. The answer isn’t to give up completely, but to accept that something complicated that’s going to take a while probably isn’t a great idea, while making something quick and easy is.
So earlier in the week I decided to make some scrappy pincushions. With things as they are at the moment, even finishing these was a challenge. The fact that I started 7 and only finished 3 probably says it all!
Scrappy pincushions are good for lots of reasons. You can make them in all different kind of ways (just look on Pinterest!), it’s handy to have a few, you probably have stuff to hand to make them already, you can use up bits and pieces left over from other projects and they make nice presents for friends and family who like to sew.
These scrappy pincushions measure about 10 cm square, and have a piece of plain fabric, a print, a scrap of ribbon and a button.
The three I actually finished are all made in the same way. I used linen for the plain fabric, but anyything plain would work.
If you don’t have any suitable buttons, you could see if you have any on old clothes that you don’t wear anymore, or you could try junk shops or ebay (affiliate link).
How to Make Scrappy Pincushions
You Will Need
Scraps of plain fabric, scraps of patterned fabric, ribbon or lace, buttons, polyester filling.
1. From the plain fabric, cut a piece 7 cm x 11 cm and a square 11 cm x 11 cm, and from the patterned fabric a piece 6 cm x 11 cm.
2.Sew the plain piece of fabric to the patterned piece. Trim the seam and press it open. You should end up with something that is vaguely square. If not, don’t worry, you can sort it out later.
3. Sew a piece of ribbon or lace over the seam between the plain fabric and the patterned fabric.
4. Pin the section you’ve just completed to the plain square piece you cut out earlier, with the right sides together. This will be the bottom of the pin cushion. Sew around the edge, leaving a gap in one side.
5. Turn it out and fill with polyester stuffing. Remember to fill it so that it is firm; you don’t want it to yield too much when you stick pins into it. Slip stitch the opening.
6. Sew a button in the centre. I sewed from the back of the pincushion through to the front, into the button, through the front and out through the back again. Then I tied the ends together. This works better than tying a knot because I found that pulling the thread tight just pulled the knot through! An alternative is to tie the end to a smaller button, then sew through the pincushion to attach the button on the top.
Although I know of people who will go to some lengths to avoid sewing with zips, it’s difficult to avoid them altogether, especially if you like to make lots of different things.
Lace zips are a fab idea.
They turn something functional into a feature.
They also make something that can be a fiddly pain in the neck (I’m not going to lie, even using my easy way of sewing in a zip, it can still be tricky and I’ve had to unpick them more than once!) into something much easier to sew.
This easy lace zip purse tutorial shows how to make a little purse featuring a lace zip.
The outer, lining and interfacing are all cut from the same pattern piece. The flat bottom is achieved by sewing boxed corners, and the zip is sewn on last.
The fabric I used is from the Tilda Lemon Tree range, which I was sent in exchange for participating in the Tilda bloghop.
Instructions For Making an Easy Lace Zip Purse
You Will Need
Fabric for the outer and the lining (a fat 8th of each would be big enough), sew in interfacing, a 15 cm lace zip, usual sewing supplies.
Seam allowances are 1 cm.
1. Using the template (the free pattern’s here), cut 2 from the outer, 2 from the lining and 2 from interfacing. 2.Take the outer and interfacing pieces . With the right sides of the outer sections together, and the interfacing on the outside, sew the straight edges together.
Do the same with the lining. Trim the seams. 3. To make the boxed corners, squash the corners flat so that the seams are together. Measure 1.5 cm up the seam from the corner and pin. Sew across at right angles to the seam. Cut the corners off. Do this with the outer section, the lining and the interfacing.
4. Put the lining and the outer with the right sides together and pin. Sew around the curved edges, leaving a gap in one side. Trim the seam and snip the curves if necessary. Turn out. Slip stitch the opening. 5. To cover the ends of the zip, cut 2 rectangles from the outer fabric measuring 5 cm x 7 cm. Fold in half lengthways to find the middle. Fold the raw edges into the middle.
Fold in half widthways. Lay the zip on the top half. Fold the other half up so that the end of the zip is covered. Fold the raw edges inwards and pin in place. Sew across the top.
Repeat for the other end.
6. Open the zip. Pin one side of the zip to one side of the purse opening. Top stitch the zip in place. Repeat for the other half of the zip. If you prefer, you can sew the zip on by hand.
Fabric for the embroidery (I used a cotton linen blend), embroidery thread in pink and white, pink seed beads, a hoop for framing (you could also use this for the embroidering, although I found it easier with a larger hoop), felt for backing, sewing thread, needle, scissors, pencil.
I have some kits for sale for this project here on Etsy if you don’t fancy hunting down the stuff yourself.
Before You Start
I drew the trunk and the branches, but not the blossom. To make it easier to sew, I drew lines on the trunk that extended into branches.
If you are confident at drawing, you could draw the tree directly onto the fabric. Otherwise, have a practice on a piece of paper first, or download the one I used, then transfer the design to the fabric.
To do this, you could either use dressmakers’ carbon paper or a light box.
4. Take the lighter shade of pink and sew more French knots near the branches and in the spaces. Try to keep a tree shape. Unless you want to make a tree with not much blossom, you will need to sew French knots past the ends of the branches.
5. Add some French knots in white.
6. Fill in the spaces some more with more pink, until you’re happy with how it looks.
7.Sew some seed beads in between the French knots. I used about 20 opaque beads and about 30 translucent ones.
Finishing the Embroidery
1. Take the hoop you’re planning to use for displaying your embroidery. Remove the inside ring of the hoop and place it over the embroidery. Draw round it.
I’d recommend doing this on the wrong side, which I didn’t do and immediately regretted it!
2. Using the same part of the hoop, draw round a piece of felt. Cut it out.
3. Trim the embroidery down to 2 – 3 cm away from where you drew.
4. Put the embroidery into the hoop. Sew a running stitch around the excess fabric at the back and pull it tight.
I made three templates by drawing round a bowl, the lid of a tin and a mug. This gave me templates that were 16 cm across, 12 cm and 9 cm.
In the end I decided that the largest flowers were a little bit too big, so I didn’t use them. I might glue them to hair clips and wear them in my hair instead!
Making the Flowers
1. Cut circles from felt.
For the wreath I used 3 of the middle sized flowers and 9 smaller flowers.
2. Cut a spiral into the circle. As the centre of the circle will form the outside of the flower, the spiral will need to get wider towards the middle.
3. Starting at the outside, carefully roll the spiral up. To start with, the bit you cut will be the bottom of the flower.
4. Keep rolling! When you’ve rolled up the whole spiral, you might like to put a pin through the flower to hold it.
5. Using the glue gun, put a blob of glue on the bottom of the flower. Stick the end of the spiral over the base of the flower.
You could probably sew them if you prefer, or use PVA glue or fabric glue, but I’d recommend using the glue gun. I’d actually not used one before, but it was very easy, the things stuck very well and the glue dried nice and quickly.
6. To make the leaves, cut a strip of green felt, then cut it into rectangles.Cut a curved bit away from corner to corner, then do the same on the other side. Don’t worry about getting them all the same size. You can use smaller leaves with the smaller flowers, and anyway in nature leaves are usually different, even on the same plant!
7. Stick 2 leaves to the base of each flower.
Attaching the Flowers to the Wreath
I apologise for the lack of photos for the steps here, I got so carried away I kept forgetting to take pictures!
1. Take the 3 middle sized flowers and glue them to the wreath. I put the top and bottom flowers closer to the inside edge of the wreath with the leaves pointing inwards, in the middle flower closer to the outside edge with the leaves pointing outwards.
2. Take 3 of the smaller flowers and arrange them around one of the larger flowers.
Then do the same with the other 2 larger flowers and the rest of the smaller ones. Don’t worry if there’s some wreath showing. You might want to cover it completely, but I think that being able to see wreath in between breaks it up a bit, like silences in music.
I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but one of the things I want to do this year is cut down on the amount of plastic we use.
I don’t think anybody who heard that plastic has been found in the Mariana Trench wasn’t shocked (I know about the Mariana Trench thanks to Octonauts!). And the amount of plastic washed up on beaches is awful.
Although it took a little bit of getting used to, I wouldn’t dream of going out now without a bag or a basket to put my shopping in. I’d no sooner leave the house without a bag than go out without my purse or my phone.
A lot of it is difficult to cut out. When I buy pasta, it comes in a non recyclable plastic bag and there’s no option to buy it loose.
But there are other ways to reduce plastic bag use. The most obvious is DIY reusable bags for fruit and veg, and the other is bags for bread if you buy it fresh and they put it in a plastic bag, like they do at the little bakery near my house.
DIY Reusable bags are very easy to make. I’ve used cotton muslin to make one for bread and some more for fruit and veg.
DIY Reusable Bags for Bread
You Will Need
Cotton muslin or some other lightweight, semi transparent fabric (old net curtains will do the job if you have some, or you could raid charity shops), bias binding or something else for the drawstrings (there are some ideas here on Threading My Way), usual sewing supplies.
Making the Bags
1. Cut a piece of fabric 33 cm x 76 cm.
2. Fold the fabric in half and pin the sides. Sew the side seams and trim.
3. Take one of the corners and squash it flat so that the side seam is next to the bottom.
4. Measure 6 cm up from the corner. Pin, then sew across the corner. Cut the corner off. Repeat for the other corner.
5. Fold the top of the bag over, then fold it over again. It will need to be wide enough for the drawstring cord. Pin, then sew, keeping close to the edge. Remember to leave a gap for the cord.
6. Thread the cord through the casing.
Making a Version For Fruit and Veg
To make a fruit and veg bag, cut a piece of fabric 20 cm x 60 cm. Follow the same steps as for the bread bag, but skip the boxed corners.
They’re easy and quick enough to make all the bags you need in an evening!
I’ve been planning to make quilts for my boys for ages, and before Christmas I finally got my act together and started on the first one.
Having the attention span of a gnat (I’m really starting to think I might have an adult version of ADD!), it’s necessary to keep things as simple as possible or the quilt will end up on the pile of unfinished projects.
So instead of making dozens of tiny blocks, I’m making 12 big ones.
Not wanting to mess it up, I planned out what I was going to do before Christmas. If you’d like to read about planning a quilt, you can find that post here.
As well as using large blocks, I’m also planning to back it with fleece and not actually quilt it all. I know this is cheating! But in the end, I want Dominic to have his quilt and I also want to keep my sanity.
Now all the bits are cut out and I’m ready to start sewing!
Log Cabin Quilt Block
The log cabin quilt block I’m using is made up 13 pieces, 7 different pieces in total.
During the planning stage, I worked out how many of each piece I would need. Pieces 1 and 2 are the same, as are 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, 9 and 10, 11 and 12.
So that’s 6 different sized pieces, plus the 13th.
For those 6 pieces, I cut 24 of each, and 12 of the 13th piece.
Here’s a table showing the sizes for each piece and how many you need.
Sewing the Log Cabin Quilt Block
To sew the log cabin quilt block, you start in the centre and work outwards.
Pieces 1 and 2 are the same size, so take 2 of the smallest bits and sew them together. Trim the seams and press them open.
Then along the lower long edge, sew one of the second size. Then sew the other piece this size at right angles to it.
Pieces 5 and 6 are the 3rd size up. Sew one of these along the opposite long edge to piece 3, and the other one to the side opposite piece 4.
Keep going like this so that you’re making up your block in a clockwise direction. You could go anti clockwise if you prefer, but it will look better if you don’t change your mind half way through!
Remember to trim and press seams as you go. And if you find that the pieces aren’t quite the right size, you can trim them down. Just be aware that the blocks will be easier to sew together if they’re the same size!
The next post will be showing how to sew the log cabin quilt blocks together and sewing the backing.
Negative space embroidery is a fun way to create letters and other simple shapes. Instead of embroidering the letter or the shape, you embroider the space around it.
You can do this on all kinds of things (I’ve seen lovely embroidery hoop art things on Pinterest). I chose to do this to a little purse. I used the first letter of my name, but you could do anything, as long as it’s a simple shape!
French knots are great for negative space embroidery.
There’s something very satisfying about sewing French knots. Once you get the hang of it, they’re easy to do. The trick is to pull the thread tight around the needle, then poke the needle through the fabric next to where you started the stitch, not in the same place or your French knot will disappear!
To make it up into a purse, I used the same method as I did for this embroidered clasp purse. Here’s a tutorial if you want to make one yourself! And you might be interested to know that I have these little purses as kits for sale here on Etsy.
Negative Space Embroidery: Clasp Purse Tutorial
I have included some affiliate links.
You Will Need
Fabric for the outer and the lining, a purse clasp, interfacing (optional), embroidery thread and a needle, Google Docs or similar and a printer, a pencil, usual sewing supplies. An embroidery hoop is also useful.
Otherwise you will need to make the pattern piece, and the instructions for doing this can be found in this tutorial here.
2. Once you’ve got your pattern piece sorted out, you can decide how big you need your letter to be. The easiest thing to do is to find a font you like on Google docs, type the letter and print it out. You will need to check that it will be the correct size, and don’t forget that your purse piece will include a seam allowance!
For my letter, I used a font called Alice, in size 200.
Using your pattern piece, cut 2 pieces from your lining fabric and 2 from interfacing. Cut one from the outer, and for the other outer piece, draw it onto the fabric but don’t cut it out yet! It’s much easier to embroider it first, then cut it out when you’ve finished the letter.
Sewing the Letter
1. Cut out the letter you printed and draw round it onto the fabric.
2. Start to sew French knots around the outside of your letter. If you’re using more than one colour or shade, space them out a bit so that you’ve got room to come back in with a different colour. I used 3 shades of pink plus white.
3. Once you’ve done this, go round again, then once more so that the French knots are 3 deep. If you have using a letter with a space inside, like an A, a P or a B, you might like to fill this in.
4. Now add some more French knots around your letter, but more spaced out. I did these mostly about 3 deep as well, but you can decide to do more or less depending on what you like!
Assembling the Purse
1. Place one of the purse pieces on top of an interfacing piece with the right side up. Take the other outer piece and place that on top of the outer piece so that the right sides are together. Place the other piece of interfacing on top.
2. Take the clasp frame and line the top of the bobbles up with the top edge of the purse. Check that it is centred and that the distance all the way round the top between the clasp and the purse pieces is roughly the same.
3. Using pins, mark where the top of the hinges are on the purse pieces.
4.Sew the bottom of the purse outer between the pins. Repeat for the lining.
5. Pop the purse lining inside the outer so that the right sides are together. Pin the lining to the outer. Leaving an opening on one side, sew the lining to the outer.
6.Turn the purse the right way out. Slip stitch the opening.
Attaching the Clasp Frame
To sew in the purse frame, you will need to identify the centre hole on one side.
You will also need to find the centre of the top edge of your purse. The easiest way to do this is usually by folding it in half.
1. Take your needle and thread and bring the thread through from the inside of the purse to the outside, in the centre of the top edge, about 5 mm down from the edge.
2.Now bring the needle through that hole in the centre of the purse frame, from the inside to the outside. Push the edge of the purse into the purse frame so that it is right inside. Pull the thread taut.
3. Put the needle through the next hole and through the top of the purse. Pull it out through the other side so that it comes out just underneath the frame. You might need to do this at a bit of an angle. We’re aiming for the stitching to be hidden underneath the purse frame.
4. Take the needle back through the purse and the frame to the next hole.
5. Now put the needle through the hole where you ended the first stitch, through to the wrong side.
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