Craftiness, baking and other lovely things.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The mindfulness blanket

In my last post here, I talked about mindfulness and my plan to use crochet to help me practice it.  Here is the pattern I will be using, and I use the word 'pattern' in the very loosest sense.  I don't want to be counting the stitches or worrying about getting it right, so I've got a very simple plan.

The blanket is worked from the centre out.  That way I can make it any size I like.  Working in rows from a starting chain (aside from the fact that working into the starting chain is my least favourite part of crochet, yes, I dislike it even more than darning in ends), the size is partially dictated already.  I want it to be totally flexible.

I have taken photos of the process for the first three rounds, just to illustrate the pattern, but from now I'll be working my 15 minutes every day (using an alarm on my phone so I don't worry about the time) and will just update my progress periodically.

Round 1: 5ch (counts as 1tr, 2ch), then working in last chain from hook, (3tr, 2ch) x 3, 2tr, ss to first 2ch space.  (3tr each side of the square, 2ch at corners)

Round 2: 5ch (counts as 1tr, 2ch), 1tr in same corner 2ch space, *(1ch, 1tr between next 2tr) x 3, (1ch, 1tr, 2ch, 1tr) in corner 2ch space; repeat from * twice, (1ch, 1tr between next 2tr) x 3, 1ch, 1tr in corner 2ch space, ss to first 2ch space.  (4tr each side)

Round 3: 5ch (counts as 1tr, 2ch), 1tr in same corner 2ch space, (1ch, 1tr between next 2tr) to the corner, (1ch, 1tr, 2tr, 1tr) in corner, continue around as set.  Repeat this row until your blanket is finished.

The yarn I'm using is Stylecraft Sundae DK in Coconut Ice and I will just keep going until I feel like it's finished.  This is about the process for me with this project, about working each stitch without thinking about the last stitch or the next stitch, without wondering when it will be done or how big it should be.

If you want to join in, hop over to my Facebook page here and let me know.  I'm going to try and share any insights and tips I pick up about mindfulness there.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Mental health, mindfulness and a crochet along

Perhaps for many reasons, or perhaps for no reason at all, I've been having a few challenges with my mental health recently.  I have become very anxious and a little depressed.

Life has been busy and I put myself under a lot of pressure with deadlines and schedules to design new patterns.

I realised that I needed to take a step back, slow things down and give myself some time.  As much as I love to design and make, trying to meet my own unreasonable goals is making me ill.

I know that I'm not the only person facing this sort of challenge.  I know that we all find ways to cope and manage.  Many people practice mindfulness and I've always struggled with it, but I thought what if I was to use crochet in my mindfulness practice?

So, for 15 minutes a day, I will be working on a very simple crochet project, focusing on being aware of making each stitch, the feel of the hook, the movement of my hands, the tension of the yarn, my breathing as I yarn over, draw through, yarn over, draw through.

I would love to have company on my journey.  Just hop on over to my Facebook page here and let me know that you're joining in.  We can share photos of our mindfulness project, ask for guidance (both crochet and mindfulness) and support each other.

I will be making a blanket using Stylecraft Sundae DK in Coconut Ice, because I love working with this particular yarn and I find this colourway soothing.  I have only bought one ball.  I know that I'll need more, but I'm not concerned about the dyelot being the same for this project (and this particular yarn is very forgiving with it's tonal variation anyway).  I want it to be about just this ball, this round, this stitch, without the weight of however many balls it might take sitting in a bag waiting to be worked.

I hope you'll join me.  Share your yarn choice and project with me.  I'll post the pattern I'll be using soon.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Coeliac baking: episode 1

It's been about two months now since my oldest daughter was diagnosed with coeliac disease and we've been on a very steep learning curve.  Regular meals and cooking at home haven't been too much of a problem.  We usually cook from, so we've just swapped out some of our usual ingredients - stock cubes, the flours used for sauces, using gluten free pasta etc.

Baking is a little different.

When you take away the gluten, you change the structure, rise and crumb of your baking.  You can't just swap normal self raising flour for gluten free flour.  You have to learn about ingredients like xanthan gum and potato flour.

To complicate things even further, my daughter can't eat oats for at least 6 months either.  Some coeliacs are sensitive to a chemical in oats and so she has to exclude them and then reintroduce them in a control test.  Oats are a big ingredient in one of her favourite cookies, so my first baking experiment was all about replacing the oats without losing all the lovely oaty texture.

They're not the prettiest cookies in the world, and they're very fragile when they first come out of the oven, but as they cool they firm up and all three children gave them the thumbs up.  Recipes below for both original and coeliac versions.  Apologies for the quantities being in ounces - it's what I've always used, except for the chocolate, which is 2 x 100g bars.

Coeliac cookies

9oz butter or margarine
5.5oz soft brown sugar/caster sugar
1tsp vanilla
8oz gluten free self raising flour
5oz gluten free rice crispies
1oz desiccated coconut (note: I will add less rice crispies and more coconut next time, but this is all the coconut I had)
200g milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Beat butter and sugar together.  Add vanilla and beat briefly to mix in.  Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Use lined baking trays, drop large tablespoons of mix, leaving a bit of space between cookies, flatten slightly and push mix together - it will bind in the oven.  Bake at 180 for about 12 minutes, until golden brown.  Allow to cool on tray as they fall apart when first out of the oven.

Original oaty chocolate chunk cookies

9oz butter or margarine
5.5oz soft brown sugar/caster sugar
1tsp vanilla
8oz wholemeal self raising flour
6oz oats (not instant)
200g milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks

Method is the same as for gluten free cookies.  You can replace up to 2oz of the oats with desiccated coconut.  Add cinnamon and replace chocolate with a couple of handfuls of raisins.  Swap milk chocolate for white chocolate and cranberries.

Happy baking!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Vera and Bess has a new home

My blog has moved to a new home.  Come on over and join the crochet party at  I promise there will be yarny loveliness, tea and lots of cake.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Granny square of the week: mini squared circle

I love granny squares in all forms, simple squares, elaborate hexagons and any shape with a flower.  This is a very simple mini square, but sometimes that's exactly what you want to show off a yarn or colour combination or just to have something relaxing to work on in the car (if you're lucky enough not to be the driver) or in front of the TV in the evening.  Join 4 together with your favourite join to make a lovely bigger square or just use up your scraps, keep the minis in a bag and when you have enough, join them all together to make a unique scrappy blanket.

Here's the pattern, written in standard UK terms.  Stdc is a standing double crochet, just start off as if you were working a regular double crochet (it replaces join with ss and ch1).

R1: Ch4 (counts as first tr), in last ch from hook work 11tr, ss to top of first tr, fasten off.  (12 st)

R2: Join with stdc between 2 tr, ch1, and then work 1dc, 1ch between st all the way around, ss to first ch1 sp and fasten off.  (12st, 12 ch1 sp)

R3: Join with stdc in any ch1 sp, then ch1. * In next ch1 sp, work (1tr, ch2, 1tr, ch1), then 1dc, ch1 in each of next 2 ch1 sp. Repeat from * twice more.  In next ch1 sp work (1tr, ch1, 1tr, ch2), 1dc, ch1 in next ch1 sp, ss to first st and fasten off.  (16 st, 16 ch1 sp)

This is a great way to use up small scraps.  The yarn I used is Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK in mauve and shell pink.

This is the first of a series of granny squares which work beautifully together or can be used on their own.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Quick crochet episode 1: the Burst brooch

Having called it a brooch, it isn't just a brooch.  Burst works brilliantly on top of a beanie instead of a pompom as well, but as spring is finally here, let's celebrate its beauty as a sweet little brooch.

It's easy and quick to make and complete accuracy is definitely not essential.  Variegated yarn is perfect to give you lots of colours in one hit, or choose a really vibrant jewel coloured solid to make a bold statement.

Use any yarn weight with the appropriate hook.  DK gives a good size, not too chunky, not too tiny.  I used about 6g to 8g of DK for one Burst.  You will need yarn, crochet hook, darning needle and brooch pin/safety pin.

To begin, chain 50.  Starting with the 11th chain from the hook, work 1 double crochet (UK terms, if you're using US terminology that's a single crochet).

Working the 10ch, 1dc - it will get a bit twisty but don't worry.

Next chain 10 and then work 1 double crochet in the next st.  Do that again.  And again.  And again.  Keep repeating the 10 chain stitch and 1 double crochet all the way along your original starting chain.  When you've worked the last stitch, fasten off, leaving a good length of yarn for stitching up, about 30cm/12".

The reverse side after rolling up - take your time and make sure the
original chain doesn't twist and keep the base as flat as you can.

Starting from the last stitch where your long tail is, start to roll up the work, keeping the base flat and stitching through from one side to the other as you go with each turn.  Finish with a couple of stitches on the base to secure the yarn and then stitch on your brooch pin or safety pin.

Happy hooking!

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Lovely little beret for the Innocent Smoothie Big Knit

It takes a while to make a blanket, even longer if you are designing it and writing the pattern as you go along.  Sometimes I need a break from a big project but my fingers still itch for hook and yarn.

The Innocent Smoothie Big Knit (or little crochet in my case) is perfect for just such an occasion, but typically I have to make my own little pattern up.  I thought a beret would be sweet, a flower trimmed beret even sweeter.  See below for the pattern and if you make one yourself, please share it with me on Instagram with #veraandbessmaker before you send it off to do some good.

A very small amount of any DK yarn (I used some Sirdar Baby Crofter)
Coordinating button or bead
4mm crochet hook
Darning needle for those ends and stitching on the flower

Instructions are written in standard UK terms.

To make the beret:

R1: Chain 4 (counts as first stitch) and working in last chain from hook, work 11 treble crochet and join to top of chain 4 with a slip stitch (12 st)

R2: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch) and work 1 treble in same stitch, then 2 treble in each stitch around and join to top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (24 st)

R3: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch) and work 1 treble crochet in each st and join to top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (24 st)

R4: Chain 3 (counts as first stitch), work 2 treble together over next 2 stitches then work (1 treble in next stitch, 2 treble together over next 2 stitches) to the end of the round and join into top of chain 3 with a slip stitch (16 st)

R5: Chain 1 (does not count as first stitch) and work 1 double crochet in each stitch.

R6: Repeat R5 and fasten off.

To make the flower:

Chain 2 and in last chain from hook work 1 treble, chain 1, slip stitch then (chain 1, 1 treble, chain 1, slip stitch) 4 times.  Fasten off.

Sew flower to beret with button or bead, darn in ends and admire your creation.  Don't forget to show me #veraandbessmaker.

For more information about The Big Knit or to find more patterns, just click here.  Every bottle of Innocent Smoothie wearing a hat that is sold adds 25p to pot for Age UK.