IS it a Pattern Keeper? Is it a Chart Saver? No, it’s Chart Minder!

I sometimes have a complete mental block on remembering words for things. Same with names, but this forgetfulness seems to afflict me with the same person’s names or a website’s name. My knit and natter buddy Amy had to suffer nearly a year of repeatedly being asked her name. This is totally relevent, as the website I want to share with you is one of those things. I remember it exists and that I want to use it, but can’t remember the name. Having now mentioned it once on the blog, I’ve been reduced to reading my own old blog posts trying to find that one mention. So this post is really for me, to make it easier to find!

Also it’s had a beautiful make over as Abby the code queen and knitter who made it has been joined by designer Lauren. The website is for knitters to make their own colourwork charts, but for those vintage magazine hoarders like me, it will make a chart from your picture. You begin with creating an account – don’t worry it’s all free – and can you can sign in with your Ravelry account if you have one.

So have a look at Chart Minder here at


Vintage Tips on Washing Woolens and a local tip


The back page of the Norweigan Sweater tells us how to look after our woolens. My own personal experience has been shrinking things, then learning handwashing and wishing that they still manufactured mangles as a pure wool jumper gets pretty heavy after it’s been dunked. I have to make do with rolling woolens in a towel and then deal with shed loads of soping wet towels as I don’t own a tumble dryer.

Emu may recomend Dreft, but I recomend anyone in East London visit Elsie’s Droguerie and buy Fine Fabric Wash from Town Talk (made in Lancashire). Elsie is a new member of the WI I belong to (The Shoredicth Sisters Women’s Institute) and her shop sells all sorts of top of the range products that an old fashioned house maid would recognise. Even more marvelous than exactly the thing you need to remove that stain, she has a range of shoe polish in all the colours that exist AND shoe dyes. My light brown brogues are soon going to be green and my pastel pink bargain shoes I’d never otherwise wear are going to become blue.


How to wash woolens

Learning About Patterns with The Thrifty Stitcher

The Thrifty Stitcher

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to a workshop with the Thrifty Stitcher, aka Claire-Louise Hardie, aka the Sewing Producer and chief of sewing knowledge and pattern designer for the TV Show the Great British Sewing Bee. She a WI member too, belonging to the London Stoke-Newington group. (Here is a story from the WI Life Magazine all about Claire-Louise). We learned that there will be a Series 3 of The Great British Sewing Bee and it might be filming pretty soon! You can do sewing classes with Claire-Louise and her colleague Rosie at her studio in Stoke Newington and are guaranteed not just to learn how to make a dress, but a dress which fits you perfectly.  I can’t recommend her classes more, I learnt so much- she has been making clothes professionally for stage and screen for years, but is also familiar with commercial patterns used by a home sewer and the problems of getting stuff to fit. She knows easy methods for copying existing clothes to. Read More »

A top book to help make your own clothes (plus my first making disaster)

The Encyclopedia of Sewing Techniques

The Encyclopedia Of Sewing Techniques by Wendy Gardiner

Before I bought my sewing machine, when it was just a whim that I might make my own clothes, I checked out this book to see what kinds of thing I might need to learn. It convinced me that it was a sound idea and so I bought my sewing machine and haven’t yet regretted it (unlike the knitting machine, much regret there). It was so useful that I ended up with library fines for not returning it on time and had to buy my own copy.

So with this book, having read the sewing machine manual and bought some charity shop sheets, cotton saris and curtains to practice on, and some sewing patterns from eBay, I got on with making stuff. I had some disasters, but that I made anything at all is down to this book, as I’m completely self taught. (More after the jump, this is a long post!)Read More »

Eco solution for stuffing

I have two solutions.

1. Reuse a synthetic/polyester pillow. Buy yourself a nice new pillow for your bed. I like this one from Devon Duvets via John Lewis website. It is stuffed with unbleached, untreated sustainable British Wool and is suitable for allergy sufferers. Unlike a synthetic pillow, these need proper old fashioned plumping up regularly (I learnt a great trick from Downton Abbey – throw it to the floor a couple of times).

Throw your old pillow in the washing machine at 30 degrees. Synthetic filling will come out all clean, but a bit misshapen and clumped together. Grab your seam ripper and open it up, then pull out small bits at a time and shred it till you get the soft fluffiness back. Now it should look just like toy stuffing from a craft shop.

Here are my latest makes, filled this way.

The Pussycat and the “Heelander” Yeti are from Small Stories by Gabrielle Reith . I got the two kits (cunningly they are printed up as tea towels) from the Renegade Craft Fair. There is an Owl on the back of the Pussycat.

These two are from one Cloth Kits kit and are designed by the fantastic Rob Ryan. The kit can be used alternatively to make a tote bag instead.

2. The next trick involved having a cushion hanging around, getting stuffed very slowly. Every little snipped off thread, end of wool and really small left over of fabric goes into the cushion. The one below has bits from several WI meetings, as well as months of home sewing, pompom making and knitting.

On the left – the cushion cover I made at primary school, which was left unstuffed for many years.

On the right is another Cloth Kits cushion I got from the Knitting and Stitching Show, designed by lovely Jane Foster. Before she was designing for big companies like Habitat and Clothkits, and sold her work through Ebay, she once made me a bag especially designed to hang over the side of my wheelchair without getting caught up in the wheels. Alas, one day in New Look, unbeknownst to me it got caught on a hook displaying  bras. I drove off at top wheelchair speed and ripped it apart (and upset a lot of bras).