Thursday 23 April 2015

Free Pattern: Sailor Seagull

My nephew turned one a couple of months ago, and I wanted to make him a fun little toy for his birthday. I had some little bird chirping noise toy inserts  and we saw this cute little top at The White Company-

I thought it would be cute to make a little toy inspired by the seagull on the jumper, a little bit like the doll and dress I made for my niece a couple of years ago. I knew a one year old wouldn't appreciate how they match, but his parents would!

You can hear the bird sound maker on a little video I put on my instagram account (do follow me there if you'd like to see what I'm currently working on). It makes a squeaky, whistling sound - a nice change from a rattle.

After making a duck for the little yellow duck project last week, I thought it would be a good idea to test the pattern and make another duck at the same time, especially as a girl found my duck and was pleased with it. I did a plain 'jumper' style for the duck instead of stripes.

Since the duck isn't a sailor and it's been lovely and sunny here these past few days, I changed up the hat a little to make it more like a sun hat. I made the seagull with a 4mm hook and acrylic yarn, and the duck with cotton yarn and a 5mm hook.

(Instructions for the duck are in brackets where they differ from the seagull.)

You will need:
  • 4mm hook (or 5mm if you prefer a larger toy)
  • Aran/worsted weight yarn in grey, white, red, yellow, and light and dark blue. I used a mixture of Sirdar Supersoft Aran, and Caron Simply Soft worsted - Red Heart Super Saver would work well too. (For the duck I used Rico Creative Cotton aran in pink, yellow and orange. Lily Sugar'n cream would be another good choice.)
  • tapestry needle
  • stitch marker
  • safety eyes / black yarn of any weight
  • toy stuffing for head/body and hat
  • optional rattle/bird noise maker
Stitches used: ch, sl st, sc, hdc, fphdc,  dc, magic ring, invdec (invisible decrease - put hook through front loops of next two sts, yarn over, pull through two loops, yo, pull through two loops), inc = 2sc in one st. US terms are used throughout; if you prefer UK ones please use this conversion chart.

Unless otherwise noted, the pattern is worked in spirals throughout. Do not join at the end of a round, but use the stitch marker to keep track of the beginning of the round that you're on. 


In grey (yellow)

Round 1: 6 scs into magic ring
Round 2: Inc in each st around (12)
Round 3: (Inc, sc) six times (18)
Round 4: Sc, (inc, sc in next 2 sts) 5 times, inc, sc (24)
Round 5: (Inc, sc in next 3 sts) 6 times (30)
Round 6: (Sc in 9 sts, inc in next st) three times (33)
Rounds 7-12: Sc in each st around (33)
Round 13: (Sc in 9 sts, invdec) three times (30)

At this point I sewed on the eyes, and made the beak and sewed it on too. You could sew eyes and the beak on after but definitely use safety eyes now if you're going to.

Round 14: (Invdec, sc in next 3 sts) 6 times (24)
Round 15: Sc, (invdec, sc in next 2 sts) five times, invdec, sc (18)
Round 16: (Invdec sc) six times (12)

Stuff head, Change colour to white.

Note that for the body, you may need to change where in a round you switch colour to ensure the changes are at the back of the toy. Rounds should begin and end in marked stitch as usual.

Rounds 17, 18: Sc in each st around (12)
Change colour to red
Round 19: (Inc, sc) six times (18) (Change colour to pink for duck)
Round 20: Sc, (inc, sc in next 2 sts) 5 times, inc, sc (24)
Round 21: (Inc, 7 scs) three times (27)
Change colour to white
Rounds 22-24: Sc in each st around (27)
Change colour to red
Rounds 25-27: Sc in each st around (27)
Change colour to white (yellow for duck)
Rounds 28, 29: Sc in each st around (27)
Round 30: Invdec, 7sc (24)
Change colour to grey
Round 31: Sc (invdec, sc in next 2 sts) five times, invdec, sc (18)
Stuff body, and put in rattle or noise maker if desired
Round 32: Invdec, sc all around (12)
Stuff body a little more
Round 33: Invdec in each pair of sts all around (6) bind off and sew shut. Sew end back through body and trim off excess to hide.

In yellow (orange)
Round 1: 4 scs into ring
Round 2: (Inc, sc) twice (6)
Round 3: (2sc, inc) twice (8)
Round 4: Sc in each stitch around
Round 5: (Inc, 3scs) twice. Sl St into next St and bind off, leaving tail to sew to head. (10)

In yellow (orange)
Round 1: Work 4hdc into magic ring. Pull tight but do not join. Make sure you have enough of a tail to sew to body.
Round 2: Ch1, turn, 2 hdcs in first st, hdc in next 2 sts, 2 hdcs in last st
Round 3: Ch1, turn, 2 hdcs in first st, hdc in next 4 sts, 2 hdcs in last st. Bind off, weave in end.

Feet - make 2
In yellow (orange)
Round 1: 7 hdcs into magic ring. Pull tight but do not join. Make sure you have enough of a tail to sew to body.
Round 2: Ch1, turn, (hdc, fphdc) three times, hdc, bind off, weave in end.

Wings - make 2
In white (yellow)
Ch7, Sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc, 2hdc, dc, dc6 into last ch.
Working down the other side of the initial chs: Dc, 2hdc, 2sc, sl St into 1st chain, bind off, leaving tail to sew to body (you'll need to weave the tail back through the wing first).

Hat - Sailor
In dark blue
Round 1: 6sc into ring
Round 2: Inc in each st around (12)
Round 3: (Inc, sc) six times (18)
Rounds 5, 6, 7: sc in each st around. Bind off.
Attach light blue yarn, turn
Round 8: In back loops, (inc, 2sc) all around (24)
Round 9: (Sl St, sc, hdc twice, dc, four times, hdc, twice, sc, sl st) (x2) (24)
Bind off, leaving tail to sew to head.

Hat - Sun hat
(In pink)
Rounds 1-7: as above but don't bind off or change yarn. Turn.
Round 8: As above, sl st into first st of round
Round 9: Ch 1, (hdc in 5 sts, 2 hdc in next st) four times. Bind off, leaving tail to sew to head.

In red (pink)
Row 1: Ch 31
Row 2: Sl st in 2nd ch from hook, and next 13 chs. Sl st through both next ch and post of st at the back of where the head and body join twice to attach the scarf at the back. (See image below - you can skip this if you'd prefer to just sew the scarf). Sl st into remaining sts & bind off.

Style the scarf as you like and sew in place with ends of yarn.


Stuff hat and sew hat to head. I put most of the stuffing in before sewing the hat but I stuffed it a little more before sewing it closed. Positioning is up to you, but I think it looks cute slightly off to one side.

Sew wings to body with the round side at the top. You can sew all the way round or just at the top and leave the rest of the wing loose.

Sew feet next to each other to the base of the body.

Sew tail to the back of the body at the bottom. Weave in any ends that are left, and enjoy your little bird!

Sunday 12 April 2015

What I made: Little Yellow Duck

This evening I made a little yellow duck, to support the Little Yellow Duck project. Two years ago, Emma Harris, creator of the project lost a friend, Clare Cruickshank, to Cystic Fibrosis. She might have been saved had she had an organ donor. The idea is that you make a yellow duck, tag it, and leave it somewhere for a stranger to find who will hopefully visit the site, log it and read some information on organ, blood or stem cell donation.

I made the duck from Lisa Van Klaveren's Just Ducky Lovey, one of the patterns suggested by the project. It was pretty quick to make - each part only has a few rounds - and it was very straight forward too. I named the duck Darcy, because I don't know if Darcy is a boy or a girl duck. (Or neither. Though I don't think this Darcy would do all that well in a lake!)

Should I make one too? Yes, although you don't need to make the one I made. The project has a pattern page with knitting, crochet and sewing patterns. Take a look and see what you like. I will be leaving my duck somewhere on Wednesday, the first anniversary of the project, but ducks for the project are welcome all year round.

Friday 10 April 2015

What I baked: Gluten-free, Vegan, Coconut Sugar Cake

gluten-free vegan coconut sugar cake

I love baking, but I have a lot of friends who can't have regular cakes for whatever reason. I thought it would be a good idea to blog my attempts at gluten, egg and/or dairy free baking so I can remember what worked and what didn't, and maybe help someone else out.

My friend Emily and I thought it would be nice to bake a Simnel cake for our flute group practice this week. She can't have gluten, dairy, or (in my view) worst of all, chocolate, and another girl in the group is vegan and is currently not allowed to have sugar except coconut sugar.

This was a challenge! I checked with our sugar-free friend and she wasn't even allowed to have dried fruit. So a regular Simnel cake was out, and we thought we would bake a spice cake instead.

coconut sugar
I got coconut sugar online, though it's the sort of thing you can get at health food shops. It tastes like dark brown sugar, almost like treacle. My husband thinks he can taste a hint of coconut in it but I can't really.

I searched for recipes and found this one for Chai Spice Cake with Vanilla Bean Buttercream from Veggie and the Beast. I liked that it called for raw sugar, because I thought the coconut sugar wouldn't be so different.

We only made the cake, not the icing. We had to make a few substitutions:
  • Regular almond milk for vanilla (because the vanilla kind has sugar), 
  • 3 cups less 6 tbsps Dove Farms Gluten Free Plain flour, 6 tbsps cornflour and 1 1/2 tsps xanthan gum all sieved together a couple of times for the cake flour (you can't get normal cake flour in the UK, but 1 cup plain flour less 2 tbsps with 2 tbsps cornflour is the substitution I would normally use)
  • coconut sugar for raw sugar
  • vegetable oil for canola oil (another ingredient you can't get in the UK)
Emily and I followed the directions as written. I make American recipes I find on the Internet quite frequently so I have a set of cup measures. I can't express how much easier it is to use them than to convert a recipe into weights. They aren't expensive and you can get them online or in shops like John Lewis.

I was able to powder the sugar to an extent in the food processor, but not all that well. I also had to hand grind some cardamom seeds, which turned out to be much harder work than I anticipated! I baked the cakes in my oven 175°C (350°F) for about 30 mins, but I swapped shelves half way round so that both cakes had the chance to cook the same.

mishapen cakes
I confess I was a little nonplussed about how they came out initially! The surface cooked before the mixture had a chance to spread out, so they were all lumpy. I sent this picture to my friend Myshelle who runs Mamma that Makes and she suggested cutting round a plate placed over the cake to make it more circular when they were cool.

cutting round mishapen cake
Cutting round a plate worked really well - it's the sort of thing I wish I'd thought of by myself. The cakes were still uneven but they were much better. I debated cutting the tops flat too but decided I'd rather have a bigger cake - my flute group friends would forgive me for it not looking perfect!

I tried a second time to powder the coconut sugar in the foodprocessor, thinking that it might work better with less sugar. It didn't! But the blender on the other hand was a different story- it powdered perfectly in about 20 seconds, though I gave it a second 20 seconds just to be sure.

coconut sugar icing

I made a water icing filling for the cake, mixing water into the powdered coconut sugar until it was a thick paste. I put a tiny bit of vanilla essence in but I don't think it was really needed - the sugar's flavour was enough. I topped it with thinner water icing, and balls of marzipan to make it a little like a Simnel cake (the marzipan had sugar in but was easy to remove from one piece).

coconut sugar cake

I think it looked all right in the end (though it took a little effort to get the marzipan to stay in place as you can probably tell!). But more importantly, flute group enjoyed it. It was very spicy and flavourful, and the texture was really nice too. I think that cake flour recipes may work well for being made gluten free because gf flour can be a little gritty, but some of that would be replaced by cornflour.

One friend said she wouldn't have known it was vegan or gluten free if I hadn't said, and my vegan friend was really happy, because she hadn't been able to have cake in six weeks since she's been not allowed sugar.

slice of coconut sugar vegan gluten free cake
Should I make one too? I think this is a great recipe, so yes! If I make it again, I think I would use a little more tea as Emily says gluten free flour tends to absorb water more, and I would bake it for a bit longer at a lower temperature to allow the mixture time to spread out. But over all it tasted pretty good! I would definitely use coconut sugar again, too, although only in a recipe where it's flavour would complement the other ingredients. I think it would be good in apple muffins for example, and other things that would be spicy. And next time I think I'll try making coconut sugar buttercream.

Monday 6 April 2015

Free Pattern: Sunshine Flower Coasters

flower coaster with holder

I love spring. I love the daffodils on the grass on my street, I love the cherry blossom beginning to bloom, and I really love the light evenings so I can crochet in daylight - occasionally in sunshine!

Two years ago I made these coasters for Mothering Sunday for my mother in law and my grandmother in law. I wrote down the pattern, but then lost it D: Happily it turned up again a couple of weeks ago!

two flower coasters
Made with Rico Creative Cotton Aran
I had inherited a set of wooden coasters that came in a holder, and I thought it would make an extra special gift to make a set of crochet coasters with a holder too. These are very simple to make and work up very quickly, perfect for a Mother's Day gift, especially if you've left it a little late.

flower coasters in their holder with butterfly fastening
Made with Lily Sugar'n Cream

The coasters are10cm/4in across when made in Sugar'n Cream, and 9cm/3.5in across when made with Rico Creative Cotton Aran, using 3.5mm hook. The holder is 12cm/4.5in in diameter, and 2.5cm/1in tall.


You will need:
  • 2 or 3 colours of  worsted/aran weight cotton yarn, for example Lily's Sugar'n Cream, or Rico Creative Cotton. For one flower you will need about 15 yards of one yarn + scraps of a contrasting colour. For a full set you'll need around 140 yards of yarn in total.
  • 3.5mm hook
  • tapestry needle
  • Iron, tea cloth, water spray for blocking
Stitches used: ch, sl st, sc, hdc, dc, trc (triple crochet), magic ring. US terms are used throughout; if you prefer UK ones please use this conversion chart.

crochet flower coasters

Round 1: Dc 10 times into magic ring. Pull tight and sl st through first dc to join.
(Optional - bind off and change colour)

Round 2: Ch2 (does not count as st - make 1st dc into same space as ch 2 throughout), 2dc in each dc around. Join to first dc. (20 sts)

Round 3: Do not ch; treat the st you did sl st into on previous round as first st. * skip next st, (dc, 3trc, dc,) in one st, skip 1 st, sl st* 5 times. Sl st into 1st st. (five petals formed)

Round 4: Ch1 *hdc, 2dcs in next 3 sts, hdc, sl st* 5 times & fasten off.

Round 5: With contrasting colour, join in back loop of hdc on previous row. Starting in hdc, * 2sc in each of 8 sts around petal,  sl st down to st in round 2 below sl st on round 3* five times. Sl st into where you joined the yarn, bind off, weave in ends.

crochet flower coaster
Unblocked the coaster isn't flat

Blocking: When you finish, the flowers petals will curl up slightly. Steam blocking will fix this, and only takes a minute per coaster. Lay one coaster upside down on an ironing board, and cover with a clean tea towel. Spray water over the towel, then iron briefly to flatten the coaster. If you have a steam iron you can use that instead of spraying water, and if you don't have a water spray, just dampen the tea towel first.

crochet coaster holder

Round 1: Dc 12 times into magic ring. Pull tight and sl st through first dc to join.
Round 2: Ch2 (does not count as st - make 1st dc into same space as ch 2 throughout), 2dc in each dc around. Join to first dc. (24 sts)
Round 3: Ch2, (2dc in 1st st, dc in next st) 12 times. Join. (36 sts)
Round 4: Ch2, dc (2dc in next st, dc in next 2 sts) 11 times, 2dc in next st, dc, Join (48 sts)
Round 5: Ch2, (2dc in 1st st, dc in next 3 sts) 12 times. Join. (60 sts)
Round 6: Ch2, In back loops only, dc in each st around. Join, & bind off. (60 sts)
Round 7: Attach contrasting yarn. 30 hdc, ch 25, sl st in 1st ch, 30hdc, join to first hdc with sl st, chain 16, sl st in fourth ch from hook, bind off.
Butterfly: With first colour, attach to ch4 loop. Ch2, dc, ch2, dc, sl st into loop, (ch1, hdc 2, ch1, sl st into loop) twice, ch2, dc, ch2, dc, ch2, sl st into loop, bind off, weave in ends.

Put the coasters in the holder, and hook the butterfly through the loop to fasten it.

crochet flower coasters with butterfly holder

You may also like to try my Lacy Coasters pattern ♥