Lily Pearmain knitting
Zion Lion hat, Wool and The Gang
Maker Lily Pearmain
Experience Fairly basic. I’ve knitted a small blanket before but never anything involving more than one type of stitch.
How easy to follow were the instructions? There were a few things I had to look up online but that may be down to my rustiness rather than the clarity of the instructions. Once I got going it was fairly easy and it all came back to me.
How long did it take you to make the kit? Including the mistakes I made, which meant I had to start again, probably three hours. If I were to do it again it would be much quicker.
Did you have any problems? The kit assumed you knew how to rib-knit, which I didn’t, so I had to look it up online.
Any other comments? The wool is lovely, really chunky and thick. And the needles are really pleasing to use.
How is the final product? Lovely! I’m really proud of it. Knitted hats all round for Christmas!
Would you recommend the kit to friends? I would recommend it to a few friends, yes. It’s great if you’re wanting to get back into knitting or wanting to boost your confidence. But anyone I know who already knits might be better off with something a little more complicated, such as the Coco jacket I’m wearing (£165 for the kit). £10, woolandthegang.com. Look to Wool and the Gang for a tutorial on stocking stitch, woolandthegang.com/video-tutorials
All sewn up: domestic crafts
Confessions of a sewing addict
Nantucket Throw Knit Kit, Loopy Mango
Maker Kathryn Holliday
Experience I always have many knitting projects on the go; hate to travel without some knitting.
How easy to follow were the instructions? It couldn’t be simpler, cast on a (very) few stitches, knit two, purl two. It is a very basic knit.
How long did it take? No more than five hours.
Any problems? None.
Any other comments? It’s the most amazing stuff, barely wool, really. This throw takes only two balls, each weighing 1,134g (most balls of wool are 50g; really thick wool, such as Rowan’s Big Wool, is 100g), and looking like something the Campana Brothers might have designed as a footstool in the 1990s. The needles are 25mm (huge – my ‘normal’ knitting is socks, knitted on 2.75mm) and it is hard to describe it as knitting – although obviously you are wrapping the wool round the needle and lifting (often with your fingers) the stitch over it. The throw grows at an amazing speed, which is extremely satisfying – and the wool shreds in clumps as if you had a sheep wandering around the house. The weird thing about the kit though is the knitting pattern – it is a photocopied sheet of typed instructions; everything else is so beautifully designed and thoughtfully put together that this rather lets it down.
How is the final product? It’s actually quite handsome – thick and warm and modern.
Would you recommend it to friends? It’s pretty expensive (though you can buy a finished throw and that is a whopping £635, which makes it seem a bargain). You could buy a single ball and make three thick scarves as Christmas presents – £50 each and only four stitches, you’d make each in 15 minutes.£280, etsy.com/uk/shop/loopymango
Charlotte skirt sewing kit, By Hand London
Maker Tamsin Blanchard
Experience I made a lot of my own clothes as a teenager and would throw them together to wear that night. Immaculate finishing is not my forte – I’m more interested in wearing the thing than perfecting my French seams. I did a year of pattern-cutting and sewing as part of my degree, but am quite rusty.
How easy to follow were the instructions? Fairly straightforward, although as with all dressmaking instructions you have to concentrate. I didn’t read the golden rules at the beginning that told me to finish off the seams or use pinking shears, so my seams may well fray when I wash it. You Can check out byhandlondon.com for the tutorials.
How long did it take? I did it over three days, a few hours a day.
Any problems? I found the instructions for inserting the invisible zip a bit tricky and had to unpick it three times. I also found getting the right size awkward – I was between two sizes – and should really have altered the pattern to fit, but I didn’t have the patience to make a toile out of calico first.
Any other comments? The lovely brushed-cotton check fabric looks great made up and the frill on the hem looks quite professional. The pattern encourages you to play around – you can put the frill at the waist as a peplum or leave it off completely and have a neat pencil skirt.
Would you recommend it to friends? Yes. The designs are really well thought out and easy to wear. As a whole, the kit has everything you need apart from scissors and a sewing machine. There is even a needle and thread. I’d never have chosen the fabric it came with but loved the final result. £50, anthropologie.eu
For your free Polly top sewing pattern, click here
Bird clutch bag needlepoint kit, Felicity Hall Contemporary Needlepoint
Maker Jo Farr
Experience Many years, including needlepoint pictures and several tapestry kits including cushions and a fire screen. But now I mostly do quilting.
How easy to follow were the instructions? The instructions for sewing are clear, but when it comes to making the piece into a bag it may prove more testing. The instructions are all there, but you’d have to buy lining and some glue to attach the bar clasp. I’m going to find that tricky; it’ll be a bit DIY.
How long did it take? I spent about six days, afternoons and evenings, to finish the bird and some of the flowers. It’s hard to gauge how long it will take to complete, but it will be several weeks.
Any problems? The only slight problem is distinguishing the pattern differences and the shades of pink on the peonies. To my eyes the colours are slightly indistinct.
Who would it be suitable for? Good stitchers with a lot of patience who know what they are doing. £75, felicityhall.co.uk
De Morgan Blue Dodo cushion, Fine Cell Work
Maker Jamie Chalmers
Experience Ten years as an embroiderer focusing on cross stitch, and five years as Mr X Stitch, aka the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery.
How easy to follow were the instructions? Needlepoint is the easiest stitch possible, and the canvas came with the pattern painted on to it, so it was pretty straightforward. The size of the piece was quite large and I used a frame to keep the fabric tight and under control. The kit came with a couple of needles so I was able to hit the ground stitching.
How long did it take? I think it will take a good 30 to 40 hours to complete. It’s not complicated, but there is a lot of space to cover. It’s a classy design so it’ll look pretty nice when it is finished.
Any problems? Not particularly. It is a simple enough kit to follow. The wool can be a bit unruly sometimes and it can get snarled up at the back quite easily, but this is not unknown for any stitchery, so you learn how to wrangle those tangles.
Any other comments? The best thing about needlepoint is that the repetitive nature of the work is very soothing and creates a meditative-like state. If I had received this as a Christmas gift, it would be an ideal method of staying calm while in the midst of family festivities. This design is nicely gender-neutral as well, so I would encourage some of the male readers to consider having a go at something like this.
Who would it be suitable for? Anyone who’s new to stitch as it’s quite simple and the painted canvas makes it fairly foolproof. I’d recommend a smaller pattern for true beginners to cut their teeth on, as this is quite a large piece of canvas to deal with, but it is suitable for men and women of all ages. The size of the holes in the canvas make this quite accessible for people at the further ends of the age spectrum as it is less fiddly than other embroidery kits.
What’s your next project? I’m working on a series of graffiti cross-stitch patterns with the hope of launching a new set in early 2014. The world of embroidery is a fresh and exciting place and I’m hoping that my patterns will help people reconsider their ideas of what cross stitch is capable of. I’m also continuing to work on mrxstitch.com, where I showcase the best needlecraft the world has to offer. £60, finecellwork.co.uk
Knicker-making kit, Flo-Jo Boutique
Make r Lucy Ratcliffe
Experience I did well in my textiles GCSE but, apart from knitting a scarf a few years ago, have not kept it up at all and am rather out of practice.
How easy to follow were the instructions? The kit assumes a fairly advanced level of competence, for example knowing about the grain of the fabric or how to sew the elastic into the knickers while maintaining its tension so it puckers the fabric, so although the instructions were clear, a beginner or sewing-machine novice would struggle.
How long did it take? The first stage of the process, cutting and tacking, was fiddly but not too complicated and I had made my basic knickers in a few hours.
Any problems? My grandma’s ancient sewing machine was not up to the task of sewing the elastic and ruching the fabric. A better sewing machine (with a more experienced person behind it) would have been able to do it so I asked a friend, who finished sewing on the elastic in about half an hour.
Any other comments? The fabric was Liberty Tana Lawn, and in a very nice print. But for £22 you could buy yourself a much nicer pair of (ready-made) knickers, so this kit is really for the aficionados who want to make it for the joy of making it. The kit requires some knowledge of sewing with a machine, so isn’t really suitable for a beginner looking for a quirky project.
How is the final product? The knickers have a certain charm but I’m not sure I would wear them.
Would you recommend it to friends? I’d forgotten how precise you have to be with fabrics and patterns and how patient with hand stitching. Unlike knitting a scarf, which is a lot more straightforward, this kit is quite time-consuming, and can’t be done in front of a Poirot on television. £22, flo-joboutique.co.uk
Stag’s head, What Delilah Did
Maker Sophie de Rosée
Experience At cross-stitch, I’m fairly experienced but I can’t knit or sew to save my life. During maternity leave earlier this year, I did a cross-stitch cushion for my daughter with her name and lots of animals on it. It was complex but hugely satisfying.
How easy to follow were the instructions? They are very clear and work on the assumption that the maker is a beginner.
How long did it take? To finish, it will take eight to 10 hours.
Any problems? The weave in the fabric was really small and hard to see and count the cells. I had to have really bright light. I have perfect eyesight and still found it extremely hard. I kept losing count too! It involves a lot of maths and concentration. This is not something you can do while watching television or having a conversation.
Any other comments? It was easy in that it was only one colour, so no changing of threads.
How is the final product? The design is very pleasing and would look very striking in a frame.
Would you recommend it to friends? Yes, but not beginners – you need a very bright work light, a lot of patience and perseverance. £25, whatdelilahdid.com