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 A year ago 4 of us sat down and talked about making our own craft mag with sustainability at its heart and a democraftic vision to get everyone confident making things, sharing skills, tools, patterns and ideas to help us slowdown and reconnect. We started and then stumbled under the weight of Covid, homeschooling, writing 3 craft books (I know right, who does that?!) and generally trying to stay afloat.

It was a weird blessing, it forced us outside more and away from our screens. It took us to the woods, the park, the beach, anything to get the daily exercise and stop going mad. It revealed a whole world of birds, plants, bugs and beautiful nature. I've been collecting colours from nature for 5 years now, I have a whole archive of inspiration, but Covid seemed the right time to share it and you loved it.

January 2021 seems the perfect time to pick this back up and run with it. We've got our heads around how to work in lockdown, between us we have a years worth of craft tutorials, how tos and inspiration to share and we are all passionate about living in better balance as a way to Make It Better. So let me introduce you to the new mini-almanac-zine. (I figure we start small and crafty ;) )

Welcome to the Make It Better fold out almanac and craft zine. It includes monthly notes on the sky, sun and sea, things you can see and do outdoors, seasonal colour inspiration and stitching, sewing, crochet, papercraft and all round crafting ideas. 

This months mini mag includes an exclusive crochet hacking pattern to upcycle and reuse your Christmas sweaters, inspiring ways to use sashiko stitching and as it's our first zine, a fold out poster of our manifesto to help you set your New Years intentions and kick things off as you mean to go on.

There's a paper copy is printed, folded and posted to your door or you can download it and make it yourself (for extra advice on how to cut and fold your mag follow @makeitbettermag on Instagram). Both versions can be found over on Etsy.

Make It Better is a modern, multi-platform magazine with sustainability at its heart. It has a democratic vision to get everyone confident in making things and shares ways to slowdown and connect. Based in the UK, we have tried to keep it as universal as possible, so while you may not have the same flora, fauna or seasonal weather, the ideas, patterns and info will still inspire you.

Editor Emma is the successful author of six crochet, zerowaste and craft books. She regularly contributes to craft and crochet magazines, and Make It Better was nominated for the Mollie Makes Handmade Champion Award. The team behind this mag include Christine Leech & Katie Jones, both presenters and judges on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas and craft legends, and Emily Ashborne, instagram sensation and maker extraordinaire. They share a passion for sustainability and how craft can be a vital part of our toolkit to Make It Better.

Here's the free pattern for the crochet hexagon stars. I'm not going to bore you with all the EPIC stuff that has been happening since my last post, the very quick version is: new online course in upcycling with crochet out May 2020, new upcycling with crochet book out in June 2020, new 'magazine' in development over at Make It Better  and hoping for first edition out by Summer.

This though guys, is the pattern for you to crochet your own starry blanket. It's a lockdown special as it's designed to be easy, and as endless (cos who knows how long we'll be at home for!) I've chosen the colours by finding treasures on my 'daily exercise' walk and from around the house and my plan is to find a new colour each day and then make a star. It takes me roughly a movie to make one star so is ideal.

I also have no idea how I'm going to finish the edges or anything at the moment but I figure we can work that out together :) You'll need to make basic plain hexagons and stars.

 Parrot & Pear Blossom Blanket
You can see why it's called that ;)

Aran Yarn - Yarn A = Star, Yarn B = Joining Hexagon
5mm Hook

Ch - chain
Ss - slip stitch
Dc - UK double crochet, US single crochet
Tr - UK tr, US dc
Dc2tog - UK double 2 stitches togther, US single 2 stitches together
Tr2tog - UK treble 2 stitches together, US dc 2 stitches together

Yarn A or B, Ch4, ss ends to make loop
Rnd 1: ch2, tr, *ch2, 2tr* x 5, ch2, ss
Rnd 2 - 7: (tr, ch2, tr) in ch sp, tr in each st
If turning into a star continue with the instructions to create the points below, if making a plain hexagon do round 8
Rnd 8: (dc, ch1, dc) in ch sp, dc in each st, ss and fasten off

Adding points to make a star
Yarn A, join on in chain space

Row 1: ch2, tr2tog, tr 10, tr2tog, tr in ch sp, ch2, turn

Row 2: tr2tog, tr 8, tr2tog, tr in start ch, ch2, turn
Row 3: tr2tog, tr 6, tr2tog, tr in start ch, ch2, turn
Row 4: tr2tog, tr 4, tr2tog, tr in start ch, ch2, turn
Row 5: tr2tog, tr 2, tr2tog, tr in start ch, ch2, turn
Row 6: tr2tog, tr2tog, tr in start ch, ch2, turn
Row 7: ch2, sk 2, tr in start ch, ss fasten off
Repeat on each side of the hexagon until you have 6 points

In Yarn A work dc stitches around the outside edge of that star, to do this: 
Rnd : join on in the chp space between the points,

ch1, 2dc around each tr post on the point edge,

at the tip of the point (2dc, ch1, 2dc), rpt all the way around the edge.

Rnd: Yarn B, dc in each st, at tip of point (dc, ch1, dc) and where points meet at the bottom dc2tog, ss to finish 

Katie Jones and I are getting together some AWESOME crochet hacks to share with y'all right now, but I've got far too excited over this particular one not to share it immediately.

This denim jacket has spent months as a too-small shirt, languishing in a drawer. Initially it was gonna get a crop to make a bit more of a summer affair but the tightness around the arms and shoulders was still a massive problem. Then ping! The crochet brain kicked in and the scissors came out. Now it's got a badass retro cowboy vibe that I'm am completely in love with.

And being in love is the point. It's all very well to tell people to think about mending things rather than throwing them out, but it's not a holey clothes that's the problem. It's cheap, easy to by, throw-away clothes that's the problem. Once that initial crush is over we happily discard things and move on to the next one. There's no love. Ok, ok, every now and then it's the Real Thing and you fall for a top that you will be with forever, but mostly it's just a phase.

Finding ways to fall back in love with your clothes and give them a new life, or finding a preloved thing that you can make your own helps massively in the fight for the planet. Keeping stuff out of landfill, saving on resources to make new stuff, learning how to make your own stuff, this aaaaall helps. and if that means adding an Evil Keneaval tripe to a denim shirt then so be it.
So #crochethacking has definitely become A Thing.

#crochethacking is a way of interacting, upcycling, remaking, rethinking and redesigning old clothes that would otherwise end up in landfill, using crochet as a way of bringing them back to life. It's a way you can fall back in love with things you might have got tired of, a way of reforming and changing the shape, fit, and style of any garment that you can get your hands on.

I've got together with the fabby Katie Jones and we're creating a collection of upcylces using crochet to bring boldness, colour and personality.  We're also working with a bunch of magazines to make some special patterns for everyone so keep 'em peeled over the next few months :)

I think the reason it's taken of in the way it has is that it's not just about crochet, but it's a whole way of life. A way of feeling like we can actually do something to make a difference: keep clothes out of landfill, reduce our individual impacts on the planet, step in and use positive action to make a change.

Yes, it's only small. Yes, it's just a bit of crochet, but for every garment that you reimagine, and every practical skill you improve on, the more resilient we become and the less we need to get a kick out of a Primark binge.

In my true, disorganised fashion it has taken FOREVER to start writing patterns up for people to use. In my defence these are now entering the realms of sewing instructions, pattern cutting and garment construction. (I'm saying this to make it sound complicated, it reeeeally isn't).

Anyway, first three makes are finally available over at Etsy  and will be over at Lovecrochet asap.  Please do let me know what you think of them, any improvements and amendments will be very welcome!

Heaps of people asked, so here's a free tutorial to make your own sustainable beeswax wrap. A reusable fabric alternative to cling film they can be made of any thin fabric coated in beeswax that you can wrap around your leftovers and set in place with the heat from your hands.  Simple.  And they have a lovely, honey sort of smell too.

This is a brilliant way of using up left over scraps of fabric from sewing projects, old pillow cases, or anything else that's cottony and non-stretchy.

Beeswax - just search 'buy beeswax beads', they are super cheap
An iron
Old fabric - I reuse cotton sheets that have given up the ghost
Baking parchment
Metal tray - you can make one using tin foil

1. Get the iron warming up on a medium heat. 

2. Cut your fabric to size so that it fits in your tray.  Lay a sheet of baking parchment on the tray, and pop your fabric on top.

3. Sprinkle the fabric with a small handful of waxbeads, a light covering is plenty.

4. Put another piece of parchment on top, and then get your iron involved. This will take a few minutes, as the wax needs to melt, and then you can move it around until it's coated the fabric.

5. Once cool you can use the heat from your hands to wrap it around your things!  

Warning: they're not waterproof, and not recommended for meat and fish.  And to clean it you just use a cool, wet cloth.  That's it.

Our last for a good few months, or at least until the children lose them, and if they're made of organic material, they'll just compost down in the garden. 
It's been a long time since I updated this space, and even longer since starting this blog so I thought I'd refresh things with a bit of a reintroduciton and a little chat about sustainable crafts, makes and slow fashion.

Hi, I'm Emma. I'm a published crochet & knitting author/writer and designer, a content creator for LoveCrafts and a lecturer in Visual Promotion (that's instagram to you and me), I know right, who has the time for all this? I'm a recovering member of YA (Yarnaholics Anonymous) and I really love how making stuff can help us live more sustainably.

Lately I've been trying to work out how to take all the overwhelming stuff I learned during my MA in Sustainable Design (I got a first, I KNOW!) can actually be useful and actually helpful and for me it's about getting inspired and inspiring others. Recently I hooked up with HRH the fabulous Katie Jones, and her attitude, passion and authenticity when it comes to this shiz was awesome. She inspired me to .... oh lord, this is boring already, who wants to see some makes?!

These guys are a couple of remakes/upcycles/interventions? I haven't got a good word for it yet.

This was an uninpsiring grey sweatshirt that was a rubbish length for my long old body and arms, so rather than donate it I decided to make a new yoke for it.

Just some little facts I was thinking of as I put this together:
1. only 10% of second hand clothes get sold, the rest is dumped. So rather than just giving to charity you really need to buy from charity too. 
2. Nothing 'new' has been made during this process, there is still just one jumper in the world instead of 2.
3. I got to have ALL of the fun of doing the joyful colour stuff and none of the boring repetitive grey bit 😄

No.2. A thrifted sweater that I had a very low opinion of with sleeves that were slightly too short, transformed with a little chopping, stitching, crochet and colour into something I LOVE! 

So there's this thing called 'emotionally durable design' that academics write whole books about, and it's basically a theory that suggests "we need to make products that can adapt as we change so we fall in love with them all over again and don't chuck them away". But I keep thinking that's kinda crazy, WE don't need to do that at all cos we already have the super power of crochet - we can change things so that we fall in love with them all over again.

100 years ago it was still more common to remake and mend stuff than buy it, we just need to get the confidence back to adjust, disrupt and modify our clothes. (Especially cos you can only buy stuff in 5 sizes and frankly NONE of them fit me.) I'm going keep finding ways to properly fall in love with my stuff, and hopefully inspire others to do it too and we can make a difference in our own little ways. On 22nd February I'll be hosting Mollie Makes Sustainability Day over on instagram, I'd love it if you came and said hi.

Lecture over! You may leave, but I expect your homework by Friday 😀😘💗
Hi Chaps, today I thought I'd share a very simple but super effective upcycle.  The British Heart Foundation have launched #thebigstitch for July, which is a social media thang for everyone to share ways that they customise and create new things from preloved stuff.  It's a great way to donate money to charity and pick-up something that you can get confident with the scissors on.

It's also one of my favourite ways to spend a hot summer evening.  Needle and thread, cool breeze under the tea lights, perfect.

This is called a 'rule of thumb' make as I'm not a great one for measuring and being very precise.  I tend to use my thumb as a guide for the length of the stitches I'm making, where I put my needle, that sort of thing.  It's something my Dad taught me when I was young and I've just always done.

You will need:

1 x jumper/sweatshirt
Sharp scissors
Matching needle and thread
Some embroidery threads
Embroidery Needle

Step 1
Cut the sleeves off just above the elbows

Roll the cut edge over a couple of times and stitch in place at the top and bottom.

Step 2
Pick a colour and make some very simple, vertical stitches around the neckline.

Pick another colour, and now here are some 'v' stitches.

How about some cross stitches in the next colour?

And then keep playing with whatever feels right.

Don't be afraid to pull out anything that you don't like, I re-did my blue row 3 times before I was happy with it.  There are no right and wrongs with this kind of make, it's really about the pleasure of experimenting and building up your confidence.