Mini-tutorial: making a brooch back for a crochet or knitted flower

I’m stitching brooch backs on lots of crochet flowers at the moment, in preparation for our Artists and Makers Market: Christmas Edition at Spode in Stoke – I am so looking forward to filling my stall with lots of lovely goodies for our first ever Market at our Studios!


I like the backs of the flowers to look as pretty as the front, so I make a nice sturdy wool felt base (which really helps the flower to keep its shape, long-term) with a proper brooch back. So inspiration struck for this blog post – if you’re as much of a neat freak as me, here’s my way of putting those final finishing touches to a lovingly crocheted or knitted flower.

It works particularly well with my crochet flower pattern – not surprisingly, but can be modified for all kinds of crochet or knit flowers, as long as they have a flattish back.

Making a felt back for a crochet or knitted flower

You’ll need some wool felt, stranded embroidery floss and a brooch back for this project. Oh yeah, and a crochet flower… Here’s a pdf version if you want a copy of this tutorial to refer to.

Measure the back of your flower and subtract about 1/2 inch.


You need to cut 2 circles of felt with the diameter that you’ve calculated. I use freezer paper to mark and cut out the felt – freezer paper will stick temporarily to the felt without marking it, and can be peeled off and used again to make several circles. But if you don’t have any freezer paper handy, don’t worry, you can mark a circle directly on the felt with a soft pencil. For this flower the measurement I used is about 3 inches.

Cut a circle with the required diameter from freezer paper and iron on to the felt.


Cut out. Peel off the freezer paper and repeat to make another circle to match.


Take 3 strands of embroidery floss, thread a needle and make a knot in the end of the thread.


Bring needle from back of the felt to the front to start.


Working around the flower, stitch a running stitch about 1/4inch from the edge of the felt, all round, making sure that the stitches catch some of the yarn at the base of the last round of crochet stitches, but also ensuring that the stitches you make can’t be seen on the front of the flower. You don’t need to worry if the stitches are a bit messy, they’ll be covered up later.


Take the second circle of felt and position the metal brooch back centrally, but slightly towards the top of the circle.


Mark the felt to indicate either end of the brooch back. Make a cross for the hinged end of the brooch back, and a line for the other end.


With a sharp pair of embroidery scissors, snip where you have made the marks, then unfasten the brooch back and push the hinge end and the catch end through the felt – the brooch back pin also needs to get fed through the felt. This is how it should look:


And on the back it will look like this:


Stitch into place on the back, making sure that your stitches only go through the top layer of threads in the felt, and don’t show on the front.


Here’s how it should look when you are finished:


Place over the top of the first piece of felt:


Join the two circles of felt with a running stitch (a bit neater this time, because it will be visible on the final brooch), to finish off.


And so your flower is complete, and ready to wear!


All the links in this project are to my wonderful sponsors – Cloud Craft. A great shop to go to for all your hand stitching needs, and for wool felt fanatics too.

Winter Artist Trading Card Swap: Sign-ups!

I’m happy to announce that sign-ups for the winter 2016 round of the Very Berry Artist Trading Card swap are now OPEN!

Winter Sparkle 2016 Textile ATC Swap with Very Berry Handmade.jpg

Old-timers might remember that we’ve had the ‘Winter Sparkle’ theme before.. I hope you don’t mind the repeat – it produced such great work last time round, and I absolutely loved it. Meanwhile, newbies will be thinking, what the heck is an ATC… happily I have the answer!

ATC guide

Making an ATC is a way to be creative on a small scale, try out new techniques and skills in a non-threatening way.  All you need to remember for this particular ATC swap is that it is a TEXTILE ATC swap:

  • the card needs to be mostly fabric
  • there must be a little bit of stitching involved. 
  • the card must not be too thick – no more than 1/8″ (3-4mm) please
  • you must put your name and date on the back of the card (plus title and email address if you like)

If you’re still a bit unsure of what all that means – why not check out the the Very Berry ATC swap group on Flickr, where you can see photos of cards made for previous swaps?

Serious bit: Before signing up, please think for a minute whether you can put aside enough time to make something lovely and thoughtful for your swap partner, and whether you will be able to meet the deadlines.

Now the good stuff..

  • You will make 1 ATC and receive 1 ATC in return.
  • It will be a secret swap (you will not be sending to the person you receive your card from) so please don’t let your partner know who you are!
  • Your card must be the right size and fit the theme, and MUST have your name and date on the reverse.
  • You can sign up for the swap by commenting on this post AND completing this Google form by 7pm on Monday 17th October, and swap partners will be assigned by Wednesday 19 October.
  • Participation is open to anyone anywhere in the world (the ATCs won’t be too pricey to send), so please be prepared to send overseas if you join in (but I will *try* to make exceptions… just let me know on the form).
  • Cards must be posted during the week  5-10 December 2016. (or a little earlier if you are posting overseas and you can manage it).
  • Please do not include anything else in your parcel, except a note if you like! Don’t forget to include your email address so your partner can thank you.
  • Obviously we are approaching Christmas, but not everyone wants to receive a Christmas themed ATC. There will be questions about this on the signing up form, so do please remember to be respectful of your partner’s feelings on this.
  • Please avoid religious themes.
  • Once you have received your ATC, you must get in touch with your partner to say thanks.
  • This swap is open to all, so there’s no social media requirement, but it is MANDATORY to reply to a couple of check-in emails which I will send during the swap. Please keep in touch with me by email and you must also let me know when you have posted and received your ATC, again by email (or a tag on Instagram will probably find me!).
  • Keep in mind that it’s really nice to  share progress and pics and generally be part of the swapping community. If you blog, use FB, Twitter or Instagram, please feel free to share your ATC swap progress, and definitely share pictures of the ATC you receive from your swap partner, if at all possible. Please use #veryberryatcswap to tag your posts, where applicable.

I wanted to inspire you all, so I’ve already made an sparkly ATC:

Can’t tell you how much I enjoyed working on this! It’s Liberty appliqué using Bondaweb, with machine stitched embroidering using Madeira Metallics Heavy Metal thread in silver. 

Scattered throughout the Very Berry blog there are some brilliant posts about making an ATC… they are all tagged so should appear if you click on this link, but here are some super-practical posts that will reassure you if you haven’t made an ATC before:

Being brave and signing up for the swap

A way of making the back of a textile ATC

Printing the back of your ATC

Some more methods of constructing your ATC

Using transfer paper to label your ATC

Finding your ATC inspiration

Looking forward to swapping along with you all!

How do you doodle?

If you are a regular here, you will know that I’m really interested in exploring the relationship between my creativity and my mental health, how they are so intertwined, with all the positives and negatives  that that can bring. I feel like I am on a journey to make that relationship into something which has a vastly more positive than negative impact on my life, and this exploration is definitely taking me along some interesting roads, pathways, with all kinds of intertwinings, shortcuts, lengthy detours and a few dead ends too.. Here’s something I’ve discovered that felt like a bit of a dead end, but I am beginning to think is something rather life-enhancing – something that actually helps, and doesn’t feel like an extra activity or responsibility that I’ve got too little time for. Who knew that doodling would hit that spot for me?


My attempt at a Zentangle-inspired art postcard


But it’s not just doodling, it’s Zentangling – or more accurately, in my case, Zentangle-inspired art. I first discovered Zentangle when I read about it on a Home Education forum where it was recommended as a great technique to introduce to kids who struggle with anxiety. The poster included some images of the work that she and her daughter had created, and I was bowled over, it was just lovely. Intrigued, I started to read up on the art of the Zentangle – a method of creating images using structured patterns – and discovered a whole new world of Zentangle art out there.

So I sent off for some Zentangle supplies (this is a great shop for Zentangle stuff in the UK) and started my doodley journey. And then fell off the wagon almost immediately…

My first two official Zentangles – I think my lack of enthusiasm rather shines through. It wasn’t working for me at this stage, although I love some of the patterns I used.

It felt like there were just TOO MANY RULES to follow and I became a bit panicky, feeling as if I might make a mistake as soon as ink hit paper. Not very relaxing at all, and not at all Zen! So I gave it up as a bad job, happy in the knowledge that the kids would make good use of the pens and paper.

But something drew me back to have another go, and by chance I discovered Zentangle-inspired art (which has considerably fewer rules), and jumped back on that wagon straight away. Here’s why I like it so much…

Benefits of Zentangle or Zentangle-inspired Art for Stressy Creatives

  • I am drawn to and scared of drawing in equal measure (I haven’t studied art since I was 13 years old, and didn’t have much confidence in my abilities back then either!). Zentangle-style art allows me to make marks on paper in a relaxing, manageable way that feels both safe AND challenging. And I really like my finished images, even though there are definitely mistakes and clumsiness, I enjoy how they look, which gives me a lot more confidence in that scary mark making.


My most recent piece of Zentangle-inspired art. I went right up to the edges and everything.


  • Learning new Zentangle patterns is so straightforward – there are lots of online tutorials so there’s always another pattern to add to my repertoire. As I add a pattern to my image, I am sometimes inspired by the original pattern, and add a little extra step – this is great for me in terms of practising to take risks (albeit tiny ones!) with my creativity.
  • If I make a mistake with a pattern (a line in the wrong place, shading in the wrong block, for example), I can tweak the pattern to hide the mistake. I love that this encourages this flexibility and more open approach to learning and creating.
  • As I draw in this relaxed, non-pressured – choose a pattern, draw a pattern where you fancy – style,  I begin to see designs and structures that I really like. This gets me thinking about ways I can use the designs that appear in embryonic form on my images, in my sewing, in embroidery, in patchwork blocks and in quilting too.
  • My hand/eye coordination is not great, although it’s getting better all the time as my years of sewing increase and my sewing skills increase, but doing this pattern drawing is fantastic because I really need to think about how patterns fit into tight corners, which bits of the pattern need to be chopped off by the next shape. Judging shapes, spaces and distances by eye is such a great transferable skill for sewing.
  • In itself, I find drawing these repetitive patterns relaxing and soothing because there’s no pressure. It’s a focused activity, so my mind quietens for a while, and although there are decisions to make, they aren’t a big deal, especially as you know that sometimes a mistake can turn into something inspirational.
  • This style of drawing also allows me to practice relaxing in a conscious way. Like anxious people everywhere, I hold so much tension in my body… clenched jaw, tight chest, clenched fist, furrowed brow. And if I am concentrating on something creative, it can really get out of hand, until I’m hunched over my sewing machine or crochet hook, fabric or yarn gripped with sweaty palms! When I’m working on one of these little drawings, I am making a conscious decision to stop for a minute when I get to the end of each pattern. I try to ground myself back in my body – stop gripping the pen, relax my shoulders, breathe, relax my jaw, trying to let all that tension go. This is something I can carry over into sewing and crochet, and into the rest of my life too. Learning to relax with breath and becoming mindful of your body is a skill that needs practice, and I really like the way that this purposeful doodling is allowing me to practice and be creative at the same time.

Are you a sewer, knitter or crocheter who loves to draw? I’d love to hear about your experiences of how the different activities can enrich each other. Or are you like me, and terrified of pens and paper? Tell me what put you off (maybe we had the same art teacher😉 ) – what would it take to get you back using pencils and paper again? Really looking forward to reading your thoughts.

Recipes for Christmas: Vegan mincemeat

I finished my last jar of mincemeat at Christmas last year (I usually have a few in the larder, as I call the old bookshelves in my garage..), so it’s been in my mind that I needed to make some more, and now is a good time, because it gives the lovely spicy fruity flavours times to develop before the holiday season.

Vegan friendly cider baked mincemeat

Of course, you can make vegetarian mincemeat by replacing standard beef suet with the vegetable version, but as I try very hard (mostly unsuccessfully because it is so difficult) to minimise the amount of palm oil – one of the main fats in vegetable suet – we eat, I much prefer to make this recipe. As it cooks, it fills the house with the most amazing smells, gorgeous on a cool but sunny autumn day like today. If you are a strict vegan, you probably know that not all cider is vegan – here’s a list of ciders which are. I recommend the Dunkertons range, which is wholly vegan, with huge enthusiasm, they are the most delicious collection of ciders and perry. I used the Court Royal single varietal cider for this recipe, and drank the rest of the bottle myself – cooks treat!

You will need 3-4 jars for the mincemeat – here’s how you sterilize them – I usually run mine through the dishwasher, then pop them in a warm oven to keep warm until I am ready to pot up whichever preserve I am making. I sterilize jar lids, rubber seals (if using) and the jam funnel by popping them in a bowl and covering them in boiling water.

Vegan mincemeat or mincemeat cooked in cider


  • 250ml medium cider
  • 250g soft dark brown sugar
  • 900g cooking apples (preferably Bramleys), peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 250g currants
  • 250g seedless raisins
  • 75g natural glace cherries, chopped
  • 75g blanced almonds, chopped
  • Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 1/2  tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves


  • Put the cider and sugar in a medium pan and heat gently, stirring now and again, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the apples to the pan, and simmer until they start to fluff up.
  • Stir in the remaining ingredients, then bring the mixture slowly to the boil stirring all the time.
  • Reduce the heat, half-cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until the mixture has become a soft pulp, stirring occasionally. If the mincemeat seems a bit wet at this stage, feel free to simmer a little more with the lid off, stirring frequently.
  • Taste the mincemeat now to check for sweetness, if your apples were a bit on the sour side, you might like to add more sugar now.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside until completely cold, then transfer the mincemeat to sterilized jars, cover and store.

Here’s a lovely pastry recipe (you will need to substitute a vegan fat), to use with the mincemeat when the time comes (not long now😉 ).