Along came Polly

One of my nieces turns three on the 2nd April. She’s mad about pirates. I’d been toying with making her something pirate-themed and when I saw the pirate dressing-up outfit my Mum has got her, I decided I just had to make something to go with it. I quickly stumbled across these via Google Images. Both by Laura Hunter.

They looked familiar, I knew I’d seen something similar. And then I remembered, there was a similar dolly in The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon magazine – Mollie the dolly.

I felt reasonably confident that I could take the Mollie pattern and, with a few adjustments and additions, turn her into Polly the pirate. She’s called Polly because the rule in my (and my niece’s) house is that everything has to have an alliterative name and it has to be the first name that comes into your head. Thus, Polly was born!

The pattern called for muslin, so I dutifully went out and bought some. Plus some black and white felt for the hat, and I couldn’t resist buying some red fabric with white stars for the top, in the absence of being able to find anything nautical enough.

To adapt the pattern to make a pirate suitable for my niece, I:

  • Made a template for the hat, including skull and crossbones.
  • Made some loose-fitting (not that loose, as it turns out!) trousers.
  • Added some bunches to the hair, as I want Polly to vaguely resemble my niece.

Skipping ahead in the pattern instructions I started with the legs. The instruction was to triple stitch the seams. I’ve never done this stitch before and didn’t even know if my machine was capable of it. It was, and I’ve now learnt a new stitch. The bad news was that the muslin I’d bought was so thin that the stitching was chewing it up. I tried two other stitches, to no avail.

I was close to despair at this point. My husband was out and I’d been looking forward to an evening making the doll, but my fabric wasn’t up to the job. What to do? Much as I hate to deviate from the instructions, I thought I’d try some white cotton I found in my scraps box. And it was so much better, such relief!

The only hitch is that as the cotton is white, rather than cream, Polly is rather a pale pirate. An English rose, no less.

Having thought this was a one evening job (Are they ever?/When will I learn?), it’s taken me an hour here and there over the past three days to actually finish it. And more than a few hiccups along the way. The bunches were a pain, my guess at where to put them when sewing the front and back pieces of the head together was wrong and they ended up inside the head. Out came the unpicker. That was just one of the hiccups, I won’t bore you with the rest.

I finished her last night, leaving the hat to do today. Even though it’s supposed to be oversized, it still needed reducing a little in size. As I thought it looked too big like this.

Meet Polly, all finished and ready for my niece’s 3rd birthday. Which, wait for it, isn’t til the 2nd April! So, I’ve finished something AHEAD. OF. TIME.

[pause to appreciate this momentous occasion]

Now you can meet her.

This particular niece, Esmé, is doing quite well out of Aunty Kate’s crafty creations. Last year, she got bunting for her birthday and also received my first ever patchwork quilt, which had been intended for her 1st birthday, but which she got when she was 2 and a half. Better make something for her big sister, Adelaide. Fortunately, her birthday isn’t til October.

So, next project? I’m waiting for some silk noil to arrive so that I can have a go at some hand embroidery, inspired by Ambrosia Stitches.

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The chicks that were and the mouse that nearly wasn’t – Comic Relief Crafternoon

True to form, I was crafting against the clock this week to have some items ready in time to sell at our office craft stall raising funds for Comic Relief yesterday.  

Having purchased ‘The Big Comic Relief Crafternoon’ magazine, I shortlisted a few crafty ideas. My deciding criteria was things which I could make from what I already had. First up, I decided to have a go at making a mouse or two.



I dutifully interfaced my fabric and cut out my pattern pieces.



I assumed this was a sewing machine job, so started assembling the mouse using my machine. This soon became quite fiddly and I had to do some bits by hand. Shame my hand-stitching skills are very poor. To do the seams, I had a go at back stitching by hand. Whilst in my Sewing Bee book, it says that back stitching doesn’t look as neat on one side as the other, mine was really messy on the back. Need more practice, although sewing machines are for seams, in my book. 

After two evenings’ work, by close of play on Wednesday, I had a mouse with no eyes, nose or mouth and no clothes either. This left me Thursday afternoon’s nap time and Thursday evening to make some felt chicks, finish my mouse and make it some clothes. 

I prioritised making the felt chicks, as these would be much quicker to make. 



More hand stitching required. This time, I had to master blanket stitch, which, fortunately, I picked up quickly. Having made two chicks during my little man’s nap, I decided we should take a trip to B&Q to get some wire and wire cutters to make the legs. The jewellery wire I’d bought for the legs was much too thin. I then managed to whip up another two chicks while he was playing/getting every single toy he owns out and throwing them all around the room.

Once my little man was tucked up in bed for the night, I spent wasted an hour attempting to make a dress for the mouse. It didn’t fit, was mostly too fiddly to do by machine which meant it took me eons to sew by hand. An hour later, I was ready to throw the mouse  out the window or in the bin. Once I set my mind on doing something, I don’t like being defeated! Anyway, I decided to refocus my attention on the chicks, first having a go at making some legs for the ones I’d made earlier. They didn’t take long to make, so I decided having legs was a goer. I sewed up another 4 chicks and added legs to 8 of my 10 chicks, leaving two without wire in case anyone wanted them for little ones. 

Friday morning, still reluctant to give her up for good, I thought I’d try finishing the mouse. I added a bead for her nose and stitched on two eyes and a mouth. Then I tried making a different dress for her. Despite taking far more than the ‘few minutes’ promised in the magazine, this worked out better than the last dress. Not having any poppers, I went for the Elizabeth Hurley look – safety pins!!

Here’s how she looked before clothes. Avert your eyes if easily offended. She’s not shy.



And here’s her modelling ‘that’ Elizabeth-Hurley style dress.





Off we drove to my office in Reading, where we dropped the chicks and mouse off to join the other crafty goodies on sale. 



Being photobombed by our Design team.



Note: These photos were taken about 11:30 so don’t show everything that was available in the beginning. 

These decorations were made at our Christmas Crafternoon by the talented Maddy. I bought a squirrel and a rabbit/hare, which are now adorning my Welsh dresser. I don’t think they’re too Christmassy so can get away with it.



Our Marketing Manager and family welcomed a baby girl this week, so everyone clubbed together to buy a crochet blanket for the new arrival. What a lucky girl to receive this beautiful creation!





And the grand total raised for Comic Relief is £150, with more still to come! We are blown away as we were only expecting to raise a fraction of that. Having blubbed my way through the Comic Relief TV coverage last night, it’s nice to know that our crafting has contributed towards such a good cause. 



28 (and a bit) days later

I set myself the challenge of finishing my Westie cross stitch by the end of Feb. Did I make it? Of course not. But, I was oh so close.

My dedication to the cause was such that, when taking my little man on a trip to a farm on Friday, I took my cross stitch with me ‘just in case’ he fell asleep en route. And he did. So I spent a lovely half an hour cross stitching in my car, with the sun shining through the window. I got a few odd looks from people parking up nearby, but who cares. Must make the most of this precious time. Another plus was that my little man recharged his batteries which meant we could spend longer at the farm.

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I was desperately hoping to finish it at the weekend, but I didn’t quite make it. Very sadly, I had to miss out on a crafternoon due to my husband working, so, on Sunday, I used little man’s nap time to put in a solid hour and a half on the cross stitch. I then worked on it on the train on my way to and from work on Monday, and ‘finished’ it on Monday night. I’ve then spent the next two evenings, and yesterday lunchtime, tidying it up. Tightening loose threads, redoing stitches which had come out and filling in missing stitches. Never will I let a cross stitch get in such a mess again! I will be much more methodical in future, she says hopefully.

Having given it a quick press last night, here it is as of this morning. The finished cross stitch!

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Now, to decide whether to frame it or make it into a cushion …

Other lessons learnt from this are to photocopy the pattern first. This pattern has been well-loved, to say the least. Which made deciphering some of the stitches rather difficult.

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For anyone wondering about the colour-coding, the red is what I’d done when I first started this cross stitch way back when in early 2013, and the green is everything since. I’d hoped to have finished it for my Nan’s birthday in December 2013, but I had my son in October 2013 and that went out the window. I picked it back up in June last year, when it looked like this.

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Since then, I’ve sporadically worked on it around other projects. Then, in January, I set myself the challenge of finishing it by the end of Feb.

I really did start to give up towards the end, hence why my threads are now in a tangled mess like this.

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So, what next? On my ‘to do’ list I have:

  • making something to sell at my work’s Comic Relief Crafternoon stall next Friday. I’m thinking something Mother’s Day-related may be a winner
  • two memory cushions to match the memory quilts I’ve made
  • a poppy tapestry I was hoping to make for my Mum for Mother’s Day, but which I think I’ll now save for her birthday in July
  • a memory bear for my nephew’s 2nd birthday in April
  • bunting for my friend’s wedding in September

Lot’s to do. Better crack on! After having a little rest first, of course.