Make It Monday: Pipe Cleaner Monsters for Women In Horror Month

We love our arts and crafts here at Beagle HQ and as I’m celebrating Women In Horror Month, I was keen to get the toddler involved. We had painted a lot of ghosts for Halloween and I though it would be fun to do something a little more 3D.

Regular readers may remember the tissue box monster we made for Halloween and I was keen to use some of the materials again as I felt they gave a ‘monsterous’ look. Opening up her box of craft supplies we selected pipe cleaners, lolly sticks, feathers (because what monster isn’t scary when covered in feathers?), googly eyes and glue. I chose glue dots because nothing is more horrific (Sorry for the pun!) than trying to get PVA glue off the carpet (trust me on this. Also, acrylic paint which somehow made it UNDER the protective sheeting I had lain down).

Getting Monstrous

The toddler and I did a quick google for ‘pipe cleaner monsters’ and there are some great monsters out there! We were slightly stunned at others creativity (honestly, I never knew pipe cleaners could make such intricate and detailed creations!), but we weren’t intimidated. Drawing inspiration from her tiger and triceratops toys we got bendy, sticky and more than a little fluffy due to a feather explosion!

And here are our monsters! What do you think? There are no real instructions, we just folded, stuck, twisted and poked feathers in! I think they look really fun and the toddler was very engaged, happily sticking more feathers on to her tiger-monster. We looked at colours and had a little chat about how many eyes a monster needs, plus the important topic of what colour they should be! (The toddler sensibly opted for green, very monstrous, whilst I had a mix).

But still feeling ghostly….

I’ve also been desperate to try marking Pom Poms as I have fond memories of making them as a child. I was excited when I found ‘blue bear wood’s blog featuring these adorable Pom Pom monsters. There were loads of photos and the instructions were very clear. We”ve been feeling quite ghostly so I thought we’d try to make a ghost. Pom Pom duly wound, the toddler was in charge of cutting the wool, which she loved but rapidly lost interest when it came to tying and adding the eyes, although she did like the finished ‘ghost’.

So that’s it for this weeks craft. What are you working on?

I hope you liked our project and if so, check out our other Make It Monday posts.

Make it Monday: St Brigid’s Cross

Finished St Brigid's Cross

Saint Brigid is one of the patron saints of Ireland. There is speculation that she’s a continuation of the pagan goddess for spring and certainly, she is now associated with the protection of animals and her feast day falls on Imbolc, the start of spring. She is also the patron saint of poetry, arts and crafts which is one of the reasons I was interested in marking her feast day and making a Saint Brigid’s Cross.

Scissors, string and raffia to make St Brigid's Cross

The cross itself is traditionally made from straw, but because we didn’t have any we used paper raffia, which worked fairly well, although next time we would glue the pieces together once they were in place to stop them moving around so much.

Pieces of raffia

We measured  30cm pieces of raffia and the toddler was very excited that she was able to cut them. I then folded the strands in half, leaving us with sixteen strands of raffia measuring 15cm. Then it was on to weaving! This proved rather more fiddly than I had anticipated, probably due to the raffia not being as stiff as straw would be and the pieces kept moving. I found it helped if I placed the cross on the table and held the centre, twisting it as I added more layers. Unfortunately, because it was a little fiddly, the toddler did lose interest and I was left to weave on my own.

Weaving a St Brigids Cross

Most of the instructions I looked at were the same, with the central four straws woven together to form a square, then additional straws added to build up the cross. You can add as many ‘layers’ as you want, but I chose four, one for each member of the house. Here’s the link to Colorful Crafts whose instructions I used. I found them very clear and there were lots of photographs to follow. There are loads of different shapes which can be woven and next year we may try a triangle or star.

Did you celebrate Imbolc or make a St Brigid’s Cross? Let me know in the comments below.

How many scarves can I knit from one ball of wool?

Rowan wool

How beautiful is this Rowan alpaca wool? I bought a ball with my first royalty payment from Fox Spirit Books and if you can fall In love with wool, well that’s what happened. I decided I needed to find the perfect knitting project for such a pretty wool. However, I couldn’t settle on just one pattern and ended up trying several before finally creating my own pattern. Keep scrolling to see my different attempts and my final scarf.

Rowan wool
Look at the detail in the fibres!

The First Attempt

Knitted scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

I was relatively new to knitting so started with this simple stitch (knit one, yarn over, knit two together, repeat) in order to make a scarf. But quickly realised one ball of wool would produce a very small scarf. Back to the drawing board!

The Gallatin

Knitted scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

This is easily one of my favourite knitting patterns. From Kris Basta the Gallatin Scarf is fairly simple and quick to knit, I’ve even made some for gifts. Armed with my needles, I bought another ball of the alpaca wool and set to work. I was pleased with the final result as the detailing at the bottom was really pretty. However, unlike the pattern which uses a fine wool, the alpaca wool is chunky which meant it didn’t drop as nicely as the others I made. So I ripped it out and looked for a new pattern.

Learning to Knit Hearts

Knitted scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

Apologies for the photo from my Instagram feed (@bluebeaglebaby) but the house ghosts have moved the original. I kept seeing this heart scarf pattern and was very keen to try it. It’s a lovely pattern and I made a version in a chunky red wool for a friend but as you can see from the photo, the alpaca wool curled at the sides and refused to lay flat so it was once again ripped out.

Things Get Frilly

Knitted scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

This was my first attempt at writing my own pattern. Still relatively new to knitting so it was a very simple pattern but I wanted to try a new edging technique and create ‘waves’. I was pleased with the final result, although the edges curled in, as frequently happens with stockinette stitch and I also really liked the frilled bottom: it will be a technique I use again in future patterns. However, the finished scarf was shorter than I’d hoped which I was surprised about as it’s 150metres of wool! Due to the length and the curled edges, I decided to keep looking for another pattern and ripped it out again.

If you’d like to try the pattern, here it is:

  • Using your chosen wool and appropriate needles, cast on 60 stitches
  • Stockinette stitch ten rows
  • Stitch two stitches together for the entire row, leaving 30 stitches
  • Stockinette stitch ten rows
  • Knit one, yarn over, knit two together for the entire row
  • Stockinette stitch ten rows
  • Repeat to desired length
  • After your last set of knit one, yarn over, knit two together and ten rows of stockinette knit one, make one using your chosen method (I like the knit front to back method but yarn over would also work). You should now have 60 stitches
  • Stockinette stitch ten rows
  • Cast off and weave in all the ends.

Simple! Hope you like the pattern. It’s not been tested so if you have any queries, comment below and make sure you post photos here or tag me on Instagram (@bluebeaglebaby)

Then I Learned to Crochet

Crochet scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

Over the summer I learned to crochet. For some reason, crochet was a skill which I struggled to learn, with most of my attempts looking like weirdly shaped clumps of wool or sort-of triangles. Luckily I found some really useful YouTube channels and the very helpful Planet June website which has helped me enormously.

I’ve quickly fallen in love with crochet and find the range of things I can make very inspiring, from appliqué which I use in creating greeting cards, hats and scarves (I made a Sarah and Duck inspired set for my daughter) and assorted Amigurumi. My daughter loves my creations and keeps asking me to make her different creatures, from a sea cow (another Sarah and Duck inspiration) to a wolf. I’m hoping to perfect my pattern, then more of my amigurami creatures will be offered for sale in my shop.

But back to the scarf. It’s worked completely in half double crochet stitch and you just need to know how to increase and decrease. As with my other patterns, it simple, quick to make and easily customisable. Below is the pattern for the headband but to make the scarf, simply add twenty stitches. Use chunky wool and a 6mm crochet hook.

  • Chain 10
  • HDC in second stitch from hook (9)
  • Chain 1 and turn. HDC increase in first and last stitches (11)
  • Chain 1 and turn. HDC increase in first and last stitches (13)
  • Chain 2. HDC into second stitch from the edge of your work, creating a gap. Chain one, then skip a stitch and HDC into the next stitch. Continue to the end of the row. You should have a row with 6 spaces
  • Chain two and HDC into the first space (ie. through the hole, not into the stitch). Chain 1 then HDC into the next space. Continue to the end of the row
  • Continue until the piece measures approximately 45cm but try the headband on and adjust to fit your head accordingly
  • When the piece of long enough, Chain 1 then HDC in each of the stitches (not the spaces this time)  (13)
  • Chain 1 and turn. HDC decrease in first and last stitches (11)
  • Chain 1 and turn. HDC decrease in first and last stitches (9)
  • Bind off and leave a long tail for sewing the ends together
  • Sew the edges together and decorate with your favourite buttons.

For the scarf, the pattern is the same except the row after the increase or decreases I did a row of HDC. Hope you like the pattern. It’s untested but if you do make it, leave a photo below or tag me in on Instagram (@bluebeaglebaby)

Crochet scarf by @bluebeaglebaby

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

I’m really enjoying learning to crochet. For some reason my brain didn’t ‘get it’ for ages, despite being shown by friends and associates, all I could make was uneven triangles.

I recently spent some time learning (thanks to a charity shop crochet kit and YouTube!) and have been experimenting a lot, writing my own patterns and learning to make appliqué as well as amigurami characters. I’ll be showcasing my makes here and welcome commissions. This little shark was made for my husband, a huge shark enthusiast. What do you think?

Comment below or email bluebeaglebaby (at) for more info or follow me on Instagram @bluebeaglebaby


Make it Monday: Monster Tissue Box

One of my favourite things to do on a lazy day with the Lamb is to look briefly at my ‘Toddler Craft’ board on Pintrest & see what project she chooses.

Last week she was really taken with this photo of ‘tissue box monsters’ (apologies, I’ve looked to see if there’s a link to a website but can’t see one). 

It was super simple and it was lovely to see the Lamb’s imagination run wild. Firstly we gathered our materials, and we were very lucky that it was the day before the recycling was collected so we had plenty of egg boxes and tissue boxes to use, plus some pipe cleaners, felt balls, paint, paper and glue.

The Lamb kept referring back to the original photo but her imagination really ran wild as she painted the mouth black, added fuzzy balls inside, wanted yellow horn and chose bobbly eyes for him. It was really fun, messy and creative. I was surprised at how long it took as the Lamb took a lot of care painting and considering what to add next. 

And now her monster is pride of place on the mantelpiece. 

Have you made a tissue box monster? What decorations are you making for Halloween? 

Make It Monday: Birthday Shenanigans Part 2 ‘Sarah & Duck’

I crocheted the Lamb a ‘Sarah’ doll and Sarah’s favourite animal, a sea cow.

We recently celebrated the Lamb’s third (THIRD!!) birthday. She’s heavily into dinosaurs at the moment so I had planned a dinosaur theme for her birthday. However, as always, the best laid plans for scuppered when two weeks before her birthday, she announced she wanted a ‘Sarah and Duck’ theme. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Sarah and Duck is a charming and quirky cartoon featuring a young girl ‘Sarah’, her friend ‘Duck’ who lives with her and a plethora (I really don’t use the word ‘plethora’ enough. Plethora. Love it) of interesting characters, from ‘Scarf Lady’ who is perpetually knitting and her grumpy knitting bag, Umbrella who doesn’t like the rain, Bug who collects buttons, Plate Girl, Ribbon Sisters, the list goes on.

Which luckily means there are a huge number of characters to draw inspiration from. As we do every birthday, we decorated our fireplace.

With help from the Lamb, we made pom-poms. Pom-poms are a craft I’d been looking forward to doing with the Lamb for a while. It’s very simple and mess-free, plus we loved throwing our pom-poms in the air. Their ‘bed’ was actually a cleaned out croissant tray and we shredded some brown packing paper to make soil. We stuck some eyes on the pom-poms, then it was a case of ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Hello!’, ‘Ahoy!’

Duck was another toddler-friendly craft with lots of tissue paper stuck onto a cardboard duck. Sometimes the simple crafts are the most fun and effective.

Next up was the paper chains, because it’s not a birthday without paper chains. I found an umbrella shaped hole punch in Tiger (I’ve seen them in multiple stores) and set to work. ‘Umbrella’ in Sarah and Duck is red so I tried different methods of creating a red umbrella. Finally I opted to punch strips of yellow paper, then highlight the holes with red paper, which I think created a lovely effect. It was time consuming but looked pretty good, although I cut the red backing paper a little too narrow so from the back it looked a little messy. The Lamb didn’t mind though.

Another view of the paper chains and the paint blown ‘Moon’ to created a few weeks ago.

In one episode Sarah’s plant isn’t too well. It turns out that ‘Bug’ has been storing buttons in the flower pot. Sarah makes Bug a ‘Button’ bank so I filled a jar with my most colourful buttons and added a label. I think Bug would really like this little Bank, don’t you?

Some paper lanterns became ‘Moon’ and ‘Venus’ and more tissue paper helped create ‘Flamingo’ .

And of course, what would a birthday be without ‘Cake’. Fans of the show will know the talkative cake was make for Duck but ended up helping ‘Bread Man’ in his shop. And what flavour was the cake? Lemon drizzle of course!

Does your little one like Sarah and Duck? Have you thrown a Sarah and Duck themed party? Let me know!

If you like my work, follow me on Instagram!

The Big Interview: Louise George

I met Louise during my first ever ‘real’ job and we’ve stayed in contact ever since,first via email then Facebook and I was overjoyed when she announced her pregnancy in 2011. Her daughter, Jessica, was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect during their 20-week scan leaving Louise and her husband, Michael, facing the difficult decision about her care, with medical advice suggesting that Jessica would not survive birth. Battling the odds, Louise and Jessica underwent in-vitro surgery which enabled Jessica to be born, then Jessica has had numerous surgeries since, with more planned for the near-future. I catch up with warrior Jessica and her true Wonder Woman mum, Louise.

GCH: Motherhood has given me a wealth of embarrassing moments (frankly, to add to an already impressive collection!). Can you tell us one of your embarrassing motherhood mishaps?

LG: Tiredness makes us do daft things as mums. I recently found myself tipping the contents of a potty into the kitchen bin instead of down the loo.

GCH: What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

LG: I sometimes shut myself in the kitchen and eat chocolate. I usually have some squirreled away somewhere!

GCH: I frequently joke about needing a LOT of tea to get me through some days with a cheeky toddler and crazy pup (or is that crazy toddler and cheeky pup?). So what’s your drink of choice – tea, coffee, wine, beer or something else?

LG: I tend to be a coffee drinker. That first cup in the morning is blissful. It’s amazing how it can transform me from a harpy to a human being. The transformation has not gone unnoticed by my girls though. Jessica will often ask me “Do you need coffee Mummy?” if I am a bit grumpy in the mornings!

GCH: You’re a trained midwife. What would you tell any expectant mum is a must have in her maternity bag (mine is face spritz, if nothing else it gave hubby something to do!).

LG: Face spritz was amazing! It was one of my must-haves both times.

My midwifery days are quite some way behind me now. But other than the usual essentials, I would say cereal bars and Lucozade were another must-have. They were great for giving me energy during labour and keeping hubby going too. Keeping birth partners fed is also important. Hubby almost passed out during my labour with Jessica and we realised that he hadn’t eaten anything for hours at that point. He felt much better when he was given some toast and jam!

GCH: Also, what was one of the best aspects to your job as a midwife? And one of the worst?

LG: That first cry of a new baby and the pure joy on new parents’ faces was the most magical thing. No matter how many times I saw it, it never lost any of that magic. I felt like I got to see a little miracle happen on a regular basis.

The worst is when a baby dies. It is the most heartbreaking thing. I have never forgotten that awful feeling of discovering that a baby had died in the womb and I still remember every single family I looked after whose baby was born sleeping.

GCH: Do you think you’ll return to midwifery?

LG: I don’t know at the moment. My registration lapsed a few years ago and I would need to retrain if I was to return. I have no plans to return in the foreseeable future. Hubby works in the events industry which has very irregular hours. If I went back to shift patterns or being on-call 24-7 as I was as an independent midwife, it would make childcare difficult to arrange. I now work part-time and mostly from home as an HR Manager which fits well with family life and means I can be there for the children when they need me. Any plans to go back to midwifery would be unlikely to happen before the children are old enough to be able to look after themselves.

GCH: Jessica was diagnosed with CHD at 20 weeks. Can you briefly explain what CHD is and what treatment she had? 

LG: CHD stands for congenital heart defect (or congenital heart disease which I think is a less accurate term). There are lots of different types of CHD – most people have heard of babies being born with “a hole in the heart” which covers some CHDs. Jessica has quite a complex CHD – she has hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and a couple of other abnormalities. In children with HLHS, the left side of the heart is very underdeveloped. Basically this means she only has half a working heart.

With Jessica, there was also an added complication which limited the blood flow into the left side of her heart even further. This meant that her prognosis was particularly poor and we were told at 22 weeks’ pregnant that she wouldn’t be suitable for post-birth surgery. Thankfully the doctor also briefly mentioned an in-utero procedure which was being performed in Boston, USA. We considered going to the USA but were very lucky to be offered the procedure in the UK. This was carried out when I was 28 weeks’ pregnant.

Jessica had her first open-heart surgery when she was eight hours old. She had a second procedure a week later. Since then she has had two further open-heart surgeries (at 3 months and 7 months old) and several cardiac catheter procedures. She is due to have her last planned heart surgery in the next month or so.

This post explains a little more about the surgeries and how Jessica’s heart works compared to a normal heart:

GCH: You’re a prolific writer and you’ve enjoyed musical theatre. How has being creative helped you cope with Jessica’s diagnosis?

LG: Writing has always been my way of processing my thoughts, especially if I find it difficult to talk about them. I find writing incredibly cathartic. I also enjoy drawing which is another way of processing my thoughts and I sing regularly too. Singing is something that makes me feel happy so is good for relieving stress.

GCH: Many people have described you as a Super Mummy, a title you politely declined in this blog post. However, you’ve coped with Jessica’s diagnosis with extreme grace and positivity. How do you manage to do that?
LG: My faith has helped hugely with this. My belief that God is walking this journey with us and helping carry us along the way when needed has helped give me the strength I need to get through each day and try to focus on the positives. We’ve also had so much support, love and prayers from friends and family which I am very thankful for. Knowing that we are held in so much love helps to keep me going.

I’m not always positive though! There are many times when I shut myself away and fall apart. I think it’s important too to feel able to let it all out every now and then. I don’t think I could focus on the positives if I didn’t give myself space to let go of some of the fear and worry too.

GCH: You set up your blog Little Hearts Big Love to document Jessica’s condition. Has it helped you connect with other ‘heart parents’?

LG: I’ve connected with a few heart parents through my personal blog and Jessica’s blog. Knowing that we are not alone on this journey makes a big difference. I am in contact with other parents who are further on in this journey who help to give me hope for the future. In the same way, our story helps to give hope to those who are setting out on their heart family journey.

GCH: Jessica was the first baby to undergo in utero surgery in the UK. Since Jessica was born, have you seen an improvement in the care, diagnosis and treatment of other babies with similar conditions?

LG: There are quite a lot of different in utero procedures for various conditions, some of which have been around for some time. Jessica had a procedure to open up a hole between the top two chambers of her heart which was done by inserting a balloon on a wire into her heart and inflating it. As far as we know she was the first (and possibly still the only) baby to have this done in the UK. I’ve only ever met one other heart mum online whose child has had a similar in-utero procedure and she lives in Australia.

With regards to improvements, I’ve been involved with raising awareness the heart charity Tiny Tickers for a couple of years. They do a lot of work to improve the early detection of heart conditions to help improve outcomes for heart babies. I am sure that surgical techniques also continue to improve.

As for Jessica’s in-utero surgery, I think it was very much a case of being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time. I am not sure that if I was pregnant with her today that we would have had this option without having to travel abroad. Our consultants back then had previously been involved in in-utero procedures (although not the one Jessica had). Their colleague, Dr Wilson, who performed the procedure, was on sabbatical in the States when I was pregnant. He happened to be back in Oxford the weekend after I first asked our consultants about the possibility of travelling to Boston for in-utero surgery and then was back again when I was 28 weeks’ pregnant – which is the ideal time for this surgery to take place. He’s now permanently based in the US.

Our main consultant retired a couple of years ago and the other one we saw regularly focuses on fetal cardiology so is no longer involved in our care. Since our main consultant retired, our care in Oxford has felt more disjointed. Our experiences with Southampton have always been very positive though and we are able to phone the ward there if we have any concerns about her health heart-wise. Our local hospital has also been very good and we have open-access to the children’s ward so can take Jessica straight there if she needs urgent medical attention.

GCH: You’ve written about your husband Michael and his journey dealing with Jessica’s condition. How have you supported him through it all?

LG: We very much support each other through this journey. The most important thing for us is making sure that we talk about our worries and concerns rather than bottling them up. Michael is better at taking in the information at appointments than I am – I am much more emotional in my initial responses whereas he tends to process it more rationally and then gets emotional later on. We balance each other out very well in this respect.

For me, being able to work from home and be flexible has helped. Michael works in the event industry which can be unpredictable and often means long hours when working on an event. He tries to be at as many appointments as he can, but I can work around hospital stays and appointments much more easily.

GCH: You’re thinking of turning Little Hearts Big Love into a book. Can you tell us more about this project?

LG: I’ve written a draft of our journey so far but I’ve not done any more with it at present! That particular project is on hold at least until after Jessica’s next operation.

I have written and illustrated a book for Jessica to help prepare her for having heart surgery. I’m looking into perhaps making this more widely available to help other heart families.

GCH: What are your hopes for your girls?

LG: To grow into young women who are loving, kind and unafraid to follow their dreams. I hope that they will grow up knowing that they are unique and wonderful just as they are; that a little love and kindness goes a long way and to see obstacles on their way as challenges to be met. I hope that they will learn that there is beauty in the journey, even when it means taking a different path to the one that you had hoped for.

GCH: Tell us a secret.

LG: I had an imaginary friend as a teenager. I still had occasional chats with him up until my early twenties. 

Many thanks to Louise for thanking the time to chat and I’m sure we’re all sending positive vibes to little Jessica as she moves towards her next surgery. I’ll keep you all updated as to how this loving, inspirational family gets on. 

Make It Monday: String Letters

As Summer in the UK, you can never tell what the weather will do. One particularly dull day, I was trying to think what to do with the assorted ends of my knitting. As part of my ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ pledge for Earth Day, I normally add them to the ‘rag bag’ which I donate to the local charity shop, but suddenly inspiration struck, the Lamb and I would turn it into art!

This was possibly one of the easiest, although muckiest, projects we’ve undertaken and the results were as fun as the making!

We started off by drawing an outline of our chosen design on greaseproof paper, an ‘E’ for the Lamb and I thought I’d get a head start on some of our Halloween decorations so I wrote ‘Boo’.

Then came the fun part! We soaked the assorted wool remnants in the glue water, then draping it around the paper. I wrung the wool a little, while the Lamb popped it on still dripping. Aside from excess liquid, neither method affected the final result. Longer pieces were used to create an outline while the others were layered inside. We both really liked the blends of colours.

And here’s the final result! Super spooky!