Thursday, 12 February 2015

"Life Is Too Short To Stuff A Mushroom"

Shirley Conran's famous maxim is not a bad one to live life by - don't sweat the small stuff; don't get bogged down in frippery detail; don't waste time on what is inessential. All pretty sound. But there's also the view point that life is too short not to stuff a mushroom. If a stuffed mushroom makes your heart sing and you enjoy the process, that is. This post is not remotely about stuffing mushrooms, in a literal sense, but it is about making something that is the hooky equivalent of a stuffed mushroom. So a health warning first up: this is about making something frivolous and let's face it, fairly useless; something nicely decorative but also something that might well qualify as a dust-trap; it is inessential and frippery; the world will not be a better place if you make one of these! So if you feel this post is heading in a direction not for you, waste no more time and click away! If, however, you have sneaking mushroom-stuffing tendencies, you might just find that this idea delights you. And experiencing delight in the world is a Good Thing, I believe. So, if that is you, read on....

I don't know why I got the idea in my head, but after Christmas I kept thinking about making a crochet gingerbread house. I've made simple houses in real-time, baked gingerbread to give away at Christmastime sometimes and I thought to myself, why not in crochet? I had a little search to see if there were any patterns around and indeed there are some, but not free ones, and I thought to myself, "Well how hard can it be to crochet up panels, without a pattern?", so I did, and this is what resulted:

I love it! (Especially sitting in the snow!)

It's made up of panels of crochet stitched onto inner plastic panels, lined with fabric and stitched together.

I made it in stages. A bit here and a bit there. A pick-up-and-put-down project for odd winter moments when I wanted a break from blanket-hooking.

It is not totally useless because the house is actually a box and the roof forms a lid that lifts up on a hinge. Like a peep inside? It's lined with some pale, turquoise, Lecien Floral Collection fabric called "Flower Sugar" - difficult to find a fabric more obviously suited to line a gingerbread house!

The actual crochet "gingerbread" is made from Schachenmayr SMC Catania Grande yarn in "cinnamon"and the icing is in the same yarn, in white. The glass of the door and windows I made in thinner Phil Coton 3 yarn in "jade" which was the closest I could get to a clear, mint-flavoured, boiled-sweet colour.

The "sweets" that decorate the walls and roof, I hummed and hawed about. I tried buttons but the ones I had, in the colours I liked, were too big. I tried embroidered French knots but they were too small. I spied one of the coasters made from little felt balls that I bought in Amsterdam, and had a eureka moment!

I cut the retaining threads that linked the mat together and hey presto the tiny multicoloured felt balls were just right!

The thing was a joy from beginning to end.

The initial mock-up that I made from cardboard, (culled from tea cartons, in the larder), seemed to replicate the idea I had had in my head fairly easily.

The crochet was simple - it's basically just single crochet. (Double crochet in UK terms)

The sewing was straightforward.

The thing went together as I wanted it to.

It was inexpensive and un-stressful, it brightened up some dark winter afternoons. What was not to like?!

On a slightly more serious note, as a project, it's also taught me not to feel too enslaved to patterns but to treat my hook and yarn a bit like a sketching pencil, trying out numbers of stitches and rows and adjusting as I went rather than feverishly counting and blindly following a path already laid out for me. It was liberating. I made mistakes of course and so I simply ripped out the mistake and tried again with a stitch fewer or a row more. It wasn't a big deal to undo trials that turned into errors because the panels were all quite small and the idea was so basically simple.

Now, if you're feeling that you might like to give such an idea a go yourself, I have good news for you. At the top of this page you will find a tab for a page with a tutorial guide with all the details you will need to make your own gingerbread establishment. I should preface this by saying that it's not a precise and definitive pattern, as such. Because tension and the yarn and hook size you choose will all affect the exact stitch and row count you will need, but I've shown you, hopefully nice and clearly, how to do it and given you all the wherewithal you'll need to rustle one of these up, should you wish to, either for yourself or for your children or grandchildren.

I wondered about saving this up to post near next Christmastime but I reflected that actually it makes more sense to post it now when it's fresh in my mind and there's plenty of time for anyone else, smitten with gingerbread-building urges, to make one for next Christmas without getting hatched up in the Christmas preparation-rush that descends any time after Michaelmas.

I haven't quite decided what to keep in my gingerbread house so it's been standing empty and unoccupied since I made it.

But if you leave a house empty, sometimes new occupants move in surreptitiously ...

... that seems to have happened here!

I have squatters! 

They show no sign of any inclination to depart either! May be when the Spring arrives, but pro tem, they're staying put and I haven't the heart to evict them!

E x


  1. You are so darned clever, Mrs. T. The house is a true creation of genius; YOURS! All the details are terrific. And the squatters made me more than smile, I actually giggled a bit. Absolutely cool! YOU MUST show this off at your work!

  2. That's ingenious and I confess to having mushroom-stuffing tendencies! I suppose you could adjust the size to allow a tissue box to fit in it - I quite like the idea of lifting a snowy roof to extract a tissue. That's another one to add to the ever growing 'to do' list. Have a happy weekend. x

  3. Dear Mrs T
    What a lovely project and it's useful too - perfect! You are indeed very clever. The squatters look a little too comfortable to me though...
    Best wishes

  4. I'm sorry but I have to say this -- the world IS a better place with this in it :)
    And thanks for the ten-months too early for Christmas tutorial--because I'll probably need that long to finish one :)

  5. I agree with Bethany, the world is definitely a better place with this gingerbread house in it. I love it, the perfect container for some little gifts, stunning.

  6. Wow! That is truly a work of art ... well done you. I was just about to suggest that you could use it as the perfect "ribbon" box but then I saw your squatters and decided they were even more perfect! Long may they be in residence... xxx

  7. Wouldn't life be boring without a little firppery? When we were little (and actually not so little) we were allowed to go into my grandmother's larder to choose a sweet from her special tin - this would have been a perfect container! Your tutorial instructions are double dutch to me but with a little concentration I think I may manage this one day.

  8. This is just so cute! I love it that the lid opens. I have a fetish for things with lids. It opens up so many possibiilties for what could be stored inside. The family of Hedgehogs is very sweet. A family of crocheted gingerbread men for little hands to play with perhaps? Oh the possibilities:) Well done Elizabeth!

  9. You are a master of the hook! This gingerbread house looks so fun I want to get my hook out and make one this very moment. Alas, I have to finish a tedious ripple blanket first before I allow myself some frivolous fun. Thanks for the tutorial, it will be there for me when the time is right. x

  10. I loved everything about this post, but when I got to the end and saw who had taken up residence in your gingerbread house -- I laughed in delight! I am afraid I have always been doubtful about the practicality of real gingerbread houses, but this one is perfect. I am thinking it might be a perfect home for some little crocheted snowmen......

  11. C'est tout simplement magnifique !!!! Merci pour nous donner les instructions de sa construction !!!! Le résultat est splendide ! Bravo ! Bon week end à toi et tea famille. Amicalement, Géraldine

  12. I love this! Helen :)

  13. This is just the most brilliant idea. I love it and I just can't imagine it is as easy as you make it sound. I think it is perfect, and a perfect time to post it as it gives us plenty of time to make it for next year. Love the squatters.
    Hugs and many, many thanks.

  14. Fabulous!!!!! This is just wonderful!! You are so clever and creative. I was thinking that it would make a lovely sewing box, but now that the hedgies have moved in....! xx

  15. Just awesome! Although I believe you went the one step farther and made your "useless" item something useful! What a fun craft, and thank you I believe I will need one of these! I think I need hedgehogs as well! wonderful post!

  16. What a cute and useful item! If it makes you smile, it is useful! It has made me laugh outright and I love the squatters! Think I'll have to give it a go. Thank you!

  17. great !
    Greetings from Poland :)

  18. I love this house! I have never made a real gingerbread house, only a felt one, which was really fun to make even if my fingers got burned by the hot glue gun, and this year I had dreams of making a crochet one as well.... well, you have set the bar very high, but I bow to your brilliance. If I make one this year it will owe a lot to your inspiration. Thank you.
    (but then inspiration and creativity in community is what blogging is about, isn't it?)

  19. Dear Elizabeth, this is really the cutest Christmas decoration I can think of. You did soooo well, I am amazed! I do love gingerbread in all its forms and I know that next winter my wooly gingerbread house will shine in all its glory in our home (just another project to begin with on my list...). I am a true and passionate mushroom stuffer, anything bigger often scares me. I strongly believe that the tiny things in life are the things that really count. So please, if you have more ideas of something fairly useless and inessential, but decorative, something that makes your heart beat in exitement - then share it with us. I do love to read all about it. Have a great week and take care, Viola



  22. You are amazing! "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it immensely" and while your gingerbread house is by no means useless - I admire it immensely as do all of the other readers who've commented. What was the other thing Wilde said? Something about the artist being the creator of beautiful things - and all art being utterly useless - the joy of creating something lovely to look at is enough - there shouldn't have to be a reason. Enjoy and be proud of your creation. Best wishes, Judy.

  23. Dear Elizabeth,

    This is just so pretty! I will try to have a go at it if I can muster up enough courage to take on such a lovely project. Thank you for sharing, I am inspired to start my Christmas crafts early. Which is a good thing, because most years I start too late and end up crocheting like crazy a week before Christmas. Hahaha.

    Thank you and wishing you more creative lightbulb moments.

    Love, Oyee

  24. I have missed your blog! I hope you and your family are well and that you return again soon.
    Cathy in Texas


Thank you so much for taking the time to visit me at Mrs TT's and comment. I love to read what you write.