A Testing Issue

I wanted to start out by saying that the purpose of this blog post is not to throw shade, target individuals or be nasty, it’s simply my own take and my own views on this topic. Debates like what follows are always valid, and sharing ideas and viewpoints on different asects of our craft community is educational and useful. I’ve also included some opinions expressed by my friends in the craft community – both testers and designers – sharing their opinions. I am also aware that there is a barbarity of RPDR .gifs here and I am so not sorry about it… You have been warned!

What is a knitting/crochet pattern tester?

A pattern tester is not a Tech Editor. Firstly, pattern testers can come from a range of ability levels (tech editors are expert knitters/crocheters) who give feedback on more general aspects of the design and are not necessarily required to give feedback on technical errors. They are certainly not required to rewrite, rephrase, correct or amend. In short, a tester is there to give feedback on how the item was to knit, if the pattern was easy to follow, if their measurements were more-or-less like yours, if the typeface used was clear (no Comic Sans or Chiller, please) and to get a free copy of the pattern as a thanks from the designer. Some amazing designers also give testers another free pattern to say express their gratitude, some do not, but the agreement is accepted by both designer and tester, and it’s common. And, althought this doesn’t sit well with some people, designers benefit from the exposure that other people sharing their testing process gives them.

So what’s happened? Here’s the T.

Recently there has been some talk about whether using pattern testers to check knitting and crochet patterns is unethical, exploitative and unfair. Because of this, last night I took the decision to stop using pattern testers myself in order to avoid conflict and give the benefit of the doubt. That’s the way it has to be sometimes on social media, especially if you run a small business. I’m not happy knowing that there are some people who might think what I do to ‘quality control’ my work is somehow exploiting others, so from now on I will test my own work and improve my editing skills.

That being said… Do I agree with the above? Do I think using volunteers to test my work is somehow harmful? No. Here’s why.

I couldn’t have completed my first pattern without the help of my testers. They really spurred me on!

– M

What we need to worry about in the creative industry – and especially in undervalued areas of it like knitting and crochet design – are things like racial discrimination, elevating BIPOC voices, homophobia, pattern theft, copying, big clothing brands underpaying workers who are crocheting bags for €2 an hour… Not, I repeat, not small businesses who, once and a while, ask their friends if they’d like to try out their pattern for free and check it for them. People can – and do – say no. It’s a choice. People are not being forced to test patterns in dark, grotty rooms like some kind of mafia situation. Let’s be real.


So, can you afford to pay testers? I am super happy for anyone who is selling a lot of patterns, killing it, slaying in their game and making a career out of what they love. It’s hard out here for a creative bitch and those of us getting a regular income from pattern sales are in a fantastic position. Some, the majority, are not. I have friends who pay Tech Editors themselves before they release patterns because they have the money to do so. I have friends – myself included – who cannot afford it and don’t sell enough to be able to cover that cost and make a profit. Are we running the risk of shaming those who cannot afford this tool? Let’s hope not.

Let’s put a different spin on this. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been confident enough to say that they are from low-income backgrounds or have a low salary and would be unable to have access to paid patterns without pattern testing for people. It works both ways.

I’d have never had the courage to release patterns if it hadn’t been for willing testers. I thank them by giving them another free pattern from my collection, but most say that it’s not necessary and are just happy to help out and take part.

– C

Yeah, but people who use pattern testers are just interested in getting exposure for their work. Gosh darn right we are, lady. This is out work and income, and if a friend wants to test our patterns willingly and share it on their platform we will be happy for the publicity. That doesn’t make us exploitative. How?

There’s a difference between pattern testing for a designer and pattern testing for a person who is knitting and crocheting for a hobby. Try again. Both are making an income from selling patterns and both have need for testers. Also, being a designer doesn’t automatically mean that you are raking it in.

Is asking people to test your patterns in exchange for a free pattern exploitative? Given the massive (and I mean, massive) amount of work that goes into creating a pattern, no. If you are a designer, how much do you charge for your patterns? I’m guessing not enough and this is an issue that I’ll maybe deal with in the future. Just because you see a designer offering a pattern that will be sold for €3 as insulting to the tester, think beyond the price tag. All designers undersell their work. The pattern that is recieved is worth far, far more than the amount you see on Etsy.

Are your fellow makers being forced into testing patterns? This is what I don’t get. I almost gave myself a brain injury last night trying to work out how doing a call out for people to test for you – that is, asking for volunteers, giving a choice, not forcing people into a sweatshop at gunpoint – could be construed as unfair. Here’s a little illustration:

Designer: Hi! I’m looking for a few people to test this item for me. You’ll need Xg of chunky-weight yarn and the deadline is in a month’s time. Interested? Drop me a DM!
Lovely maker: I’d love to test, thanks for the opportunity. I have that yarn in my stash.
Designer: Awesome! Thank you so much. I’ll send you the pattern tomorrow.

That person is clearly being coerced. Am I missing something? I could be thick. Please educate me if so, because I’m having a hard time understanding this part. As are plenty of people who slid into my DMs last night, all of us rolling our eyes so far back that we got a good look at our spines.

An accurate representation of the other night.

Is it exploitative for them to use yarn that they already have? Are they out of pocket? No. It’s arguably not fair if the designer is asking the tester to buy yarn specifically for that pattern, but the tester has a choice. From experience I have had testers ask if they need to buy anything and my answer has always been a firm NO WAY. Use your stash, have fun, destash that pesky yarn, us designers are flexible, plus it’s exciting and amazing to see what makers can do with our patterns when using different yarn types.

I have done pattern testing before, and it was my choice and has only been a positive experience!

– K

Are most brands and companies in the position to pay for testing? Yes. This is a different point altogther. Big brands, magazines, yarn companies will be in a position to Tech Edit patterns for you. Not test. That is part of the deal. If you submit a pattern to a magazine there will be a team there to edit it. Independent designers are not in that position, unless they are very well-known and making a good income. If you are assuming that the majority of designers are in that category then you need a reality check.

People pattern test to get a pattern that they might not be able to afford for free and to help each other out. People do it enthusiastically because they want to. I will continue to do it and help my Insta-friends out as much as I do my friends’ businesses in the ‘normal’ world.

– M

So, what’s the deal? Every single person I spoke to about this had a positive view of pattern testing, mainly because they’d done it themselves at one point. I know people who live for pattern testing. People who are spending their retirement knitting up beautiful work and helping designers (who are often their friends) make sure their work looks good before it is published and goes on sale. People who simply want access to fab patterns without having to pay, but as an exchange. People who have become next-level crocheters because they spent their early crocheting years testing for people.


On the converse, I have heard from people just starting out on their creative journey as a designer who are now worried about using their friends and followers for pattern testing purposes because they are scared that ‘bigger names’ might cause a revolt and look down on those who do it. There’s that snobbery thing again…

Pattern testing is a two-way street that benefits both designer and tester. If a designer is willing t trust me with their hard work then that’s enough payment for me!

– P

I’m on a low income and can’t to afford to buy patterns. Pattern testing for me is a way of getting a pattern for free in exchange for offering feedback, help and I can learn new stitches.

– G

So, what can we do? Carry on doing what we’re doing. Some designers have a small pool of regular testers who love doing it (like the other 99.9% of testers) and rely on them to try out their patterns. Some people do call outs. Some people, like me from now on, will test their patterns themselves. Some can afford to pay their testers. Some cannot. Some find the whole thing exploitative (I must have typed that word 465 times today) and don’t do it. That’s great. We will do our own stuff. Also, we can put our energy into solving and exposing real, problematic issues in our community instead and let people continue quality controlling their patterns how they like. Let’s not forget that we are all part of the same community and we have all been a beginner once, no matter where we are at the moment. To quote Sister Sledge – always a good idea – We Are Family.


10 Crafty Questions · Emily / Make.e

When I first discovered Instagram, Emily – known on social media as Make.e – was one of the first makers/designers that I fell in love with, no lie. Her buzzing creativity, eye for colour and honest approach to crafting and life was and still is so inspiring! Whether it’s knitting, crochet or handcrafting crochet hooks and notions, she’s always making something unique and fabulous. It’s Make.E, need we say more?
In this interview, Emily talks 90’s bags, staying true to yourself (amen) and crushing on Tom Cruise. No judgement Em…

When did you first discover that you had a knack for making stuff? I have always made stuff, from a very young age. I’m sure any maker starts very young, I used to watch Blue Peter only for the ‘craft’ section, you know, where they would show you how to make a paper mâché money box, or stick plasticine on a frying pan to make faces (I remember doing that one for hours). I’m not sure I really realised I had a knack for making things until I was a lot older, I think it was probably when I was given my first sewing machine for my birthday. We had sewing lessons in D&T at school, that’s where I learnt to thread a machine and sew ‘properly’, as soon I got my own machine I would sit in my room sewing stuff for hours. I remember being about 15 years old, making a small rucksack out of this cotton fabric that was white with a blue stripes, I put in a zip that almost went the whole way round the bag because that’s what I had available to me at the time. I added extra long shoulder straps so the bag sort of sat at the base of my spine, it was very 90’s, I loved that bag. Then my best friends very cool big sister asked to borrow it to go to out to a club and I think maybe it was then that I felt that something inside me knew I had crossed a line and I might actually be alright at this making thing.

How important would you say social media is for budding designers, makers, creative folk and those of us who want to try and make a living out of a ‘hobby’?Instagram has been hugely important to me as a designer/maker. When I joined instagram there is no way on earth I would have called myself a designer. Making is my passion and its what I would do even if no-one was going to see it. Instagram is a great way to join a community of makers and crafts people, many of which share their craft and offer tutorials giving you access to an unbelievable amount of inspiration. I had absolutely no idea I would be welcomed into insta land as I have, instagram has been an incredible platform for me to share what I do, it just so happens people think I’m good at it and I can turn my passion into some kind of earnings. To make a ‘living’ out of a hobby is something I think most people would love to do, but let me just ask this question ‘what if your hobby became a chore?’ That sounds really dramatic doesn’t it? sorry to bum you out. Instagram can give you the opportunity to turn your hobby into some kind of earnings, its just what you want that to be? To make the real money as a maker takes serious hard work. To turn your hobby into a side hustle, instagram is fantastic, link yourself up to an Etsy shop and you can test the water that way, you never know where it might lead…..

If you could only sew, sculpt, knit or crochet for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Oh god… Serious?… Urm…. Damn that is hard… Ok, so crochet is what I suppose I’m best known for, but having learnt to knit last year I feel like I can’t just ditch that… And I do love me a bit of fimo and clay… Sewing isn’t something I really make time for so much, I find it too stressful with kids and dogs and all the pieces… It’s making me anxious just thinking about it! Can we make the question Snog, Marry, Date and push off a cliff? I’d snog knitting, Marry Crochet, date sculpting, and push sewing off the cliff…. Though I would probably divorce crochet and marry knitting later on….

Your hooks and notions bags are iconic at this point.I was lucky enough to nab a bag last year and it always gets a lot of compliments! What are your favourite hook/project bag styles that you have made so far? OMG, stop it….. The hooks and bags are so fun to make, I have to be in the right mood though. I find if I make because I ‘have to’ then I don’t produce work I’m proud of or happy to sell. The hooks and the project bags are really personal to me, they mark my growth as a maker. I love looking back at my earlier hooks and seeing how my style has become more refined and much more of a reflection of me. My favourite hooks are probably my crystal hooks.. mainly because I’d had the idea in my head for so long but wasn’t sure how they would work. I love the project bags, I actually love it when the project bags are all different, I try not to repeat a dye combo too much, I love that each one has its own personality. I have some new bag ideas that I hope to introduce soon….

What is important to you as a designer and brand? Being me…. This is absolutely the most important thing. I make things that I like. I don’t want to be a performing monkey, I want to explore and have freedom in my craft. I hope that comes across in my work and to my followers. 

Back in the day, children learnt skills like knitting and sewing at school. Is this something that you think should be brought back as part of the curriculum?100% yes… Im teaching my girls at home how to sew, knit and crochet, that’s when they want to of course. There is so much to be learnt from making, it’s problem solving, creative, mindful, imaginative and perfect for self expression. 

Describe your ‘happy place’ Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin… Ahhhhh, my happy place. As a family we LOVE the mountains, we have a small apartment in the Alps which we visit as often as possible. We kayak and paddle board on the lakes, we go rock climbing, walk, explore, hit the trails on our bikes and ski and snowboard in the winter. We are all so happy there. I think it is safe to say that is my happy place…

What’s usually going on in the background when you’re crafting? Do you need to have music, the telly or a series on or are you happy sitting quietly? Depends… if its something where I need to concentrate then I will probably put on some calm music. If its a more repetitive easy project that needs me to look at it while I make it then I love a podcast, I love the ‘Off Menu’ podcast and also ‘Films To Be Buried With’ is a bloody good listen, oh, and Ricky Gervais ‘Deadly Sirius’ has me in stitches. I also listen to a lot of Radio X, and of course Netflix is a staple for crocheting and knitting.

Has there been any craft you’ve tried your hand at and, well, been rubbish at? I’m sure there is… Spinning… Damn that shit is hard! Anything that is super intricate seems to go to pieces for me… I mean, I’ll try anything, but I am that annoying person that will just keep practicing until I get it… Urgh I hate myself!

…And how about a craft you’re dying to try and haven’t been able to have a crack at yet? Urm…. Basket making… Y’know, with willow sticks… I’d love to give that a go…. Oh oh oh, and whittling… Fuck, I’m slowly going full hippie….

Finally, which celebrities would you snog, marry and avoid? Ok…… so I don’t have any major current celeb crushes right now. I feel like I’ve let the team down. I could confess my past celeb crushes? When I was about 14 I had a real thing for Tom Cruise (oh god, the shame), I loved, loved, loved, Michael J.Fox, oh and there was the awkward Jim Carrey phase…

You can follow Emily on Instagram here and visit her Etsy shop here.

Thank you so much to Emily for her time and awesome answers. Stay tuned next month when another amazing crafter gets the 10 Crafty Questions treatment!


How to Not be Annoying on Instagram

The crafting community online is absolutely amazing and we support each other to the max, but it has to be said that most makers and designers on social media have to deal with irritating things at some point. It’s the same as in any profession! Whether it’s rude people, entitled people, spammy people or just people who don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating crocheted/knitted/woven/etc items, it’s something all of us have to deal with.

I’ve been working on this article on and off for ages and ages – it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for months – but ony just got around to finishing it up and adding some extra goodness.

I need to warn you in advance that this post is full of BIG Scorpio energy. There you go, don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m lucky enough to have some very honest, very sarcastic and VERY talented friends over on The ‘Gram who helped me provide this quality, ranty content and gave me the push to write this after such a long time of eye-rolling to myself!

Brace yourself… The Karen is strong with some of these…

Pattern? Yarn?

Erm, excuse you, Beverly. Can you form a sentence for me? Fancy adding some verbs in there? Maybe a few prepositions? Here’s the best way of asking a designer what yarn they are using or how to buy their pattern. Feel free to copy and paste: “Hi! I was wondering where I could purchase this pattern/buy this yarn? Many thanks.” Failing that you could bother to read their photo caption, which 99% of the time has all the information you need. Don’t be rude.

When this ends up in your inbox: “OMG, I love your work! I have many social media accounts with 400 followers apiece and would give you good reviews and advertising if you send me your stuff for free! I can share it on Shapchat! Yayyy.”

Back up there, Chantelle. If you want to try samples of stuff for zero dollar you can get one of those ‘first month free’ Birchbox plans or something. My crocheted blanket that took 100+ hours to make plus materials is not that kind of thing. If you like something, buy it. It’s hard enough for makers to run small businesses without sending stuff for free to people. Plus I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than have my work featured on some grotty Snapchat video. I ain’t 13.

“Hi! Visit my account!”

No, Greg. I don’t want to see videos of you gurning in the gym or trying to sell me protein shakes. Unless you knit whilst you’re doing squats in which case that’s the content I’d be all over.

When these beauties slide into your DMs: “Could you tell me the measurements for this jumper so I can knit it myself?/How did you make this?/How many stitches did you cast on?”

I can absolutely tell you how to do find out those things, Barbara. You can buy the blasted pattern.

Comment under your post: “Ahmagahd Lydia @somerandombird1996! Let’s make these at the weekend! They look well easy innit!

Chances are that Lydia @somerandombird1996 and her friend Felicity @ifelloveroutsideyatesswinebar mean well with these comments, but bitter and seasoned designers know that this means trouble. They won’t be purchasing from you, they’ll be trying their own half-arsed attempt at rehashing your beautiful pom-pom art at home and fail miserably. Because they can’t be arsed to buy the tutorial. Another thing is when people tag you in another designer’s post and say ” Awww bish can you make this for me?!1!”. How about a whole bag of NOPE.

“Follow for unfollowers”

You can spot these slimy creatures from a mile. In fact, I caught one this morning and said “bye!” quite charmingly. I mean, you know, you have to say “cheerio” when you leave the party, right? Normally this happens when people are after A LOT of followers quickly – maybe because they’re still in that Year 9 ‘friend collecting’ phase that they haven’t grown out of yet – and the good news is that you can almost always tell what’s going to happen. They’ll follow you – they already have 50k followers or something – and only follow a child’s-handful of people. Then they unfollow you a few hours later regardless of whether you follow back. Sometimes these crafty little ferrets even follow you multiple times during the same day or week. Some dodgy marketing people say that it’s a viable way of getting ‘Insta Famous’ or some other annoying shite of a buzzword, but everyone knows that it’s a trash move. These people may have 70k followers but they only care about that number. They have an unengaged following who don’t give two hoots. Avoid these people, or at least send them a firm ‘ADIÓS, PENDEJA!” in their inbox when they go.

When people screenshot and repost your images without decent credit and asking for permission.

Ahhh, this one. Haven’t we all been victim of this at one point? It’s normally a page that has a badly-written bio saying that they sell knitting-themed t-shirts and their entire feed is full of other people’s work. If you see accounts called things like ‘’ or, ‘crochet.dreams’ they are normally of that ilk. Annoying! The best thing you can do is report these accounts as they are usually bots. Also, have a scroll through and alert the designer if you spot any of their work. Sadly, sometimes well-meaning accounts take people’s images and, even if they do give credit, they do it WAY DOWN in the caption so it isn’t easily found. Genuine accounts, decent brands and shout-out pages will tag you and credit you visibly.

Bad giveaway behaviour.

Giveaways – if done tastefully and not every month – can be a lovely way of sharing your success at reaching a milestone, launching a pattern or collaborating with a brand. Sadly, some people overdo this and it can get grating. Another thing people do is tag you in giveaways when you haven’t spoken to them before or don’t follow you. Wotcha playing at, Tracy?

Product placement

This for me is most of the time OKAY. I love seeing my friends do well and get sent free stuff (I mean, I told you this would have SCORPIO ENERGY) but when it’s constant – especially with products that are not connected to their style or brand – sometimes it can get up people’s noses.

People who plug their own accounts in your question stickers.

This article couldn’t have been written without the gorgeous Instagram Stories Question Sticker (all hail!) but some people obviously don’t know how to use it. Like, for answering people’s questions or sending recommendations. It’s pretty straightforward. Here’s what it isn’t for; plugging your own chuffing account with sentences like, “I love your work! Visit my profile”, sending spam and acting like a dick. Yes, I’m looking at you, parenting bloggers.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their ideas and experiences for this article! Fancy adding your own? Drop me an email and I’ll add it here.


10 Crafty Questions · Tiam / Knit Safari

Starting from well, NOW, every month I’ll be interviewing some of my favourite crafters, makers and shakers that really light up my feed every time I see their designs. This month I’ve been fortunate enough to get to chat with one of my absolute favourite designers, the wonderful Tiam of Knit Safari.

When I opened my Instagram account, Tiam was one of the first designers I followed. I just loved (and still love) her modern, chunky designs, stylish garments and honest approach to making and motherhood – perfection! Whether it’s her craft process, morning commute or beautiful travels around her native New Zealand that she’s posting about, it’s always a treat to stay up to date and follow this talented garment-making goddess! Today Tiam and I chat flabby bits, shoving yarn into garden sheds and the living nightmare that is frogging mohair yarn… The horror!

Tiam, when did you first realise that knitting (and crochet) design was ‘your thing’?

My mum taught me how to knit and crochet (and sew!) when I was really young, and I always dabbled in crafty things. After a long break from anything yarn related, I was at a really stressful job and was finding it difficult to stop thinking about work in the evenings. I had also recently moved back to the UK and brought some peach mohair and knitting needles from my mum’s house with me. I just started knitting – no pattern, the wrong size needles, I didn’t even sketch out what I wanted to make. I just started knitting. The focus shifted from worrying about the day ahead to thinking about how to solve my next knitting conundrum. Do I remember how to cast off? How do you shape a neckline? Is this going to fit? It didn’t matter, because it was something different to my 9-5 to think about, and at that time that’s what I needed. The peach mohair jumper was a giant failure. Too dense, a weird shape, made me look like a blob and it was insanely scratchy. So I frogged it. If you have ever unravelled mohair, you know that’s not an easy task. Long story short, that was over 10 years ago, and I basically haven’t put down the yarn since!

You’re a mum and all of us parents know how hard it can be to balance parenting with crafting and designing. How do you manage your time in order to find moments in the day to run Knit Safari?

I use a project management tool for my longer term Knit Safari goals, plus I write a to do list in my notes app every Sunday night for the week ahead for my day-to-day life, from housework and food prep to social media content and pattern development, and try to focus on those tasks that day (but also not beat myself up when I don’t tick it all off!) Some days, I get nothing done. Other days, I’m super productive and tick everything off. It’s always a juggling act, and I’m still learning how to balance mum-me with yarn-me.

What’s been your proudest moment as a designer?

I pitch ideas to magazines and publications constantly, and a design kept getting rejected. Lockdown happened in the U.K., and I had a gap in my project calendar, so I decided to just do it. The response has been absolutely incredible and has made me realise that I need to back myself more!

I really love seeing your experimental makes pop up on the feed – your loopy cardigan is dreamy – but have you ever had any times where you’ve had a good idea for a project in your head that didn’t turn out the way you wanted in real life?

Well to be honest, not since my peach mohair saga! I pin loads of ideas on various Pinterest boards constantly from shapes to colour trends to stitches, I sketch things and draw size schematics before starting a project (ok not always…) and I don’t tend to unravel things because it’s all mapped out at the start. I learnt from my transgressions – frogging mohair was the kick up the butt I needed!

Do you ever suffer from ‘crafter’s block’? How do you get the inspiration back when it hits?

Definitely, we all do. Especially if I’m submitting to a publication and the moodboard and brief is too vague or too specific. I always go to a “palate cleanser” like some knit socks, to let ideas bubble about in the background. Sometimes, not thinking directly about a thing helps you figure our that thing!

Are there any knitting/crochet skills that you’re yet to master?

I have tried everything (I think!) but haven’t done much Tunisian Crochet, and I have to really focus to do intarsia on my knitting machine so now that I don’t have time to focus, that isn’t something I’m doing! 

My husband can best be described as ‘baffled in a supportive way’ when it comes to how he feels about my yarn and making addiction! How does Mr. Safari deal with the mountains of yarn in your house and does he know how to knit?

Yarnia (my stash) is in the “chalet” (our garden shed!) so it’s sort of hidden away, in giant plastic tubs. Sometimes I’ll get a bunch of yarn support deliveries all at once and he raises a brow, but he is super duper supportive and has made some design suggestions recently that have made things go from blah to wow.

Whats your favourite yarn composition to work with? How about a yarn type that makes you see red?

I love all types of yarn! I’ve seen some rose and mint fibre recently that looks fun to use, but I don’t know how to spin my own yarn so that’s out of the picture for me right now.

Regarding social media, how important is it to be yourself? Do you think sharing your real-life persona is important when running a brand or should us designers put a lid on it and focus on the crafting?

For me, personally, it’s another balancing act! Do I pick the most flattering photos for the grid that don’t show my undereye bags or grey hairs or flabby bits? Of course! Do I also share the explosion of toys, the after-exercise schvitz, or the non-yarn things I do in stories? Absolutely. 

Okay, for the last question we’ve got a bit of a Desert Island Knits situation: which four crafty bits & bobs would you need if you were stranded on an island Wilson and Tom Hanks style?

Oh… hmmm… some circular knitting needles, some good scissors, a crochet hook, (maybe 6-8mm?) and I can’t think of a fourth! Maybe a giant bale of cotton/silk blend yarn? Like enough to knit some glam tropical island outfits while I wait to be rescued. Would that be allowed? 🙂


Thank you so much for letting me interview you, Tiam!

Don’t forget to follow Knit Safari over on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and shop amazing patterns over on their website.


Recipe · Infused Oils

Every October we have a mini-break and take a couple of weeks to ourselves whilst our Alex stays with her Nana. We tend to stay in Spain, and one year we stayed in a marvellously plush hotel (we are not flash gits in the slightest, but tend to splurge on holidays) that had an insanely lovely restaurant. I remember the bread selection vividly – there were like 10 different kinds – and they were served with little oils for dipping. It was amazeballs, to say the least!

Sadly, infused oils usually cost a packet and although I like a treat, I don’t feel comfy spending a lot of money on a condiment… Handbags definitely, condiments no. See I told you I wasn’t flash! Then I had a brainwave…

Cooking and gardening go hand in hand, and there’s nothing more satisfying than combining the two to make your own meals. The thing I love about growing herbs and chilis, for example, is that you don’t need a lot of space for them – or even a garden or balcony – and they are relatively easy to maintain.

This year I’ve been growing all sorts of herbs in our veggie patch, and as we’re huge fans of spicy food we also invested in a bunch of chillis of different kinds. I really love drying out chilis once they’re picked so we have a handy stash all year round, plus dried chilis have a unique smoky spiciness that sneaks up on you – just the thing for Mexican food!

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase. The other evening I was pottering about in the kitchen and decided to make my own infused oils. I was pretty convinced that it wouldn’t work, but tried anyway. Well, as luck would have it they turned out super well and I just had to share this recipe with you!

These dainty oils are best served with crusty bread, but can complement any cuisine perfectly. You can experiment with quantities and flavours ans have s lt of fun inventing combinations! Almost anything can be turned into an infused oil, so do let me know if you discovered any unusual combination…

You will need:

  • 50ml vegetable oil or plain olive oil (not Extra Virgin);
  • 40g chilis, herbs or anything you fancy, roughly chopped. I bought organic or used the herbs from my garden. I used the following quantites for my oils:

Garlic Scapes & Chive Oil: four long garlic scapes, five chive flowers and chive stems.
Red Chili Oil: two medium-sized Habenero and five Cayenne chilis.
Basil Oil: Eight basil leaves (with stems).
Green Chili & Garlic Oil: two large garlic cloves and three large Jalapeño chilis. I also added a very small sprig of rosemary but this is entirely optional.

  • A food processor, sieve or mug tea mesh strainer/infuser, large jar or mug, small pan, small jars or pots to store the oils.

This amount serves three.


Now you’re all set! There is a lot of trial an error involved in this recipe, but the quantities I have shown are generic. Feel free to add larger quantities of ingredients to thicken the oil or fewer for a more subtle taste. Here are some tips and ideas to help…


  • When making a batch of oils, make the oils with a milder flavour before chili oils or ones with stronger-tasting ingredients. Even after washing some flavours can stick to the blender and affect the taste of any oils made afterwards.
  • Invest in a mug with a fitted mesh tea strainer/infuser. They are ideal for making oils and cut down on mess as they fit the mug perfectly. Ikea do great ones!
  • Take care not to burn the ingredients by constantly stirring the mixture when cooking and keeping a close eye whilst it’s cooking! Even the slightest hint of burning can ruin the oil and you’ll have to start again.

Enjoy your oils and do let me know if you discover and amazing combinations!