Sunday, 16 December 2012

mark two

I've been thinking about the bookmarks I made earlier. Mark suggested covering the stitching and thought I had missed a trick by not using eyelets.

I made a few new bookmarks and this time paid attention to the size so I could easily stick a piece of card on the back once I'd sewed the material on. I was a bit dubious about sticking two pieces of card together, it wouldn't look good if they pealed apart. I decided on PVA glue and smeared it out with my finger so I didn't get any gloopy bits squishing out the side. A few hours under a heavy pile of books and they were great. Much more sturdy than my first few where the card stock was a bit thin.

I think the coloured eyelets really finish them off nicely. In fact I liked the them so much I did the same to the earlier batch.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


I've seen pinafore dresses in this style and thought it would make a great apron if I used PVC fabric.

John Lewis have some lovely designs at £15/m but I found some on a market for £5/m which I thought was good until I saw some at Dunelm Mill for £2.50/m! Grace is a bit small to be playing with paint and messy things but Rose is about right. This is a bit of a prototype, after I made it I tweaked the pattern a bit because the shoulders don't lay as well as they could. Also I think as an apron the arm and neck holes should be lower so it can easily go over other clothes.

It is a really simple shape and should be easy to pull on. I traced round a dress to get the general shape of the front then sketched out the back pieces. As it is not hemmed I only needed to add seam allowance at the shoulders and sides. This meant that when I was cutting the pieces out I had to remember to cut the other edges really neatly and not do my normal hack job.

Working with PVC has some challenges. You can't pin it because it leaves big holes and you can't get redo a seam for the same reason. I traced the pattern on to the fabric to avoid pining and for the seams I pinned in the seam allowance. I was worried that it would stick to the foot but it machined really easily.

To get the seams to lay flat, I top stitched on each side. I think the result looks really nice, especially with the handmade label. I might put bias tape around the edges of version two, once I'm sure I have the shape right. It'll be more work, this was supper quick to make, but it will look more finished. Or I am tempted to cut it out with my pinking shears.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

handmade lables

I've been thinking about making some handmade labels for my sewing projects. I wanted something professional looking but easy to make. I thought I'd try out some transfer paper for inkjet printers.

I made the design in Inkscape so I could draw the flower and adjust the text how I wanted. I printed several designs on plain paper to get a feel for how they would look. At first I had coloured flowers but I'm glad I went with black and white.

I made the label specifically to fit on some white ribbon. First time round forgot to reverse the design before I printed it so the text was backwards. My fault for not reading the instructions! The transfer leaves a white backing over the whole area which  is a bit of a shame but that's not noticeable when they sewn in.

christmas cards

Inspired by the bookmarks I've been mulling over some christmas card ideas. I really like mixing fabric with card, it has a bit more texture than just using card and paper. Having said that I'd like these cards to have a bit more texture. I am going to try very lightly padding the tree next time.


I love to make as many christmas presents as possible but this year I am running out of time and energy, it's halfway through November already. Luckily the Sewing Dork got me inspired with her bookmarks.

I had a some time whilst Mark took Grace out and the hardest part was finding some plain card stock. Turns out I have lots of twinkly, shiny card but not much plain cream. I wanted the material to stand out not the card. I used pinking shears to cut the fabric and cut it just short of the top as my hole punch was not sharp enough to cut through fabric.

I like them, I wonder if you could put fabric on both sides of the card? They are all blue because I had blue thread in my machine and the blue fabric was at the top of my stash!

Friday, 16 November 2012

pencil case

My goddaughter wants a pencil case for christmas. My first thought was brilliant there is fab new stationary store in town, now have an excuse to go in. Then my creative genie reminded me of some new fabric I haven't found a use for and that zip would just be perfect and it wouldn't take long.....

It didn't take long at all, 2 rectangles, a zip, some spotty material for the pockets and some bias tape is all there is to it.

I sewed the zip to the front and back with a double row of top stitching. I chose red thread deliberately to stand out and then did some of my most wobble stitching ever. The pocket is a double sided rectangle. As the stitching was going to show up on the outside I decided to go for red again and make a feature of it.

I finished the seam with bias tape to keep it neat.  I'll write about the hand made label separately, it's the first time I have used one and I think it looks great.

I may have to check out the new stationary store too, just in case there is something funky to put in it.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I actually got out of the house without Grace this week and went to a plabric workshop run by Transition Cambridge. Plabric is fabric made out of plastic. It gave me some ideas and if I get round to making something I'll write a post about it.

One of the participants had a bag full of old dress patterns that she was giving away. They are mostly Vogue and Simplicity from the 60's and 70's. The prices on them are 3 or 4 shillings, vintage Vogue patterns will set you back about £12 these days so I am very grateful to the lady who gave them to me.

I had a read through some of them, my how things have changed. Some have pattern pieces that are not printed, you have to interpret a type of braille with different size holes meaning darts or tailor tacks. And the meaning of a quick and simple pattern has definitely changed.

I knew sizes would have changed but I didn't realise by how much. A 60's size 14 was 34" 24" 36". Today it's 37" 31" 40" not only bigger overall but a lot less curvy. I know people have become a lot more sedentary which might explain the bigger bum size but reason for the tiny waste became apparent when I found these fitting instructions. Seriously - a girdle!

One particularly lovely Jackie O style black dress has a detachable dickie, collar and cuffs. A bit if research was needed to find out that a dickie is basically a false shirt front. They came into being because it was difficult to properly starch a dress shirt, it's the comedy bit that flaps up and catches an unsuspecting cartoon character in the chin! I was intrigued as to how you made the collar and cuffs detachable. Answer, hand baste them on, presumably you cut them off when didn't want them and basted them back when you did. I can't imagine todays Primark shoppers sitting down to do that every time they fancied a change of style.

I am really looking forward to having a go at making some of these. Some things have become easier, like iron interfacing but resizing will definitely need the help of the Oracle. Maybe one day in the far far distant future when I have time....

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

rosehip and apple jelly

I haven't made much jam this year, we didn't have much of a plum harvest and no apples and there didn't seam like much about to scrump. Then I noticed all the rosehips. I've always fancied making some rosehip jam but wasn't really sure what you do about all the itchy stuff inside. Luckily the internet had the answer, straining through muslin should do the trick.

Rosehips are full of vitamin C but low in pectin so I decided to combine them with apples as they tend to have lots of pectin especially if they are on the tart side. As it happened we had a few scrumped from next doors tree that were not great eaters as they were a bit sharp. Perfect for jam.

The local graveyard is great scrumping ground, elderflowers, elderberries, black berries, cherries and it turns out, rosehips (from the wild roses not anything planted on a grave).

We picked as many as we could be bothered, which was not a huge amount. I topped and tailed them, then boiled them with enough water to cover. They took about hour to get soft then I mashed them with a potato masher, topped up the water and boiled for another 15mins. I roughly chopped the apples core, skin and all and boiled them separately, they only took 20mins. I left both both fruits to strain separately over night.

I had a hoped that by not squeezing the fruit through the muslin it would make a clear pink jelly. But both fruit juices looked cloudy so I gave the apples a squeeze to make a bit more juice. I ended up with 2 cups of rosehip and 3 of apple. I boiled it with 4 cups of sugar and ended up with a really nice pinky orange, slightly cloudy jelly. But more importantly it tastes lovely.

Monday, 29 October 2012

blog overhaul

I have been meaning to change the look this blog for ages but I had made life difficult for my self with it's first incarnation. I wanted rounded corners on the photos and ended up doing it manually in the Gimp by adding rounded corners and filling with the background colour of the blog. This meant that any change would either mean keeping the dark green background, which I wanted to get rid of, or re-doing all of the photos - all together too much faff.

In the end I modified this template to give me a green boarder and Mark helped me to get the nice rounded corners with a very small tweak of the CSS. Rest of the colours are taken from the photo.

Now I have more space I can have nice large photos. The older posts are not laid out as well as I'd like because I uploaded small photos but don't have the time or willingness to sort that out! I like the new brighter look, it's just a shame the photo of the ribbon is not mine... I'll work on that for the next overhaul.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

funky turn ups

I made these purple jersey trousers ages ago with plenty of room in the bum but Grace shot up and they were suddenly and inch too short. I've been thinking of how best to lengthen them. I've got lots of the jersey left but fudging and extra piece on the bottom was never going to look pretty. Then I had a sudden flash of inspiration and remembered the lovely purple material I bought on holiday.

I hate hemming jersey, it always ends up bulky and doesn't hang well, so when I originally made these I just stitched a ruffle round the bottom and didn't bother to hem them. The ruffle was falling off so it wasn't much trouble to remove and add the cute turn ups. I love the way makes them into bell bottoms! It was a nice quick fix that hopefully has given them a few months extra wear.

Friday, 26 October 2012

upcycled trousers

I try to have a one in one out wardrobe policy. When I found a nice new grey cardie it wasn't hard to choose which one went out. Most old clothes got to charity but this particular cardie was a bit gutless and even better than recycling is upcycling.

I snatched a few minuets during naps and once again I am amazed at how easy trousers are to make. I used a pair I knew fitted as a pattern and drew round them, making them a bit wider at the bottom. As it was a slim fitting cardie there was only just enough material, I had to fudge it a bit at the crotch and I wasn't sure there was going to be enough rise.

The great thing about this ribbed cardie was that I didn't need to hem which means they hang nicely. It is also super stretchy so plenty of room for big bum nappies.

Once I had made them up and trimmed the top I thought the rise might not be enough. I wanted to add some height with a thick waist band but I didn't have any thick elastic. Instead I cut the waist band from a sleeve, so the ribbing was going in the slightly less stretchy direction. I made the band smaller than the trousers and stretched it to fit as I sewed. As it happens I could have made it a bit smaller as there is a lot of stretch in the material.

For once I over estimated in most of the dimensions so they are slightly too long, plenty wide enough and come up under armpits! But they are supper cozy and she might be wearing them for a few months to come instead of growing out of them in a few weeks!

She had lots of fun playing with them but was a somewhat unwilling model!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

pillowcase pants (and top)

Grace really does have an enormous bum in her big bum nappies and being the expert crawler that she is, trousers are much more practical than skirts. If you can get them big enough to go over the nappy!

I have had a hankering to make Rae's Big Butt Baby Pants pattern and then two fab pillowcases leapt out at me in the Salvation Army shop. Double sided contrasting materials, they were crying out to be made into trousers and a top.

Completely ignoring Rae's sound advice to make a test pair first, I launched into making the trousers with the turn ups. Luckily the pattern is easy to follow and I managed to get everything done, apart from the turn ups, in one of Grace's naps.

I made the 12-18moths size and the length is great, but are not quite as roomy as I'd hoped in the bum. Grace is a big un though.
For the top I roughly followed one of Graces current tops and even then only narrowly avoided making it too small. I wanted to try my hand at shirring and after consulting the Oracle and a few online tutorials I finally got it sorted. It's fab, great to baby clothes, I am all in favour of stretchy clothes that don't require me to make button holes or put in zips. I already have some ideas for more clothes with shirring!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


It's not easy taking photos of Grace, she loves investigating the camera which means as soon as I get it out she comes hurtling over and tried to get various bits of it in her mouth. I have lots of blurred pics of her zooming towards me. I finally managed to get a few of her in the two latest dresses.

The arm holes are a bit big, perfect for the very hot weather we have had recently, but I think it looks really cute over the pink grow and leggins.

The reversible dress. With matching snack pot and sippy cup!

Friday, 3 August 2012

towel time

There are many over priced, unnecessary baby gadgets in the world but baby towels, square ones with hoods, are actually a good idea. The right shape for wrapping a wriggly baby and the hood keeps little heads warm (and provides a good game of peek-a-boo).
As my amazonian child is growing at a vast rate, a bigger towel was needed. I had an old white bath sheet that I planned to re-use and lots of grand ideas for applique designs and coloured bias binding. In the end it turned into another can-I-get-this-done-before-she-wakes-up projects.

I cut the towel down to a square and cut the hood piece out of the remainder. I used a plate to get a nice curve on the top of the hood. As I was in time saving mode I used the already finished edge for the front of the hood and only put the bias binding down the two sides that held the hood in place. Not only did I get it done during a nap but I also had time to have a nice chat with a friend.

Friday, 13 July 2012

pillowcase dress

I have been on the look out for clothes in charity shops that I can upcycle into clothes for Grace. But I can never bring my self to buy a perfectly good item and then cut it up. Plus it never seams to be good value to spend pounds, on something to cut up. But I have discovered that pillow cases are very cost effective. They are generally about 25p and have plenty of material for a dress.

I found a lovely white cotton pillowcase with a embroidered lace boarder for a whole 55p and it was my intention to make the simplest, quickest dress possible. I was just going to gather it at the neck and use bias binding for the arm holes and straps. But the more I thought about it the more I realized it would look so much nicer with a little bit of extra colour. A quick root through my hoard found the perfect thing and a scrap of white satin bias was perfect for the straps.

I'm really pleased with it, I think the pink flowered material for the front really sets it off. The only thing I'd change next time is the underarms as they are a bit bulky. Despite the extra work it was still really quick. I'll let someone else faff around making things with sleeves that are time consuming. Sleeveless dresses like this can be worn over long sleeved grows in the colder weather, which is just as well as we are not getting much of a summer this year.

reversible dress

I have had an idea for a reversible dress for a while, I found a fab pillowcase for 25p in a charity shop and decided it was time to try out my idea. I made two dresses and sewed them together at the neck and armholes leaving a gap for ribbon. Turned it right side out and folded the hem of both dresses inside then finished with a double row of top stitching. I also top stitched the neck and arm holes and did another row 1cm down from the neck to make a casing for the ribbon.

It worked pretty well although I don't think the ribbon will stay done up long on Grace. I love the fact it cost so little to make. Pillowcases are dirt cheap and have plenty of material for a baby dress, and the strawberry material I already had.
I made this ages ago and have been meaning to take a photo but only ever remember when Grace is a sleep and the dress is in her room. She hasn't had chance to wear it as the weather has been grotty, She'll have to wear it over a long sleeved grow.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

toy bag

I found some great foam building blocks in a charity shop when Grace was tiny. Now she is big enough to play with them I thought I'd make a nice bag to put them in. The plastic bag we've been keeping them in just isn't safe with an almost crawling baby in the house! I used the corner of an old stained duvet cover and put the pocket on before sewing up the side. It doesn't need a pocket but I've been itching to try out Rae's pleated pocket tutorial. It's so easy, I can't wait for Grace to be big enough to have a use for pockets on her clothes so can make a few more. The only design flaw is that when the draw strings are pulled tight there is a lot of ribbon dangling about for a little crawler to get caught in so it's still not great for unsupervised play.

I wrote this post ages ago and have been trying to get a good photo of the bag ever since. I have given up and taken a photo on yet another gray day. Grace is now crawling like a good un and can get the blocks out of the bag her self.

elderflower and grapefruit cordial

It is the time of year for making elderflower cordial. Normally going out to pick elderflowers is a good excuse to be out in the sun, but this year we picked them in torrential rain covered head to toe in waterproofs. Not quite as much fun. This year I decided to try making coridal with grapefruit for a change. I figured that one grapefruit was equivalent to the 4 lemons that my recipe calls for. Mark and I both agree that it was a worth while experiment and has made lovely cordial. And I made marmalade with the grapefruit pieces rather than throwing them away. I discovered that last year, it is a great time saving way to make marmalade.

Elderflower and grapefruit cordial
One ruby grapefruit
1.5ltr water
1kg sugar
1 bag of elderflowers
55g citric acid
1/2 camden tablet

Bring the water to the boil and dissolve the sugar in the water then let is cool. Once it's cooled a bit stir in the citric acid
Cut the grapefruit up into fine slices - how you'd want it for marmalade
Shake the bugs out of the flowers and tip them and grapefruit into the sugar water. Leave for 24 - 48hrs depending on how much time you have. Give it a stir every now and then.
Strain through a piece of muslin. I usually do this by tying the muslin to the legs of an up turned stool, and leave to drip for a few hours.
Crush the camden tablet and stir into the strained liquid then poor into sterilised bottles.
Camden tablets are used in wine making. They kill the natural yeasts that arrive with the elder flowers and allow you to store the cordial for longer. You don't have to use them but the cordial will only keep for a month or two if you don't.

To make the marmalade
Pick the fruit out of the elderflower mess once it has drained and pick out any big clumps of flowers but leave the rest.
Measure the fruit, mine made 1.5cups
Add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to the fruit and boiled until set. Mine took about 20mins but I had cut the grapefruit up very thin.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

full of Grace

Grace has a cold and has not been able to sleep, the only way she's been able to get a decent amount of sleep is with one of us holding her. So I have been designing dresses for her and writing blog posts in my mind while I sit in the dark listening to her sound like Darth Vader. This is one of the posts and if she ever sleeps more than 20mins in one go again I might make one of the dresses.

I realized that I posted this on flickr but not here. For most of my pregnancy I kept saying how much I wanted photos of my new voluminous body but somehow never got round to taking many. In the end, I grabbed the tripod, found the remote and snapped a few pics. They are nothing to write home about, poor light and against a plain wall. But I am glad I took them, as two days later Grace was born.

I wanted to use the photos to do something that celebrated my pregnancy. For nine months I watched in fascination as my body changed, then one day (in my case 6 days earlier than I was expecting) I had a little dark eyed bundle in my arms and I was no longer pregnant with no time to acknowledge that passing. I was blessed with an easy pregnancy and thoroughly enjoyed it, perhaps it is because I'm unlikely to be pregnant again that I don't want to forget it.

I've used this inkscape technique before. I used to do pictures like this with actual cut out paper when I was younger so it appeals to me. I tried out lots of different colour combinations, which is much easier to do in Inkscape than in with real paper, I like the heavily textured blue paper but it is far too distracting.
One day I might use the files to craft robo the actual paper and make the real thing!

Saturday, 3 March 2012


I've been mulling over how to make a quick dress for Grace for a while now. There are some lovely baby girl dress patterns but I wanted something supper quick as Grace doesn't give me a lot of time. She has a nice fleece dress that decided to copy. I think more baby clothes should be made in fleece, it's warm, stretchy, comes in great colours, doesn't fray and the sick and drool doesn't soak in!

I just traced round the dress to make the pattern, adding a 1.5cm seam allowance when I cut it out. This worked ok but I think to be more accurate I need to include seam allowance in the paper pattern. As it is fleece I decided to cut down on one line of stitching by not giving it a hem, just cut the fabric with pinking shears. I did the same on the front yoke to make it look more intentional.

The yoke is lined with material from an old t-shirt. I was able to save time by using the hem of the t-shirt as the hem of the yolk. The dress is those colours because I am using up my scraps of fleece. The photo doesn't show it but it's purple at the back. I added a couple of flowers to pull it all together (and to give Grace something to play with!).

It was really quick to make, I'll definitely be making another. The only thing I would change is to make the shoulder straps longer. Then I'd be able to move the buttons as she gets bigger and get some extra use out of it.

The colour is a bit off in this photo, but she looks fab in it.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

hat update

Amelie Me
Here are 2 of my little ladies trying their new hats. Dad loves it so much he wants one so that when he is out pushing Rose in the pram they have matching hats.... he should be careful what he wishes for!