Beautiful things for you and your home!

Lots of homely thoughts on sewing, baking, papercrafts, gardening and all the things that go towards making your house a home

Friday, 12 December 2014

Mending Stuff and Putting Sewing Back on the School Curriculum

We all know that sewing is a fun, creative, sometimes frustrating, sometimes relaxing but pretty much fabulous hobby. But, at the risk of sounding boring, it's also flippin' useful!

This is just one of the many reasons why sewing should be put back on the school curriculum And when they do, they must ensure that it's done in the right way. A lot of people I've spoken to about this, who were in the last few years of having sewing taught at school (and even then it was an 'option', so not everyone did it), were more put off by sewing in class than encouraged. Had I not had a pretty firm background of loving fabrics and sewing, obtained by osmosis of having a Nan who was a professional seamstress, I would probably have been one of those who never picked up a needle again. As it was, I didn't look forward to the class - which says a lot about how it was taught.

There are so many fun things that children could make in the process of learning these skills in an appealing way, that I really hope the powers that be don't insist on the same old boring oblong shaped apron that we were all started on. Textiles are fun. Sewing is a sort of magic - that something 3D appears from what a short time before had been just a flat piece of fabric. Something that you can wear. Something that when someone says, 'Oh, I love your coat/hat/skirt/dress/bag (etc), where did you get it?', you can reply, 'I made it.' I guarantee that they will be impressed. And the buzz that you get from a compliment on something you've made is fabulous - and addictive - but in a good way! And, of course, with the increase in interest in sewing, the amount and variety of fabulous fabrics has increased exponentially!

I'm planning a WIP bag for the fabric on the left and probably a skirt for the one on the right

So, on to the more boring, but useful stuff I have been doing. I have to say I'm not a great fan of mending things. It's not really what I want to sew for but there's no doubt that it comes in useful and just sometimes has to be done.

I believe I mentioned in another post that a couple of months ago I got a dress at M&S in the sale. It was £21, down from £55 (I'd looked at it previously non sale, and loved it but it seemed pretty pricey!). I tried it on, it fitted perfectly. That in itself is a miracle. But then I noticed that the waistband was coming away from the embroidered band above it. I mentioned this at the till and asked for a little bit more off as it was damaged. So, off came a few more pounds and yes, it was a little fiddly but didn't take me much more than half an hour and I then had a lovely, easy to wear dress for £18 instead of £55.

Next, I was back with the M&S clothing but this time far less impressed that the coat I'd bought there at the beginning of the year, and had barely worn was coming away at the sleeve lining!

Sleeve lining (on the left) coming away!

This was not a cheap coat so I wasn't happy. Obviously they don't stock it anymore and the actual coat I love so it was out with the needle again. A bit fiddly, yet again but I muddled through and did a fairly neat job I think, bearing it mind it was trial and error.


On to some gloves now. I made these gloves many moons ago and they really have been well used. Being fleece they dry so quickly and as I used to use them all the time for walking a large dog in an often muddy forest, they have seen the inside of a washing machine plenty of times. No longer having a pooch, I dug these out the other day when it was a big nippy for a trip out on the bicycle. Which is when I noticed a hole, and then another, and then another! Oops!

Holey moley!

Still, a needle, some thread and a bit of telly and the problem was soon solved.

Added to that I finally got around to plumping up the square beanbag pouffe I made a few years ago when we moved in here as it had started looking decidedly sad. The original was made pretty easily because I refused to pay the £50-£75 the shops were charging for the same thing! I found some gorgeous faux suede from Croft Mill and went to work. Yes, you do end up finding the odd polystyrene ball for the next several weeks but any shop bought one would go flat too and if you can't plump it up, that's a lot of money wasted.

I realise I should have snapped a pic of the item in question, now fully returned to plumpness, but it's just been one of those times so please forgive, and I'll grab one later. In the meantime, take it from me that it's once more returned to squareness, with a little squidgy thrown in for good measure!
This also got the plumping up treatment. I use it in the car, in the small of my back to help against backache. It really helps but had got so flat that it was getting to be of little use. As this was a shop bought one (in which I clearly had no choice of colour!), I just snipped a hole near a seam, poured in some beans and hand sewed it up again with little stitches. It's not that noticeable and really, for shoving behind my back in the car, it really didn't matter if it wasn't a masterpiece anyway.

My last 'mend' was more of an adaptation. I'd popped into Boots for some powder puffs and it wasn't until later I thought that having a bit of ribbon on the back would make them much more user friendly so that's just what I did. If you're anything like me, you have ribbon to spare and as only a tiny bit was needed, it didn't take long. I even tweeted a photo to Boots of my adaptation which they kindly responded to, and are having their sales team look into the modification.

1 mushroom + 1 pair of lovely warm tights with a thin toe + a few spare minutes = fixed + money saved

So, whilst it's without a doubt totally fabulous to whip up a dress, it's good to remember that sewing skills are useful for the little things too. Getting my coat fixed would have cost me and if I'd bought the damaged dress without the ability to fix it myself, getting someone else to do it would have meant that it was back up around it's pre-sale price.

We live in a throwaway world but many are gradually coming around to the idea that this isn't always the best option, thanks to the renewed interest in sewing and knitting, and crafting in general. A generation or two ago, most women could sew - at least the basics. We need to get back to that, but not just for women, for men too. It's useful and it's fun! What more could you want?

Happy creating!

Love, Maxi

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Padded Case For Laptop Or Tablet

My Dad had recently got a second hand laptop/tablet type thingy (to be honest, I'm not entirely sure of the distinction, but either way, he's got one). It didn't come with a case and, although he doesn't really have plans to be carrying places, he looks after his stuff and I knew he'd want a case to keep it safe and tidy.

I had a rummage in my stash, thinking this would be a good opportunity to use a bit of it up. After diving around in it for a while, it became clear that really, nothing I had would be suitable. Most of it, to be honest, was a bit girly. So - oh dear - I *had* to go fabric shopping!

My Dad is a keen gardener and has an allotment too, so something that tied in with this seemed a good place to start and a short while later I discovered this rather fun print from Michael Miller. It also comes in a cream colourway too.

The actual cover for the tablet was a fairly easy, envelope sort of design. I just laid the laptop on the fabric and folded the fabric up until it made a sort of pouch, and then folded the top down enough to make a flap that could be fastened with Velcro (hook and loop tape) - if that makes sense. It will. It was what I had originally planned to do with this tablet cover before I made a booboo and had to replan rather suddenly.

I used the vegetable fabric for the outer cover, and upcycled a cotton pillowcase that we no longer use. This was a great option as it's nice and soft from many washings, and its soft lilac colour complemented the main fabric colour, picking up the purple shade of the mushrooms in the design, and doesn't scream 'girly fabric' when you open it.


For the padding, I used two layers of a thin-ish wadding. I probably could have got away with one but I knew from previous use it can sometimes get a bit flattened out in items like this, and even with the pressing during the making up, so I stuck to the two layers. I also switched to the walking foot on my machine which made things a lot easier.

I made a sandwich of the fabric, wadding and lining, stitched around the edge, leaving a gap for turning and then turned it right side out. So I now had a padded oblong - veggie one side and lilac on the other. If you wanted to quilt the fabric, this would be a good time to do it but I didn't plan to so I carried on.

Taking the measurements from before as to how big the pouch bit needed to be, I popped a couple of pins in, one each side to mark it. Then I took the edge that was going to be the top of the pouch, the bit you'll see when you open the to flap up, and top stitched across just to make it look more finished.

Next I folded the bottom edge (the bit just topstitched) up to meet where the pin markers were and clipped the fabric in place, ready to sew. You can use pins of course, but I'd recently got some of these Clover Wonder Clips so it seemed a perfect opportunity to try them out. Have to say, on squishy fabrics like this, it was so much easier than trying to wiggle pins in which can sometimes result in the bits shifting. I've also seen people use just cheap hair slides - the kind that you slide in and bend to close - for the same purpose which is just as good.

So, a quick stitch up each side of the pouch bit and it was looking more like a case, rather than a changing mat!

Obviously doing things this way means the seams are exposed, so I had got in some bias binding to edge the whole thing with. That was a job in itself! I couldn't find the right brown to match the base colour and the only other matching one I could find was a deep lilac, which toned with those mushrooms beautifully but also pushed it a little too much back into the 'possibly-a-bit-girly' realm again. A bit more hunting and I found a green binding that matched.

Putting it on took two goes as I wasn't very happy with the first attempt. The second attempt still isn't perfect but I couldn't risk unpicking it all again and stretching it or putting another hole (I slipped!) in it. After that it was just a case of marking where the closure was to go on each side and lining them up. I box stitched these on both sides as it needs to withstand a lot of opening and closing.

The Velcro could have done with being a few millimetres over  really

 A quick stitch on of a 'Love, Maxi' label and it's ready to go!

I made this out of one Fat Quarter, and there's a little strip left. I realised when it came that I couldn't get the amount I needed in one go, staying in the direction of the print, but I don't think it's an 'obvious' directional pattern so I was happy to use it in the best way I could and I'm pretty happy with the way it's turned out. Hopefully my Dad will like it, and I hope you do too!

Thanks for reading!

Love, Maxi

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Charity Make - Zipped Box Style Make Up Bag

If you're in the UK, you have probably seen the posters and adverts for the Macmillan Big Coffee Morning. It's a great cause and last year the coffee mornings raised £20,532,000 which can all be put towards helping people, and their loved ones, through cancer.

I was lucky enough to be invited to one this year that a friend and her neighbour were holding as a joint venture. This was a great idea, as it meant more numbers, a shared workload and the opportunity to meet and have fun with new people. The 'big day' as it were, was officially the 26th September, but this one, and many others around the country, had been pushed to the 28th. A Saturday morning meant that more people were able to attend.

As well as donating for your cup of tea/coffee and cake, there were various guessing games to play, through posters supplied in the Coffee Morning Kit and a raffle. As I was travelling by train, taking a Victoria sponge or a batch of delicious (hopefully!) cupcakes didn't seem the best option - and when the train pulled in to the station already absolutely packed to the rafters, the decision was proved to have been the right one. It would have been cupcake carnage. Instead I had decided to put my effort into a prize for the raffle. I pondered on what would be a good thing to take. As it was going to be mostly women, and bearing in mind the festive season is already being hailed in supermarkets across the country (something I wish we could legally change to ensure no hint of Christmas is allowed before November at least), I thought that perhaps a make up bag might be just the ticket.

I had some Makower fabric in cream called 'Boutique Accessories' that I thought would be perfect, covered as it is in little drawings of handbags, shoes, etc. (I tried to find a link to this for you, but because it's been in my stash a little while now, it seems that it's no longer sold). I also wanted it to be in a boxed style, rather than just flat. I don't know about you but I always find it much easier to find things in my own box shaped make up bag than I did in a previous 'flat' one.  Of course, as is always the way, nothing went to plan and I ended up poorly for the best part of last week.

Friday came and I still had no gift to take for the raffle. This is when Melanie at I Heart Stitiching came to the rescue. Without the time to spend rummaging through my patterns, I did a quick search on You Tube and found her channel. Melanie's box pouch tutorial is one of the best I've seen. She makes it really easy to see how to do things, gives you the measurements you need and just makes the whole thing seem less intimidating, especially if you are a) a beginner or b) under the weather - or even both.

This is how mine turned out:

I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, especially for a first attempt. I have pretty high standards, especially when it comes to gifts so things going to plan with it meant that I avoided the last minute dash to the shops to find a raffle prize to take!
I deliberately went with a contrasting colour for the zip as I felt it added a little bit of zing to the project but you could of course have one that matched the base colour of the fabric.
The bag was quite fun to make and came together quite easily. The longest part was cutting it out I think. I probably lost a bit of time changing feet on my machine, not that they take that long, but I did change back and forth between the walking foot and the overedge foot a certain amount. Luckily even that doesn't take too long on my Janome machine  I previously had a Toyota which was a nice little machine but the walking foot was quite fiddly to change so I was very pleasantly surprised when I first changed to a walking foot on the DSK.
If I make another one of these, I will probably match the thread to the lining fabric (sorry, no pics of the inside on this one as hubby took them for me whilst I got tea ready and I didn't specify an 'interior shot'). In this one the lining is pink and the stitching is cream, to match the base colour of the exterior fabric. My brain was still a bit fuzzy from being under the weather and once I realised, I made the decision to carry on. I actually quite like that the stitching contrasts inside as it's neat and makes it a little quirky. I'd match the next one just to see which look I prefer most.
Hopefully the lady who picked my bag as her prize enjoys using it as much as I enjoyed making it, fuzzy brain and all!
Did you go to any of the Big Coffee Mornings? Did you make or take anything - I'd love to hear so do leave me a comment below!
Happy Crafting!
Love, Maxi

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Jam Session

No, not the cool, hip rock star kind, but the rather yummy produce-something-you-can-eat kind, which I think is indeed still cool and hip - rockstar or not.

During the past few weeks I have been keeping an eye on my Dad's allotment whilst they were away. Luckily it wasn't during the heatwave this time so a lot of the time it was looking after itself. It was in the meantime, producing a tonne of tomatoes, in addition to my own plants at home. But more of that in another post (suffice to say, there was some tomato soup in their fridge ready for them to have for lunch when they got back!). The allotment was also offering up the odd bit of fruit as plants started to head for autumn.

We had already had a delicious rhubarb, strawberry and blackberry crumble...


After that, there was a little bit of odd things - none of it was enough to do much with on its own. I pondered on what I could do with it, and came upon the idea of making some jam.

I don't know about you, but for years, I was always under the impression that jam making generally involved some magic. It just seemed to loiter in my head as some very fine art that the likes of mere mortals as myself would never be able to conquer.

Well, turns out it's not quite so much of a dark art as I thought! I've not made loads of jam and the first batch I made several years ago was probably a bit thick really - but still edible for a first go, even if you did sort of have to cut it into sticky chunks...

I was taking a bit of a risk on this batch really too as I didn't have an actual recipe with quantities or anything and who knew what the mixture of fruits was going to taste like. You know, some mixes work and some are a bit off. Either way, the fruit was just sitting there so there wasn't much to lose.

After a bit of scouting around for sugar quantities, I went for a basic theory on adding the same weight of sugar to fruit, with a good splash of lemon juice for good measure. I then prepared the fruit:

* One stick of rhubarb (fairly thick)
* One bag of frozen gooseberries, thawed (these had broken down in the thawing process but going in a jam, it didn't seem as if it would matter too much
* About three blackberries (I know!)
* A small handful of yellow raspberries - these are delicious and a much softer flavour than traditional red one. I think they are called 'All Gold'
* One punnet of plums
* A few bits of pear

Everything but the pears, which had started to turn a bit soft and the plums were from the allotment. These two items had come in my veggie box. Dad doesn't use any sprays up at the allotment and the box is an organic one so there was a distinct lack of nasties to go in my jam mix - marvellous!

I cooked the fruit down, probably a little bit further than I intended because I had forgotten completely that I had it on the heat and got distracted doing something else! Scooting out to the kitchen when I remembered, the fruit was fine and hadn't stuck or anything. I splashed in the lemon juice and added the sugar, stirring it all the time until it dissolved completely.

This resulted in loosening the mixture quite a lot. I turned up the heat until it was boiling but only slightly and then turned it down again for a little longer. I know various recipes say to 'boil rapidly' but frankly, as soon as it started to boil, the stuff was flying out in all directions! A lower heat seemed the best option. I kept stirring for a while, until it started to get to a more 'jammy'* consistency (*technical term), and then popped a blob on a cool saucer and quickly placed it in the freezer for a few minutes.

When it came out, I could push the jam and make it wrinkle a little, before it scooped up onto my finger. Obviously I had to taste then, and gosh, it was delicious! I think it probably depends a bit on how you like your jam. If you like quite a runny (not liquid!) jam, then this stage is fine, but for a slightly thicker jam, you could leave it to cook a bit longer. I quite like a 'loose' jam as I find it is easier to spread. So, take the pan off the heat, grab a couple of sterilised jars and a jam funnel and...

Ta Dah!
As I say, I didn't have loads of anything so it only made two pots, but that's fine with me. The one on the right has been jazzed up a bit because I couldn't get the label off properly originally and I'm giving it to the parentals (it was mostly their fruit after all!) so a bit of pretty paper and double sided tape later - fit for presenting!
Excuse the munching marks on this one, I forgot I was supposed to be photographing it before I dived in! There was a little too much jam to fit into both pots, so we had to each have a bit of bread and jam for supper. What a shame! 

I'm really glad I overcame the 'fear' of making jam. I may well have just been lucky with this batch and the next one might be awful but who knows? It seemed to work this time just fine. Obviously the fruits I was using had enough pectin to make it viable - something with a lower level like strawberries, might be a bit more tricky. The key thing is, just to try! I'm really glad I did.

I'd love to hear about any jam making you've been doing, or any recipes you've just come up with to use up leftovers that have turned out great!

Happy crafting!

Love, Maxi

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Craft Space Overhaul...again

***I have just glanced back at my posts and realised that I had already done a sort of blog about this subject, which goes to show just how long I've been away from the blogging scene and how manic things have been lately. So! Apologies that this may repeat certain things and please forgive me my scatterbrain moments. Next time, I'm checking, honest!***

Hello all!

After having an epiphany of the interior design variety a couple of months ago, during a sleepless night, we have had a fairly major change in the room that was being used as a sort of study, come craft space. It never seemed to quite work really and I couldn't put my finger on it as to why. I suppose part of it was that one side was hubby's with his desk and the other side was my desk and various craft gubbins. I will freely admit that during crafting sessions, my side pretty much always invaded his side; a situation I have heard from many other crafters. Luckily, my hubs didn't mind this and happily put up with the encroachment. But I still wasn't really happy with the room. I didn't feel inspired to be in there, despite it being very light and sunny in the mornings.

As I lay awake that night, turning all sorts over in my head, the idea for a whole repurpose of the room emerged. As to whether it was possible was another matter.

I am a total book lover. I love my books - just looking at them makes me happy! In a previous house, we'd put shelves up in our dining room that covered one wall entirely. Those shelves were then in turn covered with books.

However, when we moved to this house, after a stint abroad, house prices had gone crazy and the same options weren't available. I had donated a lot, and I mean an awful lot, to charity and to the local library before we moved abroad but I still had a substantial number of books. We ended up having a couple of good old Ikea Billy bookcases  dotted around the house, and another older half height bookcase holding my recipe books. I've lived with it for a few years but it was far from ideal, especially as most of my books were still in the loft, which I knew wasn't the best environment for them.
It had also been playing on our minds that we didn't have a dining table. Well, we did, but it was still covered in shipping wrap and sat in the garage. Having a smaller house we just didn't have the space for it. Most of the time, this wasn't an issue. We aren't the type to throw posh dinner parties and we eat in the lounge, chatting and catching up on any series we've recorded. I know purists will gasp in horror at this, but it's what we do, and we're happy doing it. If you have children, then that's a whole different deal and I'd agree that sitting together and having the opportunity to talk about your day, etc, is important but we don't have that situation so we do what works for us. Anyway, back to topic! Mostly our friends were happy to eat as we did, and if the parentals visit, we used some fold out 'tv tables'. It worked. But I was aware that if I went for this whole transformation of the room, then we could also incorporate a dining table, making it a real multi purpose room but still look chic and tidy - the current design had open shelving for a lot of craft bits and I wasn't happy with it entirely. Yes, you can see what you have, but I still wasn't using a lot of it, and it was a pain to dust! And honestly, I'm not a fan of open shelving in general. I like things behind doors and the clean lines that tends to give. I know some people love open shelving and all power to them. It's just a personal choice - there isn't a 'right or wrong'.
So! After pulling all my books out of the loft (yippee!!!!) I also took down all the shelving in the room, piling up the craft goodies and sorting out exactly what I was going to use and what, in all likelihood, I wasn't. I went through all my scrapping paper and donated a tonne to my beautician's Mum, who runs a childcare service. Other craft items mostly went to the British Heart Foundation and a couple of bits that were brand new sold on Ebay.
Eventually, we got there. Trying to condense the contents of two desks, two filing cabinets, and drawer sets, eight shelves and two cupboards into just the two cupboards was no easy feat. The cupboards themselves were ones already existing in the room but in need of a makeover to blend in. One tin of Annie Sloan chalk paint later...
transformed! I've yet to put the handles back on this one in the above photo. The other cupboard was pretty much the same sort of mdf wood veneer colour but neither matched each other, and as the bookcases were slightly off white, I really wanted to paint them to make the room look more cohesive. It's amazing what a difference it makes. I didn't both with the top of this one as it's pretty tall and no-one tends to look up there! Plus it's now home to a few things that don't need accessing too much (including the big box that holds my wedding dress! Not an easy size to find space for). Ideally I wouldn't have anything up there but needs must and to be honest, I don't tend to notice the things stacked up there tidily.
I have to admit, there were a couple of moments when I thought I had taken on an almost impossible job as  I sat surrounded by 'stuff'! But we got there. And I now have a view that makes me smile and inspires me when I sit down to sew or scrap or make a card.
New inspirational view from my sewing machine
I wish I had taken photos of the process along the way, but there was a lot else going on at the time and the idea of blogging the transformation hadn't really occured to me, so apologies if it's all a bit 'wordy' for you.
We have a print waiting to go up, but need to find a frame for it first and the wall behind the machine is currently bare. We haven't decided on what to put up there yet but I'm sure I'll know when I see it.
I'm really pleased with the outcome. We did have to choose a different dining table as our original is too big for the room but the pine one we got, again from Ikea, is just the right size and was a great price. We knew we wouldn't be eating in there loads so it made no sense to splash out on some beautiful, but pricey, solid oak one. It does the job and looks great, with the wood adding a bit of warmth to the white walls and bookcases.
Hope you enjoyed the 'tour' and would love to see some pictures of your rooms - especially those that have to be multi purpose!
Love, Maxi

Monday, 21 July 2014

Back Soon!

Apologies for the interruption of posts here. I'm not sure where this year has gone and can't believe we're already half way through July!

I'm currently in the midst of having a major change in the room I use to sew in so it's all been a bit of an upheaval. We've got rid of a couple of desks and replaced them with a small dining table and bookshelves. Not that we entertain a lot but when we do, it's nice to actually have a table to sit at. Our previous house was bigger so although we still have that table, it's too big really for this room. So, Ikea to the rescue and we're sorted!

Condensing two desks, two sets of drawers, a cupboard and various other shelves and drawers into one space has been a bit of a job and I've had to be ruthless with some craft supplies. It has been a good opportunity to see exactly what I have though, and get rid of some things which I know I'm not really going to use. My beautician's Mum runs a childcare service so I always have a good home for paper, etc  and the other craft supplies went to the charity shop. I'm hoping that, although everything is now hidden in cupboards and stored in tins rather than being out on display, because I now have stuff that I really think I'll use, I will actually find it easier to get on and scrap. That's the plan anyway! I've certainly been getting some inspiration from the Glitter Girl videos at Two Peas As most scrappers will know by now, Two Peas in a Bucket are closing their doors this week and it's unclear as to what is going to happen to the videos posted by the Garden Girls. In the event that the rights aren't returned to those who created them for use on their own sites, I am madly trying to watch the Glitter Girl ones which I'd got terribly behind on. I also bought and used Video Downloader Ultimate to grab the videos from Shimelle's Hitchhiker's Guide to Scrapbooking Class. I also downloaded the National Scrapbooking Day classes she did when she made up kits from her own stash as I find these really useful to watch. I'm not a natural with techy stuff but this programme is really simple to use so I recommend it if you have some classes you want to keep before Two Peas shuts its doors for the final time on the 24th July.

We were left with two cupboards in our new dining room/library which had matched the two desks. The 'Billy' bookcases that now line most of one wall are off white, and I had some of the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White left from a previous project. The beauty of this paint is that you don't have to sand the furniture down prior to painting. I did clean it off with a bit of white spirit which I left to dry and evaporate off. This colour is a really good match to the Billy bookcases. I'll be in and out of both the cupboards, and one will have the printer on so they need to be able to stand up to use.

The last time I painted using this paint, I did follow through with wax, as they say but I didn't find it good enough. Gradually things would leave marks and finger marks were obvious. As I have also painted our phone table to tidy it up after some heavy handed movers in various countries left their marks on it, I need something tougher. So this time I bought some clear, non yellowing, matt varnish and have given everything a coat of that. It was a bit of an experiment as I'd not used a varnish before with it. I've given everything one coat now and it seems just fine and I think will be a much better option for me at least.

I'm really happy to have my books all together again and when I did a bit of sewing the other night whilst hubby watched the World Cup final, I felt much more inspired sitting in there. Seeing my books makes me happy and more creative, and even though the sewing was just a frustrating repair (to a brand new Jane Norman dress!), I am hoping for lots of creative juices when I get the room finished properly. One of my first projects is the Simplicity Jiffy Dress  that came with Issue 61 of Sew magazine, in this fabulous cotton print:

So, a couple more coats of varnish today and we should be there. It's a warm one so it shouldn't take too long to dry. Thanks so much for your patience and with a bit of luck I will have some creative creations to share with you very soon!

Happy Crafting!

Love, Maxi

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bit Of A Setback

So! I finally got some time put aside to sit down and get all the gubbins out to start on a garment! I had a lovely new pattern that I'd bought from an indie seller at the NEC's Sewing For Pleasure show, and fabric bought especially for the dress. I'd got my thread, my zip, the whole caboodle!

Having spread the paper pattern out, it didn't really lend itself to the trace straight on to fabric method that Tilly details here being a very thick paper so I spent quite some time sticking and tracing and cutting the pattern onto dressmaker's paper. It wasn't the easiest as the 8 and 18 lines are very similar in colour and once you put tissue paper over this, it gets even harder to see!

So, once I'd cut the pieces out I went to put them on the fabric. This is where it all went horribly wrong. The pattern didn't specify the width of fabric needed (actually it's pretty vague as to how much you need at all but there we are!) and apparently it doesn't fit on the standard 45" width, that's for certain. The skirt is fairly wide and there's no way it would fit. Even opening it out and adding another seam, which isn't ideal but would salvage it, wouldn't work as I'd need a whole bunch more fabric.

Obviously I was a bit miffed. Like most of us, I don't have unlimited time and so I was excited to make this pattern my first big foray back into sewing and spent several hours in the process, only to be let down. Looking at the instructions, there are a few key points missing in those too, especially as this is marketed as a 'beginner' pattern. I beg to differ. The design is simple but it just seems that a certain amount more testing is required before it should be let loose on the public.

I was, and am keen, to support the indie pattern houses and on the whole, I've heard good things about them. I hadn't heard much about this one but loved the designs and the pretty packaging. It's the most I've ever spent on a pattern and is more than all the other indie patterns I've seen, now I've looked around.

I've contacted the company (which is why I'm not naming them on here, for the moment) but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply. That was nearly a month ago. Less than impressed?! I should Coco! Which it would seem is the pattern I should have bought instead of this one as I've seen loads of great examples on the web of this one.

It looks like I'm going to have to chalk this one up to experience. It's a shame as it's really made me wary of 'unknowns' now. And the dress is pretty. Well, it would be if the pattern had been more accurate!

It kind of put a damper on my sewing enthusiasm for a few weeks, having wasted all that time and then to be completely ignored by the owner, despite an explanatory email asking for assistance and a tweet checking to see if the email arrived. I'm not entirely impressed with the 'customer service'.  I'm hoping to get the mojo back though. I have a maxi dress pinned up - not very exciting, just taking it up as Jane Norman seem to think everyone is nearly 6 foot tall! Still, it should get me back in front of the sewing machine which is a start. I had to cut off a fairly big chunk which I thought might make a fun headband sort of thing if I make a little hem on it.

And I've just ordered Tilly's book too - like I need more sewing books - but the clothes, especially the dress with the sweet little bow are adorable so with a bit of luck, I'll be stitching again soon!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Making Custom Map Cushions

First of all, this post was supposed to be up on Thursday and very nearly was! I couldn't sleep and got up early and thought I'd get this post done.

After fiddling about and arguing with Blogger about the fact that it keeps turning my portrait pictures into landscape mode, I finally figured it out, with the help of Google, and got the post done, and the pictures in. And then managed to delete the whole thing!

Trying to move the picture, I ended up highlighting the whole thing and obviously pressed a random key that deleted it all! Blogger really needs to put an 'undo' button on this site. Either that or I need to start using another service. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't the best chuffed at all that and, didn't have time to do it all again then, so here I am again now! Fingers crossed!

A short time ago, we went to the Eclectic Maker Shop so that I could get the circuit board fabric to make up a tablet case for hubby. Whilst we were there, having a nose around (as is mandatory in such circumstances!), I spotted this map fabric.

I'd been wanting some map sort of cushions for a while. I'd seen quite a few different ones around, and in magazines but not any that were exactly what I was looking for, or weren't a ridiculous price! I have a bit of a thing about maps so I'm always drawn to them. I think it's the promise of travel and discovery that they instill.

So, I bought a metre of the fabric, which gave me four complete maps, and some natural linen for the backing. I soon realised that I wasn't going to be able to find pre-made cushion innards to fit the size of the map so I did some measuring and made up some custom sized, hand stuffed, hand finished cushions instead.

Ta dah! The finished results! I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.
I hope you like them! I've got some more cushions planned (could do with a bigger house!), this time using this elephant fabric from the Karavan range in the Free Spirit line. I'm still deciding as to what exactly to do with them. I have some ideas but I think it'll be another case of fiddling and seeing what happens!
I'd love to hear what you're making so feel free to leave a comment below! In the meantime, happy crafting!
Love, Maxi

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee 2

I can't believe we are at the final for the Great British Sewing Bee!  The weeks have flown by and I could quite happily sit and watch it all again.

It's certainly been a lot more challenging this series than the first one. I wonder if anyone has had a bit of a shock at what they've been asked to do? I like the fact that this time there's been some more in depth explanations of things with Claudia going off to visit places like The V & A Museum and the Fashion and Textile Museum which helps give us background on some of the items, or techniques, the contestants are having to deal with.

I used to watch Project Runway in the States, but ended up stopping because of the bitchiness of, not only the contestants, but also the judges. Obviously it's a much bigger deal there with a chance to show at New York Fashion Week, etc but I felt awful for the participants when they'd stand with their creation and then have humiliating comments tossed at them by the likes of Michael Kors and Heidi Klum. I realise that they obviously have experience in the fashion world - that's not in question, but I do think they could have put their criticisms across more constructively. That's why I love our Sewing Bee! May and Patrick obviously have a huge amount of knowledge between them but they always try to advise constructively, even if something's not to their taste.

I was sad to see Lynda leave last night. She's been such a lovely addition to the group; so kind and thoughtful towards the others and generous when anyone asked her anything. It's hard when it gets to this stage to see anyone go. I'd really like Heather to win it now, but Chinelo is super talented too and would also be very deserving of the title. How to choose?!

It'll be a tense time next week for the final challenges. What will they be?!

In the meantime, I'll be getting back to my own sewing! I've just made up two cushions from this fabric and just have a little hand sewing to do to finish them off. I'm hoping to get the last one finished off later so that I can photograph it and put it on here to show you.

I love that the Sewing Bee has inspired so many people to either drag out their sewing machine from a dark cupboard, or learn from scratch. Attending the NEC's Sewing For Pleasure a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed at how much busier it was this year than when I went a couple of years ago. Last time I went, it took about an hour for that side of the show to start filling up, but this time it was busy from the opening of the doors!

I'm still deciding whether to go to Creative Stitches and Fashion & Embroidery at London's ExCel which starts tomorrow. I have a complimentary ticket so it's just the train fare to find. The last time I went though, it was pretty tiny. I don't know whether the upsurge of interest in sewing will have boosted this exhibition or whether The Knitting and Stitching Shows held at Alexandra Palace and Olympia have fulfilled the need for London shows. I was surprised to find that Sew Magazine wasn't at the NEC show this year, having always attended before but again, perhaps they felt that attending the Ally Pally and Olympia shows in Spring and Autumn are enough. I have attended the Ally Pally one a couple of times but the last time, a couple of years ago, it was so busy and so cramped, it was unbearable! I don't know whether they have rectified that problem at all now and would love to hear from anyone who has attended more recently.

Did anyone else attend the Sewing For Pleasure show? What did you think?

In the meantime, happy GBSB watching and happy sewing!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sewing a Tablet Case with Fabulous Geeky Fabric!

For ages my hubby has been borrowing the Kindle Cover I made previously to transport his tablet to and fro. It was near enough the same size and did the job well enough until I got around to making the actual tablet cover. I'd bought some helicopter fabric to make it with, but I just hadn't got around to the actual making. You know how it is...

And then I saw this Robert Kaufman 'Plug and Play' fabric at the Eclectic Maker and knew it would be perfect! Even better than the helicopters for this particular project. I showed hubby and he loved it. The stage was set, the fabric was bought, washed and ironed and off I went. A few hours later, this appeared...

I was making it up as I went along and I had a good idea as to how I was going to do it. Unfortunately, I made a booboo when cutting so there was a hasty bit of replanning required! Talk about living on the edge! ;)
Just to show it fits!
As with the Kindle cover, I sewed on some Velcro tape to close it. It's quick and easy for him to get into, with no buttons or anything to detract from the design of the fabric or to get caught on something in his rucksack.
I was happy with the result, despite the unexpected diversions required - but more importantly, hubby was happy with it. :D


Saturday, 8 February 2014

A New Post At Last!

I know! It's been ages. I apologise and want to thank anyone still hanging around in the hope that I eventually did a new post - it's much appreciated!

Finally, I've been doing some sewing. As I may have mentioned, I had to replace my previous Toyota machine which, although I loved and knew how to work back to front, had a fairly strong dislike to sewing through anything on the thicker side. I'd had it for years so it was a bit of a sad decision. After some false starts and an unpleasant dealing with a particular sewing machine sales company, I did some more searching locally.

I was pretty decided on a Janome as they are used in so many places for lessons, etc, which would hopefully speak to their reliability, and it seems pretty easy to get extras for them without having to hunt them down. I tried the 607 but found that the display wasn't as easy to read as I would have hoped. It then really came down to the 5900QC and the new DKS30. I needed to decide as to whether I really needed all the extra twiddly bits that the 5900QC did. It's all very well having all those lovely stitches but would I really use them? And would the huge choice just be that little bit intimidating meaning I wouldn't get on and do any sewing? So, in the end I plumped for the simple push-a-button-to-choose option and took home my new machine.

I'd had a lined skirt of my Mum's for ages which she wanted me to take up a little. I got the machine out and practiced a bit on the blind hemming then did the skirt. It came out just fine. And then the machine just sat there. I'm not entirely sure of the reasons, but I think the bad taste left by the first attempt to replace the machine was still there, even though I'd gone somewhere different. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet!

I'd had some pre-shirred fabric from Fabricland waiting to be made into a dress for far too long. I love these sort of dresses - ok, I love dresses in general, but these are great as they're so easy to pull on and can be dressed up or down. And yes, it is winter here but I don't go with that whole 'winter/summer' wardrobe thing. I just stick a pair of boots on the bottom and a cardi on the top and call it done :)

So, with a bit of help from hubby with getting the straps pinned into place at the correct tension, I finished the dress.

Apologies that it's not the best shot in the world of it but with the rain, rain and more rain we've been having, it's been a little tricky to get out and take a picture 'in the real world' but I wanted to get a post up. Possibly before we all get washed away!
The fabric was a bit too plain for my liking so I found a lovely Broderie Anglaise trim to go around the bottom. The initial idea was to make the straps from the same but when I tried it, it looked a little bit too flouncy. It was then a case of back to the haberdashery department to find a trim that looked similar and was the same 'white' (how many there are!). I found one was looked just like the top part of the flounce and was the same shade so home we went and with some pinning - and only one unpick when I managed to somehow put one on twisted, I had a new dress finished! Yippee!
Obviously you don't need to add the trim or the straps to make these dresses and depending if you want to finish your seams like I did, or just cut them with pinking shears, you could have a dress in a very short time indeed.
I, on the other hand, am known to be a bit clumsy and on more than one occasion have stood on the hem of an elasticated skirt, only to narrowly avoid an embarrassing moment. Therefore the straps on this seemed a good safety measure for me!
I hope you like the dress, and I'd love to see any pictures of similar ones you have made, or hear about ones you plan to!
Thanks again for dropping by! I have another couple of projects to post about so will be back soon!
Happy Crafting!
Love, Maxi