Sewing, craft and other musings

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Take note...

I think it is important to remember which projects you have done, achieved and enjoyed.

So, I created a couple of notebooks with photos of the projects that me and my husband had done over the years.

It is really nice to have a permanent record of the little things we have made - especially gifts that have been given to others.

It is also a useful reference particularly if I am wanting to go back and try a craft again as I have also made sure that some of my not so successful projects are also in there.

My husband was dubious of me doing a little book for him but I catch him from time to time looking at it and pleased that he has a record of it.

Does anyone else do this?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Done in a few pips...

As I have said before I love freebies! Especially on the front of magazines.

 This little one was from the magazine Craftseller and was a quick little project that kept my fingers busy while on a train journey from York to Portsmouth.

 The main body of the strawberry was cut out of felt and stuffed with a thin layer of sponge.

The black thread was used for the pips and the ribbon was sewn in between the felt pieces.

 The green stork was cut out and the button was sewn on top. A five minute project and very effective...

I have made a couple of these into broaches for birthday presents and my friends have loved them...

Under the sea...

When I told my husband that we were expecting our daughter the first thing he wanted to do was get the baby's room ready by painting a mural on the wall.

I left the design up to him and, because we didn't know the sex of the baby, he needed to find something that would suit either a boy or a girl.

He decided to do a sea scene...

As I have said before me and my husband are a bit batty about animals so he chose animals which we both like...

He drew the pattern on a piece of paper first all before tracing the pattern on the wall in pencil.

He then worked out what colours he needed and also looked through the half used pots of paint that we had left over from decorating the house when we moved in.

He then set to work.

After painting he then outlined the pictures in sharpie.

I love what he has done... It was a labour of love... What do you think?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Birdie perch

One of the many joys of living in York is that it is a crafters paradise. I wish I had more time and money to attend more workshops that many of the cities craft establishments host.

One I did manage to attend (a couple of years ago) was one held at an independent retailer called Birdies Perch. I simply love this place as it has the best cards and boutique-y bits and it is throwing distance from my place of work so it is a nice place to 'escape' to when some time out is needed. The staff are so incredibly friendly and make me feel like a valued customer.

After one of my many visits there they said they were running some trial craft workshops and was I interested. I signed on the dotted line! It was for decorating a papier mâché bird.

The workshop was led by one of the very talented people who work there who had made the base of the bird out of paper and wire - amazing idea - and we needed to choose the one we wanted to decorate.

We were then given acrylic paints, sequins, beads and parts of artificial flowers to decorate the birds.

The company was good and we all had crafty pursuits that we discussed... A nice way to spend an evening ... And look at the finished result!

Quilting the memories... Part I

After completing my first t shirt quilt my husband produced a box of t shirts of his own which we had carted from house to house for the last five years. They were all of his t shirts from his various university clubs and also a few football shirts he couldn't bear to throw away. He also wanted them to be made into a quilt. So this time I had to do it properly!

Because a lot of the t shirts had quite big logos on them I needed to find a size of square which would be universal.

I then pressed all the t shirts.

Some of the shirts had emblems on the front as well as the back so, using a quilting template, I traced it around the front design and then painstakingly appliquéd the design to the main panel. The photos below show the process used for the logos ...

This is a work in progress and I'm trying to chip away at it little by little... I will update again soon!

Free as a bird...

As I have said before I am a bit obsessive about craft magazines. I have a few favourites...

Sew magazine
Simply homemade
Mollie makes

They all have their merits. Sew magazine has amazing patterns for the avid sewer. Simply homemade has ideas for every craft under the sun and Mollie makes has interesting crafting articles as well as tutorials. Mollie makes also has very good free gifts every month.

A couple of months back (maybe even six months or more) they had a kit to make a bird keying.

The instructions were easy to follow and the kit had enough of each of the materials that were needed.

The kit took half an hour at the most - a nice thing to do while catching up on the latest episode of my favourite murder mystery!

It now hangs on my shed keys - where I keep the bird food ... Not bad for a free gift!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Monsters included...

After the success of the dice monster it was my turn to try sewing my own monster.

I chose the pillow monster as I had a load of purple furry fabric in my stash which I thought would look good.

Again, the pattern was from 'dastardly delightful monsters' and the pattern was easy to follow.

All I needed (besides the fabric) was some pink felt, some red felt (for the inside of the mouth), a couple of buttons and a zip.

This was the first project in which I had used a zip so it was a new skill to add to my repertoire!

The furry fabric was quite an open weave so had to be all sewn by hand. The stuffing was polystyrene balls... I still had a HUGE bag of them!

I was pleased with the result... And I can't wait to make another one of these!

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Potty about Easter...

I love to try and give something a little different at Easter and, as much as the whole chocolate overload is something I look forward to (especially as I will have just finished the Christmas chocolate treats) I try my best to make something.
 Easter is also time for a bit of friendly completion between me and my sister. One year she had made up some organza bags with fake grass, a couple of creme eggs and a chunk of our respective birth stones - a nice little touch.

 So the next year I made everyone personalised mini flower pots and filled them with mini mini eggs.

The pots (bought through amazon) themselves started off terracotta in colour so I painted them copper with some acrylic paint which gave them a nice sheen.

 The wooden letters I bought from a local craft shop and painted them too (these can be bought through amazon too!) The butterflies were also bought at the craft shop but I have yet to find them anywhere else - please let me know if you know where I might be able to find them again...

 The gold letters finished off the personalisation...

 These were then given out in little cellophane bags with mini chickens on Easter Day...

You're having a giraffe...

My 5 month old daughter loves giraffes. She saw her first one at Blackpool zoo at 3 months and now every time she is shown a picture of one or sees one on tv she breaks out into a massive grin.

I have been trying to find a decor for her naming ceremony which is taking place in April and thought that a giraffe theme would be a nice way to incorporate something my daughter loves and something for the guests could take away with them to remind them of the day.

I also needed to come up with a way for the guests to know where they are sitting so came up with a combination of place card and guest memento!

The little giraffes were made from fimo which had been made in a silicone mould and then baked in the oven for only three minutes. These were then stuck to luggage labels and then the names of the guests were then stamped on the labels (although I did think about writing on them at one point like the one in the photo!)
On the back there was a small note saying that is was our daughters naming ceremony and the date.

I was pleased with these and then tied the labels with giraffe print ribbon.

I will let you know what the guests think!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Sewing with Cath...

Another of my greatest loves is Cath Kidston. I love the fabric, the designs and the homemade element of her things.

I particularly love her craft books: 'sew', 'stitch', 'patch' and 'make'. Free with her 'sew' book is the fabric and pattern for a bag. And I thought I would give it a go.

The instructions were easy to follow but I was grateful that the pieces were pre cut for this first project as I felt that this project was not for the beginner although the book does come with a massive pattern sheet which is, again, very clear.

It got me used to using my sewing machine (which was very new at that point) which was very useful but as the material was quite thick it made me test the tension on the machine too (another skill I had to learn!)

The project took me a couple of evenings to complete. However, I did tweak the instructions a little and did not make a loop for the button but instead sewed Velcro on the inside of the bag for a fastening.

All in all a great project for Cath Kidston fans... I'm certainly hooked!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Just dance...

After the success of my 'smile' bag I wanted to make another tote bag for my sister and step sister who are both crazy about dancing. My sister in particular always has a thousand-and-one shoes for her hobby so a bag would come in useful for her.

In fact, it was nice to return a favour to her as she once made me a tye dye bag at school which I kept my tap shoes in for many years - it goes without saying that I was a rubbish tap dancer!

 The principal of the 'dance' bags was the same as the 'smile' bag - the letters were traced out of different fabrics and then bondawebbed on and then appliquéd!

 The bag wasn't as good a quality as the previous one so if you attempt this yourself use a calico bag rather than a cheap one!

Sunday, 16 February 2014


In the run up to my wedding I realised that I didn't have a garter to wear.

By pure chance there was a simple pattern for one in the magazine 'Simply Homemade' that month and all you needed was a couple of lengths of ribbon, a length of elastic and some pretty embellishments.

The most tricky bit of this project for me was getting the elastic the right length sat needed to sit comfortably on my thigh but also not itch or be too tight - especially if I was planning to wear it on my wedding day!

Once the elastic was measured I set about sewing the thinner ribbon on the main ribbon and sewing the embellishments on.

The two lengths of ribbon were then sewn together and the elastic was then threaded through the ribbons and the elastic was attached together.

The lace was added as an extra.

The finished product was used on my wedding day - a little personal touch of mine - something that was a part of me that I had made myself!

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Gambling with monsters...

During a particularly stressful supermarket shop I found myself going down the book aisle ( a fairly normal occurrence) and saw a couple of sewing kits going cheap and bought them on a whim.

 The first of these books was 'Dastardly delightful monsters' (see link below) and instantly feel in love with the quirky designs and bright colours - something a bit different.

 My husband had a quick flick though and then instantly picked one that he wanted to make. The 'Dizzy Die'. This was probably the most complicated one to make but my husband likes to set himself a challenge!

 Thankfully the book has easy to follow instructions and very clear templates to follow. I would recommend the book for beginners to sewing as most of the designs require felt which doesn't fray and something relatively simple with great looking results!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Not just for Valentines...

One of the very first things I got given when I started crafting was 'Craft' by Kirstie Allsopp. I admire the way that she tackles every craft she tries with an eager enthusiasm.

This cute little project seemed quite a quick little one to do and didn't need more than some felt, a button, a short length of ribbon, some stuffing and some thread.

I tweaked Ms Allsopp's design a little by using polystyrene balls as stuffing (a huge bag of them still lives in my guest room!) I also didn't put a tassel on the bottom as I thought it might look better without it.

I have made a few of these since my first one. They make great gifts for someone you love - or just because you want to remind someone that even if it isn't Valentine's Day you still love them.

These can be found at my etsy shop too!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Heart to heart...

I love buying craft magazines. It is a bit of an obsession but I love flicking though them and gaining inspiration from their pages.

 I also, most embarrassingly, love the ones that have free gifts which come in kit form - I'm a real sucker for those!

 The latest idea came from 'Makes' from Prima - it had a make your own mouse on the front which completely won me over! I had some off cuts from the onesie that I had hemmed for my sister in a nice bright fleece material. I thought I could make some little fleece hearts which could then be strung together to create some heart bunting - something which could make a fireplace a bit more cosy.

 The hearts were easy enough to cut out and a button was sewn on with invisible thread. The hanging ribbon was part of my stash of off cuts which I usually snip off new clothes as I usually have them hanging out in strange places!

 Once they were sewn up I hung them up on the ribbon and pinned them on.

These little hearts went onto etsy - my husband said we had nowhere to to hang them ... To be fair to him he's probably right!

Etsy shop

Batty about felt ...

My dad works as an ecologist and spends a large amount of time handling bats as part of his job.

 The back lash of this is the fact he gets given all things that are bat orientated. So I decided to make him a little felt bat.

 The template was from a hanging decoration I had bought one Halloween and it was traced onto the felt twice. I used a running stitch to stitch the front and back pieces together and stuffed it with polystyrene balls - I have a MASSIVE bag of these so they get used for everything!

 I also found some eyes in my box of everything crafty and stuck them on.

 The finished article is rather sweet and could perhaps be used as a pincushion or a loop could be added as a Halloween decoration...

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

From coaster to coaster...

It can sometimes be difficult to find things to do with crafts around the home and fitting them in with the stuff you already have.

 I certainly have this problem frequently as the crafts I try don't necessary have a purpose - they are just done because I can!

 My husband found this when starting his cross stitch work especially when doing little quick ones of an evening and we ended up with little squares of cross stitch.

 I found on my travels that you can buy little acrylic blank coasters that fitted the little cross stitches perfectly. We now have a completely unique set of coasters all made by my husband.

 I wish that I could cross stitch so that I could make a set for friends - what a unique gift they would be!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Ragu time ...

Last year was a wonderful time for surplus tomatoes. We had had a particularly bountiful year as my husbands grandfather (a master of all things green and growing) had given us a couple of tomato plants and they had thrived on the patio outside. We also had a single courgette that had survived the onslaught of slugs which also seemed to thrive in my garden.

I wanted to preserve them in some way and ended up buying a book helpfully called 'The Preserving Book' (see link below!)

This recipe makes a Vegetable and Tomato Relish.

You need:
1 kg ripe tomatoes (I used cherry)
2 onions roughly chopped
3 courgettes roughly chopped
1 yellow pepper de seeded and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
2 red chillies (I didn't use these as my husband doesn't do chilli!)
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp English mustard powder (I used normal English mustard)
300ml malt or cider vinegar (I used some locally made cider vinegar)
150g granulated sugar

The tomatoes, onions, courgettes, pepper and garlic were first chopped by hand (although they do say you could use a food processor if you don't want chunks in your relish but as I was going to use this as a ragu base I wanted it chunky!) At this point you can add the chilli too but I never put it in and it tasted great without it!

All the chopped vegetables then go into a large pan (I used my jam pan as it has a heavy bottom) but any preserving pan that is stainless steel would do.

Stir in the tomato purée, mustard and then add the vinegar and sugar.

Simmer the mixture, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn the heat up and cook the mixture for 40 minutes to an hour. Make sure it is stirred frequently over this time as it might stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken.

Have your jars ready and sterile but warm and then ladle the mixture into them. Make sure the seals are vinegar proof!

Store in a cool dark place. I use the cupboard in my shed which is perfect.

Let it mature for a month before using in pasta sauce or similar. It is very, very good!

Starting with a smile...

When I first moved to York I was in desperate need of something to occupy my mind other than my work which was taking over pretty much every ounce of my life. I then made a discovery that was to change my life forever. Hobbycraft.

This discovery was made when me and my husband went to do one of our favourite pastimes. Looking at fish. This particular fish watchery was The Deep in Hull - an amazing place which we have visited many times since and has plenty of things to do for families. At that time though we were still unmarried and the idea of children was a dim and distant thing for the future.

We ended up getting a little lost around hull. Anyone who knows me will know that this is not an unusual occurrence as I probably couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. My sense of direction is rubbish. Anyway, we ended up in a car park outside Hobbycraft. My day brightened up immeasurably!

From that day I have spent many an hour wandering around the store.

I also love their website (hence the link appearing on my blog many, many times. On this website they have an ideas page which is a wonder to behold and I challenge any seasoned crafter to look at it and not come away with a bit of inspiration.

And this is what happened with my 'smile' bag. I was still relatively new to the whole crafting thing so I wanted to start with an easy but effective project. And this was it:

I didn't want my bag to say 'love' on it but 'smile' instead as I considered using it for my school books (as a Lamda teacher I ALWAYS have books!) and thought it would be a nice sentiment for my students to see especially first thing on a Monday morning. I also wanted the letters to have an almost monochrome effect.

I typed the letters in a word document on the computer and played with the fonts so they were all different. After printing the letters out they were then cut out and I traced the letters on the fabric. The letters were then cut out and then I out bondaweb on the back and ironed the letters to the calico bag.

 I find bondaweb heaven and hell ... Heaven when it works. Hell when it sticks to the iron!

I then appliquéd the letters.

It was satisfying finishing it. I again plan to do another couple of these but what they will be - who knows!

A bed of roses ... Book review

With everything that is currently going on in my life it was imperative that I had a book that was pure escapism and something that was light enough that I could dip in and out of when needed.

 Nora Roberts specialising in these kinds of books. And 'A Bed of Roses' was just he kind of escapism that I needed. It is actually the second book in the bridal quartet series but worked quite nicely on its own. 

It is set around a wedding planning business called Vows which is run by four close friends who all have a particular skill in wedding preparation. This book mostly focuses on the character of Emma who is in charge of everything to do with flowers. Emma is lovely and falls for commitment phobe Jack whom she has known since childhood and Emma has to learn to come to terms with the idea of falling in love with such a man and whether he can give her the fairy tale ending that she so deeply desires.

 This book was perfect for my mood - cosy, beautifully likeable characters and a happy ending which will make you feel gooey inside. If I find the others of the quartet on my travels I may get them as I want to find out what happens to the other three of the friends.;If you like a fluffy romance with a happy ending this is the book for you.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

It's pumpkin night tonight!

Last year I was fortunate enough that my husband dug me out a vegetable patch of my very own. It had been one of my many dreams. I wanted to be able to grow and then make stuff with the vegetables that I grew.

However, last January I fell pregnant which kind of put the dampners on anything that involved a lot of bending down for long periods of time so I needed to plant stuff that would be easy to maintain.

I also had a major store of vegetable seeds that I had been hoarding for as long as me and my husband had been living together (at that time three years!) and couldn't wait to see what I could grow.

The most successful vegetable of the patch was also the one that managed to take over most of the surrounding lawn too - my pumpkins!

Out of the patch I managed to get two huge pumpkins.
The problem with pumpkins is that they take hours to carve up and it also takes time trying to find different recipes to try to use it!

I was given a book for Christmas from my dad which is 'Jams, Pickles and Chutneys' by Midge Thomas - from a series of books by the WI. (See link below!) The ingredients needed were:
1.5 kg pumpkin flesh (no pith or seeds)
1.3kg granulated sugar
675g prepared oranges
675g prepared lemons
1 litre of water

I adjusted the recipe and swopped the ginger for cinnamon as I am not a big fan of ginger.

Also needed is a jam pan, jam funnel, wooden spoon and jars.

So the original recipe requires you to prepare your lemons and oranges. I have to admit that I don't want to faff too much so bought my oranges and lemons in tin form... Just as good!

The pumpkin, oranges, lemons and water go into the pan together and then are brought to the boil and then the heat is turned down to a simmer.

This simmer is to soften the pumpkin though in the original recipe it is to soften the peel of the citrus fruits.

Once the pumpkin softened I added the sugar and then turned the heat up to bring it to a boil again. Once boiling I brought the heat down to a medium heat and then waited.

I needed to wait for the mixture to thicken enough for the spoon to leave a clear path at the bottom of the pan ... I didn't wait that long to be honest as I wasn't sure if the fact that I had used tinned oranges and lemons might have affected its setting point so I experimented with how quickly it set on a back of a cold spoon and was satisfied that it would set once jarred up.

The jars had been sterilised earlier in the process in my daughters bottle steriliser (so little hassle!) and were ready to be filled.

I am pleased with the finished product - though it seemed to take a lot longer than the recipe specified. The marmalade tastes good on toast.

Thank you WI for this amazing recipe for using a monster of a pumpkin!
P.s. I love the Kilner range of preserving stuff so that is why I have put links for them here too!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Taking it down a size...

After the success of making normal size bunting I had some very nice material come with a magazine and immediately thought of my sister (who needed cheering up) and made her some bunting.

There was rather a lot of fabric scraps left over from the bunting and it seemed a pity to throw it away. So I decided to make some mini bunting.

I did what I usually do for the big stuff and just scaled everything down and used bias binding yet again to bind all the triangles in a line. The triangles themselves were quite a fiddle and I had to be carful not to trap my fingers in the machine or burn my fingers while pressing!

This bunting is still in the box I put it in - where projects that have no special place go until I find a use for them. I think I may need to make a small bunting just to prove it can be done ... Do dolls houses need bunting?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Hooting about wood ...

Another of my many loves are owls. Another of my husband's loves is building stuff. For Christmas he got a wooden make your own owl. The kit came as a flat pack in which you push out the pieces and then follow the instructions given in the pack. According to my husband the instructions are a little basic but thankfully the picture on the front was a good guide to where all the pieces went. The finished result needs no glue so equals no mess. My husband has got a couple of other wooden projects to do ... We may have a wooden menagerie soon!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Dinosaurs on parade...

My husband loves dinosaurs. I think he never quite grew out of them. His favourite place in London is the Natural History Museum. We have a cabinet in our dining room full of fossilised dinosaur bones. The first toy he gave to our daughter was a dinosaur. He is a Dino nut!

After the success of the farm animals fimo pack I found one with two dinosaurs to make. And the look on my husbands face was pure joy.

The dinosaurs were both made within the hour but the enjoyment he got out them was priceless!

Again, great for kids or big kids - especially those who are as Dino mad as my husband!

The model farm...

I love giving handmade gifts. It gives me a warm glow. It also means that I can give something that is unique.

 When my parents hit their 7th wedding anniversary I wanted to make a little something for them. The 7th anniversary is wool. I saw a fimo pack with some farm animals to make. A sheep would be a great gift!

 I hadn't tried fimo since I was a young kid and I used to love it... And I still do!

As there were two animals to make in the pack - a sheep and a pig - my husband decided to make the pig. The results were great.

My parent's loved the sheep. These packs are great crafts to do with kids and I can't wait for my little one to be old enough to discover the wonders of fimo!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Monkeying around...

Now that my family have realised that I love sewing I get all kinds of mini projects as gifts which is great.

This Christmas I received a make your own sock monkey kit from my parents.

The kit comes complete with thread and needle and really simple pictorial instructions that were easy to follow.

It was a nice little project to do of an evening, in front of the tv when you need to keep your hands busy - I find that I need this a lot!

The project took me about a week to complete (my young daughter hampered some of my attempts to sew!)

Now the completed monkey is sat on my daughters room along with the copious numbers of other stuffed animals.

I want to make another one at some point using some different socks but using the same pattern. A fun project for a rainy day or a dull evening!

Variations on a theme...

My husband bought home a blue macaw feather from work thinking I would like it for one of my projects. He guessed right.

With a few weddings around the corner it was time to give another fascinator a go.

I already had a few more feathers, a flower and another butterfly (bought a long time ago and it never quite fitted in anywhere) so this was going to be a low budget project.

I experimented with quite a few different ways of arranging the feathers and settled on the design below. Again it was all fixed with super glue.

I hope that I get to wear soon ...

Medieval fayre...

My sister in law is attending a sca event in the USA in March and asked me whether I wanted to make her a dress for it from a pattern she had liked on the Internet.

I am always up for a challenge so said yes and that I would have a go.

A couple of days later the pattern landed on my doormat in the form of a cd with PDF pattern. So many printed pages (and a new printer) later I had the pattern and needed to painstakingly tape the sheets together in the correct order. I was thankful that the pattern designer had made this easy for me by printing the number clearly on each page.

Once my sitting room floor was covered (I was grateful that there was nobody around to see just how big this pattern truly was!) I traced out the correct size on some test fabric I was using to make a toile. Generally I don't make toiles but as this was a dress for someone else I thought I'd better get this right on a draft first before cutting the proper fabric!

After the toile was made my sister in law came for a fitting and I breathed a sigh of relief that it did fit and I could continue with the real thing.

As my sister in law was going to be packing this dress in a suitcase I bought velveteen rather than anything heavier in deep purple and in gold. She had told me to think regal and I thought purple and gold are about as regal as it gets!

Helpfully the pattern designer had also included a cutting pattern to help me get the most out of my fabric so it was easy to just lay it out and cut.

The pattern also came with a step by step guide which was clear, simple and easy to follow.

After pinning, basting, learning how to make french loops, making petal sleeves for the first time, hemming and endless hours at my sewing machine I finally finished it. I tried to add up the hours spent doing this project but found it impossible due to a small baby hampering my attempts a couple of times!

However, I have really enjoyed the challenge. I am proud of the work I have done and the hours I have put in. And most of all I have loved the look on my sister in laws face when she tried it on for the first time. Priceless!

Pattern used: