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Loving handmade

Apologies for the lack of posts in February – making, doing and organising for the wedding has entirely taken over my life and blogging has somewhat fallen by the wayside… fear not though, I’ll be making up for it in May by telling you about everything I’ve been making for the wedding, including a sewn bridal bag, a personalised guest book, paper table confetti, a sewn bridal wrap decorated with crocheted hearts, a decorated card box and more.

Alongwith wedding crafting, I’ve also been working on (paid!) commissions for Simply Crochet and The Sewing Directory. I’m not quite sure how I’ve squeezed it all in really…anyway, my latest make for The Sewing Directory has been this canvas messenger bag:

Sewn canvas messenger bag

Sewn canvas messenger bag

I really love messenger bags – I feel secure with it worn across the body, I like the way it sits on the hip, and it’s easy to get stuff in and out. They’re the perfect bag for me!

I’ve wanted to try my hand at making one for ages, and then my current messenger bag (the one in this post, here) started fraying so I knew it was time. I pitched it to The Sewing Directory and they said yes, so I got to work and I’m really pleased with the outcome.

It wasn’t easy and took me about a week to make it, while working out the pattern at the same time, and then another week to write out the pattern in detail from my scribbled notes and draw step-by-step diagrams that someone else could follow. But it’s a pattern I’m really proud of. The bag itself has also been getting a lot of attention – people can’t believe it when I say I made it (I always love that).

If you’re interested in making your own messenger bag, pop over to The Sewing Directory for the free instructions. What I don’t mention in the instructions, though, is the extra pocket that I added to make the bag perfect for me! When I travel on the bus, I always worry about losing my bus ticket and try to keep it in the same place every time – but that place is usually inside a pocket that’s inside my zipped-up purse that’s inside my zipped-up bag. It’s a Russian doll effect that makes it tricky to get the ticket out in a hurry if I’m late and the bus is arriving just as I am (yes, that happens more times than I’d like to admit). So I gave my bag a hidden outside pocket along the side – you can see it in this photo if you look for the extra stitching near the orange flower:

Hidden outer pocket

Hidden outer pocket

It was fun trying to line up the pattern on the two pieces of fabric to get that ‘hidden’ effect and I think I did a pretty decent job. I love having a special hidden bus ticket pocket – it’s perfect for me. I also added another little pocket inside for my house key (which I can never find when I need it!). It’s these sorts of little life-improving details that makes me love handmade!

And so onto another made-to-measure treat that I crocheted for Simply Crochet – these men’s colourwork mittens:

Crochet colourwork mittens

Crochet colourwork mittens

These fine mittens are modelled above by my other half (soon to be husband!) who happily got to keep them afterwards. He really did deserve them as well because I made them to fit his hands while we were on holiday in November – he tried them on so many times for me that I think he worked almost as hard as I did to help bring them to life!

I used a simple spike stitch wave pattern to create a manly argyle look (if you squint, you can see it much better!). He loves these mittens (I just checked with him and he does) because they’re soft and warm, they have a subtle pattern and obviously the fit is perfect. He’s worn them much more than the previous rainbow-coloured mitts that I knitted for him about 10 years ago, so I think that’s a success.

If you’re interested in the pattern, it’s in issue 41 of Simply Crochet magazine, which also features the pattern for my rainbow scarf:

Rainbow scarf

Rainbow scarf

I made this one a while back and blogged about it here. It’s one of my favourite ever scarves and I wear it all the time, so it’ll be great to see what creative effects other crocheters can achieve with the pattern.

Right, I’m off back to sewing crocheted flowers onto a crocheted ribbon to decorate the front of my bridal car…

 
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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Fabric flowers

Nowadays, a crafter is rarely just a sewist or a crocheter or a knitter – we may have several creative pursuits that satisfy different aspects of our personality. I love the speed and engineering element of sewing. But I also love the portability and flexibility of crochet. I’m also an enthusiastic knitter, a keen baker, a big fan of patterned paper and origami, a passionate cook, an occasional gardener, a keen puzzler, and much more.

I think it’s natural to feel yourself pulled towards a particular craft and away from others – in the past year, I’ve certainly felt pulled towards crochet and away from sewing. And I missed sewing. So I decided to take action, to give myself more sewing projects by becoming a contributor to The Sewing Directory.

I’m delighted to say that my first project is now live on the website – in fact, it’s not just one project but five! I put together a tutorial for making five different fabric flowers – you can see it here. There are so many different ways to make flowers out of fabric, it was hard to choose just five! So I took the selfish route and made the ones that I wanted.

As you might know, I’m getting married in April (this year!) so a lot of my making time is now devoted to crafting for the wedding. One of the items I’ve made is a wrap out of ivory chiffon, for me to wear on the day. I’d never sewn with chiffon before and to be honest, I totally ruined the first metre length I bought! It was only £3 per metre though so I just bought another metre. But that left me with a ruined metre, full of puckers and pulls, which I didn’t want to go to waste. So I decided to use it to make a gathered flower, which I’ll use somewhere on the day:

Chiffon flower

Chiffon flower

This became Flower 1 of 5, and I enjoyed the gathering technique so much that I made another one using a patterned green cotton fabric and attached it to a pipe cleaner stem – simple but pretty!

Flower 1 in cotton

Flower 1 in cotton

For Flower 2, I thought I’d try a simple technique that I’d seen around but never tried myself – chain piecing folded triangles of fabric. It worked really well, apart from the hole in the middle which has to be covered up – to make it a little more 3D, I stuffed the flower centre. Then I attached it to a barbecue skewer to form a stem – perfect for a little vase:

Flower 2 in pot

Flower 2 in pot

For Flower 3, I tried a technique that I’d seen during my time on Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine – it’s a clever way of joining a fabric flower shape to a piece of fusible web. The resulting appliqué flower is flat and ready to fuse onto another fabric. I decided to use it to brighten up this dress – remember it from this post?

Flower 3 on dress

Flower 3 on dress

After making this one, I felt confident enough to cut out a flower shape from another fabric and create a ready-to-fuse appliqué flower out of it. This particular flower shape is a little bit odd, but the technique is neat!

Before and after

Appliqué flower: before and after

For Flower 4, I went back to my stash and found some spare organza (also a wedding purchase) – this seemed a good choice for making flowers. This time, I cut the fabric into petals and had a little too much fun using a candle to shape them (I think maybe there’s a pyromaniac lurking in all of us):

Organza flower

Organza flower

And finally, Flower 5 is just a gathered and layered tube, which I’ve done before, but they’re so simple and satisfying to make:

Flower 5 gathered tube

Flower 5 gathered tube

I made these during the dull days of December and they really brightened up the place, without taking up much time. If you’d like to make any of these flowers, just check out my free tutorials on The Sewing Directory – and look out for some more of my free sewing projects on the website soon…

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Sewing

 

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Crochet purse

As a multi-craft lover, my favourite projects are ones that bring together different techniques to make something that would never be possible using just one craft. So I was excited to be able to combine crochet and sewing recently, to make this sparkly little purse for Simply Crochet magazine:

Sparkly clutch

Sparkly clutch

One of the most common questions that new crocheters ask me is about how to line their makes with fabric. It’s not hard, it just takes a bit of basic sewing knowledge and practice. So I helped to put together a feature to help explain how to do it for Simply Crochet issue 39, which is on sale now.

After reading the feature, it’s easy to tackle this little purse pattern, which I think would be great for parties over Christmas and New Year:

Party clutch

Party clutch

I used a sparkly black and silver yarn from Marriner (Sparkly DK in Black) and went for an open, lacy scallop effect, which I think is really pretty.

But the sneaky thing about this purse is that I double lined it, so that the red fabric is visible on the outside, but inside there’s a much lighter fabric – I find this is essential to finding the item you want out of your purse, especially in a darkened room:

Inside the purse

Inside the purse

The key to achieving the effect is the zip, which is the dividing line between the two sides of the fabric. I like to sew a zip in place by hand – I just find I get a cleaner finish than doing it on a machine, plus if you have a crochet layer as well then hand sewing is the only way to go.

Sewing a zip in place can be fiddly (especially with a double lining!), but it’s worth it for the professional-looking finish. I’m really pleased with how it turned out and I hope you like it too! 🙂

Attach the zip

Attach the zip

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in Crochet, Sewing

 

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Refashion dress

Many crafters are of the ‘make do and mend’ attitude and I count myself in that category. Although there are obvious benefits to that, there are also drawbacks – for me, I really struggle to get rid of old clothes. My head just fills with creative ways to refresh the garment or ideas for the fabric, so I put it safely away, ready to work on when I get round to it (which rarely happens).

Well, I’ve finally managed to find some time to complete one of these ‘refashion’ projects on an old dress, and I’m really pleased with the new life I’ve been able to give this old friend. Here’s the original dress:

Turquoise dress

Turquoise dress

I love the colour and simplicity of this dress, which was a summer staple in my wardrobe for years. Until I put on a little more weight and that elasticated waist became painful! I’m sure this discomfort was nothing like wearing a corset, but even so, wearing clothes should surely be fun. The dress has been sitting in a drawer waiting for a revamp ever since.

To get started, I turned the dress inside out and unpicked the stitching that was holding the elastic in place. This involved unpicking the side seam a little bit as well, which made a small hole – only a temporary worry.

Unpicking elastic

Unpicking elastic

As you can imagine, the dress was rather shapeless and tube-like without the elastic. So I decided I’d make a new waist, in part to cover up the old stitch holes.

Since the dress is made out of knitted jersey fabric, I used a similar fabric to make a tube to go around the waist. To do this, I cut a long strip of pink jersey fabric, folded it in half lengthways with right sides together and stitched down the long edge. I turned the tube the right way out and pinned it around the waist of the dress, lining up the ends of the tube with one of the side seams.

As I was thinking about stitching the tube in place, I noticed that there are several stitches on my sewing machine that I’ve never used. They tend to be specialist or decorative stitches that I’ve just not needed to use before. So I chose an unusual zigzag stitch, which my machine calls a ‘stretch blind stitch’, and used that to stitch the tube to the waist of the dress:

Stretch blind stitch

Stretch blind stitch

When you look at the stitches close-up like this, it’s not super-neat… but from a distance it’s a pretty effect:

Tube attached

Tube attached

With a bit of hand stitching at the side seam gap, the tube was finished and I was ready for the next stage: elastic.

Yes, yes, I’m happy to admit the irony of removing elastic from a dress only to insert elastic again, but this time I got to choose exactly how tight the elastic sits and therefore customise the fit. Makes sense to me, if no one else…

So I threaded a wide piece of elastic into the tube, all the way around and out the other end:

Add elastic

Add elastic

I safety pinned the two ends together and then it was time to try on the dress again. I repinned the elastic at the ideal fit point, using a very small safety pin and poked the ends back inside the tube. I’ve not sewed the two ends together yet because I’m thinking that I’ll wear the dress a couple of times to check the tightness of the elastic before committing myself to the fit, otherwise I might end up with the exact same problem of a corset-style dress all over again!

New dress

New dress

For now, I’m really pleased with my new dress: it still has the same turquoise colour I like, with the addition of a stylish pink waistband – plus I can breathe in it, thanks to the improved fit. What more could I ask for?

The only problem I’ve got now is that, um… this turquoise dress isn’t the only one in my wardrobe… I also have the same dress in an inky blue shade and it needs the same treatment:

Inky blue dress

Inky blue dress

I’m thinking maybe a white waistband for this one though, what do you think?

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2015 in Sewing

 

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Make: Doggy doorstop

You may have noticed that I’m something of an animal lover. I think many people are, and this might explain why one of my most popular makes has been a doggy doorstop that I made back in 2012.

Doggy doorstop

Doggy doorstop

Well, I’ve finally got round to putting together the pattern, and he’s the main attraction of my new Etsy shop!

The new shop is at www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MakeMeDo

He’s a fairly straightforward make, so I’m surprised that the pattern runs to 21 pages! That includes loads of diagrams and photos though, and the template pieces, and I’ve given all the instructions plenty of space (I hate when patterns are cramped).

This little guy is such a cutie, he’s been holding our kitchen door open for almost three years now and he makes me smile every day…

Dog doorstop in situ

Dog doorstop in situ

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2015 in Sewing

 

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Crafty ideas on the bus

My journey to work is an hour on the bus each way, which can get a little dull. Usually, I take a crochet project or something to read with me, but the other day, I was caught out with nothing to do. Sometimes it’s nice just to look out the window and watch the world go by, but on this occasion, the bus was so busy that there were no window seats left.

So I resorted to looking through my handbag for interesting items to entertain me, and I came across a couple of crafty business cards that I’d picked up the last time I went to St Ives in Cornwall.

One was for Grace Face Boutique, www.gracefaceboutique.blogspot.co.uk:

Grace Face card

Grace Face card

They primarily make lovely vintage-style dresses using quirky printed fabrics, but there’s also adorable buttons, cute purses and inspirational notebooks – I love the one that says ‘Don’t quit your day dream’. Apparently, Emma has since closed her studio in St Ives and moved to Northampton, but it seems like she’s still brimming with creativity.

The second card was for Little Binks, www.littlebinks.co.uk:

Little Binks card

Little Binks card

They make unique handmade clothes for little ones, many of which have a seaside theme, which would just look adorable on my nieces during the summer. They use vintage and recycled fabrics for an eco-friendly edge, and there are a fair few dresses with a hint of 1970s floral bedspreads, which is oh-so cool right now. Prices are reasonable, too.

On the back of the Little Binks card, I’d written this:

Leila Shepherd

Leila Shepherd

I remember that she didn’t have a card, but I really liked her handmade lampshades, particularly one made with a map-style fabric. So I’d written down her details on the back of the other card. Her website is leilashepherd.com, although you can see many more of her creations on her Pinterest page, www.pinterest.com/leilashepherd

Finally, I found a receipt with the cards from the Poppy Treffry shop, where I got this felt flower brooch:

Felt flower

Felt flower

If you’ve not discovered Poppy yet, she creates lovely freehand embroideries. Go to www.poppytreffry.co.uk and check out her gorgeous seaside-themed goodies – I love the purses and bags, the mugs, the kits and the embroidered pictures.

Anyway, I love seeing the creativity of other crafters, and I had a lovely bus journey in the end, remembering my time in St Ives and all the inspirational makes that I saw there. Makes me wish I was in St Ives now…

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2015 in Embroidery, Sewing

 

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Make: Rainy day bag

I made this simple oilcloth shopping bag almost 3 years ago and it’s still going strong, carrying my lunchbox and shopping to and from work every day.

Now you can get the pattern to make your own oilcloth shopping bag by visiting my Etsy shop for MakeMeDo here.

Oilcloth shopping bag

Oilcloth shopping bag

The A4 pdf pattern includes detailed diagrams and text to make it easy for you to make. Designed for confident beginners, the bag involves sewing with oilcloth (which is easier than you might think), topstitching, sewing poppers, making and attaching straps, and slip stitching by hand.

The finished bag measures 28cm wide x 34cm high x 10cm deep, with straps that hang down by 32cm, but you can easily adjust it to make it the size you need.

Shopping bag diagram

Shopping bag diagram

To make the bag, you will also need:
• 58x110cm oilcloth fabric (I used Rose Bouquet by Joel Dewberry)
• 40x60cm lining fabric (I used solid white)
• Two poppers (any size)
• Matching and/or contrasting cotton thread
• Sewing machine
• Hand-sewing needle

Sewing with oilcloth isn’t as tricky as you might think, these are the key points to remember:
• Oilcloth can be slippery, so just take your time.
• To maintain the waterproofing abilities of oilcloth, be careful not to puncture it with pins while you’re working. Try using sewing clips instead. If you do use pins, insert them only within the seam allowance edge so your bag is still waterproof.
• Be careful not to iron the oilcloth directly because this can melt the laminate coating. Instead, place a piece of spare fabric over the oilcloth and then apply the iron, but only briefly.

13 finished bag

Inside finished bag

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Sewing

 

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