As you know I have a lovely little haven in my garden, my sewing studio. I really enjoy my sewing and am improving in skills with time. I have taken a few sewing classes locally with Sodbury Sewing School and have learnt some new skills. So I thought I would share some of my recent makes and favourite patterns.
This is a pattern that I’d been looking at for a while, the Ogden Cami by True Bias. I love wearing little cami tops and although you can get them fairly cheaply in most shops in fairly plain colours, I fancied something a bit nicer. This cami pattern has been recommended by several people so I thought I would give it a go. I chose a mustard material from my local fabric shop and I’m really happy with the end result. I’ve since made the pattern in another fabric and intend to make lots more.
This is my summer beach bag made from a free pattern in a magazine (though I can’t remember which one). I have previously made small matching beach bags for C and I which were fine to use if we were just wandering around a town but aren’t really big enough to carry the extensive beach equipment that our little family seem to require. This bag has a small pocket inside (useful for a phone and a purse) and a simple magnetic closure. The sides are lined with foam so it holds its shape well and the handles are reinforced with chord. It has served us well this holiday, large enough to hold everything we need for a day at the beach and yet still stylish enough if you end up shopping instead.
This lovely button back top was made at one of my sewing classes. It is fully lined and taught me a lot of new skills. The pattern is individually designed to my measurements so it fits really well. Although it involved lots of steps I have since made another version in a white fabric with navy anchors on and it sewed up much quicker second time around. I’ve had several compliments on this one and will probably make another couple in the future.
This dress is one that I made for my and J’s five year wedding anniversary. The pattern is called ‘Joni’ and it’s from the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book. The fabric was so silky and was a nice challenge to sew, as was the pattern but I was really pleased with the end result. Not an everyday dress but certainly one to wear for special occasions.
Sewing has increasingly become something which I spend my spare time doing. Something which I enjoy and something which I am, with practice, improving at. Now I would certainly not consider myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I am getting to be more knowledgeable and more skilled as time goes on. I’ve made numerous items recently, many of which I haven’t photographed but some of which I have so I thought I would share some of my favourites.
This was a Mother’s Day gift for my mum (obviously). My mum tends to only have coffee once a day and uses her French Press. C painted the mug and I created the cafetière cosy. It was made using a free pattern from a magazine, I forget which now, and was my first make using heat insulating wadding. It was a slightly snug fit and I know myself that the stitching wasn’t as straight as it should have been but it suits its purpose well.
Next up is a top I made for myself using Tilly and the Buttons new sewing book Stretch. I made it using some lovely cable fabric from my current favourite online fabric shop Higgs and Higgs. It was a straightforward make and I used both my overlocker and my regular sewing machine to get what I think is a fairly professional look. It’s construction is relatively simple and the pattern gives lots of guidance at every step which is useful for those of use not well versed in sewing terminology. I paid careful attention to ensure that the cable pattern lay straight and I’m really pleased with both the pattern and the material. I can see myself using both again.
Now I know it looks very crumpled in the picture and you can’t really see the top, but this is a party dress that I made for C. I actually made it at a local sewing class and have since made another using the same pattern. I actually made this back in October time and it was one of my first forays into sewing clothes. It has a lining inside the top and a pleated skirt and a zip at the back. I made it in pink dotty fabric as C is obsessed with pink (still) and she absolutely adores it. However much I iron it she always manages to look bedraggled within half an hour of putting it on, but that is just her! I actually made her the hooded cape as well back before I had my cabin and when I was more focused on knitting. This was her on Mother’s Day when we were on our way for one of my favourite treats, afternoon tea.
I’ve made a couple more bits for C too recently. One of which is a hoody made using a pattern by a company called two stitches. Now little C hates wearing any kind of warm clothing. She is constantly taking her coat off outside at nursery and I really struggle to get her to wear any kind of warm top. I’ve knitted her a couple of really beautiful cardigans in the past and she point blank refuses to wear them unless forced. So I saw this pattern and decided to have a go at making her one, with the logic that if she chose the fabric she might actually wear it. The first was a grey number with sparkly unicorns on (I promise it looks better than it sounds), she absolutely loved it and has actually worn it loads without any objections. And the second was the blue shark material above. Both times she picked out the material herself and though I was dubious I went along with it and I have to say I’m rather pleased with how they’ve turned out. Perfect for colder days at the beach.
So the cabin has had a few new additions since I last wrote about it. For my Christmas I received a mannequin so that I could get into dressmaking a bit more. It has proved to be a most valuable addition as my measurements usually don’t clearly fit into one particular size (in fact on one pattern my waist and bust were three sizes apart).
It is brilliant for putting partly constructed items on to check and adjust the fit and sits really nicely in the corner of my room. It generally has several partially constructed items draped across it.
I’ve also purchased some lamps so that when I’m in the cabin on an evening the light is a bit softer, especially if I’m sitting in my chair reading. I looked around for ages to find three matching lamps that I was happy with. I wanted one tall lamp for behind my chair and a small ones for two of the other corners of the room. In the end I found what I was looking for in B and Q.
However, the most exciting new addition to the cabin is my overlocker. For a while now my husband has been asking me if I want a new sewing machine. My machine was a gift of sorts from a friend of my father-in-laws who didn’t really use it. It’s a good few years old now but it is such a good quality machine and it does everything I could possibly want from it so I see no reason to upgrade it. So instead of a new machine I asked for an overlocker. An overlocker is a great machine for giving your seams a professional finish and it also enables you to stitch with more stretchy material. I’ll probably do another post in the future about overlocker but for now here is a picture of my fabulous new addition.
The rest of the cabin is pretty much as was. It is constantly in need of a tidy up, I mean if I have free time to sew then why would I want to spend it tidying? What I have found though is that we’re using it a lot more now as a family. If I go down to sew of an evening then J will often pop down for a cup of coffee and will sit it my chair chatting whilst I sew. I’ll often pop down there for an hour or so with C during the day as she has some toys kept down there as is always exciting for her to re-discover toys. C has become really fascinated with my sewing now, partially as I’ve made a few items for her recently which she loves so she’s really loved watching me create them. She’s also wanted to help several times. As any mum knows, toddler help is the least helpful kind of help. She’s “helped” me organise my fabrics, by pulling them onto the floor and using them as blankets for her and her toys. She has wanted to sew and has ended up sitting on my lap and guiding a piece of material through the machine using one of the fancy embroidery stitches. No doubt before long she’ll be wanting to make her own items which will come with it’s own challenges I’m sure. I’ll share soon some of my recent makes that I’m most proud of and some of my planned projects.
It’s sad I know but I’ve been so excited about making C and I matching things. I know it’s ridiculous but I also know that there will only be a small window of time where she will actually let me have a say in what she wears or has. And I plan on taking full advantage of that window of time. Earlier this week I made myself a beach bag from some beach fat quarters I had for ages and wanted to use up (if I use up fabrics from my stash that means that I can buy more fabrics right?) So after washing and ironing the fabrics the other week (always an essential part of sewing preparation) I started to come up with a basic patchwork design. I cut out 4 inch squares and pieced them together until I had something which I liked the look of and seemed the right kind of size (very technical) which ended up being 5 squares by 4 squares and then sewed them together. I then added wadding and a plain blue backing for each side and the sewed them together incorporating some simple cotton handles that I happened to have left over (goodness knows from where).
Not very exciting I know but perfect for keeping in the caravan to take on holiday and take to the beach or for a walk in the town. It will wash as well which makes it perfect for a casual holiday bag. Now when I brought it into the house from the cabin for the requisit praise from the hubby, C saw it and immediately wanted one. I hadn’t planned on making her one but jumped at the chance to create another matching item. I tried to get her involved in the process (as much as you can with an almost three year old) and so once I had cut out the squares I got her to arrange them. She loved helping to “design” her bag. I went for a 3×3 design for hers and had to make straps out of fabric as I didn’t have anymore to hand. I’ve attached her straps to the inside rather than having them in the seam as I feel I may need to change them at some point, either totally or adjusting the length so it’s easier if they are accessible. And the result….
…she loves it! And I do as well, they are similar with the same fabric and process but different enough so that they’re not to twee. Hopefully. Or at least I think so. What does everyone else think about matching parents and children?
So a little while ago I made C’s baby a changing bag and accessories. She loved it and I had some of the fabric I used left over so had been planning on making something else with it for her but it had languished about in a box crumpled up for months (that may have partly been as I didn’t yet have a sewing room, but now I have the cabin so no excuse). Her doll has a bed from IKEA that I picked up for her on a rather disasterous trip there whilst looking at storage (I would never recommend anyone take their toddler there if they are actually planning to shop rather than chase a toddler). It’s a lovely looking wooden bed that was remarkably cheap (can’t actually remember the price) and C loves it. We had got it for her at about the same time as we were going to convert her cot to a bed so thought it was a really good thing to link to the idea of a big girls bed. Anyway, so although the dolls bed came with bedding it was rather thin and cheap looking. So I decided to make some nicer bedding for it.
I didn’t have quite as much of the elephant fabric as I would have hoped so the dolls quilt had to be adapted somewhat from my original plan but I’m rather pleased with it. I’ve included some simple instructions below for what I did in case anyone fancies trying out a similar project.
Dolls Bedding how to guide
First measure the length and width of the inside of your dolls bed (this is where the mattress would sit).
Mattress: 2 pieces of length add 1/2 inch x width add 1/2 inch; one piece of wadding the same size
Pillow: 2 pieces of length x 5 inches; toy stuffing to fill
Quilt: 2 pieces of length add one inch x width add 4 inches; one piece of wadding the same size
You can choose to have the same materials for the mattress and the pillow (as I have) or different for all three. I had planned to have the top of the quilt in the dark elephant fabric and the bottom in the pale elephant fabric but ended up having to adapt and sew some squares together to get the required size. My instructions below are for one piece of material on the front and one on the back. All fabric should be prewashed, pressed and cut to size. Seam allowance throughout is 1/4 inch.
Mattress: place the two pieces of fabric right sides together and lay the wadding on top. Sew around all four sides leaving a gap of about 3 inches on one side. Snip a triangle off at the corners and turn the right way out through the gape left in the same. Press well with a hot iron so that the wadding becomes firmer and more mattress like. Then hand stitch the gap in the seam closed.
2. The pillow: put the two fabric pieces right side together and sew around all four sides leaving a gap of 3 inches. Snip the corners then turn the right way out through the gap in the seam and then press. Next begin stuffing, making sure to push the stuffing right into the corners (a chopstick can help with this), keep squishing it to ensure an even fill. Once filled so you are happy with it, handsew the gap in the seam closed.
3. The quilt: now you could try to be quite fancy here and do a patchwork design or appliqué a picture on it, but my guide is for a simple plain quilt. Put your two pieces of fabric right sides together and then lay the wadding on top (I try to used the thickest wadding I have here). Sew around all four sides leaving a gap of about three inches for turning. Snip the corners and then turn right side out. Do not press here as you want your wadding nice and fluffy. Hand stitch the gap in the seam. You could do some quilting stitch here if you want but I haven’t.
So there you go. Fairly simple, all you need to be able to do is to sew in a straight line, you could even hand stitch the whole thing if you want but it would take a lot longer. If using a machine then this is an easy project to complete in an evening. Next step is some clothes for her doll I think, maybe even matching. Has anyone else sewn anything exciting for children?
So in the craft cabin one of the key requirements originally was to have somewhere big enough to have an ironing board permanently set up for my sewing. Once I started looking into it a bit more I decided that ironing boards aren’t the most attractive and instead I wanted an ironing table. When I bought my three desks the intention was to have one for my sewing machine, one for my cutting mat and to turn the final one into an ironing table. I planned to cover the whole desk with iron safe material (no idea what that would be). I had a picture in my mind of what it would look like, and had seen some pictures of similar ideas on the internet so I thought it would be fairly simple to do. When my desks arrived they were a really good size and I started browsing the internet for some ironing board material (despite J’s suggestion that I might not want to permanently cover the desk as it was quite a large surface). But I just didn’t manage to find what I was after and, being desperate to start crafting I decided to get a temporary portable mat until I could create what I was after. I went for this one as it had the best reviews on Amazon (always a good indicator) and wasn’t too expensive for what I saw as a temporary solution. It rolls up nicely so it can be put away as required (although I’m leaving it out all the time at the moment).
My main concern with an ironing mat was that it would leave condensation on the table but so far (despite extensive use) that hasn’t been a problem. It also kind of matches the colour my chair will be (when that finally arrives) which is good. I also think it looks smart enough to have out all the time.
As sewing requires lots of bits of pressing seams, having a good iron set up was really important to me as when I was having to sew on my dining table I found the faff of putting up the ironing board and setting up (and then waiting for the iron to cool before putting away) put me off doing bits of sewing when I only had limited time. J wanted to me to get one of those huge steam irons to have, but as I mainly use cotton and didn’t really fancy spending £200+ on an iron I looked for an alternative. I settled on the idea of a cordless iron which would give me a bit more flexibility when needing to move about my sewing benches. Plus, the idea of dangling cords has always seemed like quite a hazard to me. I ended up going for this one, again as it had great reviews.
When you first switch it on it needs about 20 seconds to heat up (indicated by blue flashing light) then a constant blue light tells you it is fully charged. Then you use it as normal and when it needs more power it flashed orange, it then takes less than 6 seconds to be ready again, time to turn your fabric/garment to the next position. It suits my purpose perfectly and fits nicely on my ironing table. I’m still not 100% that this will be my final set up, but for now it seems to suit. What does everyone else do about pressing when sewing? Does anyone have any suggestions for how I can improve my set up?
So now the cabin is up and running I’ve taken advantage and spent as much of my free time as possible there. Although I still have lots to do to get it finally organised, I just really wanted to make something. Anything. I’ve had so many things that I want to make but I just haven’t really been able to get my sewing equipment out that easily previously. So I just wanted to complete something simple to christen my cabin. My first project was two coasters for my cabin for when I have a cuppa down there. Ridiculously simple to make but the perfect homely touch.
Material of your choice, this project is perfect for scraps you’ll need approximately 2 6 inch squares per coaster. Material should be prewashed and ironed.
Cotton thread to match (or contrast if you prefer) your material.
Wadding – the same size to match your material, though you only need one square per coaster.
Measure and cut your material and wadding to size. I prefer to measure a coaster I already have to get the size I like. Remember to add on an extra half an inch each way for your seams. You need one square of wadding and two squares of material per coaster.
Put the two pieces of material right sides together and put the wadding on top and using a 1/4 inch seam sew around the edge (make sure you leave a gap of about an inch so you can turn it inside out).
Trim the wadding and any excess material around the seams, being careful not to cut too close. Cut off the corners to enable as smooth a finished product as possible (figure one).
Now turn your coaster the right way round by pushing the fabric and wadding through the opening you left. This can be a bit fiddly, I sometimes use a crochet hook to help me. Pay particular attention to the corners (figure two).
Now press your coaster, making sure that the gap left in the seam is lying correctly.
Finally sew all around the four edges, you need to sew close enough to the edge so that the gap in the seam is closed (figure three).
Ridiculously simple but I think they are very effective. I’ve also done some coasters and placemats for when we have BBQs in the garden.
So I have one storage unit in the cabin exclusively for wool and yarn related bits and bobs. The top six cubbyholes are just wool, sorted by colour and I’ve tried to stack them as best as possible so that I can clearly see what I have and what I don’t. The bottom right cubbyhole has a couple of bags with all their materials needed in them and the left hand cubbyhole has my knitting bag. I need to find some way to nicely store and display my knitting needles. Most of my needles are what are known as circular needles, which are basically two wooden needles joined by a plastic loop, but I do still own some traditional bamboo and metal needles. I have made a simple needle case before but it really isn’t substantial enough to hold all my needles, and I would like some kind of easy way to have all of them neatly stored and yet clear to see the different gauges rather than having to root around amongst all of them. One of the things that I’ve found very frustrating about moving into the cottage was that all of my craft bits were boxed up and stowed away in various places.
I figure I can have my traditional needles in vase of kinds on top of the shelves. But that still leaves the dilemma of my circular needles so I think I’ll have to take to Pinterest to find some inspiration. Also looking at all my yarn together I feel like I need to expand my collection somewhat. Both C and J have quite sensitive skin so I tend to avoid using high wool content in my makes and instead go for more delicate or artificial fibres. My collection has lots of bits and pieces of yarn left over from projects but I could do with some really nice yarn for myself in there. Something which feels lovely and soft and I can use to make a cardigan for myself to snuggle in when it comes to winter. I feel a big shop coming on!
So the purpose of the cabin is to give me a space where I can store all my craft things in and also somewhere for me to have some ‘me time’. I had some ideas about how I wanted to set things out but I didn’t feel that I could purchase any furniture until I could actually stand in it and properly measure and sort the layout. My requirements furniture-wise have been simple. I need somewhere to cut material, somewhere to iron, somewhere for my sewing machine to be used. I also want a comfy chair to sit in with space nearby for my kettle and cups. Oh and storage. Lots of storage. I had quite liked the idea of having an island in the middle for my ironing and cutting with built in storage and then just a bench down the side for my sewing machine. But when I actually stood in there I thought an island would dominate too much, leave little moving room around the sides and not enough storage. So that idea was out. I spent a good evening measuring the walls, window length and height from the floor before taking to the internet to find furniture that would fit.
I’ve now opted for three desks forming an L shape across the front down one side and some shelves continuing down that side and along the back. Both of these were from IKEA in white and the desks have adjustable legs so they can be raised in line with the windows. I’ve started constructing the furniture this week (with some assistance from J) and like all IKEA furniture it is simple to put together and of a reliable quality. The shelves are cube shelves enabling me to have some sense of organising and separating of products. Nothing in them yet, and I haven’t finished the last two desks yet but hopefully you can start to get a feel for how it will be.
I’ve ordered my chair from John Lewis but it will be 8 more weeks until delivery so I’m going to have to wait a while before that’s in place and I can get a coffee table to fit with it. I’ve also ordered myself a rug which will be in the centre of the ‘work area’. I’m hoping that the white walls, ceiling, furniture and floor with the pops of colour from the chair, rug and materials will work and create a light and calm working environment. I still need to get some lamps and some other bits and bobs but at least this weekend I can start filling shelves.