Craft · Life in the Countryside

Sew your own wardrobe

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.

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Craft

Recent makes

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.

Craft · Life in the Countryside

Cabin update

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.

Life in the Countryside

One year on: the recreation area

J thinks I sound very poncey (no idea if that’s how you spell it) for calling this the recreation area but we did originally call it the grassy area and that name doesn’t really apply anymore. So this was the area when we moved in.


Now this area was originally a substantial vegetable garden with a bit of general garden space as well. That was of course at a time when everyone had substantial vegetable gardens as they had to grow their own. The area was completely overgrown (can you see a pattern here with the cottage) and the ground was very uneven. So we arranged for the area to be completely stripped back to bare soil and then we seeded it ourselves (wasn’t that fun). It then stayed as just grass for all summer and into winter. 


Then come January we began finalising what we wanted the area to look like. So we had the random bits and pieces of hedge and bushes removed from the corner by the apple tree as the tree wasn’t really accessible and it all looked a bit higgeldy piggeldy (again apologies for the total lack of spelling knowledge here). Then the plan was to install six raised beds and a climbing frame for C into an enclosed bark area. This was brutal and pushed both J and I to the limit at times but we’ve created an area we’re really happy with. You can read about it here, here and here


We have also created a patio as an eating area, our bifolding doors will eventually lead out here. This has a lovely lamppost on it and electricity so I can have my patio heaters here if required. You can read about that here and here

 

We also have a patio at the back of the garden for a greenhouse (still to be purchased) and of course we have the craft cabin.



This is my little space for being me. It still needs some finishing touches to the paintwork inside and out but it is the only place where a can put things in their permanent place as the cottage is going to be totally ripped to pieces. The recreation area is something I’m really proud of. J and I have worked together to design an area which really enhances our lifestyle. It’s the area which most people comment on, even our Tesco delivery guy said he could holiday there! For this area there is very little still to be done. A bit of finishing of the border of the bark area and probably topping up the bark. The greenhouse needs purchasing and installing. Longer term we want to put some decking outside the craft cabin and create a nice relaxing area with sofas. Next week I’ll have a look at the changes that have gone on in the field in the past year. 

Craft

Coaster craft guide

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. 


Homemade coaster

You need:

  • 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.

Instructions

  • 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). 

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3


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. 

Craft · Professionals

Let there be light

Our outdoor electrics have finally been commissioned (I think that’s the correct term). That means that our caravan hook up in the field is ready to go.

 It means out outdoor lamppost by the patio is working.


It means our outdoor electrical sockets are working.


But most importantly my cabin has light and power.


It’s been a long time coming but worth it. I think household chores will be put on hold for a bit whilst I spend every evening sewing! 

Craft

Wool storage

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!

Craft · Life in the Countryside

Preparing for the craft cabin

So I love craft work and have over the years amassed quite a collection of paraphernalia the cabin is now constructed and the electrics have been wired in and we’re just putting the final coat of paint on this weekend before we lay the flooring. So in all my excitement I have already ordered my desks and furniture and have pulled out all my craft bits from where they have been stored (read shoved) when we moved in. Our dining room has now exploded with my junk. J had encouraged me to get excited and get it all out ready, but I don’t think he realised just how much I have squirrelled away over the years. 


I have two main ‘types’ of craft which I tend to focus on: knitting/crochet which comes with a significant amount of wool and sewing of which I have lots of bits and pieces material. I also did a bit of cross stitch when I was younger and still have some remnants of that which it seems a waste to just get rid of. 

I’ve gone for Ikea furniture for various reasons; it is simple, cheap and good quality. I have so far gone for two different shelving units – a smaller one for yarn and a larger one for material and any other crafty bits. The furniture is all white to match the white which we have painted the inside and the chair I’ve ordered is teal to give a pop of colour. I’m planning on adding in some bunting and other homemade bits to bring out different colours. 

I think it will still take a couple of months to have everything the way I want it as my ultimate craft cabin/childfree me time space but for now I’m just going to be very excited that I can start a much needed declutter and organisation. 

Life in the Countryside

Colour co-ordinating the outside

It sounds like the most ridiculous thing doesn’t it? Trying to colour coordinate the outside buildings/furniture. But that’s what we’ve been doing this week. We have a number of wooden bits outside that need painting with some kind of treatment to make sure that they last well. And, well, it just made sense to try and ensure they all matched. So we have three picnic benches which J had rescued from being thrown out last year and, even though they are in quite poor condition, with a lick of paint they should look quite presentable. We had started painting them a grey colour last year but it hasn’t really weathered that well so we’ve gone for a better quality paint/sealant in a colour called ‘white ash’. It has needed a few coats but should look good once finished.

We also have C’s playhouse in the small cottage garden which was painted a cream but we’ve gone for the same as the benches as the cream had a bit of a yellow look in comparison. We’ve also given a first coat to the log store with the same paint and we’ve started on the cabin too. Although I think it will take a while until that’s all completed as we’re going to try and rope in someone slightly better at painting than us to do all the cutting in around the windows. So for now these photos are just a sneak preview. 

Life in the Countryside

The cabin

So, I enjoy crafting. I have a sewing machine and am a fairly competent seamstress. I also knit and crochet. I would like (or rather need) to have somewhere to keep my machine set up and to store my many materials and tools. Whilst it would be lovely to build an extra spare bedroom for this, it would cost an absolute fortune to extend upstairs in our house and would be quite awkward to do. So the idea behind having a craft cabin was born. 

One of the jobs of our builder the past few weeks has been to prepare an area for the cabin ready for a concrete slab for the base, the base was poured early this week and on Thursday the construction of the cabin began. First the outer walls are assembled along with the roof and doors and windows, then the first fix of electrics next week, before the final inner layer of walls and then the final fix of electrical sockets to the walls. At least that’s what I think is happening. If I’m honest, although the craft cabin is entirely a place for me, I have very much left the design of it to J. I put forward my demands – maximum space possible, insulated enough to be able to work in it through the winter, a pent roof (purely because I like the look), a single door and windows from waist height only rather than full length (to maximise the potential wall space for storage and a desk). So armed with this information he did lots and lots of research and looked at a couple of big name companies. There were some problems with the offerings from the big companies; firstly they didn’t seem to be that flexible in what they offered, and secondly they were ludicrously expensive without a decent enough guarantee of being long lasting. Let me be clear they did say it would last 10-20 years depending on the company, but when questioned by J about a guarantee they seemed to be only for 2 years and said that over the lifetime of the building you would have to replace boards etc. For the prices they were trying to charge that wasn’t good enough for us. 

In the end a friend recommended a solution for us in the form of a local company who would custom build to our specifications for a fraction of the cost of the big companies. They were so much more flexible and offered as quick a turn around from ordering to delivery as the big names despite being custom designed and built. I’ll go into more details of the design once it has all been constructed but for now here are a couple of sneaky preview pictures.