Sunday, 16 August 2020

Sewing (and knitting) in the time of Corona

It seems the only time I'm disciplined enough to write a blog post is when someone asks me to share something I've made, so I have to thank Francey and Lorraine for making me write this. You'll have to forgive me if this doesn't look quite right as my faithful elderly laptop has finally died and I'm writing this on a borrowed machine with a different operating system. 
So! I recently posted this photo of a Knit and Go bag on Instagram. My Pinterest feed kept showing me different versions of these handy little bags and as the volunteer sewing groups I've been sewing masks, scrubs, hats, laundrybags, etc, etc for have now closed, I finally got round to making this one. Its quite a simple and quick make, though it will take a bit longer if you decide to add embroidery or other decoration.

Here is the pattern - its a variation on this one from Elena Jorge. I hope the photo is clear enough but if you start with a piece of paper 30cms long and 21cms wide you should end up with something similar to my bag. Use a suitable plate or tub to draw the curve.

Choose your fabric - remember you will be cutting the pattern on the fold and you need to ADD SEAM ALLOWANCES. I used a good 100% cotton fabric for the outside and a polycotton for the lining. Cut out one outer bag and one lining placing the top of the pattern on the fabric fold. Cut out one in fusible fleece, again on the fold but this time without a seam allowance and fuse it to the back of the outside fabric. 
I suppose you don't have to use the fleece - especially if using a sturdy fabric, but it does give shape to the bag, enough for it to stand up on it's own!

And the edge of the fleece makes a good line to follow when sewing. If you are going to add embroidery now is the time to do it.  I did some raw edge applique on this bag and hand embroidery on the first one.

Next, place the main piece and the lining piece right sides together and stitch along the two curves of the 'handle' on both sides. Clip the curves, turn through and press.  The two sides and the bottom of the bag will be open.  You can top stitch the handle edges for a neat finish but start and end the stitching 1cm in from the edge to make the next step easier.

Next, keeping the handle out of the way of your pins, match and pin together the two outer sides and the two lining sides together and stitch right across from A to B on both sides, leaving the notches and bottom seams open.
Make sure the spot where the handle and side seams meet is matched carefully. Its quite difficult to explain but much easier to do! 

Next, sew across the bottom seam on the outer fabric, then sew the bottom seam of the lining leaving a GAP of about 8cms in the middle to turn the bag through.  The white arrows indicate (not very elegantly) where to stitch.

Lastly, box the four corners matching the seams in the middle, and mark the line with a pencil or fabric marker at the point where the ruler shows 2.5cms each side of the centre line. Stitch the four box corners. Its easier to look at the picture than to explain!!

Now all that's left is to turn the bag through the gap in the bottom seam and hand sew or machine the lining closed.

And that's it. Give the bag a good press. I stuffed the bag with balls of yarn to make it easier to keep the box shape whilst pressing.

Now it occurs to me that I have very skinny arms and these measurements were fine for my arm but if you think a bit more space is needed for the arm you are sewing for. adding about 2 or 3 cms at the top of the pattern, ie the fold line.  This will make a bigger side opening.

The bag is big enough to hold two 50gm balls of yarn, plenty to be going on with when out and about. Perfect for knitting and crochet and even small embroidery projects would fit inside. 

I'm not very good at tutorials but Elena is and wrote a brilliant one on her blog Momentos de Costura in October 2016. It has excellent photos and is written in Spanish but Google can translate it for you if necessary. Her bag is a different shape to mine but the method of construction is exactly the same and its the method I copied to make my bag. So thank you Elena!  I hope you both enjoy making your bags..... and you may want to make more than one - I've made five so far!!!


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Little boxes and January

I recently posted these little boxes on my Instagram feed and there was some interest in a bit of a tutorial.  Well, I found them in a Japanese quilting book. Instructions are minimal and in Japanese but it is possible to figure them out with a bit of patience.  This is the 'how to make' page.

Ok, its a bit vague so I made another box and took a few photos along the way.  I used a heavy fusible interfacing called "fast2fuse" for the sides and cereal packet card for the top and bottom.  I used circle dies to cut the card for neatness but they are not necessary.  You can make the box any size of course but mine are small. The strip of interfacing is about 20cms long.

The interfacing is adhesive on both sides and you need to follow the instructions for your particular interfacing if it is fusible.  So, cut your fabric about 10mm larger than the interfacing all around.  Fuse the interfacing in the centre and then fold over and fuse the fabric allowances to the inside. Cut the inside lining fabric the same size then fold under and press the allowances to the wrong side before fusing. Only the centre of the lining will stick to the interfacing so you need to mattress or over stitch around the edges (see photo below) - small stitches will make for a neater finish, especially on the box rim.

Join the short edges with mattress stitch. The circle will be wonky but it will even out when the base is attached.  Cut two circles of card to fit the base snugly. Two layers of cereal box will be enough. Cut a circle of the outer fabric about 15mm larger all round than the card and gather the fabric up in the usual way, with the card inside (see photo below). Fasten off the gathers securely and sew into the base of the box along the bottom edge using either matress stitch or over stitch, whichever is the easiest. 

Make another piece the same as the base using lining fabric and push it into the bottom of the box. It will fit snugly inside and won't need stitching or sticking down.

Cut a piece of outer fabric for the lid of the box.  The lid can be the same size as the base.  Add your chosen decoration - I embroidered small floral motifs on calico and stitched them in the centre of the fabric. 

Make the lid in the same way as the base, making sure the decoration is in the centre of the gathered circle. You can add a little padding between the top fabric and the card circles. 

If you want your box to close stitch on a loop of elastic or cord as you can see in my photo above.  If your lid decoration has a top and bottom make sure the elastic is in the right place. Cut card for the inside lining circle of the lid slightly smaller than the top.  Gather as before and stitch to the inside of the lid (see photo above).

Attach the lid to the box with a row of stitches - not too many or the lid won't open properly. Finally sew a button to the front to make the fastener.  And there you have it!  Quite simple really but a lot of hand stitching. If I haven't made something clear or you are puzzling over a step do leave a comment and I will get back to you. 

This is a photo of the boxes in the book.  It's title in English is Country Quilt Days.  I managed to find a hard copy of the book but you can buy a PDF (click for the link) of the whole book and many others on Etsy for just a couple of pounds. If you do search for it search the title as the books often have different covers.


It is now 11 years since I started this blog and although I neglect it quite horribly, I'm loathe to let it go completely. I'll try to blog monthly in 2020 (I know, I'm already a week late for January).

So what happened in January? 

The main happening was a new roof! A bit of a shock as I was expecting to just have the holes and slipped slates repaired.  But the builder said the 120 year old structure was not fit for purpose and it would be best to do the whole lot! Eek! And on one very cold but glorious day a huge hole appeared for the new Velux window!  The cat was in her element!!!  

Don't worry the cat did get down safely - eventually!  And although it took most of my savings, it will see me out and hopefully add a bit to the value of the house.  AND I don't have to worry about emptying the buckets in the roof space any more!

And things started growing, slowly, including things I'd dug up and brought from my Mother's garden last year.


And I bought some absolutely gorgeously soft and warm yarn from Moel View Yarn to knit a lovely Pokiha shawl (pattern from Truly Myrtle) to keep me warm when I'm sitting sewing. It's clever shaping keeps it firmly on my shoulders without pinning.

Moel View yarn is produced just down the road from here and you can see that "moel view" through the hole in my roof! This is what the wonderful Loop of London, (which stocks Moel View Yarn) says about Paula's product:

Natural, Botanical Dyes - on darling yarns and pure ethically sourced wool. Wales.Loop is incredibly excited and proud to be stocking Moel View yarns.

Overlooking 'Moel Famau' - the tallest peak of the Clwydian range in North Wales, Paula uses only the finest yarns and gently hand dyes each skein with thought and care, using natural botanical ingredients to create colours that truly reflect the natural landscape and changing seasons.

And there were sunsets, and a sprinkling of snow, and I sewed a few more purses, and rescued some hyacinths from the supermarket which three weeks later are still filling the room with colour and perfume...... but that's enough for now.  Its late and I want my bed.  You can see what else I did on Instagram if you are curious!!!

To be continued at the end of February.......

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Japanese Potholder/Mug Cosy

Needs must! Today I posted this picture on my Instagram account and foolishly offered the pattern to anyone who would like to try it. I say foolishly as I'd completely overlooked the fact I'd found it in a Japanese craft book and the instructions are, of course, in Japanese!

I managed to work it out from the diagrams but to avoid any disappointment I'm writing the instructions here where anyone can access them. To start with here is a scan of the page which includes the pattern and diagrams:

So first download the image (its a jpg) and print it out on A4 paper ensuring you tell the printer to print actual size. Cut out the paper template. I stuck the paper onto cereal packet card as I made a few potholders and needed something sturdier than paper.  So, now for the instructions:

1.  Cut out 2 fabric semicircles ADDING a seam allowance. I use cotton teatowel sets bought in bargain stores as they are inexpensive and hardwearing and the patterns will co-ordinate. So cut one semicircle in each of the fabrics you choose.  You can makes a few potholders from one teatowel.

2.  Cut one batting semicircle without the seam allowance.  I used a heat resistant batting called Insul Bright that has a metalised film sandwiched between polyester fibres.  You could of course use any other batting/fleece but they may not give the best heat resistance when handling hot saucepan handles etc.

3. Baste/tack the batting to the wrong side of the fabric which is to be the outside of the potholder.  Just around the edge is good enough but not too close to ensure it doesn't get in the way of stitching.

4. Fold the piece in half, right sides together, along the straight edge and pin. Cut a piece of cotton tape about 3" long, fold it in half and slide the folded edge of the tape in next to the centre fold as shown in diagram 1.  This will be the hanging loop at the peak of the potholder.

5. Stitch the seam as shown in diagram 2 (the red line). Use the edge of the batting as a guide.

6.  Stitch the seam in the lining piece leaving a gap for turning as shown in diagram 3.  Press the seam allowance on both pieces to one side.

7. Turn the outer potholder right side out then place the lining piece on top of it so that the two right sides are facing eachother.  Pin the bottom edges together all the way around making sure you align the two perfectly.  The batting will be the bottom layer as shown in diagram 4.

8. Stitch all around as shown in diagram 5 - the red line.

9. Turn the potholder right side out through the gap in the lining seam and use a chopstick or similar to gently push out the pointed top.  Press everything neatly. Handsew the gap closed as shown in diagram 6.

10. Top stitch around the base on the outside to make a neater job. The lining will show a bit on the outside but I think this looks quite nice.  Press again.

And, ta-da! Its finished.  Make another one to co-ordinate or to match.

Of course if you can read Japanese the book probably makes a better job of the instructions than I did!!!  Do say if I've made any mistakes.

If you've not visited my blog before you might notice I haven't written a post for some time.  I kept meaning to but never found the right time.  The last two years have not been happy ones. My Mum died at the end of 2018 and then three months ago we lost my younger sister.  Its the first time I've written that.  In between times our family home of almost 50 years had to be emptied and sold. Hopefully I will get back to blogging in 2020.  I'll try to make it my New Year resolution!

Friday, 8 March 2019

World Book Day 2019

Its World Book Day and the day has been perfect for staying in and reading - wet, windy and grey grey grey! I'm reading these three at the moment. Meadowland and Four Hedges have chapters titled with the months of the year (a genre I especially enjoy), so after reading the March chapters I'll leave them both bookmarked and pick them up again in April.

That leaves "Miss Buncle's Book" which is not a book I would have picked up without the recommendation of the mighty Scott at Furrowed Middlebrow, who in turn pointed me towards an enabling review by Book Snob.  But be warned, once you click over to Furrowed M you may be there for some time and spend even more time searching on line for books and writers you would never have come across otherwise!

Two more minutes of World Book Day to go and I need to get to bed so I can read another chapter before closing my eyes!

Really enjoyed making more bookmarks by the way!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

An Occasional Update - Spring

We're only half way through February but there are signs of spring everywhere - even in my sewing room. I like using old embroidery transfers and this Weldons transfer couldn't be more spring-like could it. I don't actually use the transfer that would be a shame. I photocopy the transfer sheet and then use my lightbox to trace the design onto fabric with an erasable pencil/marker.

Spring is inside and outside - most particularly in the garden. There's nothing like a warmish day in late winter to encourage a bit of spring cleaning - tidying, snipping back and pulling a few weeds. This year I've a lot of transplanting to do too.

The family home is to be sold and the garden turned into a building plot. I cared for the garden for 25 years after my father died but now it will be dug up so I have to save as many plants as I can. First this year have been the snowdrops and they were a success! I know advice is to move them "in the green" but I took a chance and moved them in flower and two weeks later they look like they've always been there! So happy!

And I had to stitch them too - just in case.  The last couple of days I've moved on to crocuses and daffodils.  Not so easy but I'll let you know how I/they get on. They are looking beautiful at the moment.

And so is the country roundabout. I always think it looks its best in Spring sunshine. Something to do with the light.

Its a good year for snowdrops - in abundance on my walk this week but before you know it there will be primroses and violets....... then...... so many plants! There's much to do!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Not just for Christmas

The inspirational Minki Kim published her second book Diary in Stitches recently.  Its full of design ideas and patterns for the type of small gift I like to make for Christmas fairs at this time of year. I made these Christmassy bookmarks using some of the festive patterns in the book.  A friend gave me some strips of very thick cardboard just right for the inside stiffening and I just cut strips of linen and cotton print to fit and stitched them together.  Its best to do the embroidery before cutting the linen to size.  Use an erasable pen.

These second lot are slightly smaller and don't have the edge stitching.  I do think the edging makes them look for finished so if I make more I'll make them slightly bigger so there's room for the stitching.  Books are the best type of Christmas gift as far as I'm concerned.  I loved to get an annual when I was a child and still enjoy dipping into a long wanted title on Christmas morning..... though usually I've bought it for myself!!!

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Autumn decoration

October is the start of the crafting season - in my life anyway as Christmas isn't far away.  And a change of season is the cue to bring out my autumn decorations.  It seems this autumn's must have is the white mini pumpkin.  They are in all the most beautiful Instagram photos.  I think they may be called Mini Boos but they haven't reached us up here in North Wales.  So I thought to make my own.  Its an easy crochet pattern I found at Plant June and you can make two or three in an evening - well, perhaps crochet one evening and put together the next.  June crocheted her stalks and so did I previously, but for my little white Boos I used a small stick from the garden or a cinnamon stick and a die cut felt leaf hot glued in place.

Next I stitched acorns using this pattern from Tatiana Maximenko.  You might have seen I used her pattern for the mushrooms I photographed for my last post.  Tatiana's patterns are beautiful, simple and photographed in detail to help you in your sewing.  Her stitching is perfect and I must admit it needs time and patience to achieve anywhere near the same results. I need to try a few more as, of course, practise makes perfect - well as perfect as I can get.

My last project was somewhat easier to execute.  I was looking through my pile of Landscape magazine back issues for a cake recipe I remembered - I thought last year.  But I was distracted by the cover of a winter issue featuring decorations using Honesty seedpods.  I'd collected the dried pods earlier in the summer and they were stored in my shed waiting to have their seeds saved for next year.  I sacrificed a few to make these lovely window decorations.  I stuck the seeds to the "silver pennies" with a dot of liquid craft glue and then used the same to glue them into a flower shape.  When the sun shines through the window they light up!

Have you ever noticed the seedpods are three layers thick.  There is a stronger outer layer and inside is the silvery tissue paper thin layer with seeds on each side.  Such a clever design!  Its quite easy to peel the layers apart with your fingers and of course easy for the winds of autumn to separate those layers too and fling the seeds far and wide.  Isn't nature amazing.


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