New passport cover

1 Apr

Ten years ago, my mum bought me a pink leather travel set for my first ever trip abroad (New York!). It’s high quality, which meant that even though I am not a fan of pink, I’ve been using it ever since. I was doing a mini clear out and decided that it’s been well used and valued, so since it’s still in great condition I donated it to a charity shop.

And I made myself a new one!

I used the same tutorial as I used for my second ever machine sewing project, back in 2014. The tutorial from Unify handmade does not seem to state the seam allowance – I mentioned in my blog that the pattern pieces they give are far too large, but I actually think I was working with 1/4″ or 1/8″ seams instead of 5/8″ – I now know that 5/8″ is standard, but back then I clearly thought that was excessive! I sewed this up initially with my smaller pattern pieces and a 5/8″ seam, and had to unpick the whole thing. Without that step, I think this would have been completed in less than an hour.

I got this gorgeous fabric from Hobbycraft, it’s a fat quarter set from “Kimono” sold by the craft cotton company. It’s gorgeous and sooo soft. I can’t wait to find a use for the other almost-three fat quarters!

I also had an old luggage tag that had broken, so I took an old fake leather strap and made myself a matching new one :-) I didn’t use a tutorial because all of them seemed to use vinyl (which I didn’t have, and I didn’t want to wait to get some).

I made a pattern template starting from a business card. It seemed sensible to use that, then I can just slot it in and don’t have to worry about a stranger potentially having my keys and address in the same place… I would scan and share the template but I think I made it a little bit too small, so would want to add another 1/8″ in most directions before sharing it!

This was the first time I ever made buttonhole, and I used the one-step button hole on my new ish Singer 4423… I love it! I’ve always been scared of making button holes but this was great. I used the manual and the YouTube video, to make sure it went well, but I was pleasantly surprised :-)

New skills

  • Creating a fairly basic template that requires some maths/thinking of the structure.
  • Making a button hole!
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Scrapbusting – reusable “cotton wool pad” substitutes

1 Mar

As I neared the end of my pack of cotton wool pads, which I use for my face cleanser each day and also for Dettol or nail varnish remover occasionally, I started to wonder whether I could make some reusable ones.

I looked on Etsy and saw that there’s loads on sale there, so I figured it would be pretty simple to make some! I had some cotton fabric scraps, and some leftover fleece from making a quilt (which I’ve also used for eye masks). I managed to make fifteen!

I made fifteen…

It was pretty easy

  1. Cut out a 2.5″ circle template (I traced it around the top of a jam jar) and use it it draw circles on your scrap fabric.
  2. Pin the fabric (uncut) to the fleece, keeping the pins within the circle so they won’t get in the way of the scissors – you can also use jersey, Terry cloth, etc, but I had this on hand and it was nice and soft :-)
  3. Cut the circles out, add new pins pointing into the centre, and reposition the original pins to also point into the centre.
  4. Sew around the edges to keep the seams in – overedge stitch, zig zag stitch, or if you have an overlocker that would be ideal…

I couldn’t get my overedge stitch to work – the tension seemed off, the join between top and bottom threads were meeting at the bottom side on the fabric rather than at the edge, and it was a bit loose too. I turned up the tension to 8, from the usual 4, but it didn’t seem to work! It’s ok, zig zag stitch worked ok :-)

They aren’t the neatest but they’ll work! I might not use them for nail varnish remover as that might ruin them, but I’ve already started using them for face cleanser and I’m happy ☺️

Next, I figured I’d need a bag to keep the clean ones and another for the dirty ones. So I used an old tutorial and some scrap fabric and ribbon to make two 17*10cm bags with some scrap fabric.

This is the same fabric I mentioned in my January UFOs post. One of my UFOs was a pencil case made out of this fabric, and I said that I had no idea why I stopped making it when all I had left to do was sew the lining in. Well… I discovered why. This fabric is hell to sew. It is a stretchy, slidey viscose. It used to be a super short skirt (modified from culottes bought on sale) and I loved the fabric.

Great to wear.

Delightful to look at.

A nice wash, not holding creases.

And a complete pain to sew. I have now binned all the remaining bits of this fabric as I simply cannot bear to make anything else with it ever again. It’s a relief to let it go!

Are all viscose fabrics like that?! Should I avoid it in future or are there nicer (easier handle) ones out there?

Starting my 2019 “Make Nine”

17 Feb

At the very start of the year I went through my clothes patterns to think about why I haven’t used most of them yet, and to plan whether and how to use them this year. I picked out nine that I wanted to try to use this year – inadvertently setting my own Make Nine challenge! I think that it was started by Lucky Lucille setting herself the challenge back in 2015. Here was mine, with the first one completed today!

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I really loved having this little square (/rectangle) of projects to choose from! I was a little worried that I would feel stressed to do it since I “commited”, but actually, having the list just meant I reserved some time for myself instead of trying to find more things to make for others!

So… onto my making this dress!

I got this pattern from a charity shop (in Halstead, Essex) for just £1! I felt very lucky. And the black fabric is a cotton crepe from a shop on Goldhawk Road in London (the one nearest the market, but I can’t remember it’s name…maybe A-one?), just £10 for 2.5 yards! Plenty for a dress ☺️

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For the first time, I paid close attention to what fabric the pattern recommended. The two times I made dresses previously, my lack of planning had mixed results – the basic stretch cotton worked well on my New Look 6495, but I think the New Look 6431 needed a fabric with much more drape. The pattern calls for “medium weight knits and wovens”, and I thought this black crepe would work perfectly for View B.

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Yes, I am actually that pale…! It’s a shame you can’t see the pattern on the fabric from here, but it makes a simple black dress look so nice. I am not a big fan of this neckline, it looks like it’s trying to be a bit of a halter neck.

Unfortunately, like with my previous two dresses, I still couldn’t get the back to fit nicely. I am pleased with waist/hip fit at the front though!

I spent two Saturdays sewing (last weekend and this weekend), I had the zip in and ready to try on. I’d worked hard, for the first time, to make sure that the inside was neat and that the very, very fraying fabric would not come undone in the wash. I even bought an overcast foot and found out that my sewing machine (Singer 4423) has an overcast stitch!!

I still haven’t decided whether I prefer the overcast stitch or the zig zag for enclosing seams. The overcast stitch looks neater but I’m struggling to believe it will hold in the wash. Time will tell, I guess! Do you have any tips for how to use the overcast foot and stitch?

Even if I don’t use it with the overcast stitch, the overcast foot makes zig zag edging SO MUCH neater – I’m not going back!

So, I now had a nice, neat dress, just waiting to be hemmed and pressed. And it was not good.

The waist was too big.

The shoulders were falling off.

The chest was gaping SO much.

There was a LOT of bunching at the back.

I didn’t understand, as I’d thought carefully about the sizing. With my measurements (B 37, W 32, H 45), my bust was at the bottom end of M, waist in the middle of L, and hips at the lower end of XL. I don’t mind a closely fitting hip so went for a M bodice, and the skirt was a M at the top but graded to a L a few inches down.

So, I made some changes.

First I took 2.5″ out of each side at the neck back, with two darts reaching down to meet the original darts that reach up from the waist (if that makes sense?). I also took another 1″ out from each side at the waist.

The waist fit a bit better, but the neck seemed too squeezed, and the back started gaping. Forget the neatness of darts (I think it was at this point that I declared to my boyfriend that this dress shall henceforth be known as a wearable muslin…), I reduced the dart at the neck to about 1.5″, increased the waist reduction to 1.5″ (so it was less a dart and now just taking out a chunk, I guess a bit like a princess seam), and took out 2″ from the in between bits (all from each side, so 3″, 3″, and 4″ overall).

I think it now looks nice from the front – not perfect, but nice enough to wear out… If I have a cardigan hiding the back. Plus I’m not a big fan of the sleeves – they are much bigger than I thought they would be.

What do you do if the front fits well, but the back is far too large throughout?

I thought an FBA could be the answer to my problems but when I tried it on the New Look 6431 pattern (which I didn’t write about on this blog because it went so badly) it just didn’t seem to work. As I seemed to fit this pattern’s stated measurements well I thought I’d be safe but clearly this will haunt me if I don’t sort it out before I try another dress or top…

So I am happy with it, especially as this fabric is so comfy to wear, and think I’ll wear it when I’m out and about but not to work or “out out”. I am really proud of how neat I made the insides, and that I learned a few things:

  • How to insert sleeves, including ease gathering.
  • How to use an overcast stitch and an overcast foot.
  • How to make a double lapped zipper (this might not be the right name? There’s two vertical flaps which open in the middle to reveal the zip).
  • I learned how to do a machine blind hem – in future I might try to hand sew it, but by the time I got there I had decided it was a wearable muslin so was much less bothered about the finish.

I’m looking forward to getting on with the rest of my nine items for 2019!

Maybe I should think about attending a sewing fitting class? Has anyone attended one and found it useful?

First project of 2019 – starting small with a cushion cover :-)

3 Feb

After organising my stash, I could see all my fabrics and easily pick a project – and found two fabrics that I thought would go really well together for this lovely cushion cover.

I got this owl fabric from The Works, £3 for 0.5 yards. It’s quite thick and rough, almost like a potato sack, but was listed as 100% cotton so I think I bought it for oven gloves. But I think it makes a lovely cushion! I got the backing cotton from the remnants pile at John Lewis, it was about a fat quarter and a lovely colour so I am so glad I found a way to use it so it could be displayed in my flat :-)

I used the tutorial from Little Black Duck, which I used to make my sister’s Christmas present. My boyfriend has decided it is perfect for his desk chair, and he works from home a lot so it’ll get lots of use!

UFO progress – eight (small) projects down, it’s so satisfying!

27 Jan

Since my last post I have been working on my UFOs pile…

I have never tackled my UFO pile before this week, so there were about a dozen items in there. I did all the non-clothes ones (eight) which I think is pretty good going!

Mostly I was surprised at how simple all of these were – I basically spent all week wondering why on earth I ever abandoned these instead of finishing them. I won’t be too hard on myself as it’s possible my fluctuating illness played a part, but it was so satisfying to finish these all off that I might now try to have an annual (or twice-annual) UFO session – maybe January and July?

1. Minion finger puppets!

My niece and nephew love the minions, so to go with the Doorway Puppet Theatre that I made for them a while back, I made a couple of minion finger puppets at the same time – but my 2 yo niece broke the hand-sewn seams quickly. Lesson learned! I cut out some new yellow and blue bits, but they soon got lost in my WIP pile… I’m going to say its while I was waiting for more googly eyes to arrive… yeah…

So I came back to them this week! And I used the machine for the yellow bits, and glue for the rest – nice and strong!

When I started cutting out these pieces, I wanted to use the tutorial from sustain my craft habit, but the PDF wasn’t working. Instead, I made them using the pictures in her post plus the pictures in crafts on sea. I recommend both, for some useful tips, but I think the PDF templates would make life a lot easier so would definitely recommend using that if you can!

2. Hot water bottle

A while back I asked for advice on what to do with this thick wintry woven fabric. I think I will use the bulk of it to make a quillow as suggested in the comments by Rosie House, but for a quick win I decided to make a hot water bottle. I started it before Christmas, to prepare for the cold spell, trying to quilt it first to make it look more interesting. My sewing machine HATED the combination of this fabric with the batting, and just would not sew a stable stitch. It drove me insane, and went into the WIP/UFO pile.

So this week, when working through my UFOs, I fished it out again and finished it off, using washi tape to stabilise the fabric so the machine would accept it…. only to find that the cover was a liiiitle bit too small, and I’d put the overlap at the back far too low down so I was going to have to peel off a lot of that super snug cover every time I wanted to refill it.

Or, to save myself that hassle, I could just make another. So I did. I left off the batting, instead making it just the outer fabric lined with some leftover grey fleece (which used to be a blanket until about five years a go my then-puppy chewed it to bits and I salvaged what I could and added it to my stash). I made it much wider than needed, and made the gap for refilling just three inches from the top.

It’s so much better and I have already consigned the too-small one to the fabric scrap recycling.

Maybe this was a cheat in my UFO week, since technically I cut out a new project, but I reckon I was just salvaging a UFO to make sure my efforts weren’t wasted, and to make sure I got what I wanted (I.e. a hot water bottle!) so I am happy :)

I do need to put some snaps on the back closure to keep it more closed, I’ll order some online. I could use velcro, or metal snaps, but I’d really like some black plastic snaps. It’s usable now anyway so it doesn’t matter how long they take to arrive in the post.

3. Hemming a towel scrap to use as a face towel

Back in late 2017 (can you tell this is my first every UFO-busting attempt?!) I made this fun hooded and appliqued towel for my niece, and it leaves you with half a towel left over.

I bought some binding to finish the raw edge so it could become a face towel, but I didn’t like it when it arrived (in the post) so left it, pinned, in my WIP bag for two years, apparently.

Today I finally just did a double rolled hem with a zip zag stitch, then attached some 3/4 inch wide white twill tape to it so it can be hung up in the bathroom.

It took five to ten minutes, and was equally embarrassing and satisfying to FINALLY have it done!

4. Pencil case

I started this pencil case two, maybe three, years ago. The fabric is from an old skirt (which itself was made out of some short culottes that I thought would look better as a skirt), so I was initially chuffed to give it a new life.

Once I had sewn the outside together (including the zip), and sewn the lining together, the tutorial said to hand sew the lining to the outside fabric. For some reason, this seemed like an impossible task at the time, and it sat in my WIP pile since. Last night, I finally sat down and just did it. I popped Netflix on, got a cup of tea and a nice strong light, and just did it. What was all the fuss about?! It looks great, and I now have a place to store my washable colour markers (that I use to copy patterns, or when I know I’ll be washing the finished product so don’t worry about the ink).

Now that I am feeling a bit less dramatic about the hand sewing (honestly, I have no idea what that was about, I used to hand sew everything) I recommend this as it’s a great shape and super quick and easy. The tutorial was from A Spoonful of Sugar Designs.

5. Unpicking an attempt at quilted placemats

I previously mentioned that I had tried to make quilted placemats but they just didn’t work with my chosen fabrics, so I made some plain ones. No regrets, it was a nice idea but I love the plainer ones I made, and we use them daily.

But I had all these sewn together tops stuffed into my WIP bag, waiting for me to unpick them to turn them into something else later. I FINALLY unpicked them today – and added them to my stash pile to be re-used another day. I love the fabrics so have no doubt I will use them soon :D

I also had one placemat all quilted together with the fusible interfacing on the backing (thankfully NOT onto the tops) so I will use that to make a little zipped pouch :)

6. Correcting an upside-down Christmas decoration

I think this is a great tutorial, from The Sewing Directory. It was easy and quick BUT I put the gold strap at the bottom instead of the top, so the reindeer and tree were upside down – whoops!

It looked nice enough so I displayed it anyway, hiding the white side, but instead of packing it away with the other decorations I added it to my WIP pile, fully expecting it to still be there next Christmas… but I did it!

Again, this took about twenty minutes. I have no idea why I didn’t just do it at the time…

7. Making cushion inserts

A while back, I bought 1kg of stuffing. I only wanted to make one or two of those christmas stars above, but ordering online I apparently completely failed to comprehend the volume that would be required to get 1kg of the stuff (and also assumed that £5.99 wouldn’t get me a very big package). Obviously, a huge packet arrived and I picked out some scrap white fabric (from toiles) and an old pillowcase to make 17″ cushion inserts.

Well, finally today I used those scraps, and the pillowcase, to make the two cushion inserts (and salvaged a zip from the pillowcase). One is already in a 17″ cushion cover that a friend bought me (from Senegal! I should have photographed it, it’s beautiful), and I will make another one soon (with a lapped zipper like I made for my sister)

8. Fixing a too-big kindle case, and making a matching eye mask

I made a kindle case for my boyfriend to thank him for letting me use his kindle while I had lent mine to my sister (she was recovering from eye surgery, so this was easier on her eyes than using a tablet/phone for reading books and the news). But, it was about a quarter of an inch too tall, and the elastic closing needed about an inch taken off. That’s it. A fifteen minute job. Done. The tutorial is from Whip Stitch and is perfect (I just made my seams slightly too small this time) – I’ve used it twice before, once for me and once I shortened it a bit for a friend’s kobo. [I’ll add photo later – I thought I had one!]

I wanted him to have a matching eye mask, he borrows mine but I thought it could be nice for him to have one that is made to fit his head exactly. I pinned this together maybe eight months ago, and only this weekend finally sewed it together, and made him try it on so I could adjust it, then finished it off. Ta-da! As with all the others I made, this used the tutorial and template from The Red Kitchen.

The remainders….

That wasn’t bad for a week, especially as I was away from my machine for a couple of nights! But there’s a few bigger WIPs left over:

  • Elastic-waisted skirts. In spring 2017, to prepare for a trip to Taiwan when it would be very hot, I bought these fabrics, with linings and elastic, to make some skirts without a pattern. The fabric didn’t work with my rolled hem foot, I got frustrated, and left them. I think it’s about time I tried again, with this pattern I got for £1 in my local charity shop…
  • Sewaholic Cambie. I cut out this toile back when I was about 25lb lighter, so I will look at the sizes and ease to determine if there is any point in trying to put this together as a toile, or if I should recycle the fabric (a basic but lovely-feeling cotton, plus lining) and cut a new one in a different fabric in my new size.
  • Black work dress. You can’t see in this photo but there’s a lovely subtle pattern on that black cotton fabric, which I think will suit View B of that pattern (again £1 from a charity shop). The fabric was £4/m so I won’t worry too much – it can be a (hopefully wearable) toile! I guess this isn’t a real UFO as it isn’t even started, but I’m amazed by how many times I picked up this fabric to use it…

I’ll make it my target to have done any two of these five in February… wish me luck!

I now feel all ready to start my 2019 sewing! :D

When did you last try to clear your UFO pile? Is it normal for it to be SO FULL of easy (if slightly dull) tasks? Please help vindicate me if you can …!

Update on the clear out – all my fabric in one small box. Next up – UFOs!

20 Jan

I can now fit all my fabric stash into a single 32l box!

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I have arranged it by:

  • Wide section (in left and right photos): pieces of fabric about 1 yard or longer, arranged by colour and facing up.
  • Narrow section (in left photo): pieces of fabric about 1 fat quarter, arranged by colour.
  • Narrow section (in right photo): any potentially useful scraps, in two box bags – blues and blacks in one, red pink and whites in the other.

Now my fabrics are all in one place, and organised by size and colour! I already feel like I can go into future projects without spending so long on finding fabrics. 😊😊😊

For the scraps I made two new box bags using the tutorial from Truly Myrtle. I made them 7.5″ long and 4″ tall and wide. This used up four fat quarters from the pile too 😊

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I also put together a pile of “pretty” or “interesting” small scraps, which I will cut around with the pinking shears to give some shaped fabrics (that won’t fray) for my niece and nephew to use in gluing with paper glitter stickers etc.

I did give a few bits to the charity shop, which I bought with something in mind (e.g. for when my niece and nephew were babies) but either didn’t get around to making or didn’t use up all the fabric on whatever I made. I had also held onto a grocryg bag worth of scraps that I definitely won’t use, so they are going to the local fabric recycling (to make insulation etc).

This felt like a huge step! It’s a weight off my mind to know I now only have the fabric I love and that I can find it all easily.

Here is what else I have done in organising my sewing stuff:

  • Allocated one box for patterns.
  • Assisted one box for measuring, marking, and cutting tools. It also contains my sewing machine tools.
  • One bag contains all fasteners (zips etc) and ribbons.
  • One bag contains all interfacing and wadding.
  • I’ve got rid of my old sewing box, giving it to a charity shop. It’s small and anything I kept in there was split with being kept somewhere else, which was inefficient. I got it from eBay for £2.50 in 2010 so it’s done it’s time! It’s still in excellent condition so someone else can love it now.
  • Organised my threads. They don’t yet fit into one box but I am closer than I was :-)

Next up is to tackle my UFOs… So I won’t be taking any new fabrics out of that box for a while. Wish me luck…!

All my sewing stuff laid out on one rug… Now to organise it!

12 Jan

This rug is 1.6*2.3m (5’3″x7’6″) – showing just how much of my 44 square metre (475 square foot) flat is taken up with my sewing stuff 😮 the only things missing are the sewing machine and the lamp I use with it.

Lately when sewing I have been trying to find something without any idea where it is – my sewing stuff started very organised, but as I accumulated more and more tools, accessories, and fabric, it’s become a bit muddled as the categories overflowed into each other. The two safe areas were my 32l fabric box (top right) and the patterns box (just below the fabric box). Thread was *mostly* all in one place.. as for everything else, it was a challenge to find what I wanted.

For context, my first sewing box was a little wicker basket maybe 20*30*40cm

And then I kept everything in that 32l box – all fabric, thread, and tools. Nice and neat!

Inspired by KonMari on Netflix, although my flat is generally tidy with well-organised books, linens, kitchen, papers, and clothes, my sewing is the one area that I’ve let become a mess. I used to move a lot (at uni we had to pack up our room at the end of every term, then I moved once a year) so living in one place for three years has allowed the stuff to accumulate.

So, my plan….

  1. A lot of those UFOs have been there for a while. I will go through them and think properly about which I want to finish, and which I should let go of. Those that I let go of, I will work out whether to salvage the fabric and add it to my box or whether it should be donated or recycled.
  2. Some of the fabrics have been in that box for a while. I’ll go through and work out if I am still waiting for the perfect project for a fabric I’m too scared to use (in which case I’ll commit to making a toile then take the plunge), or if I’m just not excited about the fabric (in which case I’ll work out if I can commit it to something for someone else, or if I should donate or recycle it).
  3. Everything else needs to be organised in a way that makes it easy to know where things will be and to see when I look (i.e. no need for rummaging). I also need a safe way to store my blunt rotary blades (which are good for paper).

It will all have to be stored on shelves (except the fabric box which goes under my bed) so will need to be creative!

I am super excited but also scared to get started! It will be so good when it’s finished so that will motivate me…. I will post an update when it’s done..!

If you have any tips for how to get through this I’d love to hear them 😊