Easy cotton placemats

16 Jul

Three years ago I bought some nice felt placemats on sale from John Lewis, and they have served me well – but aren’t the easiest to clean and do easily get grubby.

So I decided to make my own that can go in the washing machine. I got this cotton fabric from Goldhawk Road in London and I think I paid about £5/yard. Originally I was planning to make quilted placemats with this fabric as the backing, but on my tester one I struggled to find a mix of the chosen fabrics that didn’t look tacky, and realised the backing fabric was all I really wanted. Thankfully I had enough to make a set of four – I planned eight but I rarely have that many guests! I can always make 4 more in another colour sometime.

I used pieces of fabric 10*13 inches, and sewed with 0.5 inch seams. I also added a layer of lightweight fusible wadding (vilene h630). I then sewed two borders around the outside. I am really pleased with them AND they are machine washable!!
It’s nice to get some “functional” sewing done sometimes, it’s rewarding and makes my home prettier! :-)


E-reader case (kobo/kindle)

17 May

After I made my own kindle case (back in 2014!), a friend liked the design – it has a great little pocket you can protect your Kindle in when you’re not using it, or that you can use to hold your train ticket like I do… So, she asked if I’d make a case for her e-reader. She even bought the fat quarter and had it mailed to me, and it still took me three years to get around to making it – and maybe an hour to make once I started! I’ve never sewn anything for anyone outside of my family, so I think I was very nervous about giving over my handiwork to someone to judge!

I quilted the outside cover/interfacing before I sewed all the layers together. I decided to quilt it in only one direction – I wasn’t sure if it would clash with the swirls too much but I like it! I am glad because I didn’t have the energy to try to follow the swirls, it was straight lines or nothing…

She has a kobo glo, not a Kindle, but I figured it’d be easy to change the measurements. As it is, I only had to reduce the height by 3/8 of an inch (so where the tutorial says 8 inches I used 7 5/8 inches). You can see the difference below with my kindle in the case.

Other than the size adjustment and a bit of quilting, I followed the tutorial from Whip Stitch exactly – the instructions are so clear. The only difficulty was recognising the need to adjust the thread tension when sewing more/fewer layers.

I really enjoyed making this, and think I might even make myself a new one! I used an old spool and bobbin of thread and was gutted to run out of bobbin thread an inch from the very end! Aaargh!

I find that once I’ve found a tutorial that works for me, I tend to reuse it. Here’s a quick list of my other favourite tutorials worth remembering!

A new spring dress (and I’ve already worn it out!)

29 Apr

I made another dress! I got this fabric from Goldhawk Road (like most of my fabrics), for about £5/metre  as a cheap way to practice sewing with knits (I think I needed two metres, but there seems to be about half a metre left over). Thankfully I already had stretch machine needles left over from hemming a knit dress for my mum years ago. I got New Look 6495 for galf price from Hobbycraft :D

I was keen to put this one together as I cut out the fabric ages ago, and since my last dress (New Look 6431) showed some fit issues with a woven, I thought it’d be good to get a knit done so I can have one of each done without adjustments before moving on to FBAs etc. It took me about 8 hours to put this together, after having cut the fabric out ages ago – but I am a slow sewer and also had to unstitch one armhole and half the zip!


It fits a lot better than the woven – but it’s a smaller top (12) in a knit so the better fit makes sense! The skirt was a 16. I’ve always needed my skirts 1-3 sizes larger than my tops, so well-fitting dresses are hard to come by, so I am quite happy with the fit of this one as a starting point.

I wore this out for breakfast/brunch today, and can definitely see myself wearing it out again (but with a cardigan to hide the imperfect back). I do need to improve my finishing:

  1. The neckline and armholes aren’t sitting flat. Maybe the top is still one size too big, and needs a small FBA? The neckline facing worked well on my last dress but that made closing/adding the zip at the back really messy/difficult. So I’m not sure what to do except practice and go slow, but I think trying an FBA on a cheap fabric is worth a shot.
  2. The back pieces (two bodice and skirt) don’t line up, by as much as 2cm. There was about 1cm of shift in the last dress too. I can match up pieces/notches fine but things move around when I put the zip in. That said, the invisible zip itself is fine thanks to this guide from ByHandLondon.
  3. My zips are messy both at the top and bottom – I hand stitched at the bottom as I couldn’t get the sewing machine to do the first inch! The top of my last dress zip was also very messy. Maybe I need practice?

This was an easy make, and I will definitely make it again! Mostly, I am enjoying working out how to make dresses and I’m really looking forward to making them fit. But for now, I have a few other mini projects: an ereader cover, a bag holder, a tote bag, a RTW dress adjustment, and some pot holders. It’s great having my machine back :D

I finally made my first dress!

14 Apr

Having bought my sewing machine around five years ago, I’ve finally made my first dress! :-)

I got this lovely red cotton, with lots of tiny white stars, from Goldhawk Road. I knew I wanted to use it for a red skirt on a dress, with a black top. So, when I saw New Look 6431 I thought view B could be just right for letting the black and red balance each other out. I think it widths well!

I wasn’t expecting it to be easy, but it was even more of a challenge than I had been expecting!

The neckline pleats and interfacing proved trickier than I thought they would be, logistically, but they turned out quite nicely.

Getting the neckline interfacing done was a bit tricky, and I did it wrong a couple of times, but eventually I followed the guide at Tilly and the Buttons and I was really happy when it eventually worked and sits flat.

Then I had to deal with the armhole bias binding – I had no idea what I was doing and the pattern was confusing, as I mentioned in my previous post and seesawyer helped me out by commenting with the answer! For the future I found this tutorial with pictures.

Attaching the skirt was easy peasy, so no problems there! Hemming it at the end was also fine, except at that point suddenly my machine decided that it needed a higher tension – I had been using 3.5 all throughout, but now it needed 6…

Adding the zip was pretty difficult! I was worried as soon as I saw that the pattern needed a normal, not an invisible, zip. The guide by Nancy Zieman guide was super helpful. Nonetheless, I had a couple of problems – first my lap wasn’t wide enough to cover the zipper pull at the top. Then, the LHS of the dress/top was longer, so it went about 3/8″ longer than the RHS, so I had to try and shorten that before attaching the hook. I think this will be something for me to work on more in future – hopefully it gets easier with practice!

Overall, I am happy but will have to sort out some sizing issues before it is wearable. You can see here that the top is far too large in the back, and it is also too large in the waist (my waist-hip ratio is high, so I find tops have to be well-fitted for an overall outfit to be flattering). I chose a size 16 top, with a size 18 skirt, but I think that maybe I should have chosen a smaller size top and did a full bust adjustment (I guess patterns aren’t made for an E as standard!).

Next time I will definitely look at doing an FBA, but for now, I want to work out how to sort out this one so the top is slightly more flattering – then I can actually wear it out :)

I really enjoyed doing this – it was hard at times, especially when my sewing machine broke for a couple of months, but I am so keen to work out the FBA for future dresses, hopefully I can get a really nice fit eventually!

Trying to understand bias armhole instructions… 

7 Apr

I am so confused! 

In terms of clothes, I have only previously made the Collette sorbetto top. I posted about it, and was convinced that the damp fabric was the problem so I made another, with homemade bias binding, and the fit still wasn’t for me. Nonetheless, I now have two comfy pajama tops and learned how to do visible binding on necklines and arm holes, so I’ll take that as a positive learning experience :-)

But now a Simplicity pattern has me completely stumped. 

I already had to go elsewhere for help on how to do a neckline with interfacing – tutorial from Tilly here. Having finally worked out the logistics of the neckline, my sewing machine gave up and stopped sewing properly (loops underneath, skipping threads, breaking threads) so I packed it away. Now, two months later, I have given the machine a clean and oil and I’ve finished the neckline (yay! Another technique learned) but have the arm holes to contend with now….

“Open out one edge of single fold bias tape. With RIGHT sides together, pin tape to armhole edge having crease 3/8″  from raw edge, turning under and lapping one end at side seam. Stitch. LAYER seam.

UNDERSTITCH tape. Turn tape to INSIDE; press. Baste close to inner edge. On OUTSIDE, top-stitch as basted.”

I think the bit I need help with is that in bold. I have tried to find tutorials online that use similar words so I can be sure that I’m doing the right thing but no luck. I don’t *think* the bias binding is supposed to be visible….

If you know a good tutorial you can point me to, I’d be very grateful! I’m looking forward to eventually finishing making this item but I keep getting lost :-(

Another beanbag!

7 Jan

I made a beanbag for my nephew for Christmas 2016 and he and his sister have so much fun playing with it that their mum asked if my neice could get her very own this Christmas. Yes!!!

These are so fun to make, from finding fabric (Goldhawk Road again) to cutting all the curves to pouring the beans in and seeing it become properly 3D (and watching the kids immediately start jumping on it)!

The tutorial from Reese Dixon is great, my only additions (not even changes) are:

  • I use 50cm zips and extend them to the ~150cm needed using a matching fabric to subtly insert it as an extra (thin) panel (like in this purse tutorial) the same length as the others.
  • I use scrap fabric (e.g. old bed sheet) to make an inside beanbag cover so the pretty outside cover can be washed – or changed when the kid’s preferences do!
  • I buy 3 cubic feet of beans, for about £6

I am a very slow sewer, and it took me maybe three evenings. It’s not much cheaper than buying a basic one (say £15 for 3m of outside fabric, a few quid for a bed sheet, £6 for beans, and £5 for zips and thread … comes to about £30) but is excellent value for being able to choose exactly what you want out of the pattern!

Pot holders

6 Jan

My sister got a slow cooker / crock pot for Christmas, so before she headed back to the new university term I decided to quickly make some convenient pot holders for carrying the ceramic pot to the dinner table.

I used this fun red cotton I got from Goldhawk Road in London (about 3m for £20), with a plain black cotton and insul-bright inside.

I didn’t use a pattern and just measured around my hands – so I used rectangles of fabric about 6″ wide and 17″ long. I might change it slightly if I make any more, maybe 7″ by 14″. I made two for my mum too!