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!

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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 😊

I acquired lots of patterns in 2018… In 2019 I’ll try to actually use them!

5 Jan

I’ve loved reading all the 2018 reviews and plans for 2019, and it has inspired me to try to have a 2019 that I’m proud of :-)

2018 has been a mixed year for me – I had some health issues that meant I had less energy for sewing (and also had to go part-time at work), and some family issues alongside it. But, I bought a new sewing machine (Singer 4423) to cheer myself up and made some of my favourite items ever. It was mostly non-clothes though:

There’s the doorway puppet theatre that my niece and nephew absolutely loved

And finally working on lapped cushion zippers, that went so well I can’t wait to make another!

And a dress that, while I may replace the top half with a slightly smaller version from the same fabric, and redo the hem, I have worn it loads and absolutely love it.

So…. What for 2019? I have got more into expanding my wardrobe in the last few months, so feel I ready to start trying in earnest to create a me-made wardrobe. I recently bought some new patterns – some from charity shops, some because they were on sale and I neeready Ied to spend another few quid to reach “free delivery”. Which means that, despite only completing two, I now have 11, nine of which I have my eye on for this year…

  • 1. Dress – New Look 6495: this is the one I made and loved. I bought it without much thought while in Hobbycraft with my mum, and was so surprised to love it! I’d love to try and work out how to make short sleeves to make it more work appropriate. Any suggestions?
  • 2. Dress – Sewaholic Cambie: I got this a couple of years ago, cut out a toile, got a bit ill and put on weight, then realised the toile wouldn’t fit any more and lost motivation. But this is so popular that I should come back to it in 2019!
  • 3. Dress – New Look 6431: I made this but it was far too large. I tried to make a toile of the torso but it wasn’t quite right so I need to try again. Something from 2019!
  • 4. Dress – Kwik Sew k4123: this is a nice dress that I hope I can make to fit my odd curves! I love the short sleeves and have a fabric in mind…
  • 5. Dress – Simplicity 4070: this is a more formal dress, I think I bought it to make something to wear to a friend’s wedding but didn’t have the energy to make something in the end. I’m attending another wedding in 2019 so I might make this – I’d like the version with the straps, and not too formal, so let’s see what I manage to find. I might have to look up examples that others have made!
  • 6. Dress – Simplify k8292: a charity shop find, I loved the sleeves on this! View B (or D) seems more my style and I’d have to be careful to fit it well to my waist, or my bust and hips could take over – I’ll have to try a toile first!
  • 7. Dress – Simplicity k8543: as my size varies across my shoulders/chest/waist/hips, I have been intrigued by the “Amazing Fit” patterns for a while. I think View C could look nice on me so I’m excited to try it!
  • 8. Top – Simplicity 1280: another one I cut out a toile for before putting on weight, I lost motivation on this one. But I love the design and hope to get back motivation to try it properly in 2019 :-)
  • 9. Skirt – Kwik sew k3637: I couldn’t find a stretch pattern for a circle type skirt (I asked here and noone could think of any either) so I bought this to try with my gorgeous blue stretch crepe. The fabric was about £4/m so it’s not too bad if it goes wrong.
  • Skirt – New Look k6327: I bought this from a charity shop without realising it’s an elastic waist – so I may never use it, if I don’t use it in 2019 I’ll re donate it…
  • PJs – McCall’s 3434: I saw this in a charity shop and figured I might want to make my own dressing gown to replace my current one that’s falling to bits, but won’t pressure myself to!

I also have a toile for Marfy 1913 and hope I’ll get around to making a proper one this year but only if I can adjust the toile to fit well.

So my clothes target for this year is summarised in a picture:

Aside from clothes, a few things I’d like to achieve sewing-wise this year are:

  • Get my old singer machine serviced
  • Sort out my sewing stuff and use up some of my stash to make a potential move later in 2019 easier.
  • Make a purse with a coin slot, card slots, and a notes pouch.
  • Make a weighted pin cushion
  • Finish off as many UFOs as I can, so they aren’t being transported with pins etc when I move.
  • Mend the zip on my boots, that broke three years ago…

So I’m ambitious but I won’t be hard on myself if I don’t manage it, as it’s a busy year and I’m still not back to perfect health. But now I have lots of great targets to aim for to keep me focused and give me a wardrobe I really want – RTW isn’t working for my newer shape very well so I’d love to learn to make things that really flatter it.

Teaching my sister to sew: another zipped purse/small bag attempt!

29 Dec

Every time I show my sister something I made, after her initial response (usually a compliment thankfully!!), she normally tells me that she wishes that she was able to sew. I think she did a little bit with a machine when she was a kid in primary school (up to 11 years old) but not since.

As we are both at our parents’ home for the break between Christmas and New Year, and I recently put my old sewing machine there, I decided to bring done fabric and show her how to make a small zipped bag.

I showed her the three tutorials to choose from (Melly Sews, Sew Me Happy, or Crazy Little Projects) and she chose Melly Sews, which is the one I used when I made a bag for my sister in law for Christmas (blog post here).

And it went much better than my last one did!

I think it helped that I used the zip that was the right length to begin with rather than shortening a longer one, so it had the softer ends.

I walked her through the tutorial, and helped her work out which bits to pin together and in which directions, but made her do the sewing machine bits all herself including reverse stitching and eventually turning corners. She did so well, and she loves it!

It took about an hour and a half including picking and cutting fabric, it went well :-)

Last bit of Christmas sewing: family aprons

24 Dec

I decided a while back to make matching aprons for my brother and sister-in-law and their kids. I finally got around to buying some fun cottons from Abakhan (as I couldn’t get into Goldhawk Road as I’ve not been too well) but unfortunately in between me placing the order and them dispatching it, they sold out of the apron pattern Kwik Sew K0255.

Stuck and with no idea how big to make an apron, I started searching for tutorials. I found the Sugar Bee Crafts adult tutorial, and shrunk it a lot for the kids. I didn’t follow the instructions for construction, and mine are less polished as a result, but I was too tired to follow them properly anyway. Maybe next time – hers do look much nicer!

They are much brighter than they look in these photos…

I really like them, modelled here by my sister. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to give them tomorrow :-)

[[Edit to add: I gave them to them all yesterday and despite an initial confused look, they seemed to love them. The kids instantly put them on and went to play with their toy kitchen 😍]]

I managed to cut my finger right where the nail meets the skin on my left index finger. I’m gutted as I think it means no sewing for a bit til my finger recovers! It’s my first ever proper sewing machine injury – ignoring occasional pin pricks and sore shoulders (one day I’ll improve my sewing posture…) I’m grateful it has taken this long and it isn’t too bad :-)

Merry Christmas!!