Koala Lil Critters Pinafore Dress

A couple of weeks ago my brother departed for a break in Australia where he would met his goddaughter for the first time. Packed in his suitcase was a handmade dress for when she is a little older. Sized three months, the dress is rather adorable.

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After looking at a number of possible options, we selected Pupertia's Lil Critters Pinafore Dress. I was asked to recreate the sample of pale pink with the koala bear lining. Given the climate and warm temperatures throughout the year, the dress needed to be lightweight and cool. I selected a linen like cotton from Minerva Crafts in light pink for the main dress. Its just the right weight and good quality for the price. The surface is slightly textured. The koalas are designed by littlearrowdesigncompany and I purchased it from Fashion Formula on Etsy as a print on demand service. The grey is darker than I anticipated from the photo but it works very well with the pink. The print seems to have set very well and washed without any sign of fading or cracking. 

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There’s a lot going on in this little pattern. The dress features five pockets: one on the front of the bodice, two in the front skirt and two on the back. You have the option of showing more or less of the lining on the patch pockets. As the pattern pieces were perfectly sized for a full koala head, this pinafore has the larger lining option. The skirt is gently gathered on both sides. The bodice is lined allowing for a neat finish at the waistline. 

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This isn't as quick a make as you might imagine for something so small. While it is straightforward to put together, the number of features means there are quite a few steps. It didn't help that my overlocker got hungry and ate the front bodice as it was finishing the waistline seam leaving a hole about 10cm in length. This led to a lot of unpicking, recutting the bodice, repositioning the pocket and then gathering the skirt with a reduced seam allowance. Sigh. For the finishing touches I added grey top stitching on the pockets and added large silver grey buttons. 

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This pattern is another solid choice for little ones from Puperita. I thrilled with how this dress turned out. I love the koala bears although I'm not sure whether they are smiling or looking a little glum! 

Yoga Mat Bag: a tutorial

How is your weekend going? I'm having a quiet one - I'll be mostly catching up with friends but I have squeezed in some sewing time to work on this scrap buster of a project. 

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I mentioned earlier this year that I have started to attend regular weekly yoga classes. I've been enjoying it so much that I have invested in a mat. I knew that I needed a bag as it's been a little tricky carrying just a rolled mat. I almost bought one at the time I purchased the mat but realised that I had all the materials at home to make my own. This has the double win of taking out a little more fabric from the study (which I still haven't summoned the courage to sort out) and is also more sustainable than buying. This bag cost me £2 purely because I ran out of top stitching thread.

I had a few essential needs when designing this bag:

  • Durability: I can be harsh on bags, especially when moving them from place to place, so I wanted something that could withstand this as well protect the mat. I was thinking canvas or similar. 
  • Ease of use: I wanted a bag I could just drop the mat into and go. A draw string closure made more sense than a long zip up the middle of the bag. Given my preference for the outer fabrics and that the mat is "sticky" a smooth lining would be needed to allow the mat to slide into the bag. 

With all this is mind, I selected a turquoise cotton canvas and some left over denim from my Miette skirt for the outer fabrics. They look rather striking together and give the durability I wanted without being too heavy. The lining is made from a black poly satin. To give the bag some more interesting features, I added a denim band to the top and added the finishing touches with some select topstitching. I'm looking forward to a more straightforward journey on Monday! 

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I took some photos and thought I would share the my construction process in case you are interested in making your own. 

Materials needed

    1. Two circles to make the base. One in denim and one from the lining: 18cm diameter
    2. A denim rectangle: 58cm x 27cm
    3. A denim strip for the top of the bag: 58cm x 5cm
    4. A cotton canvas rectangle: 58cm x 47cm
    5. The strap in denim: 13cm x 70cm 
    6. A lining rectangle: 58cm x 73cm
    7. Cord for the drawstring

How to make the bag

1. Stitch the denim rectangle to the canvas rectangle to create the main body of the bag. Finish the seam and press down towards the denim. Topstitch into place. 

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2. Stitch the long sides of the body to make a tube. Finish edges and press to one side. 

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3. Create two button holes in the denim strip that will go at the top of the bag. As a guide, I left 3-4cm between them. 

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4. Finish the lower end of the strip and press up the seam allowance. Pin around the top of the bag (right side of the canvas up) and topstitch the lower seam into place. 

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5. To create the strap, fold the piece in half and stitch along the long edge and one short edge. Back stitch in the corner for extra strength. Finish the seam and clip the stitched corner. Turn the strap out to the right side and press flat.

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6. Fix the strap in place by positioning the finished end 1.5cm underneath the denim strip. Stitch into place. You may wish to stitch this part twice for added strength. 

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7. Keeping the strap straight, pin the unfinished edge to the bottom of the body.

8. Pin the denim circle base to the main body and stitch into place. You may need to slightly ease the body in to fit the circle. Finish seams.

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9. Create the lining by following steps 2 and 8. 

10. Add the cord to the top of the bag. Insert the cord through one button hole and work around the bag keeping the cord close to the bottom between the denim and canvas until you get to the other button hole. 

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11. Finish the top seams of the outer bag and the lining. Insert the outer bag into the lining, right sides together. Pin around the top and stitch using a 0.5cm seam allowance. Be sure to leave a 6-10cm gap so you can turn the bag through. 

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12. After turning the bag right sides out, push the lining down into the outer bag keeping the top edge smooth. Carefully fold under the seam allowance where the gap is and pin into place. Topstitch along the top to keep the lining in place and seal the gap. Be sure to keep the cord out of the way so you don't catch it. 

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13. Give your bag a final press. Add you yoga mat, pull the drawstring to close and finish with a bow. You're now ready to go to class! 

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Fabric Fox Creatives: Simplicity 2393

A short while ago the lovely people at The Fabric Fox asked if I would join their team of creatives and I gladly accepted. For my first make I made a cute little coat for my mum' Yorkshire Terrier who has been struggling with the cold recently. Head over to The Fabric Fox's blog for full details. There's also a quick Q&A with me which mainly centres around sewing. 

Simplicity 2393 Dog Coat for Dinky Dogs

Puffin Super Tote

This project has been a long time in the making and was my only handmade Christmas present. In the summer Frances, my Mother-in-Law, asked me to make her a bag for Christmas that could replace her preferred tote bag which was getting rather tired.

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The brief was simple: a tote of similar size, pockets on the inside and ideally one on the outside to hold a phone, pink polka dots, water proof (if possible) and the strap needed to be a certain length in order to hang just at the right length. I can appreciate this last point - there't nothing more annoying that walking with a bag that sits too high or too low. 

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Feeling a little apprehensive (I don't have much experience making bags) I spent a number of weeks researching fabrics and looking for possible patterns. I drew a blank on water proof fabric. There is plenty of it available but it would either make a bag that felt like a tent or would be an incredibly boring colour. A pink polka dot exterior was not looking likely so I opted for water resistant and searched for matt oil cloth. At Only Oilcloths, I came across these fabulous puffins (Frances loves puffins) and quickly placed an order. I paired it with pink polka dot cotton for the lining purchased from Minerva. While the oil cloth is rather sturdy, I added a layer of interfaced cotton canvas to add extra support. 

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The pattern also took some time to find. Unsurprisingly there are soooo many tote bag patterns out there and many which featured most of the spec for this bag. Eventually I came across the Super Tote by noodlehead on Instagram. Described as an extra roomy tote with a front pocket, recessed zip and interior pockets, this pattern ticked all of the boxes. It seemed you could adapt it slightly and I liked many of the versions I saw. 

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Realising that it would be impossible to cut the oilcloth without chopping a puffin in half, I made pattern matching the front pocket the top priority. The magnetic snap was added very carefully to ensure the puffins lined up as perfectly as possible. To give a sense of symmetry the gussets were cut with the same puffin at the top. Lining these pieces up it became clear that some piping was needed to allow the puffins to stand out. I made a couple of metres of narrow piping in a Robert Kauffman navy linen. I added this to the underside of the strap too. This is one detail I did change from the original pattern. Instead of two straps on the larger sides of the bag, I added a single on to the gussets. 

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Construction was easier than I anticipated. I used wonder clips for the oil cloth and basted most of the layers well into the seam allowance as I wanted to be sure it looked as planned before stitching - a test piece proved that ripped out stitches left a permanent mark in the oil cloth. The curves at the bottom of the bag are very tricky to sew so follow the recommendation to clip the seam allowance before stitching to help it line up. Adding the interior pocket was very easy although I think I may have used a slightly too short piece of elastic as the cotton bunches a lot. It doesn't stop the pockets from being fully functional though. The one area I did struggle with was adding the recessed zip pieces to the zip as I couldn't easily get them to line up. The most scary part was the final stage - adding the top stitching around the top of the bag to keep the lining in place. It's a little off in places as the oil cloth stuck to the foot despite using tissue paper to help glide it through. 

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I'll be giving this bag to Frances next weekend. Why next weekend when it was a Christmas present? A few days before Christmas I was finishing it up and noticed that the front of the bag had a large mark towards the top. On closer examination it appeared that the laminate from the oil cloth had been stripped off. I have no idea how this happened as the piece was fine throughout the making process. I quickly ordered another lot of oil cloth and wrapped an almost finished bag. It came home with me and I started the process of unpicking it in order to replace the front panel. Not an ideal situation and the unpicking took a long time but it was totally worth the effort. 

Handmade wedding stationery

Hi everyone, thanks so much for all the wedding dress love! It was great to share all the details with you and to relive the process. I have one more wedding related post.

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I wanted to share our wedding stationery which were also handmade and a joint effort between us. It was very important to me that the day reflected us as a couple and I had a strong desire to have as large a handmade element to it as possible. I stopped at the dress and the stationery as anything else would have been too much. We knew early on that we wanted the designs of our stationery to compliment each other and ideally to involve fabric - cotton as its easy to work with and also leant itself nicely to the venue. 

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The hardest part was choosing the designs. I was doing a lot of free motion embroidery at the time and realised this technique could give an interesting look. Adam was still intrigued by the Girih tiles we had seen in Lisbon during the summer and shared a few designs. A couple of trial runs later and we chose two designs - one for the Save the Dates and one for the Invitations. We had a very loose teal and purple theme to the wedding and chose a teal and purple polycotton from our local fabric store. These would be paired with metallic silver thread (more on that later). The motifs and words would be framed in a silver card and then mounted onto a A6 white card. 

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You'll see in the photos that a third motif was added at a later stage. We were struggling to come up with a nice name card design. I originally wanted to stitch the names directly onto card but the machine foot left very visible dents. When our caterers provided us with a very detailed menu for all dietary needs, Adam suggested personalised menus for everyone in exactly the same style as the others. I continued to stitch the motifs but added the third partly for speed but also to prevent boredom! While it increased the workload, I really loved being able to add this personal touch and thought they looked great on the tables. I cannot take any credit for the design of any of the insets - Adam took care of those. He managed to match the colours almost perfectly to the fabric. 

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The process of making all the motifs and words was one I both loved and loathed. Tracing the designs took rather a long time - I used carbon paper to ensure I could see the lines in the dark colours while stitching in the winter months. Drawing and cutting the silver squares and rectangles seemed to take too long too. But that was nothing compared to the fights I had with Hemline's silver metallic thread. More often than not, it was a nightmare to work with. It got stuck around the bobbin case or snapped at the needle more times than I care to remember. There were magical times when it worked in harmony with my machine and I stitched and stitched in the deluded hope it would never end. It will be a very long time, if ever, before I chose a thread like that again! 

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I love how all of the cards are the same style and how those of the same design are all unique. This is the part of handmade that pleases me the most - each item has its own personality and quirks. I was delighted to hear that they were well received and one couple pointed out that we had included something for both the seamstress and the engineer. I guess we fulfilled reflecting both us as we had hoped.

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In addition, Adam designed and made our seating plan. We decided to name our tables after some of our favourite places in Europe. Choosing a vintage inspired look, he created polaroids of the places and postcards with the names of the guests before linking them with twine to a map. We used teal pins to help tie it all together. The whole thing was secured to the wonderful architects board that comes with the venue. 

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Thanks for your patience while I shared all of these details. We will be back to more normal sewing activities from next week - tune in for an exciting giveaway! 

A free motion embroidery picture a day

Back in October, I found myself wanting to make all the free motion embroidery pictures. For a short period of time I made one a day - snatching time in the early morning or as soon as I got home. I had great fun exploring different shapes and fabrics followed by practicing colouring in using only thread and eventually illustration in all in black. I find the act of making a free motion picture to be incredibly satisfying - once you've eventually settled on your design and colours, the simpler ones come to life very quickly. It doesn't take long to get into the swing of moving the fabric under the needle to get a nice line and you can correct yourself on the second round if you go rather off the line. Here are some of the pictures made during that time. While you may have seen them on Instagram, I thought they were worth sharing here.

Vintage inspired:

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The same image in two different styles. I love how different they look.

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Fashion:

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Time for fun:

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Free Motion Embroidery Part Two

After my posting my last post, I continued experimenting with free motion embroidery. It seemed I just couldn't get enough of it that weekend! I wanted to try something different to objectives and chose people, well specifically women and a vintage theme. I pulled out a few of my fashion reference books and some crafts books for inspiration. A few sketches later and I had three patterns to try. 

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This time, I wanted to see what it would look like with treading tracing part of the picture. I chose the to focus this on the exposed body - face, hands, and legs mainly. I really like how it has come out - it allows the clothing to stand out more. I drew the lines directly on the fabric with a fine pencil. I also experimented with the fabrics used. Stable cotton fabrics work really well for this craft as they are easy to use, keep their shape and aren't too thick. Most of the fabrics are these stable cottons. However the purple boots are thick twill and the plain green is a linen-rayon mix which frays pretty badly. The linen required careful handling but I really like the result. The different texture adds a little more interest to the design. Oh, and the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that the 60s dress is a copy of this make but with sleeves! 

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I'm very pleased with how these came out. I felt much more confident guiding the fabric through the machine and I think it shows. There are some pulls lines through the fabric and I must remember to get my extension table out for the next time. I'm planning to turn a couple of them into bookmarks so they can be used rather than just sitting in a folder somewhere. I've yet to decide what to do with the 40s housewife. 

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I can't wait to get back to experimenting more. I've mostly been focussing on making clothing at the moment but I'll find a date soon I'm sure! 

Creating for the sake of creating

Sometimes my mind needs downtime. The kind where it can recharge without the pressure of deadlines, other people's priorities, and, well, just life in general. The last few weeks have been pretty intense for me - full of stress, frustration about a situation I find myself in and can't yet get out of, and some pretty good highs. In times like this, I crave a creative outlet and while I have been sewing, somehow it hasn't quite hit the spot. So yesterday, I decided to regain control and pushed aside anything I "should" have been doing in favour of creating. No instructions to follow, absolutely no need for perfection, and no need to share if it all went wrong. It was blissful! 

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I knew I wanted to experiment. To do something I wasn't that good at (to keep the pressure of getting it right at bay) and just to have fun. I choose free motion embroidery and a sewing theme because possible options sprang to mind more easily than others. I pulled some white twill from my stash, grabbed the interfacing, bondaweb and my scrap boxes, quickly printed out some sketches and got going. The pictures so the results - some more successful than others but hey, perfection and consistency were not the aims! 

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I had a blast making these. The nature of the free guiding the fabric through the machine means you have to embrace imperfection and your mistakes. They become part of the piece. There is something freeing in that. My mind is full of new potential projects and this mess of ideas and inspiration has made a welcome return. I have a two items of clothing the need finishing. They are quick jobs but they can wait a little longer - I'm still not quite ready to go back to precision. 

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How have you been spending your weekend?

Attempting curtains

Hands up – who loves home decor sewing? I don’t mean cushions, think more curtains and bedding. I’m squinting, is there anyone raising their hand? I’m amazed at those of you do.

When we bought the house, I was sure that we would buy everything we needed. I knew that all bedding would be bought after making this set for my mum. While it is pretty and making your own gives you the freedom to have something different from you can buy, the process of making bedding is super tedious – easy with those straight lines but tedious. I figured curtains would be the same experience and vowed that I would only make them to save money. So guess what happened?

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Our biggest issue this winter has been keeping the house warm. It has solid walls having been built in the 1930s and the back end of the house is open plan. While I adore the space, it can be like living in a draughty barn. Keeping the heating on seems too indulgent when adding a few furnishings would help.

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When I posted a heat proof runner I had made for the kitchen island on Facebook, someone asked me if I was making curtains from the fabric and an idea was born. The fabric is Amy Leaf furnishing fabric from John Lewis and not only is the pattern gorgeous, but so is the quality. I knew they would make great curtains for the French doors. Turns out buying curtains that size is rather expensive. Having sewing skills, and the need to spend money elsewhere, I did a few calculations and realised I could save about £125 if I made them myself.

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After getting 16m of fabric home, I got cutting. In order to make curtains the right width, I needed to add a panel to one full width of fabric. Thankfully the pattern repeat is every 25cm which made that task easier than it could have been. As ever, matching one was smooth, the other took about three attempts. I don’t like to think how much thread I lost basting and re basting that 2.5m edge. Overall, the matching is pretty good and you can’t tell where the seam is without inspecting very closely. I had intended for the curtains to match in the middle when they are drawn, that didn’t quite happen after adding the lining but they start from the same place at the top and that’s good enough for me! They are finished with matt nickel Jupiter rings which were very easy to apply directly to the fabric.

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Overall, I’m delighted with them. I’m not going to say they were fun or easy to make. Lugging that amount of fabric around for a day almost broke my physically and made my legs thought they were turning into a pin cushion as they supported the endless lengths of fabric through the machine. Totally worth the effort though. We’re now on the hunt for a bright painting or print to go on the wall next to them. While we love the various shades of grey, it is starting to feel a bit much! Will there more curtain making in my future? Quite possibly. We need to add some to our bedroom to block out the light from some inconveniently placed street lamps but I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll be able to buy them.

Becoming Mary Poppins

Last weekend, I went to the Hen Party of a good friend who is getting married at the end of this month. We went camping at a beer festival in Frocester, Gloucestershire. We've been a number of times before and it is always a great weekend but this was the first time we had gone without the boys. It was also the first time that fancy dress was needed. The theme was any Disney character, except the princesses. So many options! I eventually settled on Mary Poppins. Given that I had less than two weeks between my holiday and the hen party, I originally thought about buying my costume but they were so expensive! £60 for a full Mary Poppins costume that weren't a good likeness. 

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I was certain that I could make one for less. A quick mental search of my sewing patterns, a scan of the Minerva website, and within an hour I had a plan for a costume at half the price. I would pair the Bellatrix Blazer from Papercut with a the skirt of the Betty dress by Sew Over It. Minerva got this blue polyester bi stretch suiting to me in record time. I chose to pre wash it as I didn't want any potential shrinking in the rain at the festival, and also because there was a chance I would use the jacket in the future. As time was short, I left out any additional details and every seam is finished on the overlocker. Handstitching was kept to a minimum. 

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The skirt was incredibly simple and quick to make. I also took a number of shortcuts as I knew I wouldn't be wearing this as a normal skirt. I lengthened the Betty skirt by 15cm so it finished mid calf. Now the slightly embarrassing bit: I didn't add a waistband, opting for a bias binding finish and quickly put the zip in off centre as it turns out. Given that I would be wearing the blazer on top and no one would see it, I left it. Thankfully it all stayed in place and survived the evening. 

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I spent a lot more time on the blazer. No changes were made to the size of my first version. I forgot how much interfacing was needed for this pattern. I used a fairly tightly woven fusible one as I'm beginning to run low on interfacing. It isn't my favourite interfacing to use as it makes everything stiff and rustles as you move. However, it worked very well with the poly and was easy to work with. It gives the blazer a structured look and it feels that way when wearing it. I used some white poly from my stash to line the blazer. It was smooth to work with and gives the inside a nice finish. I added three buttons to each sleeve as Mary Poppins has but will remove them for future wears. 

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Finding a hat was the most stressful part as I had left it too late to get a straw hat to spray paint black and decorate. eBay came to the rescue when I found this shop which seems to specialise in Mary Poppins related items. I'm very thankful to Charlie060249 who fast tracked this made to measure felt hat so I would have it in time. It was the perfect addition for the outfit. 

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The red bow made from some red cotton in my stash. It is two rectangles turned right sides out and fused together and held in place with a safety pin. I borrowed an umbrella and a bag the shape of a carpet bag from a friend and wore my red shoes to finish the outfit. When I tried on the outfit at home I felt so self-conscious as this outfit is so completely out of my comfort zone. I anticipated that this would fade at the beer festival as I would be part of a group that included the Queen of Hearts, Tinkerbell, Olaf and others. I was right - it was great fun to dress up for the evening. 

Have you stitched a fancy dress costume before? If so, what did you make? 

Scrap busting: Jewellery roll

Today's make is a small scrap buster and a symptom of the fact that I cannot believe I have wait another six weeks before I can escape to a different climate. I don't often wish time away but I would be very happy if August arrived tomorrow. 

Planning what jewellery to take away with me is always a difficult task, mainly because I don't have something suitable to pack it in and know the pieces will survive travelling. Why I didn't buy a jewellery roll before now is beyond me but that doesn't matter anymore because I made one! I had some reasonably large scraps left over from my Betty Dress that were perfect for the job. It feels good to have used them rather than send them to the local textile recycling bin. 

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I loosely based my version on this tutorial by Haberdashery Fun. As I wasn't using vinyl, I wanted to cover my zip edges. I realised after I stitched one side of each zip that the roll would be too small if I repeated this action on the other side. Luckily I had a few short ends of bias tape in my stash that matched the fabric and I made a design feature from the zips. Well, I use design feature loosely - I was mainly playing around having fun and not really worrying about how it turned out. I think it has come out ok, I like how the colours all work together. 

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The tutorial calls for two layers of batting and I would agree with this if you have a thinner option than mine. This roll is pretty thick, too thick for my personal preference - one layer would have been enough but at least I can rest assured that some of my most loved and sentimental pieces will travel safely. Because of the thickness, I chose not to add bias binding to the edges. The tie is a long piece of white ribbon I have no idea how I got. Do you find that with ribbon? I have loads of it but I'm not sure how as I don't buy it. The end is finished with a piece of silver bias binding to prevent fraying. 

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There's not much more to say about this piece except it is a great stash buster and a very quick make. I went from cutting to completion in about 2 hours at a leisurely pace while working out the design details. So there you are, a happy little piece of tiny travel luggage. How do you use your scraps?

A polo shirt for my dad

Do you remember my crazy but self-imposed 11 projects on the go at the back of last year? I still have a two selfless makes to share with you and today's post is the first of them.

The story of this creation started when I offered to make Dad a shirt for his birthday. As the discussion went on about what pattern to choose, it became clear that Dad was searching for a long sleeved polo shirt that fitted him well and thus the journey began. After hours of searching, no pattern, modern or vintage, fitted the bill. The only option left to me was to trace off one of his ready to wear shirts. 

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Tracing RTW is a relatively simple process as long as you have enough space to work in and are able to lay the item fully flat. The trickiest part was getting a clean line through the thick seams around the neckline due to the collar. The sleeves also took some time as they are a single piece and I needed to flip them carefully once I had traced one side. 

Sourcing the fabric can only be described as an epic hunt. I had no idea it was so difficult to find decent pique knit in the UK. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong places but I spent hours trying to find it before eventually stumbling upon Jorsey Fabrics based in Nottingham. Ordering from them wasn't the best experience I've had with online fabric suppliers. When I opened the package I discovered that they had cut the fabric very oddly - I had been sent an extra 50cm in the middle of the fabric with a 15cm gap at the selvedges but thankfully this was over the amount I had ordered. The collar and cuffs came from them too and they are of good quality, although the cuffs are a little narrower than I would have liked. Overall the knit was easy to work with but unpicking was difficult. The stitches disappeared into the weave and it was easy to nick the fabric with the seam ripper. 

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To create the button placket I followed this tutorial which annoyingly I now can't find so I'm unable to share it. I remember the process being reasonably straightforward although creating a clean finish on the outside was tricky as the fabric being sandwiched between layers refused to stay in place.

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The cuffs have been added twice, and to be honest, I expected this to happen. You see, Dad is a little particular about the length of his sleeves. He's generally relaxed about the rest of an item but not the sleeves. I remember shopping with him when I was younger and becoming increasingly bored as he worked out whether the cuffs landed in the right place. To be fair, it probably took just a few minutes for him to decide but when you're a teenager that feels like forever! Anyway, the good news is the cuffs are now exactly where he wants them and that is how it should be. I wouldn't have been happy giving him an item that wasn't right for him.

I'm pleased that he likes the shirt and I hope that it gets a reasonable amount of wear. He also sweetly agree to model the shirt for the photos citing this was his "15 minutes of fame." Little did he realise that I would force him out on a cold day so we could get photos in natural daylight...

The Hungry Caterpillar quilt

I’ve made another quilt. This is the final baby project that I worked on the back end of last year. I came across the Hungry Caterpillar fabrics by Eric Carle, produced by Andover, a while ago and knew that I wanted to create something with them. I snatched up a fat quarter pack and set about finding a good quilt pattern.

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I found this fantastic I-spy quilt, made from a disappearing nine square block. I loved the neat lines and bright colours - it seemed perfect. There is a lot of cutting involved to create the top: 88 centre squares, 88 black squares, 22 turquoise squares, 22 black rectangles and 20 small turquoise squares. I managed to cut them out in a couple of hours with some music on. Once you get in the zone, it is amazing how quickly the piles of cut fabric mount up. I deliberated for quite a bit whether using black was a good idea. I needed a colour that would make the caterpillar material pop and from all of the cotton in my stash, the black was the only one that seemed to work. The turquoise is the left overs from the baby kimonos

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Stitching the squares was easy, although a little repetitive as I worked in assembly mode. Every piece that needed to be stitched was pinned before it went through the machine to make sure I lined up the seams well. I used the chain stitch method, where you leave a few stitches between each piece instead of cutting the threads, as it is a great time saver. The pinning probably doubled the time I spent of the top but it was worth it. I’m rather pleased with how well the seams line up on the majority of squares - they aren’t perfect but you can’t see any that are very noticeably off. This also means that my cutting was pretty accurate. Accuracy is key to patchwork I've discovered, and definitely worth spending time on. 

I made sure that I didn’t rush the section where you slice your nine square blocks through the middle, both horizontally and vertically, to create four new pieces. It was slightly nerve racking as I was out of black cotton by this point but thankfully the inside seams were level enough to produce a good result.

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The backing is a recycled beige duvet cover. Pinning the batting and the backing wasn’t as hard as my first quilt attempt. I laid all of the layers over the ironing board and worked line by line. I found it much easier to smooth out the fabric this way than placing the whole thing on the floor. I wanted to keep the quilting pattern simple. I stitched around each square. Yep, all 88 of them. Tedious doesn’t even cover it! And that doesn't take into account the unpicking of many wonky seams. I was very glad to finish the final square. The quilt is bound with bought bias tape as I had run out of turquoise fabric and honestly couldn’t face making 5m of binding after all that quilting. The colour isn’t a perfect match but it is close enough to some of the blues in the squares. I used my blind hem foot to help give an even edge stitch throughout. 

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The quilt was a surprise gift for our friends who have recently had a little boy. It's now making its way to them but I'm still a little unsure about the black! 

Baby clothing

There comes a time in life when you realise you’re growing up - you become surrounded by friends and colleagues who are pregnant. At last count, I knew of four. And we all know what that means, don’t we? It is time to crack out the little patterns and whip up something cute. 

A friend has recently had a little girl, and a colleague is expecting one early in the New Year. I wanted to try a different pattern to the sailors dresses I made (here and here) and had heard about this baby kimono from Vairë Gwîr. 

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I purchased a meter of Acacia by Free Spirit fabric with a meter of plain turquoise for the bias binding to make the 0-6m size. As I was cutting out the first one, I realised that I could get two out the fabric and promptly cut another. I still have fabric left over from both fabrics - that’s how small they are!

You need to draft the pattern, all two pieces of it, but this isn’t a big deal as a clear diagram and the measurements are provided in the instructions. The pieces are made up of straight and diagonal lines only. Construction took longer than I expected though. Admittedly I was repeating each step twice and I opted to make my own bias binding as the turquoise matched perfectly, but it still felt like I was spending a lot of time on them for their size and that they are essentially straight lines. 

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All seams are overlocked and are smooth so shouldn’t irritate young skin. The fiddliest bit was creating the two bias straps on either side of the kimono - my machine wanted to eat the fabric but eventually I tamed its appetite. The sleeves are hemmed by folding over a couple of times and stitching into place. 

I’m completely in love with them. Their size is almost unbelievable and look like they have been made for a teddy bear (yes, I know babies are small when they have just been born!). Despite the perceived length of time it took to create them, I would definitely dig out this pattern again. 

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My other colleague is expecting a little boy and I made another pair of baby dungarees. I found this beautiful dark navy blue cord with little teddy bears on it in Barry’s during the SewBrum meet up. I just couldn’t resist it. I paired it with a plain light olive cotton for the lining. 

I don’t have much to say about the construction as I covered it all in my first post. This is the third time that I have made this pattern, and it just gets easier with every creation. Ensuring that you can’t see the lining on the pockets is still the trickiest part and is something for me to improve the next time I make these. There will be a next time - I’m not yet over this pattern! 

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And the fourth make? I’ll share that with you later as it deserves a post of its own. It’s a little different to everything else I’ve made for tiny people. I’m also on the hunt for new patterns. Do you have a favourite baby pattern to make? If so, please do share the link below. 

My first adventure making bed linen

On Monday I made reference to a duvet cover I was making my mum for her birthday. Well, here it is, complete with pillow cases and a peak of my bedroom. Well, I had to check it fitted!

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My brief was pastel colours and little flowers. I started looking for extra wide fabric as this is a king size cover. Somehow, none of the fabrics seemed quite right so I moved back to normal width cottons. I came across this beautiful floral print at Croft Mill and decided to match it with a cream cotton. You may notice from the photos that this cover isn't cream but a pale green. I had a slight accident when pre-washing them - a small, cheap blue scarf was hiding in the machine and I didn't spot it until I pulled the fabric out. It was quite a surprise but I rolled with it as luckily mum loves green! 

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To create the panels, I cut the newly green fabric in half and keep the floral as it came. Unfortunately the green shrank by a couple of centimetres meaning I needed to make full use of the selvages and reduce the seam allowances to 5mm. All the seams are overlocked for a nice finish. A pale purple ribbon, attached with a narrow zig zag stitch, finishes the cover nicely as well as hiding the seam lines. 

I had planned a cream back to the cover. However, this looked odd with the green. I opted for a dark purple sheet from Dunelm Mill instead. It felt a bit weird buying a new sheet just to chop it up but I'm pleased I did. 

The pillow cases follow the same pattern but the under side is green. 

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As you would expect, this was a simple project although it did take longer than I expected. I figured that long straight lines would be quick but the volume of fabric slows you down a bit. I can't say I'm a convert to sewing my own bed linen but it is nice to have options and know that I can create something if I can't find it in the shops. 

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Have you ever sewed bed linen? 

Scrap busting: Passport cover

Im currently on holiday in Barcelona (yay! sun, sea and tapas!). When I go away I'm forever struggling to identify my passport from the others I am looking after. So I made a cover for mine. Making this cover is a very quick project - it took me about 30 minutes.

What you need:

Main fabric

Lining fabric

Popper

Cut a 34cm x 16.5cm rectangle in both your main and lining fabric. Cut another rectangle, this time 12cm x 6cm, in your main fabric.

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With right sides together pin the large rectangles together. Stitch using a 5mm seam allowance but make sure to leave a 5cm gap on one side.

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Cut off the corners being careful not to catch any of the stitching.

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Turn out the right way and press. Slip stitch the gap closed.

Take the smaller rectangle, this will form the fastening tab. Fold in half, right sides together and stitch one short edge and the long one using a 5mm seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance and turn out. Press and top stitch.

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Go back to your main cover and press in half. Then fold each edge towards the centre so you have a 6cm overlap. Press.

Now you need to work out where the fastening tab will go. Fold under the raw edge of the tab about 1.5cm. Fold the cover in half and place the tab over it so it is even on the front and back. Pin the back in place.

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Stitch in place near to the edge of the tab and the end of the raw edge. Add the popper to the back side of the tab and the front of the cover.

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Finally, top stitch all the way round the cover making sure you move the tab out of the way.

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You should have something that looks like this.

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Magpie Collection reveal

Do you remember the outfits I made for the Magpie hair collection last year? Well, I can finally share the photos!

I'm really pleased with how they have come out. While you can't see the whole outfit in any of the photos, the key details are captured. I won't go into the details of the construction as you find that in the posts from last year (first and second). 

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The simplicity of this outfit has been captured beautifully. It is completely black in order to keep the emphasis on the model's blonde hair. When I first heard that we had a blonde model I was unsure how it would work but work it did with the differing tones in the hair and the curves of the make up. 

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This was my favourite outfit to make and I'm thrilled at how well the blue has come out in this photo. You can see a lot of the detail in the lace too. While you can't see the full circle skirt you can still sense that this is a Victorian Gothic inspired dress. 

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I'm really happy that this top looks straight in the photo. I spent so long trying to get the lines even between shots that I was convinced they would look off in the photos! I think this is the hair-outfit combination that works best. I love how the sharp lines of the hair match the lines of the top and the way the green and blue hues compete for attention with the white stripe reminds me of the folded wings of a Magpie. 

Making the outfits and attending the shoot was great fun. I learnt a lot on the set - there is so much more to think about than I originally thought. Although it took a while to put the outfits together, I could potentially be persuaded to do it again! How about you - would you create, or have you created, an outfit for a photo shoot? 

Credits:

Hair: Andreea Dumitru hair design

Make up: Lilian Komor Makeup

Photography: Nicola Belson

Sewing for small people

Within the last two weeks, two of my friends welcomed tiny daughters to the world. While I'm delighted for them both, I also loved the fact it gave me an excuse to make tiny clothes!

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First, I made another Seaside Sailor Dress as I absolutely adored the first one I made. The fabric for this dress came completely out of my stash. I used some of the left over peacock cotton lawn for the dress and lining and a thick white cotton for the collar with the lawn as the under layer. The dress has nine pieces in total - six for the bodice, which is amazing for how small it is! The skirt is a small rectangle that is gathered at the waistband. 

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I used the same embroidery stitch on the collar as I did on the first. Annoyingly the machine skipped a few stitches which meant I had to fill in the gaps by hand. I chose an ivory thread for the button holes as the light blue one I had hoped to use kept breaking midway through. I think they match the buttons pretty well and compliment the colours in the feathers. 

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The dress is 3-6 months. I had enough fabric to go up a size but with spring and summer on the way, it seemed sensible to chose a size that the baby could wear during those months. If you're looking for a very quick pattern which offers a wide range of customisation options that I would really recommend this one. It is so quick to cut and sew. 

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I chose a very different pattern and look for the other baby. I loved the Little Bird Romper pattern from Puperita that Kelly made last year and as this little girl will be growing up on a farm, dungarees seemed a perfect idea! I bought some lovely, soft black and red polka dot needlecord from Darn It and Stitch (they have a wonderful range of bright colours as well) and a bright red cotton for the lining. 

This pair is aged 6 months and I managed to get the full pattern comfortably out of a meter of each fabric, even taking into account the nap of the needlecord. Construction wise, this is fairly simple and the instructions are clear. The only time I got confused was when I turned the pockets through - it didn't say what to do with the gap so I slipstitched them closed before edge stitching them into place. The front features one large pocket, while the back has two smaller ones - they are quite hard to see in the pictures as I somehow managed to almost match the dots. I promise they really are there. The dungarees are fully lined and interfacing is only needed for the leg bands. 

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I was a little worried about sewing with the needlecord as I didn't want to crush it. It went through the machine ok and survived light pressing but didn't hold up so well when I created the buttonholes. You can't really see the marks but I know there are there! The cotton, though, caused me some alarm. When I pressed it, it turned a very dark red even at a low temperature. It lasted about 10 minutes before returning to its original colour. I used the left over heart buttons that I used on my Mathilde as they match the red dots and lining perfectly. 

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I love both of these outfits but I just can't stop stroking the needlecord. It really is that soft! I just hope it is hardwearing enough. They are now safely packaged up to be posted on Monday and sadly that marks the end of my dose of sewing for tiny people for a while. 

Completed: Lace Laurel

What do you do with a pattern that you really like but your first attempt failed dramatically? I kept it at the back of my mind for nearly a year and waited until an idea came to me. It finally arrived a couple of weekends ago when I went to Goldhawk Road with KellyJen and Daniela. I spotted a gorgeous piece of lace that screamed "buy me!" and wouldn't stop yelling until I had parted with my cash. I knew it was time to dig Laurel out again. 

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My first attempt with Laurel didn't go well, nor did my second which is why it hasn't made it to the blog. But this time would be different, I was sure of it. I have wanted a lace top for a long time but I'm super picky when choosing which piece to buy. It is either the wrong colour or I don't like the flowers. Thank goodness there was 1.5m of this cotton crochet lace left on the bolt. I might have cried if there was less. I chose a teal fabric to go underneath the bodice. I knew it had to be a bright colour and was constantly being drawn to the different shades of teal. I'm not fully certain what fabric it is. I suspect it is a poly mix but it has a good drape and is lovely to touch. 

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Key to making this top work was getting the fit right. The poor fit of my other Laurels is the primary reason why I don't wear them much, if at all. I needed to lose a lot of the ease so I used the finished measurements that best matched mine and then went up a size. The pattern in the lace isn't dart friendly so I chose to remove all of them. The teal doesn't feature them either as I underlined the bodice to keep the seam allowances out of sight. This was my first time eliminating all darts from a pattern. For the back ones, I measured the width of the dart and then removed it from the side seam, drawing a line from the armscye to the hem. For the front, I slashed the bust dart through the middle to the apex. I then cut a straight line from just below the apex to the hem before pivoting the left side of the pattern so the bottom line of the original dart matched the centre of it. I also removed the back seam and lowered the armscye a little. This is one of the biggest issues I have this pattern - the sleeves are just too high, feel restrictive and don't allow for a lot of movement. Lowering them slightly has made such a difference. I no longer feel like there is too much fabric fighting for space under my armpit. To account for the change, I added a little extra to the sleeve cap to ensure the sleeves still fitted perfectly.

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The teal frayed badly, so much so I'm still finding threads throughout our flat despite a thorough clean up. To prevent any of the frays escaping, I bound all of the seams and the hem using the same fabric. The binding is cut on grain rather than the bias (not enough left over fabric) but it seems to be flexible enough to cope with the curves of the neckline and the arms. This took a while as I slip stitched one side of each seam to give me extra control in making sure nothing could escape. 

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I've worn this top a couple of times. I'm very pleased with the overall fit, it doesn't feel too loose or too snug. I can pull it on and off without any problems. I love having the extra movement in the sleeves and that the scallops hit perfectly at my elbows. It is lightweight and perfect for the spring days that seem to be arriving with more frequency here. 

It seems Laurel has finally made up with me.

A fight just before Christmas

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a good evening saying goodbye to 2013 and welcoming 2014. We had a lovely relaxed evening in Derby with some friends, just what was needed after a pretty busy year. I wanted to share the other two Christmas presents that I made. I hope you don't mind seeing late makes from last year - there are a couple of posts still to come!

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First is a dressing gown that my Mum asked for. It came with a few requests - must be made out of cotton (this is a summer dressing gown), long and lilac. Lilac was very important. I chose Kiwi Sew 3644 for the pattern. It is a classic dressing gown with a few options for customising. After a few hours of looking online for the perfect fabric I decided to make most of the gown in Kona solid lilac and Petite Flowers by Petite Street, which is light grey and has different coloured flowers. 

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There isn't much to say about the construction, it was rather simple to complete. I made an minor alteration to the front as the sizes were slightly off - either too big or too small. Cutting out took a while as the pieces are sooooo long! Once I got past that the whole thing came together without a hitch in less than hour as it mostly just long single lines for the seams. The most involved part was adding the cuffs and the pockets. Mum was very happy with the fabric choices and tried it on Christmas Eve - it fitted perfectly. Now we just need the warmer weather so it can come out of the wardrobe. 

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Dad travels a lot and I decided to make him this fabric garment bag that I spotted on Pinterest. The tale of this make is in stark contrast to the dressing gown!

First, there are a lot of pieces. You need to cut almost the same number in the outer fabric, inner fabric and batting. You also need to measure out every piece. I wanted this bag to be waterproof and found some great waterproof backed PU fabric from Remnant House. To give it added interest (and because I don't do plain linings) I chose a white cotton with blue circles for the inner fabric.  

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If you are planning to make something like this, I recommend that you read the tutorial thoroughly before starting. I did but still got a little lost midway through as it calls for you to place all the pieces together so you can neaten the edges to the same size. What it didn't say was to then separate them. I got completely confused! I would also think very carefully about your fabric choice. I knew this bag would be thick in places but I didn't anticipate it becoming a monster! It was an absolutely nightmare to sew the entire thing together. It took about 30 minutes for one side and the same again for the other. I had to use a slow speed to prevent skipped stitches and there were moments where I was worried my poor little machine wouldn't be able to cope. Luckily we both survived without any broken needles but my hands still have the many scratch marks from all of the pins needed. This is the reason why my corners aren't as neat as they should be but the thought of unpicking and then pushing my machine to sew that lot again just wasn't an option. 

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The tutorial states for batting to be included in the handles. I skipped this part. I tried to make them but I just couldn't get them to turn out right and as I was literally burning the midnight oil I thought it was best for everyone if I left out the batting. The handles seem very sturdy without it. You also need separating zips, which took a while to track down. I'm pleased I used them but I think you can use other heavy weight zips if you can't find them. 

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As with my brother's bag I was a little worried about how this would be received. I don't know why as Dad absolutely loved it and showed it to everyone who came round to visit over Christmas. 

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I was lucky enough to get sewing related gifts - the Robson coat and Bellatrix blazer patterns, Fit for Real People and a couple of Craftsy courses. I was very excited about all of them and then my brother gave me a belated present. Meet Jessica! I can't wait to test a few items on her. 

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