Painted Lady Butterfly Needle Painting

With barely a breathe after completing the Pansies, I had my next thread painting project lined up. That's the great thing about being a beginner again, your enthusiasm is sky high and you can't wait to get your hands on the next project. Having had success with an Emillie Ferris pattern, I saw no reason to deviate from this path and selected her Painted Lady Butterfly. 

Painted Lady Butterfly needle painting embroidery pattern by Emillie Ferris.jpg

This piece features 15 colours and provides ample opportunities to attempt shading between colours. As I wanted to focus on the technique, I followed the colour suggestions and the instructions - up to a point. The instructions for this pattern are just as good as the pansies and you feel as though your hand is being held at every stage. The thread colour guide and visual guide are super useful in helping to determine where the colours should merge as you progress. 

You begin with the leaves, flowers, and French knots. I chose to leave the white French knots to the end as they are closet to the butterfly's outline and I didn't want to disrupt and distort them as I worked on the wings. I also reduced the number of them - in Emillie's original design the knots go further towards the centre of the right lower wing but I felt this was too much and focused them on the empty stems. To prevent them getting lost in the design and to give a more pronounced 3D effect, I wound the thread four-five times per knot. 

Painted Lady Butterfly thread painting embroidery.jpg

For the butterfly, you work on the lower wings, the body, and then the upper wings with each wing being completed separately. My process differed from the instructions and I worked the lower wings at the same time. I thought it would be easier to work with a single colour on each side to try and achieve a more symmetrical look. While I achieved the desired look, I ran into difficulties as the calico buckled in the centre leaving bumps which prevented a smooth surface for the body. I managed to smooth it out with some gentle stretching of the calico in the frame but was reluctant to go too far in case it warped the shape of the wings. Lesson learnt for next time. The upper wings were completed separately and while the calico remained smooth, I didn't quite achieve the same symmetry. In line with my aim to focus on the technique, I used a single strand of black to fill up the big areas. You could use two strands but I was worried that the thread would twist preventing a smooth finish and actually taking longer to complete as a result.

Butterfly silk shading embroidery art hoop.jpg

The background is a piece of old calico from a toile. I enjoyed stitching on this much more than the cotton sheet of the pansies. I found it offered less resistance to the needle and the thread seems to sit on the surface better. I love the more muted and textured background it provides. It did absorb the penciled outline though, making it very difficult to work out the distinct areas. I had to retrace the upper wings which was tricky when half the piece was already stitched and is probably a contributing factor to the different shapes in them. 

Butterfly embroidery pattern by Emillie Ferris.jpg

Despite the tension issues in the calico, I'm really pleased with how this piece came out. My stitching is much more even and nearly all of them follow the direction they should. It was easier to complete and I think this is because there are fewer curves and changes in stitch direction. If I stitched it again, I would try to achieve a more blended look in the wings as the colours are more in more defined blocks although I don't think that takes away from the piece. The completed butterfly now hangs proudly with the pansies and cherry blossom on our bedroom wall - it's really lovely to be able to see my completed works frequently. 

Winnie the Pooh Kindle cover

Today's project started with the fabric. In early December, I saw some beautiful Winnie the Pooh fabrics by Visage Textiles in John Lewis and knew immediately that I had to purchase them. The set features five designs and the questions were which project, which combination of cottons and for whom would I make something for. My mum was the obvious candidate as she's a big Disney fan and luckily she had mentioned she needed a new kindle case. 

Winnie the Pooh handmade Kindle Cover.jpg

I went back to the shop and spent a very long time considering the designs. I eventually settled on the pale green one featuring Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger engaging in a number of activities. This would be the outer cover. I chose the white one featuring only Pooh, content with his honeypot and balloons to act as the complementary lining. I purchased half a metre of both. The cotton is of excellent quality and supple when washed. 

Vsage Textiles Winnie the Pooh Honey Pot cotton fabric Kindle cover.jpg

I played a little loose with the size. After making a card template of the kindle's size, I added a few centimetres around it. I then double the length, added seam allowance and an additional centimetre to allow for the centre fold and for turning the cover through the right side. Two layers of stiff sew in interfacing provide the cover's structure while a single layer of fleece cut from an old dressing gown provides some cushioning. To lift the cover's colours and to add a nice detail, I chose a sage green piping made from thin cord and bought bias binding. The elastic is a sturdy sports elastic with a light blue zigzag as it complemented the fabric more than plain white which looked too stark. 

Winnie the Pooh honey pot lining for kindle cover.jpg

Construction was fairly simple. I basted the piping to the outer green cotton and then the elastic to the outer edges. The various fabrics were then layered: white cotton lining right side up, green cotton right side down, interfacing, fleece, interfacing. As it resembled a giant fabric sandwich, wonder clips kept everything in place. I used a denim needle to work through the thick layers and left a large gap in the stitching at the bottom away from the centre fold which was slip stitched into place after turning. Stitching smooth curves was tricky due to the number of layers. Turning through was the hardest part as I wanted to minimise the number of creases in the interfacing and not tear the more delicate cotton. The inside elastics were anchored very securely by hand. 

Visage Textiles Winnie the Pooh and Friends cotton fabrc Kindle Cover.jpg

Thankfully the kindle fits in perfectly and sits safely in the elastic holds. I'm fond of this project as the fabric are playful, uplifting, and fun - the perfect background for escaping into a good novel. 

Pansies embroidery hoop

Favouring slower paced creative endeavours at the back end of last year, I continued with my very early experimentation with embroidery. After being blown away by the works of art in the thread painting community on Instagram, I wanted to give it a go to see if I could pull it off. I wasn't fully confident. The artistic skills of drawing, painting, and shading have always eluded me due to a lack of patience in getting a good result and the seemingly never ending practice it takes. Hence the focus on sewing and cross stitch where you can often see results and improvement quickly. 

Pansy needle painting hoop art, design by Emillie Ferris.jpg

I chose the Pansies pattern by Emillie Ferris. I was drawn to the individual flowers which allow you to complete small sections at a time but with a good sense of progress as you tick off the flowers. And who could resist the bright colours? 

Multiple pansy embroidery using long and short stitch.jpg

The pattern states that while some embroidery experience would be beneficial, it isn't necessary. From trying this pattern alone, I agree. Emillie's instructions are brilliant. The PDF file contains pages of detailed instructions on how to trace the pattern onto fabric, how to create long and short stitch, the best areas to begin stitching and why, which colours to use where and each step is accompanied by a full colour in progress picture. In addition, there are useful tips on how to achieve a neat blended finish when you add the next row of stitching. The level of detail provided is reassuring as you start out and as you progress to larger and more complicated pansies.  

Pansy needle painting hoop art.jpg

Long and short stitch did not come naturally to me. I struggled to get a natural, realistic effect when blending colours and achieving smooth curves to reflect real life petals boggled me. The advice to pencil in some stitching guidelines helped a little. Determined to see what the final result would be, I persevered and eventually it became easier. I discovered that if I could get the stitch angles right around the edges of the petals as I covered the split stitch outlines, I would achieve a better curve. If I stopped worrying about filling the space properly as I went along the line, I could get a more natural look by filling the gaps later. 

Small pansy thread painting embroidery. Design by Emillie Ferris.jpg

If you look closely, you can see the improvement in my stitching play out in the flowers. Clinging to the instructions to guide me, the lower flowers were completed first before moving anti-clockwise finishing with the yellow and purple pansy at the top left. The earlier flowers are a little lumpy as the thread twisted and overlapped more than the later flowers. They are also more uneven in shape as I didn't get as sharp a line over the split stitch outline and they have more gaps. 

Pansy embroidery hoop art created through thread painting.jpg

Despite my lack of confidence and ability in shading, I found stitching the flower faces where the darker colours blend into the lighter background to be the most satisfying. Through the placement of some carefully positioned longer stitches the flower came together. I enjoyed experimenting with these longer stitches to see the different effects that could be achieved. Again, I think you can see the improvements in blending in the pansies stitched towards the end of the piece. 

Long and short stitch embroidery art.jpg

I chose to stitch onto an old cotton bed sheet which sounded just like a tambourine when pulled taught in the hoop. The threads are DMC of varying qualities. The lighter yellows twisted more than the others - I originally thought it was my stitching at the beginning but it continued as the piece went on. I had no issues with any of the other colours. 

Emillie Ferris Multi Pansy Embroidery Hoop Art.jpg

While it isn't perfect, I'm proud of this starter piece. I love how you can improvement as I practised and its shortcomings in all their glory. The imperfections are what makes a handmade piece special.  The pansies will shortly be hung in our bedroom with the completed cherry blossom hoop and my next project - the Painted Lady Butterfly also by Emillie Ferris. If you're interested to see how this is coming along, I'm sharing regular updates on Insta stories

Nightmare Before Christmas Stocking

Every now and then you come across a make that is simultaneously super exciting and slightly crazy. For years I have wanted to make something personal for Adam, but the right project eluded me. One magical day in October, while browsing Etsy for inspiration, I come across a cross stitch pattern for a stocking featuring the cast of the Nightmare Before Christmas - a favourite film for Adam. It was perfect. But could something this detailed be delivered in time? I did a quick calculation: a PDF pattern + some DMC threads at home to begin + Aida bought on the way home that evening = might *just* be possible. The trickiest part would be stitching this in secret but I could utilise the couple of hours that I have on my own before Adam gets home in the evening and, if needs be, put in a couple of early mornings. 

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Counted Cross Stitch Stocking.jpg

I purchased the pattern from ExclusiveXPatterns who have some great cross stitch designs. As the design is aimed at those with some experience in counted cross stitch, the PDF download is very basic - the pattern prints fine but the rest of the files containing the colour key, instructions, and letter chart are not well formatted for easy printing on A4 nor do they provide a photo of the finished product. However, you have everything you need to get going. The size of the stocking is provided for 14 count Aida. I chose to use 16 count as I felt the smaller sized stitches would bring out the intense detail more. The design calls for 29 different colours, with some used sparingly for highlight details, and most are quite muted in various hues of black, grey, blue and brown. 

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Cross Stitch Stocking. Close up of Jack Skellington.jpg

Progress ebbed and flowed over the eleven weeks it took for me to complete this. I chose to work methodically: starting on the left hand side and working across to the right, one full page at a time. The first two pages were the easiest due to the large blocks of colour which are quick to count out and to complete as it didn't require continuous rethreading of the needle. The pattern is entirely made of full stitches which also helps to speed things up. I enjoyed the fact the main man, Jack Skellington, started to come to life on the second page. 

Nightmare Before Christmas Counted Cross Stitch Stocking. Sally in detail. Pattern by ExclusiveXPatterns on Etsy.jpg

The third and fourth pages were the opposite - they contained a huge amount of detail and very quickly became frustrating as they are made up of small to minute blocks of colour separated by many other small blocks of different colours. It was very easy to miss a couple of stitches and it felt like I found a skipped stitch every time I looked at it. Due to the level of detail here and my constant close inspection to find holes, I found it very difficult to see the design taking shape until I reviewed the in progress photos I had been periodically taking. Suddenly I understood how the intricate changing of colours had brought Jack's hands to life. 

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Counted Cross Stitch Stocking Santa detail.jpg

By the end of November, I was finally able to move on to the bottom of the stocking and complete pages five to seven. This section came together fairly quickly as the design didn't take up a full page and larger blocks of colour returned for speedier stitching. I greatly enjoyed the palette change with the focus on much brighter colours. Before I knew it Santa Claus had made an appearance and I was on the home straight. I finally finished the stitching on 15th December after putting in more 5.30am mornings than I care to admit. 

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Stocking. Counted Cross Stitch pattern by ExclusiveXPatterns on Etsy.jpg

In keeping with the colour theme, the stocking is mounted on deep purple cotton. Due to the size of the stocking, I wanted to keep as much of the stitching on show as possible and lost only 5mm when stitching it to the cotton. It is finished with a brown ribbon for hanging. My only, tiny regret in this project is that I completed it on cream Aida as this was all I could get at the time. Surprisingly, it hasn't shown through the dark stitches but it is visible in places at the edges where it is stitched to the cotton.

After putting in so much time and effort, I became slightly anxious that this was a risky gift. On Christmas morning, I realised I needn't had worried as Adam loved it. "It seems such a shame that it will be put away for eleven months of the year." That's the best response I could have hoped for. 

Father Christmas Felt Applique Stocking

While it may have been quiet over here for a while, the last few weeks of 2018 saw an almost endless stream of creative activity as I completed seven Christmas presents and made a large number of fabric wrapping bags in an attempt to make gift giving a little more sustainable. It was wonderful to get lost in fabric, felt, thread and patterns again. I'll be sharing most of them here but may mix up the timing a little, focussing for now on the most festive makes. 

Finished Dimensions Felt Applique Sequin Santa Christmas Stocking.jpg

Felt is a popular fabric at Christmas and I admire decorations made with it. I had been longing to attempt something more complex than small penguins that hang from the tree and making a stocking for Adam's four year old godson seemed to be the prefect way forward. As I'm not that experienced in using felt, I knew I wanted a kit and got slightly lost down the rabbit hole. Have you seen some of the kits? They are incredible! We wanted something playful that would last throughout his childhood and chose Father Christmas as the main character. Having seen a few previous versions, I selected Dimensions Felt Appliqué Sequin Santa Christmas Stocking and purchased it from Sew Essential. 

Dimensions Felt Applique Sequin Father Christmas Stocking Personalised Name.jpg

The kit contains everything you need except the stuffing. The instructions detail the steps to complete the stocking (think of it as painting by numbers for felt) as well as diagrams on the various hand stitches you will need to master as the stocking is made completely by hand. I would recommend reading through the full instructions before getting going. On the advice of many bloggers who had previously created a stocking, I did follow the instructions but there were a few steps where I mixed up the order as it made more sense to me and seemed easier to add details without the large stuffed areas getting in the way. All of the pieces come numbered and printed onto the right colour felt for cutting out. You have the choice of cutting them out at the beginning or as you go along. I chose the latter as the numbers are on the outside of each piece and I would lose track quickly of which piece was which number. In addition, cutting them as needed meant they remained neat and didn't accidentally stretch or become warped. 

Dimensions Felt Applique Father Christmas Stocking Hat.jpg

I loved creating this. It becomes personal right from the start which is where you add the name of the recipient and a long line of sequins. I diverged from the original stitch as I just couldn't get it to work around the curves. I've forgotten the name of the stitch but essentially you make a stitch and pull the needle up mid way through that stitch on a particular side, make a new stitch and repeat. The end result looks like twisted rope. I used split stitch instead which gave me much better control in creating smooth curves. Father Christmas comes to life fairly quickly in stages: hat, face, and beard.

Dimensions Felt Applique Sequin Santa Stocking Face and Body.jpg

There's a surprising amount of work in the hat and the cheeks require careful long stitches but the majority of the time is spent on the beard. I didn't make this stage easy for myself. Compared to the finished photo in the kit, I overstuffed all parts that required it to bring Father Christmas more to life. The consequence was the stitching lines in the beard were harder to complete and required careful work to ensure the tension on the thread wasn't too much. The part I found the hardest was keeping the points of the smaller stars sharp and in place while I stitched. Adding the sequins was especially satisfying and quick to do once you got into the rhythm. 

Dimensions Felt Applique Sequined Father Christmas Stocking Beard.jpg

Another consequence of overstuffing was the front of the stocking rippled with the stitching lines. In addition, you end up with a lot of thread on the back side. To prolong the life of the stocking and to ensure that no presents would accidentally pull a piece of thread, I added a protective layer of felt to the front before adding the back. Stitching through three layers of felt was a breeze compared to the beard! I didn't clock watch, I estimate the entire project took about 22-24 hours to complete. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it - it was one of those projects that you just couldn't wait to pick up again. 

Dimensions Felt Applique Sequined Santa Stocking Completed Front.jpg

A first attempt at embroidery

This summer, Adam and I were fortunate enough to finally take our honeymoon (about 15 months late!) While we had planned to spend the majority of the time sightseeing and exploring stunning scenery and cities, I knew that I would get the crafting itch if I didn't take a project with me. I needed something small and light. The obvious solution was something I could hand stitch. I pondered taking the half finished cross stitch projects that are tucked away in the study but they didn't appeal. For a start they were quite heavy but I really wanted something that would remind me of our holiday. It was time for me to finally try embroidery. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery hoop.JPG

As a complete embroidery beginner, I wanted a pretty but not too challenging design. After browsing Instagram for inspiration I chose the Cherry Blossom by Oh Sew Bootiful. I was drawn to the clean design and the modern photographic background printed onto cotton - it really helps the colours to pop. The kit contains everything you need to get going: a hoop, the design preprinted onto cotton, padding to sit behind the cotton, two needles, embroidery threads, floss to finish the hoop and a couple of instruction sheets to teach you the four stitches in this design: satin stitch, split stitch, straight stitch, and french knots.

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery hoop kit.jpg

I followed the order of stitching included in the guide. I completed the flowers first starting with the darker pink as the lighter flowers should look like they are top of the darker ones. I then moved onto the buds before completing the branch. The branch is sewn using the split stitch which I found to be a lot of fun. A wonderful texture is created through the uneven stitch lengths which gives a good imitation of bark. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery kit.jpg

By the end of our break I had completed the main stitching parts leaving the details on the flowers. I had tried french knots before through previous cross stitch projects but I was a little out practice. I soon remembered that I like to wind the thread around the needle a few extra times to get more definition while keeping the knots small. I also find that holding the needle just above where it will be pushed into the fabric and winding the thread there helps to avoid the knot occurring higher up the thread than you want. I tend to use my spare thumb to smooth the path of the thread until a dainty knot is formed. There is a noticeable difference between the earlier knots and the later ones as I got into the swing of them. The process of making many of them in quick succession was rather satisfying. 

Oh Sew Bootiful Cherry Blossom Embroidery.jpg

Stitching this hoop was so much fun. While it took patience to get the stitches into the right place and become familiar with what direction they should go in, the pattern is simple enough that you can quickly see progress. It was very meditative too - distracting me from aching feet from too much walking or the face my suitcase took three days to arrive in Iceland after I did. I've yet to find a spot to hang it but I have started another pattern. It seems that I might have found another hobby to indulge. 

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.

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress 3 month old baby girl.jpg

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. 

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress in pink .jpg

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. 

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress 3 months baby girl.jpg

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. 

Puperita Lil Critters Pinafore Dress.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 18.jpg

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! 

How to make a yoga mat bag 20.JPG

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag.jpg

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

How to make a yoga mat bag 2.jpg
How to make a yoga mat bag 3.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga bag mat buttonholes.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 5.jpg

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.

How to make a yoga mat bag 9.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 15.jpg

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.

How to make a yoga mat bag 4.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 7.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 14.jpg
How to make a yoga mat bag 16.jpg

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. 

How to make a yoga mat bag 17.jpg

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! 

How to make a yoga mat bag 19.JPG

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.

Noodlehead super tote.jpg

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. 

Noodlehead super tote 2.jpg

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. 

Noodlehead super tote 7.jpg

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. 

Noodlehead super tote 5.jpg

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. 

Noodlehead super tote 4.JPG

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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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.