the difference a bit of sunshine makes

Yes, sunshine makes a difference in so many ways, but in particular I am thinking about product photos. I have quite a few pieces to add to my Etsy shop and have been waiting for enough light to make the photos pop. Finally, the sun has shone! (these will be going in my shop very soon)

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The cats have been enjoying the sunshine too…

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…and so have Mark and I, with a visit to Lacock Abbey!

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More photos in Deere Diary!

 

 

my workroom…and dining room

I feel I have not achieved much this week. I just got to the point I needed to do some sorting out in order to work more efficiently and to remind myself of the materials I have to hand. My workroom is also our dining room so I have to be able to operate a clear desk policy when dinner is ready. As I look at my orderly shelves and drawers, I know it has been a good deal of work and it is worthwhile, but it is not…yet…something I can put in my Etsy shop (and tomorrow I am spending the day with mentor Karen and little James, so no sewing tomorrow). I guess I will just have to do some work at the weekend to make up for it – I haven’t seen Karen in ages and refuse to feel guilty about it (at least not tomorrow anyway).

So would you like to see my workroom? I can’t hear you? I am going to assume that people around the world are jumping up and down with anticipation, and show you anyway…like it or not. It will remind me to keep it orderly and tidy.

I started with my sewing box – it is actually an antique Indian writing box from Artique, our favourite Tetbury shop. It is far larger than most sewing boxes, but is still far too small for the reels of cotton I have (kindly augmented with a donation by our next door neighbour…gorgeous wooden spools rather than the modern plastic ones, but mainly for hand sewing). I am still a newby yarnstress, so my yarn collection fits nicely in the ‘basement’ of my sewing box.

sewing box
antique Indian writing box, used as a sewing box

I bought a wooden cotton reel rack last year, only to find it was the type you fix to the wall so, always fond of a fudge, I leaned it against the mirror over the large chest of drawers for many months. It was still not large enough for my thread collection, so this week I did actually fix it to the wall and treated myself to an additional free-standing thread rack, that can stand by my sewing machine but can also be moved to sit on my sewing box when the table needs to be laid for dinner. (Note also my thread cone stand as the glow in the dark thread was not small enough to use directly on my sewing machine – and the cute little box of bobbins).

thread rack
wall mounted cotton reel rack

…and there is still not space for my box of rainbow threads that have to live in their box.

rainbow threads
rainbow threads

Am I the only one who loves pencils? Seeing them in this Baker and Maker mug makes me want to just sit and sharpen them…!

pencil mug

I keep most of my buttons in an old carousel herb rack, sorted by colour of course. Needless to say I have more than will fitĀ  in one spice rack, and next week will get a wee Ikea filing drawer thing on casters…in red…too, for easy access to beads, button overflow and trim. I also have a weakness for teapots (one day I will show you the shelves of them in the living room…something to look forward to, eh?) and this one came from Scrapiana, sewing and mending guru and vintage teapot temptress,

button carousel

Every sewing room needs an ironing board – sometimes Max likes to sleep on it too.

ironing board (and elephant teapot and fab Helen Campbell painting)

Whenever Mark and I go to Dorset, we have to ‘do’ the antique shops in Bridport…this 1907ish sewing machine is the result of one such mooch around.

vintage sewing machine
additional light very necessary

I have sorted my fabric by both use and size. Contrary to popular belief, size does matter!

shelves: fabric and books
cookery books and ribbons
vintage suitcase Mark bought for me on my birthday last year (in a Bridport antique shop)
Ikea Billy bookcases…what else?
print (large pieces), polka dot, plains and felt
more shelves
cards, wicker basket of ribbons and trims, tins of zips, lavender bags and brooches, magazines, EN71-3 compliant fabric for toys, packaging…and yet more books
sock cat and dog

I know it’s rather sad and possibly not common in creative types, but I find calm and contentment in order. I do enjoy a bit of a Spring clean.

Let me end with a photo of a gift that keeps on giving – the box my Valentine’s roses came in is much appreciated by Rio the cat (and has lasted far longer than the roses…my beloved will not be buying from Moonpig again!…although the chocolate heart and champagne were lovely).

Rio the cat in the Valentine's roses box
Rio the cat in the Valentine’s roses box

a splash of colour

After what feels like months of grey, rain and gale force winds, we have had spells of sunshine today and I am choosing to focus on colour.

In the January sales I treated myself to a set of colourful ribbons (Cox and Cox) and a set of threads (Amazon) and some bright pins (eBay). On grey days, they hint of Spring.

 

The cats have been spending the long rainy days keeping me company – Max asleep on the ironing board (why must he do that? I always have to go over it with sellotape before I use it!) and Rio on the chair next to me.

company in my workroom
company in my workroom

I think the cats have become so used to constant rain they had not noticed today’s sunshine, so I ushered them outside.

I went out with the cats and found the crocus and snowdrops are coming out!

The pots of young raspberry plants where the raised beds will be in due course, and the wind chimes in the Bramley tree add further pops of colour.

bright tubs of young raspberry plants
bright tubs of young raspberry plants
wind chimes in one of the apple trees
wind chimes in one of the apple trees

In the kitchen, I have been making seville orange marmalade, stacking them on the windowsill to catch the light.

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All these thoughts of Spring make me want to dig out the bright Easter fabric I bought a few weeks back. Now, what to sew….!

 

 

 

 

 

ribbon flowers

When I went to visit some textile students I promised a tutorial on a couple of ways of making ribbon flowers and thought I should share it here in case anyone else might find it useful.

Method 1

This uses either a 10cm wide 1m long strip of fabric with the long sides folded in so they meet in the middle (with the right side facing out), ironed but not sewn, or 1m of ribbon at least 5cm wide. Here I have used a satin ribbon.

method 1. fold ribbon or strip of fabric at 45 degrees
method 1. fold ribbon or strip of fabric at 45 degrees
pin in place, turn the ribbon over and fold again so it lies against the first turn, and pin.
pin in place, turn the ribbon over and fold again so it lies against the first turn, and pin.
continue along the length of the ribbon
continue along the length of the ribbon
tuck in the end, fix the thread at a corner with knot/oversewing and do a loose running stitch along the narrow end, along one long side and up the other end
tuck in the end, fix the thread at a corner with knot/oversewing and do a loose running stitch along the narrow end, along one long side and up the other end
pull the thread to gather the folded ribbon tightly
pull the thread to gather the folded ribbon tightly
roll up the gathered ribbon, keeping the gathered edge level, and stitch it in place as you go
roll up the gathered ribbon, keeping the gathered edge level, and stitch it in place as you go
the finished flower looks like this and can be left at this point if being sewn directly on to a garment or bag
the finished flower looks like this and can be left at this point if being sewn directly on to a garment or bag
I usually turn the flowers in to brooches and I like to add felt leaves cut with pinking shears (you could also embroider veins on the leaves)
I usually turn the flowers in to brooches and I like to add felt leaves cut with pinking shears (you could also embroider veins on the leaves)
sew the leaves to the flower's gathered edge
sew the leaves to the flower’s gathered edge
voila - finished flower brooch
sew a brooch back to a circle of felt and sew the circle to the back of the flower, covering the gathering and stitches.
finished method 1 flower

Method 2

This method uses a strip of fabric folded and ironed as for method 1 or a piece of ribbon, but is less fiddly and can be made with any width of fabric or ribbon. If you use a strip of fabric, ensure the raw edges face in to the centre of the flower as you make it.

method 2. take the ribbon (or folded strip of fabric) and fix the thread at a corner, then sew a loose running stitch along the end and 5cm or so along the long edge before sewing at right angles to the other edge and back to the first edge to delineate the first petal
method 2. take the ribbon (or folded strip of fabric) and fix the thread at a corner, then sew a loose running stitch along the end and 5cm or so along the long edge before sewing at right angles to the other edge and back to the first edge to delineate the first petal
continue along the ribbon, making petals longer as you go and gathering each petal as you finish it (it is more difficult to gather the whole length at the end
continue along the ribbon, making petals longer as you go and gathering each petal as you finish it (it is more difficult to gather the whole length at the end
when the whole ribbon is gathered, secure the end to hold the gathers in place
when the whole ribbon is gathered, secure the end to hold the gathers in place
as with method 1, roll up the gathered ribbon, stitching it in place as you go
as with method 1, roll up the gathered ribbon (starting with the smallest petals in the centre), stitching it in place as you go
the resulting flower is a bit messy - but that's ok!
the resulting flower is a bit messy – but that’s ok!
push out each petal so it looks more rose like
push out each petal so it looks more rose like
add leaves and a brooch back as before, if you choose
add leaves and a brooch back as before, if you choose

You can see the difference in the results of the two methods most clearly when they are side by side.

method 1 on the right and method 2 on the left
method 1 on the right and method 2 on the left

a patchwork book bag in three…five…well a few easy steps

tutorial

Bear with me here; I am not used to teaching. I am assuming little knowledge, but if I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, as they say, let me know and I will step it up a notch.

I do not believe in rules. I am not one for doing what I am told. If a recipe calls for lemons, I am likely to use limes or oranges…because what do they know? I think the great thing about sewing is that you can read books and blogs and go on courses and then ignore a chunk of it (or all of it) and just do what you want to do. So just consider this an idea to play with as you will.

You can use this approach with whatever fabric you have to hand and you don’t have to use any patchwork, just skip the first few steps and use one oblong of fabric for the outside and another for the inside. For mine I have used quilting fabricĀ  – a pack of pre-cut 15cm squares (which some may call cheating, but as I said, I don’t believe in rules, so how can it be cheating?) – which is a light weight cotton. This means the bag is very light and easy to fold up and pop in your handbag. However, it works well with heavier fabric too (old curtains are my favourite), which makes it stronger; you may need to experiment with sewing machine tension and stitch length. I am not going to try to cover using a sewing machine – just look at the handbook, google any problems and perhaps find a blog written by someone with more technical know how than me.

Ingredients Materials: 8 x 15cm (6inch) squares of cotton fabric (wash it first in case it shrinks), matching thread (or contrasting for the top stitching, if you prefer), 3 x 15cm (6inch) square border fabric and cut each border fabric square in half, two strips of border fabric each 3cm x 72cm (1.25inch x 28.5inch), lining fabric approx 30cm x 72cm (12inch x 28.5inch)*, 2 strips border fabric and 2 strips lining fabric each 5cm x 71cm (2inch x 28inch)

* wait until you have completed the outside layer of the bag as you can use it as a template to make sure the lining is the right size.

Unless otherwise stated, I use approximately 0.7cm seam allowance. This is the equivalent of 0.25inch and on my sewing machine (and I think most machines) is what you get when the edge of the fabric runs along the edge of the standard sewing foot, so is just a convenient allowance.

1) arrange the patchwork squares and border fabric half squares with border fabric at the top, in the middle and at the bottom
1) arrange the patchwork squares and border fabric half squares with border fabric at the top, in the middle and at the bottom
2) Place two half squares of border fabric right together and do a straight stitch along one of the short edges, press the seam open. Repeat with each pair of squares or half squares.
2) Place two half squares of border fabric right sides together and do a straight stitch along one of the short edges, press the seam open. Repeat with each pair of squares or half squares.
3) Take each pair of squares/half squares in the order you arranged, place right sides together, pin and sew along the long side. Pins should always be perpendicular to the line you are sewing so you can sew over the top of them).
3) Take each pair of squares/half squares in the order you arranged, place right sides together, pin and sew along the long side. Pins should always be perpendicular to the line you are sewing so you can sew over the top of them.
4) Press open seams before adding the next row.
4) Press open seams before adding the next row.
5) pin the strips of border fabric, right sides together, to each side of the panel of fabric squares. Sew in place.
5) pin the strips of border fabric, right sides together, to each side of the panel of fabric squares. Sew in place.
6) Use the completed panel of fabric as a template to cut the lining fabric. Fold the panel of fabric for the outside of the bag in half, matching the centre seam as closely as you can (I put a pin in the middle seam just to keep it aligned). pin the two side seams and sew. Fix the thread ends at the bottom of the bag by using the oversew option, turning it around and sew a short distance, retracing the original stitching or just tie the two ends together.
6) Use the completed panel of fabric as a template to cut the lining fabric. Fold the panel of fabric for the outside of the bag in half, matching the centre seam as closely as you can (I put a pin in the middle seam just to keep it aligned). pin the two side seams and sew. Fix the thread ends at the bottom of the bag by using the oversew option, turning it around and sewing a short distance to retrace the original stitching or just tie the two ends of thread together.
7) Fold the lining fabric in half, right sides together, pin the two sides and sew. Press the seam allowance back.
7) Fold the lining fabric in half, right sides together, pin the two sides and sew. Press the seam allowance back. (As the pattern on my lining fabric had a particular direction, I added a double seam allowance, cut the oblong in half and turned one half around so the pattern was in the same direction when you looked inside the finished bag, and then sewed the bottom as well as the sides).
8) Turn the outside of the bag the right way out and push out the corners (a chop stick works well). Place the lining inside the outer bag and push it in to the bottom of the bag with your handy chop stick. I then pin the bottom to stop it moving. Fold in the top of the outer bag - I use the depth of the bottom border plus a bit, but go with what you like the look of.
8) Turn the outside of the bag the right way out and push out the corners (a chop stick works well). Place the lining inside the outer bag and push it in to the bottom of the bag with your handy chop stick. I then pin the bottom to stop it moving. Fold in the top of the outer bag – I use the depth of the bottom border plus a bit, but go with what you like the look of.
9) Fold in the lining so it is just short of the top of the outer bag.
9) Fold in the lining so it is just short of the folded top of the outer bag.
10) Make the handles: for each strip of fabric fold over the long edges so the meet in the middle (right side on the outside) and press. Pin each lining fabric strip to a border fabric strip and top stitch close to each of the four edges (you can see the stitching in picture 11). These handles are long enough to go over your shoulder, but just make them shorter if you prefer to hold the bag in your hand.
10) Make the handles: for each strip of fabric fold over the long edges so they meet in the middle (right side on the outside) and press. Pin each lining fabric strip to a border fabric strip and top stitch close to each of the four edges (you can see the stitching in picture 11). These handles are long enough to go over your shoulder, but just make them shorter if you prefer to hold the bag in your hand.
11) Insert the handles between the lining and outer bag with about 2.5cm below the folded edge of the lining. Tops stitch close to the folded edge of the lining and then, for strength, do a second parallel row of top stitching a little below it.
11) Insert the handles between the lining and outer bag about 5cm from the side edge and with about 2.5cm of handle below the folded edge of the lining. Top stitch close to the folded edge of the lining and then, for strength, do a second parallel row of top stitching a little below it.
12) Remove the pins and press the bag...ta da!
12) Remove the pins and press the bag…ta da!

I like to finish the bag with a ribbon rose brooch, but that is for another day….

ribbon rose brooch
ribbon rose brooch

scrappy patchwork bag

I have carried on experimenting with patchwork bags. I really like this rich purple fabric and the way it makes the bright patchwork squares pop. I made it bigger and think it’s like the three bears’ chairs…baby bear’s was too small and now daddy bear’s is a bit too big, will see if mummy bear’s is just right.

patchwork bag with purple border
patchwork bag with purple border

I used a contrasting turquoise thread, as I love the colour against the purple.

patchwork brights
patchwork brights

The rose is made from wide ribbon and is attached to a brooch clasp, so it can be detached from the bag and worn on a jacket.

patchwork bag detail
patchwork bag detail

I will photograph the steps next time I make a patchwork bag like this and share it here as a tutorial.