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!

 

 

of mice and men..and cats

Last night was wild – and not in a good way! The noise of the wind and the feeling that the house was shaking was somewhat unnerving and watching the updates on the Dorset coast (where we have a tiny wee holiday flat) was downright scary. We have friends who live there permanently and I hope they are ok as I see many people were evacuated and spent the night in a local pub or in a school. If the flat flooded, it’s just things, but people are far more precious. It has been one storm after enough, each stronger and more damaging than the one before. I heard on the radio this morning that 41,000 properties are without power this morning. Watching it from our safe, dry house in Bath it feels apocalyptic, so how must it feel when the waves are crashing over your home or your farm is is two or three metres under water or even in the middle of London buildings are collapsing in the path of the storm? It is still windy, but the sun is shining and the worst of the latest storm is over. It feels as though the whole country is praying for calm and sunshine and Spring.

This morning I opened the living room curtains to evidence of a stormy Valentine’s day…I wonder who attempted to charm their loved one and was beaten by the wind?

after the Valentine's storm
after the Valentine’s storm

I know this post is supposed to be of mice and men and cats, but I want to reverse the order and start with the cats.

of cats

Our two cats were as freaked out by the storm last night as we were, and it is so nice to see them calm and soaking up a sunny respite in the weather…

Max, dozing in the sun
feline sun-worshipper
who? me?

…even if naughty Rio tries to destroy the sofa! (it’s ok, I made extra strong covers for the parts of the sofa he scratches…not a pulled thread in sight)

naughty cat!
naughty cat!

…and when I made him stop, he decided to read the paper, and really got in to it!

Rio in the paper
Rio in the paper
newspaper cat
newspaper cat

of men

Yesterday was Valentine’s day. Mark and I don’t tend to do a lot to mark the day, but had intended to go out for lunch yesterday as Mark had the day off. The weather was so awful, we decided to stay in and had a Chinese takeaway in the evening instead. I made Mark a card…a free motion machine embroidery of Max the cat. Quite proud of it actually; didn’t draw it on the fabric first, just sketched it in stitches. It is so much fun drawing in thread!

free motion machine embroidery cat's whiskers Valentine's card
free motion machine embroidery cat’s whiskers Valentine’s card

I also made some shortbread hearts and split them between Mark and our elderly next door neighbour…sharing the love (and the calories!).

shortbread hearts
shortbread hearts
glittery shortbread hearts

As for me, I was treated to red roses, champagne and a big ole chocolate heart! (sorry phone photo is so grainy – had just come back from doc pulling around my dodgy knees and was not getting up to fetch proper camera!)

Valentine’s treats
red roses!

of mice

I keep an old style Ellen Mouse in my work room/dining room (not CE markable as has bead eyes and whiskers that will pull out under 7kg of tug) and I use her as a model for when I get requests for additional clothes for a re-homed Ellen Mouse. Until this week she has had to sit on my fabric shelves in nowt but her vest and frilly pants so I pinched a tiny bit of some trim I was given to make her a dress…reminds me of a 1970s Laura Ashley maxi dress.

Ellen Mouse in her vest and pants
Ellen Mouse’s new maxi dress

What’s more Ellen had nagged and nagged about extending her range…so now in my online shop Ellen Mouse cards and Ellen Mouse zip pouch bag!

Ellen Mouse greetings card
Ellen Mouse zip pouch

While in the mood for free-motion machine embroidery I made a couple more zip pouches, sketching first and then doing a bit of applique and embroidery: available in my shop.

blue tit sketch for free motion embroidery
blue tit zip pouch
cone flower and bees sketch
cone flower and bees zip pouch

I also made a little zip coin purse/makeup bag – the fabric is just too pretty to need any embellishment!

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I am still experimenting with products to decide on my ‘niche’ and plan to make some paper sculptures in the coming week, to see how they go down with my customers. Here is one I made earlier (lots of years earlier).

paper geisha
paper geisha

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.