a really hoopy frood…

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, hoopy is defined as “a really together guy” and a frood is defined as “a really amazingly together guy.”
As an example to put it in context, Zaphod says, “Hey you, sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is!”
Now I do know where my towel is (soft and fluffy and neatly folded in the airing cupboard), but in truth I am merely searching for a title for this post that might make embroidery hoops a little less…pedestrian.
[short aside: did I ever tell you that my old neighbours in Bristol reckoned I probably worked for MI5, as they couldn’t believe I was really a (then) thirty something who enjoyed quilting, National Trust gardens, and spending time with my cat Brian? Needless to say, they were wrong…but then if I were in MI5, I would say that wouldn’t I?]
So then, hoops. I like embroidery hoops as frames for textile pieces. I have a number of traditional frames, but they are more clunky – and much heavier to post – so I find myself stocking up on embroidery hoops. I have made a few ‘Mama Bear’ size pieces of hoop art that have been fun to do and have sold well…
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owls hoop
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storm in a teacup hoop
cat hoop
cat hoop
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meet me under the misteltoe
Then I woke early one morning with an idea in my head and grabbed a ‘Daddy Bear’ size hoop…
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lonely tree
Next I picked up a collection of ‘Baby Bear’ hoops and made some Christmas tree decorations…the most fun thing to do with your clothes on! I started with some sketches like this one:
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tree on car roof sketch
Then I chose a snowy background and cut fusible fleece to the size of the inside of the hoops, ironed it on to the back of the background fabric, cut out my images from lovely thick pure wool felt (using my own pattern pieces), dropped the feed dogs and fitted a darning foot and away I went!
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Christmas tree decoration hoops
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tree on car roof (my favourite)
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snowman
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polar bear
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robin
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snow scene
I am making the Christmas tree decorations to order for £5.50 each plus p&p – order through my Etsy shop or drop me an email: Christmas tree decorations

a right royal embroidery

I have long been meaning to try a few applique/embroidery pictures of buildings. I had initially intended to start with our own humble home, but after recently visiting Prince Charles’ residence of Highgrove I felt inspired to set my sights a little higher. Photography is understandably not allowed in the grounds of Highgrove House and, although I loved every minute of the tour, I was itching to record the place somehow…and so here is my first building portrait (I don’t think my beach hut pictures and bags count!).

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highrove - 2This is the view along thyme walk (the thymes having been planted by HRH Prince Charles himself, our guide informed us!). I really loved making this picture and my head is full of ideas for more!

The gardens at Highgrove are amazing – each ‘room’ has a different feel and the attention to detail is incredible. What I wouldn’t give to be allowed free reign to wander around the gardens one early morning with my camera…!

Ahoy me hearties!

Just at the moment it is a bit of a struggle fitting everything in to the day. All things I enjoy, but I am being pulled in so many different directions….having to ration cups of tea with friends at the moment as I just don’t have time. If that means you, I am really sorry!

Anyway, I am trying to organise my days so I can fit in a wee bit of sewing first thing, followed by paperwork and by lunch time make sure I am stripping wallpaper in the front bedroom.

There are some achievements from my efforts, for example my very organised fabric stash (I won’t show you my haberdashery and art supplies drawers, as a lady should not post photos of her drawers!)

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workroom/dining room all tidied up

I have cleared out a load of craft books and magazines I am hoping the WI ladies will take away with them at the next Crafty Night In and made some shelf space. However, there is one spot I am going to have to leave empty for Max the cat!

cat on a shelf
cat on a shelf

In addition, yesterday I had one of those wonderful days when you get to realise a project you had only ever seen in your mind. I popped in to the Plush Addict website to get some more linen look cotton (great for book bags) and stumbled across some fabric with a newspaper print. It called to me…“Sue, Sue, buy me and turn me in to a paper boat made from fabric..!”. Yesterday I did just that.

I made a paper version first to get the right size rectangle to start with and used it as a pattern (plus seam allowance) to cut two pieces of the fabric and one of interfacing. Ironed the interfacing to one of the fabric pieces then sewed the two fabric pieces right sides together, turned it inside out, ironed it and top stitched around the outside. Then I just made up the paper boat, ironing at every stage and hand sewing a few stages to help it keep it’s shape. I know I should be modest, but I confess I am a wee bit chuffed at how it turned out!

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‘paper’ boat
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ship ahoy!

In addition, last week I had a short telephone interview about crafting and well-being; the way having something to create and to focus on helps deal with anxiety and depression. It is all the more pertinent with the sad news of Robin Williams’ suicide. I am very fortunate and haven’t had much trouble at all with anxiety or depression over the last couple of years, but I am aware of how it lurks in the shadows looking for an opportunity to creep back. One of the reasons I wanted to do the interview is that I believe we should talk about how we feel. Anxiety and depression are not signs of failure, just of being human, and talking about it helps us know we are not alone and that there is always the choice to keep on living…the darkness will pass. It is so sad that the world has lost someone who brought so much to people’s lives through his work.

As the interview was by telephone I had to provide a photo...a selfie of me and my sewing machine.
As the interview was by telephone I had to provide a photo…a selfie of me and my sewing machine.

Happiness is…

Happiness is…dropped feed dogs and a darning foot….oh and a garden!

My lovely other half has an alluring way of softly asking, “can we do a card for my dad…my brother…my god-daughter…?” I do love his use of the word ‘we’. It is a team effort, I sit at the sewing machine and create and he…ummm…well he watches sport on tv. When I question this, he asks whether I would rather be the one watching sport…and, well, I don’t, so I guess he really is doing me a favour!

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Mark’s mum and dad’s anniversary (51 years!)
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Mark’s dad’s birthday – he loves the seaside (particularly Cornwall)
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a card to welcome Mark’s niece’s new baby
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Mark’s brother’s birthday card…hope he’s not offended!

I am not really complaining; I really enjoy a bit of free motion machine thread-drawing.

My other love is outside in the garden:

The pots and hanging baskets are bright and colourful.

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The cosmos I sewed is finally coming in to flower.

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My old blue strawberry planter never did well with strawberry plants…or herbs…or anything, but now the sempervivum (houseleeks) have decided that it is the perfect home and are thriving!

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garden 3 August 2014 - 07

The dwarf sunflowers have taken a long time to flower (too much shade from the trees, I suspect) but are now showing their finery.

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Even the aubergines are in flower!

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The tomatoes are huge – just need them to turn red now.

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Our cats have the cleanest paws on the street!

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Oh and the cylcamen are flowering (which makes it feel rather Autumnal)

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Our wild area is coming along nicely – lots of flowers for the bees and butterflies. We still have a lot of turf to dig up to sew our wildflower meadow, but we’ll get there eventually.

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Max the cat has the softest, fluffiest tummy in the known universe!

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The apples are nearing ripeness…

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…and finally, the new solar fairy lights work a treat!

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a touch of Spring cleaning

Yes, I know it is July and not technically Spring, but I have indeed been Spring cleaning. I had my fourth craft fair on Saturday and a few things have sorted themselves out in my mind.

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Mark came to help me at the Yatton Keynell popup shop and was really good at making sure everything looked just right!

I started Deerey Me wanting to try lots of things – because I like making so many different things – hoping something would come to the surface. I think it now has. What I enjoy most is free-motion machine embroidery and applique and I think I should keep my stock to this theme. I will sell cards and pictures and zip pouches and to that I may add brooches and tea cosies and aprons, but all will have my style of free-motion twiddliness.

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a storm in a teacup


One thing that has not sold at all at craft fairs and not too much recently online is the larger tote/shopping bags, so I am going to stop making them as stock (except the book bags). I am happy to make anything at all for custom order – tote bags, slippers etc – but I won’t keep them in stock and I won’t take them to craft fairs. My one exception to all this is Ellen Mouse. I love her too much not to have her around – and I don’t want all that CE testing to go to waste.

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Ellen Mouse..er…Mice…er…Mouses


So, my friends, I now have some stock to clear out of my way. I have decided to take them out of my Etsy shop and sell them a few at a time on my Facebook page
, so why not head over there, ‘like’ my page and see what bargains pop up each day!

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Facebook bargain number 1 – reduced from £8.50 plus postage to £4.50 including postage

In addition, the more free-motion work I do, the faster I get, so I am now able to reduce the price of my cards from £4.50 each to £3 each!

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two little owls card

Finally, and I shall whisper this…my Christmas shop is now open over at Etsy: Deerey Me Christmas shop. I had a couple of people buying stocking-fillers on Saturday and thought I should be ready for the early birds. The Christmas section does include some non-applique pieces, but…well…Christmas is Christmas and some liberties may be taken!

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Skandinavian style Christmas stockings

10 (random) things I love…

One of my favourite blogs is Knitsofacto, and Annie has been sharing 10 (rather wonderful) random things. In addition, with my Bath WI hat on (a virtual hat…although I rather like the idea of us all wearing hats!), I have been researching local artists and crafty people to run workshops for us. It has been, and continues to be,  lovely and fascinating seeing what people make and how they market themselves and I love reading their blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. It gives me a warm squishy feeling that the world is full of such nice people. One of the creative types I have signed up for a Bath WI workshop is Sami of ‘Made by Sami‘ and I have been enjoying her blog posts about 10 things she loves…do have a look at her Little Red Button blog.

These two ladies have inspired me to think about 10 things I love (in a random sort of a way):

1. Mark. He is mischievous and troublesome but he has sparkly blue eyes, a kind heart and an indefatigable sense of humour – and he puts up with me even when I am, as he describes it, grumpilicious.

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(oh and his work colleagues are going to love this photo!)

2. Cats. Our two cats in particular. They are brothers from the same litter, but Max is long-haired and of a generous stature, while his brother Rio is short-haired and of a more athletic build. They are affectionate and loving…and only dribble a little bit.

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3. Sewing. Everything to do with it – fabric, haberdashery, designing, making…even unpicking, as long as it is not too often.

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4. Baking.

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5. Stately homes and gardens

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6. The City of Bath

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7. The seaside.

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8. Friends and family

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9. Bees

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10.  Afternoon tea (and teapots)
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I would love to know what your favourite things are!!

 

 

 

 

NOAH ‘I heart my pet’ tutorials: DIY crafts for your pet

I am pretty chuffed to have been asked to put together some tutorials for making gifts for your pets. It is part of the ‘I heart my pet’ campaign being run by the nice folk at NOAH – no, not Russell Crowe’s new film (although I do want to see that!) – this is the National Office of Animal Health, which provides expert advice on caring for pets: http://www.pethealthinfo.org.uk/

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I want my tutorials to be:

  • easy
  • cheap
  • quick to make
  • sustainable
  • and of course, safe!

So I thought a bit of upcycling would be a good idea and I am providing instructions to make:

  • a pet bed from an old jumper
  • a catnip fish from a baby sock
  • a dog coat from an old jumper

Before I start there are some basics about sewing for pets – apologies if I am teaching my grandmother to suck eggs (not that I recall my grandmother ever sucking eggs!). In many ways making crafts for pets is a lot like making toys for children – items need to be washable, they can be chewed so avoid fabric paints that might come off and cause health problems and trimmings that could be a choking hazard, avoid highly flammable materials. Equally, it is important to be sure to keep pins and needles away from little paws. I keep a set number of pins and needles in a pincushion so I can always tell if one is missing and may be stuck in the carpet, and I keep a magnet handy to help find any stray pins and to double check nothing has been left in a craft project.

Of course the really good thing about making things for your pets, is that they are never going to turn round and refuse to use something because ‘it makes my bum look big!’ or ‘nobody else has homemade stuff!’ or ‘I want designer labels!’.

 

1) how to make a pet bed from an old jumper

materials

  • 1 old jumper or sweatshirt
  • toy stuffing or the stuffing from an unwanted cushion
  • matching thread
  • ideally a sewing machine (it can be hand sewn, but will take longer to make)
  • hand sewing needle

Step one – make sure your toy stuffing is packed in a cardboard box (other retailers are available), remove toy stuffing…oh well that’s it really!

Max makes his own DIY cat bed
Max makes his own DIY cat bed

What? You want more? Oh well ok…

1) Choose an old jumper or sweatshirt. Any shape or style will do but if, like me, you have used it for decorating, make sure you have scraped off any lumps of paint etc. It needs to be washable so, if it is pure wool, wash it and you can even tumble dry it before you start. It doesn’t matter in the least if it felts when it is washed, but you need to be sure it is not going to shrink to a size too small to be useful.

If your pet is like our cats, they really like to sleep on things that smell of you, so you could  wear the jumper for a couple of hours before you cut it up and sew it, and your scent may encourage the pet to sleep in the bed, as it will not smell strange.

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my old painting jumper

2) Although our two cats are quite big, they like sleeping in small spaces, so I only used the sleeves of the jumper to make the sides of my cat bed. If you want to make a bed for a small dog or larger cat, you can cut a piece of fabric, just bigger than the neck hole and either machine or hand sew it in place so you can use the whole of the top section of the jumper. It will make the back of the bed higher than the front, but I think that looks rather good.

fill the neck hole with a piece of fabric
fill the neck hole with a piece of fabric

3) Turn the jumper inside out and pin the front and back together to hold in place. Use a ruler or straight edge and draw a line from armpit to armpit (I used tailor’s chalk, but as it is on the inside of the jumper it doesn’t matter if you use a felt tip pen). Cut along the line.

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cut away the top section of the jumper

4) Stitch along the raw edge – I used an overlocking stitch, but any stitch will do. If you are hand sewing, use a backstitch* to make it stronger.

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sew the raw edge

My jumper is rather old and misshapen but that’s not a problem, just catch in any extra folds.

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don’t worry if there are odd tucks and bumps

5) For a smaller bed, cut at the arm hole or either side of the neck hole and join the two pieces together (not necessary if you are using the whole top section). Turn the arms inside out and place one inside the other, right sides together and pin in place.

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pin together the two arm pieces

6) Sew the raw edges. Many sewing machines allow you to remove part of the sewing table, leaving a narrower section to make sewing around a sleeve like this easier.

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sew the raw edges

7) Stuff the long tube made from the sleeves. It is important that you use a stuffing that is washable and has reduced flammability. You can buy toy stuffing that conforms to British safety standards online and in craft shops or you can take the stuffing out of an unwanted cushion; just make sure the cushion has a fire safety label (some older cushions do not and should not be used). I used a couple of  unwanted cushions.

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safe toy stuffing

8) Use the stuffed arms as a guide for the size of the base. I used a round tray to draw around to cut the base of of the bed from the body of the jumper. I like to make the base circular as it is forgiving – no need to match the centre of the sides to a particular point on the base or to make sure each arm is exactly the same length, but you can make the base any shape you like.

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cut a base for the bed that fits the sides

9) Pin the back and front of the jumper to hold in place and cut along the line you have drawn. When you sew the two pieces together you will need to leave a gap to stuff the base of the bed. I have a bad habit of getting carried away and sewing the gap closed, so I use pins with a different colour head (or two pins together) either side of the gap so I know to…’mind the gap’.

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pin and cut your circles

10) Turn the base the right side out and stuff it – I often use a chopstick to push the stuffing right up to the seam.

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stuffed bed base

11) Fold over the raw edges, pin in place and hand sew (slip stitch**) closed.

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pin the gap closed
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sew the gap closed

12) Hand sew a running stitch around the open ends of the sleeve tube with a doubled piece of thread, pull tight and over-sew to hold in place.

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gather the open ends of the sleeve tube

13) Hand sew (slip stitch) the sleeve tube to the base, gently pulling the tube over the seam in the base as you sew it in – just to be tidy.

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stitch the sides to the base

I left a small gap at the front of the bed, but you can join up the two sleeve ends if you prefer. I have made the bed quite puffy, as it will flatten once it has a cat in it.

finished cat bed
finished cat bed

I really like making pet beds from old jumpers – with the sleeves as the side of the bed, it is just like making a hug for a cat.

 

* with backstitch you overlap your stitches so there are no gaps between them

** slipstitch is an almost invisible way of joining two pieces of fabric

 

 

2) how to make a catnip fish from a baby sock

 

Now we don’t have children, so I don’t have baby socks lying around the place, but I suspect lots of people do (and the socks I use were only a few pence in a charity shop). So save those teeny weeny odd socks from the recycling bin and reincarnate them…in to fish!

materials

  • 1 baby sock
  • 1 bag catnip (available from most pet shops or online)
  • scraps of felt
  • needle and thread

 

1) Turn the sock inside out and push the toe towards the ankle so the heel is sticking out – the aim is to turn the boomerang shaped sock in to a tube, so you need to take out the heel. The sock I used has a coloured heel which makes it particularly easy to see what you are doing.

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turn the sock inside out, with the heel sticking out

2) Sew a straight line across the heel, so when you turn the sock the right way out it is now a tube.

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sock tube

3) Using a double thread, over sew by hand to fasten the end of the thread to the sock and then do a running stitch 6cm to 8cm from the ankle opening. Leave the thread and needle hanging from the sock; do not pull tight yet. It is just easier to do the running stitch before filling the sock with catnip.

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hand sew running stitch around the sock

4) Pour catnip in to the sock as required. I use my jam funnel to make it easier, but a spoon works perfectly well.

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fill the sock with catnip

5) Pull the running stitch thread tight and fix by sewing back and forth through the gathers. Once the gathers will not come undone, do another row of running stitch lengthwise along the middle of the sock to the ankle opening. Pull tight and over sew to fasten the thread.

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make a row of running stitch along the tail

6) Cut two circles of coloured felt and two smaller circles of black felt. Sew the black felt to the coloured felt and sew very securely to the sock. Catnip toys get chewed and bitten and scratched, so be sure the eyes will not come off; you don’t want your cat to swallow them!

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add felt eyes

The only thing left to do is to let your cat(s) play! Our cats go totally mad for catnip and act a bit crazy, so we only let them play with catnip toys when we are there to keep an eye on them.

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3) how to make a dog coat from an old jumper

 

As we head in to the warmer weather you may be packing away your Winter clothes and weeding out a few old things – perfect for making a dog coat so you are prepared for when the Winter weather comes back (usually around July!).

We do not have a dog, but I walk our friend’s dog, George, when she cannot. So before I start, I should like to thank George and his mum Julie and her daughter Jade for letting me be a nuisance and pop in to measure and fit and photograph George.

materials

  • 1 old, thick sweater*
  • bias binding
  • fleece fabric
  • small piece of sew on velcro

* I used one of Mark’s old gardening jumpers because it was really warm and thick, but you could use anything that is big enough. If you use a lighter weight fabric, add a piece of quilt wadding for extra warmth.

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so it is difficult to provide a definitive pattern – it all depends on your dog. There may be some trial and error.

1) Start by measuring your dog; you will need:

  • length of back, from neck to the top of the tail
  • total circumference around tummy where the strap will be
  • the required width of the coat
  • the length from the neck to where the tummy strap will go

Scan 1

 

2) As this is not a precise science, I recommend making yourself a paper pattern, so you can put it on your dog to check it is the right size and shape before cutting the fabric. You can use dressmaker’s pattern paper, but I just tape pieces of greaseproof paper together to make a large enough piece (mind you, George really did not like the sound of the rustling paper!). The pattern should look like a saddle and should be symmetrical, so it is best to fold the paper in half and cut out the two sides together so they end up exactly the same shape and size.

Scan

Hold the paper pattern over your dog and adjust your pattern if necessary.

 

3) Pin the pattern to your jumper (right way out) and cut around it. If your fabric is lighter weight use the pattern to also cut a piece of quilt wadding (or fleece or old sweatshirt) to sandwich between the two outer layers of fabric.

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use a paper pattern to cut the fabric pieces

4) Pin the bias binding (either shop bought or home-made) around the edge of the layers of coat pieces, right sides together.

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pin bias binding to coat pieces

4) Carefully sew the bias binding in place (you can hand sew using back stitch of you do not have a sewing machine), sewing along the ditch of the fold in the binding and removing the pins as you go.

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sew bias binding in place

5) Trim any excess fabric so the edge of the coat pieces and the edge of the binding match. Fold the binding over the edge of the coat pieces to the other side so the raw edge of the binding is folded under and stitch in place. I use hand sewing for this, but you could machine sew close to the edge of the binding if you prefer.

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hand sew the other fold of the binding to the reverse of the coat

When complete, you should have a contrasting bound edge to the coat, which is probably narrower on one side than the other – pick whichever side you prefer to be the outside of the coat.

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main coat piece

6) You will need a short strap to join the two sides of the coat at the front and to hold the coat in place over the tummy. For each strap cut two rectangles of fleece, each about 5cm wide and as long as you need for your dog (see 1. above) – I use fleece as it doesn’t fray, so you do not need to neaten the edges.

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cut straps pieces from fleece

Either leave the ends square or pin the two pieces together and round off the corners.

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pin strap pieces together and round off the corners

7) For each of the two straps sew around the edge, joining the pieces together – trim if necessary. Starting with the front strap pin in place on the coat and sew, trying to follow the stitching where you joined the two strap pieces together. For George the front strap needed only to be long enough to connect the two sides of the coat, but a larger dog may need a longer front strap.

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pin the strap in place
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stitching the front strap in place

8) Repeat for the tummy strap, but only sew one end of the strap to the coat – sew velcro to the other end of the strap, the soft side on the strap and the harder, scratchy side to where you want it to join the coat.

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add velcro to the tummy strap
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finished coat

Doesn’t George look handsome!!

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George looking rather like Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes

 

I hope you find these DIY pet craft projects fun – and I would love to see what you make! Don’t forget to check out what else is going on in the ‘I heart my pet’ campaign  on the website, Facebook and Twitter!

 

 

 

cards, cake and crafty nights out

 Very Berry Handmade artist trading card swap

Last year in my sewing exploration I stumbled upon artist trading cards (ATCs) through a swap organised by Ali at Very Berry Handmade (brilliant for all things fabric and sewing – lots of excellent tutorials). I have posted photos of my secret garden card, and here is Alix’s gorgeous Pride and Prejudice card I was lucky enough to receive.

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Pride and Prejudice ATC by Alix at Used-To-Bees

I am such a fan of Jane Austen and the card is so beautifully made, I was over the moon when it arrived. Alix writes a blog at Used-to-Bees, which is full of lovely things and well worth a look (I subscribe to her posts as I don’t want to miss anything!).

 

diamond anniversary cake

Anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will have realised by now that, as well as sewing, I like to bake. Friends and family often ask me to make celebration cakes and this week I was asked to make a Diamond Wedding Anniversary cake…with two cats on it. It could have been a problem as I knew it was 60 years, but had it in mind that 60 was a ruby anniversary…eek. However, I checked first and switched from a sparkly red 60 to a sparkly white 60.

Hilary the Hippo wanted to help…

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Hilary the Hippo, “can I lick the bowl?”
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mmmm….springy and coming away from the sides
victoria sponge with vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam
victoria sponge with vanilla butter cream and raspberry jam
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black cat anniversary cake
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diamond anniversary cake

 

 

the Bath WI crafty night out

I quite recently took over organising craft workshops for the Bath WI – what we like to call our ‘crafty nights out’. Yesterday lovely Eirlys at Scrapiana came over (with lemon drizzle cake) to show us how to make scalloped bunting. There is something so sociable and relaxing about sewing with friends. We talked non stop, ate lemon cake and flapjacks and even did some sewing. It was just a really good evening…can’t wait for the next one!

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Eirlys shows us what we are aiming to make
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you can almost hear the concentration!
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I really covet Eirlys’ Singer Featherweight sewing machine…sigh…
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can you tell we were having a good time?
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Look at this teeny weeny sewing machine!
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lemon drizzle cake and apricot flapjacks and earl grey tea
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Sheila’s perfectly sewn bunting waiting to be sewn on to tape
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Trish’s almost completed bunting
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Kitty wanted pointy bunting and Eirlys was happy to oblige…and it looks fab!
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love seeing everyone’s choice of fabric

I chatted far too much and didn’t actually sew my bunting until today…ta da!

my bright bunting
my bright bunting

 

Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?

You may have spotted a tailor’s dummy in the bunting photos – it is another early birthday present (this time from Mark’s mum and dad). I see her as a Delia…must be the apron!

Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?
Molly the mannequin? Delia the dummy?

 

And finally…

The cats have been as cute as ever…Max took a particular liking to a new shoe box, but it really wasn’t big enough!

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brotherly love

 

 

 

 

 

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Max in a shoe box
Max shoe box - 2
cute or what!
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you could do with a bigger box Max!
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I did warn you…

 

 

Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

Today I have been finishing my country crafts creations with the free fabric from Hillarys Blinds for their crafting and blogging competition: http://www.hillarys.co.uk/inspiration/the-hub/2014/country-craft-competition/

Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition
Hillarys Blinds Country Crafts Competition

I requested the teal bird parade fabric and when it arrived for some strange reason it whispered to me that it wanted to be a giant rabbit. I think it was an Easter thing and the fabric wanted to be Pantoufle, the imaginary rabbit in ‘Chocolat’ – yes, I know Pantoufle is a kangaroo in the film, but I am pretty sure he is a rabbit in the book. I am sure I have talked before about my belief that, just as in Harry Potter where the wand chooses the wizard, in my world the fabric chooses the project. However, in this case the fabric and I had to have a bit of a chat about practicalities. Much as I love the idea of a giant rabbit, while I try to build my little business I have to be strict about use of limited resources…a large rabbit takes a lot of polyester stuffing and would not be something I could sell to cover the cost (not only does it feel odd selling something made from competition fabric, even handmade toys need to be tested and CE marked to be sold in the EU). The fabric and I had to reconsider the project.

The first step in deciding what to make is to get to know the fabric. I start by ironing it.

step 1 – ironing

It gives me a chance to see how the fabric handles and to appreciate the pattern – which is lovely, and would make a wonderful roman blind.

getting to know the fabric

This fabric is quite a heavy twill sort of fabric, but moves well and irons well. The peacock print is quite large and we, the fabrc and I, decided it needed to be something that had a large enough, flat enough surface to appreciate the pattern…we decided on an apron. Not a complicated project, but something that makes the most of the fabric.

I am a great believer that if you have a piece of clothing that fits well and suits you, it makes sense to use it as a template/pattern. I have a Bath WI apron that is just right, so used it to cut out my apron, making sure there was a complete peacock in the centre.

Bath WI apron as template
Bath WI apron as template

When I use lighter fabrics to make aprons, I cut two pieces and sew them together, right sides together, leaving a small gap to turn it back the right way out. It neatens the edges and gives the apron a better weight so it hangs well. This furnishing weight fabric is heavy enough to be unlined – in fact I think lining it would make it too heavy. All I had to do was was double over the edges and top stitch and attach cotton twill tape ties. For the neck I like to sew two D-rings in to a loop of tape and attach to one side of the neck, with a lose ended tape the other side. This makes the neck adjustable regardless of your height.

peacock apron
peacock apron

I often use curtain or furnishing fabric to make aprons – you can find some quite economical hard-wearing fabric (or upcycle old curtains), and some lovely prints. It’s a quick and easy and effective thing to sew; perfect for a first project or a last minute gift.

apron selfie
apron selfie

Now, I hate waste. I keep every scrap of fabric – you never know when you might need a tiny piece for an easter bunny’s tail on a handmade card or to cover a button. I had enough to make at least one more thing and in the way that one thing tends to lead to another, the apron made me think about making cupcakes, which made me think about eating cupcakes, which…for some reason..made me think of a hippo!

As I mentioned above, to sell handmade toys in the EU you need to carry out very specific tests in order to use the CE mark (I have done this for my Ellen mice). As the hippo will not be for sale I am free to just make it for fun without worrying about dye data sheets, burn rates or, for that matter, copyright issues. Ages ago I treated myself to this lovely book:

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If I make things outside the business, it feels like playing hookey so allowing myself to make the hippo from the book was a real treat.

pieces of hippo

I generally make my own patterns, and it was fun allowing myself just to follow someone else’s (excellent) instructions. In addition, Ellen Mouse has such tiny arms and legs, they take practice to turn the right way out, but these hippo limbs are huge in comparison and so much easier! A word of advice to anyone who has never tried to make a doll or toy with arms and legs before, some books will tell you to pin a safety pin to the end and slowly, slowly oh so slowly wiggle it down until the tube is the right side out. In my humble opinion, what you actually need is a chop stick.

magical sewing tool
magical sewing tool

This rather splendid chopstick has had several uses. It started life as a magic wand at a Harry Potter party, dropped quite a few pieces of sweet and sour chicken down my front and now turns fabric tubes inside out and pokes stuffing in to even the most awkward fabric nooks and crannies. Once you have sewn a fabric tube with right sides together and need to turn it the right way out, just push in the closed end of the leg or arm or other fabric tube slightly, push the end of the chopstick in to the hollow (the larger end of the stick if the tube is wide enough, so it is less likely to push through the line of stitching), stand the other end of the chopstick on the table or your knee and wriggle the tube of fabric down over the chopstick – rather like putting on a snug pair of tights.

My completed hippo seemed a little under-dressed for cupcake making, so I made her an apron of her own,

finished hippo
finished hippo

I decided that, given the source of the fabric, the only possible name for my hippo was Hilary, and took her outside for a bit of a photo shoot.

Hilary the Hippo
Hilary the Hippo

Max the cat, was very interested in the little hippo.

Max and Hilary

In no time at all the cat and the hippo were firm friends; they made a bond of friendship…you could even call it a hippo-catic oath! I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

hippo-catic friendship

With Hilary the Hippo complete there were still scraps of fabric, so I made a zip pouch, a pincushion and three catnip mice! I filled the pincushion with crushed walnut shells to keep pins and needles sharp – just be careful with anyone with a nut allergy.

A side – peacock head
B side – peacock tail

If you make your own catnip mice or fish or birds, there are things to remember:

  • don’t use beads or buttons that might come off and choke your cat
  • keep cats out of the room when sewing (mine try to steal it while I am sewing it closed)
  • make sure it has a long enough tail to protect your fingers from sharp teeth and claws
  • don’t leave cats and catnip toys unattended; cats can go utterly loopy and may hurt themselves
three catnip mice
zip pouch and mice
peacock zip purse

Now this is all that is left of my piece of fabric…

fabric scraps

Even these tiny pieces will go in my scrap bag for making applique cards and fabric pictures…

It would be ever so nice to win the prize of £1000 (that would buy a lot of zips and thread and toy stuffing), but regardless I have had a lot of fun with my free piece of fabric and I have already become very attached to my little hippo friend and our two cats will be giddy with happiness when I give them the catnip mice, so thank you Hillary’s Blinds!

Easter is coming, the bunny’s getting thin…

Easter is coming

The bunny’s getting thin*

Here’s a little bag

To collect chocolate eggs in!

*I reckon all that running around hiding chocolate eggs (without eating them) is bound to keep the Easter bunny skinny!

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I usually make my drawstring bags with linings and separate casings – and sometimes I even quilt them – but had the idea that if I could make them simply enough, I could price them so they could be used as gift bags. To keep the inside tidy without lining I have used my favourite French seams. You sew the front and back of the bag wrong sides together, trim the seam allowance, turn it inside out, press it and sew the seam again with right sides together, The effect is to enclose the raw edges within the seam.

I have also unleashed my love of applique and free-motion embroidery on some Easter cards:

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Of course before Easter, here in the UK we have Mother’s Day on 30 March (would have been my dad’s birthday, so have to mark it with lots of ice-cream!). I made some pretty flower and teacup cards with mothers in mind:

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All currently available in my shop: Deerey Me on Etsy.com

Mind you, before either Mother’s Day or Easter we have Shrove Tuesday on 4 March…best known as pancake day! I haven’t made anything to sell for pancake day…but I will be making pancakes mmmmmmmm. In my opinion you can’t beat good old lemon and sugar. What’s your favourite pancake?