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

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

here comes the bride!

I do!

No, not me! It is little Ellen Mouse’s big day. I had a custom order for mice bride and groom – so much fun! Used the end of a sleeve of a 45 year old wedding dress and added silvery Christmassy touches. The groom is wearing a black pinstripe suit shot with gold, with a red waistcoat and silver buttons and cravat. The beads and small parts mean that these mice are decoration only; not toys and not suitable for children.

blushing bride
blushing bride
mouse wedding couple
mouse wedding couple
soft focus mouse bride and groom
soft focus mouse bride and groom
soft focus mouse bride
soft focus mouse bride

mouse groom

Ellen Mouse bridal closeup
Ellen Mouse bridal closeup

 

The wedding photography was fun…who says soft focus is outdated???

wedding photographer to rodent celebs
wedding photographer to rodent celebs

 

I won!

My dear friend Irene at vastgotaspets och tradgard had a giveaway to celebrate 1000 posts (well 1004 actually) and I won this beautiful yarn. I am going to pop in to ‘Wool’ in Bath to ask advice about a scarf or shawl pattern that would suit both the yarn and my crochet inexperience.

yarn to die for!
yarn to die for!

 

Oh Rio!

Somebody found my light tent…!

Rio the cat finds a new place to sleep
Rio the cat finds a new place to sleep

Just as well the background sheet is washable.

 

the bag lady

I spent last week working on zipper pouch designs – I now have patterns for pretty much every size of zip, and am getting faster, and what’s more I am starting to get orders…yay! So without further ado, let the bag parade begin!

First off let me introduce this burnt orange dupion silk number sporting a silk pansy embellishment and faceted, light-catching zip pull. I love this Autumnal colour – and it took some stiff upper lip to cut in to the fabric.

dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail
dupion silk zipper pouch with pansy detail

 

Next, modelling the season’s butterfly theme, we have a pretty little blue and cream number. I have a love of all things bugly and couldn’t resist this fabric – all the more so for the glittery gold highlights!

When Irene was visiting she bought me the most lovely teapot earrings (teapots are a big thing in my life), and I set out to source the lovely little teapot charms to use in some of my work and, serendipitously, I still had left some of the teapot/teacup fabric I once used to make a lavender heart for Irene, so the fabric and charm came together to make an afternoon tea bag!

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to make her something special, so used some lovely coastal village print cotton in grey and white and made a larger zipper pouch bag, with wadding rather than interfacing, to give it a cuddly quality. Rather stupidly I forgot to take a photo of the soft shopper tote I made from a mixture of this fabric and a grey/blue tartan (lined with part of my sister’s old duvet cover actually – I like to recycle fabric where I can), which I folded up and put inside the zipper bag.

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I spotted this frame for a small coin purse at Sew n Sew at the Bath Guildhall Market and decided to give it a go. I was a little disappointed that the ‘pattern’ that came with the frame was a line 8.5cm long with instructions to add whatever you want below it…gee thanks!…but it didn’t turn out too badly. A little froufrou for my taste, but enough fun for me to seek out sleeker, square frames on eBay to try some more.

framed coin purse in crushed velvet
framed coin purse in crushed velvet

 

Friends and family are great at donating odds and ends of fabric they find hidden in their lofts and cupboards, and this lovely oriental style fabric, despite fraying like mad, worked beautifully for bag making. I am going to make some envelope clutch bags with it too.

I bought some sale fabrics from the Village Haberdashery and this Laura Gunn garden wall fabric is even more lovely in the flesh than it looked on the website – no wonder they only had one skinny quarter left! A very dear and clever friend (Karin that’s you!) asked whether I could add wrist straps to my zipper pouches…fab idea! I will be doing this on more bags…

Now my corners are sharp and my bottoms are flat and my zips are a joy to insert, I want to unleash my imagination. When I went on a small business finance course at City of Bath College (highly recommend it if you are local), we were asked what our USP (unique selling point) is. The group laughed when I said it was that I am untrained, but I explained that it means I am also untethered. If you know exactly how something should be done, I think it is quite difficult to give your imagination free rein. Of course it means a bright idea can take quite a bit of working out and practice, but hopefully the result will be uniquely quirky. So now I have the basics sorted, I want to try some more adventurous bags…I have an image in my head of a cloud bag with raindrop fringing, and a double-decker London bus bag, and a dragon, and fish, and….oh the possibilities are endless!

Of course woman cannot live on bags alone, and there have been other creations in the week. Ellen Mouse, fully CE marked, is now in my shop – modelling a white brushed cotton top and reversible pinafore.

A scalloped edge blue felt rose brooch with gold-speckled blue bead centre…for blue days. I love my scalloped edge pinking shears!

felt rose brooch
felt rose brooch

And finally, inspired by talented Rebecca Bourne, I decided to make my sister’s birthday card, to match the coastal village fabric I used for her bag. For a first attempt at sewing pictures in a non-applique sort of way, I was quite chuffed. Mind you, they aren’t kidding when they suggest using an embroidery hoop when free motion sewing – I do like the non-square cartoon-like quality of the beach huts, but not the little gathers in the fabric. Next time I will use the hoop, after all it’s not like I don’t have half a dozen of them sitting on my shelves already!

beach hut free-motion sewn card
beach hut free-motion sewn card

 

Of course all work and no play makes Sue a dull girl, so Mark and I had an outing yesterday to Westonbirt Arboretum’s tree fest. We resisted the swing seats and hand-carved mirrors and tables with tree root legs and the little wooden house, but – again with Irene in mind – Mark bought me a tea cup birdfeeder (and a trug so I can be a proper gardener).

teacup bird feeder
teacup bird feeder

If you would like to see more photos of the Treefest, have a look at Deere Diary:

 

wooden t-rex skull at Treefest
wooden t-rex skull at Treefest

Frida Kahlo, fabric stash and kilner jar pincushions

Frida Kahlo

A little while back I stumbled upon a little online shop called Viva La Frida that sells wonderful Mexican print oilcloth along with Mexican folk art bits and pieces. The colours and patterns all but throw themselves at you and, just as the wand chooses the wizard, I believe the fabric chooses the project and a bag of Viva La Frida remnants all but shouted at me “bunting and bags!”

Oilcloth is an odd thing to work with. Firstly pins mark forever, so I always use clips to hold it in place and, secondly, the vinyl side tends to be reluctant to feed through the sewing machine, so it is quicker and easier and results in far less swearing if you sew through tissue paper both sides of the oilcloth. Actually the nice people at Viva la Frida provide some hints and tips for working with oilcloth.

the sky blue-pink side
the sky blue-pink side
front pocket
front pocket
tote - the green side
tote – the green side
red and green Mexicana tote bag
red and green Mexicana tote bag

The nice lady down the road let me hang the bunting on her front fence to photograph it; she doesn’t even seem surprised by my strange requests these days!

bunting
bunting
Mexicana oilcloth bunting
Mexicana oilcloth bunting
bunting close-up
bunting close-up

fabric stash

For years I have sorted my fabric stash by colour – the quilter in me, no doubt – but you know these days it’s just not the most useful arrangement. So today I did a stock take and arranged the fabric by type of material and pattern:

luxury fabrics:

  • silks
  • velvets
  • glittery stuff

cottons:

  • plain and background patterns
  • arty patterns
  • animal themed prints
  • seaside prints
  • Christmas and Winter prints
  • other themed prints

Utility fabrics:

  • calico
  • sheeting
  • ticking
  • cotton drill

Not only can I now find exactly what I am looking for but I have reminded myself of what fabrics I have and that has refueled my enthusiasm to make a load more things.

fabric stash
fabric stash
fabric by pattern
fabric by pattern
neatly sorted fabric stash
neatly sorted fabric stash

Kilner jar pincushions with sewing kits

Finding I had so much silk and velvet, I put a piece of shot purple/blue silk to good use by adding a pincushion to the lid of a kilner jar. I made one a few months back and now both are in my shop. I have added a simple sewing kit to each jar – I particularly like the vintage style embroidery scissors.

kilner jar pincushion and sewing kit
kilner jar pincushion and sewing kit
kilner jar pincushion and sewing kit #2
kilner jar pincushion and sewing kit #2
sewing kit #1
sewing kit #1
sewing kit #2
sewing kit #2

 

In other news…

After much searching I have found a fabric supplier who also provides details of EN71 compliance, which means that once the fabric arrives I can carry out the CE certification testing on the new fabrics and start making and (hopefully) selling Ellen Mouse!! There are some limitations – no plain brown fabric, so no Freja Mouse production line, and they will all have to have the same pink inside ear fabric, but I am looking forward to getting back to sewing mice. We have visitors next week, so I won’t be sewing (although I may be picking my friend’s brain for crochet help), but soon Ellen Mouse will be back!

 

And finally…

Don’t forget I will be making the draw for the lavender heart tomorrow morning! Just comment or like here or on my facebook page.

Liberty print lavender heart
Liberty print lavender heart

upcycled poppy

I love oriental poppies – the garden is full of them in shades of red and pink – and was quite chuffed when making a rose from the waistband of an unwanted sweater, I…well…screwed up…and discovered how to make a poppy. To make the rose (another idea from Elizabeth Helen Searle’s ‘fun to wear fabric flowers’) you take an old sweater – ask permission first if it’s not yours! – and boil wash it then tumble dry on a high heat. Cut off the waistband, cut each end in to a curve and then gather it up, roll it up and put through a few stitches to hold it in place. However, one time when making one the waist band was a little narrow, so I included a bit of the body of the sweater, which made the flower looser and more open. I then also lost concentration (watching Master and Commander on DVD…I do find Russell Crowe in breeches somewhat distracting) and instead of rolling the gathered waitst band up in the same direction, I accidentally turned it back on itself…and voila my rose was suddenly a poppy! I added a black button centre and now make poppies more than I make roses.

1. cut the waistband, including a small strip of the body, off a boil-washed sweater.
1. cut the waistband, including a small strip of the body, off a boil-washed sweater.
2. round off both ends of the strip of sweater and sew a loose running stitch from the top of one curved ens to the top or the other.
2. round off both ends of the strip of sweater and sew a loose running stitch from the top of one curved end to the top of the other curved end.
3. gather the strip as tightly as you can and fasten the end.
3. gather the strip as tightly as you can and fasten the end.
4. roll up the gathered waist band, stitching it in place as you go (a good long needle helps). While rolling it up change direction at least once (depending on length of waist band - two or three times is better).
4. roll up the gathered waist band, stitching it in place as you go (a good long needle helps). While rolling it up change direction at least once (depending on length of waist band – two or three times is better).
5. as with most fabric flowers made by rolling up, try to keep the base flat and level, allowing the petal side to be uneven. It can be sewn directly on to a bag or garment or you can use a circle of felt or faux sude as a bas and attach a brooch back or hair clip.
5. as with most fabric flowers made by rolling up, try to keep the base flat and level, allowing the petal side to be uneven. It can be sewn directly on to a bag or garment or you can use a circle of felt or faux suede as a base and attach a brooch back or hair clip.
6. ta da!
6. ta da!
7. if you like, complete the poppy effect with a large black button.

too warm for gloves?

It may be a little warm for wooly gloves, but they have other uses too! I turned this pair in to a soft and cuddly dog.

dog upcycled from a pair of gloves
dog upcycled from a pair of gloves

Over the last few weeks our cherry tree has looked amazing, but  strong winds recently have scattered the petals over the vegetable patch, like a layer of snow. Mind you, it has given the apple trees and the choisya their chance to shine. I don’t think I am the only one appreciating them either…bzzzzzzzz.

bees on the apple blossom
bees on the apple blossom
apple blossom
a Bath garden in May

Lovely days for walks by the canal with George the spaniel, who I walk for a friend once a week.

george canal
canal walk with George the spaniel