Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The best present. Ever. (FO)

Last year I made my husband some shoe bags for Christmas, which he declared were The Best Present Ever. High praise, no? Flattery like that gets you everywhere...

He likes them for all sorts of reasons:

:: he has expensive taste in shoes, which he keeps for years decades
:: they don't take up any room in the house
:: they help him keep his shoes shiny and dust free

I like them too, for different reasons:

:: they are really easy to make
:: I made them from the stash
:: they are quick and cheap and have a high appreciation factor

After the raging success if last year's bags, an order was placed for more. Last year I upcycled some unused pillowcases (unused because they were the wrong size/shape for our pillows). This year I homed in on a linen skirt that had been hanging about in the upcycling pile for aaaaages.

It looked promising: a natural fibre in a neutral colour, and after a quick eyeball for size, I calculated that I could cut it up to make two new shoe bags in next to no time.

The first step was to cut the top of the skirt off. Choppity chop.

Then I ripped the central seams of the skirt. Riiiiip.

This left me with two rectangular pieces of cloth, each joined at the side seam and with the original hem. I spent a bit of time looking at the hem deciding what to do with it. I wanted my bags to have drawstrings, so needed a casing to run the strings through.The hem finish seemed to be perfect for this purpose,  so I just needed to sew the side and bottom of the bags together.

For durability and neatness and just because I like it, I used French seams. And, I bagged the bottom of the bags too, to give them a bit of shape.

Finally, I ran some tape through the hem casings to make drawstrings. All in all, a really quick little project. I reckon it was under half an hour, including all the rummaging and ironing. Result.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Stir-up Saturday

Yesterday afternoon the jelly bean and I spent a happy half an hour mixing this year's Christmas cake.  She's a good helper, and is particularly enthusiastic about licking the bowl afterwards (well, who isn't?)

We used our normal recipe from Nigella Lawson's 'how to be a domestic goddess'. With a few tweaks here and there. I tend to omit the mixed peel and put in more cherries instead, and I use whatever alcohol is available in the drinks cupboard - this year the brandy ran out when I was soaking the fruit, so I brushed the top of the cake with whisky. I don't think anyone will notice.

Today I transferred the wrapped cake from its tin to an airtight container. The jelly bean was rather disappointed . She thought we would be icing it today. I sense a compensatory session of cake baking coming on, just to take our minds off the cake that is cooked, but not ready to eat!

Friday, 7 November 2014

'Tis the season

Winter is almost here. My pockets are stuffed with hats and gloves, and the nights are getting longer and longer. Maybe it was the clocks going back that did it, that caused a switch in my brain to turn on. 

C R A F T! 

it says

M A K E!

Knit, sew, cut, stick, bake, glue - just DO something. Christmas is a-comin, dontcha know?

My fingers are itching to make and do. My head is full of ideas and plans, There are lists and notes, books, magazines, blogs and websites and flashes of inspiration here and there. In the last week I have bought card stock, circular hole punches and a new guillotine. I am lusting after fabric and yarn - but trying to restrain myself to shopping in the stash. That is the challenge: Use. The. Stash. 

I am planning:

  • A zippered bag for shoe cleaning kit for DH (probably the Purl Bee one)
  • A waistcoat for the bean (BBC vest by Schwin designs)
  • A dress for the jelly bean (Figgy's Sunki dress)
  • Zippered pouches/project bags for the jelly bean
  • Some raglan tees for the bean (Recess raglan tee by See Kate Sew)
  • Some self-made bias tape for my MIL
  • A knitted cowl for the bean
  • To finish the Phoebe cardigan for the jelly bean

Then there is a Christmas cake to make, plus peppermint bark, fudge and a whole pile of Christmas cards to make (and write). And, of course I could add a few more projects like: make decorations, finish that quilt top I have barely started and tidy up some of the other WIPS lurking in corners. But doing that would be ALL kinds of crazy, and I am definitely not crazy: I am completely in control (yeah). 

Since the crafting fever began last week 18 Christmas cards have been made, Christmas cake ingredients have been bought and the patterns for Sunki dress and BBC vest printed out. And, yesterday I bought two presents!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Sunday tee #update

After yesterday's successful morning crafting I felt fairly pleased with myself. I petted those tees a bit, folding and refolding them and admiring my own handiwork.

Just before tea time I decided that it was time to put the tees away. As I laid the smaller tee in the cupboard I gave the oh-so-neat neckline an exploratory stretch. Hmm.


The little bean's head?

I held my breath and tried. It stretched satisfyingly

Double curses.

I haven't decided whether to give the tee to someone with a smaller head (little beans noggin is on the big side) or redo it. Sigh.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunday tee (FO)

Crafting is a rare luxury at the moment, just because my energy and time is sooo limited. The other night I  had to rustle up a plain black tee-shirt for the bean's school dance show (we had tried and failed to buy one, and were running out of time). While the machine was on the table I took the opportunity to stitch up one of those raglan tees I cut out a couple of weeks ago.

This morning, while little bean had a nap and the jelly bean got on with some Halloween crafting, I managed to finish the neck of that little tee.  It was the first time I had successfully attempted to apply a neckband to a knit/t-shirt. There have been a few previous fails, but this time I read a tutorial that made sense to me, and I gave it a go.

We'll just gloss over the slight wrinkle which is - of course - At. The. Front.


I also wrangled a neckband onto a plum stretch velvet tee which I made for the jelly bean in August. (And which looks nicer in real life). She took one look at it and said she didn't want it, but changed her mind today when I finished the neck. Again there is a wrinkle at the front, And I have managed to put it on back wards so the seam is also at the front. But, well, someone on a galloping horse probably wouldn't notice, and as these FOS are both upcycled remnants of previous garments I am not mcbothered.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Viral Loading

The bugs have got me. For two weeks now I have been feeling somewhere between under the weather and really ill.

I haven't had much time or energy for non-essentials. And, over the last few days we have been battling a nasty dose of hand, foot and mouth which little bean picked up. He is covered in spots - and has a beard of red raw sores which make him look like a sickly Victorian urchin. It is not much fun, but today (day 4) was better than yesterday, so we think he is getting better.  Poor wee thing.

Thank heavens for: breatstmilk, ibuprofen, Calpol, jelly and custard.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Hand-made hand-me down (FO)

A long time ago, when the bean was small I discovered upcycling and refashioning. About then I made him some cute trousers with some of my old clothes - denim with a red stripe and some sweet tucks around the knees. I think the jelly bean might have worn them briefly and then they were passed onto another family with a baby boy to clothe.

Two weeks ago those mama-made toddler trews boomeranged their way back to us. I had sort of forgotten about them, - except for the odd glimpse in a few photos. Then that friend with the baby boy (now aged 4!) gave me a bag of too small boy things for the little bean, and there they were.

They fit the little bean perfectly -  and still have plenty of life left in them. I am putting them on him every chance I get and I'm super proud these hand-made trousers have lasted long enough to become hand-me downs!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Wristwarmers (FO)

Once the Socksperimental socks were off the needles I cast on for another wee project I could take on the bus/to work/out and about.

The subtle change in weather and temperature over the last couple of weeks activated the autumn/winter knitting mojo, and I cast on a new pair of wristwarmers, using some left over yarn from last year. I'm not sure if they are destined for the long-range gift pile - or for me. They do match my hat...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Batch processing #cutting out

Little bean is growing out of things before our eyes. He's got a long back and round tummy (which all 16month olds should have) but it means t-shirts and tops don't fit for long.

Given that I have: 1) a reliable t-shirt pattern in his size and 2) lots of knit fabric in my stash  it seems sensible to whip up a few new t-shirts . This afternoon I managed to cut out fabric for three new tops. I used the fabric from some old t-shirts and outgrown clothes - including a dress belonging to the jelly bean. All in all I used two vests/camis of mine, one dress from the jelly bean,  one t-shirt of mine and part of little worn t-shirt donated by my husband.

I've bundled the cut out pieces together, so they are ready to sew next time I have an hour or two spare.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

DIY Elsa costume (FO)

The jelly bean was five a couple of weeks ago, and like most small girls, is fairly enthusiastic about the film Frozen. Badly sung and barely remembered versions of 'Let it go' feature regularly in our house.

An Elsa outfit of some description was needed for her birthday, and I did some careful research on the webz to get some ideas. I decided to make a skirt and top rather than a dress, with a separate cape. As with all dressing up clothes, I figured it would be useful to make things interchangeable, just in case a fireman or a pirate ever needed a snow queen's frosty cape to wear. 

In one of those 'oh yes' moments, I realised that the sparkly teal knit fabric I had in my stash might just be. completely. PERFECT. for this project. It feels fairly horrid and is undoubtedly a synthetic throwback from the 1970s, but it looks pretty (and double bonus is only cost £3). 

As if that was not karmic enough, when I was hunting through my box of scraps, I found an old vest/cami top of mine in a nice ice-blue colour, just right for the not-quite-matching vibe of Elsa's sleeves. 

Yada, yada. Here is the make:

I wanted to emulate some of the shape of Elsa's skirt, without the split or foxy silhouette. So, I decided to have an a-line panel at the front, and gathered panel at the back. The front panel has a little hi-lo curve at the hemline to look extra cute. I used some of the jelly bean's existing clothes to give me an idea about dimensions, but generally just cut it on the fly. I cut the front panel on the fold, and then used a curved hem from another pattern to give me a cutting line for the hi-lo hem. 

I just cut a rectangular panel for the back of the skirt, with plenty of width to give fullness. Of course I had cut this before thinking I should add a curve to this hem too, so that it could form a little train. Oh well.

Because this is a non-fraying knit and for dressing up, I did not finish the hem.

I did the waistband on this baby three (yes, THREE!) times. The first time I included a dressing-up-friendly velcro closure, but then realised it would pull the fabric something rotten and end up mangling the skirt. So I took it off. 

I cut another waistband from the scraps and got that all sewed on ready for the big day. Before I could add a fastener, I got sick (lying-in-my-bed-unable-to-do-anything-sick) and the birthday dawned and the jelly bean put it on anyway. It was fine apart from the fact that it had no fastening, and it was about 2 inches too small (yes, too small?! wtf?)

Cue more seam ripping. Sigh.

The third time I made a casing and elasticated the whole darn thing. No fastenings, no velcro. Nothing to go wrong. It's fine. 

Next I made the top. I wasn't quite sure how I was going to do this at first, but somewhere I got the idea to use the raglan tee pattern I bought a year back (it's all about the stash). 

I cut the back from the teal fabric and the sleeves from the ice-blue fabric, without any adjustments. Oh, actually, I did make an adjustment - I made a mistake when I cut out the sleeves, so I had to fudge it a bit lowered the back neckline to match the front and trimmed the neckline on the sleeves. 

For the front of the bodice, I used a piece of the teal fabric, but adjusted the neckline to look more like the front of Elsa's bodice, with a little bit of a sweetheart shaping at the top and a point/V at the bottom. I then filled in the 'missing' part of neckline with a scrap of ice-blue fabric. I've been reading lots of sewing tutorials lately, and I made use of a tip I saw somewhere (umm, make it love it I think) about using a glue stick to stabilise things before sewing. I glued and then top-stitched the two pieces together, before making up the tee in the normal way.

To finish the neck I folded over a narrow hem and top-stitched. The clean line fits with the vibe of Elsa's costume, and it was really quick! I love it!

3. The CAPE
Finally, I got to work on some organza which I bought for the cape (£4.50 per metre). Although it is fairly easy to sew, it is so fragile that it pulls apart really easily. I hemmed the bottom, then gathered the top and attached a ribbon tie. The first attempt looked lovely, but was too long, and came apart when the birthday girl stood on it. I shortened the cape to reduce the risk of being stood on again, and reattached the ribbon at the top - hopefully it will be a bit more robust this time...

All in all, I am totally thrilled with the way this turned out. I spent £4.50 on the organza and everything else came from my stash (ribbon, thread, fabric, elastic). Oh, and the jelly bean likes it too. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Pyjama time (FO)

After cutting those pyjama bottoms out in a flash, I stitched them up quickly too. 

I have been devouring sewing blogs over the summer, and absorbed some of the advice about maximising your sewing time from the Coletterie blog. The main thing I did was to work on the three pairs simultaneously - cutting them out in one session, then sitting down to sew as much as possible before getting up again. After only ONE sewing session all three pairs pyjama bottoms were sewn together, and just needed waistbands and finishing!   

I used french seams throughout, and followed a neat tutorial about boxer shorts for the waistbands on the children's pairs. These turned out fabulously, and I slightly regret not doing the same thing on my own pair. 

My pair of pyjama bottoms took a bit longer to finish than the children's as I had to hem the legs. I found this rather lovely bias fold trim in my box of notions. I think it is something I have inherited from my grandmother or my mother-in-law - so I used that. It went on like a dream and looks very pretty! 

I am happy to report that all three pairs of pyjama bottoms were pressed into action immediately. It makes me a very happy mummy/sewist . 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Socksperimental socks (FO)

I finished the socksperimental socks a couple of weeks ago...

I can report that although they look a bit different, there is no noticeable difference in feel when on the foot, or in a shoe. 

So far so good.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Pyjama bonanza

Over the last week I have managed to wear out two (TWO!!) pairs of pyjama trousers. How does that happen?! They weren't even the same make or the same age.

As I'm on a bit of a sewing bee at the moment, I salvaged the usable remnants and (after a quick wash) I cut out two new pairs of pj trousers from the ruins. One pair is for the jelly bean (5 next week!) and the second pair is for the bean - his pair are shorts as that was all I could eke out of the fabric available. 

I used some existing pjs as a template, adding as much length in the leg as I could manage. My children tend on the slim side and just seem to get longer/taller rather than wider as they grow.

While I was cutting out pyjama trousers, and, given that I am down two pairs, I cut out a pair for myself. I used an existing (non-ripped) pair as a template, and cut into some rather fabulous cotton lawn I bought on a whim a year or so back. 

They are going to be rather gorgeous. I did wonder about making a matching top (there is still quite a lot of fabric left), but thought that would be a bit much, particularly as none of my other pyjamas have matching tops! 

Sunday, 10 August 2014


Over the last few months I've been collecting worn and holey socks, piling them up ready for the darning fairy to repair them. She hasn't been around very much, that fairy, as - like all housework fairies - she is rather unreliable and easily distracted. You know, by shiny in-the-moment things like the Commonwealth Games, or drinking beer, or starting new projects (ahem).

While the holey sock pile has been marinading, I came up with a plan for a socksperiment.  Because my socks invariably go into a hole on the ball of the foot rather than the heel or the toe, I have been wondering if there was a way to reinforce this part of the sock and increase the sock's longevity.  

I think I have found a way. It involves knitting around the sock in s1 k1 a bit like a heel flap. And, when you are using two yarns in a grumperina' stripe it has the additional benefit of changing the direction of the stripes! [I must confess that this discovery makes me deliriously happy - I love knitting stripey socks, and making the stripes change direction is just mind-blowing. Just me? Oh, okay]

In order to test my hypothesis in a really scientific way, I am making myself a new pair of socks (see what I mean about being easily distracted). One sock has been knit the 'normal' way, and the other will be finished in the new way. I'm a third of the way along the foot of the second sock, and just about to start the k1 s1 section. 

Once I've finished them, I'll wear the blighters and see what happens. I hope it won't be quite as long-winded as the search for the Higgs bosun, or those experiments waiting for a drop of pitch to drop....

Thursday, 17 July 2014

FO: flowery top hack

Last year I bought myself a couple of summery cotton tops, suitable for life with a newborn (e.g. easy to wash; and with plenty of ease to allow for discreet breast-feeding). One of the tops has been in regular use, fitting in nicely with other things in my wardrobe, although the shape was a bit, um, meh. The other one has just too much fabric to be flattering and I have never worn it...(but since both tops came from charity shops and cost no more than £4, I'm not too bothered about that).

I've been planning to refashion both tops for a while, and last week I finally got round to hacking the first top.

Here it is before (a giant flowery square). [In case you recognise this item from R*ver Island, I should say that I removed the weird interesting neckline beading and the patch pockets when I bought it]. Anyway, back to the hack...

In order to make it shaped a bit more like me (a woman with boobs that stick out and a waisty bit that goes in ever so slightly), I cut off the bottom so that I could create an empire line under the bust. I used another top as a guideline to help me decide where to cut.  

I then opened one of the side seams, and removed a couple of inches of width from the front part of the top. I left the back as it was. [If I was a proper sewing person, I would have opened both side seams and taken the width from each side, however, I am not that person and I figured I could get away with being lazy it].

I then resewed the side seam, and fitted the bottom back onto the bodice, which I had subtly gathered under the bust. I sewed the two parts together again, and then added some elastic to the seam on the back of the top. Proper sewists would no doubt have done this with a casing, but I'm just too impatient. So, I just cut the elastic to length, and zigzagged it straight on, using the new seam as a guide. 


It is quite a small change really, but it's made this top much more flattering to wear without changing my ability to feed the little bean if I need to. If I wasn't breast feeding then I might have taken more fabric out of the front panel, and made it a bit more fitted. I'll try and post an action shot sometime which shows the front...

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Our little bean is one today. 

A whole year of you. We are so lucky.

Happy Birthday little one.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Princess Leia

The jelly bean was invited to a Star Wars party, so we crafted a suitable outfit. 

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Not dead

I am not dead, just busy getting back into the swing of family life after maternity leave. I will return. sometime. 

soon, maybe.

I am still knitting

one of the pairs of Christmas socks.

It is nearly done.


as always there are 

Grand Plans 

for the crafting year ahead.

If anything comes to pass, I'll be sure to write it down.