Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Bunting March 8, 2012

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 3:18 pm

I’ve been busy making bunting.

I thought it would be ever so quick and simple to make, but it turns out it’s rather time-consuming. First I had to draft a template and gather the various supplies (fabric of course, plus tape or bias binding). Then I made a prototype, to work out what the best size and spacing would be. I altered that a bit, and then I started on the real thing.

So far I’ve made three lots of bunting – two of the grey one you can see here, and then a brown one. With this being the year of the Diamond Jubilee/London Olympic Games/whatever else is going on, I’m planning to make some in rather more patriotic colours as well. I’ve got some nice stripey fabrics, some with red and white, and some with blue and white

At first, I had planned to make about ten sets, but it’s taking so long that I’m wondering if my patience will run out before then. First I cut up the triangles, then I ironed them, pinning them together in pairs (with the right side of the fabric facing inwards). I sewed down the long sides of each triangle, leaving the top open so that I could then turn them right side out. That bit is a bit of a faff – it’s quite fiddly work trying to turn out the pointy bit of the bunting (alas, comments have been already about the fact that they don’t end in a particularly pointy point, but I have done my best…). After that they need ironing again, and then pinning along a length of tape or bias binding. Bias binding is a little easier to work with as it folds so readily, but I was able to get a much better price on a length of 50m of tape (this was back in the time when I thought I would EASILY make 50m worth of bunting) and so that’s what I’ve been using most of the time. You fold the tape in half, so that it covers the open edges on the short (top) bit of each triangle. Then you have to sew all the way along the tape – which again is quite fiddly as it’s quite a narrow strip by this stage.

Still, despite the time it’s taken, I’m happy with how the first few lots have turned out. I don’t think my career in bunting production is going to be quite as lucrative as I’d hoped though – I’d have to charge a lot to really make it worth my while, and I think that would put people off buying it altogether.

(I should mention that the kitchen in the picture isn’t mine – thank you to my mother, who both let me use her kitchen to take pictures, and stood holding up the other ending of the bunting while I did so.)


Mini quilt February 6, 2012

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 10:59 am

I love looking at pictures of quilts people have made.

I even sort of like the idea of making a quilt someday… but then I think about how long it would take, how expensive it would be, and all the things that would likely go wrong while I worked on it. And that brings me back down to earth: I’ve just not got the patience for such a massive project.

So when I make things, they tend to be little.

I’ve had a week off work, and that gave me enough time to come up with the idea of making this cushion, and to actually get on and do it. I’ve got plenty of fabric on hand, so I decided I should make something with what I already had, no matter how tempting the new prints and patterns are.

I’ve used some of the prints here in other projects, and others are ones I bought on our trip to the Pacific Northwest last year. The plain yellow and green stripey fabric came from The Quilting Loft in Ballard, Seattle, and the grey/yellow ones with the wiggly lines came from a fabric shop in McMinnville, Oregon (a little town I really liked). I like buying fabrics when we travel – it’s nice to bring back something from a faraway place and make it part of your home.

The front of this cushion cover is made from 64 squares, and cutting those out was quite enough for me – I definitely couldn’t manage a whole quilt…


Cat toys April 26, 2011

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 7:09 pm

A few weeks ago Melissa shared a pattern she had created for a cat toy – the Kitty Kicker. I planned to make one for Daisy, and in the end (because I don’t have a printer at home) I made my own version by guessing the sizes and cutting out a rectangle of fabric.

The reason I was so keen on Melissa’s pattern in the first place was the shape, so I tried to make my toy along the same lines. Anyone who has a cat will have seen them use their front paws to pull a toy towards them, while using their back feet to repeatedly kick it away. If you’ve been really unlucky, they will have demonstrated this behaviour on your arm! Melissa’s Kitty Kicker is just the right shape for a cat to attack it in this way.

I found some dried catmint in a pet shop, and was able to test it out on Daisy. She’s not previously been interested in the stuff, but something has changed: this time, while I was trying to open the box to get some catmint out, she almost mowed me down trying to get to it. She actually sunk her claws into the packaging – and into my hand. So it’s safe to say that she likes it these days.

I also added a little bell, attached to some ribbon. I’m not sure if this adds to Daisy’s enjoyment, but every time I hear the bell tinkling, I know it means she is playing with her toy, and that makes me feel good.

And she really does kick it, just as Melissa intended – you may even be able to see the claw marks in her toy in this picture (Daisy’s is the top one – the one underneath was given to a neighbour’s cats).


Sewing a peg bag August 30, 2010

Filed under: Gifts,Sewing — lauravw @ 5:37 pm

The other day I had a sewing request from a friend: she wanted me to make her a new peg bag, based on her existing peg bag, which was on its last legs.

I like this sort of project: I already had enough fabric and so was able to start straight away, and the peg bag was quite simple so I knew I would be able to make the whole thing from start to finish in one go.

I sat for a little while with a pencil and paper, measuring all the various bits and making notes on how it seemed to have been assembled. Then I cut out the fabric and set to work sewing. I chose some sturdy ribbon for the strap, and remember making a mental note about which stage I would need to attach the strap. But mental note-making is not my strong point (rather than use my brain, I usually write everything down), and so it was that I came to assemble the whole bag without a strap, and had to unpick and reattach things. Oh well.

I’m pleased with how the finished item looks, and I’m starting to wonder about whether I should make more for gifts for people. Or even to sell – job security is not what it once was, and so anything that brings in a few pounds is worth considering. I’m not sure whether making peg bags counts as a get rich quick scheme, but it would be a start…


Turning tablecloths into bags, skirts, and goodness knows what else… July 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 6:49 pm

By nature, I am the sort of person who saves things ‘for best’. I’ll buy a nice dress and only wear it on special occasions, or I’ll have pretty candles but won’t light them because I don’t want them to be used up.

For the last couple of years I have been fighting this instinct, and trying to enjoy the things I have while I have them, accepting that yes, they may get used up in the process. So these days if you visit my house in winter, you’ll find I’ve lit plenty of scented candles. And if I write to you, I will use my favourite notecards.

It’s in this spirit that I have, at long last, taken the scissors to an Orla Kiely tablecloth that Megan sent me for my birthday last year (or was it the year before?). It has been living with my fabric collection ever since it arrived, and every now and then I’ve taken it out to admire it, pondered what I could make from it if only I could summon the nerve to cut into it, and then put it away again.

But this weekend I really did cut into it. I made a little bag using the Cath Kidston pattern I’d used once before, and I have plans to make a matching skirt (not that I would wear the skirt and use the matching bag at the same time, you understand).

And I had a rummage through the button jar to find some suitable buttons for it. I’ve not made my mind up yet, but I think these bluey-green ones at the front are the main contenders. All the buttons pictured came from my grandmother’s button jar, which I inherited several years ago.

I also found some Ikea fabric I’d bought some time ago – a lurid print of giant sushi pictures. And I’m thinking about turning that into a skirt too. I wonder if a sushi skirt is a step too far? Where is the line between quirky/individual and just plain weird, I wonder…


Crafting with cashmere June 20, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:26 am

Another weekend whizzes by, but at least it’s been a good one.

I have started work on a new cushion cover for my mother: she has/had a beautiful orange cashmere jumper, and wore it happily for a few years. But then it came out of the wash rather smaller than it had been when it went in, and no longer fitted her. (Nor did it fit me, unfortunately – much as I would have liked to inherit something cashmere!) It’s far too good to get rid of, and so it must be repurposed – I think a cushion cover is its best hope.

But there is something about working with a very expensive, albeit shrunken, cashmere sweater that makes me nervous. I have stitched a line across it, and yet I am reluctant to take the scissors to it to trim off the sleeves and the excess parts of the body. My mother is unlikely to share these reservations, and so I’m sure when she next visits, she’ll be willing to pick up the scissors and start trimming it to size.

Incidentally, I thought I would have to sew the whole thing by hand, but I did a trial run sewing across one sleeve on my sewing machine, and it worked really well. When I turn it the right way out and put the cushion pad inside it, I plan to hand sew it closed along the bottom edge that you can see in this photo.

As you can see from this picture, my little assistant likes it just as it is. I’m hoping there will be enough scraps left at the end of the project to make her something to sit on. She seems to think she deserves a cashmere cushion, so who am I to argue?


Sewing small things May 31, 2010

Filed under: Gifts,Sewing — lauravw @ 1:51 pm

Although my recent skirt project was a success, I still don’t have the confidence to get started on the Amy Butler Liverpool shirt dress pattern. It’s just too fiddly! I’ll get round to it eventually (I’ve already bought the fabric so I’m running out of excuses), but not yet.

Instead, I did a small sewing project: two bibs for a baby that’s due to arrive in our extended family any day now. I’ve made these before so there was nothing to be anxious about – it’s a very straightforward pattern and I was able to go from start to finish in the course of a quiet Sunday afternoon.


I made this May 28, 2010

Filed under: Fashion,Sewing — lauravw @ 4:42 pm

…and I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. You can see a couple more pictures of it on Flickr, and there’s information about the pattern and fabric in this earlier post. The pattern was nice to work with – I can honestly say I did not swear during the making of this skirt, and nor did I threaten to throw the whole project out of the window. (I may have done this on previous occasions…)

When you make a skirt, you take your own measurements and cut your cloth to fit your body – and yet I am always surprised when the finished object fits me. I think it’s that part of me that knows that my homemade skirt won’t be as well constructed as some that I might buy, and so my expectations are lower than they need to be.

Susannah at Cargo Cult Craft wrote a post about this subject recently that caught my interest: Handmade or homemade? She writes: “The problem is that my eye is so accustomed to the mechanical perfection of mass-produced clothing — perfectly spaced buttonholes, perfectly even tucks, perfectly parallel rows of topstitching — that anything else, even a meticulously handstitched hem, looks somehow shabby.”

It’s worth reading the whole post, and the comments that follow it. The next pattern I plan to tackle is Amy Butler’s Liverpool shirt dress. I am terrified of it. I opened up the instructions and they look so daunting – there’s so much going on, so many bits to cut out! And there are choices – four different lengths, and sleeve options. I think I have settled on the tunic length, but I haven’t even thought about the sleeves yet. With the bank holiday weekend ahead of me, I may get chance to start cutting out my pattern pieces, so it is making-your-mind-up time.


I’ve been sewing May 16, 2010

Filed under: Fashion,Sewing — lauravw @ 5:11 pm

It was a slow start, but it’s getting there now: at long last I am sewing my Anna Maria Horner Study Hall skirt. Other than my own lack of speed when it comes to projects, this one’s a slow start because she has you zigzag stich every bit of fabric before you start sewing them together. Which I’m sure is a very sensible thing to do, but it means it’s a little while before you actually start constructing the skirt.

But now there’s no stopping me! I’ve made the front and the back, put in a zipper I’m really happy with (I think this is the best job I’ve ever done in putting in a zipper), and I’m soon going to be sewing the front to the back, then trying the whole thing on and admiring it.

It’s a little bit on the bright side, but no matter – I’ll wear it with a dark brown top and I’m sure that will tone it down enough. I love the fabrics – the main print is Splashy Rose in Pumpkin by Sandi Henderson, and the one inside the pleats is Henna Garden in Brown, from the same collection.

And of course, now that I’ve actually made something, I can (almost) justify buying some new fabric. I have my eye on something already – Filigree by Patricia Bravo.

And then there are new fabrics being unveiled by some of my favourite designers: Amy Butler has a new collection out in the autumn. I like the look of it, but I can’t see colours in there that would suit me if made into clothing. But Heather Ross’s new collection has a print that I love and want to wear, so there are possibilities there. It’s a shame the pound-to-dollar exchange rate is no longer in favour of us British girls…


Sewing club May 14, 2010

Filed under: Crafts,Food,Sewing — lauravw @ 11:36 am

There’s an informal sewing club in these parts. While we call it sewing club, it’s a rare evening that we actually sew. More often than not, it’s simply tea and cake and gossip at someone’s house.

There are just two members (which makes it a whole person smaller than our previous organisation of some years ago- knitting club): me and my friend Eloise. Eloise, you may remember, is an artistic sort (take a look at her shop to see her beautiful greeting cards), and the other week she presented me with this little print she’d done.

This week’s meeting was at my house, and it was a baking-themed affair. We baked fairy cakes and cookies, and then we ate them. And of course there was plenty of tea. Not a stitch was sewed, but we did show off our recent projects and talk about our plans for future ones.

The fairy cakes are from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook – vanilla ones, with vanilla buttercream icing. And the cookies are oatmeal cookies from the Little Red Barn baking book – I love these. We put chocolate buttons in half of them, but I think I prefer them without.

The cake cases were a gift from my mother – I have these pink and white spotty ones, and a matching set in brown and white.



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