Weekend Away

There’s nothing like a deadline. And a challenge.  

Yesterday I was musing aloud in my favourite coffee shop whether I should try and make a tunic to wear away this weekend.  And was told not to bother.

So I did.  I’m awkward like that.

I’m on the train now, so this is not a proper post, but I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself right now so here’s a picture…

Not so glamourous selfie on the train.

Not so glamourous selfie on the train.

I even tidied up the pile before I left.

Getting smaller (bulk wise anyway)

Getting smaller (bulk wise anyway)

I am a bad disorganised sewer.

I have not finished my to do pile.

I keep starting more things.

And then putting them on one side and starting yet more. (I feel like an out of control mathematical expression, all open parenthesis and not an end in sight.)

My fabric is in random heaps in the spare room.

I have not sorted out my hardware issues and have written draft blog posts which I can’t upload the pictures for and started yet more blog posts using rubbish pictures but haven’t finished them.

I was going to get organised (sewing wise at least) and make myself some trousers back in October.

It’s now nearly the end of November and I’m thinking about blouses.

I blame Erin from Seamstresserin as she keeps writing about bow neck blouses of every kind imaginable for her sewalong. Not that I’m tempted to try a bow neck blouse at all as they’re really not my thing.

However I have been tempted by all the lovely Wiksten Tova blouses out there in blog land, there are too many to know where to start linking to. So tempted that despite my reservations about whether I’m the right shape to fit in suit one I went ahead and bought the pattern to celebrate finishing my curtains (by far the bulk of the remaining pile) although I had to use my mum’s printer to print it out. In the end I was swayed by the fact that I think the pattern is a bit like my favourite blouse, so has potential. Wanna see?

My fave blouse (bought from Seasalt)

My fave blouse (bought from Seasalt)

It’s all floaty in a gauzey soft cotton fabric witha subtle little print on it and it’s floaty without being tent like and Holy Moly that keyhole neckline thing has a bow. A shoestring bow maybe but it’s a bow. Where did that come from?! How did I never notice that?

Anyway, I like the collar on the Tova and I have a large piece of plain blue knit fabric from the scrapstore that I’ve used a corner from to make a toile/muslin in which has the added bonus that I won’t need to bother about finishing the seams.

So I just need to match these pattern pieces up from my printout and …. hold on, I can match the little number triangle OR the edge of the pattern pieces OR the edges of the rectangles, but not 2 of them, let alone all 3. Oh well, I’ll bodge it together and soldier on.

Right now to cut out in my blue fabric. Hang on, this fabric, err, there’s not very much of it and I seem to have used over half of what there was. There is nowhere near enough to make a blouse.

Ok, I’ll rummage upstairs. Except I don’t make clothes for me so there is nothing suitable in my fabric pile. Except maybe this that I picked up from the scrapstore for £1, which horror of horrors is pink. Ok, I can do pink, it’s just a toile after all.

Next, cutting out, ok. Put on plackets, fine. Attatch to front piece. Hmm, I’ve attached it inside out, which is even more obvious as I couldn’t be bothered to wind a pink bobbin so there’s the white reverse of my topstitching showing. And a hole on one corner where I failed to attatch the inset correctly. This needs needs redoing. 3 times . Hmm, this fabric is loose weave, it frays easily and pins leave holes.

Ok, so the front is bodged together just about assembled. Maybe I’ll just sew it to the back to try it on. Pink is not my colour, this is definitely a toile. I’ll try and take in the back, which appears to be a couple of sizes bigger than the front and add the sleeves. Hmm, I’ve added one sleeve inside out. Never mind, I can still guage the fit this way. Hmm, I wonder if I could, yes I might….

This is the only time I will wear this

This is the only time I will wear this

Behold (but not too closely) the prototype bow neck Tova. I bet this has been done before, to solve the gaping placket issue, but I can’t find an example of it. I have found a collarless Tova (done properly with bias binding not just turned over and hemmed like this one). Actually I kind of like it and I think the unfinished wider sleeves balance it nicely. Shame it’s so badly made, not great fitting and pink.

Seriously, I’m not convinced about the way the inset sits on my bust. Although hubby thinks it’s fine. Also, the upper back and the top of the sleeves feel a bit tight so I definitely don’t want to try the full bust adjustment if that results in a tighter sleeve cap. Which is a shame as I saw some great fabric for making a Tova dress (with a collar) that I had imagined I could rustle up for my weekend away on Friday. I think I need to let my subconcious mull over next steps for a while, but I hope there will be a well made properly fitted version sometime and maybe a bow necked version one day too. And if I do try again then I need to start before 9pm, takemy time, concentrate and do itproperly! If not, my mum might have the pattern as she was eyeing it up!

quick update

I have been making stuff. Lots of stuff.

I would be nearly through the pile if I didn’t keep starting more things.

I have been drafting blog posts about the stuff and having hardware issues and not posting the blogs. Yet.

Oh and I have a new machine. I’m over the initial excitement and I’m starting to learn what it can do, or rather what I can do with it.

Yesterday it was curtains, done the proper way. We’re quite pleased. They are even “glow in the light”.

I'm in love...

I’m in love…

Today was a little something extra. But it’s secret. For now. I will tell you it mainly involves rectangles.

Knit Knat Knoo

Well, knitting myself some fingerless gloves prompted two different reactions from my kids. First my daughter found me knitting. She demanded to know what I was doing and upon finding I was knitting something for myself looked cross and indignant, then lost interest and wandered off. Her older brother had a different approach. He didn’t object to my knitting but politely insisted that I had to knit something for him next. He decided it needed to be a replacement Scarfy.

At this point I better explain what a scarfy is. It all started when I was trying to knit myself a circular scarf thingy, inspired by my buff. I bought some hand dyed indigo sock yarn and tried to knit it in the round. I never got far, partly due to impatience at knitting with such fine yarn. And partly due to a small boy (age 4 at the time), demanding I knit him a tubular scarf, with yellow and red stripes going up and down it and a green stripe around the top and bottom. He was very insistant and scarfy was duly knitted. It turned out kind of like a wide headband that could be worn around the neck but he mainly wore it over his ears (someone told him that he looked like a cool ski dude like this. He had no idea what it meant but was pleased.) He wore it a lot his first year at school, often in the classroom. Little sister had a purply version made with sequins. Hers is still around somewhere, his has gone astray at some point.

Well, I agreed to make a new scarfy after I’d finished my mitts and together went through my inherited yarn stash, mainly acrillic double knit, and to my surprise he chose a rather tasteful green, red and gold variagaited yarn that is very autumnal. On reflection I think he didn’t want to miss out on variagated yarn, as my mitts were also in a variagated yarn. I insisted on chosing a matching dark slightly bluey green to border it, to capatilise on the tastefulness.

Knitting the Scarfy was straightforward, the main piece is just garter stitch and there’s not many stitches to a row, so it’s plain sailing. Initially I cast on 20 stitches, but after a few rows I decided that would be too wide with a border as well, so I ripped it and started again with 16. My main problem was that I couldn’t find any straight needles vaguely the right size so I ended up using circular ones (but knitting back and forth with them rather than in the round) and the loop kept getting in the way. Anyway, you just knit to the desired length, remembering that it needs to be stretched when on (I forgot this and his ended up a bit baggy, I had complaints and had to shorten it).

When the main band was finished, I picked up stitches along each edge in turn, one stitch for every 2 rows (easy with garter stitch) and did 3 rows of 1 in 1 rib before casting off with Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off. Then there’s one short seam to sew up and voila, a new Scarfy to keep out the autumn chills (and make sure you’re not missing out).

Today, after a couple of weeks of wearing and a week missing in action it finally turned up and I got some photo’s to show you before it’s lost again.



A slightly calmer shot

A slightly calmer shot

Side view

Side view

Of course, this then prompted a fit of jealousy from little sister. So for reasons to complicated to go into I said I’d make her a headband with flowers on. I chose some blue from the stash (a thin ply that I knit double) that reminded me of a t shirt that really suits her which is also covered in felt flowers. This time the rows were even shorter (12 stitches) and quicker to knit up, plus I didn’t border it, so no picking up stitches and I soon had a headband.

I searched the wonderful web for flower patterns and found this free Gerbera pattern from ODD Knit (this site is fantastic and has lots of small quick projects to use odds and ends of yarn up). A gerbera seemed a good choice as the flower needs to be flat to fit on a headband, and the simple daisy style shape will be accepted as suitably flowerey by a 5 year old.

For the pattern, you knit the petals one at a time, but the last stitch of each one is used to make the first stitch of the cast on for the next petal, so they end up linked together in a chain. The petals are knit sideways, you cast on, knit 4 short rows (to shape the petal), then cast off and start again. I found the cast on the longest part. As the cast on and cast of edges curl inwards and are clearly visible, a method of casting on using a crochet hook called the Bind Off Cast On is used, so that both sides of the petal look the same. I hadn’t come accross this before but found this description, also by ODD Knit, easy to follow. I also came accross a U tube link, but I juch prefer written instructions with clear illustrations that I can take at my own pace to video’s. The only thing I’m not sure about is that the instructions seem to say that you need to take your crochet hook out of the yarn loop and reinsert it the other way each time. After a while I got bored and stopped doing this. I didn’t notice a change in appearance and it sped up the cast on.

A chain of petals

A chain of petals

I only knit 10 petals rather than 32 as in the pattern, as I wanted them to lie flat and not be in two layers like the gerbera in the pattern, plus I was impatient. Ten just felt about right. I knit two flowers, one in a yellow yarn and one in the variagated yarn to match her brothers scarfy (they appreciate that kind of detail). The flowers are quite big in relation to the headband so two was plenty. On reflection I should maybe have played around a bit and adapted the petals to be shorter and fatter. I didn’t knit the inner part of the flowers or the stalks, just the petals. Instead I used buttons for the centres. She had great fun rearranging my button collection (i.e. spreading it all over the table, taking sets ouf packets and mixing them up etc.) and chose two buttons. They weren’t my first choice, but she hadn’t had any say in the yarn colours so this was the compromise.

First flower sewn on, centreless

First flower sewn on, centreless

I sewed the base of each petal onto the headband to secure each flower and added a button centre.

The finished headband

The finished headband

I think the petals would be improved by being shorter and fatter, but I’m happy enough with it and she seems pleased too. Well, she does when I’m not trying to take her photo.
I'm doing this under duress

I’m doing this under duress

But I can't stay cross for long, I'm going to a birthday party tomorrow

But I can’t stay cross for long, I’m going to a birthday party tomorrow

I can be scary too!

I can be scary too!

Sewing Machine Blues

A couple of weeks ago my sewing machine broke. I was in the middle of making half a dozen sashes for some dancer friends and had a deadline. I was sewing away and heard a loud clunk, so I stopped. On closer investigation the timing has got out of sink and the needle wont go down it seems because the bobbin casing is in the way.

Luckily immediate crisis was averted as one of the dancers leant me his machine and I got enough sashes made in time (although there’s still a couple left to finish on the never ending pile that I’m supposedly working through rather than adding to). I thought about getting my machine fixed. It’s been fixed before and there’s a repair shop about a mile from my house. It’s a Singer Tempo 60 that I’ve had for nearly 20 years. My mum bought it for me as a birthday present, to stop me using hers I think. I’m pretty sure it was second hand. The more I thought about it I realised I wanted a new machine. Unsure of how to suggest buying a new one I started discussing a new one with my husband and he suggested buying one.

So I set off for my local sewing machine shop, with my mum in tow as she fancied a nose and a second opinion is always welcome. The shop had lots of machines and probably half a dozen in my £100-£200 price bracket and many more besides. The man in the shop was busy showing expensive quilting machines to someone, fair enough. I waited politely and peered at the machines and got confused by the ones not labelled with a price and the floating promo flyer that seemed to be for a machine they didn’t have. There wasn’t much space and mainly we loitered awkwardly. It’s hard to choose a machine by looking at it, they all look fairly similar.

Eventually the assistant paused in trying to persuade his other customer the complicated virtues of a machine (she didn’t sound convinced that she needed them all) to ask what I wanted. That’sveasy, namely a machine, costing £100 – £200, that does straight stitch, zig zag and buttonholes, as that’s at least 95% of what I use my machine for. He briefly showed me a £250 machine, without even acknowledging that it was out of my price range and seemed completely uninterested in mentioning any of the others I’d been peering at, stated it was “simple” and that I should definitely get this one. Then he went back to his sale.

I peered at the machine a bit more and another assistant materialised. I told her my criteria and she also firmly stated without hesitation that I should get this one, a £250 Brother (I forget the model number), which she also called simple. I pointed at the other machines in my price range on another wall and said that I’d read good reviews of Janome machines online and she pointed to a more expensive and complicated looking Janome and said it was equivalent to this, but this one was better. The others she didn’t mention. I said I didn’t like the look of the lcd screen on the Brother, I’ve never felt the need of an lcd screen to select stitches and surely this is just one more thing to go wrong. I was told that they never go wrong and that dials are more likely to break as they’re moving parts.

At this point I was feeling a bit cheesed off. Why did they stock half a dozen machines that were apparently so bad as to not be worth mentioning even when directly asked? What was so brilliant about this one that they both considered it the only choice worth mentioning? Could it be it had a greater mark up or comission or that they had too many in stock? Would an lcd screen really last 20 years? And why all this fixation with telling me how simple it is? I have never struggled to use a sewing machine, they’re all pretty simple. I didn’t struggle to use the computerised one that they had at my school. I think maybe on this point I was being touchy and by simple they meant basic, but they don’t say basic because it makes the machine sound bad and cheap. Trouble was by emphasising simple they made me think that they thought I was an idiot who would struggle to use a sewing machine.

Anyway I agreed to try the machine. Which was an odd experience. As well as a pedal it can also work with a button to start and stop it and there was a speed control too. So she didn’t plug the pedal in. Which meant I was trying it without a pedal and with her sat by my side. Neither of which I liked, especially not the button start/stop. (It’s not exactly time consuming to plug a pedal in). Anyway it sewed well and had a special buttonhole foot that you put your button in and it makes the hole just the right size, which I have to admit is pretty cool. She told me it had a strong motor and demonstrated sewing through several (6?) layers of fairly thick fabric on it easily, which I also liked. Then she gave me a glossy flyer for the model to take away. It didn’t mention the motor she’d gone on about anywhere.

I left the shop unhappy. I’d wanted to buy a new machine but I didn’t feel I trusted them. Also I’d wanted to part exchange my old machine (this shop being the repair shop too), because I don’t want to throw it away, but they don’t sell 2nd hand machines so that wasn’t an option. Oh, and the assistant told me that if I get a machine from them I get a half price class on how to use it and the class is 6 hours long! She neglected to say how much it would cost. Six hours on how to use a sewing machine? There may well be some things I would learn in that time but I doubt I’d be learning for the whole or even most of the 6 hours. I hope I’m not being arrogant but I (admittedly some time ago) took a GCSE in textiles and that involved competently using a sewing machine. Plus with small children 6 hours is a big time commitment to make. Even midweek it would overlap at least one of drop off and pickup times. She mentioned they’d tell me which threads etc I need to buy so I’m sceptical they’d just try and sell me more stuff.

So, I went to my local independent sewing shop to buy a machine and came out annoyed and not wanting to buy one. And worried that I was being churlish and it really was hands down the best machine.

Then I got distracted by Portia over at Miss P telling us about bargin overlockers at Lidl. I was tempted. Very tempted. But I didn’t get time to pop in straight away and that gave me time to realise that an overlocker without a sewing machine is not much use. So I reluctantly gave up on the idea. I hope they do them again next year (Lidl often do) and I realise and get chance to get one.

Any way, I did no more and did some more sewing on my friends machine.

Borrowed Janome

Borrowed Janome

And then I had to give it back. So now I’m machinless again and thinking of more sewing projects all the time. I don’t know if I should get my old machine fixed, either as an interim measure or to sell for the price I fixed it. Get a treadle machine, but I don’t think they do zig zag and where would I get it serviced. Oh and where to keep it.

Then today I went in our John Lewis and discovered that it has a small, unstaffed, haberdashery department and sells sewing machines. I had a question about whether the automatic buttonhole on one worked like the one I’d seen demonstrated and I found an assistant who didn’t know so rang a store with a larger haberdashery department to find out that it did. They also told her that any of their £99+ machines have motors strong enough to deal with upholstery fabric.

And now I find that I instinctively trust the opinion of someone who works for a chain store and that I have never met over the opinions of two employees of my local independent shop. This is wrong!

So, tonight I paid £1 for a months trail membership of Which and read their sewing machine report. And their best buy was a Janome. That they sell in John Lewis. For £220. I think I saw it in stock today. And the John Lewis website has great customer reviews for it.

I think I may be popping back in tomorrow…

Waste Not Want Not / Buy 1 Get 1 Free

So, after completely messing up  a slight miscalculation when scaling up a childs skirt to adult proportions, I had to chop off just over half my fabric to make a wearable skirt.  Which meant I had over half my gathered, tiered, beribboned fabric left.  Which needed something doing with it.  

Obviously I could have made a second, marginally larger, skirt. But it wouldn’t have fit me and I couldn’t think of anyone else I knew wanting one (apart from the recipient of the first one and I didn’t think she’d really want two). Besides the whole point was that it was a one off special skirt.

I could’ve unpicked the fabric and reused it, but that felt a little soul destroying, after I spent so long gathering yards of fabric. 

I could’ve sneaked it upstairs to my unfinished projects box.  But I was on a high having just completed several projects.  Plus it was on that pile, which I promised myself I’d vanquish in order to justify a selfish sew.

Actually I did know someone who’d like another skirt like that, the recipient of the original skirt, but it would be a little long for her.  But maybe a dress? Maybe a dress made with shirring, like they made on the Sewing Bee, that didn’t look so hard. But how to go about it and did I have the right amount of fabric?

Well, a quick internet search yielded a clear and concise shirring dress tutorial from Leila of Where the Orchards Grow. Which revealed the magic proportion of 1 and a 1/2 times pre shirred fabric width to chest size. I measured the fabric. I measured a small girls chest. Taking seam allowance into account the former was almost exactly 50% bigger than the latter. It was meant to be.

The top purple floral panel of my fabric had a generous strip at the top that had been allowed for making waistband casing. I lopped it off and made two wide, flat, rectangular straps and topstitched them. I french seamed the sides of the dress, including a self drafted pocket (for a small girls hand and including ease) made from skull and crossbone fabric (just like the skirt, I like to think my daughter is quite tough under all the flowers) in each side. Then the top was hemmed (the bottom was aleady). I hand wound my bobbin with specially purchased shirring elastic and set to work (after a test on some scrap fabric).

After the first couple of rows I wasn’t sure. But a few more and the magic started to happen. It started to look like a proper dress. I kept going for the whole purple section until just above the ric rac (not sure shirred ric rac would be a good look). Then after a quick fitting to pin the straps on, I sewed them into place and voila one super quick dress (if you forget the hours needlessley preparing the extra fabric when making the skirt).

Wanna see?

'Scuse the post wearing crumpled look

‘Scuse the post wearing crumpled look

(I do have a decent camera, I just can’t get it to talk to an internet enabled device right now, hence more dodgy shots from a fixed lens flashless devices, sorry, I really must sort that out.)

I love it, she loves it and amazingly her brother isn’t sulking about it. It has taken some persuading to get her to wear t shirts and leggings with it as it’s not summer dress weather at the moment, but I think it’s got enough growing room to last through next summer. Here’s a bad photo of her wearing it.


Somehow the silouette (with the extra flare of the tiers under the shirring rather than using a tube) makes me think of Alice in Wonderland. I’m really pleased to have made the most of my mistake. And don’t tell, but I think I may prefer this to the skirt version.

Knitting Update

ImageRemember the gorgeous but impossible to work with yarn that I bought? Well, I forgot to say that I knit it up.  Here are my two rectangles before I sewed them up into fingerless mitten / wristwarmer thingies.  The left shows the front of the twisted rib, the right the back where it comes out as plain rib. (Apologise for the fuzzy photo, I’m having hardware issues). I didn’t want to do anything complicated texturewise that would fight with the variagated yarn, but I wanted something a bit more interesting than plain rib.  I like the effect I got, but it’s messy.  My excuse is the number of times I had to tie the  yarn back in because it broke as I was knittng.  I knitted the ends in as I went because I couldn’t face the thought of weaving them all in.

 Well, they’re cosy and stay on and I still love the colours. Need to make the thumb holes a bit smaller though.

Dodgy selfie

Dodgy selfie

Secret Sewing #3

So, as well as getting distracted making an extra bag to match the skirt project, it may not surprise you to know I was inspired to start another extra item.  I even finished it in the end.  Just about.  Wanna know what it was?

Well, watching Sewing Bee got me reading Lauren’s blog which has some really great tutorials, including one on making a snap frame purse (which the woman from the mobile phone shop in town assures me are all the rage. No seriously, apparently she’s a fashion and textiles graduate). And Guess What, Lauren also sells the snap frames in her shop! So I ordered two and a magnet closure (figuring that one day it’ll come in handy, after all I like making bags). They came really quickly and the had pretty Guthrie and Ghani logo stickers on the packets to boot. I also asked if Lauren would make a tutorial for the double snap frame’s she also sells (at this point I was already daydreaming about making lots of purses) and I got a lovely email pointing out that she has already, that was so nicely worded I didn’t even feel embarassed (actually, I think I may have got a little star struck, but don’t tell anyone because I don’t approve of such behavoir).

So I set about to follow the tutorial and make a spotty purse with a pale blue ribbon bow (that matches the ribbon on the skirt but is thinner) with the flowers on the inside. I was a bit worried about the final stage, where you glue it onto the frame, but as there are lots of pictures of purses people have made on Lauren’s maker gallery I figured it must be easier than I feared.

Now Lauren’s tutorial links to another tutorial, also by her, on how to draft a pattern to fit your purse. Which includes the sensible instruction “Once you have your pattern piece, I’d still recommend running one up in some chalico or scrap fabric to make sure its fits and looks how you want it too.” I read this and decided that as I wasn’t intimidated by the pattern instructions I would skip this, after all I was in the middle of making lots of bags and skirts and hats at the time, no time to waste….

Well, I found the tutorial really clear and went ahead and made my pattern, cut my fabric, sewed my bow. The only bit I found connfusing was whether to iron the interfacing to the main fabric or the lining as I couldn’t find that instruction in the pattern. I figured it wouldn’t make much difference and guessed. Then I found the instruction, nice and clear, slap bang in the middle of the section I thought I’d carefully re read several times. I guessed right and was relieved I hadn’t emailed to point out the “mistake”.

Storming Ahead

Storming Ahead

I managed to get my polka dots running horizontally but found to my irritation that despite my best efforts my ribbon didn’t match up at the side seams, grr.

Match up Mishap

Match up Mishap

I decided to press on to that tricky looking glueing stage. I struggled and struggled, the fabric kept pulling out of the metal casing. Eventually I had to admit it was pattern drafting failure, my fabric simply wasn’t wide enough to fit properly. Shame I didn’t take Lauren’s advice.

Gap Issues

Gap Issues

I was quite disappointed. Husband tried suggested helpful things like adding zips (which was kind of missing the point). Then I for some reason decided that by trimming off the now crusty (due to glue) top I might make it fit. I can’t work out what was going through my head, “hmm, it’s too small, I know, I’ll make it bigger by cutting some bits off it”??!?

Attempted Fix

Attempted Fix

Needless to say, it didn’t work. My daughter made me put a strap on the abandoned purse so she could use it as a little bag. It made me wince everytime I saw it but she was happy. I did draft another larger pattern, but did no more for months until I was finishing the skirt off. Then I tried again as I wanted to be able to send the purse too, plus I’m trying to clear my pile.

This time I used the larger pattern. I couldn’t find any floral fabric left (it turned up later) so I lined it with skulls and crossbones. The construction was straight forward again and this time it seemed big enough, but I didn’t have enough superglue left and the fabric wouldn’t stay in the casing long enough to stick (my fabric, even with two layers plus interfacing, seems much thinner than the metal channel).

Next day armed with new glue in a less than helpful dispenser I struck upon a method that worked for me.

  • Squeeze some superglue into one side of the casing.
  • Take a kirby grip (a.k.a Bobby pin) and use the end where it opens to push the glue around inside the casing until its spread evenly.
  • Push the fabric into the casing using the rounded hinge end of the kirby grip, start at the middle and work outwards to the bend, hold in place with a peg, work to the other bend, peg, work down one side, peg, work down the other side, peg
  • Leave to dry completely then remove pegs.
  • Repeat on the other side.


    After gluing the first side I reread the glue instructions and when glueing non porous substances such as metal, you’re supposed to spread on a thin layer, leave for 10 mins, then add some more before attaching the two bits together. The fabric on the other hand is very porous and soaks the glue up. So for the second side I tried putting a little glue in the casing, leaving for 10 mins, then adding more and stuffing the purse fabric in. Unfortunately this left too much glue in the casing which lead to seepage, so I’ll only try that again if I can find a way of smearing the first layer very thinly.

    I was relieved to have finished the purse and have it come out well enough to send as a present. It even fit inside the skirt pocket, so I put the skirt in the bag too and sent a little nested surprise. I still have the other frame and I have an idea of what to do with it. But I think I might play around with the proportions of my pattern as I wasn’t 100% happy (I really should’ve had a practise go!).

    This is a quick, fun project that looks really good when finished. But next time I must remember to slow down, read the instructions properly and not be trying to make 3 other things simultaneously! Don’t be put off by my problems if you’re thinking of making one, as they were my own fault, not the tutorials. And the result was worth the hassle in the end.

    All done

    All done



  • Secret Sewing #2

    When I was making that skirt there was a large strip of fabric left over in both the green polka dots and blue floral fabrics as I cut my two long tier pieces sideways as they were wider than the fabric. Quite big pieces as the panels were only 8″ deep, so I had over half the fabric width left. Plus I had got my fabric over twice the length I needed although I didn’t realise it at that point. And I got thinking about bags, because I like making bags and I thought it would be nice to run one up that coordinated with the skirt.

    As bags need more fabric than hats, I ran up this bag before running up the first three sunhats (the ones that were suppossed to leave me with cool scraps for the skirt pockets) because I wanted to cut the fabric first. That’s right I started a skirt, stopped it partway to make a bag, then made 3 hats, before trying to finish my quick make skirt which then lurked in my dining room for months unfinished. I did finish the bag really quickly but as I wanted to post it with the bag as a surprise extra that lurked with the skirt for months too. This kind of thing is is why my blog is called prolific project starter!

    The bag was really simple. I was wary of making it too big (something that I’ve done in the past when winging bags for myself) especially as it was it quite a lightweight fabric so wouldn’t hold too much. So to get the size right I drew round one of my favourite bags, which is made by Skye Batiks and is a much treasured present from my big brother. I didn’t want a big flap on this bag though.

    I made the bag in 3 pieces. The main piece, which is both sides and the base. And two pieces which are each one sides and half the strap. I hope this rather basic illustration gives you the idea.

    The pattern

    The pattern

    The width of the main piece is the bag width plus twice the seam allowance (as there’s a seam each side). The depth of this piece is twice the bag depth, plus the width of the base, plus twice the seam allowance. I didn’t make the base very wide, about 3 inches I think.

    The sides of the bag are the base width at the bottom and taper up to the strap width, which was not much less on this bag (the difference is more marked on a bigger bag) but helps keep the top opening together rather than bagging out. The length of those slopey sides matches the depth of the bag. Then the side continues straight as half the strap. I considered making the strap pieces longer but not joining them so they could be tied to the perfect length, but I actually just used my favourite bag measurements again as the person I was making it for is not much shorter than me. For the pattern I drew out the final panel size then added my seam allowance all around.

    And I put a small pocket on the outside and inside, cos I love pockets, but not too many as then I can’t remember which one I need to look in! As I had decided to make my bag reversible, I made the two pockets as identical rectangles, flowery on one side, spotty on the other, so that when the spotty side was outermost the outer pocket would have a flowery lining to match the bag lining and visa versa.


    Sewing up the bag is quite simple. There are two U shaped side seams joining each side panel to the main piece and giving the main piece it’s shape. They go down the front side, along the base, and back up the back side. Then the strap needs hemming in the middle. If you’re worried about measurements this can be done a bit later when joining the inside and outside together to make sure everything lines up. If the bag wasn’t lined or reversible I would’ve cut a fourth piece to line the strap, making it more comfortable and hiding the raw edges. Something I did do was sew an extra rectangular base piece on just attatched at the side seams on one of my fabric choices. This is invisible in the finished bag but adds strength. I could’ve ironed interfacing on the base instead.

    As it was I lined up the two bags right side together with the pockets on opposite sides (so there wasn’t too much bulk in one place when the pockets have stuff in and also so if the outside pocket is on the front of the bag the inner one sits against the body, which seemed a good placing to me). I sewed one continious seam along one top side of the bag and round one side of the strap. The bag needs turning right way out at this point. Then I top stitched along both top edges and the strap sides.

    Finally I decided to try something new with this bag. I added a button closure. It needed a buttonhole in the middle of one top edge, and two buttons, sewn back to back on each side of the opposite edge. This means whichever way out the bag is you can button it shut easily and you can see a button front and back on the bag. I was really pleased I worked out how to make a reversible button closure. Shame in all my excitement I didn’t put the buttonhole further down, my large buttons stick out over the top of the bag, which I’m not so chuffed about.

    Overall I was pretty pleased. And it fitted the skirt in for posting. What do you think?





    Secret Sewing #1

    I’ve finished some more bits from my pile that have been hanging around a ridiculously long time, I’m edging closer to starting my selfish sewing wishlist.

    Back at the beginning of our glorious summer I made my youngest a twirly skirt and posted a photo on the dreaded facebook.

    Well, an old friend I’d kind’ve lost touch saw the picture with asked me if I’d make her one and I thought Why Not. I got some measurements and a design brief of Blues and Greens and sketched the dimemsions on the back of an envelope. There wasn’t the right kind of fabric in my stash so darn it I just had to go shopping. I couldn’t find the a nice floral with a solid blue background like I was looking for, but in the end I settled on these.

    Shopping haul

    Shopping haul

    The assistant was most curious with my definite requests for random amounts of fabric and ribbon.

    I made the a front and a back panel with two side seams, which meant I could get two pockets in. I didn’t want seams in the middle so I didn’t use 4 panels even though it meant buying more material. I cut the top tier pieces from the width of the fabric and the middle and bottom tier pieces sideways-on parallel to the selvage edges.

    So far so good

    So far so good

    I started with enthusiasm determined to finish it in time for a full summers wear. I was surprised how long the gathers took to do, I hadn’t appreciated how much more sewing would be involved for an adult size. As I went I daydreamed of things to do with the left over fabric pieces (several are already littered around the blog). And congratulated myself on judicious use of selvage edges to eliminate the need to finish the seam between bottom and middle tiers. And then things started to go wrong….

    Problem no 1: Loopy back part of stitch stitch machine malfunction issues, suddenly, for no apparent reason, no change of thread, nor fabric, nor tension.



    I put it on one side for a few days in a sulk and to let the machine get over it. Then unpicked it and tried again. Second time lucky but some momentum lost.

    Problem no 2: Pockets. I wanted to use some scrap skull and crossbone fabric for the pockets to add a dash of secret humour and grit to the girlyness. So I paused to make the first three sunhats so I’d have the left over fabric. Trouble is that as well as losing momentum, I didn’t really have enough fabric leftover. I tried making a half skull and cross bone half spotty pocket bag but stuffed it up. So I went for plain spotty and stuffed that up too. I drew around my hand but forgot to add ease or enough seam allowance, the latter as I managed to work out how to insert a pocket bag and still French seam the sides but forgetting that meant leaving more seam allowance than my normal half inch. So the pockets ended up a little small.



    At this stage in theory I just had a quick waistband to do and I was done. I was contemplating pressing on despite the fact that I knew the pockets were too small, but there was another issue I couldn’t really ignore…

    Problem no 3: sizing issues

    Hmm, could this be a tad on the large size?

    Hmm, could this be a tad on the large size?

    Obviously my now lost calculations or my cutting had gone a little wrong somewhere.

    At this point I put the skirt on one side in the corner of my dining room and tried to ignore it. I felt pretty stupid that it had gone so spectacularly wrong and didn’t know what to do next. I did buy some more fabric to make the pockets bigger but couldn’t face unpicking the french seams. So it languished.

    Eventually my friend asked for an update and I picked it up again. I checked that she didn’t want a riduculously full skirt, but she didn’t want to look like a hobbit, so some alterations were needed…

    In the end it wasn’t too big a job. First I unpicked one pocket and added another one with ease and a proper seam allowance included and amazingly I could now get my hand inside. Then I decided to make the skirt width at the top (before gathering into the elastic waistband) the hip width plus 1 inch ease (+ seam allowance). This meant cutting just over half the skirt away. Eek.I slept on it, did it, added the other proper sized pocket, finished the other seam, made the waistband casing, added elastic and in no time at all I had a skirt…

    Ta da!

    Ta da!

    Then I just had to finish a little something extra off and it went in the post. And amazingly it fit and she liked it. I have a photo to prove it but not permission to post it so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.