City Gym Shorts part 4

So, after failing to make my daughter some scalloped edged shorts last year, this year I finally got around to it.  I traced the next size up of the City Gym pattern, cos whilst last years pairs still fit her, she does still keep growing and had pointed out to me herself that they wouldn’t fit forever. Whilst I was at it I added 2″ to the pattern length at the lengthen line (on both front and back pieces, obviously) and straightened the edges to lose the signature curve at the bottom. I also added pockets as before.


Construction wise, I started with those front hip pockets, except this time around I sewed the opening right sides together before grading my seam allowance, understitching and topstitching, as I wasn’t using bias binding.


Then I sewed the fronts to the backs along the side seam. I chose to use a 1/4″ seam allowance, like the pattern suggests for the crotch seam, and figures that way I didn’t have to add any extra seam allowance (when constructed as per instructions, that side seam is made by overlapping the bias bound front and back edges).  It was even narrower than my usual 1cm default. I finished by zig zagging with my overlocker foot on my sewing machine and topstitching the seam allowance down.

Next up I drafted a facing piece the width of the bottom of the short leg and about two inches deep and cut two of these out. Then I folded over the pattern piece paper doll style (after folding over the seam allowance) and cut out an arch.

That gave me a scallop template to trace onto my facing. I hemmed the other side of my facing before pining it to my shorts and stitching along the scalloped line. Then I trimmed, turned the facing and hand tacked everything in place so I could give it a good press.


Finally I unpicked my tacking and topsitched the edge of the scallops. Then  I added a second line of scalloped stitching, mainly to hold the top of the facing in place as I wasn’t liking the other options I could think of to do that (either a straight line of machine stitching going across, or hand finishing on the inside). I’m rather pleased with how they turned out.


After that the shorts finished up pretty quickly, sewing the crotch seams, inside leg and adding a waistband.


I’m pretty pleased with the result, which definitely has some growing room, and I don’t think you’d guess what pattern I’d used, they look so different from the original.  She is more reticent with her feedback, but as she’s wearing them the day after they’re finished I’m taking that as a win. She even was persuaded (just) to read standing up for a minute so that I could photograph them.


City Gym Shorts – parts 1 and 2

Last summer, The Girl and I went through her wardrobe to see what gaps there were and we noticed a shortage of shorts (so to speak).   So, we sat and went through my Ottobre magazines and she picked out these scalloped edge shorts from 01/2017.

Except when I measured up they didn’t go up to her size. So whilst I pondered over how to hack them, I made up some City Gym Shorts from the free pattern from Purl Soho. She only just fit into the largest measurements for the largest child pattern, so I used the smallest adult one instead. As they were a trial pair I  was determined to use something from stash and I just squeezed them out most of a fat quarter of fabric that I had only used a couple of strips from (for a communal quilting project, I was the turquoise row). I had to piece one of the back pieces at the top to make it work but in the end that is mainly hidden in the waistband seam allowance. I trimmed them in satin bias binding (which looked ace at the time but has pilled with wear).


The result?  She loves these shorts, declaring them her Peacock Shorts of Power (apparently when wearing them she can control all the peacocks in the world, not a superpower that had ever occurred to me).  She wore them All The Time and moaned when they were in the wash. Not bad considering that I was worried she wouldn’t wear them at all as the background of the fabric is black. Anyway, I said we could go back to the shop and buy some more of that fabric and I’d make her a second pair, maybe with a different colour trim. But of course, they didn’t have any more of that fabric left in the shop, so after a long time, she finally chose some navy blue fabric with bears, foxes, dear, birds, squirrels and rabbits on instead. She was particularly taken with the gold highlights I think.

Second time around I hacked them to have pockets, I was rather kicking myself for not doing this the first time to be honest. I just freehanded a pocket pattern piece that fit the fronts (making sure there was seam allowance included on that long curved L shape) and used that to cut my pocket piece.  Then I folded the corner of that piece over to make my pocket facing pattern piece and folded the front pattern piece over the corresponding amount to make the the pocket opening before cutting out.  I had a mere sliver of fabric left after cutting out and one of my pockets is pieced and one of the facings is cut crossgrain, it was so satisfying to make this work with negligable waste.

Once everything was cut out I attached the pocket pieces to the front along the opening wrong sides together then finished with bias binding (satin again, this was too soon after the first pair to realise it wouldn’t wear well). Then I sewed my pocket piece to the facing, finished the seam allowance, then tacked the pockets to the front piece at the top and side within the seam allowance. Then I proceeded as normal with construction, and voila.

Pair number two were nearly as successful as the first ones, but aren’t quite as popular despite the fact that you can control Even More animals in them AND they have pockets. Sometimes you just strike it lucky first time!







Impulse Trousers (aka Unexpected Liana’s)


Ages ago I bought 2m of this lovely “gordian knot of tangled yarn in black on a grey melange background” jersey for myself with no particular plan in mind. It would make a great lady skater or a monata, but I’m not really a dress person.  I contemplated a maxi skirt or a full (circle?) skirt, but I’m not really a skirt person either. I kept thinking about making it into trousers, but I couldn’t find the right knit pattern. They were all to tight and jegging-y, or too loose and haremey, or too wide and palazo-ey, or too frumpy, or just plain wierd.


And then I read about some most excellent looking Ponte Pants (not to be confused with Pont Y Pants, North Wales, nor indeed with Pontipines), or more preciesly, Pleather and Ponte pants. I remember that they looked fab and someone called Andrea had made them  with the Ginger jeans pattern (for stretch demin) that she already had in a beefy ponte and some plether but I cannot find the post now at all, so frustrating, I thought I had the link saved, sorry. Anyway they gave me enough confidence to  bite the bullet and try using my Liana stretch jeans pattern with my precious fabric. After all, I reasoned, I could always cut them down into leggings if it didn’t work, or wear them as pyjama bottoms. (A sensible person would make a toile before cutting into their precious fabric obviously, but you need a fabric with a similar hand, especially for a knit as they can handle so differently. However, my local fabric shops don’t have knit anywhere near as nice as this, so I’d have to buy more expensive knit fabric online to practise with, which seems a bit pointless).


Using the Liana pattern was a bit of a (semi) educated guess, as it calls for 25% stretch denim, so I thought I might get away with jersey without sizing down.  This is what I did, in case you’re interested.  I hesitate to call it a “tutorial” as that might imply I knew what I was doing (I didn’t, I was winging it).


In order to convert my pattern to jersey I taped the pocket facing piece behind the pocket cut out to create a pocketless pattern piece and I also folded over the fly, then I cut them out. I considered converting the back to one piece, rather than a yoke and a back piece, but I wasn’t sure how didn’t think it would be worth the effort, so I cut them out as they were.

I still wanted pockets in my trousers, because pockets, I just hadn’t thought that “proper” jeans style pockets would work in the jersey. So I took inspiration from the opening of the Domi short pattern, but tried to make them a bit more practical (as the round pocket option on the Domi’s is very shallow, as described in the pattern notes). To do this, I first traced the edge of my pattern piece and drew in the seam lines. Then I worked out where I wanted my pocket opening to start and drew round a handily sized lid to make a semi circle. I also marked another semicircle, half an inch wider, to show where the ribbing would end. I decided to have my pocket extend to the waistband and side seam, for added support and stability, and drew in the pocket line by eye. Then I cut this out and used it as a pattern piece to cut out two pockets. Next I marked a third (pink) semicircle on my pattern piece, 1cm smaller than the outer one, so that I knew where the seam line would be (yes, I want 1/2″ ribbing and I’m using 1cm seam allowance, that’s how messed up versatile I am). I cut along this pink line and then used the pattern piece as a guide for cutting out the indents on my fronts (lining the piece up with the top and sides, natch).

The “ribbing” was some black jersey. I cut a width approx 75% the circumferential of my semi circle, and the height was twice the finished ribbing width plus the seam allowance (so 1″ plus 2cm then!). This was pressed in half, then I matched the midpoint of the long raw edges to the centre of the semicircle (right side), matched the end points to the edges of the semi circle, stretched it o fit, pinned, sewed, pressed, turned it, pressed again, “coverstitched” my seam allowance down (because I thought that on the pocket the raw edges might show and also I was worried that the ribbing might fray). Next I lined up my pocket piece with my front and basted along the top and side in the seam allowance. Finally I “coverstitched” (a zig zag would do as well) the curve edge in place, from the back, so I could see what I was doing. And voila, a pocket. (And a pretty fine looking one if I do say so myself).


After that it was pretty plain sailing, sew the pieces together, starting with attaching the yokes. (I did the centre front and back seams next and then the inside leg, so I could “coverstitch” them all for extra durability and left the side seams for last, but any order you like works, even the one that always seems needlessley complicated to me where you do the centre seams last and have to put one leg inside the other).


I added a yoga style waistband as described in this tutorial (except I didn’t subtract only 1 1/2″ from my waistline for the length, as it was clear that my super stretchy rib would’ve been too big then. It was a tubular peice of ribbing  which I thought was the perfect size for my waist, so I used it as it was, ha. Then it turned out it was too big, so I went back later and inserted some elastic at the back).


Then it just remained to hem them. [and get some decent photo’s, but as mentioned previously my photographer seems to be on a work to rule so dodgy selfies it is).

So, in conclusion, sometimes it’s good to do something on impulse….

(but maybe not stealing flowers and propositioning strangers with them eh)

(I feel I have to add this to balance out the creepyness of the ad, just incase anyone decides to give someone tea on impulse, plus its a great video in its own right).


There are a lot of weird things that parents-to-be get told are “essential” for life with their new one. Actually, very few things are essential for babies (something to wear to keep them warm enough, somewhere safe to sleep, such as a cardboard box, something to drink, and nappies, oh boy are nappies essential, whatever type you choose), however there are things that make your life easier. Of course, what those things will be depends upon you, on your parenting style and on your baby. For such small people, babies can have quite strong opinions about things.

Anyway, one of the things on our not-exactly-essential-but-really-made-life-a-little-easier list back in the day was an elasticated sleep gown. Sooo much easier for blurry eyed middle of the night nappy changes. No poppers to have to get lined up and snapped together, just pull it up, change that nappy, and pull it down again. Especially good if your new baby screams for the entire time whenever it is undressed. Or dressed. Or having it’s nappy changed. (Yes, I am thinking of a particular not-so-small-any-more person here).

So my go to new baby present of choice has since then been an elasticated sleep gown. Not so cute as some presents, but a helluva lot more practical in my humble opinion, and practical is what all sleep deprived new parents need. So when I found out that someone in my family was expecting, I went to buy one from my favourite suppliers, only to find that they had gone out of business. All I could find was a very lovely, extremely expensive, plain white organic cotton gown (seriously, I get that white is cute, and unisex, but boy does it stain, and you know, cute as they are, baby’s excel at making stains right from the getgo).


So, what’s a woman to do. Well, you probably guessed it by now, I found myself an elasticated gown pattern for a newborn nonetheless, with growing room included, generously provided for free. Only one problem, it didn’t have the fold over scratch mitts included, and I seem to remember they can be useful too. (Certainly more useful than the little mitts you can buy which Just Fall Off. And break your washing machine. I had a washing repair engineer once tell me that in his experience the major cause of washing machine failure was baby socks. Hmm, maybe one of those mesh wash bags needs to get added to the list).

Luckily my friend tipped me off about this envelope cuff tutorial. It’s in German, but I’m forever about to practice my (pretty basic) German and never quite get around to it so I had a stab at it. Much head scratching, dictionary consulting (both my old one from school and online ones), and badgering of anyone I know who might understand obscure German sewing terminolgy via social media later, staring at the photo’s later I finally decided to give it a go, and whatdya know, it worked!

First off a slinky yellow number covered in black flowers. I’m slightly worried about the flowers, not for gender reasons as the baby is predicted to be female, but black isn’t traditionally featured heavily on baby clothes. Still, it’s nightwear. It made up pretty quickly, I sewed the front over the back at the shoulders (rather than visa versa) due to my kids running off with the laptop so I didn’t have any instructions to hand, but I figure it’ll still work the same. As there isn’t a label in the back to tell which is the right way around, I sewed a small flower button on the front. Really well. Just in case. (Although newborns aren’t really up to grabbing things yet).


It made up really quickly and looked very cute, so I ran up another one in some of the leftovers from my leggings. This pattern doesn’t take a lot of fabric but you do need some quite long pieces, so I couldn’t use leftovers from The Girl’s dress (not without piecing them, and I couldn’t be bothered to fuss about with that).

So, if you want to make envelope cuffs / inbuilt scratch mitts yourself and you don’t speak enough German to easily read the tutorial above, here’s what I did…

First off, envelope cuffs are made in two pieces, unlike normal cuffs, which are usually one piece with one seam to make a continuous loop. So you need two pattern pieces, more on the size of them later once I’ve explained what you do with them, but for now, one will be longer than the other (so it can be folded over to make the envelope bit), see pic top left.

Then you cut your pattern pieces out with one of the short edges on the fold, one short piece and and one long for each cuff you want (so almost certainly 2 of each then).

Lie the pieces next to each other, right side of the fabric outermost (I’m using the grey reverse of my kitty fabric to be the outside of my cuffs here to avoid mutilated cats) and line them up so that the short side with the raw edges are level with each other, second pic.

Now fold the longer one over so that it’s now the same height as the shorter one (pic number 3). You need to be a bit careful doing this as the inermost part of the fabric might want to roll down as you fold it over, be firm with it!  Once you’re happy with your double folded piece, put the shorter one on top of it (lining up those raw edges on the short edge). You now have a sandwich that is 4 pieces of fabric thick at the bottom and a whopping 6 pieces thick at the top. Pin and carefully sew up your side seams, taking care to match those folds up at one end of the line, I found it best to start my seam there otherwise one inevitably rolled off the other as I was sewing and they ended up mismatched.

Then trim your seam allowance to about 2-3mm.  At this point your cuff is made, if inside out, you may want to turn in the right way out to check that you do indeed have an envelope cuff (pic 7) that folds over to make a scratch mitt (pic 8), but you will need to turn it wrong side out again in order to attach it to your  cuff.

When attaching it to the sleeve, I made sure my envelope bits were at the back of the garment, as that made more sense to me, but they would work either way.


On the left, using the sample measurements from the tutorial and a 1cm seam allowance, came out a bit narrow and not enough to turn over (luckily it was only basted in on a normal straight stitch). On the right, the new improved version, with added length and smaller seam allowances.

So, the $100 question, what size should your pattern pieces be?  Well, that will obviously depend on the size of your sleeve, if you’re using jersey or ribbing and how thick your fabric is. The original tutorial suggested using the cuff pieces from your garment pattern as a guide and adding 1/2 – 1cm width to allow for the fact that it needs to be wide enough to cover the hand, not just the wrist  (presumably you’d need too add on extra seam allowance too as your standard cuff will almost certainly only have one seam). She also suggests making the longer piece 1 1/2 times the length of the smaller one. Well, I didn’t have a pattern piece to start with as the gown pattern I was using has no cuffs. So I tried using her sample measurements (for an outfit for a 56cm baby, which I reckon is about newborn size) of an 8 x 8cm and a 8 x 12cm pattern piece. I found that in the jersey, the width seemed ok if I used the 1/4″ seam allowance form the gown pattern (more mixed measurements here), but I seem to have too much unenveloped cuff and not enough to fold over, so in the end I used an 8 x 8 cm pattern piece and an 8 x 13cm pattern piece (so the actual pieces will be twice that long as it’s cut on the fold) and that worked for me. Top tip, if you’re not sure, make one up (it doesn’t take much fabric) but sew it on to your sleeve with a standard straight stitch at first in case you want to unpick it!

Phew, that was a bit of a mouthful and I’m now acutely aware of how hard to read this might be to a non native English speaker!  Cudos to all the sewers out their reading tutorials in foreign languages, you are amazing!

More Quick Wins

Sometimes I get the How Much Fabric Have I Got?  question right. Case in point, the leftover knit from a Hoodie for the Boy, enough to make a second pair of Cloth Nappy Trousers (now I know that the first pair fit) .

After it went in the post I realised that I didn’t take a full shot, so you’ll just have to make do with my “now it matches, now it doesn’t” shots of the front and back. This fabric is a nightmare for matching (those strong lines of pattern across the fabric, some of them wave up and down as they go) and I only just eeked these out, so I’m not too bothered. All together now “He won’t keep still long enough for anyone to notice”.

They have lined pockets, partly to neaten the edges, but also because this “woven sweater knit” frays and I didn’t want to risk just zig zagging the raw edges of the pockets straight onto the fronts as the pattern suggests.

For my newbie sewer friend who I recommended this pattern to, and anyone else who may be interested, here’s how I did it (follow the pictures from left to right).

  1. Retrace the pocket piece with an additional 1cm seam allowance along the three sides that get sewn down (extra seam allowance shown shaded).
  2. Use your new pattern piece to cut out 2 mirror image pockets, and 2 mirror image linings (only use jersey for the lining, two layers of sweatshirt fabric would be too thick). Also cut 2 pocket bindings using the standard pattern piece.
  3. Sew the pocket binding on as per usual but with a slightly smaller seam allowance.
  4. Pin the pocket linings to the pockets, right sides together, and sew along the three edges with the extra seam allowance, and also the bound edge, at the standard 1cm seam allowance for this pattern (so your initial stitching on that pocket binding will be inside the new stitching line and won’t show, yay)
  5. Trim your seam allowances.
  6. Turn the pockets right way out through one of the small unsewn edges and press.
  7. Sew on the pockets as usual. In theory you could just use a straight stitch, as now there are no raw edges, but as kids pockets take a pounding, I would suggest using a zig zag or your favourite flat lock style stitch anyway, for extra strength.
  8. Voila, you have lined pockets with no raw edges showing. Continue making up your Domi’s as normal.

In for a penny in for a pound, here’s how I did the waistband also for mainly for my same friend. There are several ways of sewing a waistband with elastic inside and many excellent tutorials out there. The main two ways are to either sew the waistband on first, leaving a gap, and then insert the elastic and finally sew up the hole or to sew the waistband on in one foul swoop with the elastic already inside it. Either way you need to anchor the elastic in some way inside your waistband to stop it getting twisted during wear. I’ve used the second method here.

  1. Make up your waistband piece and sew your elastic into a loop (the Domi pattern has a table of suggested lengths to cut your elastic if you don’t have your model handy to try it out on)
  2. Mark the quarter points on both (I’ve used pins here), I just fold them to do this.
  3. Open your waistband out. It’s hard to see in the photo but as I had pressed my waistband I could still see the fold line. I pinned the elastic to the waistband just below this fold line at the quarter points.
  4. Sew a vertical line at each of the quarter points through your elastic.
  5. Fold the waistband in half around the elastic. The wrong side is the one where you can see the lines of stitching holding the elastic in place.
  6. Pin the waistband to the main trousers, again matching quarter points, right sides together (so those stitching lines will be on the top side at the moment, sorry, this photo isn’t that clear).
  7. Sew the waistband on. I have put a pin to show you where the edge of my elastic is, so you can clearly see that I was only sewing through 2 layers of waistband and the trousers, not the elastic at this point.
  8. Press your seam, turn the waistband up, press again. You might then want to topstitch/flatlock in place. (I did if only to stop the main fabric fraying). And voila, you’re done.

Swiss Darning, part 3

My third and probably final post on this subject where I actually get around to mending a hole directly with Swiss darning.


So, onto the really useful bit, where you have a hole, rather than just some knitting that you want to reinforce or embellish, and it’s not so big that you use the patch method.

This lovely pic by the way is not my handiwork. The white knitting is a jumper the woman sitting next to me brought to the course to mend. You can see there are fine white threads zig zagging up and down across the hole. These are scaffolding threads to darn around and were expertly stitched by our tutor Stephanie.  She used normal sewing thread so that the darn doesn’t get too thick.  You can see that my fellow student has started swiss darning onto existing stitches under the hole in a contrast thread.


By contrast, this was my attempt at mending a hole on a pair of tights. I was really struggling with the small guage of stitches, the dark fabric and generally wasn’t confident I was doing it right (my scaffolding threads would only come out parallel, despite ripping out and trying again 5 times, when using the woven darn method I can never get my threads parallel, typical). The result is pretty messy too.

So, with the help of the lovely diagrams in this blog post I set about trying again at home. I actually cut a hole in the small piece of knitting we were given to practice on at the class so that I had a largish gauge pale thing to practice on.

First off the scaffolding thread. I’m using green darning yarn here, which is thinner than the yarn the piece is knitted from. The key for me was to realise those zig zags are not random, but actually done in the same way as a normal Swiss darn, albeit an elongated one. So, I start with my needle through a hole in a stitch underneath the gap. Then I go up and backwards as usual, put my needle in, take it out the next hole and then go back into the hole below that I started from. Then I come out the next stitch over and repeat the process until there is scaffolding across the whole of the hole. I had to concentrate to get the tension right and not pull the edges of the hole together.  If there is the loop end of a stitch at the edge of the hole, put your thread through that to save it unravelling further, you can see some at the top of the hole in the last photo above.

Then I took some red yarn (a little on the thick side truth be told) and swiss darned a couple of rows under the hole (and slightly wider) to get me started. So far so normal, but then on my next row I was soon at the point of having to darn into a gaping hole…


Once I’d taken the leap of faith into the void it was surprisingly easy. The stitch is the same as usual. You start at the bottom coming up through the hole at the top of a darn on the row below, so you’re all safely anchored. The top part of the stitch has no knitting to go in and out of, but instead goes around the V of scaffolding threads coming out of the stitch you started from. Then you go back into that stitch you started from and on to the next one.

Here I am going back the other way. The trick is not to pull the stitch too tight and to trust the stitches will stay up, seemingly unsupported as they are at the top. As you make a row of darning each stitch is unattached from the ones either side and looks a little odd, but when you come back along on the next row, the new stitches that you make hold the ones below together. I also thought it was quite neat that as you make a new stich it pulls the scaffolding together, so it’s always a V shape.


I kept going until I found myself darning the stitches at the top of the patch to the row above the hole. If this had been a real mend then I would have done an extra couple of rows at the top. The main issue I had was on the left hand side, where the stitches at the edge of the hole unravelled as I was trying to darn them and then I didn’t have a scaffolding thread to darn into. I think the result would’ve been neater in a slightly thinner yarn.

There’s been a real interest in this on the Mend It May Group. I’m no expert, (rather I’m practicing the adage that the best way to learn something is to show someone else), but I hope this inspires a few people to give it a go or find out more.

Why not check out these funky elbow patches (with excellent diagrams on Swiss Darning, I love me a good clear diagram), sweater darning inspiration and this pinterest board of mending techniques.




Scraps to Bags

Last week we looked at clothes making from scrap fabric, this week it’s the turn of bags, purses, totes, pouches and all things you can stuff things into!

(I have to be completely upfront here: Rosemary has done all the heavy lifting on this post. My bag-making resume is sadder than sparse…it’s practically barren.)

I love making bags, lots of straight lines and no fitting! I mean, the pieces have to fit together, but if it comes out an inch longer than you intended, it’s no big deal. There are no scary FBA’s to do or anything.  And here in the UK, with the recently introduced tax on plastic bags, handmade ones are bang on trend (err, did I really just type that?). Someone’s been spending too much time with the kiddos–busting out slang now…

There are a couple of approaches you can take to bag making. One is to start with with the fabric you have and go from there. “If I fold this piece in half, it’s about the right size to put X in”, or “I need something co-ordinating for the back”. Or, “this pieces is wide enough but too short, what could I piece it with?”. “Oh look, a jeans pocket, I could sew that on here.” And more power to you creative as-it-come types, but this approach terrifies me!

If this approach seams a little scary for you, (hand raised here…anyone else?), then the morsbag tutorial is a great place to start and they have loads of inspiring images and good motivation for getting going. (That website is fascinating, there are groups all over the world making and giving away these bags!) Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start playing around with sizes,  adding depth to your bag with mitred corners, playing with pockets, decorating with trims, applique, fabric paint, screenprinting, the sky’s the limit. It really does seem like a basic bag is the best blank slate for using up all kinds of tiny bits as embellishments…

selvage tote | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

For instance, check out this bag entirely made from selvages, how cool is that (Sorry, I don’t know whose pic this is to credit them or link up). WOW, that bag is cool!

The other approach is to use a pattern. (Now you are talking my language!) There are loads of patterns out there, just search.  Here are some of our (lets face it) my favourites.

At the end of last year Sue over at Fadanista released a free Japanese knot bag pattern and over at the sew-a-long group we had great fun knocking these out, they’re a quick sophisticated make and ripe for embelishment and using up left over bits of precious fabric. (I’m embarrassed to say I still haven’t made one. But Rosemary has made them to use as gift bags. It’s a great colorblocking pattern.)

Feature collage

 Melissa shared this wristlet pattern and tutorialwhich has a cool twisted tuck detail and is perfect for using up scraps.


Another favourite pattern of mine is Seamstress Erin’s Presido Purse pattern, which is just so large and useful – I call it my Mary Poppins bag. I have made this an embarassing number of times (2ce to keep, the rest as presents) and I’m quite the fan girl! It introduced curves to my bag sewing, upped my zipper game and has great tutorials. And all of the bags above are made from remnants, left over fabric, and in one case a cut up pair of trousers! It works well with thicker fabrics on the outer, such as home decorating fabric.

If you only have smaller pieces, check out this scrappy quilt panel tutorial I used this technique to make the tablet cover above and just used fleece scraps instead of batting as I don’t quilt. It worked fine.

Looking for something a little smaller? I upcycled a pair of old trousers into a zippered pouch incorporating the back pocket.  Here’s a tutorial for some even more  gorgeous zippered pouches from scraps to get you started.

I have leftovers of boning, ribbon, velcro and some tent-red rubber-backed raincoating. Plus, I have lots of car trash. I need to make this car trash bag.

Drawstring bags make great presents for kids about to start school (or much bigger nieces who can’t find something large enough for their trainers!).


And, in a fit of madness, I sat up until midnight making personalised bags out of scraps as a more eco friendly alternative to the all pervasive party bag.

Oh, and on the not actually bags  but still containers front, how about a purse/wallet?


Or storage baskets? (You could even use them to keep the rest of your scraps in).

But like I said before, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bag/tote/purse patterns, I’m sure you can find your own favourite and get busting.

We’ll be back next week with the last of our set of ideas, if you have any scraps left by then!

In the mean time, happy sewing!

Draped skirt

So, after showing you my latest t shirt I was hoping to show you some new jeans next, but they are coming together very slowly as I’m quite under the weather with a nasty chesty cold thingy and jeans are just a tad too complicated for me at the moment.

However, yesterday, I decided I needed some fresh air, so took a little trip down the road to my very local fabric shop. I had a fun time chatting to all the staff, shame about the massive coughing fit on the way home that saw me going in a corner shop with tears streaming down my face to buy a drink 😦 Luckily I don’t think the shop assistant looked in my direction once whilst serving me so presumably hasn’t jumped to any conclusions about my distressed looking state.

However, as well as some more thread for my jeans, I picked up a few other things. In my defence, I only got 1/2 m of one, two more were from the remnants basket (and one of those was something I’d been eyeing up on the roll before) and the other was a little grey jersey. Just perfect for trying out Maria’s draped skirt tutorial. (I just may have worked out measurements before hand and took them with me my trip.)

Maria Denmark fan girl

spot the Maria Denmark fan girl (that’s my Day to Night T shirtDay to Night t shirt I’m wearing too)

Basically, you make a tube, twice as long as you want your skirt to be, then fold it in half (so you have a double layer), but twist one of the tops round 180 degrees. (If you’re confused, check out the tutorial, it’s very clear).

roll top

roll top

I put a yoga style folded waistband at the top made from some ribbing. It was the sort that comes in a knitted tube which was a close enough match sizewise to what I needed the waistband to be, so I managed not to have any side seams.

back view

back view – the best of some very bad photo’s!

The skirt looks like a weird jumbled mess when it’s not on and your feet have to fight their way through when putting it on as it doesn’t feel as if there’s a hole at the bottom. When I first put it on, it feels very tight around the knees (bearing in mind I tend to live in jeans and don’t have any pencil skirts), but I can walk in it just fine and it’s very comfy to wear. I won’t go cycling or tree climbing in it, but if I worked in an office I think I might run up another couple to be secret office pajamas.

long scarf

long scarf

There was a long strip of fabric left over, so I made a quick scarf.



As these things tend to flip out, I used a french seam to stop the seam showing, then sewed it down, faux flat felled seam style. The sides I left raw.

doubled up

doubled up

And doubled up it works as a shorter scarf and it can also function as a headband (although it’s a bit bulky that way).

All in all, a quick couple of makes to cheer me up and there was no left over fabric at all! Double win. Now, back to edging forward with the jeans…

Stars Upon Thars

So, I’ve been making more underwear. I’m aware I’m in danger of appearing like some kind of hardcore off grid sewing freak, but hey. I have no intentions of making all our underwear, I just don’t like to waste pieces of fabric bigger than my hand I guess, and when the fabric in question is knitted, there’s not a lot of uses I can put it to. So, I shall continue to make underwear unabashed while it interests me (I happen to know a boy who’s keen to have homemade pants too, he doesn’t like to miss out on ANYTHING) but I will doubtless pay the ubiquitous M&S underwear department a visit in the future too. Also, I like to make useful things, so I’d rather make underwear than a fancy dress I’d never wear.

“plus they’re really comfy”

interjects the Man. (He says the nicest things).

In case you can't tell, this is the front...

In case you can’t tell, this is the front…

This time, it’s more comox trunks with the scraps of some cool fabric I bought half a metre of for no good reason (darn you internet) and used in part to make The Boy a T shirt, plus the rest of a t shirt I bought from a charity shop (to make into contrast sleeves for my favourite t shirt).

...and here is the back

…and here is the back

But other than fabric choice, the difference to how I made these trunks before is twofold. First I used some “proper” elastic that I spied on the My Fabric website. Last time I used the waistband of an old pair of pants but I wont always be bothered that isn’t always going to be an option. The first time I used some ordinary elastic and it doesn’t quite look right and I suspect isn’t as comfy to wear. This stuff is great, really soft and strong, but I could only find it with stars on (or with zebra stripes or floral), so it won’t go with everything (I thought it would look incongruous with viking graffiti for instance). So yes, a large part of my reason for making this pair was to justify buying try out this elastic. I have since found some plain navy stuff locally and snapped a couple of metres up (the shopkeeper told me he can’t always get hold of it).

And the second reason this pair are potentially interesting? Well, I had some feedback on the vikings, and The Man prefers my bodged I-Can’t-Follow-Instructions-or-Get-My-Head-Around-How-Men’s-Underwear-Works first pair – which have the internal access point underneath (if that makes any sense, I’m thinking there is probably specialist vocabulary for this) to the second As-Thread-Theory-Intended pair with internal opening on a level with the external opening but on the opposite side. (I believe he may have muttered something about Canadian Men being S shaped). So, for this third pair, I went for Planned-Modification-to-Openings-To-Mimic-Shop-Bought-in-UK-Pants.

In case anyone is interested in recreating/improving on/marveling at my method, it happened thus:

outer and inner front cup pieces (left and right respectively)

outer and inner front cup pieces (left and right respectively)

For the outer front cup, after first double checking with the wearer the preferred side to have the opening, I cut one piece 1A and one piece 2A in my star fabric and proceeded as directed to assemble then. For the inner front cup, I cut one piece 2A and one 2B in the navy (there wasn’t enough stars left) and joined them at the centre seam. Then I folded over the bottom edge by a cm, folded it over again and stitched it into place. Thereby making it an entirely unscientific about right looking amount shorter.

front cup basted together ready for pant assembly

front cup basted together ready for pant assembly

Then I basted the two pieces together as per the instructions, except obviously I only had one bound opening to beware of at the top and I didn’t need to baste the bottoms edges together. Then I assembled as normal. The result got a thumbs up from hubby.

Oh, I just remembered, I tried zig zagging up the hems on a wider stitch length this time and they came out just fine, no frilling, so that must’ve been the problem last time. Also, I wanted all of the elastic on the front, so I carefully attached the trunks on the inside to the bottom of the elastic with a zig zag, so I wouldn’t have to flip it. (If that last sentence makes any sense to you then your comprehension is surely better than my explanation.) The navy band at the edge of the elastic hides the stitches nicely. Good star elastic.

I have at least one more pair planned, but they will be a little different….

Making the obvious

So, I decided to work on another of my Christmas makes list at the end of last week. I’m prioritising things for my brother to take back up to his branch of the family in Scotland after his visit, which starts tomorrow evening, eek. Now, as my brother is loads older than me, my neices and nephew are all grown up. I was pondering what to give my nephew. The answer is obvious, a job that utilises his shiny new masters in animation, as this is clearly what he wants at the moment. However, my magic wand has gone AWOL, so I had to think again. The next obvious choice seemed to be a Pikachu Doorstop.

Ok, I confess, it’s not that obvious a choice.* I don’t know if he wants/needs a door stop. He did have quite a soft spot for Pokemon back when he was 9, but that was a while ago. However, once the idea got in my head it wouldn’t leave. So a Pikachu door stop it was to be then. I also got him a little something else sweet and edible, cos the shop had some.

However, when I went to refresh my brain on what Pikachu looks like I was horrified that he was a really complicated shape with sticking out ears and arms and legs and a tail. Eek. Much more shapely than the blob like Totoro. Had I bitten off more than I could chew?

Once under the spell of the fabric shop Undaunted I bought half a metre of yellow fleece. Bright, cheerful, close enough weave to stuff with sand, doesn’t fray so no seam finishes required. Yay. Then I did some searching on the internet.

As well as lots of tutorials on how to draw Pikachu I also found there were a lot of people making Pikachu inspired cosplay, such as this modified hoodie. I also found a hat tutorial. There is an amazing downloadable papercraft model that someone had used to make a giant plush toy. However it looked a bit complicated for what I had in mind and I couldn’t get the template to print properly. I did discover the out of print McCalls 2512 that includes a Pikachu plush, but it was too far away and too much. I was beginning to wonder if it was doable, but then I found this kawai cubed Pikachu tutorial which is very simple and looks amazing, which restored my faith.

In the end, I went with my original plan. First I drew an oval the size I wanted the base to be. Then I measured half way around (from one side to the other). I drew this distance as a straight line and made it the bottom of my simple Pikachu shape. The tops of the ears didn’t fit on the paper but that was ok as they needed to be black anyway.

My sketched out pattern piece

My sketched out pattern piece

I cut out two of the main body pieces and one oval. Don’t forget to add seam allowances (ask me how I know).

pattern pieces with seam allowance ready to cut out

pattern pieces with seam allowance ready to cut out

Next, to make Pikachu’s face. I found some red felt and some scraps of black fleece from the spider costume and cut out circles and stiched them down. I was heartened that the red circles immediately made the character recognisable (I did them first to avoid having to change the thread more than necessary). As neither fabric frays, I just used a straight stitch, but I did use a short stitch length to help turn the tight circles.

applique added

applique added

Then I used a fairly short stich length zig zag to add some features and imply limbs. I used a washable fabric pen to mark them out first. I also added the ear tips by cutting an overly large piece of black fleece for each one and sewing in place, then trimming to the right shape.


Then I added a tail to the back with more zig zag embroidery. The back should have a couple of brown stripes (she says with her new found Pokemon anatomy knowledge) but I didn’t have any suitable fabric and they were a bit wide to machine embroider so I decided to cheat and leave them off. After all, his (?) back should be against the door.

tail applique

tail embroidery

Finally I added the white (actually pale pink, it was what I had) dots to the eyes. I’m showing you a separate pic so you can see what a difference this small detail makes.

front all prepared

front all prepared

Then, I put my two pieces right sides together and stitches all round, except not across the base. At this point I had basically made a glove puppet and was having doubts that it would turn out 3D. But I soldiered on and cut across the top of the ears (just above the stitching) and cut a few notches on the concave curves to help with turning.

glove puppet stage

glove puppet stage

Then with the main pieces still inside out I attached the base. I pinned it first and left a gap of a couple of inches so I could turn it inside out. As the gap gets handsewn shut and my handsewing is not amazingly neat I made sure my gap was at the back to one side, where it would show the least.

about to sew the base on

about to sew the base on

Then I just needed to turn it out through the hole.



And I had a Pikachu shape that almost stood up on it’s own. I used a chopstick to turn get the end of the ears turned out.

ready to stuff

ready to stuff

And then came the waiting. Because my sand was damp. Last time I ignored this and then had to keep turning my door stop to let the base dry out, so this time I had a cardboard box with sand spread out in it next to the radiator for a couple of days until it was dry enough to stuff my Pikachu. Except of course there wasn’t enough so I had to dry some more and try and keep the kids away from the 3/4 stuffed one held together with a peg. But eventually, it was done and Lo, I had made a Pikachu door stop.

Finished door stop I love how you can manipulate his ears into different positions

Finished door stop AKA chu ate all the pies. I love how you can manipulate his ears into different positions

I’m pretty pleased with this one. Obviously it isn’t a proper 3D Pikachu shape, but it’s recognisable, it’s functional and it’s fun. Will my nephew like him? I don’t know.

Obligatory back view. My glamorous assistant found this concept amusing and insisted he stand in the corner like he'd been naughty, but I think it looks more like he's playing hide and seek

Obligatory back view. My glamorous assistant found this concept amusing and insisted he stand in the corner like he’d been naughty, but I think it looks more like he’s playing hide and seek “coming ready or not”

As an aside, I think I know where the idea came from. Recently I made a much needed door stop. I made a cube, because I couldn’t decide on anything more exciting to do. I know shops sell little house shaped ones (too twee for me) and I’ve seen union jack bulldog shaped ones (definitely not my thing) but all I could think of was a cube. Even after making it, I still kept musing on what more interesting shape I could make. I realised if I tapered the door stop up to a flat top (i.e wide and fat base but basically traingular sides so the front and back meet at the top) then I could mitre the corners and make ears. This reminded me slightly of Totoro. We have the film, My Neighbour Totoro (a present from a different uncle) and no-one I’ve met in real life has ever heard of it. But it kept cropping up on blogs. I saw Totoro costumes on Cherie’s You and Mie blog and Totoro inspired outfits on Beth Being Crafty. They all looked really cute but I couldn’t imagine my kids in them (my 6 year old has very definite idea’s on what she’ll wear that don’t involve grey/black and my 8 year old is getting a bit big for dress up). But a totoro doorstep for their room, that could be good (and hopefully slightly less likely to go missing than the wedge one they have at the moment). So it got put on my mental to do list but I haven’t got round to it yet. So, that’s a long way of explaining how it resurfaced as the “obvious” present for my nephew.