Chilly mornings just got cosier!

Well, for one small person anyway 😉

Big brother has been in need of a new dressing gown to keep him warm on chilly mornings. As in, he was still squeezing into one meant for a 1 year old… So ages ago we chose a lovely beach towel from IKEA (when it was in the sale, obviously 😉 ) and I intended to turn it into a new ‘big boy’ dressing gown.

But then the towel got put away and it slipped down the to do list. Until this week that is! I actually intended to start on Wednesday but I forgot I hadn’t prewashed the towel, so that had to come first. No point putting in all the effort of making something, just to have it shrink or warp in a strange way on the first wash.

So by Friday I finally had that magical combination of prepared fabric, the desire to sew, and little brother napping. Project dressing gown was a go!

I drafted a quick pattern based on big brother’s measurements, with some growing room to ensure it lasts him a while. I also used every shortcut I could think of to make it as quick and easy a project as possible.

For example:
* there are no side seams as I cut the whole body from the width of the towel with the arm holes cut out

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* the loops to hold the tie are the offcut pieces of the selvedge edge, just trimmed to the seam line.

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* I used the hemmed edges of the towel for the bottom hem and the sleeve ends so there was no hemming needed.

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So with minimal sewing we ended up with:

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One very grown up looking little man! And it must be comfy because he said “mummy, I really love my new dressing gown. I’m going to wear it all day till bedtime!” Which, I think, is about as big a compliment as you can get from a three year old 😀

Now, I haven’t included a copy of my pattern here, would you be interested in it? Comment below and let me know, and if you ask really nicely I’ll try to find the time to do it! 😉 haha

Tutorial: Transforming a polo-neck jumper to a maternity* cardigan

*I’m including the ‘*’ as this isn’t specifically a maternity project. But the finished article is suitable for both maternity and regular wear so is a good project for anyone to try.

I bought this jumper in a charity shop about a year ago, for the enormous price of £1. Big spender, me 😉 I just loved the colour of it and I’m a fan of cabled jumpers in general. But I didn’t really like the neck, it was just that little bit too tight to be comfortable for me. So after wearing it once it hit the back of the wardrobe and has been there ever since. Which is a shame as I still like the colour and I still like the cables. So it was time to transform it into something I will wear.

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I could have just taken off the top and made it into a crew neck jumper, but by opening up the front as well and making it into a cardigan, I’m able to wear it now over my rapidly expanding bump, and it will be great for when baby comes and I’ll be spending hours breastfeeding.

The transformation was actually very easy. First thing I did was identify the centre of the jumper, which turned out to be the centre of a cabled row. Then I very carefully cut up the front of jumper using a nice sharp pair of scissors. Don’t be tempted to use general purpose scissors, as it’s the sharp edges which give you a clean cut and stop the fabric from shifting.
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I only cut as far collar, as I have a faint notion of reusing the ribbing from the neck, but you could quite easily open up the whole of the front.

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As you can see from the photo, there was quite a thick band joining the body of my jumper to the neck. I decided that this would become the new top edge of my cardigan, so I cut parallel to its top edge, leaving about 1cm of ribbing to finish off the neck line.

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Looking like a cardigan already!

Next step is to finish off the cut edges to stop them fraying. I sewed along each front edge and around the neck using a zig zag stitch. Alternatively you could use an overlocking stitch as both will seal the raw edges.

I found that the zig zag stitch left the edges with a slightly frilly lettuce effect as it got a little stretched going through the machine. If this happens to you, don’t worry about it as you can reshape the edges at the end when you press your cardigan.

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One thing to be aware of when finishing your raw edges, is that there will be a lot of little pieces of fluff will come off your cardigan and some of these will end up in your machine. Once you’ve finished your raw edges it’s a good idea to clean out all the fluff to keep your sewing machine running smoothly.

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The final step was to create the new finished edges. To do this I pinned under the raw edge, so that a knit row was the new edge and folded far enough over that I could sew up the purl row to hide the stitches.

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I used a straight stitch to sew the seam, and I sewed very slowly to make sure the same amount of fabric was sewn under the whole way down. I also found I had to take the pins out at least 5 – 7cm from the needle in order to get the best result.

At the neck seam I decided to finish off my cardigan by hand as, unlike the front edges, there was nowhere to hide the stitches and I didn’t have any thread that closely enough matched the colour to blend in. So I used a whipstitch along the inside of the thick neck band, making sure to go slowly and check that my stitches weren’t coming through to the right side of the fabric.

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As a final touch I also did some hand finishing along the front edges. However if you were converting a jumper made entirely in stocking stitch you could skip this step by sewing a double line instead. As I was trying to hide my stitches I decided that a hand finish would be neater and more invisible. At every cable I simply put in a few stitches joining the wrong side of the cable to the raw edge. This is enough to keep the raw edge away from the finished edge, and to stop it from curling around into view when the cardigan is being worn.

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Finally give the new finished edges a good pressing to help them into the correct shape. This will help to take care of any remaining excess from the stretching earlier. Then slip it on, pose, and enjoy your new creation! (Silly face optional! Haha, I should explain I had a toddler trying to climb up my leg at the time!)

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Note: you could add a top button if you fancied, like Delia does here. She also uses fabric to finish off her raw edges, giving a (probably better!) finish to the front edges. But still, I’m happy with my creation 🙂

Tutorial: Transforming regular leggings into maternity

As I mentioned here I am having real trouble finding any trousers that fit over my low down baby bump. Even the type that are cut incredibly low are a bit too diggy the second I sit down. And anything that does fit when I’m sitting down, will fall off when I stand up. Not really the best look to be flashing my pants at everyone followed by a pulling up the trousers dance!

So I thought I’d give leggings a go in the hope that the nice soft fabric will work against my poor squished bump! But have you seen the price of some pairs of maternity leggings? I mean really, for what is essentially exactly the same product with a little more fabric round the waist, I’m not sure why they cost so much more. (OK, so in the grand scheme of things they aren’t expensive, but I still object on principle.) And it also annoys me that most shops only stock their maternity clothes online. At a time when my body is a different shape at any two points throughout the day, never mind week to week, I’d rather spend my money on something I can try on first.

So I picked up a pair of regular leggings, which I knew fit eveywhere except my tummy, for £3, and set about turning them into maternity leggings.

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It was actually a very simple transformation, all I had to do was remove the elastic from the front half of the leggings and sort out the waist band. Easy!

*At this point I’m going to apologise for the quality of the photos, my camera was having issues with the colour balance, and the dark thread on black fabric was really hard to capture. I’ve used dark grey thread instead of black in the hope that it will show up (at all!) but I’ll also explain each step along the way so hopefully it’s clear what I’m doing.

The first step was to take a look at how the waistband of the leggings was constructed. In my case the elastic was sewn into the seem so it was a little (but not much) more compicated than if the elastic was free to move in it’s own casing. In that case all you would have to do would be to fix the elastic at the side seams, open up a little hole to remove it from the front half, sew up the hole and you’re done!

But if your elastic is sewn in like mine, then start by sewing a straight line to reinforce the ends of the elastic. Do this at the back side of the seam, so that you can open up the waistband at the seam for access to the elastic. I used a triple stitch to make it as strong as possible. Repeat the process at both sides.

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Then carefully unpick the side seams to give you access.

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Now we’re going to unpick the waistand along the whole front of the leggings. Do this carefully with a seam ripper to not damage the fabric. Once it’s opened from side seam to side seam and the elastic is free, you can cut the elastic out.

At this point I tried my leggings on, and they fit perfectly. The remaining elastic at the back was enough to keep them fitted, but they were soft enough round the front to be really comfortable even when sitting down.

Finally I re-sewed the waistband. If you don’t want to include this step you don’t have to. As the fabric for leggings is usually jersey, it doesn’t need to be finished as it won’t fray. And if you don’t plan on wearing them with some little cropped top then noone will be any the wiser!

I will finish off the waistband to show you how to do it. Basically you’re just resewing along the same line that the fabric was stitched before. If, like me, you don’t have an overlocker/serger then you can easily do it with a zigzag stitch. (I’m afraid I’ve never used an overlocker so I can’t tell you how to do it that way) The zigzag stitch is necessary as you want the seam to have some stretch, otherwise it defeats the purpose of this project! A basic straight stitch would either not stretch, or would try to do so and break.

Pin the waistband in place and sew all the way along the front. You might find (if you’re naughty like me and don’t use the proper needle for jersey fabric… Must buy a new one!) that your zigzag skips in places so you end up with a couple of straight stitches in the middle of your row. I’ve now worn my leggings, complete with these minor imperfections, for a few days and there is still plenty of stretch in the fabric along the waistband. So if the same happens to you, don’t worry about it. So long as the vast majority of your seam is a zigzag then it will do the job just fine 🙂

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And here are the finished leggings! (Sorry, again, terrible tummy selfie alert! But I wanted to show you the end product in action.)

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Pattern Testing for Delia Creates!

I have been so excited to tell you guys about a lovely little project I got to work on recently. I was extremely pleased to be chosen as a pattern tester for the fabulous Delia from Delia Creates. Do you read her blog? If not you should definitely pop over and say hi. She has all sorts of wonderful project ideas for sewing, crafting, diy, and some yummy recipes too.

Delia recently put out a call for pattern testers for a pleated pencil skirt. And this is one item of clothing I have desperately searched the shops for, eventually coming to the conclusion that I must in some way be the wrong shape as nothing ever fit me properly. So it was with high hopes that I filled in my application and sent it off.

Luckily I had the perfect fabric in my stash, a lovely light, chequed wool and coordinating pale pink lining, one of those sale purchases that I never quite got round to using.

The finished pattern costs $10 (US) and for that you get a pdf with the pattern and a set of detailed instructions to guide you. This means you print out the pattern pieces at home, but you probably knew that already 😉 Delia has cleverly created the pattern so that there are only two pattern pieces, one with markings on it for the front, back and lining pieces, and the waistband, thus saving on paper and cutting and sticking time. A lovely touch she has included in the sizing of the pattern is instead of labeling the sizes with numbers, they all have lovely complimentary names. I was size “enchanting” which did make me smile as I cut out my pattern pieces.

I found the pattern pretty easy to follow, the only thing I wasn’t familiar with was inserting the invisible zip as I’d never used one before. Simply because my local fabric shop doesn’t sell them, not from any great fear! So I was also pleased to learn a new technique, even if I did have to do it twice as I want satisfied with my first attempt! Delia’s instructions are clear and lead you through the construction process with a nice mixture of both drawings and photos to guide you.

And here is my finished skirt:

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The fit is great, and it hugs all the right places with enough room to comfortably breathe and sit down. Very important when sewing with a woven fabric with no stretch! The pleat gives plenty of room to walk and at just below the knees, the length is sure to complement any figure.

All in all I give this pattern a big thumbs up! I’ve really enjoyed my first pattern testing experience and I can highly recommend giving it a go if you too are desperately searching for the perfect pencil skirt, or even if you just want a fabulous skirt to add to your handmade wardrobe!

Testing the waters

OK, so I could really do with a little input from you lovely lot, if you don’t mind? I have been thinking about this for a while and I think I would like to dip my toes into the world of selling online patterns. The first of my patterns I’m thinking of digitising is the poncho and cape pattern, as it is a great baby project, it’s fairly straightforward and could be sewn by beginners.

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What I would like to know is if you think this is the type of pattern you, or someone you know, might be interested in and what sizes you would like to see it available in. I have it from new baby up to age 2 currently but I could increase the upper age limit if people are interested.

If I get a good response then I am fairly determined to go ahead with my plan, in which case I shall shortly be putting out a call for pattern testers, so if that is something you think you might be interested in doing then watch this space!

Please leave me a comment here or on my facebook page letting me know what you think, it would be very much appreciated! Thank you 🙂

Tutorial: Kids Scribble Drawstring Pouch

Now that young sir is getting older and more interested in such things, I’ve been trying to come up with fun crafts for the two of us to do together. This one is really simple, and cheap, so you can easily make a whole load of them and ring the changes.

For the kids part you will need:

  • Plain fabric, natural fibres will hold the colour best. I used the unbleached cotton from IKEA, at  only £2/m it has become my go to fabric for so many projects!
  • Fabric markers

For the adult part you will need:

  • Scissors
  • Thread, either coordinating or contrasting, is entirely up to you.
  • Sewing machine, or a needle if you want to do it by hand.
  • Some form of ribbon or string for cinching the bag closed.

(Note: I say adult part, but if you have slightly older kids they might also enjoy this part of the project, with some guidance and supervision from you!)

First of all decide how big you want your bag to be. We went for a rectangular bag of 18cm (width) x 25cm (height) so I cut my piece of fabric 40cm (width) x 30cm (height).

Then comes the messy part! I highly recommend using old newspaper or cardboard under your fabric as the pens can leak through and you won’t want it on your floor or table! Then just grab a pen and have at it! I drew some shapes and objects (I was under strict instructions what to draw) and young sir coloured them in.

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When we were finished I ironed the fabric to set the ink and make it permanent. If you skip this stage the ink will come out in the wash, which you could use to your advantage, for example draw an outline of something, set it, then the kids can colour it in differently each time and it will wash out.

Next I made the casing for the ribbon along the top of the bag. My ribbon is 15mm wide so I made the casing 20mm to make sure there was going to be plenty of room. I made it very simply by folding over and ironing down a section about 5mm wide from the top raw edge. Then I folded over the 20mm section and ironed again. By using the ironing technique you can save yourself time and effort as the fabric needs minimal pinning and only one line of stitching to create a casing with enclosed raw edges.

At this stage I inserted the ribbon as I find it easier to pull it through in a straight line, rather than trying to work it round a bend once the side seams are sewn.

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Then sew up the side seams. You have a couple of options depending on what kind of finish you want, I decided to sew a double line of stitches with the raw edges folded over, but you could also use a single line or do a French seam. I used a French seam to sew up the bottom of the bag as that’s the seam that will be under the most stress when the bag is full. To do this I sewed the bag closed with the wrong sides together, turned it inside out, clipped the excess seam allowance and sewed again with right sides together.  For more in depth instructions on French seams check out my tutorial here.

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(I switched to red thread so it would be easier for you to see where I sewed.)

Then simply turn your bag right side out, tie a double knot in the ribbon, pack your teddy bear (or whatever treasures need carried!) and you’re good to go!

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Christmas Stocking Tutorial and Pattern

Well the big day is getting closer but there’s still plenty of time for a few more Christmassy makes! I’ve treated the whole family (well, all 3 of us!) to some fabulous new Christmas stockings, and as they were so quick and easy to run up I thought I would share the pattern and tutorial with you all. Consider it my Christmas present to you 🙂

These stockings are long and thin (more sock shaped) than the current trend for things that look more like sacks with toes attached. I suppose it’s because my brother and I grew up using actual socks so that’s what I wanted from my stockings!

I have designed this pattern to only need 1 fat quarter of fabric for the main body of the stocking, so you can easily make a different one for each person and not feel like you need to buy loads of fabric. For each stocking you will need:

  • Christmas Stocking Pattern
  • 1 fat quarter outer fabric
  • 1 fat quarter lining fabric
  • 32 x 17cm plush fabric for the fold down top
  • 1 fat quarter batting (optional – you don’t need to make your stockings padded, I have and the instructions include using batting, but if you don’t want to use it just skip those bits)
  • 16cm ribbon

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Start by cutting out all the pattern pieces, as shown above. Then we’re going to assemble the lining of the stocking. Take the two stocking shaped batting and lining pieces and layer them as: batting, lining, lining, batting. Neither my lining nor batting had a right side, but if yours do then make sure the right sides of your lining are together in the centre of the sandwich. Sew the layers together slowly using a longish stitch (about a 3) due to the thickness of the fabric, and with a 15mm seam allowance, remembering not to sew across the top of the stocking! Then tie off the ends and trim the seam allowance fairly close to the line of stitching.

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Then take the outer fabric and fold it in half along the fold, with the right sides together. Sew with a 5mm seam allowance using a smaller stitch (about a 2). Using a smaller seam allowance on the outer fabric leaves room for the batting without your fabric pulling. It also means you don’t need to trim the seam allowance of the outer fabric, but as we will be turning it inside out it is important to cut notches in the curved areas: around the  toes and heel, otherwise the fabric won’t sit flat on the finished stocking.

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Next we’re going to turn the outer layer over the inner. The easiest way to do this is to put your arm into the outer layer, while it is still inside out, and with your hand at the toes, take hold of the toes of the lining and pull the outer fabric over the lining. Like this:

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Then using a long tacking stitch sew the outer and inner layers together at the top of the stocking to keep them lined up.

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Take your fabric for the fold over at the top of the stocking. Lay the lining on the right side of the outer fabric and sew along one of the long sides of the rectangle. If, like me, you are using a plush fabric with a directional pile, make sure the pile is going to be the right way up on your finished stocking! I want mine to go top to bottom, so I sewed the lining along the bottom edge of my plush fabric. Open out your joined piece of plush and lining and fold it in half the other way to sew the sides together. If you have your own fabric labels then this is the time to add one to your creation.

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You’ll notice the lining piece isn’t as wide as the plush piece. This is so that when it is folded over on the finished stocking the plush fabric will be tucked under a little, completely hiding the lining fabric. It also means you don’t need to press open the seam you just sewed, instead fold it over the lining on both sides. Sew all along the side seam and turn the outer piece so that it is on the outside. Tuck in one piece of batting between lining and plush on each side of the fold down piece, and using a tacking stich sew the lining to the outer layer to keep them in place.

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You might be wondering why I used two pieces of batting here instead of one long rectangle. I found that by using two it was much easier to fold the piece in half and so it sits better on the finished stocking.

We’re then going to attach the ribbon for the hanging loop. Fold it in half and pin it into the stocking so that the edges of the ribbon line up with the top edge of the stocking. Sew across the ribbon, roughly over the line of tacking stitches, using a small stitch length to make the join nice and strong.

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Finally comes the only (slightly) tricky part of this project: attaching the main body of the stocking to the fold down top. After a little experimentation I have found that the best way to do this is to use pins as markers. On the main body and top, seperately, put in 6 pins at roughly the equal distances apart all around the edges you tacked together.

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Then put the fold down top into the main body, still the right way out, and match up the positions of the pins:

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At each position take a third pin and join all the layers together where the pins line up. There will be more fabric between the pins on the top piece than on the body, this is called the ease, and means that the top piece will not squash the main body when it is folded down over it and the stocking will lay flat. A good thing, yes, but does make this bit a little tricky as you need to try to evenly space the fabric and not let it all gather in one place. You might find it easier at this point to hand stitch the layers together as you can go more slowly and have more control, but it is possible to do by machine if you take your time and use your fingers to spread out the extra fabric.

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And it doesn’t need to be perfect so if you have a gather two it doesn’t matter. Or use patterned plush like me and you won’t even see them!

When you’re finished sewing, tie off the ends and pull the top out of the stocking body:

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And fold the top down, hiding the seam. Then fish out the ribbon and display your creations with pride!

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Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas!