Tutorial: yarn wrapped wreath

I love handmade Christmas decorations. I think it’s so nice to have unique and individual looking homes at Christmas time, not just straight from the shop. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a place for shop bought too, but I love to see some homemade bits in the mix.

Last year I made us all new Christmas stockings:

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(get the free pattern and tutorial here). I also made some festive bunting which I don’t think I showed you, but as it went up yesterday I can show you now!

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My first new addition this year is a yarn wrapped wreath for our living room door. I chose a dark blue and a sparkly white acrylic yarn, nothing expensive, to match our color scheme.

You will need:
Yarn
Empty cereal box
Bubble wrap
Tape
Yarn sewing needle

To start with I opened out an empty cereal box and drew 2 concentric circles on it. I made the hoop about 5cm/2″ wide and made the outer circle as large as my box would allow. You can make your hoop any size you like, I’m thinking of doing a mini one for young sir’s wardrobe door, and the technique is exactly the same. Don’t worry if your hoop goes over a bend in the box. It’ll all be stiffened up as we go on.

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I didn’t want my wreath to be too 2 dimensional, but I also don’t have hours to spend on wrapping the yarn. So I cheated! I bulked up my hoop using strips of bubble wrap, about 7/8cm wide, wrapped round the cardboard. Start by taping one end of a piece of the bubble wrap to the hoop, then start to wrap it around. Depending how much you want to bulk up your wreath will depend how much of an overlap you use. I left about 1.5cm between edges.

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Continue wrapping until the whole hoop is evenly covered, taping the ends of each piece in place.

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Now it’s time to start wrapping the yarn. My hoop is big enough to pass the whole ball of yarn through, but if you’re making a small wreath then you’ll have to cut lengths of yarn to wrap.

Simply wrap the yarn round and round on top of the bubble wrap, but not too tight or it defeats the purpose of bulking up the hoop! You’ll need the yarn to be at least 3 passes deep to give a nice full look. Just wrap:

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And wrap!

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I decided to have a 2 colour wreath, with blue covering 3/4 of the surface and the sparkly white on the top 1/4. So once I was happy with the amount of blue on my wreath I switched yarns and continued to wrap:

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Until the whole surface was covered. I also added some white crosses onto the blue section, which I simply did by wrapping at an angle from one end of the blue to the other end, then back again. Once you’re finished wrapping, use your wool needle to tuck the ends away under the rest of the layers, and your wreath is complete!

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You can add extra touches to it or leave it as is, depending on the look you want to go for. I was undecided between one big pompom in the centre and three small ones hanging from the bottom. In the end I chose to make one large pompom to hang in the centre of my wreath. To make it I wrapped my yarn 200 times round the top of a pint glass, which gives a large, floppy pompom. Then tied it round the centre, cut open the loops and trimmed it all to the same length.

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Some other ideas for finishing touches: you could hang ribbons from the bottom, a bauble in the centre, or even make a dreamcatcher style wreath with a yarny snowflake in the centre.

To hang my wreath I made a very simple twisted string using lengths of my two colours of yarn. Ta da!

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A simple way to make a wreath, which is easy to customise and will last year after year 🙂

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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!

Tutorial: Jumper to Skirt Refashion

So I was recently given a whole lot of clothes that were no longer needed, and told to see if I could use them in some way or they were going to the charity shop. Now, I always like a challenge and I love creating something new out of something old and unwanted, so this sounded perfect. Other people may see a bag of old clothes, I see a bag of free fabric and possibilities!

I decided that my first project would be to turn this jumper into a skirt. Not the immediate thought that comes to mind, but actually a very simple conversion!

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If you want to try this project at home, you will need:

  • A jumper, although this technique would work just as well with any top made of suitable material!
  • Ruler or some form of straight edge
  • Chalk or fabric marker
  • Scissors or rotary cutter
  • Matching or coordinating thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Elastic to create the waistband, I used 1″ wide
  • Bodkin or safety pin

The jumper I’m using is a machine knitted, acrylic jumper with small stitches. This is important as it means that it won’t unravel as easily as a loose knit, which gave me more time to work with it and made manipulaing the fabric easier.

To see your jumper as the skirt, we’re first going to lay it down right side up, but wrong way around, so that the neck is beside you and the waist band is away from you. The waist is going to remain as the waist, and we’re going to remove the sleeves to make room for legs! To do this take your ruler and lay it across the jumper from armpit to armpit. I used my quilting ruler as it’s much longer than a regular ruler, so it did stretch right across. You could use a tape measure pulled taught if you’re struggling to find a straight edge long enough. Then take your chalk, or marker, and draw a straight line across the fabric. This is where we are going to cut to remove the top of the jumper.

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At this point take a moment to try on the newly formed skirt to check the fit. Remember that the cut edge is still unfinished and will shed some fibres. When I tried on my skirt I found that it was much too big for me, as was the original jumper, so I had to take it in to avoid any “wardrobe malfunctions!” I wanted my skirt to be quite tight, if you wanted a looser fit then you could of course leave the extra fabric. I used a quick and easy method to mark where to take in my skirt: whilst wearing the skirt, and with the aid of a mirror, I held the skirt by one of the side seams and pulled all the escess fabric to one side. Using my other hand I then pinched it together at my hip, where I wanted the new seam to go, and pinned. As the fabric is really stretchy there was no need to shape the side seam, this makes life much simpler as you can then mark and pin a straight line down the side of the skirt.

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You might notice I have pinned it with the wrong sides together: this is because I used a French seam (if you’re not sure how to sew a French seam, check out my tutorial here) I used this seam as it encases the raw edges, so the knit fabric won’t be able to unravel whilst I’m wearing the skirt! Using a medium length, straight stitch sew down the line you have marked and then cut away the excess fabric, leaving about 3-4mm beyond the line of stitching.

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Once that’s done, flip the skirt inside out and pin the seam with the right sides touching. Then sew the second line about 6-7mm from the first to enclose the raw edges.

Take a moment to check the fit again, as it’ll be easier to fix at this point than once we’ve sewn the hem!  If you’re happy then it’s time to do something about that raw edge at the bottom of the skirt. If you are using a t-shirt type fabric for this project then you can leave this edge raw if you wish, it will give a more casual look and will mean your finished skirt will be longer as you aren’t having to create a hem. However if, like me, you are using a jumper then you will have to finish the edge as the knit is much looser than on lightweight jersey, so will unravel, especially in the wash!

If your skirt is quite long at this stage and you want it a bit shorter you can finish this edge using a double folded hem. If you don’t have as much length to play with, or you want a less chunky hem then first job is to overlock the raw edge. If you don’t have an overlocker, or a machine with an overlocking stitch, then a zig zag stitch works just as well. I found it easiest to start at a side seam and sew right round the edge until I was back where I started. The key to getting a neat finish is to take your time and try not to overstretch the fabric.

Once you’ve tied off your loose ends it’s time to for the hem. I folded over roughly 15mm (make sure you end up with your hem on the inside of the skirt!) and pinned in place round the whole lower edge. Now as my fabric is very stretchy it was really important not to sew the hem using a straight stitch, otherwise as soon as the fabric was stretched, the stitches would break and I’d no longer have a hem! So instead I used a zig zag stitch which can cope with being stretched without breaking. Again I sewed slowly to make sure I was keeping the same distance from the edge of the fabric.

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Now that the skirt is hemmed the final task is adding elastic to the waistband. As we are reusing the original waistband, just upside down, we don’t need to finish the edge as it is already done for us. We will need to create the casing for the elastic to go through though. To do this we are going to basically do the same as we just did at the hem: fold under, pin, and knit with a zig zag stitch. Only this time we’ll need to leave enough space between the fold and stitches for the elastic. I’m using 1″ (25mm) wide elastic so there has to be at least that width, ideally a mm or two extra to make life easier! We’ll also need to leave an opening to get the elastic in. Conveniently folding the ribbed waistband of the jumper in half gave me exactly the right size of casing, so I didn’t need to carefully measure. I do love it when coincidences make my projects easier!

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I pinned the waistband, leaving a gap of about 6-7cm through which I could feed the elastic afterwards, and then sewed, making sure there was always just over 25mm width in the casing.

Now it’s time to measure out the elastic. I found it easiest to do this by putting on the skirt and measuring round my hips where the waistband sat. I cut the elastic to the same length as my hip measurement, so that after the two ends of the elastic are sewn it will be slightly stretched.

To insert the elastic you can use a bodkin if you have one, or if you don’t, like me, then you can just use a safety pin. Pierce one end of the elastic with the pin, then feed it, pin first, through the casing we’ve just sewn.

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If you’ve never done this before the way to do it is to push the safety pin through a few cm so that the fabric gathers over it. Then pinch the end of the pin and pull the elastic through the gather you’ve just made. Repeat until the elastic is all the way through the casing then remove the pin. Easy!

Overlap the two ends of the elastic, making doubly sure there are no twists, and sew together. I always sew a square shape when joining elastic so that there will be less stress on the stitches than in a single line. For the final time try on your skirt to check the fit. If the elastic is too short then redo the overlap making it tighter. If it is a little too tight then redo making the waist bigger. And if it is much too tight and you don’t have enough elastic then add in an extra piece by sewing a smaller piece onto each end of your elastic to make it longer.

The final task is to close up the gap we left using the same zig zag stitch, and the skirt is finished! A simple project to revitalise an unloved piece of clothing and turn it into something new 🙂

Easy Cushion Cover

I had a trip to the fabric shop the other day to pick up some bits for a custom order I’m working on. While I was there I just happened to end up beside the remnant bin and found this cute fabric that I just had to have. I’m sure some of you know what I mean! And handily there was enough left in the bolt end to correspond nicely with the size of the square cushions the shop also sold. So I bought myself a present and a new project 🙂

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Making cushion covers this way is so easy: there are no zips to add, you don’t need to add buttons and buttonholes unless you want to and you don’t need to line it. Simple! So simple you don’t even need a pattern to make it, you just adapt the ‘formula’ to the size of cushion you want to cover!

My lovely fabric is upholstery weight cotton, but you can use all sorts of fabric for cushion covers. You can even make them from old clothes you no longer wear but can’t bear to part with, as I have done previously with 2 of my husbands old T-shirts that he wanted to keep:

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So the first thing you’ll need to do is gather all your bits:

  • rotary cutter and cutting mat (or scissors)
  • ruler (I have a quilting ruler which is much longer and perfect for this type of project) or tape measure
  • tailor’s chalk or fabric marker
  • pins
  • coordinating or contrasting thread, depending what look you’re going for
  • sewing machine or needle and thread
  • the correct needle for the type of fabric (it is very important to choose the correct needle, so much so that I will dedicate a whole post to choosing the correct needle soon!
  • Pen and paper to sketch out your pattern and for your maths!

I have a tendancy to not write patterns like this down and just remember what I want to do, a concept that my mother can’t understand! So for the purposes of this tutorial I’ll show you my working (gosh, sounds like a maths test… I promise it isn’t!!!) You’ll need 3 pieces in total, the first 2 are identical and are the dimensions of your cushion plus 10mm or 3/8 inch, plus two lots of seam allowance in each direction. I tend to sew 10mm or 3/8″ from the edge of the fabric, so I add a seam allowance of 15mm or 5/8″ so that there is enough fabric to work with, but you could also use a 20mm or 3/4″ allowance if you find it easier. Just make a note of which you are using and stick with it! The extra 10mm gives you a little more space to get your cushion into the finished cover. So for my cushion, which is 18″ square, my first 2 pieces will be:

18″ + 3/8″ wiggle room + (2 x 5/8″) seam allowance = a 19 5/8″ x 19 5/8″ square

Or in metric:

45cm + 1cm wiggle room + (2 x 15mm) seam allowance = a 49cm x 49cm square

The third piece will be the same width as the first 2 pieces and half the length, to create a flap which will cover the opening and keep the cushion in the cover. For mine this will be a piece:

19 5/8″ x ((19 5/8″) / 2) = 19 5/8″ x 8 3/4″ rectangle

Or:

49cm x (49cm / 2) = 49cm x 24.5cm rectangle

Now it’s time to measure, mark and cut the fabric. If you are using a piece of fabric which is already rectangular then simply draw your 3 pieces side by side, with the edges of each piece touching. This will save time and fabric, but if you’re not good at cutting in a straight line then leave a gap so you’ve got a margin for error! Also if your fabric has a directional pattern then make sure on the flap piece that the pattern is the correct way around when the rectangle is laid in landscape.

Once you’ve marked your fabric it’s time to cut the pieces out. Having recently treated myself to a rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler I can highly recommend them: I didn’t think I used to spend all that long cutting out, but now it’s so fast in comparison I realise I must have been! They also make it so easy to cut long, perfectly straight lines.

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The first piece of sewing we’re going to do is to hem the edge of the third pattern piece. Look at your piece of fabric and if it has a directional pattern then lay it right way up in front of you, long edges top and bottom, otherwise just choose which way up you want it to appear. I decided I wanted the big pink butterfly to be the right way up. Like so:

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We are going to be hemming the lower edge so that the pattern sits the right way round when the cover is finished. Turn the fabric over, turn under the seam allowance and pin in place. Then using a straight stitch, sew from one short side straight across to the other.

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To get a really crisp edge, and a more professional looking finish, press (iron) the seam. Trust me, it is worth the little extra effort!

We’re then going to hem the top edge of what will be the front piece, because it will form the opening. If you are pressed for time (or dont want to!) you can skip this step, so long as your fabric won’t fray, as this edge won’t be on show. I’m going to hem it as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like everything to be neat and finished! To form the hem lay whichever of the two identical pieces you want to be the front RIGHT SIDE DOWN with the top of the pattern away from you. Fold over the seam allowance from the edge furthest away, pin in place, sew and press.

Next we are going to attach the flap to the back panel. Lay the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP with the pattern the correct way up as you look at it. Lay the flap WRONG SIDE UP with the raw edge lined up with the top of the back piece. Pin in place, and sew with the same seam allowance as we used in the hems. We are going to attach the front piece to the opposite end of the back piece by laying the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP again and putting the front piece WRONG SIDE UP with the hemmed edge furthest from you and raw edges aligned at the bottom. Pin in place and sew. Note that in the picture I’ve only turned back the front panel to show the other layers, not because it’s to be sewn in that position!

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Now we need to put the layers in the correct order before we sew the sides, otherwise we won’t be able to get our cushion in! Lay the back piece RIGHT SIDE UP then fold the flap over it so that you see its WRONG SIDE and then the front piece over the top WRONG SIDE UP. If you’ve sewn the pieces together the right way round this should just be a matter of layering them, if the pieces aren’t the correct way up now is your chance to fix it! Carefully pin both sides of the cushion together. You will see now that we have already sewn the top and bottom together. If you are using very thick fabric you might find it easier to use mini bulldog clips as they will hold your layers together better. Once it’s pinned it’s time to sew the sides shut, and our cushion cover is nearly complete!

Before we turn it right way out we need to trim the seam allowance at the corners so that the fabric will sit properly. If you skip this step your cushion won’t have square corners, so it’s worth doing it. All you need to do is cut straight across the corner as close to where the stitch lines cross as you can without cutting them. I always cut off a little more down the edge just to make extra sure it sits as it should.

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Once the corners are trimmed, if you have used material that can fray you might like to finish off the edges to stop them unraveling. You can either stitch over the edges or, as I did, use a pair of pinking shears which will stop the edges fraying.

Finally turn the cover right way out through the opening and push out the corners with something like a knitting needle to get a nice sharp corner.

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This is your chance to make sure they’re sitting as you want them to, and if they aren’t then turn it inside out again and carefully trim away a little more of the seam at the corners. Once your corners are all sitting nicely give the whole cover a final press and voila! Your cushion cover is complete!

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Just in time for a nice nap 😉