Wordless Wednesday

August 1st, 2012

Well, not quite, I just thought that I would share some of my recent holiday snaps with you.  Typical British weather, we went to our usual haunt in North Norfolk, Cromer, and the weather only really picked up once I was getting ready to leave (yes, I left on what is being known as the second week of summer weather…), but it was lovely to just get away from it all, chill out and take in the scenery.  Wish I was there right now…. and as you can tell from the pictures, all we did was pootle onto the beach, sit watching the sea, and generally meander around.  Not the most thrilling, fast paced holiday but just what the doctor ordered.  Have you got any holiday plans this year?  Hope the weather is better soon whatever you’re up to.

See, not quite wordless….. x













July 9th, 2012

Poor pun there.  Really no excuse for it but I couldn’t think of anything more exciting to use as a title!  Our WI had the annual summer fete on Saturday, and it was a great day.  I was quite grumpy at the start of the day after not having more than a few hours sleep and being quite hormonal, but after a cake and a Mariachi style version of “Hotel California” I mellowed out a little bit and got into the swing of things!  Probably the sugar rush from having one of these for breakfast helped too!

There were lots of new stalls this year, which added to the variety on offer for people, and it was really good chatting to some new people, although it did remind me that Nottingham really is a small city when you discover someone you’ve never met before knows half the people you do!  One of the new stalls was my lovely friend Vicky’s first venture into selling plants, which luckily proved to be popular with the people who came along.

Doesn’t the stall look pretty?  That’s my gingham clad backside trying to wangle it’s way in to the shot there, oops!  I had my stall next to Vicky so I was able to gibber at her all day – poor thing, I tend to get a bit hyper and chatty when I am running on adrenaline, so goodness knows if I made any sense at all!

Leanne, another one of my friends and a fellow WI committee member was offering manicures and selling some of her fabulous pre-painted nails; I think what I marvel most about it how she manages to get the whole set to match so perfectly – check out her Etsy shop if you don’t believe me!

And I had managed to get some new stock for the stall (lots of late nights and frantic sewing as per usual….) – this time I decided to take along the things I know are usually popular that I had a few of – I am always conscious that my stall can easily look a bit like a jumble sale with lots of bright colours and “stuff” everywhere, so I wanted to make it a bit nore streamlined this time.  Along with the retro aprons (new colourways and styles this time),peg bags, sewing baskets, pin cushions and needlecases, make up bags and brooches, I took along coat hanger sets (one crochet, one vintage fabric), padded notice boards, lucite jewellery, crochet tea cosies and scrap bags made from some of the de-cluttering I have forced myself to do.  I left at home the bits where I only had one or two of them, like pencil rolls and laundry bags.  My next aim is to get some stuff back in the shop (once the server has been re-built and messed around with – no doubt David has told me the technical term for it, but that’s where my knowledge ends…) and on Etsy, otherwise it will be sitting round til the next summer fete!  But overall I am pleased with the way it looked and it felt less cluttered (although I couldn’t fit much more on the table if I tried!).

And the piece de resistance as ever is the cake stall, which I am sure you will agree looks amazing!   No matter what else the WI are involved in, be it campaigning or education, it always comes with a respected history of baking excellent cakes, and I don’t think we let the side down at all!

I took along a chocolate fudge cake and flapjacks, and I can personally vouch for the fabulousness of the strawberry cupcakes that Kerry our President  made, the strawberry and cream Victoria Sponge, lemon drizzle buns, rice crispie cakes…all in the name of charity you understand!

Well, that’s it over now for another year, we raised money for a fantastic cause, ate cake and had fun, so what more could we ask for? (apart from some sunshine, but that’s a given really!) and that’s not something that anyone, not even the WI can control!

If you would like to know more about joining the WI have a look here to find your local branch, and if you’re in Nottingham come and join us – I’m sure you’d love it xoxo

It’s not all jam and Jerusalem…

June 21st, 2012

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a member of the Women’s Institute.   Very proud member in fact; so much so I volunteer on the committee too.  Our WI is one of the newer generation of WIs where most of our members are in their 20′s/30′s, most work full time or are studying but all have an interest in cooking, crafting, gardening and generally meeting other interesting people.  I think that the perception of the WI is changing, mainly thanks to some of the other, newer WIs springing up all over the place, and popular media is helping too with films, TV shows and documentaries.

I probably had one of the best introductions to being in a WI as the first meeting I went to was a baking taster evening in Oct 2010 – the range of baked goods that evening was amazing and I met loads of other new people who were also new to the WI.  I’m actually quite reserved (I hesitate to use the word shy) with people that I don’t know, and wondered if this would be somewhere that people would be friendly (I can feel quite panicky in new social situations) but I need not have worried.  I even got chatting to a lady from Ballymoney where David’s family live, really proving that it is a genuinely small world!   One of the nicest things about our WI (and the other couple of WIs I have visited) is that they are really friendly, so you never really feel on your own as there’s usually a bunch of people that introduce themselves to you before you’ve had a chance to get a cuppa!

So, what do we do, apart from eat cake?  Well cake clearly does feature significantly in most of the things we are associated with, but there’s more to us than that.  Each month we have a guest speaker on a topic that is of interest to the group – last month we had a talk on organic gardening from Ecoworks.  We have also had talks on vintage fashion, eating seasonably, and the work of the Lincs and Notts Air Ambulance.  Sometimes we book guest speakers, other times we have really fascinating talks from within the membership, such as our January meeting where one of our members spoke about her experiences of volunteering to help clear up the damage left by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Next month we are having Robin Hood guide us on a walk around Nottingham.

The WI also have a long history of (and a fearsome reputation for) campaigning on a variety of issues, from environmental campaigns such as helping save the bumblebee, to reducing packaging on foods (I love that some WIs took back all of their excess packaging to the supermarket and dumped it on the manager for them to deal with).  The current resolution (what members vote on and what will be campaigned on in the following year) is to call for more midwives, and for more midwife training.   The resolutions are proposed by members, and voted on so whatever causes are close to people’s hearts they have a chance to submit proposals each year to be (hopefully) selected and voted on – I like the democracy of the process, which seems to make a refreshing change in the current climate!

One of the things we do really well in Nottingham City WI is our fetes – this year will be the third fete we have held, and the second one that I have been involved in.  This is one of the main ways we raise money for charity – this year’s nominated charity is The Friary Drop In, an organisation I work with closely in my day job and who do some pretty phenomenal work with really disadvantaged people, on next to no money.  We raise money for this by selling cakes – have a look at the cake table from last year:

(Excuse the rubbish picture – these were taken on my phone as I had sensibly left the camera at home…!) and by having a raffle, which last year was epic and covered the bar upstairs completely.

Speaking personally it’s the only place pretty much I sell my Pinky and Boo bits and bobs now, and there are lots of other really talented crafters out there who also sell their work too.

This was my stall last year: 

This year our fete is on 7th July at Cape Bar in Hockley, Nottingham from 11-3.  I know I could be accused of being biased, but you really aught to come down and have a look.  Not only is there the amazing cake stall and raffle (which lets face it is actually reason enough) but you can get hold of some lovely crafts, clothing, home grown plants, pottery, even get your nails manicured!  And meet some lovely people in the process of it all too.  Who knows, you may even end up joining us too!

If you don’t live in Nottingham, find out where your nearest WI is – I thoroughly recommend you find out what they’re up to, you may be surprised! xoxo

P.S.  We don’t sing Jerusalem either!

Pillowcase shopper – easy tutorial

June 11th, 2012

It’s been a long, long while since I have posted here hasn’t it?  It’s always been my intention to start blogging again, but sometimes life gets in the way.  However, as they say the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, so here’s mine – a super easy (if slightly wordy) tutorial to show you how to make a pillowcase into a shopping bag.  

These are great for when you go charity shopping/ car booting as you can ram a significant amount of stuff into them, yet they fold down to next to nothing.  Enjoy!

You will need:

• A cotton pillowcase, or equivalent amount of fabric.  Try to pick one that isn’t too thin or worn – you don’t want your shopping falling out!  If you want to make a really sturdy bag you may want to line it, in which case you would need 2 pillowcases.

• Small amounts of a co-ordinating fabric for the straps and ties – I have used some gingham here, but if you wanted to make this project even quicker you could use cotton webbing for the straps and ribbon for the ties.

• Braid or lace (optional) – I like to embellish things – just because something is practical doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty too.  I used some vintage cotton lace here as I had a small amount left, but you could use braid, ribbon, ric rack…. Or leave it plain.  You need enough to go all the way round the top of your bag, so around 1.5 metres will be plenty.

• Sewing machine and matching thread

• Stitch ripper/ unpicker (optional but makes life a bit easier)

• Scissors

• Pins

• Tape measure

• Iron and ironing board

1. Make the bag

The first thing you need to do is give your pillowcase a good iron – especially if you have had it stored for a while.  Once you have it ironed , you are going to chop off the end that is open, at the point where the inside “flap” starts.  If you have a particularly long pillowcase, or it doesn’t have a wide folded over flap on the inside feel free to chop it where it looks reasonable.  Measure from the sewn edge towards the open edge and mark with pins where you will cut, making sure you have a nice straight line to follow.  Keep the discarded fabric, you may want to use it for another project.

You now should have a long-ish square that will become your bag.  If you keep your bag with the opening you have just cut on the right hand side as you look at it, you need to either cut or use the stitch ripper  to open up the seam at the top, which will become your bag opening.

Turn your bag inside out, and pin the edge you cut, and sew with a 1.5cm seam allowance, leaving the top edge open.

You may want to sew all the way round the 3 sides to reinforce the stitching that it already there, but this is up to you.  You now have a bag.

To make your bag have a wider bottom, like mine in the picture, you need to make corners on the bottom and sides.  To do this, pinch the bottom seam and the side seam together so they form triangles – try and make sure you line up the seams accurately to get a nice, straight edge.  How far down the line you want to sew is up to you, just remember the further down you sew the wider the bottom of the bag will be, and it will make it become  more triangular in shape.  I sewed mine down 5cm from the point, making sure both corners were the same.

2. Make the straps and ties.

  • To make the bag straps, cut 2 strips of fabric 12cm by 70cm (if you want shorter straps then try 12cm by 50cm) from your co-ordinating fabric.
  • To make the ties cut a strip 9cm by 70cm (unless you are using ribbon / webbing, in which case you can skip this stage).

Fold each strap in half lengthwise, with right sides facing (so you sew on the wrong side of the fabric), and pin so you make a long tube of fabric.  Sew with a 1cm seam allowance, and turn them both the right way out (you may find this easier if you use a chopstick or something blunt/ that won’t mark your fabric.

For the ties, fold the strip in half with wrong sides facing, and tuck in each raw edge about 1/2cm, pinning as you go.  Once you have it pinned all the way down, fold in the ends at the top and bottom.  Sew across the top, along the long edge and across the bottom.  Give the straps and ties a press with the iron ready to attach to the bag.  Fold the tie in half lengthways and cut, so you now have 2 ties with sewn ends.

3. Finish the bag.

You need to make a hem at the opening of the bag – if you unpicked your pillowcase you will probably find that you have a little fold about 1cm in already made for you – tuck this under, and fold over again about 2.5cm so that the raw edge is enclosed.  Pin in place.

Find the middle of your bag opening either by measuring, or folding in half lengthways.  Tuck your ties (cut edge) under the hem, then fold up so that they stick out of the top rather than hanging into your bag.  Measure 10cm away from your ties, mark and tuck under the edges of the straps, making sure that the straps aren’t twisted!  To help with this I usually put the sewn edge towards the middle.

Sew, using a fairly small stitch close to the folded over edge, being careful when you go over the straps and ties, and overlapping.  Take your time over this as you don’t want to hit the folded fabric at a high speed and damage your sewing machine!

Now, turn your bag the right way out so you can attach the trimming.  Starting at a side seam pin in place – I put mine a few millimetres from the folded edge, pinning all the way round, and tucking in the raw edge when you meet at the beginning again.  Sew in place, handstitching the braid ends if necessary.

If you decide to not put any trim on you will need to still do a line of stitching to make sure your bag is strong enough and that the handles and ties are in the right place.Trim off any excess threads and give the bag a press.

To fold up for your handbag, fold the left side of the bag into the middle, fold in the straps and fold over the right side.  Roll up from the end , cross the ties over at the top, wrap around and tie in a bow.

After all that sewing you’re ready to go shopping!


Strawberry shopper tutorial

November 27th, 2010

Here’s the instructions and information for the second of the tutorials for foldaway shopping bags, the strawberry shopper.  I do hope that you liked the previous tutorial - if you make anything from these tutorials please let me know, I’d love to see them!

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For the strawberry bag you will need:

  • Pillowcase (try and find one that doesn’t crease too badly – maybe one with polyester in it.  Since this gets stuffed into the strawberry you don’t want it to come out looking like a dish rag!)
  • Square of red polka dot fabric 26cm x 26cm (you could use plain red and embroider or paint the dots/ seeds on if you wish/ have the time)
  • Strip of green fabric
  • Green bias binding (I used cotton, but you could always make a small strip for this bag from fabric; I’m just being a little lazy here!)
  • 3 metres of bias binding to use around the handles (this should be more than enough so don’t worry if you have less in)
  • Green cord suitable for a drawstring
  • Matching thread – green, red and something to match your bias tape or pillowcase.
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Patterns for leaves and cut outs:
  • Strawberry bag handle No1
  • Strawberry bag handle pattern No 2
  • Strawberry leaf pattern 1
  • Strawberry leaf pattern 2

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To make bag:

To prepare the pillowcase for being turned into a bag, you need to first undo the “flap” that is on the inside (the bit that keeps the pillow in place – you don’t need to be too careful in removing this, unless you are as tight with fabric as I am and plan on using it for something else.  Otherwise just snip along the line of sewing it’s attached to.

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Once you have snipped the fabric away both sides just pull it out and leave it.  Then you need to mark a line (I used pins but you may want to use chalk if you prefer) 50 cm from the bottom edge of the bag, like this:

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Place the patterns on for the side and top cut outs onto your bag, and cut out.  You will be left with what looks like a carrier bag but the handles being open, like this:

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You now need to join the handles together; turn the bag inside out, and pin along the raw edge at the top of the handle, then sew using a small stitch a couple of times in the same line.   I used a 1cm seam allowance for this – remember it is this seam that takes the weight of what you have in your bag so you want it to last!

You are now ready to attach your bias binding round the handles.  I use bias binding because it not only gives you a chance to tie in some colours (I used red because of the strawberry) but also because doing a hem on a curved edge isn’t that easy.  Fold the bias tape in half, creasing with your finger, and with the resulting “V” shape fit this over the raw edge of your fabric.  Pin in place, remembering to tuck in or join your strips together so no raw edges are sticking out.  I started from the seam so that it wouldn’t be really obvious where the bias tape began.  You also need to attach bias tape to the opening of the bag – try and make sure you don’t have any bulky seams or joins where your hands would be when you are carrying the bag; you want the bag to be comfortable to use.  Sew in place using matching thread.

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Once you have given it a bit of a once-over with your iron, the bag part is complete.  Now you need to make your strawberry.

To make your strawberry: Cut the square in 2 diagonally, and place right sides together, pinning like this:

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Using matching thread sew along the 2 shorter sides of the triangle.  Clip the corners off to redce the amount of bulk and turn round to the right side.  Iron.

Now you need to assemble your strawberry:

Using something like your finger as a guide, place the stawberry you have just sewn over the right hand corner of the bag (you can put it on the left if you want, but it will be on the right hand side when you turn it over!).  I tend to poke my finger into the corner of the bag, and place the strawberry on top, and wiggle it a bit to make sure it is in as far as it can be, if that makes sense.  Pin your strawberry in place, making sure you don’t pin both sides together!

Next you need to add your leaves – they should lay across the top of your strawberry (if you have done slightly less of a seam allowance then you may need to gather or pleat your leaves slightly to make them fit properly.  Pin in place, on both the front and the back.  Sew them down either by tacking by hand, or really close to the edge of the fabric (so that it will be hidden once you put your binding in place) like this:

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Once you have your leaves and strawberry sewn in place, you need to add your bias binding.  Cut a strip of binding long enough to cover the raw edges of fabric, and fold under about 1 cm each side.  Pin in place, starting from the middle and working your way to the sides.  When you reach the edges of the channel (which are at the sewn seams of the bag/ strawberry) you need to tuck the ends under so that they form a neat line, like this:

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You need to have an opening at both seams to be able to thread the cord through and tie it.  You may choose to only have one opening, in which case I suggest that it would be on the side edge of the bag, and you may want to use a taggle or something to help draw the bag in and keep it that way.

You now sew along in a continuous line all the way around, making sure that you overlap your stitches from where you started, as this area gets a lot of stress when you use the drawstrings.  Remember to use a small stitch for strength, and a matching thread for your fabric on the top and bottom.

Once you have sewn all the way round the top and bottom of your bias binding, you are ready to add your cord.  You can make the ties as long as you want – mine were cut to 80cm.  If possible (if using synthetic cord – it won’t work if it’s cotton!) singe the ends of the cords to seal them either by passing them through a flame or putting them near some heat – be careful when you do this however as molton cord is painful if it hits your skin, and you don’t want to start a fire!  You will need 2 cords that are long enough to tie in a knot after being threaded through the bias binding.

Using a sfaety pin, start at one opening, thread your cord all the way round until it comes out next to where it went in.  Tie this off in a knot at the end of the cord.  Next thread your other cord, and start at the other gap in your binding, threading it all the way round until it comes out and tying it off.  Now it should look like this:

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Give your bag a final press with the iron, taking care that you don’t melt the cord!  Your bag is complete now – just stuff the bag into the strawberry, pull the cords and you’re ready to go shopping!

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Enjoy xoxo

Foldaway shopper tutorials

November 16th, 2010

It’s been a while hasn’t it?  Lots happening, and lots of good blogging intentions that have slipped.  Saying that, I really want to get back to blogging, but struggle to find things to write about, so I have decided that I will mainly try and post tutorials on here, and since Christmas is fast approaching,  I wanted to offer some tutorials for things that are easy and quick to make, and would make nice gifts.  The first of these are 2 shopping bags. 

shopper bags

The first one we will tackle here is the shopper that folds into it’s own pouch – I will be back with instructions for the strawberry one later in the week.

I don’t know about you but I have no shortage of bags for life / canvas bags/ tote bags – you name it.  I just end up getting or making more as I never remember to pick them up when I go shopping (I know, it defeats the object!) and I think one of the problems (apart from a complete lack of organisation on my part) is that they never fold into anything, so I end up stuffing them into another bag, and maybe remebering to fold one up and put it in my handbag before I go out the door.  I bought a bag like this ages ago and loved the fact it folded up on itself, so I thought it would be easy to show you how to make one for yourself.

You will need:


  • A pillowcase – I used an old one I picked up for pence at a charity shop
  • Co-ordinating / contrasting cotton fabric ( a fat quarter would be ideal as you don’t need loads) for the pocket.
  • Strip of contrasting / co-ordinating fabric for the top of the bag – slightly more than twice the width of the bag and 12cm deep.
  • Scrap of ribbon or a strip of matching fabric
  • Matching / contrasting thread
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Dressmakers’ chalk
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron and ironing board

Cut out for the pocket :

2 rectangles of co-ordinating fabric – I used 2 different ones for the front and back both for interest and for demonstration purposes.  Your rectangles need to be 20 x 26 cm, (this includes a 1cm seam allowance).

You also need to cut a strip of ribbon (or use a piece of fabric you have hemmed) 14cm long to use as a hanging hook for your bag – useful for storing, or for maybe adding a key chain to?

Make the bag:

Take your pillowcase and measure from the sewn end 55cm – this makes a nice deep bag, although if you want a smaller bag, feel free to make it less.  Mark with chalk a line across your bag.  On my bag  I measured to the point where the pillowcase folds over on the inside, and trimmed that off.  You’ll need to keep the fabric you trim off as it makes the handles for the bag.

Handles: separate off the excess fabric you have from trimming your pillowcase.  Mine was sewn all the way round, so I trimmed off the back piece from the “flap”(the bit that holds your pillow in place), and took apart the seams to release the flap of fabric.  This left me with 2 bits of fabric.  If your pillowcase only has one seam then just unpick it so you have 1 long strip of fabric.  Making sure that the strip/s are even in size all the way along, fold it in half widthways, and iron a crease.  Pull it apart and cut along the line you have just ironed in so you have 2 or 4 strips, like this:

blog pics 007 If you have 4 strips (like mine) you will need to join them – I sewed mine twice in the same place with a small stitch, as this seam takes a lot of strain when you are using the bag.  If you have 1 long strip then you don’t have to bother sewing.  You could use the sewing that is in fromwhen the pillowcase was made, but I would strengthen it with a row of stitching too – trust me on this one!  Iron the seam you have just made apart to make it less bulky to sew.

To finish the handles, fold the strips in half widthwise with wrong sides together (i.e. with the right sides on the outside, and remember you are making a long strip, not folding it in half!), iron the crease in place.  Fold your raw edges in to the middle about a centimetre, like this:

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and like this:

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Pin along the edge you have just folded in.  I would always pin where the line of stitching is – make sure when you are sewing that your stitches are near to the edge of the fabric, and that you sew to the point of the pin, and pull the pin towards you.  Saves you getting in no end of bother! Sew where you have just pinned on both strips – if you want you can do a line of machine stitching on the other side to match feel free, but it’s not a problem if you don’t want to.  Set straps aside.

Next – trim the top of your bag.  Using the strip of fabric, measure twice the width of your pillowcase plus 2cm for seam allowance.  Foe example, my pillowcase measured 48cm across, so my strip would be 98cm (48cm +48cm +2cm).  Accurate measuring is key here!  Fold the strip right sides together widthwise, pin and sew so that you are making a tube.  Press apart seam allowance.  With right sides of fabric facing you fold the tube in half widthwise and iron – this crease will enable the fabric to sit over the raw edge of the bag.  Then tuck under the raw edges of the tube and iron them down.  This should look like a tube of bias binding and sit over the bag quite neatly.  Pin in place, lining up the seams, like this:

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Sew into place with a small – ish stitch for strength.

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Once you have attached the binding at the top of the bag you need to add your straps – I placed mine 11cm in from the side seams, but if your bag is wider or narrower then feel free to alter this so that it both looks and feels right to you.  Pin in place to try.  You can also alter the length of your straps at this point if you wish.  The important thing is that the straps are placed evenly and in the same place on both sides, otherwise the bag won’t hang straight when being used. 

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Fold under the raw edge of each strap (I tend to use the side with the stitching as the inside of the strap, but this isn’t important, again as long as it matches on both sides!) 2.5cm, and pin this down where you want them to be.  I didn’t put mine all the way down to the sewn edge, but in the middle, like this:

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Sew into place making a box shape, and reinforcing the first line of stitching, like this:

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You have now made your bag – you could stop there and just fold your bag up – it’s ideal for decorating or adding embellishments to, but if you want to make a little pocket for it to fold into, read on….

Variation:  you could make a flat bottom for your bag by pinching in the corners and sewing across them.


Take the 2 squares you cut from fabric, and place them right sides together.    Find the middle of the long edge and place your folded ribbon in, so that the raw edges are in line with the fabric.  In my picture I have stuck them out slightly so that you can see them.

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Pin around the edge, leaving a gap in one of the shorter edges.  When pinning I find it easiest to pin horizontally so you can (with care) sew over your pins – if you do this place a different coloured pin in vertically to mark where you need to leave your gap.  You wouldn’t believe how easy it is to get carried away and sew all the way round!  Sew using a 1cm seam allowance.  I have used a white thread for it to show up in pictures but I would usually use a matching thread throughout.

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Remove the pins, and trim off the corners of the fabric close to the line of sewing

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Using the gap in the side turn right side out, making sure the corners are poked out so that they are nice and square – sometimes using the blunt end of some scissors helps, but be careful to not make a hole in your lovely sewing!  Give this a bit of an iron to flatten it out – if your fabric is a bit “springy” then you may fin putting some steel (not pearl headed cos they melt….) pins in whilst you iron may help, and sew along the short edges (this closes the gap on one edge. 

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This is the careful part – the pocket is only attached to the bag on one side, so you need to fold over and sew down the other side.  Fold one edge towards the middle, making sure that you tuck in your hanging loop.

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Sew from the middle to the folded edges to secure – I find that if you sew about 1cm, then reverse and sew back on yourself, then sew the line you wanted to makes areas where there will be high stress on the fabric much stronger and longer lasting.  You have now made the part that isn’t attached to the bag. 

Fold in the other side and pin.  Now, find the vertical middle of your shopping bag, mark with a crease or a chalk line, and mark 12cm up from the bottom of the bag.  Fold the pocket in half to find the middle and use this to pin in place on your bag.  I find that it is easier to get the pocket placed, and pin through the front and back layers, then to move the pins to sew it.  Just remember to move them!

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This picture is a bit confusing, however, cos I took it upside down.  You are sewing in a “U” shape down the short side, across the bottom and up the other side again, but the sewn edge needs to be facing the bottom…. hope that makes sense

Trim off all your bits of thread and give the whole thing a press.  To fold the bag up, turn the bag over so the pocket is face down.  Fold the edges of the bag in to the middle, fold the straps down, and fold in the bag until you reach the pocket, fold up the bottom edge, then fold the pocket over the bag, so it looks like this.

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I will try and put together a PDF of the folding instructions for you so that you can print it and include in with the bag if you are giving it as a gift.  If you find your bag wants to “escape” from the pocket you could always make a button loop and attach a small button for closing up. 

Once you have made one they get quite addictive and it’s easy to make loads in an afternoon, production line style

I will be back again with instructions for the strawberry bag soon.  Enjoy! xoxo

Quilt love

February 4th, 2010

Like many bloggers out there I have fallen in love with making quilts – I seem to be slightly obsessed with it at the minute, so obsessed in fact that I have several quilts planned out in my craft addled brain…  amongst many, many other things…. But I never got round to showing you this one – it’s been on our bed (and grateful for it’s lovely warmth and weight we are too since the weather is still so cold) since last year.

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It uses the “Snippets” range of fabrics supplemented with some 30′s reproduction fabrics I added to ensure I had enough for the quilt I wanted to make.  I love the pretty florals and quirky dressing up dolls on this range:  shame it’s so hard to get hold of now.

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It’s not really planned out very much, I started out with a “turnover” pack and a load of fat quarters. I have a pattern of the blocks made from the triangles arranged with the squares, but I actually like the fact that the pattern isn’t easy to see.  The pillowcase in the above picture I embroidered last year as part of my self imposed therapy time recovering from doing too many craft fairs…

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I used a vintage wool blanket for the batting and a vintage candy stripe sheet for the backing.

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I love this quilt – it’s far from perfect, but it’s my first proper quilt, and the sunny colours make me happy when I go to bed on an evening. Saying that I worked through a number of mistakes on this one, the main one being that the wool blanket was soooo heavy and having just a domestic machine (with a relatively average throat) was difficult to quilt well. Lovely idea, won’t be repeating that! I was reminded why I love my walking foot (which I bought years ago for making PVC clothes – don’t ask – long story!) although to be fair I remember this every time I use it!

The next quilt I made was for Vicky’s Christmas pressie, and I am halfway through the blocks for one made using “Happy Campers” fabric I bought at the knitting and stitching show last year.  Add that to the long list of other quilts I would like to make, and it looks like I will be busy and warm for a while longer!

Whilst I am here,  a quick question – do you think these pictures are any better than they normally are?  David’s dad gave us his old camera when we were over visiting Northern Ireland at New Year and I have been enjoying playing with it.  Can you see the difference?  I keep reading the instruction manual on my bus into work in the morning!  Hopefully with a nicer camera I will blog more often…….xoxo

Knitting and Stitching show

November 30th, 2009

That should really be titled “where the hell has Claire been for ages part 1…”.  It’s been my intention to blog, many, many times, it’s just that it hasn’t happened.  That and I like to pepper my posts with pictures, and I haven’t really being taking many.  Problem that.   Lots has happened since the last time I posted – was made redundant from my old job (which by the time I left it came as a relief) and after 4 days unemployed, was interviewed and successful in getting another job, which I started almost 4 weeks ago now, and love and work with a great team (such a change from the old place!).   Done craft fairs and had a mixed experience of them – some good some really quite trying.  Made quite a few new skirts.  And WORKED!  Work, work, work!  I work full time  (37 hours) and I also teach 3 evenings a week (9 hours in total) each week as standard, as well as some weekends, so I am generally so tired I can’t think…  Anyway, that’s what I am up to – roll on Christmas!

One of the best things I got up to was last week was the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate.  The Textile Workshop, where I teach on an evening and only 5 minutes from our house ran a coach trip and most of the Stitched Up lot booked to go, and I am so glad I did as I had an exhausting but fabulous day out.  If you’re in the UK, make sure that next year you go if you haven’t been before.  The show was a great mixture of exhibitions and shopping, and since I had worked my butt off the couple of days before hand to get some pennies to spend, I was like a kid in a sweet shop with all the pretty things to buy!   Harrogate is so lovely although I spent all day inside the  exhibition centre, which  was built around the Victorian theatre which was so pretty  -  we escaped there to to get some peace and quiet from all the mad shopping that was going on.

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There was some amazing work by a variety of textile artists from knitting and embroidery to quilting, although there were only a few parts we could photograph.  I loved this

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- a boat entirely covered in knitting (there were pictures there of it sailing too) – love the attention to detail that they put in to it.

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The stitching was a amazing – and such a diverse range of techniques and inspirations that it made me just want to go home and make something new.

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I particularly loved the machine embroidery

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- something I teach my students to do but very rarely choose to do for myself, but felt so inspired by the work there that I want to do more ( a great excuse to come home with a box of beautiful machine embroidery threads to supplement the ones I already have…) and I really loved the knitted everyday objects that were exhibited  – such beautiful knitting, and who could resist a knitted pair of knitting needles?

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I spoiled myself  at the stalls, and spent what I thought was an obscene amount of money on not very much at all….  I came away though with some beautiful vintage craft magazines, embroidery transfers and a stunning 1930′s print for the bedroom, 2 lengths of fabric for (more) skirts, perle cotton that was beautifully hand dyed in muted tones, as well as dotty bias binding, the biggest ric rac I have ever seen,

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as well as the quilt fabric I was hoping to find (Happy Camper – so cute!).  And lots of beautiful fat quarters and half meters, which I will show you soon as I start to calm down a little.  I felt quite guilty at spending so much money on really frivolous things for myself, but I worked hard to do it, so what the heck!

Better go, as it’s a long day tomorrow – day at work followed by my “Making things from vintage patterns” class – we’re making retro christmas decorations  – fab!  ‘ Later xoxo

Plinth patchwork

August 16th, 2009

You may remember that our little craft group Stitched Up were approached by a local actress/ artist Hazel Ellerby to join in making squares for a patchwork that would be shown for the “One and Other” art project in Trafalgar Square.  Life for me has been a bit crazy recently, working my usual full time hours, as well as weekend classes at the Textile Workshop and my usual evening classes, so I didn’t know whether I would manage to get a patch of my own done in time.  I ended up rushing things a bit and managed to get this done in an evening, which wasn’t entirely what I had originally planned, but was happier with then I thought I would be, if that makes sense.029

I wanted to use a something that remided me of who started me off on all this crafting business – my parents.  There’s some pictures in there I have already blogged about before here, and one of my parents I took when I was about 14 at Brimham Rocks that sits on my dressing table. 028 I love this picture – they both look so happy in it, and for once my dad isn’t fooling around in the picture (can’t think where I get that from at all….).  I also appliqued a part of a vintage tray cloth and some scraps of fabric and lace, and embellished it with different embroidery stitches, bordering it all with a ribbon.  I wrote some text that I pinned to the back of the piece and left it to be collected.

Hazel took to the plinth on Weds this week, and I was surprised to see the amount of squares she had collected up – the quilt was double sided and then she ended up having to make bunting from it all (which I love the idea of!) to display them.  I was excited to see some of the patches I had seen, texted Vicky when I saw hers, and then saw mine.  If you watch the video you will hear some of the really emotional stories behind people’s squares.  You can see a bit of my square at 17 minutes, and at about 21 minutes you can hear all of Vicky’s text and half of mine read out (Hazel’s mum was heckling her to speak up!).035

What was a bit wierd, in a nice way, was when I was looking for images from somewhere I had been with my parents, to use as the background.  I ended up Googling “Sutton in Craven” – the village my mother lived in when she left home, and where my dad would visit her each week with a bunch of Chrysanths and a box of chocolates (how romantic!), and where we visited lots when I was little.  I found the village website, and was looking through the gallery of pictures when I saw a folder of “hostel girls” – the hostel was set up for the girls and women who weren’t originally from the village for them to live in whilst at work.  There were quite a few pictures that I recognised in there from my mother’s  photo album, and then there I found this. img095 It was such a nice shock – my mam is the one on the left at the back – pretty much in the centre of the photo, with her arm round who I seem to recall was her best mate (Jean?) who then moved to Australia, the girls in front I recognise but I don’t know who they are.  I ended up ordering some prints of the set, and am trying to contact the guy whose pictures they are.  My sister has all my mam’s pictures, and I wish that I had access to them as I would like to use some of them in my textiles.  My mam would have been about 19, and from the look of it was experimenting with setting her hair as it seems to be quite curly at the back!  I’d love to know what they were all giggling about as they seem to have been having a good time!

The technique that I used for my patch I will do a tutorial for soon, as it’s so easy and has such potential for stitching and working with, so watch this space.  Later today I am off to join my friend in Cromer – her parents have just moved there and so we’re camping in their garden – roll on beach walks and Cromer Crab for tea! xoxo

For the love of oilcloth

July 29th, 2009

I seem to have found a new obsession recently – a strange one at that, but people who have been reading this blog for a while now probably won’t be surprised at all by that!

Being a magpie at heart I have always loved shiny things. When I was a goth (back in the day) my love of shiny things translated into several PVC skirts and bustiers for clubbing in – don’t ask! And yes, you do get sweaty! Now, I needed something to help with my “manky table” problem. When we were moving into this house we were really lucky to be gifted a pine dining room table and 4 chairs via Freecycle. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth we accepted and have giventhe table 18 months of hard use – David has a folding games table that sits on top so he and his mates can play with his tiny fighting men of an evening, I have sat and sewn and painted and cut things out on it. Occasionally we have been known to eat at it too. But it’s looking tired, and orange, and I don’t deal well with orange pine. Rather than paint it (I’d like cream, just like my pretty dresser) or stain it (David would like it dark brown, like the floorboards) I thought that an oilcloth cover and some slipcovers for the chairs would be enough to tart it up for the time being.

I’d seen an advert for UK mexican oilcloth sellers Viva La Frida in a sewing magazine and had a look on their website, and was instantly smitten. First of all I ordered 2 craft packsoilcloth 005

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- which you can see here, basically cos I didn’t know how big my table was (ordering at work on my lunch time!) and then a couple of days later I ordered this gorgeous turquoise rose print, which I adore.oilcloth 002

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Even David thinks it looks good (which I was a tad surprised at). The craft pack pieces are large enough to make tote bags and make up bags from, so I think I will make some of those up, and maybe some cushions for taking into the garden should we ever get any dry weather this summer in the UK. I am now wondering what else I can cover in these bright, crazy flowery fabrics. I have also started digging out the other bits of oilcloth I have stashed away, which is a surprising amount really. Though to be fair they’re not as nice as these ones…

As an aside, if you wonder what the best way to sew oilcloth is, get a walking foot for your machine – they’re great and don’t stick to the fabric. Saves hours of swearing and frustration!

I can feel a bit of a show and tell coming on with all my oilcloth projects! xoxo

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