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Welcome Back

Would you like a more personal Christmas? Less commercial, not so much battling shops n crowds at the last-minute? There is another way, a couple of years ago I started shopping earlier and hand-making gifts. You get to stay in the warm, maybe have your fave movie on in the background and create a gift that the recipient will treasure because you put into it something you just can’t buy..your love and your time.

Today I’d like to share some links to projects and ideas that would make great Christmas gifts created with fabrics, some will take more time than others but most will be achievable to everyone, even those very new to sewing.

Sew your way to a Happier Christmas

Easy Fleece hats.

These take very little fabric and would be great extra gifts and ideal for little uns too.

Fleece hat with Ear Flaps DIY tutorial by Craft Gemini. Includes free pattern

Easy to sew Pyjama trousers.

If you are new to sewing these are ideal, can be made to create pj trousers of any size

Whitney sews PJ Trousers.

If you have a pattern but are confused by construction this is the video for you

Handmade Pajama Trousers

Sneak a pair of your recipients fave pj trousers and recreate them in the new fabric.

Wrap Vest

A great gift for women of all ages, I’d overcast the edges for a more long-lasting result but a handy stash busting last-minute gift.

Christmas Tree Skirt by Debbie Shore

Are you fed up with the nylon and velour tree skirts available in the shops? Why not create your own to match your decor in quality fabrics. Love up your tree with this great project.

Zipped Make up Bag by Debbie Shore

This is a great project for the girls but alter the fabric and colours to make a wash kit bag for the boys or the size to make a pencil-case for the kids.

Laptop Bag by Debbie Shore

Ahh kids (of all ages) today are so in love with technology aren’t they. How about creating a little softness in their world with some amazing fabrics you can make this laptop cover. Alter the size and it could also work for a tablet or e-reader too.

If you want to include your own designs or images in your projects, you can buy printable fabric from Crafty Computer Paper. How about making T-shirts with your fave pics on, or tote bags with your kids or pet pictures on.

Opps got a bit carried away again, but hopefully there is something for everyone on your list. I would love to know if you make something handmade this Christmas and do share a picture if you do.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

Last month I started a sew along to create an advent calendar, did you make one too? I’d love to see your pictures. Here’s how mine turned out.

Finished advent calendar project 2013

Finished advent calendar project 2013

I started by ironing on lightweight interfacing onto the back of the panel (well DH ironed it on for me) We did this as there was so little fabric on the turn ins that I was worried it would fray.

Makower Advent calendar Panel.

Makower Advent calendar Panel.

Advent calendar panel: Backed with interfacing

Advent calendar panel: Backed with interfacing

DH had the idea of putting a thin strip of iron on interfacing on to the top and bottom edges again resisting any fraying and to stop things catching on the edges of the pockets. Thanks to my crocked hands DH put this on for me too. Turned into a joint project ;)

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on. (Backs of the pockets)

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on. (Backs of the pockets)

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on.

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on.

Any pockets that spread over more than one square had box pleats. First I placed the pockets in place and sewed along the dotted line between the pockets. Next I pinned the two side edges in place and sewed the other edges in place. This has made for a nice secure pocket that should stand up to a few years use.

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on. Match them with the squares on the panel.

Advent calendar panel: Pockets ironed into shape and ready to sew on. Match them with the squares on the panel.

Advent calendar panel: Pockets with box pleats pinned in place and sewn along dotted line to form center of pleat first, this makes them secure.

Advent calendar panel: Pockets with box pleats pinned in place and sewn along dotted line to form center of pleat first, this makes them secure.

To hang the panel I made some tabs using the same fabric that was going on the back and I sewed those across the top inside the seam allowance and pointing down towards the bottom of the panel, so that when it’s turned through they will point up.

Advent calendar panel: Tabs to hang panel, pockets sewn in place and top stitched the edges to firm up the result.

Advent calendar panel: Tabs to hang panel, pockets sewn in place and top stitched the edges to firm up the result.

Not convinced that sewing into wadding would be a good plan without getting LOTS of fluff into the machine. I pinned the tabs in place so they didn’t get in the way, pinned the backing fabric on to the panel, right sides together and sewed around three and a half edges. I clipped the corners and turned everything right side out. Next I put the wadding into the ‘envelope’ of fabric and DH pinned it in place using curved safety pins. Then I sewed around the inner side of the decorative edge and finally it was finished.

I sewed around the fireplace area of the design and around the clock to highlight that. If I’d thought in advance I’d have sewed some blue ribbon under the pocket but I didn’t think of that till the pockets were already in place. DH pinned the bottom edge in and I top stitched around all the edges. This looks nice and holds things firmer.

Can’t say I loved the process, it took ages coz I over thought the whole thing made worse by never having quilted anything before and I was scared of getting wadding jammed in my machine. Change your needle as you go through the project it helps a lot. I am very pleased that I went with the interfacing, it has given a nice sturdy result and having now seen a few of these made up in a shop, I like the result the interfacing gave and would do it that way again.

Did you make an advent calendar for the sew along? I’d love to see your results.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

Have you been longing for a sewing machine? Perhaps you have a budget in mind or the family have started asking what you would like for Christmas or your birthday. Rather than individual presents, maybe they would be interested in going in together, to help towards the cost of your dream machine. Ohh the possibilities, so how do you choose which machine is right for you? Read on for helpful tips to narrow the search.

My First Sewing Machine

My First Sewing Machine; Brother BM2600

There are so many options, how do I choose which machine is right for me?

Here are some helpful questions to ask, to help you narrow the choice.

  • What do you want to make?
  • What comes with the machine?
  • What extra feet or accessories are available for your choice of machine and how much do they cost?
  • Budget, have a figure in mind that you are hoping to spend, then do some research as to what is available for that price.
  • Do you know anyone else who sews, who you could ask about the machine they use?
  • Look up the main manufacturers of machines [see links below] to see what is available

What would you like to use the sewing machine to make?

If this is your first machine, pretend for a moment that you can afford anything, and already know how to sew anything that comes into your mind. Now write a list of all the things you would like to create with your new machine. You now have this list it will help lead your choice as some machines are better for some jobs, than others.

For example if you mainly want to do a few clothing repairs and have the option of trying some craft style projects, then you don’t need huge numbers of stitches. Machines with fewer stitches are often cheaper and you could get a much better quality machine with fewer stitches than for the same budget if you wanted lots more stitch options.

If you are thinking more home furnishing, curtains etc then you will be using much heavier weights of fabric, so go for a sturdier machine whose motor can better cope with these things.

Feet & Accessories

Now that you have your dream list of things you would like to create with your machine, have a look at some of the main manufacturers of sewing machines and what is available. When you see a machine you like, download the manual to see how easy/difficult the machine looks like it will be to use.

Not all shops or online retailers have much information about individual machines so getting hold of the manual is a good way to compare machines and find out just what they are capable of. It will also let you discover what comes in the box and hopefully what other accessories and feet are available for that machine.

Feet

There will be a selection of feet that come with your machine, how many there are is likely to be driven by your budget and which machine you choose. With your dream list of projects, have a look to see what feet are needed for those kinds of project and check their pricing. The last thing you want is to discover  in a years time is that your great bargain can’t grow with you as there aren’t more feet available so now you can’t do half the projects you had planned, or the feet to make it do so, are prohibitively expensive.

Room to grow with your sewing machine

You have a choice, buy a basic machine with the full intention to learn the ropes on it and expect to trade up to a bigger better one as your skills improve or by doing some research that I’ve mentioned above, getting a little more expensive machine, that will give you the option of adding extra feet as your sewing horizons expand with your confidence.

One thing I can promise you, is that if you get bitten by the sewing bug, you will be astonished at how quickly you want to do more than you ever imagined when you first bought your machine. When I bought mine, I ‘just’ wanted to make bags, perhaps alter a few hems. Three years later and I’m now very keen to try dressmaking, nothing earth shattering but being short I find trousers almost impossible to buy to fit. I like cotton skirts but often their prices are painful, I’d like to try to make some of those too.

Now I’m not saying making your own clothes will be cheaper, sometimes it will, sometimes it will cost the same, and sometimes it will cost more BUT it does give you more options for colours, fabrics and styles that YOU choose, not what the shops say you should want.

Getting help

If you have friends or family that sew, see if you can use their machine and ask them what they love or hate about it. If this isn’t an option check out the many sewing forums online and see what machines people on there are using, ask questions and have a natter. Better to do this now, than to drop a load of hard-earned cash on a machine, that in three months you regret getting.

Storage

Now I know this sounds a bit daft, but do spare a thought for what you will do with your machine, when you aren’t using it.

The reason I say this, is because some machines are a lot heavier than others and if you are needing to store you machine away in the cupboard and haul it out when you want to use it, suddenly the weight of the machine could become a big issue. If the machine will be out on a desk, you want to protect it from dust, so check out what covers the machine comes with or if there are bags available for it.

If you have the space and funds there is a fantastic company called Horn who produce the most amazing cabinets for sewing machines. The have a gas lift to raise your machine to working height, and press again to store away again into the cabinet. There are many options at various price points depending on your budget and available space.

Links

Do have a look at the  Textiles Tab for links to;

It’s also a good idea to look through some catalogues for inspiration and options. I ordered one from Jaycotts last weekend, OK my wish list grew, but it was helpful to have items listed side by side to compare sizes and features.

Oh dear another LONG post, I really need to work on short n sweet rather than epic essays don’t I! Anyway I hope you find this post helpful, these are the tips I’ve picked up along the way and if they save you some time and money along the way, then its been worth the hard work looking up all these links.

Happy Sewing

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

How about a totally different challenge? Would anyone like to join me for an Advent Calendar Sew along? Last year I bought an advent calendar fabric panel, printed on it is a Christmas design and pieces to sew onto it to form the pockets for an advent calendar. The one I chose was 899 Fireplace Advent calendar; The Henley Studio Makower UK.

Makower Advent calendar Panel.

Makower Advent calendar Panel.

The principle with these calendar’s is that you cut out the smaller squares  and then sew them onto a main image panel. You back the piece with batting and another decorative fabric on the back. Got to admit I have wanted to do this for ages but have been tying myself in knots about just how to go about it. There are instructions on the panel but I fell into my usual trap of over thinking it, I put it away in the cupboard until now.

Any hoo, I figured if I turned it into a challenge then maybe some of you lovely readers might like to sew along with me to create an advent calender either for your own home or as a gift for someone you love. After looking up the brand name on my panel I discovered that Wendy Gardiner has made a tutorial for how to put one of these panels together.

If you would like to make an advent calendar too you could either use a panel of some sort like this, there are other brands too, or there are also lots of tutorials on You Tube and online if you want to quilt your own designs. Perhaps you’d like to make a garland or any other kind of fabric advent calendar. It would be nice to see some projects made from panels but any kind of fabric advent calendar you choose to make would be welcome to join in too.

So how about it? Would anyone like to sew along with me? I’ll put some links in below so you can see the kinds of panels available, they are quite easily available on Ebay as well as online sewing shops. You can even get an advent calendar design card to use with a Slice fabrique machine if you want to choose your own fabrics and colour scheme.

Links

Check out your favorite sewing store to see if they have any designs you like, or pick your favorite fabrics to create your own Advent calendar.

If you want to design your own style of calendar don’t forget you can use other design cards for the slice for cutting the numbers. The sturdier dies like Sizzix and heavier die cutting machines like Big shot have been shown on C&C cutting felt and cottons. Christmas designs like trees, numbers and holly etc are bound to feature on your favorite craft sites any time soon.

This is a great challenge for anyone else like me who bought one of these and hasn’t yet made it up, or for those looking for something a little different and hand-made for the Christmas season. The panels are ideal for total newbies to sewing as it’s just straight line sewing but there are also Character advent calendar’s like Tilda dolls who wear clothing with many pockets that can be left on a child’s bed for the more advanced or adventurous fabric artist.

To join in with this challenge just leave a comment in the post below. I am also running this challenge on The Sewing Forum, which is a great place to learn, share ideas and make new friends who sew. I know its early for Christmas projects BUT its to give people chance to get their calendars in to give us all a fighting chance of getting them done in time for December 1st.

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

Just wanted to share a picture of my first skirt. The fabric is royal blue polyester cotton. I went with an elastic waist as the style tends to fit me well. I was considering using the cord I made to thread through the casing but I wasn’t convinced by my current skill level with button holes with my machine, so went with elastic instead.

My First Skirt

My First Skirt

The instructions I used to draft the pattern were from Sew What skirts which I reviewed recently. I’ve had the book and the fabric for a few years now, but only recently discovered where to buy pattern paper.

I was very lucky to get a bargain of a nearly new roll of pattern paper on Ebay! So now I’m having a play designing different kinds of patterns. My MIL gave me Winnifred Aldrich book for my birthday, its one big step up from where I am right now but since I am in-between sizes of commercial patterns, I would have to learn how to make lots of alterations to them anyway. At which point if I was going to have to learn all that, I figured why not learn how to draft to my own measurements, at least the patterns I draft should be nearer to my size and then I have full freedom as to the length of things (being a shortie at 5 foot 3) most patterns are designed for people much taller any way.

Wish me luck with it, I’ve also been creating a pattern from an old pair of shorts, which from the test pair I’ve made, are going well. At last I’ll get designs I want to wear without the low slung waists (which I hate) in fabric I like. woo hoo. No more static fests with viscose which seems to be all you can get on the high street.

BIG learning curve and a million miles from the bags I originally wanted my sewing machine for. My late mother would be proud, she used to make all my clothes and spoilt me for expecting things to fit. After she passed away and I found shop clothes such poor fit and quality it was a bit of a shock, such a shame I didn’t have longer with her and the patience to learn when she tried to teach me.

Fingers crossed with some time and patience (who me?!) that I’ll be able to make designs I like, my way and that they will fit. If my Mum who didn’t go to university or study fashion for years could make wonderful clothes, maybe the genes are there and I’ll be able to too.

How about you, what do you like to make with your machines?

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

PS More art when my hands work better! Fine motor skills are beyond me at the moment.

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Welcome Back

Welcome Back

In today’s post I will be reviewing; Fiskars Patchwork Quilting Ruler 15 x 60 cm.

Fiskars Patchwork ruler 15 x 60 cm

Fiskars Patchwork ruler 15 x 60 cm

Product Details

  • Manufacturer/Brand; Fiskars
  • Item number:
  • RRP at time of writing: Under £17 delivered

Quote from Amazon

  • MARKED IN CMS ONLY .Transparent Ruler ideal for cutting
  • shapes square triangle rectangle and strips etc. for quilting and patchwork
  • highlighted 1cm seam allowance
  • angles clearly marked 30 45 and 60 degrees
  • includes non slip pads ,

Reason For Buying

Recently I have started sewing, well dressmaking with a sewing machine (haven’t the dexterity for hand sewing!!!!). I had a look at commercial patterns and not only were they confusing but also the same problem about being in-between sizes happened with patterns. If I was going to have to learn how to and re draw every pattern I chose, I decided it would be easier to just draft my own from scratch.

After joining a sewing forum and getting tips on what books were best to learn the topic I was also advised to get a LONG ruler, a 15 x 60 cm one. I already have a large square Fiskars ruler and having been happy with it, decided to try their longer version too.

Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Lines are printed in black making them clear and easy to read
  • Several options for numbering; one side includes a 1cm seam allowance the other doesn’t. Make sure you are reading the side of the ruler you mean too or your sizing may be off
  • Numbers are clear but surrounded by a coloured dot
  • There is a cut away area on the ruler which means you can hang it up to store if you wish too.
  • There are non slip feet stickers included in the pack, its nice you have the option to choose weather or not you want them on the ruler.
  • Seam allowance area is highlighted so you can quickly see which area of the ruler you are on
  • If you wish to cut at an angle these are marked on the ruler at 30, 45 and 60 degrees
  • cms have solid line and half centimeters are marked on the rulers with a broken line.
Fiskars ruler 15 x 60 cm

Fiskars ruler 15 x 60 cm

Cons

  • Be a bit careful if you are using the ruler to help you alter patterns or drafting with the ruler, the cut out to allow hanging can snag on pins or your paper as you move the ruler around. Its FINE you just need to be aware of the fact and lift the ruler rather than slide it if you are near papers edge or near pins.

Build Quality

Superb, a very sturdy plastic. Numbers and lines printed clearly and easy to read.

Fiskars ruler 15 x 60 cm

Fiskars ruler 15 x 60 cm

Value for Money

Excellent, not cheap, cheap but well worth the asking price for the build quality.

Would I buy it Again?

Yes, highly recommend it to all

Summing up

These Fiskar rulers are excellent, I love my 30 x 30 cm square one and it works well in combination with this 15 x 60 cm one. So far I’m using them for pattern drafting, but after watching a few quilting shows I could be tempted into trying quilting at a later date.

There are a lot of different rulers on the market for this purpose, some are metric some imperial so you will have plenty of options to choose from. Like buying a car, we all have different reasons for buying one and our needs will vary. Try to see a few different brands in person if possible or at least on close up photos. I used You Tube to see if anyone was posting reviews or tutorials using these kinds of rulers to get a closer look at them. Bear in mind also that different countries may also have different branding colours/options so not all will be available in every country.

Links

Here are a couple of useful links for more information about these rulers, first from the makers at Fiskars and also where to buy them on Amazon UK

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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Welcome Back

A strange question perhaps, but what were you reading at aged 8? My fave author was Roald Dahl, so Danny the Champion of the World and the like was my favorite book. The reason you ask, is that the book I received at 8 for Christmas was ‘McCall’s Sewing in Colour’. Home dressmaking, tailoring, mending, soft furnishings!

My First sewing book!

My First sewing book!

As a fairly in-depth technical text-book its a stretch for an average 8-year-old but add in dyslexia (OK we didn’t know that was why I was struggling but small text was always a big issue) So this book other than the obligatory ‘Oh that’s wonderful, thank you’ ( See I was well brought up with good manners) but have to say this book never had more than a quick glance.

Now my Mum was excellent at sewing, and her sister too, so there was some pressure for me to ‘like it’ as well. Anyone with kids will know that is a sure-fire way to send you kids running for the hills and this is what happened to me. Mum tried to show me how to sew and I had a dabble on a hand turned wheel of an elderly Singer machine where I made a few dolly clothes but wasn’t that keen. This brief attempt was enough to cause this book so I steered well clear after that.

Recently though I have returned to sewing and now my hands are too shot for hand sewing (forgive the pun) I have a sewing machine and after pottering with bags for a while decided to try skirts. Remembering this book was in the loft, yes I kept it, even though I couldn’t read it, since my Mum & Aunt were so keen it seemed rude to their memories (They have both passed away now) to ditch it. So I dug out this book to see if with the coloured overlays I could make any sence of it.

Blimey! You sure can see a change in how books of this kind are presented. Today this would almost be considered a serious textbook! Lots of serous text a few line drawings and not so many colour photos. Very 1960’s. Think Star Trek original series and you will imagine the eye-popping colours, bold colour choices for bedrooms n bathrooms!! Terry toweling shower curtains in paisley anyone?

How about you, what were you reading at 8 years old, and what was your first sewing book like?

Best wishes and thanks for reading, see you soon

Billie :)

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