Beautiful things for you and your home!

Lots of homely thoughts on sewing, baking, papercrafts, gardening and all the things that go towards making your house a home

Monday, 21 July 2014

Back Soon!

Apologies for the interruption of posts here. I'm not sure where this year has gone and can't believe we're already half way through July!

I'm currently in the midst of having a major change in the room I use to sew in so it's all been a bit of an upheaval. We've got rid of a couple of desks and replaced them with a small dining table and bookshelves. Not that we entertain a lot but when we do, it's nice to actually have a table to sit at. Our previous house was bigger so although we still have that table, it's too big really for this room. So, Ikea to the rescue and we're sorted!

Condensing two desks, two sets of drawers, a cupboard and various other shelves and drawers into one space has been a bit of a job and I've had to be ruthless with some craft supplies. It has been a good opportunity to see exactly what I have though, and get rid of some things which I know I'm not really going to use. My beautician's Mum runs a childcare service so I always have a good home for paper, etc  and the other craft supplies went to the charity shop. I'm hoping that, although everything is now hidden in cupboards and stored in tins rather than being out on display, because I now have stuff that I really think I'll use, I will actually find it easier to get on and scrap. That's the plan anyway! I've certainly been getting some inspiration from the Glitter Girl videos at Two Peas As most scrappers will know by now, Two Peas in a Bucket are closing their doors this week and it's unclear as to what is going to happen to the videos posted by the Garden Girls. In the event that the rights aren't returned to those who created them for use on their own sites, I am madly trying to watch the Glitter Girl ones which I'd got terribly behind on. I also bought and used Video Downloader Ultimate to grab the videos from Shimelle's Hitchhiker's Guide to Scrapbooking Class. I also downloaded the National Scrapbooking Day classes she did when she made up kits from her own stash as I find these really useful to watch. I'm not a natural with techy stuff but this programme is really simple to use so I recommend it if you have some classes you want to keep before Two Peas shuts its doors for the final time on the 24th July.

We were left with two cupboards in our new dining room/library which had matched the two desks. The 'Billy' bookcases that now line most of one wall are off white, and I had some of the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White left from a previous project. The beauty of this paint is that you don't have to sand the furniture down prior to painting. I did clean it off with a bit of white spirit which I left to dry and evaporate off. This colour is a really good match to the Billy bookcases. I'll be in and out of both the cupboards, and one will have the printer on so they need to be able to stand up to use.

The last time I painted using this paint, I did follow through with wax, as they say but I didn't find it good enough. Gradually things would leave marks and finger marks were obvious. As I have also painted our phone table to tidy it up after some heavy handed movers in various countries left their marks on it, I need something tougher. So this time I bought some clear, non yellowing, matt varnish and have given everything a coat of that. It was a bit of an experiment as I'd not used a varnish before with it. I've given everything one coat now and it seems just fine and I think will be a much better option for me at least.

I'm really happy to have my books all together again and when I did a bit of sewing the other night whilst hubby watched the World Cup final, I felt much more inspired sitting in there. Seeing my books makes me happy and more creative, and even though the sewing was just a frustrating repair (to a brand new Jane Norman dress!), I am hoping for lots of creative juices when I get the room finished properly. One of my first projects is the Simplicity Jiffy Dress  that came with Issue 61 of Sew magazine, in this fabulous cotton print:

So, a couple more coats of varnish today and we should be there. It's a warm one so it shouldn't take too long to dry. Thanks so much for your patience and with a bit of luck I will have some creative creations to share with you very soon!

Happy Crafting!

Love, Maxi

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Bit Of A Setback

So! I finally got some time put aside to sit down and get all the gubbins out to start on a garment! I had a lovely new pattern that I'd bought from an indie seller at the NEC's Sewing For Pleasure show, and fabric bought especially for the dress. I'd got my thread, my zip, the whole caboodle!

Having spread the paper pattern out, it didn't really lend itself to the trace straight on to fabric method that Tilly details here being a very thick paper so I spent quite some time sticking and tracing and cutting the pattern onto dressmaker's paper. It wasn't the easiest as the 8 and 18 lines are very similar in colour and once you put tissue paper over this, it gets even harder to see!

So, once I'd cut the pieces out I went to put them on the fabric. This is where it all went horribly wrong. The pattern didn't specify the width of fabric needed (actually it's pretty vague as to how much you need at all but there we are!) and apparently it doesn't fit on the standard 45" width, that's for certain. The skirt is fairly wide and there's no way it would fit. Even opening it out and adding another seam, which isn't ideal but would salvage it, wouldn't work as I'd need a whole bunch more fabric.

Obviously I was a bit miffed. Like most of us, I don't have unlimited time and so I was excited to make this pattern my first big foray back into sewing and spent several hours in the process, only to be let down. Looking at the instructions, there are a few key points missing in those too, especially as this is marketed as a 'beginner' pattern. I beg to differ. The design is simple but it just seems that a certain amount more testing is required before it should be let loose on the public.

I was, and am keen, to support the indie pattern houses and on the whole, I've heard good things about them. I hadn't heard much about this one but loved the designs and the pretty packaging. It's the most I've ever spent on a pattern and is more than all the other indie patterns I've seen, now I've looked around.

I've contacted the company (which is why I'm not naming them on here, for the moment) but have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply. That was nearly a month ago. Less than impressed?! I should Coco! Which it would seem is the pattern I should have bought instead of this one as I've seen loads of great examples on the web of this one.

It looks like I'm going to have to chalk this one up to experience. It's a shame as it's really made me wary of 'unknowns' now. And the dress is pretty. Well, it would be if the pattern had been more accurate!

It kind of put a damper on my sewing enthusiasm for a few weeks, having wasted all that time and then to be completely ignored by the owner, despite an explanatory email asking for assistance and a tweet checking to see if the email arrived. I'm not entirely impressed with the 'customer service'.  I'm hoping to get the mojo back though. I have a maxi dress pinned up - not very exciting, just taking it up as Jane Norman seem to think everyone is nearly 6 foot tall! Still, it should get me back in front of the sewing machine which is a start. I had to cut off a fairly big chunk which I thought might make a fun headband sort of thing if I make a little hem on it.

And I've just ordered Tilly's book too - like I need more sewing books - but the clothes, especially the dress with the sweet little bow are adorable so with a bit of luck, I'll be stitching again soon!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Making Custom Map Cushions

First of all, this post was supposed to be up on Thursday and very nearly was! I couldn't sleep and got up early and thought I'd get this post done.

After fiddling about and arguing with Blogger about the fact that it keeps turning my portrait pictures into landscape mode, I finally figured it out, with the help of Google, and got the post done, and the pictures in. And then managed to delete the whole thing!

Trying to move the picture, I ended up highlighting the whole thing and obviously pressed a random key that deleted it all! Blogger really needs to put an 'undo' button on this site. Either that or I need to start using another service. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't the best chuffed at all that and, didn't have time to do it all again then, so here I am again now! Fingers crossed!

A short time ago, we went to the Eclectic Maker Shop so that I could get the circuit board fabric to make up a tablet case for hubby. Whilst we were there, having a nose around (as is mandatory in such circumstances!), I spotted this map fabric.

I'd been wanting some map sort of cushions for a while. I'd seen quite a few different ones around, and in magazines but not any that were exactly what I was looking for, or weren't a ridiculous price! I have a bit of a thing about maps so I'm always drawn to them. I think it's the promise of travel and discovery that they instill.

So, I bought a metre of the fabric, which gave me four complete maps, and some natural linen for the backing. I soon realised that I wasn't going to be able to find pre-made cushion innards to fit the size of the map so I did some measuring and made up some custom sized, hand stuffed, hand finished cushions instead.

Ta dah! The finished results! I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out.
I hope you like them! I've got some more cushions planned (could do with a bigger house!), this time using this elephant fabric from the Karavan range in the Free Spirit line. I'm still deciding as to what exactly to do with them. I have some ideas but I think it'll be another case of fiddling and seeing what happens!
I'd love to hear what you're making so feel free to leave a comment below! In the meantime, happy crafting!
Love, Maxi

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Great British Sewing Bee 2

I can't believe we are at the final for the Great British Sewing Bee!  The weeks have flown by and I could quite happily sit and watch it all again.

It's certainly been a lot more challenging this series than the first one. I wonder if anyone has had a bit of a shock at what they've been asked to do? I like the fact that this time there's been some more in depth explanations of things with Claudia going off to visit places like The V & A Museum and the Fashion and Textile Museum which helps give us background on some of the items, or techniques, the contestants are having to deal with.

I used to watch Project Runway in the States, but ended up stopping because of the bitchiness of, not only the contestants, but also the judges. Obviously it's a much bigger deal there with a chance to show at New York Fashion Week, etc but I felt awful for the participants when they'd stand with their creation and then have humiliating comments tossed at them by the likes of Michael Kors and Heidi Klum. I realise that they obviously have experience in the fashion world - that's not in question, but I do think they could have put their criticisms across more constructively. That's why I love our Sewing Bee! May and Patrick obviously have a huge amount of knowledge between them but they always try to advise constructively, even if something's not to their taste.

I was sad to see Lynda leave last night. She's been such a lovely addition to the group; so kind and thoughtful towards the others and generous when anyone asked her anything. It's hard when it gets to this stage to see anyone go. I'd really like Heather to win it now, but Chinelo is super talented too and would also be very deserving of the title. How to choose?!

It'll be a tense time next week for the final challenges. What will they be?!

In the meantime, I'll be getting back to my own sewing! I've just made up two cushions from this fabric and just have a little hand sewing to do to finish them off. I'm hoping to get the last one finished off later so that I can photograph it and put it on here to show you.

I love that the Sewing Bee has inspired so many people to either drag out their sewing machine from a dark cupboard, or learn from scratch. Attending the NEC's Sewing For Pleasure a couple of weeks ago, I was amazed at how much busier it was this year than when I went a couple of years ago. Last time I went, it took about an hour for that side of the show to start filling up, but this time it was busy from the opening of the doors!

I'm still deciding whether to go to Creative Stitches and Fashion & Embroidery at London's ExCel which starts tomorrow. I have a complimentary ticket so it's just the train fare to find. The last time I went though, it was pretty tiny. I don't know whether the upsurge of interest in sewing will have boosted this exhibition or whether The Knitting and Stitching Shows held at Alexandra Palace and Olympia have fulfilled the need for London shows. I was surprised to find that Sew Magazine wasn't at the NEC show this year, having always attended before but again, perhaps they felt that attending the Ally Pally and Olympia shows in Spring and Autumn are enough. I have attended the Ally Pally one a couple of times but the last time, a couple of years ago, it was so busy and so cramped, it was unbearable! I don't know whether they have rectified that problem at all now and would love to hear from anyone who has attended more recently.

Did anyone else attend the Sewing For Pleasure show? What did you think?

In the meantime, happy GBSB watching and happy sewing!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Sewing a Tablet Case with Fabulous Geeky Fabric!

For ages my hubby has been borrowing the Kindle Cover I made previously to transport his tablet to and fro. It was near enough the same size and did the job well enough until I got around to making the actual tablet cover. I'd bought some helicopter fabric to make it with, but I just hadn't got around to the actual making. You know how it is...

And then I saw this Robert Kaufman 'Plug and Play' fabric at the Eclectic Maker and knew it would be perfect! Even better than the helicopters for this particular project. I showed hubby and he loved it. The stage was set, the fabric was bought, washed and ironed and off I went. A few hours later, this appeared...

I was making it up as I went along and I had a good idea as to how I was going to do it. Unfortunately, I made a booboo when cutting so there was a hasty bit of replanning required! Talk about living on the edge! ;)
Just to show it fits!
As with the Kindle cover, I sewed on some Velcro tape to close it. It's quick and easy for him to get into, with no buttons or anything to detract from the design of the fabric or to get caught on something in his rucksack.
I was happy with the result, despite the unexpected diversions required - but more importantly, hubby was happy with it. :D


Saturday, 8 February 2014

A New Post At Last!

I know! It's been ages. I apologise and want to thank anyone still hanging around in the hope that I eventually did a new post - it's much appreciated!

Finally, I've been doing some sewing. As I may have mentioned, I had to replace my previous Toyota machine which, although I loved and knew how to work back to front, had a fairly strong dislike to sewing through anything on the thicker side. I'd had it for years so it was a bit of a sad decision. After some false starts and an unpleasant dealing with a particular sewing machine sales company, I did some more searching locally.

I was pretty decided on a Janome as they are used in so many places for lessons, etc, which would hopefully speak to their reliability, and it seems pretty easy to get extras for them without having to hunt them down. I tried the 607 but found that the display wasn't as easy to read as I would have hoped. It then really came down to the 5900QC and the new DKS30. I needed to decide as to whether I really needed all the extra twiddly bits that the 5900QC did. It's all very well having all those lovely stitches but would I really use them? And would the huge choice just be that little bit intimidating meaning I wouldn't get on and do any sewing? So, in the end I plumped for the simple push-a-button-to-choose option and took home my new machine.

I'd had a lined skirt of my Mum's for ages which she wanted me to take up a little. I got the machine out and practiced a bit on the blind hemming then did the skirt. It came out just fine. And then the machine just sat there. I'm not entirely sure of the reasons, but I think the bad taste left by the first attempt to replace the machine was still there, even though I'd gone somewhere different. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet!

I'd had some pre-shirred fabric from Fabricland waiting to be made into a dress for far too long. I love these sort of dresses - ok, I love dresses in general, but these are great as they're so easy to pull on and can be dressed up or down. And yes, it is winter here but I don't go with that whole 'winter/summer' wardrobe thing. I just stick a pair of boots on the bottom and a cardi on the top and call it done :)

So, with a bit of help from hubby with getting the straps pinned into place at the correct tension, I finished the dress.

Apologies that it's not the best shot in the world of it but with the rain, rain and more rain we've been having, it's been a little tricky to get out and take a picture 'in the real world' but I wanted to get a post up. Possibly before we all get washed away!
The fabric was a bit too plain for my liking so I found a lovely Broderie Anglaise trim to go around the bottom. The initial idea was to make the straps from the same but when I tried it, it looked a little bit too flouncy. It was then a case of back to the haberdashery department to find a trim that looked similar and was the same 'white' (how many there are!). I found one was looked just like the top part of the flounce and was the same shade so home we went and with some pinning - and only one unpick when I managed to somehow put one on twisted, I had a new dress finished! Yippee!
Obviously you don't need to add the trim or the straps to make these dresses and depending if you want to finish your seams like I did, or just cut them with pinking shears, you could have a dress in a very short time indeed.
I, on the other hand, am known to be a bit clumsy and on more than one occasion have stood on the hem of an elasticated skirt, only to narrowly avoid an embarrassing moment. Therefore the straps on this seemed a good safety measure for me!
I hope you like the dress, and I'd love to see any pictures of similar ones you have made, or hear about ones you plan to!
Thanks again for dropping by! I have another couple of projects to post about so will be back soon!
Happy Crafting!
Love, Maxi

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Sauce, Soup and Sewing

Be patient with me. This is the second time I've written this post having accidentally hit the close button before it was saved to draft...

So, where was I?

This year was a bit of an experiment when it came to growing tomatoes. At least it was supposed to be . Unfortunately, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the winter pointedly refused to exit stage left as per its script, and hung around far longer than it was welcome. This meant that the tomato plants couldn't go out when they should have and were far lankier going in the ground than was ideal. Still, in they went and after some feed and only one demise, they romped off and have been fruiting for a while. It's getting to that kind of time here when the harvesting period starts in earnest and today's chore is to pick some of these...

The idea this year was to try an experiment to see which varieties performed the best so that we could concentrate on them another year. Unfortunately, with the weird weather throwing a spanner in the works, this hasn't exactly gone to plan. And it seems that ones that have completely underperformed for me have been doing just fine for my Dad. So, we'll see.
I'll also be picking some of these...
I just wash them and freeze them whole. This enables me to grab one whenever I need one for something. They take moments to start to defrost and are easily chopped up in the early stages of this process. Actually it's far easier to do it then as they can go a bit limp if you let them defrost entirely prior to cooking.
I also wanted to share some new fabric with you...
Back in May, I had a letter printed in Sew Magazine and as a prize, received a £10 Sew Box voucher. I finally got around to spending this and put it towards some Liberty fabric. Being pricey, I only got a metre but I'm hoping to make a simple skirt out of it. It's cotton lawn so should hang nice and floaty. I may well do a toile version with something less precious before snipping into my lovely prize. I'll keep you posted, but just thought I'd share the joy of Liberty in the meantime!
In the meantime, happy sewing and harvesting!