Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Sewing Room Makeover: Sewing machine Cozy

This was my mum's craft room before I spent a weekend revamping it:

And here it as afterwards:

I loved doing this project for my mum. Creative and generous beyond belief, she was not blessed with a desire to be organised and also, I think, doesn't pay enough attention to giving herself the beautiful and functional environment she so deserves.

After doing her room, I became very dissatisfied with my own! It's not a mess, it's just...blah. It is also our office, so it contains all our stationary etc, and it houses the majority of our books. I have to share it with my husband's Star Trek collection and on top of that, it's where we hang the washing to dry!

In the summer we plan to revamp and reorganise as much as we can in a rented house. However, I thought in the meantime I could sew some things for my table that would brighten up the space.

I used this tutorial from Sew Delicious and it was fantastic. You do need some basic sewing knowledge, and you will need to adjust the size according to your own machine. I made mine shorter, as I have a smaller machine, but slightly deeper because I wanted to be able to leave the thread in the machine when it's covered.

I have never attempted patchwork or quilting before, and I was surprised and pleased by how easy to follow it was. I cut 5 inch squares using my small quilting square and rotary cutter, and arranged them how I wanted. I used this fat quarter bundle and I have a ton left over! Aren't the foxes cute? The only thing is I added the blue in myself to lift it a little.

Patchwork, front and back! I sewed them with a scant quarter-inch seam. So scant it was squeaky, to be honest.

I quilted it with simple diagonals, and did the side panels with a wiggly stitch in parallel lines. I have never quilted before and don't have a walking foot, but it was fine! My machine coped well. I deliberately cut the batting bigger than the patchwork in case it moved around. The rotary cutter made it very easy to trim off the excess.

I put it together as per the tutorial. While I was sewing, a great present arrived from my friend! A wipe-clean board to write my crafty to-dos. She made it herself and I love it! Here it is with the unlined, unbound cozy:

I lined with this horrible fabric of which I have enough to go around the world several times. Ugh. I hate the pattern and it's so flimsy. I bought it dirt cheap when I first got my machine, just for something to practice with, and now I can't even seem to get rid of it. I suppose I will always need lining fabric, though!

And I bound with this pretty blue bias tape. We won't talk about what it looks like on the inside >.> But the front isn't bad for a first try!

It actually looks like the picture in the tutorial! I think that's the first time ever. My first step towards a pretty sewing space!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bird Bag and Bunting, or, Sewing Regrets I Have Had This Morning

I'm going to visit my friend tomorrow. She has two children under two (!) and this is the first time I'll be meeting the new baby.

My friend is very into home-sewn stuff so I made her some bunting for the new little girl. Here it is:

Cute or what?? I made it reversible so they could use it for a random party decoration or whatever as well as in the nursery. I got the idea while I was making baby blocks (look for an upcoming post about cutting sixteen million sodding squares for these) and decided Eliana couldn't have any because her name was too long. Also she is too young to really play with them yet. But I had a bunch of this fantastic alphabet fabric which I bought half price (yay!) in our local craft shop which is closing down (nay!) and it was perfect for the bunting. I used my new Tri Tool and magical rotary cutter (more on this later) which made cutting the triangles very quick. I didn't have any bias tape long enough so I ordered this cute red gingham with little hearts and flowers on.

I am so pleased with how it came out! I sewed the triangles right side together (the backing fabric was just scraps), then clipped the corners before turning them out and pressing them. I topstitched them too and that was the most difficult part. For some reason my machine really doesn't like me to pivot at any angle smaller than 90 degrees, and I end up with bunched fabric and, you guessed it, a thread monster. I Googled and other people have that problem too. I found it easier to stitch down one side, then start at the top again and stitch the other. Then I just pinned and topstitched the pennants into the bias tape, which I had pressed in half. Simples!

So then I had to think about what to bring the toddler. Of course she had presents when she was born too, but she doesn't remember that, and I haven't seen her for a long time and want to bribe her into liking me.

I decided I wanted to make a little bag shaped like a bird. I don't know why this idea occurred to me, or why I thought I could make something without a pattern or tutorial, but it did. I wanted to make it so the flap was the wing. I looked around but I couldn't see anything exactly like I wanted so I decided to make it FROM MY BRAIN. I know. I'm way too big for my boots.

I drew the shape I wanted and it seemed doable. I planned it out in advance and got all my materials together this morning. I took some pictures but please be aware that this is NOT A TUTORIAL. Tutorials are for people who actually know what they're doing. This is a list of things I did wrong, with visual aids.

Here's the finished bag. I KNOW. So cute, right??

And so simple to make! If you're not a fule like I am.

To make your very own bird bag, you will need:

Outer fabric (I used a heavy natural linen)
Lining fabric (I used yellow quilting cotton)
Interfacing (I have a ton of fusible to use up, sigh)
Scrap for the handle, if you want one
Scrap for the beak
Button for the eye
Sewing machine, thread, rotary/cutting mat or measuring tape and scissors

First cut your pieces. I used a yellow felt scrap and the tip of my tri tool (I love this thing!) to make the beak. For the main parts of the bag (I made it as an envelope clutch) I measured 6x18 inch rectangles quilting ruler is 6 inches and I'm lazy, then used my tri tool (yay!) to cut the top 6 inches into a triangle. This will be the wing of the bird.

For the strap I just dug a random coordinating scrap out of my tin (I recently ironed and sorted everything in there by size and colour because I know how to rock and roll) and cut it to 1.5 inches. I didn't have a piece long enough so I sewed two together.

I am new to cutting with a rotary cutter, and while it is super quick I am also taking a while to get used to it. I find I need to cut in small sections or I go flying off in a random direction. If you are new to rotary cutting, DO NOT cut 'into' the fabric. Make sure the straight edge is protecting your fabric and the only place your cutter can go is into the excess you're cutting off anyway. I am sure none of you need to be told that, but I do. REGRET NUMBER ONE.

After I had cut my fabric and my finger (yep), I cut my interfacing. I actually decided to iron it on before trimming the linen as I found the linen so hard to cut! It wouldn't go in a straight line or lie flat! I had never sewn with it before and wanted to give it a try on a small project and it was a fucking nightmare. REGRET NUMBER TWO.

Ok. I ironed everything including the god damned interfacing onto the linen (seriously, the only way I can get it work is on cotton setting, without a pressing cloth, which is the exact opposite of what everyone says. I think I have a defective iron) and also pressed my strap right sides together. Ready to start sewing!

I sewed the strap up first, then turned it right side out using a safety pin. REGRET: not making wider straps. I actually like the skinnier strap on the finished bag, but this was a pain in the arse.  And remember earlier, when I sewed two pieces together to make one long piece? And I didn't trim off the seam allowance? And I had to super carefully pink the excess off while i was turning because it was blocking everything up? REGRET.

Press it flat and put it aside. Next, put the main pieces right sides together and sew them, leaving a gap for turning. Turn right side out. Realise the interfaced linen is now stiff as a board and turning it is a bitch. REGRET. Struggle womanfully until you've got it all turned, only to realise you forgot to clip your corners or the seam allowance. REGRET. Turn it wrong side out again, clip and trim, turn it right side out again. Ugh. Don't forget to bodge the corners out with a chopstick! And don't trim the seam allowance by the turning gap.

Iron it, as it now looks like a crocodile hand puppet that narrowly survived an apocalypse. While you're at the iron, press it into thirds so it's the shape you want. Burn your finger. REGRET.

Topstitch your turning gap. Mine was the short edge which is under the flap. Now sew your beak pieces together (I used felt, which I DON'T regret, as it doesn't need turning etc and adds a nice texture) and position your eye and beak to a place you like.

Isn't that button great? It has three surfaces so when the light hits it, it makes it look like the bird is 'looking' in a specific direction. To remember where you want to sew the eye, dab the back of it with a fabric marker and then press against the fabric. Now you have a sewing mark!

Sew the button on. Remember shank buttons are a pain in the arse to sew. REGRET. I actually do know how to sew on buttons (thanks Mum!) but if you don't, here is a clear tutorial.

Ok. now the wing. I wanted to use velcro to close the bag, but I didn't want to be able to see the usual box with an x in it stitching on the front of the wing. I cut and positioned the velcro (in a diamond rather than a rectangle) and then top stitched the wing, catching the velcro on both sides. You can use whatever stitch, I used zigzag to look a little like feathers.

Then I sewed parallel lines onto the wing, to look more like feathers and also to secure the velcro again. I am really pleased with how well this worked. On the inside:

 And the outside! Pretend this isn't a picture of the finished bag.

Then I stuck the corresponding piece of velcro to it, closed the flap and held the velcro down while opening it again. Sew it on. I just used a regular box with an x in straight stitch for this.

A NOTE ON ZIG ZAG STITCHING: because I'm an idiot, I tried to back stitch the way you do with a straight stitch to lock it. WRONG. Threadmonsters a go go. So instead I thought I would set my stitch length to 0, back stitch a few straight stitches and then switch to zig zag, then back to straight at the end. This actually worked so long as you remember to change the stitch length before zig zagging. REGRET REGRET SO MUCH RIPPING OUT REGRET. Some places it worked better than others and is practically invisible:

Some places I just thought, 'Fuck it, she's two.'

All right! Now the strap. I realised I had in no way considered how to add the strap. REGRET. I tried different ways but in the end decided to sew the ends together so it was a loop, then sew it flat against the back piece of the bag. I forgot to take pictures at the time but here:

I redid that a bunch of times. I kept doing it too fast and getting the strap all tangled up and my stitching was even more horrendously wonky than it is here - REGRET - but I'm happy enough with it now.

Okay, all that's left is to sew up the bag! Don't forget to position your beak (which you should have sewed together) inside before sewing! Regret! Twice! REGRET.

Snip your ends, give it a final press, and ta-da! Bird Bag :D

I really like it, and I think the not-even-two-year-old it's for will like it too. I will put some sweeties inside and she shall love me forever. MUAHAHA.

I hope you enjoyed this list of things I did wrong while making a very simple gift.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Birthday Sponge Bags

I made three wash bags as gifts for family members who all had birthdays in April. I used this great tutorial from Life in Grace.

I found ironing on the interfacing to be the hardest part. I am coming to loathe fusible interfacing. I only have a small iron so it takes forever, and I can't get it to work with a press cloth OR on the wool setting...ugh. The vinyl, on the other hand, ironed on like a dream.

I was worried my machine (which is this tiny Hello Kitty one) wouldn't go through the different layers but, as with the very thick oven gloves I made, it was fine. My machine isn't perfect and I will look to upgrade it in the next year, but I wouldn't get rid of it even then as it is such a great little workhorse. Perfect for beginners and those with limited space.

The Liverpool FC patch was an iron-on I bought online, where I also picked up the zips. Everything else was fabric I already had in my stash! A great stash-busting project. I stuffed them with tissue and different samples. I took pictures of the insides too so you can see that I used contrasting lining for each one.

They went down a storm!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mother's Day Cat Cross-Stitch Cushion

This is a project I finished for a present to give to my mum on Mother's Day this year.

The cross-stitch was a counted kit from the Hertitage Crafts Cats Rule series which I received as a gift. My mum and I both love cats but the style was perhaps more to her taste than mine. I made it into a simple envelope-back cushion using some fat quarters I had, and decided to make a 'frame' using bias tape.

There were surprisingly few tutorials online about attaching finished cross-stitch to a sewn object. I couldn't find one I liked so I made this up as I went along. In this instance I let the fabric show through the aida slightly as I liked how it echoed the wallpaper pattern, but otherwise I would have backed it with some plain white cotton, or interfacing depending on what I was making.

The cushion was very simple to put together but the cross-stitch took ages! The chair had so many different shades of red and pink, and the swirly pattern was a pain in my ass. I am really pleased with the result though. My outlining is wonky, the bias isn't mitred properly but Mum loved it and that's what matters!

Mum is a crafter too. An extremely talented knitter and paper crafter, she made me this fabulous sign for my sewing room for a birthday gift.

Early this year I spent a weekend totally redesigning Mum's crafting room for her. She was thrilled with the result and it has made me want to spruce up my own! I have to share it with a Star Trek collection and the washing, but I want to reorganise it so I'm not traipsing up and down the stairs to find room to measure, cut and press. This will be a Summer project as at the moment I have a lot of other things to do! In the meantime I'm Pinteresting up a storm :)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Cat Card Cover

An Easter present for my cats which I am sure they won't want.

This cover for their vaccination cards was quick and easy to make. I used just over half of a random fat quarter I had lying around. I had been wondering what to do with two little cross stitches I had finished earlier in the year - both from the Tiddlers range - and also wanted to try my hand at reverse appliqué. This seemed like a good opportunity to try the technique.

I ironed interfacing on to the reverse of the cross stitches (using a pressing cloth because everyone says you must, and then NOT using one because I can't get the stupid stuff to stick with one, ever) and then measured and drew a square onto the back of each. I positioned them face down on the wrong side of the front piece, and stitched the squares. I then trimmed the excess interfacing and aida, turned the front piece over, and fiddled gingerly with my seam ripper until I had a little hole in the fabric. That was the scariest part; it was easy to then trim the fabric back to the stitches. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was, and it seems a really effective way of framing finished cross stitches into fabric.

When putting the sleeve together, I tried to do everything you're supposed to. I measured, pressed, did the twice-folded hem on the inside pockets, etc. I am pleased with the finish although despite measuring the sleeve still inexplicably came up slightly small for the cards! I think this is because I didn't account for top stitching. No matter - the cards were easy to trim ;)

This took about an hour - not including the cross stitches, which I guess took about 30 mins each. The weight of the cards means I can stand it up to display it, next to a pretty box in which I keep their medication. It is their most hated shelf, I'm sure - but it looks nice!

If I made a similar thing again I would be braver and use a contrasting thread to frame the cross stitches, and maybe the topstitching too. This time I used one which would disappear in case of mistakes, but now I know it works I think a contrasting thread would look nice.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Oven Gloves

Hello! I am very new to sewing and not very good at it yet, but I enjoy it and wanted a place to bibble about it. At the moment I prefer to sew homeware rather than clothes, because lol terrifying. I hope to graduate to clothes one day!

Let's start with a project I made today. These oven gloves (double pot holder if you're American) were quick, easy and cheap to make. I finished the project from start to finish in a couple of hours. I used one leg from my husband's old jeans (I am using the other leg and the main part to make other things) and some cute, contrasting fabric I was given as an Easter present. I thought denim would be a really good fabric for oven gloves as it is sturdy, resilient and washes really easily.

I vaguely followed this tutorial which is great, but used my own design and measurements. I say measurements - I am a terrible planner and often eyeball things or, as in this case, cut one piece and sort of measure everything else against it. I don't recommend this method! I'm just lazy and afraid of maths.

Another difference is I didn't make the fold-over mitts from the tutorial. The pieces I cut from the jeans were already hemmed at the top, so I hemmed the contrasting fabric to match, sewing in the insul-bright as I went, then topstitched them all the way around. Then I attached the mitts as instructed in the tutorial.

Pictures! Please excuse the state of the furniture. I have cats. You understand.

I'm really pleased with how these came out. I think they look modern and cool, as much as oven gloves can look cool. I've never sewn curves before, and they are fairly even! I even slip-stitched the turning gap closed which I wouldn't normally do (see above re: lazy) but I really like the smooth, seamless look of these and didn't want to break it up with topstitching.

These are going to be a gift for my brother-in-law and his partner, who are buying a flat together. I hope they like them!