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How regular am I

June 29, 2019

It’s been a year since my last post and now here's another one – does that make me a regular blogger?  Joking aside, it is pretty hard to believe that it’s been so long!  I think the main reason that I’ve so sadly neglected my blog is that I tend to use Instagram to make an ongoing pictorial record of what I’m up to for both my creative and day to day life, which makes the blog a bit redundant.  However, that’s probably not healthy for my writing, so I think I’m going to make an effort to get back into regular posting.

This week has really been about completing the orders I had in hand for my Etsy shop, wondering why Etsy has suddenly gone so quiet, and making some new pieces for the shop.  I think the main reason Etsy is so quiet is because it’s summertime and people have more fun things to do than spend time online shopping!  It does mean that I have some time to make new things and work on larger projects though, which is fun for me!

My main large project at the moment is a patchwork Liberty lawn quilt, which a patient patron commissioned me to make earlier this year.  She loved the look of a strings quilt I had on my Pinterest board and wanted a lap size quilt in that style, made with Liberty lawn in blues and greens.  I’ve been slicing lawn and foundation piecing it onto cotton batting in the ‘quilt as you go’ style whenever I’ve had the chance since then, and finally have enough blocks made, I think…  I have 60 six inch squares now that I need to join together, then I can have a final measure and work out it it’s enough:

There are so many of my favourite prints here – not surprisingly since the vast majority of these strips are from my stash and pieces left from other makes.  I did find that I had a real shortage of greens in my collection and when I looked to buy some, I realised that Liberty haven’t done that many green prints.  Fortunately, I could rely on Katrine of Liberty Charms on Etsy for a pack of custom cut strips of green delights, which boosted my own collection.  I love that every time I look at a finished square, I spot a print I love – I guess that's easy when you love most of them 😀  Although I tried not to be too fussy when making up the blocks, I did frequently find myself spending a lot of time over selecting which strip to put next to which and choosing little favourite areas of prints to highlight:

Working on this quilt and loving the strings quilt as you go approach, it had also dawned on me that I could use this same technique to make some one off dpn cosies too, so I made a selection of cosies for 8 and 6 inch double points:

I think that I might make my next batch in a slightly different way to reduce bulk from the seams.  This isn’t strictly necessary, but where I see a possible improvement, I know I won’t rest until I’ve made it!

Also in the new makes pile this week were yarn swift storage bags.  My lovely yarnie friend Helen from Florida asked me to make her a storage bag for her swift a few months ago and I realised that I could really do with one for mine, which spent its unemployed time in a corner of my work room, attracting dust.  As is usual with me, I completely over engineered my first attempt made for my own swift with layers of interfacing and a shoulder strap – where did I think I was going travelling with my swift?!

The version I made for Helen was much more appropriate for simple storage and made in colours inspired by her Floridian habitat!

I made a new crop of these more simple style bags for the shop and discovered that swift sizes differ enormously – even when you’re talking about the one umbrella style!  They’re usually somewhere between 25 and 30 inches long, so I’ve made my first three to a 30 inch size and as always, I’ll be happy to custom make them to whatever sizes people need. 

I was delighted also that I’d found the perfect thing to make with one of my favourite Liberty prints called ‘Studio’ – one of their ‘conversational’ prints featuring items from an artist’s studio and lots of super cute little dogs! 

I got three different colourways of the print and matched them up with some cotton and linen blend solids.  I used traditional woven cotton ticking for the lining, which is one of the toughest fabrics I know, since it stands up to rough cat play on my catnip cuddle whales!  Swifts can be quite heavy, so I needed something strong but that my domestic sewing machine could cope with too.  I'm also planning to write up a tutorial for anyone who wants to make their own swift bag, since it could lend itself to patchworking really well and maybe even recycling – a jeans or general trouser leg would be perfect for this!

My final new make of the week was something I’ve made before years ago and still find really useful – a little notions pouch.  This is made from a Zakka style pattern by Rashida Coleman-Hale that’s been available free on the internet for years, but my sewing skills are much better than they were when I made my first one (even if I say so myself!) and I felt that I could now make pouches that I'd be proud to sell:

The outer of the pouch is made with a print called Cottagely Posey from the Priory Square collection by Katy Jones for Art Gallery Fabrics, which I’d just bought a small piece of in the Cottage Patch summer sale.  The inner is made with a fabric that I’ve had in my stash for a while, just waiting for the right project!  This is Robert Kaufman’s Essex Yarn Dyed Linen Metallic in Celestial with Blue and Copper Metallic – so cute and sparkly!  I always use my pouch when I’m on the road with my knitting or crochet – it's just the right size for a little pair of scissors and all the other little essentials you might need on the go.  I’m actually having a Giveaway on Instagram this weekend for one of these, which you might want to check out.

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mittens for kittens

June 3, 2018

Do you know the nursery rhyme about the three little kittens who lost their mittens? I'm very glad to report that they found their mittens eventually and received some tasty pie as a reward, although not before they got their mittens dirty and had to wash them…  They were lucky little kittens as they had a Mother to provide the mittens and the pie, and who cared enough to give them a good lesson about being thankful for everything you have and taking care of it.  Sadly, for homeless or feral kittens, reality is a little different.

It's really impossible to know how many homeless cats are living rough on the streets of our 'developed' part of the world today, although the number of wonderful people out there who are giving their love, time and money to caring for them is surely an indication that there are a lot.  If you're a cat lover and active on social media, you will no doubt be aware of several of these amazing people and perhaps you support them.  I follow a number of people who help cats in their neighbourhood, frequently working with only their own small resources to deliver the help the cats and kittens in their area need.  

The large cat charities like Cats Protection in the UK, carry the main weight of this kind of 'work' with their army of volunteers, but there are countless other smaller charities and individuals out there who do the not inconsiderable rest.  When you think that one female cat can be responsible for birthing as many as many as 18 kittens in a year (that's a possible 20,000 descendants in 5 years!), it's easy to see why the priority for all these efforts goes into neutering.

Sometimes all people like me can do is to offer encouragement or thanks on behalf of the cats the people are helping and that is really appreciated, but hard cash is also very much appreciated!  It's really wonderful to see cats all over the world being brought back to health and rehomed via Instagram, although there are obviously some less cheerful stories shared too.  The cats that they help can be cats who have previously had a home but have lost it for some reason, or they can be the descendants of these types of cats who we call 'feral' – cats who have never known a home.  Carers may do a number of different things to help these cats, from feeding feral colonies as and when they have the resources to do so, to bottle rearing feral born kittens then getting them healthy, raising, domesticating, neutering and rehoming them, all at their own expense, unless they have donations from others to help.

When I can afford to donate (nowhere near as often as I'd like), these frontline individuals are the people I choose to help because they don't have marketing departments to help them get the message out to people like me who want to help them – they only have their own efforts on social media and good old fashioned word of mouth to raise awareness. 

If you've read this far then I'm sure it's easy to see why I want to do something more to help.  When thinking about what I could do within my means to help, I was inspired by the memory of the nursery rhyme about the 3 little kittens and their mittens and I dug out all my leftover balls of lovely soft merino wool and knitted up a stack of baby mittens. After the knitting, I then had to work out how to turn the mittens into cash for the kittens and really this is far from straightforward…  At first I thought that this was something I'd like to keep separate from my small business as I didn't want anyone to think that I was fundraising by way of any kind of cynical marketing to promote myself, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to use my Etsy shop and social media accounts to get the word out, otherwise I was starting from nowhere, and that won't help the kittens.

The mittens I've knit so far are now listed in my Etsy shop and you can find them here

I've also decided to add one of my crochet wraps to the items I'll sell to raise funds, because the wool I used to make it was gifted to me, so it feels right to do that.

My plan is to donate the whole sale price of each item, and then share here on my blog about what money has been raised and what I've done with it.  If things go well, I'm hoping that I'll also be able to invite other knitty friends to get involved too, so fingers crossed (pun intended!) that everything sells out quickly and more little kittens will soon be tucking into their pie 😀


Cat photos from Pinterest

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In which I am a little bit famous

March 5, 2018

So my tongue was in my cheek as I typed this post's title (as usual), but I am rather excited and proud of this bit of news, so wanted to share!

Last summer, I was approached by an editor at DK Publishing and asked to design a couple of projects for a sewing techniques book by Alison Smith that they were revising and updating. I'd never done anything like this before but I always like to try new things and learn along the way, so jumped at the chance (thanks so much to Ali at Very Berry Handmade for the introduction).  I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience and learned such a lot about how a book like this is brought to life – certainly enough to be in complete awe of the editors who pull everything together!

The book was published at the beginning of February and I can't tell you how thrilling it was to receive my copy and see the projects I designed on the pages – so beautifully styled and photographed too.  Apart from the natural excitement of contributing to a book, I'm also thrilled to have created projects for people learning to sew – something that I'm still doing myself, although I guess I've come a long way since I started my little business in 2013.

If you or anyone you know wants to learn to sew (especially dressmaking), this book is the perfect reference – you can click here to order this on Amazon – it covers so many techniques and terms in a really clear and modern way and, obviously, it has lots of wonderful projects to make in it too! 😀  Here are my two projects – click on the pictures to see a larger version.

A tote bag for a beginner to sew:

Two Tone Tote Bag

A Make Up or Toileteries bag for a confident beginner who wants to learn how to insert a zip:

Toiletries Bag
And if this weren't enough, I was also made a little famous last year by a lovely lady called Amber, who has a very popular knitting podcast on YouTube called Yarn Hoarder.  After buying some of my purses on Etsy, Amber shared them with everyone on her podcast and I was inundated with orders for a little while thereafter!  I only found out about the podcast because one of the ladies who came to my shop after seeing it told me about it.  I'm so grateful to Amber for the share, but also for the fact that I then discovered her knitting podcasts, which I've been watching and enjoying ever since.  I've never been a podcast watcher, but Amber is so delightful, warm and charming, as well as being one of the most enthusiastic makers I've ever come across.  Watching is now a must!

Finally, right at the end of last year, I was featured in Woolenberry's Knitter Spotlight, which was so flattering!  I've long had a pash for Janina's shawl designs and have knit several – some of them more than once.  They are all that rare but amazing combination of being easy to knit but impressive to look at – she really is a bit of a genius.

So, it is amazing that my head isn't now too big to get through the door, but while I'm still doing daft things like fusing my interfacing to the wrong side of my fabric, which is a fairly common event, I think I can keep my feet on the ground 😀



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Hello Jay the Janome

June 19, 2017

Meet Jay the Janome CXL301, my new friend 😀

Jay and I came together just before Christmas 2016, although we didn't formally meet in person until I allowed myself to take him out of the box after finishing my tax return in January.  The perfect incentive.  I would have to say that after 6 months of constant sewing together, we are most definitely the best of friends!

I decided to buy a new sewing machine about a year before I actually bought a new sewing machine.  No, I don't make decisions quickly.  I did a lot of research on the different types of machines available for my likely budget, but there are so many options out there that I felt frequently befuddled by all the choice.  

  • What features did I want? – what features you got?
  • Which make do I like? – maybe Janome, but are there better ones?
  • What kind of sewing do I want to be able to do? – everything – obvs!

Eventually, I managed to digest the masses of information out there enough to break it down to my priorities: ease of use, reliability, quality stitching, and the ability to sew through multiple layers for bag making and quilting.  After reading lots of reviews posted around the internet by other stitchers (thank you all for taking the time to review your machines!), I also started to realise that there were other features that I wanted and didn't even know I wanted:

  • Some help with threading – a tedious and sometimes irritating job on grey English days
  • Top loading bobbin – who wants to fiddle with the bobbin in an awkward position if you don't have to?
  • Speed control – I have a very heavy right foot on any kind of accelerator pedal, which can make for masses of unpicking when the pedal is attached to a sewing machine.

Now this list might not be the most ambitious, but when you think that this was my first step up from John, my super basic £99 John Lewis sewing machine, they're really quite the leap.  John is based on a basic Janome, although he is the most delightful shade of purple.  He's one of those 'do what it says on the tin' machines – he sews – mostly in a straight line and usually pretty evenly, and he gave me several years of really reliable and basic service, more than earning his keep.  But John wasn't without drama.  Anything more than a couple of layers of cotton and some interfacing between and he began to get sulky.  He didn't like any bumps in his sewing road and became practically hysterical around zips.  I did learn to work around his dramas with the help of a walking foot, but it was a tiring experience at times.  As for speed control, it was kind of like Lewis Hamilton driving a Smart car – funny and exciting, but ultimately dangerous and a bit disappointing.

I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like a sewing machine with a massive range of stitches, embroidery ability, full quilting ability etc., but I really didn't need all that, which was a good job, considering my budget of £400.  I definitely had a bias towards Janome at the outset of my search.  I figured that if John had been reliable and hard working, I could realistically expect the same from another machine from that stable, but I didn't immediately count other manufacturers out.  

There is a lot of choice in the section of the market I was shopping in.  The first hurdle was working out which of the machines I liked the look of from what I read on the internet were actually current models, but once I'd done that by cross referencing my top 10 against the stock in a big online retailer, I could then focus in on my top 5.  With the help of lots more reviews, I brought this list down to a top 3, which had 2 Janomes in it and I finally plumped for Jay, which I bought from GUR Sewing Machines, a long standing online retailer.  I generally have a bit of an internal rule for choosing where to buy online for most things – I tend to choose those retailers who are established, have a site that is easy to access and navigate with lots of good content, and who have good reviews over a period of time.  GUR's content was particularly good with plenty of information arranged in a practical and accessible way.  At that time of year, they also had some attractive deals and offers, which always helps when you're spending a significant amount!

What most surprised me about my choice was that the 301CXL is a computerised sewing machine – something that I thought I definitely didn't want.  What I was basing this bias on was the idea that anything computerised would be more likely to go wrong and be expensive to put right, but this isn't really the case at this level – the computerised element really just gives you a quicker and easier interface for sewing and greater needle penetration ability – hurrah for that!

Once I actually started using my new machine, I was initially really disappointed with the general experience.  There I was expecting lots of fun with my new friend, and it really wasn't fun to begin with – getting a new machine is quite an adjustment – you don't realise how you've got all the little foibles of your old machine ingrained in your sewing habits!  I'd say that it took a couple of weeks for me to get used to the way Jay does things and then another couple of weeks to get comfortable with him.  I guess it would have been more enjoyable if I was just sewing for fun, but I had to put Jay straight to work making pieces for my shop orders and, since I have very high standards, we had to both slow down massively to make sure that what we were making was of the usual quality.  Within a very short time though, we were speeding through orders at a great rate and achieving the quality was completely effortless.

Jay is a consummate professional and the truth of the matter is that the reason it was difficult for me to get comfortable with him in the beginning was that I had to step up my sewing skills to get to his level.  There's really a very solid feel to this machine, which might not give me so many laughs as John the hysterical did, but there will be a lot less frustration too!  The main features I love are:

Needle down button – something that is so standard and basic on sewing machines these days, but new to me.  What fun!  Quite aggressive and powerful too.  When you manually lower the needle, you get a feel for when it's all the way down and ready to start sewing, but there's no doubt with this little button – when it's down its down, which is also a great help when pivoting. It's a bit of an adjustment to get used to most of the controls being on the front of the machine and hardly ever touching the wheel, but I got used to it within a week or so.

Tortoise and Hare speed control – fantastic!  My heavy accelerator foot can be as heavy as it likes when I've set the upper limit of the speed to running tortoise 😉  This is super useful when I'm sewing around curvy and tight shapes, like when I'm sewing my catnip cuddle whale tails.  There is a little 'but' to this enthusiasm though, and that is that I've found this isn't so crucial with this machine because the foot pedal is also awesome – much, much easier to control speed with it and after 6 months, I don't really need to adjust the slider very often, I just use my foot on the pedal and the whole experience is now much less Smart car and more Aston Martin Vantage.

Tension – I was always fiddling with the upper tension on John and it was frequently a battle to find the right setting for anything other than sewing together 2 pieces of cotton.  My tension with Jay is usually on 4 and I've found this does a great job for most of the things I sew and at the stitch lengths I tend to use for piecing and top stitching.  Reverse stitching is lovely on Jay and it's so easy to reverse stitch over your first few stitches to lock them in a perfect line.

Case free top loading bobbin – so much easier to load the bobbin and thread the machine and you can see how much thread you've got left on the bobbin whenever you like, although I do sometimes still forget to look…

Needle threader – never used one of these before but couldn't do without it now – so quick and easy to thread without squinting under the machine.  The light on the machine is also fab, which helps with everything too.

There are a number of other features on this machine that I haven't even used yet, but now that we're really comfortable with each other, I will need to try them out.  I've tried out a few of the 'fancier' stitches for decorative finishing, but there are lots I haven't tried yet, including the whole button hole experience, which is something I've never done on a machine, mostly because I'm not a dressmaker.  The Start/Stop button on the front of the machine will be great if I need to do long lines of sewing – you just set the speed with the slider and the machine sews without the use of the pedal.  It does seem a bit silly that I have lots of new features and stitches that I haven't used in the first 6 months of our relationship, but we're mostly work and only a little play!

Admittedly, there are a few little niggles I have with Jay:

The spool holder is horizontal – this is a great look and nice and tidy when you put the machine away with a spool still loaded, but it's not good for loading the bobbin unless you're using a 'proper' spool of thread.  I tend to use threads loaded onto cops, or Aurifil, which are like a cross between a spool and a cop.  If you're using something like a Gutermann spool, everything is fine, but for cop types, the thread tends to get stuck on the spool end holder.  I'm not entirely sure why this happens, but it does.  Fortunately, there is a great alternative on this machine – you can't see it in this picture (although you can see some dust – Jay is due for a clean!) but there is a little square hole on top that takes a removable additional spool winder.  This is actually intended to allow you to load a bobbin with thread without unthreading the main spool, but it also works great with cops since they are loaded on upright rather than horizontal.  The only tiny downside to this that I've found is that the bobbin doesn't get 100% full of thread – probably more like 90 to 95%, but that's fine.

Automatic needle threading isn't exactly what it says on the tin…  I really didn't know what this feature was and as I said earlier, I didn't even know that it was something I wanted, but it isn't exactly automatic.  I don't know if there are true automatic threaders out there, but this one is really a machine mounted needle threader – you drape the thread across it and push it forwards to get a little hook to come through the eye of the needle and pull the thread through.  As I said, it's great to have, but 'automatic' it ain't.

All in all, I am absolutely delighted with Jay and wouldn't hesitate to recommend him as a 2nd level machine.  Since buying him I found out that there is a feature called 'auto tensioning' that I would have loved to have and, I can't lie – I would have liked him to be purple, but I think that we're set for a very happy relationship for the foreseeable future!

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Who will get their knit on?

November 27, 2016

My giveaway for the Wool and the Gang Snood Giveaway knitting kit closed yesterday and as I was in the middle of cooking a chicken dinner, I thought it would be a good time to pick a winner! 😀

Having written the names on pieces of paper and got him indoors to pick one out, I'm delighted to announce that the winner is Ellen Cheetham!  Ellen is going to be knitting the easy version of the pattern in the Green Lagoon colour, for her daughter.

Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to Ellen – I'll email you for your address shortly xxx

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Wanna get your knit on?

November 19, 2016

It's always nice when someone says "thank you", but even nicer when they offer you a lovely gift!

To thank me for trying out their new Take Care Mohair yarn and doing a review, the lovely people at Wool and the Gang are going to gift one of their wonderful kits to one of you.

I must admit that it took me quite some time to choose exactly what I'd like them to give you dear reader – they have a lot of lovely yarns and kits… Given my personal love affair with them, a cowl seemed like just the right thing.  I also wanted something that was quick to knit, would suit anyone, came in lots of colours and would be suitable for all knitting abilities (don't want much, do I?).

As it turned out, the Snood Operator cowl had to be the one!  It's perfect for women:

And for men:

The pattern that comes with the kit is available in English, French, German and Japanese and comes in 3 difficulty levels, starting with absolute beginner, so anyone can make it.

Using their super chunky Crazy Sexy Wool, you can knit one of these cowls up in next to no time – all you need is a pair of 15mm (US19) needles.  I personally love the Midnight Blue and Moss Green colourways, but there are a whopping 38 colours to choose from:

So, if you'd like to win this fabulous kit, just comment below and tell me who you'd be making your cowl for, which colour wool you'd choose, and which language you'd like your pattern in.

This giveaway will close one week from now, at noon GMT on Saturday 26th November 2016.  One winner will be chosen from the entries at random shortly thereafter.  I'll email the winner to let them know and ask for their full name and address.  If I haven't been able to verify the winner within 48hours, another winner will be chosen.  The kit will be sent to the final winner direct from Wool and the Gang and I'll announce the name of the winner by edit to this post, once verified.

Good luck! 🙂

Closed to new entries – winner to be announced shortly!

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Gangsta knit!

October 29, 2016

I suspect that I'm now too old and uncool to ever be gangsta, but I truly believe I'll never be too old to try something new.

When I was offered the opportunity to play with a new Wool and the Gang yarn called Take Care Mohair, I jumped at the chance. As you'll know if you know me and my work, I have a long running love affair with mohair and regularly use it, although I haven't had that much experience of the various brands of mohairs out there – I do tend to stick with a brand I know and trust, which is why I'm not really very gangsta like the Wool and the Gang knitty dudes…

Having selected the very pretty Blue Chalk colourway, I very quickly received my parcel.  Don't you love their packaging?  The potty kits very quickly jumped on board – literally 😀

The yarn is pretty nice too!

When I first handled it, I thought that this yarn was going to be trouble – it is very fluffy.  I immediately started having flashbacks to my worst ever mohair frogging experiences (there have been a few…) and decided that whatever I made with this stuff, I had to make sure I was concentrating hard to avoid mistakes I might have to unpick!  

I also decided that investing a bit of yarn into a few swatches would be worthwhile so that I could see how it behaved when knit up at various gauges, so I set to with some 6mm needles.  The result was quite a dense fabric – denser than I'd expected to be honest.  I then decided to have a laugh and try to frog the swatch – imagine my surprise when it ripped back really easily – probably more easily than any other mohair I've used!  I did treat it gently, as I would with any hairy yarn, but it behaved beautifully.

The next swatch I knit was with 10mm needles and this was much airier.  I've knit my 3 Rib Cowl with several different types of yarn and at various tensions, so I decided that would be the perfect one to try out this yarn with, as I was also confident that I'd have plenty of yarn to knit a decent sized version.  I started with 96 stitches and worked to the standard pattern until I'd used about one and a half skeins – you can find full details here. What I got was a pretty big and floppy cowl that permanently looks like it's in soft focus 😀

In fact, it's so large that you can wrap it around your neck a couple of times, if you want to be extra cosy:

I reckon that Take Care Mohair would be a great choice for anyone who loves to knit chunky and wants to try out mohair for the first time, given its relatively good manners on frogging.  You can find a free scarf pattern on Wool and the Gang's website, or you could have a go at my 3 Rib Cowl pattern with it too, which is free on Ravelry. I think I might try it again with the yarn I have left over with slightly smaller needles and see how that one looks.

You can sign up to Wool and the Gang's newsletter here to hear about their yarns, kits and patterns.


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Stitching for stichers

August 4, 2016

As you'll know if you read my blog, I do make quite a lot of sewing cases…  I also make quite a lot of project bags these days, and there's nothing I like better than making matching sets of sewing cases and project bags; like these two Liberty sets that I recently made for mother and daughter stitchers in Japan:

The purple set using Liberty tana lawn print, 'Queue for the zoo' was Madoka's choice, and the turquoise set using 'Susannah' was for her mom.  They were both a complete treat for me to make, as most things are for me that involve Liberty lawn, but never more so when there's a reasonable amount of hand stitched detail involved, as there is with these sewing cases.  There's the applique of the hearts to the outer front and back, and the applique of the scissor keep on the inside front:

Then there's the quilting around the heart appliques and the embroidery on the back slip pockets, all of which I did with gold metallic thread:

I couldn't resist doing the top stitching of the zip ends with a little of the gold thread too – no; there's no such thing as too much bling.  Of course I added a bit more bling with the crochet metallic closure loops and the pretty domed shank buttons that are so perfect for these larger sewing cases:

I line the zip pockets of the sewing cases with the Liberty prints too:

And add a press stud closure to the big slip pocket at the back – as modelled by foxy:

The project bags are made to my own design, as are all the project bags in my shop.  I like to think that they're the perfect size to be totally adaptable – they're perfect for small knit projects, crochet projects or sewing projects, but are also great for lots of other uses – large make up bags or tool bags – whatever you like really:

When I'm making things like this for sewists though, I am very conscious of the fact and can become a bit obsessive over the quality of my stitching.  I admit that I am already rather obsessive about trying to make everything as perfect as possible all the time, but this is particularly the case when you're making things for other stitchers, who you know will be just as focussed on the detail as you are 😀

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Liberty Rations

July 4, 2016

I have a small but perfectly formed collection of Liberty Tana Lawn.  If I could buy as much of it as I would like to, I would a) be bankrupt and b) not have enough room in the house to keep it all.

When it comes to buying Liberty lawn for my stash (as opposed to a commission or a planned product, when it's totally legal – yay!), the rule I make for myself is that I can buy it if I truly love it.  The way I know if I truly love it is that I can't get it out of my mind until I actually buy a piece of it.  It then also has to be either available at a great price, or I can only have a very small piece, and this can't happen more than four times a year.  I am very strict.

Amongst my collection, there are a few very precious pieces which, I admit, I love more than others.  Cutting into these pieces to make something is very difficult and doesn't happen very often.  But what fun is it for them if they hide away in their storage box and are never seen by other Liberty lovers?  So last week I decided it was time for one of my vintage favourites to have a little outing and metamorphose into a sewing case:

I feel quite sad that I don't know the name of this very pretty print.  I bought it years ago as part of a bundle from Sunflower Fabrics but have never seen any of it since.  I made it using my usual 'basic' case pattern with a slip pocket on the inside front:

And a scissor keep on the back:

When it came to the usual little hand stitched pocket embroidery detail, I felt that it deserved a little more bling so used a little gold metallic thread to echo the golden colour in the print:

I rooted through my button collection and settled on this metal Rowan button with a little heart detail, which felt perfect for it:

For the lining, I broke out another favourite fabric and used a little navy coloured Brussels Washer Linen by Robert Kaufman, interfaced for strength as it's quite an open weave, although beautifully soft.  

Of course, I couldn't just make one Liberty case, could I?  Two more of my favourite but less rarified prints also had a little outing alongside hearts and flowers.  This is Wild Flowers, with a painted wooden bunny button:

And June's Meadow in blue, although this isn't lawn, but the 'craft' cotton that feels very much like brushed cotton in quite a comforting way:

I do love this way of using my Liberty fabrics – they're centre stage and yet I don't have to use much of them – perfect! 😀

You can find all my sewing cases in my Etsy shop and I'm always happy to make a custom case to your particular preferences – bigger, more pockets, different pockets – whatever your heart desires…

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I’m just a needlewoman, with needles on her mind

May 12, 2016

I've been making sewing cases for several years now.  It started with simple needlebooks and I developed several designs from there.  In the beginning, they were a favourite way of celebrating a particular fabric – whether it was a fabric print I really liked, or a piece of English Paper Piecing I'd made:

There's something captivating about a sewing case to a needlewoman I think.  Let's face it, we know how to celebrate the aesthetic and tactile aspects of fabric, but we also like to have a good reason to use and enjoy it, not to mention a reason to cut into it!  We also seem to have a penchant for having specially made things connected to our needlework, many of which are made with fabric.  There's the undeniably practical aspect to having the right tool or accessory to 'do the job', but I think it also has an awful lot to do with being able to surround ourselves with lovely fabric things, whilst we create lots more fabric things – what could be better?!

As much as I've enjoyed creating sewing cases just for the pure enjoyment of it, I've found over the years that I've also been constantly striving towards creating pieces that are the 'right' answer to every needlewoman's needs.  I get a lot of pleasure from thinking that I might be making something that someone really needs – something that is their 'just so' – a certain size, a particular closure, a certain number and type of pockets – and that's before you even get to the fabric it's made with, or the embellishments that might be added, all of which are very personal choices.  The lovely thing is that I'll never create just the right case for every needlewoman as we're all so individual, but it really is fun trying.

Recently, I've been making some larger sewing cases with a range of features, starting with this understated linen one that I added a small flower applique to and quilted with gold thread:

And more recently this one, which was a commission for an Etsy client:

This brought together the design of the original large linen one above, and another of my smaller cases that features Liberty applique hearts:

My client loved the features of the large linen case, but it wasn't her style – she wanted something with a stronger look and loved the rich colours of a print from Bari J's Emmy Grace collection.  This also gave me an opportunity to play about with how I built the case with the zippers inside, which also introduced a little more colour to the inside of the case, by using more of the featured Bari J print to edge the zips:

It's really surprising how much you can get into this case – you can even slip a 5 inch embroidery frame into the slip pocket at the back:

For those who have a little more to carry around, I can also make co-ordinating zipped project bags to go with any of my sewing cases, which I think are perfect for travelling stitchers since you can organise your sharps into the safety of the case, and carry your actual projects and larger items in the bag:

From the time I made the first supersized case, I've been mulling over the idea of the traditional needlewoman's workbox and had almost seduced myself into the idea of making one, but I wasn't convinced that today's needlewoman really wanted that.  Well, no, not entirely – I think most would love a beautiful handbuilt work box with lots of matching pieces to go in it, but that's something that they may well want to make for themselves as a kind of right of stitching passage maybe?  What most sewers seem to want is something more portable than that, something that helps them to fit their stitching around their busy lives, as they carry their work around with them and snatch 10 minutes here and there to add a few stitches to their current project.  

And while that may well be the profile of the modern needlewoman, I don't think she's changed all that much at heart – she still wants to enjoy her tools and accroutrements – they still need to be pretty and individual, so that they can enhance her enjoyment while stitching. So, this is the direction I found myself heading in when I sat down to design my next generation sewing case, which is more of a mobile work box.  I've brought together my love of the purse frame and the sewing case to design the Needlewoman's Clutch and I've used two of my favourite sewing case fabric combos for first two I've made:

The first features Liberty's 'Hesketh' tana lawn and a zingy green Essex linen by Robert Kaufman, with a pretty silver coloured clasp frame, decorated with birds.  I purposely made the bag a little too large for the frame so that the sides would be super puffy and a bit like a Gladstone bag.  At this point, I'm still playing with the shapes and working out what I like best:

Next came a pairing of pretty mustard and pink Tilda cotton prints, with a slightly larger bronze colour frame and a more classically clutch shape:

Both have a zipped pocket inside, and both have co-ordinating stitching accessories – a small pincushion, a mini needlebook with traditional wool flannel pages, and a padded scissor case:

For practical reasons, I wanted to use an undyed wool flannel cloth for the mini needle books, which is a lovely thin, drapey and soft cloth.  This was what used to be used, before we all got into using wool felt and I think I prefer it really – although both have their advantages and disadvantages.  I was also really happy to find a use for the pewter colour Edelweiss hook fasteners I've had in my stash for a few years now – I knew there would be a perfect project to use them on!  It was also nice to break out some buttons from my collection to make the little pumpkin shaped pincushions.  And as if it's not enough fun to carry your needlework and tools along in a pretty clutch bag, there's also the added attraction of being able to remove the needlework tools and using the clutch on its own too!

It's really a bit of a relief to have got the idea for the Needlewoman's Clutch out of my head and into form – my unrealised ideas seem to become a maddening voice in my head until they can come into being.  And as it turns out, my timing in completing this newest design is pretty fortuitous because one of my sewing cases is mentioned in Cross Stitch Crazy magazine today – what a great way to celebrate my needlecase evolution!