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Down the Rabbit Hole

July 13, 2019

I found myself down a sewing case rabbit hole this week, re-visiting favourite fabrics and thinking about tweaking my small sewing case design.  While tidying up the contents of one of my fabric drawers, I was thinking about trying a snap closure on my cases and I discovered a couple of small pieces of past favourite fabrics that were perfectly sized for a sewing case.  In a somewhat nostalgic mood, I started with a classic re-make of this Tilda case, without any changes to the design:

This fabric was used for one of my early sewing cases and for this latest one, I even used the same coconut shell button as on the original.  The only change from my original design is that I now knit the lurex closure loop, whereas I used to crochet it.

Next up was this lovely Bari J design, which I've used a number of times on larger custom cases as an accent print, but I never made a standard small case with it.  Looking in my button box, this little metal leaf button from Textile Garden seemed just perfect with it:

Of course, having found the button and fixed my mind on it, again the case basic design didn't change! 

Then, the next evening I was thinking about other favourite fabrics that would work for a sewing case and thought of a lovely Tilda print from her Bumblebee collection, which I used for my first sample tea bag case design.  I made that with just one small piece of the fabric that I had in a scrap pack from Billow Fabrics and I never had any yardage of it.  Of course, as soon as I went hunting for some yardage, it was sold out almost everywhere apart from Honeybee Cloths, so I bought a metre straight away (thank you Dawn – glad to have discovered your shop!):

Finally, my new closure could be tried out and I really do like it, although I feel torn about the absence of a button – choosing the button has always been one of my favourite things about making sewing cases…  I also decided to machine embroider the edge of the little pocket inside, which I usually hand embroider:

I love the look of the machine embroidery and whilst I enjoy doing the hand embroidery, I think that my perfectionist tendancies just prefer the totally symmetrical look of the machine stitches:

I kept everything else about the case the same and I really like this gold ribbon for the scissor keep against the Aloe green cotton lining:

One of the other design tweaks I'd been thinking about is getting rid of the ribbon for the scissor keep and replacing it with a fold over closure that snaps into place, but the ribbon offers a more flexible fixing that works for more than one size of scissor.  I think what I might do is start adding a second slip pocket at the back of the case that's split into two where the scissors could live.  That might also offer an opportunity to use a button again as I could sew one on to the pocket that could be used to anchor the cord of a traditional scissor keeper?  Or maybe I'll actually make a little matching scissor keeper that can be attached to any pair of scissors as well?!  I'll be trying that out next I think 😀

In my Etsy shop, my black and silver nani iro project bag has been popular this week:

As have my cuddle whales with my cat loving customers:

And, finally, my first order for my standalone new style feather fascinator toy came in this week, although I have already made several of them to go in cuddle boxes.  Hopefully several kitties should be having fun with their toys this weekend!

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“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all it’s flavour”

July 6, 2019

That's what William Cowper said, and I think he was right!  I’ve certainly had a nice variety of things to work on this week, which is just as I like it.  My most popular coin purses at the moment are this Liberty Wild Flowers print – very appropriate for today as National Meadows Day

And this cute little Hedgehogs purse made with fabric from the Enchanted Forest collection, designed by Betsy Olmsted for Windham fabrics:

The same Hedgehogs have been popular as a dpn cosy too, as have the Fox Nap ones, which is a Tula Pink design and what I made my very first dpn cosy with:

I’ve also been making some project bags – this large Moon Gazing Hares bag is really popular at the moment:

The fabric is by Maureen Cracknell for Art Gallery Fabrics and I only have a small amount left.  The piece I’m working with now was bought from a Canadian Etsy seller and attracted a customs charge, but it was worth it to make some more of these bags with coral coloured sparkly Essex Linen!

This smaller zip bag is from the same Betsy Olmstead collection as the Hedgehogs fabric and has been a favourite in my shop for a while. I’m still looking for something to make with the small offcuts I have from making all the bags – lots of which feature the little bunnies.  I think I’ll have to patchwork something up with them and maybe make myself a scrappy little bag.

Talking about patchwork, the medium size of these Liberty patchwork drawstring bags headed off to Luxembourg this week:

Plus, I also finally stitched together the top of my Liberty strings quilt that I posted about last week:

The backing fabric for this has now been selected and I think I’m going to piece it in the old fashioned envelope style, machine stitch a nice border, and then hand tie the rest; possibly with the lower profile ‘hidden’ tie stitches.  Because the top is so busy with no borders or sashing, I don't think it needs a lot of quilting from an aesthetic point of view, and it is foundation pieced to the batting anyway, so certainly doesn't need it from that perspective either – all I'm really doing is attaching the backing.

It was also nice this week to have an order for one of these Tilda sewing cases as I haven't made one in a while:

Grey and pink are one of my favourite combinations and this rose print is so pretty.

I also put together a really cute order for someone in the US this week who was treating herself and her Mum, which included Hedgehog and Foxy dpn cosies, a Liberty brooch, a Woodland knot bag and even one of my little gift cards.  I wrapped each piece up separately before popping them into a postal box and I hope they’ll have great fun unwrapping everything when it arrives!

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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 😀