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Sibling birthday gifts

12 Aug

Just some quick finished objects today which I created for my sister for her birthday.

Some mitre corner napkins with a little bag:

IMG_2082I made this with an Amy Butler quilting weight cotton I bought in John Lewis as  a remnant on a previous London visit.  This fabric was seriously lovely to work with!

I used this tutorial for the mitred corners

I printed the template on to tracing paper and have used it many times.  By the way, I found this tutorial using tipnut – a fantastic place for online tutorials.   I know Helen wanted some napkins as I mentioned I’d made some for my Step-Mother and she said she’d like some too.  She’s also admired the fabric when I bought it so I hope she likes it.

I also gave my first substantial knitting success away!  I finished knitting the Oaklet Shawl over Easter.  I had purchased the wool at the Craft for Crafters event back in January and found the pattern on Ravelry by doing a search of what others knitters had completed with this yarn.  Here is my finished project on Ravelry for this make.

To say this project pushed my knitting to the absolute limit is an understatement,  SKPO – I mean that is seriously confusing!  I also think I have mastered the Yarn Over.  I really enjoyed knitting this and although it doesn’t hold up to close inspection, it is without a doubt the best thing I have knitted.  I made this while cruising down the Canal Du Midi on a family holiday so there was plenty of time for relaxed knitting.  Both my sister Helen and my niece Clementine were eyeing up the shawl which so unutterably flattering to me!  As it was Helen’s birthday next I thought i’d block it and give it to her:


Over to you:

  • Have you got a favourite napkin pattern for gifts?
  • Do you use Ravelry to find projects for yarn you’ve fallen in love with?
  • Does it make a project more special when you know it is for someone you love?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!


Stocking up on knit fabrics

11 Aug

I really want to get better at sewing knits.   My ready to wear wardrobe is full of knit fabrics so I think learning how to sew these properly would be a chance to incorporate more me-made garments in to my daily life.

I found some lovely knit fabrics on Tia Knight and spent the remaining money in my PayPal account on these beauties:


I  want to look at making:

A Renfrew

Another Day to Night top

Another Tiramisu – other one was a bit ropey, not sure how I managed to mess up a dress everyone else found so easy!

Some projects from Sew U Home Stretch – this book was a huge hit in blogging world about six months ago but now it seems to be impossible to find.  Maybe that is how I picked it up for £3!

Over to you:

  • Have you tackled the knitted monster?!
  • Do you have experience with any of these patterns?
  • Do you have any good online sources for fabric?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you! 

Day to night top by Maria Denmark

10 Aug

I made this top ages ago, but as I talked about it on my blog I thought I would post about it.


The absolute first thing I made on Fred was actually this Maria Denmark Day to Night top!  I was so prepared for this – I’d bought the pattern, fabric and notions, downloaded, printed and stuck the pattern, I’d even cut the pieces out!  I was absolutely determined to begin my birthday sewing on my new machine.  Can you imagine if I hadn’t got the machine?!  That would have been another ridiculous situation I would have found myself in…

I made this out of a grey stretchy almost rib fabric bought from Trago Mills – discount superstore chain across Devon and Cornwall.  Firstly, the elephant in the room on a downloadable pattern – sticking the pages together; refreshingly  easy.  Hardly any pages for this top and no random ‘scaling’ issues either.  Winner.  The pattern was so easy to sew up.  I also remembered to add the seam allowances this time – result!  I was a little worried about the cowl neck for a first try with this kind of machine and fabric but it really is straight forward.  I did the variation which used invisible elastic rather than fold over, and am pleased with the result:


The cowl is very flattering and sits well on the bust.  The inside edge of the cowl is unfinished, Which I was a little worried about but it is absolutely fine.


Here is a little confession: this isn’t actually the one I sewed on my birthday – I mistook the ‘grain’ of the fabric and sewed it with the stretch going top to bottom instead of left to right.  I could squeeze in to the top, but only just.  Yes, I am that stupid – it had RIBBING on it for goodness sake!  Oh well, live and learn.  I got both tops out of one metre of the fabric though – that is seriously good value!

I would really recommend this pattern.  Great price.  Quick to put together and a stylish finish.  Another great Maria Denmark pattern!

Over to you:

  • Have you sewed the Day to Night top?
  • Have you ever got the grain the wrong way round?!
  • What do you look for in a pattern?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Holy Crepe! The sewing machine broke!

8 Aug

With the summer holidays in full flow I thought I would devote my time to making a dress. I have had the Collette Crepe dress pattern in my stash for a while (marked easy – we’ll see). I know this is going back a bit, but I am following Gertie’s sew-a-long from 2010. Hey – these things don’t date!


This is my first attempt at a Collette pattern so I am excited to see how it goes. I have made a muslin and it fit straight out of the packet – hello, I could *really* like this company! So I cut in to my fabric and even followed the underlining step – yes I hand sewed the main pattern pieces. This is by far the most proud I have ever been of a dress.

I was just stitching on the ties when THIS happened!!


The needle clamp in my machine broke!

Here it is from the front so you can see what the part is:


Apparently I’ve been “over-tightening [my] needle screw”.  Sounds painful.  So not only is my beautiful Stitchy ill but possibly the best thing I’ve ever made is sat unable to be finished AND it’s the summer holidays! Woe is me! I am going to take him down to The Sewing Studio in Redruth to see Dr Darius. They were so good on the phone and are going to change it for me as soon as I can get down there, I feel so lucky to have access to such a wonderful shop but it isn’t half a pain to have to drive all that way. Oh well, there are much worse things in the world, but this is certainly frustrating!

Over to you:

  • Have you ever been unable to finish a beloved project due to mechanical failure?
  • Did you know you could over-tighten a needle screw!?
  • Does your sewing machine have their own Doctor!?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

Jelly roll frenzy (race)

7 Aug

When I finished my Craftsy Block of the Month quilt one of my commenters called V from introduced me to the notion of a jelly roll race and provided me with this link to youtube as I’d never heard of it before.

So basically all the pieces sewn end to end in to one long strip then the long ends of the strips sewn together again, and and again and again until you have a quilt.

Erm , hello, I LOVE that idea!

The roll I used is sweet tooth by Benartex which is all sweetie themed – I do LOVE sweets! I bought it from the Missouri Star Quilt company – my Dad was visiting from the USA so got it sent to his address. Sadly I would not recommend this company at all, terrible communication and service. I digress…

Sadly I have nobody to race so I have called it a jelly roll frenzy. What brilliant fun! So quick! Sometimes it can feel like when you do anything labelled ‘sewing’ you actually spend a considerable amount of time doing other things like cutting, planning, pinning, ironing etc – this is just pure unadulterated SEWING! I simply loved making this quilt top! I think everyone should have a jelly roll in the cupboard so you can whip one of these babies up when you just need some mindless escapism at your sewing machine.


I sashed with a pinky polka-dot and bound in a gorgeous sunshine orange. The backing was big fat magenta polka dots. I finally got round to watching the free craftsy course on creative quilt backs (need to review that) and used the technique to match large prints. Worked really well – can you see the join?


More Craftsy I’m afraid… I recently bought free-motion fillers by Leah Day as one of my Christmas presents from my Dad -he got me a gift voucher for three classes. Again, must review when I’ve finished it. I found a lovely pattern in lesson three “independent designs” named “basic spiral”. I thought it looked like swirly sweets so it fitted with the fabric perfectly. Frankly the quilting leaves something to be desired and is a bit clunky but from a distance it has the effect I wanted.


I love the finished article and am really peased with the size, this is just perfect for snuggling on the sofa. Sadly, I think the overall effect is a bit too little girl with the sweets and the pink. I am considering giving it away, but I really love it – clearly there is still a little girl very much inside and not even attempting to get out!

Oh, and I’m not the only one who likes it…


Over to you:
Have you ever done a jelly roll race?
Have you made something which hasn’t turned out how you thought, but you love it anyway?
Any other little ideas like the jelly roll race I can try?!

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

**all views are my own and I get no affiliate income from this**

Introducing Fred

26 Jul

The birthday arrived and Mr Frog delivered: introducing my Janome 6234XL Overlocker, or Serger a.k.a Fred


Fred is ‘thread’ pronounced in my husband’s amusing half-French half-english accent when he is trying not to roll his ‘rrrr’s.  For those of you who own, or have used, an overlocker it uses a LOT of thread so is utterly apt!

If you want the process I went through when choosing this model in the shop click here

Initial thoughts on overlockers generally

My goodness they are fast!  That takes a bit of getting used to, but it is fun.  Having used the machine for quite a few days now I feel overlockers are much more ‘manly’ machines than the regular sewing variety.  The speed, oily smell, danger from the blade, delving in to the ‘workings’ to adjust it – just feels quite masculine.  You have to learn what each of the stitches is and then make minute adjustments to several settings, and there is nothing to tell you if you got it right.  There is something very satisfying about adjusting all those apparently identical dials and cranks in order to get it doing exactly what I want it to do.  They get really dirty really quickly – it would be sexist to link this to males here I think but you can fill the blanks!  Now I am not a clean freak by any means (reciprocal sexist joke could be levelled at women here I think!)  but fabric residue seems to be stuck to everything and I haven’t used it that much.  I think it is going to take forever to clean and the tiny little Janome brush which came with it certainly doesn’t look up to the task.

About this machine


The machine can be adjusted from four thread down to two and tension is adjusted with four dials which are on the front of the machine.  The stitch length is changed with a simple dial on the side.  It also comes with a differential feed, this means the two sets of feed dogs can either work together, for normal sewing, against each other to stretch out a fabric for smooth sewing, or with each other, to gather.  I’ve used this to sew a knit and it worked perfectly.  Finally, it has a ‘rolled hem’ function where the machine will fold over the edge of the fabric then wrap it with stitches to look very smart.  With some cheaper models you have to remove the stitch plate to change to this setting – not so on Fred.  You just click back the ‘stitch finger’ and change the other settings. As standard, it comes with a range of accessories from spool caps, screwdrivers, spanner, oil, spare blade, tweezers, five needles, spool nets, funky needle threaded gadget and more.  All these little bits and bobs go in a lovely box which fits perfectly inside the waste catcher – it looks very smart indeed! However these items completely fill the container so you have to take everything out to access anything so I’d recommend having a separate container for the lesser used items.  The machine even comes with a cover of sorts – it is literally a plastic bag with a hole in the top but does the job; its hideousness will drive me to make a cover sooner rather than later though!  You get the standard foot when you buy the machine and it clicks on with a little shank, no screws to undo.


Using Fred

I can’t really do a comparison as I haven’t used any other overlockers but haven’t found anything this machine can’t do which is important to me.  I’ve been through the  Beginning Serging course on Craftsy (my review here) and it seems I have bought exactly what I wanted – a solid mid-range machine.  Once you get used to creating a ‘thread chain’ where you run the machine before putting the fabric under it is pretty simple.  So far I have really struggled with locking the stitches using the various recommended techniques.  It either looks a mess, doesn’t work, or both.  To be clear, this is all user inexperience rather than the fault of Fred.  Online, everyone recommends buying a special glue called ‘fray check’, I have some British equivalent but it is thick and gloopy and nowhere near as elegant as the stuff on the videos.  Even if it was, I don’t particularly like the idea of using glue on a sewing project, feels a bit like cheating.  As I said previously, the 6234XL seems to be a slightly rejuvenated version of the 634D and I don’t really know what the difference is other than they have changed the grey and included a needle threading gadget.  Frankly there could be more differences but it isn’t documented online and I couldn’t really find any.



One big plus which doesn’t seem to be advertised anywhere is – it comes threaded!  They are only small spools of 200m white thread but I think being able to start straight out of the box is a great bonus.  There are ways to just use this to pull through new threads so you never have to thread the whole thing, but that doesn’t seem right – you need to love your new baby properly and that includes threading it I’m afraid.  Threading is not easy with any serger or overlocker, but the machine helps as much as it can – the colour coded thread guides are pretty idiot proof.   The difficulty comes in navigating the tiny components and the tweezers are helpful for this.  One thing I’ve learned the hard way is you have to thread it in the correct order – if you leave the needle threaded and rethread a looper you’ll get another break.  There is a nice little switch to make the hard to reach apertures and hooks appear which is a nice feature.  There is a DVD which comes with the machine, it is for the old model 634D but gives a good explanation for visual learners.  The DVD is VERY old fashioned and is quite a laugh to watch – helpfully it is on you tube thanks to the Sewing Studio (which is where I bought Fred):

In Summary:

I love Fred the Overlocker.  A great mid-range machine from a trusted manufacturer which delivers everything I want, and a few things I am not sure how to properly use which means I can grow in to it!  I have already completed several projects and it is a fantastic machine that I am really pleased with.

Over to you:

  • Do you own a serger or overlocker?
  • Are there any features you wouldn’t be without?
  • Do you name your machines?!

Leave a comment: I’d love to hear from you!

International HOP Swap

10 Mar

First the stashbusting sew-a-long then the Map the Sewintists the next stage is participating in a blog swap!

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Rachel at House of Pinheiro is hosting an International Craft Swap!

Rachel has paired me up with a person and I am going to make them a little something based on the information about that person I’ve been sent.  I just *hope* they will like what I make!  The theme is: nautical.

I got the information about my partner this week and I have until the 5th of April to get my item made and sent.  The rules state I should also include a little gift, maximum £3, or equivalent value.  We are being encouraged to use stash fabrics if we can too.

Here is the information I sent about myself, the stuff in italic is the writing frame from Rachel:

Information to help your swap partner make you a treat (favourite things, colours, interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes, any allergies etc)
Favourite things – my sewing machine, sunshine, books, great food
Colours – warm colours generally but am really excited to see your ideas so don’t be limited
Interests/hobbies – sewing, acting (amateur dramatics), travelling to warm places, organising things (!), cycling, films and being utter rubbish at knitting!
Likes and dislikes – I adore sweets/candy!  As for dislikes, I am very accepting and would feel delighted with anything made with me in mind.

Just to harp on with my ‘aren’t we lucky to all be part of this amazing community of sewists’  business – how nice is Rachel to organise this?  People are so kind.

So another giant step in to the Sewing World – I am so excited!

Over to you:

  • Have you ever participated in a blog swap?
  • Any ideas for what I could make on the nautical theme?
  • What would you hope to receive on such a swap?

Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!

privacy versus community

25 Feb

I am very careful with my online privacy.  I have seen colleagues and friends get in to scrapes on Facebook and other online media through injudicious sharing online; the sad thing is these people have broken no laws but almost anything, when displayed in the wrong way, can cast you in a poor light.  I strongly agree that teachers need to be role models, but also vehemently stand up for our right to be three dimensional people outside work; the balance is difficult to strike and I don’t pretend to always get it right.  Even if you don’t have a job which requires you to be perceived in a specific way, there is still something nice about having the control over which parts of you are shared with different people.

I have been reflecting on this because a new craze has come across the sewing community – mapping where we seamstresses live!  A blogger I didn’t know, another sewing scientist, came up with the idea and I saw it referenced somewhere last week and I have to say my initial reaction was ‘no way’ based on the above.  There were hardly any pins and I just thought this would never take off.  I also thought I wouldn’t want to share that level of detail with the information superhighway.  But it seemed to get bigger and bigger and bigger with so many of the blogs I read (and proverbial ‘‘big girls’) signing up.  They also, tantalisingly, were suggesting that it could lead to sewing meet ups in the local area from the information shared – this was getting truly exciting…

So I visited the original post and was amazed – it is now so full of pins!

As I looked at the world view I suddenly started getting a bit emotional about the enormous worldwide sewing community we are all part of.  I thought it only exists because we all ‘put ourselves out there’ in terms of what we create and give to each other – inspiration, support, instruction, camaraderie, and more.  I saw myself in stark relief – so busy climbing up on my proverbial high horse being a drama queen that I was very nearly trampled to death by it.  What a stubborn old mule; I’m on the map.  Are you?

What do you think?

  • Do you jealously protect your online identity?
  • Are you on the map?
  • Have you found anyone nearby thanks to the map?

Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Stashbusting update: February

24 Feb

Stashbusting Sewalong

I am still ploughing away at this stashbusting business.  I know I am meant to have identified the fabrics I will be using up and I haven’t actually got around to that, erm, sorry.  But I am doing the monthly challenges, this month was ‘making for others’.

February is my Step-Mother Nancy’s birthday and she adores cloth napkins.  I don’t really enjoy making napkins, there is just so much accuracy required along with lots of pressing and they look really easy to the recipient when in fact they take ages to make.    But I know she would really enjoy them, and actually use them so relented.  It also gave me a chance to give my new serger/overlocker a spin using the rolled hem function.


I wasn’t sure of the best way to corner a rolled hem napkin so I googled and who is the top link?  Only my favourite Craftsy instructor Amy Alan with this free tutorial!

The fabric I used was a two metre length of quilting cotton I bought at a Christmas sale for £5 a metre.  I got eight enormous dinner napkins out of the two metre length (they are 20 inches across which I think is pretty huge).  I made four for Nancy and four spares which will probably end up being given to my lovely sister Helen who was commenting how much she would like a set of napkins when I saw her over my birthday weekend.


I made a little drawstring bag for the napkins to live in with a stripe of the napkin fabric across it and the drawstring made from a tube of the same material.


My Dad and Nancy live in the USA so these bad boys were sent off today to Lynchburg, Virginia.  I hope she likes them!

Next month the focus of the stashbusting is: Impending Seasonal Change. Regardless of your hemispherical location, the weather will be changing soon…what will you make? Something fun for the coming spring, or something cozy for fall?  

I am linking this post up with the Stashbusting linky party

Over to you:

  • Are you participating in the stashbusting sew-a-long?
  • Are there any projects you just don’t enjoy making that much?
  • Any ideas what I could make in the March category?

Leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you!

Review of Beginner Serging from Craftsy

23 Feb

I bought this course after being utterly wowed by sergers/overlockers, but also totally overwhelmed at the same time!  I know Craftsy, and love it, so it was the first place I looked for some quality learning.  You can buy the course here for £26 full price – but if you hang around there is usually an offer on various courses.  I got the course for just £12 with a voucher I bought with some Christmas money.  Craftsy aren’t paying me for my views.

The instructor – Amy Alan

The first thing you need to know is that Amy has an absolutely lovely way with her!  She has this really warm way of speaking and often puts a little laughy smile on the end of sentences – particularly ones which might make you go ‘eeeek!  How the hell am I going to pull that off?!’  This style suggests she has experience of teaching in real life and she is anticipating the look of dawning terror on her learners faces at just the right moment.  She also personifies everything – the screwdriver is ‘this little guy’ and for something else ‘he just comes up on the thread guide’ are two examples but the course is peppered with them –  it makes it seems like we are getting to know a new friend rather than mastering a piece of machinery.  This style has the effect of making everything feel achievable and made me really enjoy the actual instruction, not just the learning.    She has a blog and I have started following her after this course – I am a fan!

The platform – the app in particular

I love Craftsy, the quality of instruction and the price is just fantastic as I explained when I did my block of the month write-up .  However, in order to have online instruction lots of crafters have invested in portable devices like tablets to access the internet as we work and sadly Craftsy is not delivering well on these platforms.  Last summer they brought out the long awaited Craftsy App, which is an improvement on using the website which was unbelievably limited on my ipad.  However the app crashes – often.  It also has completely different options available to you depending on whether you are viewing it in landscape:

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or portrait:

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I like to watch in landscape as I have a little stand for landscape viewing, but I can only read the discussions and add notes when it is in portrait which is utterly impractical.  You also have no thirty second rewind.  The thing that *really* gets me though is if your Ipad goes in to standby when you’ve paused a video the app doesn’t remember where in the video you were and starts again at the beginning of the lesson.  This is unbelievably annoying as generally you have paused it at a difficult part of the make – to have to mess around to find your exact place totally breaks your flow.  I really think this is an area they need to work on so they can take their instruction to the next level.

Understanding your machine and threading

In the opening lesson Amy has three machines, an entry level Brother, a mid-range Janome (this is the one I have!) and a Bernina:

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She goes through all the features on every machine and you tick it off when you find that item or control on your machine and she demonstrates a lot of the settings on all three models.  This is an excellent way to start as it means you can eyeball and touch each feature meaning you have a reference for all the future lessons no matter what machine you are working on; clever idea.  I actually wish I had bought the course earlier so I could have watched this lesson before I even went on my exploratory shopping trip to work out what I wanted from a machine so I would be able to see what you get in each price bracket.  This lesson also features threading in lots of detail.  There are a few things I am not happy about with this generally excellent course, and this is the first one: she demonstrates the rest of the course on the top of the range Bernina.  How many people who have never used a serger before would go out and buy a top of the range model?  The tuition would have been more effective if she had used at least the mid-range one, or chopped and changed between the three.   There are several minutes devoted to using the automatic needle threader on the Bernina – surely such a machine specific feature doesn’t need this level of detail?   The instruction remains good but it would be better to have seen all three models.

Basic stitches

The course teaches you about all the different types of stitches and how the stitches are formed which is great.  It is coupled with very detailed information on the tension settings for each stitch type in the course materials i.e. it says whether the tensions settings are going to be medium, high etc.  She also helps with diagnosing tension issues.  The class goes through loads of stitch types: overlock, flatlock, rolled hem, narrow seam, wrapped overlock on four, three and two thread serging.

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The class has you trial each stitch type and create a ‘stitch book’ so you keep a sample of the stitch and write down all the settings for later reference:

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What an excellent resource to keep and refer to for the rest of my crafting life.  The template could have a few more boxes to record details like fabric type, blade up or down, layers of fabric, stitch finger engaged or not.  I have scribbled these on but they would have been nice to be included as they are discussed on the course.  Here comes probably my biggest criticism of the whole course – she doesn’t tell you what each stitch type is for.  I was so wrapped up in my lovely learning journey that I didn’t even notice at the time!  This is a pretty major flaw – after completing this lesson, I was about to begin sewing a knit dress up (Tiramisu anyone?!) and as I was setting up I suddenly thought – which stitch do I use for this?!  I know working through the projects in the later lessons uses a lot of the stitches but you need a ‘typical use’ or the advantages and disadvantages of the different stitches.

The projects

One really lovely thing about Craftsy courses is they teach you a technique, then you do a real life project to test that out.  The projects for this course are a zippered bag:

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ruffle apron: (in background)

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striped knit scarf: (on model far left – there was no close up of this – real shame)

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I have to say at this point that although I have watched these lessons I have only completed the bag project – I just don’t like the other projects, sorry!  I would never wear a ruffled apron and the scarf isn’t my style.  This doesn’t mean I will never complete the latter projects, just at the moment I don’t want to spend a considerable amount of time creating something I won’t enjoy too much.  I like that these projects are completed wholly on the serger, no reference to a normal sewing machine at all.   Across the projects you use nearly all the stitches she has shown you which is a really practical way of practicing them; although as I have already explained I would have preferred more clarity than this.  There is a real reliability on the paper course materials without too much exemplification for the ‘away from the serger’ bits.  The fact it doesn’t even properly show you what you are going to make on the video in the case of the apron and the scarf is pretty disappointing and might be why I don’t feel inspired to make them.

In summary

A lovely course which I would recommend for those who have just bought a serger, or even if you are thinking of buying one.  You come away with a stitch book which will be a constant reference companion and up to three projects cleverly constructed entirely on your new machine.  There are some flaws which don’t detract from the learning value but do stop this from being an outstanding course.  The bugs in the platform remain for ipad users and do need sorting out but I do love Craftsy, so won’t be put off.

Over to you:

  • Was this review useful to you?
  • Have you taken this course?  What did you think?
  • Is there anything you’d like to know that I’ve left out?

I’d love to hear from you – do leave a comment!