Tag Archives: sewing

A Bag – for Buttons!

A few years back I remember picking up a plain calico bag that was in the sale at Hobbycraft.  They usually have bins with sale items near the tills and I succumbed!  It’s been in its packet at the bottom of my basket ever since though as I couldn’t decide what to do with it.

Well, last week I decided to have a go at making some rhubarb and date chutney as we have rhubarb in the garden that needed using up.  (The recipe didn’t say how many jars it would make and I ended up with 8 altogether which is about 6 more than I was expecting – fingers crossed it tastes good!)  Anyway, I knew that I’d be using quite a few red onions, and I also remembered from my afternoon with the lovely Annie on Skye last year, that you can use onion skins for dyeing wool and fabric.  So, with that in mind I made sure I kept all my onion skins to one side after my chutney making marathon.

I found some really helpful instructions on line, followed them to the letter, and was really pleased with the results.  It’s a very simple process and I’m keen to experiment with other natural dyes too now.

Basically, you pop your skins into a large cooking pot (stainless steel or enamel but NOT aluminium), cover them with water, bring to the boil and let them simmer for about an hour.

 

 

 

While the skins are working their magic, pop your bag in the sink in some hot water to soak.

 

 

Once the hour is up, remove the onion skins, take your bag out of the sink and squeeze as much of the water out of it as possible before placing it carefully into the dyebath.

 

 

Use a wooden spoon to make sure all of the bag is submerged in the dye.

 

 

Heat the dye gently for about an hour again and keep moving the bag to ensure all of the fabric gets covered.  After an hour turn off the heat and let the fabric cool.  Once cool you can remove the fabric, but you can also leave it for longer (and even overnight) if you’d like to achieve a slightly darker colour.

 

When you do take your bag out of the dye you’ll need to rinse it in cold water until the water runs clear.  You can then hang it out to dry or pop it over the radiator.

 

I was actually rather pleased with the final colour of the bag (which is closer to the photo above than those below), but still wanted to jazz it up a bit.  In the end I decided to sew on some buttons (I’m sure my button tin is magic – no matter how many I use the tin always seems to be full!)  I selected lots of small buttons and set to work.

I wrote my slogan – Bee Kind – on some translucent baking parchment so that I could position it on the bag to see what it would look like.  I then wrote the words directly onto the bag using a washable pen.  These are great dressmaking tools – you can write on fabric but the writing will disappear as soon as you wash it – very handy indeed!

It was then simply a matter of picking out buttons at random and sewing them on to form the letters.  This took quite a bit of time, and was a little fiddly as I had to keep making sure the bag handles didn’t get in the way, so I did it whilst watching a few episodes of A House Through Time which I can highly recommend!

I’ll definitely be experimenting with more natural dyes and might try a t-shirt next maybe.  In the meantime, I have a lovely colourful bag to add to my collection!

 

 

Clasp Purse

Well, I’ve been wanting to have a go at making a clasp purse for a while now, so was delighted when I discovered two clasps at the bottom of a basket that I’d totally forgotten about!  I thought it would be sensible to start with the smaller of the two first and see how I got on.

 

 

First of all I chose fabric for the outside and the lining of my purse, and I also needed interfacing too as the cotton was quite thin.

 

 

 

To make the pattern, I drew around the top of the clasp and then sketched out the shape for the rest of the purse.  I did this on a bit of greaseproof paper so I was able to fold it in half to make sure that both sides of the purse pattern were symmetrical.

 

Once I was happy with the shape, and I’d marked on where the hinges were, I added a seam allowance of 1cm all the way around.

Now I was ready to cut out 2 pieces of outer fabric, two of the lining and 2 of the interfacing.

 

The interfacing I had was fusible, so I ironed one piece onto the wrong side of the two floral outer fabric pieces.   I then placed these two outer pieces (now complete with interfacing attached) right sides together, and placed the clasp in position so that I could use a couple of pins to mark whereabouts the hinges came.  I did the same thing with the two lining pieces as well.

 

I was now ready to sew the bottom half of the purse between the pins on both the outer and the lining pieces, then trim off the excess fabric.

 

 

The next step was to turn the lining inside out and insert it inside the purse so that the right side of the lining was facing the right side of the purse.  Then I pinned both layers of fabric in place before sewing them together (making sure to leave a small gap to allow me to turn the whole purse inside out!)

Then I carefully hand sewed the gap (where the pins are in the final photo above).

 

Now that the purse itself was complete, it was time to attach the clasp!

I folded the purse in half to allow me to find the centre top, then counted the holes in the clasp to find the centre hole, and married up the two so the clasp would be symmetrical.

 

Attaching the clasp was definitely the trickiest part, and it took me a few goes to get the hang of it.  Basically you’re working a back stitch through the holes whilst trying to make sure that your stitches don’t show on the inside of the purse (the idea being that they should be hidden under the back of the clasp but this is easier said than done!)

I’m definitely not 100% happy with the final result, but it’s functional for now and I’m going to have another go at the stitching when I have a bit more time.  I’ve really enjoyed having a go though and am looking forward to making the large purse next.  I think I’ll experiment with the shape of the next purse too!

 

Bee Happy!

At last year’s Yarndale festival in Skipton I was lucky enough to attend a workshop run by the amazingly talented Jaki Bogg, learning how to make what she referred to as ‘rip and stitch’ brooches.  I’d seen quite a few of these kinds of brooch on Pinterest and was keen to have a go myself – you’ve probably seen them – they tend to feature little sayings or quotes on them and feature a lovely decorative kilt pin.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my brooch finished during the workshop, but brought everything home to finish off at my leisure.  I’ve come across the bits on several occasions over the last few months and I every time I saw them I thought, ‘I really must finished that brooch off’ but somehow never quite got round to it!

 

This is what I brought home with me – the basis of the brooch, along with a small selection of old cotton fabric, a button and some bits of embroidery thread.

 

 

 

When I spread everything out on the table, I remembered that I wasn’t entirely happy with what I’d done so far which is possibly why it’s lain in my basket for so long!  Basically, the brooch consists of a firm-ish piece of wadding cut to whatever shape and size you fancy and then covered in fabric.  I’d attached my fabric using a series of running stitches but I hadn’t stretched it out carefully enough and the bottom section of my brooch wouldn’t lie flat.   To rectify this I simply unpicked the stitches along the bottom and made a better job of spreading out the fabric this time before I sewed another row of running stitches to hold it in place.

During the workshop I’d attached 2 small pieces of ripped cotton on the top section of the brooch using a small running stitch interspersed with cross stitch, and I’d sewn on a button.   Now it was just a case of deciding what to put on next!

I experimented with some ribbon from my stash but decided that the neat edges didn’t really go with the ripped, more rustic style of the brooch (when you rip rather than cut fabric, you get a lovely rough edge). Instead I decided on a piece of rather lovely tie dyed effect fabric which I ripped into a narrow rectangle.  I pinned this in place and popped one of my remaining bee charms on to see what that would look like.

While I was making up my mind about the bee, I decided to stitch my wording onto the brooch and it didn’t take me long to decide on ‘Bee happy’!  Using small stitches, I back-stitched the letters through all the layers of the brooch so that the bottom half of the tie dyed fabric was secured in place too.  I then tried placing the bee charm at the top and a button at the bottom to see what that would look like, and was suitably pleased with the result.

Once I’d sewn both the charm and the button in place, the tie dye fabric was nice and secure without the need for any additional stitches which was great.

At this point, the front was all finished, so it was now a case of fixing the kilt pin in place before tidying up the back.

I wrapped a piece of plain cotton over the hook side of the pin, then sewed a row of small back stitches all the way along as close to the pin as possible.  Once I’d secured the fabric to the pin, I could place it on the back of the brooch, right at the top and pin it in place.

The final step was to back the brooch to hide all the loose ends of thread and to secure the pin in position.  I placed the largest piece of cotton under the brooch and cut all the way around leaving a good sized hem allowance of about 2cms.  I then folded the hem over, and held it in place as I worked my way around attaching the backing to the brooch with a series of tiny stitches.

And there you have it – one ‘Bee happy’ brooch to brighten up a coat or a bag maybe, or even to hang on the wall as a little mini pendant – the choice is yours!

 

 

 

All Washed Up!

One of my favourite projects to date has definitely been the apron that I made from a tea towel, so I thought I’d have a go at upcycling another one in the drawer too (they actually came together in a set from Morrisons)

I’ve made a few projects for the living room recently – bunting for the fireplace, Coco’s basket that sits in the corner by the rocking chair, plus my 2 latest cushions, so I thought I’d continue the theme by turning the tea towel into a simple mini throw with a crocheted edging for the sofa.

 

There were 2 parts to the edging – a blanket stitch worked in embroidery thread, followed by a row of crochet stitches to make the decorative edge.

Using a water erasable pen, I marked tiny dots every 2cms along the hem of the tea towel to show me where I would need to make my stitches.

 

The next part was choosing what colour to make the edging.  I needed embroidery thread and cotton, so I laid all the possible suspects out on the tea towel to help me make my choice.  In the end I plumped for a deep purple.

 

 

Using the embroidery thread, I worked a blanket stitch all the way around all four sides of the tea towel using the dots as a guide.  This gave me a nice loop along the edges into which I could work the crochet stitches.

 

 

Using a 4ply cotton and a 3mm hook, I worked 1 double crochet, 1 half treble, 2 trebles, 1 half treble and 1 double crochet into each loop produced by the blanket stitch.  When I got to the corner, I worked 1 double crochet, 1 half treble, 6 trebles, 1 half treble and 1 double crochet to ensure there were enough stitches to go around both sides of the corner and lie flat.

 

A gentle hand wash got rid of the dots, and then it was simply a case of sewing in the loose ends and deciding which chair to put it on!

 

9 into 1 – with no remainder!

Hidden in my Liberty stash was this rather lovely 9 patch cushion kit by Alice Caroline.  There are some absolutely stunning kits and other bits and pieces on her website (I particularly love the Tree of Life quilt) so it’s definitely worth taking a look – I defy you not to be tempted!

Now I haven’t actually done much patchwork before, and what I have done was a good few years ago.  However I bought some new cushions for the front room at Christmas and was keen to add to my burgeoning collection!  The kit comes with full instructions and everything you need apart from sewing cotton and the cushion pad itself which I bought for £4 from Dunelm.  The fabric is all beautiful Liberty designs and already cut to the right size.

Obviously if you want to use material you already have, you can make your squares any size you like, so long as they’re all identical, and that’s really important if you want nice straight edges and seams that match up.  The best way to cut them to size is using a rotary cutter and a quilting board and ruler.

The 9 patch design is probably one of the easiest patchwork patterns to start with, and this cushion features a basic envelope style back too, so there’s no zip involved either, making it an ideal project for a beginner.

As always, the fun comes in experimenting with fabric choices and deciding where you’re going to put the various pieces.  I had a good play about before deciding on the final layout for the 9 pieces.  Once you’ve made your mind up, it’s simply a case of sewing the top left square to the top middle square (right sides together), then sewing the top right square to the strip of 2 squares you’ve created (using 1/4 inch seams throughout) You repeat this with the middle and bottom rows so that you end up with 3 strips of fabric.  You can then iron the seams open.

Guess what?  Next you sew the 3 strips together so that you end up with one large square – easy eh?!  The trick however is making sure that all your seams line up.  I had to undo one of mine as the seams were out (you can see what I mean in the photo below).

Once you’re happy with the seams, you can iron them all open and you’re ready to tackle the back of the cushion.  The envelope opening is beautifully simple.  You need 2 rectangular pieces of fabric that will overlap by a good few inches allowing you to slide your cushion pad in and cover it up again.  You’ll need to hem one of the long edges on one of the rectangles, then do the same on the other (photo below left).

To complete the cushion, place one of the back pieces on to the front of the cushion (right sides together) then place the other back piece so that it lines up with the side of the cushion front and overlaps the other back piece (photo above right).  Pin or tack the back pieces to the front, then seam all the way around (again with a quarter inch seam).

In order to make the corners nice and sharp, trim them quite close to the seam, turn the cushion the right way round, then using a knife gently push the corners out.

 

In the photo on the right I’ve popped my needle case in the opening that overlapping the 2 back pieces creates so that you can see how you’ll be able to slide your cushion pad in.

 

 

All it needs now is a cushion pad inside, a little fluffing up and it’s ready for inspection by Coco!