Monday, 6 March 2017

Ladybird, Ladybird

My bathroom is full of ladybirds.

They’re coming in through the window frame. Which probably means that it needs filling somewhere or worse, replacing.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. The ladybirds being in the bathroom that is, not the window frame. The whole bathroom needs some serious TLC to be honest.

I quite like Ladybirds. They’re probably the only insects that don’t make me drop everything and run the other way. Known as the gardener’s friend, these unassuming little bugs eat the nasty creepy crawlies that eat your best plants.

So as a nod to the Ladybirds, and a quick-fix to brighten up a room in need of some makeover inspiration, I decided to make some curtain tie-backs. Using some Ladybird buttons that I’ve had in my stash forever, and the legs from some old jeans.

(1) First step, chop up the jeans.

Well, actually, the first step is to decide how long you want the tie-backs. I wanted mine to be around 7 inches (17cm) from hook on the wall to the front edge of the curtain. Just don’t forget that the tie-back goes around the back to! So when you cut the leg, make sure that you double the length. I cut a length of 16 inches (40cm) that also allowed for a seam allowance.

Next I chopped away the seams. 

So I was left with two pieces of denim. 

The width of the tie-backs is down to personal preference. Having folded my leg pieces in half, They were around 3 inches (7cm) which was OK for me. You might decide to go a bit thinner.

When you have your folded over denim – square it up and make sure both are the same size. 

(2) Interfacing

You going to want the tie-backs to have a bit of body. For that, you will need some interfacing. The Iron-on fusible type is best. It’s available wherever they sell fabric. Ask the shop assistant to help you find it. Medium weight is good enough.

Iron it on to ONE side of each folded over leg. We want body. We don’t want rigid! When you iron, make sure the bobbly side of the interfacing is facing down towards the fabric. If the bobbly side is up, you’ll stick it to your iron. 

(3) Stitching it

OK, this is where folding the leg parts over starts to make sense. It reduces the amount of sewing. With one side, already done, you only have to sew two seams. With right sides together, stitch one end seam and the base. Leave the other end open. 

You’ve made a long, thin bag. Turn it the fight side out. Now you can stitch the other end closed using a top stitch close to the edge. Don’t worry about how it looks, we’re going to be covering it up. Or you could top stitch all the way around and make a feature of it.

(4) Trim

Find a trim you like. Ribbon, Ric-rak, beading. Whatever. Head down to the fabric or craft shop and see the choices on offer. I had some edging already. It’s been in my stash for years. That’s the thing when you start sewing. Over time, you accumulate all sorts of bits and bobs. Most of it will stay unused for ages until the right project pops into mind. 

Anyway, using your trim, decorate your tie-backs, making sure both are identical. I used glue to attach mine. Make sure that you make a loop with the trim at each end. 

(5) Flowers

To make flowers, you will need a length of fabric about 1.5 inches wide by 10 inches long, depending on how big you want your flower. Smaller lengths will give smaller flowers. Grab a needle and some thread and stitch a running stitch along one of the longer edges. 

Make sure you secure the start of the running stitch. Then just push the needle in and out of the fabric all the way along. Make sure your stitches are even in size and spacing. Then when you get to the other end, pull on the thread. 

It will gather up the fabric into a flower shape. Secure the flower. Then, if you want to, find a novelty button to stitch in the middle. You could even cover some buttons with fabric. Make as many as you want.

Glue or stitch your flower to the tie-back and your done.


Bye for now


Monday, 23 January 2017

Ironing Board Revamp

 Hi there,

I recently picked up a second hand ironing board at a local yard sale. It wasn't much to look at but the frame was nice and sturdy so I gave it a new home.

Judging by the condition of the cover, this board has seen some serious ironing use. The cover is wafer-thin, the padding is non existent. So much so that when you iron on it, the metal frame is imprinted on your clothes. It's also a bit grubby with a hole or two here and there. It could do with a bit of a make-over.

Which is why I spent a couple of hours over the weekend making a new cover for it. To be honest, ironing board covers aren't difficult. I spent most of the time deciding what fabric to cover it with.

Pretty much any fabric will do as long as it's hard-wearing and heat-tolerant. Cotton is ideal. Denims are brilliant. This could be a great way to up-cycle the legs from old jeans - as long as you don't use the frayed or ripped parts. Or the seams. You don't want anything torn or bumpy on your board. It'll just keep catching on your iron leaving you with more creases.

Stay away from sheer fabrics, polyester or nylon.

Oh, and pre-wash whatever you use to make sure it's colour-fast. The last thing you need is your best baby blue shirt going a bit pink when you use the steam setting on your iron!

Anyway, I picked out some fabric remnants that have been in my stash for years. I didn't have enough to do the whole board in one piece, so I chose some fabric that I could stitch together in a kind of patchwork effect. Me being me, and usually in a hurry, I kept the pieces large, but you can really go to town with the design if you want.

Log Cabin, big chevrons, stripes... It's up to you.

Whatever you decide is right for your board is what you should go with. It's your board.

Lay your intended pieces on top of your board. Play with the layout until you like what you see. Make sure that your fabric can over-hang your board all the way around. You'll need at least an extra 4 inches. That's 10cms in metric. Don't worry too much if there is more than that. You can always trim it down later.

I used an overlocking stitch to join my pieces together. I wanted to make sure that the fabric seams don't fray. Loose threads bunching up underneath the cover, will cause ridges.

Don't have a serger or an overlocker? Use the overlocking stitch on your sewing machine. It looks a bit like triangles inside a box.

No overlocking stitch? zig zag stitch will work just fine. Failing that, 2 parallel rows of straight stitch and maybe some anti-fray spray will also do the job.

When all your seams are done. Make sure to press them all flat. The general rule of thumb here is that seams should be pressed towards the darker fabrics. The reason being, that they are less visible that way. It doesn't really matter though. The main priority is to make sure that they are flat. You really don't want ridges in your cover. 

The best way to measure a perfect fit is to put your fabric face-down on the floor. Turn your board upside down and pop it on the top of the fabric, making sure that it is central. Then, draw a line with a pen or tailor's chalk at least four inches away from your board all the way around.

My fabric was only about 3 inches bigger, but that's OK, it'll still work.

I did the same with the batting, or wadding. I've used two layers to give extra padding. The cut for the padding is smaller. The overhang only needs to be an inch. Or 2.5cm. Again, overlock or zig zag around the edges to stop fraying.

Next, I made a channel all the way around the cover. The channel is for the cord that is needed to pull the cover tight.

To do this turn over an inch (2.5cm) at the edge of the fabric to the wrong side and press.

Stitch it down using a normal straight stitch all the way around. Keep as close to the edge of the turned over fabric as you can. On top of your previous overlocking is great.

Leave an opening of about an inch an a half at the base of the board. That's the widest end.  You don't want the ties at the narrow end. They'll catch on the clothes and get in the way when you iron. You'll be forever tucking them back in to the channel.

For the next bit, you'll need some piping cord or some elastic. That's personal preference. I didn't have any elastic so I used cord. The cord needs to be the same size as the perimeter of your board plus a bit extra. This is the math part. Measure the length of the board top. Double this figure. Measure the width (at the widest part). Double it. Then add both together and then add another 6 inches to be safe.

To get the cord or elastic through the channel, you will need a safety pin. Attach the pin to one end of the cord so it won't come undone and then thread the pin through the channel. This bit will take a few minutes. Keep pulling the cord through until you get back to the opening on the cover. You should now have two lengths of cord sticking out of the end. The longer the sticking out cord, the easier it is to pull. So try and end up with between 3 - 6 inches on each side.

OK, now for the fun part. Put the batting on the board, center it. Put the cover over the top and center that to. Now grab both ends of the cord sticking out at the wide end and pull.


This part is easier with a friend as they can hold the cover down around the board as you pull.

The cover will magically be pulled tight around the board and the padding. Then you just need to tie off the cord and tuck it inside the opening. Don't close the opening. You may need to re-tighten the cover after it's settled following use.

And it's done!

All refreshed and new. It might even encourage me to iron more often... Well, failing that, it looks a lot nicer hanging up in the cupboard now. :D Besides, after the hard life this board has had, I bet it's looking forward to a bit of rest and relaxation. It'll have an easy life with me.

Some people say that you should remove the old cover before adding the new. As you can see from the pictures, I didn't. You don't have to. I left it on for two reasons. (A) It adds to the padding. (B) I don't need to figure out what else to do with it. Leaving it on the board stops it ending up at a landfill somewhere.

I could probably have centered it a bit better, but all in all it turned out pretty good. No one will see the underneath. Or as my Dad always used to say, "no one will notice going by on a bus".

Bye for now


Friday, 23 January 2015

A Jim Jam Hack

Hi all,

I’ve been getting a bit perplexed with the word “hack” just lately. To me, “hack” means a number of things. To “hack” at something means to chop it unevenly. Going out on a “hack” is when you take a horse ride in the country. Hacking is when someone breaks into a computer and steals or alters information. So, apart from the horse example, “hack” means to make a complete mess of something.  Although, thinking about it, horses get pretty messy on hacks…

Anyway, it seems just in the last few months or so, more and more people are using the word “hack” in relation to crafting and sewing.  I’ve read a few blogs where people have been explaining the steps they took in their “hack” of a pattern. Or describing their hack of a coat. Even cooking is getting in on the act. An article in The Daily Mail today reported on “50 Culinary Hacks to Make You Look a Pro in The Kitchen”. (

Yet, the pictures of the crafts look lovely, the sewing exquisite and the food? Well, I’m not sure cooking cheese with an iron will catch on. Particularly if you forget what you used the iron for when running it over your favourite shirt. But, it’s an interesting idea.   

So what is it with this word, “hack”? Surely, they are not boasting about illegally accessing someone’s computer designs? Then it dawned on me. Like a little light bulb going “ting!"

It’s not chopping or messing or even dodgy activities with a keyboard and mouse. They are describing their “take” on something. Giving the steps needed to re-create their version of a design. Showing that personal touches and little embellishments can be added to shop bought patterns to make a home-made item unique.  I’m still digesting the iron and the cheese scenario. Not really sure it would still be edible. The cheese that is, not the iron. I wouldn’t want to make a hack of my digestive system ;).

OK., so “hack” means to “take”. Now I get it. Well, in that case, this is my take of Simplicity’s It’s so Easy Pattern 2116. And boy, did I make a right hack of it. A total and utter screw-up from start to finish.

It’s been chilly lately. I normally wear a tee-shirt style nightshirt but I wanted some Pyjama bottoms to keep me warm. I didn’t have enough fabric so decided to get a bit creative by using what I had available.  There wasn’t much. I really need to up my stash a bit.

Looks a bit weird but sewn up it becomes a nice colourful pair of jim-jam trousers to keep the cold at bay.

I didn’t have enough fabric to fold it to cut 2 like the instructions said. I cut them out one at a time. There was just enough for two leg parts on the yellow and just one leg piece each on the pink and blue. The pink and blue Stars and Moons has been in my stash for years and I’ve been, e-hem, hacking into it for other projects over time.

This is a nice simple pattern with only 2 pattern pieces for the trousers. That’s just 4 pieces of fabric. Easy peasy. What could possibly go wrong?

I’d sewn both inside legs together before I realised that I should have turned the pattern over after cutting one back and one front piece. Two of the pieces needed to be reversed. As it was I had two identical fronts and two identical backs. That makes two left legs. Or two right legs. No good at all when you need one of each for a pair.

With no extra fabric to play with, I had to do the unthinkable. I had to use the wrong side as the right side so that the centre seam would match up. 

The good news is that the pink and blue fabrics are printed on both sides so it’s not that easy to tell that it’s inside out.  As my Dad always used to say, “it’s one of them things no-one’s going to notice going by on a bus.” He has a point and as I don’t live on a bus route, I think my jim-jams will be OK.

Looking on the bright side, using the wrong side of the fabric has toned down the pink somewhat. Can’t help thinking that it’s a pity the yellow wasn’t printed on both sides though … Still, at least I can say that I have a personal and unique hack of a pattern.

Bye for now 


Monday, 29 September 2014

Scratching a Stitching Itch

Hi all

I finally managed to get some stitching done this year. Not on any of my unfinished projects. They are all still packed in boxes in a storage unit. I really need to stop moving!

To cure a severe stitching itch, I started on some new projects. An eclectic mix of different sewing techniques guaranteed to make a restless stitcher happy.

First up is a bag made from an old pair of jeans bought from a charity shop. 

The belt is made from a fabric scrap and a belt buckle I picked up from Ebay.

The strap is made from the legs of the jeans.

The next project was an applique cushion. I used toy stuffing under the trunk and leaves to give a 3D effect.

My favourite project so far this year has to be this little guy.

My very own Minion. His body is made from yellow polar fleece with denim fabric for his trousers. He has felt hands and feet. His eye is made up from white, brown and black felt pieces. The band around his head is also felt. The lens over his eye is the screw top lid from a preserve jar.  I love the Despicable Me films but have no idea how to tell the Minions apart so I don't know if this is Dave or Kevin. I think I'll just call him Fred.

Bye for now



Monday, 13 January 2014

Books to Read

Hi There,

Sorry for the long absence from this blog. What with moving house a couple of times and having intermittent internet issues I haven't been able to post as often as I would have liked.

Most of my stitching projects are still packed away following our latest move so I've been doing a lot of reading. Well, maybe I should say doing a lot of looking through books. Pattern books mostly, getting inspiration for future projects or just to drool over the beautiful stitch work that is out there at the moment.

I came across the Elm Creek Quilts series of books by accident. Always on the lookout for new authors to try, I picked out "The Runaway Quilt" on an impulse.

Written by Jennifer Chiaverini, this fictional series shows quilts through different periods in history. "The Runaway Quilt" is set just before the American Civil War and demonstrates the possibility of how quilts could have been used as signals on the Underground Railroad. I thought it was brilliant. A well written, bitter-sweet tale of friendship and betrayal all wrapped up in some cozy quilts.

If you love quilting then you will love this series of books. Even if you don't know a Log Cabin block from a Bear's Paw, you will enjoy the series.

Bye for Now


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Overcoming Phobias

I've never really relished the idea of making buttonholes.  I think it's a phobia dating back to school sewing lessons.

I can remember the sewing machines we had at school. They were mainly Husqvarna and Benina and all of them basic models. They had straight stitch, could go forwards or backwards and could zig zag but that was about it.

Although you could select a buttonhole stitch, you had to stitch it manually. This entailed measuring the button with a ruler and then judging both length and width by keeping the button sitting to the side of the foot. Then you had to remember to change the setting on the machine for step 1, 2, 3 or 4 depending on what side of the buttonhole you were on. I always found it a bit hit and miss. Well, more miss really.

Anyway, since those early days of sewing, I have avoided buttonholes with a passion. The mere thought of a buttonhole would make me quake.  My current Janome is nearly ten years old and in all that time, I have never even as much as looked at the buttonhole foot. It's been stowed away in the little cardboard accessory box that came with the machine. That is - until yesterday.

I woke up yesterday with an urge to sew a project. You know how it is. There is an overwhelming, intense, yearning to stitch. A burning desire to use up some stash and create something useful with it.

I decided to set myself a challenge. My stash box was overflowing and was in some serious need of clearing out. So, the challenge was to only to use items that I already had. Going out to buy more wasn't an option.

I've had this pink fabric for years and I was delighted to find out that there was just enough to make a single duvet cover and pillowcase. Cool. Unfortunately, I didn't have any popper tape or press studs. Not so cool.  It meant that I would either need to leave the opening free from any form or fasteners or... can you sense my panic - use buttons.

OK, after three deep breaths, a cup of tea, a comforting chocolate biscuit and a bit of a sit down, I went looking for the buttonhole foot.

Not that it's that easy to miss. It's the longest foot I've got.

I was a little stumped at this point as I hadn't a clue what to do with it, besides popping it on the machine that is.

Manuals are funny things aren't they? When you don't need them you can put your hand right on them.  As soon as you need to look something up they are nowhere to be found.  It's as though they have sprouted legs and started playing hide and seek.  I spent nearly 2 hours searching through boxes looking for it.  I gave up in the end and watched some videos on youtube.

Load the button into the space at the back end of the buttonhole foot.

Pop the front end of the foot on the machine.

Lower the little bar thingy from behind the presser foot

So far so good. 

Set the machine on button holing... now the scary bit. Push down on the pedal. Eek!

Oh wow - it just does it!  The little bar thingy measures the button and the machine automatically sews each side of the buttonhole. It even auto stops and gives a cute little "ping" when it's done. It's a bit like the "ping" my car gives me when I try to open the driver's door with my lights on. 

Why have I not tried buttonholes before? Why didn't anyone tell me buttonholes could be so simple?  

I did still have a bit of a technical hiccup though.  My bobbin ran out of thread halfway through a buttonhole which was a bit annoying.  

Now, if I could just have a little "ping" to let me know when the bobbin thread is due to run out - I'd be tickled as pink as the duvet cover. 

Bye for now


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Craftways Signs of Spring Kit Review

Hi there,

This kit is by Craftways and is called Signs of Spring.  The kit comes with everything you need to complete it including the 4" coasters.

Each flower design is worked in counted cross-stitch onto a piece of  14 count aida measuring 4" x 4".  It's a nice easy kit to work, and stitches up quickly with one square on the chart being equal to one square on the fabric.

The instructions are clear and the chart is printed slightly larger than the finished stitching. This makes it easy to see the difference between the symbols leading to greater accuracy in stitching.  The different shades of blues, greens and purples within the kit are also easy to tell apart.

The coasters themselves are made of a durable plastic and are large enough to fit the base of most standard sized mugs.

I loved working on these coasters.  They are quick, simple and the finished results are both functional and pleasing.

My only slight negative is that, although finding the centre of the aida is straightforward, the chart doesn't show which is the middle square on each design. This means that finding the starting square on the chart to match the centre of the fabric takes a bit of working out.

Having said that though, it's a lovely set and ideal to complete as a gift for someone, or even just to add a personal touch to your own home.

Bye for now