one year ago today …

… I began my adventures in blogland with a very nervous first post from my sewing room.

To tell you the truth, I was not at all convinced that anyone would be the slightest bit interested in my ‘wee bits o’ nonsense’ (aka sewing projects).  But I was amazed how quickly I was made to feel welcome in the blogging community with lovely comments and words of encouragement.  Bloglanders are such a friendly bunch :)

Looking back over my blog I realize that I have created a colourful little journal of my life in stitches!  I didn’t think about that aspect of blogging when I started out, so it’s an unexpected and happy bonus!

Hexy flower side view

One year on and I would like to thank you all for reading my words, looking at my pictures, checking out my tutorials and for all your wonderful encouragement and amazingly generous comments! I can’t tell you how much you brighten my day by taking time out of your busy lives to share your thoughts with me!  It is particularly heart warming when someone tells me that they have been inspired by something they have seen on my blog! And I have to pinch myself when I see a Sewing Room Secrets project on Pinterest!  That still freaks me out every time! (in a good way!!)

I have picked out 12 of my favourite makes and posts from the past 12 months and hope you will humour me as I take a little trip down memory lane…

Little hexie needle caddy

Little hexie needle caddyIt’s a giveaway!

Shabby chic cosmetic pouch

A treasury of applique

sewing-room-secrets-sewing-caddy11

Hexagons for Harriet

Harriet before applique

‘Lola’

Lola8

Zakka Style

fabric boxes11

Zakka inspired gift set

red-set-with-flower1

‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Morning star 20

How to make a Suffolk Puff

image

Time to just be me

My glasses case

Catching up …

Crafty Creatures

On white

Chocolate Tiffin Recipe

tiffin5

Thank you for your company this past year … having you along for the journey has really been a blessing 

●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●●

*Edited: I will be taking a step back from blogging for a while, as I will not be able to devote as much time to it in the coming months, due to other demands in my life right now. I will still be ‘around’, working on my Love Entwined quilt and drafting several new patterns for my Etsy shop, but unfortunately blogging will have to take a back seat for now.  I will try to pop back from time to time with updates when I can, but for now I bid you all a fond farewell and happy stitching!  Love & hugs, Natalie xx

 

happiness is …

…a pot of tea, an open fire and some quiet stitching on a Sunday afternoon

LE centre4

I’m working on a new appliqué quilt called ‘Love Entwined’.  It is an historic appliqué quilt dating back to 1790, which has been interpreted and re-created by Esther Aliu (you can read more about it here). Esther is generously offering this magnificent quilt as a free BOM over on her blog, if you care to join in :)   Just hit the button in the sidebar and it will take you straight to Esther’s blog.

Original LE Black & White

Not much is known about the original, other than it is from the Georgian Era, England, heavily appliquéd and is described as a ‘fine marriage coverlet’.  It will be a real labour of love and will probably take me in the region of two years to complete!!

LE centre2

LE centre3

It took me ages to get started … partly because I discovered it just before Christmas when I had a million and one other things to do, but mostly because I was nervous about the huge undertaking that this quilt represents.

I mean this is BIG! Not just in size (96″ x 96″), but also in the challenges that it poses.  It is an intense appliqué project and I have never attempted anything quite on this scale before. Yikes!

The first challenge was choosing the fabrics.  This is the part that, for me, takes forever as I keep changing my mind!  Laying out some fabrics on my work table helped a lot :)

LE fabrics3

The second challenge was the Mariner’s compass block as I have never done one before. It took a couple of attempts, but I got there in the end …

LE embroidered dots

The appliqué pieces on this quilt are an awful lot smaller than they look, but I have been getting around it with a few carefully placed embroidery stitches ;)   

Now that I have finished the centre circle, I think I am over the worst.  Yeah right, who am I kidding?

flower

applique flower2

… one solitary little embroidered flower added, only nine more to go!

What new challenges have you set yourself for the New Year?

Happy stitching!

Natalie x

in my element

I was in my element this afternoon.

The boys were out and I was ‘home alone’ … there was the mother of all storms blowing a gale outside, but did I care? Not one jot! Cos the central heating was turned up high and Bing Crosby & David Bowie were singing ‘Little Drummer Boy’ at full pelt, whilst I got to play with glue and glitter and wolf down a few home-made Christmas cookies! Did I mention the Drambuie? Well, that too.

Christmas cookies

The reason for all the glitter (and there was a LOT of glitter!) is this …

Teddy1

… a little bit of last minute present making in the form of a glittery, heart-shaped gift box to house a teeny, tiny teddy that I knitted for my God-daughter’s doll’s house.

Teddy2

I glued a wee suffolk puff to the lid as a finishing touch

Teddy3

Gift box2

Gift box1On the subject of gift-giving, I baked a whole heap of stuff this week and enjoyed giving lots of home-made edible gifts to friends and family

Christmas baking

Mince pie gift

Jars

Of course, I made sure to bake a little extra for us too :)

mince pies

The girls at work got the little Zakka style gifts I made for them and I wished them all a Happy Christmas. I am now officially on holiday for nearly two weeks! Yay! I am sooo ready for a break!

Gift1

Aqua set

Aqua cookie jar

Green set3

Green cookie jar

Rather than wrap the presents, I made some little gingham bows from ribbon, stitching them to brown paper bags and then I put the gifts inside.

Gift bags in a row

Gift bag ho, ho, ho

… and with the decorations up and the presents all wrapped, it really is starting to feel a lot like Christmas around here :)

Tree decs

Presents

Fairy

Christmas pics 097The little felt Santa in the photo is another present for my God-daughter. His tummy is a cut out circle and the hole is covered over with some see-through netting, so that you can see all the chocolate coins he has gobbled up!  There is an opening at the back of his neck to provide access to the chocolate and for refilling him.

So, as Christmas Day approaches, I will be signing off for a few days, but before I go I want to leave you with the recipe for my little Christmas cookies, which I call ‘Festival Pennies

Ingredients

  • 130g (4.5 oz) chopped hazlenuts
  • 250g (9 oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau
  • 55g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • 55g (2 oz) cornflour
  • 300g (10 oz) plain flour
  • Zest of an orange, finely grated
  • Few drops of orange essence
  • Icing sugar

Method

  1. Lightly grease a baking tray and preheat the oven to 180ْC (fan) / 200ْC / 350ْF / Gas mark 6
  2. Cream the butter and sugar
  3. Beat in the egg yolk, Cointreau and orange essence
  4. Stir in the orange zest and the hazlenuts
  5. Sift the flour and cornflour over the mixture and mix with a wooden spoon to a firm dough
  6. Break off small pieces and shape into a ball, then flatten slightly into round ‘pennies’
  7. Cook in the centre of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes (do not brown)
  8. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes
  9. While still warm (but not hot), roll the cookies in icing sugar and coat generously. I often roll them in the icing sugar a couple of times to give them a good coating. Sift extra icing sugar over the top.

If you don’t have Cointreau or orange essence, you can substitute for brandy and vanilla essence and omit the orange zest. Sometimes, I will also add powdered vanilla pods to the icing sugar to make them a little extra special!

Now all that remains is for me to wish you and your loved ones the happiest of Christmas times.  Thank you all so much for your visits here, for all your lovely comments and support over this past year and to all who have bought my patterns.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to each and every one of you!   Natalie x

Snowman

an early christmas present … or two!

There are some new additions to my sewing room thanks to a couple of early Christmas presents …

ribbon holder1

My ever resourceful Dad made the wonderful ribbon holder for me, which I absolutely love! (that goes for the ribbon holder and my Dad by the way :) ).

I was going to wait until I had painted it before I showed you, but I just couldn’t wait! Isn’t it fab?

ribbon holder2

And my lovely Mum (who knows me only too well) gave me this fun little plaque for my wall

sewing forever wall plaque

* feeling blessed*

Who needs Santa? :D x

santa basket

Santa basket pics 032

This little guy has been a regular in our house for the last couple of Christmases. He’s a great little chap for holding all the Christmas chocolates and usually raises a few smiles.

Santa basket pics 011

He’s really easy to make, all you need is:

  • a shallow wicker basket
  • a polystyrene ball
  • a hot glue gun
  • some scraps of fabric and felt
  • polyester stuffing
  • craft goggle eyes, a button, ribbon and a small bell

… and this is how I made him

1. Cut a strip of fabric long enough to go around the rim of the basket and wide enough to cover the sides and extend around the base.  The basket I used had a diameter of 7¼” and a depth of 2¾” which meant I needed a strip of about 24″ x 5″ to include 1/2″ seam allowances.  Sorry I can’t give exact measurements here, as it will all depend on how big your basket is, but what I would say is make it a little bigger than you think you need, as you can always trim it down.

2. Sew a 1/2″ hem along the long sides. Next, with right sides facing, stitch the short sides together to form a fabric ring. Place the basket inside the fabric ring with the wrong side of the fabric facing the outside of the basket. Use a hot glue gun to glue the fabric all the way around the rim of the basket, like a skirt. (Be careful, that glue can be mighty hot!). Allow the glue to set.

3. Turn the basket upside down and place a little polyester stuffing between the fabric and the basket to pad out the sides before gathering up the underside with a running stitch (I used quilting thread for strength), pulling it tight like this. Fasten off securely.

Santa basket pics 018

4. Glue a length of black ribbon around the rim to act as a belt and added a button to the front.

basket

5. Cut another strip of fabric long enough to reach just over half way around the rim, to act as the arms.  The rim of my basket is approximately 23″, so I cut a strip about 12″ x 4.5″, but again you will need to judge the size depending on the size of the basket you are using.

6. With right sides together, stitch the long sides of the strip together to form a tube and turn right side out. Stuff lightly with some polyester stuffing to within an inch of each end.

7. Cut some mittens from green felt and insert one into each end of the arm tube and stitch the ends closed securing the mittens in place. Glue a strip of white felt or wadding around each wrist.

Santa basket pics 0148. Wrap some strong thread around the centre of the tube to form two arms and glue the arms in place around the rim of the basket. I placed glue all along the seam line and then glued it to the basket in order to hide the seam :)

Santa basket pics 023

Santa basket pics 017

9. Make the head by covering a polystyrene ball with calico – simply place the ball in the centre of a large square of calico

Santa basket pics 046

10. Gather the fabric around the ball and tie it up with a hair scunci or elastic band.

Santa basket pics 039

11. Trim any excess fabric.

Santa basket pics 042

12. Tease out as many creases as you can to leave a relatively smooth area for the face.

Santa basket pics 045

13. The hat is just a triangle of fabric stitched into a cone shape and placed over the head (hiding the excess fabric and whatever you used to tie it up with!). Try to place the hat such that it hides as many of the creases in the calico as you can, leaving a smooth part showing for the face. Once you are happy with the placement, glue the hat to the head.

14. Decorate the face by gluing on some craft goggle eyes, a nose and add some cosmetic blush (or crayon) on the cheeks.  The nose is just a circle of calico filled with a little bit of polyester stuffing, which is gathered and stitched/glued in place.  You can use anything you like for the beard, from felt to wadding or cotton wool,  or you can make a cotton rag beard like I did.

Santa basket face

15. To make the cotton rag beard, simply cut 2 strips of calico 15″ x 3″, place one on top of the other and fold them in half length-ways. Stitch 1/4″ seam along the folded edge down the full length of the strip. Using small, sharp scissors, make perpendicular cuts about 1/4″ apart all along the raw edge side of the strip, taking care not to snip all the way up to your stitching. To get the lovely raggy look you will need to wash it and stick it in the tumble dryer.

Santa basket pics 033

16. Glue the beard in layers under the nose (there are 3 layers of cotton rag on my Santa).

17. Glue a strip of felt or wadding around the rim of the hat tucking any bits of beard under as you go.

Santa basket pics 012

18. Finally glue the head between the shoulders, add a bell to the hat and a wee bit of glitter here and there.

Ta-da!  You’re done! Put the kettle on – you’ve worked hard, time for a cuppa! :)

Santa basket pics 007

I think a snowman basket would also look great – you could knit him a lovely wee hat and scarf – must try that for next year :) !

Right, I’d better get on with putting up the rest of the Christmas decorations … ♥ ♥ ♥

Natalie x

‘Morning Star’ … a journey of a thousand stitches

Actually, it is likely to be somewhat more than a thousand stitches. I guess it would be several thousand, but as I didn’t count them whilst I was making this wholecloth quilt, I will never know the exact number of times the needle entered the soft peachy cotton fabric.

Morning star 34

I have always been fascinated when I have come across old quilts or coverlets in museums or books. I always find myself craning over the rope barriers in museums to take a closer look, to find out more about the maker.

Morning star 29

My mind sets off wondering how those women managed to create such beautiful, intricate and timeless treasures without the luxury of a fabric store with all its choice of fine cottons, without a ‘daylight’ bulb and without all the notions and mechanical aids of today’s modern world.  How different it was for those women of my past who didn’t have a fabric ‘stash’.  It is nothing short of miraculous how they did it  and I love how their strength and tenacity is preserved in the fibres of those beautiful hand made quilts.

These are some of the things that I pondered as I stitched ‘Morning Star’ and in my own way I felt connected to those women as my hands busied themselves with the rocking motion of the needle. I yearned to create something timeless as they had done, to create my own little piece to enchant the eye with intricate patterns.

Morning star 23

The journey began with a sketch on squared paper, doing my best to draw out a ‘scaled down’ version of the actual thing.

Morning star 24

I knew that if I could come up with a design for just one quarter of the quilt, then I could mirror and flip the pattern to create a whole quilt. I started with a design for the centre star; I practiced drawing feathers and gathered quilting templates from magazines and books.

Morning star 25

I ‘scaled up’ the design to a life size version and I transferred it on to fabric, mirroring and flipping the pattern until the whole top was marked out.

Morning star 28

Morning star 26

Morning star 14

Morning star 30

Morning star 22

Morning star 21

Morning star 18

Morning star 16

I tried out several different thimbles, but the one that I found suited me best was a Clover leather thimble with a metal centre on the pad. By the time I had finished quilting ‘Morning Star’ I had worn a hole right through the metal on two thimbles and was on my third!

Morning star 9

Whilst the thimble protected my finger on top of the quilt, the finger on the underside took quite a battering and I was forced to stop on many an occasion when it would start to bleed from repeated stabbings.  I didn’t want to risk getting blood on the quilt!  Someone recommended that I use ‘udder cream’ on the afflicted finger which I found a highly amusing notion at the time, but I have to say it did help to sooth my chapped skin :)

Morning star 10

It delighted me to work simply with just the cloth and the frame. It was a real escape, simply to sit with the gentle rhythm of the needle as it gathered all those tiny stitches and lulled my racing thoughts.  I was able to lose myself in the doing of it and I loved it.

Morning star 33

Morning star 2

Morning star 15

Morning star 23

I stitched ‘Morning Star’ back in 2005, so it is already a few years old and my hope is that I might get to hand it down to a grandchild at some point in the future and tell them the story behind the stitches.

I would like to tell them about those strong women who have gone before us, who stitched by candle light, making do with the materials that they had.  I would like to tell them about how every stitch in a quilt represents a moment in time in the life of it’s maker and I would like to explain to them that, although every tiny stitch stands alone, it is also part of the whole; connected to the rest.

Just like a family.

Natalie x

chocolate tiffin recipe

So I posted the wee giveaway pouch off to Kathleen today and fingers crossed she will like it!

parcel

TagBefore I get started on any more stitching, I want to share a little recipe with you…

… there was a time when my husband and I owned a busy coffee shop and during that time I’m guessing I must have made around 8,000 slices of this Chocolate Tiffin – no kidding, it was kinda popular with the customers!

chocolate tiffin

It was like our ‘signature’ bake, if you like, and people came back for it time and again.

I am, admittedly, using the word ‘bake’ here very loosely because there is no actual baking involved!  But that doesn’t stop it being the yummiest and, quite  frankly, addictive chocolatey treat ever!

Ingredients

  • 400g digestive biscuits
  • 125g butter
  • 75g raisins or sultanas (or you can use chopped dates )
  • 3 tblsp cocoa powder
  • 185g of golden syrup
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 30g white chocolate

Tiffin2

Method

  1. Break the biscuits into uneven size pieces and mix with the dried fruit. Now I know some people are not fans of raisins etc, in which case you can use chopped dates instead or you can leave them out altogether if you like – it will still taste yum!
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter, syrup and cocoa powder and pour this liquidy goo all over the broken biscuits. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a tray bake tin and press down well with the back of the wooden spoon (the tin I use is 11” x 7” x 1.5”)
  4. Break the milk chocolate into pieces and place into a heatproof bowl. Place the white chocolate into a separate heatproof bowl. Sit the bowls over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie) and allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.
  5. Spread the milk chocolate evenly over the biscuit base.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the top.

Tiffin1

and drag a cocktail stick randomly through the chocolate layers to create a marbled effect.

tiffin3

Chill in the fridge until firm but not completely solid before cutting into slices.

tiffin5

The tiffin tastes best straight from the fridge, so keep it chilled until ready to eat.

Enjoy!

Natalie x

giveaway winner …

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway and for all of your lovely comments.  I gathered all of the entries on Facebook and here on the blog, and I plopped them all onto a spreadsheet with an allocated number for each entry.

Then, in his usual helpful manner, Mr Random.org drew the winner …

and the winner is …

Giveaway winner

Kathleen Robertson … it’s you! Yay! Congratulations!!

Kathleen, please can you email me at sewingroomsecrets@gmail.com with your address so that I can send your prize to you.

Thanks again for all your entries, comments and shares ♥.

Happy weekending everyone :)

Natalie x

it’s a giveaway!

I promised you something a little bit lovely as a giveaway prize and I hope this wee offering fulfills that promise.

Set1

You wouldn’t believe it, but I have completely trashed my sewing room putting together that wee bit o’ nonsense. My husband entered my sewing room during my “creative phase” and gave me *that* look. You know the one; complete disbelief mixed with a slight suspicion of some kind of hidden mental illness. Mania perhaps?

“Do you really need to empty all this stuff on to the floor every time?” and “How can you find anything in all this mess?” was what he said, or words to that effect. He was genuinely perplexed, bless him.

Good questions.

Why do I do that? Every time.

scissors

supplies

Almost every other creative person I know does the same. You get a whiff of an idea and every piece of fabric, thread, button, lace, ribbon, felt etc that you own gets pulled out and examined for worthiness of inclusion in your current project. You can lose track of all earthly time and find yourself still in your jim-jams and furry slippers at 2.30 in the afternoon. Shocking!

Furry slippers and jim-jams

I had gone into Hobbycraft last week looking for something or other (can’t remember what?) and I came out, not with the thing I went in for, but with some beautiful Tilda fabric.

Sound like a familiar story? Are you kidding me, I know you guys do that kinda thing too :)

Tilda fabric

After much fabric stroking and fretting over the actual cutting up of such a thing of beauty, I finally convinced myself that it was the right thing to do. After all, it’s what the fabric would have wanted, right?

in progress

And with my Facebook page reaching a wee personal milestone of 2000 followers (I know! can you catch your breath!), I thought it timely to host a little giveaway to say ‘thanks’ for keeping me company all this time 

So, here it is … a pretty wee pouch for one lucky reader. Well worth getting my sewing room all messed up for :)

pouch5

The pouch is padded with cotton wadding for extra softness. A wee bit of lace and a few other carefully chosen embellishments help to create a delicate, feminine look that I just love!

Close up heart tag

pouch side on

The little suffolk puff has a brooch pin sewn on to the back of it, which allows you to detach it from the pouch, so you can pin it on to something else if you like. Nifty!

close up suffolk puff

Close up brooch on leaf

And whilst I was on a roll, I made a wee lavender sachet to match which I’ll include in the prize

Lavender sachet

Set from above 4

For a chance to win, here’s all you need to do:

  • be a follower of this blog by subscribing to email (click the box in the top right of the home page) or Bloglovin (or some other means!) and leave a comment below telling me which way you are following along. If you are a no-reply blogger, be sure to leave me an email address so I can contact you if you win :)
  • for a second chance to win pop over to my Facebook page and follow the instructions on the giveaway post pinned to the top of the page

That’s it!  The giveaway is open until 24th October 2013 at midnight, GMT, after which time a winner will be picked at random from all entries here and on Facebook. The winner will be announced on Friday 25th October 2013.

Good luck everyone and thank you for entering!

Natalie x

Edit: ***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED***

zakka inspired gift set

With Christmas just around the corner, I have been putting some thought into what little fabric gifts I can make for friends and family this year.

Every year, I make Christmas cookies for the girls at work and last year I made some wee fabric gift bags to put them in

Gift bag template can be found here

Gift bag template can be found here

This Christmas I want to give the girls a little something to go with the usual cookies and I have been wondering what it might be. Every time I think of an idea, I have been jotting it down on a yellow sticky note and pinning it to the notice board in my sewing room.

Sticky notes are great when you need to jot something down real quick; I use them all the time! And I certainly wouldn’t be without them at work (along with the humble highlighter pen!)

sticky notes

Which got me thinkin’! Wouldn’t it be nice to have something pretty to keep them in?

Dangerous thing, thinkin’ … cos now my sewing room is all messed up again!  There are fabric scraps everywhere, I’ve completely forgotten to leave anything out of the freezer for tea, the housework is untouched and I have no idea where the time has gone! But I don’t care … not really

… cos now I have a whole bunch of these wee cuties! :)

Pile notes on top

pile aqua on top

Aqua open with pencil

This little sticky note keeper fits two sizes of stickies – 7.5cm square and 9.5cm square

Open showing different sizes of stickies

And the really cool part is that they happen to go great with the little twisted hexagon coasters that I made a couple of weeks ago!

twisted hexagon coaster

I added in a little Sarubobo keyring and Bob’s your Uncle! … a cute little Zakka inspired gift set was born! Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together :)

Green set with lily

Green set from above

Green side on

These little Zakka style gift sets will be perfect to accompany the Christmas cookies this year!  I just need to make another half a dozen sets and that’s Christmas 2013 all ‘sewn up’ … (pun intended folks :) )

If you would like to make a sticky note keeper of your own, here’s how:

In the main fabric cut:

  • Four 5” x 1¼” strips (for the borders around the pinwheel centre)
  • Two 4½” x 5½” rectangles (for the back and the inside pocket)
  • One 4½” x 9½” rectangle (for the lining) 

You will also need:

  • Two 3” squares of fabric – one light, one dark – for the pinwheel
  • 5½” x 10½” piece of cotton wadding
  • One 3½” square and one 3¾” square of stiff card

Materials

First make the patchwork pinwheel …

*Use a ¼” seam throughout (unless otherwise stated)

Place the two 3” squares right sides together and sew a continuous ¼” seam all the way around the edge

sew all around the square

Cut the sewn squares in half diagonally.   Then cut again diagonally in the opposite direction

four trianglesPress the patches open towards the darker fabric

Press seams towards the dark fabric

Lay the four patches in the formation of a pinwheel.  It’s easy to mix the patches up and sew the wrong edges together, so I lay the pinwheel out right next to my machine and that keeps me on the right track :)

join four squares

Place patches 1 and 2 right sides together and sew together with 1/4″ seam. Join pieces 3 and 4 in the same way. Press the seams towards the dark side.

Join two halves of pinwheel

Now join section A and B with ¼” seam, making sure that  the centre seams are nested together

Press the seam open to reduce bulk

press the centre seam open

Trim the pinwheel – it should measure 3” square

Trim pinwheel

Stitch a 5” border strip to two opposite sides of the pinwheel patch and press the seams out towards the border

first two borders added

Trim the borders flush with the sides of the pinwheel patch

Trim first 2 borders

Stitch the other two border strips to the remaining sides of the pinwheel patch and press seams out towards the border

Pinwheel trimmed

You now have a framed pinwheel block – yay!

Stitch a 4½” x 5½” rectangle to the framed pinwheel block and press the seam away from the block.  Place the piece right side up on the wadding

Lay face up on wadding

Quilt the two layers together by stitching around the pinwheel square and inside the light coloured triangles, about ⅛” from the seam lines.  I did a mixture of hand stitching and machine stitching on mine and I also added a little bead to the centre.

Embellish pinwheel

Trim the wadding flush with the sides of your work

Trim Collage

Take another 4½” x 5½” rectangle and fold it in half, matching up the short sides. Press.  This will form a pocket on the inside.

press pocket

Lay the lining fabric on your work table right side up. Line up the raw edges of the folded pocket piece with the raw edges on one of the short sides of the lining fabric and pin in place

pin pocket to lining fabric

Next, lay the pinwheel panel right side down on top of the pocket panel, matching up all raw edges and pin. (The pinwheel should be at the opposite end to where you have pinned the pocket). Sew all the layers together, leaving the short edge nearest the pinwheel open

Join lining to front panel

Trim away some of the wadding to reduce bulk and clip the corners

Trim wadding

Turn right side out. *Tip – when turning things right side out,  I use a Phillips (star head) screw driver to push out the corners, as I find the little ‘star head’ helps to grip the fabric and is less likely to pierce it than a knitting needle or scissors would. Try it yourself and see what you think!

Insert a 3¾” square of stiff card through the opening and push it to the bottom. It’s a fairly snug fit, so you may have to give it a wiggle. *I used card that was 1/8″ thick for the first couple that I made, but then I used two thicknesses of cereal packet stuck together and that worked just fine.  I used a simple glue stick to stick the card together.

insert first card

Starting from the seam line of the pinwheel block, sew two lines of stitching ¾” apart.  These two lines create a sort of ‘spine’ and encase the cardboard at the same time

encase the first card

Place a 3½” square of stiff card into the opening up to the sewn line

Insert 2nd card

Last bit! Fold in the raw edges of the opening by about ¼” and pin

Close opening

Stitch the opening closed with a line of stitching very close to the edge. Continue to stitch all around the edge of the square very close to the edge, wiggling the cardboard out of the way as you go. I sewed along to the first corner and then, keeping the needle in the down position, I was able to wiggle the cardboard out of the way and pivot my work and sew to next corner and so on.

If you prefer not to sew a line all around the outside, you can just slip stitch the opening closed by hand.

sew close to the edge

finished

That’s it, you’re done!

All you need to do now is insert the back few pages of a sticky note pad into the little pocket and you have a pretty little home for your stickies (oh the simple things that please us eh?) :)

Aqua sticky note keep

You don’t have to have a pinwheel as your centre block.  Depending on how you sew your half triangle patches together, you will get a different pattern. For example, I put the patches together as a ‘broken dishes’ block in the centre of this one

red set with keys

… and this one

Pile green facing

Or you could perhaps keep the whole piece plain and embroider a little design on the front – I think some redwork on linen would look fab! A nine patch block would do the trick too – you do whatever takes your fancy.

I’m a wee bit fond of the little red set, so I might have to keep it for myself (maker’s perk an’ all:) )

red set with flower

red set from above

red set with pencil

red set open with pencil

I hope you have enjoyed this little project and feel inspired to make some of your own wee Zakka-style sitcky note keepers – if you do, I’d love to see some pics of your creations! 

Happy stitching and creating everyone

Natalie x

catching up …

… my recent holiday seems like a distant memory already and I have only been back a couple of weeks!

I had a wonderful time away, staying in a charming little cottage in Shropshire in the picture-postcard village of Ashford Carbonell.

Cottage

Grazer's Cottage

The trip was arranged as a way for Mum and I to spend some ‘girlie’ time together and we plan to make it a regular annual event. It was a lovely way to enjoy some good old mother/daughter bonding – we walked, we talked, we cooked (and ate too much!), we laughed and generally enjoyed each others company.

Shropshire is such a gorgeous part of England – unspoilt and uncrowded. Quaint little villages with a wealth of historical black and white buildings, charming tearooms, lots of quirky independent shops and stunning countryside.

One little tearoom we visited in Bridgnorth was a quilters dream!  Not only did they sell the most delicious home made cakes, but the whole place was adorned with stunning patchwork and quilted goodies.

Outside Number One

Inside 'Number one Tearoom'.

Lizard wallhangings

Wallhanging and cushions

Quilted hanging coneMaureen Shenton was the talented lady responsible for a lot of the quilted items in the shop and I had a lovely time chatting with her about her passion for quilting. Maureen also teaches workshops and offers a long arm quilting service.

There were lots of antique & vintage shops in the area and whilst browsing through one of them, I stumbled upon these two miniature brass keys.  I’m pretty sure that they aren’t actual antiques, but I snapped them up anyway, thinking that they will make really cute charms for home made gifts. Cute aren’t they?

Key charmsAnd, of course, no holiday would be complete without a visit to the local patchwork shop to pick up some ‘souvenirs’ :)

fabric findsI didn’t do any sewing whilst I was away but I have been getting back into the swing of things since getting back home.

Ever since I opened my Etsy Pattern Shop a few weeks ago, I have been very conscious of the fact that there were only two patterns listed in it (not much of a window display huh?), so I have been beavering away drafting some new ones to stock the shelves!

My ‘Crafty Creatures’ pattern is the newest addition to the shop.  Five fun little characters, filled with rice and each with their own personalised mini quilt! These little guys just love hanging around :)

Crafty CreaturesThere is Crafty Cat …

cat5

And Crafty Dog …

Crafty dawg

Crafty Sheep…

Sheep

And Crafty Frog …

frog

And poor old Crafty Pig thinks he’s a mug rug, bless him, … but you know what, as long as he’s happy an’ all, I’m just gonna let him be :)

Crafty Pig

I love having these little guys around, they just make me smile. Feels like I’m 8 years old again and living with Dr Dolittle!

I’ve also designed one more little ‘Harriet’ project in the form of a wee wallhanging with a simple patchwork border. This one shows the cheeky side to her character as you can see … perfect for a little girl’s room!

On white

And, whilst I had my scrap bag out, I found a neat little hexagon coaster tutorial over at Canoe Ridge Creations, so I ran up a set of them using some pretty scraps and linen. I am just adding a simple running stitch to the centres and tomorrow, I’ll wrap them up in tissue paper and tie them up all pretty with ribbon – a little ‘gift-ette’ for a friend I’m seeing this weekend 

twisted hexagon coasters

…and so, as the summer of 2013 draws to a close, I can feel a distinct autumnal nip in the air and I’m thinking maybe I will be needing the patchwork quilts out of the airing cupboard soon, to snuggle under when the nights draw in…

… autumn and winter have their up sides too :)

Happy stitching everyone!

Natalie x

the ‘big knit’

It’s nice to be back after my self imposed summer blogging holiday and I would like to start by thanking each and every one of you for the overwhelming response to my little hexie needle caddy.  Hundreds of you downloaded the free pattern and I was blown away by all your lovely comments, both here on the blog and on facebook, so thank you all!

I promise to bring you up to speed with what I have been up to in a little while, but for now I want to introduce you to the ‘Innocent Smoothies Big Knit Campaign’ - a fab little project that I have supported for the last 4 years or so.

BK_COVER_PHOTO_3

The idea is that you knit fun little hats for Innocent Smoothie bottles and they put hundreds of thousands of them on their bottles in the supermarkets in the UK during the month of November. The little be-hatted bottles look so cute on the supermarket shelves and for every bottle sold with a hat on, Age UK gets 25p, which helps to keep vulnerable older people warm and healthy during the cold winter months.

If you nip over to the ‘Big Knit’ website you can find patterns for the little hats – suitable for all levels of ability, from beginner to the more advanced, together with details of how to get involved.  You can find tonnes more patterns here.

I’ve started making a few hats of my own in the form of this fun little line up …

Bumble bee hats for innocent smoothies

Why not have a go at knitting some  yourself – you’d be supporting a great cause and having fun at the same time :)

Until next time – happy knitting!

Natalie x

little hexie needle caddy

If you have been following my blog for the last however many weeks you will know that I have been afflicted with a bad case of ‘hexagon-itis’ and my wee pink tin of 1/2” hexies has been my constant companion.  I have really enjoyed re-acquainting myself with the simple pleasures of making hexagons (something I haven’t done since I was a child!) and I can at last reveal the final resting place for all those little six-sided cuties!

Needlebook on fabric pile

My wee pink sewing tin is empty – almost! Just a few lonely little hexies left languishing at the bottom for another day …

pink tin empty2

It has been a very interesting and rewarding mini-hexie-adventure, which began with a neat little pile of the prettiest fabrics …

fabric pile 2

which turned into these …

Hexie tower2

Hexies before joining

which were sewn together like this …

Hexies

which grew into this …

Hexy6

and was appliqued on to linen and embellished with pretty beads and the simplest of embroidery stitches …

Hexies long row with embroidery

and framed all neat and tidy with some dotty aqua binding …

Needlebook binding

to create the perfect home for all my sewing needles :)

cover

fully open with needles

Needlebook Open with needles

slope down to the right with needles

When I started making all those wee hexagons I had no idea what I was going to do with them all.  I just liked the cuteness of them and the fact that they require no special tools to construct, just paper, fabric, needle and thread.  No special effort or concentration … a way to just sit, be still and stitch for the love of it.

Needlebook9

Needlebook51

Needlebook47

cover angle flowers

Needlebook10JPG

Needlebook37

It’s been interesting sharing my love affair with hexagons here on my blog and on my facebook page, as it has revealed to me that people are ‘hexagonating’ all over the world! And loving it! It seems we all have a certain fondness for the humble hexagon.

I have written up a pattern for my little needle caddy and it will be listed in my newly opened Etsy shop from midnight on Thursday 15th August 2013. But for the next 72 hours I am offering it FREE here as a PDF download … my summer gift to all you hexie lovers out there to say thank you for keeping me company in all my little sewing endeavours, during what has been one of the most glorious British summers for many a long year!

close up thimble

I am taking a little summer break from blogging and facebooking, but I will be back in September again :). Whilst I may be absent from cyberspace for a few weeks, I will still be ‘around’ stitching and  creating .

Until September then … happy stitching!

Natalie x

the luck o’ the irish

Oh yes! These Irish eyes are smilin’ ….  and the reason for my smiliness is this sweet wee linen pouch which I won in a giveaway hosted by my bloggy friend Irina over at El Petit Taller. 

Linen pouch2

linen pouch3

This gorgeous pouch has been lovingly made by the talented Margarita of Linen Artisan, who shares my love of linen. Margarita has a whole Etsy shop stuffed full to the brim with amazing hand stitched linen goodies – there are so many beautiful things to choose from in her shop. 

It was beautifully wrapped too – such a personal touch, thank you Margarita!

Linen pouch1

And the pouch even has my initial stitched on the front. I really like the little embroidered trim too.

linen pouch4JPG

linen pouch5

Thank you Margarita, I will treasure it 

Natalie x

hexagons for harriet

….. my ‘hexagon-itis’ continues to worsen and I fear I may be well on my way to a diagnosis of hexie-mania!

I really have got it bad! I sneak them everywhere with me – my wee pink sewing tin fits discreetly in my handbag and I find myself whipping it out for a quick fix any opportunity I get …(please don’t judge me)

Hexies in a tin

tin & hexies2

I’ve even been ‘hexagon-ating’ in public … yep, in the dentist’s waiting room, at my desk in work, on a park bench, in the garden  …

Garden table

hexies close up3

Hexies on the grass

On the plus side, I find that each time I make a few of these six-sided cuties, it seems to ease the symptoms … if only a little :)

Hexy flower with scissors

The recent heatwave in the UK has made it difficult to do any serious sewing as it has just been too darn hot! However, the last couple of days have seen a drop in temperature, which has been a welcome relief and I have been able to work on the cushion I was making for my sewing chair, using my ‘Harriet & her Teddy’ embroidery design (available in my Etsy shop).

Harriet before applique

Harriet side view

If you are not familiar with the English Paper Piecing method for making hexagons, there are oodles of great tutorials out there, so I won’t re-invent the wheel by doing another one here. For small hexagon paper piecing, I can recommend this tutorial from V and Co – it has lots of great close up photographs and easy to follow tips and advice. And for those of you who want to go to the next level and learn some imaginative and creative ways to use hexagons in your quilts, I would highly recommend a visit to Faeries & Fibres for lots of tips, tutorials and hexie inspiration.

Hexy flower side view

Hexy flower very close

Hexies close up

When joining one hexagon to another here are a couple of tips that work well for me:

  • I like to use a fine needle (size 10) so that I can easily catch the fabric as close to the edge as possible. This helps to make sure that your stitches don’t show up as much on the right side of your work.
  • I prefer to use ladder stitch rather than the more usual whip stitch for the same reason, that it helps to hide your stitches.

I also like to use a paperclip to hold the paper in place whilst tacking down the sides, but some people use freezer paper or even a glue stick to stabilize the paper template. 

hexie paper clip

I always think that a cushion looks so much more polished and professional when edged with some piping, don’t you? But I get put off at the thought of having to make all that bias binding and usually just end up doing the standard plain edge finish. But not this time…. 

cushion side on

Sewing is a continually evolving journey.  No matter how long you have been stitching, there is always a new technique to learn or a fresh way to look at something you thought you already knew.  I had come across tutorials in the past on how to make continuous bias binding, but had never tried it out for myself.  This technique is basically a way to eliminate the tedious task of having to join all those bias strips, end to end, to get the length you need. I used this tutorial by Sew Mama Sew to show me how and, oh my goodness! Why have I never done this before?  It’s pure magic! I don’t think I will ever make bias binding any other way!

Piping cord covered in continuous bias binding

Piping cord covered in continuous bias binding

I machine appliqued a row of hexies to decorate the back

Hexy border

back border

Cushion back

And so, my little Harriet now adorns this cute little cushion on my sewing chair …

Cushion on sewing chairUp until now, Lola has been ‘my girl’, but I know that there is room enough in my heart for little Harriet too 

Happy stitching everyone!

Natalie x

a bad case of ‘hexagon-itis’

 ….. there has been a sudden outbreak of ‘hexagon-itis’ in our house. So far, I am the only member of the household affected. The only cure (apparently) is to ‘make stuff’ – I’m gonna make something cute-sy with this little lot and see if I can ease the symptoms …. I’ll keep you posted *cough* … 

1/2" hexies

every path has it’s puddles ….

Harriet & her Teddy

I am writing this post long-hand.  I decided that today was just too sun-shiney to be indoors on the laptop, so here I am with pen and paper writing down my thoughts the old fashioned way.  Of course, by the time you read this I will have typed it all up neatly on my trusty keyboard; but that will happen much later, when the sun has gone to bed.

As I write, this is the view of my little piece of sky, lying here looking up to the heavens from   a sun lounger in the garden.  Ahh, dappled sunshine … my favourite kind! 

dappled sunshine

Lying here in the sun, you could say that life is pretty good right now … and so it is.  That’s the funny thing about life, some days are just better than others 

In my last post, I promised to tell you the story behind the stitches of the little embroidery pattern that I have been working on, featuring Harriet and her Teddy.   I wasn’t crazy about my original choice of background fabric or colours, so I experimented a little until I came up with something that I am now happy with. It has taken a little longer, but I think it has been worth it in the end and the pattern is now available for sale as a PDF download from my Etsy Shop.

Harriet's face & hat detail

Whilst stitching this watery little scene, it has made me think about how life ebbs and flows.  How sometimes, things are just peachy (like today) and at other times you wonder how you will get through the tough times.  I don’t know how it is for any of you, but as I’ve grown older, I have realized that life is often all about perspective and going with the flow.

when it rains

At the moment, Harriet is lying on my work table waiting to be stitched into a cushion for my sewing chair.  The idea being that next time something goes awry in my life … when I’m feeling stressed by a million things that all need to be done RIGHT NOW or I feel like I’ve encountered an insurmountable problem, it will remind me that I can just stand in the rain for a time and not let it pummel me. I don’t have to panic or shield myself. I just need to ride it out, to take what comes, knowing that I’ll handle it and it will all pass by soon enough.

I can follow Harriet’s example …. let go of the umbrella and just get a little wet!

When it rains2 Happy stitching  

all set for the big day

If you saw my last post you will know that I have been preparing for a family wedding taking place this weekend and I have been scurrying around trying to find a wedding outfit.

Apart from cleaning the oven, shopping for clothes ranks among my least favourite activities, so shopping for ‘dressy’ clothes is akin to sticking pins in my eyes. After much rummaging through clothes rails, I managed to get kitted out for the big day (yay!) …. except for a clutch bag. Rather than subject myself to any more retail therapy torture, I decided to make my own and I found a great little tutorial for the perfect little purse over at Elm Street Life.

It is surprising what you can do with a fabric bow and a wee bit of bling  ;)

Clutch bag4

Clutch bag1

There is plenty of room for the essentials – make up, lipstick, phone, money.  Just need to get the confetti and I’m all set :)

clutch bag

We will be having people stay with us this weekend too and I have been doing a lot of pillow plumping and house cleaning in preparation for their arrival.  I took a break from all that today in order to make some gifts for my female guests. The girls are big Cath Kidston fans, so I got them each a set of Cath Kidston hand creams and I made them a wee tissue holder each as well.   I hope they like them.

Tissue holder4

Tissue holder3

Tissue holder2

Tissue holder1

I baked some of Aunt Annie’s fruitcake yesterday, as well as a whole bunch of lemon drizzle cake, so we will have plenty of yummy treats on hand. I love making lemon drizzle – it’s one of my favourite’s!  I use Mary Berry’s method to make it. It’s super easy; just put everything in the bowl together and mix – never fails, yum! Here’s a link to the recipe.

With all the preparations done, I just couldn’t help it ….. I had to try out the lemon drizzle to make sure it was gonna taste good, right?

… And. It. Does.

lemon drizzle cakeJPG

Have a wonderful weekend folks ♥