annual sewing retreat

Just got back from a fabulous weekend at Alston Hall with some of the lovely ladies from my sewing group.  Oh my goodness!  I have literally eaten the equivalent of what would feed a small family this weekend! The food was amazing! Back on the diet tomorrow for sure…. 

Alston Hall

For anyone not familiar with Alston Hall, it is an adult education centre set in a large Victorian House in Longridge, near Preston.  Perfect for a sewing retreat – large rooms, high ceilings and lots of natural daylight streaming in through large windows. There is a lovely relaxed atmosphere in the house, just like home from home really.  I spent the entire time in my slippers and tracksuit and no one batted an eyelid.

Besides eating my own body weight in food and laughing with my friends until my sides hurt, I actually managed to make a little bag for summer.

Phoebe bag

I used the Phoebe Bag pattern by Rebeka Lambert and I love how it has turned out. I’ve cut out another one already and can’t wait to get started!!

But, alas, there are packed lunches to make and clothes to iron and tomorrow’s dinner to think about, because it’s back to work on Monday.  Oh well, it was good while it lasted ….

Hope you all had a great weekend too.  Happy stitching!

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button love

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I don’t know what it is about buttons that makes me want to squirrel them away for a rainy day. I’ve always had a fascination with them – I can’t throw them away, so I cut the spare ones off new clothes – you know, the ones that are sewn to the care label – and I save them in my button bag (is any of this making me sound crazy?!!).  Ironically, I don’t think I’ve ever had to use one of these ‘spare’ buttons, but I always keep them ‘just in case’.

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I use buttons quite a bit in my sewing though, so it’s not like they don’t serve a useful purpose 🙂  

Tiny buttons used as flower centres

Tiny buttons used as flower centres

 I like to use them in fun and decorative ways and am always on the look out for unusual or cute buttons.

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I spent a couple of hours in my sewing room the other day,  just organizing my button collection. I sorted them all into colours and then placed them in cute little jars that I came across at IKEA.  They are supposed to be spice jars, but what the heck! I use them for buttons!  The jars have a wonderful pot-bellied shape and aren’t too big, which I like.

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Even with all these buttons, I still buy more any chance I get!  I mean, just look at these little beauties – who could resist those?

buttons

I featured a little button pouch on my face book page recently and promised to do a tutorial to show you just how easy it is to make one.

Buttonsy

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Embroidery and buttons

I promise to write up the tutorial for the little button bag in a day or two, so pop back often – you won’t want to miss it!

In the meantime, have fun and happy stitching!

time to just be me

One of my favourite designers, the talented Kate Popovski (aka LiliPopo), has just released a new embroidery pattern and my copy arrived last week.  I have been itching to get going with it, but there was always something else to do and I’ve not managed to find the time.

Today, with the March sun streaming through an open window, I managed to sit down in my sewing room, just me, and stitch for a few glorious hours. 

lilipopo in progress

Oh! there are few things more satisfying than those precious moments when nothing else requires your attention, other than the needle and thread in your hand and making sure there is tea in the pot!

lilipopo in progress2

I love combining appliqué with embroidery and have done so to great effect in many of my own projects, but I think that these little LiliPopo designs are perfect to showcase just how effective this technique can be.

My glasses case

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I shall need to carve myself out some sewing time next week in order to make a Mother’s Day gift.  I have some Suffolk Puffs lying around somewhere; I’m sure I can rustle up something lovely with those 😉

First though, I shall need to post this wee glasses case to my aunt in Northern Ireland.

Aunt Hilary's glasses case3

I just love days like today, when you can while away the hours just sewing, nothing else, just that.  Bliss x

a day of suffolk puffs and yo-yo’s

Sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

What’s in a name? Well,  I guess it depends which side of the pond you are on. American’s call these little gathered circles Yo-Yo’s (and it’s easy to see why), whereas we Brits refer to them as Suffolk Puffs.

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

In the sewing world, a Suffolk Puff (or Yo-Yo) is simply a circle of fabric which is gathered around the edge so that it turns in on itself in a ‘puffy’ kind of way. The technique has a long history and references to ‘puffs’ appear as far back as 1601.  It is thought that they originated in the county of Suffolk when people would re-cycle worn out clothes and fabric scraps.  Very often the puffs would be sewn together to make quilts. 

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

At my sewing group this week I spent the afternoon chatting with my lovely stitching buddies, eating far too many chocolate biscuits and making a whole bunch of these little cuties.

sewing room secrets suffolk puffs

(Confession: Some puffs are not featured in this photo due to the accidental smudging with chocolate 🙂 )

I will admit that I’ve got a bit of an obsession with these wonderful little fabric flowers at the moment – I can’t stop making them, they’re so pretty!  Best of all, they are super quick and simple to make – even kids and total beginners can master them with ease.  Want to know how to make one?  Easy peasy ……

1.  Make two circular templates from card about twice the size that you want your puff to be. My circles were about 3½” and 2½” in diameter.

2.  Draw around the templates on to the wrong side of your chosen fabrics and cut them out on the drawn line.

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4.  Tie a knot in your thread and sew a running stitch all around the circle quite close to the edge.

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5.  Pull the thread to gather the fabric into the middle.

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6.  Flatten the puff between your finger and thumb and secure the centre with a knot.

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6.  Lay one puff on top of the other and secure with a couple of stitches.  Attach a pretty button and your done!

sewing room secrets suffolk puff

You can now use these simple puffs to adorn all manner of things.  Try attaching a brooch pin to the back, sew them on to a hair clip or cover a whole cushion with them…. the list is endless! I’ll be showing you what I did with mine in a later post, but until then go puff crazy!

Happy stitching!

quilters block

I’ve had a patchwork quilt top lying around for about four months just begging to be finished and quilted, but I’ve not managed to get beyond sewing all the blocks together. The reason for the halt in proceedings is one that has temporarily sabotaged many of the quilts I have made so far. I’m a ditherer, you see, when it comes to deciding on what to do about the borders. Is it just me or do you struggle with borders too?

I seem to get ‘quilters block’ and the quilt top languishes at the back of the cupboard like some forgotten relic.  Strangely, when I leave it alone for a wee while, an idea will often come out of the blue and, suddenly, I know exactly what to do and all is well again.

This ‘Turning Twenty’ quilt top was made at my monthly sewing group.  A quilting friend had used these colours in a lap quilt and I fell in love with them straight away! Aren’t they pretty?

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There were some scraps left over from cutting out the blocks, so I sewed them all together in one long strip

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and this is what the border looks like

Border on turning twenty quilt

Border on turning twenty quilt

I’m kind of excited about the backing I’ve chosen for this quilt.  Excited and nervous at the same time, actually.  Excited, because it is a sort of soft, minky type of material which I think will be deliciously cozy!! And nervous, because I have absolutely no experience of sewing with this type of fabric and it looks like it might be a little bit tricky to quilt!

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505 spray

Temporary fabric adhesive spray

I’m going to take the finished top and the backing along to my sewing group next week, when I’ll be trying out a temporary spray adhesive that my quilting friends have said works really well and means there is no need for basting. No basting? Sounds fab!

I love having such generous friends who share all their time saving tips!

Then, once the backing is on,  all that’s left to do is the quilting.  Yikes!

Have a lovely weekend everyone and happy stitching!

fabric iPad sleeve and mobile phone case

My lovely husband bought me an iPad for Christmas and I’ve been glued to it ever since!   These days I refer to it for almost everything and don’t know how I managed without it!  I still use the laptop as a word processor, but the iPad is just great for sending a quick email or for instant access to the internet, since you don’t have to wait for it to ‘boot up’ like the laptop.

Now that I’ve got an iPad,  I need a sleeve for it, right? Sure, I’ve got the official apple iPad case thingy, but I’m talking about one made from fabric! So naturally, I went ahead and made one.….

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imageI am totally in love with the little Sarubobo character that hangs off the side. I’ve made lots of these little cuties as keyrings for friends and family – they are just so sweet!!  Sarubobo dolls are traditionally made in Japan by mothers for their daughters as lucky charms.   They are not supposed to have faces but I sewed eyes on mine. You can find the tutorial on how to make them here.

shabby chic flower on flap

shabby chic flower on flap

I also made a matching case for my mobile phone …..

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It seems that everyone is using some sort of tablet these days. Quite a few of my friends and family have got iPads now and I have been busy making sleeves for them all.  I’ll post some pics of the them soon, but until then ……

Happy stitching everyone!!

fun with fabric scraps

I’ve been having some fun lately with fabric scraps…..

My new sleep mask

If only the housework would do itself I'd eat, sleep and quilt all day long!

If only the housework would do itself  I’d eat, sleep and quilt all day long!

Mug rugs to make me smile when I’m enjoying a cuppa!

Mug rugs 2

Mug rugs1Do you ever find that no matter how many things you make from scraps, you just end up with even more scraps?  Mmmm…..  Happy stitching folks!

pillow pattern

Living with two men (one hubby, one son) means I don’t really get a chance to chat through ideas about sewing projects, so it was lovely yesterday when a work colleague visited with her sister, who is learning to sew and wanted some tips on how to finish a bag she is working on. Five glorious fabric-filled hours passed in the blink of an eye!

I did have some time left though, to write up the pattern for the little pillow, as promised in my first post. You can now download the free PDF pattern for it and the template for the wording on the front can be found here.

sewing room secrets pillow

I’d love to hear how you get on with it. Happy stitching!