Project 5: A twist on the Totoro bag (in that it is now an elephant bag and looks completely different)

I decided that the big sister of the baby blanket recipient should have a present too – so I decided to make a variant on the Totoro Bag that I had so much fun with.

I had some denim left over from my skirt and I thought that would make a lovely hard wearing bag. I also decided to build on the elephant from the baby blanket (mostly because I knew how!) – but I made it a bit bigger so that it would cover the front of the bag. Here are my two elephants and their ears for comparison.

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I made an unlined version of the Totoro Bag – here is the finished product:

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I think it is so cute! The only problem of not having a lining was that I found the top and the shoulder straps a little hard to place.

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Though I did ADORE using the contrast fabric and the bound seams on the inside. In fact I liked this so much…. that I made a bit of a plan for next time.

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A very happy project indeed 🙂

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Project 4: The first ever baby present! And my first ever attempt at a quilt.

It seems like everyone in the world is making quilts. And I thought they’re square – how hard can it be?

I wanted to make baby blankets for my sister and a friend who are due to have babies soon. I googled around and found some images I really liked:

Baby Floor Blanket, Elephant Baby Play Blanket, Baby Play Mat, Mint Green, Teal Blue,  Gray by Customquiltsbyeva on Etsy

And I found an elephant template that I found cute:

 

elephant applique template - Google Search                                                                                                                                                                                 More                                                                                                                                                                                 More

So I went and bought a bunch of fabric….

I bought grey, green and white Crompton spot fabric:

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And also some plain pale green (that I didn’t realise until I got to cutting it was actually stretch fabric… but the patience of my little on had run out and so I got it….. BIG MISTAKE!)

I decided on a 9″ square patchwork. For my friend I decided to make a 4*4 square (so it should end up 36 ” square – bug enough to lay a brand new baby on).

Making the applique elephants was a delight. Helpfully, it was a simply enough shape to trace and cut. Plus I made the curtest ears!

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I used my favourite green spots for the backing as well and bound it with matching bias tape. I actually found the binding the endest the hardest thing. I used pretty bouncy wadding (on reflection I should probably have spend the money for cotton wadding online… but I had never done it before and it is a lot more expensive)

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Here is the finished article. I see all of its flaws – but in many ways I think it’s not to bad for a first try 🙂dav

 

 

Project 4: Little girl tops two ways – one of my happiest making things so far :)

I have fallen in love….

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In love with the spotty green cotton that has become the header of this site. It is SO VERY cute and at £4 per meter it is also helpfully cheap.

I got so much inspiration from this amazingly helpful sew-along for her lovely Sadie Shirt. Her plan is to use a large-ish t-shirt to make a pattern. But as I don’t own an overlocker I felt like a few adaptations may help.

So here is my Dotty Top tutorial!

Dotty top 1Dotty top 2

Here are my actual pattern pieces (made, as ever from kids drawing paper!)

 

 

 

Dotty top 3Dotty top 4

It really is a very cute  closure – here is a photo

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Dotty top 5Dotty top 6Dotty top 7Dotty top 8Dotty top 9

The finished article really did make us both happy. Here are some photos of it inside and outside

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It’s gone through the wash a few times and it really does seem to be holding up well 🙂

 

For keen eyed readers- I decided this top was far too long so extra buttons will have to wait for another day…

Bias Binding: the quick and dirty late night method – Part 2 How to sew on bias binding.

As discussed in part 1 – I love bias binding. But I have decided that my life is too short to make my own.

Similarly, when it come to sewing it on, I opt for simplicity. All the ways I was taught to do it at school are beautifully explained here by Made by Rae – but it is another of those moments where  I have to ask WHY… ?

There are some situations where you need to sew bias binding twice (e.g. I cannot imagine sorting out the edges of a quilt in one fell swoop) but for most of the purposes I use it there is a much quicker way.

  1. Bung it on
  2. Pin the hell out of it
  3. Stitch fairly close to the edge
  4. Be  happy – aim to go to bed  before 3 am

So here are two super speedy, no-iron binding methods that I use on all my projects

How to Binding a Raw Edge – the super speedy, late night method.

– When to use: seam allowances, arm openings, maybe a hem if you feel a little bit bold and want your binding to show (remember you’ll need to cut off your seam allowance or you’ll have something 5/8 longer than you originally planned)

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How to bind a hem – the super speedy late night method.

When to use:

– When you love a sneaky flash of colour and/or cannot stand raw edges and have no overlocker

hem method

And here is the finished view. According to my phone even with all the photo taking this took 4 minutes to produce

finished bias binding

Bias Binding: the quick and dirty late night method – Part 1 How not to make bias binding.

Bias binding is my official favourite thing about making my own stuff. Everything looks so much more cute with a contrast hem! Plus, I want to be brave and make bold fashion choices…. but then I wimp out and so bias binding gives me the chance to be bold on the inside, in a way that is visible in flashes – rather than too bold for me all the time.

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Boldness….. quietly , in my bright blue hemline

It can also save so much time and avoid interfacing to just bind a raw edge with visible bias binding.

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In my high speed PJ top I just bound the raw edges of the sleeves – IN SATIN!

And there are loads of cute tutorials about telling you how to make your own for example: Tilly and the Buttons  or Sew, sew easy and each time I see one I get so very tempted…

But I feel that we need to take a pause and ask ourselves WHY?

Making bias binding is an expensive hassle – and in more tales of my borrowing my toddlers art supplies, and in a method that is FAR quicker than making bias binding, here is why

The thing is, bias binding gives you a little bit of stretch in a in a woven fabric but cutting it on the diagonal. But we need to remember that it is literally quicker to tell you about it in IKEA water colours than to make.dav

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And it is expensive – because cutting those diagonal stripes uses loads of fabric and gives you really useless bits for left overs.

And then after all that injustice YOU HAVE TO IRON IT! You even need a special thingumy to iron it.

So I would like to point out that 34p per metre is REALLY cheap (and 42p for satin binding is really cheap too). In fact – it is almost certainly cheaper than masses of fabric.

So part one of my comments on bias binding are just say no! Life is too short. Your iron is kept in the same room as your sleeping baby. Bias binding is awesome and cute – so just buy it!

Project 3: Pyjama Disaster! (part 2 – how I actually made the bloody things wearable)

There were so many things I loved about the pyjama disaster – I thought the pockets were cute. I loved the satin bias binding on the pockets and outside leg! But as I mentioned – they were unwearable

But my house is small and my money is too tight to have projects thrown away… and so I fixed them…. ish….

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It was slightly alarming cutting up my finished trousers and they don’t look great – but they are really wearable. Here is my slightly hack repair job:

And the finished article. As you can tell from the general air of crumpled – I have actually been wearing them 🙂

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Plus- I made myself an equally grandma-ish top to go with them. I made it by copying a simple two piece no dart top that I have – essentially a box with head and arm holes! But I was pleased with the way the bound sleeves came out and the lining at the neck line.

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Plus – when it’s PJs so boxy is comfy, and I actually think it doesn’t look too bad on (well it looks a little like I’m wearing curtains – but that was totally the look I was after).

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Project 3: Pyjama trousers…. sounded so easy… and went SO WRONG. Leading to a Tutorial in how NOT to make PJ trousers (you’re welcome :) )

After I finished my skirt I had a lot of left over blue lining and I was wondering what to do with it. I needed some new pyjamas and after a bit of googling I was convinced it would be really easy – oh how I was wrong….

What  all these tutorials suggest is that you stretch out a pair of pjs that fit comfortable and trace around your pattern. Then cut two legs and connect the left side to the right and the crotch and the front to the back down the legs – add hem and elastic and you’re sorted. Like this:

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But I found out it can go horribly wrong!

First I made things more complicated for myself by deciding I wanted pockets (I do love pockets) and so I decided to use the same method (and even the same pattern pieces) that I had with my skirt. So it was completely my own fault but I did make that a bit more complicated because rather than having one piece for each leg I now needed an outside leg seam as well as an inside leg seam to give me somewhere to put my pockets.

So I had four leg pieces now. But they should all be that same straight forward shape. However pockets continued to give me complications…. because the pockets I used opened up at the top I now needed a waste band. And I didn’t have enough left overs to make a waste band so I used my other left overs and had a flowery waste band and I thought that looked so cute I should do a similar strip at the bottom of the legs as well. So rather than two pieces to assemble I had: 2 for each pocket, 2 for each leg: 2 for waste band (front and back), 2 to act as leg cuffs (is that a word… you know what I mean). So I made it massively unnecessarily complicated by having 10 pieces rather than 2. I then added to my unnecessary complications by continuing my seam obsession – I flat felled the crotch (this was actually really easy with the thinner cotton and I love how it looks); I used a simple standard straight seam on the outside leg and then bound the raw edges (with blue satin!!!); for the inside leg I used a pocket seam (I also loved this – so much easier than I was expecting).

But as well as being unnecessarily complicated… the also just did not work as functioning trousers. So to save others from my late night horrors…. here is my guide of how NOT to make pyjama trousers:Picture9Picture10Picture11

 

 

Project 2: Totoro!

Once I was back from visiting family, in a jet-lagged haze I decided to attempt a project for the little one and I went to IKEA and bought some fabric.

I found an incredibly cute pattern for a Totoro bag from Sew Desu Ne that I fell in love with. Never mind the fact I hadn’t done applique since I made a cushion at school aged 11. How hard could it be?

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I used the MINNA range in pale green, black and cream to make my bag. I bought 1.2 m of green, 30 cm of white and 10 cm of black.

It was the first time I had ever used a pdf pattern – I found the experience interesting – on the one hand I loved the clear photo instructions and all the pattern pieces. But sticking them together took an age. I don’t think I could possibly have attempted a project like this without a pattern – but I may be tempted be to a bit less slow with the sticking next time.img_20170712_224446.jpg

The alterations I made to the pattern were to change it from a tote type bag to a rucksack – which required two main differences. Firstly I needed to make a new ear pattern (because the ears were the straps on the main pattern) and then I needed new straps – I didn’t even make a pattern – I looked at the little one who would be wearing it and cut out reasonable rectangles for the new straps.

I found the applique a bit of a faff – but it does look cute. I traced the patterns onto standard iron on interfacing and then ironed that to the correct colour fabric. For the first few pieces I pinned them in place – but it was really wobbly and tricky. I don’t own any fusible webbing or that fancy double sided interfacing that people talk about on quilting blogs….. but I decided I would not be so easily defeated! After a few I glued my pieces on using wood glue. I was amazed how well this worked – I smeared a thin layer around the edges and held it in place for a few seconds. It was SO FAST. This was the late night alternative to pins I had dreamed of. It made it a lot easier!

Evo-Stik Interior Resin W Wood Adhesive

Because my fabric was thick woven cotton it did fray up quite a bit while I was sewing down my applique pieces. I followed Choly Knight’s suggestion and used a straight (rather than zig zag) stitch to give it a frayed edge look. You can see my face here – I found it very cute and a bit time consuming but really worth the effort.

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I then constructed the bag. I decided to use the same fabric to line as the main outside – mostly because I had enough of it and liked the colour!

Construction was mostly really easy. I followed the pattern instructions and made the lining and outer – nestled the two together and then sewed closed the whole in the lining and poked it all together.

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I did have two problems though – the first the little pieces of the ears and the leaf – I could not for the life of me get them right side out however many chop sticks I snapped. I ended up having to unpick and do a bit of a fudged up job in the end where I’d torn the material.

I also had some very lumpy edges….

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But – overall I made a sturdy rucksack that my little one loves (I don’t post photos of my daughter on the internet – but I have some great pictures of her grinning as wide as her Totoro). It was a good 4 nights of staying up to late 🙂

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Project 1: My denim skirt (with pockets – I love pockets): actually cutting and making the skirt.

Now I had my plan it was time to cut. There were only four pattern pieces that I made – but I found cutting this was quite a big job. It took a whole long night until well past a reasonable time to be in bed.

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The pattern consisted of: a skirt piece (which was cut in three slight variants in lining and denim: sections with pockets, the standard symmetrical pieces and a centre back piece in two halves), a yoke (whole for the front and two halves for the back in lining and denim), and a main pocket and lining pocket lining section. Because I am quite a wide sort of person and I wanted quite a flared sort of a skirt – my skirt piece got too wide to fit on my roll of paper and I had to use a cut on the fold side to make it work.

One thing I like to do is write myself instructions on the pattern pieces so I can see what I did for next time. Here were my pattern pieces in a bit more detail:

 

Assembly took four rather long nights (it was my first big project since I was 15 and I really wanted to finish it before we went away to visit family).

I made the pockets – following Michelle Patterns instructions here.

  1. First I sewed the lining to the main skirt piece right sides together. It was the only curve I bothered to draw onto the fabric as I realised my skirt would probably look a bit silly if they weren’t symmetrical. As I am sure you are gathering from my extensive use of toddler drawing supplies I don’t really own much kit – and I definitely don’t have a curved ruler. So I used the edge of a small plate for the right width of my hand over the corner and drew the line on (I think I picked purple crayola for this line!).
  2. I pinned the pieces and sewed along my drawn line. Then, I cut the edges short, clipped the curve and turned it over. I then did two lines of over-stitching to keep the pocket sturdy each a presser foot width apart.
  3. Next I attached the back part of the pocket along the curved bottom edge of the pocket. I pinned and sewed into place. At the time I didn’t think to worry about this edge. But then I remembered that I put really heavy things into my pockets and so I went for a bit of high speed bias binding.
  4. When you flip it all out the right way you have a complete skirt section – that looks really cute. And a really big pocket that holds my big-ish smart phone comfortably.

 

 

Skirt Assembly

  • I attached all my pieces using Flat Felled Seams until I had a complete skirt with just the centre back seam seam left to complete. (Here is how I sewed my flat felled seams)
  • I sewed together my denim three yoke pieces
  • I spent a long while working out how I was going to attach the lining and the skirt – and this was the method I came up with:
  • I sewed together my lining skirt panels with a simple straight stitch and a row of zig-zag. Next time I think I’d pocket seam them – pocket seams are so quick and the knowledge of that raw edge picks at my brain (um…also… I put one piece on backwards which you can see in the picture down at the bottom – so after all my efforts I have a raw edge!). Plus – I used up ALL of my thread doing the zig zag stitch and couldn’t finish my next step until I persuaded my lovely toddler that she wanted another expedition to the fabric shop.
  • I sewed together my three lining yoke pieces

 

So now I had a denim yoke and skirt and a lining yoke and skirt and I just needed a way to attach them that my poor sewing machine would be able to manage – the flat felled seams are three layers of denim thick so quite a challenge!

skirt construction

In the end I realised that compared to a single layer of denim my two layers of lining were really not an issue. So as I showed above I made an enormous fabric sandwich – the lining pieces and the denim pieces in their pairs right sides together (blue sides in the picture) and then the lining pair wrong side to the wrong side of the denim pair (orange sides)

Then I folded the denim bits the correct way and pulled the lining fabric out of the way and over-stitched to bottom of my yoke as shown belowPicture4.png

Then I folded everything around the correct way – the lining and the denim sitting nestled together. I folded over the ends of the ends, pinned lots and sewed it together (as you can see in the second, highly technical [cough!], diagram)Picture5

This is how it looked from the outside and the inside – I like it. It is neat and tidy and didn’t take an age.

 

So now I had this enormous flat cape like skirt all finished at the top. And I only had one night before three weeks away and I REALLY wanted it finished. So I made a slightly unusual decision – I looked at a load of YouTube and blog tutorials of how to finish this sort of lined skirt and decided it all looked too tricky. So I hemmed and bound the bottom edge of the denim and double folded over and hemmed the lining skirt. Then I did a slightly mad thing…. I just bunged some bias binding over the two back centre edges as well. Then I sewed it together up to where the zip should be and put in a standard zip (the standard old fashioned sort of way – baste the seam closed. Pin the hell out of the zip and sew the tape on. Remove the basting – Ta Da! There is a zip).

I don’t think this was the best method. But I actually like the finished look.  Here it is below from the inside (where you can see my unusual zip insertion and finishing method and the outside. It is looking a bit crumply as I have worn it about 30 of the last 40 days. It is really comfy and seems to be hard wearing so far.

 

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And here I am, this morning… wearing my skirt (as I do so many days). Even though there were errors and imperfections, this project has made me so happy. I find it wearable, comfortable and exactly my style.

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How to sew a flat felled seam (the middle of the night… why the hell not method)

I have (it would seem) a bit of an obsession… with seams.

I really hate raw edges – they feel so amateurish and I have this impression that everything will fall apart on me and (as I mentioned) I’m big and clumsy and I break things. So in my first project for the new machine I really didn’t want to have raw edges all over the place. I bought my second hand sewing machine a few days before starting this project and don’t own anything fancy like an overlocker (serger) and there is no way I’m going to buy one – I live in a very little British house – where would it fit?

I wanted denim and so I decided to learn to do flat felled seams.

I first heard about them a few years ago when they made kids dungarees on the Great British Sewing Bee (on the topic of the Sewing Bee, thinking about it – I think I blame Charlotte for why I really had to buy a sewing machine – she had too many lovely dresses).

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Anyway – back to series two where I finally learned why seams on jeans have those two little lines on them. And it sounded really strong and really cool and so I thought, how hard can it be?

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The answer was a bit fiddly, but actually not hard. So here is my guide: How to sew a felled seam (the middle of the night… why the hell not method)

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A few top tricks I learned from painful sad, unpicking it in the middle of the night experience:

  1. I think I should have used a longer seam allowance than the standard 5/8 inch. After a few seams I started being a bit over generous and giving more like 6/8 which made it a lot easier to fold over the thick denim. With thin fabric 5/8 is fine.
  2. Think about which direction you want the overlap to go in. I decided that I wanted the smooth edge towards the front middle and the turned over edge towards the back middle.
  3. Make sure you trim the edge really short. It it is more than a couple of mm long it really gets in your way and constantly try to poke over and unfold your folded over edge. (It is possible that ironing would solve this problem but a: my iron is kept in the little ones room and b: life is too short for ironing)
  4. If you aren’t going to iron do squash it down a lot with your fingers and also use lots of pins.
  5. Worry about the extra thick bits – on my plan that was the pocket openings where I had lining backing onto my denim with two rows of top stitching to keep it stable. I really needed a long seam allowance there and that bit was a real bitch…
  6. Once you get into the swing of it, even for quite heavy denim this technique was really pretty quick and worked fine without my iron. (Though I have since learned that other no raw edge methods like a French Seam are quicker)
  7. These seams are SO strong. I have been wearing it all the time and there is no pulls or problems. I caught my pocket today and I really think the main fabric would rip before the seam came open
  8. The look really cute – but the seams are on display so I did take it a bit slow).

 

This is what mine looked like once I had got the hang of it:

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Here is one bit where the bad edge is poking out (though, I actually don’t notice them much. I wear this skirt all the time)

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After wearing it for a few weeks I did decide to unpick one over-stitching line and re-trim the little edge a bit shorter and try again. Which actually worked fairly well – especially at the pocket section.

These seams are so beautifully neat inside that I almost changed my mind on lining the skirt just so that I would get to look at them:

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