My first commission (sort of!)

A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues sidled up to me and asked if I would be able to sew something for a surprise party she was organising to celebrate the CEO working at the company for 20 years. The idea was to do a sort of raffle, but where all the names in the hat are the CEO because every team bought him a silly gift. So they wanted something to keep the gifts in, which is where I come in!

bag-for-work-2I made a sack! Like a Santa’s sack but in company colours instead of Christmas colours. I bought 1.5m of purple fabric from my local shop – it’s quite a sturdy cotton twill. And it matches the branding shade of purple pretty closely. I measured that the sack should be about 70cm x 85cm, with the writing (on the other side of the above photo) taking up 30cm x 50cm. I made a photoshop document of 30cm x 50cm, typed the writing and made it as big (in Tahoma font) as it would go, which was size 180pt.

bag-for-work-5I printed the letters, cut them out then cut 2 of each one out of the white fabric left over from my Quiet Books (1 & 2). I cut them out twice because I was worried a single layer wouldn’t be thick enough, and the letters wouldn’t look totally white. I zigzagged around the edge of each letter to help it not to fray. It took ages! There are 27 letters altogether!

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Another part of the branding/logo for my work is an ear of corn, so I used the leftover fabric from my Mustard Victoria Blazer and Astoria to applique it on. I drew the shape onto paper, then used that as a pattern. Because it’s a knit, I used a straight stitch rather than a zigzag to sew it on.

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I originally wasn’t going to make a gusset, but when I measured the fabric, it was about 30cm too long (folded in half) for the height I roughly wanted. So I measured 25cm from the ‘bottom’ (the fold was down one side), then cut off the 25 cm from both sides. I have one of these left as I only needed one for the gusset. I used my own tutorial from my tote bag post to put the gusset in because I forgot how to do it! And I used all french seams, to make it a bit stronger. I did cut through the fold on the side and sew the seam again, to make it uniform, but if you’re in more of a hurry, you could use the fold as either the bottom or one of the sides.

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The final thing to do was to sew a channel at the top for the drawstring – which is where the extra 5cm from the height comes in. I folded the top down by 1.5cm and stitched it, then folded it by another 3.5cm and stitched it again, as far away from the top of the bag as possible, to leave a channel for the ‘string’. You can leave a gap in this final line of stitching to get the drawstring in, but I decided to unpick the side seam a little (making sure the stitching lines were secured and unlikely to undo), so the drawstring wouldn’t pull the top of the bag inside out.

The CEO really liked the bag, and the fake raffle thing worked really well! Also, we were all convinced he knew about the party but he really didn’t which was pretty cool! I’ve called this my (sort of) first commission because I got the money for the purple fabric back, but I didn’t get paid for my time. I guess because it was for my day job, it was a slightly awkward situation. I did mentally add up how long it took me to make, and it was 9 hours – it took ages to cut out and stitch all the letters! If I was paid minimum wage for those hours, I would have earned £65 but all I got was the £8 for the cost of the purple fabric – I didn’t get money back for the fabrics and drawstring I already had in my stash. I did sort of mention that I should charge for my time, but then I chickened out. How do you justify your worth for work done? It’s not like I would do my admin paid work at home in my spare time, but I found it hard to charge for something I do for a hobby.

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Make It: Reverse Applique Cushion cover

Today I’m going to show you how to make a reverse applique cushion cover (and, of course, you could then reserve applique anything you want!). Reverse applique is kinda what it says on the tin – you have 2 different fabrics, but the one that would be on the top in normal applique is underneath and the top fabric is cut away to reveal it.

I already had a cushion pad in need  of a cover as I bought a bunch when I bought the pad for my Sarah and Duck cushion. It measured 35cm x 35cm. So my fabric would be 38cm x 38cm, which adds a 1.5cm seam allowance to each side. You could always make the cover first and then buy the pad that fits the size you’ve made – though I would check you can definitely get one in that size before you spend ages making the cover.

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The fabrics I used were a blue fat quarter I was given by my aunt and which had been in my stash for a while,

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an off-cut of my ugly skirt refashion fabric,

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and the left-overs from my yellow skirt gang skirt (which sadly was consigned to the charity shop as I never wore it).

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The yellow fabric is the main fabric on both sides, so cut 2 squares of 38cm x 38cm. The biggest square I could squeeze out of the blue and yellow tartan fabric was 20cm x 20cm. This means I placed it 9cm from each edge (38-20/2). Then pin it in place.

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Top tip: Use washi tape (or other removable tape to make a new sewing guide for your sewing machine if your seam allowance (in this case 10cm) is bigger than the guides marked on the machine).

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Then sew all around the shape – I did this with the ‘back’ facing upwards so I would know I had caught all of the edges and there wouldn’t be any gaps. I also used one of my decorative stitched (D on the second row, below), to make sure it was sewn as securely as possible. Also it looks nice!

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This is what it will look like once you’ve sewn all the way around. Remember this is the back view.

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Flip your cushion over to the front and pinch only the top fabric in the middle – you should be able to tell when you’ve got both fabrics and when you’ve isolated only the top one.

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Then snip a little hole, then use this to cut out the middle of your main fabric up to the stitching – make sure you don’t snip any of the actual stitches!

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You will then have this:

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So that’s one side done – easy, right?

I decided I wanted my other side to be a circle and not a square. I cut the fat quarter into a square of 38cm x 38cm – if you have a smaller piece of fabric, you don’t have to cut it to the same size as the main fabric.

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Find the centre of the squares by folding in diagonally in half twice – push a pin in to mark this spot.

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With your pin still making the middle (you can almost make it out in this photo), pin the 2 squares of fabric together.

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The trick to sewing a circle is a trusty drawing pin! I decided to sew my circle with a 10cm radius (the distance from the centre to the edge). Measure from the needle to where you want the centre of the circle to be.

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Using washi tape (or another removable tape) stick the drawing pin in a straight line from the needle, pin facing upwards.

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Push the fabric onto the drawing pin, exactly where you had the pin marking the centre of your fabric – the drawing pin will act as a pivot around which you can sew your (pretty) perfect circle.

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Now you’re ready to sew your circle – you’ll find it easier to hold the fabric with the pin between 2 fingers to make sure it pivots evenly around in a circle. I also found it helpful to go slowly and to stop often to even up the tension between the pin and the needle. I, again, used a decorative stitch on my machine.

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You should end up with something like this – this is the back as the stitching wasn’t rally visible on the back.

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Then repeat the process of pinching the top layer of fabric,

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snipping a hole and cutting out the top fabric up to the line of stitching,.

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It should look like this:

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You then need to sew the 2 side of your cushion together. Pin them right sides facing (i.e. yellow sides together, blue sides on the outside) and sew around 3 sides, leaving the 4th side open to get the cushion pad in.

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It will help you to get clean square corners if you snip the excess fabric off like this before you turn it the right way around.

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Then turn it right sides out, and hand stitch the open side, tucking the seam allowance inside. Then you should have a lovely new cushion to brighten up a dreary January day!

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Make It Yourself

As you may have noticed (or not!) I have had a bit of a rearrange of my categories and menu. I’ve made a new category (and archive page) for posts where you could make the things yourself – like my tutorial for making a tote bag and how to make a running armband: Make It.

I thought I’d write this quick post to let you know all the ones I’ve written before, which are now in the archive. I’ll be checking through them to make sure they all have comprehensive enough instructions for you to follow. Let me know if you spot anything that needs better instructions.

I’m hoping to add new posts of crafty, and thrifty things you can make yourself. I love sharing things I’ve made, but I want to encourage other people to make things too.

You can make food shopping/ planning less painful (well, I find it less painful!) with this meal planner pinboard.

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Make your very own Doc Brown costume from Back To The Future – though it might be too late now it’s not 2015 any more 😦

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One of my favourite ever makes, A Beautiful Mess’s Felt Allotment, could be made for any kid in your life – and, in fact, I kinda want one myself!

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Do you know a kid with a favourite show or book? Why not make them a cushion with the character on, like my Sarah and Duck cushion?

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Have you set a New Year’s Resolution to take up jogging (or another kind of exercise)? Make yourself an armband to hold your phone so you can listen to chunes while you work out!

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Ah, the tote bag. If you’re living in the England, then what better way to avoid the new plastic bag charge than by making up a bunch of tote bags?

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I made these tea cup candles a while ago, and I plan to make more as they’re so cute!

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If you know someone who recently had a baby, but don’t really know what to get them, why not applique some animals or flowers or letters or anything at all on some babygrows? Clothes are always a useful gift and this way they’re a bit more personal!

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I made this Polaroid camera case for a friend of mine a while ago, and the principles could be transferred to any camera. Of course, not everyone will probably like an anatomical heart adorning it…….

Polaroid Camera Case

This has to be one of the easiest makes ever – you just need a clock kit from ebay! And a vinyl record, of course.

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For one of my many friends who likes BBC’s Sherlock I made this Kindle cover – it’s got silhouettes on one side and the purple shirt of sex and John’s cabled jumper on the other side!

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If you don’t fancy making a cushion for a kiddie, you could make a wall hanging instead, like this one of Norman The Slug With A Silly Shell!

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Homemade Christmas Presents

Usually around this time of year (i.e. after Christmas) I start posting about all the homemade gifts I’ve made for people. But this year, for the first time in about 6 years, I haven’t made anyone a present. I found this year that the run-up to Christmas was a bit stressful and it went really quickly – I had only about 4 evenings and 2 weekend days off in the month running up to Christmas! So instead of posting this year’s makes, I thought I would round-up the things I’ve made in previous years. Maybe if I start having ideas now, by next year I’ll have made a couple of things!

I’ll list these from quickest to longest to make (roughly), so you’ll have an idea of what you can complete in time if, like me, you start too late!

You can easily, and quickly, make a bowl out of a vinyl record for someone, like I did with this one for my brother-in-law.

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Or another idea for a vinyl record is to make it into a clock.

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Tea cup candles are pretty and can be flavoured – I gave mine a chocolate smell! And they’re not as scary to make as you might think!

Tea Cup Candle

You can always make clothes for someone else (and not just for yourself!) as I did with this Grainline Scout Tee for a friend, out of Strawberry fabric – Strawberries are her favourite thing!

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A good alternative to clothes is an apron, which you can customise depending on the taste of the person you’re making it for – this one is cake themed for my baking friend.

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An easy gift for any new babies in your family or friendship group is to applique some baby grows. You could do flowers or trains or other animals, or whatever the kid is into (if they’re old enough to have interests).

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If you fancy a bit more sewing, you could make a tote bag for someone, using this tutorial, with their favourite thing on – in this case BBC’s Sherlock (who’s excited for New Year’s Day!?).

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Or, also requiring a bit more sewing, you can make some baby clothes.

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If you’re not into sewing, or if you fancy a non-sewn gift, you can make a scrapbook, like this one I made for my dad’s 60th birthday.

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If you know how to knit and know someone who likes lego, what better than this knitted lego brick doorstop (with an actual brick inside).

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Again for the kiddies, maybe for older ones than the baby grows, why not make a cushion or wall hanging with their favourite book or character on?

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Probably the first thing anyone makes when they learn to knit is a scarf, so why not knit one (or more) as gifts?

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If you’ve got a bit more sewing time, and an older kid than for the cushion or wall hanging, you can make a felt allotment or a (travel) matching game. This both take a while because there’s lots of bits to make (and lots of squares to sew for the matching game!), but you can make then as complicated as you like or have time for.

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Finally, if you have lots of knitting time (in front of a boxset, perhaps?!), then you could make a rug like this one, which was based on a cushion pattern).

Round, stripy rug

Do you make Christmas presents for people? If so, how early do you start and what have been your favourite makes?

Make It: Appliqued Baby Grows

I realised once I’d posted my post about 2013 that when I said I only made one present all year I was completely lying and had forgotten some stuff. I think I was thinking just of Christmas, when I’ve actually made 2 aprons, for my sister and my friend, and I personalised some baby-grows for my nephew. I guess this might not count as ‘making’ the present, but I still figured I’d post it/ them here.

My (very cute) nephew – is it weird that it’s still weird to say ‘nephew’ even though he’s over 6 months old?! – anyway, he’s growing a lot. And he can pretty much walk already, which is insane! It seems like 2 seconds since he was teeny tiny and new. Anyway, again, I bought him some new threads for Christmas as I didn’t have time to make anything from scratch. And it turns out baby clothes are kind of expensive, so I figured the most economical way to get him some baby grows was to buy a pack of 3 plain white ones from Mothercare and sew some little animals on to make them a bit more interesting.

Luckily I had some felt in my stash, so I didn’t have to worry about hemming/ fraying. I pretty much picked what animals to do based on the colours of felt I had. The Boyfriend wanted me to do a pig because I had some pink, but I had already decided on an elephant because I had some grey left and I thought an elephant and a pig might be a bit random. So I decided to do a jungle animal theme, making an elephant, a lion(ess – because I didn’t know how to make a mane) and a snake.

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I sewed on the eyes and tails, lion’s nose and snake’s stripes with various bits of wool from my stash. I considered cutting the little bits out of felt, but figured it would be way too fiddly to sew on.

And here are the 3 together. With a couple of little stripey t shirts, not a bad present if I say so myself!

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