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Back to school sampler

14 May


I can’t believe Storm will be starting school in September. It wasn’t so long ago she looked like this…


Storm was a pretty teeny baby, born 10 days early and weighing 6lbs 7oz. Al had to go out to buy premie clothes for her as everything was just too big.

Unknown to us until a few days before she was born, Storm had been breach, sitting cross legged like a little Buddha for probably 2 months. It was a long time before she ‘unfolded’. Her legs would always ping up inside her sleep suits so we took to tying the legs (the romper’s  not hers, haha) out of the way.

But she grew mighty fast and now everyone thinks she’s older than she really is.

It’s her 4th birthday over Jubilee weekend, so, as she’ll be one of the young ones in her school year, I thought I’d give her a helping hand.

I’ve already started one alphabet sampler, but I’m also making her a cross stitch one, which I’m enjoying more, basically because it’s easier!

It’s Alicia Paulson’s Winterwoods design and I am a little in love with it.

My favourite bits are the teapot…


and the wellies…


and the deer…


but it really is all lovely…


I slightly worry the letters might be too stylised and therefore not as helpful to Storm as they could be, but I hope she likes it anyway.

Man they grow up fast, don’t they?!


I may be gone sometime…

11 Apr


Now I’ve written this title, I’m wondering whether alluding to the last known words of a fearless explorer facing certain death is entirely in good taste. Ah well.

Anyway, I have taken possession of The Sewing Machine (hurrah!) so forgive me if I hibernate a little.

I combined the trip with a 2 hour visit to Bath’s amazing Victoria Park playground to keep the wee girl happy, so I didn’t feel too guilty when I then carted her along to Husqvarna Studio to pick up my Janome XL601, complete with add-on quilting package (swoon).

The first thing I did (OK, the first thing, after wrestling with the bobbin winder and wrangling with the automatic needle threader), was to sew some ‘proper’ one-step buttonholes onto Storm’s Puppet Show dress.

I practised a lot first, which was just as well. Ahem. The best bit was when I tried to start a buttonhole with the feeddogs down, thus zig-zagging on the spot for several seconds before realisation hit, which led to me having to practically cut out the bobbin. Duh.


I got the hang of it in the end. They aren’t perfect, but a damn sight quicker, and neater than any I’ve sewn by hand.


The Machine is not top of the range by any stretch, but it has a few cute embroidery stitches, and I particularly like the one you can use to create a scalloped hem. Sweet!


I feel nervous about getting rid of my old heavy-duty machine, which mum taught me to sew on, and I’ve had about 20 years. But I suspect a minimalist is not allowed two sewing machines by any stretch. Uh oh.

Reading List: My favourite blogs

22 Feb

Mmmmm, pondering what to write today, it occurred that there are a gazillion great blogs out there, but tracking them down can be tricky.

Some of the ones I like are well known, some not so much, but all are worth a peek, I hope you’ll agree.

So, here we go!

1. Posie Gets Cozy

Portland designer Alicia Paulson has an impossibly beautiful home, an incredible collection of sweet felt, cross stitch, embroidery and crochet patterns, and takes truly beautiful pictures. I’ve made A LOT of her designs. Go Alicia!

2. Yarnstorm

Quilting, baking, knitting, crochet, art and gardening, with Jane Brocket, who has a spectacular eye for colour and a ‘can do’ take on life.

She started me on my quilting journey. And hurrah for that! (More quilting here this weekend if that’s your bag)

3. Brooklyn Tweed

Jared Flood has superstar status in the knitting world, but is also an accomplished photographer, and now has his own yarn range. If any designer will persuade you to get into knitting, he is it.

Here’s his Rock Island shawl. Not one for beginners but totally GAWJUS.

Rock Island

Photo (c) Jared Flood.

4. Craftiness Is Not Optional

Mum of two and sewing genius Jess posts daily about clothes, with regular free tutorials on kid’s and women’s clothes and accessories. Great for last minute presents. I love her ric-rac flowers.

5. Feminist Ryan Gosling

This blog exploded just a few months ago, and riffs with exceptional humour on the whole F*ckYeah web meme that won’t go away. Succinct feminist theory and hot pictures of Ryan Gosling. What’s not to like?! This is my favourite post.

6. The Sartorialist

I love Scott Schuman for his coverage of the shows, but his street snaps are second to none. A superstar fashion blogger who deserves to be so.

7. Needled

Scottish knitwear designer Kate Davies takes you on adventures through the Highlands, and regularly reveals her latest, exceptional design. She has a penchant for ‘woolly wool’ and Fair Isle and great taste in dogs and hats.

Like this one…

8. Cotton and Cloud

Kyoko Nakayoshi is a talented Japanese knitwear designer, who I feel privileged to have worked with regularly over the past year. Her blog is full of useful knitting tips and techniques, as well as links to lovely products like these fab knitting needles. Knitscene recently named her one of the top 8 knitwear designers to watch in 2012, and deservedly so!

9. Birdface

Helen Ward is a graphic designer with a sideline in amazing paper art. She has occasional tutorials for everything from pretty Christmas decorations, to  leg warmers and is always inspirational. She rocks!

Here’s Helen with her fabulous knitted gate, which she created during Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland

10. Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear

Jen AC is a widely respected technical editor with a sideline in just-so designs. She’s also my friend, and the person who encouraged me to go for my job on The Knitter. Thanks Jen!  Her blog is a lovely mix of knitting, stitching, foodie loveliness and good old common sense.

Enough from me. I’d love to hear about your favourite blog, so leave me a comment!

Mini book review: Jane Austen’s Sewing Box

6 Feb


Oooo, I do love a charity shop find. I’m a bit obsessed with embroidery at the moment, so when I spotted this gem for £3.50 I couldn’t resist.

Jane Austen’s Sewing Box, by Jennifer Forest is an absolute treasure trove of crafty happiness.

Jennifer’s charming book looks at what arts and crafts meant to Regency women, as reflected in Jane Austen’s novels and letters. There are 18 lovely projects, which include pin cushions, thread cases, and pillow covers, but for me it is the story behind each of these objects which elevates JASB to a higher level.

The hidden code of craft at this time is absolutely fascinating. Women in high society were expected to stitch (by hand) linen shirts and trousers for their brothers and husbands, nursery sets for poor village families, and also be highly skilled in embroidery. But plain sewing was strictly done behind closed doors. Only the ‘finer’ crafts were appropriate for company.

I have just embarked on my most ambitious embroidery project to date, and my stitching skills are woeful compared to what would have been seen as acceptable in the 1800s, but to read this now gives me a real sense of connection to women in the past.

I wonder what they would think of the craft culture of today…




Weekend project: How to make an animal doorstop

4 Feb

I dreamt up this chap for Cloth magazine a year ago, but until recently, he’d been sitting on a shelf, looking rather pleased with himself, but not actually being  useful – namely because he’d been emptied of the rice I’d used as a temporary filling. Gotta eat, right?!


Meanwhile, my nice homemade cushions kept getting used as make-shift doorstops in the living room, by my practical, but not-so-crafty husband. Grrrr.

So this month I salvaged some very out of date dried lentils that were due to get binned, and made him nice and weighty again.

And now he gets used every day!

He’s supposed to be a Totoro-esque squirrel, but after living with him for a year, I’ve got to admit he looks more like a cat.


I made him from an old felted Fair Isle jumper, some cream felt and velvet ric-rac (from The Makery), and buttons, yarn and embroidery thread I had knocking around, so he only cost me a few pounds.

If you want to make him, you’ll need the template and the materials list.

Unfortunately Cloth only published the main template, but this is what the pieces look like laid out.


You need a front, 2 back pieces, each 2cm wider than half the front (so they overlap) and 10cm longer (to fold under to make a base). The sides are 2 smaller triangles, the size of which is determined by the width of the base, and the height of the front and back – easy to work out. The tail pieces and tummy panel need to fit in with the rest, so just draw those freehand once you’ve cut out the main pieces.

First, stitch through the ric rack to attach the tummy panel and tail topper to the main pieces.

Then pin the various bits together and blanket stitch them around the edges to join them. Because it’s felt there’s no hemming involved. Hurrah!

The two back pieces are only stitched together at the very top, and along the base. I added velcro to close them.


The vertical opening in the back is left open for a little sack of filling. I made one from some muslin, but you could just fill an old sock. The stiff wool fabric means your doorstop doesn’t need to be stuffed to bursting to stand upright.

Hide the opening with the ‘tail’, stitching it to the bottom edge only. Make a loop for it at the top, so that you can fasten it with a pretty button to keep it upright.


The flat bottomed shape means he’ll easily slide out of the way with a nudge from your slipper, which is particularly handy.

I only used a machine to sew the velcro and the ric rac on, but as long as you use a thimble you could do this by hand too.

His face is embroidered – blanket stitch around the button eyes, satin stitch for the nose, french knots for the freckles, and back stitch for the mouth. I used wool, but embroidery thread would be fine.


He’s a pretty ‘organic’ project- the main thing is to get the embroidery right. Maybe practise your blanket stitch too if it’s new to you.

Not my most sophisticated idea ever, but he does make me chuckle!

Heritage in a box frame…

1 Feb

Thanks so much for all your lovely words about nana’s sewing box. The frame arrived this week and so I have started playing around with what’s going in it.


I got quite a small frame so that everything is quite tightly packed in, much like it was in the Cadbury’s tin where so much of this resided for so long. I’ve been arranging and rearranging all these treasures in the tin lid as the dimensions are so similar.


The crochet cotton was a little tangled, so I rewound the last few metres back onto the cardboard spool more neatly. That felt a bit strange, but nana was pretty tidy so I think she would have wanted everything to look its best.

I didn’t realise until now that some of the silk thread is really fine. Not embroidery thread at all I think, but for stitching up evening gowns perhaps. It’s also taken me this long to notice that some of the colours we love are the same – the teals and soft greens. That feels good.


I do need to work out how to get everything to stay put, having not framed this kind of stuff before, so if this is your forte, I’d be grateful for any tips!


I’ll be back with the finished piece soon…

Daisychain Sampler: Ambitious embroidery

30 Jan

Embroidery and cross stitch seem to be my ‘new thing’ at the moment. It’s great to have another craft I can do in front of a film besides knitting and crochet – I love sewing, but my machine takes a little while to set up, which tends to put me off.


These new hobbies are also really helpful when I have RSI, as it’s usually my left hand which plays up, so I can still stitch, as long as I rest my arm on a pillow.

Until I tried embroidery again, after not doing it since infant school, I didn’t ‘get it’ at all. While I could appreciate the skill involved, and the end product, I couldn’t possibly see how it could be enjoyable at all. Ha! What do I know?!

This Daisychain Sampler by Alicia Paulson is my biggest project to date. I meticulously traced the design with an iron-n transfer pencil, using the ‘tape it to the window on a sunny day’ technique, which worked great (although I had to turn the heating off as the radiator under the window -it was sunny, but freezing cold – was griddling my tum!)

I didn’t do such a brilliant job of transferring the pattern from the tracing paper onto the cloth –  a few of the letters got blurred where I pulled the fabric when I moved the iron. But it’s probably not bad for a first attempt, and I can stitch over the double lines I think.



I’m using some lovely lilac linen and embroidery thread, rather than crewel wool, as I wanted the finish to be quite smooth and sheeny. It’ll go in Storm’s bedroom when it’s done. I plan to make it a present for when she starts school in September (eep!) to help her with her ABCs.

So I need to stitch a letter a week I think. Let’s see how that goes! Just ignore my track record on unfinished objects please. Ahem.

I have made quite a few of Alicia’s projects, so there’s a little Posie Gets Cozy archive here, if you like her stuff. Personally, I think she’s fab!