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One hour project: Clothkits apple doorstop

8 Mar

Ooo, hello Clothkits. What a blast from the past!


As a child I was usually dressed in either:

a) Something my mother had sewn

b) Something my aunt had designed

c) Something from a jumble sale

d) Something from Clothkits, which my mother had sewn

Once my mum made me a dress by tracing a Clothkits pattern onto an old curtain she’d got from a jumble sale for about 15p, thus fulfilling options a), c) and d) all in one garment.

Clothkits died a death in the 80s, but it’s back. BACK! And just as brilliant.

It now has yummy artists like Rob Ryan, Emily Peacock, and Echino Designs (lovely Japanese fabric designer) on board, and has revived some old favourites (I think my brother had this coat) and created some new classics.

Anyway, when I saw their stand at Ally Pally in the autumn I couldn’t resist one of their lovely apple doorstops (minimalism alert – we actually did need a second doorstop in addition to The Squirrel). Especially as they were just £5 (show offer – nice!).


Of course, the kit has since languished in a cupboard for a few months, but when I finally got it out to make it took me less than an hour from start to finish. Great for a present.

Foolishly I forgot to trace the pieces before I cut them, (the nice lady on the Clothkits stand told me everyone does this) but actually the pattern is very simple – four triangles with the point chopped off, a square for the bottom, and a handle.

And, oooo, that lovely Clothkits babycord. Such great fabric (iron it upside down to avoid squashing it).


Clothkits, welcome back (OK, I know it’s been a few years). You guys rock!


One hour project: Easy ironing board cover

4 Mar

Ironing bites, doesn’t it? I have a semi-official, ‘no buying clothes that need ironing’ rule, which means that apart from the occasional shirt, I don’t have to iron.

But when it comes to sewing, I’m the opposite. I iron A LOT. If you want to sew anything, then your iron is your friend.

A firm hand with a steam iron can fix a wonky seam, square a quilt piece and dry that fabric you forgot to wash but are desperate to cut out, like NOW.

My ironing board has seen better days and recently has been leaving a grid like pattern when I turn the temperature up, so I realised it needed re-padding and recovering.

Probably something to do with this…


Happily, this is a very easy job.

Here’s how.

1) Take off your old ironing board cover. Commercial covers are usually held on by cord (cheaper than elastic), so look underneath and you’ll find a fastening like this:


2) Unwind the fastener and remove the cover. You’ll find a layer of foam or wadding.


3) Take that off, and place it on top of your chosen padding. I’m using an old towel, but left over quilt wadding works well too. Draw around the original padding, closely, using dressmaker’s chalk (or a felt pen if you haven’t got that).


4) Cut it out. Now lay it ON TOP of the original foam (the more padding the better). Trim it to match if it doesn’t fit.


5) Now place the new padding on your chosen cover fabric. I’m using a mid-weight home furnishing cotton, by Amy Butler, but any mid-weight smooth cotton is fine. This piece just happened to be the right size and needed using.


6) Draw around your padding, leaving a 3in/7.5cm seam.


7) You can finish the edging with zig-zag stitching or an overlocker, or, use pinking shears – the easiest option (especially if you remember to use them to cut out with, unlike me).


8) Fold over a 1in/ 2.5cm seam and pin. You will need to make small pleats at the corners. Make sure they all go the same way, as this will make threading through the elastic (see next step) much easier.


9) Sew a straight seam around this edging, making sure it’s wide enough for your elastic (I used 0.5cm elastic) and leaving a 1in gap in the seam.

10) Attach the elastic to a medium safety pin and use that to push through the gap, and feed the elastic around. This is the fiddly bit. Pin the other end of the elastic to the fabric so that the tail doesn’t disappear into the casing.


11) When you’ve threaded it all the way around, tie a very tight reef knot in your elastic and push the knot into the opening. Overstitch the gap and make sure the ruffling caused by the elastic is pretty even. But remember, it won’t show!


12) Return the various items to the ironing board in this order: original foam, new padding, original cover, new cover.

13) Voila!
Your ironing board is as good as new, and you’ll get a pristine finish every time you use it. Not that you I’m saying you should


Quilting the easy way. Part two

20 Feb

Turns out I got a little obsessed after I cut out my latest quilt. The next day I pieced the whole thing. Ta da!


I’m not sure I’d recommend doing all this work in one go. By the end I was definitely getting slap dash, and so the finished result is a little, erm, relaxed in terms of how many corners are squared up. Oops.


This was the first time I tried using a quarter inch seam rather than three-eighths. Three-eighths is definitely easier, but the lady at Country Threads was faintly horrified when I suggested going back to a bigger seam allowance. Haha. Turns out, that gets problematic once you’re making more complex blocks as nothing adds up.

But, heck, if it’s just squares I say go with what works for you. My first attempt (using three-eighth seams) was definitely neater.

Anyhoo, I’m onto the quilting now, which is a very nice way to spend an evening in the winter, as sitting under the quilt all evening while you work on it gets seriously warm. I like hand-quilting, as it gives a more uneven, rumpled finish. And it also doesn’t flatten out the quilt the way machine quilting can do.

Lay your backing fabric (mine is a nice old white sheet) down, then your wadding (I use Bamboo Blend, which is really soft) and your quilt top in a sandwich. Your wadding and backing should be about 5cm/2ins wider all round than the top. Smooth the layers out and then safety pin them together.

Start pinning at the centre and work outwards, so you can smooth any wrinkles to the edge of the quilt where, poof! , they vanish. Curved safety pins make getting through all three layers easier. I used normal dressmakers pins on my first quilt, and spent every evening I worked on it stabbing myself accidentally, and picking up pins when I’d finished (and missing one every time).


I use a medium length embroidery needle (nice and sharp) and 4 strands of embroidery thread. I’ve seen 3 strands recommended by Jane Brocket, but 4 is easier, as you can double up two, and use a loop knot to start.

For this quilt I’m using a running stitch and quilting at the end of the squares, in a grid across the quilt, 2 squares apart. I’ve done all the horizontal lines, and once I’ve done the vertical ones I’ll be back to show you my stitching and talk bindings. Ttfn!

Love your buttons, change your buttons

14 Feb

Cheap clothes = nasty buttons. Sad but true.

My cheap clothes come from charity shops, so they’re cheap for a different reason, but often they still can’t escape the nasty button curse. Evidence, if you will…


Yes this top is a little bobbly, but I love it, and it’s got loads of wear left.

Quick fix.


Get an AMAZING button, like this one (I wish I could remember where it’s from. I still have one left – try The Button Queen for similar).

Carefully cut off the old button. You’ll probably find the buttonhole is slightly the wrong size for your new button, so cut the hole a millimetre at a time (on the inner edge of the garment) or sew it up a little (on the outer edge of the garment). Both these fixes will move the button away from the garment edge. Maybe sew around the edge of the buttonhole for good measure to neaten it.

(Handsewn button holes are way prettier than factory sewn ones)

Sew on your new button, and finish by winding the thread around the bottom of the button, and fasten off.


This will raise the button from the surface of the garment slightly, so it’ll sit nicer.

Stand back and admire your lovely new garment. A nice button will make you happier if you are wearing it, than if it’s in a button jar.

I am obsessed with buttonholes and buttons at the mo, as I’ve just written all about them for the next issue of The Knitter  – it hits the shops on February 21 if you need to know more…

Quilting, the easy way. Part One.

9 Feb


I love quilts. I was smitten from the first time I read Jane Brocket‘s, The Gentle Art of Domesticity.

Trouble is, making a quilt can seem like a pretty big deal. So I managed to take three years to complete the first one.

My second (kingsize) quilt is currently hibernating – it’s so big  it’s tricky to find the space to work on it. But, hey, why finish a project when you can start another? You know what I’m talking about.

(I wish I could be faithful to my projects like Jen, but honestly, it’s never going to happen.)

The team at The Knitter recently gave our ops ed Helen a couple of Moda charm packs for her birthday. I had the lovely task of choosing them in Country Threads – and it gave me the quilting bug again.

So I spent a free morning turning this pile of fabric…



…into this lovely neat pile of 5 inch squares (that’s 12.5cm, if you’re a metric kind of guy/gal/whatever).


I ironed each piece of fabric and then cut them out with my rotary cutter, mat and quilting ruler. (You can get these cheaply on ebay).

Later, my folks Storm to the (amazing) M Shed, so I spent the afternoon laying out all the lovely squares (just 192 of them).


You can guestimate the size of your quilt by putting down a diagonal spread of squares, as tall and wide as you think the quilt will probably be. In this case my diagonal was 14 x 10, but after a while I realised I’d got more squares than would fit, so I pulled out some of the squares near the edges at random, and eventually filled a space 16 x 12 squares.



For a simple, patchwork quilt, first, place squares you only have one or two of. Some of my singles (from an Etchings by Moda charm pack) were quite dark reds and greys, so I tried to spread them out evenly across my rough grid, along with the pale teals that were dotted through the pack as well.

There were a lot of lighter creamy squares from the charm pack, so they were laid out next.


The main job, was then working with the squares that came from fat quarters and half metres of fabric. A fat quarter will yield 16 x 5in squares, and a half metre double that, so you need to make sure these are evenly placed to avoid ‘pools’ of colour.


The trick is to get all your singles down, and then put down the largest quantity of the strongest colour or pattern you have available next. So if you have 24 cream squares and 16 red squares, put down the red ones first, as they’ll catch your eye most.

Work through your fabric supply in this order, laying down singles, then large quantities of strong colours/patterns, large colours of neutrals, smaller quantities of strong colours and then finally smaller quantities of neutrals.


Not all my original planned fabrics made it in. I had about another 50 squares in two fabrics which were gorgeous, but didn’t look quite right, and there was another fabric in my first pile for this project that I didn’t even cut up.


It may seem a shame to cut squares you then don’t use, but there’s always another quilt to be made, so they’ll get used up eventually. Better to hang fire on a fabric that doesn’t quite work, than ruin the overall effect.

I ended up with a colour scheme of dark red, cream, pale teal and grey which I absolutely love, and is a bit more stylish than my first two attempts.


I don’t have a craft room or a studio, and I also have a kid who loves nothing better than to ‘get involved’ with my projects. But I also know that, after a whole day working on a quilt, I’ll probably not feel like sewing that evening as well…

So how to keep everything in order until the sewing machine comes out?


First I drew a layout plan.


And then folded an A4 sheet of paper in half for each of my 12 columns of squares.

On the front,  I put the number of the column and a rough description of the top square in the pile.


On the back, I put the number of the column and a rough description of the bottom square in the pile.


One column was the same at both ends, so I described the 2nd square from the top as well.

Then I placed all the squares from each column inside (in order, piled on top of each other) and fastened the sides of each folder paper with masking tape.




Now I can sew as much or as little as I fancy, and know that all my pieces are not going to get jumbled up.

A few other quilting tips I’ve picked up on my short but sweet quilting journey…

(1) Take pictures of your layout as you go. This is my first properly ‘random’ layout, with no plan at the beginning. Taking pictures makes it easier to spot when a square is in the ‘wrong’ place, rather than just by eye.

(2) Look at your quilt ‘upside down’. If it’s going on a bed or your lap, you’ll be looking at it from this end just as often. Does it still work?

(3) Do your layout on a cotton sheet or blanket. The pieces stick to the fabric, so they won’t fly around the room at the slightest breeze (although, do yourself a favour and keep the door shut).

(4) Plan your quilt in daylight if you possibly can. Subtleties of colour are lost in artificial light, so daylight may not be so forgiving of your mixing and matching!

Oooo, here’s one I made earlier (OK, the only one actually…)


OK, enough quilting! I’m off to knit a sleeve (in the round, no shaping, easy!), and watch a cheesy film. Night!

Make your own seed bombs DIY

5 Feb

This is completely amazing, and will definitely feature in my home-made pressies this year!

Pepperbox Couture

Remember the last garden post I did with that ‘nifty thrifty trick’ for saving seeds?

Well as luck would have it, Mademoiselle Chaos over at blogspot has developed a seed bomb tutorial that would work perfectly with that seed saving tip!!

This is a clever and cute way to save and store seeds and they would also make perfect gifts, or to keep for your own garden.

Also, if your interested in the concept of guerrilla gardening this tutorial is for you. Click on her name in green above to be redirected to her blog.

I will definitely look into making some for my own garden next summer.

(main picture is from Mademoiselles tutorial)


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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!