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Parties and presents sew sew

Pisces baby quilt

If you follow me on instagram you’re probably bored of me teasing you with pictures of this quilt buuuut it’s all done now so here it is with our resident newborn model, Kermit the Frog!

salt water constellations quilt 1

I put Kermit on it for scale so you can see that I accidentally made it totally massive (42 x 52 inches). Oh well, the baby can use it until it’s old enough for sleepovers, plus it’s a nice size for using as a lap quilt on the sofa (as I discovered when I was hand finishing the binding in front of the TV this week!).

salt water constellations quilt 8

This quilt is for the same baby that got those little trousers a few weeks ago. The baby will be a Pisces like me, so (even though I don’t really believe in horoscopes), I thought this mix of sea on the front and stars would on the back would suit the little one. The salt water fabrics that I used for the top are so much fun, with all manner of sea creatures (and submarines!) hiding in the patterns.salt water constellations quilt 7

I made up the pattern on the top as I went along. It was nice to take a lot more risks with quilt, compared to the last baby quilt I made where I was quite “safe” with my fabric choices and the pattern. I started from the top with full stripes of all the different fabrics, and then worked in strips down from there, epiecing the fabrics together. I started with some bits precut, but in the end I was just cutting the fabric and playing with it like a jigsaw and then sewing it together. It was fun! One thing I learnt was that some of the fabrics that I wasn’t that fond of when they arrived (like the stripes), actually looked sooo good once they were cut up into little pieces and up against other patterns.

salt water constellations quilt 9

I ordered the fabrics online and when the arrived I was a bit worried that the two different hues of blue on the front and back didn’t really go…. But once it the top was all sewn up I took into into my local quilt shop with the backing fabric and spent my lunch break browsing fabrics. Once I found this beautiful yellow the two blues really started to sing and I fell in love.

salt water constellations quilt 4

Here’s one of my favourite bits! I had this seagull ribbon in my stash and at first I just sewed it into the binding, but then I figured it would be nice to reinforce it so that the baby’s mum (my friend) could use it to hang the quilt up on a hook if need be.

salt water constellations quilt 5

Here’s a better view of the backing fabric with all its funny constellations. I quilted it with a triple zig zag stitch on my machine for some more wavy-ness. I wasn’t thrilled with the way this turned out (I have got to figure out how to work the walking foot I got for Christmas!), but I think it works.


I attached the binding using the machine for one side and then secretly hand stitching on the other. I did all this using yellow thread that matched the binding, but as I was doing the hand stitching, I realised that I should have matched the machine thread to the quilt not the binding, so that it would be less visible if any bits did stick out of the binding.

salt water constellations quilt 2


Front: six skinny quarters of various Salt Water by Tula Pink fabrics in the ‘aqua’ colourway from the Village Haberdashery (I emailled Annie the shop owner and she cut them skinny not fat for me so that I could do the long stripes at one end of the quilt).

Back: 1.5 metres of Lizzy House constellations night blue from Backstitch (this was the harrrdest blue to photograph ever but look at the gorgeous pattern!)

Binding: about half a metre of Kona Solids mustard yellow (I think! It doesn’t look like any of the swatches online but what does that mean?!)

Batting: Bamboo Blend 50/50 bamboo cotton batting (I bought this off a roll at my local quilt shop though).

(I really like this batting! It’s snuggly and warm but still folds up really well so the quilt isn’t too much of a behemoth. I think the technical terms to describe it are: high drapability, low loft and high resilience. The lady in the shop said it wasn’t really necessary to pre-wash it before use (unless you were making a very pale quilt – the washing is recommended to remove any traces of oil from any cottonseed husks left in the batting). It will shrink about 5 per cent in the wash for that wrinkly look.)

Time: Started after work last Wednesday, finished Tuesday lunchtime. Two solid evenings and a Saturday morning, the rest in bits and pieces.

Cost: quilt top £24 (I have scraps left over but nothing else), quilt back £18, binding £3.50 (I used half a metre of £7/metre fabric), batting £8.10 (1.5 metres of the baby quilt width). Total = £56.50 (Plus p&p on some items and three – count ‘em! – three 100m spools of gutermann thread at £1.55 a pop) (two blue and one yellow) (I only finished one of those fully though)

(I put the time and cost just to show why custom quilts cost so much on places like Etsy and why I won’t be going into business any time soon! I also thinking quilting cottons might be more expensive in the UK than the US?)

My favourite quilting tutorials: All linked up in this blog post

Let’s finish this up with one more picture of our beautiful baby all wrapped up!

salt water constellations quilt 6

I love making quilts for babies! I spent a lot of time while I was making this quilt, just thinking about this little baby that we’re all so excited to meet. One of my other friends said that maybe I should be careful of setting a precedent that everyone’s babies get quilts, but for now I’d rather work on getting faster at quilting than give up on giving them! (Ask me again in a few years though.)

Parties and presents sew sew trips

Lots of elephants and a giraffe

Happy new year, team! I hope everyone had a jolly Christmas and a spendid New Year. We had a lovely Christmas at Mr V’s parents’ house with the whole family and then we whipped down to Devon to welcome the new year with my friends.


We swam here on the 1st of January to wash the old year away! It was frrrrrreezing, unsurprisingly.

Anyway, I thought I’d just update with some Christmas sewing I did for the tiny nieces and for the homemade secret santa that we do at New Year.

First up, I made our toddler niece a dress with elephants on it.

Every little thing dress elephants

It’s the Every Little Thing Dress pattern from Schwin Designs, which I bought in their Black Friday sale.

Not going to lie, I pretty much hated sewing this dress. My sewing machine kept ripping thread, my gathering kept messing up, my iron got dirt on the white bit of dress… basically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong! (And most of the things that did go wrong, were my fault either that day or at some point in the past.) Eventually I called it a day, whapped some polka dot bias tape on it to cover some sins and accepted how wonky these elephants are on the back.

Every little thing elephant dress back

I was a bit aware that making clothes for babies and toddlers is more of a present for their parents than the kid themselves, so I wanted to make a simple softie to match the outfits I’d made (the baby niece got these polka dot dungarees).

So, using this Little Softies Zoo Pattern (amazing, so well designed and written!) I made big and little elephants in the same fabrics.

Little Softies elephants

I was happier with how the baby elephant turned out. It really felt like I was short changing the toddler niece as I wasn’t happy with her dress or elephant and I was thrilled with her baby sister’s dungarees and elephant. Oh well, luckily she’s only two so she didn’t care!


I was thrilled to get this message from the nieces’ mum a few days ago: “I spent a long time this morning trying to get a picture of the girls playing with their elephants but they move too much! I hadn’t even set it up, they absolutely love them!” (She really liked the dungarees and dress too!)

I didn’t have much time to make my present for homemade secret santa so I decided to stick with the Little Softies pattern, adding a giraffe to the mix. I made them out of lovely printed felt and did a bit more embroidery on them (as they were for an adult). I still realised that I’d essentially made a 29-year-old a baby toy, but she seemed to like them!

Felt elephant and giraffe

I only managed to snap a picture of these with the iphone after I’d given them, so sorry there’s not much detail.

So that’s the last of my pre-Christmas sewing all caught up! Homemade secret santa marked one year since my first sewing project since school (pyjama cat). It’s been really fun – I’ve loved learning so much and nothing beats the feeling of making a whole new thing out of fabric and thread.

I’m looking forward to sewing a lot more in 2013. I’m also hoping to get a lot more technically proficient and make many more wearable garments.

Making the felt elephant also ignited a new love – hand embroidery – so there might be a bit of that too!

Embroidered flower

I made this last week. The really rough petals and leaves are from before I got the embroidery hoop…

Did you make any Christmas presents this year? I wanted to make more but ran way out of time (I owe Mr V some pyjama shorts!). Next time I’ll start earlier, because I’ve missed my selfish sewing.

decor tweaks Parties and presents sew sew

Christmas bunting with lace trim

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know that last week I started making bunting for our wedding (I’ll post about this at some point). Seven months (eeep!) is a long time to make the amount of bunting I need to make, but I knew that I’d get side tracked into other projects so I should give myself plenty of time.

Sure enough, I’d only sewn wedding bunting for two evenings when I got distracted by making some Christmas bunting as a present  for my mum’s birthday on Wednesday.

Without further ado… here it is!

She has a lovely mantelpiece to display this on, we don’t, so I had to stick it to the wall with masking tape.

I love it.

The birds are cut out from this Ikea fabric (£3 a metre!), and appliqued using my sewing machine. I outlined some of them in straight stitching or a zig zag stitch for emphasis. I was surprised at how many different birds were hiding in the fabric!

I used the same fabric on the back of the flags (because I have about a million metres of it. (I also used it here. )

I bought the two different fabrics for the front of the flags from the remnant bin at my local quilting shop. I picked them up a long long time ago but I think they were around £3-4 each for just under half a metre.

The red tape at the top is a red woven ribbon from the same quilting shop and the lace is from there too.

I attached a tiny bell (5p each) by hand to the bottom of each flag.

Even though it was only stuck up with masking tape, I loved how jolly it made our living room, so maybe for my next project I’ll get side tracked into making some Christmas bunting for us!

PS. I’m so sorry to bring Christmas to your blog reader so early! I just made this and love it so much I had to share!

decor tweaks favourite things Inspiration Our Flat sew sew

Printer’s Tray


I don’t quite know why I haven’t posted for a week. Actually, that’s a lie. I do know why. I have become totally and utterly obsessed with dressmaking. It’s all I think about at the moment. And when I’m not actually working on it, I am researching all over the internet: understitching, stay stitching, yokes, plackets, invisible hems, fbas, etc etc. It’s a sickness right now! And I still haven’t finished a dress! My cambie is not a triumph due to fit issues so to keep my spirits up,  I’ve put it aside for a little while and am working on this amazing fit dress – that has different sizes for different cup sizes. Could be genius, could be a disaster. I’m using a very lightweight denim.

I did complete a wearable garment! Say hello to my Colette Sorbetto! It’s got some funky issues (the fabric wouldn’t iron, the bias tape is waaay too solid so it gives it a weird shape and it’s riddled with problems like raw edges in the wrong place and scrunched up bias tape), but obviously I love it beyond all measure and reason.

Plus, this cost about £2 to make thanks to some £1/metre fabric (thanks Brixton market!) and 25p/metre bias tape (thanks market in town!) and a totally free pattern. I’ve already bought some better fabric and more obedient bias tape to make my next one. I’m aiming for something I can wear in public (one of the major problems with this top is right at the back of the neck so it’s really visible).

Anyway, none of that is what this post is about! I thought I’d share some updated pictures of our printer’s tray, that I took before sewing took a hold of my brain! This is also something I love beyond all measure and reason. We bought in on holiday in France way back when we lived in one bedroom in a shared house and I love letting the things inside it grow organically as we fill it with trinkets and treasures. This time I added some origami paper from muji (also seen here) to the back of some of the squares to help with the patchwork quilt effect.

Here are some pictures of my favourite bits and pieces.

I quite often buy Mr V miniature plastic dogs. One day he’ll give in and let me get a real one! (He wants one more than me, he’s also just more sensible about the fact we live in a flat in the middle of town and aren’t quite ready for a dog yet). The St Bernard on top of the printer’s tray is a fave – look at his happy face!

My dad gave me the miniature magnifying glass (with little cloth case) when i was a child (how hipster would it be to wear it around my neck?). I loved it because it made me feel like Harriet the Spy. Wicket (the ewok figure) was in my stocking from Mr V.

How cool is this box of pins I found at a car boot sale? They don’t make them like they used to! (The pins themselves are gorgeous, black and very fine.)

More sewing supplies masquerading as decor! Cute button from the V&A, cute button cards from… hmm. Can’t remember! Maybe a brocante?

Swedish matches in a beautiful box, bought at this lovely shop in Holland.

Souvenirs from Paris! You can’t go to Paris without buying a tacky Eiffel tower keyring (trust me, I’ve really tried!). This one moonlights as a Christmas tree decoration. The mini vinegar bottle is from the marché aux puces (it took me about half an hour to choose – look at the selection!)

Hopefully I’ll be back to being a better blogger once my head isn’t full of dreamy dresses! To keep up with my thinking on dressmaking, you can follow this pinterest board (it’s, uh, recommended by StyleList) (I KNOW!)

What are you obsessed with lately?

PS. Here’s how the printer’s tray looked at our old flat.

decor tweaks DIY Our Flat sew sew

Turning a dresser into a cabinet

Hello blog friends.

I finally got a chance to take a load of pictures of our new cabinet.

But first… remember this freecycled dresser?

Well, it’s now this:

Hold on a minute? Wasn’t that a perfectly lovely wooden dresser you just ripped up and painted? Well, yes and no. For one… the dresser was seriously light – the bulk of the wood was very thin pine (although to be honest, it was as light as balsa), with just a wafer of veneer over the top. It was nicely constructed, with dovetail joints in the drawers (which led us to believe it might be utility furniture from after the war). The veneer was damaged though, and because it was so thin there was no way of refinishing it, really, so painting it was an easy decision.

So I primed it









and painted it (mizzle, by Farrow and Ball, “A soft blue grey reminiscent of a west country evening mist”) (ha!)









As for ripping up it’s bones? Well. The fact is we don’t need a dresser. We needed a cabinet in the living room to keep kitchen overflow in (I wanted the bedroom’s one teeny closet back!). And we are never going to need a nice dresser, because one of the funny things about my family is that ALL our heirloom furniture is chests of drawers. (You can see one here). For some reason, my mum’s family seemed to hoard them and now she has them all. They’re all much older, better made and more beautiful than this one.

So this one? Became a cabinet of sorts. BUT. For now, I’ve done it in a way that it could be restored. I sawed the bits of wood from between the drawers off in a way that they could be replaced with careful use of woodfiller and mending plates. We’re currently using two of the drawers as shelves and storing the other two. The curtain has been attached with a tension rod (UK readers: Wilkinsons has these for about a third of the price of Homebase, by the way). So far, everything could easily be reversed.

This picture also shows how we lived with the cabinet for a bit (with the curtain on) before committing to sawing off the drawer bits, to see if we liked it. We did, so one lunch time I got my saw out, and this happened:

Down the line, if this piece has a permanent life as a cabinet? I’ll rip up the drawers to make proper shelves and try my hand at using the drawer fronts to make cabinet doors.

Back to those knobs…. here’s some close ups of the contenders…

After careful consideration, I’ve decided I like the painted wood ones best. Some of you thought these were white but they’re actually the same “mizzle” colour as the cabinet. I didn’t white balance for all of these pictures. This picture though, is a very good representation of the greeny-grey colour. I love it!

The best thing about this colour? It happened by accident – I ended up painting at my mum’s and forgot to bring enough paint of any of the colours I was considering. She had a load of mizzle left over from her bathroom, so I used it. Serendipity is lovely, non?

A closer view of the things on the top. A bunch of flowers from that Mr V, my gorgeous Roberts radio (he also gave me that!), a framed receipt from this shop (it’s handwritten), and a “Socialist Sunday school” print that I gave mr v for his most recent birthday (see, I give him things too!)

I made the curtain out of this Ikea fabric. You can see the stitch line a little down from the top – I made the rod pocket quite large so it would go over the bump in the rod easily. It’s lovely and thick so it (normally!) hangs really nicely and should be durable. I probably used less than half the metre I bought so I plan to dot a few matching accents off it around the room.

It annoys me that it isn’t hanging evenly in this photo! It normally does (I even put some pennies along the bottom seam to make sure it does, sigh). But having finally got around to taking pictures… you know how it is.

So, there we have the story of my new old cabinet!

DIY Our Flat sew sew

Works in progress

1) That darn cabinet dresser thing… I swear I’ll take some decent pictures later. Until then, I have a little query for you, which knob do you prefer? I originally only painted two of the right hand one (a cheapie pine knob I found in my mum’s shed) because I couldn’t find the green glass ones I bought ages ago. But now I’ve tracked them down, I think they’re all wrong and much prefer the plain ones. What do you think? I understand this will be easier once I’ve got some pictures of the piece in context, but there you go.

2) I spent a lovely weekend at my mum’s house, mainly sewing on the Cambie dress (as well as walking, talking to my mum, eating gorgeous food and having a lovely bath). Here’s how far I got by Sunday evening:

Ooh! I know it looks mainly done but I still have the whole lining to do and some fit issues to sort out. But! I have conquered many of my dressmaking fears, namely: cutting out (slow and steady, not too tricky really), gathering (did it while chatting to my brother, easy) and adding a zip (fine! not perfect but it’ll get easier every time).

3) Oh dear, remember that filing cabinet I was re-doing and kept promising you pictures of? Well. It ended up finding a resting place behind the sofa, so I never fully finished finished it, because you can’t see it. This meant I never got around to taking pictures of it, because I kept thinking I’d finish it properly). So, here is my promise that I will take some pictures of it in all its nearly finished glory (because it’s still a vast improvement) and share some pictures by next weekend. Or the one after, ha. (What? It’s finally sunny!). I just hope I can still find the before pictures, because it was fugly.

4) What are your works in progress at the moment?

5) Totally unrelated to the rest of this post but, I LOVED reading all your stories on my post about moving in together. If you left a comment early, be sure to go back and read the rest. I just love finding out how other couples work their way through big (and little) decisions together. You know?

DIY Our Flat

Ta da! A little look at my filing cabinet make over

Happy Monday! This darn filing cabinet makeover is taking way longer than anticipated thanks to sundry issues such as the weather, paint running out, drying time and the difficulty of finding nice little legs for her (any ideas?).

Alas, I am impatient… So I’ve already loaded her up with files and reattached the handles. This probably means I’ll never actually get around to finishing the project properly (you know how that goes, right?).

So, for now, (with apologies for the truly atrocious before picture) here’s a quick before and after of the handles.  These went from grody black plastic to gold and fantastic thanks to a blast of spray paint and some floral fabric.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. Even though those smudges suggest my spray painting technique could use some work, it barely looks like the same hardware.

I wanted a filing cabinet because… well our files were in a mess and having a proper filing system seemed like a grown up thing to do! I didn’t want to spend a load of money on a filing cabinet though in case we ended up not using it properly. I was thrilled, therefore, when an old grey metal cabinet went up on Freecycle for F-R-E-E, huzzah. This meant I could afford to spend some money on paint to get it looking nice.

In an attempt to reinvigorate me to get the whole thing finished up and looking pretty, here are some of my inspiration pins….

Everything else Parties and presents sew sew

My first quilt – Northcote Cabbages and Roses baby quilt


Mr V’s second niece is due this May. Inspired by Syd (she made it look so easy) I set to stitching on a baby quilt as soon as we found out the sex (girl!).


Because it was my first quilt I wanted the security of using a set of fabrics all from the same range so the quilt top, border, backing and binding are all from the Northcote by Cabbages & Roses for Moda range. I used a charm pack for the squares (plus some solid squares from the Bella solids oatmeal range). I like how they all “go” together but it means it misses a certain amount of the randomness that I like in my favourite patchwork quilts.


(It’s not really that see-through, unless there’s bright bright sunshine coming through it!)

The backing fabric I used was a metre of “Northcote K“.


And the border and binding were made from “Northcote I


I didn’t follow a pattern, just sort of started by sewing squares together in strips, then googled things as I came to them to work out how to do them! I can share my favourite individual online tutorials if you like but I found what work best for me was to read the way lots of different people recommended doing things and then do it in a way that made most sense to me. Here are some of the websites that I went back to time and time again: quilting.about.com, crazy mom quilts, purlbee and oldredbarnco.


If you like the idea of quilting, I’d heartily recommend starting with a baby quilt, even if you don’t have a baby to give it to! In the last week I’ve made my second quilt (a much much bigger queen-ish size thing) and I think I’d have got totally overwhelmed if I didn’t have the confidence and experience of having already done all the steps on a smaller scale. (I’ll share that quilt as soon as I get a chance to take some pictures.)

And here we go, a cuddly bundle ready for the cuddly bundle due in May!


PS. My other totally amateur sewing projects are all here.

Parties and presents sew sew

Turn old clothes into a cuddly new kitten

I’m back with some more details about how I made Pyjama the cat (you know, the slightly odd looking fellow I made from pyjamas)


As I said, we always do a “home made secret santa” when my friends and I go away for new year. We realised this was the sixth year we’ve done it and I think this year was the best yet.


In the draw (organised using Elfster), I got my friend A. Now, A loves cats and she loves teddy bears (or what-have-you), so it was pretty easy to decide to make her a cuddly cat.

It didn’t take me long to decide to make her a cat following the Terry Cat pattern from Runo dollmaker.


Needless to say, my cat looks nothing like their cats. But I’m going to bombard you with pictures of him anyway!

I started making him on Boxing Day (the bank holiday the day after Christmas in the UK) and so it was a case of work-with-what-you-have as all the shops were shut, which is how he ended up being made out of an inside out pair of pyjamas rather than the hand towel specified.


It also means he’s stuffed with the remains of the pyjama trousers, cut up into small squares, with a few lentils in his feet for that nice crunchy feeling. I wish I’d stuffed the tail before sewing it on as its lack of stuffing makes it a little lacklustre and sad looking.



I added the hand stictched triangles to his ears (as my ma’s sewing maching couldn’t cope with the specified stitching along the ears with the heavier stuffing we chose. I found some blue cat eye shaped buttons in my mum’s collection and then stitched the face using a normal thread and needle.



Sure, embroidery floss would have been better but I was determined to get the whole thing done as quickly as possible (I didn’t want to run out of time and have to give her a half finished present). The upside was, I discovered embroidery is a lovely thing to do in front of the TV! Hooray.

I decided to sew a sturdy ribbon around his neck to support his head (and hide the neck seam) and stitched on a bell to make him more feline. I stitched the bell through all the layers of the ribbon (and into the cat’s neck) so it would hold the bow exactly in place.

As you can see, my cat came out looking like he’d been made out of fabric scraps during the blitz and sewn up in an air raid shelter without any light. Still, my mum said austerity chic is in right now!

Here he is begging for a bit of my tea…


A loved getting her secret santa cat and I scored big time as well, I’ll try and pop back this evening with my amazing present from my friend J.

Budget break down:

Pyjamas: free (headed for the bin and actually were a hand me down from a friend)

Stuffing: free (mainly from the old pyjamas, plus a handful of lentils)

Buttons: free (mum cuts them off old clothes or keeps the spares that come with new clothes)

Ribbon: free (from my gift wrap drawer, I’ve never bought any so I’m guessing it came on a present)

Bell: 2.7p (this was the only thing I bought for the cat, and it came in a pack of 72 for £2)

Grand total: 2.7p! (plus thread and lentils, if we’re counting those)

Parties and presents sew sew


I just thought I’d quickly pop by to share two little presents made out of old pyjamas…

First up… in my stocking this year, my mum tucked in the best little gift ever.


Home made hankerchiefs! Two sweet hand stiched squares of soft bright fabric for my nose.

Does the pattern look familiar? She made them out of the hat that I made her for her birthday out of my old pyjamas. You don’t get more eco friendly and reused than that. Plus, who doesn’t love stocking stuffers with a bit of history?

I love using hankerchiefs when I have a cold (so much softer on poorly noses) and these ones bring a little bit of the comfort of mum to me here in London. And whaddaya know? I have a traditional post-Christmas cold. Sniff sniff!

Second pyjama project… I made this funny looking little cat out of an inside out pair of cotton terry pyjamas.


He’s a present for one of my dear friends for our home made secret santa that we do every new year down by the sea in Devon. (Don’t worry, she doesn’t read this blog.)

I know he’s a bit odd looking and I shouldn’t be so proud of him but he’s the first thing I’ve sewn from scratch and using a machine so I’m a little bit in love with him. I’ve named him Pyjama and I’m glad he’s going to a good home.

In my next post I’ll show you a few more pictures of Pyjama (humour me?) and a link to the pattern and tutorial I used.