Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to make pretty pot holders.

I needed some new pot holders, but it's not the kind of thing I get excited about shopping for. Unlike shoe shopping... I'd love to get my feet into some of those tan leather, wooden clog type shoes. You know the ones that have a mid height heel so I'd be a little taller but still able to walk? They're awesome. But I'm getting distracted. Back to pot holders.  I figured they can't be too hard to make, so I gave it a go.  Here's how I did so you can give it a try too.

To make 2 pot holders you will need:
- 100% cotton fabric in 3 different prints/colours that you like and that look pretty together.  (Just because pot holders are useful doesn't mean they have to be ugly!)  Quilting fabrics are great because they're usually all cotton and come in all sorts of fancy prints.
- thread to match your fabrics
- batting/wadding - a batting made from cotton, wool, or a cotton/bamboo blend will be fine, or you could even use an old woolen blanket.  Just don't use a synthetic batting (e.g. polyester) as it melts when it gets too hot.  I'm not sure if use as an pot holder would cause it to get hot enough to melt, but I'm not about to risk it!

From fabric A (this will be used for the back and a little bit for the front), cut 2 big squares 22cm x 22cm, cut 8 small squares 5cm x 5cm, and cut 2 rectangles measuring 11cm x 4cm.  Cut these 2 rectangles on the bias.  All of the other pieces are to be cut on the straight grain of the fabric.

From fabric B cut 8 rectangles 16cm x 5cm.

From fabric C cut 2 squares 16cm x 16cm.  These will form the main focus of the front of your pot holders.

All the pieces cut from fabric include 1cm seam allowance

Cut batting 20cm x 20cm (the finished size of the pot holders).  Depending on the thickness of the batting you may need several layers for each pot holder.  The batting I used was fairly thin so I used 3 layers for each pot holder.  Keep in mind that once you stitch through the batting and iron it, it will flatten a little.

Let's make one pot holder at a time, shall we?
Take one of the rectangles cut in fabric A (this rectangle was cut on the bias), fold it in half lengthwise and sew the length of the rectangle.  Trim away some of the seam allowance, turn it through to the right side (so the seam allowance is hidden inside) and give it a press.  This is your handle loop.
Take one of the squares cut from fabric C and take 2 of the rectangles from fabric B, pinning 1 each to opposite sides of the square and sew with a 1cm seam. Take 2 more of the fabric B rectangles and pin a small square (from fabric A) to each of the short ends. Sew in place with a 1cm seam and press all the seams open so they are nice and flat. 
Your pieces for your first pot holder should look something like this:

Now join the 2 narrow rectangles to the long sides of the larger rectangle, as per the layout above. Press the seams open and your pot holder should now look like this:

Turn it over and lay your batting in the middle of the square.  There should be about a 1cm gap all the way around your wadding. Pin the wadding to the fabric.  Hand sew the wadding to the fabric, removing the pins as you go.  This doesn't  have to be neat.  In fact it's best if you use big stitches as you will be taking the stitches out later.  It's just to hold the wadding to the fabric.  This is called basting.
Head to your sewing machine and working from the right side (fabric side), very carefully stitch along your seam lines through all the layers.  
The stitches will be almost invisible from the outside, but the inside will look like this:
Flip the square over so the fabric is facing up and pin the 2 ends of the handle loop about 2cm either side of one of the corners and stitch in place 8mm from the edge.

Take one of your large square from fabric A and pin it to the right side of the fabric square you've made.  
Sew around the edge of the square (1cm from the edge), leaving a gap of about 10cm on one side.  Trim away any big bits of batting that are sticking out into the seam allowance.
Turn your pot holder through to the right side through the gap you left in the seam and give it a good press.  It should look more like a pot holder now!  Now you can unpick your hand basting and then hand stitch the gap in the seam using a neat ladder stitch.

Stitch through all the layers all the way around your pot holder, about 5-6mm from the edge.  Give it another press and now you've finished your first pot holder!

Once you have finished your second pot holder, cook up something yummy and try them out!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shh! Don't tell anyone, but I'm wearing my Gran's dressing gown!

This light weight dressing gown used to belong to my Gran. I've kept it because I love the fabric, but I've never worn it. The arrival of Spring makes me dream of sunny days wearing floaty floral dresses so I thought I'd alter the gown and change it into a dress that's a bit more flattering for me.

First up, something had to be done about the length...
Secondly, those sleeves weren't doing me any favours.
Bye bye sleeves!
But some kind of sleeve would be nice. Lucky I have lots of fabric to work with from what I cut off the hem.
New floaty sleeve.
Now for some internal buttons, so a gust of wind won't cause me to expose myself!
Sneaky button.
Okay, so the hems shortened, new sleeves are in, hidden buttons are sewn on and buttonholes are done.  Hope this has worked...

Ta da!

Now if only the weather was warm enough for me to actually wear it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sweet as Pie Baby Wraps

Baby wraps are super easy to make and are a great project even if you haven't had much experience sewing before.  Basically, you just need to be able to use a sewing machine and sew in a straight line!  I made these for my cousin.  (Well, actually she is my husband's cousin's wife, but that's a bit of a mouthful.)  She is lovely and is about to have a baby!  As I don't have a baby and therefore have never used baby wraps before, I called my dear Mum and she gave me some advice on how big to make them.  Thanks Mum!

You will need (to make three wraps):
 - 3 types of muslin fabrics that look pretty together. (2 of the fabrics I bought were 90cm wide and I bought 1 metre of each of them, the 3rd fabric was about 150cm wide and I bought 1.3 metres of it.  It's good to have a little extra in case they have been cut crooked, as you will need to make them square.
- Matching or contrast bias binding (enough to go all the way around each wrap)
- Thread to match you bias binding

 Give your fabric a gentle wash before you start and once it's dry, iron out any creases.

Cut your muslin into large squares.  The width of the fabric will determine how big the squares will be.  The two plain fabrics are 90cm wide, so I made 90cm squares from them.  The printed muslin is a little wider, so I made the square 120cm x 120cm.  

Depending on how wide the selvedge of the fabric is and how wide your bias binding is, you may need to trim a little of it off so the binding can cover it completely.

Round the edges by placing a glass (or other round object) in each corner of your fabric squares.  Trace around it and cut off the excess.  Having round corners will make it easier to sew on the binding.

Pin on your binding, folding it over the raw edges.  By starting about 6cm away from the corner it will be easy to finish off, while still looking neat.  Ease it gently around the corners.  If you are very confident at sewing, you might not bother pinning it, instead folding it around the raw edge as you sew.

Sew close to the edge of the binding, removing pins as you go.

When you are almost all the way around the wrap, cut off the excess binding, leaving 2-3cm overlap.  Fold over 1cm of the end of the binding and sew right up to your folded edge, overlapping the last little bit of binding.  Back tack and cut your threads.

Give your wrap an iron and it's finished. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to make a little wrist pin cushion

I have a bad habit of absentmindedly putting pins down in random places around the house. To try to break this habit I have multiple plastic pin trays so I can keep one near my sewing machine, one near my ironing board and another on my desk. However, I am also rather clumsy and often drop the tray sending pins flying everywhere. You'd think a pincushion would be the solution, but my cat likes shiny things and I once caught her pulling pins out of a pincushion with her teeth. Thankfully she didn't try to eat them! I have heard that some crafty ladies swear by their wrist pincushions so I thought I'd make one while sitting by the heater watching NCIS. I'll always have it on my wrist while working, I can't drop pins out of it, and most importantly, it will be easy to keep out of little kitty's reach.

I've recently discovered the awesomeness that is craft blogs, so I thought I'd share with you how I made my little pincushion.
This is what you will need: scraps of pretty fabric, press studs, scissors, pins, needle, thread, stuffing or wadding, craft glue, stiff cardboard and some wide ribbon (optional).

Firstly cut a circle out of your cardboard. This will form the base of the pincushion so that any pins you stick in it won't stick into you! Fold/scrunch up your wadding so it will roughly fit on your base. Apply a little bit of craft glue on the cardboard circle and sit your wadding on top. Lay a piece of fabric over the wadding. It doesn't matter what shape your fabric is, it will be trimmed later. Poke all the stuffing in as you pull the fabric firmly over the wadding and secure it at the base of the cardboard with a rubber band.

Hand stitch in a circular fashion around the rubber band, securing all the little gathers of fabric.
Remove the rubber band and cut off all the excess fabric.
Cut two strips of fabric long enough to fit snuggly around your wrist, with a bit extra for the overlap and seam allowance (adding a total of 3cm to your wrist circumference should do nicely). Alternatively, you could use a piece of wide ribbon. If using fabric, place the two strips right sides together and sew along the two long edges. Turn through so the seam allowance is on the inside and iron it flat. Poke in 1cm of seam allowance on both of the short ends and hand stitch the ends closed. Sew two press studs near the corners so you can fasten your wrist strap. If using ribbon, you can paint a small amount of clear nail polish on the raw ends of the ribbon to stop it from fraying and then sew on the press studs. You can add some colourful embroidery thread to the pincushion if you like, just to make it look extra spesh.
Pin one end of the wrist strap to the base of the pincushion. Check to make sure your press studs still snap shut to make sure you haven't pinned it upside down to the pincushion.

Hand stitch the wrist strap to the base of the pin cushion and ta da! Your little pincushion is finished.
I also stumbled across this blog of a slightly more complicated but still very awesome pincushion. I think I want to make one of these too.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I have a confession to make...

...I've been secretly wanting to wear animal print. Yes, you heard correctly I said animal print.

For years my friends and I have quietly mocked those brave enough to wear animal print. We found it trashy, tasteless and, well, a little too Scary Spice circa 1996...

But recently I've found myself admiring girls in their leopard print pencil skirts and secretly wishing I had the confidence and style kudos to make it work it my wardrobe. My theory is that in the 80s and 90s animal print (like many things) was done to excess. I realise that the words "subtlety" and "animal print" rarely go hand in hand but I think the key is mixing a small amount of animal print with more classic pieces. And don't flash too much flesh! Here's my picks for the best and worst of animal print:

Worst: Paris Hilton and Rhianna. I don't think they get the subtlety thing.

Best: Accessories and Scarlett Johansson (note the more demure knee length skirt balances the sexiness of the print and body-con fit)

Accessories might be the easiest way for me to dabble in the trend. But only one animal print accessory at a time please!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Etsy Crush #1 - Extraseed

The next time I need new ballet flats I'll definitely be buying some from Extraseed. These shoes are hand made in Ethiopia from recycled car tires and other materials like hemp, cotton or leather (which is most often from leather considered scrap from garment factories). How's that for minimising waste and eco-friendliness? Oh, I did I mention the shoes are super cute?

Check them out at

Friday, June 18, 2010

There's something magical about vintage fabrics. They have stories and a history that I'll never know. They have been places that I haven't been. It's this intrigue that inspires me to hunt down vintage fabrics and try to turn them into something new. They have a personality of their own and I love watching my design take on some of that mystery. My latest venture has been to turn my hand to making clutches. This one is my favourite. It's made from silk from a vintage kimono. It has such a beautiful texture and inspiring print that captures my imagination. It's available for sale in my Etsy shop. You can check it out here:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

To dream or not to dream...

Earlier in the year I quit my day job in order to try to make a living by doing what I love - creating.

It's several months later and I'm yet to make any money. Now I'm trying to decide whether I should start looking for another office job to pay the bills (hoping that I'll have some energy left over to continuing following my creative pursuits at the same time), or whether I keep doing what I love.

I hated working in an office environment. I didn't feel remotely connected to what I was doing and every day blurred into the next. Get up, go to work, come home, eat, bed, work etc.

So how do I find a balance between facing the practicality of needing to pay my mortgage, while also desperately wanting to do something that is meaningful to me and fulfills me. We only have one life time. I don't want to spend it doing something that makes me miserable.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Gran never wore pants...

...although she would have called them slacks. Dresses were frocks and shirts were blouses. But seriously, she never wore trousers of any kind.

She was a dressmaker in her younger days and always dressed immaculately. Even as an elderly woman in her eighties, with limited eyesight and living in a nursing home, she would always wear skirts or dresses and always with stockings. Never pantyhose, but always stockings with garters. I remember my mother once bought her some tracksuit pants thinking Gran would find them comfortable and warm in the nursing home. She hated them and they were promptly returned to the store.

While I love the comfort of stretchy t-shirts and I pretty much live in jeans, I find myself drawn to to the dignified polished approach that my Gran had to dressing. I always find that when I wear something special and beautiful it lifts my mood and effects the way I view myself. Fashion is supposed to more than just a practical covering of our naked flesh. It's supposed to be fun and an expression of who we are. And right now I want to feel more lady-like.

I'm not willing to give up my 'slacks', but in taking inspiration from my Gran I am going to try to add a little more polish and lady-like glamour to my everyday dressing.