Sunday, 10 December 2017


I recently took part in my first secret swap on instagram and thought I would quickly share my experience with you...

I try to join in with #saturday night craft along every week. I really enjoy having a goal of making something new to share. It is great to see what projects other people are working on and maybe get some inspiration for future makes. Everyone who takes part is supportive and helpful, so when the organisers announced there would be a swap, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

Firstly I had to create a mosaic to give my partner some inspiration, to help them know my style and what I like. I decided to pick some of my favourite items I own and picture them.

Jenny (@thelilaccat) got me as her partner. She made me a fantastic cushion using the dogs in sweaters pattern. Although my dog is a different breed, Jen did try to match her colourings. The fabric choices are just perfect for me and the incredible quilting makes this a wonderful item I am going to treasure. She also made a second item, using some funky mice fabric to make a see through pouch (pattern from aneela hoey). This is such a good sized pouch and those fun mice just make me smile. Also included in my package was some fabric that she kindly sent too.
My partner was Elizabeth (@biff74). She made a lovely mosaic, but I am very indecisive and found it hard to choose what to make. I finally decided to make a bag using a funky fruit print canvas. I made a few changes to a Debbie shore pattern.

I chose to screen print a couple pieces of calico fabric, using the festive cheer screen and red ink from screen sensation. In my package, I also included a handmade card and a Yankee candle... I picked the candle for the sentiment more than the actual scent!!
I had a bit of extra fun making a cute gift bag for the candle. I recycled some cath kidston postal plastic packaging from a recent order. I used the Avery Elle 'a tag for all die' to cut out two basic tag shapes. I stitched these together along three sides, leaving the top section open to fill with my gift. I finally found a matching yellow bakers twine and tied a bow to close the gift pouch. Personally, I think it's a great way to reuse such a nice printed packaging.

Useful links:

Saturday, 25 November 2017

monochrome totes

I have customised these black totes with white ink and screen printed designs from screen sensations. I have used the 'mask', 'gothic peony', 'kaleidoscope' and 'plumage & folliage' screens. The white ink really pops on the dark fabric and adds some interest to these plain totes I got online.


Sunday, 12 November 2017

black strap totes

I found these totes online which come with the black handles and thought they would look great customised with black screen printed designs. I have used the 'kaleidoscope', 'plumage' and 'wisdom' screens and the black ink from screen sensations and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

go large!!

For this variation on the basic boxed bag (instructions here), I have made the bag much larger, quilted the fabric and added handles to be used as a knitting bag. To make it, I scaled up the pattern as follows:
  • the main body: 2x outer fabric, 2x batting & 2x lining measuring 12" x 24" with 3" square cutaways (for the boxed corners) 
  • handles:  2x outer fabric measuring 25" x 3 1/2" & batting measuring 24 1/2" x 1"
  • 18" zip

First, I roughly cut the outer fabric and batting to size, allowing extra for the quilting. I then quilted the outer fabric and batting using straight rows of stitching. Once quilted, I cut out the pattern pieces and began to assemble, treating the quilted pieces the same as I would usually treat outer fabric. For the handles, I cut an extra 2 lengths of batting and 2 strips of fabric to create quilted grab handles. If you prefer, you could use webbing or other construction methods to make the handles, (see more information here). Before the outer fabric and lining pieces were joined together, I machine stitched the handles in position on the outer fabric. This ensures the stitching isn't seen on the inside, keeping the finish as neat as possible. This style of bag, (simply enlarged with handles, but without quilting the fabric) would also work well for a swimming or gym bag, especially if you used a shower curtain or water resistant lining.


Sunday, 15 October 2017

attaching handles...

Following on from the making handles step by step tutorial, I wanted to show the different ways to attach handles. There are various methods to insert handles depending on the look you want and which works best for the project.

The handles can be sewn onto the outside of the bag/ project. The handles must be finished on ends, by tucking the raw edges inside the open end of the fabric and securing with a row of stitching. The strap can then be pinned into position and sewn to attach it to the project. The usual method for sewing to attach is to stitch a box with an X across the centre.
quilted handles stitched to the outside of a bag

The inserted handle shown below encloses the raw ends of the handle within the top seam between the outer fabric and lining. This creates a clean and simple look, but requires you to position and sew the handles during construction.
reinforced fabric handles inserted into top seam

You can also insert the handles in the base seam to create feature handles sitting up the outside of the bag. These can be topstitched  along the length to fully attach the handles to the side of the bag. Another option is to partially stitch up the length so the handles are attached top and bottom but leave loops in the middle for slipping objects in between, to carry a yoga matt on the outside of a gym bag for example.
webbing handles inserted into base seam

You can also use hardware to create more versatile handles, with adjustable length using D rings and sliders or detachable straps with snap hooks. There are lots of different types of hardware available, but most are joined to the project with a loop of fabric attached using one of the above joining methods.
adjustable reinforced handle with metal D ring and slider


Monday, 9 October 2017

Making handles...

For this step by step tutorial, I thought I would show you some of the methods you can use to make handles. Of course, the easiest option is to use webbing which can simply be cut to length and stitched into place. It comes in a range of widths and colours, making it a great option for beginners.

For fabric handles, there are lots of different options for how to make them, depending on what they will be used for. Here, I will show you three versions with step by step instructions to follow.

Version 1:
The folded handle uses only the fabric and is one of the simplest to make. It is perfect for lightweight use on bags. To make one, follow the instructions below:

Cut a length of fabric, this example is 4" wide.
Fold in half down the length, wrong sides together, leaving a 2" wide strip. Press along the fold.
Fold both of the raw edges in towards the centre fold, so your strip appears to be 1" wide. Ensure the raw edges are touching the centre fold inside and press.
Pin along the length and top stitch down both sides to hold it all in place.  

The reinforced tube uses a length of Petersham enclosed within a tube of fabric. This makes a stronger and stiffer handle, using less fabric than the above method:

Cut a length of fabric and a length of Petersham. The width of fabric should measure double the width of your Petersham + 3/4" for seams and room to ease the Petersham in.
Fold in half right sides together along the length of the fabric and pin the raw edges together.
Stitch down the edge using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Roll the tube of fabric so the seam is laid down the centre. Press the tube flat, with the raw edges pressed open.
Turn the fabric through, a bodkin is really helpful as this can be tricky. Thread the Petersham into the tube and ensure the seam is laying down the centre of one side.
photo showing front and back view
Topstitch down the entire length on both edges of the tube to hold the Petersham and fabric in place.
photo showing front and back view

The quilted handle provides an extra bit of padding and some structure by using wadding or batting within the fabric wrap:

Cut a length of fabric and a length of batting/wadding to suit your desired width. The example below uses a 3 1/2" width of fabric with a 1 1/8" width of wadding.
Place the wadding onto the wrong side of the fabric. Fold one edge over the top of the wadding, measuring around 1" so it almost covers the wadding. Pin along the length to hold this in place.
Fold the opposite edge over 1/2" and press. Now fold this over the edge of the wadding and press to create a neat fold for the outer edge of the handle.
Pin along the length, making sure the folded edge in the centre covers the raw edge, enclosing the wadding within the fabric.
Sew through all of the layers as close to the seam as possible. This should be roughly in the centre of the strap and catch all of the layers of fabric into the seam. Remember this is topstitching the fabric as well as holding all of the layers together so keep it straight and neat.
photo showing front and back view
Topstitch down both sides with equal spacing to hold the layers in place and create the quilting. With wider handles, you may wish to stitch additional rows.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

a two colour twist ....

I made this 2 colour variation of the basic boxed bag (step by step tutorial here). You must first decide what proportions of each fabric you would like, as you can create a 50/50 split or just have a little of the second fabric showing as I have here. The main thing to remember is to add 1/4" seam allowance to each piece to allow for the joining of the fabric. For example, a finished size of 10" with a 70/30 split would require 1 x 7 1/4" piece and 1 x 3 1/4" piece for each side. The fabrics should be joined using a 1/4" seam allowance before the pattern pieces are cut to shape and assembled. The other thing to be aware of when creating a two colour piece is to make sure the joins between the fabrics line up at the seams when sewing the front and back together. The two colour version is therefore slightly more advanced than a single colour bag, but provides opportunity to play with mixing different coloured and patterned fabrics.


Saturday, 2 September 2017

boxed bag for the boys !!

I made this simple wash bag as a gift for a male friend. This is a variation on the bag in the last step by step tutorial, showing how fabric choice can change the look. I used thick upholstery fabric with a jeans print for the outer, to give it stiffness which helps hold the shape without the need for interfacing. I used a shower curtain to make the lining water resistant, so it's perfect for use as a wash bag.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Basic boxed bag...

Continuing the theme of zipper pouches, I decided to return to the boxed corners with this step by step guide on how to make a fully boxed, lined pouch/bag. This makes a neat but roomy bag, perfect for cosmetics or stationary!

To start, back your lining fabric with some medium weight iron on interfacing to give it structure and help hold the boxed shape. Then, cut the following:
  • 2 x outer fabric measuring 7 1/2" x 10 1/2" 
  • 2 x lining fabric measuring 7 1/2" x 10 1/2"
  • 1 x cardboard square template measuring 1 1/2"
You will also need a 8" zip and cotton to colour match the fabric. The handmade label is an optional extra I like to add into all my sewing projects. A short length of coordinating ribbon to use as a zip pull is another optional extra finishing touch which can look nice.
Using your square template, trace around each of the corners of all 4 fabric pieces. Cut the squares of fabric off and discard. 
Make a sandwich with the lining right side up, zipper tape teeth facing up and outer fabric right side down. Pin and sew using 1/4" seam allowance with the zipper foot on your machine. Fold the fabric back away from the zip and create another sandwich to attach the other side. 
Lay out flat and press. Top stitch along the edges of the zip for a neat finish. Part open the zip to allow for turning through.
Now turn so the outer fabrics are right sides together and the linings are right sides together. Pin around the edges, leaving the cutaway corners and a gap in the base of the lining. Add your handmade label into the side seam of the lining if you are including one.

Sew around the edges using the 1/4" seam allowance, ensuring you do a locking stitch at either end of every length of stitching, (putting the machine into reverse to create a short length of tripled up stitches to hold everything in place). 

To shape the boxed corners, open the fabric out where you have a gap in the stitching and pinch the seams together to create a flat edge. Try to ensure the side and base seams align before pinning and sewing.
For the corners near the zip at the top of the pouch, you need to pinch both the lining and outer fabric corners together. I find it easiest to pinch the corner of one fabric and ensure this is lined up, then still gripping this, pinch in the other side and bring this into line. It can be a little more tricky to ensure all the layers are aligned with each other and central to the zipper tape. Once all of the corners are pinned, sew on the machine using the same 1/4" seam allowance. You may wish to reverse stitch over the zip when sewing the top corners to reinforce the ends of the zip. 
Turn through to double check everything is OK on the right side before turning back through. Cut away the excess from the ends of the zipper, (using old scissors so you don't blunt nice fabric ones!) You might also want to go back around the seam allowance inside using pinking shears, zigzag stitching or an overlocker, to prevent fraying and remove excess bulk. 
Turn back through and slip stitch the gap in the lining before pushing this into the pouch. Give it a final press, loop the ribbon through the zip pull, knot and trim the ends to complete the pouch.

Don't forget to save your scraps... all of those little squares cut from the corners can be used in little patchwork projects and mini makes!!