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hello sewing machine, it’s been a while

7 Aug

I’ve finally finished my temporary teaching work, which means I can get back to the psychology phd (which has been hideously neglected so far this summer) and also to crafting. How wonderful. This means, I hope, stepping up the frequency of not just making things, but also of writing about them.

I’m off to a good start at least. I’ve been busy sewing quite a few cushions stuffed with old fabric scraps. This is a wonderful way to not just use up the odd bits and pieces, but also to clear out all the unwanted clutter from your sewing corner. Suddenly I have so much more space now that I’ve made use of the scraps I’ve been stuffing into plastic bags.

These lovely little russian dolls started off life as a coaster from Accessorize given to me by one of my closest friends for Christmas (it was a Russian themed Xmas party). But it makes such a fantastic stencil, I’ve been using it over and over again. It’s not just good on fabric (using fabric paint), it also works well if you want to make fancy wrapping paper from brown paper and normal spray paint.

And ta da, next up are those speech mark cushions that featured a while a go on here but as cushion covers. After a couple of weeks of trialling them as cushion covers, I realised that my envelope backs were not going to be a good enough design to stop them from slipping off the cushion and looking a little messy, so I turned them into smaller, stuffed cushions instead. Much better.

I’ve now rectified my envelope back design (two overlapping pieces of backing fabric, rather than simply a flap to feed into the back of the cushion) so they’re a lot neater, and these cushion covers were made in the new way. I’m in love with this floral print – its one of the ones I found in my local junk shop, but I think it’s really charming. I’d love to know more about where it came from – it looks a little 80s to me, especially when I pair it with the black and purple stripe down the middle.


Ah, it does feel good to be back to making things and taking pics and showing them to all of you. It will also be really nice to get back to reading my favourite blogs – most of them crafty, some of them quite random (baggage reclaim in particular, a friend showed it to me as a joke, but I’m completely hooked!). One thing I’m afraid I’m not so looking forward to is getting back to the whole Etsy side of things. I have to say that as the site just gets bigger and bigger, I’m feeling more and more lost on it, and less and less inspired. It’s probably just me, but it does seem like selling things face to face would be a lot more rewarding. Maybe it’s time to organise a local craft fair!


moving out of my comfort zone

13 Jul

It’s time to be brave and push beyond the joys of sewing. I’ve decided to have a go at making some cards and above is my first attempt. I wanted to still use fabric (I’m not completely running away from what I love) and machine-sew patches onto a card, and then spray paint the card/fabric using a russian doll stencil. I have to say it’s lots of fun making something that has such an instant effect – quilting is magical and wonderful and awesome, but it also takes a good long while to do!

Teaching is still eating into my life hence the shortage of recent posts, but soon, soon, you won’t be able to escape muahahahaha!

Alessa’s Tutorial

27 Jun

A while back I caught sight of a gorgeous top made by Alessa at Farbenfreude from a skirt. I love refashioning clothes (often a lot easier than making them from scratch) so I asked Alessa whether she might be able to create a tutorial on how to set about turning a skirt into this kind of babydoll top. Hurrah – she accepted the challenge, and below is the tutorial.


p.s. Can’t recommend Alessa’s blog enough!


Hi everybody, I’m Alessa from Farbenfreude! Mona asked me for a tutorial on the babydoll top I refashioned from a skirt last year, and I am very happy to oblige.

I started out with a tea-length skirt. Because of the box pleats and the elastic waist, once I had unpicked all the seams, I ended up with two rather big, square pieces of fabric. One I saved for a skirt I have yet to make, the other I used for this babydoll top.

You could also start out with a new piece of fabric that is at least as wide as your hip measurement + at least 4in of ease and the length that’s between your upper bust and where you want the top to end, or a straight or A-line skirt that has some ease when you pull it up over your bust and still has some ease in the hips. The fabric should be rather lightweight, though, since we’re doing some shirring in the back.

Now for the cutting out. I don’t quite remember if I used another top as a pattern. You certainly could, if you already have a babydoll top that fits you. Remember to add about an inch of ease for shirring. You can also just start with your bust, waist and hip measurements. My fabric was a slightly stretchy knit, so I cut it on measurement, with the shirring just adding some negative ease. If your fabric isn’t stretchy, make sure to add enough ease that you can still get it on and off. 🙂

Because I had a limited amount of fabric, the top as I first cut it didn’t have enough ease/sweep in the hips to look good. Basting the side seams and trying it on is a good way to find that out. I used the remnants I had, to cut out two little triangle shaped godets, and added those into the side seams from the hips down. With the print I used, you can’t even see it if you don’t look very closely.

The next part is to use your fabric scraps (or some contrast fabric) to make a ribbon for the halter neck. I had never done that before, so I just cut a fabric strip roughly four times as wide as I wanted the finished ribbon to be, folded in the seam allowances, folded once in half to enclose them, and edge-stitched down the length of fabric. I have since learned that usually you fold the strip right sides together, stitch down one short end and the length, trim the seam allowances and turn it with a device for turning ribbons or a knitting needle. However, my version works, too. 🙂

In the next step, we’re going to attach the ribbon to the bodice. First, we’re doing some gathering stitches right down the middle of the bodice part. Depending on your preference, you can just do a couple of inches or go all the way down to the line under your bust. Since I didn’t knew how to do gathering stitches last year, I actually just did one row of shirring here, and then stitched the shirred gathers in place with normal thread. Afterwards, you fold the ribbon in half lengthwise (it should be long enough so you can tie it behind your neck) and stitch it in place on top of your gathering. Here’s a little sketch and how my finished top looks like:

Now we’re almost finished, except for the shirring and hemming. As you can see on the finished top, I used the bottom border and hem of the skirt as the bodice part, so I didn’t have to hem my neckline. If you can’t or don’t want to use the hem, it’s a good idea to finish it before you start shirring, as shown in Gertie’s shirring tutorial.

I didn’t shirr the whole back panel, just about a little more than half of it. It’s smart to mark a line down each side where you want your shirring to start and end, because the lengths get confusing once the first lines of elastic are in. Shirring is actually a ridiculously easy technique. Your pretty much just wind elastic thread on your bobbin, stretching it a little. Use normal thread for your top thread, then the only thing to remember is to sew with the right side on top! Since the elastic is going to be your bobbin thread, you don’t want it to show.

My rows of shirring don’t look very regular, but it’s actually not too bad from the right side…

If the gathers aren’t tight enough for your taste, a bit of steam from your iron should tighten them up a bit more.

And that’s it! I hope you liked my tutorial! If you happen to make your own babydoll top from it, I’d be delighted if you dropped me a link here or over at my blog. Thanks for reading and have a great day, and another thanks to Mona for having me!

Here’s my handle and here’s my spout…

21 Jun

Ok, so after what feels like a super-duper long stint without being too creative, I’ve finally got it together and made a little something. A cushion… with an appliqued teapot. And before you go getting ideas that this is maybe a bit random, I’ll suggest that it makes absolute sense to have a teapot on a cushion. I drink a lot of tea, and I tend to do it all sitting down (lazy, moi?), resting against a cushion. Cushions and tea – they’re made to go together. The next step is to fashion a teapot with a picture of a cushion on it… hmmm… Now, before I get too distracted by this idea, I suppose I better share a picture of the finished product…

As you can probably see, I machine embroidered the outline of the teapot onto the cushion, then applied different types of fabric onto the design. I like the effect – it’s sweet – but next time, I might try things a little differently. For example, it might work better to cut the patterned fabric in the shape of the teapot, and then applique this onto the cushion straight, then add different fabrics on top of this… I’m not entirely sure, what do you all think? Would love to hear your opinions. Also, can you see that it’s a teapot straightaway? Is that obvious? I feel like I might see that it’s a teapot only because I know I intended it to be one…

I stuffed the cushion with fabric scraps. Along with applique (which you only need small pieces of fabric for), this is a fantastic way to get the most out of fabrics, and to avoid ever EVER throwing anything away rather than making use of it. When it comes to sewing, I believe there’s no excuse for failing to recycle… wouldn’t you agree?