Cross stitch starter kit


I have loved cross stitch for – eek – twenty-five years, and so was really excited to put together a little starter kit for our gorgeous niece’s sixth birthday.

I put in the following:

  • 8 shades of stranded cotton;
  • 14 count Aida. (This is a woven mesh fabric where the “count” indicates how many squares there are per inch. I’d planned to get 11 count, as sewing with this gives good big cross stitches, but the store I went to didn’t stock it, and I’m sure our nimble-fingered niece will be fine with the slightly more delicate 14 count);
  • needles;
  • cards for mounting and presenting the finished pieces;
  • a little zippered bag to keep the cotton and needles in;
  • a few simple patterns gleaned from Pinterest and laminated (including a lovely ballerina one, not in the picture above, picking up the ballet theme in the bag fabric).

For the bag, I used the 6 inch pattern and tutorial at Peggy Sew, and the fabric was from Hobbycraft (£8/metre, but only a little is needed).

I’ll definitely make more of the bags, and next time will try using interfacing or looking for a thinner fleece for the lining than the one I used, as it came out a little bulky.

It was a straightforward project, thanks to the very clear and well illustrated tutorial, and the only difficulty was of my own making. I was feeling particularly smug about the zip seeming to go in well, only to realise that I’d sewed right down the middle of it. There followed an anxious few minutes of unpicking and seeing if I’d broken any teeth, but I was lucky. I still need a lot of practice with zips, but at least I’m no longer terrified of them. Or at least, not so terrified.



Sunday evening tote bag

Tote bag

I’ve just this moment finished making this reversible tote bag, using some of the Ikea Rosali fabric I bought recently. It’s a birthday present for a friend’s lovely daughter, who is about to turn eleven. Will an eleven year old like it? I really hope so, but have no idea. I worked on the principle that I liked pretty things when I was eleven and that bags are always useful, particularly since the 5p plastic carrier bag charge was introduced in England last autumn. Although that may not be something that teenagers are particularly worried about. Oh dear, now I’m doubting myself. Ah well, fortunately she’s much too polite to tell me if she never uses it.

Anyway, I used a tote bag that I have as a guide for the measurements, and cut out an 86 x 38 cm rectangle of each fabric. I folded the flowered fabric in half horizontally, stitched right sides together down the edges*, then mitred the corners. (As the fold makes the bottom of the bag, I pressed it well, to make it easier to match it up with the seam.) I wanted a decent sized base to the bag, so made the line of stitching at each corner 8 cm. Then I folded over the top of the bag by about 2 cm and pressed it, and did the whole thing all over again with the spotted fabric.

*at this point, I think I should have pressed the seams flat. I did later, but think earlier on might have worked better.

For the handles (4 strips of 76 x 4 cm) I used the top-stitched method from the tutorial I followed when making the children’s reversible bags last week. This way of making straps/handles was a revelation. Previously I’d have sewn them wrong sides together and then turned them out, which I loathe as it always takes me a ridiculously long time.

I kept it really simple by using a very small seam allowance when sewing the two pieces of each handle together, then folding each long edge into the middle and pressing, then folding over again and top stitching each long edge. This resulted in handles that were just less than 2 cm wide. Having learnt my lesson from last time, I also made them from just one of the fabrics, rather than both, as slightly wobbly cutting out/matching of edges shows much less this way.

Then all there remained to do was turn one of the bags the right way out (in this case the flowered one), put the other one inside it so that they were now wrong sides together, position the ends of the handles inside the two layers (again using my own tote bag as a guide), pin and top stitch round the whole edge.

Towards the end, I realised that this was quite possibly the first time I had made something on the spot for someone else. I’ve sewn presents before, but they have been labours of love, requiring much planning and often a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears. This, on the other hand, had been a straightforward and enjoyable alternative to buying a present in a shop. Finally, my hobby was useful! And – because it was late and hopped up on tea I was beginning to wax lyrical – I felt that I was becoming the person I had always wanted to be.

And then the light bulb on my sewing machine went. C’est la vie.


Mass production

Bags 1

It was the spring fair today at the little one’s preschool and I made these reversible bags for them to sell. (Apologies for the quality of the picture above. I’m not even sure how it’s possible to blur just one side of a photo.)


I used this wonderful tutorial by Grandma’s Chalkboard for Make It & Love It, and the bags were a pleasure to make. I got to try out some of the fabrics that I bought last week, and also to use up some of my stash .

The tutorial is really clear and well illustrated, and the only problems I had were of my own making. My inability to sew a straight line resulted in such a curved first effort at a strap that it had to be abandoned, and I nearly wept when I realised that I had cut out the hearts and flowers fabric with the pattern pointing down, and so didn’t have enough to make a second bag with it. I went to bed genuinely sad for the Plan B gingham bag – I didn’t want it to feel like the ugly duckling of the four. (By this time I was very tired and possibly, just possibly, a little irrational.) But things were brighter in the morning when I remembered my first rule of sewing – everything looks better with a ribbon, even a slightly skew-whiff one.

Bags 3

I don’t know how much the bags raised for pre-school – hopefully something.

I’ll definitely be making more of these, perhaps with slightly thicker cottons next time. But first I need to practise those fiendish straight lines.


Unintentional fabric haul


Somehow it had escaped me that the market in our nearest big town runs on a Thursday as well as Fridays and Saturdays, and so I was caught with my defences down this afternoon and ended up buying quite a lot of fabric.

The butterfly print was £6/metre, and was the choice of the little person, who has requested that I make “bags and flags” with it, and that I get started right away.

I don’t have anything in mind yet for the floral print, but at just £2.50/metre it seemed a good buy, and could be useful as a pretty lining, possibly of the aforementioned bags and flags.

And finally, deserving a photo all of its own, is this glorious material (£3/metre), which looks like a rather patriotic tea party, and which is going to become a tablecloth.


Toy storage bag


Toy bag (2)

Ta dah! (Vinyl from Amazon, owl fabric from Hobbycraft, ribbon from my wonderful sister)

When the little person was truly little, she had just a few soft toys and some of those crinkly-paged books with a mirror at the back. (Allegedly this is because babies love looking at themselves. An alternative theory is that it’s a rather cruel trick to ensure that parents regularly catch sight of just how haggard they look on little to no sleep.)

Now, however, our home looks like we’re showcasing much of the Sylvanian catalogue. In case you haven’t come across the Sylvanian Families, they’re rather adorable animal characters who live in a gloriously retro world. But as the adult Sylvanians are only a few inches tall you can imagine just how small their clothes, food and possessions are, and how easy these are to misplace or – horror – vacuum up.

So I’d been wanting for a long time to make a clear storage bag to keep everything safely together but easily accessible. Sheer terror, though, at the prospect of using vinyl due to visions of my sewing machine somehow combusting or snagging irreparably had put me off. But faint heart never made a toy bag, so I plucked up courage and followed this fantastic tutorial. (The generosity of crafters around the world in sharing their ideas never ceases to amaze me.)

And it all went very well. The tip to put sticky tape on the presser foot and plate stopped the vinyl from sticking, and the instructions were very clear. I used ribbon rather than making a drawstring as I was running out of time, and when I next make one of these bags may put the vertical seam of the fabric section opposite the seam of the vinyl section, rather than matching them up, otherwise you see the seam every time you do up the drawstring.

And now I’m off to make dozens more bags so that I can keep everything I own in them.