Homemade Christmas presents – more elves needed!

In the last couple of years, I’ve started trying to make some Christmas presents. This year I planned to continue the tradition, but like most people I’ve managed to take on too much in not enough time! It can’t just be me that drastically underestimates how long things take?!

So far my homemade Christmas efforts have comprised:

  • drawstring bags for 3 presents
  • zipped make up bag with applique initial to personalise it
  • beer mustard (recipe here – I’m not a mustard eater so hope it’s OK)
  • caramelised onion chutney (recipe here – this is definitely a good’un, have made it before)
  • 2 decorated plaques (one ‘button head’ in this style, another for the BF’s stepmum), still got 1 to do
  • a hand painted mug, wine glass and beer glass
  • countless handmade cards
  • 2 Christmas cakes (the first broke so I suspect was undercooked – disaster! #2 is now in progress)
  • 2 lots of Christmas bunting
  • and a partridge in a pear tree 🙂

(I forgot to take photos of most things, will have to remedy that on Christmas day)

I really love making things and hope that I’ve thought of things my friends and family will appreciate. It would be easy to give them all something I want to make, but that they won’t actually like or use!

Is anyone else spending the last week before Christmas in a frantic crafting/sewing/baking/cooking frenzy?

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Unselfish sewing round up – babies and birthdays

I’ve talked before about how I actually love unselfish sewing. Although I love to make myself a new dress or skirt, sometimes the option for a quick and simple project or something you wouldn’t wear yourself can be great fun.

So I thought I’d start a regular(ish) round up of my unselfish sewing projects.

This month has been a busy one for birthdays, so I’ve been making:

  • A zipped make up bag for my mum, with a couple of Body Shop goodies, using this excellent tutorial to remind me what to do 
  • Another zipped make up bag for my friend, filled with miniature cosmetics and labelled ‘dirty stopout kit’ – sadly forgot to photograph until it was wrapped in this gorgeous John Lewis paper

wrapped birthday present 

  • A teapot-print apron for another friend who is mad keen on baking and cooking. I used this Purl Bee apron tutorial which was so quick and easy – then realised that my fabric was a bit thin and decided to add a lining which I then battled with. But – quite pleased with the result

 teapot print handmade apron

  • A baby dress (using this pattern) for a friend’s new arrival, using leftover fabric from a Simplicity top and Megan dress

 handmade a line baby dress 

  • Quick bunting for aforementioned new arrival’s big sister, so she doesn’t feel left out (no picture I’m afraid!)

I really enjoyed all of these projects, and most of them used leftover fabric from other projects which is great (easy on the budget and I hate to waste good fabric). I made cards for all of them myself too, using pretty scrapbook paper and my own calligraphy, which is sadly still slightly wonky!

It’s about time I got going on Christmas presents now…will share anything I make in another post!

Sewing a skinny tie

Surprisingly some of my favourite sewing projects can be unselfish ones when I have the chance to make something I wouldn’t usually or that wouldn’t fit/suit me (hello cute baby dresses). I’m trying to make as many birthday and Christmas presents as I can this year so there are lots of chances to find new things to make!

This particular project was for my sister’s fiancé, I knew I wanted to make something little for him but was a bit stumped as to what to do. I toyed with some kind of food-based present, then remembered that he wears skinny ties to work a lot so decided to try my hand at one.

I found this tutorial from See Kate Sew and it was brilliant – thanks Kate! The download is free and I found the instructions easy to follow.

Skinny tie - front

The fabric was a silk-type offcut from eBay for £5 including delivery (and hopefully I’ve got enough left to make a Sew Over It silk cami – win!) – I used some grey suiting from my stash for the lining.

Skinny tie - back

I stabilised the fabric a bit with spray starch, plus the interfacing as per the tutorial, which made it much easier to work with (though slightly chunkier than I expected).

Overall I was really pleased with the result and hopefully it will go down well with the birthday boy!

 

Beginners guide to Modern Calligraphy: a review

This post is so long overdue! Earlier in the year, after so enjoying my beginners sewing course, I decided to try out another skill I’ve always admired – calligraphy.

I can’t remember how I came across Quill but I’m glad I did – they sell beautiful stationery and run lots of great workshops.

About the course

It was a 3 hour course on a Sunday which was ideal, not too much commitment and a really reasonable price at £44, including equipment.

There were around 20 of us but Lucy and Imogen both came round and gave us feedback and pointers.

It was a good introduction to using a pen and ink and forming different lines and shapes. It wasn’t a very social class though – we were all concentrating too hard to chat!

Coffee, calligraphy and pastries

What I learnt 

  • Using a pen and ink might mean unlearning how you usually hold and use a pen. It feels unnatural to begin with
  • If your letters look blotchy, you’re probably pressing too hard and pulling at the paper fibres
  • The aim is to touch the paper as lightly as possible on the thin stroke, and as lightly as possible while still applying pressure on the thick stroke. This is not easy.
  • Practice practice practice makes perfect – to master this skill you need to spend time practising your alphabet and forming different shapes and words over and over again – compared to sewing I found it harder to come up with a decent finished product as a beginner
  • Everything looks better in ink than in biro. Even though I can recognise that my calligraphy is very amateur, my worst calligraphy probably still looks better than my best handwriting so it’s definitely what I’ll be using on cards and envelopes in future

My calligraphy practice sheet

This is definitely a skill I want to continue learning – now I know what to look out for I’ll keep practising and maybe watch some more YouTube videos for more tips.

Have you tried a new skill lately?

Creating a studio space of my own

 

Over the past six months, I’ve found myself spending more and more of my time making, sewing, crafting and drawing, and I can’t get enough of it!

I’m now in a really lucky stage where I’ve just moved into a new (family sized) home, and have the space to claim a whole room to my hobbies. Spoilt or what?!

I’ve been soaking up inspiration for a while, with Artemis of Junkaholique’s workshop shed being one of my favourites for a wonderful space without needing a massive room.

Having agreed with the boyfriend that I could claim the smallest bedroom for my studio, I was pleased to find that it was bigger than I remembered.  The downside – there was cappuccino-coloured woodchip on the walls and the most disgusting carpet I’ve seen in a while.

Here’s the before picture (excuse the poor quality in the rush to move in)

Sewing room before

I knew I wanted my space to be light, bright and airy so I wasted no time in removing the old carpet and painting the floorboards white which made a huge difference.

Sewing room - bare floors Sewing room - white painted floor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I opted for a short term fix to get the room set up as early as possible while we tackle the other projects around the house, so painted the woodchip white and will try to look past those ugly lumps and bumps! The result is a really nice bright room that feels like a wonderful blank canvas and lovely place to spend my time.

Sewing space - finished

 

I got a cheap black filing cabinet on eBay and fixed it up with some Annie Sloan paint to brighten it up, and used the Ikea furniture we already had for a desk and storage.

I’m hoping the room will evolve over time as I get prettier storage, a rug, and add a gallery wall and a few more pops of colour around the room. Oh, and some plants! Can’t get enough plants.

I’ve already spent a few evenings in there making cards and a stash-busting make up bag, and can’t wait to spend more evenings making and creating new things.

Sewaholic Rae skirt

I think I have a new pattern crush. I was confident that I’d like the Rae skirt by Sewaholic – so much so that I bought fabric to make a short and midi length version – and I wasn’t wrong!

I’m also growing to love the instant gratification of PDF patterns. Having had this fabric in my stash for a couple of months, when I had a free day at the weekend I bought & printed the pattern. I chose style A, which uses shaped pattern pieces rather than gathering the fabric at the waistband.Rae skirt full viewIt’s described as a super easy make thanks to the elastic waistband rather than needing to put in a zip, and this definitely shaved off some time for me (time normally spend putting the zip in the wrong way around and re-doing it a few times!).Rae skirt waistbandThe skirt turned out to be a really nice shape, flattering and I made it long enough to wear at work without tights, should the sun ever come back, so it’s a really useful addition to my wardrobe.

If you’re on the fence about this one, I highly recommend it! Next project is definitely the midi version in a black rose print fabric picked up at the John Lewis sale, and then maybe a black polkadot one feels like it would be a really good staple.

What’s your go-to skirt pattern?
Rae skirt hem

Sewing pyjamas and handmade birthday presents

I really enjoy making and giving homemade presents at Christmas and birthdays, and have made things like biscotti, mango chutney and had a few less successful trials too! But my boyfriend has always been a bit of a conundrum and I’ve never known what I could make him myself.

This year though I struck gold when I came across a pattern for pyjamas – New Look 6859. We both like to lounge in pyjamas after work so I thought this would be a nice gift, and a good project for a beginner sewist like me.

A trip to Goldhawk Road provided me with some nice soft fabric, and the pattern was straightforward to follow. I did run into one setback that took me a while to figure out though – after attaching the pockets, I hand-tacked them to the waistband but I did it far too loosely and the tacking fell out.

This baffled me for a while as I couldn’t figure out how the waistband would work! So I took a few steps back in the pattern until I saw the mistake and continued onwards – otherwise they were nice and easy to sew.Pyjamas

The BF was really chuffed that I’d made them for him, plus I accompanied them with some homemade lemon curd (he is one of those people who will eat it with a spoon!) and a handmade card.

Jar of lemon curd

Pyjamas waistband

I was really pleased to be able to make something he liked, though I was a bit jealous of the finished product! One of my next projects will have to be to make myself some pyjamas in a nice printed cotton.