A little spooning

This idea is so simple. It is inexpensive to do, requires practically no artistic skill, and can be personalised.

It was prompted in part when I read a feature on line about the increase in DIY weddings. There is a rise in people getting more crafty when it comes to creating their own wedding decorations, cakes and outfits. I was also amused by the concept of ‘spooning’ – that delightful intimate space that couples enjoy. And this project lends itself perfectly.

I found this set of wooden spoons for £1, but an old, pre-loved set should work as well, though the handles may need a little scrubbing and sanding before decorating. You may also need to drill a hold through the handles if you intent to hang them up.

I have free-handed painted my spoon handles – and I recognise that using masking tape for a cleaner line would have produced better results. But masking tape remains on my shopping list rather than in my supplies drawer! I painted the bold colour first using acrylic paint, leaving it to dry, before painting the white band. With the spatula I added a rub-on transfer just to see what that would look like. All three utensils got a coat of varnish over the paint to complete them.

When producing something like this for a wedding you could paint on hearts – just an outline on the spoon end, or a full motif if you’re feeling confident. You could add the names and the date of the event. Produce as a quirky wedding gift for guests by way of a place marker (stand in a jug or kilner jar). Or, just produce a colourful set for your own kitchen and brighten up those baking days!

Back in the 80s

I was asked the other day if I had always been creative – and the answer is yes! I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make stuff.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will already have seen what I have made recently. You’ll know that once I discover how to make an item I can go into overload on production – note the duvet dress (20 and counting), zip brooches, bow ties and most recently boxer shorts. But there was a time when I made toys.

While having a tidy up at home I came across a box of my photographs  (remember them – the printed out variety?) that were taken in the mid 1980s. Amongst them were a couple taken at Southover Grange in Lewes, where I had taken a stall at a craft fair being held there. At the time I was working on The South Downs Conservation Project, which was based in the town, and heard about the fair through a colleague. The SDCP was enjoyable to be part of, and  it started the long process of getting the South Downs recognised as a National Park – but that’s another story. What amazed me  looking at these photographs was the sheer variety of what I had on display at that fair. I must have been busy for months.

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If you look  you will see a lot of toys: beautiful rag dolls, clown dolls, plump teddy bears in dungarees, fury glove puppets (in the basket that I am holding), toy horses, and even a snake! The dolls all had removable clothing – and there is a bride doll there who is wearing a replica of ‘Fergie’s” (the Duchess of York’s) wedding dress. I recall working from pictures that were in the newspaper colour supplements at the time. There are a couple of babies too in their own little cots. I took the pattern for the teddy bears from a library book, that I do remember. There is some rather fine corduroy being used for them! I can also see quilted bags hanging up (I still make these useful little bags today).

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On one of the shelves is a toy village – I made the houses by using appliqué to create an exterior, then sewing this around cubes of solid foam. The streets were made by quilting, providing a soft playmate for the buildings (and pillar box) to go on. I do remember selling this item. There are a couple of patchwork quilts that I had made too, one in pinks and purples. This item didn’t sell and I remember that I used it for my own babies when they were born. The quilt became faded and soft with repeated washing. The other quilt has houses on.

Back then, as now, I can see that I made clothes for myself. I made the top and skirt that I am wearing in the photograph – and sporting a very 80s hair wrap too!

Thinking off the cuff

I was pleased with a quick fix solution on Saturday night. My lovely  boyfriend had bought tickets for us to see Rigoletto at the London Coliseum (a fabulous production as it turned out). But in packing for our London weekend he had forgotten to include cufflinks for his shirt, and he didn’t want to dress down for such a classy venue.

With time running short luckily I had the inspirational idea of using paper stud fasteners as a quick fix. Google alerted us to a branch of Rymans near to our hotel. Two fasteners to each sleeve did the trick. The shirt was worn, a smart appearance achieved and a neat trick learnt.

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So, guys – and anyone involved with wedding or function organisation – an inexpensive box of paper fasteners could save the day and potential embarrassment with a wardrobe malfunction!

Coated!

 I have so many coats & jackets but I wanted a mid length coat warm enough for the Spring & smart enough for a forthcoming trip to London. I have a lovely floor length grey one but its length, while great for deep winter, can be problematic when nipping about town.

Trawling the charity shops I hoped I’d find what I had in mind… a three quarter length, close knit, plain coloured coat. I looked in six shops before I found a suitable candidate. I was so tempted by a Karen Millen coat but decided the weave was just too open & woolly although I liked its brown tones, but I stuck to my ideal. Sooner or later it always turns up!

I found a grey coat for £8.50. It wasn’t perfect admittedly but the colour & material was right. I didn’t like the buttons- but this was an easy fix! I planned to remove the pocket tabs  so just need 6 new buttons. As it turned out the replacement buttons (red with a lip motif) cost almost as much as the coat, but they have transformed it! Buttons are always a simple fix.


Rather than cut the pocket tabs off (leaving a rough edge), I simply turned them inwards and hand stitched them to the reverse of the pocket front.

Although the original length of the coat wasn’t too bad I decided that I wanted to make it a few inches shorter. It’s always a little daunting doing this. By now I had sewn the buttons in place – would altering the hem ruin the coat? 

I began by unpicking the lining before cutting 3in off the coat material . It was a wool mix and easy to cut. I ‘zigzagged’ the raw edge on my sewing machine. Rather than turn a hem (which would be bulky), I edged the hem in red (making a length of bias binding for the purpose). 

Once this was done I reduced the lining, hemming it but not stitching it to the coat (as originally done). If you get the lining wrong it pulls the coat fabric out of shape.

After the coat surgery I’m really pleased with the final look!

Pillow talk

I was delighted to find a duvet featuring the London underground map (though disappointingly not the whole map – it concentrated on the bottom half). It came with a couple of pillowcases, each with the iconic logo. The reverse of the pillowcase was coloured stripes matching the colours of the various underground lines.Turning one of the pillowcases into a shopping bag was so easy that I thought I’d share the project here. Any pillowcase could be utilised in this way. I like the fact that the bag has a coloured lining as well as an outer design. Depending on the front design you could make the bag with the pillowcase simply folded in half, rather than folding the two sides to centre back. But I’m sure you’ll see the best options once you give it a go!

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Creative frenzy in space

I’ve been lucky enough to have a number of days off work, and I’ve spent a lot of time at my new sewing machine.

Having discovered how to make boxer shorts I’ve been addicted to making them. In fact, I’ve just completed another pair before writing this blog (and heading off to work). I’ve realised that this how I tend to operate – duplicating an item (and get better at making it) numerous times. That’s why I have 18 duvet dresses with a couple more in the pipeline thanks to finding even more lovely fabric (the London Underground duvet is a case in point).

But along side the boxers I have made other stuff. One of these was a halter neck waistcoat out of a Cambodian scarf. The scarf was beautiful – shiny and colourful, and made of the type of fabric that will fray like crazy if cut. But that didn’t put me off. I knew that I was

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more likely to wear the scarf if it was an actual garment. Luckily I needed to use iron on interfacing in the waistcoat construction and this would also anchor the fibres. I used a vibrant purple silky fabric to line the waistcoat – and finally frog fasteners at the front as I didn’t want to make buttonholes (avoiding that possibility of fraying as much as possible).

While in Portsmouth recently I did what I like to do – trawl the charity shops. And in one I found a great pair of curtains with a base colour of deep blue and a spaceman/rocket/planet design. Great quality fabric! And it is now one of my signature duvet dresses. This time I didn’t line the bodice but instead sewed flat fell seams, and bound the neckline, armholes and hem in a contrasting burnt umber bias binding. I did add pockets as usual. Worn with one of my 50s style net petticoat underneath it’s a dream. And there is plenty of fabric left to play with!

Coming up in the near future will be using the amazing nasturtium fabric from IKEA. It was billed as a tablecloth but reduced in the sale to just £2.50! These flowers were always in the garden when I was growing up so they have a massive nostalgia factor too.

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In between sewing I have continued to make bread – and just turned out a wonderful beer loaf (using London porter instead of water)! So much to do and it’s all great fun! Just now work stops play.

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I’ve completed my first project using my new sewing machine – boxer shorts! And they are so easy to make.

My boyfriend is a fan of the boxer so it was one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments when I realised that I should make a pair for him – testing my new machine at the same time. I looked into buying a paper pattern for making boxer shorts, but at £9 I thought that was a bit steep for what was a simple garment. When I looked on line (and visuals on You Tube) the various tutorials made the construction look so easy. All I needed was a pair of boxer shorts to take apart and use as the new pattern. This striped pair were to the scaffold!

Using a seam ripper I deconstructed the old boxers. One of the problems with worn fabric is that fabric can easily tear. Wanting to keep the shape intact I ‘mended’ torn areas with patches of iron-on interfacing. I ironed each piece, picking off as much as the old thread as I did so. The boxer shorts are made up from four pieces – and I labelled each with a pen on the reverse (front & back, left and right). The trickiest part of the construction is the fly so I checked how to sew this on a few video tutorials before I set to with my machine.

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Having made knickers before (very easy and very satisfying) making boxer shorts is even easier, there is less elastic to sew in for one thing. I bought an elastic I hadn’t used before- with a soft side to go against the skin – so I didn’t need to thread the elastic through a casing. Instead I pinned the elastic at the centre back, front and the two sides, and stretched it as I sewed it against the inside of the waistband.

I’m pleased with the results (bespoke tailoring for my favourite model!) and have made a couple more pairs since – getting better at doing so by creating flat fell side seams for a neater finish. I was able to use up some of my fabric stash in making these first pairs, but I’m looking forward to sourcing new designs too. Boxer shorts take so little material that it’ll be a great project for those fabulous fabrics that I can’t resist! And it is just brilliant to have a working sewing machine again!

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My new toy

So there I was wondering when I was going to get my sewing machine to a someone who could service it, when Christmas loomed large. As did one of my presents. It was a box. A sewing machine-shaped box (despite its deliverer trying to convince me it contained a puppy!).

My hunch was correct and when I opened it up there was a new sewing machine. It’s a Janome – not a brand that I have used before – but I look forward to trying it out. That’s the frustrating bit, rather like driving a new car, you kind of know how it works, but precisely where the controls are will take a little exploration.

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There are some fancy stitch patterns on this make, so I’ll have some fun with those. And it comes with a hard cover, which’ll save me having to run up a fabric one. Once I’ve mastered the controls (on test fabric of course) I will be able to get back to my sewing projects which are half done – can’t wait!!