Friday, 19 June 2015

The prettiest peg bag and beautiful views of Cambridge.

I love Cambridge so much! It is on my top five best cities list. Every now and then, we decide to hop into the car and visit just for the hell of it. It is always so inspiring - maybe it's just university towns but this one is extra special. So before we get started with this week's project, have a look around Cambridge with me.....


Classic old English - phone booths in the market place


The educational potential reaches out and draws the visitor into its embrace.

The history is all around you.

The bike is king and queen in Cambridge and it is the transport mode of choice for most. They are everywhere.

The chapel in Gonville & Caius college.

Everywhere is perfect!

The backs and the famous punts - perfect weather too!

Rob having a bit of a nosey.

The pretty little market place. We gorged on Cambridge strawberries and the most delectable cherries.

Says it all really...

Again, says it all!
The weather was postcard perfect for this.

Ah, bliss! As I said, a really beautiful city and worth a visit. And if I may offer a tip - if you are arriving by car, choose a park and ride on the outskirts of the city. Cheap to park all day and great service. That is the way to go in the future.
But as you will know by now, we are here to sew as well and with the lovely weather upon us (sorry to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere) we are tending to put the clothes outside to line dry and that means pegs! Sooooo, I thought that it might be nice to update the ole peg bag!



One of my lovely editors, Katy  has designed some wonderfully evocative fabrics - ask for  Priory Square by Katy Jones where you love to shop for fabrics. I have chosen two of my favourites for this week's project. Take a look...



How fab are they! Totally on-trend as you might expect and lovely to work with.

So what will we need this time?
-a wooden coat hanger
-your two fabrics - a fat quarter of the aqua and two fat quarters of the other one
-plain solid cream cotton - a fat quarter will do it
-things to make a label - felt, stamp, distress markers and black ink pad
-scrap of orange felt
-pinking shears
-coordinating grosgrain bow
your usual sewing needs

This is going to be a French seamed project because I am not a huge fan of unfinished or zig-zagged edges. I like everything finished off in the lining too so here we go!

Firstly make the label. There is a post in the archives and you can find it here with detailed instructions on how to make a homemade label for your work. I have used a couple of Tim Holtz distress markers to colour mine and a butterfly stamp which goes well with the fabric.



And the result up a bit closer and mounted onto a piece of orange felt...



Pink around the endges for a cute look. The label will be mounted in the centre bottom.
So to begin the bag itself. I am going to try and do without a print off template this time and see how we do. The coat hanger will form the top of the bag and the sides are simply square.

Firstly, cut a square of your fabric for the outer to measure 44cm x 33cm and then use the coat hanger itself to round off the top so that you end up with a shape like this....



It is fine to practise on a piece of paper first, in fact, I would for sure. Always have a roll of brown paper with your sewing kit for making patterns and templates and then keep them in a box to be used again and again.

Now cut three more pieces the same (using this one as the template). You need two of your second fabric and I have used a plain off white cotton for the lining piece because you won't see it when it is in and this saves money.

Now find a round object which measures about 11.5cm diameter (think saucers and the like).

Take the piece of plain solid lining and crease it down the middle to find the centre...



Measure down 8.5cm and make a circle by tracing around your chosen template with the water soluble marker on the wrong side of the lining....



Now take this lining piece and your aqua fabric and pin them right sides together. Sew around the circle on your machine and then cut out (1/2cm in from the line) and clip the curve...



Now 'post' the lining through the hole and iron it very flat and perfect on the other side so that now you have this...



Then top stitch around the centre hole to stabilise the lining....



Add the label next....



I found a scrap of tangerine cotton lace which made a perfect tab too.....seeeee, told you never to throw anything away!

You have two pattern pieces left over. Place them wrong sides together and baste around the outer edge and from then on treat them as one, pre-lined piece.

Now normally, we would sew the whole thing up with the lining sides together but, as I have already ranted, I am not a fan of yumpy inner seams. So, take the back and the front and pin them together with the wrong (lining) sides together....



Now sew a narrower than normal seam right around the outside, being very careful to catch all four layers as you go. Leave a 1cm hole in the top for the coat hanger wire too.



Trim the extra fabric back and then turn the bag inside out through the centre hole. Iron the edge flat and then sew again, enclosing the raw edges inside the seam using the normal seam allowance...



Now turn it the right way out again and push the corners out with a chopstick or something similar so that they are nice and sharp. As you can see, the inside is very neat. If you have some stray threads on the outside, just snip them away.
Finally, put the coat hanger in - I am not going to pretend that this is easy and be gentle to ensure that you don't tear or distort the bag. Attach the bow to the base of the coat hanger hook.

And that's it! A peg bag. Obviously this is also handy to hang in a wardrobe for stockings or other similar things too and it is great for laundry room storage of other kinds. Here is is again....



Thank you so much for stopping by!


Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Block of the month - June 2015 Scrappy #1

Sew for long enough and you will have scraps of all sizes and shapes. My regular readers will know that I love to use scraps and be a bit frugal with these sometimes quite pricey fabrics so it will come as no surprise at all to find that you can make a whole quilt without cutting into a fresh length of fabric every time.

To be fair, I should qualify that last bit; although you can make the whole quilt with this block, sometimes it looks better to have some sashes in between (usually white) to break up and emphasise the colours. So some plain white or a white-on-white is worth the investment. But if I can scramble back onto my soap box for the last bit....you can make most of the quilt using things that you have already. 

Obviously, there are as many scrap blocks as there are stars in the sky, well almost, so I am going to classify mine with a simple number system. This month is #1! There. Why make it difficult!

Anyway, before I am totally consumed by the OCD monster, here is the offering for June........



This is a real cutie and all you need to do is to find the scraps that firstly can be cut into 5 squares measuring 8.5cm x 8.5cm. Sew them into a strip like this... 



Next comes a strip measuring 10cm wide x 37cm long. Attach it to the left of the squares like this.....



Next some more patches but to keep the scrappy look, make them different sizes. There are two at 13cm x 13cm in the middle and one on the top at 13cm x 9cm. The one on the bottom is 13cm x 7cm. Attach this one to the left of the strip...



What we need now is a 6cm strip. For a hint on the length, see the note below. Sew the strip to the left of the patches.



Finally, another strip completes the picture. This one is 5cm wide and you trim it in the same way...



This block is designed to be square and you can trim it to 36cm x 36cm when you are finished if there has been some creeping of the edges. That way it can be put into a project all the same way or turned every second square to give even more variation. Makes a cute cushion too.

By the way, do you know a trick with sashes and strips? Ignore the length. No really, all you do is to measure the width - for example 11cm wide and then you cut them long enough to do the job. Then sew the sash in place.



Now trim the excess. Obviously you could argue that this is potentially wasteful but it isn't really. Most times you have very little waste and...guess what....the waste goes into the scrap bag for new projects! 
The great thing is that you don't have to worry about fabric creep (and it ALWAYS does) and you don't have to worry about seam allowances which no-one measures EVERY time. They might say they do but.....

Both of these things can make a difference to your strips if you have cut already and they turn out to be too short.

So, very happy scrapping and see what you can make for practically nothing! 


Love and hugs
Debbie xxx

Thursday, 4 June 2015

How to make a fully lined Bento bag

Most enlightened people are making recycling part of their lives now and carrying food is a big issue. Plastic bags are easy and they are convenient but they are not cheap and they are not environmentally sound. There is some compelling science to suggest that they are not the healthiest either so it is a big lose/lose situation.

As usual, the Japanese have it sussed and their gift to us on this occasion is the Bento bag.....



How cute can you get! It has a Japanese elegance to it and it feels like fabric origami. Perfect for toting lunch or a snack or even makeup. In fact you may be interested to know that the word bento in Japanese refers to a home cooked or takeaway lunch for one - sort of the equivalent to our packed lunch. It is usually a box of some kind housing a single portion but our bag fits the bill too. 


Well we are going to make one this week but before I get onto that, I have some more news on the book front. 
The contracts have all been signed by all parties and now an official announcement is on the Vivebooks site! I am beside myself with happiness!  Here is the link so that you can check it for yourself. 

Honestly, I think that this format for crafters is the way of the future. Imagine having videos embedded in a book - just like a teacher so that you can rewind it and see it again and again if that light bulb is just not going on for you. Trust me, there are only so many times that you can rewind a teacher!

Anyhow, back to that bag! Normally, they come unlined and I am sure that I am flying in the face of thousands of years of tradition here but I thought that we would make a lined one and see how we go.

So, what do we need?
3 fat quarters of fabric.

Um....that's actually about it if you don't count the usual sewing needs! So no long shopping list for you this week. 

Mine is a snack sized one so if you want it larger or smaller, simply follow the directions and either add or subtract centimetres.

I am using two fabrics on the outside and then I have a spotty lining so here are my choices.....



The first thing that we need to do is to cut four triangles, one from each of the outer fabrics and two from the lining. They are right angle triangles,  the adjacent is 40cm and the opposite is 40cm and the hypotenuse is 58cm. That sounds a bit like geometry...well it is but it isn't difficult. Have a look at this picture and you will get the idea....



See what I mean? A very easy way to do this is to cut a 40cm x 40cm square from the lining fabric and then cut it in half diagonally and then use one piece of this for a template to cut out the two outer pieces like this....



Whichever way is easiest for you, you will need to end up with two spotted triangles for lining and then one of each of the other pieces to make four triangles in all.

Take one of the lining triangles and one of your outer ones and with the right sides together, sew all around the outside, leaving a small gap for turning out...



TIP: when you decide where to leave the turning out gap, stay away from the corners! Much easier to do this on a straight bit.

Next clip the excess fabric from the points being very careful not to nick your stitches.....



Turn the right way out and poke the corners out with an object like a chopstick (always have one of these in your sewing kit-  and quite topical for the project I think).  Iron very carefully so that your edges are as perfect as possible - wet the fabric with a water mister and roll it between your fingers to achieve this mystical perfection! 

Here is what you have now.....



Repeat for the other two triangles. You don't have to slip stitch the gap closed, just iron carefully and it will all come together in the final sewing up.

Right! Good so far! We now have two lined triangles but that isn't a bag so the next thing is to lay the triangles on top of each other like this....



Choose the one that you want to be dominant and put it on top. I have chosen green. Now pin and carefully stitch down the middle to form the base.....



TIP: fold the triangle in half and lightly iron to find the centre of each and then just match up the creases.
Then close up those side gaps by stitching along the lines on the photo....



As you can see, I have put one of my trademark labels onto the front....



You can get full instructions on how to make one of those here. When you stitch, notice that the seam goes right to the point of each triangle (way beyond the necessary bit)? This is the top stitching that will make the bag look more professional.

Okay, looking good but still not a bag! Next, sew up the side seams like this....



We need to do the corners next. We will use a French seam. To do this, turn the bag the right way out and measure in 3cm and draw a line across the corner like this...




Stitch along the line and then trim back to 1/2 cm like this....



Now turn the bag inside out and stitch with a normal seam allowance to enclose the raw seam...



When you turn it out again you have a neat corner with no bulky corner bit.



French seams are usually used on very sheer fabrics to make a better seam but you can use it anywhere. The beauty of it is that you have no raw or serged seams inside the bag. It is all neat and well finished. Sounds awfully smart too!

And that's about it folks! You now have a sweet little bag with a tie top. Use it for fruit - it has slight cushioning and protective qualities. 



These make great gifts and they would be fabulous on a craft stall. They wash clean too so there is no excuse for horrid plastic in this part of your life! Here is mine again...



Thank you so much, dear friends for stopping by again. I have enjoyed your company as always. 
Before you go, I would love to show you how my garden is looking in this beautiful weather. It was five years ago on  Thursday (4th June) that I came to England with my family and I love it so much. It is a beautiful and friendly country full of lovely people and places. And our weather isn't half bad either.

Anyway, before I get emotional, here is the garden. Enjoy! x







Love and hugs
Debbie xxx