Category: Craft

The Unsung Heroes of the Sewing Basket

Photo of sewing kit items

I’ve been re-discovering my love of sewing recently (see my first skirt here!) and this has meant getting re-acquainted with my sewing kit.

There are some sewing accessories that I believe are essentials to make sewing easier and more enjoyable. They each make tasks faster and/or more accurate. Here are my top favourites that deserve more praise than they get:

Metric & Imperial Measuring Tape

Photo of measuring tape
Many sewing patterns are from the US and so they have imperial measurements. Vintage patterns also have measurements in yards and inches, so having a tape that has both makes it really easy to work in either metric or imperial measurements.

Lots of tapes have centimeters on both sides, so its worth checking what measurements it has before you buy one.

Ruler with Adjustable Seam Width Checker

Photo of a ruler with an adjustable seam measurer
This little ruler is brilliant for checking seam widths as you’re sewing. If you try quilting, you have to get all your seams perfect to ensure the quilt patches line up accurately. This ruler, with the moving plastic middle bit, stays in place so you can measure seams really quickly.

The red points make measuring so fast because you can see if seams are the right size at a glance. Its genius!

Seam Ripper

Photo of a seam ripper
This nasty looking tool is a seam ripper, or as my Mum calls it, a ‘quick unpick’. Unpicking seams is one of the most boring tasks, however this makes it a bit faster.

Glass Headed Pins

Photo of sewing pins
These are really useful for pressing work-in-progress projects as the pin heads wont melt if you iron them (plastic ones will…) and they are easier to find if you drop them that the plain pins without heads.

Zipper Foot

Photo of a sewing machine zipper foot
A zipper foot lets you get in closer to a zipper when you are using a sewing machine, and make a more accurate zip insertion. My Janome sewing machine has clip on feet which makes changing between them really quick.

A little note about sewing machine feet:

Most sewing machines come with several different feet that are designed for different basic tasks – different hems for instance, or button holes. I’ve found that learning a little about how they can be used is well worth the time as they can really improve the finish on a sewing project. For instance, if you want to try machine quilting, you’ll need a special quilting foot that helps to feed through the thickness of the layers of fabric.

However! Not all sewing machines can use different foot options, and some may not allow for others to be used at all. If you’re looking to buy a sewing machine, make sure you check what the deal is with this to make sure you get one that’s going to last you through lots of projects and different sewing needs in the future.

Sewing the Simplicity 2226 Skirt

I’ve been yearning to start sewing again. I’ve had a break from it for about four years, as I have focussed on learning other crafts. When I started watching the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee I knew I had to get my sewing machine out and make something!

Choosing a pattern

Because its been so long, and I never really mastered the basics when I was sewing before, I needed to find an easy pattern to get me started again. Skirts are generally easier to sew than other garments as they have fewer pieces and are easier to fit (no boobs or limbs to get in the way!).

I saw the Simplicity 2226 skirt in a pattern catalogue and decided it would be THE ONE. I think its a fun and versatile skirt that could look good in lots of different fabrics and patterns. Having now made it, I would like to re-make one in a black crepe for work.

Image of Simplicity skirt sewing pattern

The pattern is labelled ‘Learn to Sew’. After sewing it, I think its a bit advanced for a beginner, and I wouldn’t recommend it for a first sewing project. However, it is still quite straight forward and covers a lot of different aspects of constructing a garment within the one relatively quick project.

From start to finish, I think this pattern took me eight hours to sew and cost me approximately £15 in materials. The pattern itself cost me about £4.50.

Fabric and trimmings

I made my skirt from 100% cotton craft/quilt fabric in red with tiny white stars and teeny weeny dots. The fabric is quite thin and a bit floaty. Again, now I’ve made it I’d choose a slightly heavier weight fabric for another skirt as this one is billowy, but fine for summer.

My cotton was £6.99 per meter and I used just over 1.5 meters. I can’t find a makers name on the selvage, but if you are interested Favourite Fabrics on eBay sell it: Tiny Scattered Stars in Deep Red.

You will also need a zip, bias binding for the pockets, matching thread, fusible light-weight interfacing and a hook and eye fastener.


The sizing is dreadful! I measured myself and was horrified to come out as a size 18! I usually buy size 12 clothes or sometimes a 14, so size 18 seemed alarmingly different. I looked online for advice about the fit of this pattern, and found the amazing Noodle Head blog that has a Simplicity 2226 Sew Along. Her sizing recommendations gave me the confidence to take the plunge and sew a size 14 (which fits brilliantly!).

Cutting and sewing up

I traced my pattern pieces in case the sizing was wrong and I needed to pick a different one. The pattern pieces are clearly labelled and are easy to cut out if you have a big table to work on.

Photo of paper pattern pinned to fabric

The sewing instructions varied in clarity – things like inserting the zipper could have benefitted from more pictures as I found it a bit mind boggling just reading the instructions. However, it was generally well written and was simple to follow.

The finished skirt

Photo of completed skirt

Photo of completed Simplicity skirt
I’m sorry about the poor quality iPhone photo!

I’m so proud of this skirt! There were lots of new challenges I had to get through to make it, which makes it even more satisfying to complete! I know I will wear it in the summer, as its the perfect relaxed summery skirt. I can’t wait to get started on my next sewing project (the New Look 6843 A-line skirt)!

Has watching the Great British Sewing Bee inspired you to start sewing?

New Season Spring/Summer 2013 Liberty Tana Lawn Fabric

Liberty design the most beautiful collections of fabric, and their Spring/Summer 2013 collection is stunning. ‘The Flower Show’ is a combination of modern and traditional florals. I’ve been falling in love with their fresh-yet-retro look. Here are my favourites from the collection:

Amy Jane

Photos of four colour ways of Liberty fabric
Amy Jane in colour ways A, B, C & D

Colour way D is my favourite Amy Jane design: I love the way the blue background sings against the orange of the heart outlines.


Photos of four colour ways of Scilly Tana Lawn fabric
Scilly in colour ways A, B, C & D

Each colour way Scilly comes in is perfect. I keep thinking of this fabric and what I could make with it: cushions in colour way C, a skirt in colour way A and a bag lining in D.


Photos of four colourways of Liberty Castle fabric
Castle in colour ways A, B, C & D

This design is markedly different from the others in the collection – it has a more masculine look and feel, and almost has a touch of the Hieronymus Bosch to it.


Photos of four different colourways of Liberty Hazel Tana Lawn fabric
Hazel in colour ways A, B, C & D

Just look at the bright red of colour way A, and the vibrant pink of colour way C! How joyful are these fabrics?! I really want to make a skirt in the pink colour – it would be perfect for spring.

Hugo Grenville

Photos of four colour ways of Liberty Tana Lawn fabtic
Hugo Grenville in colour ways A, B, C & D

A and D are my favourites from this design – I love their surprising contrast colours in what is a more traditional floral pattern.


Photos of four colour ways of Liberty Tana Lawn fabric
Irma in colour ways A, B, C & D

Imagine floaty summer dresses made from Irma fabric? So light and sweet. Another lovely set of different colour options that are feminine, young and traditional all on one go.

You can read more about how Liberty designed their Flower Show collection on their blog: THE FLOWER SHOW: SPRING SUMMER 2013 TANA LAWN COLLECTION.

Last Minute Christmas Crafts

Collage of photos of Christmas crafts

With only two sleeps left until Christmas day, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some really quick Christmas craft ideas incase you need to make any last minute gifts. For speed, I’m not going to waffle anymore, lets get down to some super-fast crafting!

Festive hair bands

Photos of hair bands made with elastic and buttons
These hair elastics can be made in SECONDS!

What you need:

  • Glittery hair elastic bands (the skinny ones) – these can be bought in large quantities from the Pound Shop
  • Buttons with shank backs (loop backs) – get them from any craft shops, my metal ones came from a craft fair

All you have to do is push the elastic through the shank on the back of the button, and then loop it into itself, like this:

Photos showing how to attach a deer button to a headband
How easy is that?!

Why not make a whole set as a last minute gift?

Felt Hearts

Photos of hand sewn felt heart decorations

These take a wee bit longer to make, depending on how much decoration you add.

What you need:

  • A sheet of felt
  • Cotton thread or embroidery floss
  • Polyester toy stuffing
  • Paper & pencil
  • Needle
  • Pins
  • Sharp scissors
  • Decorative bits and pieces like ribbons, sequins and beads

On the paper, draw a heart and cut it out (I’m sure you can find templates online if you struggle with this).

Pin the paper heart to the felt and cut out two pieces. If you are going to decorate the heart like I have, do this now before you sew it up as its much easier this way.

Place the two heart shapes together and stitch around the outside in blanket stitch, leaving a small hole at the top. Add the stuffing so the heart is a puffy shape. Sew up the top and add a loop so you can hang it up.

This could be made in about 20 minutes if you don’t decorate it, or about an hour if you do. Add some lavender or other scented oil to the stuffing to make it a scented decoration.

Happy Chocolates

Photo of chocolates in small paper cake cases
Super quick and easy to make, but remember they need chilling time to set!

These little chocolates are really easy to make and can look very festive if you package them up in a pretty box.

What you need:

  • Large bar of chocolate (we used 200g of Milka)
  • Chocolate covered honeycomb pieces (we used one pack of white and one of milk chocolate – from a sweet shop)
  • Chocolate buttons (the smiley ones are from Thorntons)
  • Saucepan and plastic bowl
  • Mini cake cases

Break up the chocolate into the plastic bowl, and place it in the pan full of water over a low heat. Do not get any water in with the chocolate or it will go weird! Do not let the water come anywhere near to boiling or it will also make the chocolate go weird!

Once it is melted, carefully spoon a teaspoon of it into each paper cake case. Add 2 – 3 of the honeycomb pieces on top of the chocolate. Cover these with another teaspoon of the melted chocolate and place a smiley chocolate button on the top. Place in the fridge to chill and set and you are done!

Festive Pine Cone Friends!

Photo of pine cones with eyes glued on
These chaps are just a bit of festive-fun!

What you need:

  • Pine cones
  • Googly eyes (you can usually get these in the Pound Shop)
  • Glue
  • String
    • Glue the googly eyes onto each pine cone and tie a length of string or wire to the top – so they can be hung up. Done!

      The beauty of each of these crafty ideas is that they are not just quick, they are super cheap to make too, bonus!

      If you decide to make any of these little projects, do please share them with me, I’d love to see them 🙂


How to make felt flowers tutorial

Photo of four felt flower decorations

These felt flower decorations are really quick and easy to make (they are super cheap too!). I’ve made these in Spring time colours, but I think they would look equally good in white and red for Christmas.

I’ve put together a PDF instruction sheet so you can learn how to make these cute felt flower decorations too, click on the image or the link below to download the PDF:

Illustration of the sewing steps needed to sew felt flowers

>How to make felt flowers PDF

I think these flowers cost about £1 each to make, as sheets of felt cost about 40 – 50p from craft shops, plus the other bits and pieces which you probably already have to hand. With the ribbon, I bought a discounted roll of spotty ribbon at HobbyCraft which cost about a £1 and is 3 meters long. As with most things, eBay will have all of these goodies 😉

Have you tried making felt flowers like these before? What colours did you make?

Crafting for Christmas

I’m all about craft fairs at this time of year: there is so much lovely stuff to look at and get inspiration from! Today I went to a small craft fair in Langford Budville (what a name!), near Wellington in Somerset. The fair was in aid of Children’s Hospice South West who do some amazing work supporting children and their families going through tough times.

The craft fair had about 30 stalls, all selling very different goodies, from handcrafted patchwork items through to driftwood sculptures, needle felting supplies and vintage tea sets. Here are my highlights:

Photo of multicoloured rolls of felt
Don’t these rolls of felt look delicious?! I thought so…I had to get three of them 🙂

Photo of bundles of colourful felt

Photo of a hand felted border collie
This little chap is part of a commission the felt artist was working on for a client: it’s a portrait of their pet border collie! I’ve not tried needle felting before, but seeing the lovely creatures on show has made me want to try.

Photo of a tree made from pieces of driftwood
These driftwood Christmas trees look stunning. I’d love to have a go at making one, and I think the driftwood collecting would be fun too.

Photo of several pairs of pastel coloured children's slippers
Its a shame these slippers didn’t come in adults sizes otherwise I would have had to get a pair!

Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts at Exeter Westpoint

Yesterday I went to Exeter Westpoint, to the Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts fair. This was the first time I have been in several years, and I couldn’t wait to get in and look at all the crafty goodies on show!

The fair is held in a large exhibition hall, and features lots of stalls of craft sellers and craft association stands (e.g: The Quilters Guild etc). I go there to get ideas for projects and to buy more crafty materials I probably don’t need…

Here are my highlights from this year’s fair:

Glitter Magic

Glitter was on my list of things to buy at the fair as I want to mix my own glitter nail polish in time for Christmas. There were several stands selling glitter, however I think Glitter Magic had the edge with their great selection of colours and different size/grades of glitter.

Photo of tubs of colourful glitter
There is something incredibly exciting about lots of tubs of glitter..!

I bought 13 different glitters (approx. 20g each), storage pots, and a tube of glue (designed to be used for sticking glitter to fabric) for £20, which is cheaper than what it would have cost to buy them from their online shop.

They have a website where you can buy their glitter:

Crafty Ribbons

Crafty Ribbons have been exhibiting at Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts for years, and always have an excellent selection of designer ribbons. This year I was particularly taken with their glittery velvet ribbon – I bought six skeins for £5 and I plan to use them to decorate Christmas gifts as they are very festive and unusual.

Photo of glittery velvet ribbon
The ribbons could also look very cute made into bows and sewn onto ballet pumps don’t you think?

Take a look at


The Debonnaire stand featured lots of brightly coloured wool and knitting paraphernalia.

Photo of Debonnaire's stand

I bought a simple tunic pattern that is knitted in the round using DK wool. I plan to use up lots of random balls of merino DK I collected a couple fo years back when I got really in to knitting hats. I’ll end up with a crazy looking tunic/jumper, but at least it will be warm and I will have reduced my yarn stash a bit! The pattern can be bought via Ravelry for $7 (I paid £4.50 for a paper copy): Debonnaire Easy Tunic.

Information about Debonnaire can be found on

Fantastic Ribbons

Despite the name, this stand had a great range of buttons. Three packs of mixed buttons cost £10, and each pack can make two button necklaces (I’m going to post separately about these neat necklaces made using 5mm satin ribbon). A roll of the 5mm ribbon cost £2, so for just £12 I have everything I need to make six necklaces (just £2 a pop!).

Fantastic Ribbons have this offer on their website:

Photo of multicoloured buttons from Fantastic Ribbons
Lovely mixed buttons – can’t wait to make them into necklaces!

If you went to Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts this year I’d love to hear about what you bought, please share any links in the comments below!

Craft inspiration for Autumn

I love Autumn. The change in the season makes me want to do more crafting, curled up in the warm, watching old movies. Ahh, what heaven! Here are a few crafty projects I have been looking to undertake that feel very autumnal:

Brightly coloured crochet

Photo of colourful striped crochet

With the days getting shorter and the nights getting colder, it’s the perfect time to get working on a blanket project, and what’s better than the wonderful Granny Stripe Blanket by Attic24?! This blanket is cheap to make using Style Craft Special DK, which is a 100% acrylic yarn that is nice and soft to work with, and very affordable.

The blanket is quite a big project, I’ve been working on mine (the one in the picture above) for several months on and off, and it takes me almost four whole hours to do one colour stripe because I have made my blanket so darn large! I have big plans for this blanket though, so its got to be big: one day this will take pride of place in the log cabin in the woods I plan to build… how awesome will that look?

If the size of this project is too intimidating for you, have a good look around Attic24’s blog as there are lots of other smaller, but just as beautiful projects on there.

Cheap, recycled lanterns

Photo of a candle lantern made from a tin can

This is a really quick and cheap project to bring a bit of magical light into your home on these darkening nights. I love the idea of having a whole collection of these tin can lanterns on my book shelves and watching tea light flames flickering through their punched holes. You can find out how to make these cute lanterns on the Homelife site.

Rustic coat hanger

Photo of a wooden coat hanger made from sticks

Autumn always makes me think more about nature than other times in the year. I love how the smell in the air changes, and takes on a crispness that summer doesn’t have. I love the aesthetics of woodland things, and this combined with my obsession with log cabins makes this sort of project really appeal to me.

This is an inexpensive project and it could really bring a bit of rustic charm into a hallway. You can see how to make the coat hanger on the Oh Crafts site.

Mushroom cupcakes

Photo of cakes that look like mushrooms

These cupcakes are so adorable they shouldn’t just be enjoyed in Autumn! These are such a simple idea, but so effective and perfect for special events. I found these cakes beng demonstrated as part of a children’s woodland fairy birthday party scene. I don’t know very much about baking, but to me these cakes look like they can be made with just plain cupcakes and red and white icing.

Apple pin cushions

Photo of apples and pears made from fabric

Check out these charming fruit pin cushions! These look like the perfect crafty stocking filler to start making in time for Christmas. I think these could also look really sweet with embroidered faces. These apples are a great way to use up quilting scraps – so they are cheap and good for recycling too!

Find out how to make these apple-shaped pin cushions on The Guardian website.

If you make, or have made any of these projects, I would love to see the results! Please share links in the comments below.

91 Magazine: I’m featured!

Hey, so here is another belated post…I promise I wont do too many more of these! This one has been waiting to be published for several months, but I think it is still relevant as 91 Magazine is still going strong and has just celebrated its first birthday.

91 Magazine is a craft and lifestyle magazine that publishes quarterly issues online. It was launched in Autumn 2011 by Caroline Taylor of Patchwork Harmony. Each issue is full of beautiful craft projects and articles about interiors, cooking and other homely pursuits. The photography is gorgeous and really inspiring, so I was utterly thrilled to get the opportunity to work with the magazine and get to do an assignment at Shipshape Studio!

I was asked to attend a fabric design workshop, however it was cancelled and instead I attended a felt flag making workshop instead. It was a lovely afternoon and I felt really looked after and welcomed at the studio. You can read my article in Issue 3 of 91 Magazine here.

91 Magazine: Read all the issues to-date:

Cover of issue 1 of 91 magazine

Issue 1

Features: Nature inspired accessories, the world of vintage, student rooms and how to make a garland from paper cups.

Cover of issue 2 of 91 Magazine

Issue 2

Features: a vintage lovers guide to Bristol, the history of vintage, a visit to a wallpaper factory and ideas for Easter breakfasts.

Cover of issue 3 of 91 Magazine

Issue 3

Features: my article about Shipshape Studio!, Blythe Dolls, a history of the typewriter and decorating with wildflowers.

Cover of issue 4 of 91 Magazine

Issue 4

Features: Tips for car boot sales, vintage shopping in Berlin, events for bloggers and the history of vintage hairdryers.