Category Archives: Dotty Bobbins Blog

Summer Craftiness at Dotty Bobbin

Only a couple of weeks ago I embarked on my first Summer Crafting Workshop for adults and children following the success of the Christmas and Easter one. It is such an enjoyable day, although the preparation and clear up is mammouth!  I love crafting almost as much as sewing, and the aim of these days is to get adults and children engaged in crafts they have never tried or had the time or equipment to experience. The day ran for two hours and there were about 12 activities to choose from. We consumed 24 homemade fairy cakes during this time! Honestly I have no idea why I have a problem with my weight (I ate two of them at least!).

Making fabric wreaths kept the lovely Rebecca entertained for at least an hour! I think the result looks fantastic.

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I can never tell which activities will be most popular, but this time, by far the best was the leather work. Children and adults used metal stamps to create names, telephone numbers, messages and pretty pictures on their real leather, before stamping holes and inserting a metal eyelet and chain.

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We had lots of new wooden laser cut birds, hearts and butterflies for decoupaging, the process of applying paper (in this case single ply of napkins and old Beano magazines) with PVA glue to the wood.

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I laid out a little taster for embossing, where we used a special ink with a variety of stamps followed by some glittery powder and a special heat gun to create an embossed finish on gift tags.

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Rock painting, a simple but effective idea, using rounded rocks, some I prepared with white paint to give it a lighter background, and then they painted them with acrylic paints. Some we made with googly eyes into monsters and some into decorative paper weights. A coat of PVA glue once the paint has dried gives it a nice glossy finish. These are most useful as weights for your sewing patterns when cutting to avoid using pins. For this the better your brushes the better the results.

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Tania and Milan are trying out the needle felting machine for the first time in these pictures, an easy and relatively safe introduction into needle felting, where we join fibres, wool and felt onto a felt background to create lovely pictures and works of art! You can even use bits of old woolen jumpers! Upcycling at it’s best.

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Another big hit was the wood burning tool! Kindly lent to me by my son Sam, you can see Rebecca and Sofia creating their personalised door hanger. Rebecca used a hot glue gun to attach the shells lovingly collected from Frinton Beach by Sam & Annelies, to tie in with her girls mermaid theme bedroom!

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Summer hamma bead class covers with straw hole! A nice idea stolen from Pinterest, these covers fit perfectly over the top of a glass. I used IKEA Hamma beads, which we proved worked much better than the real ones, they are easier to melt with an iron and the oven.

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Which leads me onto our melted Hamma bead bowls! I managed to ruin a couple of Denby bowls in the process as we discovered the Hamma beads stuck to the bowls whereas the IKEA beads didn’t. Lesson learn’t buy a cheap bowl from the charity shop! Firstly we laid a layer of beads on the base of a cake tin, using greaseproof paper. We cooked these in the oven on hot, for about 15 minutes. Then we let them cool off for a few minuntes, but before they hardened we placed them over the outside of a bowl, baked it again for a few minutes and then let it cool down before removing it from the bowl.

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We also had a couple of quick activities where we glued buttons and bows onto hair combs to great effect and glass nugget googly bugs, but I don’t have any photos of those I am afriad.

With the Christmas crafting event around the corner, on the 5th December, it is already booked out, and I am now busy planning some new activities! If you have any requests or ideas for me please use the comment box.

Please let me know if you have tried any of these activities and what your favourites are.

Finally a big thank you to Isabelle for taking a lot of these photos (the good ones!) and to Aileen for helping with the massive clear up and of course to everyone for coming.

Saskia x

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Creative Kids where should they go to School?

A different post from me today. Things are rather unsettled at the moment in our household. My eldest son is about to transition to secondary school, my daughter is unhappy in her current school. When we moved to Hemel Hempstead we did so in most part because we wanted to change schools as my son was unhappy. It worked out in our favour and my son was much happier at his current school. He has been very fortunate with his teachers during his time, however my daughter has not been so fortunate. She has had a myriad of different teachers, at one point even having 4 teachers during a week.

As the children get older, the gaps in the friendships seems to show, and my daughter feels very alone. She is super creative, follows her own fashion, doesn’t let anyone push her around and although I am very proud that she is like this, it has left her isolated at school.

At the back of my mind for the last 6 years has been the possibility of sending the kids to the Steiner School in Kings Langley. We seriously considered it for my son, before we moved house, but it was a choice of move house and find another government school or use the funds to educate our son in the Steiner School instead.

Now I am thinking, should my daughter be there? After all they have spaces in her class (currently they only have 18 in her class, compared to 32 at her current school), and it is only 10 minutes away. Whilst waiting for news of next years teachers, I am preparing for the worst or the best whichever way you look at it. I shall be visiting other government primary schools and the Steiner School this week so that we can make an informed choice when the time comes. A school that encourages creativity like none other, a hope that she would be amongst other like minded children and be happier. But at what cost? To re sit a year of school (as would be required by Steiner)? But she is already near the top of her class, so will she get bored? What if funds don’t continue and we have to go to a government secondary school? Will she be even more isolated then? What if my son isn’t happy at secondary school and wants to go there too? We can’t afford two children to go there. So many questions, no wonder my head is all fuzzy.

When you have children that enjoy the creative arts so much, would this help them? Would it help them find a career doing something that they love? Some people say I am running away from our problems, I disagree, I think I am facing them head on, and if there is a better solution out there, then don’t our kids deserve the best?

In my role in Dotty Bobbin, I have met people from all walks of life. I have also met lots of people that have traumatic memories of school. I don’t want this for my children. I want them to have fabulous memories. I want sewing to be a fun activity for them, not a means of escape from the stresses of mainstream schooling (although it is a fabulous escape!).

However lets hope that over the next few weeks we have great news, that my daughters new teacher will be an amazing one not (2,3 or even 4), she will make some more friends, and that we will be happy to leave her where she is and use the funds to redecorate the living room instead! Who knows what may be round the corner?

 

 

Dotty Bobbin Creations!

So the first week back at school following the Easter holidays is upon us, the sun is still shining, washing is hanging out to dry and I find myself for the first time in months with a spare 1/2 hour to write to you! I thought you might like to see what we have been up to!

We have had a really busy couple of months, firstly the new addition to the Dotty household is Buttons, our puppy. He loves playing with the threads and sitting on the foot pedal making the machines sew by themselves during my classes. His latest trick was to chew up some bespoke foam that I was making into window seat cushions for a commission!!!!

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Then came my Easter crafting class. I run seasonal crafting classes and this was the second ever one, following a roaring Christmas success. We had a great time and everyone went home with some lovely Easter creations, from making egg candles, Easter wreaths, blowing eggs, hessian bunting, needle felting, washi tape projects, lino cutting and printing, making hairclips and so on……. Have a look for yourself at the photos below, these were taken by Isabelle Christina Photography (I am lucky she is a sewing client).

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Then things went a bit crazy for my daughter Annelies. She has had a lot of interest with her textile art that she has been creating on the sewing machine. So much so that an art gallery in Walton (Twizzle Gallery in Titshmarsh Marina), offered to display and sell her work. So the lovely Isabelle Christina took some lovely photos for her, and then I fired the photos off to the Hemel Gazette. Less than a week later she made it on the front page of the Hemel Gazette and a week after that she was also in the Frinton Gazette. One proud Mum! Here is the work she has been exhibiting:

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She now has a page on my website to showcase her work. She is interested in doing some pet commissions as well.

My son also has something in the pipeline, for another blog….he’s not quite ready yet. Watch this space!

Then onto what I have been making over the last couple of months. Firstly I guess was the world book day, where Annelies and myself made a costume for Pippi Longstocking and Sam pulled together a costume for Indiana Jones. Personally I loved making the bloomers for Pippi!

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Then I have been practising with anything stretch, stretch cottons, knits, lycra, stretch stitches, twin needles, elastic insertion etc. Here are some of the creations I have made:

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And non stretch I have also made myself a lovely blouse (not photographed yet) and a shirt and leggings for Annelies.

 

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The green fleece onesie is for Sam but turned out fitting me! But he still loves it! Mostly I stick with Oliver and S patterns for myself and the kids as I trust the patterns and they fit nicely on me. The figure skating costume was from a Jalie pattern. They do loads of patterns for gymnastic, speed skating, dance and even jock straps! I also tried out a two piece red velour stretch shorts and dance top for Annelies (I was testing the pattern for a client) but she’s a bit too exposed to print the photo! I have also made another Oliver and S pattern, this time a bag that doubles as a rucksack. It is interlined with canvas making it super strong. This is a surprise for her upcoming birthday, and I hope it will make a nice school bag.

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II do need some more boy ideas though if you have any suitable for a tall 10 year old! He can’t live in onesies although he would disagree!

Have you been following me on facebook at DottyBobbin1 to see what all my students have been creating? What a fabulous bunch I have, tailored skirts, dresses, cushions, bags, trousers, bunting. You name it, they are making it! A recent highlight was a party I did for a group of 6/7 year olds, where they did some amazing open toe embroidery pictures and took them home in a frame. What do you think?

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Please keep spreading the word, I have nearly reached 60,000 page views and 18,000 visitors, and I am getting new enquiries almost every day, so thank you for your continued support.

Saskia x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Automatic Buttonhole Hints and Tips

When I get clients who open up their new machines for the first time, I like to show them what all the attachments are for, and the buttonhole foot usually scares them! So I wanted to share the things I have learn’t along the way having used it many times.

If you have a digital machine like this one there will be various buttonhole functions. Generally you can have rounded buttonholes or square ones – this is purely down to taste, however there is always a buttonhole with a wider hole at one end. This one is for thicker fabrics, like coats.

Select your chosen buttonhole on your machine. Then make sure you have the foot the right way around. It should be like this picture with the button section at the back.

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Usually the white bit shown above is squashed together and you have to push the white bit that sticks out on the left in the picture. Then it should slide up, opening a gap in which you insert your button. Once the button is in, clamp it down so it holds it in place. My buttons were too big to clamp so I removed them once I had the correct size on the foot. The reason you put your button in there is so that the machine will sew the hole to the exact measurement.  On the older machines you have to measure it yourself and you run the risk of making the hole too small or too big. It’s very useful for this project (which is a waistcoat my son made for himself), as I have used lots of different buttons from my box, each being a slightly different size. Measuring them all would have been a nightmare!

So before you go any further you need to mark out on your garment where you want your buttonholes. If you are working from a pattern, then usually they will provide a guide for button placement. So I just used a ruler and some tailors chalk to mark where I wanted the buttons.

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What I have learn’t about this is try to avoid the seam where your fabric doubles up at the edge as the automatic buttonhole functions much prefer a flat seam and get all muddled up if you try to mount the edge halfway along a buttonhole. So I have marked mine just past the seam. Place the buttonhole foot on the machine just like any other foot attachment, but the bulk of the foot will sit at the back of the machine not the front or it won’t work. Then the part that most people forget is that there is a lever to the left of your machine, next to the needle threader if you have one. It is usually a black lever. If you pull this downwards it should sit behind the white ledge on the foot as shown. This lever tells the machine when to stop at the top of the buttonhole so it is really important or it will keep going!

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Position the foot over your chalk mark, making sure you are exactly the same distance from the edge on every buttonhole so they don’t look wonky. Make note that all the machines I have ever used (a fair few!) sew buttonholes from front to back. So we are all set up, buttonhole stitch selected, foot on, button in foot, foot positioned on garment away from the hem. Then all you have to do is to start sewing, the machine does all the work for you! I found with this garment which was lined in fleece that it worked better if I did it fleece side up. The reason for this is that fleece is stretchy and the teeth (feed dog) are at the bottom of the machine and they can stretch the fleece as you are sewing making the button hole far too small.

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Another tip, especially if you are using a thinner fabric, is to interface wherever you are sewing a buttonhole. This will add strength to the buttonhole and because it is stiffer when you are sewing the buttonhole, it will be neater and more accurate, and much easier to cut a neat line through at the end.

Once you are happy with your buttonhole, use your seam ripper (make sure you have a decent sharp one otherwise you can undo all your hard work!), to carefully cut through the hole in the middle. Voila! I hope this has helped you a little and encouraged you to try out that foot on your machine! Let me know how you get on!

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Dotty Christmas Trees

Christmas is finally upon us. Seems I have been preparing for months and months. But I wanted to share with you some of our creations and hopefully inspire you to make a tree yourself.

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Firstly my fabric Christmas tree. This took 4 hours to make and about 8 metres of fabric. I used fabric I purchased in a charity shop for £1 a metre and mixed it with some other fabric that had been given to me. It took 2 whole double duvets to stuff plus more, but I am delighted with the results. The decorations hang beautifully with the upholstery pins and no damage is done to the tree. There isn’t anything on the tree that isn’t handmade, I have treasured collections from my 2 years I spent in Indonesia, there are decorations that I made with my sister and my mum when we lived in Norway and there are beautiful beaded decorations from our travels to South Africa, plus some lovely ones we have made ourselves with my own children.

The tinsel is handmade and you can see a tutorial on how to make that @ http://www.dottybobbin.co.uk/christmas-tree-fabric-tinsel-tutorial/

I also have a tutorial on how to make the tree in case you missed that @ http://www.dottybobbin.co.uk/fabric-life-size-christmas-tree-tutorial/

Can you imagine how delighted I was when I went on one of my monthly trips to IKEA (I get withdrawal if I don’t go), only to find a roll of fabric with life size printed photograph of a Christmas tree on it?  I don’t know how I missed them last year!

I have a digital embroidery machine, mine is a Brother Innovis V3, and I love it! I used this machine to create these embroidered decorations on my trees. The first one is for my Mum and is hanging by her patio doors. She has a double curtain track in her pelmet so its a perfect place to hang the tree. Every year I have promised to add a decoration to her tree. If you don’t have an embroidery machine you can make fabric or felt decorations and velcro them on. One of my sewing clients has made an advent tree using this fabric, with a new decoration to put up every day. Alternatively try applique using a satin stitch and you can add hearts, stars, snowflakes etc.

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Here are a few samples of the decorations. Do you like the Dotty Bobbin?

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Below you can see my finished Christmas tree, which has pride of place in my porch, hanging from a curtain pole at the top and it has a pole inserted at the base to add some weight. I lined it with a white sheet and I appliqued the star on the top on my regular sewing machine as I couldn’t do one big enough on my embroidery machine.

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I have also been making some felt trees with the children at a crafting party, and look what they made. Why not try making some yourselves with your own kids?

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Lastly I wanted to show you my own little Dotty Bobbin embroidered Christmas tree!  Guess what people are getting for Christmas this year?

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Merry Christmas, I hope Santa brings you all a lovely sewing machine for Christmas!

Christmas Tree Fabric Tinsel Tutorial

 

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I was given this idea a couple of years ago by a crafting friend, however I have tried it out many times and have discovered what works well and what doesn’t. So I am going to share my mistakes and successes with you.

I found that 25 meters of ribbon makes about 6 meters of ruffle, depending on how gathered you would like your ruffle. I used 1 inch wide ribbon, gingham, which I purchased on Ebay for about £12. It sounds expensive but 1.5 meters of quality tinsel is about £6! Make sure you don’t accidentally purchase ribbon with wire in it as that will prevent it from gathering.

You can cut strips of fabric and use an overlocker to finish the edges, or keep them frayed if you like that look. Hessian with unfinished edges looks nice. Ensure your fabric or ribbon has a pattern on both sides, or at least looks nice from both sides. The first one I made I didn’t do this and then you are forever having to arrange the ruffle round your tree with the right side up.

The first ruffle I made I used a long length of string, I held down the center of the ribbon and used a wide zig zag over the string making sure I didn’t catch the string with the needle. As I went along I held the string and pulled the fabric to gather it as I sewed. This is very quick and efficient way of gathering your ribbon. However what I found was that as you drape the ruffle round your tree or carry it around the house, the gathers move out of place with gravity. If you accidentally sew the string, it won’t gather at that point. I also found that if your string broke, then the whole ruffle would come undone!!!!!

Finally I tried a completely different approach which was a great success. The discovery of the gathering foot!  These only cost a couple of pounds on ebay or Amazon and are a must have for your sewing box. It can be done without the gathering foot but the gathers are not as tight if you do it that way.

So place your gathering foot on your machine, or use a regular sewing foot. Increase the tension dial to 9, set the machine to a straight running stitch, place your ribbon under the foot and stitch in the center and it will gather as you sew. The stitches will hold the gather in place as you sew. It does take about 5-10cm of ribbon before it starts to gather really well, so be patient. Ensure you don’t try to pull the ribbon as the machine is doing the gathering. Once you have reached the end of your ribbon, secure your stitch by going forward and backwards or using a lockstitch. You can even out any bits you are not happy with using your fingers, as you would if you were gathering a skirt for example. I decided to go over mine again once it was finished with a regular tension and a regular foot just to make it stronger and more durable. If you would prefer a smaller gather, then reduce the tension from 9 to 7 and experiment until you have your desired effect.

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Let me know how you get on.

Dotty Bobbin x

Crafty Halloween

I have been working on my first ever homemade Halloween decorations this year, Christmas usually gets in the way!

Anyway I thought it would be nice to share with you my creations and hopefully I can inspire you to do the same.    I have tried to keep them friendly, as I don’t really want lots of blood, guts and gore in my living room. So I settled on bugs and bats!

My first point of call was Pinterest. If you go onto my Pinterest page (for which there is a link at the bottom of my web home page), you will find all the original links where I adapted some ideas I found on there. The first project was actually completed by my daughter Annelies, she will shortly be publishing a tutorial on how to make it, but the finished result is this gorgeous bat cushion. She used purple velvet and black felt for the bats. It turned out really well and was really easy to make.

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Next on the list was a quilted wall hanging. This is a piece of fabric I bought a couple of years ago and never used. So I put wadding inside, quilted around some of the designs with an open toe embroidery foot and added a couple of spiders on my digital embroidery machine. It has pride of place above my fire place.

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Next was a labour of love, again the idea was found on Pinterest however I made it much larger and grander! This fits my dining table and it is a fabric with a purple sheen to it that I had in my fabric stash! It is a stiff fabric like they use on ball gowns. I drew a freehand spider web with chalk, I didn’t want it to be totally symmetrical. Then I set my machine to a zig zag stitch, and reduced the length to 0.4 and off I went. I did the first couple with wide zig zags and gradually reduced the stitch width as I came towards the middle of the web. Then after I had finished I randomly did a running stitch around to give it a more authentic spider web feel! Now for a spider! I have the luxury of a digital embroidery machine, so I stitched a spider in the middle and an unfortunate moth on the side. After trimming off the edges it was done. It can even be washed in the machine.

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Then for some mandatory Halloween bunting!  Made with a polyester satin fabric, I embroidered some bugs, this one is my favourite! I stitched in some tassels I had in my supplies and overlapped the bunting and it is now hanging in front of my fireplace.

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Next on the list was to decorate my candelabra which I put up occasionally when we have a nice dinner or something. I used the same bat template as my daughter used for her cushion and threaded ribbon through the bats, attaching some Halloween charms (readily available on Etsy), and then simply tied them on.

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Well that is Halloween complete, I had fun making it all and I am sure they will come out year after year, along with the pumpkins. Let me know what you think.

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Dotty Bobbin x

Sewing aids Mindfulness

Sewing has an ability to bring together people from all walks of life, it is not an expensive activity (unless you want to spend a lot, then you can!), you can sew at pretty much any age, and some have been sewing all their lives, some complete novices inspired by recent television programmes and some have not sewn since they were at school, and now recently retired they have found the time and inclination to try it again. An unlikely group of friends thrown together round a table because we all want to learn to sew.

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WHY?  This quotation sums it up nicely. “I like to surround myself with creative people. They love life in such a contagious way that can’t often be put into words” (Rachel Wolchin) Well, as we become friends in our sewing classes, discussions move from the weather to other matters and  it became apparent that we come from all walks of life. Some are counsellors, lay ministers, doctors, mums, hairdressers, beauticians, business owners, secretaries and many more. What I have found is that almost all of us have found that sewing offers a positive outlet for stress, and mindfulness. Mindfulness is about learning to live in the present, and appreciate and observe what is happening now. Sewing requires concentration on the present task in hand, allowing our brains have some down time from the daily grind of our lives, where we spend so much time planning the future and dwelling on the past.  It is a positive activity where at the end we are able to feel a sense of achievement for what we are learning, even when we make mistakes, it means that next time we are less likely to make these mistakes, and we try to look for these positives whilst we are sewing. The unpicker becomes our best friend!

It is a hobby where we are able to talk to others whilst sewing. Through our conversations I have discovered that a large number of my students have suffered from depression at some point in their life, and all of them find that sewing is mostly therapeutic. I have no experience of depression myself, but I can clearly see the benefit sewing can bring to peoples’ mental health and have witnessed people visibly relax when they start to sew. I am not the first to notice the connection between mindfulness and sewing. There are lots of blogs and articles on the internet about this connection. I urge you to read them and perhaps they will inspire you to take up sewing, if not with me then with someone else, for it is a skill that you can take with you wherever life leads you.

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There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done, one is called yesterday, and the other is called tomorrow, so today dust off that sewing machine and get creative!

How has sewing helped you to be more mindful? I would love to hear your comments.

http://ecooutthere.wordpress.com/2012/03/20/mindful-sewing/

http://sewhappygeek.co.uk/index.php/2010/12/16/crafting-and-mindfulness-or-how-to-stay-sane-during-the-holidays/

Dotty Bobbin Beach Photo Shoot

The idea of going to the beach to do a photo shoot for Dotty Bobbin was born a few months ago. I am lucky enough that my parents live just a few minutes from Frinton Beach. We came to stay for a week’s holiday whilst they lived on their boat to let us have the house.

The morning after we arrived I woke up early and took a picture of the sea from the house.  The weather looked a bit unpredictable so I quickly texted my sewing ladies, and told them the best day to do the shoot. Luckily Aileen, Sharon and her twins were able to make it. These are the results.

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I was on the beach before 9am, and the tide was out and so was the sun, gorgeous isn’t it? We had the beach to ourselves to set up, although we got a few looks from the dog walkers. We just about managed to transport all the stuff from the car, and the Gazebo went up in less than 10 minutes. The Gazebo has been a labour of love of mine, an idea I had a while back that I just had to make! I was donated some lovely blue flowery curtains, I also cut up some of my own green gingham curtains (much to my husbands dismay when he got home and the window was bare!), that with some leftover Jane Churchill fabric and a bit of IKEA and Clarke and Clarke fabric, 20 metres of fabric and a few months later the Gazebo was finished. I have lined it all as well so that it looks nice from the inside too but if you want to make one, I would suggest using a woven fabric that looks good on both sides as it is quite heavy and the frame is meant for lighter fabrics.

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Sharon, who comes to my Wednesday morning sewing classes, put up her lovely bunting that she has made. I took some pictures of my deck chairs and a little wind breaker that I made, which I lined with contrasting fabrics. Next time I might add some pockets on for stuff to stay sand free, or possibly a glass holder for the wine! Sharon is sitting in her own directors chairs that she recovered in class, using some gorgeous fabric she purchased on one of our trips to a secret fabric hoard!

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Aileen, fondly referred to as the bag lady, also from my Wednesday morning class, brought along a selection of her latest bag creations which they all modelled. This a a really successful and easy pattern that is great for swimming or sports kits. After all the setting up Sharon, Aileen and myself take a well deserved break!

Annelies, after a cold dip in the sea sports her towelling robe, which was made from a thin Primark towel and edged with some of my grandmothers cotton lace from an old tablecloth! It got a lot of use that week, and only took about one hour to make.

Next up, the twins, they made these fairy wings themselves in a class with me, from some sheer pattered fabric with simple elastic straps for their shoulders and cuffs with elastic inserted down the centre to gather the fabric. It is a very effective, quick and easy way to make fairy wings and they are washable, no wires! I think you will agree they look very fluttery!

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Now, although 11am was a little early for wine, we decided we deserved it and the girls dressed up in their aprons made from pillowcases to serve homemade cake and biscuits (and wine..). Sharon made a table from the cool box and the body boards, decorated with a tablecloth she made from some old curtains. Annelies is modelling her hoody which I embroidered with her Bambino Bobbin logo.

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We couldn’t resist this shot with the stripey beach hut! Of course Dotty Bobbin had to be etched into the sand as well before we settled down to relax whilst the kids just enjoyed the beach and our picnic.

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Once the tide was up we went back to the house and then came back down in the late afternoon, early evening for another swim in the sea!

Thank you ladies for joining me at the beach and for being a part of my sewing classes. It is lovely to make new friendships and share skills.  Hopefully this blog will show people how much fun we have at sewing, and what lovely useful things we can make, if you know how. Thank you to my parents (who entertained my son whilst we did the photo shoot), and also to my husband who secretly enjoys it all!

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Now for Christmas planning……………………………………………

Pillow Case Aprons Tutorial

Welcome to another Dotty Bobbin Tutorial. Here I would like to show you how to convert those unwanted pillow cases into gorgeous little aprons. If you are anything like me I am constantly in the charity shop picking up things such as mismatched pillow cases, in this case the fabric is a lovely brushed cotton. It came with a bed sheet that I have already made into a winter nightie for my daughter. The lace is from a vintage stained tablecloth that was no longer required so I saved the lace. The blue cotton ties are from Primark packaging! The pink cotton lace was saved by my grandmother from a tablecloth that she no longer wanted. True upcycling!

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First cut the pillow case, I took off the section with the envelope on it, otherwise you will have too much fabric bulk on your apron. Then you need to secure the open end and prevent any fraying by serging/overlocking or zig zagging the raw edge.

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Next, I have attached the cotton lace, I have firstly pinned this in place and then used a zig zag stitch to attach it. If  I used a running stitch then I would have the lace flapping around a bit, hence I chose the zig zag, however if you were using a narrow ribbon or lace a running stitch would probably be best.

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Next how to gather, if you are using a single layer of fabric then you can use a gathering foot on your machine, but they don’t work as well with multiple layers, so here is the old fashioned way. You need to set your machine to it’s longest running stitch. DO NOT go forwards and backwards at the beginning and end of your stitches as you need to pull the threads and that will stop you doing so.

Sew two parallel rows of running stitch along the top edge of your apron. If you want a ruffle at the top of the apron, then sew your rows a couple of inches further down the apron. Tie a knot in one end of the rows (make sure you tie a knot in the same end for both rows). Then from the other end very gently pull the threads, you will need to pull only the top or only the bottom threads for this to work. Using your other hand gently gather the fabric as you pull, evening out your gathers until you reach the desired look. If you snap your thread you will need to start again, so be gentle!

Now carefully stitch a normal length running stitch in the middle of the two rows you sewed before, stitching over the gathering (going forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end). This will secure the gathering in place. Now you can remove your gathering stitches if you wish with an unpicker. I didn’t bother as I was covering it with the lace afterwards anyway.

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Next pin your lace or whatever you are using as a tie onto the top and secure in place using a running stitch. I have first attached the blue ribbon then I have attached the lace. Below I have made a second one, slightly different with some pink cotton lace instead. Here my friends twins are modelling them, whilst serving us adults some wine on the beach. Could life get any better?

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Fabric Life Size Christmas Tree Tutorial

Okay so I am one of those who likes to plan Christmas well in advance. Well this was planned 6 months ago. I don’t like plastic trees and the last 4 years my real trees seem to be practically dead by Christmas. The ones with roots are never big enough and being half Dutch I like to put my tree up in the first week of December, and they just don’t last well enough. So last year whilst making lots of little trees to give as gifts my daughter suggested we make a massive one. What a brilliant idea. I am totally see it made from patchwork too, just not in my house, as I have too many decorations!

Then back at the beginning of the year I stumbled across some green wool fabric for £1 per m, but they only had 4.5m. Luckily I had also been given the other fabric, which when washed turned green, so the tree was born!  This one used about 7 metres of fabric.

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The width of your tree needs to be determined by the width of your fabric. I used a ruler to mark down the centre of the fabric and then drew half a tree on one side. Don’t try to curve the branches as it makes it really tricky to turn inside out. These branches are 10 inches long and 4 inches high. When you are happy with your half a tree, cut it out and fold it in half, so that the other side can be a mirror image. Cut this side and then use this as a template to cut a further 5 trees.

For this project I saved time by using the overcasting stitch. This is not necessary, you could zig zag your fabric first, then stitch, but if you look closely at my stitching you can see it does both at the same time. On my machine this was stitch no 10. Your machine has probably got a similar stitch.

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Place your trees, good side to good side, so that you have three trees made of two pieces of fabric each. Then using the overcasting stitch , sew around the whole tree leaving a large hole at the centre bottom. This is important that it is in the centre as this is where you need to stuff it from.

Then importantly trim the pointed corners flat, without cutting your stitching, and nick the fabric at the inner corners with some scizzors to allow you to turn it inside out, again don’t cut your stitching.

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Once all three trees have been sewn, turn them inside out and press them.  Draw a chalk line down the centre and stack all three trees on top of eachother, before sewing down the centre with a nice strong stitch. Remember when you stitch thick fabrics to lengthen the stitch a bit. Dont worry if your machine cant manage the extra seams at the top and the bottom, you can hand stitch those.

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Stuff the tree evenly, using polyester wadding. I used two double duvets and about 4 cushions in this one! If you ask around you will be surprised how many people have an old duvet lying around.

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Once it is stuffed satisfactorily, stitch up the bottom seams by hand. I used an invisible upholstery stitch for this. You may find that the tree is a bit lumpy, then you need a really long upholstery needle, one like in the picture is fine. You can prod around and redistribute the filling  to make it look really nice.

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Finally you may be wondering how you can hang decorations on your tree. Well if you wanted to, you could sew decorations on, like sequins and buttons, or you could use tiny gold safety pins to attach your decorations. I have used upholstery spiral pins which are mostly used for securing loose covers onto furniture. You would have to order these online. But I can hang anything from these.

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A word of warning, use LED lights only, so you don’t create a fire hazzard with your tree, and make sure the stuffing you use is not too old, so that is is covered by the EU Health and Safety Regulations.

 

Have fun, let me know if you make one of these, it really does look lovely, even in July!

 

 

Never Too Old to Learn to Sew

Have you ever thought you were too old to learn to sew? Well, I would like to start by introducing you to some very special ladies. Firstly Aileen Beaumont. She started sewing with me less than a year ago once she retired. It was something that she always meant to learn to do, she even had a machine and a massive collection of patterns that she collected in the 70s, however things got in the way and she never learnt. Now she is the ‘bag lady’ she loves making handbags, rucksacks and hopefully you might even see them in my shop soon!

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The second lady I would like to mention is Mary Walsh. She is recently retired and had a terrible start to sewing back at school, where her teacher was so awful she put her off for life! Until now that is, having witnessed her daughter in law learning to sew at my classes, she decided to give it another try some 50 years after she last put her foot on the sewing pedal! She has been making things for  her new flat, and recently sewed a lovely summer dress for her grandaughter. Did you have a positive or negative experience at school with your textile teacher that you would like to share in the comments?

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This post would not be complete though without mentioning my own grandmother and my mother, who were my sewing inspiration! My mother always made time to sew with us, and gave my sister (pictured to the right of my grandmother) and I our first machine when I was about 7 years old. Today she still sews regularly and makes all her own curtains and furnishings.

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My grandmother has a house full of beautiful things she has made, and I have pieces of her work all around my house too. From lined gingham peg bags, to crocheted shopping bags, to wonderful pieces of embroidery.

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It doesn’t stop there,just last week I received a parcel from my Auntie Inge, in it were some beautiful embroideries that she made many years ago, which I have just sewn into some lovely cushion covers.

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I would like to pass all these skills onto my own children and as many other people as I can, so that they can enjoy what I have been fortunate enough to have from a young age, but whatever your age as C.S Lewis put it: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”