A Birthday Dress for My Little Niece

I couldn’t resist buying Simplicity 1624 when I saw it in a half-price sale on the Simplicity New Look website a while back.  I loved the little ruffle dress with the puffed sleeves and thought my niece would look adorable in it!

1624_env_frntHowever, this is one of those patterns where I struggled to see the dress in anything other than the fabric used on the front of the pattern!  I therefore had a tough time finding a fabric I was happy enough with to make the dress in.  I eventually came across my chosen fabric in the John Lewis January sale and bought it for £6 per metre.  It is 100% cotton.  Whilst it is not the same as the fabric used on the pattern it still has a vertical stripe which I liked and being from John Lewis I knew it would be a nice quality cotton.

I made this little dress for my niece’s 2nd birthday and therefore cut the pattern out in size 2 hoping there would be a little bit of growing room to at least see her through the summer.  I love the detail of this dress with the 4 tiers of ruffles, puffed sleeves, and little button fastening on the back.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

What I liked about this pattern:

  • I like making things for little humans as you often only need a metre of fabric and you don’t have to deal with darts and things so fit isn’t a massive issue.
  • The dress has a simple loop and button fastening so didn’t require a zip inserting.
  • Apart from the sleeves the dress didn’t require lining.

What I didn’t like:

  • Whilst the construction of the dress is reasonably straight forward there are quite a few pattern pieces to cut out (each ruffle is 2 pieces). Therefore it took a little while to get everything cut out and there was quite a lot of pressing of seams and hems involved.
  • I found the loop fastening a little fiddly to get right and as a result it didn’t turn out as neat as I would have liked.

Would I make this pattern again?:

  • Yes, I think this is a very cute little dress. I’ve also bought fabric to make the trousers in the pattern.
© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

I was pretty pleased with the finished dress and according to the free copy of Tattler magazine I was flicking through a few weeks ago to see how the other half live ruffles are apparently in this season!  So hopefully my niece will be right on trend wearing her ruffles!

And here’s a photo my brother took of my niece modelling her ruffles…how cute does she look?!

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

Alpaca My Bags! Lined Tote Bag Tutorial

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This is a project I worked on before Christmas but hadn’t gotten around to writing up.  Please excuse the quality of the photos…the light at that time of year made photographing as I went along tricky!

I bought half a metre of this black & white, cotton canvas alpaca fabric from a shop called Nomura Tailor in Kyoto when we were in Japan last July with the intention of making a tote bag out of it as a Christmas present for my brother.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

To make a similar lined tote bag with a pocket, you will need half a metre of your main fabric…something like cotton canvas works well as it is pretty hard-wearing, but I have also made one of these bags from a shirt.  You will also need half a metre of lining fabric…I used a polycotton lining that I picked up in Dunelm.

To make the bag:

  1. Cut 2 rectangles from your main fabric and 2 rectangles from your lining fabric measuring approximately 17” wide by 19” high.
  2. Cut a 2” square from each lower corner of both the main fabric and lining rectangles.
  3. With half a metre of fabric you may not have quite enough to cut the straps as one continuous length. I therefore cut 4 strips measuring approximately 16” long by 2.5” wide from the main fabric and 4 strips from the lining fabric, which I then pieced together to form 2 long strips of the main fabric and 2 long strips of the lining fabric.
  4. For the pocket, cut a 17” wide by approximately 10” high rectangle from the lining fabric.
© 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  1. This step is optional, but if you have an overlocker you may wish to overlock all your raw edges to prevent fraying.
  2. Take the pocket rectangle and fold over the top edge by 1cm and press. Fold over again by another 1cm and press.  Now stitch along this top edge.
  3. On a flat surface, place the pocket rectangle on top of one of the lining rectangles where you would like the pocket to be positioned. I positioned mine roughly halfway between the top and the bottom of the lining piece.  Then fold the pocket rectangle forward so that the pocket is upside down with right-sides together and the bottom edge of the pocket is still lined up with where you want the bottom of your pocket to be and pin in place.  Now stitch along the bottom edge.  Fold the pocket back up and press along the bottom seam.
  4. If you wish you can add sections to your pocket. Here I have created 3 sections of different sizes to hold things like a notepad, pen & phone.  To do this I placed a row of pins where I wanted to stitch to create the sections and then stitch as straight as I could following the pins.

    © 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  5. Take the 2 rectangles of main fabric and with right-sides facing, stitch the side seams and bottom seams leaving the 2” corners open. Do the same for the lining.  I used at 1.5cm seam allowance.  Press seams open.

    © 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  6. To finish the corners and create the base of the bag, line the side seam and bottom seam up and then stitch across.

    © 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  7. Put the main fabric bag inside the lining fabric bag so that right-sides are facing and lining up the side seams. Stitch around the top of the bag leaving an opening big enough to turn the bag right-side out.
  8. Once you’ve turned the bag the right-side out, push the lining inside the main fabric. Press around the top of the bag and then top stitch all the way round.  I used a twin needle to do this.
© 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  1. To create the straps, piece together the 4 strips of main fabric and 4 strips of lining fabric to create 2 long strips of the main fabric and 2 longs strips of the lining fabric.
  2. Fold over the raw edge on both long sides of each strip by ½” and press. Your strips will now be approximately 1.5” wide.
  3. With wrong-sides together pin and stitch 1 strip of main fabric to 1 strip of lining fabric. And do the same with the remaining 2 strips.  I used my twin needle to top stitch down each side of the strap.
  4. Finally, position the straps where you want them to be on your bag and pin in place. Stitch the straps to the bag.
© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

I finished my bag off with a free machine embroidered tag reading “Alpaca My Bags” 🙂

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

This is a variation I made, also for my brother.  For this I picked up a shirt in Primark for £3 and refashioned it into a bag!

Crafts Mixed2
© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

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Sewing For Pleasure, NEC

Last weekend I visited the Sewing For Pleasure show at the NEC with my Mum. We bought our tickets through Tesco Clubcard for a bargain £3! And the tickets not only gain you entrance to the Sewing For Pleasure show, but also Hobbycrafts, Fashion & Embroidery, and Cake International.
I love visiting the big sewing shows at the NEC. They are a great way to stock up on sewing and craft supplies and gather inspiration. Even if you don’t buy anything (which in my opinion is virtually impossible) it is a good day out and is a great opportunity to browse and feel the variety of fabrics in a way you just can’t do online. I love being able to buy from a number of different stalls without having to pay postage and I can feel the quality of fabric before I buy.
I always intend to take lots of photos of all the stalls as I go round the shows, but once I’m in I get far too distracted and forget! But I thought I would share some photos of some of my purchases from the day:

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

1. I bought 6 coordinating fat quarters from the Favourite Fabrics stand in light green and grey. I always like to visit the Favourite Fabrics stand to look at their fat quarters as they normally have a deal of 6 fat quarters for £10 and on this visit these 6 jumped out at me. I made a quilt for my niece using 6 fat quarters I had previously bought from Favourite Fabrics so I intend to do something similar with these.

2. Floral cotton voile from Abakhan. I intend to make a little pair of trousers from this for my niece using Simplicity 1624 from which I have just finished the ruffle dress.

3. Pink bird fabric from Fabrics Galore. This is a fabric I spotted when I was at Knit & Stitch in Harrogate back in November that I liked, but talked myself out of buying. But when I visited the Fabrics Galore stand last weekend it was sat right on top of everything just looking straight at me so I decided that it was meant to be and bought 1.5 metres of it for making some sort of blouse. It is 100% polyester and I am a little worried it won’t breathe particularly well so I think I might do something sleevless. I did think it would probably make a good lining for something, but I want to make it into a top! It has a slight crinkly texture to it a bit like a crepe.

I also bought a purple Frixion pen…I already have 2 black ones, but couldn’t resist the purple. I got terribly excited when I discovered these pens that allow you to draw on fabric and then the ink magically disappears when you pass an iron over the top! I think my only other purchase was a couple of packs of blank cards from a stall in the Hobbycraft show that sell packs of blank cards for £2.
I thought I was reasonably restrained on this visit to Sewing For Pleasure. Mum and I love looking through all the sewing patterns on the Simplicity and McCall’s stands, but I didn’t even buy a single one! However, that is partly because I had just received 2 new patterns in the post that I had bought from the Weaver Dee along with a smooth tracing wheel, a ball point twin needle, a pack of top stitch needles for doing free machine embroidery and 4 spools of Moon thread for my overlocker! You do get free P&P if you spend over £10 after all!

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

Stripy Emmeline Tee

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This is the second Emmeline Tee I have made.  The first one I made as a secret Santa gift for a friend, which I wrote about here.  But this one I have made for myself 🙂

The Emmeline Tee pattern includes 3 versions all of which can be made in woven or knit fabrics, detailed instructions for which are included.  I made version 3 for my first attempt at the Emmeline, but this time I decided to make version 1 with the kimono sleeves and turned up cuffs.  As with version 3 of the pattern, version 1 only has 3 pattern pieces (front, back, and neckband) so it is pretty quick to cut out the fabric.  I cut out a size S, but lengthened it by a good 2 inches.  When I made my first Emmeline Tee I found that it only just sat on the top of my jeans waistband.  It drives me mad when I have to keep tugging tops down all the time, so for me I wanted to make sure it had enough length in the body that I wouldn’t have to do that.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

The fabric I used was a black and white striped jersey with a metallic silver thread running through it.  I bought it from Stuarts Fabrics on Leicester market for something like £4 per metre.  I didn’t really pay any attention to what the composition of the fabric was.  I tend to buy fabric by how it looks and feels as opposed to paying much attention to what it says on the label (besides the price!) and when buying off the market there aren’t really any labels attached to the fabrics so I never really know exactly what I’m buying!  But with Stuarts Fabrics a lot of the fabrics have been used by retailers and therefore tend to be reasonable quality.  The fabric I bought is lightweight jersey and feels nice and soft so works well for a t-shirt.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

I started by overlocking all the raw edges of my pattern pieces apart from the neckline.  Then it was just a case of sewing the front and back together at the shoulder seams and then up the side seams, attaching the neckband and finishing the hems using a twin needle.  For the sleeve cuffs the instructions tell you to hand-stitch these in place.  However, I’m not terribly patient when it comes to hand stitching so I finished those by top stitching with a twin needle too!  As a finishing touch I added 2 buttons to the cuffs.  I found these buttons in John Lewis and thought they were pretty and would finish my t-shirt off nicely.  I like them, but my husband thinks they stick up too much!

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

I was really pleased with the finished result and once again I found the pattern straightforward to follow so I managed to make this t-shirt up in an evening after work!  I tried to match the stripes up at the side seams…something you’d think wouldn’t be too tricky to do with stripes.  In some places I was successful, in other places not so!  But the main thing is that the stripes run horizontal and I was very pleased with the stripes around the neckline and neckband.

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Quick Baby Quilt and Matching Bib Set

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This is a quick and easy project if you’re in need of a gift for a new arrival.  From 1m of fabric I was able to make 2 matching quilt and bib sets that I gave as gifts to two friends who were expecting baby girls.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

To make the sets:

  1. I bought 1 metre of patterned fabric.

I found this pale blue, patchwork effect, 100% cotton poplin in Dunelm, which was 112cm wide.  I thought this would be perfect as it gives the effect of being a quilt without having to sew lots of pieces together!

  1. I cut enough fabric off the bottom for creating 4 bibs.

I quite often make bibs for new arrival gifts as I think they are always useful and I know when my niece arrived my sister-in-law enjoyed having some bibs that were different to the ones in the shops.  The pattern I use is one that was in a Village Haberdashery newsletter a while ago and can be found on their website here.

  1. I then cut the remaining fabric in half lengthways and straightened off the edges to create 2 rectangles for the quilt tops.
  2. I had enough wadding in my stash leftover from previous projects to fit the 2 quilt tops. This is a great project for using up leftover bits of wadding, but if you don’t have any leftover wadding then you will need to buy 1 metre.
  3. To back the quilts I used some pale blue flannelette/winceyette that I already had in my stash. If you don’t already have something suitable then you will need to buy 1 metre or you could instead back them with a towel or something like a brushed cotton sheet.
  4. I used some spray adhesive to stick all the layers of the two quilts together and hold them in place. I then used some coordinating blue bias binding bought from Dunelm to edge the quilts and top stitched with coordinating blue thread.  And ta-dah, I had 2 finished quick and easy baby quilts.
  5. To finish the bibs I backed them with the same pale blue flannelette/winceyette that I used for the quilts. I edged them with some blue, lace-edged bias binding I already had.  I added some Velcro for the fastening.  As I finishing touch I used some scrap bits of the fabric to make fabric yoyos which I hand-stitched on to the bibs with some little buttons.

The finished quilts measured roughly 55x73cm (21.5”x28.5”).  They are a good pram size and I have been told they are great for car seats too!  They could also be used as a changing mat.


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Free Machine Embroidery Workshop

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Back in November two of my crafting friends and I booked on to the free machine embroidery workshop at The Craft Studio in Nottingham for February to give ourselves something to look forward to post Christmas.  At the time it felt like it was ages away, but a couple of weeks ago we finally got to go on it!

I first used free machine embroidery on my fashion textiles course back at college years ago to stitch things like trees and leaves and have also free machine embroidered the odd gift card.  Most recently I have free machine embroidered on top of some custom printed map fabric, which I wrote about here.   But I had never really incorporated different bits of fabrics into a design to create more of a picture or scene.  So this was what I was hoping to gain some tips for doing and despite not being completely new to free machine embroidery I still learnt plenty of new tips from Clare at The Craft Studio that I will certainly be putting into practice to do more free machine embroidery in the future.  I always used to blame my old machine having a side loading bobbin for the cause of jamming and getting the bird’s nest of thread, but it would seem this was not always necessarily the culprit!

With just 7 people in the class there was a nice, friendly atmosphere.  Clare’s instruction was always clear and informative.  Clare started us off just doing some simple doodling on to a piece of calico in order to get everyone used to moving the fabric around.  We were supposed to just practice going in circles, but I got carried away and started drawing a kite!

Next we moved on to tracing shapes and drew 4 shapes (a square, a circle, a heart, & a triangle) onto a piece of calico with a pencil and then attempted to follow the outlines on the machine.

We then moved on to more complex shapes and tried drawing the outline of a bird and a flower before taking the same shapes and looking at how to applique fabric into the design.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

After we had worked through these tasks to gain some confidence we were able to start on our own project of our choosing.  I had done quite a bit of looking on Pinterest for inspiration so had found a few ideas, but one of my favourites was a picture of a robin someone had done using different bits of fabric and outlined in a sketchy way with the stitching.  So I decided I wanted to attempt to do a similar robin and liked the idea of sitting him on top of a spade handle.  After rummaging through Clare’s scrap fabric bags to find some suitable bits of fabric for my robin I set about drawing out my design and cutting everything out.  I attached my design to a calico tote bag and I was pretty pleased with the result.  I must have been concentrating so hard trying to ensure I finished my design before I left that I was completely wiped out by the time I got home!

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

At the end of the workshop we were able to look around The Craft Studio shop and we all stocked up on supplies to get us set up with free machine embroidery at home.  We had such a fun day and I would highly recommend doing a workshop at The Craft Studio if you get the chance.

Last week I put my new skills into practice to make this Mother’s Day card for my Mum, which she loved!

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson

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Growing Sewing Pattern Collection

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A few days ago I received the Simplicity New Look newsletter informing me that New Look sewing patterns were currently half price on their website.  This ignited a conflict in my head with one voice telling me I have enough sewing patterns and the other voice was shouting over the top that they’re on sale!  My sewing pattern collection is growing quite large now and I have yet to make up most of them.  But I love a sale and at £2.98 a pattern the sale voice won and I caved in to buying 5 new patterns to add to my collection.

© 2016 Jennifer Richardson
  1. New Look 6322:

This is probably my favourite of the 5.  I fell in love with the neckline of view C & D and the pleats on the bust.  I also like that it can be made up in both woven fabrics and knits.  I didn’t feel I had anything with a similar neckline already and further justified it as I thought it may work for some fabric I bought back from Japan last July!

  1. New Look 6000:

This pattern reminded me a little of the Sew Over It Joan dress (I think its the neckline of views B, C & D), which I already have and have yet to make.  But, like 6322, I liked that it can be made in both woven fabrics and knits and hence it made it into my basket!  I also liked the side ruching.

  1. New Look 6150:

I liked the ruched sleeves and neckline of view B and have a fabric that I thought might work for this.

  1. New Look 6409:

This pattern I bought with my niece in mind who is nearly 2.  It is a very basic skirt pattern so not one I would buy full price.  But at half price I thought it was worth having so I can hopefully whip up some skirts when she’s a little bit older without have to use my brain too much.

  1. New Look 6872:

Again this is a basic skirt pattern I wouldn’t have bought full price.  I have some fabric my Mum bought me back from Japan that I have been meaning to make into a skirt like this and was going to try and do it without a pattern.  However, for £2.98 I thought it was worth just buying it and I liked that this one comes into the waist as opposed to being designed to sit lower.

I have started keeping a record of the patterns I own using a Pinterest board so I can easily see what I have and therefore when I am looking at patterns I can better judge where I may have gaps!  But perhaps I should also unsubscribe from receiving newsletters informing me of sales so I’m not tempted to keep buying more patterns before doing something with the ones I already have!  And don’t get me started on fabric…


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