Getting pattern-hack happy

I absolutely love using independent designers’ PDF sewing patterns, but sometimes I like to mess around with them a little. Whether it’s making a slight change to one pattern or combining two patterns for an alternative look, pattern hacking can be lots of fun.

But to get a really good finished fit and look, you do need to use your sewing brain and a little bit of sewing maths with some hacking. I’m going to be using a pattern from one of my absolute favourite independent designers Made By Jack’s Mum; the Hot Chocolate. It’s a great, slightly loose fitting jumper with a few neck-line options, but sometimes on a cooler Spring/Summer day its nice to have an extra layer without all the warmth of a full jumper….so I’m hacking the hooded jumper to be sleeveless.

What you needTo re-create this hack you’ll need a few important things:
1. MBJM Hot Chocolate PDF pattern 
2. a selection of jersey fabric
3. usual cutting and sewing tools
4. overlocker or sewing machine

The only pattern piece that needs altering for this hack is the main body piece and, of course, you don’t need to print the sleeves!

Firstly you need to reduce the armscye/arm hole otherwise the edge of the top will hang over the shoulder too much. You can use the measurements in this Armscye reduction chart to see by how much you should reduce each size. I do this using a tape measure or ruler and measuring the correct distance from the original arm hole and marking it following the curved shape. Then trim the excess amount off the pattern piece. I’d recommend keeping this little piece then you don’t need to re-print when you make a regular jumper. Now just follow the pattern as normal to cut out both body pieces (don’t forget to cut the two different necklines from the front and back piece), the hood piece/s and the waistband, and then sew them together as usual.

When you have done everything except finish off the arm holes use this Cuff Measurements chart for the measurements to cut the cuffs to edge the arm holes. Sew the cuffs and add them to the body using the same method as the sleeve cuffs in the original pattern. I have included a few photos as a guide too.

How to add the cuffsAnd the hack is complete…happy sewing!

Continue reading “Getting pattern-hack happy”

Temperature Quilt: the fourth four weeks

Nearly a third of the way through this year-long project; doesn’t the year seem to go fast when its measured in quilt blocks! Its been another period of catching-up for these four weeks with it falling during the school Easter break and a holiday for us. TemperatureQuilt 16 week stackI did debate using the average temperature from during our holiday for week 14 and 15 blocks but as we were in a unseasonably warm (I say warm, I mean absolutely scorching!) Tenerife, it really would have made the finished quilt look odd. Using gradually increasing, then decreasing, Harrogate-based temperature will mean the quilt blocks will flow in roughly rainbow colours up to the centre of the quilt (when it will be the height of summer) then back down again. To have a jump from the cool turquoise and green colours to the dark red that’s at the top of the Fabric Thermometer and then back to greens again would have looked rather strange.

April’s weather has been consistently Spring-like with all weeks falling in the 10° to 14°: greens range. As in previous weeks and months, I am selecting each week’s block at random from Tula Pink’s “City Sampler Quilts: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks” book. The random selection has been determined for me to practice my seam matching skills with three of the blocks featuring the precise lines of squares and rectangles. That has meant more pinning to keep everything matching up as perfectly as possible.TemperatureQuilt 4months

Week Thirteen: block No. 38 from the triangles section
Week Fourteen: block No. 87 from the Haiku section
Week Fifteen: block No. 73 from the squares section
Week Sixteen: block No. 25 from the rectangles section

Don’t forget there are some great businesses supporting this sew-along.
Caboodle Textiles can cater for all your fabric needs. If you join their Facebook group there is a 10% discount code in there.
Little T’s Haberdashery have everything from roller cutters to pins and have a lovely discount code to use too: Coffee&Make10 for 10% off.

Check back on the previous catch-up blog posts here:
The Third Four Weeks
The Second Four Weeks
The First Four Weeks

If you subscribe to the blog you will get a notification of all the monthly update posts, and don’t forget to check Instagram or Facebook for each weekly block so you can sew along with me. And please share your blocks with #coffeeandmakingtemperaturequilt so everyone can see everyone else’s creations.

Temperature Quilt: the third four weeks

This month I had a serious tidy up in my sewing cupboard. It didn’t take all month (!), just an afternoon really, I’m not that slow and the cupboard isn’t that big! But I’m feeling even more organised now…it was a bit like having a crafting spring clean. I got rid of loads of ribbon I don’t need anymore (that went off to school for Reception’s art station) and found a lot I had forgotten I had. Loads more fabric too but, of course, none was the right colours for the temperature quilt.

March has been a mixed month weather-wise; some mild weeks and some that might even be considered warm (for this time of year anyway). That has meant two weeks of 5° to 9°: turquoises and two week of 10° to 14°: greens. As in previous weeks and months, I am selecting each week’s block at random from Tula Pink’s “City Sampler Quilts: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks” book. The random selection has give all stripes and squares this past four weeks which has been fun for improving accurate parallel sewing. I read something interesting about the direction you press the seams on the back of a quilt block and how this can effect the look on the front. I have always pressed so that adjoining seams can be interlocked to avoid bulk, and so that a darker fabric seam doesn’t show through lighter fabric. The basic logic of what I read says that when seams are pressed to lay underneath a certain block piece, that piece stands out more, and it really does work. I only read it about it last week but I have pressed the week 12 block so that the thin cross in the centre stands forward from the background fabric. I’ll be using this technique in the future so I’ll go into more detail (with some “wrong side” photos) in the next catch-up post.TemperatureQuilt 3months

Week Nine: block No. 63 from the squares section
Week Ten: block No. 86 from the Haiku section
Week Eleven: block No. 58 from the stripes section
Week Twelve: block No. 11 from the crosses section

Don’t forget there are some great businesses supporting this sew-along.
Caboodle Textiles can cater for all your fabric needs. If you join their Facebook group there is a 10% discount code in there.
Little T’s Haberdashery have everything from roller cutters to pins and have a lovely discount code to use too: Coffee&Make10 for 10% off.

Check back on the previous catch-up blog posts here:
The Second Four Weeks
The First Four Weeks

If you subscribe to the blog you will get a notification of all the monthly update posts, and don’t forget to check Instagram or Facebook for each weekly block so you can sew along with me. And please share your blocks with #coffeeandmakingtemperaturequilt so everyone can see everyone else’s creations.

Hannah Hand Makes: cross stitch for everyone

Hannah Hand Makes describe themselves as “the home of modern, fun and easy cross stitch kits” and show to anyone out there that thinks cross stitch is an old fashioned craft that you are, to be frank, wrong! Cross stitch is back…if, indeed, it ever really went anywhere.

My mum used to cross stitch but always used incredibly complicated patterns. They looked amazing when they were finished but the prospect of keeping track of 20 shades of grey (I’m not even exaggerating!) so the shadows on houses looked just right was a little daunting. And they took so long to finish too. In today’s fast paced, quick fix, everyone has five hundred million things they try to do each day society we live in now, I think there is a real place for small scale crafts. Not only that, ones that after just a couple of evenings you can really see lots of progress or might even be close to finishing. And its these sort of projects that you can get from Hannah Hand Makes.

HannahHandMakes personlising the kitSo what do you get when you buy a kit from HHM? The simple answer is…everything! I used the personalised TeePee Kit and in the beautiful package that arrived I got:
– really clear instructions (for both how to personalise and generally sewing etc)
– everything I needed to create my personalisation (graph paper and full letter examples to copy)
– aida (the cross stitch fabric)
– all the embroidery thread colours (beautiful organised too so they could get mixed up)
– embroidery hoop
– felt (for backing the finished hoop)
– needle (yes, there is even a needle included…I did say you got everything!)

With the personalised kits you are able to choose which colours of thread come with the kit for your personalised bits which I think is a great idea. And there are also the added extras, for all kits, of a cotton bag (perfect so you can keep everything together and take your project with you) and gift wrapping.

The instructions that come with the kit are excellent and at the perfect level for a total beginner. There are also further instructions for various steps within each pattern on the blog which is a nice bonus and great if you are a visual learner because lots of the blog posts have videos. The Hannah Hand Makes designs are great because they are simple enough to be easy to follow for a total beginner but also have enough detail for a fabulous overall look. If you aren’t new to cross stitching then don’t worry, on the Hannah Hand Makes Etsy shop you can buy just PDF versions of the patterns/instructions so you don’t need to buy all the thread and aida etc if you already have it in your sewing stash.TeePee cross stitich cushion centrepiece

I really enjoyed completing this project and it has reignited my love for hand sewing. I’ve always very much been a machine sewer but the downside of this is it can be a hassle to get all your kit out and set up, and then after all that you need to put in a few hours to make the hassle worth it. Sometimes you just want to flop on the sofa at the end of the day and spend 15 minutes working on something that is right there to hand; easy to pick up and get going. The TeePee definitely won’t be my last HHM project. My only difficulty is deciding which one to try next…

Temperature Quilt: the second four weeks

I feel like I have been playing a little bit of catch-up this month with the Temperature Quilt, school half-term in the middle really threw off my schedule…I need to get sorted before Easter and Summer! But as I keep saying, the beauty of this project is that its such a small and manageable chunk each week, catch up isn’t too much of task. Life gets in the way, but don’t let that put you off continuing with the project!

February has continued to be mild here in Harrogate, but with one cold week in the middle. Similar to the first month, I have had three weeks of 5° to 9°: turquoises and one week of 0° to 4°: royal blues. More turquoise has meant a bit of fabric shopping (what a shame) to boost that colour in my stash. I continue to select each week’s block at random from Tula Pink’s “City Sampler Quilts: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks” book. I mentioned last month that this is giving me the opportunity to work on some specific skills I might shy away from normally, especially triangles. Well the godtemperature-quilt-two-monthss of randomness shine on me again and this month has been a mix of squares and triangles, both of which require a lot of accuracy for that really crisp and neat look. Luckily my mum has started an evening
sewing course a few weeks ago which is all about accuracy and precision so she’s been able to pass on some of the techniques they have been using which has been really useful. So, this month I have been pinning (yes I know, pinning and quilting often doesn’t go together, my auntie would be shocked!) and it has made a huge difference. I’ve not been pinning everything but it really helps to get seams lined up.

Week Five: block No. 52 from the triangles section
Week Six: block No. 49 from the triangles section
Week Seven: block No. 71 from the squares section
Week Eight: block No. 80 from the squares section

Don’t forget there are some great businesses supporting this sew-along.
Little T’s Haberdashery have everything from roller cutters to pins and have a lovely discount code to use too: Coffee&Make10 for 10% off.
Caboodle Textiles can cater for all your fabric needs. If you join their Facebook group there is a 10% discount code in there.

If you subscribe to the blog you will get a notification of all the monthly update posts, and don’t forget to check Instagram or Facebook for each weekly block so you can sew along with me. And please share your blocks with #coffeeandmakingtemperaturequilt so everyone can see everyone else’s creations.

Caboodle Textiles: just another online fabric shop?

Remember when I reviewed the fabulous Caboodle Kids last year? I was a brand rep for them for a few months and you can read all about how fantastic their handmade kids clothes are here. But did you know that they also run the online fabric shop Caboodle Textiles? If you didn’t, you need to check it out right now! Well, read my review first… then go check it out.

Caboodle Textiles’ mission is “bringing joy to your sewing table and colour to your wardrobe” and they have got that nailed. Their Etsy shop stocks a really varied selection of jersey knit, ribbing, sweat shirting, french terry and woven cottons, along with some haberdashery items. Its a great mix of children and adult caboodle-textiles-ocean-bluesprints so there is something for everyone. Caboodle Textiles also sells some great bundles of colour coordinated plain jersey; a fantastic way to build up your stash, my favourite is Ocean Blues bundle. They also have a Facebook group (its a closed group so you need to request to be a member before you can see inside) with a permanent Etsy discount code, as well as the chance to have first dibs on new stock and join preorders at a discounted price. Its also a great place to ask advice, get some sewing inspiration and chat.

There are loads of online fabric shops so what are the benefits of buying from Caboodle Textiles. I ordered a metre of Space Adventure jersey print and half a metre of plain grass green jersey. Mel was on-hand before I placed my order to help me choose the best plain to complement the space fabric. I wanted a strong, bright colour but not one that detracted from the awesome space print. Mel sent me a photo showing how a few plain colours looked up against the print so I could make my choice; that was really helpful. The delivery was really fast; there’s nothing worse than ordering fabric with a project in mind, getting all ready to get sewing and then the fabric takes ages to arrive. Caboodle Textiles aims to ship orders within 12 hours of them being placed but it can often be faster than that; amazing! When my fabric arrived each one was in a plastic cover inside the parcel bag. I love this! It meant that my precious fabric was protected in the post, but I also love it because it makes it much easier for me to keep track of what I have and haven’t pre-washed. With so much fabric coming into the house (don’t tell Chris I said that…I hardly buy any honestly) it can be hard to keep tabs on what is ready to be sewn. By keeping the fabric from Caboodle in the plastic sleeves, I knew exactly what was still to be washed. I’m not sure if this is a intended by-product of the packaging but it certainly is a big plus for me.

I used my Space Adventure and grass green jerseys to make an outfit for Fletcher; the new Made By Jack’s Mum High Kick Harem Pants with a MBJM Explorer Raglan tee. caboodle-textiles-mbjm-outfit

Fletcher loved the outfit (hooray!) and wore the trousers every day for over a week after school. They have been washed a few times now and been put through their paces generally, as four year old boys like to do with clothes, and the fabric has held up beautifully. No fading from the wash and still holding its shape perfectly, even around the knee areas. What more could you ask for from fabric. As the fabric was such great quality (hardly any curling etc on the edges) it meant I could use every last scrap so I also made some MBJM Speedy Pants and I still have plenty of the space fabric left.

Caboodle Textiles are currently working on a shiny new website which will house an even bigger range of fabric, its due for launch this Spring. But in the mean time you can find them..
on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/CaboodleTextiles
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CaboodleTextiles/

Happy shopping!


EDITS (October 2017):

Caboodle Textiles’s website is now up and running with their full range, and the discount code in Caboodle’s Facebook group also works for the website.
They have started using branded and recyclable packaging.

The Space Adventurer fabric I used is now out of print but I recently got this fabulous monkey print which I might love even more!

I heart mug rugs

But what exactly is a mug rug I hear you ask. Its sort of like a suped-up quilted coaster. I know…we all need them! They are designed to be bigger than a regular coaster because the idea is that they can fit a mug as well as a biscuit or small piece of cake…amazing, right?! The one I have made here is a little smaller than average; partly because I wanted it to be square, and partly because we use a lot of espresso cups and they don’t take up as much space as a regular mug (leaving more space for the cake!). Quilters love mug rugs too because they are a great way to try out new ideas and techniques without messing up a huge quilt with your crazy experimentation.

heartmugrug-planning
The planning

So here is a little step-by-step guide to how I made mine. I’m not including the finer details of my make (namely the dimensions of all the pieces) because you can easily work these out for yourself and make any size of mug rug your heart desires. I find the simplest way to work out my piece sizes is to sketch out my design, decide how big I want the finished thing to be then start dividing that up into squares. Don’t forget to add your seam allowance; 1/4″ is standard in quilting.

The first job is to cut out all the pieces. I always give them a quick press at this stage and lay them out to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything. I’ve marked lines on some of my pieces to create “half square triangles” (HST). An HST is made by placing two squares with their right sides together and marking a diagonal line across the centre. I find marking the lines makes it easier to get a more accurate pair of triangles, especially on smaller pieces like these. Then just sew along the lines, trim off the excess and press open. You can see below how the fabric squares are sewn, trimmed and pressed to create the triangles. After finishing these more difficult triangle pieces (difficult for me anyway!), I then pieced everything else together to make the front of the mug rug. I’ve used two different fabrics for the heart motif but you could use just one.

heartmugrug-cuttingpiecing
The cutting and layout

Now its time to quilt! You can hand or machine quilting, both work great but have a very different look. I have chosen to machine quilt this…mainly because I’m rubbish at hand quilting (add that to the ever-growing list of skills I want to perfect). My auntie says that hand quilting is relaxing but I’m yet to see that. It usually ends with me getting frustrated and shouting at whoever is closest “well you show me how to do it then”! I just can’t get it as small as I want. Anyway, enough ranting about hand quilting and back to the project. So to quilt you need to make a little sandwich; some plain fabric (anything cheap you have), followed by your wadding/batting then your front on top. Secure these layers together with some curved pins (you can use regular pins but curved are a bit better) and then get going with the quilting. On the machine you want to use a longer stitch than usual. Play around on some scrap, its all down to personal preference. Once the quilting is done you can trim any excess wadding away to get back to a nice neat square. I have then chosen to add a bit of pom-pom trim to the top and bottom edges and sewn this in place so it doesn’t move. Nearly finished! Now cut out your backing fabric. I have chosen the the black stripes from the front. Cut out a pieces the same size as your quilted front and place them right sides together. Sew round the edges leaving a gap of 3-4″ on one side. Using the gap, turn the mug rug right-side out.

heartmugrug-quiltingtrim
The quilting and trim

Now all you need to do is top-stitch. This will secure the gap on one side used to turn and gives a nice, finished effect too. I used a contrast red thread to match the heart motif. I also added a little framing to the centre-piece of the heart too. Then one last press to neaten everything up (careful of the pom-pom trim, it might melt!)

heartmugrug-topstitching
The final details

And now its time to kick back with a coffee and a biscuit…

heartmugrug-with-coffee

Instagram: it just isn’t true and I’m OK with that

Picture the scene…I’m sitting at last month’s WI committee meeting (have I mentioned I’m in the WI before? Up until last night I was the Secretary of one of my local WI branches but I was voted in as President last night. Exciting!)…anyway I’m at the committee meeting getting my laptop and notebook out and one of my friends said “I saw the photo on Instagram today of your desk. I can’t believe how tidy it was, I wish my desk looked that good”. This is the Instagram shot they had seen:

instagram-tidy-desk

The truth is that this is my computer, my coffee, fabrics I plan to sew myself, my notepad, one of my many pens and my post-it notes. The whole truth is that this isn’t really my desk; its my dining room table. I do sometimes work here (in fact I am right now) but I usually do my sewing on the dining table because its nice and big, and my writing work etc on the desk in our upstairs office. But the office desk is black and the room is small and quite dark; not so good for the “perfect” Instagram shot. My work space is this tidy sometimes, but more often it isn’t. And my brain certainly isn’t this neat. I am a perpetual starter of many tasks at once. I love a good list (I’ve definitely mentioned that before!) but the truth is I really need them. Its not an organisational tool to be super efficient, its a absolute necessity so my brain doesn’t explode trying to remember what I’m meant to be doing, when, with whom and why.

So we all know that Instagram is square (mostly) but we don’t see life through a square lens, its more of a panoramic shot or even one of those cool 360 photos (which I haven’t yet worked out how to do). Let me show you what you might missing from the wider view. The chaos that is carefully kept just out of shot…temperature-thermometer-before-and-after
Just after Christmas I started my prep-work for the Temperature Quilt sew-along (more details on that here if you haven’t seen the project yet). I needed a photo of my Fabric Thermometer. On the right is the finished graphic which has featured on the blog and Instagram but the other photo shows my “set up”…not exactly the professional studio of a proper photographer! It was a week after Christmas, new toys without new homes, sewing cupboards open, washing basket with no washing (not shock there), random light shade on the window ledge (that’s weird) but at least I had the lovely white dining table.business-card-and-pull-back

I took delivery this week of my new business cards. I wanted to use the same image I have on my profile pictures but they were all square (thank you Instagram!) so I had to set up the shot again. On a dreary February day I needed as much daylight as possible so that meant using the play room and, you’ve guessed it, not exactly a haven of tidiness and
order. As you can see, there is a slight difference between the before and after!

So my point is, like so many things in life (how you live, how you parent, how you look) the version you see online is probably not really that truthful, certainly not the whole truth anyway. Its more like a perfect snippet from an otherwise not-so-perfect day. Don’t get me wrong I love Instagram, its by far my favourite social media outlet, and I find the order and beauty of it quite relaxing and therapeutic at time. But its often best served with a big pinch of salt. Some people’s Instagram feeds may be exactly how they live; a perfectly accurate representation of themselves and that’s fantastic. Let them inspire you to repaint a room, buy a new notebook, bake a different cake, tidy your desk…but don’t let it get you down if you don’t bother. Bask in the beauty and leave it at that.

For a healthy balance of beautiful perfection and not so much, you can follow me on Instagram.

Temperature Quilt: the first four weeks

I know its my project but I’m going to say it anyway…so far I am loving working on the Temperature Quilt. Yes its going to take a whole year to finish but one block a week istemperaturequilt-blocksfabric such a nice, manageable amount, especially when you have a sewing “To Do” list as long as your arm and lots of other things to be doing too. Or maybe that’s just me.

January here in Harrogate has been quite mild, which has meant a lot of similar colours on the “Fabric Thermometer” but its been a nice chance to have a proper rummage through my stash to find extra bits. I have had three weeks of 5° to 9°: turquoises and then one week of 0° to 4°: royal blues. I’ve been selecting each week’s block at random from Tula Pink’s “City Sampler Quilts: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks” book which has also meant a varied mix of block styles and the opportunity to work on some specific skills I might shy away from normally. I love the look of flying geese (a type of quilt block sub-unit made up of three triangles) but I am not the most accurate at them…those pesky triangles always like to stretch a little bit. And, of course, week one’s block had a row of flying geese!

Week One: block No. 54 from the triangle section
Week Two: block No. 69 from the stripes section
Week Three: block No. 97 from the Haiku section
Week Four: block No. 74 from the squares section

temperaturequilt-weeks1-4-labelled

Don’t forget there are some great businesses supporting this sew-along.
Little T’s Haberdashery have everything from roller cutters to pins and have a lovely discount code to use too: Coffee&Make10 for 10% off.
Caboodle Textiles can cater for all your fabric needs. If you join their Facebook group there is a 10% discount code in there.

If you subscribe to the blog you will get a notification of all the monthly update posts, and don’t forget to check Instagram or Facebook for each weekly block so you can sew along with me. And please share your blocks with #coffeeandmakingtemperaturequilt so everyone can see everyone else’s creations.

Thursday is my Hump Day

When Fletcher was at pre-school I was still running my handmade clothing business and, although I missed him a great deal as it was the first time we had ever really been apart, I always had a lot to do when I got home from dropping him off. The five hours a day (for three days each week) flew by because as soon as I walked through the door I was straight on with sewing, and I would work on orders right up until leaving the house to collect him.

fletcher-at-schoolWhen he started primary school (my tiny little boy only just turned 4) I had thought it would be the same, just a slightly longer day for him and a couple of extra days in the week. He coped really well…I didn’t.

The summer before he started school I made the decision to close my clothing business. It was a hard decision to make as I’d spent three years running it, and it took me quite a while to properly let go of it, even months after officially closing. But a fellow work at home mum encouraged me to Kon Mari my business (she’s the decluttering and organisational guru who forces you to ask of some of your possessions “do they bring you joy?”) and low and behold making clothes for customers, lovely are they were, just didn’t bring me joy anymore, so that was that. But it meant that when Fletcher bounced off to school each day, I came home to nothing. Nothing to do with my day, no real purpose for those six and bit hours he wasn’t there.

Of course in reality there is plenty to do at home; tidying, cleaning, doing the shopping, some sewing for myself. The problem is was is none of these tasks come with deadlines, other than self-imposed ones, and so none of them really got done. Honestly, some days I did almost nothing until I went to pick up Fletcher from school. I guess that was one of my reasons for starting this blog, to give me something to do. And the silence can be deafening. I am quite an insular person anyway, always have been I think and that’s ok but even I don’t want silence all the time. I think that’s why my online friends and the WAHM community have been so important to me. They might not be real life friends, but it doesn’t make them any less real when you want someone to talk to.

But Thursday was always the worst day. Maybe Monday too but everyone hates Mondays so I don’t think that really counts. Fletcher’s pre-school days were Monday to Wednesday, and we spent Thursday and Friday together. For the first few weeks I would walk into school on a Wednesday afternoon thinking “hooray its Wednesday” only to then realise that now he is at school that doesn’t mean anything. He’s still out of the house, and I’m still on my own, Thursday and Friday. That’s why Thursday is my “hump day”. It is my toughest day to get over and, as a stay at home mum (who doesn’t really conform to the 5 day working week), its sort of the middle of my week too.