Sewing baby burp cloths with my sister

completed burp cloths

Set of three burp cloths sewn by my sister.

When people know you can sew it is inevitable that you will at some point get the question “could you make me *insert random item here*?”. At the start of your sewing career this question might still induce excitement. Yes! With my newly acquired skills I can make a set of 8 matching pillows for your new couch! And I don’t care that it will take me all weekend because I’m still really slow at this whole sewing thing!

towel side

towel side

After you’ve been sewing for a while it becomes a bit difficult though to get enthusiastic about hemming yet another pair of trousers for someone else when you have a list of about a hundred items that you really want to make for yourself. However, these question askers are your friends and family and you don’t really want to disappoint them by immediately saying no. They are asking you for some help after all!

My solution to this problem is that I now offer to show them how they can make (or fix) the item themselves. If they’re really motivated they’ll take me up on my offer and we’ll spend an afternoon or day making it. Yes, it will probably take about 3 times longer to complete the item, but I’m spending time with someone I enjoy spending time with and I can show them my hobby. While they might not fall in love with sewing at least I think they’ll appreciate more what it takes to create something. If they don’t take me up on my offer it apparently wasn’t that important to have it made anyway so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time.

My sister didn't want to pose so I had to...

My sister didn’t want to pose so I had to…

A couple of months ago my sister asked me if I could make her a cute baby item to give to one of her expecting co-workers. Hmmm, I don’t even know this co-worker so why would I make a gift? I offered to help her make something. Some grumbling ensued but she agreed to come, although no date was fixed yet. I wondered whether she really would.

Tracing

Carefully tracing around the pattern.

But she did and I looked around for a simple project for a first time sewer. I found it in the free “The perfect baby burp cloths” pattern from So Sew Easy. What I like about this pattern is that it is shaped so it fits better around your neck and shouldn’t slip down as easily as a rectangular burp cloth. I’m sure we’ve all seen parents carefully position a cloth that slips down as soon as they lift their baby, leaving their clothes dangerously unprotected, so this simple adaptation seems like a good idea. I also found patterns that have this type of shaping on both sides but those reminded me of oversized sanitary napkins…

Sewing two layers together.

Sewing two layers together.

For one side we used a white towel and for the other side some ten squares from the Urban Zoologie collection by Robert Kaufmann. Towel and fabrics were prewashed to prevent uneven shrinkage later on. For each burp cloth two ten squares were pieced together. We reasoned that a right handed person is most likely to burp a baby on their left shoulder and made sure to position the owl and bird fabrics so that some of the animals would feature in the upright orientation in the centre on the front. We ended up with three rather adorable burp cloths made by my sister. I only showed her how to do each step. I think she did really well and she preferred sewing curves to sewing straight. Will she sew more often from now on? Probably not, but that was not the point.

Lacking a real baby we made use of an imaginary one...

Lacking a real baby we made use of an imaginary one…

A piece of beeswax

For the latest project I am working on it was strongly advised to run the thread through beeswax for some of the hand sewing parts. I did not have beeswax and needed it now, so online shopping wasn’t an option. The two stores in Leiden that sell sewing related stuff do not stock it, but one of the shop owners directed me to a drugstore. I would never have thought of going there, but lo and behold, they sold beeswax. Although not really in the shape I was looking for:

150326_beeswaxpellets

However, this was probably the closest thing to a solid piece of beeswax I would be able to find on short notice so I bought some. After all, beeswax is used to make candles, so it melts easily and can be moulded into a different shape.

For the next bit of this post I should probably add the disclaimer that you should not try this at home.

Melting beeswax seemed like a great idea, but how do you do that? At first I thought of melting it au bain marie but I didn’t want to use any of my kitchen bowls because I want to be able to continue using those for food preparation purposes. A Google search on “melting beeswax in the mircrowave” quickly cured me of that idea.

In the end I put the beeswax in a jam jar and started holding it over boiling water with a serving thong. This did not work all that well because the thong did not have a very good grip on the jar. To be honest, this part probably was slightly dangerous. Instead I placed the jar in hot but not boiling water and moved it around a bit with the thong. The beeswax melted quickly and as soon as it was ready I put on oven mitts to protect my hands and poured it in a mould I had prepared before.

150326_meltingwax

For the mould I used a waxine light cup that I lined with baking paper. Some of the beeswax ran below the paper but I could quite easily coax the piece of wax out after it had cooled so perhaps the paper wasn’t even necessary.

150326_cooling beeswax

Does my self-poured piece of beeswax work? You bet it does! And I probably have enough pellets left to make at least 4 more pieces…

150326_pieceofbeeswax

Crafting plans for 2015

With 2015 already in its third month (I can’t quite believe that, where did January and February go?) it’s about time I start thinking about my sewing plans for this year. We’ve moved into our new home and life is slowly starting to get back to normal. I’ve even been sewing again! My new sewing room is great to work in. It’s huge with good natural light during the daytime and a lot of storage space. The latter I have to admit is currently still quite disorganised which can make it difficult to find what I need.

This year I am going to continue to make my own clothes, but I’m not going to stress about it. Not that I did that last year anyway.

In 2015 I’d like to challenge myself a bit more in the sewing department, try more new techniques, different fabrics and more complicated patterns than I did during 2014. This year also comes with more special occasions requiring special clothes, which could make things interesting.

Garment sewing

Complicated projects

• Cocktail dress to wear to a winter wedding. (Coming soon!)
• Complete those jeans! I really need a new pair… or two… or even three…
• Summer coat
• Party dress to wear to a summer wedding
• Dress to wear to my very own thesis defense
• Winter coat
• Classic tailored shirt for my boyfriend. Promised long ago, gorgeous fabric was bought long ago, it’s about time I get started…

Now that I’ve written these down it seems like this might be a bit too much for a single year, we’ll see how far I get. Especially since I am not particularly good at deadline sewing…

Easy in between projects

• Pyjama pants
• Cardigans
• T-shirts
• Casual skirts
• Knit dresses
• Alabama Chanin style top

Crochet

I’ve not done a lot of crochet after finishing my scarf (that I am still wearing!). It turns out that granny squares aren’t really my kind of project. A real garment is what I’m now after. I still need some help with crochet as this is a skill that doesn’t come natural to me so I bought the “my first crochet cardigan” class from Craftsy, I also got the yarn kit that came with the class so that I don’t have to worry about getting the correct yarn for this project. I’ve already made a gauge swatch with the recommend hook size which turned out pretty but way too small. Apparently I crochet tight. I have ordered more crochet hooks in other sizes and will continue my crochet garment quest when those arrive (I’m hoping soon!).

Quilting

• Finish that quilt that should have been finished way too long ago
• Couch quilt to snuggle under
• Pillows that match our, not yet ordered, new couch
• Try some art quilting to decorate the still empty walls of our new house (My boyfriend is going to freak out when he reads this…)

Did you make a plan this year for the things that you would like to make?

 

Patching up a pair of DIY trousers

Today I’ll show you how I patch up a pair of jeans that will only be used for dirty jobs, such as painting and gardening. It’s not pretty, but it’s fast and sturdy and can give some extra life to a pair that would otherwise be thrown away.

My boyfriend’s old pair of DIY trousers has become a bit too threadbare to continue wearing. In the past I’ve patched both knees and the backside. On one leg the trousers are now ripped above where it was patched and I don’t think it’s really desirable to put another patch on top of that.

old pair of diy trousers

Old pair of DIY trousers that has been used for many years.

In my quite large collection of old jeans that are waiting to be cut up and repurposed I still had one of his old pairs that only had a tear just below one of the back pockets but was otherwise in pretty good shape. To mend these kinds of tears in a pair of DIY trousers I simply take a piece of denim cut from another old pair (preferably in somewhat the same colour, let’s not make things too crazy) and pin it to the jeans so it overlaps the part that needs mending. I generally let it overlap quite a bit. The area around such a tear has usually become thin as well and the patch will reinforce the whole area.

attaching a patch

The jeans are then wrapped around the free arm of the sewing machine and the patch is sewn in place with lines of stitching. Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of each line. When the entire patch is attached cut off the thread ends on both sides and you are done. I think attaching this patch took me less than 10 minutes including stopping for some pictures but my boyfriend will probably be able to use this pair for a couple of years of dirty jobs around the house.

patch

Outside and inside view of patch. I didn’t take particular care to sew straight, this isn’t couture…

Did he have a particular reason to ask for a new pair of diy jeans now? Oh yes. Remember how last year I splurged on some new sewing equipment? This year we’re definitely topping that because we’ve just bought a new sewing room house! We’re currently in the process of decorating so this new pair of DIY trousers is certain to get a lot of use in the coming weeks.

English Paper Piecing: Let’s go 3D!

141213_Christmas ornamentsEver since first trying English paper piecing I’ve been having new ideas of what to use this technique for besides quilts. One of those was 3D shapes. Small 3D shapes can be challenging to sew with a sewing machine because they often contain Y-seams. Sewing these seams the English paper piecing way, however, isn’t tricky at all (just time-consuming because it’s all done by hand).

141213_ornaments
I’m probably not the first person to have this idea but instead of researching it I simply made some templates using Adobe Illustrator and started sewing. It worked quite well. I started with 6 equilateral triangles and three shades of green fabric. The sides of the triangles are just 3 cm which made sewing a bit tricky, larger shapes are probably easier.

Next, I made a cube using six 5×5 cm squares of a black and gold print. This was the easiest of the three and I even remembered to take some blurry progress pictures.

141213_paperpiecedcube

For the final shape, I used three ellipses that I made pointy on the shorter sides (the picture shows the shape better than I can describe it in words…). I probably should have clipped the seams better than I did because they ripple a bit. I really like the final shape though. The shapes are stuffed with some soft toy filling. Since it’s almost Christmas I left a tiny hole in one of the corners and pulled some cotton yarn through and turned these into Christmas ornaments. Even though we never have a Christmas tree so I’m not really sure where to hang them…

It was fun to make these. Have you ever tried the English paper piecing method to sew anything other than a quilt top?

 

Keep your feet warm and toasty!

Samantha women's shoesAlmost a year ago I made myself a pair of Samantha women’s shoes from ithinksew. To say that those are my most worn self-mades is probably an understatement. I’ve worn them every single day when I was at home, except when I was in the shower or in bed. They’re not the most elegant footwear but they are comfortable and warm and that’s exactly what I want when I’m at home.

Samantha women's shoes

Not so surprisingly, the lining of that pair is wearing out and they’ve gotten a little dirty. Time for a new pair! I made exactly the same size as last time. This time I used the quilt as you go method to make the outside using Hobbs 80/20 batting, denim scraps (from old pairs of jeans, yay for recycling!) and Güttermann Sulky variegated thread. For the lining I used a thick polar fleece. The sole is again made from slipper gripper fabric. I can highly recommend this product. I haven’t slipped once wearing my old pair.

Quilt as you go

When I was quilting the outside I wasn’t so sure I would like the final product but I’m quite pleased with how the patchwork and variegated thread looks on these shoes. I’m sure they’ll get worn just as much as the old pair.
141025_shoes_sideview

My boyfriend took a picture of me as I was quilting the fabric for these shoes. As you can see it’s not just my feet that I like to keep warm and toasty… Quilting

English paper piecing

I think I have a new love.

English paper pieced flowers

Last weekend we went away and I decided somewhat last minute that I wanted to take something with me to craft. I’ve seen many bloggers take English paper piecing projects with them when they travel because it’s portable and doesn’t require a lot of tools. I always thought English paper piecing would be very complicated and difficult but I had never looked into the details of how exactly it’s done. A couple of YouTube videos convinced me that it is in fact extremely easy as long as you work accurately. Within an hour I had printed several sheets with hexagon templates from My Poppet and cut a stack of fabric squares to take with me.

Sunnyside flower fabrics

I chose four fabrics from the Sunnyside collection that I didn’t use for the babyquilt because they had flowers on them. The print is the same for each fabric but they’re in a different colourway. The white one reminds me of old fashioned curtains and tablecloths but cut up into smaller pieces this association luckily disappeared. I decided to start simple and assemble hexagon flowers with one of the fabrics in the centre and the other 3 in a circle around it.

assembled flower

All I needed to take with me was a plastic thingy (that probably has another official name in English) that at first held the sheets with printed templates and that I later used to store assembled hexagon flowers (a very nice discovery that those fit in there!). Two small containers held my precut fabric squares and my cut templates and fabric covered templates. Lastly, I brought some pins and needles in a small pincushion, a pair of scissors and two spools of thread.

English paper piecing supplies

During the weekend I assembled almost 5 flowers! I was amazed at how fast they came together for something that is made completely by hand. What I also like about it is that it’s actually so easy that I can still do it when I’m relatively tired and other crafting projects aren’t an option. This might change when I try more complicated projects with differently shaped pieces or attempt fussy cutting.

English paper piecing process

The remaining fabric has already been cut into squares and I am ready to assemble some more flowers. I’m not really sure what I am actually going to do with them because my spur of the moment decision to try English paper piecing didn’t really involve much more than “let’s give it a try and we’ll see how I like it”. Assemble into larger pieces to make a very small quilt or keep them separate and applique on pillows?

detailI also already have quite a number of ideas for other paper pieced projects. Where can I get more time?