Crafting Over Quilting

Revamping my sewing machine case with a giraffe mandala.

Quilting has taken a back seat. Just this once! The Hubs purchased a Cricut bundle, which means the machine came with a ton of vinyl, and other materials and tools, to get me well on the way!

Some of the Cricut crafting materials from the bundle

Since my ‘Cricut Crafter’ post, where I completed my first ever Cricut project, I’ve joined more Facebook groups than I care to count and watched countless YouTube videos from all manner of Cricut crafters. My go-to sources for advice and tutorials are Jennifer Maker and Makers Gonna Learn.

In a large proportion of the Cricut crafting groups recently, members have been posting photos of their mandalas. These designs are intricate, with all of the symbols interconnecting, creating beautiful patterns within a larger image. The process of weeding (removing the excess materials in a design that you do not need) the mandalas appeared to me to be a delicate, yet therapeutic exercise and I wanted in!

Weeding my giraffe mandala

I dislike doing a project just for the sake of it. Whenever I do this, I end up making mistakes because I don’t have the focus or willingness to properly apply myself. I really had to think hard about what I wanted to create. Then I got an idea to jazz up my sewing machine case. I decided on a giraffe mandala and set to work weeding the image.

It was certainly therapeutic and much more complex than I imagined. Vinyl is just so sticky and strong. Great care is required when weeding because it’s not always easy to rectify mistakes. Vinyl is an unforgiving material!

Thankfully, it all went without a hitch. Beginner’s luck, I suspect. My sewing machine case received a revamp and I was thrilled with the results. A tip for attaching vinyl to a surface: clean it with alcohol wipes beforehand. The vinyl will stick and stay put like a dream!

Doesn’t this giraffe mandala look amazing?
From drab to fab: My revamped sewing machine case.

For those of you who fancy seeing the weeding process (sped up, of course), then here’s a short clip, especially for you. You’re welcome.

Music: ‘Carbonize’ by Wolves. (I do not own the rights to this song)

I’m feeling much more confident about my ability to learn how to use the Cricut Maker properly. This project has left me wanting to do more crafting. I’ve now got a few projects I’d really like to successfully complete. Some greeting cards and a Valentine’s Day gift for the Hubs.

I hope the beginner’s luck doesn’t run out!

Etsy Shop

The makings of a sewing business idea in 2017.

It’s been on my mind for a few weeks to start an Etsy shop. After much deliberation, I have decided that I will definitely be going ahead with this plan. Although I am new to sewing, my long-term goal is to find my niche in the sewing community and have a business of my own that is sewing related. I do think that by starting something small, I can obtain a small income to fund my fabric addiction, and also give myself the opportunity to develop the skills required of a small business owner. The experience will certainly be beneficial for my future sewing endeavours (whatever they may be) and I am going to fully embrace it.

At present, the first products that I have chosen to sell are zipper pouches. I find them relatively easy to make and I like the finished article. There are many sellers on Etsy who make zipper pouches that have all the bells and whistles (fancy zips, different shapes and sizes) however I have chosen a simple and versatile design, in order to cut down on the time I need to spend making each pouch but without compromising on the quality.

This is especially important as I will be running this venture alongside a full-time job, planning a wedding, preparing to sell a property and searching for a new home. I have taken some photos that I intend to use for my Etsy shop. Photography is not my strong point, so I downloaded an app called Afterlight to help with editing. It’s very easy to use and costs 99p. I’m happy with the results I achieved:

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I’ve made sure to test my products. I regularly use one of my pouches and have gifted a few to friends and relatives, in order for them to be used and abused. They have all reported that none of the zipper pouches have fallen apart (durability achieved) and that they are lovely to look at (result). Fit for purpose, easy on the eyes and durable are exactly the properties that I require from this product. I eventually intend to extend my product range and I have already written down a list of potential, future products. However, this will all be dependent on the success of the zipper pouches. I certainly don’t want to run before I can walk and I will be concentrating on executing one product very well, before introducing another to my portfolio.

I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say that I feel somewhat apprehensive about starting an Etsy shop. The  following questions have buzzed around my head on multiple occasions: ‘What if I have no sales?’ ‘What if no one likes the product?’ ‘What if no one visits the shop?’ ‘What if I get an unsatisfied customer?’ The answer I give myself, to all of these questions, is simple: ‘You never know until you try!’

I’m excited about my new venture and I am looking forward to learning more about selling online and the intricacies of running a small business. I am hopeful that I will be relatively successful with selling the zipper pouches, but most importantly, that this experience will lead on to other things in the world of sewing. I am tentatively taking my first steps outside of my comfort zone. I am so grateful that I can share the start of my very small thing, that will hopefully turn into something wonderful and amazing as time goes by. I will certainly be sharing my experiences and progress along the way.

The Bettine

A first attempt at a ‘Me Made’ outfit. ‘The Bettine’ by Tilly and the Buttons.

Pattern: The Bettine – Tilly and the Buttons.

Fabric: 2 metres of ‘Dog Print’ Cotton Sateen (Ivory/Black).

Supplier: The Textile Centre.

It’s official: 2 weeks ago I made my first ever dress – The Bettine!! I could not be more thrilled! It took me 2 solid days (9am – 5pm) of sewing to produce the finished article. It was SO much fun and less complicated than I anticipated. My main aim was to make it through the project without losing the will to sew again. For this reason, I took minimal photos, however I will document my next dressmaking endeavour with much more photos, in order to show the progression from fabric to finished article.

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I ensured that I pre-washed and pressed the fabric prior to cutting out the pattern. This meant that I could ascertain how much the fabric might shrink before I made the dress. I used a cotton sateen fabric which was very easy to work with and gave just the right amount of drape for the style of dress. I found the most time consuming aspect of constructing the dress (the pattern cutting) to be the most therapeutic. Carefully placing the pattern pieces onto the fabric in a particular order and cutting out the fabric pieces using my rotary cutter was very relaxing and surprisingly enjoyable.

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The one part I did struggle with was the threading of the elastic waist band into the body of the dress. I started from one hole, got all the way around to the other side of the dress (with great difficulty and effort) only for it to not come out of the designated hole! I rectified the issue by creating another discreet hole and doing some repair work, which was really simple and did not ruin the dress. I prefer my dresses to be above the knees, however the design leaves ample material for a much more modest hemline should you prefer it.

Unfortunately, due to my self-imposed Wedding Diet (3 months to go!!), the dress was too big for me (my hands are strategically placed during the photos in order to hide this fact). In hindsight, I should have re-measured myself beforehand but the dress has now gone to a lovely home. It became an Easter present for my mum and it fits her perfectly. She absolutely loves it and I am so happy to see something that I made being worn and enjoyed by one of my favourite people in the world.

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My thoughts on the pattern were that it was simple, the instructions were clear and there were some elements of challenge for the new sewist should they wish to give them a try i.e. pockets and shoulder tabs. A word of warning: although the pattern states that it is for beginners, there is an element of expectation that the sewist will be able to understand and execute some of the basic sewing skills. I am extremely grateful to myself for being patient and consolidating my skills by starting off with non-garment related sewing projects. This enabled me to get to grips with the basic sewing skills. Had I simply picked up a beginner pattern with no prior knowledge or practice, I would definitely have struggled and the process would have been tiresome and tedious.

Overall, a thoroughly enjoyable time was had and I intend to make another ‘Bettine’ in the coming weeks. This time, in my size so that I can have my very own ‘Bettine’ to wear. For now, I want to try my hand at a different type of garment and have decided that my next project will be a simple, sleeveless top. I have shortlisted a few patterns and will decide which best suits my choice of fabric. ‘The Bettine’ was a rip-roaring success and I highly recommend this pattern to all sewists, from novice through to expert.

Consolidation

A compilation of sewing projects in 2017

This week, my aim was to consolidate all of the basic sewing skills I have very recently acquired in my sewing adventure. This is particularly important, as I want to make my first attempt at sewing a dress next week. In order to adequately consolidate my skills, I set myself the task of making more of the items that I had made during my previous 3 weeks of sewing. I have been helped along by the fact that Mothers’ Day is fast approaching (26th March for us UK folk).

From my previously completed projects, I would be giving my mum and my fiancé’s nanny a few of my previously completed projects. All I had left to make were 2 cushion covers for my mother-in-law (to be). I have also made the decision to start an Etsy shop, in order to sell some of the accessories I have started to make.

I have various items that I would like to eventually start to sell, however zipper pouches are the first items on which I want to concentrate. This meant making more zipper pouches in order to practice improving upon their quality. I particularly like working with the PVC coated cotton but wanted to practise working with this material much more. Keeping my sewing goals at the forefront of my mind, my list of chosen projects was: 2 cushion covers and 5 zipper pouches.

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Zipper pouch collection

With my consolidation plan decided, I anticipated that I would complete an item a day, spanning across the entire week. This did not happen (many are the plans of a person’s heart) but I’ll save the reason why for my next post. What actually happened is that I took a break from the sewing machine for 4 days, then had the bright idea of challenging myself to complete all 7 items over the space of one evening/night.

I currently suffer from insomnia, a side effect from the work-related stress I sustained in my previous job, and thought it best to turn this weakness into a creative strength. I started my first zipper pouch at 17:30 on Friday evening (GMT) and finished my last cushion at 02:00 on Saturday morning (GMT). Every single item was completed within this time. In hindsight, this was a very ambitious task for a newbie sewist, however it was during this time sewing that I had my ‘EUREKA’ moment.

I cannot explain exactly what happened, except to say that everything suddenly clicked. I knew which steps to undertake next without the aid of a video tutorial, having continuously stumbled on this particular skill in previous projects. I finally began to understand why things had to be completed in a particular order or in a particular way. I noticed that my understanding of the fabrics I was using had greatly improved. I was cutting the fabric much better and working more efficiently, which meant that I was working much quicker. It felt amazing! I only used the seam ripper three times, a feat I still cannot quite believe that I achieved.

I encountered a few problems along the way, but they were minor and I was able to change my technique in order to accommodate for these issues, yet achieve the overall effect for the particular item. In the 4 days that I spent away from the sewing machine, I must have given my brain the time to properly process the new skills that I have been learning, therefore enabling me to effectively put them into practice when they were next called upon. Not only am I absolutely thrilled that the very basic sewing skills are no longer incredibly difficult for me to achieve, this situation has taught me a very important lesson: to take my time, because everything happens in good time.

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All in a night’s work
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Cushion close-up

Up until this week, I had been sewing practically every single day, eager to ensure that I rapidly improved upon my skills, pushing myself to learn a new skill with each new project. While this has been beneficial to my learning, in hindsight, there were a few key moments when I really should have taken at least a few days break from the sewing machine to give myself the time and space to fully take in what I had learned so far. Thankfully, this week I realised the need to take a break and ensured that I stayed away from the sewing machine. Instead, I read chapters in my sewing books that provided more in-depth knowledge of the basic sewing skills that I have been practising. I also rested.

Resting is equally as important as being busy and I never appreciated just how involved with sewing I have been, until I stepped away from it. The short break has done me the world of good and led to the creation of 7 items of a far superior quality than I have previously been able to achieve. I am absolutely elated and I cannot wait to see where my sewing will lead me. I now have the much needed confidence boost to continue with sewing and also to believe that I can become an excellent sewist.

I have also received sincere and genuine feedback from the gifts that I have recently made. The feedback has been very positive, particularly regarding the professional look of these items, despite me being at the start of my sewing journey. Today, I am very proud of what I have achieved so far with my sewing and I will continue to enjoy this moment while it lasts.

Sewing: I think I might just have cracked it. From now on it’s onwards and upwards!

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Zipper pouches galore

Zip it!

My first attempt at a zipper pouch.

I finally completed the project I recently set myself: a zipper pouch. I opted to use some PVC coated cotton I recently purchased. It looks and feels as though it is relatively durable, which is exactly what is required from a zipper pouch. In order to make the zipper pouch, I followed a tutorial from ‘MADE Everyday’. This is the third tutorial from this vlogger that I have used, simply because they are really easy to follow and she has a range of projects that I am particularly interested in creating, which are suitable for beginners like myself.

This project enabled me to see that my sewing skills have really improved in a short space of time. I think this is predominantly because I am currently sewing almost every day (I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment). Plus, I make sure that each new project builds on a skill that I have previously learned, as well as teaching me a new skill.

The most challenging part of the project was working with PVC coated cotton. Sewing on the wrong side of the fabric did not pose any problems and I was able to install the zip without any issues. In hindsight, this was because the right side of the fabric was sandwiched between the silky cotton fabric I used for the lining, when I was sewing the wrong side. Had the right side of the PVC coated cotton been exposed to the feed dogs, I would have discovered the impending problem much sooner. Next, it was time to topstitch on the right side of the fabric.

I used the standard presser foot for this and immediately noticed that something was not right. The fabric would slowly go through the feed dogs then grind to an unexpected halt. I unpicked the stitches and started again but the same thing kept happening repeatedly. When I looked at the threads in the fabric I was attempting to sew, I could see that the stitches on the wrong side of the fabric were pulled up really tightly, compared to the stitches on the right side of the fabric, which were as normal. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the tension needed adjusting. *Note to self – always check on the simplest of potential errors before rushing to fix presumed larger ones.* Thankfully, this thought came to mind before I started playing around with the tension of my sewing machine!

I tried increasing the length of the stitch, to no avail. I re-threaded the sewing machine and re-wound the bobbin but there was still no change. By this time, I was fed up and decided to pack away my project for the rest of the day. Overnight, I kept wracking my brain to try and work out where I was going wrong. The two changes I had made with this project compared to all of my previous projects was to use a different type of needle (I was sure that this was definitely not where the problem lay) and a different type of fabric.

The next morning, I woke up determined to find the solution to my sewing conundrum. I decided to Google “Working with PVC coated cotton,” to find out if anyone else had encountered similar problems to me when working with this particular type of fabric. If I could rule out the fabric as an issue, then the solution would most likely be to readjust the tension of the sewing machine, something that for me needed to be the very last resort. Lo and behold, there were blog posts galore about the difficulties of working with PVC coated cotton.

The most common suggestion was to purchase a Teflon presser foot, which would easily glide over the surface of the material without sticking to it. I went on to order one via ebay, but there would be a significant wait for it to arrive and I wanted to complete the project as soon as possible. The second suggestion was to cover a standard presser foot with scotch tape, in order to get a similar effect to the Teflon presser foot – I tried it but this technique did not consistently work for me.

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Front of zipper pouch

Unsatisfied after another unsuccessful attempt at completing the project and with frustration quickly setting in, I stepped away from the sewing machine and gave myself the rest of the day to mull things over. I set about finding my own solution to the problem. After much thought and careful consideration (to document my thought processes would require another post, so I’ll spare you…this time) the next day, I set about my mission: to successfully complete a zipper pouch!

I thought it might be a good idea to cover the right side of the material in baking paper. YES, BAKING PAPER! I sewed my topstitch to the right side of the garment and through the baking paper. The fabric went over the feed dogs with ease and the stitches on both sides were even. Once I had finished the topstitch, I carefully ripped the baking paper away from the stitches.

This method worked perfectly every single time. The baking paper was strong enough to provide a barrier between the presser foot and the sticky PVC coated cotton, yet fragile enough to enable me to tear it away, leaving the stitches intact. Using this method enabled me to finish not one, but two zipper pouches within a few hours. SEWING TIP ALERT: having issues sewing oilcloth/PVC coated fabrics and you don’t have a Teflon presser foot or scotch tape? Using baking paper works like a dream.

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Inside zipper pouch

Another con of working with PVC coated cotton is the fact that the remaining holes from unpicked stitches can be quite noticeable. I did make sure to press the wrong side of the fabric with a warm iron after unpicking seams, in order to help minimise the holes. However, this fabric can be unforgiving if constant mistakes are made. Of the 2 zipper pouches that I made, I kept one and gifted another to a relative in order to obtain some much needed feedback about the pouch’s usability and durability. My plan is to eventually start selling handmade items on Etsy – zipper pouches being a favourite of mine to make – so the more feedback I can get on my handmade items, the better.

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Back of zipper pouch

I really enjoyed completing this project, particularly independently overcoming the difficulties with using my choice of fabric. I stretched and challenged myself just enough to learn some new skills without getting too disheartened when I reached a stumbling block. Over this next week, I plan to consolidate what I have learnt so far by making more of the same items that I have completed over the past 3 weeks. My next challenge is to sew my first ever garment, so I will need to practice the basics as much as possible beforehand. For now, I will leave you with some photos of my finished zipper pouch. Until next time, happy sewing!

All Tied Up

My first attempt at making a tie.

With the pillowcases safely put to bed, I commenced my next project – a tie. I followed a tutorial from the same vlog where I found the pillowcase tutorial, ‘MADE Everyday’. The tutorial was easy to follow, however this was a bit of a trickier project from the outset because I did not have a pattern for a tie. I had to ask my fiancé for a tie he no longer liked and then proceeded to cut it apart. It was a win-win situation: I got to use the tie as a makeshift template and he got a much nicer, handmade tie as a replacement.

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The ill-fated tie

Using the tie as a template (bearing in mind that I had deconstructed a previously made tie, therefore would need to add point to the fabric, make the shape much neater, allow for seam allowances, etc) I proceeded to cut out the fabric I needed. I then pinned the fabric I had cut to the lining and used it to get an exact copy of the shapes for the front and back of the tie.

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One of the hardest parts (aside from the faff of cutting out the shapes for the tie without the use of a pattern, coupled with my shoddy cutting skills) was pinning together the front and back of the tie and sewing them together, in order to make one long, continuous length of fabric. There was a 1/4″ seam allowance and I had to get the edges together perfectly. Needless to say, unpicked my first try!

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Pinning the front and back of the tie for the lining and outer fabric

I carefully followed the instructions of the tutorial and was very happy with the finished results. Unfortunately, I made the loop on the tie too small, so it could not be used to hold the back of the tie in place. Lucky for me, my fiancé informed me that he does not bother to use the loops anyway (RESULT). I had also placed the loop too far up the tie, which meant that had it been big enough to use, it would have been impossible to do so. Shortly after taking the photograph, I cut the loop off – problem solved!

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Happy with the overall result from the first tie, I made a second tie (it turned into a skinny tie but mainly due to me making a mistake and refusing to unpick the entire length of the tie). Much like during the pillowcase project, my mistakes came thick and fast when I started making the second tie. I tried to complete the project with minimal assistance from the video (will I ever learn?!) and soon my best friend came out once again (the seam unpicker). Sigh….I HAVE learned my lesson since and I will follow tutorials, instructions and guidance relentlessly until they are firmly ingrained in my mind. Only then shall I try to sew from memory. I am blessed with the ability to somehow rectify any mistakes I make, regardless of how catastrophic, and still end up with a project that I can be proud of. I hope that this gift follows me throughout my sewing career. It is one that I am very happy to have.

The second tie turned out great and is a skinny tie to add to my fiancé’s collection. The first tie certainly got his seal of approval, as he proudly wore it to work at the beginning of this week. What a sweetheart! He made me a very happy lady that day. I must say that the other difficulty I had with the tie was turning it right-side out once completed. On the tutorial, the vlogger successfully attaches a safety pin to one end of the tie, turns the fabric on itself and pushes/threads the fabric and safety pin along the entire length of the tie.

I tried that method and failed miserably. I was also concerned about potentially ruining the fabric by using this method, so opted for a long-winded method that was much more time-consuming but worked for me. Horses for courses – I got the job done in the end. I would use this tutorial again to make other ties, which I intend to do very soon as my mum has requested one as a birthday gift for a relative. Another project all tied up. Next on my to do list is a zipper pouch.

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Everybody Needs a Pillowcase for a Pillow

My first attempt at making bedding.

Pillowcases were my next project, after finally completing the two aprons – my labour of love. I am planning to give my mum a collection of my sewing achievements as part of her Mothers’ Day present on 26th March. She is so thrilled that I have finally decided to take up sewing and is eager to see some of my projects, so I’m making an extra special effort to complete a few simple projects that I can do to the best of my abilities and make some special gifts for the special lady in my life.

So far, my mum can expect 1 cushion and 1 apron. Now there are 2 pillowcases that have been added to the collection. Making the pillowcases was the first time that I independently found a project to create, that I hadn’t already completed in a sewing class. I looked for a simple and easy to follow tutorial on YouTube and stumbled across the vlog, ‘MADE Everyday’.

Overall, the tutorial was very easy to follow and this vlogger is really upbeat and encouraging, without sounding patronising or condescending. There were times in the video when I had to rewind and go over steps that I was unsure of, however, I was able to create not 1 but 2 pillowcases in the space of an hour. The instructions were clear and the vlogger sews the pillowcases during the video, which was helpful for me to watch her technique and attempt to emulate it. The pillowcases that are created in the video do not have the inside, overlapping fabric that covers the end of the pillow. Following the tutorial to a ‘T’ will leave you with a very basic pillow covering, which is great if that’s the look that you are going for.

I, however, wanted a pillowcase in the true sense. This meant me scrutinising one of my own pillowcases to ascertain exactly how it had been sewn together, then making a few adjustments to my project, in order to create the overlapping fabric to cover the end of the pillow. It was a very simple alteration and the result was very effective. The amount of fabric used leaves more than enough room for slightly larger/bulkier pillows. Less fabric can be used than is recommended in the tutorial, in order to give a snug fit to a standard sized pillow. I liked how the pillows looked with the use of slightly more fabric, so I would keep to the same amount of fabric the next time that I make pillowcases.

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Pillowcase
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Pillowcase interior

For such a simple project, I made quite a few mistakes, but this is simply down to my status as sewing newbie. I am still perfecting all of the ‘easy’ skills that intermediate and advanced sewists take for granted. Another problem of mine is following instructions to a ‘T.’ My biggest problems came when making the second pillowcase. I thought that I knew all of the steps and could easily recall what should happen next, therefore I tried to make the pillowcase without the aid of the video…..EPIC FAIL!!

My brain was still getting to grips with all of the skills required to make this new project, so adding on the additional chore of memorising each step AND trying to get each step done as perfectly as I could led to many mistakes and the inevitable use of my best friend (the seam unpicker). Note to self – go easy with the seam unpicker, otherwise it leads to rips/tears in the fabric where rips/tears are not welcome.

THANKFULLY, the small tear occurred on the inside of the overlapping fabric that covers the end of the pillow, so I did a quick patch job to ensure that it didn’t turn into a major issue. I let my mum know about my slight error and she was very understanding, reassuring me that it didn’t matter and that she would be happy to accept ANYTHING that I made (oh, a mother’s love). I really enjoyed making these pillowcases and will make more in the future.