Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

Season's Greetings
Good Wishes 
for a 
Fabulous New Year
to all my readers.

End of Term - Show and Tell

I have also put this post onto my other blog as I know I have different readers for each. It is the only post that is the same, so if you haven't popped over to Pretty Goods yet, click here to see lots of other posts about what I do and what I've done!! 

 End of Term - show and tell!

Last week the Learn to Sew students I teach (with Kent Adult Education Service) completed their first 10 week course.
Diane surrounded by her handiwork. 

I have been so pleased with their progress, and couldn't wait to photograph them with all their 'makes'.
Seven ladies enrolled, all with no, or limited sewing experience. Some had borrowed machines, others had their own, but were unsure how to use them, and one bought in a 80 year old hand operated singer to do her sewing on.
Jackie at her sewing machine.

I usually like to run my classes like a workshop, with students choosing what they want to make, but with beginners a little more structure is needed. So I started the course by showing how to wind a bobbin and how to thread the machine, then a little sewing practice on scrap fabric. Not too much of this though, it's much better to learn by making something useful. 
We started with lined shoulder bags - lots of straight sewing and a buttonhole; moved onto simple cushion covers with a zipped opening across the centre back; then a cushion with a frill and instructions to follow (click for a link to my other blog and a tutorial for this cushion); a piped cushion cover, with a hidden zip in the piped seam and some machine appliqué on a lavender bag.
Nicole, ready to sew.

A few of the students wanted to try other things. Appliqué on a wash bag; aprons, shopping bags - and Kate, a complete beginner wanted to make boxed and piped cushion covers for a rocking chair (yikes!!)  - but hey! look at her achievement.....
Didn't Kate do well?

Two students made a lined bag with a flat, stiffened bottom and another finished the course by making an apron with a curved pocket on the front.

Their enthusiasm was great and all the students made other items at home, using the patterns and instructions used in class. 
Some more pictures of all their work:
Diane's cushions made from vintage and re-used fabrics, and a tweed bag from an old skirt.
Diane, using her hand operated singer to attach piping to a cushion front. She has done really well to produce  more items at home.

Nicole, showing off her frilled cushion.

Alison, with her roomy, flat bottomed shopping bag.

Jackie's cushions, bag, shoe bag and appliquéd lavender sachet.

Kate, at her new Janome, with all her makes.
Kate really got into applique - her daughters now have some fab T-shirts decorated by mummy!
Kate's cushion matches her box cushions.

I'm so pleased with all their achievements, and looking forward to them returning next term, along with some new beginners. 

Well Done Ladies!!

My soft furnishing students also completed the first term of a 30 week course, and here are a couple of my long term students with their fabulous cushions.

A trio of Union Jacks by Rose. Aren't they fabulous?
Rose, with her cushions.

Jill loves using this gorgeous linen fabric from Ada and Ina, and combined it with some pretty cotton she brought back from a holiday in Japan.
The printed fabric strip conceals a zip opening!
The other side of Jill's cushion.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Make a Christmas Stocking

Make this pretty Christmas stocking from my easy to follow instructions.

I have chosen a piece of new linen and some pretty vintage French cotton for the outside, with recycled cotton from an old sheet for the lining. A length of crocheted lace, recycled ric rac and a vintage button adds some simple decoration.

The tutorial has been designed for those with little experience in sewing, but the more skilful crafter may like to add an appliquéd motif or some personalisation with hand or machine embroidery.

You could choose other fabrics in which to make this stocking; white linen, red and white gingham and a red bobble trim would give it a traditional look, whereas a  piece of tweed recycled from a man’s jacket, a bit of corduroy and some jute fringing will produce a rustic, homespun effect.
Silk, satin and beading will look striking, while velvet, satin and a braid trim will be rich and sumptuous. 

First of all you need to make a pattern. Download and print or trace the pattern above and then photocopy to the size you’d like. You don’t need to add a seam allowance to the pattern, just use a 1cm seam throughout.

Use some tracing paper and trace out each of the pattern pieces. You need a lower stocking piece, a lining, a cuff, and a toe piece.

Choose enough fabric to be able to cut two of each pattern piece. Making sure you have the fabrics doubled with WS together, pin on the patterns keeping the double ended arrow on the straight grain of the fabric. Cut out the pieces.
You should now have two lower stocking pieces, two linings, two contrasting toe pieces and two contrasting cuffs.

Lay the WS of the contrast toe pieces on top of the RS of the lower stockings, matching the notch, pin and zigzag along the inner edge. Remove pins.
Pin the bottom edge of the cuff to the top edge of the lower stocking, RS together, matching the notch,  and machine together with a 1cm seam. Press the seam upwards.

Now, put the front edges of the stocking, RS together, taking care to match the join between the cuff and lower stocking. Pin and machine from the top to about 5cm below the cuff seam only.
Press the seam to one side, and turn over so that the right side is facing you.

 Stitch on your chosen trim/s to hide the seam line on the RS.
Refold the stocking RS together, matching up the cuff seams and the toe pieces, and complete the stitching all round, leaving the top edge open. 
 Snip into the seam around the curves of the stocking, that’s the instep, toe and heel, to enable the stocking to turn RS out easily. Take care not to cut the stitches.
Turn the stocking RS out, rolling the seams out to shape the stocking and press it well. 
 Cut a bias strip, about 30cm x 4cm, from the contrasting fabric. Fold RS together, lengthwise, and stitch a 1cm seam. Turn through with a rouleau hook or a 
safety pin and press flat.
Fold in half and pin the two raw ends either side of the back seam of the stocking, matching the ends to the top edge of the stocking.
Put the lining pieces RS together and stitch all round, leaving the top and a gap of about 10cm on the back seam open.
Take the main stocking and insert it into the lining, matching the front and back seams of each piece together. If you slip your hand inside the main stocking, it is easy to then slide it fully down into the lining.

Match the top edges of the stocking and lining and pin together. Make sure the loop is tucked down between the two layers. Machine stitch all round with a 1cm seam.

Now push the stocking through the gap in the back seam of the lining, pulling it all the way out, turning the lining RS out at the same time.

Pull the lining right out so that it forms a double ended ‘stocking’ together with the main stocking.
Turn the seam allowance of the gap to the inside of the lining, press and stitch the two folds together, to close the gap.
Push the lining back into the stocking.

Put your hand inside the lining to push it right down into the toe and heel.
As it is pushed down fully, the top edge of the cuff will roll to the inside of the stocking by about 1cm. Press this flat and pull the loop upwards.
Sew a button onto the outside back of the stocking, at the base of the hanging loop.....
........et..... voila...... a completed Christmas stocking.   Well Done!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Pleated curtain headings made simple!

As a designer/maker/tutor of bespoke, handmade soft furnishings this handy machine would save me so much time!

It's not really cheating either, as pleated headings are usually sewn by machine, before being finished by hand.

Do any of my readers have, or use, one of these?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Spray on fabric - are you ready for this?

The inventor says it will revolutionise fashion... but would YOU dare to wear spray-on clothes?

Dr Torres first had the idea for a spray-on fabric while studying for an MA in fashion womenswear at the Royal College of Art. After switching look-books for the chemistry lab, he teamed up with particle technologist Professor Luckham to research and develop the idea....

Read the whole article, by Laura Stott on Mail Online.

......Now, would I prefer to spray on my clothes or sew them? With my figure, definitely the latter! 

What about you?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

My Faithful Pfaff (and the benefits of it's IDT system)

I have had my Pfaff machine for nearly 15 years. It was a top-of-the-range model when I bought it and I have used it at least four times a week ever since. It is a Pfaff 7570, and came complete with an embroidery unit and a couple of cards of embroidery designs.

I love my machine, it has worked so hard making soft furnishings for myself and my clients, my clothes, my children's clothes, my stepdaughter's wedding dress and five bridesmaids dresses, all the items for my online shops and oh! loads more.

I have it serviced regularly, about once a year, and it has never (touch wood) needed a major repair. I don't hanker after a newer model as my beloved does everything I need.

I see lots of sewing machines in my job as a sewing tutor - everything from fabulous Janomes, to 1920's hand operated, straight stitch only Singers. Many of my students ask me to recommend a brand of machine for them to purchase but with so many out there it is hard to pick just one.

However, I would always recommend a Pfaff, particularly to the ladies I teach as I know it would suit the projects they have in mind. Janome machines come a close second, especially as you get a lot of machine for your money, and I am liking Juki's too.

What I love about Pfaff machines is the IDT system, a walking foot that is permanently attached to the machine, which can be engaged or disengaged as desired.

IDT, exclusive to Pfaff,  stands for Integrated Dual Transportation,.. but known as the only way to feed any fabric with no slippage on a sewing machine for absolute perfect stitching.

I use mine all the time, except when using specific feet that don't allow the dual feed to be used. As it is so narrow and fits neatly behind the foot, it can be used for making and attaching piping and zips: we all know how difficult it can be to stop the fabrics slipping against one another when sewing these, but when the IDT system is used they don't slip and you just get beautiful results.

The IDT is brilliant for matching patterns at seams, with no slippage or movement of the pattern, great at sewing velvets and other pile fabrics, and can manage several thick layers without a problem. You also get no puckering when sewing fine fabrics like silk or polyesters. In fact it makes machine sewing so easy.

Other machines do have walking feet attached, like the Janome 6600p with Acufeed, which is brilliant for quilting and preventing slippage between all the layers, but in my experience, can't be as versatile as Pfaff's IDT system, as the foot is so wide and cannot be used for getting close to piping and zips. Please let me know if any one knows differently!

You can also buy walking feet that you can attach to your machine instead of the usual feet, but these, although good, are quite bulky and do have limited uses.

So, if you are thinking of buying a sewing machine, this post may give you something to think about. What ever you do though, consider buying the very best machine that you can afford, as you will always be wishing you had!

And, despite loving my faithful Pfaff, I'm sure that if I won the lottery I'd go straight out and buy another top-of-the-range machine....another Pfaff,  of course!

Sunday, 12 September 2010


For crafts persons and up-cyclers every where - take a look at this article from Mail Online , Sunday 12th September.

 Waste not, want lots!

A growing band of crafty creatives is tackling the problem of our ‘throwaway’ culture by reinventing yesterday’s trash as tomorrow’s treasure. Here we meet some of the upmarket ‘upcyclers’ who are putting the funk into junk.

Zoe Murphy

To see the rest of this inspirational article click here

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Knit your own dog!

Keen on canines and a sucker for stitching? A new collection of patterns shows you how to combine your passions and knit your own pooch.

Old English sheepdog. The book advises: 'Don't worry if you make mistakes as the loopy stitch will hide most errors' Photo: Holly Joliffe
The knitwear designers Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne share two great loves: knitting and dogs. And their latest project, Best in Show: Knit Your Own Dog,is the love child. This wryly photographed book contains the knitting patterns for 25 dogs, from the fairly straightforward dachshund to the more challenging old English sheepdog and Afghan hound. You can knit your very own royal corgi, Lassie or even Bo, the Obamas' super-trendy Portuguese water dog.

Read more of this article from the Telegraph (Friday 10th September 2010)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Do you make bags? Then check out this new book by Lisa Lam

Just over a week ago I received my pre-ordered copy of a fabulously informative book on bag making.

It's the long awaited "The Bag Making Bible" by Lisa Lam of U-handbag.

I enjoy reading Lisa's blog posts, and find her tutorials full of valuable information. I also buy my frames, handles and bag hardware from her on-line shop.

Lisa's first book is not a disappointment - it is a wealth of information, fantastic pictures and little hints and tips to make tricky jobs easy!

I have been teaching sewing for 30 odd years, both in secondary schools and Adult Education, so I have seen many 'how to' books on sewing and making, and this is, by far, my favourite and, I think, the best I have seen. 
Lisa has got it just right. 

If you are new to making bags use the actual size patterns, supplied in the back of the book, and follow all the instructions to create a fabulous bag for yourself.

If you already make your own bags, and make your own patterns, as I do, there is still a whole load of information that will make your bags look so professional.

I really like the little 'Need to Know' boxes that appear on most pages, with snippets of information to make the task in hand a little easier.

Lisa's instructions are succinct and easy to understand, supported by the colourful, but detailed photographs. 
The whole book is inspirational and a pleasure to read.

So if you think you'd like to give bag making a try, you really must treat yourself to this book, and if you already make bags, buy it anyway - I bet you'll refer to it time and again!

I'm sure my copy of this book will be well used, and I shall recommend it to all my adult students, some of whom are avid bag makers.

I'm looking forward to seeing more publications by Lisa!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sewing Courses

Looking for sewing courses?

Sewing courses

Contrary to popular belief sewing courses and classes are not just for beginners looking to learn to sew. Yes, there are beginner's classes out there, but there are also a lot of courses aimed at helping experienced sewers expand their skills. How many of you sew from a pattern and would like to learn to draft your own patterns? Do you do dressmaking but would like to learn about soft furnishings? Well now is the perfect time to learn. The credit crunch has led to an increase in people wanting to learn to sew and a corresponding increase in the number of courses available.
The Daily Mail reported a 500% rise in sales of Argos own brand sewing machines in August 2009, and many newspapers and magazines are running regular articles on how to sew and make things yourself.
So the question is where do you start?Dressmaking dummy
There are 3 important things you need to ask yourself:
What do you want to learn?
How do you want to learn?
How much can you afford to spend?

To continue reading this information please click onto

You can find sewing teachers/tutors, classes and groups  and lots more information on this UK specific site.  
(I'm sorry not to be able to offer the same to my overseas readers).

Saturday, 21 August 2010

A Class Act - get Creative with Adult Education.

As an ex secondary school teacher of textiles, who sadly saw the demise of the subject in some schools 20 years or so ago, I'm now thrilled at the resurgence in the popularity of needlecrafts again.

New 'creative' magazines seem to be appearing on the newsagent's shelves each month, each of them featuring articles and ads. for workshops, classes and meetings for sewing, patchwork, knitting, crochet, felting and crafting, etc.

I love the funky ideas for classes; the 'green/eco' image of make do and mend; make it yourself and upcycling; sitting around a huge table sharing ideas and drinking tea from vintage china whilst sewing and making, and fun, trendy instructors.

However......although these classes are portrayed as new, innovative and eco, other sewing/creative classes have been going on for years at Adult Education Centres all over the country.

As I now work as an Adult Ed. tutor, teaching sewing and soft furnishings, I think it's time to up the image of Adult Education and show just what is on offer.
We hold open days, taster days and mini workshops to generate interest and encourage enrolments but sometimes we still struggle to fill some of the creative courses. Why?

Is it because Adult Education is perceived as stuffy, old fashioned and expensive? Or because classes are held at odd times, in old fashioned centres with outdated equipment.

If this is what you think of Adult ed. then you are so wrong!

Just type Adult education centres into your search engine and take a look at the number of towns and cities that offer classes. Click onto your nearest centre and see the variety of creative courses on offer.

Adult Ed can offer all that the new, trendy, privately owned establishments do, and more! All tutors have to be qualified with a CertEd in post 16 education and have to regularly attend subject relevant and other courses for their Continued Professional Development. Some courses are also accredited, allowing the student to gain a qualification in their chosen craft.

Centres often have fully equipped, purpose built craft rooms in modern and light buildings with coffee bars and galleries.

Gone are the days of 'night classes'. Although courses are offered in the evening, centres hold classes throughout the day too, all through the year. Some courses may be just for a day; others an intensive 5 consecutive days; family days are offered, and are often free, exhibitions of students work may   follow a completed course and classes will often only have 8 or 10 students max.

AND, where else will you be able to take a class for just around £4 per hour, with concessions for some, that reduces the cost even more.

With the popularity of creative classes heightening there is room for both Adult Education and high street classes to exist, and I certainly don't favour one over the other, in fact I also run a private sewing class, enjoyed by a group of local women. 

But, I would really like to see features on Adult Education classes in all the creative magazines and on their websites, to enlighten their readers that Adult Education classes are fun, funky, fashionable and accessible - and just as cool as those classes found in the high streets.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cut Work Embroidery on the Sewing Machine

15 years ago I bought myself a new sewing machine, a top-of-the-range Pfaff 7570. It cost me a fortune, (then) and I thought it was the bee's knees! It came with a free embroidery unit and several day's tuition at the suppliers workshops.
I wanted it to pay for it's self, after all I bought it with some of my lump sum after I took ill health retirement from teaching. 
And it has, several times over. I have made my children's clothes on it, from when they were babies to now, for my 13 yr. old daughter. I have sewn clothes for myself, all the soft furnishings in the house and used it for my soft furnishings business and the handmade items I sell in my on-line shops.

15 years on and top-of-the-range machines sell for £5,000 plus. I don't need to buy one, I still love my faithful Pfaff but I am amazed at what sewing machines can now do!

This Bernina software and specialised cutting attachment will enable the machine to cut out patterns and shapes that you design yourself.

BERNINA CutWork Accessory - The new generation of cutting

BERNINA CutWork Accessory - The new generation of cutting

BERNINA CutWork Accessory and BERNINA CutWork 
Software take embroidery to a new level
Let your imagination fly!

There’s a new edge to creative sewing ... cutting! 
The BERNINA CutWork Accessory together with the BERNINA CutWork Software gives your BERNINA embroidery system the power to cut shapes, patterns and designs from single or multiple fabric layers. Cut sharp, crisp edges quickly and easily
Staying on the cutting edge can be sew much fun!

I don't think this is available in the UK yet - non of the UK sites seem to have any details, but is is available in the States.
However, I'm sure it will be possible to see it in action at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October.