Category Archives: sewing

The sewing machine is still out

The sewing machine is still out from the superhero episode. We’ve moved on to getting going with the girls scrap quilts. Little littl’un is getting hers first; she wanted squares, Big littl’un wants triangles. Start easy and progress to the more difficult I thought.

IMG_8705So far it’s all going pretty well. Stacking up the squares as I cut up their old clothes was very satisfying. There’s such a mix of print sizes and colours in the fabric that I decided to place the squares completely randomly. It’s not a perfect job – some of the hems don’t line up exactly. I confess I’m not looking forward to quilting it; there’s no way I’ll be able to get it through my sewing machine so it’s going to have to be done by hand which I suspect is going to take a month of sundays. But when it’s done it’ll be pretty, and warm, and full of memories, so I’m happy.

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Wearing pants on the outside

Turn away knitters, there is nothing to see here.

Sewing has been the craft of the week. The littl’uns needed superhero costumes to wear to school for Comic Relief day but our dressing up box wasn’t delivering the goods. I’m not a big fan of bought costumes – the fabric can be cheap and scratchy and the clothes don’t usually get worn very often. Don’t even think about trying to wash them. So we went down the home-made route and turned three long-sleeved t-shirts and two pairs of leggings into costumes which can be worn again as everyday wear (though perhaps not as an ensemble). Much better value for money, which pleases me greatly.

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Big littl’un wanted a lightening bolt on her top, a cape, eye-mask and pants on the outside. What is it with superheros wearing their undies on top? In every other walk of life it would be frowned upon. Give yourself a fancy name and special powers and pants on top becomes obligatory. Her entire costume started out as two t-shirts and a pair of leggings (plus thread, a bit of interfacing and some knicker elastic. New, not used.). Her cape was the back and neckline of one shirt, the pants were made from the front of the same shirt and the eye-mask and lightening bolt started out as the sleeves.

Little littl’un’s superpower was story reading, so she just wanted a book on her top. Once she’d seen her sister’s eye-mask she wanted one of those too.  Her t-shirt design was bits of old fabric I had lying around the house (totally validating my tendency to hoard old clothes rather than recycle them). Her cape previously belonged to Little Red Riding Hood and her pants are half of big littl’un’s bikini.

They proclaimed the results AWESOME and I remembered how much I enjoyed using my sewing machine, so everyone’s a winner. Big littl’un even kept her whole outfit on to go to athletics after school – cape and eye-mask and all.

superhero costumes

Order is everywhere

As I’ve been thinking about making the girls scrap quilts I’ve been looking for inspiration in other people’s quilting on Pinterest and other places around the internet. Now I see order – regular arrangements of shapes and colour – everywhere I look. I know the universe tends towards chaos, but nature (and humans) seems to stick two fingers up at the universe and impose order on everything.

Order in nature

Clockwise from top L: Peacock feathers; Small Tortoiseshell; Houses in Burano, Italy; Smoking bloaters, Stonehaven, Scotland

Lots of the quilts I’ve been ogling use very simple shapes – squares, rectangles and half-square triangles. These same shapes are found in design for all manner of objects, from buildings to brollies.

Quilt shapes in design

Clockwise from top L: Squares in paper woven by little littl’un; Rectangles in building in Glen Tanar estate, Scotland; Half-square triangles in mosaic, Verona, Italy; Half-square triangles in my umbrella

Given my limited quilting experience, I think simple shapes are definitely the way to go. My past quiltmaking is limited to a cot quilt I made for Big littl’un’s first birthday. The fabrics were all naturally dyed (not by me I might add) and they’ve faded considerably. (The blocks top right have faded to a particularly dirty looking shade, please pretend you didn’t notice.)

Blue, pink and purple cot quilt

Quilt made for Big littl’un’s first birthday

I arranged the blocks on that quilt by trial and error, laying them out on the floor until I was happy with the layout. This time I’m embracing technology and have been using Adobe Illustrator to mock-up some ideas for block placement. It’s been a doddle, I’ve had a great time playing around with different arrangements of pattern. Illustrator is brilliant for quickly manipulating size and shape of blocks, rotating and reflecting objects – so much quicker than sketching it out on graph paper.

Tonight the girls get to choose which layout they like, and then the fun bit starts – cutting the fabric. Now where did I put that rotary cutter?

It might come in useful

So here’s the thing. I’m really bad at throwing things away. Just can’t do it. Those rubber bands the postman bundles our letters in? I’ve got a bagfull. Curtain hooks from the curtains that were in the house 9 years ago when we moved in? Safely kept. After all, you never know when they might come in useful.

Worst of all is clothes. The littl’un’s baby clothes especially. Why would I throw them away? We might need them …  one of my brothers might have babies and need them … someone I once met might have a baby and need them …

We’ve got a cupboard where I store all this stuff. All the camping gear, Christmas things, suitcases, towels, spare duvets and pillows; all crammed in to one cupboard with the outgrown baby stuff. (Granted it’s quite a large cupboard but it’s definitely a cupboard, not a store-room. You couldn’t swing a cat in there.)

My lovely cousin is expecting her first baby soon so I went into that cupboard to see if there was anything she might want. It had got a bit out of control if I’m honest, so I attacked it, dragged everything out and went through the lot. Maybe it was because it was the New Year, but I suddenly had the urge to get rid of stuff. Really, did I need 24 baby vests? Nope. There were clothes in there I couldn’t even remember the girls wearing.

There were some things though that I had intentionally kept. I’ve always wanted to make each of the girls a quilt from their baby clothes. They might not be able to remember wearing them all, but I will, and they’ll have photos of themselves in them too.

Clockwise L-R: Big littl'un aged 2 in the first top I made for her from scratch; Big littl'un aged 2 riding on Flint-dog (no longer with us); the littl'uns on holiday in Italy; little littl'un aged 2 in a WWI cemetery in France

Clockwise from top L: Big littl’un aged 2 in the first top I made for her from scratch; Big littl’un aged 2 riding on Flint-dog (no longer with us); The littl’uns on holiday in Italy; Little littl’un aged 2 in a WWI cemetery in France

All those cotton dresses and tops are now rescued, sorted by colour and waiting to be cut.

The blue pile - clothes ready for cutting for quilt tops. Can you spot them on the girls?

The blue pile – clothes ready for cutting for quilt tops. Can you spot them on the girls?

Everything else is bagged up ready for reuse/recycling. A full cubic metre* of clothes came out of that cupboard. The funny thing is, there’s definitely not an extra cubic metre of room in the cupboard now. Go figure.

* I know this because I’ve had a cubic metre of clothes in bags in my dining room for the past week. My nearest fabric recycling bank is full. If it’s not emptied soon I’m going to crack and put everything back in the cupboard … after all, you never know when it might come in useful.