Sunday, 24 February 2013


...As in bags, not the bizarre abbreviation.

Whilst pondering what to do with some fabric I dug out of the cupboard yesterday I thought I would knock up a quick lightweight tote bag tutorial to post before I head off to Wiltshire with family for a few days.

It looks pretty long but don't let that put you off as it's actually quite straightforward! (I've not yet mastered the art of succinct explanations). I'm really pleased with the result too. I'd never usually put orange and fushia together but I think it really works and has a modern 'colour blocking' feel.

Anyway after finishing it I realised that I have accumulated a pretty large collection of bags already -so who fancies a freebie?

Leave a little comment at the bottom and check back next week when I'll pick a name out of a hat or something and pop it in the post (If you don't hold an account be sure to leave some form of contact info!).

[UPDATE 02/03/2012 This tote bag is on it's way to Margaret who I hope will enjoy it!]

Simple Tote Bag Tutorial
You will need;
  • Paper/Pen to create a stencil
  • Coordinating Fabric (Approx. 65cm x 90cm main body, and 35cm x 50cm contrast)
  • Sewing Machine/Thread/Scissors
  • Iron/Ironing board

The first step is to create your template. I thought I'd walk through how to draw one up rather than just posting a printable version as it's so straight forward and you can then tailor make one to your own sizing/specifications.

Start with a rectangle the approximate size you'd like your finished bag to be -Landscape/portrait, you choose! Then add sides and a base like the picture below. The base/sides dictate how deep your bag will be (the base depth and side width must be the same!).

Lastly add your seam allowances. 1cm to each side (not the base as this will be cut on the fold) and 4cm to the top for hemming. I started with a 30cm x 35cm rectangle and added 6cm sides before adding my seam allowance.

Fold your main fabric and lay it out in front of you with the fold at the bottom. Line up the base of your pattern piece with this fold then cut around it.

[If you want to keep things simple, or are using a printed fabric all over then miss out this next step]

Using your existing piece as a template, cut an identical (albeit shorter) piece from your folded contrasting fabric remembering to allow for 1cm to be pressed under at the top edges. This will serve to add decoration as well as reinforce the base of your bag.

Laying both pieces out flat with the right sides facing up, pin and then top stitch the contrasting piece onto your main body close to both turned under edges. You can now treat these two pieces as one.

To construct your tote, first use a zig-zag stitch to run along the 4 sides to prevent fraying. Now stitch the side seams with the right sides together 1cm from the edge and press the seams open.

To close up the remaining holes, simply flatten and pin as shown in the picture below, and sew (again 1cm). Run a zig-zag stitch along these seams to prevent fraying.

All that's left is to make and attach the handles. I cut a rectangle measuring 56cm x 8cm for each handle. You can adjust the length/width to suit -but be sure to allow a little extra length for attaching them!

Fold and press your handles in half, and then further press in the outer edges (like bias binding). Press in half again so that all of the raw edges are concealed then top stitch either side for a neat finish.

To hem your tote, press inwards 1cm of your extra allowance, and then fold and press inwards again the remaining 3cm. Before stitching this in place arrange and pin your handles into the seam, as shown in the picture below, making sure that both sides are symmetrical. They will point inwards for now.

Stitch your hem in place near the fold, securing the ends of the handles at the same time. Then press and pin your handles the correct way (facing outwards).

Finally, to ensure that they're attached securely, stitch a crossed box as shown at each join. Et voila.

If you give this a go I'd love to hear how you got on/see any creations!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Fabric & Suppliers.

I was delving through my fabric stash recently to remind myself of what I have hanging about and came upon this bundle of fat quarters which I purchased several years ago.

I love the colours and they're really fun prints -I've just never been quite sure what to do with them and so they've been languishing in the cupboard. They're prints licensed to Andover Fabrics by the New Mexico Museum of Folk Art.

I have a couple of prototypes which I'm currently playing around with so will possibly use some of it for those... Anyone have any suggestions?

Anyway, I thought I would share a few websites which I love. I may as well use this opportunity to point out that I am not paid to endorse any of these companies -or anything else on this blog for that matter!

I can (and frequently do) spend hours on end looking through the beautiful fabrics. Whether you're an experienced stitcher or a crafting novice, I'm sure you'll find some inspiration for your next/first project on one of the following.

A great selection of designer fabrics and patterns including this new addition 'Sing out loud' in 'Blue mist' by Sweetwater.

Great fabric selection, but also stocks embroidery and paper craft supplies. Definitely need to find a use for this 'Laddies and Poppets' by Michele Brummer Everett for Cloud 9.

I've used this website several times and am always delighted with the purchases and how speedily they arrive. This is 'Bento sushi box' in 'Aqua' by Robert Kaufman.

I bought this 'Buck stag with glasses' by Japanese firm Echino a couple of weeks ago and it's currently waiting to be transformed into a new bag. Also stocks a great range of 'Kam snaps' (UK based so saves on shipping!).

Another fabric store worth noting is Fabricland. If you have one locally then pop in. My local store has a great selection of basics at unbelievable prices plus loads of sewing accessories, but no be honest I wouldn't bother with the website. (Click the link and you'll see why!)

So there you are. Get cracking! If you need any further inspiration I have a few tutorials up my sleeve for the next couple of weeks. In the mean time check here for project ideas.

Happy Crafting!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Summer Dress

A few months ago I bought a racer back vest which I liked the fit of so much that I thought I would duplicate it. I chose a spotted navy crepe which draped really nicely. Its now become a wardrobe staple (and it only cost a fraction of the original!).

I thought the shape would translate pretty well into a dress simply lengthened and gathered with elastic at the waist and when doodling some ideas I thought I'd add a bit of interest by throwing in a sort of 'shirt dress' element by splitting the front and faux buttoning it (because lets be honest... who can be bothered with buttonholes unless they're actually necessary!).

The crepe caught my eye whilst I was fabric shopping with my niece earlier in the week. Even when I'm supposed to be shopping for someone else I just can't help myself. So I grabbed a metre and set to work on it last night.

Embarrassingly despite having had my trusty machine (Bernina Activa 220 in case anyone is interested) for almost ten years now, I've never bothered playing around with the extra feet/stitches -always sticking to the trusty straight/zig-zag. I happened upon the manual and decided it was about time I did! Turns out my machine has a pretty nifty overlocker foot and stitch which worked perfectly for this project.

My little sewing corner.
The stitch sews the seam and covers the edges, stopping fraying, simultaneously -saving some time but also giving a nice neat finish. I also like the fact that it cuts down on wastage by enabling me to cut my pieces with hardly any seam allowance. Definitely one to use again.

Anyway I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. [Note to self -stop trying to take pictures with no natural light.] May even try to churn out a few variations whilst willing the sunshine and warmth to return!

Friday, 15 February 2013

Half Term Dressmaking

I've spent the last few days doing some dressmaking with my niece who came to stay. My sister asked me to make her a summer dress but instead I thought it would be quite nice to spend a little time helping her to make one for herself.

We chose a pattern to use as a base. It needed a little altering -namely moving the side seams and shortening the bodice. We then walked to Fabricland where she chose her own fabric, this white cotton with a large cherry print which we thought was bright and summery.

Having barely done any sewing previously, she did a fantastic job! Starting with the lining where any imperfections wouldn't show, she edged pieces with a zig-zag stitch then stitched and pressed the seams. We then moved on to the self (with only a little help from Auntie Marie!).

Charley had fun, and was thrilled with the result -though unfortunately we didn't have enough time to quite finish it completely. (Grandma is going to put in the zip -Thanks Grandma!).

I have to say, for a first attempt I'm very impressed!

Sunday, 10 February 2013


Valentines Day doesn't exist in our household. There was a conversation very early on which went a little something like...

'Just so you know I've never bought a Valentines card and I don't intend to start now'

', ok'.

On a slightly more romantic note this is because we try to do nice things for each other spontaneously all year round rather than on a day when society (and greetings card companies) dictate that we ought to. 

For those of you who do indulge in marking the 14th February with treats for loved ones I thought I'd share this great card collection (and for those who don't -there's always the other 364 days!).

They are designed by a friend/ex-colleague/all-round-good-egg Kate Blandford, and are available both printed and hand stitched. I love seeing modern/whimsical designs created using a very traditional craft, breathing a bit of new life into it. Head over to her blog to have a gander at some more of her work.

If you'd like to purchase one they're available from Kate's Etsy, but better be quick as there are only a few left!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Window Shopping

Just returned from the shops on a little inspiration seeking venture. It's not often that I find many things on the high street that jump out at me. Today was one another one of those days where I come home brimming with ideas but with an empty shopping bag. I think I might treat myself to some fabric instead.

I fell in love with this a few days ago so think I'll order some and in the mean time try to think of something suitably brilliant to do with it!

Its a Japanese canvas called 'Buck Stag with Glasses' by Echino and if you love it as much as me, it can be purchased here.

I love killing time in a good bookshop, Foyles is a firm favourite locally. Spent about an hour browsing, no purchases today but I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of Metric Pattern Cutting for Children's wear and Babywear.

I've decided to create a small children's wear line, and I'm going back to the drawing board to create my own from scratch.

It's been some time since I've done any flat pattern making (as I have always tended towards draping on a mannequin when it comes to designing things for myself) so we'll soon see how that goes...

 More updates on that when I have anything further to report!