Friday, 30 December 2011

A bit of breathing space..

Its always a bit of a strange time this. The massive build up to Christmas is suddenly over and, not that I didn't have a great one (and I hope everyone else did), but the anticipation never quite lives up to the day itself. The girls had opened all of their presents within half an hour, which is less time than it took Mr B and I to assemble their respective scooters. Note to self, as still relatively inexperienced parents, next year have on hand:
Batteries of assorted sizes.

I honestly needed more tools for their presents than I use on servicing a saxophone. Must be better prepared in future.
The week before Christmas was a manic rush of present preparation and friend visiting. I must at this point thank to good people of Fakenham. Market day before Christmas, a friend and I donned out purple sequined Santa hats and entertained (presumably) the shoppers with a bit of festive busking. Its the first time I have played in public for well over ten years and wasn't the ritual humiliation I was expecting. And the pennies in the hat were enough to tell us our 'talents' had been appreciated. Worth standing out in the cold for, and good fun too.. Sometimes its good to try something that puts you out of your comfort zone. Do I sense a New Years resolution coming on??

So to business.

I feel like I'm becoming a bit of an advertising space for Urban Threads, but they have had a massive influence on what I've been up to recently. Which is why a combination of this as a free download a couple of weeks ago:
and some perishing weather led me down the line of a good old fashioned muff.

And very cosy it is too. Simply cut a piece of denim 12" x 17" and a piece of faux fur 16" x 17".
Sew the shorter edges of both pieces together. I put a neck strap on this one. Then I made two without and in retrospect I wish I'd left the strap off this one, but if you wish to add one, cut a strip of denim 4" by your requisite length, turn the edges in by 1/2"  and iron, then fold in half, press and sew down each side. Sandwich this in between the edges of the outside before you sew it up, about an inch in from the edge, pointing downwards:
Then, and this was a little bit of trial and error I must admit, and I no doubt there are easier ways to do it, I tucked the denim inside the fur, right sides facing and sewed around the opening on one side. I then turned it the right way out, tucked the edge of the fur under and pinned it to the other edge of the denim and sewed around that edge to finish. I did find that putting the zipper foot on the machine meant that I didn't get the foot of the machine caught up in the furriness. Its a very simple thing to do and I love mine.

When I say that Urban Threads has had a big influence on me, I think just about every ones Christmas presents that were made by me had a bit of them on somewhere. I was musing about Kirstie Allsopp's book binding in my last post. Well I got me some leather and ta-dah!
They snuck onto an apron too:
Not to mention a custom knitting bag I made:

The possibilities.. endless.

Right, I'm off to burn some more leather. Happy days.

And a happy New Year too. xx

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mad as a March Hare

I realise that its apparently less than three weeks until Christmas. Well I didn't until Kirsty Allsop just told me. And in advance, my apologies. I have one eye on writing the post and one on Kirsty's Handmade Christmas. So I hope this makes sense.
The reason for the title is this:
My tasty new bag. Its what happens when you've been sitting on some sale fabric with an Alice in Wonderland theme, all white rabbits, playing cards, pocket watches; and a machine embroidery pattern of a rather dapper rabbit. Yes, the new toy is working, my purse is a lot lighter after downloading a good few patterns (thanks Urban Threads), and acquiring a good stash of coloured threads, and my patience is once again slightly tested, but its worth it as I just stand there and watch the machine do its business, creating wonderful patterns.
Anyhow, with these items at my disposal, plus some red suede effect curtains on their third lease of life, I spent yesterday evening making something for myself. I know I should be on the Christmas present trail, but there's plenty of time..!?

The Wonderland Bag Tutorial

You will need:
2@16"x10"  Main fabric
2@16"x10" Lining Fabric
4@16"x7" velvet/suede fabric
2@34"x4" velvet/suede for handles
2@16"x16" heavy iron on interfacing
2@34"x3" heavy iron on interfacing for handles
Magnetic snap.

  • Pin a piece of the main fabric to the suede fabric along the long edge RSF (right sides facing) and sew together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Open out and press (carefully. I had to iron the back of my suede fabric as the iron stuck to the front, so double check on a spare piece), then top stitch a double line.

Repeat with the other pieces.
  • Iron the interfacing on the back.
  • Sew on any applique you might fancy using at this point.

  • Pin a 1" deep pleat 4" from each side edge, then sew down the length of each pleat to the join between main fabric and suede.
  • Make your handles next. Iron the interfacing in the centre of the handle fabric, fold the edges in 1/2" then fold in half and pin. Iron at each stage of folding, then sew 1/8" down each side.
  • Attach your handles to the bag pieces. Line them up with the pleats, pointing downwards and make sure they're not twisted then sew in place. repeat on other piece
  • Pin your two main pieces together, then sew around the edge of the main fabric up to the join with the suede. Trim the corners, turn right side out and iron.
  • Now to the lining, which is made in exactly the same way as the outer panels- attach lining to suede and top stitch, put in the pleats, add a pocket if you so wish. I had another piece of material I had experimented with the rabbit embroidery on, so I used that. Now is also the time to put in your magnetic snaps too. I have found through trial and error that the best way is to back them with some extra heavy iron on interfacing and a square of card. The last thing you want to have happen is the wings of the snap tear through your material. Once all of this is done, pin the pieces together RSF and once again sew around the lining material up to the join with the suede, remembering to leave a 4" gap at the bottom for turning.
  • Nearly there! Cut a small nic where the sewing of the panels together finishes. This will help it to lie flat. Place your outer bag inside the lining. Make sure that right sides are facing and the straps are tucked out of the way. Pin together, lining to outer bag, then take a deep breath, cross your fingers and sew together. It is a bit bulky in places so you'll need to tread with care, but my machine made it (obviously the threats worked!). Trim the corners, turn the right way out through the hole in the lining.
  • Top stitch around the edges and slip stitch the hole closed.  You've done it!

Was a bit of a task this one, took me about three hours to do, but I was kind of making it up as I went on. I still haven't decided whether to box the corners yet. Think I'll live with it for a bit. See how it goes. Now all I need is my heart purse frame to arrive and I can make the matching purse. And now, Thank you Kirsty, I want to try my hand at some book binding. Find me some leather!


Friday, 2 December 2011

Pretty Fly Polar Bear

Well you know its been a while when blogger doesn't come up on the index list on the tool bar!

So December has hit. Finally. Feels like I've been waiting for it for ages. Craft shops and magazines have you gearing up for it so far in advance that when it actually arrives, you're not sure whether you've overdone it already!

One craft fayre down, one to go, and I'm very pleased to say that the first was a big success so thank you to everyone who came along and made me a happy bunny! I've spent this last week restocking on the things that seemed to be most popular but its so difficult to tell whats going to sell. Typically, I make Christmas bunting, get asked if I have any that isn't Christmassy. Hmmm.

Never mind. Once this one is out of the way, to hell with it, the Christmas tree is going up. I used to be a bit bah, humbug about Christmas, I must admit. Then again, I was conversing with an old school friend the other evening about how my days were taken up with school run, washing, cleaning, supermarket shopping- since when did I become a housewife? That was never in the plan. The plan was, as he pointed out, to change the world and paint the town red. Well that never happened.  Likewise, the tree and decorations wouldn't see the light of day until the week before the day itself. Children are the great life changer.

A case in point. I love The Offspring. One of my favourite bands of all time. First saw them twenty years ago and quite a considerable number of times since. This small, shades wearing, polar bear sings Pretty Fly For a White Guy. Smallest daughter loves it. Played it almost continually until the batteries ran out.

She danced along with it too! Those are my boots by the way, she may be tall for her age, but her feet ain't that big yet.

I will never think of The Offspring in the same way again. And that's before we get to young Wilbsy singing 'give it to me baby, a-ha, a-ha' at the dinner table last night. Oh dear.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Caroline and the Machine

Blimey. Near December. As if to underline that fact, my laptop (or rather my finger) clipped caps lock and typed December in capitals then. Shout it at me! I have been trying to make sure I have everything in place for the craft fayres I'm doing over the next couple of weekends and I think I'm kind of there bar the boring fiddly little bits like pricing. I've also had a couple of boxes of tarnished flutes to clean. Then they go and put Masterchef on four nights a week...

So, me and the machine... its on borrowed time, or maybe I'm on borrowed time. Its clattering along, jamming up, breaking threads left right and centre. Every time I sit down in front of it, I don't know whether to sweet talk it or threaten it with a big stick. I was lured by a shiny new (secondhand!) embroidery machine which I still  haven't sat down and got to grips with, but if the old faithful doesn't sort itself out I will be selling up and replacing it. So there.

It did manage to crank its way through some Christmas bags though. Simple things these. Some cotton shopping bags I bought from Hobbycraft, some lovely seasonal fabric and some bondaweb.
Just cut out your shapes from the bondaweb, iron onto the reverse of your fabric, then peel off the backing paper and iron on the the bag. All that's left to do is to machine it on.

I just used a simple straight stitch. The only slight complicating factor is keeping an eye on what's under foot. On several occasions I found I had machined the other side of the bag. Or the handles. Not good. Definitely a case of slow and steady winning the day.

I ordered some ridiculously cheap purse frames last week and when they arrived I was a little thrown. The ones I have been used to dealing with have a channel all the way round to glue the fabric into, whereas these just had one along the top. I did a little old Internet search and found this: Fabric clutch complete with video tutorial. So, so easy, I knocked out a couple of them in under and hour. Now how's that for quick end results?

I'll leave you with one of my key rings. I love these bunnies! Urban Threads, you've done it again.

I am at Bawdeswell Pamper and Craft Fayre on Saturday 26th November at the village hall, 10-4.

Check out my shop

Take care. xx

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Quick Update

Wow, Wednesday already. We had a great time out on Saturday night, my first night out quite probably since the girls were born, but will definitely not be left that long again!
Colds and sneezes are hopefully behind us for the moment although they do seem to come one on top of each other sometimes. But for now, normal service has been resumed! Yey. And that means that the neglected old sewing machine has been seeing some action. So here's some pics of what I have been up to recently. All of these are now, or will be- that's my next job; listed on my shop site which is

Plenty of girly bags. Birthday parties have depleted my stock so I thought I'd better whip up a few more. I'll stick a tutorial on for these soon as they are so easy to make, and so cute!

Ice cream apron. Again for the little ones, with two big pockets for useful stuff.

Talking of pockets for useful stuff, I'm always looking for scissors, tape, ruler etc when I'm making things, which are never where I left them (its the small gremlins in the house, they move things when I'm not looking) Anyway, when I got this fabric, I was initially going to just use it for a cushion cover, but it seemed to lend itself to these. A crafty tool belt with lots of pockets. For stuff.

And a couple of bags. Haven't made any full size bags in a while. I'm also on a bit of a mission to use up some of my rather large collection of fabrics.

So that's it. I haven't had chance to use my new toys yet and there's a saxophone that needs beating into working order this evening. Now where's my big stick....?

Friday, 4 November 2011


Okay, its time for some serious organisation now. Which would be easier said than done if I didn't have a cold for the second week running. Standing up and moving around results in major sneezing and limits my capacity to do anything. I've had to temporarily abandon a bag that would ordinarily have only taken me a night to do, because snot drenched is just not a good look for your tote!
Its even more irritating given I have new toys I'm itching to get to grips with (oo-er missus!) Sad as I am, I am now the owner of a second hand embroidery machine- with not a clue how to use it; and a seriously professional pyrography tool which makes my beginners cheapo feel like up until now I have been branding wood rather than 'writing with fire' which is what pyrography means. Unfortunately, I'm running out of room on my desk and my wood blanks won't be here until next week.
I now have three events that I need to prepare for at the end of the month. Now, I like to think that I'm a fairly organised person, I know how my week works out, I plan my shopping list within an inch of its life; but I'm looking at the calender and thinking (polite version) eeeeeeekkkkk!! Given my previous experiences with craft fayres, I could sell nothing and be left with a load of stuff, or- positive thinking- I could do quite well. Its difficult to gauge. And difficult to know what to make too.. A list is in order. A plan of action. But we all know what happens to the best laid plans.

I mentioned a while back I'd do a book review, well not so much a review, more a taster. I imagine I'm not alone in having bought books and then found, on closer reading, they require a- huge amount of skill; b- large amounts of material (v. expensive), or c- obscure items that are just impossible to find, even on eBay.
This is one I considered for a while. Its called Everything Alice and as the title suggests, all Alice in Wonderland makes.
There are a good selection of different crafts, games and cookery bits. Contents include:
Time for Tea Jewellery

which was very straight forwards and only involved a trip to a dolls house shop. My teapot however didn't withstand much wearing- broken handle :-(
Lavender Dormice, Invitation cushion, Cheshire Cat Hand Warmers:

Cupcake Embroidery Box, Shadow Puppet Theatre, Drink Me Cordials, Fabric Covered Teapot:
a bit messy to make but my personal favorite. Red Velvet Cupcakes, Vintage Cake Stand, Curious Teapot Cake, Chocolate Teaspoons...
There's a lot more besides, and I still have a fair list of things I want to make out of it, Most of the projects can be done quite inexpensively and the instructions are concise so with anyone with a modicum of crafting know how wouldn't find it a problem. My only tiny gripe, and its not just with this book, is the patterns which are hand drawn. I don't have access to a photocopier and can't enlarge all of the patterns. This one is a little better than most as there are conversions for graph paper so you could draw it out. I'm just impatient. I want to get on with a project, not sit down and spend half of my time drawing things out.
This book is great for something a little bit different and has a wide variety of things to do, most of them not requiring much sewing if that's not your thing. And for all of my friends and relatives, if your Christmas presents have a Wonderland touch, its this books fault!

I'm hitting the town tomorrow night for the first time since forever, off to a Burlesque cabaret show, so I appologise to the people of Norwich for the sight of me in a corset. And no, there will be no photos!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

I'm just watching Kirsty Allsop on Channel 4 and keep seeing things that make me think I must have a go at that, as if my list of things to do wasn't long enough!
I have been slightly impatiently waiting for a set of coaster blanks to arrive from eBay and have made a start on them.
I love them. I'm just trying to work out the best way to add some colour to them. The designs are from Urban Threads.
I have also done a new run of flower fairy bags, one of which has already been nabbed by Wilbsy. Mental note, if I want to sell things, I must keep them out of the way of small children. Can't say I blame her though, they're a scaled down version of a full sized bag I do and if I was a little girl who loved pink, I'd want one!
Its a hectic time. I now have three separate events booked for the end of November and I'm starting to panic that I won't have enough stock. A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that I'd left it too late and all of the craft fairs were booked up. Be careful what you wish for...and if that wasn't enough, Mr B has a selection of grubby vintage saxophones in need of attention. Not only does it take ages to get the silvo out of your fingers, but the springs are sharp! I feel like a pin cushion. :-(

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

I'm Live!

Good Morning. And it is a beautiful day today, the sun is shining even though its a tad on the chilly side. I'm surprised by the number of people complaining about the cold. We've been spoilt this year by unseasonably warm weather, the girls were still in the paddling pool at the beginning of the month. But I can always remember freezing my toes and fingers off at fireworks events. And that's only two weeks away.

Well I wouldn't be British if I didn't have a comment to make about the weather every so often! So, yes..I'm live. My computer based activity (and occasional bad language) has been recently focused on building my on line shop, which actually has been surprisingly easy, not to mention free- and that's never a bad thing. so if you have a moment to spare, why not take a mosey on over?

I love productive business. So often the weeks disappear and I'm left scratching my head at the end of them wondering exactly what I have done with my time. My parents can testify to this, as so often our phone calls run along the lines of  - them- what have you done this week? me- ummmm?
But this week I have been productively busy, website aside. Doing this craft stuff has forced me into an early acceptance that Christmas (say it quietly) is on its way.
So first up, some seasonal bunting.
This is a doddle. I bought a charm pack of fabrics a while ago. August I think it was. Didn't look properly at it. Didn't expect it to be quite so Christmassy. To be fair, I only looked at the first few squares and they were just spots and stripes. The trees and gingerbread men were hidden well below, so I had to shelve the original plans. I dug it out again a couple of weeks ago and have been working on them a little bit at a time.

Firstly I cut the squares in half, then on the diagonal to make four triangles. I then mixed them up and sewed them together to make the flags, pressing the seams open so they lie flat. Then I pinned them right sides down onto a strip of calico and machined down the long sides.
Then cut them out, taking the point off the triangle too, turn the right way round and press.

Take some bias tape and iron it in half, then position your flags where you want them, pin in place and sew a running stitch along the open edge. That's it. Not quite sure why it took me so long to do them.

I haven't done a recipe for a while, so I thought I'd share with you my child friendly curry. Hubby and I love curries, but the girls are not quite so keen on the hot stuff and I imagine they're not alone. I like a bit of spice, but this recipe seems to satisfy the need for a curry without having to cook two separate meals to keep the girls happy too.

1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 inch piece of garlic
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp curry powder
1 400g tin of coconut milk
150ml chicken stock
3 chicken breasts
Handful of frozen peas
100g mushrooms.

Fry your diced onion and garlic for a few minutes until softened, then add the ginger, garam masala and curry powder. You can of course vary this to taste and at this point add some chilli powder or fresh chillies you don't have to cater for a delicate child palette. Fry for a further minute or two, then add in the coconut milk and stock. Bung in the chicken and mushrooms and simmer for 30 mins. Add in the peas and cook for a further five minutes. Serve with rice. And now I feel hungry.

Off to the supermarket, take care

Caroline xx

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Can a girl ever have too many purses?

Or is it just a question of size?
First I had a purse with a five inch frame:
which was great for change, perfect for Avon delivery days, but I had to keep my cards in a separate wallet and remove them every time I wanted to get to said change.
Then for some reason I went really small. Very cute purse to match the Manga bag, 75mm purse frame, useless for holding more than about £1.50 in loose change and yet again separate wallet for credit cards. Much purse swapping ensued..

So now I've gone to the other extreme. 8 inch purse frame (I like my purse frames!) and room inside to store not only my cards, with easy access to my money, but it takes my phone too! Wicked.

So here's how...

First thing to do is make your pattern. I've done this before but until I spend the time to  properly archive my blog, I appreciate that finding the tutorial be a little tricky. Purse frames come in a myriad of shapes and sizes so unless you manage to get your mitts on the same one this patterns won't be much help to you, but it'll give you the general idea as to how to go about making a pattern. I can't claim credit for this one. Once again its u-handbag that's led me down the right path, and it hasn't gone wrong yet. You want the laundry day purse if you're checking it out yourself.
Draw around the top of your purse frame from the bottom of one hinge to the other. Then draw another line following the first, plus 1/2 inch. That's your seam allowance. After that its kind of up to you what shape you want you to purse to take. I seem to always follow this route, mainly because I know it works. Well if it ain't broke..

Measurements are in inches but the way folks.
Next, do your cutting. two pieces of main fabric, two of interfacing, two for lining and I also cut two of the top half of the pattern from fleece as it bulks out what you're trying to cram into the purse frame and alleviates the need for paper string.
Stitch your outer fabric together along the three straight edges, then box the corners, cutting off any excess.

Now turn your attention to the lining and what you want it to do. I wanted one side to store my cards and the other to take my phone.
Card side first. I folded my material in half first then cut a shape the size of the bottom half (the opposite half to the fleece pieces), then I did the same with a slightly narrower piece:
Top stitch both pieces, then base the bigger piece to the lining. Then get your card and lay it on top. As it stands, the pocket is way too deep for cards, You'll just lose them. So stitch a line across to act as the bottom.
Then lay your other pocket over the top and baste this on too. All  that's left to do is machine vertically to make your card divisions. Mine are a tad tight. Give yourself a little room.

Now the other side. Measure your phone, front and sides, then add an inch (2 x 1/2" seam allowance).Cut two rectangles and sew them together right sides facing along the top edge. Flip over and iron. Then grab your elastic and sew a channel just wider than it is. Poke it through the channel (stick a safety pin through it and thread it through), then machine it in place at one side, before pulling it as tight as you want and machining in place on the other side. then zigzag stitch around the sides and bottom, fold under and sew in place on the other side of your lining:
All that's left to do with your lining pieces now is to sew them together along the three straight edges, leaving that couple of inch gap at the bottom for turning. Be a little generous with this. There's a lot to get through the hole.
Now to the assembly. You want your outer bag with the right side facing inwards, the lining with the pocketed side facing outwards then the fleecy bit pinned on top of the lining. Then just sew around the edge. Easy. Turn it the right way out and press.

All that's left to do now is to glue it into the purse frame..(I say all!)
Put plenty of fabric glue into your frame and leave it to go off for a few minutes. Then poke your purse into the frame. It is longer than the frame so you'll need to gather it. I just get a (clean) screwdriver and poke it into place. Take your time on this and be careful of getting the glue onto your fabric, doesn't matter so much about the frame as that'll just pick off later.

Now you just leave it overnight and come the morning you can put all of your stuff into your brand spanking new purse! Lovely.
I'm done with fighting ladies now....

Right, time to go off and immerse myself in lots of dirty flutes. But there's money in them dirty flutes.

Take care. xx

Saturday, 1 October 2011

So, mummy, I can't draw on the table..

But you can burn into your desk?
Hell, yes!

It would seem I have reverted back to my teenage years. Not only am I constantly turned into 96 Rock or Radio One, I have started making my mark on things I own. I was always the girl at school with the army utility bag covered with the names of bands I was into, the art folder covered in similar. Now my work bench is getting the same treatment. Perhaps its because once you have children you become less yourself and someones mum. I'm pretty sure that the ladies at Wilbsy's pre school have no idea what my name is, I'm just Willow's mum. I imagine that a lot of mothers out there know exactly where I'm coming from. So maybe this is a, albeit a very small, shout for my independence. The other day I went out in a skirt that I made, a top I'd customised, a bracelet I'd made and with one of my bags and I don't think I looked too horrendous! It felt good, I felt like me. That's important. It's a slight way down the list of important things in my life, but it matters all the same.

So, once I've got my backside in gear, I've got a tutorial to write up on a purse I made, because I decided that size does matter.
And maybe a bit of a book review on a quirky little number called Everything Alice. I've made a few of the ideas in the book now and I'll post the results.

I'll be back soon. Running out of things to burn on anyway!

Take care. xx

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Burn baby, burn...

Well another craft fair done with. Hmm. Sold even less than last time and last times sales equalled one bag. You get the picture. But on the plus side, I did get to meet some lovely people, make some new contacts with possibilities of Christmas markets (and lets face it, if you can't sell then, then there's no hope!) and I got my hand embroidery on!
So that's what you can get done in four hours. More productive than variations on eye spy? Probably not quite as entertaining but there is an end product.

Never mind. I'm not down beat, quite the contrary in fact. I find I'm in the position that I have too many ideas of what I want to do, its just that they're not big money spinners! Can't have everything I suppose. So after spending a sunny morning stuck in a town hall, and the afternoon at the playground its time to play with the new toy. I hope the sewing machine doesn't take offense at being shunted to the side lines for a while but burning stuff is just so much fun.

This was my first attempt at pyrography. After ripping out half of the downstairs there is plenty of wood floating around the exterior of the house, so plenty to practice on. I have to say though, I'm pleasantly surprised with the outcome and I'm kind of wishing that I'd used a cleaner piece of wood now.
Steam punk fairy.. (this might get the addition of a few watch parts)
Kitchen Witch.

All designs from Urban Threads

Loving the smell of burning wood in the evening!

Take care. xx