Craft Bomb Your Bike!

Craft Bomb your Bike front cover

My contributors’ copy of the new book Craft Bomb Your Bike has arrived. Back in December/January I felt like my entire life was devoted to this project, which proved far more complicated than I had imagined… But now all the effort seems worth it as I get to see my work in print ! And I did get to work with most favourite Heather Moore-designed Up, Up & Away fabrics.

My design is a bike basket liner which is convertible to a drawstring tote. Gosh, the struggles I had to make sure that the pattern was adaptable to any size bike basket (which seem to come in about 57 different varieties). I feel a bit queasy when I remember back to how tricky it was and how many pieces of paper I got through and how many prototypes I made… But I am pleased with how cute they have made it look:

Craft Bomb your Bike main pic

Here’s how it looks as a bag:

Craft Bomb your Bike inset pic

And I managed to get my lads into print too…

Craft Bomb your Bike me and the lads

This is us in our Cambridge days, when I used to trundle (and trundle is most definitely the word) round town on my wonderful yellow Pashley trike. Cute eh?

If you cycle and craft, or want to make cute goodies for the cyclists in your life, this is book is well worth a look. There’s sweet bunting, practical mittens, ear-warmers and leg-warmers, cute crochet flowers for your wheels, sweet birds to sit on your handle bars, even a cover for your bike lock. So many imaginative ideas, it’s well worth a look!

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Big Stitch Swap

I’ve felt a bit jaded recently, although I’ve been doing lots of fun projects, they have all been commissions, and I really wanted to make something just for fun. So in spite of having NO SPARE TIME I decided to join in with The Big Stitch Swap organised by Sarah (Fairy Face Designs) and Cindy (Fluffy Sheep Quilting).

The Big Stitch Swap

The main rule of this swap is that whatever you send your partner has to have a significant element of hand-stitching. This was the big appeal of the swap for me, as I love to hand sew, and really needed a project which will make me sit down and relax a minute! This is my inspiration mosaic:

Big Stitch Swap mosaic

1. usb pouch, 2. Patchwork for Ladies with Secrets, 3. 365:125 Embroidering some Summersville fabric, 4. Courthouse Steps, 5. cross stitch stash buster project, 6. Confetti Quilt Full Frontal, 7. Square-in-a-Square Pillow, 8. Polka Dot Smocking Pouch, 9. Airmail Needlebook, 10. Hand stitched hoop art, 11. Kantha bag, 12. Bastidor bordado “Be original and creative”, 13. Zipper purse dandelions, 14. PTS7 all finished!, 15. Liberty Doll Quilt 1

I don’t really mind what my partner makes for me as long as it is colourful, fun and maybe just a little bit quirky!

This is me making a start on my partner’s gift. It is going to involve a lot of hexies and outline quilting, and hopefully some embroidery too, so I need to get a move on!  I haven’t exactly done any sewing yet, but there’s lots to come…

Big Stitch swap first steps

By the way, if there is anyone out there who is waiting for the next Very Berry Artist Trading Card swap, that will be getting going at the end of July… so check back regularly if you want to join in – places will be limited.

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Sugru Winner

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Horribly sorry for delaying the announcement of the Sugru giveaway…. Here’s what Mr Random tells us:

Sugru winner

Number 14 is Leonor of Felt Buddies who promises us a unicorn made of Sugru. I will hold her to that ;-)  Well done to her, and because I love them so much, here is one of Leonor’s beautiful felt pooches – you can get a portrait of your own pet, made to order, from her Etsy shop:

Needlecraft Custom Pet Portrait - Pug - 3D felt wool sculpture - Made To Order

 

I am going to start saving up….


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Fun with Sugru

I was lucky enough recently to be sent to Sugru to try out.

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This intriguing product, described as self-setting rubber, is a bit like Plasticine or Fimo crossed with super strong glue. You can use it to fix things stuff and stick things to other things, and be creative about it too. I defy you not to lose HOURS on their website with all the wonderful creativity you can find there. Check the amazing Lego adaptations - here’s a really fun example:

Pic from Sugru website

I think my kids would do me in if I messed with their Lego (perhaps I will buy some of my own so I can make some ace cable tidies like these!). So, much as I am tempted, I had to come up with something else.

I am much too lacking in creative ideas for anything other than stitching and sewing at the moment, so I went hunting around on the website for ideas I could pinch borrow. I was much intrigued by the ideas for stamping and printing using Sugru. I love a bit of texty fabric, especially awesome typescript, so I had a lightbulb moment and nipped off to Ebay to buy myself from 18 pt Letterpress and here’s what I got up to when it arrived:

Opened up the packet:

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Warmed the Sugru up a bit in my hands and then stuck a tiny bit onto the side of one of my Letterpress letters:

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I squeezed the next letter on to it to make a Sugru sandwich:

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Then scraped off the excess:

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I added some more letters:

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And formed a word. I made sure that all the letters were completely aligned so they would print evenly. Sadly I didn’t make sure of something else:

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I left my letters at this stage to stick together properly overnight, and the next day added more Sugru to create a little handle for the stamp:

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Then I made some more:

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If you make a mistake (like sticking a letter in back to front for instance – but who would be that daft?), you can scrape the Sugru off, even after it has set:IMG_3206

 

I was super-pleased with the results. This is how it looked on paper:

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And on fabric:

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Printing worked best with a soft surface underneath the paper or fabric (I found a piece of felt worked really well). If you use a brand of ink pad that is permanent on fabric, you could make your own labels and even little bits of fabric to include in patchwork piecing… Great fun! I will be popping back to Ebay to buy ink pads, plain tape and more Letterpress, I am sure.

My next plan is to use Sugru to create a coat hook rack with old bobbins and a bit of waste timber we have lying around. Should work really well for displaying bags for product photography. I shall let you know how I get on.

In the mean time, if you fancy having a go with some Sugru, I have a pack to give away. Just leave a comment on this blog post before midnight on Friday 5th July if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning. Tell me what you’d like to stick/repair/customise with Sugru if you like. Happy to post overseas, so don’t let that hold you back.

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New Liberty Lawns at Very Berry Fabrics

Regular readers will know that as well as doing lots of sewing myself, I run a small business selling Liberty Tana Lawn in convenient pieces for patchworkers and other sewers and stitchers. Hope you will forgive me if just occasionally I share a few of the goodies I have available to buy. Business has been great recently so I’ve been stocking up on new fabrics and old favourites. The next 3 selections are all new to the shop – the easiest way to find them is to go to the ‘New In’ section at Very Berry Fabrics on Folksy, and you will find them all there.

New Liberty 1

 

New Liberty 2

 

New Liberty 3

 

And the old favourites:

Liberty Old Faves 1

Liberty Old Faves 2

I was mooching round the shop earlier to check that everything was all as it should be, and realised just how many blues I have in stock. Which got me experimenting with the PicMonkey Collage feature to check out how they would look together. Just as I hoped, I think they look great! Fab for a cushion top.

Liberty bluesDon’t forget that, given a bit of notice, I can cut selections of fabric for you (just drop me an email or message me via Folksy), and I also have Cushion Kits and Quilt Kits in stock if you like want to get started with the sewing rather than spending hours first cutting patchwork pieces.

Hope I can tempt you to spend some of your fabric fund with Very Berry Fabrics sometime…!

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Recipe: Plumgo Chutney

We got a new freezer the other day – replacing one of those ancient chest freezers (it had a ‘D’ efficiency rating can you believe?!) with no baskets, which was hell if you ever wanted to actually find anything. As a result,  of course, I now have a freezer drawer filled with about 6kg of last year’s plums which were loitering at the very bottom of the pile of frozen goods. And as it wont be long until we start to harvest this year’s crop, l need to get using them up pretty quick.

Our Victoria plum tree is generally really prolific, and because there is only so much jam, plum crumble and plum cake I can manage (really!), for a while now I have been after a plum chutney recipe I actually liked. Our preference is for spicy and fragrant Indian style chutneys, that we can eat as a side with curry, dhal and flat-breads, as well as being a great addition to a sandwich. So last autumn, I decided to try substituting plums for mangos in an Indian mango chutney recipe… It worked really well, so I am sharing it here in case you have a glut of plums of your own this year (or maybe some from last year to use up!).

Plum chutney

Ingredients

1 kg plums, yellow flesh type
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or ghee
10g fresh ginger (peeled weight)
2 cloves garlic
1 green birdseye chilli
2 teaspoons whole nigella seeds (aka kalonji or onion seeds)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
300g granulated sugar
175g  white vinegar

Makes about 2 450g jars.

Method

  • Prepare the plums, by halving and de-stoning them. Put to one side in a large bowl. You can use them straight from frozen if you have some already prepped.
  • Chop the chilli, garlic and ginger very small and put in a small bowl/on a small plate.

ginger, garlic, chilli for chutney

  • Measure out the spices and salt onto another plate/bowl.

spices for plum chutney

  • Heat the oil or ghee in a large non-reactive heavy-based pan. When it is hot, add the ginger, garlic and chilli and fry, stirring all the time, until they are softened and have taken on a tiny bit of colour (just the tiniest amount).
  • Add the spices and salt and cook for about a minute.
  • Add the chopped plums, vinegar and sugar and stir until everything is combined.
  • Bring to a very low simmer and cook for an 1 or 2 hours until it is a lovely thickened and fragrant chutney. If the plums were very juicy (or frozen like the ones I used) it might take quite a long time for the plums to cook down, so it’s tricky to be specific about the time. You know it is done because it will come together to a lumpy sauce like consistency (sorry, terrible description!).
  • Pot up, whilst still very hot, in pots that have recently been through the dishwasher and have been warmed through in the oven. Whilst still hot, screw on non-reactive lids which you should soak in boiling water for 5 minutes before using.

I also made strawberry and rhubarb jam yesterday, which is fantastic for this time of year when strawberries are going strong and good rhubarb is still available – I really recommend this recipe, which is simple and works out really well – no need for pectin either which is always good.

 

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Tutorial: Simple Storage Basket

Finished 2

I am lucky enough to have been asked to be a Creative Blogger for the wonderful organic homewards and eco-conscious Ochre & Ocre this year – which means I get to work with their lovely upholstery-weight fabrics on a regular basis. It’s definitely a pleasure to do some experimenting with fabrics that I don’t usually make use of. Here’s the first project I have written for them – it’s a good, straightforward project for someone new to sewing because there aren’t any complicated techniques or stitching required. The finished basket is shoebox sized, and a great place to store sewing notions, fabric scraps, or it could have a myriad of household uses.

Project Notes

  • Working with heavier weight fabrics like these beautiful prints from Ochre & Ocre requires a sturdy needle – I recommend a 90/14.
  • You will need to strengthen the outer fabric and the inner fabric to give your basket a sturdy finish. I recommend using Vilene H640 fusible fleece (a medium loft fusible fleece) plus Vilene S320 interfacing (a firm woven iron­on interfacing), but feel free to experiment or use your own favourites. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when applying interfacings or fusibles.
  • The seam allowance is 1cm throughout.

Step 1

Cut a piece of outer fabric measuring 49cm by 58cm.
Cut a piece of inner fabric measuring 49cm by 58cm.
Cut a piece of medium loft fusible fleece measuring 49cm by 58cm.
Cut a piece of firm iron­on interfacing measuring 49cm by 58cm.

Step 2

Take the outer piece of fabric and cut out a 15cm square section at each of the four corners.

Pic 1
Repeat for the other fabric, the interfacing and fusible fleece.

Pic 2
Fuse the fusible fleece to the outer fabric.

Fuse the iron­-on interfacing to the inner fabric.

Step 3

Take the outer section and, right sides together, bring two of the short corner edges together and pin.

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Stitch the seam, reverse stitching at each end of the row to secure.

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Repeat this process at the other three corners to create a box shape.

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Repeat the process with the lining fabric.

Step 4

Trim all the seams to about 6mm and trim off some of the bulk of the fusible fleece within the seam allowances of the lining section.

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Press the seams very thoroughly so that you get nice sharp edges, using a knitting needle or crochet hook to push out the corners. Press the seams to one side (rather than pressing them open) – pressing in one direction on the lining section and in the other direction on the outer section.

Step 5

Keep the basket lining section with the fabric side on the inside and turn the outer section so it is right side (fabric side) out. Put the lining section into the outer section so that they are right sides together and so that the firm interfacing is on the outside of the basket. Line up the seams and then pin all round the top.

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Make sure that the seam allowances on the the lining and outer are pressed in opposite directions.

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Step 6

If you can, remove the free arm cover on your sewing machine – this will make the next step easier. Starting 2/3 of the way along one of the long sides, stitch round the top edge of the basket, reverse stitching at the beginning. Continue around, but stop about 12-­14cm from your starting point, reverse stitching again to secure.

Step 7

Use the gap you left in the top edge to turn the basket right sides out and push the lining section so that it sits neatly inside the outer. Press the top seam really thoroughly to create a sharp top edge, turning the edges of the gap in the top seam inwards so that they match up with the rest of the seam line. Use a little bit of fabric glue or pins on the open edge to keep the gap closed. Press, press, and press some more to get a really neat finish.

Step 8

If you can, select a slightly longer stitch on your sewing machine (I use 2.6mm) and stitch round the top edge of the basket, 2­-3mm from the top edge. This is the trickiest bit, because you want to keep it very neat, and there are some bulky sections. Take it slowly, ease the basket corners under the presser foot and you will be fine. Don’t reverse stitch at the ends of your row of stitching this time, but leave long ends of thread at the start and finish so that you can tie them off. When you have finished the top stitching, knot the 2 thread ends on the outside of the basket, then thread them (together) onto a needle. Working along the seam line, push the needle between the fabric layers (don’t push it all the way through to the inside of the basket) and back out again about 3cm further along. Pull gently until the knot pops through between the layers of fabric, then cut off the threads. Repeat for the other 2 threads on the basket inner. Your beautiful top­stitching is secured invisibly!

Step 9

If you like you can fold the top edge down by about 4cm to create a rim, but I think the basket looks equally good (although not quite so sturdy) with the sides left as they are.

Finished 3

Now fill with goodies and enjoy your handiwork!

I’ve also made a linen and Liberty version (you know me!) to show how adaptable the pattern is:

Liberty basket 1

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