58. Fabric Mice

Before I start this make, I’d like to say hello to the 1st Tunstall Brownies.  Their  leaders have been in touch to say that they have managed to work out nearly the whole of next term’s programme from ‘makes’ on this blog.  Please send me pictures of how you get on and I’ll post them here.

This week’s make was just too cute for me to resist.  It is featured in this month’s ‘Mollie Makes’ magazine, which our library subscribes to.

All the instructions of how to make are in issue 11 and a pdf pattern is free to download at the magazine link above.

I had a lot of fun making these two.  They will be raffled off at our next library bake sale to raise funds.  I’m calling them ‘The Library Mice’

Here are some pictures of them. The first one before clothing and the second after they were dressed.

They were a fantastic way to use up bits of scrap fabric and wool.  You will see my first attempt at knitting something in a long, long time above too.

56. Apron

I’ve been meaning to make an apron for a long time as mine were looking particularly scruffy.  Luckily some very nice people saw them, took pity on me and made me some so I didn’t have to.  One of them even has Made For Pin appliqued on to the front.

However, after coming across quite a few people who wanted to learn to sew, I decided to put on a class at the library where the participants could learn and sew an apron at the same time.  It was lots of fun, if a bit frantic at times, with varying types of machines and all different sorts of bobbins and threading systems.

Here is what we did:

Start with 1m of fabric.

I used a lovely Ashley Wilde cotton twill fabric that is 143cm wide.  I bought it at the fantastic Fabric Warehouse.

If you are using fabric that is narrower then buy extra length for the straps and pocket if you want one.

We started by folding the fabric lengthwise so that the selvedges were parallel.

Fold one side in so that the folded fabric measures 33cm from fold to selvedge.

Measure 5cm down from top of fabric and draw a 16cm line from the fold towards the selvedge.  If you don’t want to mark the outside of your fabric, turn so the right sides are together.

I cut out a plastic guide for the next step but you could equally draw freehand or use a large curve like a round tray or something similar to draw out the armhole. Draw the curve from the end of your 16cm line to the selvedge. Make another straight line from the top of the curve to the top edge of the fabric.

Cut out from the top of the fabric along your last line, around the curve of the armhole and then straight down staying close to the selvedge.

If you have used a 1m length of fabric then just cut to the other end of the fabric.

Now cut 3 ties from the remaining fabric.  Make them not less than 4 cm wide and as long as you need.

Press each tie so that one short edge and both long edges are folded towards the middle, then fold and press in half lengthwise so all the raw edges are hidden.

Press the raw edges around the whole apron in and then fold over again and press  to hide the edge. Fold the top over at the line you made and press.

Stitch all the pressed  straps and apron edges starting at the left underarm, up the left armhole, across the top and down the right armhole.

Once you turn to go down the right side, stop to add a tie. Tuck the open end of the tie under the folded and pressed side seam and fold over on itself like this:

Continue stitching over the top of the tie, down the right side, along the hem and up the left side.  When you get to the same place on the left side as you placed the tie on the right, stop and add a second tie.  Continue stitching over the top of this tie up to the bottom of the left armhole where you started.

Measure and cut the third tie to the length you need for around your neck.  Sew the two ends to the inside top of the apron equidistant from the armhole edge.

If you have any fabric left you can cut out a pocket, fold and press the raw edges.  Stitch along the top edge then pin to the front of your apron. Stitch in place around the 3 remaining unstitched sides (assuming you’ve cut a rectangular pocket).

53. Decorated Coat Hanger

This make has been languishing at the bottom of my makes basket for a year.  I picked it up many times and then always decided to wait until I got some Mod Podge.  As some very dear people gave me some, I was able to try it out.  It’s great and I think there will be a lot more makes with it in the year to come.

You may have noticed a new button on my blog to the top and right of this post – Pinterest. This is a virtual pinboard where you can save things you find around the web.  It is absorbing and truly fascinating to look at other people’s pinboards and discover all kinds of useful and interesting stuff.  So if you feel like having a look around, just click the button.

This make starts with an old wooden coat hanger and some recycled tissue paper that was way too beautiful to throw away.

I cut the shape of the hanger out of the tissue paper, leaving some extra paper to fold over the top and bottom.  I cut notches to fit it around the bends.

Then I glued it down with Mod Podge and repeated the procedure for the other side.

Once the paper was all stuck down and dry, I cut out some words and stuck them on too. Then I covered the whole lot with another layer of Mod Podge.

(Thank you  Kelly Rae Roberts for the inspiration).

30. How to Cover Buttons With Fabric

Using self cover buttons can be a bit daunting if you’ve never done it but they really are very easy to make.  Not only do they look great on clothing but they can also be used to decorate bags, cushions even shoes. Here are some I made today. For these I used 4 19mm plastic self cover buttons. I’ve only ever used metal ones before so using plastic was new to me. The buttons come in two pieces and usually have a template on the card they come on that you can use as a pattern for the fabric you use. (If you are recycling old buttons and don’t have a pattern then just cut a circle about twice the diameter of the button. Undo the buttons from the card and cut out the template. Choose your fabric and place the template carefully so that the button will have the piece of fabric you want on the top.  For my buttons I used a scrap of vintage, 1980’s Laura Ashley fabric.

Cut out as many circles of fabric as you have buttons.

Sew a running stitch around the circumference of the circles leaving an end of thread at the beginning and end. (Use one length of thread for each circle as you will need to gather them.)

Now pull both ends of the thread to gather the fabric up into a cover for the button.

Place the top of the button into the fabric, pull the threads and knot them tight.

Snip the thread.

Snap the back of the button onto the piece you’ve just covered.

And hey presto!

4 beautiful self covered buttons.

My Folksy shop stock is sadly depleted so I think I’ll put these on there and see what happens.

21. Polystyrene Aeroplane

It is half term here this week so here is something that will keep the little ones amused.  The little one in our house, helped me make his new aeroplane and then his nanny and he played with it happily for over an hour.

The only things you’ll need are a pen, a pair of scissors,a piece of blutack or a paperclip and one of these polystyrene pizza bases:

Click this link for a downloadable pattern: Aeroplane from polystyrene

Cut out the pattern and place it on the pizza base. Draw round it with a pen.  You can make a mark for the wing slit by drawing over the line heavily.

Cut out the pieces and cut the slit for the wings. Push the wing through the slit. Add a piece of blutack or the paperclip to the nose to make a weight – a necessity according to those who know about these things.

The little one here decided that his needed a name and a face.  I didn’t have a lot of time to think about how I was going to add these (as you can see) – he was so desperate to play with it!

19. Elderflower Cordial

The observant amongst you may have noticed that I’ve skipped from number 17 to number 19 in the list of makes for this year.  That is because I made a mistake and have two number 17s – oops.

Elderflower cordial one of the best of the late spring/early summer drinks.  I made several versions of this last year using different recipes and am using the most successful for this post.  This cordial is a favourite of our family, especially when mixed with sparkling water and ice on a hot summer day.  The only downside is that the season for elderflowers is short and I find it nearly impossible to keep up production with the speed at which it is drunk in our house!

The elderflowers started appearing on the trees in our area last week so time to get to the shops to buy the rest of the ingredients: sugar (caster is best); lemons and citric acid.  The first 2 of these are easy to come by, citric acid not so much.  Last year it was scarce but this year it is even more difficult to get hold of.

My first stop to find some was the pharmacy section of our local Sainsburys. ‘No, we are out of stock. No, we won’t be getting more soon.  We only get what we are sent and can’t order more. Yes, we know there is a call for it at this time of year, lots of people have been asking for it.’

Second stop was a small branch of Boots in our village. ‘No, we don’t stock this anymore. It can be abused.’ I was curious and in answer to my query the assistant whispered, ‘bombs’. She suggested I try the health food store in the village when I reassured her that all I wanted to make was elderflower cordial.

Third time lucky, ‘Squirrels‘ our local health food store stocked it in its home brew section. I mentioned to the friendly assistant what Boots had said – she was surprised but also told me she had heard of other ways in which it was abused.  I had no idea that this simple ingredient would be in such demand.  I think I’ll stock up before it becomes a banned substance altogether!

On to the recipe.  This is what you will need:

20 heads of elderflowers

1.5 litres water

1.4 kg caster sugar

2 lemons- preferably unwaxed and sliced thinly

50g citric acid

Shake the elderflowers to remove any little bugs, rinse under the tap and place in a large bowl.

Add the sliced lemons to the bowl.

Now put the water into a large pan, add the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.

Once boiled, remove from the heat and add the citric acid. It will fizz up a bit so make sure you are using a big enough pan.

Add the syrup mixture to the bowl of elderflowers and lemons.

Cover with a clean tea towel and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.

The next day get ready to bottle the cordial.  We drink shop bought elderflower cordial during the rest of the year so I’ve been saving the bottles but you can use just about any screw top glass bottle.  You will also need a couple of jugs, a ladle, some muslin (I’ve heard some people use a J cloth – I use a jelly-making fine mesh bag) and a funnel.

Heat the oven to Gas Mark 1/140C/275F/. Wash the bottles in hot soapy water, rinse and drain. Place the bottles in the oven for at least 30 minutes. (Use oven gloves to remove them from the oven.)

While the bottles are in the oven, boil a kettle and scald the jugs, funnel, ladle, muslin and bottle tops.

Once the bottles are sterilised, place the funnel inside the first one and the muslin inside one of the jugs. Ladle the elderflower mixture into the muslin and then when the jug is full, rest the muslin in the other jug and  transfer the cordial to the bottles, screwing the tops on as each is filled. (I say this as I’ve swiped a full but uncapped bottle off the counter with my arm before now).

The bottles will keep in the fridge for at least 2 to 3 months.  It will freeze too (but not in a glass bottle!).

17. Needle Felted Purse

This make came about because I wanted to make something special for a dear friend’s daughter’s 21st birthday. I’ve been waiting to post this until today as this is her birthday and I wanted to make sure that she opened it before she read how to make it!

I learned how to needle felt from Val who also showed me how to make paper. So far I’ve made many brooches and a couple of pictures but I wanted to make Lily something new and different.

I started off with a piece of soft felt roughly 48cm x 24cm.

Then using a needle felting tool I felted in some ‘Oliver Twist Silk Fibres’ (I bought these from Rainbow Silks – a treasure trove of beautiful creative supplies in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire – it’s next door to the Roald Dahl Museum if you want to make a day of it. They also do mail order if a trip isn’t possible.)

After I got the fibres in place, I sewed on some yarn and beads. (Scroll down for a picture.)

Once the decoration was all in place I cut a piece of lining fabric slightly larger than the piece of felt all the way around the rectangle.

For this purse I found a piece of beautiful, fine cotton Liberty print in my stash.

I pinned the lining to the felt, right sides together so that the lining would show slightly on the two shorter sides.

I then sewed the lining to the felt around 3 sides (the two longer sides and the short side just below the felted design). After turning right side out,  I closed the fourth edge by folding the lining over the felt slightly and hemming in place.

I then folded the fabric in three making a purse with flap and sewed up the sides of the purse part.

I used velcro to close the flap to the purse part.

At this point, I looked at the purse and thought, ‘This isn’t what I had in mind for Lily. Start again!’

I used black felt this time and followed the colours of the lining for the felting and beading.  I also added a label inside with her name and today’s date that I printed on fabric using Bubble Jet Set (more of this technique to come).

Happy birthday Lily!

17. Sun Dried Tomatoes

A complete change of category for this post.  I’ve always thought I would have a go at making sun dried tomatoes as they are one of my favourite foods but until now have never attempted it.

I saw a recipe in one of daughter, Sarah’s recipe books and realised that these could be a very easy make.  The recipe in the book suggested drying the tomatoes in a 50-60 °C oven. I’m not sure if my gas oven will go that low but I found the ideal place.  We have an old conservatory on our house that is freezing in winter and very hot in summer. When the sun shines directly on to it the temperature inside easily reaches 50 °C.

The first thing to do is halve the tomatoes.  I seldom weigh ingredients but the recipe suggested 500g.  I just took all the tomatoes I had out of the fridge.  Place them on a baking tray cut side up and sprinkle with salt, pepper, olive oil and a herb of your choice.  (I found a surplus of thyme in my cupboard when I made my spice bleachers so that’s what I’ve used.)

After they’ve been in the heat for about 7 hours (oops, should have put them in first thing this morning and not midday!) the recipe says to transfer to a kilner jar and cover with olive oil and sliced garlic.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Day 2:

I really wish I’d thought to make these at the beginning of this week when the weather was very sunny. Today was a bit cloudy so although the tomatoes are progressing nicely, I think I’ll leave them another day before jarring.

Here is how they looked the next day:

I think they are now ready to put in the kilner jar with some sliced garlic and olive oil:


16. Chair Cushion

My kitchen chair cushions are showing their age and are due for replacement.  I had a look at some in a shop but they weren’t quite the right fabric or price so I decided to have a go at making my own.

The first step was to decide what size I wanted to make the cushions and then find some foam for the filling.

I bought just one piece to start with and will go back for more if it turns out well.

36 cm x 36 cm x 4cm

Next job was to find some fabric.  I raided my stash and found a piece of curtain fabric that looked like it would fit the bill.

I cut it double and slightly larger than the piece of foam, folded it in half, right sides together and machine stitched it along both sides.

I then pressed the side seams open and turned the cover right side out.

It was a tight fit, which is what I wanted.

I then sewed the open edge closed, folding the fabric in as if I was wrapping a present.

The next job will be to get some self cover buttons.  I did find some in my stash but they are too small for the thickness of the fabric and the size of the cushion.

I’ll post another picture when I manage to find some of the right size and have finished the cushion.

13. Paper dolls

“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes?

Here is the key to your earthly pursuits.”

(When I first saw this quote it was attributed to Carl Jung but as I’ve found no reference to when or where he wrote it, I’ve not put his name to it.  If you know where it came from please let me know and I’ll be very happy to attribute it to the genius who said or wrote it.)

So, what did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes?  I’m guessing that asking the question ‘what do you do now that makes the hours pass like minutes?’ will also give a key to your earthly pursuits.  As you can probably tell, for me, making things makes the hours pass like minutes especially if I’m making something new. When I was a child, I spent many an hour making paper dolls. I came across this tutorial on how to make some and then had a go myself.

First draw some outlines on some cardboard packaging.  Anything will do – cereal boxes are perfect.

Sorry, this picture isn’t very clear.  I didn’t want to make the pencil outlines too strong as I wasn’t sure if I’d want them to be visible or not.  The outlines all have an integral semi circular shape at the bottom which will form a base.  Also make another semi circular shape for each figure. This will then slot into the figure at right angles so that they stand up.

Next go over the shapes you’ve drawn with gesso (a type of primer that you can find where art supplies are sold).

When that is dry use something like a pastel to colour the shapes in.  I used oil chalks from Koh-i-Noor and shaded the colour with my finger tips.I then outlined the shapes again with a darker pencil for more definition.

I coloured the bases at the bottom of each figure and the stands in green and then sprayed the whole thing with fixative.

When the fixative is dry, cut around each figure and each semi circular base. Then cut a vertical slot in the bottom of each figure and in the top of each base.  Slot the base into the figure and hey presto, with a bit of bending, the figures will stand up.

On another note, my good friend, Mary Fraser runs Poppyfields, a children’s charity. Poppyfields gives children space to express themselves. For many children, communication can be a real issue. Often they lack the words to describe what they want to say and that can leave them feeling angry and frustrated. Using creative play and listening to them in a relaxed and playful environment, helps them to unravel their thoughtsand worries.  If you would like to know more please click on the link above to contact Mary through her facebook page or if you would just like to support her, click ‘like’ on the page.