It’s October! Yay! Definitely officially autumn! Although it does not really feel like autumn at the moment as it’s so warm and the leaves are still more green than anything.
I like autumn. Being uncomfortably hot is as bad as being too cold in my opinion. Sunny autumn days, even if you need a jumper (or a coat) are lovely, warm enough to still enjoy being outside but without breaking out in a sweat if you so much as move. Gorgeous colours, woodsmoke, tractors pulling trucks full of potatoes and carrots, not to mention some peace now that most of my boys are back at school.
Autumn lends itself perfectly to seasonal themed crafts, so yesterday while Boy 4 was napping, I decided to wet felt an autumn picture.
I have only tried this once before. I made a picture of the seaside. Unfortunately it has been on the unfinished projects pile for the best part of a year because I decided to hand embroider it and it is taking ages.
Felting is great. It’s very easy, it’s lovely to work with and it’s perfectly possible to get good results even if you got a G in your GCSE Art <hand up>. I chose autumnal colours from the wool tufts I already had.
Here are the instructions for Stage 1 of my autumn felted picture. For Stage 2 I am intending to embroider it using machine embroidery this time, so hopefully I will actually finish it!
To make a felted picture, you need some unspun wool (usually merino but other sorts of wool work too), a bamboo mat or a towel, some bubble wrap, a piece of gauze/ old net curtain/ piece of sheer fabric, some soapy water and a piece of foam tubing or something else tube shaped and squidgy.
Put the bubble wrap on the bamboo mat or towel.
Pull or cut short lengths from your wool tufts. I pulled out pieces about 10 cm long. Place the pieces on the bubble wrap horizontally, spreading the fibres out as you go. Cover the piece of bubble wrap.
For the second layer, do the same, but instead of laying the fibres side to side, lay them up and down.
For the third layer, do the same as for the first layer.
The fourth layer will be the last layer, so arrange your bits however you want them. Bear in mind that distinctive shapes will probably be lost (but can be redefined with some careful embroidery), and the finished picture will be up to a third smaller due to shrinkage during the felting process.
When you are happy with the fourth layer, cover it with your piece of sheer fabric and gently sponge the warm soapy water on to it. The whole thing needs to be wet.
Using either a cloth or your fingers, gently rub the fibres for a few minutes. Agitating them is what will cause them to felt together. The warm soapy water speeds up the process.
Take your foam rolling pin and wrap the whole sandwich, gauze, fibres for felting, bubble wrap and bamboo mat or towel, round the rolling pin. Roll backwards and forwards 50 times.
Unroll it, turn it 90 degrees and roll it up again. Roll it backwards and forwards 50 times.
Repeat this a few times. The fibres have felted when they don’t come apart when you rub them. If you get a bit bored with the rolling, as long as the fibres are stuck together you could put it in some hot water.
The felt I have made is probably not very strong but should be fine for embroidery. If I was making something other than a picture, like a bag, I would need it to be stronger and more felted.
Here is something I meant to write a post about some time ago.
My boys were not actually christened. They had a dedication instead, which is very similar to a christening except that the babies are not initiated into the Christian religion. We chose to have a dedication for them instead because we wanted to mark their births in a spiritual way, but we want them to make that decision for themselves when they are old enough.
A dedication is just as special to a family as a christening so I wanted my boys to have an outfit that they could keep.
For Boys 1, 2 and 4 I made a traditional style christening gown as they were babies. Boy 3 was 3 and would not have appreciated being made to wear what was basically a dress, so I made him a different kind of outfit (more about that later!).
The first one I made using a pattern from a book called Make it For Baby. When I scaled the pattern up to make it big enough for Boy 1 who was 4 months old at the time, it seemed ridiculously long so I hacked a chunk of fabric off the end. I learnt a weird technique that involves removing some of the up and down threads to leave the horizontal threads. It was quite quick to make and I don’t think the bows are too much for a baby boy!
When the time came for Boy 2’s dedication, he was 9 months old so too big for the christening robe I made for Boy 1. I wasn’t going to complain about making another one though! I also liked the idea of Boy 2 having his own.
I don’t like making the same thing over and over because I get bored, and I also didn’t want to faff about scaling the pattern up again, so this time I made my own pattern. One of Boy 2’s t shirt formed the template for the yoke and the skirt part is two rectangles sewn together and gathered.
To make Boy 2’s different to Boy 1’s, I embroidered a border of Celtic inspired swirls using some beautiful Anchor embroidery thread I found in a craft shop. Despite being a terrible drawer, I managed to design a Celtic looking bird with a swirly thing round its neck. Because the fabric was quite thin I was able to trace it onto the fabric. I embroidered it using satin stitch, and for the swirls I used back stitch.
For Boy 4’s christening robe I employed the same technique, using one of his little t-shirts as a template for the top and a large gathered rectangle for the skirt section. To embellish his robe I sewed star shaped mother of pearl buttons along the bottom. I had just got my new sewing machine and I was very happy to try out its button sewing capabilities!
I thought I had a photo that showed Boy 4’s robe better but I can’t find it. The robe is actually longer, it’s just caught up round him. Also I’m not actually pregnant, just a bit fat.
Because Boy 3 was older, he needed a different kind of outfit, so I made him a pair of white trousers and a peasant style top. Unfortunately I misjudged the trousers and they were a little bit tight. Our pastor said he looked like John Travolta! Boy 3 looked at home like he had 4 heads, he has no idea who John Travolta is!
Goodness it’s quiet round here! The boys are back at school and this time that includes Boy 3. So it’s just me and Boy 4, and although he is anything but quiet, he can usually be persuaded to have a nap for an hour or too in the late morning, and then it’s really quiet. I can hear the blood rushing around my head! It’s very strange.
There’s so much catching up to do from the summer holidays. It’s difficult to get much done with four kids at home and anyway, that’s not what the summer holidays are for, is it? So we had lots of fun but the house became even messier and I did hardly any sewing.
Usually I prioritise prefer crafting to housework, but last week unfortunately I had to have a major go at the house and the garden, partly because they were awful and partly because Boy 1 had a birthday party at the weekend. So I’ve caught up on some manky jobs but I’ve still not really done much sewing. However I couldn’t manage not making anything at all, so here is what I have been doing!
I discovered these little gems while trawling the internet for ideas for Boy 1’s birthday party, which was on Sunday! He wanted to have some of his friends round to play video games, play with the lego and run around the garden. I thought a structured (ie craft!) activity might be an idea. He’s not really crafty, but he’s a sweet boy and went along with it.
I found instructions here at Frugal Fun 4 Boys. Basically you cut a couple of metres of parachute cord, fold it in half and thread the folded end through one part of a plastic buckle. Then you thread the other ends through the other part of the buckle and move it up as far as it needs to go to make a bracelet that fits. Then using the free ends, you tie a series of knots around the cord between the buckle bits. When you have finished, you cut off the excess cord and melt the ends. Apparently you are supposed to use a lighter. I used a candle and it worked fine, although the paracord melts easily so it doesn’t need very long or to be too close to the flame.
The recommended age for making these is 8+ (the melting needs to be done by an adult, obviously), but Boy 2, who is 6, and his 6 year old friend, both managed to make them.
Boy 2 enjoyed it so much he has requested more paracord in different colours. Hong Kong via Ebay is a good place to get them! I’m hoping he’ll prefer making paracord bracelets to loom bands as I am beginning to tire of hoovering them up.
Forcing Hyacinths For Christmas
This might not really count as crafts!
I did this years ago. I can’t remember if we had children then, possibly we had Boy 1. He would have been a baby, so it was a while ago. I remember I left it too late and they flowered in early January, which was fine, who wouldn’t be happy with beautiful flowers when it’s grey and dark outside? But I vowed that next time, I would get my act together sooner and have lovely hyacinths in time for Christmas time.
It’s taken a few years, but a couple of days ago, I bought three hyacinth bulbs from the nursery next door to my next door neighbour, known in my house as Mr Plant Man.
I found a plastic plant bowl in the garden and gave it a wipe, filled it with compost and planted the bulbs. They are covered but only just and, according to the advice of the internet, not touching the bowl or each other. I covered the bowl with a black tea towel (the internet said to cover with a black bin bag but I use Lidl bags as bin bags as we have a lot of them). The bowl is now in a little used part of the sideboard and I’ve written in my diary to take them out in 10 weeks’ time. They will apparently take 3 weeks to flower, so hopefully they will flower the week before Christmas. Gorgeous. I can’t wait!
This is something I promised the boys and also a project that will be featuring in my ebook when and if I ever get it finished. I’ve cut the bits out, sewed them up and sewn the casing for the bamboo canes. I tried buying the canes from the hardware store over the road but they had sold out of 5 ft ones. But, happily, when I was buying my hyacinth bulbs, I noticed that Mr Plant Man had bamboo canes! The canes are currently in the kitchen, in Boy 2’s welly, propped up against the piano. I still need to trim the seams which hopefully I will be able to do in the evening if PEOPLE go to sleep/ let me sleep. I am not holding my breath.
I actually finished this a couple of weeks ago. It’s a project I wrote for The Sewing Directory in exchange for some free fabric. I love fabric, free stuff and writing up projects, so I’m very happy! The instructions for making this will be going on to the site over the next few weeks. There’s lots of other gorgeous projects on there too.
So there we go. I’m slowly returning to normal, even though normal feels weird still!
Making bags is great. Being smallish they don’t take too long to make or use up too much fabric, making them perfect for using up smaller pieces of fabric that either cost a fortune so you didn’t want to buy too much, or stuff left over from other projects.
There are lots of ways to make bags, and the approach you choose to take will depend a lot on what you are planning to use the bag for. Obviously a bag for shopping or for storing your daughter’s huge collection of stuffed toy dogs will require a different approach to a little bag for your purse, keys and phone.
Now I don’t know if this is the “right” way to make a bag, but it is my favourite! The fundamental thing with this type of bag is that everything is held together by the band at the top. So the handles (or the D rings if I am making a longer strap for it) are sewn into the band and the main body of the bag is attached to it too.
Here’s how to make a bag my way!
The first thing I do is decide how much stuff I will need to carry in it. As my boys get bigger, I find I need less stuff, nappies and changes of clothes etc, but I end up carrying the things they pick up while we are out, like feathers, stones, sticks and bus timetables.
Using a tape measure and maybe if I can be bothered some paper, I decide on the dimensions. How much fabric I have will also be a factor. The top of the bag will need to be wide enough to be able to shove the stuff in, so if it needs to hold my diary or an A4 folder, this will also need to be taken into consideration.
Having decided on the dimensions for the bag band, I can cut the out the bits for it. I will cut 2 pieces from the outer fabric, for the front and the back, and 2 from the lining.
The bottom of the bag main will usually be wider than the top. Either I will cut it like that or I will gather it, like I did for my Tardis bag (so called because I can get far more stuff in it than actually looks possible!). I will cut 2 pieces for the bag outer and 2 for the lining.
To make the handles I will decide firstly on whether I want 1 or 2 and secondly how long they need to be. Using 1 strip of the main fabric and 1 strip of the lining, I make a tube by pinning them right sides together then sewing along both of the long edges, leaving the short edges raw.
To assemble the bag, I start with the bag main outer. With the right sides together, sew along the sides and the bottom. Trim seams and turn out. Repeat for the lining.
Next, join the outer bag band pieces at the short edges, checking that it’s the same width as the bag. Repeat with the lining. If you are gathering your bag main, do that next and check that it is the same width as the bag outer.
Width of bag is now the same as the length of the rectangle
Next, pin the band outer to the bag main outer, right sides together and matching the side seams.
Pin the band lining to the bag main lining, right sides together and sides seams matching.
Sew round the top of the bag to attach the band to the bag main. Turn the band right side out. You might wish to iron it. Top stitching might look nice too.
Tuck the raw edges of the bag band inside. Pin and/or iron. Decide where you would like your handles to go. Tuck the handles in between the band outer and lining and pin in place.
Topstitch around the top of the bag band.
Voila, one bag!
All sorts of variations are possible here. As well as making bags of different sizes and gathering or not gathering the bag main, you could use different fabrics for the various pieces, add different panels, applique, embroidery, pleats and godet thingies.
Here are some bags I have made using this method.
This is a simple version of the bag. The bag main is made from two rectangles. The top edge is about a third longer than the bag band and I gathered it to make it fit. It has one handle which I made by cutting a strip from the main fabric and a wider strip from some navy blue fabric. I put the main fabric on top of the blue with the wrong sides together, folded the blue fabric over the main fabric, folded the raw edges underneath then top stitched it in place.
Floral Godet Bag
The floral fabric I used for this bag was actually curtains that hung in my bedroom when I was a little girl! Yes, I know. But it was the 80s! The fabric was already quite thick so there was no need to use interfacing.
The bits were cut to size so there was no need to gather the bag main. To make it a little bit more interesting I added godets in a nice bright blue and I made the bag band from the same fabric.
I also rounded off the corners to give it a slightly different shape.
I made this bag for a tutorial for the Sewing Directory here. The fabric I used is Oakshott Shot Cotton, which is amazing stuff! It looks just like shot silk, but because it is cotton it is not slinky at all and it holds its shape, making it much easier to work with.
It is a similar shape to the Floral Godet Bag. The bag main is not gathered as the pieces were cut to size and I rounded the corners. Instead of using godets I made panels of different fabric.
To make the handles, I made strips of grey and purple and plaited them together.
The flower detail I made by gathering strips of fabric and joining the short edges. I added a shiny button to the centre to finish it off.
I wanted to make a bag that was a bit bigger than the others, was waterproof and had a shoulder strap. I was imagining struggling on and off the bus with the boys in the pouring rain! Holding a baby, a buggy and a bag while herding three other children and getting soaked in the process is not much fun. Having a bag that I can sling over my shoulder makes things slightly easier!
To make the bag waterproof, I used ripstop fabric. The bag main is gathered and to make it even roomier, I squared off the corners. The D rings for the strap were attached in the same way as the handles on the other bags.
Boy 4 hates the raincover on his buggy. It doesn’t matter if it is pouring with rain. In his 1 year old boy’s brain, he would rather get wet than have his view slightly obscured by a transparent piece of plastic that will keep him dry and snug in his buggy. He hates it so much that if he so much as suspects that the raincover is even covering the hood, he will scream the place down.
Before anybody starts, yes, he can walk, and he often does. Yet sometimes it is better that he rides in the buggy so that we can be sure of getting to where we need to be promptly, in one piece and not tearing our hair out. Or soaking wet from being in the rain for half an hour instead of 5 minutes.
Being the kind of person who likes a challenge, especially the kind that involves making stuff, I set about finding a solution so that my precious little boy stays dry in his buggy without screaming his little head off.
One possible solution was to make a hood out of some kind of waterproof material that would go over the buggy’ s hood and possibly stick out a bit further to keep the little person inside drier.
So here is how to make a waterproof hood!
In order to make a waterproof hood for Boy 4’s buggy, I acquired a shower curtain, a wire coat hanger and 5 m of bias binding.
Having done this, my first task was to make a pattern. I actually had to do this twice because I lost the first one I made and only found it in the pile of unfinished projects after I had already made a second one. So annoying! And also a reason why tidying up is a Bad Thing.
To make the pattern, I removed the hood from the buggy and drew around the top part. This was trickier than I was expecting, so to make it easier I pinned the paper to the hood, folded it round the hood, then drew around it. Making the bit at the back was easier as this bit was quite loose anyway.
The hood on Boy 4’s little umbrella folding buggy is quite small as well as being only showerproof, so the waterproof hood needed an extra piece at the front to make it bigger. To do this, I used the pattern piece from the top of the hood and traced the front, then drew a curved line for the front of the extra piece.
Next I cut the bits out of the shower curtain. I didn’t use pins because I didn’t want to make holes in it. I considered using tape but I decided I couldn’t be bothered to look for it so I drew round the pattern with a pen instead.
I folded the pieces in half to make sure they were symmetrical and even on both sides.
After cutting the bits out, I joined them using the bias binding. The raincovers I have inspected are joined together in the same way. I enclosed the edges inside the bias binding, pinned it, then sewed.
To ensure that the hood was a decent fit and wouldn’t blow away if it was a bit breezy, I added some darts to the back section.
The last thing I needed to do was to sew the remaining bias binding around the outside edge and attach the wire coat hanger to the front edge so that the hood would hold its shape.
To do this, I used the bias binding on the front edge as casing. I pinned the bias binding to the front and sewed, keeping as close to the open edge as possible. I only sewed the bias tape onto the front section, leaving the rest free so that I could sew it onto the rest of the hood once I’d sorted out the wire.
Then I unwound the coat hanger, checked how much of it I needed and cut off what I didn’t need. As it turned out, all I had to cut off was the hook, which also saved me the job of straightening it out. I wiggled it through the casing until it was threaded right the way through the front section. There were a couple of dodgy bits where the casing was too narrow, but this was easily solved by unpicking a few stitches.
All that was left to do was sew the remaining bias binding to the rest of the hood.
I did have plans to add a loop of elastic and a button so I could attach it to the pushchair, but as the waterproof hood was wedged quite firmly between the original hood and the handles, I haven’t bothered.
Hopefully combined with a puddle jumping suit and a pair of wellies, the waterproof hood should be enough to keep Boy 4 dry when it rains without him screaming!
I'm Anna and I live in Norfolk with my four beautiful boys, my husband and a three legged cat. I don't have an actual craft room due to the fact that we are six messy people living in a not very big house. I do however have a pile of unfinished projects. Thankfully there is plenty of room in cyberspace, so make a cup of tea, pull up a chair and make yourself at home! And please leave me comments! And maybe like me on Facebook :)