Creativity

A handmade Christmas

This year it's been a rather handmade Christmas. With me not working at the moment we are rather counting the pennies, so handmade made sense financially. But I have to say it's been an absolute joy to have the time to be able to make presents. And having recently completed my beginner's sewing course, what better opportunity to practice?!

I absolutely loved making these presents - from choosing the fabric to cutting to sewing and stuffing - it's been so much fun. And now the presents have been opened, I can safely share some pictures with you :)

First up is a cosmetic bag I learnt to make on my sewing course - I really loved the pattern and thought it made a lovely and very useful gift. I chose the gorgeous kitsch kitties fabric by Michael Miller for this one, as I knew the recipient had a soft spot for this print. And I must confess I loved it so much I had to make one for myself too - but with a different coloured zip for a bit of variety. I chose an aqua polka dot fabric for the lining, as I thought it complemented the colour scheme well. And I had lots of fun making some custom gift tags for the (vaguely) professional touch!

The cosmetic bag seemed like such a good idea, I made more in different fabrics. I knew my sister loved the Tammis Dogs fabric made by Michael Miller (a Tammis Keefe tribute fabric) and I stayed with the same lining fabric I used in my course, as I knew this partnered well. I also fancied making some lavender bags, as I think these are great to pop in your sock drawer or wardrobe - or just to have hanging around looking pretty. So I made a very simple template and got cutting and stitching!

Then, more of the same, but in some different fabrics that I thought the recipients would like. I was very pleased with this pairing of a black and white floral print and polka dots - and the pop of colour provided by a hot pink zip.

I was also very pleased to find a pack of ribbon I had bought from Paperchase a while ago knowing it would come in useful someday. It was perfect for the hanging loops - and I had a lovely choice of colours.

They are definitely not perfect, but I was pleased with them all the same - and I think the recipients were too, which is what matters. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and are enjoying some R&R. TTFN, Z xx

Crafty bloggers' evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

So what do you get when you mix a bunch of Oxford bloggers, the Cath Kidston store in Oxford, mulled wine, delicious noms, and some Xmas crafting activities? A whole lot of fun, lots of chatter, much distraction, photo taking and shopping!

I had a really fun evening with NatashaVickiCathrynCatherineDina, and Rosalind. The lovely people at CK had laid on a marvellous feast and prepared some very pretty crafting tables, ready for us to make our own Christmas decorations from a kit.

Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford
Bloggers' crafty evening at Cath Kidston, Oxford

We started very enthusiastically, but it wasn't long before the temptations of an empty Cath Kidston store lured us away from crafting.... It was all looking so pretty and so Christmassy.....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I just adore the wallpaper that runs up the staircase - I'd love a feature wall in this....

Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford
Cath Kidston, Oxford

I completely fell in love with the mushroom print and came away with some fabric (I'm thinking tote bag, with a red polka dot lining to start with...), a mug and a plate :) And those pastel spoons looked so good with it, so they came along too...

I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!
I think I went a bit mushroom crazy - LOVE this print!

As we were leaving, the very lovely people at Cath Kidston pressed a goody bag into our hands. This was inside...

Our goody bag
Our goody bag

As I was rather too distracted to finish the task at hand during the evening (I blame the mulled wine and fabulous company!), I finished sewing my santa back at home and he now has pride of place hanging on the fireplace :)

Cath Kidston Xmas decoration I made

Thanks so much to Charlotte for arranging the evening and to everyone at Cath Kidston for looking after us so well - it was lots of fun.

It's a big day for Cath Kidston today, as the new flagship store in Picadilly has just opened (the largest in the world!). Definitely on my must visit list the next time I'm in London. And watch out for those Cath Kidston taxis!!

My new best friend

I've wanted to learn to sew for ages. About 5 years ago I bought a tiny John Lewis sewing machine. It was red and looked very pretty. But I didn't know how to use it so it stayed in its box. For years. Much time passed and I went on a "make friends with your sewing machine course" which was good, but I never seemed to have the time to practice (photography was always so much easier...) and I didn't know where to start really with following a pattern, etc. So more time passed and my little red machine stayed in its box.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I had the pleasure to attend an intensive sewing course for beginners with Louise Paeman. It took place over two Saturdays and as well as covering how to use your sewing machine, we actually made some things, learning how best to place our patterns on our fabrics, how to cut out, how to follow a pattern, how to sew in a zip, and lots of useful tips and tricks. I absolutely loved it and can highly recommend Louise's courses if you are in the Oxford area.

Just as I was about to get stuck into the first bit of real sewing at the end of our first day, my little red machine decided to die. Louise kindly lent me her machine and my goodness, it was a dream! Chalk and cheese! So to cut a long story short, I decided on a beautiful new Janome sewing machine for my 40th birthday present. I love it! It's my new best friend. And at the moment, I am particularly relishing the speed control - as you can see I have it set to tortoise speed :)

The first thing we made was a reversible tote bag. I chose some beautiful vintage fabrics - the large print is Roundelay by Jonelle (not sure who made the lining fabric).

Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made
Tote bag I made

Our second make was a cosmetic bag. I decided to use a different fabric again for the lining, which made it more complicated, but I love the contrast. We used iron on interfacing to give the bag some support so it would stand up OK. And we gave it a flat bottom - and a zip! Not bad for the second thing I've ever sewn on a machine!

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I found the fabric when I was on holiday in the USA, in a tiny store on Mount Desert Island in Maine. It is a Tammis Keefe Tribute by Michael Miller Fabrics called Tammis Dogs.

You can read more about Tammis Keefe in this great Tribute post on the Making it Fun blog

- I adore her designs. I wish I'd bought more, now...

Cosmetic bag I made
Cosmetic bag I made

I'm rather pleased with my makes. There are some wonky bits, but you don't really notice them. And I'm going to make more - this machine is not going to hide in a box!

The magic of Mod Podge

Those of you who've been following along for a while will know that I have a bit of a thing for pretty backdrops for my photos. I have amassed quite a collection of pretty papers that I've adhered to mount board for ease of use - I got fed up fumbling with rolls of paper and blu tack...

Up until now I've mostly used wrapping paper which sticks very nicely using double sided sticky tape. But recently I bought some beautiful vintage wallpapers that refused to work with double sided tape. Cue disaster no.1! Impatient as ever, I squirted a whole load of PVA glue generously on the back of the paper and tried hard to smooth it onto the mount board. It refused to lie flat and wanted to ripple. So I got some nice big heavy boxes and laid them flat on the paper as it dried. NOT a good move! This creased the paper nicely and it didn't dry properly. Cue disaster no. 3 - how about giving it a bit of an iron? That gets rid of wrinkles, right? Not a good move! By now I have wrinkly, creased wallpaper on warped mount board. I was almost in tears!

So here's where the Mod Podge comes in. On the recommendation of the lovely Ada Bea that I bought the beautiful wallpaper from, I tried again, with more patience, some Mod Podge and a sponge applicator brush. Much better! This time, I evenly spread a very thin layer of Mod Podge to the mount board using the sponge applicator and set it aside. I did the same to the back of the wallpaper and then very carefully placed the paper on the board (it helps to have two people for this bit) and gently pressed out any air bubbles. I then used a rolling pin (!) to gently smooth out any remaining creases and air bubbles and then left to dry. It worked a dream!

Here's the beautifully mounted wallpaper from Vintage Sheet Addict:

70s vintage wallpaper

And here are a couple of shots I've taken using the mounted wallpaper as the backdrop. Much happier now :)

The golden girl
Veronique