Blue and white upcycled shirt quilt

Blue and white is such a classic combination.  It is both fresh and calming with the relaxed feeling of a lazy summer’s day on the beach.

Summer day at the beach

I used blue and white as the starting point for a quilt that would be a gift for my brother.  He loves rummaging in charity shops so it seemed appropriate to use pre-loved shirts and create an upcycled quilt for him.

Trawling the local charity shops, I looked for men’s shirts in a variety of patterns.  Anything would do  – stripes, spots, checks, tone on tone designs – provided the fabric was 100% cotton and the colours were predominately blue and white.  I even found a few floral, James May shirt style patterns.  Best of all was the little boy’s demin blue shirt covered in dinosaur skeletons!  I mean, who doesn’t love a dinosaur?

Stack of blue and white shirts

Stack of blue and white shirts


I wanted to keep the design uncomplicated so as to show off the patterns of the shirt fabrics.   A straight forward nine patch block seemed just the ticket.  The shirts were cut into 4 1/2 inch squares and sewn randomly together.

Blue and white shirt blocks

Blue and white shirt blocks


Men need encouragement in their lives too, so I embroidered positive affirmations onto some of the plain fabrics and incorporated these into the quilt blocks.

Words to live by blocks

Affirmation blocks


White sashing, 2 inches finished width, was added to separate the blocks and to give it a fresh look.

Blue and white quilt

Blue and white quilt


A swirling design, called Hot Cocoa, was chosen for the long arm quilting.  It adds a great texture to the quilt.

Quilt detail showing quilting design

Quilt detail showing quilting design


And here is the finished quilt, complete with a dark navy binding to frame the quilt.

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

Quilt made from upcycled blue and white shirts

At 72 inches square it is a great size to use as a bedspread or to throw over the back of the sofa.  I love that it is a classic design with little personal touches that make it unique.

Have you made a quilt from upcycled clothes?  I’d love you to share a photo and if not, I’d encourage you to give it a go.  So much clothing ends up in landfill and it seems a crime to waste it when it can be re-purposed for a longer life.

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A great gift for that hard-to-buy-for person

I’m been wracking my brains thinking of Christmas gifts that might appeal to that hard-to-buy-for person, or the person who has everything, for the fussy person and the ones who just don’t know what they want (let’s face it, we all have at least one of these types on our lists).  The last thing you want to get them is something that they will stuff in a drawer, or worse, re-gift to you next year.  So my suggestion is this – cupcake toppers that you add to your own cakes!

Wait, hear me out.  Who could refuse some delicious cakes – perhaps they’re shop bought or you’ve made them yourself with some help from the kids – topped with luscious buttercream and some WOW cupcake toppers.  Your cupcakes will be beautiful to look at, yummy to eat AND no need to find space for extra stuff.  Plus they will be handmade which will make them just that little bit more special.

Here are some lovely designs for you to consider.  Teachers, dads and granddads would love cupcakes decorated with these cheery Santa and reindeer toppers.

Cupcake toppers - Santa, presents and Rudolf

Cupcake toppers – Santa, presents and Rudolf

Friends who like all the trimmings would delight in these cute pudding and robin toppers (just so you know, the pudding and robin are made from chocolate flavoured fondant for extra tastiness).

Cupcake toppers - Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Cupcake toppers – Christmas pudding, trees and robin

Or what about these adorable snowman and polar bear toppers?  They would certainly put a smile on someone’s face.

Cupcake toppers - snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

Cupcake toppers – snowman, snowflakes and polar bear

The ones I like best however are these ones, which will look like a little painting when presented in a cupcake box.  First up, a scottie dog playing in the snow with a snowman.  How cute is that?

Cupcake toppers - snowman and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – snowman and scottie dog

Scottie dog again, this time posting a letter to Santa.  I hope Santa gets it in time.

Cupcake toppers - letter box and scottie dog

Cupcake toppers – letter box and scottie dog

And my favourite – bright lights welcoming you home on a dark, snowy evening.

Cupcake toppers - snow scene

Cupcake toppers – silent night

All these designs will be available at my table top stall at the Frost Fair in Thame (it’s on 1 December between 8pm and 10pm at the John Hampden School if you are in the area).   And if you’d like something custom-made to reflect the interests of a special someone, then do contact me.  I look forward to seeing you at the Frost Fair!

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Sewing pom pom trim on an infinity scarf – the easy way

A tutorial for a cowl/infinity scarf with a pom pom trim caught my eye on The Daily Stitch blog some time back (can hardly believe it was back in late 2014!).   I was smitten with the tutorial scarf and bought the necessary fabrics.  Infinity scarves are great.  They stay put and are super easy to make – or so I thought.

Cutting out the fabric pieces was fine.  It was only when it came to attaching the pom pom trim that I ran into trouble.  My sewing machine and the pom pom trim did not get on.  Not at all.  Instead of a nice, straight seam, I found that I had uneven and skipped stitches.  I tried the usual suspects – new needle, re-threading, checking tension – all to no avail.  And so the half finished scarf was put to one side and there it languished for over a year.

Well, the scarf is languishing no more, all thanks to this sewing foot.

Single welt cord sewing foot

Piping sewing foot

Yes, it is a piping foot – or as mine is known – a single welt cord foot.  Originally I had bought this foot for sewing piping on cushions.  However that little grove on the back also helps hold and guide the pom pom trim as it is sewn and makes a neat, even seam.

Here is the finished scarf made in Cotton and Steel fabric and lined with Cambridge lawn in a bright peachy apricot.  Doesn’t it look great?

Pom pom trim cowl

Pom pom trim infinity scarf

Now that I have cracked sewing the pom pom trim, I’ll be whipping up more of these fab accessories.  Because we all know you can never have too many scarves…

Want to see my next scarves?  Remember you can follow me on FacebookInstagram and Pinterest to see more lovely makes.

Lined Clothes Peg Bag

There are few things nicer than the smell of laundry that has been dried outside in the warm sunshine and gentle breezes of summer.  I find the task of pegging out the washing quite relaxing at this time too – a great opportunity to be outside, listening to bird song and enjoying the perfume of summer garden flowers.

Of course pegging out washing implies that you have pegs but what to do with them?  Sure you can keep them in a utilitarian but boring bucket.  But I say if you are going to have something useful then why not have it beautiful too.

Hence my cuter than pie little peg bag that I made last week.

Lined peg bag

Lined clothes peg bag

For the clothes, I used a fabric appropriately called Dress me for the Playground.  I secured my chosen garments onto the backing fabric with Vilene Bondaweb and then sewed twice around the outline.  No fancy free-motion embroidery here.  Just careful sewing with my normal sewing foot.

Lined in white cotton with a fancy spotted trim, my little peg bag is the perfect place to keep my shark pegs and looks fab on the line.

If you’d like to learn how to make your own peg bag, then why not book on my forthcoming class.  The date will be 12 July and details will be on the Fabric HQ classes section very soon.

Lined drawstring bags

Over the past week, I have been busy making cute little drawstring bags in preparation for my Bucks Open Studios event.  For those who don’t know, Bucks Open Studios is the largest visual arts event in Buckinghamshire.  It takes place in June each year and allows members of the public to visit local artists to learn more about their work and the artistic processes involved.  I will be exhibiting my work at St Nicholas Church in Kingsey along with seven other artists.  We’d love to see you if you fancy an interesting day out.

To whet your appetite, here are a couple of the bags that you’ll see on my display.  Each bag is approximately 10 inches high by 7 inches wide  and is made from Jeni Baker’s fabulous pattern available at  Jeni calls it the Everything bag and it really is suitable for everything.  Her little bag makes a great re-usable present wrapping, or a fabulous gift in its own right.

Lined drawstring bag in Dashwood fabric

Lined drawstring bag in Mori Girls fabric

I love the little houses and apples on this one.  Fill it with a pretty tea towel, specialty coffee and homemade biscuits to make a great housewarming gift for someone moving into a new home.

Lined drawstring bag in Dashwood fabric

Lined drawstring bag in Fablewood fabric

This is one of my favourites.  Just love those little leaping foxes.  Add a baby-gro, a copy of Peter Rabbit and some dribble bibs (Hot Chop Threads makes some fabulous ones) and you have a great gender-neutral baby gift.  The little bag will get so much use later as it is perfect for carrying toys or a change of clothes.

Lined drawstring bag in Briar Rose by Heather Ross

Lined drawstring bag in Heather Ross fabric

Don’t you just love those sweet little knitting bees?  Pop a couple of balls of yarn and some knitting needles in this bag to make a lovely gift for a crafty friend.

Like what you see?  Remember you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more lovely makes.

Double gauze swaddle blanket – a tutorial

Spring seems to be the season for new babies  – baby lambs, baby birds and lots of human babies too.  A lovely present for a new baby is a swaddle blanket.  One that has been handmade makes that gift extra special.

Swaddle blankets are easy to make and take very little time.  You could easily whip one up in an afternoon.  They make a beautiful and practical gift for a baby shower or new mum.  Not just for swaddling babies (although they are great for that), swaddling blankets also make fabulous nursing wraps and pram covers.

Double gauze with its light, airy feel is the perfect fabric to use for a swaddle blanket.  Sarah Jane has just released a new double gauze as part of her Sommer range for Michael Miller.  Made from 100% cotton, it is deliciously soft, light as a feather and comes in a range of beautiful fresh colours.   At 52 inches wide it is more than enough for a decent sized swaddle blanket.  And because it is cotton, it is breathable and ideal for warmer weather.

So how do you make one?  I searched the internet so you don’t have to and found this great tutorial by Molly from Purl Soho.   This is my slightly modified version.

For a 44 inch square swaddle blanket you will need:

  • 1.25 metres of Sommer double gauze (I used Mini Painted Gingham in Mist)
  • 100% cotton thread (I used Aurifil 50wt in off-white)
  • 70/10 needles (not essential however I found it helpful to use a finer needle)
Double gauze swaddling blanket materials

Double gauze swaddle blanket materials

The gauze I used is helpfully marked with a grid of one inch squares (you can see them in the photo above as a line of slightly looser weave which is where the gauze layers are joined together).  These grid lines are much easier to see when the wrong side of the fabric is uppermost.  Using these lines as a guide, cut the piece of double gauze to 46 inches long.  I found it easier to use scissors and a single layer of fabric.  Don’t be tempted to cut a double layer of fabric.  That double gauze can be slippery.  And don’t follow the printed lines of the gingham when cutting as these won’t be on the fabric grain.  Leave the selvedges as they are for now.

On each of the cut edges, fold over a 1/2 inch hem and then fold over another 1/2 inch to give a double hem.  Use your iron to press at each step when folding your hem (takes a little longer however the finish will be much better).  Pin the hem from the right side of the fabric and sew the hem with the right side of the fabric uppermost.  I used a 3/8 inch seam and a walking foot to make it easier to control the layers.  I also increased my stitch length to 3.  Sewing the hem from the front makes it much easier to maintain the correct seam allowance and it gives a nice neat edge on the hem.

Double gauze swaddling blanket hem

Double gauze swaddle blanket hem

Lay your blanket (hemmed top and bottom) on a table and, following one of the grid lines, cut off the selvedge on one  side.  Measure 46 inches from this cut edge across your blanket and cut your blanket to 46 inches wide, thus removing the other selvedge at the same time.  Fold and sew a 1/2 inch double hem along each side.  There is no need to mitre the corners.  Just fold them over as shown in the photo above.

Ta-dah!  Your swaddle blanket is now finished.  See, even Ted loves it.

Double gauze swaddling blanket

Double gauze swaddle blanket

I found the Sommer double gauze lovely to work with.  It didn’t fray and the sizing added to the fabric gave it enough body to make it easy to handle.  I hand washed my swaddle blanket in cool water to remove the sizing and gave it a quick spin in the washing machine to get rid of most of the water.  Shinkage was minimal – about 1% – and the fabric did become amazingly soft.

The mist colour way, a pretty light turquoise, is the perfect choice for a gender neutral gift or if the sex of the baby is unknown.  Other colours available include pink, blue and grey.  Fabric HQ, which is where I bought mine, has a good range of both the single and double gauze.

Happy sewing!

Milk churn patchwork quilt

What do you give someone when you want  something that says “you’re special”, something that says “thank you”, something that says “I love you”?  For me, the answer is usually always a handmade quilt (sometimes it is cake but that is another story).

Earlier this year, it was my privilege to make a custom order quilt for a couple who have a jersey cow stud.  When I showed my client a  fun quilt pattern featuring rows of milk churns (remember those?) we knew we’d found the perfect design.  I mean, dairy farmers and milk churns, what could be more appropriate?

Milk cow kitchen patchwork quilt

Milk churn patchwork quilt

The fabric collection is Milk Cow Kitchen by Mary Jane Butters for Moda.  Nostalgic, a bit kitsch, the collection features tiny jersey cows, vintage cars, kitchen utensils, milk bottle tops and my personal favourite, lots of moos!!.  There is even a recipe for strawberry jam.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

To make the quilt I used this free pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop.  I did change the pattern slightly by  adding an extra column of milk churns to make it wider and I changed how I added the sashing.  The milk churn lids were made as larger strips that are then cut down making it much quicker and easier to put together than it first looks.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt detail

Milk churn patchwork quilt detail

The finished quilt was professionally long-arm quilted with an overall pattern called Cloud Nine.

Milk Cow Kitchen patchwork quilt backing

Milk churn patchwork quilt backing

And for the backing, I chose this green Lulu fabric from the Up Parasol range by Heather Bailey.  It is one that I wish I had been able to buy more of as it really is the most lovely light olive green.

The 100% cotton wadding in the quilt makes it irresistibly soft and warm and gives the quilt a beautiful drape.   At 70 inches by 64 inches, it is a very versatile size and perfect for a bed or a sofa.

Today I received the good news that Royal Mail and Australia Post did their bit and delivered the quilt safe and sound to its new home.  And I’m very pleased to say that it was a very welcome present that will be much loved for many years to come.  A special gift for a lovely couple.

Drawstring bags

This Christmas I resolved to make as many presents as possible.   As well as making the presents, I also took the opportunity to gift some of them in a re-usable wrapping.  Enter the lined drawstring bag.

Shabby chic drawstring bag

Striped drawstring bag

This size (about 10 inches high) is perfect for holding smaller presents, such as socks, underwear, books or chocolates, however the bags can be made in any size that you like.  I used this fabulous tutorial by Jeni Baker.   I did change it slightly in that I cut out a square at the base of the bags to create the box, rather than struggle with lining up seams on the corners.  On Jeni’s blog, you’ll find other tutorials showing how to modify the basic bag pattern, such as this one that I used to make the striped bag above.

It is easy to customise these drawstring bags by choosing colours and fabrics to make a truly individual gift.  Here is one of my favourites, a suitably christmassy bag incorporating a polaroid block.

Lined drawstring bag with bear polaroid

Polaroid block drawstring bag

As well as a re-usable option for present wrapping, I had read on the Daily Stitch recently that drawstring bags are the perfect gift for new mums. Who knew?  This one was made following Jeni’s basic tutorial although I omitted the contrast top and added pom pom trim instead.  It is so cute even the bear likes it.

Drawstring bag

Lined drawstring bag with pom pom trim

These little drawstring bags are remarkably versatile, easy to make and suitable for people of all ages.  Great for holding toys, a nappy, pyjamas, sewing supplies, underwear for a holiday…  The list goes on.  It is a wonder how we all managed so long without them.

Christmas presents for men

Choosing Christmas presents for men is something I always struggle with.  Finding presents that are useful, that they might actually like AND that are light and easy to post to Australia makes it even more difficult.  Socks might fit the brief however there are only so many pairs of socks any man would want.

Having decided to make as many presents as I could this year, the hot water bottle cover designed by Emma of Simple Pleasures Sewing was a perfect choice for my hard-to-buy-for male relatives.  Hottie covers are light, unbreakable, soft, practical (well, perhaps not in summer but come winter time and it will be their best friend) and, most importantly, easy to personalise.

The mechanic in the family is getting this great vintage car blueprints hottie cover (It’s ok.  He never reads my blog so it is safe to show it here).  The cover is lined in the teal Flurry spot that you can see behind the hottie cover.  As well as this indigo colour way, the outer fabric comes in other great manly colours of charcoal and black and also a fabulous vintage planes design.

Vintage cars hottie cover

Vintage cars hot water bottle cover

Whilst the teenage boys will be finding hottie covers made in this gorgeous London maps fabric under the tree.

London map hottie covers

London map hot water bottle covers

I love this map fabric (Passport by 3 Sisters for Moda).  It is like a giant i-spy game and comes in coloured versions too.  Being teenagers however I thought the masculine grey tones looked more grown up and would suit them better.

Their hottie covers are lined in a co-ordinating grey spotted Flurry fabric, making the inside just as fabulous, and all hottie covers are machine quilted to make them extra cosy.

I’ve loved making these hot water bottle covers and know that the men who receive them will also love them.  A win-win situation all round.

Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

What do you do when it is cold and grey outside?  For me, I like to sew, particularly if I am making something that will be cosy and warm.  
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Cat and mouse fabric

I had picked out these fabrics some time ago thinking that they would be perfect to make into a hot water bottle cover.  The gorgeous green is one from the Miss Kate collection by Bonnie and Camille (Moda) whilst the statement Cat and Mouse fabric is from Timeless Treasures.  


And here is the finished item, whipped up on the weekend.  A lovely hottie cover perfect for a friend who loves cats (obviously!) and who has two black and white cats of her own.  


Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in Cat and Mouse fabric

As usual, I took the time to pattern match the design – mis-matched tails and paws would not sit right with me – and machine quilted the cover with an all-over diagonal pattern.
Cosy cat hot water bottle cover

Hot water bottle cover in cat and mouse fabric

Kona solid in charcoal was used for the bias binding whilst the green fabric is the secret surprise (who doesn’t love those?) on the inside. And it is beautifully soft and warm, being made from 100% cotton.  


My friend loved her hottie cover and will use it every day.  It’s the perfect gift to warm the body and the heart.