Fabric gift box or bag, tutorial – in time for Christmas!

Fabric gift box
Fabric box/bag with unfinished edges

I made a necklace for a friend recently and had no spare box or bag to package it in so I thought it was a good time to try out making a gift box I'd been mulling over in my mind for a while. I used buckram to support this box, which really has more of a bag look to it.

Inside gift box
Inside the box is lined

I'd bought buckram to use for making fairy hats for Gracie when she was younger and somewhat girlier and I massively over bought the stuff. The type of buckram I bought is used for making roll-up shades; it's white, thin and foldable (not sure that word exists). I've thought of many uses for it since then but haven't followed through on any ideas yet apart from this one. I know it exists in heavier, more hessian style weights and I'm sure that would be a great support material for larger jobs.

This box is just a few inches tall. I sandwiched the buckram between two layers of fabric using fusible webbing and I left the edges unfinished. I've created a quick template in the actual size I used but it could easily be scaled up or down. As I uploaded these images the box has reminded me of fabric lunchbags so there are probably similar templates around. If you'd like this one here is the Fabric Box Template and tutorial in a PDF file to download.

I also thought they'd be easy to make for wedding favours, they could be dressed up or down with lace or flowers, buttons, rubber stamps...

Grace car driver

Yesterday was spent on some belated birthday present activity, as you can see, Gracie is way beyond the fairy hat making stage, now she prefers being a "Gracecar" driver ;)

Children went back to school today after half-term break, time to catch up.

Have a great week.


Last tooth & tooth fairy pouch tutorial revisit

The last tooth

Gracie has lost her last primary tooth (wisdom teeth aside). She may not be so sorry to see them go as they were enamel deficient and her adult teeth are not, but it can make a mother a bit sad to be leaving the early years behind.

Tomorrow is also the end of primary school as she embarks on her next stage, the start of secondary school. Butterflies have been gathering in the tummy and we've already had restless nights, but I know she'll be okay. It may take a while to feel settled but I know it will happen – besides, she has that younger sibling advantage of having a brother who will be there for her.
Tooth pouch dual
Tooth pouch tutorial

It's hard to believe I created this tooth fairy pouch pattern and tutorial when Gracie lost her very first tooth, it was also the topic of my very first blog post.
Like lots of parents I'm excited for the children to start a new year but already lamenting the loss of varied routines and kicked off shoes. Tomorrow it's back to packed lunches and early rises, the upside being no "I'm starving!" interruptions followed by the lengthly "your quite capable of making your own lunch" discussions. Really, I miss them already.
Next Sunday is the Wiveliscombe Street Fair as part of the 10 parishes festival. We're really excited about Tris performing a whole set on one of the stages – he's also one of the acts that will be broadcast on the local radio station. So if you're in the Wiveliscombe area next Sunday drop by – it's a great day with loads of food stalls, local ales and cider and music all day. Did I mention the ales? 
Also, I've been trying out the Easy Macro lens for my iPhone. It's such an easy and inexpensive solution to trying to get close up shots with a phone camera. I'll update this space with samples from this new little toy soon. At only $15 plus $5 shipping from the States it's already proving to be well worth the investment. And speaking of investment, I noticed the Macro lens people have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of their next lens – I hope they do well.
Time to get dinner on and have an early night, school tomorrow!

PS - Am I the only one Typepad no long gives paragraph breaks to? Sometimes they happen, more often than not, they don't :(

come sail away, a new project and giveaway

Cork sailors - pirates

The latest Action Pack by Whip-Up is out and this special Water Edition is brilliant, not that they aren't all brilliant. It is full of fantastic water-related projects and activities. As usual, this e-mag is great for a varied age range and I know we will be diving into it time and again.

This edition features a recycled boat making project by me*, and also a Cork Sailors and Pirates tutorial that shows how to make little cork people to ride along in the boats. The Cork Sailors and Pirates project is a special free excerpt from this latest e-mag and publisher, Kathreen is offering it up here.


There are so many wonderful contributors and projects jammed between these virtual pages, it's a pleasure to be part of it once again.

As a special treat to regular readers I'm able to offer two free issues as a giveaway courtesy of Kathreen. And as I'm not blogging as much as I once did due to time constraints followers of this space have dwindled so you have a VERY good chance of winning one of these two free editions.

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post by next Thursday, March 7, 2013. The winners will receive this e-mag, all 44 excellent, ad-free pages of it! The e-mag will be delivered in PDF form. I will announce the winners on the evening of March 7, 2013 GMT time.

I have several new makes, a sewing pattern review and an artist review all waiting to be posted here but I just had to share this fun Action Pack first and of course, the giveaway. I highly recommend subscribing to Action Pack if you have children still at home, it's well worth every penny! Don't take my word for it, read what other parents say about it here.

Happy Thursday!


*The boat project first appeared in the Green Parent magazine in the June/July 2010.

mending moth holes with moths, a short tutorial


This was meant for a magazine last year but the mending theme for the issue changed and I was too busy to follow it up so I happily tucked it away to share here for another day. 

I often wear huge sweaters around the house with lots of layers underneath. My wintertime mantra is the same as my father's when I was young and complained about a cold house "Put on more clothes." This particular sweater was discarded by it's previous owner when his beer belly outgrew it so I snapped it up to layer with. Unfortunately the moths nibbled a big hole in the shoulder and some smaller ones in the front.

Hypoprepia Moth sample
Lisa took some amazing moth pictures a while back and I thought, I might not mind moth holes so much if they were made by those beauties. Then thought, why not cover up the holes with those beauties (I wouldn't choose the ugly little grey critters that really make the holes).

So I made some drawings of my favourites and pulled them into Illustrator, I was pleased with the way they turned out as line art. I then did some watercolour sketches of my moth selection and created a new pattern set of five moths. So I offer you up one moth patch, click here to download. If you'd like the whole page of five moth illustrations with my watercolour sketch as a guide they're available on my pattern page. Moth watercolour sml sample

On this sweater I've used two moth patches. The patch above (antheraea polyphemus) I made by embroidering on to felt and needle felting a body. The patch on the front (gnophaela vermiculata) is mostly needle felted with a little black stitched detailing.

This is how to make the patches

  1. First cut out the moth shape from paper.
  2. Then trace it onto a piece of felt or felted wool that is a similar colour to the moth body. I find a ball point (biro) pen the best tool for tracing onto felt. You will want to either cut off the pen mark or stitch over it to hide it.
  3. Next cut around the moth, not right on the line, leave space around it.
  4. Then fill in the moth with embroidery stitches and/or needle felting. I used both embroidery and needle felting for both of these patches.
  5. Referring to a picture of the moth, pick up the thread and start drawing with it. Just start stitching, if you haven't freehand stitched before you'll be surprised at how your hands can use the needle like a pencil. Moths are a particularly good subject to try this with because they are symetrical and therefore easier to position each element in.
  6. When you finish the details of your moth, cut it out, close to the edge but not right on it.
  7. Next prepare your hole for your patch. I mended the holes with a simple darning stitch using mending wool. If you've never mended a sweater before I just searched around for tutorials and found this one on Martha Stewart but any vintage family sewing book should show you. The mending step might seem silly since the hole will be covered up, but mending it first will help your sweater withstand future washes better.
  8. Using mending wool or a couple of strands of embroidery thread, cover your mended hole with the patch and hand stitch around it. Be careful of your tension while stitching. If you pull the thread too tight while stitching the sweater will pucker around the patch, too loose and the patch won't look tidy.
  9. Finally, add the antenae straight on to your sweater being sure to start your stitches under the top of the moth's head to hide the join, again, watch the tension in your stitching.

Mending tutorial

Hope you have a go. If you download the pattern let me know how you use it, or add an image to the Created with Nini Flickr Group. I'm no nature Illustrator so this art is not exactly accurate for the purists out there, the gnophaela vermiculata for example is much bluer than a real one, but my water colour dried darker than I thought it would and you know I love my blues :)

If you do regular mending and you're on Flickr, join Scrapiana's Big Mend Flickr group to share your mends. She also recently posted a moving piece about sandblasted jeans on her blog; read it, I gaurantee you will shop more carefully for jeans in the future, I know I will.

Happy Wednesday!




I'm in that mode again. Whittling down all the crap that's accumulated around us over the past two and a half years and getting ready to shove it all in to boxes to move. Some things take me extra time though, like my vintage linens and textiles. Even though it's Sunday I was up at the crack of dawn to sort through some of these in peace, and as usual I'm deciding not to part with most of it. I am parting with some of my more modern fabrics though and as I have no time for selling them I'll divide them up between some of my more keen young students to start their own fabric stashes; Gracie already has a stash of her own started.

On another note, Tristan has posted a tutorial for his indoor shuffleboard type game. It's very detailed, including a fabulous video he put together with his mother as amateur camera woman. Check it out and let him know how you like it if you get a chance.

Hope you're having a restful Sunday. 


more making

Cedar impressions
cedar impressions 

I woke to a flurry of snow this morning, nicely powdering the countryside around us. By afternoon the sun was shining and all the white stuff was gone. The cold got us in the mood for a big pot of tea and one of our favourite crafts at Christmas time, playing with paper clay. Today we made gift tags and ornaments by cutting out simple shapes and making impressions in them. Cedar sprigs worked well because they are somewhat flat.

Cedar tree
cedar tree

We also made cedar trees.

More impressions
doily impressions

And there are so many really beautiful textile textured ceramics around that we had to give doily pressing a go but the simple cedar was still our favourite. 

Clay time
star stacks

Gracie also turned a stack of stars into what will become a photo holder.

Gifting for nieces
gifts made today

More gift making happened today too. I dug out my jewelry making supplies and made a couple of necklaces for nieces, mixing vintage turquoise glass with fresh water pearls. It's been a long time since I've looped headpins on beads and I had lots and lots of rejects before I could happily string them.

I'm now trying to make up some sort of short scarf for my mother-in-law. I'm repurposing some thrifted cashmere lined with a vintage silk scarf. Not too sure about it, I can see it in my head but I'm not sure my fingers will make it a reality, I'm crossing my toes for luck because my fingers are too busy.

While I'm sewing I'm listening to "The People's Post" on Radio Four, interesting history of how receiving post was only for the wealthy until standard fee packets and stamps came in to existence in the 17th century. In the modern world of Internet correspondence and texting I hope good old hand-written post will survive.

Have a lovely weekend – I hope your mail box will be filled with only happy messages :)


PS, I just saw these little birds pop up in Lisa's space. Can't wait to see how they finish up in a dress.


Seed packets for savvy gardeners


Whenever I collect seeds I must admit to being woefully bad at using them the following year. Some method of organizing is what I need and a consistent system for collection. Cute packets, that ought to do it. Maybe if I keep some packets handy in the shed and pack some in my handbag for when I visit lovely gardens like these, then I might have more success. Honestly though it's remembering where I put the seeds when I want to plant them that will be the tricky part.

I spent way more time on this than I'd have liked, but what the heck, it's been so grey and rainy outside anyway. After the fact I realized I could have probably searched online for some packet templates, when I did, sure enough there were loads out there but I'm happy I made the effort because I enjoyed folding these up and filling them and I can also share it with you.


These are a little end of summer gift from me to you. Simply click on the image above to download the full-size packet PDF file and print it out. Use them yourself or assemble a bundle and gift them to your favourite gardener.

What seeds will you collect? I'm after black columbines like these that I found under a bush in our garden and as many different hollyhocks as I can find in friends' gardens.


And speaking of the end of summer, can't believe it's favourite pie time already. The hedgerows are heavy with berries and I keep stopping to pluck them while I walk. Pippi however favours the plum tree in the back garden laden with so much fruit it's hanging down low enough for her to jump up and pick it herself – she's even sussed out that the purple are ripe and leaves the green behind. We have to keep her consumption limited though, the smells she creates after feasting on them are blinding ;) 

Although very belated, I will return to photo sharing soon. There are more images from our trip to see and a few from the birthday of my now teenager. 

Happy Thursday to you,




Very warm wishes to you and yours


Our recent freezing fog left the most amazing pearl-like strands decorating the garden and it looked to me like the spiders were decorating for the festive season.

I'll be with California family for a while so no updates until my return. I'm not clever enough to do self-automated posts; I do know how, just haven't figured out how to be smart enough to make the extra time. Buying a two week supply of puppy food, travel snacks and currency exchanges seem the priority today, packing might be a good idea too :)

Tutorials 6

If you find yourself with a little spare time over the holiday season (insert laughter) there are a few tutorials stashed away here that might strike your fancy. I thought there were ten or twenty, but it seems over forty have been racked up over the last few years and many are useful for whipping up very last minute gifts - hopefully something to be found for everyone.

So I'm wishing you and your families a warm and wonderful festive season, thanks for popping in and saying hello throughout 2010. I'll be back to toast the new year with you!


Painted owl cards & things

Parliament of cards

Just dropping back in for a quick post on Gracie's party invites. She's having a small gathering this year for a sleepover... wish me luck. They have to do it at least once right!? I know, not more owls, but because it's a sleepover we decided night owls would be just the ticket. Gracie and I had such a good time making these together she wanted to share them.

The cards are just half an A4 card (A5) and folded once. A4 is nearly the same as letter size.

It ended up being very good practice using different brushes to vary paint effects. We used three brushes, one flat brush a round brush and a tiny round brush for details like the point of the nose. Making more than one owl gave Gracie a chance to practice the brush techniques. 

Painting base colours 

I've uploaded a very simple sketched template if anyone wants to use it. Simply draw the owl on the fold and cut it out. Sketch in the circles with pencil as a guide for the paint. We used acrylic because they blend easily and dry well. To make the paint more opaque on the darker papers paint a base colour first mixed with some titanium white.

Painting details

To paint the feathery details we dipped the flat brush in whites and browns without blending them and painted from the eye outward. We used the unblended paint the same way on the body feathers.

Easy and effective and quick to do too. 

I'll soon be back to check out what I've been missing with friends around blogland and share a sewing project I've been working on for quite a while, it incorporates some new, simple embroidery patterns.

Oak leaf on a linen/cotton blend

I'm very excited about this one. The project started as many do, making something I needed then deciding other people might just need or want one too.

Seashell on denim

And BTW, I'm still looking for the floor of Gracie's room, but to be fair, I haven't bothered to look very hard yet. We've been enjoying many sunny autumn days and new projects far too much to bother with indoor challenges. Besides, I've always found just closing her door very effective anyway ;)

Back soon. 


P.S. The template (sans the feet) would also work well for owl softies and acrylic or fabric paint would work just as well painting on fabric instead of paper.

Repurposing and mopping up


Today we quickly whipped up three easy items from one leg of an old pair of Gracie's jeans.

It started when I used the old jeans to make a coaster. I simply sewed two denim discs together then stitched on a vintage doily. I liked the way the denim went with the natural colour of the linen thread the doily was crocheted with.

Secondly, noticing the left-over long, sturdy seam that was scrap, I trimmed the seam close on both edges. Then sewed (with my machine) a buttonhole on one end and an orange, glass button on the other to make an ankle bracelet for Gracie. No need to even take this one off at bath time :)

And lastly, a new bone for Pippi. Denim is a great, sturdy fabric for dog toys. I made a simple bone shape with chalk on the remaining scrap, double-stitched around the shape and turned it. Then the kids stuffed it tightly with fabric scraps. After ladder-stitching up the opening she enjoyed a little chew time. This will be her craft room toy, no dragging it into the garden to hide it from us.

Denim will always be one of my favourite fabrics to sew with, it's uses are endless. Which reminds me, I love this denim necklace and this little denim number too.

Lichen liken the weather

And yay! The sun peeped through this afternoon. We've had very little let up from the rain until today. It rained so hard two nights ago that the chimney above our stove had water pouring down it puddling under the oven, splashing over the stove into our dinner which was cooking away and also into a pool on the kitchen floor (it ended up being a perfect opportunity to give that grimy area a good clean).

Thistles showered

Having a week of heavy rain makes me feel even more sadness for people in Pakistan who are living in the floods and rain with no homes. I know the British people have been big supporters of the relief efforts, I hope it continues.

On another note, a couple of Gracie's favourite summer reads have been The tail of Emily Windsnap by, Liz Kessler and Kensuke's Kingdom by, Michael Morpurgo. She also whizzed through one of the Wimpy Kid books and howled all the way. Tristan isn't a lover of reading, never has been, but he does enjoy Chris Ryan books, lots of action.

Back to school soon. Hopefully the sun will keep on shining and we'll have a chance to hit the beach a few more times before going back.

Happy weekend to you!