Monday, 30 December 2013

East, West, Homemade Is Best!

Like most crafters I always feel the urge to get creative over the festive season: but this year I knew I would be working on one large sewing project, which meant that I would have to keep all of the other crafts relatively simple. 

So, what does one do when one needs to create something that's both fabulous and flippin' easy??? Why, one turns to Martha Stewart, of course!

I decided to put together a 'pamper hamper' for my sister-in-law and her two adolescent daughters using some of the bath treat ideas from Martha Stewart Living. I live close to a herbal apothecary so I decided to make some of the 'tub teas', and bath salts, using lavender, lemon verbena and chamomile (and, for the salts, some essential oils that I already had to hand). I purchased two packets of empty teabags online via Amazon, and some jars of various sizes, from IKEA. I used the smaller jars for the bath teas, fitting three into each jar, and used the larger jars for the salts. I tried my hand at the 'bath bomb' recipe as well, but couldn't quite get the colour to set as I wanted (they're yellow 'cakes' in the jar, but I was trying to make them blue...) - I packaged them up anyway ;-) 

Bath fizzes, bath salts, hand soaps and tub teas...
I also decided to add some simple 'melt and pour' soaps to the hamper, using a pure vegetable soap base from Mystic Moments and adding a few drops of essential oils and a swirl of food colouring. Needless to say, the gift basket went down a treat!

However, my main creative concern this Christmas was assembling Vogue 8940 for my husband...

I had, quite literally, lost track of time as the December days skipped along the calendar, and so found myself with less than two weeks to get this surprise completed. Luckily, my local sewing emporium had the pattern in stock, but, as I am used to drafting patterns rather than using commercial ones, it seemed to take forever to lay the pattern out and cut the fabric, which stunted my progress a little: I had to resort to banishing him from our home on Christmas Eve in order to do the lining and buttons!

Thankfully, though, he loved the outcome :-)
Trust me, that is him looking pleased....

Not sure how I'm going to top this next year....

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Project Skate - part 1

One of the problems with being a DIYer (and I’m sure many of you will relate to this) is that you get to a point where you feel as though you may as well hand-make everything.  You start to mentally reverse engineer almost everything you see, and a never ending list of future projects sits permanently in your mind.

That is why I decided that I was going to acquire a new pair of roller skates the hard way… I’d obviously watched a few too many roller skate building tutorials online - but once the idea was in my head I, simply, could not get it out of my head.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the skates, especially the fact that they’re ‘tailored’ to me, but as this was my first skate project, I tripped over a few unexpected hurdles, no pun intended, (one of which was, admittedly, a dead power drill) - which led to a bit of frustration - which then led to a bit of ‘mood shopping’…

Anyway, this ‘tutorial’ should ensure that whoever decides to do the same shouldn’t have to do it ‘the hard way’ ;-)

These were my tools and supplies:

One old pair of roller-skates 
One pair of skate shoes/trainers
One skate tool or ratchet
One pair of Sure-Grip insoles
One 15mm spanner/wrench
One 10mm spanner/wrench
Electric drill
Marker pens/pencils
4mm bolts and washers, and nuts (if needed)
Hack saw (if needed)
Locktite Threadlocker 

I started by removing the wheels.  I had to hold one of the nuts with the 15mm spanner while using the skate tool to loosen the other.

I then proceeded to remove the skate plate from the boot, and set the boot to one side.

I took the skate shoe and removed the insole.  I then placed the skate plate (from the old roller skates) on the sole of one of the skate shoes, and, when I was sure that I had it in the right place, marked the sole through the screw holes.  

I repeated this action with the second shoe; luckily for me, the sole had a very distinct pattern, so it was fairly easy for me to tell if I was getting a good match on both shoes.

Then, with the help of my Hubby, I drilled the holes in the shoes.  We stuffed the shoe with scrap fabric to ensure that we didn’t drill into the upper.

The next step was placing the Sure Grip insole into the shoe and marking through the holes I had just made, so that the drilling process could be repeated.

This is one of the hurdles…  I removed the screws from the old skates, and the next item on the agenda was to, simply, transfer those screws into the new shoes.  However, as you can see from the first picture, the original skates were more street hockey than roller disco.  They had quite a prominent heel, and a very thin sole at the front.  This meant that the screw plate for the heel was too long and the one for the front was so short it didn’t even penetrate the shoe let alone reaching the skate plate.  I discovered this at around 10pm - that’ll teach me for not planning ahead….

The following day I made a trip to our local ironmongers and bought a handful of bolts, nuts and washers.  I wasn’t entirely sure of the length, so I decided that too long is easier to deal with than too short. You can always cut down. but you can't cut up...

A little bit of elbow grease and they all fitted in nicely :-)  The original insoles then went back in as the bolts I had to use for the front were not flat headed.  I also decided to lace the shoes back up while they were still static.

On goes the plate and out comes the hacksaw… 

This is also the time to add some kind of adhesive to the bolts as the vibration you’ll create whilst using the skate will cause the nuts to unwind.

Almost there - just gotta get the wheels back on… 


On the ‘night of the ill fitting screws’ and after what seemed like a lot of effort, I decided that I couldn’t put those cheapo, crunchy wheels onto my new skates (they were the sort of wheels that have the bearings sealed so that there’s no real way to clean or oil them properly, making them both difficult and slightly dangerous) which is where the ‘mood shopping’ comes in…

I headed off to and treated myself to a full set of new Ventronic 'Ventro Pro' wheels and Kate’s Skates ABEC 7 bearings and….


I am LOVING these!!!  

Now, what can I make with those old wheels? ;-)


If you’re eager to do something similar, but don’t have an old pair of skates to hand (and you’re not keen on trawling through Ebay) then you can build a set of skates from the ground up with the separate components.  Almost all of these can be found at Kate’s Skates, the insoles can be found at Skate Attack:

Bearings (they usually come in packs of eight and you’ll need sixteen for a full set of wheels)
A pair of skate shoes or trainers
Suregrip insoles (or a piece of wood or metal cut to the same shape and size as the shoe’s original insole)

Happy Rolling!

Friday, 7 June 2013


I created a tutorial for a summer blouse and decided to enter it in the Instructables annual fashion contest.  And, guess what - I won!  Not the Grand Prize (that went to the most amazing shoe re-fashion you'll ever see: but I did get one of the first prizes - WOO!

My trophy!

If you want to learn how to make this simple blouse, just follow the link to the Instructables page.

Happy sewing!

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Watch it!

I have a bit of an annoying habit of fiddling with my watch when I'm feeling a tad agitated.  Needless to say, sitting next to the head of department at a recent work training session left me a little more agitated than usual and the strap fell apart.
To be fair, it was a fairly cheap watch to start with...

Anyway, I needed a quick and easy solution to my 'lack of watch strap' problem so I decided to make a replacement.  If you, too, wish to make a replacement watch strap, here's what you'll need:

Two pieces of scrap material (long enough to go around your wrist one and a half times. One will be the top fabric, one will be the lining)
Matching or contrasting thread
Optional interfacing (I made mine without)

Mine has single button closure, but feel free to add as many buttons as you can fit on the thing!

Let's get that watch on the wrist!

1. Measure the circumference of your wrist and add at least 1 & 1/2 inches to that number.

2.  Decide how wide you want the wristband to be.  I wanted mine to be more of a cuff so I made it about 2 inches wide, excluding seam allowance.

3. Pin the top fabric scrap to the lining fabric scrap and draw a rectangle the length and width of your measurements adding a 5 mm (or 1/4 inch) seam allowance.

4. Cut out both pieces together.  (N.B. If you are using interfacing, this is the time to add it to the wrong side of the lining fabric.) Place the fabric right sides together,  pin and sew along three of the four sides,  leaving one of the short sides open for turning.

5. Trim the corners of the strap then turn right side out.  Fold the remaining raw edge under.  Top stitch around the outside of the entire strap, closing the last edge in the process.

6.  if you didn't use interfacing, here is where we strengthen the strap.  If you did use interfacing you can skip this step entirely if you so wish.

Stitching always helps to stabilize a fabric and as I didn't have any interfacing on hand this was my preferred choice for making the strap a bit more sturdy.*  I simply stitched diagonally along the length of the strap until I got to the bottom.  I then did the same thing going the other way which creates a diamond pattern.

Trust me, there ARE diamonds on here...

7.  Now you need to wrap the strap around your wrist and decide where you would like the buttonhole to be.  Mark with a pin or tailor's chalk.

8.  This next step can go one of three ways:

(i) If you have a 'one step' buttonhole stitch on your machine, simply change to the buttonhole foot and put your chosen button in the correct place and let the machine do the work.

(ii) If you have a 'four step' buttonhole stitch you may need to ensure that you mark the width of the button on the fabric to ensure that the hole ends up being the correct size for the button you're using.

(iii) But, if you have the patience of a saint, you could hand sew the buttonhole using satin stitch.  Just ensure that the size is marked on the fabric as in the step above.

It should end up looking like this:

I'll give some leeway to the hand stitchers...

Once the buttonhole stitching is done you can carefully snip the buttonhole open (this is best done with very small scissors).

Now sew on the button!

9. Place the strap on your wrist and decide where you want the watch face to sit.  Mark where the top and bottom of the watch face rests with tailor's chalk or an air vanishing pen (or pins if you're feeling a bit 'Jim Rose'!).

10.  Hand sew the watch into place around the bars at the top and bottom. 

This is a really crappy pic, I know. Sorry....

And we are done!  Ta da! (Let's see how long this one lasts!)



* You could add a third piece of fabric as a stabilizer.