Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Season's Greetings!

Unexpected guest heading to the family table? Need a gift fast, but would prefer to make rather than buy? Well, here a some last minute DIY gifts that will be warmly received without taking up too much of your time.

Scented candles

I made the ones in the pictures from soy wax, but the same effect can be achieved by using a combination of beeswax and coconut oil (which is what I used when I first dabbled in candle making.) As the finished item is not going to be used on the skin, you can use ordinary beeswax from your local hardware store and coconut oil from the supermarket. 

I used a combination of two parts beeswax to one part coconut oil, with approximately 3ml of fragrance oil to produce a decent sized teacup candle. Both beeswax and soy wax burn without creating smoke, which makes them ideal gifts! For more information, check out this excellent tutorial from Claire K

Hot Pocket Snood

If you have some scrap fabric and a couple of hours spare, check out my latest 'Instructable' to make this 'hidden compartment' snood. I guarantee it will be well appreciated if you live in a cold climate!

Bath Teas (again!)

If you're totally up against the clock with no time to sew, or wait for a candle to set, then these easy bath teas are the answer. You may remember my post from the last festive season about using Martha Stewart's techniques to create simple toiletries; well, this is a return to one of those projects, but an easier version. 

All you need for this gift is a jar, some scraps of cotton and some herbal tea. You literally cut some squares of cotton, put two or three teaspoons of herbal tea in the centre and tie them up! I used a combination of chamomile, lavender, sage and lemon verbena (equal parts of each) which should help to promote relaxation. 

I had some decal paper lying around from a previous project, so I used that to add a bit of decoration, but all you really need to do is tie a ribbon around it. Voila!

Good Yule everyone!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Move Over, Prada...

I first published this on Instructables at the beginning of the year.  It didn’t win any prizes, but I still think the project is a winner ;-)

This is possibly the easiest jacket you’ll ever make.  Possibly… It does include some pattern drafting, but there’s no collar or sleeve setting (Woo!)

So heres what you’ll need to make this ‘Ponket’ (yeah - I did just make that up…):

About two and a half metres of top fabric (something pliable but weighty like wool)
A fleece blanket large enough for a single bed
About two metres of lining fabric
matching/contrasting thread
Sewing machine
Hand sewing needles

This simple pattern starts with one large square piece of paper. Mine measured 28 1/2" square, which would make it roughly a small to medium in size. An easy way to determine the optimum length would be to stretch out your arm and measure from the centre of your chest to the middle of the back of your hand, or your wrist. 

You will then fold the square in half along the diagonal, to create a triangle - this will form the pattern for the back of the jacket. 

Now make a mark approximately three inches down from the point of the triangle.  In order to create a natural neckline we will need to create a gentle curve along the point that we just marked.  I use a pattern master because my freehand drawing skills are a tad weak…

For the two front pieces you will need to lay another large pice of paper on top of the original pattern piece. Trace around the original pattern, and then add between three and five inches, depending upon how much of an overlap you want at the centre (I personally used three). Add a notch mark at the point where the original pattern ended - you’ll use this as a guideline later on…

There's a teensy bit more tracing to do in order create the facing, then the pattern drafting is done! What you need to do is draw an angled line from the top edge of the front pattern piece piece to the bottom. Place another piece of paper on top of the pattern and trace along the angled line and the front and top edges. Make a notch mark on the facing, at the top of the pattern where the blue line (the edge of the original pattern piece) starts.

And there are your three pattern pieces. Time to start cutting the fabric!

Place the back pattern piece on the fold of the top fabric and cut out. 

Now cut out two of the front pieces, making sure to place a notch where indicated. 

Repeat the process with the fleece blanket/fabric, but the notches are not necessary for this step.

We need to make the top fabric and blanket into one workable piece, so lay the blanket pieces on top of the wrong sides of the corresponding fabric pieces, and stitch together.

Press the seams open.

Now cut two of the facing pieces from the either the top fabric, or contrasting fabric: I only used the contrasting fabric because my main fabric was a remnant that would only go so far... I also made a schoolboy error in my project that I didn't notice until much later on, so I'm putting the info in here - please don't skip this step! Stay stitch the facing along the raw edge (the part that will sit inside the Ponket) to prevent future fraying nightmares. Trying to add the stitching after the facings are attached is a pain in the #%€#...

Before you attach the facing there is one more piece of fabric to cut but this won't require a pattern...

Measure the distance between the sides seams of your ponket and add about two inches 'playing room'. We're going to take a decent sized piece of your top, or contrast, fabric (enough to fit the measurement you just took) in order to make some bias binding. 

If you can see the selvedge of the fabric (that’s the fuzzy bit on the edge), all you'll need to do is create an angle at 45 degrees to that edge and you will have found the natural bias. If, however, there is no visible selvedge you can tug the fabric to find the bias: if there is no 'give' then that's the warp, if there is some 'give' that's the weft and if there is a helluva lot of give, that's the bias :-)

You'll need to make the piece about three inches wide to make it easier to handle. Cut the piece out and fold it in half lengthways to find the centre, then carefully fold each side towards the centre. Pin the folds in place and press thoroughly. 

Pin the binding into place at the back of the neck and attach with a ladder stitch. 

It's now time to attach the facings. Place the facing right side to the right side of the jacket matching the notch. Pin into place and sew. Repeat with the second facing. Clip comers and turn facings right side out.  Poke out the edges with a chopstick or point turner.

For a cleaner finish top stitch along the outer edge. 

Fold the hem under. Pin into place, press and sew.

It's now time to work on the lining. We're going to cut the lining with the same pattern pieces that we used for the body of the jacket. 

Cut and sew the pieces in the same way that the outer jacket was put together.

Lay the lining on top of the inside of the jacket. You'll notice that you have a bit more seam allowance than you need for the front so you can go ahead and trim that down to something more reasonable, as long as you leave yourself enough to work with. (an inch is usually safe…)

(This is the part where you'll start to hate me.... Sorry...)

Now we are going to hand sew (yep - hand sew!) the lining to the jacket using the wonderful ladder stitch once again. I know this can be time consuming, but it also means there will be absolutely no turning (yay!)

Once the lining is in we can work on the buttonholes. This is also how we create the sleeve ‘illusion’…

Place the jacket on the person you are making it for (or on yourself, or on a body form) and mark where you want the front button (or buttons) to go. Then get your model to hold their arm out to one side and mark the spot where the wrist button should be.

Back to the sewing machine!

Choose your buttonhole setting and go for it! The front buttonhole is as standard.  For the ’sleeves’ it might be more aesthetically pleasing to have the buttonholes sitting vertically to help enhance the illusion of a long sleeve seam. 

Cut open the buttonholes, and use tailor's chalk or a dressmaker's pencil to mark where the buttons should sit. Remember that the ‘sleeve’ buttons go on the inside, and the layer of fleece means that you don’t have to sew through the top fabric at all :-)

Ta da!

Who needs Prada, eh?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Scent To You

The picture behind is 'Battersea Power Station By Night'
Reed diffusers are all the rage at the moment, with people trying to eliminate artificial air fresheners from their homes.  However, the ones on the lower end of the market can often contain alcohol (if the oil is stated to be ‘highly flammable’ it most likely contains alcohol.)

The flip side of that is the purer oils can cost upwards of £20, so why not save some money in the long run and make your own?

All you need is:
A small clean glass bottle
A selection of essential oils

Start by giving the bottle a thorough clean, particularly if it’s a wine bottle as you don’t want the former contents messing with your final scent. 

Now it’s time to mix the scents.

If you have a few essential oils and are unsure if the scents will mix well, remove the caps, hold the bottles tightly together and waft under your nose.  This should give you an indication of how well the oils will blend. I personally used a mixture of vanilla and sweet apple, which created something close to the aroma of apple crumble.

Place half a cup of aromatherapy base oil, such as sweet almond, into a mixing jug and, slowly, start adding essential oils: 20 drops is a good starting point. Stir and inhale the scent.  Is it where you want it to be, or does it need a little more?  Keep repeating this adding and stirring process until you have your desired scent.

You can use ordinary barbecue bamboo skewers for this project, but be sure to snip off the sharp end - partly because pointy things are dangerous and, more importantly, to open up the end of the skewer, allowing the oil to flow more freely.

I used about 10 skewers, which was around the right number to ensure each reed got some space in the bottom of the bottle.

Pour your scented oil into the bottle, add your reeds and you are pretty much done!

For the first couple of days, be sure to rotate the reeds top to tail, and back again, to guarantee that they are entirely covered with the oil.  This ensures that the oil has a channel to travel up through.

Enjoy the aroma!