The Christmas countdown… only 3 weeks to go!

Just a gentle reminder that Christmas is only 3 weeks away.

This, infact, sends me into a flat panic as I have to make and post all my presents to the UK, so my deadline is sooner than most.  So far I have managed to make 3 items which I am super pleased about.  There’s nothing like making sweatshirts for a UK winter in 30 degree heat!

Sweatshirts aren’t exactly what’s needed for our Sydney summer, but if you are looking for a present then a ‘Sewing with Kate’ gift certificate could be the answer.  Has your favourite person always wanted to sew?  Is your partner always looking for the perfect gift for you? A new years resolution perhaps? If so, this could be the perfect gift.

Learn how to use a sewing machine or make your own clothes or even learn some mending techniques.  Sewing is lifelong skill, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

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The gift certificate doubles as this cute sewing kit with some cotton, pins, needles and a button, there is also space to write a little message.  It is wrapped in a festive felt envelope and tied together with a sewing charm.  There are lots of colours and charms to choose from.

Just drop me a message through the contact page or Facebook and I will get back to you ‘tout suite’.

How can you resist it? x

There’s no ‘walk of shame’ with a Boomerang Bag!

A few weeks ago I met a lovely lady called Jude Furniss.  She is someone who I have wanted to meet for a while.  She is a local, she is president of the Surfriders Foundation (Manly branch) and she is also the community leader of Boomerang Bags here in Manly.  She is passionate about protecting Australia’s waves and beaches through conservation and activism and her enthusiasm is infectious.

Did you know an estimated 50 million plastic bags end up in our waterways and marine environment in Australia every year? Plastic pollution is killing our marine life. 30% of the world’s turtles and 90% of seabird species have now ingested plastic debris. (source: Greenpeace)

After our meeting, it became apparent to me that Boomerang Bags was something that I could help with. Boomerang Bags works to reduce the use of plastic bags by engaging local communities in making shopping bags. They use recycled and second hand materials donated by individuals and businesses. So far they have made over 48,000 bags nationally.

Locally, a campaign called Plastic Free Manly is aiming to to make our community plastic bag free by sighting Boomerang Bags as one of it’s possible solutions.  That’s my kinda gig! I can’t begin to tell you how many times I pop into the shops only to forget my shopping bags and then resort to a plastic bag.  I scurry out of the shop carrying it (the walk of shame), pledging to do better next time!

The initiative is trying to persuade local businesses to have a box of Boomerang Bags available for ‘the forgetful’ which can then be dropped back when next shopping.  There are already a few businesses on board, notably The Butcher & The Chef inside Harris Farm Food.  They have been huge supporters of Boomerang Bags.  Within the next 2 weeks, the aim is to sign up at least 20 more local businesses.

I bumped into Jude in the playground last week where she was asking the parents if they could make the shopping bags from the kits she had prepared.  I grabbed a bundle off her.  I was given a pre-cut front, back, handle & pocket along with the instruction sheet.  I spent a rainy day sewing seven of these beauties, here is the result.

Looking like a dork and wearing my fish dress just for this occasion!

Boomerang Bags Manly are launching at the Ocean Care Day Festival on the Beachfront on Sunday 4th December.  If you are local, pop along and meet Jude (she’s awesome). There are some great activities happening too; a Seaside scavenge, live music, roving artists, eco talks, a “touchable” Ocean Lab and lots of great eco exhibitions and stalls celebrating our oceans.

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I would love to get as many Manly locals involved in making as I can. If anyone has use of a large space that they are willing to share for a day, I would love to hear from you.  I would really like to get a large group together, sewing in a group is so much more fun!

Boomerang Bag Manly at 63 Alexander St (Cnr Balgowlah Rd) is open on Monday’s from 9.30-2.30pm, so drop in if you have a spare hour or two, there is always space to sew.

 

Christmas is only 4 weeks away….

Just a gentle reminder that Christmas is only 4 weeks away.  This, infact, sends me into a flat panic as I have to make and post all my presents to the UK and I have barely started.  Oh well, ‘daughter/sister/aunty/niece of the year’ award goes to me again!

But if (unlike me) you like to get things organised, then a ‘Sewing with Kate’ gift certificate could be the answer.  Has your favourite person always wanted to sew?  Is your partner always looking for the perfect gift for you? A new years resolution perhaps? If so, this could be the perfect gift.

Learn how to use a sewing machine or make your own clothes or even learn some mending techniques.  Sewing is lifelong skill, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The gift certificate doubles as this cute sewing kit with some cotton, pin and needles and buttons, there is also space to write a little message.  It is wrapped in this festive felt envelope and tied together with a sewing charm.

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Just drop me a message through the contact page or Facebook and I will get back to you ‘tout suite’.

How can you resist it? x

The Acton Dress: part 2 – a refashion

In July I decided it was time to address my fit issues with the Acton dress.  My decision was spurred on by the wedding of my lovely friend Katie, back in Sheffield.  A solo trip to the UK too, whoop whoop!  Hanging with the girls, lots of laughter, a few tears, commiserating about middle age and discovering we can’t handle the booze like we used to.

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Here’s the bride on the no.52 bus on the way down to the registry office!  Gotta love that!

So onto my dress.

I made up another bodice toile, this time using some calico.  I had initially made up a size A  (see previous post) but I went back to the size B and reduced from there.  The issue was the depth from the neckline to the boob so I altered the pieces, see below.

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The fit was good, I didn’t feel that I was shoehorning myself into it. A thrilling moment as I really didn’t want to mess up this Acton.  I had chosen something very special to work with, nothing straightforward, this was a refashion!
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I bought this gorgeous kimono in Byron Bay on our 10 year wedding anniversary. I had been wanting to refashion it from the moment I saw it.  I know you will think. Why?  Why cut up something so beautiful?

Yes, I did momentarily grapple with it myself, but it was a cheap cotton kimono, so nothing valuable or vintage but the fabric was TDF (that’s ‘to die for’, Mum)!  I think I was drawn to the ‘pins and needles’ pattern subconsciously.  I didn’t notice the pattern until it was pointed out to me some months later. The main point is I wouldn’t wear it as it is, I wanted something I could wear that was more special than a simple dressing gown that I would spill my cereal down.

The Acton and my kimono were a match made in sewing heaven.  I was pleased I had made this dress before I attempted this refashion, as cutting into the kimono was the scariest thing I have ever done.

I had decided that I would use a plain black fabric for the front of the dress as this part is hidden by the wrap.  This meant I only needed to cut the back skirt and front & back bodice pieces from the kimono fabric.  PLUS, I wanted to save the top of the kimono to make into a bolero jacket.*  Not asking much eh?

*I will write about this in my next blog post

The placement and cutting went well.  I was careful to adhere to grain, using the back seam as a guide.   The kimono is the thing of hand stitched beauty.  I decided not to unpick every seam (which would have given me more fabric) but to leave the existing seams intact and use them as a design feature.

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I made one small error when cutting the bodice. I really didn’t want a red dot on my nipple, which is exactly what I got!  I had enough fabric to recut this one panel.

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‘red dot’ nipple disaster averted!

So here it is (I gatecrashed the In the Folds photoshoot to get these shots, thanks Emily, Sam & Felicity!)

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There was no pattern matching, the randomness of the pattern is a highlight for me.  As you can see the re-cut bodice piece works so much better.

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The fit is also so much better.  I was glad I went back to the size B and worked from there.  Reducing the bodice really did work well and now I have a wrap that actually meets in the middle!

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No back splurge this time!

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The skirt is by far the best part as the kimono seams are visible and quite lovely. Here you can see the skirt in more detail and you can catch a glimpse of those kimono seams.  I think it looks great, it gives the dress a real story.

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A more relaxed low waist tie option here. You can also see the plain black fabric I bought for the front of the dress. The black was a perfect match (as you know its not always easy to match black). I also used it to line the bodice. I bought this piece from Tessuti Fabric.

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I think this is the best invisible zip I have ever inserted.  I left the dress open here, I like the way it hangs from the back.

I have worn this dress loads already.  Pretty much every time I go out I wear it.  It was such a great dress for the wedding but I have also worn it to dinner many times.  It’s cotton so I never feel overdressed.  My party trick is opening the wrap to show the square shape to anyone who complements my dress (which happens often).  It never gets old (well not for me anyway!)

I hope you like it x

NB: I was given a pre-release copy of the pattern for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All links to the Acton dress are affiliate links. 

The Acton Dress: part 1 – pattern testing

Hurrah, The Acton Dress has arrived!

I am sure you know by now that I share a studio with Emily of In the Folds, the designer of the Acton.  It has been in the works for some time and I have seen the evolution of this pattern from it’s humble beginnings to the glorious dress you see today.

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Emily & I at the Acton photoshoot last month

Back in April, Emily asked me if I would like to test this for her, of course I agreed.  I wanted to test view B which is the wrap skirt option. I knew that with my mum-tum this option would be the perfect cover up. It would remove the need to wear my ‘suck ’em up’ pants!  (Before you say it, I know my stomach is not enormous, but it’s my main bugbear and I feel a bit self conscious about it!)

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I started out testing a straight size B but I soon realised that this size would be too big in the bodice. My issue isn’t the boob size, it’s the depth.  I am very short in the body, which means my boobs don’t actually sit where most sit, they are essentially higher.  So for my first proper toile I made up a straight size A, not sure why I decided to go down an entire size!

There was a ‘new to me’ element in this pattern. I have never sewn princess panels before, how is this possible?  I think it’s because I often associate them with vintage style frocks, but with the racer back and the thin straps I think the design is more contemporary. I was surprised how easy the princess panels were to place together and this is where my tailors ham came in very useful!

The wrap skirt is very unusual. From a construction perspective I had no idea how this would ever fit together.  There is a moment when you are attaching the skirt to the bodice at the side seams and thinking ‘have I done something wrong here?’ and ‘this will never work!’  It does work!*  I have to say I have never come across anything like it before.  A little bit of sewing magic happens right before your very eyes.

*(the instructions are now fuller in this area, more details have been added).

You can see from the photos below what I mean.  The skirt is essentially a giant square.

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Flashing my giant square!
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The fabric was gifted to me by my lovely friend Jen.  A good choice as it is lightweight and has a really nice drape which works well with this design.
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Yes, my tum sticks out more than my boobs!
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I love the wrap feature & the bodice, it makes me feel confident to wear a dress that shows a bit of skin!
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Notice to pulling around the boob area

This was a good toile but after wearing it I could see there were a few issues with the fit.  It’s just a bit too tight. I had initially reduced the seam allowance on the side seams and at the zip to give me some breathing space but still it was not quite right.

There is some ‘back fat’ splurge going on (not shown for obvious reasons).  You can also see in the picture above that there is some pulling under the arm pit towards the boob, indicating it’s too small. I wanted the wrap to meet in the middle too and it doesn’t quite get there. Finally, I cut the hem too short, I was a little overzealous with the scissors.

But this really would have been a wearable toile if I hadn’t burnt a dirty great hole in the back of it when giving it a final press.  Tears were shed.

I enjoyed the pattern testing process and I have big love for this dress.  It’s a great dress to try out new skills, especially with the unique construction.  It made me determined to sort out my fit issues as I had a bigger plan up my sleeve.

…to be continued…

 

 

 

 

The denim clinic: mending my favourite jeans

I can’t throw these jeans away.  They aren’t particularly ‘cool’ but they are comfy and they fit me and I like them, so they are staying.

The problem with these jeans is that they are very light weight denim and so are wearing out at a very fast pace.  The only solution is to keep fixing.

They started out with a single knee patch, then a second knee patch and now I am onto fixing more knee thinning.

BEFORE:

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PREP:

I patching it up, to strengthen the area.  I used some grey and white striped cotton fabric, a scrap I found in my box.  It’s a thin cotton and because I wasn’t at the studio and machine-less, I just used iron-on glue to secure the piece. I left the edges raw.  Just because.

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AFTER:

I used the white lines in the stripe to guide the straight lines of sashiko stitching.  I thought I would experiment with the crosses.  I think it paid off.  The white rows were an afterthought, aiming to pull it all together.  You can see there is one row of straight stitching.  Clearly I missed that row, oh well, happy accident!

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Can you spot the straight stitch row?
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Close up

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If you are wanting some visible mending on your favourite jeans,  just drop me a line.  I am happy to help.

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Get your dots on… join the ‘Sew Dots Challenge’

I recently decided to take part in the ‘Sew Dots Challenge’ created by Rosie Martin of DIY Couture. It’s a simple challenge, to sew something dotty in October, share a picture of it and donate some money to RNIB.

The RNIB (the Royal National Institute of Blind People) is a UK charity that supports people with sight loss with a huge range of services. These services include emotional support and campaigning for public environments that respect the needs of blind and partially sighted people. RNIB run a campaign every October called Wear Dots Raise Lots to highlight the impact of Braille and to raise money for their services.

Rosie works on a project called Online Today, which helps people with sight loss to use digital technology.  All of these services mean that blind and partially sighted people are not excluded from everyday communication.

A worthy cause and a fun challenge, so I signed up.  To find out more, I watched this little vBlog made by Rosie.  It’s cool, take the time to watch.

Onto my project;  For us sewing peeps, Rosie has been filling her Instagram feed with dot sewing inspiration which has been thrilling to see.  Everything from oversized dot mini skirts to mini dotted dungarees to monochrome dotty raincoats.

My thoughts when starting this project was to use fabric and a pattern that I already owned and donate any money I would have spent.  Dots are pretty thin on the ground in my stash and I can’t say I have sewn all that many pieces in ‘straight-up’ polka dots.  These are the only projects I could find that are close to the brief. I think 2 out of the 3 aren’t standard polka dot patterns. The first was made from a polka dot tablecloth, the second was a random raindrop spot and the third more mesh than dotty.

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So time for some experiments. I decided to produce my own dotty fabric.

I found the perfect base fabric, a piece of white linen that was gifted to my by Margie (the gift that keeps on giving!)  I always feel that linen is a ‘grown up’ fabric and that I was never mature enough to pull it off.  Well today is the day I am doing linen, but of course with my own special touch. I started by hand painting some small dots and then cutting into some freezer paper to produce some larger dots.

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I really liked the smaller random black dots so I abandoned the grey.  I liked the grey but they were quite patchy and I thought together they would be too much for me.

Now to choose a pattern. I settled on a Peplum top from Peppermint Magazine, designed by In the Folds.  A new pattern to me, but a free pattern.  Yes you heard me, a free pattern, just downloaded from the Peppermint Magazine website.  The top had been made in a light grey linen so I knew my white linen would work a treat.

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Image: Peppermint Magazine

My biggest issue was the peplum.  Lets just say, I am not a fan of a peplum.  Anything that cuts me right at my ‘problem area’ is just not for me.  So I just extended the top and eliminated the peplum.

The pattern has a lovely design feature on the shoulders which isn’t easy to see in this photo, but the diagram shows it in more detail.

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Image: Peppermint Magazine

I decided to paint the shoulder panels and then create a pocket to further achieve some dot loveliness.  It turned out pretty well.  What do you think?

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The touch of yellow just gave it some extra zing which I really liked.
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A slightly wobbly pocket, don’t look too closely.
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I like that you can still see the dots from the back

It was an easy sew.  The instructions are very detailed.  I was dreading adding the binding to the ‘V’ but the ingenious pattern piece really helped to make my ‘V’ sharp.  I am also pleased with the pocket.  It was my second attempt at sewing it in place but I finally managed to make it as symmetrical as I could.   It’s a bit wobbly so don’t look too closely!

It’s just the right amount of dottiness for me.  I much prefer a random dot so this mini dalmation pattern worked a treat.  Now all we need is a warm sunny day.

Come on people… get your dots on! x

Oops, I did it again…

I just couldn’t help myself. I have only gone and made another Frankie dress!

After the success of my fishy dress and the fact that I haven’t taken it off since the sun came out, I thought I would give it another bash.

There were a couple of tweeks I wanted to make with the fit.  I originally cut my fishy dress to a extra small on the top grading to a small.  This time round, I thought maybe a straight small would be better as the shoulders seams were a little short.  I also decided to add an additional centimetre for some extra room.  This is how I added that extra width.

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I drew a diagonal line from the shoulder seam to the arm hole, cut long the line and opened it up by a centimetre.  It just gave me the extra room I needed.  The final adjustment was to length.  I had reduced the length on my fishy dress, mainly due to fabric shortage so this time I cut the specified short length as per the pattern.  You will notice that I also chose the elbow length sleeve option instead of the short sleeves.

The fabric I used for this make is really special.  I bought it from Faberwood in the UK. It’s quite a bold himmeli pattern and large in scale.

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I had originally spotted it on Wendy Ward’s instagram page and went straight online and bought a couple of metres.  As I was heading back to the UK in August, it was waiting for me when I arrived at my parent’s place.  It was a long wait, but well worth it.  It’s an amazing quality knit.  This is what I like about Faberwood, it’s a well curated and quality driven fabric store.  AND bonus to me, I actually got to meet Fiona who owns Faberwood while I was back in the UK.

So here it is.

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The morning light has sent this a bit blue, the image above is a closer representation of colour.

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Here is the shoulder seam in more detail

I am pleased that I sorted out the fit, it feels less restricted on the shoulders than my fishy dress. I am also pleased I didn’t cock it up as this fabric is so lovely (and no longer available) that I think tears would have been shed if I had made a mistake. I am now waiting with bated breath to see what Wendy and Fiona make with their pieces.

 

A fishy tale

About a year ago I was gifted some amazing fabric from sewing pal Anna, better known as Blogless Anna.  She parcelled me up 2 metres of this glorious fishy fabric and sent it interstate.

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It’s nothing if not very generous, especially as we had never met at this point.  Are sewing pals really this lovely?  Well, as the years have gone by and I have met more and more of the sewing crew, the answer is YES!  I feel lucky to be part of such a community.

Anna’s makes are a thing of beauty, A Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee and a Pattern Fantastique Aeolian Tee.  I would have happily sewn up the Aeolian, it’s a raglan sleeve and the right shape for me but then Tessuti hit us with the Frankie dress in August and I was sold!

I loved the Frankie at first sight.  It is the perfect seasonal dress for the Sydney climate.  It has an option for a top, short or long length dress.  It has 4 sleeve lengths too.  It also starts in a small size and it is made for people who like to hide that tum!  It has volume in the right place without making you look pregnant.  That’s a very special thing.

I loved this dress made but the Tessuti girls, this candy striped, short dress with the elbow length sleeves is rockin’.

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Image from Tessuti Fabric website

I am a toile convert, I don’t make anything unless it’s been toiled first. I found some revolting yellow knit in my stash (even the bravest of brave wouldn’t be seen dead in it) and toiled away.  I graded an extra small for the top to a small around the waist and hips.  I probably should have just cut a straight small, if truth be told, as I think that would have been perfect.

It’s a very quick and easy sew. The fishy fabric is a very good quality stretch, it has some weight.  I was rather worried about how the back facing would sit as you have to stitch it in place after inserting jelly tape and under stitching.  I was worried I was overworking the fabric and it would stretch but no, it sits really well and I am happy with the final result.

I did the majority of it on the overlocker and even managed a neat and rather successful double row of hem stitching using my twin needle.  My machine is rather hit and miss when sewing these usually.

I think this would be a great pattern for a sewer who hasn’t much experience in stretch.  It’s a good starting point.  It also includes a couple of interesting techniques that could be used in future makes.

I know I will be living in this come summer.  It’s a perfect beach cover up as well as a great everyday dress.  I see many more of these in my life.  I am already cutting my next version as we speak.

So here it is and as my Mum would say, “we’ll see you coming in that!”

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It was ‘crackin’ the flags’ today, so couldn’t resist an outing to the beach with the kids

Not a bad day to turn 43!

 

 

 

 

 

Mending, thou shalt not be boring!

I picked up a pair of jeans recently.  They were new jeans with fake ageing.  I have to say I am generally not a fan of such techniques, but they fit really well and I was in need of a quick fix.  This doesn’t exactly fits with my ideals, but hey ho.

I knew that the knees would go pretty quickly as the ageing made them pretty weak and so a hole quickly emerged.  Of course, cool people leave such holes, but I just can’t.  I see creative possibilities and I just can’t leave them.

I have been wanting to try some more complex Sashiko for a while and these jeans presented an opportunity to experiment.

A few months ago I visited the Craft and Quilt Fair in Sydney, not exactly my bag, but worth a trip to meet Jane MacDonald, the owner of Bebe Bold, a local Sashiko supplier and teacher.  It was crazy busy but she chatted to us for a while and helped me choose some thread and impart some of her vast knowledge.  I bought some lovely pieces, three Olympus threads, long Sashiko needles and some Kogin fabric.  Jane also gave me instructions for a pin cushion, the Hitomezashi Hydrangea pattern.

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NB: Kogin fabric has little dots printed on the fabric, it helps to make the stitching process a little easier.  When you wash the fabric, the dots disappear.

I have been dying to try it for a while but it looked frightening complicated so I have been sitting on it.  Time to bite the bullet.

Here’s what I did;

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WRONG SIDE: I started by repairing the hole.  I used the selvedge of the Kogin fabric (no waste here!) and used some iron on glue to press it in place. 
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RIGHT SIDE: Hole reinforced and ready for patching
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I cut a piece of Kogin fabric to cover the hole and pinned in place
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Then it was a case of following the instructions, starting with 2 rows of crosses in blue and orange thread.
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The final stage was weaving the white thread between the crosses

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I am not the neatest hand sewer, even with the dots to help me out.  But it’s quite lovely all the same.

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Boring mending?  Definitely not. Enjoyable mending?  Most definitely.

I loved sitting down with the kids, I rarely do it.  They watched ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ while I stitched away.

Cosmic x