A Genoa Tote with a touch of Sashiko

It’s present time! ¬†A big one this year as my Mum turns 70. ¬†I try to make something special for my parents on these big occasions, especially as I am not in Yorkshire to celebrate with them.

I made this for my Dad’s 70th a couple of years ago, it’s a gilet for the garden and it took me an age. ¬†If you haven’t seen this before, it’s probably because it was one of the first projects I ever blogged about. ¬†Read all about it here.


I needed to pull out the big guns, here. ¬†I had considered a kimono but because Mum is the ‘Queen of Returns’ (at Marks & Sparks) I thought better of it and went for a bag.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the Genoa Tote pattern in the raffle at Sydney Frocktails back in February.  I was then gifted a set of the hardwear for the bag by the lovely Blogless Anna (Thank you Anna)! I had my pattern sorted, now for the design.

It had to be Sashiko for Mum and I really wanted to work on a design I had never tried before, I wanted impact, so I chose the triple persimmon flower stitch.  I bought my stencilled dotty fabric in navy  and some white Olympus sashiko thread from Bebe Bold and off I went.

I am not even going to begin to explain how to do this, no need, Susan Briscoe’s, The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook tells all with helpful illustrations and examples. But lets just say it requires concentrations and patience.


I had ploughed my way through the maze of vertical lines, feeling a little despondent as I couldn’t see how this would ever work.¬† But then the magic happens when you start stitching those horizontal lines… So awesome!



Let’s not be under any illusion here, this piece took me ages. ¬†But worth ever stitch because it is really beautiful and I like it even more for it’s imperfections, the odd wonky stitch adds to the beauty.

Now to apply it to my Genoa Tote.

I chose a heavy indigo denim which I found at Achieve Australia. ¬†I make lots of tote bags from this fabric as it’s really sturdy stuff. ¬†It was also the perfect match for the Sashiko panel. ¬†To make the pattern piece I just added a strip of denim to the top and bottom and cut out the piece as I would any other fabric.

Here it is.

FRONT: This is the smallest size Genoa, using the tan leather handles
BACK: I kept the back Sashiko free and used the indigo denim

For the lining I used some gifted vintage fabric. I suspect it’s Liberty, it certainly has the quality feel of a Liberty fabric but I can’t be sure. ¬†It’s really beautiful though. ¬†I am also super pleased with the internal zip pocket.

Zip: Who Says Sew

This piece of Sashiko is called rice flower stitch, again from Susan Briscoe’s book. ¬†It was a little piece I was sampling for another project. It just happened to be the right size for this pocket, so I added it in here. ¬†I love that little hidden gem.

The Genoa as a pattern is super simple to make and I can see many more in my future.  I just loved adding the leather straps and the studs, it looks so professional.

The great thing about this gift is that it is being hand delivered by my biggest kid. ¬†He’s flown to the UK to visit the family for a few weeks (without us). I think he is the best gift to my Mum could want, but maybe this will come a close second. A very belated Happy Birthday, Mum!





A sneaky bit of Sashiko stitching!

I find the summer holidays a challenge when it comes to sewing time. I am sure I am not alone.  But I do find that I can grab the odd half hour here and there of hand sewing time.  Sashiko and Boro are perfect for such moments.

Here I am watching ‘the middle one’ at soccer training with some stitching in hand. Of course, I could be watching him train for an hour but what’s the fun in that?

I have been working on this particular piece for a couple of weeks. ¬†I used some scrap pieces from other projects, like black denim and grey linen which I added to some beautiful pieces of Japanese fabric from Indigo Niche¬†and some Kogin fabric from Bebe Bold. ¬†I also used traditional Sashiko thread in denim blue, orange and white, again from Bebe Bold. Of course you can use embroidery floss but the Sashiko thread doesn’t split like embroidery floss¬†tends to do.

I used some traditional techniques and then improvised using ideas from the slow sewing workshop I attended last year, run by Craft School Oz.  A happy marriage I would say.  I am thrilled with the result, although it was hard to stop stitching!


Sad for me, but this piece is something I am parting with. ¬†Yes, a present for my lovely friend. ¬†A birthday present, a very belated birthday present. ¬†I am hoping it’s loveliness will excuse my tardiness.

Of course I could gift¬†this piece as it stands, she’s a creative sole, she would find a purpose for it but I wanted to send something useful. I thought that a purse of some kind would work, something big enough for makeup perhaps. ¬†It’s a simple process making this into a purse but I though I would do a quick tutorial in my next blog post about how to do this.

In the meantime, here is the finished purse.


I love these metal antique-style brass zips, I bought this one from Who Says Sew. I also used some grey cotton to line the inside, these pieces were from my scrap box.
I used this Japanese fabric from Indigo Niche for the back

Lets hope this piece doesn’t go missing in the post (as some of my homemade Christmas presents did!) ¬†Happy birthday to Bev x



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.

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;

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. 
RIGHT SIDE: Hole reinforced and ready for patching
I cut a piece of Kogin fabric to cover the hole and pinned in place
Then it was a case of following the instructions, starting with 2 rows of crosses in blue and orange thread.
The final stage was weaving the white thread between the crosses


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


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

Books, bobbins and a blue dress.

“What was your favourite childhood book?”

This was the question posed to me by Rebecca¬†of Dobbin’s Bobbins when she asked me to join her World Book Day blog tour.¬†Choosing my favourite book was easy! She then asked me to make something inspired by my book, eek!

The book I have chosen is a little known story called “Lost at the Fair.” It’s a ladybird book by AJ Macgregor and W Perring. ¬†The story is told in verse,¬†written in 1948 and so it’s a little twee, but really rather lovely.

My original book is long gone but Mum bought me this replacement when I had my kids!

The story is about Danny and Daisy Dormouse and their friend, Little Fieldie Mouse and a little adventure they have when they visit the fair. When taking a ride on a (miniature) elephant Danny makes a grab for some acorns and gets stuck in a tree, only to be returned back to the fairground by a (giant) blackbird.

There were a few elements that appealed to me as a child, the first was the ‘Woodland Fairy Rock’, what was this magical treat?



Also, why had Little Fieldie Mouse been left behind and why was he weeping on a gravestone?  Who had abandoned him?


Why was the policeman less than helpful? ¬†Where was Mr Dormouse? Why was the elephant so small compared to the mice? ¬†Why was the blackbird the same size as the elephant? So many questions… some of¬†which have since been cleared up (it was a milestone not a gravestone). Some questions, however, will go¬†forever unanswered.


I wanted to incorporate a number of elements into my piece, I wanted a mouse reference, a touch of ‘Woodland Fairy Rock’ and a sprinkling¬†of the 1970’s (the era in which I was endless read this book). ¬†I decided to make a children’s dress, a little blue number just like the one Daisy Dormouse is wearing.


The dress has a square neckline, so I turned to the¬†old faithful Henry Dress by Brooklyn Pattern Co. and I wanted the fullness of a gathered or pleated skirt with some in-seam pockets, so I looked at the Geranium dress by Made by Rae for the skirt component. ¬†A pattern mash-up¬†in all it’s glory.

As I am a big fan of pre-loved fabrics, I really wanted to use something vintage and preferably something that I already owned. ¬†It was then I remembered this cute homemade 1970’s apron, a present from my sister. ¬†She sent it to me because of the lovely fabric. ¬†It was in a sorry state, very faded and quite a few stains, but definitely workable. If you look very closely you can see little mice running through the pattern.


The apron looks quite large here, but it’s tiny and so I decided to use the bottom portion of the apron for the bodice and use some contrasting plain fabric for the skirt. ¬†I had to remove the pocket on the apron and hope that the fading wouldn’t be too obvious. I also found a gorgeous teal coloured duck cloth at Spotlight and that worked really well with the colours in the apron.









Thank you Eva, for being an awesome¬†model, there was some channelling of 1940’s starlet throughout this shoot. ¬†She is an amazing and quirky kid hence the fun photos!

The hint of Woodland Fairy Rock came in the form of the bias binding on the hem, you can catch the odd glimpse of it now and then.  I used a cot sheet to line the bodice and a navy pillowcase to line the skirt.  I finished the armholes with bias binding, which is the teal duck cloth fabric.


I love a bit of collage, lets just say it’s not my forte (they are a little basic as any proper collage artist will tell you!) but I enjoy the process enormously. I decided to make a set of 3 canvas’s using some imagery from the book and some hand stitching.



‘Rise and Shine’

I love this image of Danny waking up in his yellow onesie.  I found the crochet blanket image in an old craft book, I do think though, it looks like the sun is radiating from his bum.

‘Get me off these bobbins’

Poor Little Fieldie Mouse, this image of him crying really had an impact on me as a child.  I wanted some giant teardrops and to get him off that milestone and onto something far more appealing!

‘I want it all and I want it now’

I have played with scale quite a lot in these collages, mainly because the scale is so absurd in the book.  If ever I wanted some Woodland Fairy Rock I would have to say that this is the size I would want it, GIANT!  (Please tell me you noticed Daisy is wearing my dress!)

I loved every moment of this project. ¬†I really enjoyed delving back into my favourite book and getting to grips with the story and illustrations. I am really pleased with the dress, I like the 70’s feel of it. ¬†It is definitely the kind of frock I would have loved as a child. I only wish it fitted me now.¬†I am also pleased with the collages, it’s a relatively new medium for me and I loved putting those pieces together. ¬†If only I could find a recipe for Woodland Fairy Rock I think this project would be perfect!

Check out all the other amazing makes on this blog tour, you are in for a real treat. There is also a MASSIVE four¬†prize giveaway, some brilliant patterns, children’s craft books and sewing books to be had (there is also a Henry Dress pattern in the mix!) Check out the link for all the information about the tour and giveaway.


Christmas present sewing = RSI

DONE!!  Yes, I am done.  Finally finished all my Christmas sewing.  It was an epic event and certainly a challenge. Grab a cuppa, I will try to be brief!


I made this Marilla Walker top for Mum. The pattern is from her latest Roberts Collection.  I chose a beautiful ottoman fabric in a watermelon print from Spotlight. It has a lovely drape and it worked really well with this pattern.

I wasn’t entirely faithful to Marilla’s pattern, I didn’t include the interesting back detail. ¬†You can really only see the back detail with a plain or lightly patterned fabric so I skipped this part. I love the v-neck and the kimono sleeves and I will definitely be making this one for me too. ¬†The big question is, will she like it? ¬†(Note: My Mum is the kind of person who takes navy slacks back to M&S about 12 times before she is happy with them).



Cost: Fabric $16 (sale item) + Free pattern (I pattern tested for Marilla and I was kindly rewarded with a printed copy!)

Total = $16


I made him an apron.  A bit of a cop out?  Maybe? yes!  I was going to give him the gilet but I loved it so much I give it him for his 70th birthday instead. After that epic sew, I am sure he will forgive me for this!

I used some left over ticking from a previous make and a heavy denim from Lincraft.  He enjoys a spot of baking so I know this will be useful.

Generously modelled by idiot husband!

Cost: Denim fabric $8 (sale item) + leftover ticking $1 + pattern from a Great British Sewing Bee book (gifted to me!)

Total = $9


I bought an amazing kimono back in July, while visiting Byron Bay.


It is a second hand piece, not vintage I might add, which made me feel a little better about pulling it apart.  I removed a front panel on each side and a fair amount from the length as I wanted this to be a jacket as opposed to a dressing gown.

The whole kimono is hand stitched, it’s a beautiful piece of work. I couldn’t bring myself to put it on the machine so I hand stitched the alterations. ¬†It was a fairly straightforward refashion once I got my head around all the different layers.

This one was hard to hand over.

I love this – such a beautiful piece!

Cost: kimono $30, used a good chunk of it so say, $20, no pattern or extra’s required.

Total = $20


Yep, another apron! I used the heavy denim from Lincraft and some crazy moustache fabric for the binding and pocket, found at the local charity shop.

I was a little unsure if he would like¬†the moustache fabric but my 10 year old assured me, “Uncle Rich likes funny things!” ¬†So, there you have it!



Cost: Denim fabric $8 (sale item) + moustache fabric $4 (charity shop find) + pattern, free as before

Total = $12


This was suggested by Jillian from Sew Unravelled who made the ladies in her family the most beautiful Furoshiki bags one Christmas.  Thank you Jillian!

I used the remaining pieces of my sisters¬†kimono as it’s such beautiful fabric. I will write a blog post about both of these projects soon.

Let’s hope she likes it! ¬†If she’s not keen, she can always use it as a peg bag!


Cost: $10 (the remaining portion of the Kimono) + free pattern, using an online tutorial

Total = $10

FOR MY NIECE (4 years old)

I think she got the lions share this Christmas, they are blackmail presents as I want her to like me.  I made her two Henry Dresses, both appeared on the Henry Dress blog tour.  She also scored my Henry skirt hack which I love (I wrote a tutorial about how to do this one!)

p.s don’t forget I am¬†offering a¬†Henry Dress pattern¬†to one of my lucky reader. See my Henry skirt tutorial for details.

Lobster love
Sunshine & Lollypops
Henry Skirt hack

Cost: the lobster dress fabric $4 + Sunshine & lollypops dress fabric $20 + Henry Skirt fabric $1. (All patterns were free as I pattern tested this, the skirt is a hack from the Henry dress pattern.)

Total = $25

FOR MY NIECE (9 months old)

One of the favourite makes this year was the Compagnie M, Charles Dungarees I made from a salmon pink linen shirt.  It appeared on the Makery website as part of the Refashioners 2015 which pleased me no end! Completely impractical for an English winter, hopefully they are too big and will be just right by June!



Cost: Pink linen shirt $15 + Nani Iro offcuts $3 + buttons $1 (charity shop find) + pattern $10

Total = $29

FOR MY Niece (7 Years OLD)

I know, I know, another Henry Dress but I just love this pattern and it was a request so, who am I to say no? ¬†It’s a great make, I wrote a blog post about this one and I am really happy with its retro feel.


Cost: Fabric $4 (charity shop find) + free pattern

Total = $4


A little crafty project.  I was asked for a cloud cushion, so here is my interpretation!  A happy little piece with some blanket stitching made from a very cuddly grey jersey.


Cost: Grey jersey $1 (charity shop find) + extra scrap pieces + stuffing $4 + self drafted pattern

Total = $5

I promised in my earlier post that I would do a breakdown of the time I spent. I did start jotting down the time but then I gave up, anyone knows (non-sewers and sewers) that this is hours and hours of work.  I am no saint, there have been moments when I have wanted to just abandon it all and make something for myself! But really, I have not begrudged this time although I do think I have taken selfless sewing to a whole new level!

Financially, this has been an interesting journey. Christmas is such a crippler for us, especially as our kids summer holiday happens over this period. I have incurred about $130 and made 11 presents for my 9 family members, I am pretty proud of that!

Would I do it again? I am not sure, I suppose I will have to see the response from the family.  But I think maybe not to this extent, it has been an enormous undertaking and I really am not joking about the RSI.

Someone pass me a sherry…

Thank god you’re not dead!


Today is the third anniversary of the worst day of my life. ¬†The day my husband had open heart surgery which left us wondering if we would ever see him again. We have christened the 7th September, ‘thank god you’re not dead’ day!

I usually make him a little gift to celebrate his presence, you might remember the ‘Heartfelt’ and the ‘Two¬†of Hearts’ embroideries. But this year, I have had a change of heart (excuse the pun)! I don’t think we need a house¬†full¬†of hearts as a constant reminder. I think it’s¬†slightly morbid and quite frankly a bit strange. So, I quit.

It’s time to move forward, not only because I just can’t summon the energy to produce another¬†‘heart theme’ gift but we have a daily reminder of this op in the form of a whopping great¬†scar down¬†his chest.

So I want to do something fun and ultimately useful – will you join me?

Image: Lucky Bean

My friend introduced me to this incredible creative initiative called Cuddle Cushions, it is such a fantastic idea I had to share it.

Here is an extract from the Lucky Bean blog which explains the concept;

Open Heart International¬†is an Aussie charity that sends teams of paediatric heart specialists into countries without first world resources. They perform life saving surgery on children with congenital heart conditions and help train local doctors. My brother-in-law is a paediatric cardiologist and he introduced us to the amazing work they do. My husband went along to Rwanda to make a¬†documentary¬†about it and he was struck by the dedication of the volunteers and the bravery of the little patients, many of whom are back on their mothers’ backs within hours. I wanted to help but I’m no doctor and can’t leave my own children to help out in other ways. I noticed that after surgery these young troopers are often given a pillow to hold over their chest to protect their scars and sometimes a soft toy for comfort. Now I can’t sew stitches but I can sew a machine in a straight line. So the idea for Cuddle Cushions was born. It’s designed for the dimensions of young patients; a cushion and doll in one. ¬†

Image: Lucky Bean

What I love about this idea is that a crafter/sewer can make a difference by doing something relatively straightforward.  I have attached the pattern below.

cuddle cushion pattern jpg

It would be a great school holiday project with the kids AND a great way to use up all those small pieces of fabric that¬†need a good home AND you can do something useful while reducing your fabric stash. I say it’s a win win! I am much happier about ploughing my energy into this initiative.

Farewell heart embroideries, hello Cuddle Cushions! I will be posting my makes on my blog intermittently, you want to join me?

Happy ‘thank god you’re not dead’ day! x

p.s if sewing isn’t your bag, would you consider donating to¬†Open Heart International¬†instead?

The Two of Hearts

Back in June I wrote a post called ‘Heart Felt’ about my husbands open heart surgery. ¬†If you missed it, here is a quick recap.

Three years ago my husband had open heart surgery. It was a dark time but it feels like a lifetime ago and he is happy and healthy now.¬† I wanted to celebrate the fact that he made it and so every year I decided to present him with a little gift.¬† It is affectionately known as the “thank god you aren’t dead” gift.

For the first anniversary, I made ‘Heart Felt’, a small piece of embroidery.


For the second anniversary, I made ‘The Two of Hearts’, based on playing cards. He loves a card trick so it seemed the perfect vehicle to incorporate a number 2, a heart and his love of all things magic!



I started with some vintage silk off-cuts and patched together the pieces using basic straight stitch on the machine. Then just kept going until it looked right. ¬†The hearts and numbers are made from some red cotton and again machined in place. ¬†I then pulled some stitches through, leaving them unknotted and long – a bit bleeding heart, if that’s not too gruesome!

I thought I would¬†share this one as the third anniversary is looming and I think it would be good to see where this heart project is going (for my benefit as well as yours!) The third one is an epic… will it be finished in time, only a few weeks to go.

Watch this space…

Foliage Friends – craft for reluctant kids!

I have been loving BIG Kids Magazine for a while. It’s an Australian contemporary arts magazine that features the work of children and artists side by side.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.53.08 pm

I was flicking through issue no.7 (again) when I stumbled across an article called ‘Foliage Figures’.  It is a project started by Jill Liebhaber, a childrens photographer from Chicago.

The essence of the project is to collect tiny objects and natural bits and pieces that you find, then arrange them into characters up to about 30cm in size, which you then leave for unsuspecting passersby to stumble upon.  She has also kept an awesome Instagram record, you have to check it out instagram/jookiejill. There is often a little story attached to each image. Here are some of my favourites, hard to choose as there are so many.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.42.26 pm
Mr Long Arms by jookie Jill
Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.43.08 pm
‘Turtle. Tortoise. Tortuga’ by jookie Jill
Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 3.43.20 pm
Unnamed by jookie Jill
Aren’t they SPECTACULAR?

I really wanted to do this with the kids.  I struggle to do any craft project with my boys – ironic isn’t it? So, when I find one like this, I know I am onto a winner – it’s quick and easy and involves foraging.  So on a recent trip to a harbour beach, they did a few.  These little critters were a joint effort between my 10 and 3 year old (while the middle one climbed a tree). Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad!

‘Robin Hood’ – it was the feather that inspired that name I think.
‘Woody’ named by Bertie (age 3)
‘Geoff’ by Archie
‘Mono-brow’ by Archie
I look forward to stumbling across some of these very soon!

(Please note: We removed all UN-natural items before we left!)

Craft for a chilly day!

Hard to believe for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, but it’s FREEZING here! ¬†Well not exactly freezing, but as most of us don’t have decent heating and insulation, it feels baltic on a chilly day. ¬† It’s holiday time here and the boys requested a day at home (wonder how long that will last) we are at 11am and so far Archie and I are rocking’ some craft. I thought I should share this one, it’s super easy and a great way of getting a non-sewer into sewing.

I saw this particularly craft demonstrated on the MyRapid¬†TV, that’s the Kuala Lumpur train system TV on the way from Sentral to the Airport. ¬†Strange, but true!!

All you need is a canvas of any size and this selection of goodies; some tracing paper or greaseproof paper, a needle, some embroidery thread or wool, a pencil and ruler, some masking tape, a pair of scissors and a seam ripper. 10

Step 1 – decide upon an image, it is best to choose something quite angular, Archie decided on a star as it’s graphically quite striking. Draw the image on tracing paper and then draw dots on the high and low points.
Step 2 – Tape your image to the canvas and use the sharp point of the seam ripper to make holes through the dots into the canvas.
Step 3 – Your canvas should look like this. Thread your needle and start to stitch.
Step 4 – It should start to make sense after a few lines have been stitched. Archie used this turquoise thread to outline the edges of the star.
Step 5 – Now it’s time to design the centre and experiment with the shape and the coloured threads.

Archie used 4 different coloured threads and this is how it came out. The only thing I helped him with was threading the needle. He is super proud of it, now we just need to hang it on the wall (and get through the next 8 hours…)

Sewing + jet lag = 5 metres of bunting

I am finally over the jet lag, why on earth does it take so long?

Anyway, I arrived back on Wednesday night to be faced with a leaving present for my sons beautiful teacher, Miss H to be complete by Thursday night (eek). She is going on maternity leave and I was asked to help the kids prepare a present for her. Of course, bunting is the answer for all expectant mothers!

I asked the kids to draw on paper either a circle, square or triangle to a specific size and then to decorate with messages of good luck, congratulations and love. I was not disappointed, there were some beautiful pieces. I then stitched each shape onto the reverse of the bunting.

I wanted the front to have some truly beautiful fabric, so I chose Nano Iro’s Pierre Pocho from Kelani Fabrics. It is a beautiful Japanese double gauze ivory fabric with subtle spots in pastel tones. It is the perfect baby fabric for a boy or girl.¬† I even had some fabric left over to stretch onto a canvas, just to add a little extra loveliness!