#Wonderful Weekends Linky

Exciting times on the blog as today myself and my good friend and fellow-Bedford-blogger Lucy from Mrs Bishops Bakes and Banter launch our first ever Linky!

wonderful weekends title

Me and Mrs B!

 

We’d love for fellow bloggers to join in with our monthly link-up…our aim is to create a list of lovely blog posts that describe the #WonderfulWeekends you all have. As champions of positivity and mindfulness, Lucy and I want to inject some extra-joy into our corners of the inter webs and it would be amazing if you could all spread-the-weekend-love too.

 

All you have to do is add a link to any posts you write this month about wonderful weekend activities – it might be a family day out, a delicious meal, a mums/dads ‘day off’, or might just be a lazy weekend in your pjs – as long as it is wonderful to you then it is wonderful to us too! It could be an image collage post of pictures from your weekend, or a full on written post, it could be a review of family day out – anything goes, whatever works for you!

 

Remember to add the #WonderfulWeekends blog badge to your post, and to use the hashtag on social media. If you have time we’d really appreciate it if you have a peek at some other posts in the linky too and comment with the #WonderfulWeekends hashtag.

 

Please note that this month the linky will be hosted by Lucy – so please head over to her post to find the link and badge in order to take part. 

 

This, our first linky will run for one month – and after the linky closes Lucy and I will each be featuring our favourites in a roundup post. We’re hoping to make this a monthly feature & hope you’ll embrace our attempts to spread some positivity…

 

Let’s inspire each other to make the most of our weekends!

#WonderfulWeekendsThe Rules:
 
If you enter a link then please ensure you have a read of a few other posts in the linky and comment with the #WonderfulWeekends hashtag.
 

Also, it would be brilliant if you could add the #WonderfulWeekends badge to your post by copying the HTML code in Lucy’s post.

 

Thanks everyone and we can’t wait to hear about your #WonderfulWeekends 
Sarah and Mrs B

Wonderful Weekends – The Handmade Fair, Hampton Court

Meeting Tilly

Some weekends are for chilling in your pyjamas and watching your favourite movies, accompanied my whatever munchies you have to hand, these are nice enough and are definitely needed every once in a while. However, other weekends  exist for making memories, this can be due to an unexpected occurrence which sneaks up on you and gives you that smile on a Monday morning that everyone notices or it can be a planned occasion which you have been looking forward to for weeks. These weekends to me often not only offer memories to cherish but also inspiration and are a little reminder that life really is good.

Last weekend was one of these weekends and although I have already blogged about my experiences at The Handmade Fair in my last post, this was only half the story. I couldn’t mention everything I saw and experienced on this wonderful day and I’m not sure Mr B wants all my pictures to fill up our yearly photobook so I have decided to share them here.

I hope that there are many more reasons to share my #WonderfulWeekends – spreading some positivity and happiness can only make the world a better place x

floral collageCrochet cutenessinspiring women collage

sunshine, snacks and smiles

exhibitor inspirationWorkshop makesyellow and teal fabricNotionsfabric collage

Red tone fabrics

Inspiring sellers cards

All the fun of the fair…

Smiles, sunshine and super stitchers, this only just touches the surface of what can only be described as one of the best days of my crafting life so far.

All the fun of the fair

Decisions, decisions – so much to see, so little time x

After being the selected as the lucky winner on a giveaway post run by Melonberry Vintage on Instagram a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in possession of two complimentary entry tickets to The Handmade Fair 2015, the brainchild of everyone’s favourite crafter, the lovely Kirstie Allsopp. To paraphrase this year’s event annual it is ‘a celebration of learning new things, meeting like-minded creatives, indulging in passions and finding inspiration’. These words could not be more perfect in describing the day I spent with my lovely friend Lucy (of Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banter fame) whose passion for all things crafty is equal to mine.

The sun shone brightly and smiles were definitely firmly placed upon every person’s face throughout the day, as we explored the two shopping villages thoroughly and made the most of the day, upgrading our tickets and attending some additional sessions led by crafting experts. The first of these was a Grand Make run in conjunction with artcuts, where along with a tent full of fellow crafters we made a hanging wooden dove embellished with delicate stamping and sparkly decorations. It was a quick, simple make that had a delightful outcome and I have already decided that will make a perfect gift for someone special in the near future.

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My completed hanging dove – such a lovely make x

After pausing for a short refreshment stop we entered the ‘Super Theatre’, a big top style tent which immediately drew the eye with its fun red exterior and built excitement in all who were due to visit it’s mysterious interior in which we would get to be within a stone’s throw of the revered Kirstie. In our session of choice Kirstie was talking to the talented author and illustrator Lauren Child about her passion for doll’s houses and miniatures.   This was a great choice for both Lucy and I as it combined my own enjoyment of creative and intelligently illustrated children’s books and Lucy’s newly found passion for doll’s houses, which she has humorously been sharing recently over on her own blog.   It was a fascinating discussion which gave an insight into Lauren’s creative process, sharing her passion and wonder at using miniatures and the origins of her use of mixed media.  The focus was unsurprisingly on her version of ‘The Princess and the Pea’ in which the illustrations cleverly combine miniatures, paper dolls and mixed media backgrounds.  Kirstie and Lauren were joined by the amazingly talented miniaturist Pat Cutforth, a lady who has been Lauren’s own inspiration and mentor in the creation of all things miniature since her childhood.  It was such a pleasure and privilege to be privy to the secrets of someone’s creative process and to understand where their passion originated from.  It is so easy to forget that everyone was an amateur at some point and that their journey to success, with its own stumbling blocks, may not be so different to the creative path you are carving for yourself.  Both Lucy and I left the tent inspired, with our brains filled with the amazingness of creating tiny versions of real life and hoping that one day maybe we could learn a little bit from Pat too (luckily courses with her are available).

super theatre collage

The Super Theatre experience was amazing – such inspiring women x

The early start and busyness of the morning meant that quite an appetite had developed by lunchtime and we were ready to explore the food court located at the centre of the show. This boasted an impressive twenty caterers offering a wide range of cuisines for every taste and appetite. I opted for the traditional British tourist’s day out choice of a sausage sarnie which definitely hit the spot.  Whilst sitting on our chosen picnic bench, outside the delightful ‘Super Theatre’ big top, the atmosphere of the day was so apparent, the usual awkwardness that the British public generally has towards each other was completely washed away as our common interests seemed to make everyone who attended feel almost like familiar friends.   We shared our bench with a lovely mother and daughter couple who we chatted away to like old mates and were the reason, due to their eagle eyesight, I managed to get my copy of the adorable ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ book signed by the very understanding Lauren Child, who I think was just packing up ready to have her own lunch as I approached her.

Our learning journey came to its completion with a brilliant skills workshop, led by Caroline Preston, where we were taught to make an delicate origami butterfly as well as a pair of interslotting triangles for a larger sculpture being created by Caroline. As an origami amateur I was so pleased with my finished butterfly and give high praise to Caroline for her teaching, it was perfectly paced and pitched for us beginners with a satisfyingly complicated looking outcome. Caroline was also super friendly and clearly excited to have a tent full of people to share her expertise with.

Origami workshop HMF

Concentration and calmness descends upon the tent

as the Great British Paper Folders get to work!

With such an amazing day being had already it could only get better and the rest of our afternoon didn’t disappoint.  We did not know as we entered the shopping village that the most exciting part of the day was yet to come. After only a short stroll from our chosen entrance we found ourselves stunned into awed silence as we happened upon stand E4 – where the one and only Tilly stood before us. Like giggling school girls we approached the sewing superstar and chatted for a short while about her inspirational influence on novice sewers like ourselves, as well as sharing my thanks to her for pointing me in the direction of the wonderful Janome DKS100 which I purchased primarily based on her own recommendation (read more in my recent review).  My lasting impression of her would have to be a combination of her down-to-earth loveliness along with my surprise at how tiny she truly is!

Meeting Tilly

This actually happened, eeeeek!!!!

The rest of the afternoon passed in a flash of fabric induced happiness as we browsed both the shopping tents, chatting away to the ever friendly stall holders. This included the wonderful Katie Essam, a young textile artist whose free motion mixed media pieces were such an inspiration for a newbie like me, I shall most definitely be booking myself on one of her courses soon.  My budget for purchases was exceeded slightly but this is not something I feel at all guilty about, I figured where else am I going to find such a variety of quality sellers any time soon. My fabric stash is well and truly well stocked, material has been bought for a couple of patterns I have been waiting to make (Tilly’s Bettinne and easy PJ bottoms) as well as a huge array of scraps and bundles for my future free motion projects. A few notions later and I finished the day with only a few pennies left in my purse but brimming with ideas and excitement for future projects.

fabric stash collage

My fabric stash – beauty and inspiration galore x

Before we knew it, sunset was fast approaching and it was time to say goodbye to The Handmade Fair. Like any memorable and happy day the time had passed too quickly and as we strolled past the gates of Hampton Court Palace on our way to the train station we vowed to return next year to do it all over again, perhaps over two days this time so we can fit in even more crafty experiences.

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AWESOME – definitely the write adjective for this day, good choice Lucy x

London Calling…

London Calling title

With the kids back at school and the end of the holidays seemingly a distant memory (even though it was only a few short days ago) this week has had a strange feeling about it. Social media has been full of smiley faces in new school uniforms and shiny shoes as opposed to the busyness of holiday time where the smiles reflect the adventures being had at home and away.

The nervousness of a new term is something I am fully aware of as a primary school teacher. At some level all involved are nervous; the teacher who worries about settling their little charges in and making them feel secure and happy so that the exciting learning journey can being with gusto; the children whose natural sponge capacity and inquisitive nature can disappear into the background a little while they get used to their new surroundings, new routines and the new expectations put on them as they grow older; and last but by no means least the parents, nervous as they let their little ones hands go and send them into school to be someone else’s daily companion.

Backtoschool

Smiles on the first day back from my gorgeous niece and nephew x

The end of the summer for my sister in law and her two little ones has brought more nervousness than usual with worries about the new term being overshadowed by the impending surgery their mummy is about to undergo the following week.   After suffering for all of her adult life with the debilitating disease endometriosis she has made the difficult decision to undergo surgery to remove her womb and enjoy a future where she can be happy and pain free everyday with her ‘miracle’ children, who she never expected to be able to have.

For my gorgeous niece and nephew who have had a wonderful holiday with their mummy this nervousness is no surprise. Parents like teachers are in their eyes invincible, people who don’t get ill or need looking after by others.  I can relate to this feeling, as a child I remember feeling scared and worried every time my Mum had a migraine and had to lie down in a dark room without any disturbances, until it passed.  It was with the knowledge that these feeling would arise that my sister in law approached me during the summer break and commissioned me to create a free motion textile piece for her to share with her little ones before she goes in for her surgery.

Summerfuncollage

Seven weeks of smiles and adventures…

The theme of this piece was to be London and reflect some of their favourite places to visit particularly along Embankment. After a few quick sketches, a basic design was decided upon with the key features being the iconic and familiar London landmarks of the Eye, the Gherkin and the Houses of Parliament.  I was excited to begin this project, not only because the reason for its commission has so much meaning but also because the subject also reflects a part of London that is close to my heart and always at the top of the list when we head into the big smoke.

The real work for this piece began with turning my scrappy little sketch into a more defined and detailed drawing. As with my seaside inspired pieces from earlier in the summer, the finished piece would be a cushion and so this determined the size it.   It is at this stage that I really got a feeling for the design as I created a to-scale image from which I then made templates for the final textile piece.

LCdesign

From scrappy initial sketch to detailed design

My excitement grew as I surrounded myself with my many fat quarter bundles and ever growing collection of fabric scraps from various projects. I am very much of the mind set of waste not, want not, keeping almost every last piece of fabric however small with the determination that one day they will be needed for a project.   Whilst happily sitting in this sewing squalor (thank goodness Mr B was at work and didn’t witness the creative chaos) I set about choosing fabrics for the individual features of the design. I had been trusted with choosing this aspect of the design without any further consultation and I had decided upon a mainly funky modern feel for the iconic buildings with a more muted tones for the river itself.  After a thorough rummage through my fabric collection I had found a good selection of materials which fitted this bill and was ready to begin the best part.

Sitting at my sewing machine ready to begin is probably the post nerve wracking part of the whole process as it is the moment when you are committing to the design and your fabric choices and there is no turning back. For me, as well, with only a few projects under my belt and with my skills still developing, the nerves are ever present as I hope that it will turn out how my imagination intended it to. The process of free motion embroidery also means that unpicking any mistakes is costly and time consuming which it is best to avoid.

As the piece progressed it organically took its own path, even as a self-confessed perfectionist and planner, I enjoy the fact that sometimes ideas develop whilst working on a project and this was certainly the case with this one.  After completing the Eye and Gherkin I began work on the Houses of Parliament. Apart from the grey fabric, I had not decided anything else about this part, but once the other two landmarks had been completed finishing Big Ben and detailing the buildings with blue and pink thread and fabric seemed like the obvious and only choice.

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Finally it was time to complete the river aspect of the design and although to an idle passer-by these features are just incidental in comparison to the main attractions already completed, these are some of the parts I am the proudest of.  I wanted even these features to be recognisable and had studied images of the railings and walls along the river and tried to include these in my design.  I probably spent almost as long completing the railings at the bottom as I did on both the Gherkin and the Eye put together. Each railing was completed individually, cutting the thread after each one!! Whilst being consumed in this repetitive process my reel of thread ran empty, thankfully I had some to replace it (a small miracle as I do not have many thread colours at present!).  The lamps on either bank followed and last but by no means least it was time to create the stick people.  Although stick people are probably one of the easiest things to draw, using a sewing machine to draw one is not quite so easy so it was with trepidation that I approached this task.  I initially only intended to have a family group on the top pathway but after practising on some scrap material and to my surprise finding that I was able to reproduce my little people I decided to create a busy riverside scene more reminiscent of the real thing, with wooden benches, a bicyclist and a mother pushing a pram along the bottom pathway. To be honest this is probably the part I am most proud of as it really brought it to life and added that little something I didn’t know it needed until I reached the end.

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Probably my favourite part of the piece x

Having reached the end of the free motion embroidery work, creating the cushion cover itself happened in a flash and the piece was complete, with a complementary London themed fabric from My Fabric House used as the back cover, a lucky find which really finished it off nicely.  Completing this piece has probably been some of the most satisfying sewing I have done to date, I love the process of designing a one of a kind piece and am learning to allow a piece to grow as it is being created. I have to admit I am sad to see it go but am happy to think that its recipients will get as much joy from it being theirs as I have from creating it. The fact that it will help to ease a difficult time in their lives and be a lasting reminder of their one of their favourite places, I couldn’t be happier to send it to its forever home.

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Finished and ready for its forever home xx

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

An autumnal weekend bake – Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake

Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake

As I sit writing this you could be mistaken for thinking that summer is here to stay as the sunshine is streaming through the window and there are glimpses of blue sky peeking through the clouds. However this week has certainly had more of an autumnal feel – jumpers have been on, pregrudgingly the heating was put on a couple of evenings ago and the duvet is back on the bed (this I love though as it is so cosy).

Bedford CollageThe last of the Summer? Enjoying blue sky’s over Bedford this weekend

I love autumn – the changing colours, the crispness in the air and an excuse to put on cosy clothes are perfect reasons to love the season.  I find the autumn to be a more predictable season, British summers are more often than not slightly disappointing but at least once it reaches September and autumn approaches we know what to expect and are rarely disappointed, occasionally we are even surprised by a late ‘Indian summer’.

With an autumnal feel in the air this week and a few days at home with the hubby I decided a bit of baking was in order this weekend.  Mr B was treating me to a delicious dinner and I though the least I could do was treat him to his choice of pudding in return.  His favourite type of pud usually involves something that includes apples and as I did not have the inclination to make pastry I decided to go for an Autumnal Apple & Cinnamon Crumble Cake.

After a bit of searching online, I found a recipe on the BBC Good Food website for an Apple Crumble Loaf. However, being a bit of a baking maverick, I did not stick religiously to the recipe and made some adaptations of my own. With online recipes I always think it is sensible to take note of what other people think of the recipe and any advice they can offer. As Frances over at Frances Bakes discussed on her blog last week some recipes online are not reliable and, unless you have experience on your side as a baker, you can be left disheartened and disappointed when poor instructions lead to a poor outcome.   I therefore always check the ratings a recipe has been given and take a glance at the comments from other people who have used the recipe.

The main advice from multiple comments was to cook it for longer and to increase the spice level.  I do consider myself to be a fairly experienced home baker and will generally make a few little tweaks to a recipe if I feel it is necessary, so when I had glanced at the ingredients list I had already decided that 2 teaspoons of spice in a 2lb cake would definitely not be enough. Also the cake only asked for mixed spice but, as many of the other bakers had also noted, cinnamon is a much better partner for apple so with this in mind I doubled the amount of mixed spice and added the same amount of cinnamon to the recipe. I am also not really a fan of adding milk to a recipe unless absolutely needed and so decided to add an extra apple and a banana (for sweetness) to the mix. Finally, for the crumble topping I substituted the suggested chopped hazelnuts for some rolled oats to make a crumble that resembled my Mum’s homemade classic.

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The classic crumble topping mix 

The recipe came together fairly easily in two easy steps,  combining dry ingredients and then adding the wet. With the addition of the extra apple and mashed banana the consistency of the cake was perfect but I could definitely see why it would need the extra 20 mins cooking time as it is a fairly dense but moist mixture.   When making the crumble mixture I made the decision to double to amounts as it did not seem enough to cover the cake, however when it came to it an increase by only a half again would have been fine and this is what I will do next time for sure.

Apple & Cinnamon Crumble collage

Somehow with every recipe designed for a 2lb loaf tin I always seem to be left with a bit over (I think my tins are not quite 2lb perhaps) which suits Mr B perfectly as he always likes to have a taster as soon as possible.  This recipe left me with enough to make an additional three muffin sized cakes, however finding I did not have any muffin cases (they seemed to have been eaten by my kitchen cupboard!), I quickly made some make shift cases out of greaseproof. I was unsure of how the cakes would fair in these cases but they actually came out pretty well and unless it’s for a special occasion I might not bother with cases all the time from now on.

IMG_20150905_145608Home made cake cases – worked a treat

The fact that our tasters only took half the time to cook, due to their smaller size, suited Mr B perfectly and we soon enjoyed tucking into them with a cup of freshly brewed tea.  The finished cake was really delicious, it had a good rise and the fruit was well distributed (Paul and Mary would be pleased!). The apple and cinnamon combination made it a perfect autumnal bake and the more traditional crumble topping gave it a satisfying feeling of part cake/part pudding which means I think it would be perfect served with custard or ice cream if having it as a pud but just as good with a cup of tea like we did.  It’s lightness from the rise and the moistness from the fruit made it really moreish and the only reason there was some left on the day of baking was because Mr B’s delicious dinner filled us up.

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A tasty morsel of this yummy autumnal cake – it didn’t last long!

Apple and Cinnamon Crumble Cake

(makes 2lb loaf tin sized cake)

Ingredients

For the cake: 

140g butter, cut into small pieces

250g self-raising flour

1 rounded tbsp mixed spice

1 rounded tbsp ground cinnamon

140g light muscovado sugar

100g raisins

3 large eggs, beaten

3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped (1cm cubes)

1 banana

For the crumble topping:

1.5 rounded tbsp plain flour

40g butter

40 light muscovado sugar

1.5 rounded tbsp rolled oats

Method

For the cake: 

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas 3.

Butter and line the bast of a 2lb loaf tin with greaseproof paper.

Put the flour and spices into a food processor and add the butter – whizz to fine breadcrumbs and then add the sugar (if you do not have a food processor use your fingers to make a fine crumble).

Add the raisins, beaten eggs, apple and banana to the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is evenly combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top.

For the crumble:

Rub the flour, butter and sugar through your fingers to make a rough crumble, then stir in the rolled oats.

Sprinkle evenly over the cake mixture.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 mins, until firm to the touch and a fine skewer in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 15 mins, then turn out and cool on a wire rack.

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This will definitely be a recipe I return to and it met Mr B’s approval for an apple based bake so that’s a winner for me! I am looking forward to more adventures in the kitchen during the Autumn months, I think blackberries might be next on the agenda.

Have you been inspired by the changing seasons and made an Autumnal bake this weekend or do you fancy having a try at this recipe next weekend? Whatever you are baking I’d love to hear about it x

Sewing Machine Love…

My super duper sewing machine -Janome DKS100

I love my sewing machine, over the summer I have used it almost everyday and each time it has been a joy to use. After learning to sew last year my passion for this hobby has grown and after some careful research I decided to purchase my own machine in March this year (I had been using my Mum’s machine) and opted for the Janome DKS100, a computerised sewing machine as recommended by Tilly over at Tilly and the Buttons.    I cannot praise this machine enough, it has been perfect for me so far and today I wanted to share my love for my sewing machine with you.

Here are my top ten reasons for loving my sewing machine:

  1. It’s beautiful – this may seem like a strange thing to start with but I cannot say how satisfying it is to take the protective cover off and be greeted by its cheery bright blue keypad and sleek design – I love it.

Sewing Machine 2

  1. It lets me be a sewer – this may seem like an obvious thing to say but the nifty time-saving gadgets on this machine let me start sewing in a fraction of the time I have experienced with other machines I’ve used. It has buttons for an automatic thread cutter, thread knotting and needle up/down position which not only make sewing easier they have also helped to make my finished pieces neater.
  1. It doesn’t need a foot pedal – this is a controversial point as some sewers find sewing without a pedal disconcerting however, I decided when I got my machine to exclusively use the start/stop button and speed slider rather than the foot pedal. I have found this has become second nature, the start/stop button is placed appropriately so it is easy to use and the speed slider means there are no sudden changes in speed unexpectedly.

gadgets collage

  1. It’s heavy – I could also see this as a disadvantage I suppose as it means I am unable to transport it very easily however, it’s weight means it is stable, particularly when sewing through multiple layers.
  1. It treats me like a numpty – by which I mean it prevents me from making unnecessary mistakes or put myself in unnecessary danger. For example, it recognises which foot is on the machine and if this is appropriate for the selected stitch chosen, if it’s not it won’t let me select the stitch unless I change the foot. It also has a handy ‘safe’ button which can be pressed to prevent machine from starting, even if the start/stop button is accidentally pressed. This is particularly handy when threading the needle.

A handy button to keep me safe - what a (1)

  1. It has some very cute stitches – the machine comes with the capability to use approximately 100 stitches (most of which I haven’t used yet), including basic stitches, simple embroidery, quilting, button holes and more. The best ones of all are the cute embroidery stitches which I can’t wait to use to finish a project or two.

Cute stitch selection

  1. It has a lovely best friend in the form of my super sewing box – the organisation of my sewing bits and bobs is awesome since I was bought this super sewing box by my husband for my last birthday, everything is in one place and it is handily placed right behind me when I am sewing for easy access.

sewing box

  1. I have made some lovely things on it – this machine has given me confidence and in turn this has helped turn me into a better sewer which has encouraged me to sew more. In the months since I have had it I have really enjoyed using it and it’s ease of use has allowed me to create some really nice makes.

my makes collage

  1. It has turned me into a crazy fabric lady – despite lack of funds I have still managed to accumulate quite a fabric stash, mainly in the form of fat quarter bundles which handily fit with my favourite type of make – mini makes and accessories.

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  1. It will allow me to grow as a sewer – I purposely chose a machine that I could grow into, I am really looking forward to learning new techniques on this machine – I am yet to brave zips or button holes but they will be on the agenda soon or else everything will be poppered or Velcroed together for all eternity!

As you can see I really do love my sewing machine, it hasn’t at present given me anything to complain about and I can’t wait to become an experienced sewer using it.

What do you love about your sewing maching or do you have another crafting tool which you couldn’t live without, I look forward to hearing all about them xx

Disclaimer: the opinions in this review are my own, I was not asked to write this review by Janome and I purchased the Janome DKS100 myself.

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If at first you don’t succeed…

This week’s crafting has been mainly about taking note of the old adage described in the title of this post as I have been busy designing and making a range of mini-totes.

The story of these mini-totes starts with a slight obsession I have developed recently with fat quarter bundles. There is something so appealing about a set of complimentary fabrics bundled together ready to be made into whatever takes your fancy. These bundles can be bought quite cheaply from most places you’d normally get fabric and provide a perfect excuse for creating mini-makes (my favourite kind of make of all).

Fat quarter bundles

A selection of my fat quarter bundles

Whilst perusing my selection of fat quarter bundles one evening I had the idea to make a mini-tote based on the one I originally made when I learnt to sew. Having never adapted a pattern before I decided to dive straight in and resize the measurements so that they would fit a fat quarter piece of fabric. This took a bit of jiggery-pokery with the calculations (not my strong point) but eventually I came up with some measurements which would create a pattern which was about two-thirds the size of the original.

Adapting pattern

The original tote and pattern – with my added scribbles!

Feeling chuffed with myself for my lucky maths, I set about making the prototype mini-tote from some cute cat print  and a contrasting green interior fabric. The thing I really like about this pattern is that it is has a wide base so that it can sit flat and not fall over when it has items inside and the fact that it is lined which gives it durability as well making it visually appealing with the contrasting interior.

Adapting the pattern, cutting and sewing the fabric took me well into the early hours, however, it was worth staying up late as the prototype turned out surprisingly well. The only change which I decided I would make for mini-tote number two would be to widen the straps so their proportions matched the original version better.

Prototype tote

The prototype mini-tote

A perfect tester for my prototype was found in the form of my four year old niece who over the weekend ran it through it’s paces by filling it with all manner of girly items and taking it out and about with her.

Whilst discussing this first make with my sister in law I decided that as well as widening the straps I would add an internal pocket to fit small items into. The original pattern for the larger tote included an external pocket, however, due to the restrictions of trying to fit the pattern onto a fat quarter sized piece of fabric this was not possible on the scaled down version so, for this reason as well, an internal pocket also seemed a good idea for the mini version.

Prototype bag

Plenty of room for lots of girly bits x

The next day’s sewing involved designing and creating an internal pocket and adding this to mini-tote bag number two. By a happy accident, I was also able to create a small purse from a wrongly sized first attempt at a pocket (I forgot to add a seam allowance). The purse is definitely a work in progress and may be the next project I work on.

Steps to success

Creating mini-tote number two

mini tote 2 and purse

Completed mini-tote two and its matching purse

I have since gone on to make two more mini-totes from the same fat quarter bundle (and intend to make one more this weekend) as well as another purse, plus a pink and black version using some fabric from another fat quarter bundle.

Purse 2

A more grown up version of the mini-tote and matching purse

Mini totes

Which is your favourite mini-tote? 

I have really enjoyed making these mini-totes and feel proud of myself for managing to overcome some difficulties I faced and for successfully adapting a pattern (thanks goes to Janet at KitchenTableSewing for the original). My mini-tester certainly enjoyed using the prototype and has since become the recipient of the new improved version with internal pocket and matching purse, much to her delight.

Sun, Sand and Seaside Inspiration

I have recently returned from a wonderful week in Cornwall, staying at Trevornick Holiday Park. Whilst Mr B and I were away we enjoyed celebrating my Dad’s birthday with him. I was particularly looking forward to this day in our holiday as I couldn’t wait to give him my gift.

My Dad has recently bought a shiny new caravan and has been enjoying his retirement exploring the beautiful countryside of Great Britain having some very relaxed weekends away and short breaks. I therefore decided that a holiday/caravan themed present would be perfect for his birthday this year and after my wonderful time learning to free motion embroider with the lovely Cathy of Dear Emma Designs (read about it here), I have been itching to create more pieces of textile art and this seemed like the perfect reason.

Something I found I really enjoy with free motion embroidery is spending time designing and developing an idea before creating a piece. With my Dad’s presents I decided I was going to make two envelope cushion covers with free motion embroidery fronts, one with a seaside theme and the second with a caravan theme.

Seaside/Holiday themed cushions

Dad’s holiday themed birthday presents

For the first cushion I initially sketched a few ideas of seaside themed scenes before settling on a seagull based image. I then spent a lazy Saturday morning looking at pictures of seagulls on Google to get to know them better and used these initial sketches to create more stylised seagulls with a bit more character for my final design.

Although quite time consuming, it is so satisfying to build up the picture – taking time to choose the materials from my ever growing collection of scrap fabric, create templates to cut out the individual shapes and then finally layer and sew them with a variety of coloured threads.

Seagull cushion collage

The time consuming but so satisfying steps to creating the final piece

I am really pleased with the finished results and was so chuffed when I saw my Dad’s reaction when he received them. I know they have found a happy home in his caravan.

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                                 Dad’s reaction to my handmade presents made me so happy x

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The cushions in their new home

Our break away offered lots of inspiration for more creative pieces with a seaside theme. We enjoyed some beautiful sunny days exploring the wonders of Cornwall, visiting the stunning beaches and fishing villages and of course indulging in the obligatory cream teas and fish and chips.

Seaside inspiration collage

Sunny seaside inspiration from beautiful Cornwall 

Scones

Cornish or Devon style?

Fish and Chips

Nothing more delicious than freshly caught fish accompanied by chips – yummy!

When the sun was shining it truly felt like we could have been abroad, especially when we visited the amazing beach at Holywell Bay which was literally walking distance from the holiday park we were staying at.

Holywell Bay, Cornwall

Could be abroad with that sky and sea 

Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end and so after a lovely relaxing week we returned to the slightly less sunny Bedford. The only recompense for the post-holiday blues that will inevitably descend upon us is that my sewing machine is now close at hand ready for me to create some more seaside inspired pieces – I can’t wait!

Have your summer time jaunts given you crafty inspiration?

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A look back on my crafty year…

As a teacher, I have two beginnings each year, one in January and one in September. These mark two new fresh starts for me and although I am not a person who particularly believes in making new year’s resolutions, on occasions these times in the year do encourage a flurry of action in me, particularly if I have an ambition in mind.   The last time this happened to me was back in the new year of 2010 when I signed up to the dating site OKCupid and by January 2011 I had met and moved in with Mr B, my lovely husband.

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Unsurprisingly a handmade knitted version made an appearance on the big day!

It was in September last year, in another flurry of action, I decided this was the year to start on a new journey and expand my crafting skills in new directions. Since then I have embarked on a busy year of learning and have met some really lovely people along the way.

Learning to sew was my first foray, although I had tinkered with my Mum’s sewing machine whilst making superhero masks and capes for my husband’s stag do, I really wanted to feel more confident and able to create more professionally finished items.  After a short search via Facebook, I enrolled on a beginners sewing course with the lovely Janet over at KitchenTableSewing who, over the course of four evenings and fueled by cups of tea and wonderful homemade cakes, helped me to master the basics of using a sewing machine and produce some wonderful first makesDSC_0205 DSC_0208 DSC_0212 DSC_0223

Can you guess which superheroes they represent??

As usual once the I had been bitten by the bug it was hard for me to stop so inspired by my success on the beginners course I proceeded to create at least 75% of my Christmas presents for friends and family using the sewing machine and learnt a couple of new patterns and processes in the progress.

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My Christmas sewing bounty!

I have since returned to the kitchen table for more cakey yumminess and, of course, sewing guidance from Janet, attending two more of her courses, making my very own Coco from the Tilly and the Buttons pattern and a pair of fancy knickers using some fantastic Liberty print fabric. I was also inspired enough to buy my own machine, a super duper Janome DSK100, which has made my sewing experience so lovely and saved a lot of time with its numerous nifty time saving gadgets.

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Some very fancy pants sewn on my super duper machine x

As the New Year approached I decided that my next skill to master would be needle-felting. This was a skill I felt I could teach myself (perhaps with a little help from the internet) and so bought myself a kit to make a felted hedgehog from Hobbycraft.  Although little Wimpole, as my nephew and niece soon Christened him, was a bit rough around the edges I was pretty proud of my first attempt at this new skill.

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Meet Wimpole the Hedgehog

Next I tackled what had become, as a seasoned knitter at least, my nemesis – crochet!  It has always appealed to me but when I have attempted it previously I have found that my knitting technique has worked against me. Professional help was definitely needed. So on a wet Wednesday evening in March I travelled to Hitchin to a recent yarn discovery, the fantastic Knit Knacks shop, and settled in for an evening of wool and hooks.

In the company of three other crochet novices and with the assistance of resident expert Helen Ingram who runs Woolly Chic, a fantastic website selling hand sourced British wool and crochet/knitting kits, I finally got through my hook block and managed to produce a lovely crochet flower by the end of the evening. In these few hours my wool nemesis had become an ally to its much loved knitted friend.

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Floral crochetness x

The final destination on my crafting journey involved travelling the longest distance yet as I signed up for a workshop at Needle and Thread (near Lincoln) to learn how to create textile art using applique and free motion embroidery with the very talented Cathy Emmott of Dear Emma Designs.

I have always admired this kind of needle work and had been searching for a workshop to attend for a long time so was so pleased when I came across this gem.  Over a busy six hours Cathy inspired and assisted a lovely group of twelve crafty enthusiasts to become novice needle and thread artists. This was a fantastic conclusion to my crafty year and definitely worth the four hour round journey!

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Cathy’s inspirational needlework x

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The novice needle and thread artists proudly present their work x

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My design in progress

The last twelve months have certainly been busy and I have really enjoyed learning new crafting skills. I wonder what the next twelve months will hold for me.

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Make new friends but keep the old…

It has been an exciting week for me at sarahkatemakes headquarters, as well as joining the friendly ‘bloggersphere’, I have also become a tweeter, something which I am not sure I am ready for but which I am optimistic about having a go at. I am hoping my new blogging buddy Lucy, at mrsbishopsbakesandbanters, might be able to offer some useful advice as she seems to be a social media queen and is definitely a very friendly blogger with an amazing page.

As you might expect I have been mentioning my new blog to all who will sit still enough to listen or at least read a Facebook message sent by yours truly.   This included my quite untechnological Mum; knowing she wouldn’t have seen it via any social media I made sure when I popped round to her house to take my tablet and share it with her that way.

Once she had finished reading it and given her feedback (thankfully positive). She offered to return the Polly Dolly to me who has sadly been living in a drawer for the last decade or so.

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As you can see she is a strange looking individual and things just get a bit stranger when you lift her up and see the stuffing falling out or take down her hat and see her balding head (sadly or perhaps thankfully, I took no pictures of these features).

She was definitely an interesting choice for my first proper knitting project. She allowed me to practise a number of handy techniques including increasing, decreasing, colour changes and making miniature items (as seen in her peddler’s basket), all of which I have applied many times since.

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I’ve always had good tension with my knitting and this certainly suited this make. Adding to this my tendency to be a crafting perfectionist meaning that whatever the purpose of the final item I won’t say it is finished until I think I’ve done it to the highest standard I can achieve. Despite her unique features I have to say I am quite proud of how she turned out.

Polly was the beginning of my love affair with wool and it was lovely to be reacquainted with her, however she has become quite comfy in her new home so she has been returned to her drawer at Mum’s house.  Perhaps one day she’ll find a nice comfy spot in my dream craft room and I’ll finally give her top and bottom the finishing touches she deserves so she can have pride of place.

It’d be great to hear where it all started for you, what was your first crafting make and did it have a specific purpose or was it a flight of fancy like Polly Dolly?