Category Archives: Tutorials

Springtime Sewing – Birdcage Embroidery Pattern!

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I finished sewing this just before Christmas, surrounded by tinsel and baubles. It seems to me, however, that this would make a lovely springtime project.

The little songbird looking for the signs of spring.

I drew what felt like a thousand different cages and a thousand different birds in my quest to find the right ones and for a long while I struggled with the bars.

It just didn’t seem right, seem hopeful enough, for this little bird to be trapped behind bars. I wanted a home for him to return to, a sanctuary not a prison.

But then I can be overly sentimental at times.

So without further ado here’s the pattern for you to download, use and take flight with.

There’s also a further pattern which has the bird separate from the cage in case that’s at all helpful.

It really is a simple pattern and easy to adapt to the stitches that you know and love, should you prefer that.

The process for sewing this design is the same as for my scandi-style embroidery pattern, so check that tutorial out if you want a more comprehensive guide.

1. Print out the pattern and transfer it to your fabric

This pattern is life-size for my cushion but you might want to resize it to suit your needs.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice the absence of a hanging chain in the template itself. I find that long straight lines can so easily seem wrong to your eye even if they are technically ‘right’ or straight.

So I’d suggest that, once the rest of the pattern is committed to stitch and thread, that you then get out your ruler and play around with the positioning of the chain. Keep going until you find the right place, the position that looks ‘right’ to you and your creation.

2. Sew the bird

This design uses a mix of embroidery for the cage and applique for the bird.
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Now if you’re a newcomer to this sewing lark, don’t let the word applique scare you – it just means attaching a fabric shape onto another piece of fabric. In this case, attaching the grey fabric bird onto the fabric of the cushion cover.

I’d recommend starting with the bird because it’s the centre of the design.

I chose to attach the bird by just folding under a little of the fabric, a little bit at a time, and then sewing along the edges by hand using satin stitch.

If that’s not your cup of tea, then you could attach the bird with some fusible bonding fabric and maybe a simple backstitch, or machine sewing the shape on.

As ever, there’s always the option to shake things up a bit and just embroider an outline, maybe in a contrasting colour.

3. Sew the cage

The birdcage is sewed with a mix of chain stitch and whipped back stitch. As with all of my designs, this is intended to inspire you rather than pin you down, so if you want to use different stitches then that’s great too.

4. Draw and sew the chain

Now, as I said before, I think that you want to do this last and check that it looks right to you. If its a cushion or pillow case, maybe put the inner in it to double check. Better to spend a few extra minutes now than have to re-do it later.

I wanted to try something a bit different for the chain and found cable chain stitch in an old embroidery book lurking on my bookshelves. I’d never used this stitch before and, although it’s a bit fiddly initially, I’m really pleased with the effect.
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That said, chain stitch or a simple backstitch would also work.

I haven’t done a ‘How-to’ guide yet for cable chain stitch. It’s quite a specific sort of stitch and there are guides out there online. It is however a lovely stitch, so if you want to use it and want a bit of help then drop me a comment and I’ll happily knock up a ‘How-to’ guide with illustrations.

And there you go – ta da – your very own bird and cage.
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As you can see, my little pattern lives on a plain cushion cover. I think it might look good on a simple leaf or flower patterned fabric but it just needs a little care to ensure that the pattern doesn’t distract from the embroidery.

And don’t feel constrained to a cushion. If I had the time, I’d love to do a repeating pattern of these on a plain duvet cover.

Wherever you place it, I hope that it cheers up a corner of your home and brings you joy.

Scandi-Style Christmas Hearts

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It’s not unusual to find me furiously working away on a hand made gift or decoration on Christmas eve.

Our first Christmas eve together saw me finishing off some simple stockings late at night. It was, after all, too great a risk that presents might not appear without a suitable receptacle for them.

Since then we’ve had a stream of hessian hearts, gingham stars, and an array of presents all feverishly completed late in the day.

But, as I look at the decorations or remember the smiles of a friend receiving a gift made just for them, then I know that it’s all worthwhile.

In fact, I positively recommend it.

Consider it a triumph of optimism over time constraints.

And so, when I needed a present for a friend who had previously admired my scandi style embroidery I wanted to make something on a similar theme.

And thus, my scandi style Christmas hearts were born.
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They’re not complicated or fancy, in fact the materials used are particularly humble and normal, but I like to think that their simplicity brings a certain charm.

The particularly observant among you will notice that, although not identical, the bird in the heart certainly is a close relative of the little guy who resides on the cushion in my home.

So if, like me, you don’t want to stop sewing when the decorations go up, or if you’ve got a taste for making your own decorations after giving the nativity bunting a go, then here’s how to make this little trio of hearts.

All you need is some felt, ribbon, embroidery thread and of course, the patterns. So, here are the Bird and Snowflake patterns, and the Christmas Tree pattern.

They are made up in the same way as the nativity bunting characters and so I’ve kept the description here brief. If you want more guidance then I’d suggest having a peek at the nativity bunting tutorial.

1. Cut out two felt heart shapes per decoration

2. Mark up the embroidery design on one of the heart shapes

3. Sew the design on
The stitches that I have used for the embroidery design are a simple running stitch and whipped backstitch. Feel free to change these to your stitch of choice.

4. Start sewing the front heart shape to the back heart shape
As this is felt, there’s no fiddly turning inside out so just place the felt shapes the way that you want them to face when the decoration is completed.

Remember to place the ribbon at the top, between the two pieces of felt, in order to make a hook for your decoration. If you’re not sure how to do this, there’s a photo here that will hopefully help.

I used whip stitch to join the two shapes together.

If you’re stuffing the heart, then stop sewing the pieces together when you’ve got about 5cm left un-sewn. Don’t finish off in any way, this is just a brief pause.

5. Stuff the hearts and complete sewing the outer seam
Now I padded my decorations out with a little leftover wadding from a spot of quilting I did a few years ago. That said, a modest amount of stuffing would be more than suitable and, if your felt is thick enough, then the stuffing can be left out completely without fear of repercussions.

Once the decoration has been stuffed, then its time to pick up your needle again and carry on sewing around the edge of the shapes until they are completely joined.

And congratulations, that’s it! You are now the proud owner of your very own scandi style christmas decoration.

So where will these three end up?

Is there a gap on your Christmas tree? Are you feeling more ambitious and have hopes of a long line of these running up your stairs?

Alternatively if they aren’t stuffed then they could make a really lovely gift tag for a special present. Or fill them with some dried lavender or herbs to fragrance a drawer or room? The sky’s the limit!

You really can whip these up in no time and, in fact, I think that these would be perfect to make on christmas eve, maybe with some carols playing in the background, the gentle flicker of candlelight and a sustaining mince pie.

I’m pretty sure that you won’t be the only one. In fact I’d go so far as to suggest that there’ll be one fellow Christmas eve crafter, at least here in the Hoogally household.

It is a tradition, after all…

A tale of two cat bags…

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Recently our two year old God-Daughter had to go into hospital for an operation and I found myself pondering what I could create to make her smile.

Whilst racking my brains, it struck me that I hadn’t seen her carrying a bag of her own around.

Now pretty much every toddler girl (and pre-school girl, and school girl…) that I know loves a good bag. This particular little girl loves cats and so it was clear that if a bag was going to capture her heart then it would need to have a cat of her own as part of the design.

Now I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t always get my projects right first time. Planning ahead is not my strong point, but I like to think that I make up for it in enthusiasm.

And I charged so quickly into the creative process that I didn’t consider running off a mock up version before officially committing needle and thread to fabric.

In fact, I was so focused beavering away in my evenings that I really failed to step back and consider the bag as a whole.

Otherwise I might have noticed that the bag was coming up a little small for a two year old and all the fun treasures that she would want to carry.

But I didn’t and so, last stitch sewn, ends tidied up and tools put down… it slowly dawned on me that things had gone a tad awry. To put it bluntly, the bag was too small. It needed to be significantly bigger to carry all of her treasures.

And so I scratched my head, stomped around the house with frustration and eventually picked myself up, and started again. I wasn’t going to be beaten!

And after slightly more preparation than was given to my first attempt, I decided that a toddler messenger bag was clearly in order.

There are a whole raft of tutorials out there on how to make messenger bags suitable for the short of stature. I must apologise that I didn’t have the time to take photos of the bag making process myself but time was of the essence.

I was, however, pleased with the original cat design and decided to applique it onto the front of this second bag.
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I used a fusible webbing and then secured the design firmly in place with hand stitches around the edges.

In case you too are in need of a friendly cat to cheer up a bag, or skirt or other such item, then here is my pattern ready to resize and roll out to suit your needs. There’s also an alternate version to allow you to play around with the pattern and make it your own.

Here you go!

And if that’s not enough then try using buttons for the eyes, a few characterful whiskers or push the boat out completely (and the applique idea overboard) and embroider the outlines instead.

Perhaps some whipped backstitch and a bit of satin stitch for the pupils or nose?

And it’s not all bad news; Little Pumpkin has adopted the original bag which, it turns out, is a remarkably suitable size for a just turned one year old with a penchant for her brother’s metal cars.
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Even More Super Cute Scandi Embroidery!

A while ago I took part in a blog-world link up adventure. To cut a long story short, a handful of lovely bloggers shared tutorials for an array of flowery items.

My contribution was a scandi style embroidery pattern that I sewed onto a cushion but which I had designed to be easily adapted for a whole plethora of scandi-fied projects.

In keeping with the floral theme, I provided the patterns for the flower designs.

There were, however, a pair of little scandi style birds that snuck their way onto my cushion and which turned out to be a surprise hit.
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And now, after a frankly inexcusable delay, I am proud to share the pattern for these little guys.

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For my little bird, I used backstitch and whipped backstitch for the main part of this design.

You’ll notice that the pattern doesn’t direct you on how to fill the wings in. You could simply choose to sew the outlines in backstitch, as the pattern suggests.

I chose to fill the wings with satin stitch and you’re more than welcome to do the same. Or how about a bit of applique to add a twist to the design?

However you sew these little guys, I hope that you like them as much as I do and that you manage to find a place for them in your hearts and your homes.

Super Cute Scandi Style Embroidery

Some of you may remember a previous post of mine discussing a deal that I made with my son.

In short, the Monkey agreed to be less upset about the Christmas decorations coming down and in return I agreed that we would have a go at making our home “sparkle’ a little bit more throughout the year. But the Monkey is a firm believer that homemade is best so we’ve had to do this with our own hands rather than a trip to the shops or an evening trawling the internet.

So when I signed up to a blog-world mass crafting event I knew that I would have to make something for our home.

After all… a deal is a deal, and we shook on it.

So here’s the finished project, my super cute scandi inspired cushion cover embroidery.
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And the Monkey is ever so pleased with it. To quote him, “it’s fantastic mummy, its awesome”.

Phew!

And here’s the pattern.

Now you can use these lovely little flowers to cheer up a cushion cover of your own but please don’t feel tied to my layout or, in fact, to using them on a cushion cover at all.

Let your imagination roam. Just promise me one thing, ok?

Use them to make your home feel loved in, as well as lived in.

So how about a Scandi style apron to cheer up the back of your kitchen door? Just pop those flowers on the pocket and maybe add a bit of matching ric rac along the hem and away you go.

Or how about Scandi-fying your bathroom with some bright blue flowers on crisp white towels?

In fact, pillowcases, curtains, clothing, even clusters of framed pictures or decorative mini embroidery hoops. They could all benefit from a bit of Scandi cheer.

Need more impact?

How about a splash of applique on some of the leaves, or breaking out of the restraints of monochrome into a riot of colour?

You could even liberate these flowery guys from their little square homes if you wanted… I’m sure they won’t mind.

What I’m trying to say is that these few, small, simple flower designs are just the starting point. It’s your imagination, love and effort that will transform both the designs themselves, and whatever corner of your home in which you choose to place them.

So, if you’re ready to let these little flowers loose in your home (whether on something you’ve made or something you’ve bought) then you’ll need at least some of the following items:

  • The item that you want to embroider;
  • A printout of your chosen flower design, resized to suit your chosen item;
  • Scissors;
  • Needle;
  • Embroidery Thread in your colour of choice (I used anchor stranded cotton 400 for the vast majority, and a smattering of Anchor’s 233 thread for contrast);
  • Embroidery Hoop of sufficient diameter to contain a whole scandi square;
  • Water Erasable Marker Pen/Dressmakers Chalk Pencil;
  • Stabiliser (optional); and
  • Normal thread (if attaching a stabiliser with temporary tacking stitches).

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So, what do you do now you’ve got all this stuff?

1. If you are using a stabiliser then you’ll need to start by attaching it to the back of the fabric, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

2. The next step is to transfer the pattern to your fabric.

Now there are many methods of transferring a pattern,  but in this case I cut the template to make a stencil. I find this keeps the transferred design closer to the size of the original than simply drawing around the outside of a shape.
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I traditionally use a tailor’s chalk pencil but as the fabric was quite textured I thought I’d be a bit crazy and branch out to an erasable marker.

It’s worth adding at this point that, if you are using the square outlines, then I would recommend that you draw and embroider these first and then go back and repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 for the flowers themselves.

This helps you to iron out any wonky lines prior to investing time sewing the detail of the flower designs. It also makes it far easier to centre the design in the squares.

3. Moving on, place the part of the fabric which you are about to sew in the centre of an embroidery hoop and make sure it is tight without being overly stretched in any one particular direction.

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4. Go go sew!

I used three strands out of six strands of embroidery thread. If you are sewing on a smaller scale or using a finer fabric then you may find two strands to be perfectly adequate.
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Most of the pattern is stitched using a simple backstitch but, as you’ll see in the pattern, I also used a whipped backstitch for the outline squares, a split stitch on the stems and a double running stitch on the detail of the cup shaped flower.

Wherever there is a little blob on the pattern, I simply stitched a small star.

That said, the entirety of this design can be sewn in backstitch with no significant detriment to the final result.

5. Once finished, remove the stabilising fabric, press with an iron and enjoy your newly scandi-fied item!
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I’d love to hear about, or even better see, your completed projects. It’s easy to sit here at my computer throwing my words and ideas out there to the wide-open-impersonal-internet. It’s lovely to see where they have taken root and the fruit that they have borne.

And it goes without saying that I’d love you to use this tutorial and scandi-fy all manner of items for yourself or as gifts for friends but please don’t make any to sell. Feel free to re-pin, copy, or borrow a couple of photos to spread the word, but please link back to this post and credit me. Please don’t share the pattern itself or my little ‘how-to-do’ guides on your site.

Stop Press!

If this has whet your appetite for flower related craftiness then why not pop over to Bugs and Fishes to see the full array of flowery tutorials available for your use and enjoyment.

UPDATE!

If you fancy including those cute little birds in your design then you can now download my pattern for these friendly fellows here.

Happy sewing!

Let’s Make: Awesome Bunting!

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And so I dip my toe into the waters of tutorials beginning with bunting, which turns out to have a deceptively large number of steps to it!

I’ll be the first to admit that there is an overwhelming array of bunting tutorials out there and nearly as many different methodologies.

My tutorial is not the fastest method, but it is a relatively straightforward way of making bunting that will withstand a bit of rough treatment over the years and come out of storage in a fairly presentable state.

If you’re a seasoned crafter looking for something simple to follow then use the headings in bold as a framework for your crafting.

Otherwise, I hope that my general ramblings provide a few hints and tips that I’ve picked up over the years, most often as a result of frustration, tears and abandoned projects.

1. Get your materials together

So, you’ve been out to a shop/hit the online stores/raided your stash of fabric/cut up your children’s old clothes (not a joke – it can make a lovely run of “memory” bunting). You will also need bias binding of at least the length that you want your line of bunting to be, plus a little extra in case things end up longer than expected.

I used a patterned fabric on both sides so I could use the bunting at a window if I wanted to.

You could just as easily use a plain fabric for the back of each triangle or, if you are feeling particularly inspired, you could even use different patterned fabric on each side so you get two bunting themes for the price of one. But make sure that whatever fabric you use doesn’t show through to the other side.

So, fabric chosen, you should hopefully have a needle, thread and scissors as a minimum.
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Ideally, if you are anything like me, you’ll have a seam ripper too.

Mistakes happen.

A seam ripper means that you’re more likely to have your sanity intact by the end of the project. Bonus!

If you’re hoping to run this off in a couple of nights then you’ll be needing access to a sewing machine. This isn’t a necessity – I love hand sewing and the individual look it gives to a project. In this case, however, if you’re undecided between the two options then I would recommend a sewing machine for the more uniform finish that it gives.

An iron is useful too. Yes, getting it out to press your fabric does seem like a faff but it does give a much better finish and helps save mistakes. Believe me, I wouldn’t be suggesting this if I didn’t genuinely believe it to be worth the effort. Unpicking is infinitely more frustrating.

On that note, I’d recommend that you wash and iron the fabric. Fabric shrinks and if you are using a combination of fabrics then they may shrink at varying rates, causing your beloved bunting to go all wrinkly or wonky.

So if you’re in a huge rush then you may want to grab yourself some pinking sheers and a different tutorial, having decided that this tutorial is not the method for you.

I won’t take it personally, I promise.

2. Cut out your template

This is the template that I made, but it’s just a simple triangle so feel free to go crazy with your own pattern! If you’re not feeling particularly crazy then you’ll need to print out the template to a regular A4 size.

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At this point I’d suggest that you take the physical template, cut it out and hold it up to where you are likely to use the bunting. When I did this, I ended up shortening the triangle by a few inches to the final size on the template. If it had been bunting for outdoors I’d probably have stuck with the larger size.

If you do make your own template then remember to add a seam allowance. It’s fairly standard to use a 1.5cm seam allowance but I reduced this to 1cm on this project due to the smaller scale. Lives will not depend on the difference between these two measurements so feel free to vary this with reckless abandon.

3. Cut out your fabric 

There are many ways of securing the paper template against the fabric, the most common being pins.

I’m not a huge fan of using pins for small projects as I find that they have a habit of fidgeting out of place. They also, far too often in my hands, completely make a bid for freedom and hide in my carpet ready to reveal themselves when the nearest inquisitive crawling one year old passes by.

Incidentally, should you find that you are in possession of similarly sneaky pins then a magnet hovered over the general area can be a helpful tool. If you don’t have a magnet then playmobil have a fantastic working metal detector in their spy range which is surprisingly good at finding pins.
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Anyway, returning to the project in hand.

When making my bunting, I simply held down the template and drew around it using a ruler to ensure that it kept the edges nice and straight.

For the best results, consider where you are placing the template on the fabric. Do you want the print or images to run in a certain direction, for example, or is there a pattern that you need to place in the centre on the triangle? I would also suggest that its best, in this case, to ensure that your pieces are cut ‘on the grain’ rather than on the ‘bias’.

Once you’ve marked out or pinned down your template then it’s time to be brave and make those daunting first cuts into your pristine fabric.

4. Attach your fabric triangles together, right side to right side

Put simply, place your two triangles of fabric so that the ‘right sides’ are facing one another inwards, and temporarily attach the two fabric pieces to each other.
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Again, thanks to my slightly irrational mistrust of pins I hand sewed some temporary stitches, also known as tacking stitches, for this purpose.

Thousands of crafters in thousands of homes across the country use pins successfully and without the need for a German metal detecting toy.

You too can be one of these people should you so desire.

5. Sew pieces together and turn inside out

When sewing the pieces together, make sure that you sew the correct distance from the edge of the fabric. This should be whatever the length of your seam allowance is, which in my case was 1cm. Your sewing machine will probably have markers on it but, if not, just use some tailor’s chalk or other similar temporary product to mark where you should sew.

When this has been done your triangles should be turned inside out so that the right side, or print, is on the outside as you ultimately want it to look.

6. Press the triangles with an iron

Yes it is a pain. Yes it is worth it.

7. Topstitch the triangles

This stage isn’t strictly necessary, but your bunting will sit a lot flatter and will keep its shape longer thanks to topstitching the triangles. It’s the difference between good bunting and great bunting.
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8. Attach your triangles to the bias binding at your chosen intervals

So, take your bias binding and unfold it.

You’ll find that you essentially have a very long rectangle in which both outer edges are folded into the centre of the rectangle, making two inner flaps.

Take your triangle and stitch it to one of the flaps. Do this stitching all the way along the bias binding until all of the triangles are attached. The stitches won’t be seen but will hold the triangles in place.
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9. Turn the bunting over and fold the bias binding over the top of the triangle and secure in place

You need to secure the bias binding or it will more than likely move while you are sewing, causing bumps and folds in the final item.

You can use pins for this task but will probably be unsurprised to hear that I used more hand sewn tacking stitches instead, just to make sure that everything stayed in place.

Bias binding, I find, is also sneaky and fidgety when my back is turned.
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10. Top stitch along the bias binding and remove any tacking stitches

Ta da!
Congratulations!

You are now the proud creator of awesome bunting.
Display with pride.
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