Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Felted Wool Hot Water Bottle Cosies - Applique Fun!

Love Sewing Magazine September 2021

September's Love Sewing Magazine is now in the shops and features lots of gorgeous autumn projects including these pure wool hot water bottle cosies, designed by me!

Like the majority of my creations they're made from upcycled materials, in this case felted wool sweaters.  Producing your own luxurious pure wool felt is easy, as it actually just shrinking things! Any wool jumper marked 'Hand Wash' should felt but those labelled 'Washable' or 'Superwash' have been pre-treated and  therefore aren't suitable. I source my jumpers and scarves at our local charity shop, where they also put by for me any that have already been inadvertently shrunk!  Once you've found your chosen items simply chuck them in your washing machine on a hot (60° or above) programme.

As autumn is now fast approaching, I decided on a cute 'Woodland Critters' theme using natural toned wool and fabrics.  They would also make super Christmas presents, as each family member could have their own design and they'd look equally good stitched up in much more vibrant colours.

The most exciting part of the process is adding the machine stitched details, it really brings the appliques to life!  I usually just use a reduced length straight stitch and an 'open toe' foot but you can also drop your machine's feed dogs and then free motion embroider to your heart's content.  


As ever our cats couldn't bear to be left out of anything going on, however mundane.  I was going to get a couple of pictures of the full magazine spread to share but ended up thwarted by Digby who decided to give the pages a good chewing instead!  Luckily Lola is far more well behaved and was happy just to watch his daft shenanigans.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Applique Zipper Pouches & Bunting

 Personalised Teacher Appreciation Gifts

My daughter finishes school next week before (hopefully) heading off to university in the autumn. Schools in the UK, like many throughout the world, have spent much of the last year in lockdown. Those in the North were particularly affected, with far more closures than down South.  Some elements of the UK press would have their readers believe that teachers have been on an extended holiday over the last 16 months.  Nothing could be further from the truth, my daughter's teachers have been amazing and consistently delivered high quality lessons via Zoom whilst also being physically available in school for vulnerable students. 

It's therefore been a pleasure to stitch gifts marking our appreciation for the fabulous job they've done.  Sewing for women is pretty straightforward but I always struggle to come up with ideas for men.  After quite a bit of faffing (timewasting!) I finally decided to upcycle school badges, previously unpicked from outgrown uniform blazers.

The first 'male' gift was this pencil case.  I stitched the salvaged school badge onto one side and on the other the recipient's initials. I designed the letters in the style of an American Varsity font, which was perfect for both the school theme and masculine tone.

The second masculine gift also used upcycled school badges, this time stitched to pennants on each end of a string of personalised bunting.  It's for my daughter's very wonderful Head of Year and, whilst he may not have a use for it at home, he will hopefully find a place to hang it it in his school office.  As before I created the letters in an 'American Varsity' style also adding a red ric-rac trim and yellow tape to coordinate with the colours in the badge.  The flag fronts were cut from an old work shirt of my husband's whilst the backs used old school shirts! 

Once the men's gifts were completed I started on the women's and for these I used a cute pencil case design which I  had previously created as a pattern for a magazine.   

I wanted the gifts to be personalised, so embroidered names on the fronts rather than the original 'Write on' sentiment


Whilst I was stitching away I was usually kept company by at least one of our three cats.  Luna also seemed keen to make another appearance here at SewforSoul, so here's some bonus kitty spam!!

Thank You Teachers!

Monday, 17 May 2021

Sewing and Cats

 Two of my favourite things!

So I've finally got around to writing a SewforSoul update, having left an embarrassingly long gap since my last post! Lots has been going on here, including the sad death of Lily, our tabby cat, who often used to make a blog appearance.

Mr Larkin and I decided not to get another cat, as our human offspring will soon both be at university and my elderly father-in-law needs ever more care, so we felt it best to stay feline free......

This decision held for at least four months(!) before I weakened and we welcomed Luna and Lola, two British Shorthair girls, into our house and hearts.

When they arrived they were just the cutest bundles of fluff I have ever seen and they literally brought tears to mine and my daughter's eyes!  A year further on and they're still very adorable and fluffy, just much bigger!

Like all cats they are unbelievably nosy and are always keen to be involved in everything and anything anyone is doing.  Unsurprisingly, what they enjoy doing most is inserting themselves into the activity where they're actually needed the least! So this means they're often to be found in my sewing room 'helping' me with both fabric choices and the actual stitching....

Now you would think having originally decided we weren't having any more cats, two would have been more than enough......Not so!

We recently also acquired Digby, a little Snow Savannah boy! 

British Shorthairs and Savannahs are different in everyway - personality, size and build, fur, etc etc but Digby and the girls actually complement each other beautifully!

Views around cat ownership have definitely changed since we last had new cats, with many people now keeping their pets as indoor kitties only. I personally think that lots of cats like to have outside access, so we had our garden cat proofed by Viking Joinery using the Felisafe system. 

This meant a pretty brutal pruning back of over twenty years of growth but it was definitely worth the loss of shrubbery for the peace of mind the cat fencing provides.

Chris, the joiner from Viking, did a brilliant job and worked 10 hour days for a week in order to fit the system. He also made us a bespoke gate (& water butt lid!) for the same price as an inferior off the shelf version. He and his partner don't have cats, instead sharing their home with cute guinea pigs!  He really is a lovely guy and also gives his time and amazing joinery skills to helping at the Cavy Corner Guinea Pig Sanctuary. So when I saw some lovely guinea pig fabric over at Etsy I knew exactly what to make him for a little thank you present....

Festive Guinea Pig Bunting!

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Wrocław Christmas Market 2019

It can't have slipped anyone's notice on reading this blog that my family and I love Eastern Europe, especially Poland!  We visited Wrocław in the summer and all agreed that rather than buying presents in Christmas 2019 we would instead return for its beautiful winter market.  

My parents would have loved to have joined us but my father's health (Alzheimer's) has taken such a downturn in the last month that it just wasn't logistically possible.  This blog post will therefore seem a little self indulgent, as it mainly consists of family photos that granny can show granddad on her tablet!     


A is for Alice!

The weather was unbelievably warm with sunshine the entire weekend. Even the evenings were mild and it felt quite strange to be enjoying better weather in Poland than we had left behind in England.  In fact, without the festive market, we would have struggled to remember it was just four days until Christmas! 

Wrocław is a stunning city and, with the Christmas market nestled in the centre of the old town, it presents an experience which is quite simply unforgettable. I'm not usually the sentimental type but as a street musician began playing carols on his violin it felt incredibly beautiful and sharing it with my husband and children created a very precious memory for all of us.

These pictures do not do justice to the market, as my photography skills are bad enough in the daylight, let alone in the dark ... you'll just have to add a sprinkle of imagination!  The market's main tree was a very tasteful mix of pastel icy tones which looked gorgeous at all times of the day and night.

In common with all European Christmas markets, there were multiple cute little wooden stalls selling handmade crafts and regional produce, but my lot were far more interested in those peddling Polish street food and the local beers!

There were five wooden chalets to chose from when needing liquid refreshment, ranging in height from one to three storeys.  They each served a choice of hot and cold beer and wine as well as drinking chocolate and flavoured coffees.  We tried everything except hot beer(!) and whilst I didn't get any pictures of the chalet interiors, they were very cosy with lots of fur rugs on chairs and countless twinkling fairy lights

The chalets were very popular with people of all ages, from tiny children to senior citizens, along with the occasional group of young men or women on a festive night out.  As is common in Europe it was all very laid back with absolutely no drunkenness to be seen anywhere.

The picture above is the rear porch of one of the smaller chalets and the one below shows the boys enjoying a beer on one of the larger upper balconies.  Each of the chalets offered a choice of inside or outside drinking spaces.

Na Zdrowie!


As Wrocław is less well known that other Polish cities such as Gdańsk and Kraków, the market is also much less crowded.  We only heard a couple of non Polish voices and it was lovely to not have to battle our way through crowds.  I would definitely recommend Wrocław above Prague or Vienna at this time of year! 

The chocolate box coloured buildings of the old town looked like a scene from a fairy tale as we viewed them bathed in the glow of millions and millions of tiny Christmas lights.

On the Friday of our visit we climbed up to the 'Penitents' Bridge' or Witches' Bridge' which links the two towers of the church of St Mary Magdalene.  The bridge is said to be haunted by the tortured souls of women who chose a single life of fun in preference to being a subservient wife and mother! 

The church you can see in these pictures taken from the bridge is St. Elizabeth's, which we previously climbed during our visit to Wrocław in August.

The Christmas market is just peeking into view in the snap below!

The bridge is also home to an adorable trio of Wroclaw's famous dwarves, who in this instance recall the original legend of  the Penitents' Bridge and thus serve as a reminder of the fate awaiting any young woman who chooses the path of debauchery over wedded life.....being turned into a witch forever doing housework. I'll leave that one to you to ponder upon! 

Dragon Fountain in  Plac Solny (Salt Square)

Looking towards Ostrów Tumski (Cathedral Island) on a warm and bright December day!

Whilst we were wandering along the Oder river we spotted yet another of the 300+ dwarves that Wrocław is famous for, this time a cute little digger driver with roses in his trailer!

Wesołych Świąt!
Merry Christmas!