Because life’s celebrations shouldn’t cost the Earth

Friday, 28 June 2013

Journal Cover Sew-Along

Applique Note Book Cover 

Today is the launch of a Sew-a-Long hosted by the very talented Virginia Celoria over at 'Darlingadventures'.  It's the first one I have ever taken part in, so I was up early this morning getting started!  Ginny has a wonderful video tutorial which goes through the process of making a journal cover.  She makes it super easy to understand.  Give it a go and take part! 

There are further details on her Facebook page and the 'rules' are pretty relaxed. Simply follow Ginny's instructions for making the basic cover and then decorate however grabs your fancy...applique, patchwork,'re limited only by your imagination!

I was busy making mine today and here it is first thing this morning.  Can you tell what my theme is?

Yup, that's right, it's going to be another teacher appreciation gift, this time for my daughter's wonderful teacher.  

Once the details had been stitched it became clearer;

I used Ginny's basic pattern to make a patchwork cover as I wanted the front and back to feature different fabrics.  The front is comprised of a soft pink upcycled pillow case and an old favourite floral fabric cut from a very worn 'Dorma' duvet cover.   The back is made from a pair of outgrown jeans.  I chose this so that the journal would not show up so many marks when placed on a grubby school desk! 

I have embroidered her teacher's name on the front and adding to the personal touch, I ensured that the little girl's hair colour matches Alice's! 

I hope both Ginny and Ms. Westerman like it!

Keep checking Ginny's Facebook page for inspiration from all those talented people out there!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Appliqued Journal Tutorial

Teacher Appreciation Gift

Wow, this year has just rushed past and school's nearly done!  Hence our thoughts have been turning to suitable ways of showing our appreciation to those hard-working individuals who have made such a difference to the children's education.  

George and I have already made something for his form tutor but he also wanted a small gift for his science teacher, so we came up with a design for a personalised journal......

George gave me a few pointers for the design telling me he 'thinks' she wears glasses 'sometimes' and she 'might' like frogs as she has one on the clock in her lab.  He is, however, 'certain' that she has light coloured 'longish' hair.  I really hope the glasses bit is true, as otherwise the likeness will be frankly rubbish!  He was also rather vague about whether or not she was a Miss, Ms or Mrs - The school's website clarified that one, although surprisingly offered no information on the state of her eyesight or colour of her hair!

Still, at least the frog on the back is science themed, even if it transpires that she does not actually have a deep rooted love for amphibian friends.


Journals make great gifts for just about any occasion or person and the actual covers are very easy to make.  The design you choose to decorate it with can then be as complex (or simple!) as you like.  Firstly measure the outside of your notebook being sure to include the depth of the spine.  Then add on a couple of centimeters to both the height and width for your seam allowances.   

I used more than one fabric for the background of my design, but just one colour would still be equally effective.  Having pieced the cover colours together I fixed my design into place using iron-on fusible web.  I then stitched around each of the pieces in black thread.

This form of raw edge applique is very popular at the moment but it seems the sewing world has yet to decide upon a definite name for it.  I have variously seen it referred to as free-motion embroidery, free-style embroidery, free-form embroidery and free-hand embroidery!

Anyway, whatever you choose to call it doesn't matter, the exciting thing is that it allows you to use your sewing machine needle in the same way as a pencil and you're limited only by your imagination!

An important point to note is that you should not be put off by what your work looks like before adding the black stitching. All designs look bland at this point!

See what I mean? 

Now look at the difference the black makes.....

Much better!

The cover's ready to have its label attached and be squared up.

Now cut two pieces of fabric which are twice the width you want the flaps holding your journal to be.  I made mine 18cms so that when they were folded in half they would be approximately 9cms wide.  They need to be the same height as your cover piece.  Fold and press then place on top of your cover, right sides together.  As you can see in the picture below, my flaps are in the same fabric as the spine detailing.

The next step is to cut a lining fabric so that it is the same size as your main cover.  Then lay it on top of your fabric 'sandwich', again with right sides together.

Pin your sandwich together and then machine all four sides, remembering to leave a gap so that you can turn right sides out!

(In the photo above you can see that I have attached some interfacing to the reverse of the front piece.  This is because the fabric puckered slightly after the black stitching was added.)

Once the sides have been machined, trim your seam allowances and clip the corners to reduce bulk.  Now turn through to the right side and push out the corners (I use a big, and blunt, wooden knitting needle).

Press and finally stitch the opening closed and that's it.......

All done...

Let's just hope George's 'facts' were correct!

As regular readers will know, I can recommend a wonderful video tutorial on this topic, by the very talented Ginny over at

She has also just announced an upcoming journal cover sew-along, so I might just enter this one there!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Vintage Linen Crinoline Lady

Upcycled Linen Purse

Whenever I am out and about, I keep my eyes open for hand-embroidered vintage linens.  The designs which turn up most frequently are flowers and Crinoline Ladies.  Now, floral items are perfect for bunting, as they are quite small, but Crinoline Ladies are too large for a bunting flag.  So what to do with them?  

At this point I should note that I only collect pieces which are worn, stained or ripped and would otherwise go into the bin - I would feel too guilty to cut up undamaged work!  Actually I'm not even all that keen on the classic Crinoline Lady, they are much too twee and chintzy for my liking, but I just can't leave them to their almost certain death!

I used my find from last weekend to create a make-up pouch for a dear friend and whilst she too may not be a massive fan of the basic design, I knew she would appreciate the hours of work that once went into creating the original embroidery.  

The Crinoline Lady was at 'her' most popular between the 1930's and 1950's, so I guess we could call it a classic!

Having decided upon stitching a make-up purse, I cut away the damaged areas and then attached polka-dot bands to each of the four sides.

As the original linen was quite thin and fragile, I added a backing and then free-motion quilted the entire piece which provided much needed additional stability.

I also free-motion embroidered my friend's name onto the reverse of the purse, as most people really appreciate the personal touch.

Next the zip was inserted before squaring up all the outer and lining pieces.  It was then a simple matter of sewing the bag up, whilst remembering to leave a gap in the lining for turning purposes!

Sticking with the vintage theme I added a traditional 'Suffolk Puff' or 'Yo-Yo' beneath Dorothy's name.

 All finished!


 If you look carefully at this last picture you can, yet again, spot 'Bad Kitty'.  Mr Larkin and the children find her antics very amusing and are greatly impressed that she manages to photo-bomb most of my blog entries!

Personally I just find it it's a good job I love her too xx

Friday, 7 June 2013

Vintage Upcycled Bunting

Recycled antique tablecloths and linens

 As I have already mentioned previously, I started SewforSoul after reading an article about blogging in a copy of 'Style at Home' magazine.  Well not long after this original post, I received an email from one of their editors asking if I would contribute a couple of tiny bits for their April edition, as they had been let down at the last minute by someone else.  They actually needed my contributions the same day as the final proof had to be sent to the printers that afternoon!   Now this particular Monday was already a busy day for us - My sister and her husband had been up for the weekend and we had a table for lunch booked, Mr Larkin's publishers had asked him for a couple of changes to something he has in the pipeline, I also needed to book flights for eight and finally I was due into school that evening.

Anyway I happily obliged and one of the items they used was my suggestion for making an antique style garland for summer using recycled vintage linens. Now, I love bunting and when I can use the most gorgeous hand embroidered table and tray cloths, which could easily be about a hundred years old, then it really makes  my heart sing!  The Edwardian tablecloth I repurposed for this batch had huge holes in the middle, the most used area on a table, and partly disintegrated in the wash!  However, careful cutting and application of iron-on interfacing meant I had more than enough to use.

At this point I should point out that the published photo of me is about ten years old. However, they needed one of me by myself and like all Mums the only other pictures I'm in also feature the children.  It seems rather egotistical to ask someone to take snaps of just me, but I might have to add this to my 'to do' list!

 I am in awe of the quality of the hand embroidery and the sheer number of hours which must have originally gone into producing such amazing works of beauty.  It is so sad to think that many of these linens now end up chucked unceremoniously into the bin.  I just get such a sense of satisfaction every time I find one and save it from this fate.  If the recycled bunting also does another 100 years then that is a pretty mind-boggling thought - 200 years of sewing history in a household item!

It seems I'm not the only one in love with vintage linen as this project was also featured in the July 2013 issue of Reloved Magazine.

The sharp eyed amongst you might also have spotted my Beano Decoupage Table on the contents page - Reloved Magazine featured two of my makes in their July issue!

Ready to be stitched onto tape

All finished

The edge of the lawn looks pretty dry, but hey it's summer (At last!)

Keep an eye out for similar old linens and create your own new heirloom xx

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Owl and the Pussy Cat

Free Hand Machine Embroidered Journal Cover 

Today is Granny's birthday and as last week was a school holiday in the UK, I needed a fairly quick design to whip up and post whilst keeping the children (and cat) entertained!  This adorable pair of little birds fitted the bill perfectly, so I grabbed some fabric from my stash and got to work.......

....and this is what I produced.....

A personalised journal so that Granny can jot down her oh so important thoughts and dreams!

As it was a busy half-term holiday with the children, I was up against the clock to get it wrapped and to the  Post Office before the last collection of the day.  This made the taking of blog photos really rushed, the cover is a lovely shade of pink linen which I struggled to capture in the house, so we went outside to try our luck there.   

Unfortunately we failed to take into account bad jealous kitty, who couldn't bear to share 'her' attention with anything, even an inanimate object as boring as a note book!  She therefore rubbed herself all over it claiming it as hers, which was bad enough, but we really gave up when the claws came out!

Having admitted defeat and reluctantly admitted that 'washed out' photos would have to suffice we came back inside.  George and Alice then each took a page from the notebook and produced a birthday picture and message to really personalise the project.  The back of the journal also features their names in the form of a free motion machine embroidered message, which if you squint really hard you might just be able to pick it out in one of the photos above!

Happy Birthday Granny