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The Handmade Fair 2015: A Crafter’s Dream Volunteer Job

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair last year changed everything for me.  This year I wanted to share a little of why it is such an amazing experience.

The Basics of Being a Volunteer

You volunteer for part or all of the three days of the fair (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and you roll up on Thursday afternoon for the staff briefing and to help set up if possible.  You get your (thankfully shower proof) wristband to allow you to get around the site.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

I volunteered for the whole three days again this year and I definitely recommend doing that as you get to know people, they get to know you, and you get to be involved with a greater variety of activities.

Be warned it is a very busy three days! One of the reasons that the photos for this post are not top quality is because I was much too busy to carry around and use a DSLR whilst my iPhone was quick, easy and pocket sized!

I spent two days manning (or should that be womanning?) the Information Point and one day helping with the Skills Workshops. Other volunteers helped in the Super Theatre where Kirstie Allsopp introduced and often interviewed famous crafty names such as Charis Williams, Emma Bridgewater, Annie Sloan and Lauren Child.  More volunteers helped out with the “Grand Makes” and Skill Workshops (of which there were 6 themes).

You wear smartish clothes for the days of the fair.

Comfortable shoes are a MUST at the Handmade Fair as you will probably be on your feet from arrival at 8am until fair close at 6pm. Click To Tweet

Be prepared to work really hard and follow the instructions of your expert or the Brand Events staff (they are the organisers).  Volunteers get two tea breaks (although when tends to be a bit hit and miss because of reacting to events) and lunch provided. You also get issued with the obligatory and “glamorous” Hi-Vis vest.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

The Pay Offs

One of the top benefits of volunteering for me is that you get to help set up and run the workshops.  This means expanding the range of crafts that you understand and at least know the principles of doing.  At worst you get to help the workshop attendees with their pieces, at best you sometimes get to start a piece yourself.

Admittedly there is rarely time for a volunteer to finish a piece to the standard you would like as you have a job to do but you can try new crafts without spending money for the kit and take home your piece.  With crafts that are expensive on the initial outlay (like needle felting or lampshade making) you have a perfect opportunity to see if they hold any joy for you.

Before the workshops start you layout all the materials for that activity ready for the public, you then collect tickets. The experts will tell you what kit to lay out (I had the great joy of working with Rosy Nicholas, Riannon Selcuk, Ellie Jarvis, Jayne Emerson, Claire Gould, Hester Van Overbeek, Georgie Kirby and Sonia Bownes all of which were lovely and very happy to talk to you about their craft, offering tips and inspiration).

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

Once the public are in you get to watch the demonstration and listen to the tips from the experts (all of which you can hear and see because they have microphones and video cameras focussed on their table as they work. There is a bit of background noise (hey, you are in a tent after all!) but generally not enough to cause a problem.

Once the demo is over the experts wander and help the public and so do you.  I met some really amazing people doing this and the atmosphere is wonderful because nearly everybody is doing something they love and there to “have a go”.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

Workshops this year included Modern Cross Stitch, Clothes Upcycling, Knitting at three levels, Marbling, Calligraphy, Fascinator Making, Cake Pops, Flower Crowns, Gift Wrapping, Papercutting, Origami, Lino Printing, Biscuit Icing, Willow Weaving, Upholstery, Lampshade Making, Stencilling, Shibori Tie Dye, Needle Felting, and of course the obligatory Pom Pom’s!  There is a HUGE range of things to see and do and you get access to that knowledge without buying a ticket!

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

As a volunteer you are quite likely to see the workshops that you are assigned to more than once and I found that a bonus because I really got to see what worked, what the common mistakes were and how to sort them out. No two workshops were the same and I got a huge boost from talking to all the like minded people. Ideas and inspiration were bouncing around like Tigger and I came away with a phone full of notes and ideas which was the quickest way I could record things over the weekend without being distracted from my job.  If I was helping with a workshop I had seen before it was pretty easy to get the public settled and then pop into whatever was going on next door and see what they were up to for ten minutes or so. I was lucky enough to be next door to the Annie Sloan upcycling workshops and picked up a lot of tips. Their Lampshades were particularly beautiful but I didn’t get to take a picture of one 🙁

One expert, who runs workshops herself was even good enough to give me marketing advice for my own business, based on her own experience. Click To Tweet

The next “perk” I found was the shopping!

The Fair has two shopping villages. Being there for all three days gave me ample time to browse all of the stalls.  I admit that the recce was in short bursts in between grabbing a cup of tea or setting up workshops but I managed to get a thorough understanding of what was on offer and make wise decisions in my purchases.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

When shopping the Fair I fell it that it has a lovely balance of artisans to inspire you (and adorn your person and home!) and craft supplies to play with.  There is no pressure or scrum to buy and the artisans are happy to answer questions and give out cards for your Christmas shopping! I am currently drooling over sewing patterns, lino printing kit, books, and a tapestry kit amongst other things.

I have to be honest and say that what really makes volunteering at the Fair for me is the atmosphere. Yes, you will work hard, yes your feet will be killing you but you will also be relaxed and energised.  Working on the information point just inside the main gate for two days I met a LOT of the people who came to the show, on the Saturday that was roughly 3,000 people. Most people didn’t know each other but they were happy to chat, share experiences and have a laugh.  I ended up with face ache from smiling too much.

The same goes with the other volunteers. A number of us had kept in touch throughout the year via a Facebook group and it was like catching up with old friend.  It also meant that instead of camping this year I had a lovely comfy bed in the home of one of the more local volunteers and since last year a friend.

We were invited to attend the Saturday night drinks with all the stall holders and experts where Kirstie herself was in attendance and happy to mingle and chat.  This took place in the central “foodie” area and the atmosphere was almost like a cocktail party. The event didn’t last the full evening and going out to dinner with a fellow volunteer and one of the experts  afterwards was a really easy walk to a number of great restaurants.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

Looking at that picture you can see we were having a good time.  That was my friend, fellow volunteer and erstwhile landlady, Dorinda and Origami expert Caroline Preston.

The last of the reliable “perks” is the parking. I know it is shallow but you are guaranteed a free parking space everyday!  At the end of a long day on your feet that is an incredible boon to be able to stagger only a few hundred metres to your car.

I won’t lie there are other things that crop up that give you a huge thrill.

Being a volunteer at the Handmade Fair is the one of the best experiences a crafter can have. Want to know why? Click through to find out.

Last year I helped to count the Pom Poms in the world record attempt for the longest unbroken chain of pom poms.  That meant I got champagne and to meet Kirstie in person.  This year I held one end of the opening ribbon for the Fair two days running and had a front row seat as Kirstie opened the Fair.  The first year volunteers were given a VIP goodie bag as a thank you and I know of volunteers who have been able to request tickets to the event for a friend or family member.

My advice would be not to rely on anything but to relax and enjoy the experience.  In my view it is a really enjoyable and valuable one.

If you are interested in volunteering at next year's Handmade Fair follow their Facebook Page as requests for volunteers are put out via that, usually 3-4 weeks before the event. If you have any questions about being a volunteer I am happy to answer them via the comments on this page or one of my social media channels.



Patchwork Laptop Cosy Project – Phase Two

So, if you followed Phase One of this tutorial you should have a piece of patch work that is around 48cm x 83cm in size. If you didn’t follow Phase One, go back and do so now 😉

Phase Two is about with actually adding the quilting (to provide the cushioning for your precious tech) and turning the whole thing into a patchwork laptop cosy.

First of all. Here’s a Reminder of the Equipment and Materials that you will need:

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - all the equipment needed for this project

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - all the materials necessary for this project

  • 1 Cot Panel or other Patchwork cotton fabric to cover approx. 50cm x 80cm (for a 17″ Laptop) – I used the Petit Fleur.
  • Coordinating fabrics to make patches for spots where the colours do not quite match up.
  • Quilt Batting (I used this Polyester Wadding but decided to use it double thickness)
  • General purpose sewing thread
  • Backing Fabric of your choice – I used a coordinating fabric from the same range. 50cm x 80cm.
  • Coordinating Bias Binding – 3metres
  • Iron On Vinyl ( I used Thermoweb Gloss Heat ‘n’ Bond).
  • 2 x 5cm squares of interfacing in three weights – I used iron on standard medium vilene, peltex 71f fusible one side heavyweight interfacing and a fusible cotton interfacing. Basically any scraps I had left over!

Step Fourteen:

Layout your patchwork on top of your backing fabric.

The patchwork for the laptop cosy laid out on backing fabric ready for marking out

Beginners do best to avoid using stripes or checks as backing fabrics as they look wonky VERY easily. Click To Tweet

Use an air erasable fabric marker and your quilting ruler to mark out the backing fabric.

Step Fifteen:

Using the quilting ruler and rotary cutter cut out your backing fabric. It’s possible that you may have to join pieces of backing fabric together to make a large enough piece.  As you  can see from my photos, I did!

Remember to press the seam if before carrying on if you do join pieces.

Yet another reason why stripes and checks are not a good idea when you are starting out – hard to match up well!

Step Sixteen:

Place your backing fabric onto your wadding and pin into position.

Start pinning in the middle of the fabric and work outwards toward the edges to avoid either getting wrinkled. Click To Tweet

Use fabric scissors to cut around the wadding and backing sandwich.

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - Cutting the wadding to size ready for quilting

Step Seventeen:

Put together a sandwich of the layers. The laminated patchwork goes on the top, the wadding in the middle and the backing fabric on the bottom with the wrong side facing the wadding.

Use clips (I used small bulldog clips) to hold the three pieces together. You don’t want to use pins as they will put holes in the laminated patchwork.

I started at the middle and worked towards each end to avoid wrinkles and I positioned the clips on the seams as  these are the spots most likely to shift during quilting.

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - Three layers clipped together for quilting

Step Eighteen:

Sew across rows “in the ditch”. It’s important to start with the middle row of the piece and work out towards each end. If you don’t know what “in the ditch” means there is a great illustration here.

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - Stitching in the ditch to quilt the laptop cosy

Some quilters use a special walking foot on their machine to do this but this project is small enough and thin enough that you shouldn’t need to worry about that.

Step Nineteen:

Add your magnetic popper fastening.

I followed this fantastic tutorial from Anna at Noodlehead.  I could not put it any better than she does, so I won’t try!
Patchwork Laptop Cosy - Adding a magnetic popper means this laptop cosy stays securely shut

I think a magnetic fastener is the best form of fastening for this cosy as it closes securely with minimum of fuss, always handy if you’re on the move.

Patchwork Laptop Cosy - Magnetic Popper for fastening with no fuss

 Step Twenty:

Next I cut 50mm wide strips of fabric from a co-ordinating fabric and sewed them together into one long strip.  As this cosy wont be put in a washing machine (it would wreck the laminate) I cut the fabric straight and not on the bias.  This is more efficient for not wasting fabric but it would not stretch and give with the item if it was washed.

I pressed the joins in the fabric flat and then used a bias tape maker to turn the strip into binding for the edges of the cosy.

Homemade binding in a co-ordinating fabric adds a special touch to the quilted laptop cosy

I trimmed the edges so they were straight and not too bulky.  Then used pins to pin one edge of the binding along the top edge of the cosy (the one that would be folded inside the cosy when complete), as you can see in the picture below. As you can see the pins are put into the seams between the patches so as not to create holes in the laminate.

Adding binding to the top edge of the cosy so that the inside edge is finished attractively

Step Twenty-One:

Sew along the flattened out fold of the binding on the outside (laminated side) of the cosy following the crease of the fold. This should give a seam around 5mm in from the edge of the cosy. You don’t need to worry about making the ends neat as they will be covered.

Using a sewing machine to attach the binding to the edge of the cosy.

Step Twenty-Two:

I then used the clips again to fold the tape over the top edge and hold it taut (see below).

Using binder clips to fold the binding over the top edge of the cosy.

Step Twenty-Three:

When you sew the binding into place you sew on the front of the cosy (the laminated side) again. You sew “in the ditch” between the front edge of the binding and the laminated area.  When you folded the binding over there should be sufficient to overlap the area you will be sewing, securing it.

Using the sewing machine to sew along the edge of the folded over binding, securing it.

Step Twenty-Four:

I folded the piece of quilted fabric into the cosy shape and used the clips to attach the binding to the front of the folded cosy and hold the edges together while I sewed. This time I folded the ends under so that they would give a neat finish.

Use binder clips to hold the edges of the folded cosy together with the binding ready fo sewing.

Continue this process around the point of the flap and down the other side of the folded piece. and stitch into place.

Clipping the binding into position around the edge of the cosy

Step Twenty-Five:

Then use the clips again to fold the binding across to the back and hold into place.

Clipping the binding into position around the edge of the cosy

Sew again with the back and outside of the flap  facing upwards on the machine and sewing “in the ditch” as you did before. Trim all ends of thread and you should have your completed cosy!

The finished Patchwork Laptop Cosy in use!

I hope that you find these tutorials easy to follow but if you have any questions just get in touch with me via email or social media and I am happy to help in anyway I can and I would REALLY love to see any of your projects if you feel like sharing.

Patchwork Laptop Cosy Project – For Newbies or Relaxation

I don’t relax, I almost relax and find something to stress about.  That means it is time for a project.  Simple projects are my form of mindfulness.  This is a good beginner’s patchwork project and for me means that I can keep my mind occupied but still relaxed.

When I discovered the Petit Fleur Alphabet Cot Quilt Panel (see below) at my favourite fabric store The Eternal Maker I fell in love with it.  The snag? I don’t have young children and my nieces and nephews all have their nurseries sorted

Image of the Petit Fleur Patchwork Quilt Panel and Four Coordinating Fabrics

No inspiration struck until we were packing to go on holiday this year.  I wanted to pack my laptop but not in the large (and if I’m honest ugly) case that we had.  However I couldn’t leave it unprotected whilst travelling through France. There are plenty of simple laptop sleeve or cosy sewing patterns out there on the internet but it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t need to spend money on fabric. I simply needed to make the fabric from the patchwork panel I already had.

The final laptop cosy is waterproof & padded. I think it ticks all the boxes for a cute and very serviceable product. Click To Tweet

As with most patchwork projects, this project has three phases; Phase one is piecing the fabric together to a size and shape to suit the project, phase two is quilting it to provide padding for the computer and phase three is making the actual sleeve. This first post covers Phase One only as it it pretty detailed.

The Patchwork is very straightforward and suitable for a first project.  The quilting is also straightforward.  Putting the cosy together is a bit more awkward as it is dealing with vinyl and thick quilting but I managed it all on a normal domestic sewing machine with a standard general purpose needle.

Phase One – Patchwork:

Grid showing all the equipment needed for this project


Collage picture showing all the materials necessary for this project

  • 1 Cot Panel or other Patchwork cotton fabric to cover approx. 50cm x 80cm (for a 17″ Laptop) – I used the Petit Fleur.
  • Coordinating fabrics to make patches for spots where the colours do not quite match up.
  • Quilt Batting (I used this Polyester Wadding but decided to use it double thickness)
  • General purpose sewing thread
  • Backing Fabric of your choice – I used a coordinating fabric from the same range. 50cm x 80cm.
  • Coordinating Bias Binding – 3metres
  • Iron On Vinyl ( I used Thermoweb Gloss Heat ‘n’ Bond).
  • 2 x 5cm squares of interfacing in three weights – I used iron on standard medium vilene, peltex 71f fusible one side heavyweight interfacing and a fusible cotton interfacing. Basically any scraps I had left over!

Step One:

Pre wash the fabric you intend to use in a net or pillow case to stop it fraying too badly.  If it is patchwork fabric then put it on a cotton wash with no fabric softener.

Step Two:

Iron the panel flat. It is important to get all creases out of the fabric before the next stage.

Step Three:

Using paper scissors cut a length of iron on vinyl that will fit part of the panel (it isn’t wide enough to do the whole panel in one go!) Peel the backing paper off and put the sticky side onto the front (picture side) of the panel. Smooth it into place with your hands.

Image showing lengths of iron on vinyl placed across the panel in the most efficient manner

Step Four:

Put the backing paper shiny side down on top of the vinyl and use the iron (on a medium heat setting, with NO steam) to put pressure on each area in turn for eight seconds (You should have seen my husbands face at me standing there counting “one – Mississippi – two – Mississippi” over and over!)  Make sure all areas have been heated and DON’T put the iron on any uncovered areas of vinyl or you will end up with a messy iron sole plate to clean (ugh).

Step Five:

Flip the fabric over and press all areas on the back of the fabric for around four seconds for each part.  This should finish adhering the vinyl to the patchwork panel.

Step Six:

Using a cutting mat, quilting ruler and rotary cutter cut up the patches of the panel with a half inch seam allowance all the way around.

Patchwork usually works with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. That makes me nervous so I make it wider when I can! Click To Tweet

This short clip shows you how to use a rotary cutter to cut a straight line on Cotton fabric. There is no sound, therefore no language barriers.

Standing up to do the cutting gives you the most reliable pressure and be sure to roll the rotary cutter away from your body.  The picture below shows you how to line up the quilting ruler to get the correct seam allowance.

Image showing how to line up a quilting ruler to obtain a half inch seam allowance on the patchwork block

Step Seven:

Layout your cut pieces to decide what order you want to patchwork them together in (I wanted alphabetical order for this panel but it might be as simple as what looks pretty!)

Step Eight:

If there are any “gaps” in the layout (for example where you don’t want two patches of the same colour next to each other) cut panels to fill the gaps. I used plain coloured quilting cotton in coordinating colours and laminated each piece as before.

In order to make the envelope type flap you will need to add four extra “patches” that are cut diagonally to create the shape

I used one of the printed panels as a template to cut the rectangles.

Three image collage showing the steps of cutting the diagonal patches

I then lined the quilting ruler up so that the line half an inch in from the edge rested on the exact diagonal.  When you cut with the rotary cutter you then have a panel the correct size with a seam allowance.

Step Nine:

At this point I usually take a photo with my phone so that I can remember what the order was that I liked.

Pay Attention - if your pattern only makes sense in one direction lay out your patches to accommodate this. Click To Tweet

Image of patchwork squares being photographed with a mobile phone

Step Ten:

Using the sewing machine (set to a medium length straight stitch) sew together rows of patches (you will sew the columns together later)

Step Eleven:

From the back of the fabric press the seam allowances left on one row and and to the right on the next (why, will become clear!) Use a pressing movement, rather than a normal ironing one.  If the iron moves around too much it curls the edges of the fabric/vinyl mix and that is really annoying!

Photo of iron pressing seam allowances of patchwork blocks in one direction

Close up image showing seam allowances pressed in opposite directions on next door rows

Step Twelve:

Trim all the ends of thread off of your sewn rows so that they don’t get in the way and tangle up in the next stage of the patchwork.

Image showing scissors trimming ends of threads from patchwork rows

Step Thirteen:

“Nest” the patches of the rows together (this was why you pressed the seam allowances in opposite directions) and then use clips to hold the two rows together whilst you stitch.

Close up shot showing the seams of the patches being nested into accurate positions.

Using clips (pins will make holes in the vinyl) clip the row into position and sew. (If you need to, use an air vanishing maker to mark your stitching line across plain panels). Use the photo for reference to make sure that you get the rows in the right order and the right way up!

Collage showing preparing the rows for sewing together

That is it! Phase One is complete!

Photograph of the completed patchwork section

Next week  Phase Two – Quilting and Assembly.

5 Garden Projects For the Non-Gardener

Any one who has been following this blog for a while knows that I DO NOT have green fingers but I still want a space to enjoy and relax in.  So, as we embark on summer here are the garden projects I have been coveting the most as a non-gardener and want to try (Just click on the image to go to the tutorial or the source of the image)…

Number One:

French Glazed Plant Pots – Tutorial by “So Much Better With Age”

I love the look of these and once I discovered that “Latex Paint” is actually what we call emulsion in the UK I think this is  a good warm up project to start the summer with…

Image of finished french glazed plant pot by "So Much Better With Age"

Image from “So Much Better With Age”

Number Two:

Teapot Planters – Funky Junk Interiors

I can’t find the tutorial on this one (I pinned it on Pinterest and if you click on this picture it will take you to the blog the image was pinned from but I cannot find the relevant post, sorry!) It looks straight forward though and I will be raiding the charity shops!

Image of teapots used as planters displayed along a staircase hand rail

Image from

Number Three:

Up-cycled Drawer Planters – Estate 2 on Etsy

This one links to an Etsy listing where these were sold.  I want to make my own.  A good way of getting a bit of height into any garden.

Image showing two drawers painted blue, cut off and mounted on a wall as planters

Photo by

Number Four:

Mosaic Stair Risers – Frankie Magazine

Again, no tutorial on this one but there are loads of good tutorials on mosaic-ing (for example this one by Total Mosaic – How to Mosaic) I love the idea that it is pretty but discreet.

Image of outdoor stair risers which have has broken crockery mosaiced to them.

Photo by Carine Thevenau


Number Five:

Can Lid Shingles – Beth Evans Ramos

This idea would cover something ugly in a really attractive way.  This is the only one that I am not quite sure where I am going to use it.  Although there isn’t a tutorial you can zoom in closely enough to see the nails through the centre of each can lid.  If I spray painted the lids in colours it could be even more attractive.  The lids would definitely need to be sprayed with something so that they didn’t rust though!

Image of a chicken coop covered with tin can lids as shingles/roofing tiles

Image by Beth Evans Ramos


Well that’s my plans for this summer.  I will be interested to see if I manage to achieve them all, in part or whether life will get in the way!  What pretty things have you found to add to your garden.  I would love to see more ideas.  You can check out mine on my Garden Ideas Pinterest Board.

Happy Gardening!

Five Reasons I am Happy To Be a “Magpie”

I have always had, what I now embrace as, a “Magpie Mind”. I love making stuff and creating, but I never could find a “favourite” thing and stick with it always. For years I felt this meant I was a “Jack of All Trades, Master of None”. I thought you had to be REALLY talented at one thing to be a proper grown up. I could sustain interest in just one thing for no more than around six months.

Then I read a book that struck a lot of chords with me: “The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One” by Margaret Lobenstine. It talked about it being okay to not choose just one thing and to embrace it. Something clicked and I became a bit more comfortable with me.

Picture of the Cover of the book "The Renaissance Soul"

I like to think I’m like a Magpie who instead of collecting shiny things, collects crafts and skills.

#1 – I get to create lots of pretty (and sometimes useful) things!

Since leaving Loughborough University with a degree in Industrial Design I have been variously a Secondary School Design Technology Teacher, Manager, Shop Assistant and a Vetting Officer.  I suppose the strand that runs through everything I do is that I love to learn and to combine a healthy streak of creativity with organisation and an appreciation of beauty, in no matter what form. Whilst studying I encountered the William Morris quote “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”.  That struck a chord with me and has stuck.  I try to apply it to both my life and the things I make.

#2 – The variety is exciting and I get to try lots of new things.

I love the excitement that a new project brings.  New skills to learn, new materials to work with, things to refine and polish.  I like to finish things, although I have my fair share of UFO’s (unfinished objects) around and I have been known to go back to things and complete them years after starting them (see there is hope!)

#3 – Learning keeps my mind mind from stagnating – and it makes me happy that so many crafting resources are now so freely available.

In my opinion the internet opens up crafting and makes it accessible to a larger audience.  I have learnt so much from blogs and YouTube videos that I want to pass on to others and it also means that if I forget a stitch or cannot remember where I saw an image I can go back to it and refresh my memory.  For someone with varied interests it is a God-send. Yet another reason I am happy being a magpie, because the stress of remembering everything has gone!

#4 – The crafting community is awesome!

In September 2014 I was lucky enough to be selected as a volunteer at the first ever Handmade Fair.  I spent three and a half days in heaven amongst fellow crafters and it really hit home how much I really believed in the fair’s mantra of “Everyone has a craft they can do”. The crafting world is friendly and supportive.  I have met so many fascinating people whilst taking workshops and classes, many of whom I am still in touch with.  I have learnt from the finest professionals and learnt from people of all ages and genders.  There is a real sense of community and excitement in exploring a new craft.  You would not believe the way that ideas and experience are shared and it all feeds into the atmosphere and end product.  It is easy to stay engaged when that level of excitement is around!

#5 – The cross-pollination of skills.

The more things I try, the more I find that I use skill from other crafts in the new one and also in my everyday life.  I find my approach is often slightly different from that of some people in the workshops I attend and lead.  It empowers me when I realise that I have got the hang of drafting a pattern because I learnt about packaging design earlier in my history.

I find the same in the people I teach.  Using approaches that are more familiar to them from recipes or office work they find something they can hold onto and build upon.  This increases their confidence and lets them relax and enjoy!

I honestly think that I have go the best deal with the way that my mind works, even though it too me a long time to be happy with being a bit different!

My Strategy For Framing Clothing

I have a confession to make. I’m not proud of it but…

I brought my “attractive” pink  hi-vis jacket from the stint I did volunteering at the Handmade Fair home with me.  The whole event made SUCH an impression on me. I wanted a connection to it as a permanent reminder how much it had inspired and motivated me (after all I would not be embarking on the adventure that I am now if not for that weekend!)

Framing Clothing- Me wearing the Hi Vis Vest Alongside Kirsty Allsopp


I decided to frame the jacket and display it in my office/craft room.  This was a bit daunting. Framing clothing looked awkward and I wanted it to hang flat and level.

It seemed sensible to be able to remove the jacket with minimal damage if I ever wanted to, so this ruled out glue or tape.

The easiest option seemed to be using “stitches” at strategic points around the jacket. The jacket could then “hang” from these whilst remaining in situ.

Framing Clothing - Close up of tools used to make holes in the mount board.


I used a sharp point to make holes in the mount board where I wanted to put stitches (I think this is some sort of modeller’s tool that I got at Hobbycraft a while ago but cannot find on their website now!)

I then used sewing thread (doubled) to “sew” single large stitches, tied off behind the mount board.

You can see on the image below where I located the “stitches”.

Image showing the location of the stitches put to hold the vest in place.


It worked a treat, but  I think heavier weight fabrics would need  more “stitches” to support the weight and possibly heavier thread.

It is amazing to have such a constant reminder of why I do what I do whilst I work and evokes such happy memories.

Image of the final framed item of clothing in situ


How To Use PDF Sewing Patterns – A Beginners Guide


I LOVE the internet for crafting, specifically I love the fact that it has given us access to a much wider range of sewing patterns from all over the globe. Pattern designers upload their patterns as PDF files.  I have downloaded any number of PDF sewing patterns over the last few years. Some I paid for and some were free of charge.  I have learnt a few things along the way that might just be useful to you in starting out with PDF sewing patterns.

Note: Please take all your usual precautions when downloading pattern files in checking that they are from a reputable source and that you are ONLY downloading the file not a virus!

What to expect when you open a file and printing:
Pattern Source: Tilly and the Buttons (

Pattern Source: Tilly and the Buttons (

Each page of the sewing pattern is there in front of you, you simply need to connect up your printer and print it.  However when you are printing there are a couple of things you need to watch out for:

How to Print

Pattern Source: Tilly and the Buttons (

It is crucial that you select “actual size” or “print 100%” or the printer will try to be helpful and fit all the pieces onto less paper and you will end up with pattern pieces that might fit your dog or cat once made up (if you are lucky) and it wont make sense when you try to put all the pages together!

If the pattern is from an experienced or professional designer they will have a checking mechanism built into the pattern design so that you can check it has printed to size.  The square below appeared on the first page of the wonderful pattern I bought from Tilly and the Buttons. So I could check the size as soon as it printed and not waste paper printing the rest of the pattern if it was the wrong size!

Test Square

Pattern Source: Tilly and the Buttons (

If the pattern is less modern or sometimes if it is free of charge you may have to make an educated guess.  I recently downloaded a free apron pattern and it had no way to check if the print size was accurate.As this was a simple pattern with very little in the way of tailoring I resorted to holding it up against myself to check and adjust the fit.

Checking Pattern Sizing-1

What you get once the file has printed:

The program usually splits the pattern into A4 pages that start with the number 1 in the top left corner of the pattern and, page 2 is the next in the top two rows assembled. (to see exactly what I mean look at the red text I have added to the assembled pattern picture below).

Assembly - Final Assembled Piece-2

Most patterns have “markers” to help you line up the pieces.  You can see some examples of these in the image below.

Different Methods For Aligning Pattern Pieces

Assembling the pattern for me involves a glue stick, paper scissors and a large cup of tea! I trim the borders off of each page, one at a time and glue them into position as I go.  That way I do not muddle the pages up and have loose ones floating around!

Pattern Assembly Collage

I won’t lie, lining up can be a little tricky and I work on the “more is best” principle.  That means, if the main outline lines on the pieces line up pretty well I can sort out darts and notches in the pattern once it is assembled!

I’ve Glued It Together – Now What?

You have the same two basic options that you do with a store bought pattern.

  1. Use tracing paper/dressmaker’s carbon paper to trace it from the main sheet(s) – this preserves the pattern for other uses in other sizes.
  2. Cut it out with paper scissors and use it on your fabric.

I don’t get on very well with tracing and to be honest I don’t have the patience when I can print it again if I want a different size (the beauty of PDF patterns, create a folder on your computer labelled patterns and keep them all in there!). I use them directly onto the fabric.

Pinned Pattern-1

Some people do find that printer paper is too think and immobile for them though.  Tracing paper is certainly lighter.

A word of warning though; if they arrive saved with an obscure name save them as something you recognise or you will never remember which pattern is which!

In picture 1. You will see my pattern file layout (a folder for “Patterns”, and one each for Sewing, Knitting and Embroidery) in picture 2. you will see the original pattern name, in picture 3 I have changed it to something I will recognise

Renaming Patterns Collage

Well, those are my top tips and I would love to hear from anyone who has something else to make PDF patterns less daunting – I am a true magpie, always on the look out for bright ideas!

Pattern Review: Japanese Style Cross Backed Apron

Aprons should cover, they should protect but not restrict your movement, that is my opinion.  I find that many you can buy today are too small to cover much (on me at least!) and they are a pain to put on with ties that have to tie behind you and basically I wouldn’t want to answer my front door wearing one!

I found this free cross backed apron pattern via Pinterest and thought that all my prayers had been answered. No ties, covers almost everything, loose enough to have free movement without getting in the way and could be made in a fabric that I liked. This is my pattern review so that you can hopefully avoid some of the pitfalls that I encountered!

During a trip to the “Eternal Maker”, (an amazing fabric shop just on the outskirts of Chichester that I could move into tomorrow, given half a chance!) i fell in love with this “Garden” Linen blend (in the Green colourway) by Ellen Luckett Baker for Kokka. I wanted a linen or linen blend because I love the way that it just looks more “lived in” after washing and I think this garment is going to be washed a lot!

I printed out the PDF pattern on my printer in adult size – there were a few issues with it.  Some pattern lines didn’t line up between pieces of A4 paper and I had to free hand a line to connect them in a more sensible way.

Close up image showing pattern lines drawn in


Also, whoever drew out the pattern on the drafting software had not noticed that some of the construction lines printed on the pattern.  This meant it was tricky to figure out which line to cut on. This pattern was a very simple one and as long as I kept in mind the shape I was going for it wasn’t hard to figure it out. You can see in the picture where I have scribbled though the construction line – and hey, the pattern WAS free!

Close up image showing scribbled through construction lines on pattern


When I pinned the front pattern piece to me to check sizing it was a bit small (It did not reach half way across my chest!) so I added on eight centimetres to the centre line of the front to make it a bit wider.

Image of pattern piece pinned to author to check size


Cutting out was pretty straight forward, I used the kitchen table, fabric scissors, pins and the pattern pieces, nothing fancy required.  As I sewed the side pieces to the front piece I discovered that the pattern sizing was slightly out.


This was easily corrected with scissors though.

Before anyone says it.  I know I should have pattern matched properly like the do on the “Great British Sewing Bee” but it seemed to waste so much fabric that I was put off!

Image showing pattern pieces sewn together in a misaligned way

Adding the bias binding around the edge was the bit I was dreading, sewing around internal and external curves accurately?!?!  I found two tutorials from The Haby Goddess that were easy to follow and got me through both adding the bias binding properly and sewing the curves! It took over five metres of Bias to get all the way around the outside but it didn’t leave me wanting to throw in the towel (a feeling I quite often get when attempting fiddly things).

The binding isn’t perfect but I was quite pleased with the job!

Close up image of bias binding on edge of crossed back

I had some fabric left over and approximately 30cm of binding so I “stole” a pocket pattern from an apron pattern in “Sewing Machine Basics” by Jane Bolsover (a fab book that does exactly what it says in the title) and added a pocket for my inevitable tissues and other bits of junk!

Close up image of pocket added to front of apron


The hardest bit was gathering the curve on the corners of the pocket but the instructions in the book were very clear.  I was just a bit awkward in the execution! There is a really good tutorial on how to do something similar on Guthrie and Ghani’s Blog.

When I tried it on it did gape around the bosom/armpit area a bit (probably where I altered the pattern with not enough knowledge!) so I sewed one dart at the bust each side.  I forgot to take a “before” photo but the “after” was that the apron fit much more snugly.

Close up image of bust dart added into pattern


Really pleased with the resulting apron.  It is easy to get in and out of, fun to wear and (I think) it looks stylish. I can’t wait to get dirty!

If you have never downloaded a PDF sewing pattern and find the idea intimidating, watch out for this Sunday’s post where I try to make it more friendly for you with some of the things I have learnt.

Two views of apron being worn, front and back

Idea for a Filofax Pen Holder

I have been trying to work out a tutorial for a filofax pen holder to fit on the front of the personal sized Filofax that is my planner for this year.

Inspired by Pinterest (as usual!) I am trying to colour code things and that means carrying several colours of pens, plus a pencil and a Sharpie (so I can write on top of washi tape).

Close image of the inside of my filofax showing book marker and diary page


As you can see I have produced something that works and I am trying it out for a while to see that it is robust enough to survive my handbag (aka the “black hole”) and also trying to iron out a couple of the not so pretty aspects that I am not happy with.

View from the top of my fabric filofax pen organiser


Hopefully it is something that will interest you guys and you will check back in to see the full tutorial?

View inside the front cover of the filofax showing how the filofax pen holder is held on


Granny Square Crocheted Seat Cover

This project has been a long time in the making! It is a Granny Square crocheted seat cover for my office chair.  I found the pattern for the initial Granny square online (if I can ever find the link I will update this post to share it!) and then I worked the rest out as I went along

You may have seen it feature in my post on Travel Crafting or featured fairly often on my Instagram account (usually with my cat sitting on it so that I am unable to work on it!).

Close up of detail on crocheted seat cover showing button fastening around the leg


It has been unpicked and re-done more times than any other project I have attempted and I have to say I am pleased with the result.  I know it is not quite a perfect fit but it is comfortable, fun and happy.  I am happy to call that a result.

Close up of the granny square seat cover showing each of the squares


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