Make a tote bag from hand woven fabric

I am busily using up scrap yarn from my overflowing stash. As part of that I wove a piece of fabric that is frankly…um…mixed up; I used all sorts of fancy yarns in the weft, eyelash yarn, boucle yarn and a little bit of ladder yarn. All that in no particular order, colour or pattern, just throwing in a little bit here and there.

What to do with this fabric? I decided to make a tote bag.

First I cut it off the loom and overlocked the edges.

I gave it a wash too, to test for shrinkage.

Next I cut a lining the same size and some handle material.

Then it was time to sew up both the bag and the lining into basic bag shapes. Leaving a small hole in the bottom of the lining to turn the whole thing inside out.

Sewing across the bottom corners gives the bag a nice square bottom. I didn’t forget to measure the same distance down the corner seam on each piece. I sewed the lining corners the same way.

The corners were folded so that the bottom seam and the side seam lay on top of each other; the seam you can see in the photo below is the side seam, it is laying on top of the bottom seam. This makes a sort of cross seam at the base of the bag.

Finally I sewed the top of the outer bag to the inner lining. The handles can be pinned between these layers. I went over the handle joins more than once when sewing this part; handle joins are subject to a lot of strain. The handles need to be looped downwards with the ends facing up towards the top of the bag, when sewing the top seam (I learned that the hard way).

Yes…the handle is the wrong way around. I had to unpick and re-sew the whole thing with the handles the right way around.

I turned it all inside out (or right side out) then sewed up the hole.

There’s the bag done. Not too bad for a scrap yarn project.

Now on to spinning more yarn to make more fabric to sew more things.
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Making a canopied mosquito net for a bed.

After sleeping on the same bed for 34 years (different mattresses of course) we finally bought ourselves another one. For a long time now, my partner and I have been sleeping on a Queen size water bed converted to hold a mattress. I went into labour with both my daughters in this bed (while it was still a water bed; don’t get me started on getting out of a water bed to a phone in full labour…it’s a story with many rude words and gestures). The old girl has been through a lot and is still functional, but we wanted something we could hang mosquito nets from. We have tried hanging those tent-like nets over the bed (many times), but the bother of climbing in from the bottom of the bed (because they only have one entrance) and getting tangled in netting through the night has always been painful. So mostly we just put up with bugs and geckos (sometimes frogs) on the bed in the middle of the night.

I did some thinking and researching of ways to hang a mosquito net over the bed in a more comfortable way. I came up with a few ideas, but they all had drawbacks and some were expensive. Until one day my partner said “Why don’t we just buy a four poster bed?”.

Traditionally the four poster bed was used to keep people warm at night, it is sort of like sleeping in a tent inside your bedroom as the curtains help keep body heat in and a smaller space to heat makes it warmer for the sleeper. They also gave some protection from rats and cockroaches as the curtains could be tightly closed. So a four poster bed with a Winter curtain and a Summer curtain is what we settled on.

We considered buying a new four poster bed…too expensive and feels like a cop out.

We considered building a four poster bed…too expensive and time consuming and my partner wasn’t keen.

We considered buying one second hand…the best option by far, but they don’t come up for sale often.

Recently I saw a four poster bed listed on Facebook in a local town. I messaged the current owner and negotiated a price and a pick up date. Because the car is broken down (again…) we have to wait for 2 weeks to pick up the new bed, then it will need some work as it has a little damage to the joins in two places. While I wait for all this, I’m going to sew us a canopy.

This is the photo from the ad. She’s a Queen size and doesn’t come with a mattress.

First I need the measurements of the canopy part…a message to the owner is all it took to secure those.

Then I need to sketch up a rough design; we wanted a four poster that is functional not decorative. We want to be able to block out bugs in Summer and cold in Winter. That means I will need two canopies; one for blocking cold and one for blocking bugs but not breeze. Armed with these design criteria, I set off on a design adventure.

By the time I got around to actually doing anything on this project we had picked up the bed and my partner put it together while I sewed the curtains; perfect timing.

I said they were preliminary.
My partner putting the bed together.
The new toy he had to buy to do it.
Together, made and waiting for curtains.

The old mosquito nets I had saved to make the curtains all had too many holes in them to be useful. I fell back on one of my favourite fabrics; muslin. Muslin always makes me feel so delicate and diaphanous, it floats, it’s see through, it lets air blow through it, perfect for a summer curtain for the bed.

A spare Queen sized sheet in a light, cotton material will be the top or roof of the curtain..

Now I just need to pin the curtains to the top, making sure to overlap them at the openings so there won’t be a gap. Sewing it all together (which took AGES) and trying it on the bed to make sure it fits.

Sewing the curtains together.
One of the many fitting sessions during construction. I decided to sew up the corner seams so there is no gaps in coverage.
I even added some fairy lights in the hope of attracting fairies.

The curtain works really well. We could hear beetles and insects zooming around outside the curtain during the night, but none got in. This was a really satisfying project to make and fairly easy once I got past the feeling that I was sitting in a sea of fabric while I sewed every seam.

The Winter curtain will be made in the same way, except with heavier materials. I am thinking of weaving a piece of woolen blanketing to make the top and some flannelette sheets as the curtains. I have wanted to make blankets for some time, maybe this is the time to do it.

An up-cycled wardrobe – a simple top

 I finally got around to making some tops, not that I’ve been running around topless. I’ve been wearing my hand made pants, skirts and undies consistently for a while now and people have got used to seeing me in them. Kids have stopped asking me if I wore my pyjamas to school, adults have stopped looking startled as I approach and animals react as they always have (because they generally don’t care what you are wearing, or even if you are dressed at all, as long as you carry a feed bucket). Time to introduce a new twist…..

My top is a really simple sleeved shirt, made from an old quilt cover. I love this material, it has a little bit of shine to it and a subtle pattern. I think it’s a man made fibre of some sort (hard to get that shine on natural fibres) but it is up-cycled.

The finished product.

My first step was to find a pattern. There are a lot of free patterns out there for tops, but most of them are for stretch material so I decided to make my own.

I found a handy tutorial (here) which is for stretch sewing but I modified it. I followed the instructions but made the pattern much bigger, allowing for a longer sleeve too.  I made it for half the top (as you can see in the photo) and cut on the fold so it would be symmetrical. In the end I cut a square neck line into it too.

This is my ‘pattern’ pretty simple huh?

Next I cut out two pieces using my pattern and sewed the top of the sleeves together using French seams to minimise fraying.

I love the colours in this fabric.

 Then I sewed the side seams and hemmed the sleeves and bottom. The neckline got a special treatment. Because I cut the neck opening too big (forgot to halve the measurement for the neck opening) I sewed some edging elastic around it to create a gathered edge (the same way I put elastic on undies (see here). I really like the finished result.

I made sure I used French seams on the whole lot.

Ta da

I like this pattern so much I made another one straight away from 100% cotton.

My second attempt

What do you think? I’m planning on making a few more tops using this design, then try something a bit harder.

Up- cycled wardrobe project- a really comfortable house dress

On one of my infrequent trips to town recently I discovered a queen sized quilt cover in a second hand shop (for the queenly price of $5). It was made from good quality cotton, in lovely colours, so I bought it for my sewing projects. I did consider using it on the bed as I do need new bed spreads, but in the end I couldn’t resist the colours.

I decided to make a simple summer house dress, and by house dress I mean a dress to wear at home, in the paddocks, in the bush and occasionally in the house. The first step was to find a simple pattern to try…along comes ‘Greenie dresses for less’ a great blog about up-cycling. I chose the convincingly labeled ‘easy summer dress‘ pattern and away I went.

This is the finished dress on it’s hanger.

My first step was to unpick the side and bottom seams of the quilt cover.

Yes it did take a long time; almost an entire Youtube documentary about mermaids.

Then I cut out two rectangles of fabric 107 x 97 cm each, cleverly keeping the hemmed bottom of the cover so I don’t have to do it later.

I sewed the side seams up using French seams (so I don’t have to zig zag the edges).

This is the finished French seam, aren’t they so neat and tidy.

This is my ironing set up. The old iron is solid aluminium and very heavy. I use the frying pan to keep the bottom clean while I heat it up to iron.

Ironing the seams and such. I love the smell of fresh ironing.

The almost last step was to sew up a pocket for the shoulder straps to go through.

The iron made this so easy to do.

Then I made the shoulder straps. I decided to make some cord (or rope) to use as shoulder straps. This is so easy and quick to make. The ‘recipe’ is…take some lengths of yarn, cord or string, make sure you have about double the length you will need (more if you have a lot of pieces). Attach one end to a hook or something (another person is good if you have one handy), then standing at the opposite end twist the cord away from you until it is full of twist energy. It should try to twist back on itself if you slacken the tension.
When it has enough twist in it you can fold the piece in half, keeping tension on the length as you do this. Make the cord by releasing small lengths of cord from the folded end a bit at a time. Finally tie a knot in the end and there is your cord.

I know it sounds complicated, but it isn’t. Give it a try and see.

I measured out three metre lengths of bamboo yarn until I had nine lengths in total.

The final result

These house dresses are not fancy, (or even flattering on me), but they are cool and comfortable and allow me a full range of motion. I think I will sew up a few more.
Next time I think I will make the back much shorter than the front so it gives me a smoother line at the back. I also might make the shoulder straps longer so I can adjust the fit more.

What do you think?

Oh, and I dug out my old corset to see what it would look like with the new dress. All I can say is I know why tavern wenches were so easy to talk out of their clothes…those things are hard work.

It didn’t last long on. 

Up-cycled wardrobe project – simple pants from quilt covers

With all the excitement about having a new baby in the house (see my last post about Shaun the sheep) I have been fairly busy and unable to get much crafting  (or anything else) done. This week I finally got to making myself some new pants. I have been making pyjama pants out of old flannelette sheets for some time using a pattern I made from an old pair of pants (see my post about it here), however this pattern is a little short in the back and results in me showing some bottom cleavage when I sit down or bend over, so I thought it was time to upgrade my pattern.

After a lot of diverting searching on the internet for free patterns I came across this one from Laura Marsh Sewing Patterns which I downloaded, saved and printed out. The pattern pages were glued together in order, which was a bit like putting a jigsaw together. Then I went looking for some fabric to try the pattern out on.
 In my box of useful bits of fabric I found a Bratz quilt cover, given to me by a friend wrapped around a joey that had been rescued from her mother’s pouch after a traffic accident. I washed the cover, liked the colour and pattern (if not the theme) and decided to put it away for future use. I also found an old single flannelette sheet to try the pattern out on before cutting up the pretty fabric.

The pattern sheets all glued together.
The pattern pieces all cut out and ready to go.

Shaun helping out with the process.

 I cut out the flannelette pair and sewed them up as per instructed. The next step is (of course) beta testing, so I wore them around for the afternoon, feeding chooks, chasing sheep, feeding Shaun and sitting in my chair knitting. They are comfortable and warm, best of all they don’t expose my bottom to the world at all. I’m really pleased with this new pattern so I think I’ll keep it for future pants making activities.

Prudence gets to work.

What a stunning piece of machinery she is.

The first pair is made.
Now on to the day-wear version…
The infamous Bratz quilt cover. The cotton is good quality though and I love the colours and pattern.

I just followed the instructions on the download and before I knew it I had a new pair of pants.

Yes, I know…..I hate modelling, but I am so proud of this project I thought I’d make an exception.

There is enough material left from this quilt to make a summer top or two and a bra. I just love up-cycle sewing. 

Making underwear from old t shirts…too much information?

Anyone who knows me (or reads this blog) knows that I hate to throw anything out if it can be used again, but the supply of old clothes and sheets is just getting beyond control. When my youngest daughter left home to go to uni’ this year I found myself with extra cupboard space, which I immediately filled up with crafting supplies (what else), old sheets and t shirts from my mother-in-law among them. However, I feel a bit guilty and dismayed by just how much space my crafting takes up, so I have decided that the answer is to do more crafting and use up all those supplies (or at least get them down to a decent size so I don’t feel like  a hoarder). One of those projects is to try making underwear from old t shirts.
I don’t know about you but I resent paying $10 for a pair of panties that will last only six months and don’t fit very well. The cheaper underwear packs don’t even last that long. So the logical thing to do is to learn to make my own which will wear for longer and can be tailored to fit me perfectly.

Of course the internet provided inspiration and instruction…

For those who prefer photos rather than video; an alternative tutorial.

Of course the bralette will need to be modified to be useful for me as my needs tend more towards support (OHS issue magnitude) than simple cover, but I do think it gives a great place to start experimenting from. For this post though I will stick with the panties.

My first step was to make a pattern template, I used some wrapping paper to make mine.

Then I found an old t shirt that wasn’t too decorative or thick as I wanted to make a prototype first and tweak the pattern until I got a comfortable fit. Don’t panic, I won’t be modelling; I don’t feel comfortable putting my face on here, so any other bits of anatomy are out too.

I had to dig out my old electric sewing machine for the sewing up bit as Prudence the treadle machine is a straight stitch only girl and stretch sewing needs a zigzag stitch.

I sewed them up as per instructions in the panties video.

The final result is a comfortable pair of knickers. I will definitely be making more of them.
The only changes I will make to this pattern is to expand the sides a little bit and narrow the crotch.
Stay tuned for a report on making the bralette next time.

An old sewing machine reborn – testing Daisy’s sewing ability.

Daisy, ready to sew

My last post was about my efforts to fix up an old Singer 201K treadle sewing machine; Daisy.
To test her ability to sew (and make all those little adjustments) I made up a new peg bag for the line.

Daisy sews well…even though the 201 is a straight stitch only machine, the stitch they sew is strong and even (when the tension is right), and they can sew through a single layer of cotton and straight on to leather without any adjustment.

Daisy doing what she was made to do. Making a happy little hum.

A closeup of the top stitch, set on 8 stitches per inch

A closeup of the bottom stitch, set on 8 stitches per inch

This is how I iron when sewing; the old iron is made from really heavy aluminium, it heats up and stays hot.

I iron on a folded blanket on the table. 

The finished peg bag, it turned out well, except for some pinches in the corner of the opening (my mistake, not Daisy’s)

Daisy all set up to sew

Daisy, packed away nice and neat

So Daisy the Singer 201K is fixed, adjusted, oiled and polished. Ready to go to her new home, once I print out a manual and whip up a pin cushion.
The advantages of using a treadle machine are many;
uses no electricity (you can sew in a blackout)
the machines are virtually indestructible (I’m sure they would survive a bomb blast)
The stitch is even and strong and the sewing is quiet and easy
The machines are beautiful to have around 
You get some exercise while sitting down sewing
Do you know anyone who wants her?

What to do with old sheets – making pajama pants

We seem to have lots of old ripped sheets. We buy all our sheets at second hand stores and although we buy the least worn ones they still seem to wear out on a regular basis; getting thin in the middle and developing little tears on the edges. So what to do with all these sheets?

One thing I do with mine is to make pajama pants from the still good outer edge of the sheet.

To make a pattern, I picked apart an old pair of cotton pants that had also worn out. Once they were picked apart at the seams the pants revealed themselves to be just four pieces the same shape and size, sewn together. So I used one quarter as a guide to cut out my pattern pieces (four of them) and allowed about two centimetres extra around the outside as a seam allowance.

I followed this really handy tutorial (without the cuffs added) to sew them up on my old Singer 201; Prudence. I love my old treadle machine, she is straight stitch only but she doesn’t use electricity and sews quietly with a strong stitch.

My old treadle sewing machine; Prudence. Made in 1936 and still sewing strong.

My new pajama pants, made from an old flannelette sheet

The rest of the sheet has become cleaning rags, animal bandaging and strips for making rag rugs (depending on the quality of the material).
What do you do with your old sheets?