Sunday, 28 April 2013

Here’s one I made earlier

In last week’s blog I explained about the satchel I made from various cocktail and evening dresses fabric.  For this week’s blog I thought I’d show you the actual dresses where the fabric came from.

I’m a yo-yo when it comes to size, so some of the dresses have a little bit shape to them (when I was thin-ish....) and others are like a sack of potatoes!!!!!


I think I paid less than £1 for this pattern as it was ‘last season’ when I bought it several years ago.  There are three pattern styles – long length, knee length and flared knee length – and I must have made each two or three times. The black crepe fabric worked really well, though it did fray quite a bit.

Sack of potatoes time..... I’m afraid Gertie my tailors dummy isn’t doing this dress any justice. I can assure you that it DOES look a lot better on me – and that’s saying something !!!! I loved the fabric but it was horrible to work it. Because it was so silky it wouldn’t stay still so cutting it out and stitching were a nightmare. 

 Your eyes do not deceive you. The hem of the dress isn’t straight. The problem occurred because whilst Gertie looked like she was standing level on my work room carpet, she was anything but. It was only after I’d finished it that my mam spotted the mistake. There wasn’t time to alter it so I just pretended it was meant to look like that. We solved Gertie’s problem with a piece of wood and a spirit level...

One of my thin period dresses. What caught my eye about this pattern was the bodice front. I wore this at a dinner event where large screens and overhead cameras were dotted around the ballroom. Unbeknown to me I was sitting underneath one of the cameras. Everyone in the room got several good views of my cleavage as the camera man thought I was great entertainment….

This is one of my all time favourite dresses. Again, it was during my ‘thin period’ so Gertie does look like she has a bit of a waist. I loved the way the back drape hangs.

And finally as it’s my wedding anniversary tomorrow (18 years. Gosh where has the time gone.....) I thought I’d include my wedding dress.

This, along with the three bridesmaids dresses, is the biggest dressmaking project I’ve ever done. The total cost of all the fabric and trimmings for the wedding and bridesmaids dresses came to just £320. Peanuts compared to how much wedding dresses cost nowadays !!!!

I think it took about three months to make all the dresses. I would have liked the bow at the back of the dress and the train a little bigger. However I was out voted two to one by my mam and godmother…

Have a great week.

Gertie xx

PS pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Brickwork satchel

Almost half of the fabric in my scrap boxes has come from various cocktail and evening dresses I made. We used to attend functions and dinners so I’d try and make a new dress for each occasion.

In Susan Briscoe’s book ‘Fabulous Fat Quarter Bags’ there’s a lovely patchwork satchel made out of 1 ½ inch squares arranged in a sort of brickwork design. This would be perfect for using up some of my dress fabric. 

The satchel is made using five patterned fat quarters which are cut into strips and then blocks of eleven and twelve are stitched together. These patchwork pieces are then cut 1 ½ inches wide so you end up with strips of eleven or twelve 1 ½ inch squares.

Looking at the various pieces of dress fabric darker shades would be best for the main part of the bag, with a light coloured fabric for the lining.

Plain black was used for the base, sides and handle as I thought the other colours would be too ‘shouty’. 

The pattern suggested using a buckle fastening at the front but I didn’t have one so just used a large press-stud instead.

The only criticism I have with the bag is it’s on the small side. I was expecting the satchel to be bigger. Maybe though I’m used to the huge satchel’s we used to have at school !!!

Have a great week.

Gertie xx

PS pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

It's a wrap

One of my friends Jan makes some lovely jewellery and has just started to sell them at craft fairs.

I asked her if she’d like me to make her something for her jewellery. She’d love a wrap to carry necklaces to the fairs and a bigger tool bag. 

I wrote down the various measurements for the wrap and bag then sketched two quick diagrams.

I had intended on making them using a patchwork design. However Jan asked if they could be made out of lilac fabric instead as that was going to be her corporate business colour.

As our local area is pretty short on places to buy fabric, particularly cotton, I ordered them online.I made a start on the top and bottom of the bag, first marking out the diagonal lines with a fabric marker.


I was concerned about the bag being too bulky so used tissue paper for all the foundation pieces. Once I’d finished the quilting the tissue paper would simply be removed.

Next to be done were the sides. I stitched the zip (cut to size from a continuous length I bought on eBay) to the two side pieces. 

I had originally intended to leave the sides un-quilted. However as they needed more stiffness than just the wadding, I stitched in some medium weight sew-in interfacing using the diagonal pattern as before. This is why the diagonal lines above and below the zip don’t match!!!

I pinned the top and base of the bag to the sides to see how it looked but I wasn’t happy. They were too flimsy. Even if I added a medium weight interfacing, it still wouldn’t be strong enough. It needed firm interfacing, something which I didn’t have, so trusty eBay came to my rescue.

Three days later, after ironing the newly acquired firm interfacing to the top and base, I stitched the sides to the base.


Jan had asked if the lid could have an inside pocket. Rather than making it flush, like in her original bag, I suggested the pocket be elasticated which would give it a bit more room inside.

Once the top was stitched to the sides, I made the bias binding and attached that to the bag.

The original design for the bag made no mention of a handle. However, given its size and what it was going to be used for, I felt that a handle was needed.

Like the bag I didn’t want the wrap to be too bulky so once again I used tissue paper for the foundation piece.

The inside of the wrap was going to be left plain so only the back was quilted. To keep the continuity right I used the same diagonal pattern as the bag.

Next I added the necklace tape to the front of the wrap, securing it with a couple of stitches every six inches or so. 

I wasn’t sure where Jan wanted the back ties to be placed – left, right or in the centre – so sent her a text message. The reply came back saying she’s like them in the centre.

I tacked the front and the back together then stitched the two fold lines though all the layers. Finally I added the bias binding.

I’m pleased to report that Jan was delighted with both her bag and wrap and I wish her well in her jewellery making business.

Gertie xx

PS pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Birthday rucksack

Front of rucksack

In last Sunday's blog I mentioned the tote bag I made as a birthday present for my friend Jenny. This time it’s the bag I made for her the following year.

A couple of weeks before her birthday I asked if there was any kind of bag she would like me to make. Showing me her battered rucksack she asked if I could make something like that. I don’t see why not I replied, so took some measurements and did a rough drawing of the rucksack.

As her rucksack had inside pockets I asked if she would like some putting into the lining of her new one. She did, one big enough for her mobile phone plus two to keep her diary and pen in.

Taking some graph paper I marked out the various pattern pieces to see how much fabric I would need to buy. I could have got it out of ¾ metre – just – but to be on the safe side I ordered one metre of fabric.

Like her last bag it had cats on it. Because her bag was only going to be 12 inches high I didn’t want the pattern on the fabric to be fussy or too big.  Cottonpatch’s website had just the thing – Urban Zoo Pink Kitties.

Back of rucksack

I did a quick mock-up of the rucksack in sheeting fabric and once I was happy with it, I made the bag for real.

I’m pleased to report that Jenny was over the moon with her new rucksack. Shame really as I could quite easily have kept it !!!!

Have a great week.

Gertie xx

PS pop over to Handmade Monday to see what other fellow craft bloggers have been up to.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

April's bake of the month

I love muffins. Unlike cupcakes, which tend to be all butter icing and hardly any cake, muffins are all cake.

I’m not a big fan of blueberries as I find them pretty bland and have no taste. However add them to muffins and they take on a whole new personality.

When I first made these muffins, as per the recipe, I added all the blueberries to the batter with the rest of the ingredients.

Although they tasted delicious, all the blueberries had sunk to the bottom.

The second time I made them I kept the blueberries to one side and didn’t add them until the batter had been poured into the cases. Each muffin then had about eight blueberries sprinkled on top.

This time the reverse happened. They all stayed at the top….

On the third attempt I added half of the blueberries to the batter mix and sprinkled the other half on top. This should give me muffins with blueberries at the top and bottom. Nope – they all sank again !!

I have the same problem with cherries and chocolate chips too. They always sink no matter what I do with them.

As long as they tasted good (which they did) then I wasn’t bothered.

This recipe is adapted from ‘GoodFood 101 cupcakes and small bakes book.’ I made 10 large muffins. However if you want them slightly smaller make 12 instead.

Blueberry muffins
  • 5oz/125g caster sugar
  • 9oz/250g self-raising flour, sieved
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3oz/75g margarine (or butter but you prefer)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 7fl oz (1/3 pt)/200ml milk
  • 7oz/200g blueberries
  • Zest of one small lemon

  • Pre-heat oven 200º c/Gas Mk 6. Fan oven 180ºc.
  • Using a muffin tin line 10 (or 12) holes with paper cases.
  • Melt the margarine in a microwave or pan then leave to cool.
  • In a large bowl add all the dry ingredients then stir to combine.
  • Add the eggs to the milk, beat together, then add to the melted margarine and stir.
  • Pour the liquid to the dry ingredients then gently mix until just combined. Don’t be tempted to give it one more stir as over mixing will make the muffins tough.
  • Carefully fold in the blueberries. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you wish to add in all the blueberries, or half now then sprinkle the other half on top.
  • Divide the batter into the paper cases. You can use a spoon, or better still, an ice-cream scoop.
  • Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until they are golden brown.
  • Remove from the tin and leave to cool slightly before testing one……
Gertie xx