Introducing Brutus the Bulldog. Brutus is for a gift for a new born who is from a Canterbury Bulldogs mad family. I just had to make baby’s first bulldog. I’m calling this one Brutus after the team’s mascot.

To create Brutus I used Butch by Funky Friends Factory. I will not lie this is the most complicated toy I have ever made. Luckily Pauline has created a great step by step tutorial on how to make this pattern which I followed otherwise I would have really struggled with this pattern. This is not a beginner’s toy. Funky Friend Factory patterns are great but sometimes they can be a little hard to follow, they have more written instructions without step by step photos. If you are a visual person like me you tend to get a bit confused in them as they are very wordy if that makes sense. I had my tablet set up on my craft table and followed each step in the tutorial and it made it fairly easy.

Pattern labels were a must for this project. There are 21 different pieces! Some pieces you only cut one piece of fabric some you cut 4. I pinned all my pieces to my fabric before cutting and had my labels ready to go so as soon as a piece was cut I pinned a label onto it and put it on my ironing board. When I need a particular piece I went to my ironing board and grabbed it easily.

For the eyes I used wool felt scraps that I cut into circles. For the pupils I did French knots before stitching the eyes to the head. I love diving into my wool felt scraps whenever I need small pieces for facial features, you can always find just what you need.  One step you could do differently to the instructions order is the facial features. Once you finish piecing the head you could do the hand sewing of the nose, eyes, tongue and teeth. The instructions have you put the head aside and come back later to hand sew these on. I was doing this toy in stages to give myself a break from it at the sewing machine and had I realised about the head I could have worked on it during my downtime from the machine. I did buy all the fabric for him. I went to my local quilt shop and looked for fabric that looked like it had texture but didn’t necessarily look like fur. I’m really happy that I was able find this bubble print fabric and get it in both a darker and lighter shade, it gives the appearance of texture but doesn’t scream out I am a printed fabric.

I worked on this toy over the Easter long weekend and finished him the following weekend. One day I traced out all the pieces, next day I cut all the pieces, next day started sewing him in stages etc. I did a lot of hand tacking on this toy, it took longer but I think I saved myself time as I didn’t have to keep redoing my seams. The only piece I unpicked was his forehead as it was off centre. I will be honest even with all the checking and tacking that I did after I stuffed him I found a tiny hole in his outer leg seam on one leg. Luckily I was able hand stitch it closed and you can’t really see it. Next time I will check even more. The hand tacking was without doubt worth doing. Even though he was such a complicated toy he wasn’t stressful to sew as I wasn’t getting flustered on all the curves and odd shaped seams.

Even though I am not a big Bulldogs supporter now they were my first football team as a kid. All these years on it was very ironic that I ended up making mascots representing the Bulldog and Eels around the same time. We had a family friend who was a big Eel’s supporter and at the age of 2 years old I was going for the Bulldogs just to annoy her. One of my earliest memories is going to her house on Grand Final day when our two teams were playing each other, under my jacket I had the Bulldog motives from the newspaper pinned to my jumper and I took my jacket off and showed her just to stir her up. I still don’t like the Eels but I had to get a photo of these two together.



That Purple Thang

That purple thang is essentially a 6″ long piece of fabric with one slightly curved tapered end and ¼” marking guide on the other end. There is a slot you can place elastic through so you can thread elastic casings. The tapered end you can use to poke out corners, steady fabric near the needle of your sewing machine, hook or move threads on your sewing machine. A quick YouTube search will show you the different ways to use it.

I purchased mine at the Stitch craft show earlier this year after seeing it previously online. This morning was the first time I have tried it out. I am in the process of making a toy with small legs and tiny toes. This can be a difficult job. Once I turned out my legs I used the purple thang to get into the tiny points of the toes. It worked great. The tip is blunt which means your less likely to push it straight through the fabric which sometimes happens using other methods to push out the points. It really got into the small areas. The curve on it came in handy pushing out the light curve on the back of the leg, again sometimes it is hard to turn curves nicely. I used it as a stuff tool too to get the stuffing into the small areas. I discovered the ¼” tab was also good for pushing larger pieces. Without doubt I will be using this little tool again when pushing out points and stuff items, these are my best toes ever. It really made the job much easier. This isn’t an essential item to have in your sewing kit but if you are able to get hold of one I’m sure you will use it.


Waterproof Bed Covers

Last weekend a friend sent me an SOS she was desperate for some sort of bed covering that could easily be laundered and possibly waterproof  as she has an elderly cat who keeps having accidents. Challenge accepted.

By chance I was off to Spotlight which was incredible timing for this fabric emergency! After a quick discussion with friend I decided to do a polar fleece top with a vinyl backing. The cat only sleeps on soft things and the covers needed to be quick to dry. For the vinyl backing I picked up these mattress protectors. I could only get a SB size so I thought I would sew 2 together. When I got home and started to remove the elastic that holds them in place around the mattress I discovered that there were not going to work. The vinyl just shredded in my fingers. I’m very doubtful that these would stand up to any type of washing including hand. I had to come up with plan B.

Plan B. I decided to order some PUL (polyurethane laminated) instead. In hindsight I should have just thought of this from the start but my brain was more thinking of items I could purchase at the shops that day. One side of the PUL fabric has a waterproof coating and the other side feels like regular fabric, you can easily have it against your skin if you wish as it is breathable. I decided to make the covers with the fabric side facing out and the PUL side on the inside of the covers, this is the way you do it when making cloth pads that have a PUL layer. If any liquid gets through it won’t go all the way to the back of the fabric making the underside waterproof. For the top layer I used some anti pill polar fleece that just happened to be on special so I was able to buy it for $4m instead of $15m. I checked the care instructions and the fleece can be washed in warm water as can the PUL. Polar fleece dries relatively quickly and doesn’t generally don’t absorb liquid making it like a waterproof layer itself. I am going to take back the remaining 3 mattress protectors I purchased for a refund.

The finished size of each one is 2m x 1.5m. They fit on my queen size bed nicely. Green Beans sells PUL in 210cm widths so 3m made 2 covers. The polar fleece was 150cm wide so I only need to cut 2m lengths of that. I pinned the 2 layers together than went around the edges with the overlocker to join them. I’m really happy with these as my idea worked. The fabric is soft (happy cat) it can easily be laundered (happy owner) I do love a challenge. Maybe I need to set all my sewing up as a challenge as I might jump in and get it done instead of procraftinating all the time 🙂

Charity Tote Bags

This Christmas I will be again donating to Share The Dignity “It’s In The Bag” campaign. The principle of it is that you grab a bag and fill it with every day things that a woman who is homeless or fleeing a domestic situation might need, the little things we all take for granted. The idea is that you fill an old handbag so the person also get a new bag they can use. I don’t have any handbags so I made some tote bags to fill with my collected items. I decided to make basic cotton tote bags and change the design on the front to make each one different.

Button Bag
I have wanted to make a button front bag for a long time, it was one of those random things that I see once and think I want to try that idea out sometime.  A few months ago I brought jars of different coloured buttons during a sale, at the time I had no plans for them but they were perfect in this project. On the front of the bag I drew out a rough spiral shape, I randomly pulled out buttons from a jar of blue buttons and hand stitched them on using the same thread tying each button off as I went so if one came undone they all didn’t . Once I completed the spiral I then went through the jar and found a heap of the same small blue buttons so I made a second spiral with these. This was a lot of hand sewing in front of the tv work but I am happy with the result and I made a button bag. Originally I was going to do all 3 bag fronts in buttons but I realised it would take way too long.

Free Motion Bag
After deciding there was no way all 3 could be buttons I decided the second bag would be done with free motion quilting. I used the same metallic blue thread that I used on the button bag. I was trying to think back to all the things I learnt when I did the class with Deb Louie. I had a rough idea where my seam lines would be so I just went about going from section to section with my quilting filling the bag front with stitches. I didn’t follow a pattern, I managed to get a heart or two in there and I am very good at doing curls or waves. This reminded me of when I was a kid I would get a black pen and on a piece of blank paper randomly draw lines and swiggles to create little sections that I would then colour in with different colours. Free motion is a lot of fun and I really should do more of it. I used tear away stabiliser on the back of it, removing it was another tv job as there was lots of tiny areas that I had to remove the paper from, again it was worth it.

Decorative Stitches Bag
I am actually a person who does use those fancy decorative stitches that are on your sewing machine, they are a great way to jazz up a plain piece of fabric and that is what I have used them for on this bag.  I used the same metallic blue thread again and just randomly selected stitches on the machine to do a row of stitching across the front of the bag. I never measured anything out I did a row of stitching at the top, bottom and about the middle of the bag all by eyeballing the placement. I then in my head divided up the areas and did rows of stitching to fill in the sections. I decided less was more not doing too much as I didn’t want the front to look too busy. I did squeeze in my favourite heart stitch design because if I can add in a heart particularly a blue one I’m going too!

For the front of the bags I used a cotton drill fabric, this wasn’t from my stash but I did buy it in an Easter sale. On the insides of each bag I have used a cotton that had been in my stash after buying it on sale a few years ago. A few months ago I almost gave it away but held on to it so it was great to use it in these bags, the remainder of it I have cut up and used for WIRES pouches after doing to the burn test and discovering it was 100% cotton.

These are crossover the body bags. For the straps I used some nylon webbing I had in my stash. I just stitched the straps the outside of the finished bags. The webbing is about 2″ wide so nice and sturdy. Confession I did make the straps too long. I over estimated the length so they ended up hanging towards your knees and not near you hip, I only discovered this after they were finished and I had taken the above photos. I didn’t want to cut the straps otherwise you would have ends you would need to cover up to stop fraying.

My solution to the strap situation was to fold the excess webbing and stitching down as a decorative feature of the strap. It is a little hard to describe. At the centre point of the strap I folded it and ran my fingers down about 6″ and pinched the straps so you had a loop of excess strap at the top, this was the amount that I had to stitch down. I decided it would be better if you had this excess fabric on the inside of the strap so it would like another layer of support against the shoulder. I separated the loop at the area where I had it pinched and folded the sides in so that the loop was now folded down to the underside of the strap and not the top. I flattened the loop into a rectangle and clipped it into place. On the outside of the strap you now had 2 folds that need to be held together. I did the widest zig zag I could over these 2 folds to secure them down, going over the fold a few times until I was happy the would stay in place. I did this on each bag. I then changed to a straight stitch and went around the flattened  rectangle twice on each bag to secure it into place.

I only got away with this because I used black thread on black webbing. It doesn’t look too odd, I have seen bags that have added support at the shoulder so that was the look I going for. When something goes wrong call it a design feature.

I am happy with these bags, they are big enough to hold all the items I have been collecting this year. Making them was a lot of fun, I got to be creative and try out ideas. I had to overcome problems with the straps so I had to think. I used up a lot of items just sitting in my stash. I love sewing for charity, I love that I can help with someone using the simple skills that I have.


Baby Animal Burp Cloths

Burp cloths are one of the most easiest gifts to make for a new baby. They are practical and you can never have to many from what I hear.

I have made burp cloths a lot of times and didn’t follow a pattern anymore the steps are really simple

  • Cut a piece of towelling and cotton the same size
  • Place cotton right side down on top of towelling
  • Stitch around edge leaving a turning gap
  • Clip corner points
  • Turn right sides out
  • Top stitch around edge of cotton topper folding the turning gap closed

You can make them any size you like. I like larger ones that you can place over your shoulder or wrap around the child as they get older. I used a large towel that I cut in half, I than cut each half into 3 pieces. Without realising it I cut the 2 halves different ways – one I cut along with width of the towel, the other I cut along the length of the towel so I have 2 different size burp cloths. Both are long enough to go over the shoulder – one set is narrower and longer, the other set is slightly wider and slighter shorter. The narrower ones were cut across the width of the towel, the wider ones across length.

Originally I was planning on using leftover fabrics in my stash but when it came to cutting these fabrics up I realised I didn’t have enough. I went to my local quilt shop and found this gorgeous baby animal print fabric on sale it is perfect. I don’t normally do babyish print fabric because I want the person to be able to use it as the child is a little older. This fabric is cute, baby animals are good for any age child. The print is also subtle so afterwards when you don’t need to use it for the child you could use it in other areas of the house when you need a quick absorbent cloth.

Another gift off my list for this year


Fan Dust Covers

I make no apologies some of my sewing is ugly, I cut corners and I don’t follow the rules.

After the past 2 summers I vowed I would dust make covers for 2 pedestal fans that I own to protect them in the winter months. This morning when I was doing a bit of a clean up in my fabric stash I came across a piece of fabric that I picked up at my local op shop (charity shop) a few years ago. I never find fabric at this shop so when I found this I brought it just because it was there. At the time I thought maybe I would make sewing machine covers with it, I washed it and there it sat. I never actually measured how long the piece was I’m guessing 2.5m. The fabric is a thick drill or upholstery cotton.

Ok time for ugly rule breaking sewing. I literally folded this fabric in half and cut it with pinking shears to get the pieces for the 2 bags. I folded the fabric selvage to selvage (leaving the selvages on) Using the overlocker I stitched along one short end for a top seam and down the side for the side seam. Whilst the fabric was still flat I went around the edge with the overlocker to finish the edging. You can actually see where the selvages are marked with the colours used in the fabric. Ironically it has kind of pattern matched around the seam. Sewing was made easier with the fabric being heavy as you could just hold it together without pins and feed it through the overlocker.

This project was all about practicality not style or technique. My main aim was to cover the blade sections of the fans as you can’t dust these easily. The fabric half covers the base but the base is easy to wipe over before use. It was a quick project. I could have spent a lot of time doing precise measurements and straight edges all the way around but to be perfectly honest had I done this with this project the fabric would still be sitting in my spare room and my fans would still be naked collecting dust. Spend lots of time and effort on special projects and remember it is ok just to run a few seams through an overlocker to construct projects that you don’t give a second thought to once their done.



ASG NSW Industry Day May 17

Last Saturday NSW Australian Sewing Guild members were lucky enough to have another Industry Day at McCall’s patterns in Sydney. In the Sewing Guild an Industry Day is where members gather together to hear talks from various people within the sewing industry, catch up with friends and do a little bit of shopping of some exclusive deals not offered to regular members of the public.

Our first speaker of the day was Kay Haerland who is a textile artist. I’ll be honest and say before the day I had never heard of her. She brought some of her quilts along that she had made and they were stunning. Listening to her talk on how she did different techniques was brilliant and really got me thinking. Her quilts start as basic calico and from there she builds them up with applique and hand painted fabrics and layers of different textures to create amazing sceneries that look like they are a painted canvas but due to the techniques used some are even 3D. I have an interest in textile art so I brought the dvd’s she has made because it something I would like to do more. Textile art is something that you can incorporate into your everyday sewing and not just something that needs to be placed on a wall.

Our second speaker was Hollie Bell from Tools by Hollie. Hollie invented the Seam Allowance Guide which is really useful. She is currently working on 3 other inventions which she talked about with us. The invention we most got excited about was Hollie has created a custom made dress form for herself using a scanner and 3D printer and is looking in to how she can do this for others. She told us about her plans to make this available to everyone at a reasonable affordable price. I hope she does get to fulfil her plans because the idea sounds brilliant. As someone is doesn’t really fall within the traditional dress form sizes her idea is wonderful.

Our third speaker was Yvette Stanton. Yvette is lovely, we sat on the same table at the ASG 20th Anniversary Lunch is March. Yvette is an amazing embroider and also I would say textile historian. She likes to focus on the traditional methods of doing different embroidery stitches and styles. She gave us a talk on Hardanger which is a Norwegian style of embroidery. It was fascinating to see photos of the traditional style versus the contemporary style of it, both styles look great but it was lovely to see that people are still wanting to learn the traditional style. Skills are lost unless they are learnt and passed on.

Our final speaker for the day was Elinor Lloyd-Philipps from Nylon Swish. Elinor gave us a history of woman’s foundations which basically underwear and how they have changed over the years. We all laughed at the names of the original cup sizes of bras when they were first invented – I don’t know if I would like to go to a store and ask for size Super Drooper. Although I don’t tend to think a lot of underwear the talk was interesting and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would when I saw a couple of mannequin’s in underwear sitting at the stage area.

We are lucky on the day that McCall’s offers us some great bargains, we get to purchase some supplies at discount prices. I am a pre planner so before the day I researched all the patterns I wanted and had a list. I am trying to push myself into trying new patterns and trying different styles but those I am likely to wear. I did get a couple of patterns which I can use for gifts. I purchased a couple of books on clothing fitting of pants and jackets which should help me as I venture into these items. I also picked up a couple of rolls of different interfacing and another roll of Trace and Toile because it will get used particularly if I am doing more clothing making and using bigger pieces.

Industry days are always fun. It was great to catch up with friends old and new. An Industry Day is a day where you can just turn up and know you can have a conversation with anyone in the room as you all share the common interest of sewing. At times I lose my “Sewjo” and I think we all do. Going to an event like this and talking to people makes you remember sewing is fun and it doesn’t matter what you make or how it turns out. Grab some fabric and get sewing.