The biggest pencil cases you’ve ever seen.


Yesterday I broke the rule. The one about not starting Shiny New Projects until you’ve finished at least three…but rules are meant to be broken, yes?

Paul asked for a bag for his new birthday present. He said he wouldn’t mind a drawstring bag, but as he picked out this rather fabulous tie-dyed denim, I thought it may be a bit stiff for pulling a drawstring tight. So off into zipland we went, and I lined it with white cotton too.


Tie-dyed denim zip bag with strap


Now, if you’re going to make one bag, you’re probably going to wish you’d done a second one to carry around that lovely hardback book on photography, too.


Tie-dyed denim zip bags


This is what he’ll keep in his bag. Lovely new tai chi shoes, just in time for the championships.


Tai chi shoes


I’ll admit to a moment’s panic when I handed it over – oh, please tell me it came out the right size!


Denim zip bag with tai chi shoes



There are a few other things in the pipeline, if you’d like to follow what else I’m making you’ll find me posting work in progress at

See you there 🙂


Make No. 27: Larp Weapons Rack

Okay, so I finished this one in the summer…around the time of the tent organiser in fact. It just got whisked away to hold larp weapons and live among slugs and then it was muddy…and crumpled…and looking a bit sorry for itself, so I thought I’d give it a bath before it made its debut 🙂


It’s handy. Very very handy. No more ruined swords, hopefully…


Make no. 24: Wicker Basket Lining

Happy Sunday! I’m a little behind with my makes…but lots of things have been going on backstage so various projects will be bearing fruit soon.

My neighbour gave me a basket a while ago and I’ve been toying with the idea of storing the ironing pile in it for ages. Only, the inside of it was likely to snag on our clothes and it needed something (preferably pretty) to protect the fabric. So, while we watched Olympic gymnastics together, the lining was born from a roll end I found in Leicester.




A home for the ironing pile. How grown up. Even more grown up would be getting up at 5.30am every day to actually do the ironing…nah…

Make no. 23: Tent Organiser


Hey 🙂 How are you today? It’s muggy as hell here and we’re floppy. Very floppy. But here’s a summertime camping post to make up for the last, rather unseasonal one!

Make no. 23 was a request from the very lovely Bill in our larp group. He wanted somewhere to put his washing up sponge…he got somewhere. And as it was made from excess tent that we tore away to create a canopy, which has been much enjoyed since, it matches the interior of Chez Gil-Gwaith rather well.


Tent Organiser


Suggested activities for newly-made tent canopies include having a beer with a troll.


Tent canopy


Swords got in the way a bit, so guess what I made after that…

Have a lovely afternoon. If all else fails, have an ice lolly. That’s what I say.

If someone left a vacuum cleaner running outdoors for three years straight, would it suck in the sky?

I saw that this trending on Twitter recently. It made me giggle. And then I thought, if I left a really intelligent vacuum cleaner running at home while I went to work, it might gather up all the dust bunnies and clutter for me…wouldn’t that be nice?

Clutter is my nemesis (also lack of sleep, but that’s a subject for another day). When bits and pieces begin to accumulate around me, I start grinding to a halt, losing focus, losing clarity, losing drive, getting tetchy. If it gets out of hand, I lose momentum altogether. The importance of clear space to me has really struck home since my wonderful, gorgeous and rather untidy man moved in. Sometimes I feel that I spend much of my time simply holding back the surging, squirming wall of Things. And we’re not big shoppers or extravagant people; it’s just that we have many interests and projects and they generate…well…Stuff. And we cannot afford to be lazy about managing it.

The trouble is, clutter attracts clutter…sometimes so slowly, it’s hardly noticeable. Beware the Crap Magnet. It tends to be a corner. The corner of the bedroom. The corner of the dining room. The corner of the shed.

I think I’ve found the solution. I’m going to live in a round house.

How do you deal with your clutter?

Make No. 11: Quick squared notebook


Today’s make is an A5 squared notepad.

I like to sketch ideas when I’m out and about, and I’m learning to create Celtic motifs, which will eventually be digitised for embroidery…so this is going to be perfect. A4 is too big to shove in my bag and I want a hard cover so I can lean on my knee 🙂


I love this paper, I’ve had it a little while.


Thought I’d make the back pretty, but different to the front. I’ll split my designs up – Celtic designs one side, random stuff in the other.



I might add more coils and an elastic closure when it’s had a test drive.

Time to get scribbling!

Top tools for the sewing room

Here’s a round-up of things that I find really helpful, let me know what your indispensables are!

Rotary cutter and mat

For overall speed and for thick or slippery fabrics, I’m a complete convert to a rotary cutter and mat. I still use scissors for tight curves and fiddly shapes, but a cutter, mat and long ruler make for swift, accurate cutting. Bosh! As I frequently cut out fabric on the floor, it means I spent half as long pretzelled up. Bonus.

Quilting ruler


I’ve got two of these, a little one and a big one. They make quick work of marking off right angles and I love using them to mark out the box corners on bags.

Bobbin washers


Bobbin washers are small Teflon discs that sit behind the bobbin and reduce backlash and birdnesting. I was sceptical. I am sceptical no more. They’re awesome. Treat yourself.

Thread Heaven

Thread Heaven

This magical stuff conditions thread so that it really, really doesn’t want to knot up or snag.  Just run your thread over it; it also tames cheap thread that I use for tacking stitches. And it lasts for aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages.

Dressmaking pencils

FabricMarkersI have various temporary marking tools, including air dry pens, rinsable pens and heat transfer pencils, but my cheap go-to for most projects is chalk pencils. If you’re struggling to make a mark on fabric with a tailor’s pencil, try it damp. Wet the tip (yes, I lick mine) or use it on fabric that has just been steam ironed or sprayed with water. You will find it much more cooperative. I have about fifteen of these. And I can still never find one 🙂

Cereal boxes

If you’re making small projects such as purses, little bags or bunting, cut up old cereal boxes for your templates. They’re stiff enough to draw around (no need for pinning) and you can write notes on them just like a pattern piece. You can also print perfect hexagons and diamonds onto large label sheets, peel them off and apply them to cardboard. Cut them out (I find a scalpel and cutting mat more accurate than scissors but it’s your choice) and you’ve got a consistent and durable set of pattern pieces. You can die cut cardboard to achieve the same result. Or if you need a little frame for silk painting or fabric painting, you can build up strips of cardboard with PVA glue for a very economical frame in the size of your choice (it’s therapeutic while I’m watching TV and too tired to do anything requiring concentration).

Fabric shears

I bought my favourite fabric scissors from Sew Northampton a few years ago. They deal mainly in machines but have a good range of bobbins and tools and are really friendly and knowledgeable. I love the sound of these scissors at work almost as much as I love the purr of my Bernina.

Edgestitch Foot


There’s a nice exploration of the possibilities for this foot here, and I find it useful for creating seams with a narrow allowance, like tubing and French seams. I use it to create a narrow seam to save on fabric – or I’ve cut my toile pieces wrong and I’m sticking ’em back together 😉 Love love love the example of attaching trim…oh yes…and I like using my edgestitch foot for neat topstitching on bag straps and the like.








Do you need to stop?

I’m a busy bunny, and I enjoy being that way. I think a lot. I do a lot. But now and again, things start to spin out of control and I start to wonder if I need to camp out on the moors for a year or two (I was voted student most likely to become a Himalayan goat-herder, after all). My yang, you might say, is on a military offensive and my creativity is the casualty. I’m too busy doing to think or be.

I need to S.T.O.P. Slow down. Take stock. Organise myself. Pay attention to the present. And put the lid on that popcorn brain.

Nowadays, meditation and flute practise put the brakes on for me. (I get myself to a Buddhist meditation class regularly so I can’t cheat myself of sufficient time to slow down.) And having a little conversation with Wunderlist about what reeeeeaaally needs to be done. Ever get the feeling you’re doing four times as much as you really have to?

How about you? Do you have a reboot strategy?



20 Tips For Better Sewing

So you want to sew? Have the itch to stitch? Then I hope these tips are helpful!


Get yourself some good quality sewing scissors (I like to buy them from an actual shop so that I can check they’re comfortable), and use them only on fabric. Use other scissors to cut paper (including patterns) and other materials like plastics (such as nylon zips). This will prevent your sewing scissors becoming blunt or damaged. My scissors were around £25 and are a joy to use. A pair of pinking shears are also useful to prevent frayed edges; again, don’t use them on paper. You may like a rotary cutter too.

If “which scissors can I use on this?” is a constant refrain in your house,  you’re getting it right.


Take photos of your pattern packets (front and back) on your phone. Then you’ll know how much fabric and trim you need if you and your credit card stumble accidentally into a fabric shop.

Pattern_front  Pattern_back

If in doubt, buy a little more fabric than you need.

Wash your fabric before you use it. If you wait until your garment is finished, it may come out a little distorted. I wash my fabric when I get it home, so I know that everything in my stash is pre-shrunk, ironed and ready to go the minute I want to use it. You know that feeling when you’re lying in bed on a Saturday morning and suddenly It’s Time To Make That Skirt? This is not the time to start tiddling around with washing fabric. No.

Using Patterns

Use long pins, it’ll save you time. I like Prym’s 34mm. I’ve made pincushions and thread catchers to keep my pins sharp.


As you cut out your fabric, leave the pattern pieces pinned to them until you’re ready to sew. It will save you figuring out which is the back/front or remembering whether you’ve cut out a piece or not.

When you’re transferring dart markings onto your fabric, cut a little notch out of the fabric edge where the dart line ends. When you fold the fabric to make the dart, place one notch over the other to line it up.

Dart_notches   Dart_marked

Cardboard sheets and brown wrapping paper from the pound shop are great for making your own pattern pieces. Large cardboard can be stored upright in your wardrobe. Small pattern pieces can be cut from cereal boxes. You may even want to finish the cereal first, if you live with someone who lacks a sense of adventure.


This one sounds a bit obsessive, but it does make my prep less time consuming. I iron my pattern pieces (no steam, cool setting), cut them out and fold them with the number showing on top. In the case of patterns with a bazillion pieces, I put them in numerical order in the packet. If there are five variations of Piece No. 7, I paperclip those pieces together. If the packet is all tatty I iron that too. I told you it’s obsessive. But I haven’t lost any pattern pieces in a while and Hot Damn! they’re quick to find…and I can squash more in the pattern box of course 🙂


Measure twice, cut once.

Use the right sewing machine needle for the job (regular, denim, ballpoint, whatever). Store your broken/blunt needles and bent pins in an empty needle box to dispose of them safely. Same goes for rotary cutter blades – keep an old box and mark it as ‘Old blades’. Your project will look better without bloodstains.

Mark your place in the sewing instructions with a Post-It note, and don’t be afraid to make notes for next time. It’s your pattern!

Daisy chain your pieces: if you can, prepare more than one piece for sewing at a time. Then you can move from one piece to the next without wasting thread in between. It’s a small amount of thread for one project…but it’s miles over a lifetime of sewing.

Recognise the difference between pressing and ironing. Pressing means applying the iron to the fabric and then lifting it off. Ironing your project pieces (sliding the iron along) may distort the shape of them, making accurate construction more difficult. And if you try to apply iron-on interfacing by ironing it, rather than pressing it, you will end up with a sticky ruffle and an upset soleplate. How do I know this?

When you’ve sewn a seam, iron it as it is before you open it up to press it flat. Somehow this sets the stitches into the fibres and makes for a better finish.

Then place a damp cloth on your open seams to press them flat. I have an old tea towel that hangs on the end of the ironing board for this sole (geddit?) purpose. It’s thin, it’s lint free, it’s been in the family for thirty years. It is a treasure, though you wouldn’t know it to look at it.

Seam 2

Clean and oil your machine regularly and change the needle now and again! Seriously!

General Tips

Read your sewing machine manual. Research your project. YouTube, Pinterest, blogs and forums are all there to help and inspire you. If you’re stuck on the sofa with a head cold, read that sewing book that’s sat on your shelf. If you’re not sure where to start, I think May Martin’s Sewing Bible is a masterpiece.

If you have cats, keep your reels and bobbins stored safely away. If they ingest your thread and it tangles up their insides, it can be fatal. Nobody wants that.

If you haven’t got a bobbin case, store your bobbins in foam toe separators. You know, like the ones you use when you’re painting your toenails (you too boys! We know you love it!). It will stop them dropping off the table, rolling all over the floor and unravelling. So annoying.


If you’re having trouble with tension, take a long bubble bath. Then read this article.

Lastly…my mother’s advice to me when I started out. “Learn to like unpicking.” She wasn’t slating my abilities. She was telling me that along the way, I would make mistakes as I improved. And that’s okay. Unpicking can be mindful and relaxing, it doesn’t have to be frustrating. Thanks, mum.

I hope there was something in there to help you or give you ideas! Let me know what you’re sewing!