sewing with Cléo during the school holidays

During the Christmas holidays, I didn’t have time to invite our young neighbour, Cléo,  round to do any sewing.  And yet, she was dying to come and play with Juki, because in November, her parents gifted her a very pink camera, exactly like this one.

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She had already done a sketch of what she wanted to make: a bag, with a long strap, for her new camera.  And she had even chosen the fabric for this new project, and lace!

Luckily, the February half term holidays finally arrived and we were able to organise a free morning for the sewing to take place.

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We worked non-stop for 3 hours, and voilà . . . one bag!  Cléo chose a fabric with feather print, and wanted 3 rows of lace.  According to Cléo there is no such thing as “too much lace” lol.  She wanted lace, so she’s the one who sewed on the three rows of lace (one of the reasons this bag took so long to make)!  So, 3 layers of lace on the front panel, the back is just one piece of the feather print.

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The bag has wadding inside and is lined in solid turquoise.  There’s a long strap (72cm long) with a thinner piece of lace running the whole length (which sadly I didn’t get a photo of) so Cléo can wear the bag on her shoulder. A short strap with a popper for the fastening.  And the pink camera now has a very pretty bag to keep it safe!

Even if the camera is shocking pink, you’ll notice that the bag isn’t!  This is because Cléo is now 7 and a half, and her favourite colour is no longer bright pink lol.  Now, her favourite colours are blue, turquoise and purple!  And, of course, the more lace, the better!

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all the king’s horses and all the king’s men . . .

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Just look what I’ve been up to!  Yup, taking dolls to pieces . . . before putting them back together again!

Now, originally, the plan was to simply take Lily and Noah apart and make new cloth bodies for both of them, so that I could “weight” bodies, heads & limbs and make them feel more like real babies.  However, once I started looking closely I realised that Alice (the reborn bought on ebay) had not been made with the correct body.

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I don’t know if you can see, but if you look at limbs, Noah has FULL limbs (since they were attached to a vinyl body;  Lily has 3/4 limbs; and Alice has 3/4 arms but FULL legs.  She was reborn using a body for both 3/4 arms & legs which meant that her legs were actually too long.

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Lily will need some adjustments because her limbs don’t have grooves so that they can be attached with cable ties, but I know how to sort that out.  Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Basically, I decided that Lily wouldn’t need a brand new body, since the one from Alice looks like a nice fit for her.  In photo, just placed to check for sizing, nothing is attached.     Whereas on Alice (same body) – you can see how it makes her legs too long and the body just looks too short.

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It’s therefore Alice and Noah who need a new body.  Off I went browsing on various reborn sites . . . trying hard to find a shop which stocked bodies in the 2 sizes I needed to avoid having to order on two different sites, therefore pay two lots of shipping.  But had no luck.

So . . . I decided simply to buy a pattern, some plastic joints & cable ties, and to make my own!

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I bought a pattern by Ragdoll Fairy with instructions to make cloth bodies in all sizes (ranging from 14” to 22” dolls) and with the option to mix & match joints for whatever length limb (full, 3/4, 1/2 and 1/4).  It’s a question of just cutting out the right bits, in the right size then mix & matching for the doll in question.  I also bought in a supply of the necessary plastic joints (in 35mm and 45mm) so I was prepared for all eventualities.  And set to work.

I didn’t have any “doe suede” or flannel which is the fabric used for cloth bodies so just used an ivory cotton for my first attempt.  My aim was to have a trial run with the pattern, work out exactly which size body I needed to make, and manage to put one doll back together again.

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And I did – yay!  I’m not 100% satisfied with Alice’s new body and there are a few things I would change (for next time).  Her shoulders are too large and (while I marked the exact spot) I think they should have been attached slightly higher.  I made a 21” body and used the shoulder pattern for that size, but Alice would look better with a smaller shoulder .  And, if you can see a crease across her tummy, it’s because the pattern gives a very tubby tummy which I chose not to completely pad out as it made Alice look too fat.

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The part I was really pleased about though is the joints!  Everything swivels round nicely and Alice can pose in some very unrealistic positions lol.   The rest is really simply a question of tweaking for next time.

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I honestly feel things went very well for a first attempt.  Pattern called for some elastic sewn onto the bottom, which I didn’t add, and I think the bottom looks fine without.

Anyway, I followed instructions (found on various sites)  for weighting her and putting her back together again.  She is actually the same length (since her legs were too long before) and fatter than she was when I first got her, but has lost weight.  Her maker had used steel balls for weighting.  I have removed those, and weighted with micro fine glass beads (in vinyl gloves for head & body) and then plumped her out with  fibrefill.  When I’ve had time to save up, I’ll order in some “baby fat” or some high density poly pellets as I think they would give a more realistic feel & weight to the body.   For the moment she’s a feather-weight at 1.650 kilos for approx 50cm.

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Anyway, I did what I set out to do.  Alice has a brand new cotton body, even if her shoulders are a little puffy.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks to see what a difference a new body will make to Lily and Noah.

just because . . .

Regular readers will know I have a thing about unbirthdays . . . an excuse to post gifts to blogging friends and surprise them when they least expect it.   Sometimes it’s a hand-made gift, sometimes, it’s shop-bought.  It doesn’t matter – it’s just my way of sharing a little joy in the world, and showing people that I appreciate their friendship.  I’m not alone, although crafters may have a different name for this wanting to surprise friends with unexpected gifts.  Tony, aka The Yarn Blabber likes to make and send gifts “just because . . . “  

I could finish that phrase by adding “ . . . because Tony is a very generous person . . . . because he is an extremely talented needleworker . . . (and also) because I had been drooling over a magnificent purple cardigan Tony knitted himself, . . . because PURPLE is my favourite colour”!!!

A lovely squidgey arrived in the post yesterday, from Spain, and I knew even without looking at the return address who it was from, because Tony is the only person I know who lives in Spain.  Much oohing and ahhing followed as I opened the parcel, to find

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The most gorgeous purple cowl, and the prettiest little biscornu!  This biscornu is the first Tony had ever made.  Since then, he’s admitted to having been bitten by the biscornu bug, and has been enjoying making more.  But I am honoured to have been gifted the very first.  It’s so delicate, and has gold beads on one side, and silver/blue beads on the other.

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And the cowl . . . well what can I say?  It is soooooo soft, such a beautiful pattern, and . . .

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Look!  it matches my car!  My Purple Picasso lol. 

So a very warm thank you to Tony.  That smile, I’m wearing in the photo, along with the cowl . . . I’ve been wearing it all day! 

happy unbirthdays # February

Unbirthday celebrations continue for two blogging friends in February.   And with two small parcels being posted to Lynn and Mamoures.

Mamoures is a cross stitcher, so . . .

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I sent her a Dimensions kit to make a plastic tree decoration.

Lynn has a finger in many pies, but I usually imagine her sitting in front of her sewing machine, sewing her beloved Liberty fabrics.  To Lynn, I couldn’t resist gifting a copy of “The Sewing Machine”.

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A very happy unbirthday ladies!

“The Sewing Machine” – Natalie Fergie

I don’t often do book reviews so when I do, it’s because I enjoyed a book so much and worry that other people may be missing out on a wonderful read.

“The Sewing Machine” by Natalie Fergie is absolutely outstanding!

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Published in 2017 through a new website: Unbound, it came into print because of a network of patrons who pledged cash in order for this book to see the light of day.  On the front cover, the storyline is summed up with the following “clue”:  One sewing machine.  Two families.  Three secrets.  Four generations.  Millions of stitches.

Here’s the review from the back cover:

There’s going to be a strike!

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory.  For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.”

* * * * * * * *

Natalie Fergie has truly created a masterpiece with this, her first novel!  The story goes back and forth between the main protagonists, beginning in 1911, 1954 and 2016 so be patient during the first 3 chapters as we meet Jean, Connie and Fred . . . then read on as Natalie weaves her magic.

Just to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book . . . I bought three copies!  Yes, three.  One for myself and two to gift to sewing friends.  AND, no sooner had I turned the last page with a happy tear in my eye (sentimental me!) than I opened the book at page one and started reading it again!   That’s how outstanding a book it is!

a secret sewing reveal

Today I can reveal a secret sewing project which kept me busy and happy for a few hours . . . making something for a friend’s birthday.  The friend in question is Avis.

Not sure if she’ll actually use this, but if she doesn’t, I’m sure she had a chuckle anyway.

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I made Avis a tote bag, with a matching pouch for tote bag to be folded into, so it can be clipped to a jean’s loop.  I don’t know about you, but when I just nip to the shops for one or two bits, I always end up buying more than intended . . . and I don’t like to have to pay for a plastic carrier bag.

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The tote bag measures approximately 16” x 16” so it’s a nice shopping bag size.  The pouch, for when it’s folded measures approx 3.5” x 7”.

I bought this fabric especially.  It’s a batik cotton but has a waterproof coating so will be brilliant for shopping on a rainy day.  Mind you, I got a bit confused about which side was the right side . . . unsure if the coated side was meant to be on the outside or the inside.  I ended up opting for the waterproof side on the outside.

And just to prove that the large tote bag can fit inside the pouch . . . there’s a folding method to stick to.

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First, bag needs to be flat (and dry)

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And you simply start by folding up the bottom

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Until it’s a nice flat roll like this.

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Fold one side in (about 1/3 in)

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The second side in.

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And then continue rolling the straps round.

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And voilà!  One good sized tote bag, all neatly folded into its pouch!

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Anyway, I sent that to Avis, along with some fun plant pot decorations with little wooden hedgehogs on the ends and a copy of “The Sewing Machine” by Nathalie Fergie.  If you haven’t read that, I’ll be doing a quick book review post in the coming days.

more birthday goodies – yippee!

I’ve really been spoiled rotten for my birthday, you know!  Husband invited our neighbours round for dinner that evening.  Neighbours being Cléo (the little girl who loves sewing lessons), baby sister Mona (who is 4 months old and parents R & P.

The husband invited them because he had decided to cook up one of my favourite dishes (rabbit, in a rich red wine sauce, with lots of yummy veggies) . . . and when you take the time to marinade and slow cook a rabbit, there’s way too much for just 2 people.  Hence, the dinner guests.   He should have kept quiet about my birthday, but he didn’t . . . which means guests came bearing gifts, when it wasn’t at all necessary.  But I’m not going to complain, because they were lovely gifts!

First . . .

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A very colourful drawing by Cléo (which is now hanging in my sewing room).  I am, apparently, Cléo’s “favourite sewer” lol.  I’m probably the only sewer she knows, but that’s beside the point!  And this drawing shows the two of us at work in my sewing room, with Cléo sitting in front of Juki.  Now, please note the attention to detail here.  The very bright object under Cléo’s feet is . . . the small suitcase I put under the table with the foot pedal on top, so it’s the correct height for Cléo to work the pedal while sitting down.  It’s actually red, not pink, but we’ll allow for artistic licence and pink being the artist’s favourite colour!    And those bright colours on the left . . . well that’s my stack of plastic drawers where I store all my fabrics! 

Next there was a bag full of goodies.

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A sock bunny made entirely by Cléo, with no help at all from her Mum!  (I made sure we didn’t mention what the meat was at dinner time, as I’m not sure she would have eaten it if she’d known).  A retractable tape measure, in the shape of a PINK snail, a very interesting black object which looks like a stick of lipstick, but isn’t.

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It’s a very nifty needle holder!!!  Lid pulls off, the bottom twists round and hey presto . . . there’s a tiny pincushion inside complete with half a dozen needles!  And . . . a gift voucher to go shopping on amazon!

Well, I can tell you . . . it didn’t take me long to have a shopping spree lol.  There were a few books I had been looking at, so “click, click” and here’s what I bought.

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“Daughters of the Dragon” by William Andrews because Lynn had done a really good write-up of that, and it sounded like something I would enjoy (I’ll let you know).  And “Love to Sew – Teddy Bears” by Monika Schleich.

This second one because, yes, I’m very tempted to head off in another sewing direction, and try my hand at making a few teddy bears.  This book contains 16 different models, with full sized patterns for all, and very details instructions with lots of photos to explain step-by-step.  Here are a couple of the designs in the book.

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Sooooooo cute!  Not sure when I’ll actually attempt teddy bear making, but hopefully I’ll manage to squeeze one into my busy schedule this year.