How To… make sewing easier.

Sewing is great fun and I love making things using any craft technique I can learn. But I don’t have the most time in the world to pursue crafts. So here is how I power through small sewing projects quickly and efficiently.

1: Use patterns.

Whether it’s a pattern you download, one you ripped from an old clothing item or one you drew up yourself, starting with a pattern kills so much of the guesswork. You can just get started.

2: Improvise.

That said, a bit of improvisation can save you where a pattern falls short or doesn’t quite work. Give yourself a bit of flexibility.

3: Tapestry thread.

Using a strong thread, one that you can’t easily break with your bare hands, will result in a stronger stitch and a more robust item. You can even use fewer stitches when using a stronger thread.

4: Button hoops.

Sewing button holes is one of my pet peeves. For such a tiny space, so much tends to go wrong. Frayed ends, too big, too small and the stitching takes forever. Instead, make little fabric strips into hoops for buttons. More easily adjustable, faster to make and to mend.

5: Iron-on tape.

For hems, try using iron-on tape, a sort of meltable plastic strip that you put between two sides of a garment, then iron down. It gives you a great result that you can touch up or adjust as you please.

6: Fabric glue and paints.

This can look a bit tacky if you aren’t careful, so practise on scrap fabric and small projects, but fabric glue and fabric paints make for fun decorating a bit faster than usual sewing.

And that’s how I save a bit of time when I’m sewing something, to make sure I actually get it done before the year’s out. :p

What tips and tricks do more experienced seamstresses and tailors have to share on the matter?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… mend socks.

Mending socks was a common practice until recently. Simply, the tools for mending and the few minute spent working were costing far less than a new pair of socks, especially in the days when you had to knit new socks yourself.

Now it’s very cheap to replace socks, but I find that certain skills shouldn’t die just because they aren’t needed every day. Maybe your son chews his way through so many football socks that you’re starting to spend a small fortune on them. Maybe you have a pair of favourite socks you want to keep forever. Maybe you just want to stretch another few days or weeks of life out of a pair. However it is, learning to mend socks can prove valuable one day.

1: Ball.

To properly mend a sock you will need a ball to use to replicate the stretching cause by a foot. For adults, tennis balls and boules balls work well, for children baseballs and marble eggs and for young children pingpong and bouncing balls. You want to drop the ball to the heel of the sock or where the ball of the foot rests whenever you are mending an area near these spots.

2: Stitches.

When there is just a small tear or hole in a sock, try stitching it. Pick a fine wool in the sock’s colour, get a wide-eyed needle and turn the sock inside out. Carefully stitch the two sides together without leaving much of a hem, as you don’t want the sock to be itchy. Then turn the sock around to make sure the stitching is solid.

3: Darning.

When some layers of sock, usually at the heel and ball of the foot, have worn clear through you will need to darn them. When darning always put the weight of your ball very near or right in the spot you are mending. Get a fine wool in the sock’s colour and a wide-eyed needle. You want the sock the right way round Place the ball and make your first safety stitch, so the wool doesn’t loosen. Then sew some bars across the hole. After that, either vertically weave another row of bars between the horizontal ones or weave some bars diagonally both ways between the horizontal ones.

If you want to match the texture of the sock, observe this video:

4: Patches.

Finally, when someone routinely wears out a certain spot of their socks, you mat want to consider putting patches in them. A felt patch inside the area or a tarp or canvas patch outside it will reinforce it, hide unsightly wear and make the sock last much longer.

And that is how to mend socks.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What clothing items do you always try and mend? What ones do you wish you knew how to mend?

Weekend crafts.

This weekend I was going to see a relative, but the plans got thrown off by tonsilitis. So, seeing as I had cancelled all my work for the week and was determined to not overwork myself, I decided to spend this weekend crafting.

First I needed to sort the coffee table. There was nothing horribly wrong with it. But it was plain white and stained crazily easily, which is not great for a table that will have coffee on it. We also invariably forget to use coasters, so having something I could wipe clean was a must.

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

The only picture where I allowed the table to be seen. It was thoroughly cleaned before that meal, so no shame. :p

 

That is the original and finished design. I contemplated a lot of things for our coffee table. I even considered painting a detailed scene and setting some glass on top of it. But I didn’t want to make something I would feel too bad about parting ways with if it broke. So I settled on a boho glass pebble top.

The materials for this were a variety of glass pebbles and grout and filler plaster.

1: Arrange your pebbles by colour. That way you have an idea what you’re going to be able to do with them.

2: Clean and dry the table.

3: Mark out any spaces you want to leave. We wanted a gap for our chess board that we could slide it in and out of.

4: Little by little, spread the grout and/or plaster and place the pebbles in the right pattern.

20150119_152022

 

I ran out of pebbles so I left the middle almost bare except for some floral coasters and a few pebbles.

The finished product looks pretty awesome and should clean smoothly.

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The other thing I made was an upgraded version of my knitting loom. The original looked like this.

Ugly and efficient.

Ugly and efficient.

 

I made some pretty cool scarves on it.

20150119_193038 20150119_193048

 

But it had too few spikes, was starting to fall apart and was bulky to carry and use. So I decided to make something more portable, attractive and functional. Introducing the loom 2.0:

20150119_18542020150119_18543020150119_185441

 

 

 

Yes, that is a coat rack. I got so used to the knitting needle ends that stuck out of the back of my box that I felt I needed something to stab my wool balls onto, rest my crochet hook on and tie the loose end of wool to. So a coat hanger seemed like the natural choice. Plus, it was a ready-sanded piece of wood for 99p.

To make:

-10-100 round-end or skirting board nails

-30-100cm of wood

-a hammer

-a ruler and a marker pen

1: Use the ruler to mark the board at even places.

2: Hammer in the first three nails and last three nails at an angle. This will hold your board.

3: Hammer in the central nails deal straight, for easy weaving.

To use click here.

Last Minute Crafting, or Knitting for People Who Can’t Knit.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit. But I have days when I’m very clumsy with my hands, which would get in the way of even knitting, and also have a serious problem with numbers to a point where I can think of the number four and say “Seven” and “Eleven” first, or where I can skip entire numbers when counting or copying something. I usually deal with it in time for everyday situations, but when crafting something invariably goes wrong. Never a good place to start. And when I got bored of crochet due to the constant mistakes and plateaus caused by shaky hands and poor number management, I gave up on learning to knit, at least not while I had other things to do.

But I never stop learning about crafts, even ones I can’t do. Looking at patterns led me on a pinterest-crawl and soon I was learning about arm knitting. Then I realized that, even if arm knitting was simple, it required me to keep both my arms working on the knitting until I was done, in case I messed up and tied a knot when getting loose. Me? Sit still for over five minutes? With a craft? No chance. Especially not when the results look like they’d be so easily destroyed by a cat or a clumsy movement. But I  also discovered finger knitting. And it got me thinking.

As you can see, finger-knitting is based on the old way we used to use toilet rolls to knit bracelets in art class. It eliminates the counting, the fiddly needles and the time-consuming element. But I had two concerns. Firstly, that as with arm-knitting I just hadn’t the patience to sit like that for so long. Secondly that I only have four fingers, meaning I could only make something as wide as I could spread my fingers. So what if I could add to my fingers? What if I made a board or a box that I could use to finger-knit without knitting at all?

This is what I made:

 

Ugly and efficient.

Ugly and efficient.

However you could also make one with a board, maybe even paint it up and use it as a Christmas gift for any young or klutzy crafters in the family. I’m definitely making a knitting board all to myself sometime in the new year. Or maybe you could make yourself one and use it to knock out some quick and easy Christmas gifts for neighbours. However you want to play it, here are my instructions for a knitting board and a knitting box.

Knitting box.

Equipment:

-a cardboard box

-10-100 spiky, sticky things (actual sticks, kebab sticks, chop sticks, knitting needles, anything)

-heavy duty tape, hot glue gun, crafting glue

-(optional) fabric or paper for decorating

-(optional) small hook or clasp for holding your thread end (see instructions)

Assembly:

1: Mark an even number of dots along one edge of the cardboard box.

2: Insert the spiky things in through the dot and out through another side of the box, to hold them firm.

3: Make sure your knitting ends (the ones where you drew the dots) are all an even length.

4: Tape/glue the non-knitting ends against the box.

5: (Attach optionals.)

Knitting Board.

Equipment:

-1 long board

-10-100 evenly sized nails, round tops or other nails that don’t have a very wide top are much, much better

-hammer

-(optional) an extra nail or a clip

-(optional) paint

Assembly:

1: Mark the board with dots an even distance apart.

2: Hammer a nail into each dot.

3: Even out the nails.

4: (Add optionals.)

Definitely making myself one!

Instructions.

So how do we use this badboy? Well, we start by attaching the end of our yarn to the clasp, or otherwise just taping it to the side of our box/board.

KNIT1

Next we weave the ball end of our yarn over and under until we reach the end of the spikes.

KNIT2

Wrap it around and go over and under on your way back, so each spike has a bit of thread on the top and bottom of it.

KNIT3

Repeat both ways so that each spike has two bits of thread.

KNIT4

Pull the thread nearest the box/board over the top of the thread nearest you. Make sure the top thread stays on, but the thread near the box/board comes off!

KNIT5

KNIT6

KNIT7

Repeat on every spike.

Take your yarn again and weave once both ways.

KNIT4

The old “top” thread should now be the one nearest the board and the new one should be the top. Pull the bottom thread back over the top one.

Rinse and repeat.