Pockets pockets pockets.

So I have a few sewing projects on the go. Something fun/creepy, something for charity, and around a million clothing modifications. We did a big clothing clear-out, getting rid of things that I don’t wear or that don’t fit quite right now my hips and bust have expanded. I found a few clothes I wanted to give away… but just because of one tiny flaw. So I decided instead to hold a few back and modify them so that they suited me perfectly. And one of the mods I’m doing is: pockets.

We all know the struggle of not having functional pockets on dresses, skirts, etc. There are even online clothing stores which stock nothing but clothes with pockets. And some of my favourite clothes don’t have them.

Fair enough, I’m not sure I could pull off pockets on a bodycon dress. So that one will have to stay intact unless I get super creative. But my wrap dress, 3 A-line skirts, fitted denim skirt, and summer dress? They’ll be getting the pocket treatment. I’ll put up pics and tutorials as I go, and we can see how well it all works out.

What’s a modification you’ve made, or would love to make, to your clothes?

How Jon’s bag turned out.

Some of you may recall a bag I made for myself a while back.

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Well, it was Jon’s turn this time. I made him a “camping, festivals and outings bag” for his last festival work, before I resumed making the nappy bag for the baby.

Like my one, it’s 99% from scratch, including things like the zippers and the eyelets on the straps. Only things I didn’t make: the leather belts, the metal bits.

It has:

  • fairly flat colours and mostly stainproof, other than the lining
  • leather and denim features
  • solid belt-style straps
  • a drawstring close
  • a fold-over water-resistant top
  • shoulders shaped to his back with wire and padded for comfort
  • a large main section
  • a water-resistant inner pocket
  • two huge zippered side pockets
  • two huge open side pockets
  • a small sweets pocket at the front
  • ties for attaching loose items like shoes and coats
  • two hooks for clipping on headphones and other items

I think I did quite well.

Front view.

Front view.

Side view.

Side view.

Side view.

The straps.

The straps.

How the straps sit.

How the straps sit.

Fully loaded, side view.

Fully loaded, side view.

Fully loaded, on back.

Fully loaded, on back.

Yeah, we both kind of like the anime look. 😛

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

5 Things You Can Make For A Baby.

I know, it’s been forever since I posted regularly. But there’s been a wedding, a load of jam to make and far too much baby stuff to catch up on. Should be back to blogging now though!

Anyways, here are five things I plan on making for our baby. None are truly bare essentials as in I could buy them at a store or DIY them some other way. But sewing saves money, reduces stress and keeps me from buying every cute thing I see. So if you’re going through the same acquisition urges, here are five things you can make, rather than buy, to save some money and spare your sanity.

1: A nappy bag.

Retail price: From the stats used in my WIP “Baby Budget Diary” book, the average nappy bag costs £50.

Materials cost: Nothing so far! I had almost everything I am using from ages ago and I am repurposing a lot of freebies.

I know I don’t need to make one. A sports bag can be grabbed for a couple of £ and the gods know it’s simpler. But every single penny I can save is a lifesaver when it comes to this new budget book project, and, to be honest, I kind of want a cute, personal nappy bag.

2: Sleep sacks.

Retail price: £20 a piece, total £120 for the first year. I’m gonna faint.

Materials cost: £3.50, and only that high because Jon and I fell in love with this Doctor Who print sheet fabric. Is Doctor Who gender-neutral? Yes, it is. Shhh…

If you want your Winter baby to be as warm as possible and sleep safely blanket-free, you will need sleep sacks. We actually bought a second hand one for £1.50, but usually they cost over £5 even second hand, and I’d rather make some nice, personal, robust ones that can be used by the babies to come.

3: Flannel wipes.

Retail price: From my Baby Budget Diary statistics, a year of disposable wipes costs £310.70 on average.

Materials cost: £0. Free felt and fleece!

Well worth making, for many reasons. Firstly, you have to use cotton and warm water on a baby anyway for the first few months. Secondly, it’s £310.70. Thirdly, all you need is to cut nice big squares of plush fabric, big enough to cover your hand, and probably around 50 of them. You can make them pretty as well and hem them, but the basic is cutting. I will likely be done in an afternoon when I sit down to do this. Couple of days if I decide to sew. Might even drag out the sewing machine!

4: Bibs and burp cloths.

Retail price: According to my Baby Budget Diary stats, £15 average for the first year.

Materials cost: £5 for the bits I’ll use.

I actually spent £20 total on all the fabric I bought this last month. But not all of it is for bibs and rags. Not all of it is even for the baby! Around £5 will go into bibs and rags. So it’s not cheap. But they’re easy to make. Great if you need stress relief. Probably not worth it if you don’t like sewing.

5: Stuffed toys.

Retail price: The average baby’s first Christmas costs £272. Assuming an even four way split between stuffed toys, rattles and travel toys, books and educational tech, that’s £68 on stuffed toys for year one.

Materials cost: Will probably use around £10 worth of fabric at the most.

Stuffed toys are awesome to make. They can be super-cute, you know they’re safe, they are completely personal to your child, you know how to fix them when they break… just win, win, win!

So there you have it, five things I will be making for my baby. I will try and make travel pillows, lactation pads and swaddling blankets as well, but they’re not quite as exciting to talk about.

What things do you like making for babies and kids in the family?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

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?

10 Ways To Get Cheap And Cute Clothes.

Regardless of how we want to dress, we all want to dress nicely. And dressing nicely can easily become expensive. On the other hand, all my clothing, including shoes, suit clothes and a fur coat, cost me around £100, at my closest estimate. I recently overhauled some of my wardrobe thanks to Hearthie’s expert advice and got seven new tops and a pair of shoes for £7. And I feel pretty cute in all of it, to be honest.

And the truth is, cheap cute clothes didn’t stop when your older sister had her last growth spurt and have to give you that perfect, tags-new dress for free. There are still loads of ways of getting adorable clothes at low prices.

The first five are for the unadventurous, those with little time or those wary about germs and bacteria.

1: Charity Shops.

This is where I get most of my clothes. The reasons being that it’s quick and easy to nip in whilst you’re about town, you can browse a wide variety of clothes and usually try them on first, it’s going towards a good cause and they’re cheap.

Some people are concerned about hygiene, but, as someone who volunteers at one and has been round the back of many others: they have this thing called a “steamer”. It’s like a cross between an iron and a hoover which they use to clean and iron all clothes. The steam is so hot that light exposure could easily scar you. Anything obviously soiled or that smells when we steam it is thrown into the rag pile. So yes, they’re clean!

Example.

2: Vouchers.

An easy way to get brand new clothes at discount or even insanely cheap prices is to use vouchers. It’s up to you how far you go. You could go for 10% off, or work out which vouches you can use in conjunction and whether you can use them with any other discounts or during a sale.

There is also a surprising number of vouchers available online, so if you’re short of them, try searching for the store and “voucher” or “coupon” online. You’re bound to turn out some reasonable results.

Example.

3: eBay.

If you want brand new clothes and are short of vouchers or reasonably-priced stores, you can always turn to eBay for your every clothing need. With a simple search function, easy categories and clear pricing, you’re bound to find what you want, brand new, at the lowest price available.

Example.

4: Wholesale and Clearance.

You can do this in stores and warehouse sales, but it’s far more convenient to do it online. If you are happy to sell on any surplus, some stockists do sell-offs of orders that weren’t collected, oversupply or just small wholesale jobs for the odd customer.

The other option is clearance, either from a warehouse or a regular store. The clothes may be out of season, not selling or just the last in the batch, but you can find some amazingly good deals on trendy, seasonal and brand new clothes when you work out where to look for them.

Example.

5: Presents.

This one is fairly simple. Over the year or over the months leading up to your birthday or Christmas, compose a list of items you would rather not spend money on and drop hints or directly give it to your relatives when the celebration is getting near. That way anyone who wasn’t sure what to get you can contribute to your wardrobe. Another way is simply saying that when you get gifts, you love to get shoes, scarves or something trendy for the season and see what they surprise you with!

The next five ways of getting good clothes on the cheap are for the more adventurous and crafty. They may be messy, hard work or a little more questionable.

6: Swap Shops.

These are gaining popularity, but sometimes viewed with caution. Basically, you show up with clothes, get a sticker for every item you donate and then put the stickers on any item you see that you want. There is always the risk that there will be nothing you like, rarely will be dressing rooms and can become a mess. But, if you’re trying to completely change your wardrobe, it may be the best way!

Example.

You can also go for the online experience, which is cleaner and easier.

Example.

7: Volunteer.

I’d recommend volunteering at charity shops, clothes banks or rag merchants. Often anything that doesn’t sell is available to staff at discount rates. You can also buy assorted items sent for the rag heap at rag prices, which are usually a few pence a kilo, making a shirt only 20 or 50p. If anything is damaged you will have to bear that in mind, but often the only thing wrong is that nobody bought it on time, or someone put it into a rag bag rather than donate it to charity.

Example.

8: Updo.

Regardless of where you got them, you can also improve, mend or freshen old clothes to make them look better, turning something free or very cheap into something you would have paid good money for.

You can take plain t-shirts and add some sparkle to them, turn trousers into shorts or skirts, mend holes and tears and basically turning something drab or broken into something wearable.

Example:

Stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch. Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

Plain top decorated with stripy fabric cut into a skull-shaped patch, tartan fabric, beads, silver thread and cross stitch.
Shorts from cutoff jeans and tartan fabric.

9: Freebies.

This one is where most people will draw the line. Basically because, unlike charity shop items, new clothes or hand-me-downs, you don’t really know if something free is clean, hygienic or in good condition.

Generally, if you can check it first you will see any serious problems and if you wash it when home it’s fine. Try finding things on freebie websites and learn when, where and from whom to buy. Just as you’d be happy with a pillow from a neighbour, but not one left outside a university dorm, there are places and people to accept freebies from.

Example.

10: D.I.Y.

And the final option is to just make whatever you want. There are thousands of awesome patterns and tutorials out there, teaching you how to do everything from crochet to making a ballgown. So hone your crafty skills, because you’ll soon get bitten by the crafty bug and not know when to stop!

Examples:

So those are the top ten ways of getting the clothes you want at the price you want. Beauty was never so affordable!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your top thrifty shop? Where do you go when you want something cheap and cute? All hints, tips and ideas welcome. 🙂

How To… make an apron.

First of all, my apologies for the lack of updates. I’ve been unwell, so writing hasn’t been a priority.

 

I’m starting a new category. “How To…” will cover anything to do with running and maintaining a home, from the bare basics, to the advanced, to the rural, to the urban, to the curiosities; from cooking, to DIY, to learning languages, to painting. Anything and everything to keep a house beautiful and efficient.

 

The first installment is aprons. Why? Well, I needed one and I wanted to look adorable in it as well as make it suited to the way I cook, easy to clean and easy to mend, so I decided to make it on my own. It isn’t difficult at all and if you’re not too bothered about looking cute and adding frills and you own a solid sewing machine you’re skilled with, you could knock one out every hour.

First of all we need to understand the anatomy of an apron. It should cover your front and your thighs, as high up and as low down as flour gets when you’re baking. As I like high-neck tops and tend to put my hands to my face far too often, mine needed to be pretty much from collarbone to just below mid-thigh, but some of you will probably be tidy enough to make a smaller or lower cut one. The apron will tie around the neck and waist for maximum security. This gives us four basic pieces: the body and the skirt, that will make up the bulk, and two strips as the neck and waist. Depending on your needs you can add more straps, pockets and decoration.

For mine I went with two-tone: patterned pink and soft black with two waist straps, one neck strap and a pocket. Pink body, pink picket, black skirt and straps. I also used contrasting stitching: black on pink and pink on black, and added lace to the hem and neckline of the apron.

STEPS.

0: Select your fabrics, threads and trimmings! Do a sketch to get an idea what you want.

1: Measure out, and shape your body and skirt.

2: Attach the body to the skirt.

3: Cut some strips of fabric for the waist a little longer than you need them and just over twice as wide. Fold them over and stitch all around for a strong strap.

4: Cut a strip of fabric for the neck a little longer than you need and just over twice as wide. Fold over, stitch all around.

5: Attach the straps to the apron.

6: Cut any pockets and attach them.

7: Add trimmings.

Here’s my one:

20141018_210339