Sewing for Babies and Children

Despite the fact that I’m a terribly selfish sewist lately, I actually learned to sew so that I could make things for my eldest daughter when she was a baby. Back then (almost 5 years ago!) I had no clue what I was doing and I didn’t have anyone in real life to help me.

So I did what most of us do and I relied on the internet. A few online friends kept directing me to various patterns sold on Etsy, or through Facebook groups, and I honestly found most of them to be so ill-fitting and poorly executed in even promotional images. Searching through Pinterest is hard too; if you’re in experienced how do you know which of a billion peasant dress patterns is actually drafted well with decent instructions?

25 patterns for Babies and Children

A book like Laura Strutt’s new release Sewing for Babies and Children published by CICO Books would have been perfect for me back then. It has 25 clothing and accessories patterns for ages 0-5 years old and the full size patterns in an envelope so no printing out endless PDF pages and taping them together. I loathe printing PDFs.

A quick flick through this book could have you thinking that you’ve seen these patterns on Pinterest, for free. Yes, there are baby shoes, a peasant dress, bibs, burp cloths and more that we’ve all seen before but what makes this book good is that Laura knows what she’s doing. She knows how to draft a good pattern and how to write detailed instructions. She’s definitely got a good eye for fabrics too, there are so many bright colourful choices in here which make for some beautiful photos. I really appreciate that there is a good balance between patterns for knit fabric and patterns for woven fabrics. I think as a beginner it’s easy to be put off knit fabric but for babies clothing it’s perfect.

How to sew a beautiful Peter Pan Collar dress!

My girls mostly live in leggings and t-shirts now, so in all honesty there are only a few things I would make for them from the book, including the Peter Pan Collar Dress for special occasions (I really need to use the My Little Pony fabric I’ve been hoarding before they move onto their next obsession). Incidentally I think the Peter Pan Collar Dress should have been the cover photo, I think it’s far more striking!

Super easy gift for any baby

I wanted to whip up something quick from the book (although all of the patterns are nice and quick compared to making for myself) for my cousin who is expecting her first baby very soon. I have some lovely cotton with rainbow raindrops on which was leftover from another project and it seemed perfect, especially paired with a grey quilted jersey I have leftover too. Annoyingly I didn’t have a lot left which dictated what I ended up making – a smaller version of the taggy blanket. I guess that is a good thing about sewing for children, you can use up all those bits and pieces that aren’t quite big enough for anything else.

See how I sewed this taggy comfort blanket!
I’m happy with the finished result and I hope that my cousin will be too. Love that fabric👌🏻

I think that a couple of the garments could be improved slightly by changing the pockets on them; they seem a bit oversized which looks too home sewn to me. I’d also make the kimono-style pyjamas in a knit rather than a woven. These things are just personal preference though and that’s the beauty of making clothes yourself; you can change anything you like as you go!

See what I think of this new sewing book!

I think that this book is a great starting point for someone who is new to sewing, new to sewing children’s clothes or just a quick reference for anyone else because of the full size patterns.

Toria

Sewing for Babies and Children

Disclaimer: CICO Books sent me a copy of Sewing for Babies and Children by Laura Strutt to write about, but all opinions are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this blog post. This blog post contains affiliate links.

Easter Bonnets (and a book review)

Happy Easter!
I'm not sure how Easter is just around the corner; it feels like this year is flying by right now. I don't feel like I've achieved half of what I wanted to by this point in the year!
Although, speaking of achievements, I do want to share that I passed my first karate grading over the weekend. Andy and I both earned our orange belts, with merit. I'm so pleased, especially as I was having such a bad day with my endo pain that day. Eleanor also passed her grading with merit and skipped two belts! Go us!
Make Your Own Farm Animals and More

Right, back to Easter. I wasn't sure what to do for our Easter bonnets this year, even after scouring Pinterest, but then CICO Books sent me a copy of Make Your Own Farm Animals and More: 35 Projects for Kids Using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford. The girls excitedly had a look through it when it arrived and Eleanor asked if we could make some rabbits for our Easter bonnets. A theme was born!

We decided to make rabbits, sheep and chicks using the instructions and templates from the book which is full of great photos, detailing each step for making a variety of farm animals, people and even some farm machinery. The templates are all in the back and can be photocopied or traced without the need for enlarging, which is useful.

I ended up making the animals whilst the girls were at school and to be honest I think it's a good job I did. My two are only three and five and so the animals we chose are a little small and fiddly for them to make. I think that an older child would have a great time making them independently though because the instructions are very clear. That said, it would be easy enough to enlarge the templates and adapt the instructions to make larger animals for younger children to paint.

So what did we use to make our bonnets, aside from recycling? The bonnets were from Poundland, as were the little nests around the brim. We painted them green with a mix of IKEA poster paint and PVA glue from Hobbycraft. We used lolly sticks and a glue gun to create the picket fence, gluing the sticks to some ribbon first and then painting it white.

I love the imaginative use of recycling to create everything in the book; I had no idea our old egg cartons would be so versatile. When I was teaching, this book would have been great to make a really interesting classroom display; I miss doing things like that! What do you think of our finished bonnets? Did you make Easter bonnets this year?

I have some horses ready to assemble next. The girls are very keen to have a go at painting and decorating them to look like My Little Pony characters, which I thought was a good idea. I'll have to share a photo over on Instagram when we're done. We have just over two weeks off school coming up now, so expect Instagram to be a bit taken over with kid-related crafting 🙂

If you are looking for something creative to keep your children happy over Easter, I'd definitely recommend this book (and Tracey's first book Make your Own Zoo, also published by CICO Books) but be prepared to help them out especially if they're younger.

Toria

With thanks to CICO Books for sending me a copy of Make Your Own Farm Animals and More: 35 Projects for Kids using Everyday Cardboard Packaging by Tracey Radford. I was not compensated for writing this post nor for the materials I used. This post contains affiliate links. I received a copy of the book for free, but my opinions are entirely my own.

#100DaysOfCotton

The 100 Day Project | Thimble End

The 100 Day Project starts tomorrow and I’m ready with my theme: 100 Days of Cotton. I chose this theme after re-listening to the Elise Gets Crafty podcast; in it she talks about narrowing down her theme (plants on fabric) which then opens it back up to using different mediums. I thought this was interesting because my initial thought was to do something sewing-related, which could be too restrictive. Plus I don’t have a dedicated sewing space, so trying to clear the dining table each day to sew just isn’t feasible. Then it hit me: cotton.

Doing a craft with cotton each day is actually really broad, as there are so many crafts that involve cotton. So like Elise, I’ve narrowed it down, but really opened it up at the same time.

I can sew, embroider, screenprint, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, stamp, dye, weave…. it feels like there are infinite possibilities.

Who knows, maybe it’s too broad and I’ll have to come up with a sub-theme? Whatever happens, I’m excited to spend some focused time each day on creativity and I’ll share the journey here and on Instagram at various intervals. I’m definitely not going to spam Instagram or my blog with preject photos though, so don’t worry!

Let me know if you’re joining in with your own project too 🙂 I’d love to see what you’ve chosen to focus on.

Toria

The 100 Day Project | Thimble End

#The100DayProject

100 days of being creative? Yes please!

Yesterday I noticed EliseJoy’s Instagram post about The 100 Day Project. Today I listened to her podcast about it and decided that I need to join in!

How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and how I make time for that, so this feels quite timely. I am hopefully going to spend some time this weekend thinking about what my focus could be, so that I’m ready to start next week. Tomorrow I have my first karate grading, and Sunday is Eleanor’s grading, plus we have Easter bonnets to make, but somewhere in all of that I will carve out a bit of time to think about what my 100 days will look like.

Pay attention. Be astonished.

Over on Instagram I’ll share what my 100 days is going to look like and maybe share a few photos along the journey, but I certainly won’t be posting #100DaysofSpam. No one wants that. I might do a couple of blog posts here and there too, we’ll see.

Be a good steward of your gifts.

If you’re joining in too, let me know so I can follow your progress 🙂

Toria

My Life With Endometriosis

How is life affected by a diagnosis of endometriosis?

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and, as a sufferer, I wanted to write a blog post to help raise awareness and understanding.

As I’m typing this blog post, reflecting on my own personal journey with endometriosis, I’m in pain. My abdomen feels like it’s contracting and twisting whilst being stabbed with a hot poker, my lower back is on fire and I’m just exhausted. I’ve felt this way, more or less, for 15 years. It’s part of who I am.

Before I get going with the short version of my own journey, I want to give you some facts and figures about endometriosis.

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, affecting 1 in 10 of the female population which equates to around 1.5 million women. There is no known cause and there is no cure. Endometriosis costs the UK economy £8.2 billion per year, in healthcare costs and loss of work. The current average wait for a diagnosis is 7.5 years.

The symptoms are varied, so please have a read of this information. Personally, I have 16 out of the 19 symptoms listed, but thankfully not all at the same time!

My Story

Let me take you back to 2002. It was my first year at university and I was living away from home. I felt fairly stressed and so when I started to get regular, debilitating, stabbing pains in my stomach I put it down to not eating enough and always being on the go. I thought the backache I always had was from carrying heavy books and files, and sitting on small furniture when on placement at primary schools.

Eventually I decided I needed to see a doctor and so began about 6 months of back and forth with the university’s GP practice. First they said I needed to change the contraceptive pill I was taking. Then I was treated for IBS. Then I was accused of having an STD and then finally I saw a sympathetic female GP, who happened to specialise in gynaecology, who told me it sounded like endometriosis. I’d never heard of it. I couldn’t even pronounce it.

I remember taking a book out of the library to find out more about it and I just cried. I read that this was a disease with no cure. That I would miss a lot of time from work, assuming anyone would employ me as a teacher in the first place. That I would need surgery just to get a diagnosis. That I would most likely never have children.

Endometriosis

I had my diagnostic laparoscopy in April 2004. I remember the registrar being so dismissive of me “You know we won’t find anything, don’t you? You’re too young to have this” and I remember being terrified of the general anaesthetic. (I still am, 6 surgeries on).

I came around from the surgery to be told that I had endometriosis which had been treated with diathermy and that they had also removed a large cyst from my right ovary. I was sent home that day with some paracetamol and absolutely no information about my healthcare going forward.

I rang up my surgeon’s secretary a week or so later to ask whether I needed further apppintments or something and she told me that “he removed it all so obviously you’re ok now”. After demanding a follow up appointment I was prescribed a medication which put my body through a false (reversible) menopause.

Discovering Endometriosis UK (then The National Endometriosis Society) was such a lifeline for me after that diagnosis. I used the message boards to chat to others and I found out about the Birmingham support group.

At the first meeting I went to, I met a wonderful gynaecologist. He changed my life. I switched hospitals to be treated by him and over the next several years underwent various surgeries which involved him cutting the endometriosis out, rather than lasering it. At that time, he was one of very few gynaecologists performing this treatment.

After that first meeting, I ended up getting more involved in Endometriosis UK; I trained as a support group leader and co-ran the Birmingham group for a while.

I suffered with endometriosis throughout university to varying degrees, and with that came various challenges. I had to have deadlines extended for a few assignments; I missed quite a few lectures; I missed days at Teaching Practise and had to make them up; and my social life suffered. I was often in pain and couldn’t go out and I very rarely drank because it made my pain worse. I’m lucky that I had a very supportive boyfriend all through university.

Endometriosis affected my work life too. I’ve worked alongside some very unsympathetic colleagues and heard them say things like “it’s only period pain”. I’ve taught a class lying on the floor because I wasn’t allowed to go home. I’ve sat crying in the staff room with a hot water bottle instead of doing my planning. I was warned about having too many days off sick. I almost passed out in pain once and then walked in on a colleague laughing to someone else about it. I was coerced into coming back to work a week before I was medically advised to after surgery.

The last surgery I had for endometriosis was August 2010. I was told that my endometriosis was severe, affecting my bowel and bladder as well. My Fallopian tubes were both blocked and none of the dye they use for the test got through. I was told that I needed to think about if I wanted to start a family because I had more chance of winning the lottery than conceiving without assistance. Andy and I had been together for less than a year at this point.

We made the decision to look into IVF. The IVF appointment and my follow up from surgery happened to fall in the same week and somewhere between the two, we discovered that I was already pregnant. Our second daughter was also conceived naturally a couple of years later.

Endometriosis did not go away during my pregnancies; if anything the pain got more intense. It didn’t get any better after having my girls either. Right now, endometriosis is back with a vengeance. I’m regularly in pain; my daughters are 3 and 5 and they notice. The only reason I haven’t sought any more surgery in the last few years is because of my daughters; I don’t know how my recovery time would affect us all. I’m seriously looking into a hysterectomy as a last attempt at freeing myself from this disease, even though I know it may not work. I’m 33 and I’ve had enough of this disease and the way it has crept into every aspect of my adult life.

Toria

If you would like to find out more about endometriosis, please contact Endometriosis UK, I cannot recommend their support, advice and understanding enough. If you want to reach out and talk to me about it, please do (although bear in mind I cannot give medical advice).

How is life affected by a diagnosis of endometriosis?

Does Criticism Have A Place In The Online Sewing Community?

Does criticism have a place in the online sewing community?

I first discovered the online sewing community when I decided to finally give in and open an account on Twitter. Until then I had no idea that there were so many people out there who shared a love of sewing, particularly as everyone I knew in real life thought it a bit weird that I wanted to learn to sew. Twitter led to the discovery of many of the blogs I love, then Instagram and now I actually have real life sewing friends as a result.

Chances are, you’ve had a similar experience and the internet is fantastic for connecting people through a shared passion who otherwise wouldn’t have crossed paths.

After a few years online, I’m to notice things about the sewing community. Is it just a little too positive? Now I’m all for positivity; we certainly need some light relief and something to uplift us with everything currently happening around the world, and for some of us in our own lives too. I’m not knocking that at all, but I do think this overload of positivity comes with a lack of any real criticism.

I’m going to generalise a bit here and I assume that you sew because you make clothes either for yourself or someone else. I’m also going to assume that over time you’ve improved your skills and want to continue to do so.

How can anyone improve their skills if they are told that everything they make is wonderful?

I’ve posted photos on Instagram and asked for advice on fitting issues and people have responded very helpfully to that. I’ve learnt something and tried to put that into practice. Isn’t that the way it should be? I’d much rather post a photo and have a few comments of “oh that’s a great colour on you, but have you thought about doing a full bust adjustment?” rather than someone telling me what I’ve made is perfect.

I’ve seen the argument made that telling someone they’ve made a mistake might put them off trying again. I disagree. It’s how you tell them that makes the difference. When I was teaching, we had system of marking the children’s work where we’d give them two things we loved about their work and give them one thing to improve on. It worked. They had the confidence boost of knowing their work had some great parts and then they had something to work towards as well. I think giving constructive criticism well is all about how you frame it. I’d never look at something a beginner sewist has made and point out all the flaws, but I would give them one thing to maybe look at for next time.

Why is criticism even important? Why can’t we leave everyone alone and let them get on with it? Ok, I see your point here; people are posting their photos and blog posts online, receiving lots of lovely comments and they go away feeling pretty good about themselves. I have no problem with that. However, if you start to believe your own hype (for want of a better phrase) and believe everything you’ve made is wonderful, I think you’re heading for a crash of self-esteem eventually. That’s not good for anyone is it?

For example, when I started getting involved in Etsy teams, I met a few people who are good at whatever craft they do, but honestly need to make some improvements to their techniques to be able to sell things. They feel sad that their Etsy shop gets no attention and they genuinely don’t understand why, because everyone they know has told them that they’re brilliant. I’d guess that most of the online sewing community don’t want to turn their sewing into a business. But surely you want to make your sewing the best that it can be for yourself?

What do you think? Should we give advice and constructive criticism only when it’s asked for? Should the sewing community remain a completely positive space?

Toria

Does criticism have a place in the online sewing community?

Slow Sundays

We love Sundays. Slow, relaxing Sundays after a busy week are just the best for recharging and recalibrating.

This year we made a conscious decision to spend Sundays at home, just the four of us. Think roast dinners, afternoon films with popcorn, pots of tea, podcasts playing and the occasional walk in the sunshine.

Creative block? Go for a walk!

It was hard to slow down to begin with. It felt like wasted time. We could be doing homework, we could be working, we could be running errands, we could be doing housework; we could be doing a million other things really, but I’m really seeing the value in us slowing down and reconnecting as a family. Enjoying the simple things.

Appreciate the little things

What has this got to do with sewing or crafting though?

The obvious answer is that a slow day at home is an ideal time to get on with some crafty projects. Quite often I’ll pick up my knitting for a little while, or cut out a new sewing project.

More often than not though, it’s time to get crafting with my girls. I’m so happy that they love being creative; Eleanor doesn’t go a day without drawing in her sketchbook lately. I think if children are interested in creative hobbies, it’s such a fantastic thing to help them with that. Let children see the value in being creative.

Eleanor asked me last weekend if I could teach her to crochet and we spent such a lovely hour or so making chains. She turned one into a bracelet and one into a necklace with a charm she’d made and was really excited to take them into school for show and tell. How great is that for a child’s self-esteem and confidence?

Crafting is a wonderful self-esteem builder for children

I also think that having a slow day, with no crafting, ends up being good for creativity too. It lets ideas percolate whilst you’re doing other things. It stops you from being too burnt out to create as well and I think we all need that from time to time.

Here’s to slow Sundays!

Toria

 

💙 She wore blue velvet 💙

It’s almost the end of the week, the sun is shining and I feel like I’ve been crushing my to do list this week. Boom! 💥

So, a World Book Day update… I, ahem I mean my girls, didn’t win a prize for best costume because school apparently decided against prizes this year. Whaaaat?! Still, they loved their outfits and that really is the point.

In other news, I still haven’t finished that scarf. I decided that although I love the mustard colour of the yarn I was using, I hated the feel of it on the needles. I bought some navy blue yarn instead and I’ve started again. Honestly, by the time I’m done with it, it’ll be autumn again, but I kind of like the slowness of knitting. (In my case, I mean my Grandma could knit at an amazing speed!)

Remember I said I was going to get my WIP pile down? I’ve finally finished something I started in December! I decided back in November I think that I wanted to sew a crushed velvet Lady Skater Dress for Christmas Day. In December I had few health issues going on and lost all motivation when all I needed to do to finish it was the side seams and the hem.

Yesterday I dug it back out and finished it and I feel so much better for doing it. It’s one thing achieved from my list and I have something new to wear. It may not be as seasonally appropriate as it would have been in the winter, but I’ll still wear it.

Crushed velvet Lady Skater Dress? Hell yes!

I was pulling a face in this photo, so it had to be cropped out! I’m quite pleased that the colour is ok in these photos, usually when I try to take photos of any dark blue, it looks black. I guess this isn’t as dark as navy blue though.

The construction of this was a cinch, as usual and sewing with this crushed velvet didn’t really make any difference. I used my regular machine (I don’t have an overlocker) with the normal foot and I used clips instead of pins just because I prefer them. The fabric is stretchier than the jersey Skater Dresses I’ve sewn, and I should have taken that into account, but it just means it’s really comfortable no matter how much I eat!

A daft photo, but I like how it flares out when I spin around!

I’m no natural at having my picture taken am I?! This is why I crop my head out of most pictures, I’m always pulling a weird face.

So there you go, my third Lady Skater Dress and definitely not my last. I’m really loving stretchy jersey things at the moment. They’re so much quicker to sew and I don’t think you have to be so accurate with adjustments like you do with a woven garment. Plus, I’m trying really hard to get fit at the moment (karate is such a good workout!) so at least jersey stuff will look ok if I do lose any weight.

Toria

Blogtacular here I come!

I’m feeling a mix of excitement, nervousness, happiness, anxiety and fear right now. Why? Because I booked a ticket for this year’s Blogtacular!

I enjoy writing blog posts, taking photos for Instagram and all that so I thought I’d take the plunge this year. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m hoping to meet lots of lovely people, learn some stuff and just have a day to myself.

It’s a massive thing for me to be doing this; my anxiety levels are at an all time high and honestly, I am worried about how I’ll cope, but if I don’t try I’ll never know. Plus it’s months away so hopefully by then I’ll  be feeling a lot calmer thanks to therapy and lot of crafting!

Toria

Run, run as fast you can…

World Book Day is upon us again! Which is of course means sewing up some fancy dress 😀

Last year, Eleanor went as Sophie from The Tiger Who Came To Tea and won first place which I’ll admit I was pretty pleased about. I couldn’t not make her something this year too.

As always seems to be the case, Phoebe is wearing something her sister has grown out of. (I will definitely have to sew something for her soon, so that she doesn’t always feel like she’s in hand me downs, poor thing.) Anyway, Phoebe is going as Little Red Riding Hood, wearing the cape I made for Love Sewing Magazine forever ago:

This year school have decided on a theme of traditional and fairy stories, I suspect in a bid to limit the number of Elsa and Darth Vaders. Eleanor asked to be the Gingerbread Man and my initial thought was to get her some brown leggings and top and sew ric rac and buttons on them.

During half term I had a much-needed day out fabric shopping and spotted some brown velour on the £2 per metre table in Barry’s. Boom! An idea was born. I decided to get a metre of it and make her a Skater Dress, adding some pink ric rac and buttons. Incidentally if you do sew for little ones, I’d absolutely recommend the Skater Dress pattern, it’s great, but I’ll blog about my love for it another time.

It didn’t take too long to sew the dress together. I made her the age 5-6 size. For reference, Eleanor is 5, and has long legs and a small waist (buying leggings for her is a nightmare!), but as this is for fancy dress I wasn’t too concerned about a perfect fit. As it turns out it’s fairly forgiving around the waist, the length of the skirt is fine and the sleeves are a touch long. So it’ll last a while at least.

Sewing the ric rac on took a while. I tried using my Sewline glue pen to hold it on whilst sewing, but it wasn’t working so I ended up having to put loads on pins in as it kept shifting about on the velour. The girls were both fairly impressed with the “icing” when I’d finished though.

Annoyingly the buttons have ended up a bit wonky, and I’m in two minds whether to take them off and move them. It’ll only bug me though, so is there any point? I do like these buttons, they’ve been in my stash for a while now and were a freebie from Mollie Makes. I think they look a bit like sweets. I do wish I hadn’t been stupid and sewed them on before the ric rac though. Duh.

I’m pleased with the finished dress and, more importantly, so is Eleanor. I guess I’d better get on with thinking about Easter bonnets for the girls next!

Toria