It’s My Birthday!!

Birthday“There was a star danced, and under that was I born.”  -William Shakespeare

It’s my birthday (just to reiterate in case the post title was in any way ambiguous!) I have now reached the ripe oldish age of 27!

All things going well boyfriend and I should be well into out America adventure and after a few days in New York we should have reached San Francisco by now.  In the past few years I have traveled far and wide starting with my 25th birthday in Barcelona (rain), then Venice (food poisoning), Gdansk in Poland (cold), Belfast (beautiful), and Dubrovnik in Croatia (amazing!!!).  And now I’m spending my 27th birthday in America!

Apparently I share my birthday with Cobie Smulders, Doris Day, King Henry IV, and Eddie Murphy, which is significant of nothing but might make for an interesting dinner party one day. And when I was born; Fine Things by Danielle Steel was on the New York Times Best Seller List, Madonna was having a hit with La Isla Bonita, and Police Academy Four: Citizens on Patrol was released.  And tbh, not much has changed…

“To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eye’d, Such seems your beauty still.”                                      – William Shakespeare



Mini Backpack

Mini Backpack

Mini Backpack

I did a post a while back on How To Make A Backpack and this is a variation on that.  I needed a small bag for my upcoming holiday that would be big enough to fit the essentials in without being too big to carry around.  A backpack made the most sense as it would be the most comfortable to carry around and safer than an open shoulder bag.

I used:

  • A fat quarter of fabric I got for Christmas
  • Another fat quarter in coordinating fabric
  • Some denim from old jeans
  • Two Zips
  • Bag Slide Adjusters and Strap Rings

This is a simplified version of my other backpack post, I didn’t use a cord and toggle as a fastener or have a flap over the top.  Instead I used a zip in the top, I did add a pocket in the back which will be for money and my passport as it won’t be visible from the outside or accessible unless I take the bag off.

MIni Backpack

My fat quarter was a square so I cut a strip off the top and attached it to the side (to make it a rectangle) that messed the pattern up so I made that bit the back of the bag.  I sewed closed the bottom of the bag, but inserted two pieces of webbing ribbon, which would become the bottom of the straps, first.  You can see the bottom of them poking out of the bottom.

I also made the bag gusseted by flattening the bottom of the bag and sewing across the corners.  I did the same thing to the lining which I made from denim.  When I was sewing the whole thing up I inserted a piece of grid bag bottom.

Mini BackpackMini Backpack

MIni Backpack

I took two pieces of red fabric (another fat quarter) and sewed them together around three edges, then I kept it inside out.  I cut a slit in the back and then attached the pocket on the inside with a zip.  This was very fiddly!  Basically, I had the bag right way out and put the zip on top right side down, and the pocket on top of that also right side down.  I repeat it was very fiddly!  Then I did the same for the other side.  When you push the pocket back inside you shouldn’t be able to see any of your sewing.

Mini Backpack

I put the bag (right way around) inside the denim lining (turn inside out).  I created straps from the red fat quarter and inserted them in-between the lining and bag  and then put the zip in.  I sewed the end of these straps to the brown webbing ribbon to finish the straps.  And then my bag was finished!P1050119

Runjing Wang- Paper Artist

Runjong Wang Book Art

Runjing Wang is a Chinese artist who uses books and paper to create beautiful pieces.   He has a series of Map Books;

‘ [A map] not only helps people find the way, but also represents the characters of the city. What I am looking for is how the map can be used in the visual way, the relationships between different maps, and how the structure influences the content of book by changing the way of reading.’

I love maps too, and books, and (perversely) cutting them up to make art- so I like his stuff!

Dinosaur Skirt

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

So I bought a child’s dinosaur duvet cover…and it was only available in a single cover because children are small and get all the good stuff.  My intention was also to make something from it (tip: duvet covers are a good source of fabric, especially second hand double ones where you get lots of fabric for small moneys).

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

I decided to make a simple skirt with an elasticated waist- no messing with zips (my arch nemesis).  To make it more interesting I made it a tier skirt; I made it with three layers.

To do likewise you first need a few measurements:

  • Your waist (at the point you want the skirt to sit, usually just above your hip)
  • Your hips (your widest point) +10-20cm depending on how much wiggle room you want!
  • The length of the skirt (from the point you measure your waist down to where you want the skirt to stop)
  • The length of the layers (optional, I started off with each layer 10cm longer than the last but changed it to 7cm when I was sewing because I thought it looked better)
  • When you cut out your fabric you need to add some seam allowance too- at least 1cm for seams and 3 for hems

My waist is 74cm, my hips are 104cm, and I wanted the skirt to be 50cm.  So I cut one piece of fabric 76cm x 120cm x 55cm.  One piece was 76cm x 120cm x 48cm, and the last was 76cm x 120cm x 39cm.

You need enough fabric to cut out these layers (or as many layers as you want) they can the same pattern or a mix and match.  You also need some elastic 1.5inches wide and the same length as your waist measurement.

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

The first thing you should do is hem the fabric- this is usually the last step but it is much easier to hem a straight line than a circle so you should do it first.*  

Then take a long strip of fabric which is as long as your skirt is wide (so for me that was 120cm as that was my widest measurement plus some extra), and the strip should be more than 3 1/4 inches wide so that it comfortably folds over the elastic.  But don’t actually put the elastic in yet.  Then fold the fabric in half longways and baste along the long edge, I use a long lose running stitch on my machine.  This is the waistband.

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

I lay the three layers of my skirt on top of each other and made sure they lined up and pinned them together.  Then I folded the skirt in half (right sides together) and sewed the pieces together.  The turn right sides out- it should be a big tube of fabric now, sort of skirt like.

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

Sew the skirt and the waistband right sides together- find the center point of it and match it to the center of the front of the skirt and pin it in place.   Then sew slightly outside of the basting stitch.  Leave the ends of the waistband open so you can feed the elastic through.

Then sew the ends of the elastic together and try it on before sewing closed the hole in the waistband.  Then you too can have a silly dinosaur tier skirt!

Dinosaur Tier Skirt

*I am a bit bossy in this post/always…

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair

Another trip to Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair for a peruse of the affordable vintage on sale.  I didn’t actually buy anything but here are some of the things I saw that I could have bought but for various reasons I did not!

Judy's Affordable Vintage Fair

Seasonal Photography

Train Station Seasonal Photography

I hate Winter- because it’s cold but mainly because it’s dark.  The days feel so much shorter, it’s harder to get up in the morning, and I have much less energy in the evening.  So it’s so nice when you start to see the days getting longer in the Spring.

I thought I’d document this by taking a few photos each month- I had some extremely exciting ones* of the train station I go to almost everyday from January, so I decided to use those and take more in February and March for a comparison.

Left are the photos I took- Jan at the top, then Feb, then March (almost exactly a month apart, and all taken at 5:30 pm in the evening), the difference between Jan and Feb is quite incredible I think.  This winter has definitely felt a lot shorter than last years!

If I can get my act together I might do this every month for the whole year- what do you think?  Here’s hoping for a hot summer to make the photos really interesting.


Book Review- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

My sister bought me Slaughterhouse Five a good long time ago, along with Under The Frog.  Both of which I recommend, I think, although neither is a barrel of laughs.  Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut is one of those odd classics that you’ve never heard of before but everyone keeps telling you to read, and it sounds slightly more exciting than the Jane Austin bonnet-style of classic so you do.

The book is part fiction, part non-fiction, part fiction inspired by real events.  Vonnegut was a soldier in World War Two, he was captured by the Nazis and held as a prisoner of war as a result he witnessed the bombing of Dresden at the end of the war in which around 25,000 people were killed.   At the start of the book Vonnegut describes the difficulty he has had in writing about the bombing of Dresden, so in Slaughterhouse Five he tells the story of Billy Pilgrim instead.

Billy Pilgrim’s life has some parallels with Vonnegut such as being captured as  POW and witnessing the bombing of Dresden.  But he is also a time traveler, who moves forward and backwards through his life.  He also gets kidnapped by aliens.  You know, the usual story…

I suppose Vonnegut thought the subject matter would have been too dark without the odd sci-fi twist, it certainly offers a new way in to a grim story.  But I found Billy Pilgrim a frustrating character who never really seemed to connect with the things happening around him, this was made somewhat worse by the story jumping from one time to another.  The aliens explain to Billy that all time and moments always exist, so when someone dies they don’t really die they exist in another moment somewhere else.  This may why Billy seems unfazed the death around him and Vonnegut’s INCREDIBLY ANNOYING habit of saying ‘So it goes’ whenever someone dies- which happens ALL THE TIME!

I definitely struggled to get into the book until page 93- I don’t know why but I clicked with it then and romped home- it’s only about 150 pages long.  When Vonnegut’s own voice is clearly heard (he pops back in now and then) I was more interested.  I was more upset by the book when I knew it was real- it had happened to Vonnegut in a way I never felt it happened to Billy.

I’m glad I’ve read it, I didn’t really know anything about the bombing of Dresden before, and I found it interesting in form and content.  I just wish the main character had been a little more charismatic and a little less fatalistic.




French Seams

How (and why) To Backstitch

Back-stitching is one of those things I used to hear about a lot without knowing what it meant- assumed it was technical and fancy and beyond my knowledge so made no attempt to research it.  By chance I happened to find out what it was and it is very simple and very useful.

Basically it means to sew backwards over the area you just sewed and thereby locking in the stitch meaning it wont unravel.  It is especially helpful for sewing seams and hems to make sure they wont come undone.

Back Stitch

All you need to do is start sewing your seam as normal for about 1inch, then set your sewing machine to sew backwards and go backwards over the stitching you just made.  It varies from sewing machine to sewing machine as to how you make the sewing machine sew backwards.  But this is what I do:

Back stitch

There is a button on my sewing machine that I hold down while I hold the sewing foot down and it stitches backwards.

Back Stitch

Back Stitch

When I have sewed back to the beginning I release the back stitch button and allow the machine to sew normally again.  And that’s it.

Feminist Crafts

International Women’s Day- Feminist Crafts

March 8th is International Women’s Day, in fact this year is it’s 100th anniversary!

Actually the first stirrings of IWD was  in 1908 when 15,000 women marched in New York City for shorter working hours, better pay, and voting rights.    There was growing unrest among women due to the inequality of the times, this was within a context of a booming population and rapid industrialisation.  By 1914, IWD was officially held on March 8th and has ever since.

In the early C20th, women couldn’t vote, rape and violence within marriage was legal, they had limited access to work or poor working conditions.  Things have improved dramatically since then but women (in all countries) do not have equal status to men; IWD has become a day when women’s groups and governments globally celebrate women while continuing to campaign for equality.

I give this preamble because people (mainly those in a privileged position) can struggle with why something like International Women’s Day is necessary.  They see the fight for women’s rights as being a threat to their own, but the struggle for equality for women is a struggle for equality for everyone.

Anyway, I thought it was a good opportunity to highlight some cool feminist crafts!

Adventures in Menstruating

My Little Stitches
Trickling Down My Leg

My Little Stitches did this cool period embroidery using quotes from women and their experiences.  I recently went to a feminist conference and heard a good talk by Chella Quint who has a zine called ‘Adventures in Menstruating’ and who is challenging the negative way in which periods are portrayed.



If periods aren’t your thing how about body image? I saw a nice post for this on Dans le Townhouse  where she etched it onto a mirror in her house but originally it was pinned on pinterest by Tanya.  A bit of guerrilla feminism that points out to all of us looking in the mirror and frowning at our own reflections that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to images from magazines.

A mini protest banner London Fashion Week September 2012


The Craftivist Collective have various cool projects on the go that anyone can do, such as this mini banner project- stitch a little banner and leave it someplace public.  This one was left outside Somerset House during London Fashion Week 2012 and it says’ Lowest paid model at London Fashion Week paid £125 an hour.  Majority of garment works in Vietnam paid £25 a month’.  I think things like this are eye-catching and raises awareness of issue but you have to be careful as it obviously doesn’t provide any evidence of what it claims.  Not that I have any reason to disbelieve this particular statement.

And for any of you who have issues with feminism and feminist crafts have a look at this nice cross stitch by Australian group Radical Cross Stitch!  Like I said up at the top people take issue was feminism because we’re a shouty bunch of killjoys who are trying to take their power and fun but our current society is sexist, racist, homophobic, etc and not actually all that fun for those of us who get marginalised.  Also it looks so cute with the Hello Kittys!


Book Review- Ready Made: How To Make (Almost) Everything

ReadyMade: How To Make (Almost) Everything

I bought this book a while back and it’s a really nice coffee table book.  The cover is really nice (imo) simple but has a fun ruler design on the spine and thick unfinished cardboard for the cover.  I really dislike the big barcode on the cover though- especially when there is also one on the back.  RRP is £14.95.  (I did not pay that much!)

On the cover we are told ‘These never-before-seen designs and how-tos are full of surprise and wonder.   Learn how to turn everyday objects into spellbinding inventions to give away to friends or keep for yourself…the founders of ReadyMade magazine have fed and cared fro this animal.  It will not be domesticated.  It runs wild and breathes free.’   From that I think you can appreciate tone, humour, and purpose of the book.  I found it appealing.

Inside the book is divided into sections on different materials: fabric, wood, glass, metal, paper, plastic and each section begins with an article on the chosen material (generally about how much of it we waste every year when we throw things away) and a short history  of it eg. 1400-1300BC bones used in China to write on, 1550AD Wallpaper introduced to Europe from China, 1900-1910 first paper plates developed (I missed out a few years).


 And there are projects to-do such as a coat rack made from detergent bottles, a rug  made from recycled plastic shopping bags, and a beer-can room divider.  There’s a full page photo of each project, and clear instructions, there’s also a list of all the things you needs, and the time and money it will take you to make it, as well as the skill level required.

It’s really nicely designed and easy to use but there are some issues; the usual ones for how-to books.  While I appreciate the desire to make-do and mend, to reuse things that would have merely been thrown away the things they want you to make aren’t always that easy, practical, useful or desirable.

The beer-can room divider is a good example- it requires 216 beer cans (I don’t drink beer but I realise other people do.  But if you did you would have to drink a lot in one go or have a living room full of beer cans for several months).  You also needs foam pipe insulation, wood dowels, steel wire, galvanised floor flange, flat cap hubs, and various tools like metal shears, wire cutters, hacksaw, drill, and hot glue gun.  I do not have any of those things to hand (so it will not save anything from the landfill) and I also have no idea what some of them are (flange anyone?).  Also, and perhaps most importantly, who on earth would want a room divider made of beer-cans?

Ready Made

It is extremely difficult to put a book together like this that can provided for everyone’s taste, skill, and circumstances, and I found the other articles and information on materials quite interesting.  So I think they would have done better to focus on that with some smaller (less wacky) project ideas included.