Friday, 18 March 2016

Win a Daylight Lamp

Can you believe that The Sewing Directory has been around for 6 years now!  I officially launched the website at Sewing For Pleasure in the NEC.  It has changed hugely in that time one of biggest changes I made just before launch.  It intended for the website to be just a directory, but my market research told me that people wanted more than that, they wanted content as well - free projects, sewing techniques, news, competitions and more.  Like a magazine but online, and free!

So what better way to celebrate our 6th anniversary than to ask you to share pictures of any of the projects you've made from our site to be in with a chance of winning a Twist Portable LED Daylight lamp from The Daylight Company. 

Just share a picture on our social media and use the hashtag #sewingdirectory to enter.  Find all our social media links and the terms & conditions of the giveaway on our site here.
Pyramid purse sewing project

If you haven't made anything from the site yet there are plenty of quick and easy projects you could make over the weekend.  Our free projects can be found here.  I made the pyramid purse pictured above the other morning, it only took 20 mins and is ideal for storing wonder clips.

The closing date is 6pm on Thursday so don't leave it too long to enter.  There are 2 lamps to be won.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Star Wars Overnight bag

I haven't sewn much in February, I've been ill for weeks on end with a bad sinus infection which left me so tired I didn't feel like sewing.  Thankfully the infection has now cleared so I spent this afternoon finishing off a bag for my son that I started a few weeks ago.  He loves BB8 (the round robot thing) from Star Wars so I found a couple fabrics with it on from Frumble to make him this bag for when we go on holiday next month.

The pattern is from Debbie Shore's new book Sew Brilliant Bags which has some fab bag projects in it.  This is just one of several I want to try.  The thing I loved about this one is it's made from fat quarters (5 of them), I have so many fat quarters I'm always looking for ways to use them up. It's fairly simple as bags go, it doesn't require any specialist tools or hardware, just fabric, foam, a large zip and bias binding.  It does suggest a foam board bag base but I didn't include that in mine as I don't have any and it seems fine without.

I used double sided In-R-Form Bosal foam for the structute, which I've never tried before. The fact it was adhesive on both side meant I had to change the way I made the bag a little, I also swapped the rope handles for fabric handles.

The foam was nice and thick so gave the bag loads of body. It did make it tricky when sewing the seams when putting the bag together because I struggled to get it under the needle.  The one bit I really struggled with was binding the seams at the end.  Partially because the layers of foam made it hard to get under the needle and partially because the bulk of the bag made it difficult to fit.  Plus the weight of the bag meant it kept pulling the fabric out from under the needle.

The picture above is one of the better bits of binding, and even that is wobbly.  I had to unpick several times and some of it looks pretty awful.  But on the plus side it's all on the inside of the bag so no one will know how bad it looks!   If I made the bag again I might overlock stitch the seams instead so I only have to fit the very edge under the foot or hand sew the binding.  The other thing I was considering was to use fusible fleece instead of foam because then it won't be so thick but then it would lose some of the structure.

There are a few other bags I want to try from this book, there are lots of great ideas in it.  Plus it reminded me I ought to dig out her Sew Useful book as there was lots I wanted to make in there too. Overall I'm happy with the bag, it's bigger than I thought it would be which is great and very sturdy thanks to the foam.  It's just a shame that the binding on the inside isn't as nice as I'd like it to be, but that's down to me not the pattern.

We've added a few new bag projects to the site this month if you fancy making your own bag:

A spacious bucket bag from Helen Rhiannon

Plus a useful messenger bag project from Becky Skuse

We also have lots of other bag projects here for you to choose from.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Bag Making

One of the things I want to do more of in 2016 is bag making.  I've started the year off by making 3 new bags, a handbag, oversized tote and shopping bag.  I also plan to make an overnight bag, a camera bag, more shopping bags, a couple of big bags for carrying sewing supplies to group or class.

Campfire Messenger Bag

The first bag I made, which actually I made end of last year over Christmas was a new handbag - Noodlehead's Campfire Messenger.  I spent about a year trying to find the perfect bag pattern!  I like a smaller cross body bag and one with lots of pockets too.  I also like there to be a zip closing the main compartment so nothing falls out if I fling it around! Plus a large pocket at the back of the bag which will fit a book in as I often carry a book with me. 

Rear book pocket

This bag had a lot of pockets and included some techniques I hadn't tried before but I did find the instructions were easy to follow.  It took me a full weekend, lots of cutting and interfacing then lots of sewing too.  I used Tua Pink fabrics from Black Sheep Wools for the flap, rear pocket and lining.  For the main fabric I wanted something a bit more durable and heavier weight than quilting cotton so I used a sparkly star print canvas fabrics from UHandbag.

Under the flap
  I did have one issue which I contacted Anna at Noodlehead about, my gusset ended up being about an inch to short.  If you look carefully at the image above you'll see the binding around the top dips down on the left, it's the same on the right too.  It made it very difficult to bind around the top.  Anna did talk me through it and it looks like it must have been a cutting mistake.  She was very helpful and sent me step by step photos to show how it should have gone together.

The second bag I made was an oversized tote bag.  I received a free piece of faux leather with my Simply Sewing magazine and was trying to think of what to make with it.  A few days later I visited my local wool mill, Cold Harbour Mill, where they make their own tartan fabric.  They had an open day so I could look around and see how the wool was made, and how it was made into fabric.  I ended up buying half a metre of the Devon Blue Tartan and realised when I got home it went perfectly with the faux leather.

I didn't use a pattern, I just made it up as I went along, using the faux leather to decide on the side of the bag.  I lined it and added several pockets inside, and used some gorgeous leather handles from Sew Christine.  As much as I love the bag I don't think I'll use it that much so I'm going to gift it to a family member who will get much more use from it than me.

The last bag I made with a single layer (unlined) shopping bag.  I use these instead of carrier bags, and keeping them single layer means they roll up neatly to fit in my handbag.  I was approached by a new company called Kallosphere who make bespoke acrylic templates.  So you send them a design and they cut it for you in a solid reusable template (brilliant for quilting, or any designs you make repeatedly).

I fancied making a bag with woodland animals on so I found so I sent them outlines of the woodland animals that I wanted.  They then took those designs, they tweaked them to make them into shapes which would work well as templates.  They sent me the designs to give my feedback, and after tweaking a couple of things we had the final designs.  A few days later my templates arrived in the post.  I was impressed by how thick and sturdy they are, they will survive years of use.

I wrote up a tutorial for the bag here, you can make it with or without the applique. It's well worth making a few of these, it'll save you a fortune on carrier bags.  Plus fabric is pretty strong, they'll carry lots of weight.

I haven't quite decided which bag to make next but I'm considering this one which is from Debbie Shore's new book Sew Brilliant Bags.  I love that it uses fat quarters, I have hundreds to pick from!  I reckon it'd make a great weekender bag.   It's either that or a camera bag, I have a fab pattern for one from Sew Sweetness waiting to be used.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Look back on 2015

2015 was a pretty epic year!  There was a lot of change, and a lot achieved.  The biggest change of all was taking on a business partner after 5+ years of running The Sewing Directory alone.  Former Sewing World editor Julie Briggs joined in April and from that point on I was able to work part time and suddenly had time free for other things!

Most of those other things consisted of sewing!  One of the things I'm most proud of is making my Tula Pink sampler quilt (top right), it took forever (about 4 months) but I do love it.  I've also done several Instagram swaps (the pouches are for one of them).  I've made lots of stuff for my son, and even some things for me.  Next year I'm going to try and make more for friends and family if I have time, I also still have lots of I want to make for myself too.

One thing I wanted to get into this year was bag making and as you'll see above I've managed to make a few but there's several more on my to do list.  I also got hooked on making 1 hr baskets and owl sewing buddies, I'm sure there will be more of them in my future.

Something I want to conquer next year is free motion embroidery.  I had a go at teaching myself over Christmas and this was my second picture (above), not too bad for a beginner I reckon but I want to get in lots more practice and improve.

One other thing I did a lot of with my new free time was reading!  I was aiming for a book a week, 52 books in total.  I hit that by the summer and I've now just finished book 134!  I should be around 136 by the end of the year.

Plus not only did I read a lot but I also wrote a lot, I started my second book in November and I'm 70,000 words in now!  My new book is not a craft or business book like my last one, it's fiction, a thriller.  I don't have a publisher for it at the moment so no idea whether it will ever make it into print but I'm enjoying the process plus it's even got sewing in it!

Speaking of my other book, Craft a Creative Business, it got published in the USA and many other countries in early 2015.  Plus it went to a second print run early this year!  It's kind of surreal to think that people all around the world are reading my book, Japan, India, Australia, Canada, all over the place!  Plus despite being on sale in the UK for over a year now it's still in the top 20 of the starting a business chart on Amazon, sometimes even top 10.

I don't know how many copies have sold yet, I only get a statement once a year but I should find out next month :)
The other thing I'm really proud of this year is how much we have achieved with The Sewing Directory.  Having an extra pair of hands working on the site has made a huge difference, we've gone through and revamped tons of older content and added huge amounts of new projects, features and techniques. 

We're up to almost 100,000 visitors a month and have some brilliant things lined up for 2016.  Plus if you haven't seen it yet we have a fab Christmas giveaway running with Weaver Dee, you can win a new sewing machine plus a leather sewing case.  Details here.

So how did your 2015 go?  What have you got planned for 2016?  Any projects in mind, new skills you want to learn?

Hope you all have a fabulous 2016!

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