Old School Techniques


This week my good friend and I met again for our monthly get-together and did some sewing and a lot of talking. Her Mum was down from the country for the week so she joined us and I learnt a really good old school technique; but more about that later…

At the beginning of this crazy ‘learn to sew’ adventure I started a year ago I bought this gadget online from the USA called a Yo-Yo Maker because it makes cute little material flowers from scraps of left over material. (God only knows what I thought I was going to make with it!). So a year after purchasing it I actually opened the package this week and attempted to use it. A few things I discovered:

1.  One and a quarter inch yo-yos are way too small to do anything decent with (in my opinion that is!)

2. A Yo-Yo is the American term, a Suffolk Puff is the British term

3. You don’t need a Yo-Yo Maker to do it – in fact I think it’s just as easy to do it by hand. It’s so easy that I have created a tutorial here.

I decided to make some hair ties for my little girl and her cousins so I collected a few pieces of scrap material from the scrap box and cut out some circles and got to work hand stitching. You basically do a running tack stitch around the outside of the circle and then pull the thread to make it gather, tie it off and then sew the hole closed…. when I did my first one I thought “Gee that doesn’t look right at all!”. So my mums friend had a look and told me that the problem was that I had not folded over the edge. So simple but being a beginner I didn’t think of this. Once I folded over the edge it made the world of difference to the finished product.

Elizabeth is 63 years old; has sewn all her life and has passed her knowledge onto her daughter. She can sew anything – and I mean anything; regardless of the level of difficulty! She just takes one look at something and can copy it. She has a real talent. Elizabeth grabbed my failed Suffolk Puff and said “Look you just fold over the edge, crease it and then sew”. Most of us today would use an iron and carefully fold over the edge and then press it with an iron but Elizabeth just folds it over, creases it in-between her thumb and index finger and carries on around the circle. She told me her grandmother taught her to do it this way and that she had always found it to be very effective. So I tried it and it really does work! And to be perfectly honest you would never know that I haven’t used an iron. I like to keep things simple and this certainly is a lot more simple (quicker and easier) than using an iron. It’s certainly worth a try and it even means that I can now make them on the train on the way home because I don’t need the iron anymore!

Sweet don’t you think?




Screen Printing


A few weeks ago a good friend of mine asked me if I would be interested in doing a screen printing course with her. To be totally honest I wasn’t really interested because I once did it at uni (back in 1997) and hated every moment of it but for some reason I decided to say ‘yes’ and give it a second chance. I have to admit that I loved every minute of it! Lucy and I took Saffron Craig’s course held at Material Obsession in Drummoyne. From the minute I walked into the room I had a good feeling about the day. Saffron was a delightful teacher, full of knowledge on the techniques of screen printing, colour and fabrics. She certainly was a wealth of information!

I turned up to the class very unprepared. Partly from lack of time and partly because we weren’t told to bring anything with us or do any prior research. Ten minutes into the class we were asked what we might like to screen print! My girlfriend Lucy had come prepared with an image she wanted to print – I had no idea what to do. I decided to do something for my baby girls room. She seems to have a bird theme going on so I came up with a simple bird & tree motif to screen print. So I grabbed a pencil and a piece of paper and sketched it up quickly, (and I have to say surprised myself and how quickly I came up with something not too bad…. am I allowed to admit that???!!). Below are a few shots of the process.




I have to admit that I was thrilled with the final product. I am going to turn it into a cushion and embellish the design with felt & stitching…. but this will happen over the course of the next month or two so you might have to wait a few weeks to see the final product!

If anyone is interested in attending Saffrons class I can highly recommend it! Saffron travels all over Australia offering her classes from the big cities right out to little country towns. Grab a group of friends and give it a go – I’ll guarentee you’ll thoroughly enjoy every minute of it! Thanks Saffron – a nice way to spend a day! (Oh and thanks Luc for the inspiration to give it a second go!!)


(Above: the beginning of my print coming together)


(Above: firstly I decided to do the trunk as an outline but didn’t like it so on the next piece of cloth I blocked out the trunk)


(Above: and here is the final product)


Verb: to gather (an area of fabric or part of a garment) by means of drawn or elasticized threads in parallel rows (Oxford Dictionary)

My four year old daughter has been at me for months now to make her a shirred dress. I’ve tried many times to explain to her that it’s probably a bit beyond my capabilities at this early stage of learning to sew but she just won’t give up. So over the past couple of days I have done some research on how one shirrs. I had a good look over the internet and also went to Tessuti Fabrics for some guidance (the ladies there are always more than happy to offer advice!). I worked out all I needed was some elastic thread, (sometimes called Shirring Elastic) that you can pick up for about three dollars (for 20 meters) and of course your sewing machine. You hand wind the elastic thread onto your bobbin head applying a little tension as you wind, thread your machine with normal cotton thread and then start sewing. In theory it sounds very easy; but I’ll reserve my opinion on this until I actually try it in just a moment.

The first line:


The second line:


The third line:


And a final touch; a good hit of steam from the iron to get the final effect:


Well I have to admit that really was quite easy to do! Really the machine did it all for me. So now for the real challenge… can I make my daughter a cute maxi dress with a shirred top? I’ll give it a go over the next few days (or maybe a week knowing my capabilities). Wish me luck! I’ll need it!!!

Sewing Paper


The house is a complete disaster; what I should really be doing right now is getting the house in order but I’ve decided I need some time-out so I’m just going to leave it for the moment to try something new on my machine.

An update on my last idea; sewing my husbands initials on one of his good shirts didn’t work out. I worked out how to do it on the machine and did a few test runs on a scrap piece of fabric. The quality wasn’t good enough so I decided to just leave it. I have used the machine feature though to name the kids clothing and cot sheets for daycare which is really handy; no more iron on name tags that keep falling off!

Anyway back to todays little idea. As a kid one of my favourite books was Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley. My Mum very kindly kept the book so I could hand it down to my kids which I did but they have now destroyed it so I thought maybe I could make something with the pages by sewing the paper with my machine – I figured it would at least be worth trying ….. so here’s my crafty little idea that came up quite nicely I think.

1. What You Will Need

– Pair of scissors

– Piece of paper or cardboard

– Double sided tape

– Paper clip or dog clip

– Old book

– Nice colourful paper; I’ve chosen a scrapbooking piece of paper that I picked up at Eckersleys

– Box frame; you can find them cheap at IKEA

2. Instructions

– Cut out a heart on the cardboard or plain piece of paper (I just used a piece of paper). This will be your heart template so that all the hearts are the same size and shape.

– Take out four pages from your book and clip it together with a dog clip so that the pages stay together when you start to cut.

Trace & Cut

– Place the heart shape on the top of the pages and cut around it. Repeat this three times.


– Now repeat the step above but this time do it with the colourful paper you have chosen.

– Using your sewing machine and some extra spare pages from the book test the tension of the machine on the paper. I had a tension of 3 which worked perfectly.

Check tension

– Once you are happy with the tension sew down the centre of heart. Repeat this four times.

Hearts sewn

– Put some double sided tape on the back of each heart bundle and then stick to the backing board of the frame. (Originally I attached the hearts to a white piece of paper that just came with the box frame but after hanging it I decided it was a bit dull so I replaced the paper with some more lovely scrapbooking paper).

Double sided tape

– Close up the frame and you’re done! Easy!


When I was discussing my idea with a few friends that sew they all said that you couldn’t sew on paper; well ladies I can tell you now that you can… and it’s very easy too! You should give it a try. I think all up it took me about 20 minutes to make and would make a lovely gift for my daughters friends… we have a party to go to this weekend so I might just sit down now and make up a second one to take as a gift to the party.

Best Friends

Sew La Tea DoI’m not really sure what I’d do without my bestie. We’ve been best of friends since high school, nowadays we are separated by distance but we remain the absolute best of friends. It’s our birthdays in July and today I received an early gift! (I have to admit I haven’t started thinking about what I could buy her because I’m hoping I can find something lovely on my holidays). I could tell by the feel of the present that it was a book – and she usually gives me a good book but this was bigger and heavier than normal. When I opened it I was so touched, she had bought me the most gorgeous book called ‘Sew La Tea Do’ by Pip Lincolne. So much thought had gone into her gift, I’ve only just discovered this big world of sewing and she can tell that I’m really enjoying it so has thought of something that relates to my new found hobby.

Sew La Tea Do is a fabulous book that has 25 different things to make; most of it sewing related but there is the odd sneaky little recipe in there too! The book comes with really clear step-by-step instructions backed up with photos and also all the patterns! I can highly recommend it to anyone, beginner or not – I think it would appeal to all.

When I called to thank her she told me that Pip (the author) has a great shop in Melbourne called Meet Me At Mikes, and also has a blog (some of you no doubt will be interested in her blog!)

What now?!?

I’ve had my new Phaff Ambition sitting on my work desk now for a few days, I look at it every time I go into the study and wonder ‘What the hell now?!?’.

Exactly where does one start when one has no idea what to do with such a machine? I’ve decided today that I am going to sit down and try and teach myself how to at least thread the thing so that I can give myself even the slightest chance of being able to sew something. I figure the best bet is to open up the manual and see if it gives good enough step-by-step instructions on what one needs to do in order to get the machine ready to start sewing.

Finally once I get my head around all the new jargon I realise it’s really not that difficult at all. The machine looks so much more complicated that what it really is. The manual provides great instructions and before I knew it I had the machine threaded (bobbin and all) in no time.

The few people I knew that can actually sew have told me to just play around on the machine a bit; meaning get some off cuts and attempt to sew in a straight line, sew around a bend and even turn a corner. I decide to hell with that; let’s just get sewing straight away!!!! I’m far from afraid of making mistakes, I figure if I make a mistake I can either unpick the work or just buy some more fabric and start all over again.

I decide that I’ll give bunting a try…. I’ve absolutely no idea how to do it but I figure if I go to a fabric shop and ask for some instructions no doubt someone will be able to help. I’ve been told bunting is Sewing 101.

Off to the fabric shop I go!!!