Spiderman and Invisibility (or how to quilt with invisible thread)

The thing about having a wee boy is that despite having all the loveliest fabrics imaginable and an itch to try out some really complex and beautiful quilting designs (Kaleidoscope quilt anyone?), your child will look at you, big brown eyes shining and say “Will you make me a Spiderman quilt, Mummy?” And then will proceed to pick out two almost identical, but crucially apparently NOT THE SAME, equally busy and very Spidermanny fabrics for front and back respectively. It’s done, he loves it and his mummy, I kept the fabric whole and added a border – it’s not in itself worth a blog post… except perhaps for the quilting.



This is the “back” of the quilt where you can see the quilting. I chose to do loop and star quilting as Kiddo loves it, having seen it on a quilt I made for another wee boy; I can attest that it is much easier the second time round – once you get your head round it it seems it’s a piece of cake! I showed how to do loop and star quilting (on paper) here if you needed any pointers:


But on the front of the quilt I used invisible thread:


Looking at the other side (which is not invisible) now, I am not sure I needed to bother. But I was concerned about the busyness of the print clashing with the quilting thread and it all looking like a giant mess. Especially as one side was very dark (the other had more white/light blue and grey in it). But for whatever reason, I chose invisible thread, and it certainly looks cleaner, but with subtle texture and pattern.


That’s the side quilted with invisible thread and the next is the side quilted in a pale blue:


The difference is more noticeable in real life! (isn’t it always?)

Anyway, this is the second time I used invisible thread, the first being on a project for Kiddo’s school last year when I made a quilt from the children’s drawings (but camera failure deleted the photos – arrrrggggh), and for which invisible thread was pretty important. At that time, I trawled through blogs and websites to try and get some understanding on how to use it, and made notes. Notes which I followed again with success again, so if only for myself I thought I would write them here too!

NB. *Apologies for not being able to credit the sources, but it was last year and I read quite a lot of articles about it… A google search will bring up all my sources! I do remember a newsletter from Barnyarns being really helpful – they are so knowledgeable about threads and notions! And it is where I got my thread. *



How to Quilt with Invisible Thread

  1. Invisible thread is either nylon (A.K.A. polyamide) or polyester. Polyester sews more like very fine thread and won’t melt as easily with an iron, so I decided to use it. I have some nylon invisible thread and it feels stiff, a bit more like wire but some folk prefer it apparently. The thread I used is called Superior MonoPoly clear very fine polyester, from Barnyarns. I used this as my top thread. It’s superfine but my Janome handled it easily.
  2. You CANNOT use invisible thread in your bobbin. It will stretch, break and tangle inside your machine. The tension would be all over the place even as you wind it. You need a very fine but strong polyester. I used The Bottom Line by Libby Lehrman for Superior Threads in my bobbin (I think Barnyarns recommended it as I got it from there too!) and it worked really well. It’s very fine (a 60 weight), but strong and I had no problems. You could try a 50 weight too but probably nothing thicker (the bigger the number, the finer the thread).
  3. Because invisible thread is a monofilament (one strand, not 2 or 3 ply), it is extremely fine (and stretchy). This means you need a very fine, very sharp needle. the thread will not expand to fill the hole made by a needle, unlike normal quilting thread, so you need a really fine needle like a size 70/10. If that’s not small enough try a size 60 (the smaller the number the finer the needle!). For sharpness use a microtex or a topstitch needle. I tried both and both worked well. I might say to go with a topstitch needle if you pushed me, but I doubt there’s a big difference. A 70/10 topstich needle was fine for me.
  4. I only free-motion quilted but I assume this next info is true for straight line quilting too. Turn the tension on your machine right down. because of the stretch, a normal tension will stretch and snap the thread. If your stitches are looking very very shiny and thin you will need to lower the tension even more. Experiment. On my Janome I had to reduce the tension to a 2.

and hopefully that’s it! Otherwise it was just like quilting with normal thread, and it feels like normal thread now it’s quilted.

I actually really like the thinness of the 60 wt bobbin thread too even though I usually only use 50 wt cotton – you can see the quilting but not too prominently (below). I need to do more experimenting!


Phew! Hope that helps if you want to have a go with invisible thread, obviously there are loads of other options, I’m just saying what worked for me as I didn’t have any problems, but feel free to comment if you have any thoughts or experience with using invisible thread!

Happy sewing/crafting/drawing/art-making/life-making all.

Until the next time, Poppy xx




A close-to-the-wire Christmas stocking for Emily

Just about managed to get this stocking made in time for Christmas for my friend’s little daughter:


See that pink fabric there? My friend was eyeing up a couple of my charm packs, so we decided to do a fabric swap . I couldn’t believe she so happily and readily was prepared to let this go, I just LOVE it. I am looking to make myself a new “carry-all” bag, although in truth, I am managing fine these days now Kiddo is school age – I’ll definitely need one before the summer though. Anyway I had thought I’d love to make a bag from it… now I wonder if it’s too girly, so it might not happen – doesn’t stop me being utterly in love with it though! It’s from the “love and Joy” collection by Dena Designs. Alison doesn’t really notice who made or what are the fabrics unless she looks for them specifically online –  but tons of her stash fabrics are Dena Designs; she must instinctively really love her style. And no wonder.


And no wonder it looks great on this Christmas stocking – it is apparently a festive collection! It’s lined with the same. I batted it for structure and strength with W+N cotton batting. Wanna see some close-ups?


This is the little penguin close up. I first made him when I was making our antenatal class children their first Christmas presents, and he looks mostly the same now, although my stockings have become more refined (you can see them on my Flickr stream if you like in the “fabric goodness for children” album). In fact this little girl is one of the younger, newer siblings from that same antenatal group! These guys get more attention; I have more time now that Kiddo isn’t a baby anymore!


I just freehand cut felt and sew the shapes on where I want in matching thread. I usually choose nice simple shapes for felt applique and let the bright colours do the talking!


Once you see that it’s all simple shapes, it doesn’t look that difficult does it?  It’s not. It takes time, but I love sewing in front of the TV, so this suits me down to the ground. In fact next year I’m going to do more handsewing if I can.

My favourite bit is embellishing with perle 8 cottons. Once I realised how simple it is to do some running stitches and backstitches in perle 8s to embellish my applique and give it some depth and texture, I have really looked forward to this step! I used a bit of perle cuteness on whatever I could this time.image

The letters have Steam-a-seam 2 fusible web underneath unlike the rest – I figure they would be the most difficult to repair if they came off. And of course you can draw the letters on in reverse, you can’t really freehand cut letters unless you want that look (I did on the original stockings I made). This is the strongest web I have found – but even so I stitched round the letters. Despite the difficulty in getting the needle through the glue – you do get a bit of needle gumminess. But it would be awful for the name to be dropping off on a stocking. Like a run-down shop.


Finally a cute little hanging ribbon. This bit of ribbon tied up a fabric bundle I once got – it’s sweet but there’s not much of it. I’m glad it’s gone to good use!


There it is, ready for a sweet little girl. If you flick back through my previous posts you’ll see she’s already got a quilt from me when she was born, and an applique cushion – she is going to grow up surrounded by things I’ve made her – that’s a nice feeling 🙂


If you want to see my previous, similar-but-not-the-same stockings, see these posts here:


and here:


Meanwhile – Happy Christmas to you all! Wishing us all a peaceful and cosy family one; and a happy healthy 2015.

Till the next time, Poppy xx

See you after Christmas – and possibly even into 2015 – where is time going??

Tug boat cushion for a little boy

My craft fair went amazingly well, I’m so thrilled! In fairness, the tiny school PTA had asked a variety of wonderful craftspeople to come, and had used social media brilliantly to advertise and people came with money and expecting to buy stuff, which was great, none of that “expecting something for nothing”, not that my products are expensive as I’m only trying to fund my crazy sewing habit. Almost everything sold, the cushions and liberty pouches proving very popular. I had another commission though which I’ve just finished:


Angus’ mother lives in Australia but her mother lives locally, so after seeing the caravan cushions (in the last post) on facebook, she got her mother to come and buy three for her daughters! But then begged for one for her son, so here it is.

This photograph on google was the inspiration for this little boat (http://www.berkeley-engineering.com/CanduE-Z.html) :


The stars fabrics are local shop basics, but designer ones are: Boat cabin is polka dots in Navy by Makower, boat stripe fabric is from Pirate Matey by Riley Blake, Flag is from Space from Makower, First full flag is from Going Coastal by Emily Herrick and the third one is also from Pirate Matey from Riley Blake.

I really hope she likes it. I wonder if I should have made the little tug a tiny bit smaller – if I make it again I think I will do that.


Raw-edge applique is a fun and quite easy technique, where the black thread looks like a child’s drawing and adds a whimsical air. If anything I struggle not to be too neat! I probably should have been less neat here. I think if you do free-motion quilting it’s pretty straightforward. Even writing with the machine was fine – I’m not saying it’s perfect but it’s fine enough I think. One thing I found was that unlike with free-motion quilting, I had more control doing this WITHOUT dropping my feed dogs. Just in case anyone else struggles a bit with their line sometimes and that rattatat-tat of the needle going so fast and all over the place!

These were the other caravan cushions she chose (the three on the right):


It has been reallly fun to make pictures with fabric – not something I do much of. I might need to do a bit more experimenting!

Well, a few more things to sew up – it’s always so difficult to say no!) and then a well needed rest for me I think!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Bartholomeow’s Reef Bermuda Baby Boy Quilt

Oh my gosh I love this quilt. There are really not that many options for baby boy quilt collections which will grow with a child, but by bingo, this one checks all the boxes. I have never said “by bingo” in all my days before now – it must be special.


I adore simple patchwork quilts – but particularly for heirloom quilts. My sister-in-law’s friend saw the one I made for my nephew Rufus here :


and apparently has been desperate throughout her pregnancy for one herself. I don’t know her as they live in Bermuda (!), but I can never refuse my gorgeous sis-in-law anything, and once the baby was born and duly named Matthew and not Rosie, I knew what collection I wanted to use. Especially in the sun – check out the colours even in the Scottish sun:


My sister-in-law takes her quilts everywhere as a clean surface for the beach, grass or home for the kids and I guess her friend wanted to do the same. Now that she has received it, I can finally wax lyrical about this gorgeous collection.


It is called Bartholomeow’s Reef by Tim & Beck for Moda, and features sweet but not too babyish little sea-life illustrations – waves, anchors, stars and a cute print with some characters on it – walruses and whales and such cuteness – all amongst bright geometric prints so that the overall effect will suit a 10 year old as much as a baby or toddler.

I backed it in this lovely monkey print by Dear Stella. It’s so sweet and the colours suit the front whilst giving an alternative theme on the reverse:


They just look so much like my skinny active cheerful 4 year old boy! No mother of a small boy could look at this print and not grin with something akin to fondness. Watching my boy climb up the stair bannister, just because it’s there, leaves me in no doubt how related we are to our ape cousins!


I used 100% cotton batting – Quilter’s Dream of course – with no scrims, binders or chemicals I just adore it and feel it’s the safest most natural choice for children. That or Dream Orient, but I didn’t think they needed the extra warmth in Bermuda!

So… the quilting. In the last few months, I was showing my friend how to free motion quilt and demonstrating some of the patterns she could use. At which point I realised that, despite my new year’s resolution, I had been putting off using a non-stipple on my quilts for fear of not doing a good enough job – but actually my quilting looked OK. So since then I have done a few. The first was the Jewel Box Quilt of a couple of posts back with loop-de-loop quilting here:


 (https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/97092626787/jewel-box-quilt-in-tapestry-fabrics-from-2-charm)  – where the quilting really showed up because I used a wool batt which has a higher loft.

I decided to try a loop and star pattern for the Bartholomeow’s Reef quilt – I think this picture shows it best:


It was fairly enjoyable to do – I had to concentrate harder than for stippling – whether that’s because I have done about 50 stippled quilts (when on earth did that happen?!)or because it’s more difficult, I don’t honestly know. And it took tons more thread – but it wasn’t as difficult as you would think. My problem was that once I had finished, I really struggled with the non-regularity of it compared to a stipple. I really worried that she wouldn’t like it. I had to literally show it to everyone that would look, who all said it looked great, suited a child’s quilt, and added another dimension to the quilt that I relaxed. I think I wasn’t used to looking at non-stippled quilts! We don’t get much free-motion quilting in the UK although straight-line quilted quilts are starting to take off here. Really it was when my boy saw it and pounced on all the quilted stars fascinated, folowing the lines with his wee finger to the next one that I really did relax! Now I’m so glad I did it – and the recipient loves it!

This is a quick paper sketch of how it’s done, quite straightforward, some loop-de-loops and then a 5-lined star followed by more loop de loops. Start with loop-de-loop of different sized loops:


Do an extra long line:


make another line as if you were going to do a triangle:


but don’t close the triangle, continue the star like this:


Finally return to the beginning and continue some loop de loops. FIll the page, I mean area of fabric, with more of the same putting stars at intervals.


It pays to practice this one on paper I found, although I usually don’t have the patience for a lot of practice, I figure I can practice on the job! And again I did more practice on a couple of quilt sandwiches on the machine before doing it on my quilt as there is something which my brain found visio-spatially weird whilst doing the stars. I had to think less about it by the end of the quilt. It’s a sweet look for kids, but it definitely makes a statement I thought. The hubster said “well, it’s a very SUBTLE statement…” Which makes me think that only quilters really see all these details lit up in neon like the aisle lighting in an aeroplane…


I bound the quilt in this lovely stripe from Pirates by Riley Blake, which I really love. The colours were perfect for this collection and you can’t really beat a stripey binding. I used the navy wave pattern to cut the letters, steam-a-seam 2 to attach and sewed round by hand to secure. You apparently don’t need to with steam-a-seam, but I would hate the letters to come off. The steam-a-seam prevents fraying though, or at least prevents a lots of fraying. I have seen the results of much washing and it does work 🙂

The delighted mum sent me a gorgeous picture of her baby son gurgling away looking very happy and handsome on his quilt, and much as I’m dying to show it to you, the programmer Hubster who has banned any photos of Kiddo on our blogs (he blogs about creative programming solutions, it’s all symbols and looks like a zillion lines of a massive expletive to me) – well he would have a FIT. But I can assure you that this quilt is in good hands.


So perfectly little boy!

Now, whether I can stop myself making Kiddo a larger version of this quilt I’m not sure. Meanwhile, I’ll look at its rolled up-sunshiney, stripey bound picture and smile. Or maybe that’s because of the Liberty behind it. Ahhhhh, Liberty.


Until the next time, lovely creative peeps, have a fun time whatever you’re up to,

Poppy xx

Wee Wednesday

Wee make day today!

I’ve been busy! 5 cute zip purses for my friend’s children and cousins:


Fabrics: Tortoises by Dashwood Studios, tossed mini owls in pink by Timeless Treasures, Main Forla pink from Madhuri collection by The Quilted Fish for Riley Blake, Baby bunting in grey from Reunion by Sweetwater for Moda, Bottle caps in multi from Going Coastal by Emily Herrick.

These are great for little pockets or school bags; and in different fabrics, I love them for jeans on a girlie night out, perfect for a card and some cash without spoiling the line of your beautiful figure  – because all figures are beautiful except when they have a big bulge in the pocket…

In fact here are a couple that might be more suitable for grown ups:


The news has been so tense and somewhat depressing in Scotland recently, that I decided to have a giveaway to my facebook friends – 4 people picked from anyone who posted something positive got one of these. It was actually really fun, and lovely to send them off today! If I ever launch a Cuckooblue Facebook page I’m definitely doing giveaways. They might make you out of pocket, but they do cheer your day immensely!

Toiletry bag and purse fabric is from Riley Blake’s Sidewalks, Blue Paisley from Delilah by Tanya Whelan. All lightly padded with pretty linings of course:


I use stripes for lining the boys’ money pouches (they don’t have purses of course!), but they also make very smart exteriors:


Harris Tweed Toiletry bag for my friend’s 40th. It is lined with a stiff natural canvas with such a tight weave that it is waterproof. Waterproof is important becasue Harris Tweed should really be dry-cleaned. It makes it lovely and sturdy:


And finally, for my friend’s daughter’s 8th birthday:



It only has some iron-on interfacing, and no hardware (buckles etc), which keeps it nice and light, perfect for the slip of a girl that she is. The tie top makes it great for adjusting as she grows too, and means she can use it cross-body or over her shoulder. I forgot to measure but it can only be about 10” across. In fact I also made one at the same time for another friend’s daughter’s 5th birthday who needs a wheelchair, and I thought she could tie it to her chair, or round her waist, whtever was easiest. This is actually that one as it has a magnetic snap for ease of access for a little one – the other has a zip closure.

I based it on this tutorial which I had used when I first started sewing bags and wasn’t designing my own, just because I still had the template from all those years ago – I made it smaller and pieced the straps to avoid cutting so much fabric, but it’s otherwise the same: 


Phew, there is more, but how many purses and washbags can you look at, pretty fabric or not? And I made a quilt for a little boy – which I LOVE… but will show you another day.

Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by! Hope your creative muse is inspiring you and that you’re having fun whatever you’re up to.

‘Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Rescuing a quilt for a friend

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a big quilt, kindly held up yet again by my ever-patient and rather indulgent husband… no this is a tiny baby quilt about 30” square, held by a small 4 year old boy who liked the idea of doing Daddy’s job.


My good friend has started quilting which has been great for me who can now chatter about fabrics and blocks for hours with someone real rather than virtual – I know, it’s like some kind of old-fashioned idyll isn’t it! Anyway, she decided to make a baby quilt for her neighbour using a Riley Blake stacker called Scenic Route. 


So anyone NOT been caught out by the way that Riley Blake 5” stackers have 18 – 25 charm squares max compared to Moda’s 42 in their charm packs? Yeah well, well done if you haven’t. I got stung once (that’s all it takes) – and it seems Alison has just been through that rite of passage.  She decided on the disappearing nine patch which I blogged here: https://cuckooblue.co.uk/post/89599354437/the-nine-patch-disappears-tutorial-and-layouts. But needed more charm squares, so I cut her a few from stash and scrap – Moda’s tweet tweet, makower’s space, moda’s summersville, Moda’s reunion, Riley Blake’s Pirates and a few more. I chose brighter colours as I was concerned that Scenic Route’s colours were pale and might just all fade into the white she intended to use. She did a great job making accurate blocks, and sewed it together…

And hated it.

Hated everything about it. Her love for the fabrics together, pattern, everything had just gone. When I went over for coffee, she couldn’t even bear to look at it, just wanted it gone so she could do something else, but was aware of the money she’d spent and the fact she had wanted to do something for the new baby. She refused to unpick it – just wanted nothing to do with it. After we decided to dump a couple of the blocks to make it square, I said I’d take it as a fresh pair of eyes, and see what I could do.

This is it on my sewing table.


It’s really easy to lose the love for a project I think. Sometimes you spend so long in the thinking and choosing of fabrics and have been so excited by it that when it doesn’t turn out as you had envisaged you can come crashing down and lose all enthusiasm for the whole thing. I have definitely been there.

Looking at it objectively, there are some sweet fabrics. The colours haven’t been spread over the top that evenly – mainly the orange, but it’s not awful. The fabrics are too far spaced by all that white to be coherent together, they need to be tied together somehow. The biggest problem for me is the low contrast with the white – and that on such a small quilt, this D9P pattern doesn’t look finished. I think you probably do need to use strong colours when using this much white.

Anyway, I decided on a strong border, which ties in all the colours, and had a lovely piece of fabric from Riley Blake’s Pirates in green, white, brown and blue. I added 2.5” borders:


And it definitely improved the quilt I thought. I had wondered if it needed more work, but then decided the border did the trick. I used Quilters Dream Orient batting and a fairly loose meander to help keep the little quilt soft and cuddly – I find dense quilting on a small quilt can make it too stiff. I think a free motion pattern helps to add texture and movement to a simple quilt made with squares, rather than using straight line quilting, don’t you?




The back is a cotton print from Ikea – they used to sell 3 wide width metres on a ream for £5.50 or something. When I saw they discontinued it, I bought the last 2 reams they had. Sadly I only have enough left for one more toddler quilt. But I think it looks great on this one anyway, I hope this little lad grows to like it!


I just bound it in the same border fabric. It’s really great how it matches so well with so many of the colours in the quilt.

I gave it to Alison today, and she was SO thrilled. She loved it! I must say, the colours are not my ideal, but she was so thrilled. It just goes to show that sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference. And that the emotion can sometimes blind you. I guess if she had put it away she would have done the same thing in the end, but she was feeling the pressure of the baby arriving any minute! It’s why it’s so lovely to have other sewing friends to help out in those moments.


I wonder if I should get out one or two of my hidden away projects I lost enthusiasm for and look at them again… Or give them to Alison 😉

Hope your creative mojo is all good! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Anyone else need to shorten sweatshirt sleeves? A life-hack tutorial

So I appreciate this is a massive step away from what I normally blog about, but anyway, this is what I did today that made me feel proud:


Seriously. What do mums do if sewing isn’t their thing? 4 year old Kiddo is starting school in 2 weeks; he’s a tall enough but a wiry little kid rather than a solid/ chunky wee man. Meanwhile his school sweatshirts come in size 3-4 and then 5-6. What the?! Isn’t there a whole age they missed out there? The 3-4 was too tight for him to get on and off himself, so I got the 5-6 and convinced myself he would grow. A lot. In 2 months.

He hasn’t.

He’s played, he’s eaten (well as much as he’s ever going to), he’s slept, he’s run, climbed, learned and laughed (a lot) – he’s done pretty much everything a kid should. Except grow those arms! The age 5-6 is comfily baggy but not outrageously big everywhere else – except for those neanderthal arms which are literally falling  way down below his hands all the time. Grrrr. I defy any child to learn to write or draw like that. And I defy any parent to teach a 4 year old boy to roll up their sleeves. Teaching them not to shout “poo-poo pants!” in an alarmingly mock-tourette way to break the tension of formal silence is enough achievement for mums of small boys to feel they deserve some kind of award.

So here goes if you have a similar problem, or maybe need to buy a bigger size for your child’s body but struggle with the long arms. Now, because although I’m not in ANY WAY a clothes maker/ alterer (a sewist but rarely of clothes) and I winged it, I’m calling it a life-hack. And because that sounds unashamedly cool. If you are comfortable sewing with a machine it’s pretty easy (I think). I was lucky to have a secondhand sweatshirt to practice on before cuttting up the new one, so you might want to do have a practice run too (though my prototype run turned out fine too).

DISCLAIMER: I’m just telling you what worked for me, and won’t be held responsible if it doesn’t work for you 😉

How to shorten a child’s sweatshirt sleeves

1. Right. Well this is what the original cuff of the school sweatshirt looked like. My cuff looks smaller afterwards, because I took a bigger seam allowance than I probably needed to, and I didn’t topstitch afterwards (because that was never going to look this neat).


2. Inside out it looks like this:


3. Arm yourself with a good sharp seam-ripper – and unpick all those stitches. You want to unpick all the stitches which attach the cuff to the sleeve. It takes a while. Have a cup of tea to hand, maybe some tunes and take your time. You especially don’t want to damage the cuff itself – the sleeve you’ll be cutting off anyway.

4. Done? Good. At this point you need your model. Bribe child with chocolate to get him to put on the sweatshirt and stay still for 30 seconds whilst you decide where you want your new sleeve to end.

Mine was about 3 and 3/4 inches from the end of the sleeve*. Next subtract about 3/4” from that to allow for your seam allowances when you sew your cuff back on. So I needed to cut off 3 inches. I left the sleeve just slightly long (maybe up to his first knuckles) to give some growing room but keep his fingers free.

(Note: I said subtract 3/4” because I was later going to sew my cuff back on with a 3/8” seam allowance, so the maths works for that allowance. If you don’t want to shorten your cuff as much as that, you could use a 1/4” seam allowance to sew the cuff back on; in this case you only need to subtract 1/2”  from your cutting measurement* here. Etc. It’s a small difference, not sure how much it matters, but thought I would be accurate!)

5. image

On the left is the sleeve still attached to the shirt. In the middle is the bit I cut off. I just got my ruler and cut parallel to the unpicked line where the cuff was. I didn’t worry about the fact the sleeve was sloping or whatever. it was parallel, so it would do. On the right is the cuff. See how small it is next to the sleeve? Obviously that’s because it’s a cuff and so is stretchy. Don’t worry about that, it all works out fine…

6. And this is the sleeve (on the left) that I am going to attach to the cuff (on the right):


Freakily different sizes huh? It didn’t matter too much for this sweatshirt as it wasn’t too much bigger than the original difference but see below if yours is a much bigger difference.

(NOTE: If you were really cutting a lot off the sleeve so the sleeve was really wide and the difference between sleeve and cuff was much bigger than the original, then you will need to take in the sleeve a bit, otherwise you’ll get a bunched-up “puffy” look round the cuff. Especially for an adult shirt. Turn the sleeve inside out and kind of draw a gentle line from about the elbow to the cut end of the sleeve, aiming to make the cut end of the sleeve about as big as it was before you cut a big chunk of sleeve off. You might want to do it on top and bottom of the sleeve which shouldn’t be too obvious. Sew along your drawn lines. Make sure you do exactly the same on the other sleeve. I wasn’t too concerned about it as it’s for a 4 year old boy who really couldn’t care less – and it all worked out fine, but you should bear it in mind if you think it’s going to look too bunched up)

7.  Turn your sweatshirt inside out. Put the cuff into the cut end of the sleeve, raw edges matching at the top – and the seam line matching. There should be no “right” or “wrong” side of the cuff as they seem to be double sided and folded over, but if there was, you would put right-sides together.image

8. Match up the seam lines on one side and pin:



9. Now put your fingers inside and stretch the cuff so that it lies flat against the inside of the sleeve:


10. …and pin the opposite side, then pin all the way round. Pin like crazy baby! The more the better.


11. And when you let go, the cuff will spring back giving a puckered look. This is completely fine..



12. Take to your trusty sewing machine. At this point I  wished the sleeve went round my machine, but the sleeve diameter was too tiny. Still I was just a bit careful and it was very straightforward. I sewed on the inside of the sleeve/cuff as Ifelt I could see better what I was doing that way and ensure I wasn’t sewing through the other side. Taking a 3/8” seam allowance (you could make this smaller if you like), carefully sew the raw edges of cuff and sleeve together. Make sure you stretch out the cuff to ensure the sleeve is nice and flat as you sew. The cuff will spring back just fine.



Sorry, these are not natural sewing pictures – I was using my right hand to take a picture and clearly not actually sewing. You can see the sleeve fabric is not bunched up and the cuff fabric is stretched to lie against it nicely. sew all the way round.

13. Backstitch to finish and take it off the machine to admire, and check the right side looks good. By the way, I used a universal needle, polyester thread and a straight stich with normal tension and pressor foot and it was all OK, but you could test it all on the scrap you cut off the sleeve if you like.



14. That is still the reverse by the way. Pretty! Not. Never mind, put it back on the machine and zigzag round to finish the seams. I warn you, on my practice sweatshirt I first did a fancy tight overlock-type stitch, and it made it very stiff and possibly annoying to wear I’m guessing, so on the others I just did a gentle, fairly loose zigzag. To be honest the raw edges felt nice and soft and I almost left it like that for comfort, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take before they unravelled, so chose to zigzag the edges.


15. Turn inside out – and beam. Try it on your wee man who will say “Oh! It’s good!” quickly followed by “I want to take it off” before running away to play some more.


16. Hear M-People’s song warbling round in your head “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” – and think “This.” 🙂

Back to prettiness next time folks. Meanwhile enjoy the summer and whatever it is that makes you feel proud.

Till the next time, Poppy xx

Minute Monday – A Fun Kindle Case

My father in law kindly looked after our dog at short notice so we could have an impromptu holiday… that deserves a wee present, right?

He had actually asked me to make him a Kindle case – apparently he felt his leather bound book-style case was too bulky, and he preferred to read the kindle as it was. Just exactly what I felt before making my own (and then several since as is always the way!). He also liked the idea that my cases are waterproof in case of spillages – coffee, waterbottles, water splashed on the poolside in that fantasy bahama life we all wish we led. Water proofing felt important to me too – we must be a clumsy family, though clearly not through genetics..

I adore this fabric. My father-in-law has a definite sense of fun and I thought this fabric managed to stay on the right side of fun without being too childish, and masculine without being too sombre. I could have chosen Harris Tweed, or a black or grey damask – or all manner of lovely masculine fabrics, but somehow they are just not quite HIM. Yes, sure, for luggage or something, but he’s definitely a slightly quirky accessoriser.

The fabric is called Rocket Ads in navy colourway (it also comes in navy and red) and is by October Afternoon for Riley Blake fabrics. It’s so deliciously retro.

The case looks bigger than the kindle itself – it is bigger, but because I use a felted wool as lining fabric (like coat fabric) which is pretty thick, it’s a nice cosy fit in there. It is padded too for extra scratch-resistance and has a waterproof interlining so needs to be a bit bigger on the outside. It’s still actually a slender handsized thing, because the kindle is actually quite wee.

But my own case is actually smaller, slimmer, neater, a little more made-to-measure – I used interfaced soft dress fabric as the lining and it’s just fine. I’m thinking I might return to that… I see some experiementing in my future.

Meanwhile, more importantly my father in law loved it – he says he’s been reading all the wee adverts all over it. Er… I think he’s supposed to be reading the kindle…? One challenge done. Except now he’s asked me to make a Kobo case for his girlfriend “my choice of fabric” as a surprise for her. Yikes. Ok. Um, but what’s a Kobo again…? Might be in trouble with this one!

Till the next time, hope your craftilicious projects are all going well,

Poppy xx

Pirate Ship Wallhanging Den… ooooh-arrrgh me hearties

Well, between the hexagons and the cold winter nights which make me less inclined to sit with a sewing machine and more to stay snuggled handsewing and watching TV with the Hubster, I’ve felt I haven’t much to say, hence the 2 week gap between confessions.

But then my sweet, craftilicious-supermum-and-all-round-gorgeous friend stopped by with her 4 year old, and I put up THE PIRATE SHIP. She was smitten. Instantly. I knew the kids would be, as they always are, but Alison was completely in love too. She desperately wants to make one herself for her children but felt she needed some pointers. So I thought I might detail the process here, although I didn’t take photos at the time, so you might have to make do with some sketches! It’s very simple though, and all raw edge applique, so not difficult!


I made this for Kiddo’s 4th birthday party with a pirate theme – it hangs over the bannister, making a pirate den out of the space under the stairs. All children love it – especially becasue of the portholes which they can look out of – or use magnetic fishing rods to go fishing out of.

Behind it I put a wee soft cushion area, and drew some porthole pictures which I stuck onto the wall with bluetack.


Ours is obviously for under the stairs, so is pretty huge, dropping down the flight of stairs, but this could easily be smaller and hung to divide up a child’s room, a corner of a room, or as Alison is hoping to do – for some bunk beds.

I can’t really give full instructions or a pattern just because everyone’s size will be different, but the shapes are really simple, so here’s how I did it. I also made a load of red and blue bunting from my fabric, so you might have leftovers too.

Materials (all fabric from IKEA, it’s all extra wide, about 150cm wide):

  • 2.5 metres bomull fabric in natural from IKEA (£1.50 per metre) for background
  • 1.5 metres red ditte fabric £3 per metre
  • 1 metre blue ditte £3 per metre
  • 1 metre black ditte fabric £3 per metre
  • thread, scissors, fabric pencil/chalk or similar
  • safety pins (or normal pins if you don’t think  you’ll lose them on such a big item!)
  • clear vinyl if you have it (I didn’t but might add this in for the portholes)
  • sewing machine – using a zigzag stitch
  1. I guess the most obvious thing is to measure your space and decide how big it should be. Then cut the background fabric as large as you want it to be. Lay it out on the floor like a big sheet of paper. From now on, it’s like making a big picture on that “paper”
  2. Next cut the top of your blue fabric into waves or a choppy sea. you could leave it flat so it looks like a horizon, which would still look good.
  3. Lie it on the bottom of your background and smooth out the wrinkles.
  4. Next draw out the ship’s base. (is it a hull? I should have more seafaring knowledge!). My ship was about 24” tall and 50” wide, but your might be smaller. The shape is simple; here’s a drawing: image
  5. lie it onto your sea. Now cut 2 long strips of black fabric, maybe a couple of inches wide. Use them as masts for the sails, on your picture, with the ship’s hull covering the ends. image
  6. It will already be starting to look like a cool picture! Ok. Now for the sails. I cut big rectangles, roughly the size I wanted the sails, one big, one medium and 2 smaller. I actually freehand cut everything without drawing it and it was all fine, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it being perfect. But the top and bottom lines of the sails should be parallel, and the curve should match on both sides as much as possible. Here are drawings, alongside drawing of the pirate flag elements. I didn’t want the skull and crossbones to look too scary!image
  7. Now lie all your bits onto your picture and voila! It should look like a pirate ship. I actually did the portholes after I’d sewn the rest on. image



  8. Once you’re happy with it, pin everything onto the fabric with safety pins. Take it to the sewing machine and use a zigzag stitch all the way round every line of your picture to secure it. It looks better if you use the same colour thread as the applique fabric, like blue for the sea, red for the sails etc. I know it will fray a bit over time. I know it’s not perfect or obviously not a commerical shop-bought product, but it still looks cool, and is durable enough for many many playtimes! Noone has noticed on ours because of the size of it. Sure, if you can be bothered to turn under the edges and applique it properly, go ahead, it will look wonderful!image
  9. Once it’s all sewn up, draw 3 circles for portholes using the red fabric. Mine were about 9” diameter, I didn’t even bother to draw round a plate – but it would have been neater if I had. It’s still fine! It’s all very forgiving. Pin onto the hull of your ship and zigzag all the way round. Next draw an inner circle in the middle of each and cut this out , through all the layers of your picture. Zigzag round the raw edges to secure, you should probably do this a couple of times for each, or use a close zigzag. My inner circles are 5-6” diameter. You can sew some clear vinyl or lace onto the back of the portholes, and probably should if you have very young children whom you are worried might stick their wee heads in and get stuck, or worse, dangle. *shudders*.image
  10. Then I took my hanging up the stairs and asked the Hubster to hold it where I wanted it to go. I did 3 marks where I thought ties should go, then very firmly sewed long tapes (actually I made them with 3 inch strips, iron in half lengthways, open, iron the lengthways edges to meet in the middle and sew up the side to make a strong tape). Our bannister is made of slats so I wrap my tapes round the slats and tie firmly, but I guess would have had to put some nails in otherwise, or found another way to hold it in place. It takes a few minutes to put up and take down, so I just get it out for playdates. Which is pretty frequent these days!  At least it’s getting plenty of use 🙂

    And get ready for some swashbuckling!


Not into pirates? How about a house with windows and a door? Or a castle? Or a wee simple car, hold on, like this one (I’m getting my pencils out!)imageimage

Or if I had boys’ bunk beds to decorate like my friend Alison, I would be very tempted to hang the hanging in front of the beds, to make a den for each boy. I would definitely use clear vinyl for the windows, I wouldn’t be able to sleep thinking of the accidents that could happen otherwise, but then I am paranoid. I think I would do a scene, like an aeroplane or spaceship for the top bunk and car for the bottom. Actually what I’d do is a spce scene, with 2 rockets, some stars and planets, and space themed bedding – and glow in the dark planets and stars all over their rooms! Those boys would have such adventures, they’d never go to sleep!


Well, me hearties, I know it’s not “posh sewing”, but it is a fun sewing project, and I hope you’ve had fun thinking about what you might do… or not – not everyone wants a big pirate ship in their house. Although my 4 year old wouldn’t believe you 😉

Till the next time, have fun – and I’d love to see any wallhanging dens you make!



A quick gift for a little girl

Just a quick post today – if I’m capable of quickness – extolling the merits of learning how to make zippered pouches as part of one’s sewing repertoire.

But first, another culinary slipup which has again blown any resolutions into smithereens. But chocolate ones, which are the best kind of smithereens of course. This time Mary Berry, although I wish I had had some raspberries to include in the filling. If you make this, I’d vote don’t go any darker than 40% chocolate; alternatively consider reducing/ omitting the extra cocoa because it’s pretty rich…



So on with the sewing. My son’s nursery friend turned 4 and had her birthday party this weekend.  I loved her party. No fancy theme, no bought-in entertainer; a local village hall hired for a few pounds, lots of balloons, bouncy castle borrowed from a neighbour, tea and coffee, party food for the kids…  and a load of small children, running, bouncing, giggling, exploring, playing with each other and balloons. Perfect. It just goes to show how little they need at this age. In these days of “formal entertainment” parties which kids can find a bit freaky, it was SO refreshing to have a back-to-basics “Jelly and ice cream” party!

Anyway I digress, and have instantly failed at my first sentence aim 😉

 I decided to make the her a pencilcase. You’d think pencilcases are quite boring – I guess they can be, but there’s no reason at this age to fill it with pencils. I filled it with a few small pencils, a “snow white” rubber, 4 chocolate coins, some stickers and wee toy.


Now this is one tomboy of a girl. But a girl nonetheless. I gave Kiddo the choice of 2 great fabrics for her:

Jungle Elephants by Makower


or Kokeshi girls from Alexander Henry fabrics – sadly out of print, but still finadble if you look hard enough. I have it in black (pictured but too sombre for a kid surely,) pink (too girly for her) or green – and this one apparently won. Perhaps Kiddo already thinks dolls are for girls at this tender age, but it apparently was a hit, so phew.


There are lots of tutorials on zippered pouch making online, if you fancied a go yourself, and they are not as difficult as you might imagine. My pencilcases are made with 2 each of exterior and lining fabric pieces (and optional) batting) measuring 9.5 x 5.5” and 1/2” seam allowances except for the zipper insertion, and this seems to be a nice size.

Whatever you’re doing/sewing/painting/reading/watching/playing/working on, enjoy your January and see you soon,

Poppy xx