Why do medical syringe pump bags have to be so … ugly?

Well, they are ugly. When I worked at a hospice, working with especially with female patients, young and old, I used to think it all the time. Some people have to have a continuous infusion of either painkiller or anti-sickness medication or somesuch in order to stay comfortable. Whilst it’s one thing when people are in bed and sleeping, many many people walk around with this, live with it as a permanent fixture in their lives. And yet, the bags they are given for them are practical but ugly dark blue canvas small bags with straps and stuff, wires sticking out, and go round their necks (which can be painful), the overall effect screaming “I am extremely medical and weird, please look at me with that uncomfortable mixture of sympathy and fear”. Or are a bumbag. A BUMBAG I tell you! Chav circa 1987. Women are not impressed, particularly those who are trying hard to make an effort to look nice, and they used to complain often or really fight against having a drug which will make them feel better – because it’s so visible. So when I got asked to make this:

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… I jumped at the chance.

The lady, whose lovely daughter commissioned the bag as a present, has to have a syringe pump dispensing chemotherapy for a week every few weeks. Not only does this remind her of her illness, but she feels it draws attention to her illness from other people. She’s a smart, trim lady who likes to look nice, and HATED the bumbag she was given – not only was it ugly and something she would never wear, it was very uncomfortable for her. She asked for a cross-body, lightweight bag which could comfortably fit her pump in the base, have a gap at the top for the wires to come out – and most of all would look like a bag she had chosen to wear! Look at the the typical bag I’m used to seeing on patients, compared to a custom one:

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So we set to work looking at colours and fabrics. It’s always harder when I can’t see someone, to get a measure of their tastes. She must be about my mother’s age (this was all done over the phone so I had thought maybe classic floral? Some lovely gentle colours…? Wrong, wrong. She wanted bright. Loves cerise pink. Loves bold patterns. I sent some pictures of fabrics based on that, and she chose this – Michael Miller’s Flock in navy. Lovely. My own cosmetics bag is made from this – not sure I would have chosen a bag for myself in it, but everyone’s tastes are different and valid! And once I made it I had several friends telling me they would buy it if she didn’t want it, so she has good taste 🙂

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It’s interfaced but soft and lightweight as requested; because I wasn’t sure of her size I made the strap adjustable; anyway the hardwear always gives a bag a more professional look. I didn’t put any kind of grid in the bottom as I wanted to make it washable (it’s going to be in the hospital a fair bit) – the pump is a sausage-shape with a diameter of 3″ so I made the base 3″ deep. Fingers crossed it fits ok! It’s about 10″ wide by 8-9″ tall… I think! I really should have measured it… enough room for a purse, lipstick etc. Zip closure with enough gap to let out the wires. And long cross-body adjustable strap so it looks like a real bag – that has got to be good for a woman, right?

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I had meant to line it with this, love and Joy by Dena Fishbein, as she likes cerise pink: 10699216_10203944494404633_720094229_n

And honestly can’t remember why I didn’t (it was a few months ago). Perhaps it was a cost thing because I wanted to keep the price down and this fabric is full price. From the pictures I went with this instead, Medallions from the Quilted Fish from Madhuri collection by Riley Blake, which I got in a sale:

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Anyway, apparently she loves it, which makes me very happy; I really wish her all the best; she’s going through a tough time. Hopefully when her treatment is over she will be able to give it to her granddaughter or something. It’s kind of hard to do commissions like this; I don’t take on that many commissions really as it’s a hobby, but for something like this obviously you want to help. But you also want to do it for free. You can’t always afford to use fabrics and time to do things for charity but you sometimes feel you want to. In this case, she would have been offended; I don’t think she would have liked to think of herself as charity, and had she been a personal friend (rather than mother of an old school friend) it would have been different, a gift.

This “sewing pays for itself” malarkey can be a bit fraught; I know I under-price, I know I shouldn’t. I find it hard to value my own work, even though I know it’s excellent quality and a lot of time and thought goes into it. I’m getting better at it. I would definitely try not to undercut folk if I was on Etsy or Folksy – I buy on Etsy loads, wonderful place, never had an issue with service ever, and it’s not fair to expect someone to create something beautiful and not get paid for their time, and when you undercut people by not getting paid, you create an expectation, whereas especially in the UK, fabric and supplies are very expensive! It has made me think I might make some (cheaper) syringe driver bags for the hospice or chemo pump bags for the hospital here as a charity thing though; stories like this are sobering, and make you remember how much people are going through in their lives. Perhaps if I can help a tiny bit, I don’t mean medically, but by making them feel less of a “patient” and more of a “person” again, perhaps these small thing all help.

Anyway, perhaps a bit sobering for a Friday night! Hope you make the most of your today, stories like this make me more determined to do that! Till the next time,

Poppy xx

Wee Wednesday

Wee make day today!

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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

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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: 

http://tinyhappy.typepad.com/tiny_happy/2006/06/shoulder_bag_tu.html

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

Marmalade quilty love, teeny cars and more pink tweed

The sun is still shining here in Scotland (Yay!!!) so I took the opportunity to photograph this little quilt made with Marmalade fabrics from Bonnie and Camille for Moda. It measures 31.5” x 36”, 100% cotton.

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I was really excited to see a collection in flannels, so bought them for this quilt, making it gorgeously cosy and soft. I think it is a beautiful quilt and exactly what I would choose if I had a girl – definitely my taste!

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I stipple quilted it, backing it in this Ikea cotton print called Rosalie based on a Cath Kidston design. The design is a little “pixelated”, but really it doesn’t seem to matter once it’s all sewed up, and makes a lovely quilt backing. 

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My only minor regret with this quilt is that I hadn’t realised only some of the designs were in flannel, and so I didn’t receive many of the beautiful prints I really like, like this one:

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So I did buy some of this print and make it into a washbag, which is very pretty, and may be on the “for sale” page soon! I keep wondering whether to go the whole hog and reinvest in the whole marmalade cotton collection just to satisfy my love for it, but I haven’t got a daughter – and even this quilt has not got a home to go to yet. I might put it for sale too.  And I still have enough of the flannel for a 45” x 45” toddler quilt (bigger if I use a border), so I can’t really justify it 😦 I think my affair with Marmalade may be over…

… particularly as I am falling in love with (and trying hard to resist) this latest collection again by Bonnie and Camille called Happy Go Lucky:

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… But I am seriously trying to resist because I have already spent many impatient months waiting for the release of this collection called “High Street” by Lily Ashbury for Moda:

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You can’t see much of the fabrics here, but trust me, the designs are too beautiful, with just a hint of ethnicity and yet such modern bright girlish colours! I have NO BUSINESS getting this, as I am not going to get a daughter, and all the babies coming are boys, but I so badly want to sew up this collection that I have promised myself I can get it. If I make some sewing money. And when it is released. Which is August in the U.S. and probably ages for the UK 😦

Instead I am busying myself with wee projects like this little washbag I made for baby Hamish – I know I made him bunting, but this print was too cute – check those teeny tiny cars! You’d think a child doesn’t need a washbag, until you think about cotton wool, wipes, cream, bath wash and later on toothbrush, their own toothpaste – they are more high maintenance than me!

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…and despite my dislike of making the same thing over and over,  I was persuaded to make another bag using those pink and aqua fabrics, but this time a bit smaller 10.5” wide x 3” deep x 8” tall in middle – and with the fabrics reversed – pink on top. I actually like it much better this way – like the size and love the pink tweed. It was given to me years ago as a present, so when it’s gone it’s gone – I should remember that and enjoy using it now! The felt flower is a brooch, so is removable. I probably would remove it if it was for myself, but a lot of folk seem to like it.

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And purse feet! Well, they are my new favourite thing 🙂 I know, I need to get out more…

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So I should get going. I have heaps of stuff still to sew up instead of sitting procrastinating at my computer! Such as: A huge beanbag (pattern review to follow) almost finished for my friend’s husband. More travel chalkboards. A quilt for my goddaughter to be. Some Happy Birthday bunting for same precious girl (almost done!). A wholecloth quilt for a neighbour’s daughter. A christmas stocking for a neighbour’s new grandson. Some baby quilts for a few babies – including my new nephew who’s on his way in a few months, I can’t wait! Some washbag commissions. That’s a sneak preview of the next few blog page!! And at some stage I’ll be listing a few things on my new “For Sale” page… hopefully…

Hope you are enjoying the sun wherever you are,

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/

All manner of bits and bobs

I haven’t been working on anything too big since my friend’s two bags, which I gave her today – It’s so lovely to see her reaction, she was so thrilled! Particularly with her bag, she loved the size, pockets, shape, purse feet and particularly the fabric – and I gave her a few wee accesories to go with it, which was a nice surprise for her. She really is a darling, it’s hard not to give her more, she’s so appreciative!

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And the accessories – I actually stole the bigger flat zip bag on the left to keep all Kiddo’s wee toys and things for my bag…

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Drawstring bags by the way! They are the business, it’s the cord and toggle that did it for me. I love this one and was tempted to steal it too, but my superego won in the end and did the right thing. My friend was pleased with it, so I guess it was the right thing to do!

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Meanwhile I got some thick insulating batting from my local fabric shop at a good price – like a loon on ecstasy I couldn’t resist it, even though I had no idea what I’d do with it. It is thicker than insulbrite wadding which I’ve used for insulated lunch bags, but it would make rather bulky lunch bags. But tea cosies on the other hand… they are supposed to be thick and, well, cosy. And I had the perfect fabric:

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Then I realised that I never use a tea cosy, and hardly even this tea pot. So it is going to be a present to my friend Caroline, who has an amazing farmhouse cottage in the middle of gorgeous countryside with the most stunning views of the sea… and who insists on using a tea cosy every time – how aspirational is that?! And I seem to remember she has china mugs with exactly this pattern on it. I may become number one friend 😉 She is making me Godmother to her beautiful daughter in August; she gives me a daughter and I give her a teacosy. Not an equal exchange but she will have warm tea.

Next up is a commission from a girl in our village, who bought a travel chalkboard for her little son at the craft fair and got in touch asking for one for a gift. This is for a litttle boy too, so I used some Thomas the Tank Engine fabric I had – it’s a fact that all little boys love Thomas!

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These are great and with ours I roll up some paper and sheets of stickers, and put chalks and coloured pencils in the pouch, so it’s a lightweight but sturdy complete art pack on the go.

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I used a zipper pouch rather than velcro spots as the child is still quite young, and I worried in case the spots came off despite the most superduper glue ever. I think it’s an improvement – and then the hubby said ” I don’t know why you don’t make the pouch as tall as the board, then it will fit full size pencils in too”. Doh! Of course. It is a bit more fabric, but I think it’ll be worth it – I’ll try it next time.

And finally…

My lovely neighbour has had a new grandson. She is a huge fan of handmade, and bought several things from me for him whilst he was still snuggled in his mummy’s tummy, including these two quilts (both detailed in my Flickr stream)

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So I thought I’d make the baby a wee present, this time of some bunting, for his room, maybe on the wall above his cot or above his door:

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Hamish! Isn’t it a sweet name? I can’t wait to meet him 🙂

Well I think I should get some sleep now – we are having the best summer I have ever seen in Scotland – Kiddo and I even paddled through the sea yeasterday and the water was warm! Actually WARM! But all this summer makes you get out and do things all day, and frankly I’m pooped. I tell you, we wouldn’t be a naation of couch potatoes eating deep fried mars bars and goodnaturedly grumping at our lot if summers were like this more often – the country has been transformed! We have builders working in our garden just now who didn’t touch the chocolate biscuits I gave them with their coffee but ate all the fruit! What the??!

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Till next time,

Poppy xx

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/

Sand, sea, sun – and a successful toddler bag

We’re back from an amazing road trip adventure down to Cornwall, via Lancashire, Chorleywood near London to see my brother and his wife – and the house is even more gorgeous in the flesh than on the pictures by the way, am massively coveting – taking in Legoland, Somerset and Stonehenge on the way, then finally down to beautiful Cornwall for a week. We have never been before but we loved it, it does feel like a very different country to Scotland (I know it is technically!), particularly in terms of climate and temperature. Even the flowers bloom earlier and feel quite tropical, we saw banana trees and palms growing outside. Wouldn’t get that in Edinburgh…

And through it all the new mummy/toddler bag came through with flying colours. Here it is adventuring on the beach next to the other adventurer:

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Since our return, we decided to create a proper sewing room, as my hobby was taking over our house, with bits of fabric and notions gently multiplying… like triffids…

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There’s a computer in here too… I may never emerge again 😮

So I have been putting it to good use already – well it would be rude not to!

Firstly a commission from my friend who wanted a new bag to fit all the stuff you need for a 20 month and 3 year old. She wanted a messenger, so I opted for a slightly small version of Jane’s messenger, blogged previously. It’s 13”W x 11”H x 4”D, and I think is a good size for the toddler stage. Charcoal grey canvas outer, waterproof interlining, grey and white leaf lining and the glorious Freebird Garden in Sky by MoMo for Moda. It took so long to find a fabric she loved with the brief “aqua, funky, but not too childish”, and then had to hunt some down through etsy, but it does look good! I still have to put a strap on it (in grey) but here it is (in my new sewing room hehe!)

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and then outside. I decided to add a matching zip purse as a wee surprise :image

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And finally, she also asked for a bag for her friend, similar to one on my flickr stream but zippered in hot pink and aqua tweed “Scottish enough – but still modern”: image

Here’s me trying it on for size; 14”W x 9”H at middle x 3.5” D – the bag not me :):

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It is empty, and my boy had suddenly charged the bag to get in the picture, so it looks a bit crumpled, but it’s softly structured with interfacing (fusible fleece) so will hang straight when there’s something in it.

Well I think that’s enough for today! I still need to make a felt flower brooch using my sizzix big shot to go with the bag as in the one in my flickr stream (https://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/7435741132/in/set-72157630302387894), so the night is still young!

Till the next time,

Poppy xx

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/

bags, bags, bags of bags!

I had a bit of a bag hiatus for quite a while whilst the quilting bug took over my life, but recently became inspired again. Lisa Lam of U-Handbag being the inspiration with her lovely pattern for the “Big and Beautiful Betty” shoulderbag. Well, I saw. I coveted. I coveted some more. I decided I didn’t need any more handbags. I slept dreaming of it. I awoke coveting.

So I ordered some supplies and my 3 year old and I thumbed through all my fabric until we chose a lovely floral red from Ruby by Bonnie and Camille for Moda. I could have guessed it would have been – I wanted florals and a slightly retro feel, kiddo will always choose red, as reed is his favourite colour. Because Lightning McQueen is red. And Lightning McQueen is his best friend. There is a lot of red entering our lives these days.

Anyway, the pattern was great, straightforward. The metal frame is sturdy and feels like a quality item, and it arrived beautifully shiny and new, in fact all the supplies were great – what a wonderful shop U-Handbag is! And this is what I ended up with. I fell in love a little bit.

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The bag is good and strong and holds all the everyday things I need, including kiddo’s water cup and wipes, even a little umbrella – and yet is lightweight with a comfy strap which stays on my shoulder. In fact I loved it so much, I started dreaming of making another one… this time in Melody Miller’s “Love Typewriters” in teal. Well, once you think the thought, it would be a crime against the Gods of Creative Loveliness to ignore it, so I made myself another one, which I love equally, or even a little bit more…

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A small interior pocket with magnetic snap closure is perfect for purse, mobile and and lip balm. I chose a beautiful print for my interior fabric by Blend – Songbird in white from the Vintage Summer collection. I adore it, though I have a weakness for birds of course. I have some fat eigths of this beautiful collection, ready for quilting, i can’t wait!

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And then my neighbour saw it and asked for one for her daughter, following which her friend did the same, so I made 4 bags in quick succession. I have no idea how handmade businesses continue to make the same item over and over, because even with a straightforward pattern which I didn’t have to draft myself, and lovely fabrics, I was bored bored bored by number 4 – although I did love the final bag too:

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The fabric is Alexander Henry’s La Strada in Black and White, with a print from the Curio collection by Basic Grey for the lining to provide contrast. Both of the bags as gifts were very well received apparently, which says a lot for the mothers who chose their daughters’ fabrics from my stash, happiness all round 🙂

But I think I’ll take a break from sewing any more Big and Beautiful Betties for a while, and just enjoy using mine!

You can get the pattern here:

http://u-handbag.typepad.com/uhandblog/2010/05/free-bag-purse-pattern-big-n-beautiful-betty.html

So. Many. Bags. And now I want a new holiday bag, for days out and all the stuff you need in the summer, suncream, water, snacks, childstuff – eeek. It’s not really need, but I want. And I want it in this (freebird by Momo, garden in geranium, I’m such a freebird geek, you can spot it in my flickr stream quilts)

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And with no help from my boy. I think Lightning McQueen is influencing my colour choices too 😉

Till next time,

Poppy x

ps you can email me at poppy@cuckooblue.co.uk

or visit my flickrstream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuckoo-blue/