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Quick Christmas gifts roundup

I hope you all have been having a great Christmas break! I actually didn’t make very many gifts this year (having a chest infection then flu for most of November and December kinda ended any possible plans!) but I wanted to show off what I did end up making in case it inspires you.

An upcycled knitting bag and some newly-loomed socks

A few weekends ago I found myself in HEMA (a Dutch interiors, snacks, and household shop) picking up a few things and I spied a cushion cover for a fiver that I liked the look of. I’d been meaning to make myself a project bag for my sock loom and various supplies for a while now, and I saw the potential! I was also too excited to get a Before photo but it’s up online and now I see it’s only £2! Figures!

The cushion cover featured a loosely woven fabric on one side (which I used as the bag exterior) plus a plain canvas on the other (which became the bag lining) and a matching zip so it was excellent value considering the zipper alone would’ve cost me around £3.50!

A green leather three piece laptop set

Believe it or not, I’ve still got a backlog of finished projects from the holidays to tell you all about, so I’m going to attempt to get them all up before the end of January (because nobody likes hearing about Christmas presents in February!). First up is my Christmas holiday project for this year – a set I’ve had in mind since I quit my office job last Fall and went full-time working on the sewing business. I mostly work from home, but I also like to get a change of scenery once or twice a week and work elsewhere. I’ve actually found that our favourite whisky bar is a brilliant choice during the day – great atmosphere, lovely staff who know me (so therefore don’t rush me along and don’t mind if I just drink water for hours), comfortable seats, wifi, and music that’s easy to zone out. And it’s an easy 30min cycle along mostly segregated cycle paths, too. Plus I get to reward myself with a cocktail at the end of the day, too!

But I quickly realised that my options for lugging my new laptop around were definitely less-than-chic, and I needed something that looked a bit nicer without screaming “I’m a laptop bag!”. The case off my old laptop (bought in 2010 and therefore an ancient 6 years old!) was way too big for my slimmer new model even though they’re the same screen size, so I first thought about making a cushioned, zippered case for it, and the idea spawned into a bag to put the laptop into (and also hold my normal purse stuff), and something to contain the charging cables and USB sticks, too.

A matching silk hardshell clutch

When I make a nice dress for a formal occasion, I often like to create a small handbag to match the dress (or jacket!) as it just creates a more “pulled together” look, and it’s something I can do that RTW often can’t!

So when I was cutting out the silk noile for the Pamela dress you saw earlier this week, I realised I had a small rectangle leftover – perfect for covering one of the U-Handbag hardshell clutch cases I’d bought!

All the clutch bags I’d made previously had been sewn (a favourite being the Cake patterns wristlet), so a hardshell case involving lots of glue was totally new territory for me! Luckily, Lisa provides really great, printable instructions for these, and honestly, it was SO easy to make!

A watercolour silk noile dress

At my last shopping trip down to Ditto Fabrics in Brighton last December, I bought a great mix of spring and summer fabrics with a few cold weather ones thrown in for good measure. So far I’ve already sewn up a Fair Isle sweater (which I was too sick to blog about properly), that muted turquoise lace dress, a pair of cycling jeans (with another coming later this week).

But I’d bought a length of silk noile with a watercolour-esque muted floral print that the owner, Gill, was raving over, saying it made the most comfortable summer dress. It’s long sold out now, but Ditto have a few other silk noiles in stock. I knew I wanted to make a dress from it – preferably unlined to take advantage of the silk noile’s comfort and coolness, but I needed an occasion to actually sew it up. Luckily, two friends I’d know for years from Run dem Crew got married this weekend, so I had the perfect excuse!

Lots of little happenings

I’ve got a bunch of things happening all at once (on top of crazy good opportunities coming out of my ears that I can’t talk about yet!) that weren’t quite big enough for a full post on their own so I thought I’d round them all up into a fun bit of Friday inspiration for you all! I’ve also got, ohhh, four finished garments to properly photoshoot so hopefully next week you’ll get to see more of those, too.

A bacon splint cover

This may be the strangest thing I’ve ever sewn but a colleague was in a hit & run which broke her wrist, requiring metal plates and several surgeries. She’s doing much better now but hates the depressing beige brace she has to wear, so I offered to sew her a fun cover for it.

A Tour de France inspired box bag

Today is James’s birthday!!

I recently noticed his dop kit (toiletries bag) was getting a bit ratty, and I thought it might be nice to make him a replacement, and I stored the idea away in the back of my brain for a while. Then I saw that Spoonflower were having a BOGOF sale on all fat quarters, so I jumped at the chance to buy him some nicely coordinated Tour de France fabrics, since he loves Le Tour!

Since you could mix and match the base fabrics, I bought one fat quarter of “Vive Le Tour de France!” printed onto recycled eco-canvas for the exterior, and a fat quarter of “Les Montagnes” on quilting cotton for the lining. The colours are nice and manly, the prints coordinate perfectly, and it was a pairing I really hoped he’d like.

I then went in search of a good, free boxbag tutorial that wouldn’t use more than a fat quarter, was lined, and looked good, and I settled on my friend Stacy Sews’ free box bag tutorial, which also comes as a pdf if you’d rather view it on your tablet as you work (like me!)

A matching green Cake clutch bag

Wow, what a busy week last week! Thank you all so much for your support and orders of my new VNA Top pattern (remember you can still get 10% off everything by using code “LASEREYES”)! The big wedding I was attending was actually last weekend, but I was so swamped I’m only just able to share these details with you now…

Remember the green cropped blazer I’d sewn for the wedding? I’d shown you how it looked with casual clothes, but I can now show you how I wore it on the day, along with the dress I’d planned it around:

You can really see how the green piqué works alongside the texture of the dress in this closeup shot I took in the car on the way to the wedding…

And you can also see that I did indeed manage to sew up a matching Cake Patterns Red Velvet Clutch from the same fabric and lining as my jacket! The whole look was a success, IMHO, and the chilly evening meant I kept my jacket on almost the whole night, only taking off my jacket (and exposing my bare back in the dress) when we hit the dance floor.

Little bits of sewing

I’ve come to that point near the end of the year where I want to gather together a bunch of little projects I’ve made recently, but yet didn’t quite seem big enough for their own post… You’ll see my traditional, year-end roundup tomorrow (I hope! I haven’t actually started it yet, eep!), but before then, let’s finish off the last little bits of the year…

Twin clutches

The most exciting of these are undoubtably the Cake Patterns Red Velvet Mini Clutches I made for James’s twin, teenaged nieces. They’ve pretty much only wanted cash or gift cards for a few years now, but this year I fancied giving them a little something extra to hold their gift.

The Cake Red Velvet Mini Clutch is a smaller version of the full pattern without the illustrated instructions, but on the plus side it’s free, super cute, and easy to whip up in a few hours with scraps. Here I used satin scraps leftover from my Matthew Williamson birthday dress and my swirl sheath dress and a bit of floral lining leftover from the former, too.

These are big enough to hold your average mobile phone, keys, lippy, and credit card, but not much else, but most of the times I want a little bag to match a dress this is all I really need to carry anyway. These were certainly one of those gifts I’d have liked to have kept for myself, especially since they match my dresses!

Bolster pillow covers

I’m totally less excited by home dec sewing, but we really wanted some bolster pillows for lounging in our big, new bedroom on the boat – now that I’m working from home, I especially need one under my knees while I work on my laptop! When we bought our bedding from IKEA, the duvet cover sets came with four pillowcases, and since we only use one regular pillow each, the others were just sat on a shelf.

A last minute travel bag

I wasn’t planning on doing this, but as I was packing for Mexico, I realised that I didn’t have a suitable bag to carry around with me on all our adventures – something that would be big enough to carry water, guidebooks, and all my usual purse stuff, but also be both secure, low-key, and not kill my shoulders. I utterly love my orange leather satchel, but it’s very recognizable, plus it’s only got two snap closures and I have to open the whole top to get anything in or out. Fine for London, but not for traveling.

So, I found myself, on the day before our flight, devoting the vast majority of the day to sewing up the free Urban Jungle bag tutorial! Nothing like sewing on a deadline (or, uh, preferring to sew all day rather than just go to TK Maxx and buy a bag!).

By its very nature, this bag used only supplies I already had on hand, so it was essentially free. The exterior fabric is this silver-coated stretch denim from Minerva that I’d bought then did my usual 30 degree pre-wash, and I was really disappointed to find most of the silver coating had disappeared (they’ve since added a warning to the listing). Minerva were great, though, and sent me the same fabric again so I could try hand-washing it. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the faded yardage since I wanted rock star jeans (though both pairs of Catherine’s look great anyway – her pre-washed pair and her unwashed pair), so this seemed like a great use.

For the lining I used some cheap poly satin I’d been given years ago, plus I found a nice metal-toothed 20 inch zipper in my stash (I think from Zipperstop in NYC?), and I got to use up a bunch of really heavy interfacing that’s been in my stash for ages, too (though IMHO, the tutorial goes a bit overboard on the interfacing, but it was written for an interfacing company so go figure).

I made some changes to the tutorial for my own use – I left off the “accent” pieces and instead doubled the side pieces so I have little pockets on the side, I used velcro as the closures for these side pockets as well as the large, flapped document pocket purely because I didn’t have any magnetic closures lying around! I also added a few patch pockets in the lining to help organise my stuff. Normally I’d have a zippered lining pocket in there, too, but I was feeling quite stressed about finishing in time (I literally finished with minutes to spare before I had to leave for Run dem Crew!), so I left that out. Oh, and instead of purchased handles, I made my own shoulder strap, which is conveniently long enough to either go over my shoulder, or across the body.