Mr Rat clothing commission!

Commission, Construction

A lovely lady posted on my Mum’s village Facebook page that she wanted someone who sews to make some clothing for her daughter’s favourite cuddly toy and my excellent mother sent me the link, knowing how much I love doing personal commissions! So, I got in touch with her, intrigued by the message, we chatted about options and I got hunting in my fabric stash…

And found some possibilities for his Pyjamas and…

Some off cuts to make a jacket for him!

Erena kindly sent me Mr Rat’s brother to use as a guide – I’m so glad she did otherwise it would have been very hard to create from a photo – who was not as cuddled so a little fatter but perfect to get the dimensions from!

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I started with the PJ trousers – it felt like being back at uni because I got my calico out and started pinning and cutting around Ratty.

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Surreal but so much fun! Now I spread my pattern out and cut from the red and white striped cotton Erena had chosen. I added elastic in the waistband and a little hole for his tail. The legs were the trickiest as they were so small I needed to sew them in by hand!

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Well worth it though, because doesn’t he look adorable!

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I moved on to the PJ shirt – a simple idea, basically a rectangle with arm holes but very effective.

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Although I had a little mishap cutting the button holes…

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It happens to the best of us and actually I am much happier with the second shirt as I made it a touch smaller to fit the skinner Mr Rat!

I used the same pattern for the jacket but wanted to make it a bit more special so decided to mix and match some of the tweed scraps to create an almost duffle coat look. I added a collar and pockets out of different fabric and I am super pleased with the results!

He looks absolutely adorable! And I hope the clothes fit the honoured Mr Rat well and that Erena’s daughter loves them as much as I do!

So, my first foray into creating clothes for toys was not what I expected but I absolutely love doing special Christmas commissions like these, knowing what you have made will go to a good home and be loved!

Merry Christmas Everyone and I hope your preparations for the festivities are going well – remember to think small and independent to support us indie makers and creatives, we live for jobs like this and even just a card or a scrunchie purchase truly makes us do a little happy jig! xx

2019 festival round up!

Festivals

So, the festival season is officially over, I know, I always get a little wistful this time of year when the nights start drawing in and it is colder thank when I was sat in a field in my flip flops, cold cider in my hand, listening to some local artist play the sun down.

Nevertheless, we had a wonderful festival season and if you missed it here is a run down of what we got up to – and also, some festivals to add to your list for next year!

First up we traded at Vintage Nostalgia in Stockton, Wiltshire. Now I had never been there before but I was blown away by their set up – so many vintage traders, you could hardly move for retro cars and campervans, vintage tents and picnic set ups, old fashioned music and classic dance classes to entertain and plenty of secondhand and vintage inspired shopping to be had.

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The rain didn’t put the heeled and coifed off at all! Out came the gorgeous umbrellas and the party carried on!

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We were lucky enough to get a spot in a pre erected marquee in the heart of the venue – it was bigger than our oo arh! marquee and we could hear the bands on at the main stage! Out front there was a large circle of hay bales upon which the vintage clad families sat for picnics and drinks – such a lovely, oldy worldy sight to see!

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And we had a lot of vintage customers who loved the upcycled clothing idea and incorporated it into their retro style – how great does this sari skirt look over this lovely lady’s vintage petticoat?!

We will definitely be returning to Stockton, and maybe looking into some more vintage festivals for next year!

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The next festival we attended was called Beacon Fest and it was held in the hills of Watlington – again, never been there before, we had driven through Watlington a fair few times but never noticed the beautiful rolling hills beyond the lovely village.

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And it was indeed on the hill, so much so they had to create a flat stage for the actual stage to go on which was a sight in itself!

A small yet effective festival, we love the smaller, local ones because you tend to recognise more people over the weekend than the larger ones – it feels more intimate. There was always music on, when one stage was active, the other one would be being set up for the next band so the transitions were seamless and constantly entertaining.

We were one of a handful of non food traders so we had a lot of foot fall and stayed open until very late with the help of our new light so we could enjoy the festival with everyone else!

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We were very lucky with the weather, still chilly in the evenings but the sun was glorious and everyone was enjoying themselves! It was a festival of denim jackets – don’t these friends look amazing in their unique upcycled garments?! It’s funny how each festival is different and some things don’t sell, but others do surprisingly well!

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We’d love to take oo arh! back to Beacon, we have never been to a local festival before and it was so lovely to meet some fellow Buckinghamshire/ Oxfordshire people!

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Fairly soon after that we went to Nibley in the heart of beautiful Gloucestershire – we were expecting a small village festival, since the village it is based in is lovely and small, but, as we got taken to our pitch the staff explained where the stages (yes there was more than one!) what the other fields were used for and we were blown away – they had planned everything so well that the traffic flowed, the kids had their own area but there was stuff for the grown ups there too, and the main stages were not too close to be affected by each other, but an easy walk for us punters!

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Unfortunately I do not have many photos of our time there because my phone was playing up but we were one of 10 non food traders which was amazing, we had lovely weather again (we were spoilt this summer for nice trading days) and we were well entertained – The Sugar Hill Gang were there…I know…how? Why? But they were which was crazy AND we got to be at the front for The Correspondents which really made our weekend special because we love seeing them live!

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And of course, it wouldn’t be festival season without trading at WOMAD – we have been doing it for so long we know exactly what to do, the processes they use and where to go – it’s like going home! This year my Mum and Stepdad hired a motorhome and stayed the whole weekend which was lovely to see so much of them and it get random glimpses of my brother as he passed with a massive group of friends!

As you may remember that weekend was the hottest of all that summer – the Thursday in particular was so hot we spent the majority of the day out the back of the stall, with all the doors and windows open, desperately trying to conjure a breeze to cool us all down! Which I think most people were doing because the Thursday and Friday were so slow I started to get worried but it picked up towards the end of the weekend.

This was also our first festival with out new tent – we used to have a 2mx2m cheap marquee but this is a super duper upgrade! We had shade and privacy and a lovely space for Matty to sleep!

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We had a great WOMAD, we always do, and this year we had more returning customers than ever – lots of them came to say hi, wearing their unique oo arh! items, bringing friends and family along, and to find another upcycled garment – it was so lovely and it is those moments which really mean so much to me because it is easy to forget the previous customers because there is always another event and more to sew. It is so humbling to be reminded of you all out there!

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Finally we went all the way to Devon for Beautiful Days! We had heard a lot about this famous festival from friends who had been and worked there but had never thought we’d get a place because of it’s size. However, this changed when I found out that it fell over our birthday weekend and one of our favourite bands were playing – I had to at least email and see if they had any free pitches! And I got a call from one of the organisers saying they’d love to have us!

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We were in the perfect place – in the middle of the main field, off a concrete track which ran through the whole festival and right next to stage where nearly ALL the bands we wanted to see were playing! The perfect place to celebrate out birthday!

The only down side was the weather – yep, from the hottest weekend for WOMAD to the wettest, so we had to get creative with out tarp!

We managed just fine and didn’t lose too much business because of it, I think most of the punters had some prepared for the weather  and were more than happy to come and shelter and chat and browse. Overall, we loved it and felt very welcome although it was a long way to go for an event, even though we did get to see more of Matty’s life in Exeter and spend lots of time with him, we will just have to weigh it all up when the applications come round again.

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So, that was our 2019 festival season, it felt extremely busy but we loved every minute of it. I’m so lucky to have a husband who supports and believes in me this much, and who actually wants to come on these crazy adventures even when he has already had a whole week of work himself! I’m humbled by the support my customers give me, don’t stop sending your feedback and advice on more upcycling projects and where else to trade (some of my best suggestions come from you guys!) and let’s keep upcycling, finding more ways of using our preloved clothes and change the way we look at out shopping habits.

Here’s to the 2020 festival season – the marquee has gone into hibernation and I’m back behind my sewing machines! xx

 

Second Hand September

Construction, Festivals

We met some lovely Oxfam volunteers at WOMAD this year who told us all about the new Oxfam campaign to bring awareness to the affect our clothes and the way we view fashion are having on our planet. Of course, we jumped at the chance to sign our names up and to be involved through oo arh!

Second Hand September strives to get consumers thinking about where their clothes come from, the carbon foot print and climate change are some of the larger issues but we also need to consider the human aspect, how and by whom are clothes are made and in what conditions. 

We can make a huge difference by thinking twice about where we choose to shop for our clothes – now, obviously, there are some things one would not want to purchase second hand (underwear, swimwear, to name a few) and also there is no shame in buying new, sometimes we have to – the weather changes quickly and suddenly and you need another layer, you have seen the perfect dress for a friend’s wedding, you need a new pair of work shoes that just need to be comfy.

But when everything in a charity or vintage shop is cheap, already made, carries a negligible carbon foot print, and the money you pay goes towards a good cause it is worth taking a second to think whether you really need that new garment? Will it make you happy? And even if we cannot stop climate change completely by changing the way we shop, we might be able to slow the turning wheels.

Here are some helpful illustrations of the impacts of fast fashion:Figure-9.-Damaging-effects-on-society-and-environment

It’s amazing when you actually break the processes down – especially when we, as the consumers, are not fully informed of the exact systems our clothes go through! And it is important to remember that when you put something in the bin at home, it ends up in a landfill and, especially if it is a synthetic garment, it will take years to breakdown. There are other places to place your unwanted garments – charity shops, clothes bins, etc. So, make a simple change to help the ‘after use’ process with our clothes.

 

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It is mind blowing – this is one pair of jeans!

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I know it is mind bending but it helps to take stock sometimes of our individual carbon foot print, we will not be able to change the flawed system over night but small alterations in our own lives will make a difference and it is all about spreading awareness. Take a look at Kate Watson’s blog for more tips for reducing, reusing and recycling your clothes.

Another way of looking at the Second Hand September challenge is to take a look at your own wardrobe – have you worn it in the last year? Does it hold sentimental value? And can you do anything to make it more appealing to you?

Even simple alterations can make a huge difference – recently I came upon a dress I had bought at a festival which I no longer wear and all it needed was the sleeves chopping off and now it is a garment I can wear to work!

Similarly, I used to wear this striped skirt all the time at university but my style has developed and changed so, tada, it is now a top! Now I have two new garments in my wardrobe without needing to buy any new ones – surely that is a victory over climate change worth celebrating!

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oo arh! is built on second hand garments – the pleasure of taking a preloved garment and giving it a new lease of life with embellishment, alterations or transformations! I like to think that even a ‘new’ garment from oo arh! is helping in it’s own small way to combat climate change and help people think differently about where their clothes come from.

Here are some photos of my friends, customers and family wearing their own unique oo arh! items – it is so good to see so many happy faces wearing preloved revamped garments!

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If you want to find unique, second hand garments given a new lease of life with a love of upcycling look no further than the oo arh! Etsy shop xx

oo arh! chairs

Construction, Homeware, Textile work

After working on an upholstery commission I decided to upcycle some dining room chairs for oo arh! (to take around to festivals and fairs but also to sell, as a good way of promoting my upholstery services).

So I found some lovely ones on Facebook Marketplace, just run the corner from me – they were a project that the lady had been meaning to do for ages and she decided to sell them to someone who might want to do instead – me!

They were also made locally so it is a nice bit of history to upcycle!

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I started by taking the seat and back panel out – bit of an undertaking but managed it eventually! The seat unscrews and then you can access the bolt for the back panel.

 

I striped the seat and back panels, and replaced the foam – I then had to decided what to cover it with and thought I’d go really upcycled and use some of the denim sleeves I had removed for other projects – I started cutting out panels to make the seats and match them with the corresponding back panel.

 

Next, came the fun part, shabby chic-ing them! I chose to do two blue and two grey – they look so different to the original!

 

I purchased some sand paper and furniture wax from Annie Sloan and got de-stressing!

 

It was so exciting to see them taking shape right before my eyes!

Now all I had to do was finish the seats – I stretched calico over the new foam, I’m not sure it really needed it but I always think it gives the seat a smoother finish than if I put the top fabric straight over the foam.

I then matched the denim panels so the back panel would match one of the strips of the seat cover and hammered them into place.

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I finished off the base of the chair with a piece of black fleece and cut around the holes so I could attach it to the chair again!

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And there you have it – four uniquely upcycled dining room chairs fit for a vintage fair, festival or a colourful home! Thinking of selling them individually and as a set and see which people prefer. Can’t wait to get my hands on some more now!

 

Small chair commission

Commission, Construction, Homeware, Textile work

I was commissioned by Samantha, who was my first Roman Blind customer, to see if I could rework an old chair which was left outside for a long period of time and had a hole in the middle of the seat!

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Of course, I said yes! Any excuse to get back to a bit of upholstery! With glee I striped the chair of all it’s old layers till I was back with the skeleton of the chair.

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I then added new, tight webbing…

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We decided on foam for the seat of the chair to make it extra squishy and I stretched calico over the top to give it a smooth finish.

On the back rest of the chair I started with hessian and built up horsehair and lint then stretch calico again before playing around with the placement of the top fabric.

Samantha had chosen some lovely Laura Ashley fabric that she had left over from another project and I had to join two pieces together to make enough to cover the seat, so it was tricky to hide the seam but by placing it at the back of the seat it was less visible.

We then needed to decide on how the pattern should go (see above images for options) and Sam preferred the fabric going in two different directions as it made the chair more interesting.

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She also decided on the trim she wanted – a lovely soft grey which matched the spotted fabric excellently!

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I finished the chair off with the same fabric and trim on the back and I absolutely love it!

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I did a quick fix with some upholstery velcro – I think I maybe have distorted the old seat section with all my calico stretches so it popped up at one corner but the velcro worked perfectly just to encourage it flat.

What a difference between the before and after images! I love that my job gives me to freedom to accept lovely upholstery commissions along side my oo arh! work!

Vintage Fairs and beyond!

Festivals

That’s right, oo arh! is branching into the fun filled world of vintage!

Fo a while now many of my customers have recommended vintage fair to me as a fantastic place to trade and that I have a vintage-ey feel anyway so seemed like a natural step.

I did some research and there is some much going on in the vintage scene I didn’t know where to start!

I had a personal recommendation to try and get into the very oversubscribed and sold out MK Vintage Fairs in Milton Keynes – unsuccessful on my first attempt but fingers crossed for this upcoming one in September!

Some fellow traders I have met over the years spoke highly of Lou Lou’s Vintage Fairs – they have fairs almost every weekend up and down the country, so wherever you are there is probably one coming up new you and I cannot recommend them enough (if unique and vintage clothes, collectables, swing music, retro hair dos, amazing tea and cakes are your thing!).

So far I have been to Cardiff and Swindon with their amazing team and have not been let down by their marketing and advertising for their events, their organisation and helpfulness cannot be rated enough!

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The customers are really lovely too – there to browse and chat and have a great day out and so complimentary! It is nice to be offering something different, with a fresh feel and something which you cannot get on the highstreet!

I wish I could do one every weekend but family commitments and other events have meant that I have not done one for a while – I’m having vintage withdrawal symptoms! Nevertheless I am booked into the Bristol at the end of April and cannot wait!

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Finally, I have gone one step further and combined my old love of festivals with my new vintage obsession and we are thrilled to announce that we will be attending the Vintage Nostalgia Festival at the end of May – a whole weekend dedicated to all things vintage and fun, what a way to start the festival season!

Stay tuned for more vintage exploits!

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Large Dog Bed Commission

Commission, Construction, Textile work

I was approached by one of my husband’s (still getting used to saying that!) colleagues in making a dog bed for his mum’s birthday – apparently they have a lovely counter in their utility room with a dog bed underneath. So it needed to fit the specific measurements of the counter – it was 3m by 1m, however, since his mum’s dogs are very small he decided to go for a half bed to fit the space.

I did some research and found some great companies online who cut foam to size and deliver it! Expensive but super comfy, luxurious, and prompt.

We did some brainstorming together to figure out what colours and patterns his mum would like – Cath Kidston, patchwork, tartan, tweed, Ralph Lauren. So I had a lot to work on. We also thought it would be an interesting idea to have an oil cloth side so that if they dogs were wet from a walk his mum could flip the dog bed over and there would be no damage from their fur!

I started by hunting through my fabric stash and made a bundle of tweed and tartan scraps, large and small ones in a similar colour scheme. My first job was to wash all the samples so the dog bed can be laundered later down the line.

I then made the scraps into squares or rectangles to make composing the patchwork side easier. I overlocked all the edges so the inside is neat and tidy and is not affected when taking the cover on and off the foam.

Next I had the excellent job of build the patches together! This was so much fun!

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I ironed each seam as I went which gave me a wonderful finish.

I also used my scraps to create the sides of the cover and to house the zip- when these were completed I was able to pin the patchwork side to the side panels, lay them over the foam and get the correct fit by moving the pins and stitching the line.

I did some research into oil cloth – especially Cath Kidston printed ones, these are quite dear but I found a company online who cut and ship oil cloth table cloths which had some lovely patterns and colours – the colleague chose one with charcoal printed dogs and I used the foam to trace the pattern piece!

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I then had a lovely pencil line to stitch along, I still pinned it to the side panels first and checked it on the foam so I got a snug fit!

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I have to admit, I had to redo the zip – originally I had inserted it on one of the shorter sides of the foam and due to it’s thickness (20cm) the zip would not stretch wide enough for me to insert the foam!

Never give up – I recut the zip so that it would fold around one corner and give enough space for the foam to be inserted.

It didn’t take long and success – I actually did a fist bump when I had wiggled the cover over the foam and zipped it closed!

I am so impressed, if I do say so myself, with how it has turned out – the corners are crisp and clean, the patchwork contrasts nicely with the precisely printed oil cloth and is nice and cosy for the little doggies!

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Denim bean bags!

Construction, Homeware

I have been desperate to find a project that would use up my left over denim – it is surprising how much fabric I have saved over the years! I use a denim jacket but remove the sleeves, and I use the pockets of jeans for bumbags but have had no use for the rest of the garment!

So I did some research and thought that pouffes looked really good made out of denim because it comes in so many different shades and styles that they look very eclectic and unique!

I designing my own pattern based on what I had seen out on the market and got cutting…

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Trouser legs and sleeves could all be manipulated to get amazing pattern pieces – even by stitching two arms together, you get this amazing seam which still has all it’s original colour!

I then set about choosing the pieces to lie next to each other and stitching it all together…

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It took me a while to figure out if I should do a zip opening or not…because it would be good to have the option of washing it and topping up the beans as they get worn over time. Then came the quandary of how to fit it…but in the end I simply applied a reclaimed zip over the top of a seam…

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Now it looks like part of the bean bag and not just something added on! To finish off the top and bottom of the bean bag I made these patches of triangles of denim cut into circles and hand stitched them over the joins…

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I love their effect – they add more colours and different shapes to the bean bag!

I purchased some bag linings from eBay and some Polystyrene beans to fill them with…

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I may have bought too many…but I can always make more bean bags!

I fashioned a funnel out of a large piece of card, inserted it into the top of the lining and tucked the other tied end into the bean bag cover and started to fill it!

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I love the finished effect…

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These will be available on Etsy and I already have had some orders from family! Perfect as a gift or a little treat to your own home!

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Wedding bouquet

Commission, Homeware

I really wanted to save my wedding bouquet to make a memento out of it after the wedding was over…I had no idea how I would go about this and merrily went off on honeymoon leaving my mum (bless her!) to figure it out for me – honestly, I had forgotten that I wanted to save it at this point!

She did some research and managed to purchase some silicon which she places around sections of the bouquet in a large tupperware container – left it for a week or so and they came out beautifully dehydrated but still with their original shape, texture and colour (mostly).

I was thrilled! She had managed to press a whole load more too – so I had a lot of material to play with! Now what to do with it…?

Since Christmas was fast approaching I suddenly had the idea to frame a small bouquet for my Granny’s present – you know the kind of oldy-worldy style of framed dried flowers? So I did some research about how others have designed their flowers and lay them out and got playing…

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This was the arrangement I settled on and then went looking for a frame…which I probably should have done first! Although I managed to find an amazing one from Hobbycraft that just happened to be on sale – perfect! 40cm x 40cm, nice and big so I didn’t have to start rearranging!

I bought some clear glue to stick it all down with but found it hard to work with as many of the flowers and grasses were stiff, but good old double sided tape to the rescue!

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I included a sample of the lace fabric from my jacket, which avid readers will remember was my Granny’s wedding dress! Some confetti and the ribbon I had around my bouquet!

I love that all the different textures are still visible and am thrilled at the way it has turned out. Can’t wait to give it to her in a few weeks!

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Handmade Christmas decorations

Commission, Construction, Homeware

A returning customer commissioned me to make some more Christmas decorations for her family this festive season. Last year it was out of her Grandfather’s cardigan and this year she had found some beautiful embroidered handkerchiefs which belonged to her Grandmother.

I started by ironing them and the cutting them into 10cm squares with a 1cm seam allowance – I overlocked the raw edges first to prevent fraying.

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I then machined two squares together – including the ribbon to hang them by and leaving a 10cm gap so I could turn them the right way round…

They look so sweet! Now time to stuff them!

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It was actually a quick process because all that was left was to hand stitch the opening…

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I stitched the corner on this one because there was some beautiful stitching on the edge of the hankie which I wanted to preserve…

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And here they are! I hope her family like them as much as the cardigan ones – I love doing such personal projects!

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