Friday, 31 July 2009

Pillowcase top

Remember this? It’s the pillowcase I bought from the Sally Army for about 30p the other day.
I decided to use this tutorial from SewMamaSew as a base. Normally I don’t bother with a pattern, but I was a bit tired for original brainthoughts and couldn’t mess up that fabric. I made a few adjustments, mostly because a pillowcase is just not wide enough for that many pleats.
Apart from changing the pleats, I added slits tunic style to the hem (to accommodate my huge hips, damn the lack of width in a pillowcase!) and made the straps cross-over at the back. I also eliminated the ruffles because I’m not that much of a girlygirl :)
Here are some close-ups :

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Some thrifty finds (and a glimpse of York)


Impressive huh? This is York Minster, and it’s built to mammoth proportions - it’s hilarious watching tourists walking backwards (and back and back and still further back….) trying to get it all in a photo. In fact, when I was younger I worked in a tea room behind the Minster, and tourists used to come in to ask where it was! We used to walk them out the door and point at the big church. Ok so I’m mean, but you can see this thing wherever you are in York. Maybe they read too many descriptions like this and expected something bigger :)

Anyway, the point I was getting to is the Minster costs a lot of money to keep it going (they’ve been building it for 400 years and counting) so they decided to hold a rummage sale!

I must clarify that they weren’t selling off bits of the Minster - though our Archbishop wears really funky vestments, and I would wrestle an old lady for some of them…


…see what I mean?

I keep getting sidetracked. Get to the point girl!


So, it doesn’t look very busy, but that’s because half of York is in the tents. There was a tent for clothing, one for glass and ceramics, another for electrical goods, plants and pictures (because they go together like a horse and carriage) and a final tent for Misc. We saved that one til last :)

The clothing was a strange mixture of everyday and really, really good (and expensive) stuff. I got a couple of vintage tops for £1.50 each though…

IMG_6317 Untitled-1IMG_6318 IMG_63182

  and this cute little thing for 30p…


I had also grabbed a couple of old (but good) pillow cases at the Sally Army on the way there…


I’m going to make them into tops when I get a minute.

Then we went into the mysterious Misc. tent. It was chock full of books at the front, but at the back there were sacks of fabric and loads of household stuff. I had £5 on me and I can’t afford to go mad on fabric, especially since my stash is so huge – I need to make things before I buy any, one in – one out style, so whatever I bought had to be worth it.

Then we saw these and nearly screamed:


They were tucked away at the back but attracting attention, and there were four - lovely colour, nicely battered – the asking price was £10 each and they were perfect for the workshop. We had to have them but we only had £5 with us and certainly couldn’t pay £40, what to do? We asked one of the volunteers if he would take an offer for the four. He said he would and asked us how much. Mum said £20, thinking we’d probably end up paying £35 and you know what? He accepted, just like that. Woohoo! She practically ran to the bank while I stood around in a proprietary fashion giving warning looks to anyone who came near.

So, a good day was had by all. I’m going back tomorrow :)


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Slate chalkboard


Old roof slates, brilliant things! They come pre-drilled, sometimes pre-broken into interesting and attractive shapes and you can write on them a la a Victorian schoolchild. 

For some reason we have stacks of these (probably the same reason we have boxes of rusty metal and shoe lasts – AKA Interesting Things) so I grabbed the most attractive one, brushed off the dead spiders, knotted twine through the holes and hung it on a handy nail. Now I can write messages to myself in a more attractive way than using, say, a whiteboard *shudder*.


P.s. I have nothing against whiteboards per se. I know there are probably thousands of attractive, useful, well made whiteboards in the world, but I’m a teacher. Enough said.

Etsy Wednesday: Freeandbeyond


Welcome to Etsy Wednesday! I’d like to introduce you to Freeandbeyond and her lovely paintings. The one above is called ‘Lovebirds in the Morning’ – Don’t you just love the colours? If you know me, you know I like colour!


This one is called ‘Singing Solo’ – I love the zingy orange and those raw edges. As FreeandBeyond says herself,

  “I am a true Londoner at heart but love living the adventure of travel and therefore spend a lot of time on the move...This means my paintings have to be very small to be able to travel with me. I use intense colours and layer them. Each layer has to dry very quickly, so every morning when I paint, I turn to the sun, let the shadows fall behind me and they set while I illustrate in ink over the paint.

Although I paint quickly, I take ages to let them go. They become little friends that are hard to part with...!


Don’t you want to help her part with them? I do! 

Each painting measures approximately 7cm by 7cm and is truly original and (discreetly) signed.

If you prefer to buy in pounds sterling, you can also find Freeandbeyond’s work at Folksy.

Go see!


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

What to do with a free junky table: Part 2

Remember this table?
During a break in the rain, I indulged in literally hours of scraping, scrubbing, and an aborted attempt at sanding so it now looks like this:
I planned to replace the top – still do – but I was hoping that the main frame was salvageable and of good construction so I could leave it bare wood. Unfortunately it turns out that this table was made from cannibalized bits of other furniture (what did I really expect from a table found in an art college skip?). Oh well, I’ll make the new top nice and woody but the frame is going to have to be painted.
Time to break out the hoarded tins of paint that have found their way into the shed – trust me, it’s going to be fabulous :)

Wipster has been featured!

Wow, a few people like my elasticated skirt tutorial! Both Craft Gossip and 30 Handmade Days featured my tutorial this week. If you haven’t already discovered these wonderful resources, go check em out.

Thanks guys! 


Sunday, 26 July 2009


I’ve always had unmanagable hair. It’s limp, fine, never holds curls and it’s greasy. Grr. I have tried every product known to woman – thickening shampoos, sprays, lotions, leave in things, wash out things – nothing worked.

Over time, my hair has become greasier and greasier, to the point where I’ve had to wash it every day. A Google search, in a desperate attempt to find an answer, came up with this – the no-poo method, and a further search found approximately a million other sites devoted to the same thing. Apparently it’s the shampoo itself that is giving me greasy locks. Bah, those pesky multi-national companies sullying even the simple hair-washing experience!

The no-poo method involves shunning shampoo entirely in favour of bicarbonate of soda, a spot of cider vinegar, maybe some honey, tea-tree, lavender oil – depending on how your hair reacts. Eventually you should rarely have to wash your hair at all (if ever) and, better still, it should be the envy of everyone it meets. Sceptical? Well I’m a sucker for things like this, so I’m trying it.

It appeals to me because I’m a bit of an earth mother. I like making, growing, stitching, hammering - in short, doing things for myself rather than relying on a multi-national company to do things for me. I already make my own soap, wash my face with olive oil, so why not this?

I’m about 5 days in, and I have still had to ‘wash’ my hair every day. The first couple of days were fine, my hair was soft and didn’t feel much different to using shampoo (I’m not using conditioner either, so I was quite impressed) but the last couple of days have produced less-than-glamorous tresses. My hair is a bit greasy, but as far as I have read that is normal – my hair is ‘adjusting’.

Well, I’ll reserve judgement. I’m on holiday from work until mid August so the method has a few weeks to prove itself.

Until then, I can always wear a headscarf…


Saturday, 25 July 2009

Oh! Frabjous day! (and some vintage finds)

Yes that’s right, we finally had some sun (this is supposed to be summer right?)

So I decided to take my beloved family to the regular car-boot sale at York racecourse – lovely day for browsing I thought, and it’s only 15 minutes drive away - unfortunately the racecourse was hosting an actual race. Arse. To stave off disappointment (mostly my own) we had a wander around the local charity shops. There were only two, but hey, there was also an interesting looking hardware shop…


Have you ever seen such an array of brushes? No, me neither. Inside, the shop was stuffed to the gills with, well, stuff, all the way to the ceiling and it sold everything. Including, all the way at the back and hidden in a corner, an old chest of drawers that contained things like this…


and this…


I could have bought the whole thing! And what’s more, those strips of vintage buttons were 30p each. I bought lots, but I’m beginning to wish I got more :)


I got a few gems in the charity shops too. This sugar sifter? flour shaker? huge salt cellar? Dunno, but it has a fantastically kitsch Spanish guitar on one side…


and a cactus on the other…


worth 50p? I think so. I also got some fantastic, and ridiculously cheap fabric…

IMG_6273  IMG_62732

IMG_6274 IMG_62742

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the boats, but that pink tablecloth is going to be a circle skirt, but I’m willing to bet you already guessed that :)

Well, I’m off. If it’s nice tomorrow there’s another car boot sale to go to, and this one isn’t hosted by a racecourse.


Friday, 24 July 2009

Un-seasonal Affective Disorder

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but here it’s just rain, rain, rain :(

I have real trouble getting motivated when the weather is like this. It’s not like I don’t have a ton-and-a-half of things to do, (my My Yahoo ‘to do list’ fills most of the page). I have several bags of clothing to refashion, four under-bed storage bags filled with fabric and two of yarn. My Ravelry favourites is bursting and my bookshelf is groaning with the weight of all my pattern books – so why can’t I start something? Do any of you have the same problem? How do you fix it?

Oh well, maybe tomorrow will be bright, but for now I’ll leave you (and my miserable self) with a picture of a happier place.

st ives 15-22 july 06 055

St Ives *sigh* – surely a photo from a past holiday will cure me?


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Hidden elasticated waist skirt tutorial

Now, although I’ve called this a tutorial, maybe it should be a how-to because there really isn’t all that much to it!
I made this skirt partly because I wanted something uber-comfortable to wear, and partly because I needed a skirt in a hurry (and zips take so much time!) BUT I like to tuck in shirts and the like, and an elasticated waist can look a bit mumsy if you’re over the age of ten so I added a fixed sash belt to cover the gathering.
First, measure  the widest part of your hips and add half again. Decide how long you want it to be and add 2 1/2 inches. Cut your fabric accordingly. I cut two pieces (a front and a back) because I thought it might look odd with just the one side seam. You should have two (or one) large rectangles.
Cut a long strip for the sash. I cut a piece the same length as the skirt piece (hip measurement plus half, but you might want to make it longer if you have tiny hips – I don’t!) but 8 inches wide. Fold in half along the long edge and sew. I added rounded points to the ends at the same time. Leave a gap in one end and invert the whole piece. Press. At this point I top stitched as close to the edge as possible to keep it flat.
Wrap your belt around your waist (or where you want the skirt to sit). You will see that it doesn’t fit quite right and gapes at the top. Fold in the excess fabric and sew down. The belt should now be a v-shape like this:
If you cut two rectangles for the skirt, sew up one side seam.
Now you need to place your belt. On the open edge, pin your belt 1 1/2 inches from the top (this leaves space for the elastic casing), making sure you attach the belt by the centre ‘v’ seam you just sewed (see above).
Sew up the open side seam, taking care the belt doesn’t move.
Now fold down the top hem and sew, leaving an inch open.
Insert your elastic through the hole. Some people like to use a safety pin for this, I like to tie the elastic to a crochet hook and feed it thorough. Make sure you attach one end of the elastic to the opening so you don’t pull it all the way through (If I had a penny…)
Overlap the elastic at the opening and sew down. Sew up the hole.
Hem the bottom, and you’re done!
IMG_6227 IMG_6226
This skirt should take about half an hour to make, and if you can be bothered to iron it (unlike me) it’s ready to wear straight away!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Etsy Wednesday goes local: Sarah Westwood


Hello all! This week’s Etsy Wednesday comes winging its way to you from all of thirty miles from my house. Sarah Westwood lives in Whitby, a lovely typically English seaside town, where she produces these amazing wall plaques.

She uses a complicated-sounding method which involves adding beeswax, paper and oils to wooden blocks which produces these strangely translucent images.


Her work has a peculiarly English slant. The above piece, Busy English Garden, is a complex layered piece which creates depth to the image, but isn’t it wonderfully whimsical? It measures 6.5cm by 6.5cm and 2cm deep.


Airing That British Laundry, above, is a great take on the Union flag and part of her truly British line. Each piece is painstakingly hand cut, carved, oiled and layered but they have the look of effortless freehand sketches. This one is a little larger than the others, measuring 14cm by 14cm.


Another in the British line, this piece, It’s a Good Drying Day, is my absolute favourite. OK, I’m not mega patriotic or anything (I don’t even know when the Queen’s birthdays are) but I have a thing for this painting. Maybe it’s the little socks, those circular flowers, that raggedy edge?

All of Sarah’s plaques come ready to hang and in a lovely gift box (if you could bear to part with one of them)


You may have noticed that I’m posting Etsy Wednesday early this week, that is to ensure you get a chance to check out Sarah’s special offer. If you spend $20 before Sunday, you can buy one of her Button Love plaques half price! They measure 6.5cm by 6.5cm and are one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen :)

Go look-see!


Monday, 20 July 2009

My Etsy relaunch!

Hello everybody, I’m extremely pleased to announce the relaunch of my Etsy shop, complete with new product lines, new banner, new name, new everything really!


My shop is called Magpie, mostly because I’ll pick up anything I consider ‘shiny’; old buttons, scraps of fabric, broken jewellery, old chewing gum with glitter in it (only joking - just checking to see if you’re still reading, but now I feel a bit ill) and I take all these shiny things and try and ‘fix’ them by putting them together in new ways.

You may have seen my tantalising (?) earlier post about the shiny new things I’ve been making for my shop.

Cue lady in spangly swimsuit and feathers in her hair, she’s holding an interesting-looking tray on which there appears to be a cloth… “what’s under that cloth?” I hear you cry.

Well, wonder no more, its…

blue clip 1 red clip



That’s right, my new shop items! And the lovely Elle, my sister-from-another-mother is modelling them!

But wait there’s more, not content with mere felt and embroidery hairclips, oh no, I decided to add some feathers and change the format slightly!

brown button pin wooden button pin on clothes

Phew, I’m so excited. I’ve been beavering away at home for ages, I was beginning to think they’d never see the light of day :)

Let me know what you think!


Saturday, 18 July 2009

A sneaky peek…

I’ve been on an Etsy hiatus for a few months but over the last few days I’ve been busy making some new things for my shop, and I thought I’d share a sneak peek with you all…


…felt scraps …embroidery floss …feathers?


Vintage buttons?


All become?

Hopefully some nice things – watch this space :)