Sunday, 16 June 2013


I find the fabric I work with wherever I can, and I'm always on the hunt for  new fabrics. My expertise in finding places that sell material is a bit of a joke in my house. I have an ever expanding list of favourite places to go in the local area and further afield, whole days out and trips can be based around visiting some fabric shops and warehouses. Fortunately I have a few friends who share my passion, and I'm working on the rest.
I'm always on the look out for remnants and vintage pieces, so charity shops and markets make great places for a rummage. I found some fantastic linens in a local shop last year and used them to make a drawstring bag amongst other things ( Charity Shop Finds and Drawstring Bag Make 19/2/12).

Some lovely vintage gingham fabrics found at my most recent visit to Altrincham Vintage Market- all sorts of plans for them.
It has become a little embarassing as on a couple occasions recently shop assistants, without any  prompting on my part, have shown me to the shop's remnant baskets.  As I was being led to these secret remnant stashes, hidden away at the back of the shop, I did wonder if I give off a 'frantic for fabric' vibe.  The shops in questions were Dunelm Mill and Terrys Fabric Warehouse, both sell good quality and well priced fabric. If you're only looking for small pieces of fabric the remnant bins are worth seeking out.

  Scandi Storage Box lined with Ikea cotton in orange and cream spots 

Ikea has also become a source of fabric for me, although I have mix feelings about the place- very much a love hate relationship. If I go, I usually slink in late at night as this generally avoids the crowds of people (family days out etc.) meandering through the shop. Then I try to beat the store planners, ignoring the arrows on the floor looking for the short cuts to avoid the marathon tour around the place. My aim is to get to the fabric department with as few distractions and hold ups as possible. I am very fond of Ikea fabrics as the quality is generally very good and the price reasonable (and in case you're wondering Ikea  often have a remnant bin). 
I tend to buy their plain cottons and linens for linings. They have some fabulous prints, sadly (for me)  many are very large designs ideal for curtains and large cushions but not so good for smaller items. I do love them but tend to resist these large prints and also the ones that are very recognisably 'Ikea', but I recently succumbed ( encouraged by a very good sale discount).
I found a bold floral print cotton, with large stylised flowers with a real 'retro' feel, and a lovely striped cotton canvas fabric. The both fabrics have a wonderful summery feel  and work together quite well- I think.
The first make was this large reversible bag which was designed for the beach and holidays. The bag is very spacious with a large base almost like a bucket bag. There is a large pocket that closes with velcro ( the button is just for decoration)- ideal for smaller items so they're not lost in the bottom of the bag. 
The bag is reversible makes it a little more versatile, and it folds flat so great to fit in a suitcase.
The striped cotton fabric is ideal for aprons with its strong tight weave, and the flowers from the floral fabric just great for large pockets. They add a bit of fun and interest, and are quite practical. They are lined with the main fabric- this avoided any raw edges and also strenghtened the pockets.


The rest of the striped fabric and floral print is destined for cushions.
A quick word of warning about Ikea be prepared to measure and cut your own fabric (invariably with a pair very blunt scissors). Your fabric is then weighed by an assistant for pricing.
I have a long list of other favourite haunts for fabric including my local shop, Cae Du  Designs, here in Harlech, Textile Express in Oswestry ( they also sell online) and many,many more.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Coming out of hibernation

It's been some time since I've posted on my blog in fact it is a very long time since I wrote anything here. It is as though it has been in an extended hibernation and I think it is about I woke it up, although with recent weather I still need some convincing that spring has arrived.

Despite the unseasonal weather, and it is probably best not to dwell on it, there are plenty of signs that the year is moving on. I spend my time at the computer being distracted by the birds on the feeder just outside the window, particularly now this year's broods have started to fledge. It's quite comical to see a well fed 'baby' bird, with mouth open and flapping wings, waiting for food from parents who are worn out with feeding the youngster that is now bigger than they are.

 I'm very lucky where I live as I get a fine selection of different types of birds in the garden, though I have to say one of my favourites is the humble little sparrow. They nest in the back wall of the house; they're noisy, a bit rowdy in fact they're rather raucous neighbours but I love that they are there despite their squabbling.

 This year has been very special as there has been a blackbird's nest in a shrub just feet from the back door so it has been a thrill to watch the little family grow and fledge, sadly no photos as I've been very anxious not to disturb their nest.

The making goes on and this year has brought a few new lines and some exciting new fabrics. I think my favourite is a camper van print ( from Fryett, I think ) which is available in both cotton and oilcloth type ( PVC) fabric making it quite versatile. I knew the print would be popular but I'm still surprised by just how popular. The little vans seem to capture so many people's imaginations, and I've heard so many stories about vans past and present, which has been great. I've always had aspirations of acquiring a camper and this fabric might just be the closest I get!

The other fabric I'm very fond of is a laminated fabric with a matt finish from the Summersville range by Moda. I've used it to make storage boxes and lined it with a bold orange print from Ikea- just adding to the Scandinavian feel.

 The boxes are great for storage all over the house particularly in the children's room, bathroom, keeping your desk tidy or to put crafting bits and bobs in.

The oilcloth fabric makes them very practical as they can be wiped clean easily- great in the bathroom or for keeping baby changing gear handy. The alphabet print (above) is made from a remnant I managed to pick up online ( I'm always on the look out for a bargain).

I've done fewer fairs this year, selling more online and closer to home, which has been nice. I still do some fairs and a couple of markets. I'm off to Altrincham Vintage Market this Sunday. I've done it a few times and it is always well attended. It starts at 10am, which is really quite civilised for a Sunday morning.

I've got lots of ideas for new makes, and I've started dressmaking again which is great, if a bit of a surprise, and I will share some of my makes and some dressmaking tips. So watch this space..

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Fabric Flowers

It's a little while since I made something for the blog, and I thought as the flowers were fading in the garden it would be nice to make some fabric flowers.

These are quite simple, and although I use the sewing machine here they can be made by hand- there isn't a great deal of sewing involved.

You need-

Strips of fine or light weight fabric- I've used a cotton fabric.

fuse wire (or the fine wire used by florists in flower arranging)

plant sticks/canes ( thin green wooden sticks- found mine in B&Q)

Cut a strip of fabric 10 cm by 50cm and fold in half - bringing the long edges together and press along the fold. 

Open the piece of fabric out and make a running stitch along the length using the pressed fold line as a guide.

Fold the fabric back along the pressed fold line.

Now to make the petal shapes- fold the fabric strip in half  bringing the short edges together, you should end up with a folded piece measuring 25cm by 5cm.  It is probably easiest to use a few pins to hold the fabric in place.

You can either draw the petal shape free hand or make a template.

 Mark the shape on the fabric- ensure the you do this along the open edge of the fabric and not the fold!

Cut the petal shapes (reminder don't cut along the folded edge)- once done open out maintaining the fold on the long edge.

Again you may wish to use pins at this stage, stitch the two layers of fabric together, either with the machine or by hand, along the open edge of the 'petals' about  0.5cm from the edge.

Now to secure your flower to its stalk- the green garden canes. The ones I have are 25cm in length, and I've cut them in half. You can hide the cut end in the centre of the flower.

Thread a piece of fuse wire through the fabric strip bringing it out the other end a couple of centimetres, bend either end of wire to stop fabric coming off it, then draw up the running stitch.

Secure one  end of the fuse wire to the end of the cane.

Then carefully start to form the flower head by wrapping the fabric strip round the top of the cane using the fuse wire to secure it.

 It's a bit fiddly but it should hold in place if the wire is tight-  take a bit of time here to shape the flower head. Once you reach the end secure using the wire.

Like previous projects you can modify this:
- change the dimensions of the fabric strips of create bigger/smaller flowers
-change the petal shape so you have more pointed petals or cut out using pinking shears
-instead of folding a strip of fabric use 2 long thinner strips of different fabrics sewn together, fold along the length of the seam.
-you can add leaves to the stems, again using wire to secure in place.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Vintage Fashion & Textiles -My Kind Of Heaven

Had the most fantastic Sunday spending it at a Vintage Fashion & Textile Fair in Manchester. The fair is held twice yearly at the Armitage Centre in Owens Park, which is part of Manchester University although the fairs are not organise by them. The spring fair is organised by The Textile Society and the September one by Decorative Fairs  It is an absolute must for anyone who has an interest in vintage/retro fashions and textiles with literally hundreds of stalls there. I had the most wonderful time mooching and rummaging, and meeting lots of folk who enthuse about fabric.
No photos from the actual event- far too busy looking (& spending) to take photos, but I thought I might share some of my buys (and there were a few she confesses guiltily).  They are all favourites but for different reasons, and some I didn't realise how much I loved  until I got home and had a really good look.

I bought a collection of knitting needles- when I picked up the bundle I didn't realise what was in it until I unwrapped it and found the most beautifully organised set of knitting needles. They had obviously belonged to a serious knitter- needles of all sizes in bamboo, metal and plastic, in various lengths and many double ended needles. To me a wonderful find, and scrutinising it when I got home it was difficult not to think about the previous owner and what they had made in the past. I'm afraid I get a little sentimental and feel it's a real privilege to take possesion of such an item.

Another purchase was a bumper tin of buttons- I was offered the box , the price was named and I have to say it was too good to resist. I hadn't the time to fully examine the contents of the tin there and then but I had a wonderful time going through the box when I got home, and wasn't disappointed.

 There were lots of sets of vintage buttons all sorts of sizes, a few novelty buttons and some glass buttons. I think the previous owner must have taken buttons of clothes once they had finished wearing them and stashed them for future use in their button tin- something I do myself.

 I wondered what they did with the rest of the items whether they were re-fashioned into other pieces of clothing or whether they were used to make something like another one of my purchases- a peg rug.

I said this was post was a bit of a confession, and it is. I found and brought home this fantastic peg or rag rug, what it's called depends on what part of the country you come from. These rugs like patchwork were made from bits of old and used fabric- the ultimate recycling. Many of the rugs haven't survived, or when you do find them they tend to be marked and damaged as they were made to be used and usually sat in front of the fire.

 This one is made from pieces of wool fabric, and someone has spent some time planning and designing the rug. It is in need of a little T.L.C and a wash but otherwise is just perfect. So I'm delighted with this and am going to give it a good home.
I won't list all my purchases as it is becoming a little self indulgent but I thought I might just show you this lovely wool jacket I picked up  (an absolute bargain ).

 It is beautifully made and finished- I just love the detail in the tailoring of the jacket particularly the sleeves, the pleat in the back and finish around the pockets and front seams.


It was absolutely wonderful to wander round the fair and look at the most exquisite dresses, outfits and accessories of all vintages, and fabrics and textiles again of all vintages from all around the world. 
The next fair in Manchester is in the spring and for details go to the Textile Society website- there is a bonus at their fairs as many of the textile guilds are also there including embroiderers and quilters along with the commercial sellers .Decorative Fairs do organise other fairs in the northwest of England and again more details will be found on their website.
Thanks for hearing my confession and perhaps I've even tempted you to indulge your passion for textiles and vintage fashion. If you feel the need for a little indulgence I would really recommend a trip to one of the fairs. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ruby Gingham @ No16 The Downs

It's been quite busy the last few weeks in that I've been setting up my little patch in a fantastic new retail venture in Altrincham, a market town in Cheshire not far from Manchester. It's a place I know well having grown up there, and I'm a very frequent visitor still having family ties in the area. Like many small towns the last few years have been difficult, but now there's a fantastic movement to reinvogorate the town and bring back local shoppers. No 16 The Downs  can be found on the first floor of Traders Outlet on The Downs, and it provides the opportunity that a lot of crafters and small independent traders dream of- retail space at low risk.
So what can you find there? Well there is a fabulous selection vintage clothes & home wares, artists, and crafters plus a beautician and importantly a coffee shop with cakes (absolutely vital to any shopping trip). There is a real mix of independent traders and a very pleasant relaxed atmosphere to shop in.
My little patch that has been a bit of challenge to set up and stock- I'm use to setting up my stall at fairs and markets more or less on a weekly basis but this is a bit different. Firstly there is quite a bit more space and also I won't be on hand most of the time to keep it tidy- so planning it was important to make the most of the available space and incorporate some storage space. With the help of some magnolia paint, some Ikea shelving units and a very 'shabby chic' chest of drawers the space has evolved into my patch, though even after couple of weeks trading it's still a work in progress.
Ruby Gingham at the Crafty Little Cottage now has a home away from home at No16. It's great to have a place to display my work on a more permanent basis, and to be part of such an exciting venture.
So now there's is a lot of work to get the word out there and increase the awareness of the place. There has been a lot of coverage in the local press and last weekend No16 had its official launch. There was a tremendous response and the place was packed which was wonderful- here's hoping folk keep coming back and tell their friends. So fingers crossed...
Find out more;

Monday, 6 August 2012

Blooming Summer

I've just spent a lovely weekend in a marquee in the beautiful gardens of Erddig, a National Trust property in North Wales. It was real privilege to take part in their wonderful Victorian weekend, which was very well attended and it was fabulous to see so many folk wearing Victorian costume.

I was last at Erddig at their Christmas market, so it was great to see the beautiful gardens that I wandered round in the depths of winter in their summer splendour. One of the things I love about doing events at this type of venue is the opportunity you get to mooch round before the gates open to the general public. I took full advantage of this yesterday morning and had a good look round the gardens before starting.

I always feel I have to excuse writing about gardens in what is suppose to be a crafting blog but they can be a great source of inspiration particularly with regard to the use of colour and textures.

There were plenty of colours to be seen at the weekend in the fabulous rose garden. The beds are planted quite formally with roses and lavender, and purple clematis and pink climbing roses growing up frames.

There is a great selection of sweet peas (one of my favourites) in the garden and the smell was wonderful. The picture above is of the walled vegetable garden, and in true Victorian style there are a couple of greenhouses tucked away and an orchard.

There are lots of ideas to take away for planting and surprisingly in such a big garden ideas for gardeners who work on a much smaller scale. The bed above has sweet peas, sunflowers, beans, purple sprouting broccoli, beetroot, marigolds and a cordon of apples on the wall.

I loved seeing the bees working hard in the orchards and they were busy yesterday in the early morning sunshine.

All in all it was a terrific weekend in a wonderful setting and the sun shone- at least for most of the time.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Accessorise with a yoyo- easy brooch make

I've just spent a lovely weekend in Sheffield taking part in the Folksy Fair. This was a wonderful craft and design fair organised by Folksy, the on line craft site ( ) and involvied individuals who sell on the site. The event was held in Endcliffe Park and was part of the Folk Forest music festival, so over the weekend there was a selection bands playing just adding to a really great atmosphere. There was a really good attendance and for a change this summer the weather played nicely giving us some brilliant sunshine ( and I have to admit I was even a little sun burnt by Sunday evening).

I was surrounded by some terrific designers and makers, and it was great to meet them after admiring their work on line. All in all a very good weekend.

When I wasn't talking to visitors and admiring other stalls I did a little making as I took some sewing with me. I think it looks good to be busy behind your stall. This is something I should add to my list of things to take to a fair -it nice at fairs to be demonstrate your crafting skills to visitors if you can. Unfortunately the sewing machine doesn't travel well so I usually take some hand sewing, something small that is is easy to put down and doesn't take too much concentration. This weekend I made some little fabric brooches while I was sitting behind the stall.

This is an incredibly simple idea and very easy to do, and like many things I mentioned previously easy to adapt and develop. The basis of the brooch is a 'yoyo' or I've also heard them called 'suffolk puffs', I think the names are quilting terms although I may be wrong.

The basis of the brooch is a circular disc of fabric, the size of the disc determines the size of your brooch.

 Sew a small running stitch around the edge of your disc about 0.5cm from the edge.  Running stitch is a very simple in and out straight stitch, make sure the end of your thread is well secured when you start sewing so when you have completed stitching round the edge of the disc and pull the thread the fabric gathers up.

This will bring the outside edge of the disc together, make sure the right side of the fabric is facing outwards, and manipulate the fabric disc so the gathered edge sits in the centre of the disc and secure and trim the thread.

Add a button and sew on centrally to hide the raw edge. Then you can just attach a brooch bar or a small safety pin to the back so you can wear your brooch.

So what about adapting the idea;

-you could sew a couple of yoyos in complimentary fabrics (one larger than the other) on top of one another to make a bigger brooch.

-the yoyo with the central button resembles a flower so you could make some green felt leaves and sew them to the back of the yoyo before adding your brooch bar.

-to accentuate the shape of your yoyo flower you could add a little stuffing, do this as you are drawing up the running stitch so you can secure the stuffing inside.

- you could sew several together so it appears to be several flower heads together, use a piece of heavier fabric or heavy interfacing to sew the yoyos to then sew your brooch bar to the back of this piece of fabric.

-rather than making a brooch sew several yoyos together and make up into a necklace.

This make is another way of using up scraps of fabric- the brooches (or if you developed the idea your yoyos may have multiplied to a full blown corsage) are great on jackets, cardis, hats and even bags. I've started adding these brooches to some my bags- making them up it the same fabric as the bag lining and using some big interesting buttons in the centre of the brooch. It is actually quite a nice way of showing off  vintage, antique, or just nice buttons.