Small Projects · Tops

Project 22 – Fur Vest

Today’s post is a pretty short post, because the project was a very quick one! A couple of weeks ago, my machine started making a horrible clunking sound, so I had to postpone all of my sewing until I could get it to a service centre (there is only one in this country). It was a terribly trying two week wait, but I used the time to pre-cut a bunch of stuff to sew, and thus cutting out the most dreaded part of any project.

Now that we know we need to prepare for winter next year, because, you know, winter is coming, I’ve been trying to motivate myself for some cold weather clothes. Since I’m still avoiding stretch fabrics, it’s a bit tricky. But, there’s been this fabulous hack floating around for a fur vest, and as I happen to have a large amount of faux fur hanging around, I thought Little Miss might enjoy this.

To make this, I pretty much followed the directions by Horris and Deedle, which you can find here, and used the Gypsy Shrug pattern by Tadah Patterns.

I personally hate working with faux fur. I find it easy enough, and I quite like the finish this cheapo one gave… but ugh… the fur went everywhere. I used some of the leftover fabric from Little Miss’ Gisele Kimono, because I thought it was a lovely subtle colour to go with everything. The only thing I did differently from the tutorial, was to add bias ties, although if I’m honest, they weren’t cut on the bias, merely folded like bias tape. I made a size 3, to fit her for next winter, and I cut the ties about 23cm long, losing about a centimetre at either end with the hemming and seams.



This took me less than an hour to whip up, even with a multitude of children popping in for celebrity visits. After more than 2 years without winter, and as a lover of summer, I’m actually a little bit excited about winter coming next year!



I can’t wait to see her wear this over cute little dresses and tops


Harry Potter bedroom · Sewing · Small Projects

Project 21 – Cornish Pixies

The next project off the bat for the Harry Potter bedroom was Cornish Pixies. Happily, I did not have to draft a pattern for these as a quick internet search led me to Mieljolie’s Cornish Pixie pattern on Etsy. Not having to draft this pattern made it totally worth every cent that the pattern cost, plus I have another idea of what I may be making very soon, also using this pattern.

I went to my local shop and found the perfect fabric for 22 Malaysian Ringgit (about AU$7) per metre. I am not very familiar with knits as I find them very scary, so I couldn’t tell you what it is…. except that it’s shiny on one side, and only has a little bit of stretch, which was perfect for me. I would guess that it’s maybe a thick lycra? I know I should have used a ballpoint needle for this, but I didn’t have one handy and besides, it won’t need to actually stretch at all. This was my first time making a jointed doll and I learned the hard way that you really need to pull the thread tight so that the joints are stiff enough. Two of the poor pixies have very relaxed legs and can only sit down! I wasn’t able to get safety eyes, so I had to make do with shank-buttons for eyes.


One loose-legged pixie complete


For the wings, I had to “wing” it a bit myself. I couldn’t get access to a laser printer, nor could I get the brooch backings. So instead, I got some clear plastic sheets (like you used to use on overhead projectors at school) and traced the design on with a fine permanent marker. Then I used a large needle to punch four holes in the wings and sewed them to the body with black thread. Now I just need to get a cage for them! (This is a lot harder than it might seem!)

Something very sad happened as I was finishing the third pixie. My machine started making a horrible clunking noise, and it wasn’t fixed by any regular fixes! And the nearest service centre is 3 hours away so I’ve been patiently waiting for almost 2 weeks to take it to get repaired. I’ve almost gone out of my mind, but instead I’ve channelled my energy into the worst sewing job of all, cutting out. Now I have 3 projects that I don’t have to do any more cutting for. It should be some compensation for 2 weeks with no sewing… I hope!


Wing details close up




Harry Potter bedroom · Sewing · Small Projects

Project 20 – The Grindylow

The day I have been waiting for since my children were born has finally arrive…. My kids are Potterheads. For about 8 months now, we have been reading “big boy” stories to Master 6, and Masters 5 and 3 when they feel like it. We started with Roald Dahl and then, at Master 6’s request, Harry Potter. And he loves it. We are about to finish Prisoner of Azkaban and his love for the stories and characters is only growing. We have received our posting home for January and we will be moving into a fairly small house, which means all 4 kids  will share a room with 2 sets of bunk beds. Like a Harry Potter dormitory. So, to get them excited for it, I offered to make their room Harry Potter themed, and the suggestion was met with epic enthusiasm. Since then, they’ve each chosen a house, and thought of ridiculous (and largely unachievable) decorations they’d like. I do have an ulterior motive here, and it is that I plan to make some of the elements their Christmas presents. See, Christmas with 4 kids and one paycheck can get a bit stressful, not to mention that kids get stuff they never use and it clogs up your house. So, we decided to give them things they would love, that we were going to give them anyway and kill two birds with one stone. So watch this space for a lot more Harry Potter themed sewing!

The very first thing I decided to make was a grindylow. To be honest, it wasn’t the first thing I decided to make, but it was the first thing I actually made. We had an old fishbowl floating around and I thought it would make a cool little decoration for the room. I looked high and low for a pattern but to my dismay, none seemed to exist, so I had to wing it. I started by searching the amazing internet for pictures, and found these horrors:

grindylow 2grindylow

Picture credit for both pictures:

Using this, and the fishbowl for size guiding, I made a pattern by first drafting the shape I thought I needed, then cutting it out of paper, and taping together to check the 3 dimensional shape was what I wanted. Then I added seam allowance and got to constructing my critter.

I didn’t want to buy any new supplies for this project, so I decided to use some olive “dupioni silk” (I use this term loosely as that’s what it was labelled in my local shop, but I’m 99.95% certain it was not- it was very cheap and nasty) for the body, and some pale pink cotton for the tentacles on the head, and the arm and leg tentacles. Because of the very fragile nature of the “silk”, and the very small seam allowance I was working with, thanks to the small parts, I used fusible interfacing on the back of every piece, sewing pieces together, and then trimming off excess fabric so that the seams were still interfaced.


Tentacle fabric ready to go, eyes embroidered on the head, and interfaced head and arm pieces ready to go


To make the “tentacles”, I used my free-motion foot and sewed hundreds of little circles onto the fabric along lines drawn with water-erasable marker. To be honest, having used interfacing, I mistakenly thought there would be no need to hoop the fabric, as I thought it would be sufficiently stiff. It wasn’t, but by not hooping it, it puckered in the most fantastic way that really gave the “suckers” the perfect texture. It’s all about the details, right? I also used my free-motion foot to embroider on some shadowy looking eye sockets with little black eyes in them, then I pieced together the head, which I won’t pretend wasn’t a fiddly job.  Actually, this whole creature was fiddly.I added felt teeth to the mouth so that I didn’t need to worry about finishing the edges. Once the head was complete, I stuffed it, ready to attach to the body.


Here you can see the slight puckering of the fabric, which gives the effect of raised tentacles. I actually found this quite relaxing to do and I loved the effect! It’s almost enough to get me sewing quilt-y things, except I hate having to match things perfectly


Next I made the arms, put a pipe cleaner through them so they could be posed, and then began the mammoth task of doing the tentacles. These were very narrow tubes, and were very difficult to turn. If I was ever to make this again (too fiddly! But I’ve said that before and repeated so…) I’d use either a slippery fabric, or something with a slight stretch, for ease of turning. I started by sewing the tentacle tops and bottoms together, then sewing up the sides of the body, with the arms pinned between the side seams. I had to leave one seam open above the arm as there was too much bulk with 2 stuffed arms and 6 empty tentacles to turn. I turned each tentacle individually, inserting pipe cleaner and then stuffing as each was turned (a straw, chopstick and a lot of patience helped with this) Once all the tentacles were turned, I twisted the pipe cleaner ends together to ancho them and enable the tentacles to be posed, sewed the body side seam above the arm, then stuffed the body. Finally, (and very happily), I sewed the head onto the body, and he was complete!


I now have 3 very happy little boys and one happy girl!


Arm pieces ready to be sandwiched into the body



Small Projects

Project 17 – Monster Wallets

After the epic effort of sewing for a fussy tween, school  holidays, and endless festivities, I opted for a small project off my to-do list: monster wallets for my boys. We often go to “car boot sales” with the kids to support my husband’s work, and we usually give the kids a little bit of money to spend each. It’s small and inconsequential to us, of course, and they always buy awful mangy soft toys, but it does teach them about the finite value of  money, budgeting, and here, they also learn haggling. The other thing that prompted me to make wallets was that during Raya, the month-long celebration at the end of Ramadan, kids are often given small pouches with a little money in it, called “duit Raya”. This way, they would have somewhere to collect their stash.

I self-drafted this pattern by making two large rectangles 19cm x 11cm (one in the main fabric and one in the lining), and (all other pieces are from lining fabric) 2 more rectangles 19cm x 10cm. I sewed these together on one long edge, turned and pressed so wrong sides were together.I used a 5mm seam allowance for all of the sewing on this project. Next, I cut 3 rectangles 8cm x 9.5cm. I folded these in half so they measured 9.5cm x 4cm and ironed in place, then finished the raw edges. I placed the first of these on the large rectangles that were sewn together, 1cm from the top and aligning the left sides. I sewed around the sides and bottom, then layered the next piece 1.5cm down from the top of the last, keeping the left sides aligned, and again sewed around the sides and bottom. Finally, the last piece is sewn over the others so the left side and bottom align with the large rectangle, and sides and bottom are sewn. This created the “card” pockets.


The card pouches


Now, I made the coin pouch. I cut two crescents about 9cm wide, and 4cm tall at the highest point. On one crescent, I sewed a small strip of velcro which will serve as the closure for the coin pouch. On the other crescent, I sewed crazy eyes. I cut a string of “teeth” from felt, sandwiched it between the two crescents, and sewed around the edges, leaving a gap to turn, then turned and pressed. For the pocket itself, I cut a rectangle 9.5cm x 9cm. I folded the top down by 5mm, then another 1cm and stitched down. I finished the raw edges, folded them under by 5mm, then pressed. I sewed a small Velcro strip (opposite side to the piece on the pouch flap) to the centre of the pocket along the top edge. Now, I positioned the pocket so it was 7mm up from the bottom, overlapping the card pouches, and stitched around the edges, leaving the top edge open. Next I placed the pouch flap along the top edge of the base rectangle above the pocket, so the Velcro aligns, and stitched it down. Next, I put this large rectangle on top of the single lining rectangle left (the largest rectangle), aligning it at the bottom and sides, and sewed around these three sides.


Hungry monster coin pouch flaps


To make the face on the front, I started by cutting out face pieces from felt. You can use whatever shapes you want, but remember, you’ll need to leave space for the clasp strap, and also that your face will need to fit entirely on the right half of your outer piece. I cut two pieces from outer fabric that measured 6cm x 3cm. I sewed around 3 sides, leaving a short side open, then turned out the right way. I used corduroy for my outer and in hindsight I could have used something a little lighter in weight, and also something less textured (turning small corduroy pieces is horrible. Now I pinned this to the outer fabric, on the left side, halfway down, and placed my lining on top, with all the pockets touching right side to with the outer fabric. I sewed around the outside leaving a gap of about 8cm to turn, trimmed the corners, turned and stitched up the gap. and they were finished!


I left the teeth free, mostly, to add some texture and personality


My boys loved these, but honestly, they were so fiddly, I couldn’t wait for them to be finished so I could do something fun again. Now their plentiful duit Raya has a safe home, guarded by hungry money monsters!


Finished insides. They’re a bit bulky but the kids don’t mind. They have a slot for notes, a pouch for coins, and card pockets. What more could any little boy (or girl) want?



Small Projects

Project 10 – Birthday Cards and Bookmark

Ok, ok, I’ll admit it. This project was completed a little while ago, before I went away, as it was for my Grandparents in the UK. This was a (sort of) fun project with my 3 bigger kiddos. In an attempt to teach our kids to think of others, I usually have them make their own birthday cards and presents for relatives, as well as each other. This year, I made coasters for my Grandmother with Welsh love spoons on them, as she is Welsh but has recently moved to England. I thought she would like to have a little bit of Wales in her new home, and they were definitely well received.

My boys are always wanting to sew, but honestly, I find it a bit frightening to hand over the reigns. So, when they sew, we compromise. I set them up and they sit on my lap so I can control the pedal. Less chance of a needle-through-finger situation, I feel. Anyway, I had some cut-out cards for making cross-stitched, or hand embroidered cards, but since I struggle with fine handiwork these days, thought of another way to put them to use. I gave each boy a piece of white fabric and my water erasable marker, and told them to draw a birthday picture. They couldn’t colour anything in, and they shouldn’t make it too detailed or small. Once they had drawn their pictures, they chose their thread colours while I hooped the fabric, then they sat on my lap and we sewed over the drawings with my free motion embroidery foot. I let them control the direction and speed that they pushed the fabric through, and I think they did pretty well! Master 4 was the best of them, which is not unusual, as he has the most interest in arts and crafts, and the best focus.


Master 4’s “presents” on the hoop


Then we mounted the cards, wrote in them, and hey presto! My grandparents loved the cards and have put them on prominent display.


On the left, Master 3 made “balloons” [and unfortunately a pen left a smudge at the top of the card with no spares left. ugh!] and on the right, Master 4 made “presents”
Master 4 loved it so much he asked to make a second. His is on the right, and Master 5’s “flowers” are on the left. You can see from his lines that I allowed him a bit more freedom with the fabric movement



Next, for my Grandfather, through collaborative effort, we made a bookmark. I gave each child a box of pencils and a square of tracing paper, and asked them to draw a picture of their great-grandfather. Then I pinned these to a piece of coarse linen backed with fusible batting, and stitched over the pictures in the colours they had chosen. Master 5 did some free stitching on the back piece, then I stitched them together, turned, and topstitched them.


He loved his present too. It came in handy as he immediately switched it from the bookmark he was currently using. I really love giving handmade gifts as most people appreciate the effort you go to, and especially for older people who usually have pretty much everything they want or need.


Top to bottom: Master 5 drew Great-Grandfather (GG) with “spaghetti arms”; Master 4 drew GG just normally and; Master 3 drew GG and himself, and no, nobody is angry, but yes, he’s included anatomical parts that are not usually shown in polite society. Boys!


Small Projects

Project 5 – Hari Guru Pencil Cases

The 16th of May is Hari Guru, or Teacher’s Day, here in Malaysia. It’s not really a thing in Australia (I don’t think – but then it’s been a while since I was at school or had school aged kids there), but here it’s a pretty big deal. Last year, the kids made cards and gave chocolates to their teachers, but this year I wanted to do something a little more special. What do teachers always use? Pencil cases, that’s what.

I searched high and low for a pattern I liked, but in the end decided to draft my own pattern, and have the kids design the outside. If you want to make your own, you will need:

  • Outside fabric (I used a coarse, natural coloured linen)
  • Lining Fabric
  • Batting (I used a medium weight, fusible one)
  • Various threads
  • Tracing paper
  • Zip (I used 8″ zips)
  • an embroidery foot, if you have one, and denim-weight needles
  • regular sewing supplies (machine, hand sewing needles, scissors etc)

To make the pattern, I made a simple box pattern allowing for 5mm seams. I then cut one piece each from the outside fabric, the lining fabric, and the batting. On a regular piece of paper, I drew a box the size of the finished pencil case side, gave my kids some pencils and the paper, and told them to draw a picture inside the box. An important part of this instruction is to ask (beg) them not to colour in, because filling large areas with embroidery makes the pencil case pretty stiff. Next, I traced their drawings onto the tracing paper, fused the batting to the main fabric, and pinned the tracings to the fabric. It’s best to trace the drawings with coloured pencils to match the original. Firstly, this makes it easier to see which colours need to go where, and also, it means you don’t discolour the thread as you sew over the tracings. If you are embroidering on both sides, don’t forget that the middle of your fabric piece will need to be the bottom, so you need to pin both pieces so the bottom of your image in towards the middle. I used the kid’s drawing on one side of each pencil case, and a special note to the teacher on the other.

Here’s my super simple pattern, if you want to make one yourself

Then, for the most time consuming (but fun) part, embroidering the picture. To do this, I simply use a large needle and my embroidery foot, and free motion over the outlines on the tracing paper, but you could also do this using a regular foot, and lowering your dog feeds to allow more range of motion. Using a large needle helps to perforate the paper and makes it easy to tear away as you go. I usually sew over each part twice which means you can usually do each coloured section in one go without having to stop and start over and over. Once I’ve torn the paper off, I use a pair of tweezers to pick off any tiny bits left behind and a lint roller can be very useful for helping to clean the whole thing up and get any pesky bits of paper left behind.

I forgot to take photos of the pictures the kids drew, so instead, here is the side with the message for the teachers. Kids here call their teachers “Aunty Whatever-her-name-is” which I find adorable (preschool kids, anyway)

Once you’ve prepared your outside, making the pencil case itself is super quick. First, line up the zip along the edge of the outside fabric, right sides together. You want to make sure that the metal stoppers for the zip (especially at the bottom end) are less than 5mm from the end of the fabric, so that they will be enclosed inside the end seams when you sew those and so you don’t smash your needle by sewing over them. Next, lay the lining fabric on top, right side facing down, and pin all 3 together. Using a 5mm seam allowance, with your zipper foot attached, sew the length of the zip. You will need to move the slider to make sure your seam stays straight. I usually sew until I am close to the slider, then with the needle stopped in the down position, lift the foot, gently open (or close) the zip until the slider is a few centimetres behind the foot, then lower the foot and resume sewing. Turn right side out, then repeat with the other side of the zip.

Here is the second side of the zip pinned to the outside layer, and with the lining about to be laid on top

Next, sew both side seams (the 10.5cm part on my pattern) of the outside fabric, and one of the lining fabric side seam. For the other lining side seam, you just want to sew the top and bottom, and leave a gap of about 7cm in the middle for turning. Then, you want to sew the bottom seams. To do this, match the bottom of the side seam with the fold line of the pencil case bottom, and sew with a 5mm seam. Repeat until both lining and both outside bottom seams are sewn. Next, to sew the top end openings, pin the centre of the zip to the centre of the opening on the outside fabric (right sides together). Then, pin the lining fabric over this. By doing so, you will sew the lining to the outside fabric here, with the zip neatly enclosed. Sew with a 5mm seam and repeat for the other side. Finally, turn through the lining side seam, and hand-stitch the lining side seam closed.

Here you can see the top end seam on the right, and the bottom seam on the left, crating the box shape


Turn right side out, and hand-stitch the opening closed


Now all you have to do is fill it with little goodies for your teacher! We are using the original drawings to make the cards for the teachers, and the kids can write their own special messages in them. Selamat Hari Guru, Aunties!

The finished 4 cases, pictures on one side and a message on the back
And here they are with their linings on display. I let the kids choose the linings for their own Aunties and I love the diversity of what they chose