Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Personalised t-shirt

My little girl loves to dance. She always has: her earliest nursery reports were of her bopping away to the music and clapping her hands. Now, at almost 18 months, she will happily dance on command or whenever she hears music. She twirls, spins, bounces, occasionally jumps, and is just the happiest wee creature you've ever seen.

So this morning, I took it in my head that I wanted to make her a shirt. A wee dancer shirt. For those of you not familiar with Scottish phrases, I can refer you to various dictionaries of Scottish vernacular, which define "dancer" as a "term of glee or exultation. Tap dancer- three stairs up in a tenement or top floor in a prison (also called Fredastair or Freda)" - see also here. Basically, it's a good thing, and being called a "wee dancer" is a term of admiration and appreciation. 

And here is my little girl's Wee Dancer shirt. You don't need to make a wee dancer - the method could be used for anything. Try putting your wee one's name on it. Or how about a big number 1 for a first birthday?

You can, of course, make a t-shirt from scratch but frankly, why bother when you can buy a perfectly good one for £2? (This one's from H&M - £1.99, but you can also get multipacks of white onesies or t-shirts from places like John Lewis and Asda.) 

Start to finish, this project took me exactly one hour.

You will need:
  • one t-shirt, of an appropriate size
  • bondaweb
  • a small bit of fabric (or fabrics) in contrasting colours to make your letters
  • an iron
  • a good pair of scissors
  • a printer, stencils, or a good hand at drawing letters
  • a sewing machine (optional)
Step 1: make your letters

The easiest way to do this is to get onto your computer, type the word or words you want, and then fiddle with fonts and sizes until you have a pattern. I used 220 point Futura bold outline for mine. Try not to pick a font that's too fussy or narrow as you will have to cut out all those fiddly bits, and possibly sew them later on.

Once you've got your letters looking right, you need to print. If you can, print a mirror image of your words, so that they come out backwards (usually you can do this in your print settings). If you can't, don't worry - it's just a bit extra work.

Now, hold your printout up to your t-shirt to make sure the size looks right and it will all fit. If it looks good, go ahead and trace your letters onto your bondaweb. If you weren't able to print a mirror image, you can either cut them out and flip them over and then trace, or trace their outline onto the back of the printout and copy those. You should now have a sheet of bondaweb with your backwards letters on them.

Step 2: make the fabric letters

You now want to fuse the bondaweb onto the fabric you've chosen for your letters. Make sure you're doing it on the WRONG side of the fabric! Once you've ironed the bondaweb on, carefully cut out all the letters. Peel the paper backing off, arrange them on your t-shirt, and iron them into place. Your letters should now be the right way round!

Step 3: sewing 

You can now, if you want, set your sewing machine to a very small, tight zigzag stitch and outline the letters in a complimentary or contrasting thread. This will ensure those letters aren't going anywhere, and can help the design pop out a bit. However, unless you're very very good (I'm not), you might also lose some of the sharpness of the letters. So, if you've used a fabric that isn't going to ravel or fray, or the t-shirt doesn't need to last an eternity, or you don't have a sewing machine, feel free to skip this step. Just make sure you've done a really thorough job of ironing the letters on.

And ta-da! You are finished! Easy as pie, and the t-shirt world's your oyster. Why not try and personalise a set of plain white sleepsuits for a new baby, with matching burp cloths? Or a little hat? Or a towel, or a bag... 

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

10-minute Gift Bags

This project is born out of the fact that I never seem to have wrapping paper, or gift bags, when I need them. I had a good stash for while after the babies were born, but to be honest when you're looking for a classy little bag for a friend's birthday, "Congratulations! Baby Boy!" bags just don't do the trick.

What I lack in wrapping paper, though, I more than make up for in fabric scraps. I have - actually, I can't bring myself to admit how many tupperware boxes of fabric I am currently hoarding underneath my bed. It's a lot. And I am determined to start getting through them. I adore fabric. Fabric is my favourite part of sewing. Looking at the perfect, crisp, beautiful sheets of cotton, corduroy, fleece - it's my porn. And so far too often I end up buying 'just a metre' of this and that, not knowing what it will become, but knowing that I have to bring it home with me. And thus, I have XX boxes of fabric, waiting to be used.

So, put these two problems together and we come up with 10-minute Gift Bags. If you're a sewer, you won't need any further instructions. If you're new to the craft, here are a few to get you going. I made these by the dozen and filled them with homemade roasted nuts and truffles for the nursery staff at Christmas. I make them to put baby presents in. They work for any occasion, and can be as simple or elaborate as you desire.

You will need:

  •  fabric (almost anything will work, but avoid fabrics that are very stiff, like felt)
  •  sewing machine and thread
  •  ribbon or string
  •  safety pin
  •  garnishes, if and as desired

Step 1: Cut a rectangle
(Apologies for the quality of photos in this post! For some reason they didn't turn out very well)

I can't really be more specific than that, because the size and shape will depend entirely on what you are wanting to wrap. The best thing to do is start by wrapping the fabric around the thing you want to wrap, add a centimetre or so, and mark. Then do the same with the height, making sure to leave enough fabric to gather around the top and the bottom, and add 3-5 centimetres on to that. Once you've got your dimensions, cut out so that you have a rectangle.

Step 2: Create a casing

Casing, once sewn
Fold over the top edge of your fabric to create a casing for your ribbon or string to fit through. If you are using string, this can be quite narrow, but still needs to be wide enough for a safety pin to pass through. If you're using a thick ribbon, make it slightly wider. Fold, press or pin if desired, and then sew along the bottom to make a little tunnel.

Step 3: Sew up the bag

Fold your rectangle in half, right side in, with the casing along the top. Starting below the casing you've just sewn, sew down along the side of the bag and across the bottom. Turn the bag right way out.
Bottom and side of the bag sewn up

Step 4: Thread the ribbon

Attach your safety pin to the end of the ribbon or string and pass it through one end of the casing. Using a wiggling method, work the ribbon around until it pops out the other end. Remove the pin, trim the ends, and voila! You have a drawstring bag, made in no time at all.

As always, you can make these more elaborate if you want by adding an applique initial or pattern, some lace or more ribbon, iron on emblems, or satin roses. Make larger versions in sturdy fabric to hold toys, laundry, or nappies. Make smaller versions in seasonal fabric, tie bells on the ends of the ribbons, and stuff with Christmas baking. Or fill with lavender for easy scented bags for your drawers.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Quilt in an Hour (yes, really)

Now to be honest, this post should really be called 'quilt' in an hour. Technically, this is not a quilt. A real quilt is three layers: top, wadding, and backing. It's usually nicely edged with binding and finished by hand. It also takes substantially longer than an hour. However, if that's the kind of project you're looking for, read no further.

But for those of you who've not quilted before and want a little taster, or who need a quick and easy blanket, read on. This really is a 'quilt' you can make in an hour.

You will need:

  • fleece (I used 75 cm x 100 cm)
  • patchwork fabric of the same size. I got this, but you can find more on eBay or in your local fabric shop
  • thread
  • bias binding. I bought pink cotton on eBay but you can use satin if you want. You don't want blanket binding, though, unless you want to finish it by hand.
  • sewing machine

Step 1: Get Ready

Line up your fabric and your fleece and pin together. You probably won't need to do much pinning as cotton and fleece tend to grip each other quite nicely.

Step 2: Quilt

Now, using your sewing machine, sew along the lines in the fabric to create the illusion of patchwork squares. Be careful to get right on the line, if you can, for the most authentic looking results.

Step 3: Finish the edges

Pin your binding around the edges. Slowly sew it in place. This can be trickier than it sounds, as you want your top and bottom to line up pretty exactly. If I were doing this again, I have to say I would probably add the binding in the traditional way and finish it by hand. But that would take a bit longer than an hour so...

And, you're done! A very serviceable, cozy quilted fleece, made in no time at all. And if you like this, there are lots of things you can do from here. Try using the patchwork fabric as a border around larger patchwork squares. Applique a name or a picture onto the fabric before you attach it to the fleece. Sew along the lines of the patchwork before attaching it to the fleece, and then try a more elaborate quilting pattern through the two layers. (Almost) instant (almost) quilts - definitely a winner.