Monday, 16 July 2012

Get sewing for free

When I first started to sew seriously I turned to the Internet for ideas and inspiration.  When you are learning you don't want to spend money on a book or pattern that are beyond your skills.  Sewing patterns can be expensive and rightly so there is a lot of work goes into many of them.  At first I found it hard to find what I was looking for.  I think because most free patterns and tutorials come from blogs search engines do not seem to find them.  Slowly but surely my bookmarks list began to grow with useful little sites.  So I thought I would share the ones I use most often with you in the hope that it might save you some time and inspire you to dig out your sewing machine.  After all if it is going to rain all of July you might want a project to entertain you.

Craftiness is not optional
A note about Internet patterns.  Most free patterns are in PDF format.  These patterns need to be printed out and pieced together - follow the instructions with the pattern.  It's then best to trace them onto dressmakers tissue of backing parchment (if your thrifty like me).  Don't be put of by this it can be fiddly and time consuming but worth it for a pattern you love at no cost.

Often with these sources there is a lot of cross over some of these sites will have ladies, children's and home sew projects but I have grouped them here according to what I mostly use to them for.

Image via Horrockses fashions
Ladies patterns are not bountiful but they are out there if you know where to look 
Horrockses fashions are releasing a series of vintage dress patterns designed to be made using their bed linen.  The first dress is a very wearable and simple strappy sundress.
Burda style is a lovely magazine that on the surface looks like a glossy fashion magazine but in the middle are all the patterns to make everything you see, it's my idea of heaven!  They also have a website which provides a kind of social network for garment sewers.  Once you have an account you can upload projects and pattern reviews, download patterns - quite a few are free - and advertise sewing groups.
Colette is an Indie pattern company that produce really lovely and good quality sewing patterns.  Colette patterns are modern classics's and such a refreshing change from the dated patterns most of the traditional pattern houses produce.  Colette patterns will truly inspire you to sew and are at the forefront of reviving sewing as a hobby.  Their website and blog is full of amazing inspiration and tutorials and the free Sorbetto top pattern.  Don't be fooled by the simplicity of this little top a quick Internet search will give you a wealth of ideas for how to produce your own sorbetto top for a start check out sew weekly's 7 days of sorbetto.

 There is a wealth of amazing free children's patterns although a definite bias towards girls clothing.  Sewing children's clothes is so quick and rewarding its a great place to start learning to sew.  Check out the 100s of free patterns and tutorials from prudent baby and the amazingly creative sisters over at Shwin & Schwin. If your still hungry for more check out me sew crazy for lots of tutorials and craftiness is not optional.  There are literally hours and hours of exploring, reading and sewing to be had here. 

Purple potluck bowl covers

If home sewing is more your thing then try sew mama sew for home sew tutorials and a lot more besides.  Also the visually stunning cottage home.  If you are new to sewing I guarantee a name you will quickly stumble across is Amy Butler this fabric designer is a big name in the sewing world producing very modern quilting fabrics that are widely available.  She also designs patterns, wallpapers and stationery.  Click here for a link to some free PDF patterns produced by Amy Butler.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Ikea Hackers

Hello Readers

I recently discovered this site called Ikea Hackers its nothing sinister but an amazing site where people from all over the world post unusual or alternative uses or modifications for Ikea furniture.  I wish I had found this site sooner it is amazing. 

by Country Roots Early Learning Centre, Ayr Ontario via

Above is my favourite billy bookcase idea - i really want to do this!

I thought I would share a little round up of some cute kids play ideas I found.  A year ago I wanted to get a play kitchen for my girls I searched high & low for an affordable option that wouldn't take up my entire living room - well plenty of that at Ikea hackers.

I thought I'd kick things off with this pretty pink option - so pretty!

This darling country kitchen for a little girl is by mali-mo via Ikea hackers she did it all herself and used an Ikea box as her base and other bits of pine offcuts and old knobs, isn't it amazing?

This option I really like as it has toy storage underneath its made using the Ikea TROFAST and Jan has used vinyl to make the kitchen on the top.

There are lots and lots of play kitchen's on Ikea hackers and lots of LEGO play tables too.  My favourite is this one, a very smart way to keep the LEGO off the floor

Vicky B used a LACK side table, TROFAST box and lid to make this table.

Heathur Dollar used 2 LACK tables and this Ikea car mat to create this great play table, so easy to do and looks such fun. 

I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.  As you can see lots of eye candy and smart ideas to be had at ikea hackers it's all neatly arranged room by room.  If you are struggling with re-creating a particular design or furnishing a tricky area in your home chances are someone else has had the same problem or idea and you might just find it on here.

I inadvertently "hacked" a Hemnes bedside table a few years ago.  I liked the elegant lines of this bedside table but didn't like the colours.  I was at the time in love with the beautiful mirrored French bedroom furniture that was all about but very expensive.  So I took my Ikea bedside table and sanded it down, I primed and then painted the table a lovely green to compliment the dusky pinks of my bedroom.  I then found a glass supplier and got them to cut a piece of mirror for the drawer front and a piece of toughened glass to fit the top.  I wallpapered the top of the table and used little rubber dots to cushion the glass which just sits on the top.  I replaced the handle too.  It wasn't desperately thrifty to do (I’ve done cheaper furniture re-do's) but compared to buying something this pretty I certainly saved ££.

and after.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Flower arranging

I do like to have some cut flowers in the house - especially if I’ve just cleaned, I like to add a little crowning glory with some flowers. Bought flowers are a luxury. My cut flower bed on the allotment is not yet established enough to offer very much so for the time being I have to make do with flowers from the garden. My garden is the size of a postage stamp, it really is tiny but in June and July it is full of flowers and so I can have a few indoors. 
Here is a clever tip Kirsty Allsop introduced me to. I love Ms Allsop mostly because she has made all the things I love cool and trendy - so, for once in my life, my friends think I am cool.  
Here is a clever tip for arranging flowers with short stems such as those you might have in your garden. You need very little skill to do this, flower arranging is not something I have much aptitude for but I can do this.

You will need:
a container (a short vase or shallow container even an oven dish would work)
an assortment of flowers from your garden

Take your container and fill it with water. Now run long strips of sellotape across it. Do this horizontally at first, and then vertically to make a grid.

 Now, starting with your largest flowers trim the stem to a suitable length and remove any foliage that will be below the water line. Poke the stem of the flower through the grid.

 Add more flowers and play around with your arrangement until you have a basic shape you are happy with. Continue to fill the grid until no tape is visible. Don’t forget foliage - I love to use fresh herbs in my arrangements for fragrance.

The tape offers support to the flowers and so it's an ideal arrangement for beginners as no wiring or florists foam is needed.
Top the water level up if neccessary and enjoy your handywork.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Name Tags

I just had to share this not necessarily thrifty but very time saving tip with you.  My Eldest daughter starts school in September & I have spent the last 2days glued to the sofa, with a stinking cold sewing endless name tapes into every pair of socks, blouse, pinafore, PE item etc it's an endless task and pretty thankless even for a keen sewer like myself.  I know how many of you out there hate this job (or employ a grandma to do it for you).  So Imagine my joy when someone shared this link on twitter for a revolutionary new naming system.

Introducing the easy tag it's a button with your child's name on and it attaches using a simple applicator.  They can be re-used again and again you just have to buy new backs.  The price is comparable to other name tapes but you do have a set up cost of buying the applicator and the cost of new backs. I had to dig about a bit online to find all the prices so I've given a little break down below. 

Starter set (applicator, 50 buttons and backs) - £29.95
50 new backs - £7.95
50 buttons and backs - £19.95

These little buttons are tough & will stand up to commercial laundries 100'C wash & commercial tumble drying, even bleaching.  A lot of nursing homes use them and people say they are ideal if your child goes to boarding school.  One reviewer said  she had labelled all her child's uniform in 10mins!  

So there you have it!  If you have a child starting in school and siblings to follow this really could be worth your while or if you just can not abide this task then here is an easy option.

Please do comment if you have used this system, do they live up the hype?

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Grab a bargin

Do you ever hunt through the reduced section in the supermarket but pass something up because you can't use it immediately?  I do.  However recently I've tried to think outside the box a little and thought I'd share the results with you.

Now of course meat and fish can be frozen - just check it hasn't previously been frozen.  Cheese can also been frozen even soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.  Fresh herbs can be frozen in ice cubes or hung up and dried.  Try freezing them in olive oil so they can be thrown straight into the pan.  When it comes to fruit and vegetables you may have to be a bit more creative.  I recently got 5lb or strawberries for £2 at closing time at our local market.  I made strawberry jam most fruits can be turned into jam.  I  also got two melons for £1 and made melon granita.  Vegetables can always be made into chutney's or pickled or cooked and then frozen.

Recently I also found double cream reduced.   Cream has a very short shelf life and can't be frozen however double cream (not single) can be turned into butter.  Instead of spending hours shaking a jam jar I used the plastic whisk attachment on my very cheap and basic food processor - what I'm saying is any food processor will do this.  Whisk the cream in the food processor it will go thick and then all of a sudden you will notice it solidify and the buttermilk separate - magic!  Drain off the buttermilk - don't throw it away it makes great scones!  Now you need to get rid of all the buttermilk from the butter to do this add a small amount of cold water to the food processor and blitz for a few more seconds, drain the liquid off.  Keep doing this several times until the liquid runs clear.  You are almost there.  Now take the butter and squeeze out the water do this with your hands over a bowl.  Now shape and chill.  Butter like this tastes fresh and creamy - a real treat.      

Now get baking those scones and then enjoy a famous cream tea!