Gingerbread Man Christmas Banner

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Have you seen the Gingerbread House quilt-a-long that Love Patchwork & Quilting are running this month? It’s a row-by-row design by Gracey of Burlap & Blossom Patterns which you can find in Issue 66.

Gingerbread Man Christmas wall decoration with details on how to add embroidered words by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I was asked if I would like to have a go at making a block and after a quick look at the pattern, I couldn’t say no! I decided upon a Gingerbread man, because who doesn’t love a good gingerbread man (although Boy 2 was a bit disappointed when I told him I’m made one only for him to then realise it was in fabric and not an actual biscuit. Oops!)

There are a lot of little pieces in this block – the buttons are cut at just 1″ (so, finishing at 1/2″!) and I’d been gifted some fabric with little snowflakes on which I thought would make cute buttons!

It’s a fun make and actually comes together quite quickly.  I wanted to use stripes for the cuffs. If you would like to do this too, make sure that you cut your squares out at a 45* angle to the selvedge (on the bias) so that the stripes are going in the right direction. along the arm.

Gingerbread Man Christmas wall decoration with details on how to add embroidered words by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

As we have enough cushions in our house (according to Mr f&f anyway!) I thought a Christmas Banner would be a fun make.  The blocks finish at 10.5″ inches but for mine, I extended the top and bottom border (piece’s A and G) by 4.5″ and 5.5″ respectively, as well as curving the bottom of piece G to mirror the writing. 

Gingerbread Man Christmas wall decoration with details on how to add embroidered words by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

To add a more festive touch, I printed out ‘Merry Christmas’ so that I could trace the words on to the fabric using a water-soluble pen (if you are wondering, I used the Tempas Sans font at size 120 and curved the words slightly in Microsoft Office).

Gingerbread Man Christmas wall decoration with details on how to add embroidered words by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

It took a little time to embroider each of the letters – I used a padded satin-stitch – but I think it was worth it!

I’m so pleased with him, although I might have to find some little button eyes in green, I think that would finish him off nicely?! Have you started any Christmas makes yet? You can check out this post if you’re thinking of making your own family sized Advent Calendar.

I think I’m going to have to make a present list and get started on it soon! And if you’ve enjoyed this post, please sign up to my newsletter to find out about new tutorials and patterns.

See you soon, 

S x

Today’s sky::: grey, windy and miserable. Meh!

New Pattern – The Flexi Tote

It’s taken a while, but I’m really excited to launch my latest pattern, the Flexi Tote!

The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be adapted to use for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

I first made this bag last year as a Christmas present – my in-laws have a farm shop nearby that they pop too quite regularly for a few bits and pieces, and I wanted to make them something which would be tough, durable, reusable and not too big!

The first version I made (or the standard version, as I’ve called it in the pattern) is made using a heavy-weight fabric such as canvas, denim or upholstery weight fabric. As a result, you don’t need to worry about adding interfacing for extra stability, making the tote that much quicker to make (always a good thing, in my eyes!), yet still tough and durable. And because there are only six pieces to the pattern it comes together really quickly!

The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be used for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

As I worked on the pattern though, it struck me just how many different ways it could be adapted: make a patchwork version with lining,  add slip pockets on the inside, a contrast hem or even include a zip top – in combination with Insulbrite wadding, it would make a great lunch bag!

My personal favourite combination so far is a denim/heavyweight fabric for the gusset and patchwork sides…….linings and pockets a bonus depending on what I want to use it for!!!

The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be adapted to use for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The finished bag measures 10.5″ wide x 9″ tall (excluding handles) x 6.5″ deep – a good size for carrying the essentials, or even making it a great project bag for whatever knitting or crochet you happen to be working on!

The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be adapted to use for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I’ve worked really hard to make the pattern easy to follow and adapt to make YOUR perfect bag and have been blown away by the different versions that my testers have made!

The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be used for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence
The Flexi Tote PDF sewing pattern - a small tote that can be used for lunch, shopping or craft projects. Pattern by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Flexi Tote Pattern Details

  • Finished Size: 10.5″ wide x 9″ tall (excluding handles) x 6.5″ deep.
  • Fabric Requirements: 1/2m for the standard version.
  • Pattern: available as a PDF instant download with 23 pages and over 50 step-by-step instructions to create 3 different versions of the tote.

If you’d like to make your own Flexi Tote, please visit my Etsy shop to find the pattern and let me know if you make one. Use the tag #flexitote so that I can find it on Instagram, I’d love to see how you adapt it!

Thanks for popping by,

S x

Today’s sky::: bright blue with a chill in the air and gorgeous coloured leaves on the trees. I love autumn!

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To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

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My favourite must-have sewing tools

Did you see the #greatbritishquilter event that happened over on Instagram during September? It runs for the whole month and is organised by Sarah Ashford Studio and Very Kerry Berry. It’s a great way of getting to know/find other quilters, and there are prompts for what to post each day to help everyone get to know one another. By the end of the month, you will most likely have a longer wish-list of fabrics/patterns and projects than you started out with, and more friends too!

My favourite 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The prompt for one of the days’ was ‘flatlay‘ – making an arrangement of items to tell a story and taking a picture from above. I chose some of my favourite quilting and sewing tools, and thought you guys might be interested in seeing them too?!

Although not an exhaustive list by any means, these have become my go-to’s over the years! If you are looking for a list of all the must-have quilting supplies then check out my Essential Tools post.

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

Needles, Pins and Clips!

Needles

It probably goes without saying that, as a Sewist, a needle is one of the most important tools that you can have! In my humble opinion, I think needles are very much a personal choice dependant on your own sewing technique and preferred ‘feel’ of a needle.

For hand-sewing, after trial and error, my weapon of choice is an Applique Needle No. 10. I have packs of gold-eye and black gold needles, but will normally pick the gold-eye needles as I find them a good length to work with and they glide nicely through the fabric.

Sometimes, if I’m doing very fine applique work I will use shorter applique needle as it makes me feel more in control of the sewing (why, I don’t know, but there you go!). I’ve heard great things about Tulip Needles but haven’t yet tried them, I’ll let you know if I do!

My 5 must have sewing tools - Clip'n'pincushion by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Pins

Although I have some decorative pins which are useful when I want to be able to see them on the fabric (or take pretty pictures!) I mostly use dress-maker pins: they are made of stainless steel and quite fine so don’t tend to mark the fabric too much.

One benefit of this is that you can leave the pins in until the last minute when machine sewing to keep the seams together. The one downside is that they don’t have a glass head on them so you do have to keep an eye on them so that none go missing! They are also good value for money in comparison to some of the prettier pins that you can get. Mine are by Prym but I found some similar ones here.

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Wonder Clips

These clips have so many uses! I first got them when I started bag-making as they’re brilliant for holding thick layers of fabric together, or fabrics that you don’t want to mark with pin-pricks such as laminate, or waxed cotton.

They’re also handy for holding all the pieces of a block together, keeping pattern pieces together……..You can read about how these little clips inspired the Clip’n’Pincushion here.

Seam Ripper

A good seam ripper is essential in my sewing room as it gets a lot of use…..at least it does in my space!!!!

After years of using the standard version, I picked up a Seam Fix seam ripper at a quilt show and was amazed at what a difference it makes! The bigger handle is ergonomic making it really comfortable to use, the blade is sharper and – my favourite bit! – you run the rubber end over the stitch line that you’ve just ripped and it pulls out all the stray ends of cotton that are left behind and makes the needle holes virtually disappear. It’s magic I tell you!!!

My favourite 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also find a seam ripper very useful for holding fabric together when sewing them on a machine as the point means that you can grip the fabric right up to the last minute!

Small Ruler

I have lots of rulers – mostly acrylic for quilting – and I picked up this little 6″ metal Stanley ruler when I was making curtains to help with pressing accurate seams.

I’ve always had a seam gauge ruler but to be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of them: the little orange marker tends to move quite easily and the rulers are quite flimsy and seem to bend easily.

I wanted something that would be robust, and this little ruler really does the trick. And being solid it doesn’t matter if you catch it with the iron. It’s fine enough that if I’m checking a seam allowance whilst sewing on the machine I can get this right in where I need to.

As an added bonus, it can also be used as a pressing tool for folding a crease into fabric if there’s nothing else to hand! I picked mine up at a DIY store.

Scissors

It goes without saying that these are pretty important in a sewing room!

A small pair of sharp scissors/snips are essential for trimming all the threads as you go, but not necessary right from the get-go.

Fabric cutting scissors are also a must, but quite a personal choice I think in terms of what feels right. I have a pair of Ernst & Wright stainless steel scissors which are beautiful and cut really well. But. I find them really heavy, so if I’m cutting out a big project my hands end up aching.

A few years ago now, I was given these Ring-lock scissors as a Christmas present. They look a bit strange with the holes in the blades but I. Love. Them!

The holes apparently reduce the weight of the scissors overall, and I have to say that they have never made my hand ache whilst cutting out large projects. They are brilliantly sharp and so comfortable to use……they have been going strong for maybe seven years now?!

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

There are lots of different types of scissors on the market – Kerry has a great review here of spring-loaded scissors which is another option if you find your hands struggle with heavy scissors. 

I have to confess, that last year I managed to cut a pin with my beloved scissors and dented the blade. I was devastated and they just wouldn’t cut properly after that. Disaster. Someone recommended I try a mini scissor sharpener – I wasn’t sure if it would do anything (I was getting ready to buy a new pair of scissors!) but thought it was worth a try. It totally revived my scissors so I would definitely recommend giving it a go if you have a favourite pair of scissors that need rejuvenating!

Thread

For quilting, I always use Aurifil thread. I mostly use a 50wt thread as I find it great for hand and machine piecing. I did get a spool of the 80wt thread which is really fine to try for hand-piecing and I have to say it does make the stitches almost invisible. Mostly though, I stick with the Aurifil 50wt (orange spool!) in grey, white and a pale yellow. I was quite surprised by just how handy the pale yellow is, as it blends with a lot of colours really well.

My 5 must have sewing tools by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

For dress-making and bag making though, I always use a poly-cotton. The thread is stronger and has a little bit of stretch to it, which is very helpful on seams that can be under pressure/being stretched. 

I hope you’ve found this useful – are there any tools that you think I’ve missed off? What are your must haves? 

If you have any questions then please do drop me a line and if you’ve found this post useful and would like to keep in touch, please sign up to my newsletter to keep up to date with news, tutorials and patterns.

 

Thanks, 

S x

Today’s sky::: some blue, but quite a lot of grey today!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

New Pattern – Big Pocket Advent Calendar

Today I thought it would be good fun to share my Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with you……talking about it in September seems a little soon, but I’ve seen Christmas Cards in the shop so I guess that almost makes it okay?!

The Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with pockets big enough to hold treats for the whole family by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

This pattern had been simmering in my mind for a little while to be honest. For years, I’ve been looking at the advent calendar panels that you can buy – they’re all so lovely and they look like the start of a fun family tradition….. But! I never fancied making three. Let alone have the wall space to hang them all!

The pockets were never quite big enough to squeeze enough in to get away with making just the one and as Boy 1 is allergic to dairy, I wanted to be able to squeeze in alternative treats too – the only option was to DIY my own Advent Calendar!

The Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with pockets big enough to hold treats for the whole family by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Last year, I finally managed to carve out some time to create a pattern and so the Big Pocket Advent Calendar was born!

The Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with pockets big enough to hold treats for the whole family by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The pockets are big enough to fit three packets of Haribo! It’s designed so that the sides of the pockets expand which means you can fit some generous size chocolates or small gifts, if you so wish (last year I managed to squeeze in three pairs of socks, but it was quite tight and seeing that my kids feet keep on growing, I don’t think that will be happening this year!!!).

The bit I love about a DIY advent calendar from is personalising it. I used a couple of different coloured sets of iron-on felt numbers with a glittery felt background and some hand stitching.

There are so many different options though! I had a look and found so many different options! The iron-on luggage labels would look great on each of the pockets and I especially love those wooden tags, I think they would look fab sewn on. Or you could hand embroider or applique the numbers or pictures on. The possibilities are endless!

The Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with pockets big enough to hold treats for the whole family by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The advent calendar finishes at 20″ wide by 44″ deep. I included tabs so that it could be hung from a thin branch of some sort – I was definitely going for a Scandi look when I made this version! – and it hangs nicely on the back of the under-cupboard stairs door that we have.

The Big Pocket Advent Calendar sewing pattern with pockets big enough to hold treats for the whole family by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Here’s another version of the calendar that Rebecca at Green & Bell made – I love how she has made it so bright and modern and added more trees at the top! You could even add different pictures, ‘Merry Christmas’ or your family name?!

If you would like to make your own version of the advent calendar, please visit my Etsy shop here to buy a download of the pattern. And if you do make one, don’t forget to tag it #bigpocketadventcalendar so that I can see it!

Back soon, 

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and grey. Meh!

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.

Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

A little while ago, I was debating designing a new bag. My messenger bag was threadbare and I’d cut it apart to remove the hardware for my daughters’ bag! I wanted a bag that I could convert from a shoulder/ crossbody bag into a rucksack and although I had come across quite a few – I especially liked this one – they weren’t quite what I wanted. Then I saw the Huxley Bag by Goheen Designs and I was smitten. The idea of using rivets and other hardware seemed like good fun!

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links and you can read my full disclosure privacy policy here. Thank you.

Originally, I’d hoped to have it finished in time for Festival of Quilts, but that didn’t quite happen……kids, holidays and the like mean everything’s taken a bit longer. I also decided to take my time to enjoy the making process: the pattern is rated as confident and there are a number of steps to follow – not in a scary way, mind! – and I’d made a few adjustments to it due to the fabric that I was using, which involved a bit more thinking!

I made a large View A and used a waxed cotton (from here) – it has a leather-like look, but is a bit thinner and provides an element of being waterproof which is handy! It meant that I could do without the webbing but had to adapt the pattern – both in terms of width and length (on some strap pieces, the pattern calls for leather to be top stitched to a longer piece of webbing) which required a little bit of planning.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also decided to add a zip to the back pocket – I love having a secure place to keep valuables, especially when it’s being used as a messenger bag. I added the zip in between the outer and lining fabric of the back pocket and then secured the ‘free’ zip side straight on to the back piece of the bag with a few lines of stitching. However, I didn’t really read the pattern fully through – schoolgirl error! – and then realised I would have to alter the length of the bike straps in order to make it all look ok! Ah well, if you chose to do this, you can learn from my mistake!

Overall, the pattern is really well written. On first look at the download, it can seem slightly intimidating – there are over 40 pages! However, many of the early pages are used to share tips, and the rest of the pattern takes you through step-by-step in a clear and concise way.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Sewing Tips

  • If you are using fabric instead of leather, make sure to add a seam allowance to the bag strap guide – I added 1/4″ – and cut two pieces for each strap. Place two pieces wrong side together and sew around, leaving a gap for turning. Turn through and topstitch before proceeding as per the pattern.
  • For fabric straps, cut all pieces at 4″ wide x the length of the pattern piece or webbing (whichever is longest): fold one or both ends over (dependant on if it’s a visible end), fold in half along the length and then fold the edges into the middle. Top stitch around the edges of the strap to secure
  • Check position and length of the bike straps before adding a zip pocket on the back of the bag! They need adding before the zip is sewn on and I altered mine to be a bit shorter so that the straps sit at the top of the pocket and only used one popper.
  • If you want to add a zip to the back pocket, make tabs to go at each end of the zip. There should be at least 1/2″ of fabric at each end for the seam allowance to allow for ease of sewing the bag together (see my tutorial here if you’re not sure how).
  • To mark sewing lines – especially where they are not going to be seen – I found that placing the paper pattern piece on top of the fabric and using a Hera marker would create a guideline (similar to what I would get from creasing) the fabric.
  • Using a zipper foot for sewing the sides (especially where I’d added the zip pocket) and sewing the outer and inner bags together around the top gave a better result, and meant the foot didn’t get pushed out of the way by all the straps. I also found it was less likely to give me skipped stitches where there were lots of layers.
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Tips for accurate placement of rivets & poppers

  • Laying the paper pieces over the fabric, I would push a pin through the guide mark – sometimes this would leave a visible mark that I could then punch, other times I would use a quilting pencil to make it more visible with a dot.
  • Where possible, I folded or layered pieces together so that I could punch holes in all of them at the same time and therefore increase my ‘accuracy’.
  • I used 6mm rivets for this bag, I figured the waxed cotton would be a bit thinner than leather. Largely, this was okay but there were a couple of spots – mostly on the handle at the edge of the bag flap – where slightly longer rivets would have been handy, so next time around I will definitely look at getting some bigger ones!
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I think that covers everything?! Someone on IG asked me if the bag was heavy, which is a really good question and one I had to think about! It makes sense that it would be with all the hardware on it, however, its actually quite tricky to tell. The waxed cotton is a heavier fabric anyway (the bag I made for my daughter weighs probably double the one I’d made out of cotton and wadding!) but having never sewn with leather, I’m not sure how this would compare? So far, all I can really say is that it is a good weight and I’ve not been put off using it!

Overall, I am so happy with the bag! It’s not the biggest rucksack – it’s best to think of it as a shoulder bag that converts into a rucksack – but is perfect for my needs. Having never used hardware before, I feel that it really lifts the finished look to a much more professional level. Not all of my rivets are perfect – in fact, there are a number of things that I could pick on as ‘could be better’ – but I think that’s the makers’ curse, isn’t it?! I’m trying to let these little things go though and concentrate on all the skills I learnt! I can see myself making another in the future, maybe using different fabrics and having made this one, I can see (hope!) that others will go together a lot quicker and easier!

See you soon,

Sx

Today’s sky::: blue skies with the odd cloud

If you would like monthly news and updates, please sign-up to my newsletter.
To check out my quilt and bag patterns, visit my Etsy shop.

For my favourite sewing equipment and tools, visit my Amazon store.