Tues-torials: Three craft tutorials you never knew you needed

One of the things I love about craft is that it’s always developing and changing. People come up with new techniques all the time, often by accident- in fact in some cases it may happen without you even realising that nobody else does something that way- not until you do some social crafting and you’re asked ‘how are you DOING that?’ (which along with ‘where did you buy that?’ when you made something yourself is one of those moments of Ultimate Crafting Smugness which are precious and golden). Thanks to the internet, it is of course super-easy for people who’ve realised that they’re doing something new, weird, or different to share that. For today’s Tues-torials, I present three of my favourites.

A small caveat- the knitting tutorial is not for the faint-hearted, but it IS worth trying out if you’ve gotten the hang of the basics. After all, the great thing about knitting, crochet and sewing is that if you get it wrong with the stitches, you can (usually) undo what you did and start again.

First up, though, we have a set of tips and tricks for hand sewing from the Dreamstress. Why did you not know you need it? Simple- an awful lot of sewing peeps (sorry, I just can’t bring myself to use ‘sewist’) rely heavily on their machine and avoid hand-sewing like the plague. But as the Dreamstress points out, hand sewing can add something very special to a garment. In the post, she talks about how to make it easy and even pleasurable (beeswax and silk thread, and really good needles- oh no, you’ll have to go to the craft store…). Thanks to her I’ve started added hand-done elements to the things I make, and it does make a difference to the finish.

Next, for those who have a passionate affair with their sewing machine, is a little-known fact about one particular possibility from Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing (vintage style? Check. Gorgeous blogger with paintbox-coloured hair that I’d love to have toooo? Check. Fantastic projects and tutorials? Checkity check check!)- in this case, it’s about a stitch on your machine which acts like a serger. Yes really. You’d better believe I rushed out to the local Bernina stockist to get an overcast foot when I read this! Not having an overlocker (and lets face it, if you’re just starting out then just getting a sewing machine is a big step), this tutorial shows you how to add a nice finish to raw edges of fabric before seaming/hemming. Sure it takes more thread and time, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

Finally, this is an oldie but a real doozie. Do you knit? Do you, more specifically, knit things that require you to make two of the same thing? Socks, mittens, sleeves on jumpers… Did you know that you can knit BOTH AT ONCE ON ONE SET OF NEEDLES? If you can get your head around that (take a moment to get your head around it. I can wait…), you can find out how in Knitty‘s article Extreme Knitting: 2 Socks in 1. I also absolutely encourage you to occasionally exclaim “EXTREME!” at the top of your voice if you attempt this technique. Maybe don’t pump your fist in the air though, if you’re still holding the needles. I’ve used it to make arm warmers and I can attest that it works- and as long as you relax (yes, that is indeed an excuse to have a glass of wine or some chocolate on hand while you try this) it’s not too hard to master.

What are your favourite little tricks that you’ve learned? Let me know in the comments- I love hearing about new things to try out!

Tues-torial: Thrifty sewing

Something which comes up frequently in my conversations with sewers-to-be or aspiring crafters is cost. Obviously, in an ideal world, I would be writing this from a velvet-upholstered chaise longue, or possibly one of these, surrounded by bolts of silk crepe and rockabilly/geek fabric from Spoonflower (and not even the basic combed cotton either).  Even without those things,  I do, however, do pretty well for fabrics. Maybe they’re not designer, but I’ve been very proud of some of the things I’ve created. Today, I’d like to start sharing some of what I’ve learned about sourcing good sewing fabric for a good price. All you need is a little willingness to think outside the box (or in the case of thrift stores, the rack).

You may already be aware that most charity/thrift/op shops have a basket somewhere in the store full of remnants of fabric. Admittedly, a lot of it is weird late-80s bright coloured geometrics (or maybe that’s just New Zealand), and I’m not saying you can’t make some fun garments from the crazy prints, but if that’s not your thing you can still strike gold.

But it’s not the only place in the store you’ll find great fabric. In fact, it’s usually right next to my other big source of sewing material- the bedlinen section.  Flat sheets are one of my favourite sources of fabric, especially as I sew a fair few costumes that require a lot of fabric- and there’s a lot of fabric in your average sheet. I’ve made everything from Victorian skirts to medieval gowns, all from bedsheets:

Victorian skirt made of bed sheet Medieval dress made from bedsheets


If you like prints, rather than plain (and I share that, I have a big weakness for awesome print fabric as you’ll see in some of my project posts), don’t discount duvet covers. They come in a wide array of lovely and unusual prints, and it’s possible to have a lot of fun with them. For example, this dress used to be a Superman duvet cover:

ASASuperman Dress

If you can get the shape of a garment in your head (reading the pattern and getting your head around the pattern pieces is the big key here), you can have a lot of fun getting a big design to fit the shape.

Ebay (and if you’re in New Zealand, it’s equivalent TradeMe) can also be a great source of fabric- the prices run the gamut from a dollar or two to super fancy expensive, but as with physical rummaging at a thrift store, if you’re willing to put the scrolling work in, the reward is finding some great fabric at good prices.

Of course it’s not just about the fabric- most op-shops will have a bunch of vintage notions, and this can be a great way to stock up on unusual/vintage buttons and embellishments, embroidery thread and the more basic stuff- hooks and eyes, presser-studs and zips are all things I’ve picked up this way, and had no problems using. There’s one exception when it comes to thrifting notions and that’s sewing thread- thread can age, and old thread is much more likely to break, and break quickly- not what you want when sewing. But other than that, the thrift store is your oyster when it comes to fabric.

How about you? Where would you recommend looking for thrifty sewing gold? What great finds have you hit on, and what did you do with them? Let me know in the comments!


Monsterful Monday- Happy birthday, yer Maj

Queen’s Birthday!

This bank holiday creeps up on me every year, because we don’t celebrate it in the UK, but that can be a good thing because it means I often end up with a stretch of time to do my own thing (though this year I wish I’d realised as I could’ve booked flights to go see the Best Beloved). But it’s meant plenty of time to relax, tidy, sort through more of my stuff and put more of it ready to go, and of course sew and knit.

I’ve started a Super Sekrit Birthday Gift project which I won’t post a photo of here, but I’ve also finished the Grey Gardens turban. It’s very bright, and very quirky, and it makes me look like I should be a fortune teller on Balamory and I love it.

Photo of Ellen in finished Grey Gardens turban


I’ve also cut out the fabric for the Mad Tea Party dress, and I’m excited to get sewing on it.


I try to do this every morning and the past couple of weeks in particular, it’s been really great. I recently discovered The Purpose Fairy, who has a weekly guided meditation on her blog. Different types of meditation work for different people but I’ve found that guided meditation and using affirmations really helps me quiet my brain down- normally I have 100 ideas before breakfast, so switching off is a bit of a challenge! I especially recommend the Six Phase Guided Meditation- so relaxing and powerful.

Clearing the blocks and serendipity

I definitely believe that decluttering is a way to open the way for good things to come into your life. The way I see it, if you put things back out into the world they can find their way to the people who are seeking them, and the things that are seeking you have a space to find their way to you.

I’ve also been finding that when I want to get rid of things, ways open up for me to do that. I went to a local op shop which opened just the right distance from my work for me to head there and drop things off on my lunch break, and saw a poster advertising a Social Wool Fair in a few weeks- you’d better believe I got straight in touch with them about a stall to sell my excess yarn (if you’re going, come say hi!).

I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m getting there.

Special mentions

My flatmate Jenni finished editing her novel and I’m so excited for her! Cute texts and Gchats from the Best Beloved, finally getting my camera and its battery charger in the same place, lovely sunny weather (I’m enjoying being able to do my laundry while I can still dry it outside), flatmates being patient with my love of strange, experimental vegan cooking- tonight it’s portobello mushrooms asada;  X Men: Days of Future Past, Maleficent (silly but had great costumes), the new Dresden Files novel on my Kindle. Finally, The Tiny Owl Knits Care of Magical Creatures charm bracelet is a really fun project- I’ve just knitted my first charm (the toad, if you were wondering)- you have to complete a challenge before you knit each one. It’s a lot of fun!

What about you? What are you thankful for this week?