Craft, stitchin' and sustainable living

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Round Up

Christmas has passed, we've ripped open our presents, eaten too much, perhaps had a few too many rum balls and fallen asleep on the couch.  Ah, but now I can finally show you some of the Christmas gifts that I crafted this year!

Jars of seasoning mix - possibly the easiest gifts in the world to make, but always well appreciated!  It's simply a mix of your favourite herbs - mine included rock salt, colourful peppercorns, oregano,  rosemary and fennel seeds.  Just mix it all together, spoon into jars and give them cute fabric tops to make them look festive.  Easy!

Hypotrochoid hankies.  These were a gift for a friend of mine who likes sciencey things but also crafty things.  I used my trusty hypotrochoid set to draw the shapes (I knew there was a reason that I had to buy one as an adult, even though a voice inside was telling me that they're for kids) then embroidered them onto soft cotton linen.

Ooh... smokey barbeque sauce.  This is one of my favourites.  It really does turn out smokey and yummy, and you know the main ingredient used for smoking?  Tea. Yep, good old tea.  If you would like to make some smokey barbeque sauce of your own (I highly recommend it!) I wrote up the full recipe and instructions here.  I also made plum and nectarine jam, but sadly forgot to take photos!

Some boxer shorts for boyfriend.  I used an old pair of boxer shorts as a pattern, and was impressed with how well they came together.  Fairly simple too, taking about an hour to whip up.  I used some fair-trade, organic cotton that I bought online.

And I crocheted some face washers from fair trade, organic cotton yarn (I thought I had taken full photos, but can't seem to find them now).  After looking at a few patterns online I decided to ad-lib a bit and just make up my own.  I ended up doing a row of double crochet then a row of three double crochet in one stitch, chain and skip the next stitch.  It worked out really well!

And me?  Well I was truly spoilt this year, receiving some fantastic gifts that I had really wanted.  Some beautiful books, new running shoes and something that I will blog about in the coming weeks - a yoghurt making set-up!  Awesome!  Just another step towards cutting down on the amount of packaging and food additives in my life.  My yoghurt requires just two ingredients - milk and yoghurt culture.  I promise to show you very soon.

In the meantime, enjoy your New Year's Eve celebrations and I will be back in 2012 with many more exciting stitchy stories!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The bow belt

Only two sleeps until Christmas my friends!  I can't wait!  And guess what?  I have one Christmas gift that I have made which I can show you... this bow belt which is for my Mum.  How do I know that my Mum isn't going to see this?  Because she's actually at the airport right now, about to hop on a plane to come and spend Christmas with me.  And once she's here I'm going to keep her well and truly busy glazing the ham, making salads, and when she's not busy in the kitchen I will make sure she has a drink firmly planted in her hand - and that she goes nowhere near my blog.  Should be easy!

This fabric bow belt is modelled off the clever original made by Tilly of Tilly and the Buttons, and you can find all the instructions on her blog. The fabric is actually the off-cut from a 2nd hand skirt that I bought in Antwerp - I shortened the skirt and this was the leftover fabric!

This is me trying it on for size before I give it to my Mama.  Do you think she'll like it?

Merry Xmas all!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Caught in the Christmas rush

Guys, did you realise that Christmas is less than two weeks away?  I know - scary!  But also fun!  I am a big Christmas geek so I spend lots of time making gifts, decorating the house and planning a yummy feast (including a big free-range ham). 

So although things have been quiet(ish) on the blog, I have been doing quite a lot of crafting, but I can only show you a sneak peek here in case the gift recipients are reading.  So right now, I am joining other Christmas crafters to blog over at the Crafty Christmas Club blog.  Now, if you're the kind of person that usually receives a gift from me (i.e. a family member or close friend) then you'll just have to sit tight and wait.  But if you're not and you want to see what other Christmas crafters and I are making before the big day, head on over to the Crafty Christmas Club and take a look!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Well looky what's finished...

Oh yes... they are finished!  Here they are *drumroll*...

The finished Bella high-waisted shorts (based on the Burdastyle Bella Trousers).  Looking pretty good, aren't they?

I had hoped to take these photos outside in the summery sunshine, alas, today was wet and thundery in Sydney (not that I'm complaining - I love this weather!).  So here are the shorts modelled with a cardigan.

Boy, these shorts really were a challenge to get finished - I had problems at every step.  Even when I was stitching on the buttons, of which I only had five, I stitched on four then reached for the fifth one to finish it off... and I couldn't find it!  I called in boyfriend and we looked everywhere - on the desk, under the sewing machine, on the floor - it was nowhere to be found.   Then suddenly I remembered - it was in the automatic button-hole foot for my sewing machine.  Duh!  Thankfully I got the last button on and I am very happy with them.

Ok summer, you can come now, I'm ready!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Granny Square Cushion

You may remember, a few posts ago, I started making granny squares for no particular reason.  Such a simple thing to make, but great because you feel a sense of accomplishment every time you finish one.  Then I realised that a friend of mine loves granny squares and I could whip them into a cushion cover for her birthday.

When I figured out the size of the cushion I was making I made a cover out of calico and cotton demin (no zip, just one of those foldover backs for easy removal when needed).  Then I stitched my granny squares together and stitched the one big square onto the front of the cushion.  Stitchy peeps out there are probably thinking "why didn't she stitch the granny squares onto the calico before making it into the cover?"  I did think of this.  But I was worried that the granny squares might not sit right if I put them on first, so that's why I left it until last (Stitchybritt logic - sometimes not the same as everyone else's logic).

Another well received gift!  Onwards to Christmas crafting!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hump

Have you ever run into to a hump in your sewing project?  Maybe you started out all excited, choosing fabric and patterns and thread, winding on the bobbin, making those first few easy stitches.  Everything was flowing smoothly and you thought to yourself "I'll have this finished in no time!".

Then some difficulty sets in.  Some seams don't match together quite right.  You run out of bobbin thread halfway through an intricate stitch.  You accidentally cut a hole in the item while overlocking (don't talk to me about it).  Then you're at the hump.

Say it ain't so: a hole accidentally cut in the front of my shorts
The hump is usually characterised by a project sitting idle for some time, the owner trying to avoid it, resigning it to the 'too hard basket'.  It's going to take some effort to get back on track, and you just can't find that amount of effort inside you.

It's about here the instructions started making no sense whatsoever

That's where I was at with my Bella shorts at the beginning of the weekend.  I was having a hard time trying to bring myself to look at the next step of the instructions, let alone tackle any unpicking or fixing that needed to happen.  But I did, and little by little, I moved towards a finished pair of shorts.

The shorts are still not completely finished, but they are getting close.  They have pockets.  They have a hems.  They have buttonholes (no buttons, mind you, but that's not such a difficult step).  They are probably going to need a little taking in at the back, which could be tricky, but not the type of tricky that makes you avoid picking them up. I'm glad to say that I'm over the my shorts-sewing hump.  And soon, very soon, I will be able to show you the finished product.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Crafty coasters

Around the end of September I set myself a goal of finishing two new items of clothing by end October - my Jersey Dress, which is now finished and even has non-gapey neck binding thanks to Beth's instructions (see the comments below the Jersey Dress post), and my Bella high-waisted shorts, which are still not finished.  I've run into a few hiccups along the way - my sewing machine and overlocker were both in the repair shop for a good 3 weeks, and the shorts themselves have been problematic - some vague instructions, some dodgy stitching on my behalf, and as they came together I began to realise that they are too big, even though I used the Burdastyle sizing chart.  Anyway, I am persevering, and hope to have them finished for you to see (and me to wear!) soon.  It's getting hot in Sydney, you know, and jeans just won't cut it for much longer!

Then the other day my friend Lucy came around for a spot of stitching and she was making these very cute fabric coasters for Christmas gifts.  I was dying for a quick, easy project that I could finish in one sitting, so I joined in.

Cutting out the birdies

The coaster pattern actually comes from Pip Lincolne's original Meet Me At Mikes book.  There is a sweet looking birdie stitched on the front of the calico side, and the same fabric that you used for the bird is used to back the coaster.

You sew the cut-out bird body on (with rough sewing lines to give the cute scrawly effect) and then stitch on legs, a wing and an eye.  Here are our first ones...

And here are my finished coasters.  These will make a great Christmas gift for someone, though I'm not sure exactly who yet.  I really need to get organised and write my Christmas make list!

The finished coasters - a nice matching set!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Closing down the Stitchybritt store

That's right, you read that correctly, I'm closing down the Stitchybritt Etsy store.

I've got a number of reasons for closing down the store.  The main one is that I've recently started a new full time job with lots of responsibilities.  That is a good thing - it's a great job and I love what I do (for those of you interested, I work in workplace diversity, which basically means I help make workplaces more fair and accessible for everyone no matter what your gender, culture, age etc).  But this means that my spare time is more precious, and I'd rather spend it stitching and crafting for myself and my friends.

The second reason is that I'm a bit bored with tea cozies, despite the fact that they are pretty and I still (and will always) drink numerous cups of tea every day, there's only so many tea cozies a person can own, right?

Thirdly, I'm becoming more and more disillusioned with Etsy.  I believe that the quality of the site is slipping due to their lack of action on re-sellers (if you don't know what I'm talking about, see these examples) and copycats (like these).  Of course, there are still many talented crafters selling gorgeous stuff on Etsy and I will continue to be a buyer, but I am just a little more scrutinising these days.

Regardless, this means good things for you, because I am having a MASSIVE CLOSING DOWN SALE between NOW and 4 DECEMBER to get rid of all my stock.  Everything in the Stitchybritt Etsy store is marked 50% off.  What you see is what you get.  There will be nothing new listed, and once it's gone it's really gone.

That's not to say that my crafty adventures are over.  Hell no.  I'll still be blogging here as normal, and I have a few plans up my sleeve for crafty fun in 2012.  Stay tuned.  It's gonna be big : )

Monday, November 7, 2011

Another birthday, another Sorbetto

It was another friend's birthday recently so I decided to make another Sorbetto top - but this one was a refashion!  This top began life as a men's business shirt - one that was barely worn by a male friend but was headed for the bin after a he had done a big wardrobe cleanout.  Of course I snapped it up, planning to refashion it in some way.

The 'before' shot
That was 18 months ago.  The shirt was still hanging around in my 'to refashion' pile until recently, when I knew my friend's birthday was coming up and that the pale blue colour would suit her complexion and auburn hair.

The 'after' shot
I traced the Sorbetto pattern onto the shirt with the button-up front in the centre of the front of the shirt.  I wanted to keep the front pocket, so I had to unpick one side of the pocket to put in a dart underneath (and then put one on the other side), then stitch the pocket back on.  I finished the neckline and armholes with pale blue bias binding.

What do you think, Snorky?

And it was a hit! My friend really loved the top, and I know that it will be well worn. One more shirt saved from landfill!

P.S. Buy Nothing New Month is now over, and I am pleased to say that the only new 'things' I bought were the tickets to see Circus Oz and a roll of kitchen paper (recycled) that I accidently bought alongside some groceries one day.  No new clothes, shoes, books or anything else.  It was not actually that difficult, but just required a bit of conscious decision-making (as my buys both happened without thinking about it).  I'm not sure if it has changed my shopping ethic, as I already try to buy second hand where I can, but it was good to have the challenge.  I'd happily do Buy Nothing New Month again.  How did you go?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Sun Hat

With summer coming up here in Australia, and an outdoorsy friend's birthday around the corner, I decided that a sun hat would make an excellent handmade gift.  The hat has rows of stitches around the brim which helps to keep it sturdy, and has a contrasting fabric for lining.

The pattern for the sun hat comes from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing book, and the fabric is Cloth.  I actually won a sampler of Cloth fabrics from the Crafty Minx blog a few months ago, and this was the perfect opportunity to use some of it (by the way, if you love a bit of crafty vintage, you'll love the Crafty Minx blog).  As the gift was from boyfriend and I to our friend, he helped to cut out the fabric, fuse interfacing and stitch it together.  Go crafty boyfriend!

In other news, I've started blogging at the Crafty Christmas Club blog again, alongside many others who are making rather than buying gifts.  It's a great resource for handmade Christmas gift ideas, and a fun place to check out what others are making.  However, if you are a close friend or family member of mine I will have to ask you to refrain from visiting the Crafty Christmas blog - you wouldn't want to spoil any surprises!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Making sauerkraut in pictures... start with a cabbage and an apple...

 ... it's ok if you find little fellas like this, it means the cabbage wasn't drowned in pesticides.  Just pop him in the garden (or feed him to the chooks)...

...finely chop your cabbage and apple...

...pop it in a bowl and salt it up!...

...then mash!  Mash for your life! (or at least until the juices are coming out)...

...spoon it into a sterilized jar.  It's ok to get some on your hand (and the bench and the floor)...

... cover with cling film, put another jar on top (you want to make sure it is all submerged in juices) and cover with cling film again...

...pop it in the fridge and wait a couple of weeks.  Then you will have yummy sauerkraut to have with your sausages, your mash, your veggies, your rice.

Oh, and a quick update on Buy Nothing New Month.  Day 22 and all going well.  Only slight error I might have made was to buy paper kitchen towels while I was picking up some food supplies the other day.  I'm not a big paper towel user (tea towels all the way!) but occassionally there is a need for paper towels, for example, when the kitty vomits.  And now that I've put you all off your dinner, I'll be off!  See ya!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jersey dress

My sewing machine and overlocker are finally back from the repair shop - hurrah! - and the minute they came home I wasted no time in getting to work stitching. One of the October projects I promised myself that I would finish was the Burdastyle Jersey Dress, made from patterned jersey that I bought in Amsterdam.

Like many Burdastyle website patterns I've encountered, the instructions were unfortunately fairly vague, but thankfully this pattern is relatively simple so I just used common sense to put it together. Most of the seams came together very quickly with my overlocker (I love that about jersey).

Really the only problem that I encountered was the neckline. I started with some of the same fabric to make binding, but it wouldn't sit right, so then I went for facing with top stitching. The first time I put in the facing the neckline went very warped and gapey, so I dutifully unpicked it all and pinned it in again, stretching the facing slightly as I went. This seemed to work better, but there's still a bit of gapey business going on - as pictured below. Experienced stitchers - any suggestions as to what I'm doing wrong? Do I just need to stretch the facing more as I stitch?

The dress is wearable in its current state, but I don't want it to become one of those items that falls to that back of my wardrobe being overlooked everytime I remember its gaping neck. So your advice would be much appreciated! What to do with a gapey neck?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A pardon

 Less stuff, more happiness TEDtalk by Graham Hill

After my accidental Buy Nothing New Month error, I tweeted about it and got this response from the @Buy_Nothing_New twitter account:

u'll be pleased to know tixs to circus oz is not a fail. Buying a brand new outfit to see circus oz however wld be epic fail

I'm taking that as an official pardon!  Yay!  And no, I will definitely not buy a new outfit to see Circus Oz!

(By the way, you can follow me on twitter @stitchybritt if you so desire)

Since then, all I've bought is food, drinks and a train ticket.  That's it.  I've actually been quite busy, so I haven't really even looked at any other kind of shop.  Only a few minutes ago I bid on a second hand jacket (for work) on eBay and won.

In the meantime, check out the blogs of these other awesome peeps who are also participating in Buy Nothing New Month:

Thrify Household (even though Buy Nothing New Month is promoted as an Australian thing, that didn't stop this UK lass from joining in)
Isis Made
The Byron Life

Are you doing Buy Nothing New Month and I missed you?  Comment and let me know, I'd love to read all about it!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Granny squares

While my dear sewing machine AND overlocker are at the service shop, I've had to start a new crochet project to keep my hands busy.  I started crocheting these blooming granny squares with some old yarn from my stash, then realised that I could turn them into a cushion cover for a friend who is having a birthday is a few weeks.  I need to crochet 16 (!) of them to cover one side of the cushion.  I'd best get busy!

I'm a bit concerned about my end of October goal to have my jersey dress and high-waisted shorts finished, given that my sewing machine and overlocker will both be at the service shop until next weekend.  Looks like I've got some stitchy weekends ahead of me.

In other news, I made my first (and hopefully last) Buy Nothing New Month error.  I bought something new.  It was only two little tiny bits of paper, but it's still new.  It's tickets to see Circus Oz in January.  I could try to justify the purchase by saying that it was a limited release special, and that they are amazing performers who deserve public support, and that they are an ethical company who support a number of charities... which is all true, but the truth is - I was not supposed to buy anything.  And I totally didn't realise until AFTER I bought the tickets.  Ok.  Lesson learnt.  No more new things for October.  I promise!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Buy Nothing New Month

Vintage blue sandals I picked up from LaFemme Vintage on Etsy
It's October peeps! (Holy crap - I'd better start thinking about Christmas!) And did you know that October is officially Buy Nothing New Month?  I have pledged to buy nothing new for the whole month.  What's it all about?

It's about slowing down rabid consumerism.

It's about buying second-hand, so less stuff goes to landfill.

It's about saving money.

It's about rethinking the way we consume goods, the impact these goods have on the world, and the way we dispose of them.

The website explains that you can still buy new food, drink, medicine and hygiene items*, but my 'allowed' list will be food, drink, (hopefully no need for) medicine and train tickets.  But anything else will need to be sourced second hand, borrowed or home made.

"Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy crap we don't need" Tyler Durden

I love that the Buy Nothing New site quotes Fight Club, my most favourite movie ever.  And while we're talking Buy Nothing New, why not take a ticket from the thrift-fashion icon herself, Marla Singer?

Marla Singer in her $1 thrift-shop dress (image from here)

Honestly, I don't think Buy Nothing New Month will be that much of a challenge for me, because I rarely buy new stuff anyway.  Most of my clothes come from op-shops, or are homemade (and really, I have so much fabric I won't be needing to buy any new for a while).  I have Ebay alerts set up for items I'm particularly looking for, like books and kitchenware.  I used to frequent Freecycle, but now I only use it for giving stuff away.  In fact, whenever I think about buying something 'new' now (for example, we are planning to buy an air conditioner to survive the summer) I think about where I can source it second hand, rather than where to buy one new.  I also have the added advantage of being crafty, so if someone's birthday or another event springs up, I should be able to pull something together.

But we'll see!  Maybe there'll be unexpected challenges?  Maybe something will break and will need replacing?  I promise to keep you updated.

October reading: a book about the unsustainable nature of the fashion industry, lent to me by a colleague.
*If we're talking about women's hygiene/sanitary items, then I won't need to buy those because I use a Lunette Cup.  These are not well publicised in Australia (but you can buy them in health food stores and similar) and they are so much better than the supermarket options - for your body, for your wallet, and for the environment.  Ladies, I recommend trying them out!