A cute activity mat with a hidden agenda.

Every year, in the run up to Christmas, I get that same feeling that conflicts with the magic of the festive season…the dreaded expectation to buy buy buy!

Whilst we all know Christmas is more than the giving and receiving of gifts, it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the flow of the consumerist mindset that is all around (as opposed to the much preferable ‘Love is All Around‘…notice here I went for The Troggs and not the Wet Wet Wet version even though we all know secretly that’s the version everyone prefers!).

Having said that, I do consider myself to be quite good at bracing myself against this; going for quality not quantity, often buying experiences – something that can be remembered not forgotten about or broken; but mostly (time permitting of course) I try to make a gift that is personable and unique. And perhaps a little part of me, egotistically, thinks I can make something nicer and more meaningful than what the mass markets can offer!

It was my friend’s little boy, Henry’s, birthday in December – what would a little boy of 2 year old like that would be a little different from the other toys he may get for his birthday and Christmas, that could help to inspire is imagination…and be a little less imposing that a neon piece of plastic that vomits beeps and flashing lights? Or, if he’s like my son, pretty much anything to do with cars will be a hit!

Digging through my piles of fabric, I had one (fairly decent size) piece of car-printed fabric so I  decided to design a play/travel car activity mat to fit.

Car activity mat

The design of the actual mat is quite simple so I made sure the appliqué decoration was detailed enough to make it interesting, and I added pockets for the little cars.

For the road I used grey felt, and a mixture of felt and fabric for the other landmarks – all sewn on using appliqué. The landmarks I wanted to make recognisable for a toddler so includes: a school, football pitch (also to add a bit of colour), a park and pond, playground, houses, and petrol station (complete with fuel pumps).

Car activity mat

Car activity mat

To add a personal touch I included some street signs associated with locations in Teesside where Henry lives.

Car activity mat

To complete the mat, I hand sewed lines on the road.

Car activity mat

The whole thing, complete with cars tucked into the pockets, can be folded up into a handy little pouch to transport around.

Car activity mat

Car activity mat

Handmade, personalised, unique, compact and minimalist, and pretty cute…I bet you can’t find anything like this in the shops!


Lois’s Quilt


On reflection (as it’s almost the end of the year…9 Friday’s left until Christmas folks!) I have been pretty terrible at updating the blog this year. It’s not that I haven’t made anything I should add! It’s just that many of the things I’ve made are duplicates of that which I’ve already posted about (cushions mainly)…and you don’t want pictures of the same things. However, I do endeavor to post more useful content next year; content that other crafters may actually find useful – can I get a big ‘woop woop!’ for tutorials! (note: must add this to the New Year’s resolution’s already long list, below ‘learn French’ and above ‘learn how to make kids clothes before my son is 21’).

Whilst this post is about baby patchwork quilts – an item I’ve posted about many times before, these, however, don’t fall into the above ‘same-old’ category as they are ALWAYS different fabrics, ALWAYS different colour themes, and ALWAYS hand-decorated with different designs. This was my latest (that I made back in March!) – a quilt for Lois.

The fabric I used was from the beautiful Heather Ross fabric ranges – pretty subtle colours with whimsical fairy-tale designs.

My central patch with Lois’s name appliqued in felt, with flowers and bees, I surrounded by four different designs: bunny and teacup, little girl splashing in puddles, and swallows and bunting (which I’ve used many times but still a favourite!). As with most of my quilts I used a mixture of both typical machine applique (which has a neat look) and free-hand machine applique, which gives more of a hand-sketched look…which I love but also find quite intimidating when actually doing!

Finally, I’d like to apologise for the shoddy photography! It’s hard to catch a nice sunny day in chilly, but beautiful, Yorksire, and when you have one assistant who’s only 3 ft tall and one with paws – both of whom have their own agenda – professionalism goes right out the window…


Christmas is coming…

…And Emily is getting fat (but that’s mainly due to all the cake I consume during The Bake Off!). But aside from that…Christmas requests are starting to flood in!

The ever popular appliqué and patchwork stockings are underway. Last year was a record year, I did more of these than ever before.

Applique Christmas Stockings






And, of course, the Santa sack…


New to my Christmas ‘to do’ list last year was these super cute Christmas bags – I made these for all the children in my life and filled them up with goodies. (The blue Santa being my favourite).





For more pictures of my past Christmas makes, check out the following posts:

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year
More Chistmassy Makes
Chistmas is coming…now taking orders!

Patchwork Memory Quilt

You may have seen the memory quilt a did last year for my friend who asked me to make a quilt out of her late father’s shirts, swim shorts and ties…


Not only did I think this was such a lovely way to hold on to a little piece of someone you love, I received such positive comments about the quilt and, most importantly, my friend who I made it for was overwhelmed with bittersweet feelings.

I have since been asked to make another memory quilt – no less lovely but with less sorrow associated with it. I made this quilt for a little girl, Alice, from all her baby clothes – such a great way of up-cycling old baby clothes (and saving space in your attic!) without the wrench of actually having to get rid of them, and the memories!

Patchwork memory quilt

Whilst it is a simple square patchwork pattern, it was quite a lengthy project. A lot of my time was spent ironing the teeny tiny dresses, romper suits, skirts to determine which pieces of clothes were large enough to get even once patch. I made an effort to cut out patches of the fabric that featured an interesting element of the item i.e. a pocket, embroidery etc.

After calculating the size of blanket and cutting the number of patches to fit the right amount of rows and columns etc, I laid it all out to establish a nice patchwork pattern – mixing denim and pastels for contrast, and set to work with the sewing machine.

I used a really pretty print fabricfabric for the back that coordinated well with the colours on the front.

It’s difficult to imagine how these are quilts are going to turn out, especially as I have no control over the patterns or colours of the fabrics. However, as I laid it out on my son’s bed to photograph it, I think it’s fair to say it looked so good, I could have kept it (and that’s even without the sentimental value to me!). I hope Alice loves it even more!

Brrrrrrrrrr!! No draughts here thank you!

….Not in this owner’s home anyway! I made this a little while back (as a Christmas pressy actually) for someone who a) had a draughty home and b) also liked sewing and knitting. And what could be more perfect!

I love the detail you can get with free-hand machine applique! And I love these bright colours of the sewing items, of which I tried to include recognisable items; things I’m pretty sure every sewer owns…a pin cushion, those scissors!

The most wonderful time of the year…

So here it is…the 1st of December! Whilst I am, as every year, like ‘woahhh how did that get here?’, this year I’m embracing it and have, in fact been Christmassing it up for the past few weeks.

My attic room has turned into santa’s workshop, the dog is covered in red and green thread, and there are a herd of reindeer and choir of angels in the form of Christmas stockings dispatched and making their way across the country.

I have been making stockings now for the past few years and seem to get more popular every year! However, in addition to the stockings I’ve made an extra Christmassy item this year which I’m pretty pleased with so I thought I’d share, and to decorate my not-very-festive blog.

And, what is more fitting for the 1st of December than an advent calendar…

All that’s needed now are the choccies!

Nicholas’s Quilt

G’day! Oooh how I wish I was in Australia right now with this blustery weather we’re having! Well just let this cheery brightness add some sunshine to your day instead…

My latest baby quilt is for Nicholas, son of my friend’s Laura and Frenchie (aka Richard) who turned the special age of 1 year old in October. Laura and Frenchie, originally from Birmingham, now live all the way across the other side of the world in Australia so this quilt has gone across sea and land to reach them.

I love the colours – quite different to what I normally use, but with Birch Organic’s prints of camping, guitars, trees, birds, I think is gorgeous, and the orange-brightness I felt fit with the ‘sunny-ness’ people tend to associate with Australia.

I used both traditional applique as well as free-hand machine applique, and felt and fabric to decorate the four outer patches: the rocket, the hot air balloon, the teepee, and the boat. I’m currently loving quotes from Dr Seuss so included ‘Oh, the places you’ll go’ with the hot air balloon.

Central, as per is the norm on my baby quilts, is Nicholas’ name. And…I had to squeeze something Aussie in there…hence the cheeky felt koala.

Shirts and Swim Shorts: A Memory Blanket

I am so pleased to have been the creator of this colourful, but seemingly trivial item, that has brought brightness, warmth and comfort to a friend who sadly lost her dad a few months a go.

When my friend Di asked if I’d make her a blanket and cushions out of some of her dad’s clothes, whilst I was a little nervous about it (I mean…what if I cut up his clothes to find I couldn’t make them come together into something nice?!), how could I say no! I not only thought this was such a lovely idea, I knew how much it mean’t to Di to not have to give everything of his away but recycle them into something she could keep, use and look at every day as a little memory.


My first worries were: would the different materials sew well together? Would there be enough variation in patterns, colours etc, to make a good pattern? Would I get enough material worth using once I’d cut off the cuff, placket, collars, pockets etc?


Fortunately, Di’s dad obviously had good taste and a vibrancy of style…the colours of this shirts were great (not just a variation of blue had they been my dad’s!) and his swim shorts…well, we’re talking neon orange, illuminous blue, aqua green and cerise red! And turns out there was plenty of material to go around.


I started by cutting up everything into squares of equal size. I didn’t know as yet how much I’d have of each so unsure of pattern to do. Creating the pattern, so that I had enough of the same fabrics to make diagonal rows, was like solving a giant floor puzzle. Once the pattern was all laid out and I was happy with the distribution of colours: mixing the brights of his swim shorts and the pastel shades of his shirts with a few different tones of grey from his trousers, the sewing began. (I also included a little cheeky pocket and motif from the shorts!)


For the backing I used a simple grey and white floral print that complemented the front but also matched Di’s bedroom colour scheme. Di also asked if I would put, somewhere, somehow a little message that read ‘Goodnight, Good Bless’ – words that Di and her dad used to regularly say to each other, onto the back of the blanket so she would see it when she turned the blanket down as she went to bed each night.


After quilting, I edged the whole thing in a mixture of his ties, which I actually think looks totally fab!

As well as the blanket, I made a couple of cushions using the same shirt patches for the front and using Di’s dad knitted sweaters for the back.



Everyone who I mentioned to that I was making this thought it was such a lovely idea. And, the best part of all was giving the shirts and swim shorts (and trousers, ties and sweaters!) back to Di in their new form…and of course there were tears of both happiness and sadness.


Mary’s Duffle Bag

About four years ago I was selling some crafts at a charity fair in Otley. One customer, Tricia, bought a kid’s duffle bag for her grandson Thomas; she recently contacted me again – this time to ask if I could make her another one for her granddaughter Mary. It had come in very useful for nursery apparently, with the little pocket on the front the perfect size for an exercise book.


Tricia was happy for me to choose the fabric, colours and design on the front. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again…I find sewing for girls so much easier than for boys!

The fabric I selected was a cream cotton canvas (hard-wearing!) featuring a cute red-riding hood style print, that I purchased from Etsy, and a contrasting red and white ditsy floral print for the lining and pocket (from my local fabric shop B&M Fabric in Leeds).

I decorated the pocket with Mary’s name, a couple of cute flowers and buzy bee using felt and hand embroidery.


A little feedback on receiving the bag…‘Thank you for sending the lovely bag – the colours are great! I waited for Kate [Mary’s mummy] to visit us this week so that she could open it – she was thrilled with it!’