Being creative and starting a challenge

A while ago I saw that Caroline over at Becoming a SAHM was starting a new linky called ‘Creative Challenge’. The idea is to post about any creative activity that you’ve been up to that you are trying to do better or more often or challenge yourself in some other way with it. When I saw this it was around the time that I was just setting up Sewn Down Purple Lane, and I thought this was particularly fitting for the Creative Challenge linky theme, because although I’ve been creative with my sewing for a while, I was now stepping up a notch and challenging myself to selling my creative wares. I’ve been meaning to write about this and join in with the linky with this post for a while, but as long as I have my sewing machine with me, the default is to sew rather than write about sewing, so it took until coming on holiday with no sewing machine to write this.

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First I thought I’d write a bit about my background in being creative, before moving on to how I’m finding the new challenge now that it’s well underway. I’ve enjoyed sewing (as well as other crafts) for as long as I can remember. I took Textiles as a GCSE subject, which was some lovely creative relief from the more academic subjects. As a teenager I made some of my own clothes and bags, but as university and young adult life took over, I didn’t sew as much – though I did a lot of cross-stitch as a stress reliever during exam periods. Just before Andrew – now 3 years old — was born, I got my machine back out and altered a pair of curtains with some Very Hungry Caterpillar fabric to make them long enough for his room-to-be; this gave me a taste for sewing again!

Bike print wrap 1

Fleece wrap

I also got into using cloth nappies on Andrew. When I was pregnant again and realised we would have a 21-month age gap and therefore two little ones in nappies, I bought some more to expand our nappy stash. The trouble was though, Andrew at nearly 2 years old was getting very big for standard ‘birth-to-potty’ nappies, especially his night nappies that needed to be boosted for heavy wetting. So I set to and sewed him some huge toddler nappies and fleece covers using fabrics upcycled from clothes and flat terry nappies. That’s where my upcycling journey really began. I tried various designs and types of nappy, making my own patterns as I went along. Now the majority of nappies and waterproof wraps that we use are mummy-made, mostly from fabric that used to be something else wearable, and I’ve sold many of our mass-produced cloth nappies.

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Jeans  tshirt nappy

Fleece soaker

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After I started making nappies, the need arose to do something about the dribble situation with Joel – now 17 months old – who wet through bibs spectacularly faster than Andrew ever did. The trouble was that the standard dribble bibs that we had been bought had just one layer of absorbent fabric. That’s when I thought to use fabrics with nappy absorbency levels in a bib, again upcycling from clothes and flat nappies that were no longer useful to us. I sewed some bibs with a funky front fabric (from patterned cotton clothes), a stay-dry backing fabric (fleece or synthetic knitted) next to his skin and other clothes, and a hidden layer of terry cotton for ultimate absorbency. I’m pleased to say that these super absorbent dribble bibs have been fantastic at keeping his chin and top dry despite his dribbling skills that rival those of a top footballer. I also like the bandana style — it looks more stylish than a classic round baby bib, and it flaps around less so doesn’t get in the way especially when he was in the crawling stage.

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Cord bib

Animal alphabet bib

My latest fascination is sewing with the gorgeous woven fabrics that are used as baby/toddler slings – one long piece of fabric is wrapped around parent and child in a secure position – hence the name ‘wrap’. I got into babywearing in this way when Joel was born. It’s quite easy to come by so-called ‘wrap scraps’, smaller pieces of wrap that are left over when weavers make the wraps, or when one is chopped up and converted into a sling with buckles, or if one is damaged somehow. There are so many possibilities for upcycling this lovely fabric – so far I have made waterproof bags, purses, bibs, glove clips, nappies and (probably my favourite for the name) ‘wrap scrap nappy wraps’! Well done if you’ve followed all the wraps here.

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Rainbow wrap scrap nappy

Wrap scrap nappy wrap without snaps

I’ve also figured out how to convert some of our adult clothes that are broken in part or too small into clothes for the boys – for example leggings from jumpers, small trousers from bigger trousers, slippers from jeans and a shirt, and a coat for babywearing that fits over both Joel and me when I’m carrying him on my back in the sling. I never throw any kind of fabric item away, even Daddy has learnt to give me his old stained shirts and worn through the knees trousers – there’s always something new I can make with them.

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Babywearing coat

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Having done all sorts of sewing for my boys, I eventually decided to set up shop. I say ‘eventually’ because I’d been thinking about it for a while but waited for a good time to do it. With our relocation to a new city, and the boys being at an age where it’s manageable to work around their routines, it seemed the right time. So I started sewing items to have in stock (mainly bibs, clothes and nappy accessories like waterproof bags and washable wipes), set up a Facebook page and Etsy shop, and offered custom slots for things other than the in stock items. And that’s about where I’m at now.

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Washable wipes zebra fleece

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Purple stripey wetbag

My biggest challenge at the moment is marketing and advertising my creative products. I’m happy doing the creative stuff, but I have very little idea about the business side of things. I know it’s pretty easy these days to set up an online shop with little prior knowledge, but running that shop successfully isn’t as easy as you might think. Pricing is an interesting issue that I’ve had to tackle recently: I’ve read that it’s essential to hit a sweet spot — too cheap and people will wonder about your materials and doubt the ‘handmade’ nature of your stuff, and too expensive and they won’t think it’s worth buying. I’m also discovering that it’s all well and good getting likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and comments saying how lovely my sewn goodies are and how great my ideas are, but turning those into sales takes some work. I’m still learning how best to do this, so I don’t have a huge list of tips; in fact if anyone has any advice to offer me on this matter I’d be very keen to hear it.

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The most important thing I need to remember in this challenge is that I’m doing this because I enjoy sewing a lot. I find it hugely satisfying to complete a project, especially something that is very practical and looks good at the same time. It’s also a good feeling to use fabrics that would otherwise be thrown away or into the recycling bank, and make new items from old, giving them a new lease of life. I might find the business side of my tasks more boring than the creative ones, but I know I need to work at these too if I want it to succeed. At the end of the day, though, I doubt being a WAHM will make us millions, but just to cover the cost of my materials and earn a bit of pocket money doing something I love would be brilliant. That’s the plan.

Creative Challenge

Word of the week – venture

Words are something that I’m not normally short of – I can waffle on at length in both writing and speech, particularly on subjects that interest me (Tom says that I have an uncanny ability to steer a conversation onto cloth nappies from most starting points!) So when I heard about the Word of the Week linky over at the Reading Residence blog, I thought it would be nice to join in when I can.

This week my word is: venture

For a while I’ve been having lots of fun sewing practical things for my boys – nappies, wipes, wet bags, bibs, clothes etc. I love to be creative in this way, and I enjoy the time I have to myself when sewing, it’s always good to have a bit of me-time when the boys are asleep or with Daddy/Granny. I also love to create practical things rather than ornamental crafts, and I particularly like upcycling items made of fabric (like clothes and blankets) into something new and useful.

But there’s only so many things that my boys need, so recently I’ve been contemplating whether to set up a small business to sell what I make. In some ways it’s quite daunting – I’m not particularly business-minded, though Tom is willing to help me with the accounting side of things. But in other ways it’s exciting to have a go and see what happens – if you don’t try, you never know. I have lots of creative ideas for what I’d like to make, whether I have time to make them all is another matter, and I’d already thought up a name. There are still some of the more boring business bits to sort out, but this week I started a Facebook page displaying some of the things I’ve made so far, mainly to see if people are interested beyond the friends and family who have already expressed their interest.

Now you can see how one of the main things occupying my mind this week (other than the usual daily family tasks) has been my new venture: Sewn Down Purple Lane

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The Reading Residence


The making of a superhero (or 2)

This week, as well as Joel’s first birthday, has included the 31st October. Now to lots of people that means Halloween, but we’re not into celebrating something that originated in dark things, even though these days it’s just a vastly over commercialised festival that most people take part in without any intention of deliberately celebrating evil. Instead we like to join in with the annual ‘Light Party’ that’s put on at our Church, celebrating all things light, including Jesus who we believe is the ‘Light of the World’. We still have lots of fun dressing up, eating treats and spending time with friends, we just do it in a way that doesn’t remember anything like witches, ghost and the devil.

This year’s theme was ‘superheroes’, and children who went were encouraged to dress up as a superhero if they wanted to. I knew that Andrew would want to join in, and thought it would be cute if Joel did too. I also knew that I didn’t have much time to make costumes (a couple of hours last Saturday morning), but I did a quick search on Pinterest and got a few ideas for quick and easy superhero costumes.


I decided that the superhero kit would include: a cape with letter design, a belt, wrist cuffs with lightening bolt design, and a mask. They then wore ordinary clothes with these accessories – for Joel that was a nappy, leg warmers and a plain top; for Andrew that was trousers and a top that I painted a star on last Christmas for the Nativity Play, with pants on the outside. Andrew’s colour theme was yellow (mainly influenced by the star), and Joel’s was green (mainly influenced by his green star leg warmers).

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The capes were made from an old black t-shirt of Daddy’s. I hemmed the edges quickly, and folded over the top, sewed it down and passed a length of elastic through to make a simple cape. I also appliquéd a letter in the centre for each of them: A for Andrew and J for Joel.

The belts and wrist cuffs were made from duck tape stuck onto paper, and then coloured card stuck on with double sided tape to make the ‘buckles’ and lightening bolt details. I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s blog to use duck tape for these. I then used snaps (which I use for nappy making) to secure them around the waist/wrist.

For the masks I simply cut out a mask shape, cut eye holes in, and fastened some elastic to go around the head using tape. I was amazed that Joel actually kept his on his forehead for the whole party, and Andrew wore his on his eyes for a while before it broke after some rather enthusiastic bouncing on the bouncy castle.

superhero Collage 1

superhero Collage 2

It was really hard to get good photos of them in the costumes at the party, most of mine are really blurry because they wouldn’t stay still! But I think you get the idea from the photo I took of the costumes before the superheroes got into them 😉 We had a lot of fun at the party; the boys (and I, and Grandma and Pop who came too) were all exhausted afterwards because they were constantly on the go exploring all the different games and activities that there were on offer, just like little superheroes who can never really rest with all the important work they have to do!

superhero Collage 4

Nappy-related sewing projects: wet/dry bag and fleece soakers

Just recently I’ve rediscovered just how much I love sewing. I did quite a lot as a teenager, but since having kids I haven’t had the sewing machine out much. There were a couple of nappy-related items that I thought would be very practical to have, and these became fun sewing projects to get my teeth into it again.

I realised when Andrew started wanting to wear pants when out and about that I really needed to invest in a good wet bag because we have quite a few accidents still, and I have two children with wet nappies/pants/trousers to take home when we go out. I also wanted one with a ‘dry’ area, as I always had loose spare clothes in my change bag and thought it would be easier to keep them in a bag together. But when I looked online, all the wet/dry bags that looked good quality were a bit too expensive, so I decided to buy some fabric myself and make two wet/dry bags.

Wetbags Collage

The outside is cotton, in Bob the Builder and Animal Alphabet prints, and the lining is a thick and durable sandwich PUL (the laminate layer is sandwiched between two polyester layers – makes it very easy to sew with and is extra thick for wetness protection) in bright orange (Bob) or blue (animals). The front pocket is for dry clothes/nappies, and there is a poppered handle that can attach to a buggy (for example) which is triple stitched for durability. I bought enough fabric for four bags, and I have swapped one with a friend for a night nappy that I wanted to try and a daytime wrap for the Nappyness library, and I sold one on a cloth nappy forum. As far as I know, both recipients like them.

During Real Nappy Week, I bought a couple of fleece soakers for Andrew because I’d read that they were good at night and I was also buying some bigger night nappies for him at the same time as he’d grown out of some of his others. The soakers worked brilliantly, and having seen one in real life as opposed to a picture on a website, I realised that my sewing skills were up to making them. So I set about making some more, using fleece from old clothes and blankets, so they are completely upcycled. In fact for one of them, I accidentally cut the fabric to include the ‘The North Face’ logo on the jumper I was cutting up, but then I decided that it actually looked rather cool with the logo, to show that it was an upcycled item of clothing. The next one I made, I deliberately cut the leg cuff fabric to include the ‘Regatta’ logo.

Soakers Collage

Andrew is now getting a bit big for the XL ones I bought, so I’ve made a few more XXL and Joel is just about fitting into the XL (he has a well boosted night nappy and needs it for the rise height, though it’s looser around the thighs and waist on him than on Andrew). I’m also making one of each size for the Nappyness library, and the medium and large are already available for loan – I originally made the medium thinking it would be for Joel but forgot that it needed to fit over a night nappy rather than day nappy (baby brain moment!) The patterns that I’m using are those I found on Katrina’s Sew Quick Soaker Pattern blog. I’ve also sewn some more washable wipes (as I explained in this previous post) from upcycled nappies and clothes, and these are also available to borrow from the library.

Wipes n bags Collage

As I’ve been sewing, I’ve been dreaming about having a better place to do this other than our kitchen table in quite a small flat. I have a little picture in my head of a cafe with a toy corner (like Livng Stones, the one we go to for meet-ups) which is also a shop that sells cloth nappies (new and preloved) and accessories, and there is also space for me to sew wet bags, soakers, wipes etc. All the mums I meet up with in Living Stones agree that  there should be more cafes like that in Cambridge, and I think the city is the kind of place that parents would welcome a shop where you can actually buy cloth nappies having seen them for real, not just online. Of course they could try them from the library first too.

But then I usually hear a noise from one of my boys, or both, and I come quickly back to reality 😉


Creative Challenge

Sewing projects – Photo of the week

sewing projects CollageI guess this is technically two photos of the week, but I couldn’t choose one over the other. This week I finished off two projects that I’ve been slowly gathering the stuff, time and energy for! I love sewing, but hardly get round to it these days. Ever since I’ve been into cloth nappies in a big way, and set up a cloth nappy library in Cambridge, I’ve been itching to make some nappy-related bits myself – some wet-bags and fleece soakers (used as nappy covers mainly at night).

The wet-bag here is a large one, with an extra pocket on the front for dry nappies/clothes and a carry handle to attach to the buggy. The fleece soaker is upcycled from an old kids dressing gown and a fleece blanket/throw. I am so pleased that these turned out well – they just had to be my photo of the week!

I have some more fabric for wet-bags (both Bob the Builder and ‘animal alphabet’), so I will be making some more when I find the time. I’m not sure what to do with them yet, but if anyone is interested, I may sell them. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a WAHM, but a few bits might not be beyond me.

Team Lloyd


Washable wipes – homemade and upcycled

The fluffy epilogue that I wrote after Real/Cloth Nappy Week this year talked about my realisation that washable wipes were a very simple concept and that I could make some myself rather than buy the branded or even WAHM-made ones (WAHM = work at home mum). I do like to support WAHMs where possible, but in this case I’m being my very own WAHM and saving myself the cost of buying washable wipes even from them.

Although these took me very little time to make, the process taught me that I would actually find it very hard to be a WAHM myself at this stage when the boys are still so young, because I found I could only grab the odd five or ten minutes here and there between doing things with them, for them and around the flat. I don’t know how WAHMs do it! At least all the blogging I do is when I’m sitting down feeding or have a sleeping baby on me and can’t do other stuff anyway. And at least the wipes were simple enough that I could flit in and out of doing them easily.

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The fabrics I used were all old items of baby stuff that we no longer use for various reasons. We had a baby towel that was free with one of the supermarket parenting clubs (I think) but it’s only for newborns and both our boys grew out of it in about a month. I also found a fleece throw that we hadn’t used much and some old clothes (in cotton jersey fabric) that were either very worn out or had stains on one bit of them but the rest was fine. So I’ve done a bit of ‘upcycling’ (as seems to be one of the latest buzz words) in making these wipes.

The first batch I made with half the towel had this towel fabric on one side and half fleece half jersey on the other. I made them fairly big at 13x20cm. Now that we’re using them I would say that we could get away with them being a bit smaller than this as they clean up poo so easily, so the next batch I make will be a bit smaller. I’d seen washable wipes online made in two different ways: (1) two pieces of fabric overlocked together, or (2) two pieces of fabric sewn right sides together then pulled through back on itself and top stitched around the outside to seal the hole left in order to pull it outside in. I experimented with both methods, and found that the second one worked better with these fabrics on my machine – I don’t have a proper overlocker so was just using that stitch on my sewing machine and cutting off the excess fabric, but it was hard to make a neat straight edge, and although it still functions as a wipe perfectly well, it doesn’t look as nice (or ‘professional’ in Tom’s words) as the outside-in-method ones.

Here’s a tutorial with photos showing how I made these wipes (using the second method described above)…..

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1) Cut out the fabrics  – for a 13x20cm wipe you’ll need to cut 15x22cm of towel, and then fleece and jersey to cover roughly half each of the area of the towel, plus 1cm overlap where the fleece and jersey are sewn together. Here the photo shows the fabrics folded up in sets of towel, fleece and jersey all cut and ready to pin.

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2) Sew the fleece and jersey together down the one side that will be in the middle of the wipe – put right sides together and sew using a plain straight stitch along this one side, 1cm from the edge. When you’re done, open it out flat.

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3) Place the jersey and fleece piece right side down on the towel. (In the picture – this was the corner of the towel so I trimmed the jersey fabric to fit the curve of the corner here). Pin at right angles to the edge of the fabric every few centimetres along all four edges.

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4) Sew at 1cm from the edge all the way along three of the edges and about 2/3 of the way along the fourth edge to leave a hole where you can pull the fabric through from the outside inwards. Please excuse this photo – it DOES NOT show right sides together as it should – this was the one wipe that I overlocked instead and I must have taken a picture of this by mistake! Make sure when sewing the two pieces of fabric together that you can’t see the print of the jersey – if you’re just using towel and plain fleece, it wouldn’t matter anyway as there aren’t ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides.

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5) Remove the pins and then pull the fabric through the hole to turn it outside in and reveal the pattern on the jersey. Fold the edges of fabric sticking out at the hole (as seen on the top left corner here) inwards, following the fold of the rest of the seam.


6) Top stitch (using a plain straight stitch on the machine) along the length of the hole and continuing along all four edges of the wipe, at about 2mm in from the edge, to give it a nice finish. Here the picture shows the finished wipe on the right, along with the overlocked one on the left for comparison.

Now to make some more, as well as some wet bags… whenever I find the time!

A fluffy epilogue

Just when I thought there wasn’t much more to know about cloth nappies, Real/Cloth Nappy Week came along and surprised me! After having used just one sort (fitted birth-to-potty with wraps that we were given as a gift) for Andrew as a baby, I did loads of online research last summer and got my head around all the different terminology and mind-boggling options, to add to our stash for when Joel arrived. It was probably around that point that I got really hooked on them, but given that we’ve saved money overall by using cloth rather than disposables, I don’t think it’s an unhealthy addiction.

My aims for Cloth Nappy Week were: (1) enter all the competitions online to try and win some goodies (internet connection on holiday permitting); and (2) find out more about washable wipes, as our rather large supply of disposable wipes that we bought in bulk very cheaply with a load of vouchers we were given is slowly coming to an end.

I didn’t get anywhere with (1) – I never seem to win things, but I’m still of the old ‘if you don’t buy a ticket you won’t win the raffle’ mentality, and in this case all it cost me was my time in entering, which I had a bit more of than usual on holiday. I did, however, get somewhere with (2). I’d heard of Cheeky Wipes before, and they were certainly very involved in the fun of the week, but as I browsed the sites hunting for clues to the competitions, I became aware that there are so many work at home mums (or WAHMs) out there, who are beavering away at making some lovely nappies and accessories including washable wipes, and I didn’t know of most of them.

As I looked in more detail at their wipes, I realised that I could in fact make some myself. Essentially they are a square of towelling backed with a square of fleece or cotton jersey fabric. I’ve always loved sewing and used to do quite a few projects, though like many things in life, I’ve done far fewer since having children (my most recent ones were a toddler tie and the hungry caterpillar curtains that you see in this post). Seeing all the other mums who have put their sewing skills to use on nappies etc. since having children has really inspired me to be creative myself.

Fabric that I've found to make some wipes with
Fabric that I’ve found to make some wipes with

So instead of buying some wipes, I’ve found various bits of fabric stashed away in the flat that I can upcycle (love that word!) into wipes. I’ve also spotted some new fabrics online which I’m going to order to make some wet bags, which I could do with more of. And whilst I’m at all this sewing, we could do with more dribble bibs as Joel is getting through a couple a day at the moment.  Who knows, I might even end up having a go at a nappy or two if I get on a roll and time permits. I doubt I would ever find the time and space (as long as we live in Cambridge) to be a WAHM myself, but I could imagine making these kind of things for friends and family as presents. Watch this space for more posts on the finished items when I get around to making them.

Apart from the inspiration to make my own kit, I’ve also been inspired to think about making cloth nappies accessible to more people. I know I love to ramble on for hours about cloth nappies, given half a chance, whether that’s in person or on the blog. So I thought it might be good to put this enthusiasm to good use on a wider scale. One way of spreading the word about cloth nappies and encouraging others to have a go is running a cloth nappy library – these are popping up in more and more places, though there isn’t one in Cambridge yet, which does surprise me actually. I have heard via a friend that she and some other friends are working on something, so I may get the opportunity to help with that. I need to read up some more on the practicalities of setting one up, but there are plenty of libraries already doing well that could give some advice. If you’re in the Cambridge area, let me know if you think you’d use a nappy library – I’d like to get a feel for how much interest there is.nappy-Collage-lower-res.jpg

Another option would be to become an agent for a particular brand of nappy. There are a few schemes out there, though I’d obviously be more tied to a particular brand than just offering advice on nappies in general. This would involve organising parties in small groups at people’s homes or in places where parents meet up, such as at baby/toddler groups or in cafes. I’d vaguely heard about these before Cloth Nappy Week, but in browsing more websites I became more aware of what opportunities are available. I also learned that nappy demo parties are called Nappucinos! I guess a reference to the fact that many of them are held over a cup of coffee at home or in a cafe. I could always just do this kind of thing on my own, not attached to a company in some way. If you’re in the Cambridge area, or the Coventry area (as we have a free hotel aka my parents’ house to stay at for weekends), let me know if you’d be interested in this kind of thing – again I’d like to get a feel for how much interest there is for nappy demos near us.

If I had more business sense, I’d really love to set up a shop in Cambridge that sells cloth nappies. When I did all my research into the various types and bought some online, I was going on reviews from others and what the online retailers said about the nappies; I kept thinking that all I wanted to do was walk into a shop where I could handle the nappies, see how big they were, look at their shape next to my boys, ask questions to a person there and then, and buy to support an independent business with a local premises. Tom keeps saying that I should set up a shop, but I think he’s not being that serious, and I have absolutely no clue about how to go about such a task, so it sounds incredibly scary!

Here I come to the end of my fluffy epilogue, in which I have talked about my conclusions from Cloth Nappy Week, that is to do more sewing projects and help make cloth nappies accessible to more parents in the future. Let’s see how much of this I get done by Cloth Nappy Week next year! 🙂

Little man’s tie for my little man (with tutorial)

I did this bit of craft a while ago (I think around Easter time?), but haven’t got round to blogging it until now given everything else that’s been going on. We’ve been to a couple of weddings recently, and I thought it would be really cute to make a little tie with elastic around the neck for Andrew to wear to them, with a white shirt and smart pair of black trousers. A while ago I bought a metre of a lovely deep green-blue silky material to mend a dress of mine that needed a bit of patching up. That was far more than I needed, and I thought the leftovers would come in useful for something – indeed it’s the perfect fabric for making a little tie. I’ve never made one before, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard. I looked at one of Tom’s ties to figure out how they are made, and came up with a pattern for a smaller ‘fake’ tie – i.e. you don’t need to tie it each time, it looks real but it’s actually a fake knot at the top and held around the neck with elastic. I remember my brother and I both had one like this for school when we were little (ah the days when even primary school uniforms included ties!)

Here are a few pictures of Andrew proudly wearing his little man’s tie for my cousin’s wedding last week. I realise that I made the elastic a bit too long, but I thought it was better to err on the cautious side and not make it too small, and this means there is some growing room. Of course it was incredibly difficult to accurately measure a wriggly toddler around the neck in the first place! He did very well at keeping it on, and despite an initial few minutes of trying to pull it off, he soon got distracted by something else and forgot about it. By the evening of the wedding celebrations, we took it off, but he wasn’t the only one without a tie then – there were some grown men who were also going for the more relaxed, evening look.

Smiley boy 🙂
A side view of the tie
The three of us all colour-coordinated
Andrew and Grandad, both with smart ties!
Andrew and granny, jumping in the air!

Here’s a tutorial for how I made it, in case you’d like to have a go too. It was relatively easy and only took a couple of hours, but was quite fiddly at times due to its small size. First you’ll need to download the pattern here. Note that this is a not to scale pattern, so to make your own you’ll have to draw it out following the measurements given, on an A3 sheet of paper (or two A4 sheets stuck together will work just as well!) Then follow the steps shown by the pictures below. I hope it makes sense – let me know if anything isn’t clear or needs explaining better.

Pin the pattern pieces to your fabric, making sure the edge of the fabric runs parallel to the height (i.e. top to bottom) of the pattern pieces
Cut around the edges of the pattern so that you end up with two pieces of fabric – the main tie bit (piece A) and the knot bit (piece B). Remove the pins and paper.
Cut two more more pieces of fabric using the ends of the pattern piece for the main tie – about 5cm long for the thick end and about 3cm long for the thin end.
Take the ‘A’ piece of fabric and pin the extra thick and thin end bits of fabric at each end, putting right sides together (so the wrong side of the fabric faces outwards).
Sew around the edges of each end (1cm in from the edge, to give a 1cm seam), so that the separate end bits of fabric are fastened securely to piece A. I always position the pins at 90 degrees to the sewing machine foot, so you can sew right over them.
Remove the pins from each end. This picture shows the 1cm seam, with the fabric pieces still wrong sides facing outwards. Cut small slits almost up to the seam at each corner, to help the corners become well-defined when you turn it the right way out. Now turn the end bits the right way out, so that the right side of the fabric is now showing, and the raw edges of the seams are inside the end bits.
Fold piece A (with its now attached extra end bits) in half lengthways, with the right side of the main piece of fabric facing inwards. Pin at regular intervals along the length. Again, position the pins at 90 degrees to the edge of the fabric so you can sew over them. Sew along the length that you’ve just pinned, leaving 1cm gap the edge of the fabric for a 1cm seam.
You now have a tube of fabric, thinner at one end than the other, and with the wrong side of the fabric facing outwards. Turn this tube inside out, by poking the pointed bit of the thinner end down into the tube and pulling it through. Note that this is very tricky, as the tube is so thin at that end. But I eventually got it through, with patience and pulling it through a little at a time. This picture shows piece A pulled the right way through. Iron it at this point, so its nice and flat rather than a circular tube.
Take piece B, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Fold the longer edges over to the back by 1cm. Pin these edges down.
Sew 4cm from each end along the two lengths that you’ve folded, to fasten the folded edges securely at each end. Don’t sew along the whole length, because the seam would then show in the final (fake) knot.
Fold piece A in (roughly) half, so that you get something that looks like a real tie when its tied! I mean a longer, fatter bit at the front, and a shorter, thinner bit at the back. Iron this as it is, to make it easier to adjust piece B around it. Take piece B, and fold it around the top of (now folded) piece A, to create something that looks like a knot, as shown in this picture. Fold the sides at a small angle (rather than straight around the top of piece A) to give this effect.
Carefully remove piece B from around piece A, keeping the folds you made in place. This is what piece B should look like from the back when you remove it from piece A.
Pin the two ends of piece B together, as shown in the picture (I’m finding this quite hard to describe in words, so I think it’s easiest to get it from the picture). There should be a point at which a natural fold forms at the back of the fake knot.
Sew the two ends together along the fold at the back of the fake knot where you pinned it. You can see here that I folded the joined-ends bit over to the left once sewn.
This is what piece B looks like from the front once you’ve sewn the ends together and made the fold in the back. Cut off all the loose threads and neaten up the raw edges of the fabric at this point.
Fold the raw edges of the fabric (shown on the left in the previous picture) into the centre of the knot, a bit like when you’re wrapping a box-shaped present with paper. This picture shows the first step of the fold…..
…. and this picture shows all the excess fabric tucked neatly into the fake knot, so it is no longer visible on the outside. This fabric also gives the fake knot a bit of extra bulk, to make it seem more like a real knot!
This picture is taken from the bottom end of the fake knot, showing that you can still see through it (it’s a small tube), and I’m still holding the excess fabric folded into place as it’s not sewn down yet.
Now you should have 2 pieces that look like this. Piece A is the main bit of the tie, and piece B looks like a knot.
Slide piece B up along piece A from the fat end to the thin end.
Position the top of piece A (the bit where the whole thing is folded in half) underneath the folded over top edge of piece B. Hand stitch along the top of piece B to fasten piece A into place. Don’t sew through all the way to the front, just catch the folded over bit of piece B (shown here) to piece A.
Measure some elastic around your little man’s neck, to get the right size, allowing 1cm at each end to attach it to the fabric. Hand stitch each end of the elastic to each side of the fake knot. Again, be careful not to sew all the way through to the front, but just catch it onto the folded over edge of piece B, like you did when stitching pieces A and B together.
Finally, close up the top of the knot, trapping all excess threads, raw edges of fabric and elastic inside the knot. Do this by hand stitching neatly along the top of the folded over edges of piece B on the back, so any thread shows only on the back of the fake knot.
And there’s the finished tie! Now it’s ready to be worn by one smart little man 🙂



Crafts on Sea

Baby-proofing hat and mittens

Just a quick post to share a quick craft project that I did the other day when Andrew lost a woolly hat! He has some lovely knitted head- and other-body-wear from Tom’s family, but he also likes pulling them off, even when it’s cold. Unfortunately the hat he was wearing at the start of a walk into town was nowhere to be found at the end of the walk. On the same walk, he also lost a mitten, but we found that one near home on the way back. This incident prompted me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – sew on some ribbon to his hat and mittens to keep them on. For the hat, this meant two shorter bits of ribbon, one on each side, to tie in a bow underneath his chin to keep it on. For the mittens, this meant a longer length of ribbon, each end sewn on to a mitten, so that it could go through the arms of his coat and stop the mittens getting lost even if they fall off his hands.

Matthius the bear modelling the hat and mits before baby-proofing began

The hat and mittens are modelled here by my glamourous assistant, Matthius the teddy bear, who, unlike Andrew, stays still enough for me to take a good photo! They were given to Andrew by my cousin, which incidentally makes her Andrew’s first cousin once removed – something I had to look up when figuring out family relations when Andrew was born. I love the little ears that make Andrew look so cute in the hat, and the little paw prints on the palms of the mittens 🙂

Ribbon ready for baby-proofing

I measured out the ribbons on Andrew, allowing quite a bit of extra length, partly because you need it for getting the mits on and off, but mainly for growing room.

Close up of the stitching on the hat

To make sure the ribbons were strong enough to withstand tugging from baby hands, I folded the ends of the ribbon over so that they were double thickness, and stitch round the three edges touching the inside of the hat/mittens with blanket stitch. I then added a square of back stitch about 2mm in from the edge of the blanket stitching.

Close up of the stitching on the mits

I think the square of back stitching looks clearer on the photo of the mittens than on the photo of the hat. This should mean that they are really secure and won’t be easily lost!

Matthius modelling the hat and mits after baby-proofing was finished

Matthius was kind enough to model again once I’d done the sewing. We tried out the adapted hat and mittens when we went to the park between Christmas and New Year. As you can see in the picture below, we didn’t lose them, especially the mittens, which dangled from his coat as he gripped the elephant see-saw thing and happily rocked to and fro. Smiles all round – Andrew stayed warm, and I was glad my baby-proofing worked!

Andrew wearing his hat, and mittens safely dangling!