Monday, 11 May 2015

Keep on blogging: More craft tutorials coming soon

Since the arrival of my little boy, we've moved house and I've gone back to a pretty demanding job 4 days a week, which means that sadly time for crafting has almost entirely disappeared. I thought things would be so different when we moved as I even have a tiny room that is, in theory, a dedicated craft room. But the reality is that it is often full of junk from the rest of the house and I underestimated how much the child/my day job would eat into any 'extra' time I had.

Little boy in bluebell wood in Wanstead Park

As you'll have noticed, I haven't blogged here for a very long time. I figured that now my life is about getting out and about with my Little One I should blog about that instead. Since moving to Woodford, I found it difficult to know where to go with a little person, so I recently set up a blog about exploring my new local area to help provide a resource for other local families in West Essex. It's called West Essex Mums and is still in its infancy but feel to pop over and say hello or come and say hi on Twitter @WestEssexMums.

I had been thinking that I should streamline my digital channels as I was feeling guilty for my inactivity here on Stars and Buttons. I came back to this blog to write a holding post while I figured out what to do - I don't really want to give this up, as it feels like admitting there is no space in my life for crafting at the moment and that makes me sad. And then I discovered something pretty amazing. While I've been busy trying to build up readers on my new blog this one has been gaining thousands of visitors every month! This not only makes me very happy but has inspired me to think about crafting again, maybe I could find time to make all those things I want to and post some more craft tutorials.

So thank you readers, I'm inspired all over again and I'm already making plans of things to make and new blogs posts I can write. I'll be back soon with some design inspiration and craft tutorials.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

How to make an easy, hand-sewn make up bag

Sometimes I get the urge to make something but then the idea of getting out the sewing machine (which invariably involves moving lots of clutter that has gathered around it) feels too much like hard work. And I just want to do something while sitting on the sofa with a glass of wine. This is the perfect project for that, or if you're just starting out or trying sewing again after a break this will take a few hours and be very satisfying. 

I used this project at an alternative, craft hen party that you can read about in this blog post.

hand sewn make up bag

This make up bag uses just two basic stitches - the back stitch and the running stitch. If you're not sure how to do this have a look at my basic stitches blog post.

To make your make up bag you will need:

  • Cotton thread
  • A needle
  • Pins
  • Zip (any size, this will determine the size of your bag)
  • Lining fabric
  • Outer fabric
  • Scissors
  • Ruler, paper and pen


Pick the fabric for the outside of your make-up bag, some lining fabric and a zip
Use your zip to create your pattern – simply make the length of your bag as long as your zip and as wide as you want

Mark out the measurements on a piece of paper or card and use this to cut out your fabric

For a 10 inch zip, I created a template 10 ½ inches long and 6 inches wide
Place the template over your fabric and either pin in place or draw around it
Cut out two pieces of your outer fabric and two pieces of your lining fabric

Lay zip across your fabric and trim any extra edges
Open your zip about half way
Take one piece of your outer fabric and place it down right side up
Lay the zip on the top edge with the pull side facing down onto the right side

Place the lining fabric on top of the zip, to create a zip sandwich
If using patterned lining fabric make sure it is right side down
Now pin it together so it doesn’t move around while you’re sewing

Sew the sandwich together using backstitch about ¼ inch from the top of the fabric. (If you're not sure how, find out how to sew a backstitch here.)

When you have finished tie a knot and cut off excess thread
Turn it over with the right side of the outer fabric facing up and the zip the right way round

To sew the next side put the lining down right side up and place the zipped section on top with the zip along the top
Put the outer fabric on top of the zip, wrong side up to form another sandwich

Pin it all together and sew it like the other side
The fabric might look like it doesn’t match up but remember your zip is open

Pin it all together and sew it like the other side
The fabric might look like it doesn’t match up but remember your zip is open

Keep your zip open about half way so that you can turn your purse inside out

Now you’re going to sew it all together
Your two lining pieces should be together and touching each other and your two outer pieces should be together as well

Pin everything down, as you’re pinning try to push the outside seam toward the lining so that when you’re done it will lie properly

Sew all around the edges with backstitch leaving an opening at the bottom of the lining to ensure that you can turn the bag (about 3 ½ inches will be enough)
One thread will not be enough you’ll have to rethread a few times on the way round

When you have finished turn the bag inside out. A chopstick is a useful way to push the corners out.
Sew up the opening with whip stitch. (If you're not sure how, find out how to sew a whip stitch here.)


Push the lining back into the bag and you’re finished!

Basic hand sewing stitches

When I ran a sewing workshop at a hen party, I realised that people are often quite scared of sewing. It really is quite easy and like most things just a matter of practice. With hand sewing, you can sew while you're relaxing doing something else like listening to music or watching TV, so I'd recommend it as a way to get started.

So here are a couple of stitches to try and I'll be posting a simple tutorial on how to use these two to make a simple make-up bag. 

First thread your needle with double thread and knot the end.


Working from right to left, come up at A
Take a small backward stitch, go down at B and come up at C
Move the needle forward beneath the material & come up one stitch length ahead
Try to keep your stitches even
Tie a knot at the end

It will look like this  on the right side

…and like this on the reverse


Pull the needle through at A
Push it back through the other side of the fabric at B and through both pieces of fabric
Pull the needle through at C and repeat

Friday, 27 June 2014

Lampshade Making Workshop at Creative Biscuit

handmade lampshades from lampshade making workshop

I love doing workshops. Not only do you get to learn a new skill but it means that I actually have time in my diary dedicated to making something. It's all too easy to let it slip down the to-do list at home. A friend introduced me to Creative Biscuit in South Woodford, a lovely crafting cafe that serves great tea and cake where you can paint ceramics which also runs some brilliant workshops. So last Thursday night, after a few glasses of wine nearby, a friend and I went along to the Lampshade Making Workshop to join three other girls and the super nice teacher Karen who also owns the shop. It was very friendly and informal; we were offered tea or coffee when we arrived and two of the girls were drinking Prosecco that they'd brought with them so I knew I was in the right place!

attaching fabric to plastic to make a lampshadelampshade making kit at Creative Biscuit workshop

We started off with a lampshade making kit each and initially I think we were all wondering how we'd manage to make lampshades that would look as professional as Karen's. But the good news is that it was incredibly easy. It is a little bit fiddly in parts and you can definitely do with another pair of hands for some of the steps but the end result is well worth it. Everyone's material looked lovely once it had been stuck to the backing and we were all very pleased with our final lampshades.

handmade lampshade made with Michael Miller Retro Rocket Rascals

I chose to make one for my little man's bedroom. It's surprisingly difficult to get an interesting, stylish lampshade that isn't too babyish, too twee or just too expensive. I used the Michael Miller Retro Rocket Rascals fabric that I have used in the past to make lots of bibs and baby gifts for Stars and Buttons. I'm really happy with the way it turned out and it was a really enjoyable way to spend the evening; making something in a relaxed atmosphere while catching up with a friend. You can buy lampshade making kits online and you could probably find some instructions online too but I think that you can't beat having someone experienced to show you their own little tricks and shortcuts.

The owner Karen told us that she is planning some more workshops at Creative Biscuit in the future so I'll be keeping an eye on the website for the next set of dates - past classes have included wooden jewellery making, screen printing, vintage tea cup candle making and embroidery.

Visit the Creative Biscuit website.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Happy Birthday to the little man

I know everyone says it, but I really can't believe how quickly the last year has gone. We've been celebrating the first birthday and yet again we've been overwhelmed by the generosity of family and friends.

I am also breathing a sigh of relief, as to be quite honest, I wasn't sure how this whole motherhood thing would pan out. The good news is it's totally awesome and we are lucky to have a happy, smiley little boy who makes us laugh every day. The second best thing is that when people say things like "you will never be the same again once you're a mother"  I've discovered this is mostly bullshit. I was pretty damn happy with who I was before so this kind of worried me. Turns out that after you emerge from the crazed, sleep-deprived fog of those first few months you're just you, but with the added bonus of a cool little person. Life goes on, you can have fun, go out for drinks, return to work - you just need good childcare and a partner who understands your need to go out and be you again. I know I'm very lucky, so this week I'm celebrating that as much as anything else.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

SHOP: Space EC1

There are so many wonderful independent shops stocking up-and-coming designers that I've decided to spotlight some of my favourites. When you're in a rush it can be all too easy to fall back on that well-known online retail giant to buy last minute presents, but recently I decided to make a concerted effort to avoid doing that and buy from independent and local shops instead. After all, they will only survive if we support them. I'm planning on making this a regular feature so if you know of a great independent shop that deserves featuring just let me know.

I'm about to leave my day job to start with a new company in a different part of London and I've been making the most of my last few weeks in Farringdon and Clerkenwell (where my current office is based) to visit the local shops, cafes and pubs for the last time.

Space Shop front on Exmouth Market

Space is a really sweet little shop on Exmouth Market, an area that has been growing in popularity as a foodie destination in recent years but also has a handful of great independent retailers. If you do visit, the fabulous tapas bar Morito, sister to the more famous Moro, is definitely worth a visit as the food and wine is delicious. Anyway, back to Space, it stocks all manner of useful and unusual present ideas and lots of lovely things you'll be tempted to gift yourself as well. There is lots of luscious stationary including Sparrow & Wolf notebooks, some highly covetable jewellery, unique greeting cards as well as home ware, kids toys and books.

I bought some lovely children's books and I couldn't resist this retro Fisher-Price Classic Record Player for our little boy's 1st birthday. His dad remembers playing with this toy the first time round and is hoping it will distract the little one from touching the real vinyl records in the house - we'll see!

Fisher-Price Classic Music Box Record Player in packaging on Space shop shelf

And I've got my eye on these Mengsel Whale & Sea mugs and plates from the Abode collection:

Mengsel Whale & Sea mugs and plates from Abode collection on Space shop shelf

You can find Space at 25 Exmouth Market, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 4QL. If you can't make it to the shop in person, you can buy lots of their stock online at the  I Found It In Space website.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The homemade cot bumper is finally complete

There will come a time when your small baby that once slept placidly starts moving around in their cot. Hitting their arms, legs and then probably their head on the bars - often at the same time. This can be a bit frightening so you'll want to rush out immediately and buy them a cot bumper. Then maybe, like me, you will stand in the shop looking at them thinking 'how much?' before spluttering 'but it's just a big rectangle of material'!!! I also didn't like most of the designs which were all pretty twee and certainly not worth over £40. Hopefully, you will then head home and run one up on your sewing machine. Sadly for my son, I bought the materials then moved house, dealt with Christmas, didn't unpack the sewing machine, <insert more excuses here> and so the poor boy continued to bump his head as he wriggled around at night.

Finley in cot with handmade cot bumper

But lucky boy, I have now finally made him a cot bumper. So when he wedges himself in horizontally to the end of the cot he should no longer have bar marks! He likes to hit it enthusiastically before he goes to sleep which I think must mean that he likes it. It is actually incredibly easy and just needs some large pieces of material and wadding. I'm sure there may be 'proper' patterns online but I couldn't be bothered to hunt one down and just decided to make my own based on the material I had. I will post a full tutorial on here soon.