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WoCaR 2023 – Week 4

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here

13 January

One of my favourite days of the month: the repair cafe! I’m not going to count the two bags I mended during the day (as I forgot to take pictures), but I will be writing more about my work on Colin’s more-hole-than-socks I took home with me.

During the session I used my latch hook from Ministry of Mending to mend all the ladders, then picked up all the loops onto some embroidery floss so they wouldn’t unravel again. While I picked up some mending cards from Ewe & Ply in town, I’m going to do Swiss Darning or Honeycomb Stitching over these holes and thinning areas using some sock yarn I already have. I’m really excited to practice this type of mend, my socks don’t tend to be chunky enough for me to do it.

For once I didn’t bring a specific project to work on during my down time between assignments, but I noticed some thinning areas on a canvas bag I brought with, so I reinforced the worst before it became a proper hole. You can see more that need doing towards the bottom of the picture below.

This bag is a little precious to me as I got it at the Etsy office in Brooklyn years ago, when they used to host events there. I didn’t make the design but did the printing, and managed to find an embroidery floss colour that matched the ink!

(You’ll have to take my word for it as I forgot to get a photo of the whole bag, sorry!)

Today I also worked on removing a stain from a duvet set I picked up at a charity shop. It was an expensive brand (Christy’s – can’t find these but the cheapest king size sets are nearly £100), and also very new. It looked immaculate, except for a few small blood stains on one of the pillow cases.

Would this put you off? From my (extensive) experience of charity shops, most white duvets you find are actually a bit yellowed from (for lack of a better phrase) body grease. This was pristinely white except for the little stains.

At best: hey, we’ve got a posh new duvet set! At worst: I can cut around the stain and use the fabric to line present bags I’m hoping to make.

After reading some suggestions online, step one was to soak the stain in cold water overnight.

14 January

Another lovely but knackering day at the canal. While on the phone to my parents afterwards I cut, pieced, and sewed some bits for bowl cosies. They’re gifts for friends, with the added benefit that if I use up this fat quarter set I won’t have to list it on my app! Every little helps me make some progress on that fabric stash.

I made four identical pieces like this, the other sides of the cosies will have a solid bit of one of these fabrics.

I also checked in on my stained pillow case – soaking hadn’t really shifted the stain. But hopefully it’s softened it for step 2. The website I’d read suggested using hydrogen peroxide. I didn’t have straight hydrogen peroxide, but I did have oxygen bleach. While I think that works best in warmer water, I was hoping with time it would do the job in cold (which is best for blood stains).

The pillow case was sat in a plastic washing up bowl, in cold water. I arranged the fabric so the stains were at the bottom of little dips that touched the water’s surface. I poured in a spoonful of oxygen bleach. I was hoping osmosis would do the work for me, and even if it dissolved incredibly slowly in the cold water, the highest concentration would flow through the stain. Fingers crossed!

Apologies for the lack of photos – do please comment or message me if that description doesn’t make sense.

15 January

I’d been neglecting one big thing these past few months – taxes! I told myself I’d tackle them after lunch…and gave myself a morning of attaching batting to the pieces I cut/pieced yesterday, as well as a couple more.

It turns out I’d sorted all my spreadsheets up to April (and beyond) months before, so it took me maybe an hour? Maybe less?

So I had a little more time to shape the pieces ready for assembly.

I used a light grey thread to sew on the batting, and while it was nowhere near perfectly in the ditch, it didn’t bother me nearly as much as the fabric is busier than what I’d been using for my mini-quilts.

And how did the pillow case turn out?

As an answer here’s both – my little trick worked, though one stain needed two rounds of it as it went too far below the water level and I don’t think the concentration was high enough. After putting the whole set through the washing machine, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two cases.

If you ever stay over at mine, you’ll probably get this duvet set. Much too posh for my husband and I!

16 January

I went into Shrewsbury to top up my refills, and before I left I pressed all the shaping seam allowances to one side to make it easier to feed through my machine.

I’d fully intended to do more, but got distracted when I came home, so that was it for today!

Fun fact: there were pressed to the wrong side (whoops!). I eventually corrected them after struggling getting one or two through the machine. I finished one today but didn’t get photos.

17 January

I worked a little more on the cosies, finishing another two. Just three more to go.

My husband and I are obsessed with The Traitors, and to stop me being on my phone in front of the telly I tackled the binding on a hand towel.

I’d cut out two sets of towel/hand towel/flannel to give to my husband for Christmas (he wanted massive towels and had threatened to buy microfibre ones), but only had time to finish the binding on one set before gifting them to him. I’ll work on the bath towel…sheet…tent? another day.

18 January

Bowl cosies all finished! I washed them to remove the remains of the blue chalk used to mark some of my stitching lines. Turns out I really was sick to death of them as I forgot to take pictures before I posted them off to our friends. I do hope they like them, the man behind the counter at the post office was bemused by my description of what they were.

To be honest, if I were making more of them, I think I’d adjust how they were constructed – either using one layer of batting or maybe forgoing the reversibility so the end result looked a little less rumpled on top.

I was so glad to have that all finished, and so I quilted and bound another mini-quilt.

This one I echoed the stitching lines but didn’t stitch in the ditch. Because the colours don’t join up there was a lot of starting and ending, more nesting than I’d like on the back of the quilt, and my machine didn’t handle turning corners very well in some cases. My tension must be off!

I also swapped the bobbin thread to match the top which looks a bit weird on the back. Next time I’ll try having different colours on the front and back.

I’ve done a few pinwheel type mini-quilts now and I’m curious to see how the different quilting methods look after a wash. I might try to eke a few square ones out of the remaining scraps to see how they work as well.

19 January

Another mini-quilt, quilted and bound.

I attempted one colour on top (a mid-grey), with white on the bottom…it looked terrible. I couldn’t get the tension on my machine to play ball. I ended up all the way at 9 and it looked ok, but halfway along the stitching line the bobbin thread started showing on top. Going back to 7 seemed to be better, but I didn’t like the look of the grey on the top.

So I picked it out and went with white on both, though looking at the image now I don’t think it was all that bad.

I went OTT with the quilting on this one maybe, but the squares were so small I felt wider wouldn’t make sense. And those lines aren’t straight, but somehow you don’t notice when the entire grid is there.

The binding was put on during The Traitors.

I’ll take a look at my scraps of this fabric and see if I can make more with larger squares as that would more closely replicate my quilt top. I’m hampered by the fact that I used 41 of the 42 charm squares in the quilt. I’m very happy about that (hooray less waste), but the other fabrics I bought don’t have all the grey/tan tones present in the big quilt that may impact what colour I choose.

I think I’ll go with light grey on front and back, but I’ll procrasti-test a bit more before I tackle that.

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WoCaR 2023 – Week 3

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here.

Here’s a reminder of my pledge

Now onto this week’s progress:

06 January

I’m slightly stymied in my plans to continue the quilt as I’m waiting on some thread. An order I’d placed was delayed due to an item missing. Still, I had enough to do a little “victory lap” line of stitching around my quilt top as the piecing wasn’t backstitched and this would keep it from coming apart while I wait for the thread to arrive.

In the meantime I did some sorting out.

I’d heard of an app called Stash Hub from various sewing-related people I follow on social media. It sounded like something that could help me get a handle on my fabric stash, which is feeling a bit overwhelming:

I’ve marked out what areas aren’t fabric on this shelving…so it takes up a little more than half?

The idea is you put in all your fabric, patterns, notions, etc and it’ll help you keep track of what you’ve got and projects you’re working on. My problem is I enjoy making plans, but following through with them usually takes a little longer as I get distracted by other things. I also like to pick up nice discounted or thrifted fabric I see when I’m out and about…so this will hopefully also encourage me to use what I have and maybe destash a few things.

For about 10p a day I thought it was worth giving it a go for a year. In order to get the most out of it, it’s best to put as much data in as possible, so I spent a good few hours logging one tub.

I’m probably not going to post the totals on instagram, but here I might as well be completely forthright.

I’m equal parts dreading and curious about my total across all the shelving, and as this is just one of the many bins, I’m probably going to have a rude awakening.

While sorting through bins I made a pile of things to wash (always good to not have that be a barrier when wanting to start a project), and put all my Christmas fabrics to the side, as I want to make some present bags for the end of the year. More on that when I start working on it.


I also washed the clothes I mentioned in last week’s post. Ta-da (ish)!

The mustard top is now oil-spot free…and I’ll try to remember to wear an apron when I’m cooking. Some of the lighter stains came out on the dress, but most of them are still there. I’ll try another tactic tomorrow.

07 January

More logging interspersed with laundry! I’m getting a bit muddled at the work required to get everything up there, but on the plus side I rediscovered a few things I’d forgotten I had.

I logged two bins, and managed to reorganise another to put my scraps and garments to refashion in one place. I’m not entirely sure if/how I’ll log those. Many of them are tiny pieces that are probably only good for mending.

Here are my totals after today:

Lots of duvets and longer lengths of fabric (like Ankara fabric) in this batch.

Nearly all my Christmas fabric is washed (along with a few other things), so if I’m still stymied on quilting I can make some progress on that.

I was also thinking a little more about my quilt. I like all my tests but they lack a key feature my larger top has: a band of black. I’m planning on quilting the big one with white or light grey as most of my blocks are light, but the stitching will have to pass through a darker band where it’ll definitely show up.


And I tried an oxygen bleach paste and soak on the dress. It might have removed one more of the stains, but I’m pretty sure the others are there to stay. I’ve popped it on my mending pile to work on another day.

08 January

A very minor amount of logging, the last bit of Christmas fabric washed, and another mini-quilt top achieved.

Most of my remaining fabric is knit, with the exception of one box that are project packs I assembled but never got around to doing when we were living in rented accommodation at the end of 2022. Yes they’ve been in bags in a tub for over a year. I can’t face that at the moment, especially since a good few of them are summery clothes I wouldn’t be able to wear for months.

I needed to give myself a break so I made that other mini-quilt and a scrappy back:

I was much less accurate in this piecing – I’m not sure how more accurately to make the 9-patch blocks, but I know some of mine were a little small. I didn’t end up trimming anything on this, so it’ll probably be wavy when I come to quilt, but all that is good practice.

Also it’s not perfect, I made a few mistakes deciding the location of fabrics, but I’m happy with it.

09 January

My husband had to go to Sheffield for work, and as I’d never been, he suggested I come along. I needed a little project I could bring with me. So I assembled another little mini-quilt sandwich:

I really struggled with stitching in the ditch this go round. I’m hoping to do some on my final quilt to anchor and highlight areas, but definitely need more practice. While I originally thought I’d let the wobbles be, when I put additional stitching on they were still very visible so I unpicked and restitched those sections.

You can see the improvement (after I also machine stitched on the front of the binding):

My quilt is really high-contrast so I’ll need to get it right. I’ve been reading up on tips and suggestions, and I’ve got a few ideas of how to proceed:

  • I could use transparent thread for the ditch stitching. While it would take the pressure off it would be synthetic which I’m trying to avoid.
  • I have a stitch in the ditch foot, but it’s not one that’s compatible with my current walking foot. Buying the one where I can switch it out would cost nearly £100 – and while tempting I’d rather save that money to go towards a new sewing machine at some point in the future.
  • I could just not stitch in the ditch, and do 1/8 of an inch or whatever next to the lines to highlight different areas of colour, or do diagonal stitching lines instead. I might try some a mini-quilt with these methods to see if I like the look.
  • More practice! I was thinking of a trial by fire, making a new mini-quilt that’s mostly light colours, and doing my stitching with dark coloured thread. I could wash it to see how much the scrunching up of the quilt hides things.
  • I could also switch colours in different areas. Another idea I might try on a mini-quilt.

10 January

We left in the afternoon, and as tempting as it was I didn’t want to work on the mini-quilt binding at the house. So after volunteering at the cycle hub, I decided to sort out my scraps and square up the big pieces.

As much as I admire some of the quilts people make where they’ve saved all their lovely scraps and fussy cut to feature loads of lovely things, I don’t have the storage space. So I’m hoping to use up as many of those scraps as possible on practice pieces.

I have an idea percolating in the back of my head I might try with some, and then I might just make a randomly pieced scrappy top with the rest.

Later that evening at the hotel I hand-stitched the corners of the binding so if I brought it out with me on my wander I wouldn’t have to be worried about pins stabbing me or getting caught on things.

11 January

I did one of the sides of the binding before heading out, and as the weather was iffy I didn’t bring my project with me on the walk. Sorry for the lack of photo today!

It was a lovely wander around Sheffield, though 4 hours wasn’t really enough time.

12 January

I had canal volunteering today, but managed to finish up the hand stitching on the binding.

This weekend will be a tough one as I’ve got Repair Cafe on Saturday and another day of canal on Sunday. At worst I’ll get a little more fabric logging done, but hopefully I’ll have time to make some progress on practice pieces. I’ve been giving myself a little break but need to get back to working on my business a bit more, too.

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WoCaR 2023 – Week 2

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here.

Here’s a reminder of my pledge

Now on to my progress. Apologies if I switch tenses between days or in the middle of a day, some of them I wrote same day, others I picked up a day or two later.

30th December

Having finished off last week debating quilt patterns…I was still debating quilt patterns. This is my very first quilt, and would be only my second go at patchwork (my first was a door stop – which can be found at the bottom of this post, but I’m not sure counts as it’s very rough and ready). I’d never even made a Half Square Triangle (HST), though I have an interesting book about them.

So I decided to take some of the accidental extra blocks, and pretend they were intentional extras to practice HSTs.

A little gallery of my progress – apologies for the lighting, the weather’s been awful.

As you can see they’re not perfect, but I was happy with them. They needed to be 4 1/2″, and bigger is better than too small.

For fun I decided to make them into more complicated blocks. These weren’t anything I was going to do in this quilt, but I could see how matching seams went…albeit tougher than I’ll have to face in this quilt as the seams met in the middle of the blocks as sewn the second time.

And just to make sure all that wasn’t I fluke, I made another set of them, this time with more overtly christmassy fabric.

The original idea I had was to just turn them into coasters at their current size, but I might stitch the sets of four together. It would be good practice before I sewed the rows together on the quilt. Maybe they’ll be trivets or pot holders? I do have heat resistant batting…

31st December

After yesterday’s practice I went ahead with the HSTs for the quilt. As yesterday everything was marked with Frixon pens or my trick marker for black fabric and pinned before sewing, cutting, and pressing.

I got on a bit of a roll and ended up sewing and trimming all the HSTs. I used white thread for anything with white, black thread for the tan/black HSTs and grey thread for the grey/tan HSTs.

I was keen to start piecing everything together, but also debating making EVERYTHING on the quilt into a HST to blend the colours a bit more. But then I remembered my test blocks, so I practiced sewing them together.

I really struggled to get the points to match up. My machine doesn’t play well with changing layers, and I had to redo some of the joins several times – especially the central point. I probably should’ve gone with what I had first, because the fabric around that central point is now a bit warped without the points being that much better. Maybe it’ll look better once it’s quilted and washed?

The second go was much better:

I took the tails of thread cut off from other seams, and basted where the points met to keep them more in line. It’ll be a bit annoying with so many joins on the main quilt but better than having to redo them several times and warping the fabric.

After making this it occurred to me that my vintage New Home 696 deals with changing layers of fabric better than my newer Brother machine. So I found a few more extra blocks and tested construction there. This one might be my favourite yet!

I did the rather unscientific thing and changed an additional variable, pressing as many seams as possible to opposite sides instead of open flat. I’ve heard that that helps to line things up, and it did seem to help here. But I’m not sure if it was because of my additional practice, or the use of the other machine, or even that my Brother wasn’t as happy with the first fabric combination – it did to the second one well.

As it is I think I’ll sew the patchwork on my New Home, though switch to the Brother for the quilting as my walking foot works better on that machine.

1st January

Busy day, though I’m sure real life will start creeping in soon to stop me from doing quite so much.

I started off the day cutting all the remaining blocks down to 4 1/2″ to match my HSTs. This generated a small amount of scraps that could have in theory been avoided. But leaving everything at 5″ gave me the option to swap blocks around. I’ve put them in a bag to stuff something with later.

I played around with layout options, trying to make sure I didn’t put the same fabric next to each other and the whole thing looked relatively balanced. TBH I like it better in the photo than IRL. Close up the prints are all a bit too much. I’m sure it’ll grow on me, and it’s a good lesson for future quilts.

Then I went on a walk, to take advantage of the sunny weather and give my eyes a little rest so I could look on it fresh later. It’s been so dull and rainy, as you can tell by the state of the footpath.

I then went a bit mad and labelled every single square with a bit of masking tape. I had to move them into another room to sew and was paranoid they’d get muddled. Despite this I still managed to muck one up (as I had to re-press a few seams and moved the masking tape. C5 is upside down.

Everything was sewn on my old New Home 696, which I remembered has an extension table!

I sewed 6 of the 8 rows completely (checking as I went to make sure points were matching – I didn’t go as far as to measure if they were 1/4″ from the edge though I’m honestly tempted!), and then the last two rows got sewn into pairs so I could clear the floor in the bedroom.

Everything was pinned, but where the seams joined I basted as I was worried pins would knock things out of shape.

None of the new seams were pressed, as I want to be strategic. I want to press things towards the darker fabrics, but I also make sure as many seams as possible butt up against one another (as opposed to being pressed to the same side).

2nd January

I finished up the rows, and worked out a pressing plan on Canva which I put into action.

I also started sewing the rows together, but only got halfway before it got too late and I thought it best to give it a rest. In future I’ll probably press open any seams that don’t nest when seams are pressed to the darker sides, some areas were bumpy and I had to do a lot of basting to make sure it lined up while stitching.

On the whole I was really happy working on my old machine.

3th January

Quilt top complete!

I was really nervous putting the rows together, but thankfully nothing was too badly out. And on all but a few occasions I’m happy to live with, things turned out fine on the first go or were correctable on the second try with additional basting.

Next up was sorting out the backing. In my head I had loads on extra fabric, and while that was the case, nothing was quite big enough to fit. I’d decided on a black binding and a mostly white backing, and while eventually I worked out a strategy for piecing the back I ran out of time before completing it.

I’m binding it with the black fabric with dark grey dots, which you can see next to the outer points of the tan squares/diamonds. It was very cheap at Abakhan, probably because it looks like that design was overprinted on to some kind of nativity book.

Can you see Bethlehem, Mary, and page 2 in the text above? I think it reads:

“Some how they got to Bethlehem, And it was none too soon, Though Mary knew the time had come, They could not find a room”

Thankfully not noticeable on the binding. Hopefully the quilt isn’t blasphemous and/or cursed for cutting that up. It is a Christmas themed quilt at least!

4th January

Backing finished early in the morning (I started before breakfast but my husband made me come downstairs and eat before I got hangry).

My goal was to have it balanced without any serious attempt at being centred with anything. This piece was a little longer but I trimmed it off and managed to get the seam on the right near the centre. Oh well, it left me with bigger offcuts that will be more useful on other things.

First on the list of other things is the backing pieces for my test blocks, which I was happy with.

I’m going to work from the bottom of the photo up, and hopefully try a few techniques to see which I like best.

Here’s my progress on the first (lowest) one.

I went with spray basting over pinning as I picked up some spray baste in a sale ages ago. I don’t have good safety pins for pin basting, and I also get a soreness in my thumb sometimes that might be aggravated by opening and closing a bunch of pins.

As it turned out I quite liked how the spray baste worked, though I’ll probably have to wash my tests before deciding whether to go with it on the quilt.

I sewed the binding on the front with the machine, and managed decent mitred corners.

I finished the hand stitching as well, with some episodes of Wellington Paranormal on in the background. Here’s a picture on Tilly for scale.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it (or the other ones for that matter!). I’m tempted to use thermal wadding on the next ones so I can use them as trivets, but then they won’t be a proper test of the final quilt conditions. I’ve been googling ideas and my favourite was putting command adhesive strips on clothes pegs, hanging those on the wall and using those to display the quilts.

5th January

In my head my outing to Shrewsbury today was going to be a quick in and out job. But I ended up doing a park and ride as my usual car park was flooded. That and a late start meant I got home much later than I intended.

So today I decided to tackle a shirt that I managed to spray oil all over. It was a lot of little dots of oil, splash back from some cooking a few days ago. In the gallery below, the first picture is the before, the second is in-progress.

Oil stains like this probably won’t come out in the wash, but they’re really easy to deal with: put some dish soap on, rub it in until it’s sudsy, and let it sit for a while. Then wash it out with warm/hot water, ideally letting the hot water run just through the effected layer. I’ve done this on old oil stains as well with good results, so I’m not too worried if I didn’t manage to get them all with this enthusiastic (as opposed to precise and accurate) attempt at applying the soap.

I also picked up a dress at a charity shop today that needed some treatment. When I told my husband about it, and he was frankly confused.

  • It’s not really my style – not a puffy sleeve person.
  • I’m not a huge pink fan (though I do love the print)
  • It had loads of stains on it

I’m honestly a little surprised the charity shop had it for sale given its condition, and that it was £7. But I’m not someone who haggles at charity shops. This money is going towards hospice care, I’m not going to get huffy about the price.

But I bought it…because of the stains. Bear with me here, people. If I didn’t buy it, who would? It would just end up getting pulped once the staff noticed. I love the fabric, and there’s a lot of it in this oversized dress.

It’s a prime contender for reuse: worst case scenario I can cut around the stains and use the fabric for other things. For something more complicated but my preferred option, I might just remove/rework the sleeves and use the offcuts as fodder for pattern-match patches over the stains I can’t remove.

This dress is also tricky because when hand-washing out the soap, the water got surprisingly pink. Red is a notoriously runny colour in my experience, but maybe it’s never been washed? I’d normally just let it soak overnight in a oxygen bleach mix, but I may have to try spot-treating stains before washing in the machine instead to avoid the red running everywhere.

I’ll share the results of these in next week’s post, as well as hopefully more progress on the quilt! I’ve got an evening away and a bunch of other things planned so it’ll be a test of my ability to make time to work on this project.

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WoCaR 2023 – Week 1

This post in a series keeping track of my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here.

Phew! First week over. It’s a trying hurdle to have the first week contain Christmas. But there’s part of me that thinks if I could do this week, I can complete the whole thing!

Here’s a reminder of my pledge

Hopefully straightforward and quite generous with options. Here’s how I got on:

23rd December

I’m already excited about this challenge as it’s finally got me starting a project more than 2 years after buying the materials: V3 of my wearable hot water bottle!

Here are V1 and V2 for reference:

If you’re interested in more information on these, I’ve written up a basic post about them here!

I went with ankara fabric because I love it. Wadding next to the hot water bottle is insulating to help trap the heat; the one against my skin is cotton/bamboo so it breathes a bit.

Keen to get started, I used the only cotton machine thread I had: white!

  • I finished attaching batting to all of the pieces (started on the 21st and 22nd).
  • I finishing cutting everything out (started on the 22nd).
  • I attached binding separately to the front and back in certain areas, so the D-rings could be sewn into the seams between the layers.
  • I attached the D-Rings to the back.
  • I stitched the front bottom section to the back, and attached the binding on the front side with the machine.
  • I even started hand finishing the binding on the back along one side.

Clearly I’m very keen, so I also had a go on a second project: adding a design to a jumper using duplicate stitch. However, this wasn’t as successful: my white thread is too thick. I’m also not sure this is the best approach as duplicate stitch is more labour intensive than I hoped and given the size of my design it’ll be time consuming to finish it off.

24th December

I’ve been having trouble with my hands if I do too much hand stitching and was feeling a bit sore from all the work yesterday, so I did some yoga instead.

Of course I caved later and hand stitched the rest of the binding on the bottom front, and even machine sewed the binding on part of the front top section, pinning it ready for hand finishing when I was feeling more up to it.

25th December

I hand finished about an inch of the binding I machine sewed on the day before (marked with the red arrows). It was Christmas after all!

26th December

I completed hand stitching the binding on the back of the front top piece, then went to sew that top section to the rest of the holder when my machine threw a fit and broke two needles on the bit that included the webbing for the D-ring.

So I took a little pause and decided to clean and oil my Brother sewing machine and Janome overlocker, and change the needles on my overlocker (not pictured).

Any more sewing was on pause until I picked up more needles. Thankfully I was headed to Shrewsbury the next day and could nip into Abakhan.

27th December

Needles (and a few other things) picked up at Abakhan, I finished my wearable hot water bottle cover! Maybe I’ll write a separate post about it, though I probably already covered all the steps of me making it on here.

Not pictured in the first two shots are the straps I use to tie it on like a baby carrier. They’re black so don’t show up especially well against my jumper but look closely for the D-rings.

This probably isn’t my final version, but before I make any more I need to wear this around and wash it a few times to see what happens!

28th December

At a bit of a loose end, I used it for planning. I’d wanted to start on some clothes for myself, but at the moment (and for the next week and a half or so) my dining table will be taken up by a board game my husband and I are playing. That table is my favourite for cutting out, much larger than the one I have upstairs, and it would be a faff to cut out anywhere else.

So in the meantime I thought I’d start another project: my first quilt!

I’d found two charm packs at a charity shop late February/early March 2023. Both Moda, one called White Christmas Metallic, the other Wild Nectar (link to a place that’s sold out but has a nice photo you can zoom right into). I figured using the black and white one would be easier in terms of finding additional fabric, and settled on this pattern by Moda, though under a guise as the charm pack challenge they did in January 2023. I can’t seem to find blog posts about it anymore, but there are some tags on Instagram and references to it on other sites.

I’d bought additional fabric and made a start of deciding how everything would be laid out back in March, but hadn’t cut anything. So today’s project work was playing around with Paint and tweaking the layout. I’d taken photo of the fabric and a screenshot of the quilt layout planner in the PDF, then just eye-droppered tones to get a rough idea. After printing out four or five versions I finally settled on a cutting list.

29th December

I cut out the additional blocks I needed (plus a few extra as I didn’t have the sheet next to me and got carried away!

Plus I played around with layouts, and after another 5 or 6 options I’m debating between one of three layouts.

If the pictures look odd it’s because all the fabric is just squares lightly folded. I laid out half the design on floor of the spare bedroom, faffed for ages, and took a bunch of photos of different options. I used the computer to create full images of all the options. They look better when smaller, and even better if you squint.

And that’s it so far! I’m already very pleased with having finished one thing I planned out ages ago, and can hopefully get a bunch of other things ticked off my making list during the course of this project.

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Wearable Hot Water Bottle Holder

This is a background post for my Winter of Care and Repair 2023 Project. If you want to see all the posts in the series click here. You can find all the posts about my Wearable Hot Water Bottles here.

In early 2021 I was freezing. I was spending a lot of time in the converted loft room where we used to live, and the insulation there wasn’t great. In summer I’d have to migrate downstairs after mid-morning, but in winter I tried to tough it out using layers.

One day I had an idea to put a hot water bottle in a tote bag and then wear the handles around my neck. The hot water bottle would stay under my jumper, and it kept me nice and toasty. The main downside was it became a literal pain in the neck after a while.

So after searching high and low for a pattern or ready-to-buy product and not finding anything, I made my own.

Version 1

True to form it worked but it was needlessly complicated. I had to take it on and off over my head (the straps crossed in the back and were sewn together, so I had to wriggle in, then tighten the lower straps on the sides.

It also didn’t have any built-in interfacing, so it lost heat quickly and slightly burned my skin. The latter was resolved (more or less) by wrapping a tea towel around the bottle before putting it in the papoose.

It worked well enough, but I knew it could be better. I wanted it easier to take on and off, and as insulated as possible. But a few things stopped me before I could continue.

Around this time I also took part in my very first Super Seconds Saturday (now Super Seconds Festival). Taking part in the same event was Pothies, who made wearable hot water bottle covers!

I ummed and ahhed about whether to make another version for myself, or support a small business who was making something I loved the idea of, but wasn’t quite sure it met my brief. I hadn’t made a decision by the time it got warm and I no longer needed it, so I parked the project.

Version 2

Of course, it got chilly again.

I was going away in October 2021. My husband and I were headed to Wales, and I’d booked myself on a day-long basket making class. The class was to take place in a chilly room on a farm, made all the more drafty by keeping the doors open. I didn’t mind as I didn’t want to catch Covid, but I decided it was time to make my decision on whether to buy or make my own.

While I loved the idea behind Pothies’ Cosymajig, I wanted mine to be more insulated with the opening somewhere other than the top (heat rises). I liked the strap method of holding it on, but wanted those wear points to be stronger. I also really loved the idea of the hand pocket, as my hands are always the first things to get cold.

I incorporated the lessons I learned from V1 with some ideas from the Cosymajig, and made my V2:

The wadding was wool cool insulation from a cheese gift basket we got in the post. The exterior fabric was scraps from a cushion I’d made using IKEA fabric, the interior some scraps of a duvet cover I’d used to make a dress toile.

I absolutely love it, and still use it at markets and while doing other chilly activities, but there was still some room for improvement:

  • I cut out everything before I quilted it, not realising everything would shrink a bit. It still fit the water bottle, but it’s snugger than I’d like.
  • The insulation was so thick, I couldn’t sew two layers of it on my machine (TBH one layer was a struggle). So I made and bound the front and back separately, attached the D rings to the interior back, then stitched them together by hand.
  • As the wadding wasn’t designed for this, I have yet to wash it. I use it relatively sparingly and it’s never directly against my skin, so it hasn’t really gotten sweaty/smelly. But the next version needed to be washable.
  • I put two D-rings on each side of the top, thinking the strap would stay in position like a belt. It doesn’t, I just tie it and don’t mind. I’ll just use one on the next version.
  • I wear this under a jumper and coat, so the only use the hand pocket gets is holding the straps in when I’m using it as a normal hot water bottle. I’ll remove it for the next version.

But of course, because it worked, I fell to the curse of the usable toile and never continued with version 3.

That is, not until the Winter of Care and Repair 2023.

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Winter of Care & Repair

Have you heard of the #WinterOfCareAndRepair2023?

I hadn’t until Jacq (@goodtalkingto) suggested it might be something I was interested in, so I listed to @thepeoplesmending talk about it on the @checkyourthread podcast.

TBH it sounded slightly daunting at first – a challenge that lasts 90ish days. I have a spotty track record for challenges that last a month. But after I listened to the episode I left the idea to percolate for a few days. I thought of a number of things I’ve been neglecting, or things I’d like to do but sometimes find it hard to stir up the motivation – especially at this time of year.

So here we come with the very generous list. Surely I’ll hit at least one?

Between Winter Solstice 2023 and Spring Equinox 2024, I will do at least one of the following every day:

  • mend, tend, repair, care for, or otherwise maintain something I own
  • declutter, deep clean, or otherwise sort out an area of my home/garden
  • work on a creative project for myself
  • get outside for a walk or do some yoga/stretching
  • share my progress in weekly posts

It’s very easy for me to be a hermit, and to prioritise work making over something for myself. I don’t need to do much – maybe some cutting out, pinning, or a few stitches. I also keep putting off tidying up some areas of the garden, and polishing my boots. On days where I’m not feeling up to something like that (or hopefully in addition) I’ll make sure I do some kind of physical activity. I’ll also share it on here, because why not?

I’m hoping the cumulative effect of all my little bits of effort will be a sense of achievement when I look back, or just a boost to my wellbeing.

Today is the winter solstice, but don’t let that stop you from percolating up an idea for yourself over the next few days. It all sounds very much like something to give yourself a little nudge, and not a stick to beat yourself with!

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Inner Tube Tortoise – The Final Tortoise

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

So, I feel a bit embarrassed about this. I totally dropped the ball in updating about the progress of my tortoise. I think when I realised just how difficult it would be to create what I wanted out of inner tube, it became my priority to get just SOMETHING done to enter into the show to not let my team down.

And by “just get something done” I mean, faff for over a month and the scramble to finish at the last minute.

And thankfully I did finish it!

To backtrack a bit…

I had made several spare shells, and I used one to practice how I’d do the shell design. I thought I’d make the scutes, with a lighter shade between them to mimic the dust that gets trapped in the grooves.

My original was messier to mimic the natural variations on the images I saw, but I ended up going neater on the final piece as I was worried the judges would be pedantic and assume I was just being messy.

I struggled with how to do the face

Before you ask: I have no idea. It wasn’t a grinning face, that was supposed to be his…beak? lips? Well it obviously didn’t turn out the way it did in my mind. The final face is much more subtle.

I also struggled with the wrinkles, and just went with squiggly lines.

How did I score? I got joint second lowest or joint lowest for individual entries. Ha! It turns out this judge prioritised expertise over ambition and originality, and my paper mache wasn’t smooth enough. Oh well. I’ve found a David Shrigley print that more or less sums up with what I have to say to that judge.

I’m not really that bitter about it, I promise. I more find it really funny. But I had a lovely time working with the ladies in the WI, and will be co-taking over the WI Show group next year. Here are both our group entries in progress (missing a few elements). I can’t find the pictures I took of them so I’m going off some images from the WhatsApp group.

And now I know not to take it nearly as seriously as all that, and prioritise enjoying myself (which I did in the end) as there is no objective judgement criteria to work from. It’s all completely out of my control and down to the personal preferences of the judges.

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Paper Mache

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

So after the last post I made a couple of additional armatures using the same method as I had previously. Next step was making George’s shape.

Padding It Out

I used paper saved from parcel deliveries and masking tape to make the body.

I had my reference images out and ready to compare, and took it limb by limb.

Some things I found helpful:

  • Pre-tearing various lengths of masking tape and sticking them along the edges of the table was a must
  • Keeping the paper padding a little loose meant I could go in later and scrunch/shape it a little more, holding those changes in place with masking tape
  • Though having the shell on was a little awkward at times it meant I could more easily judge proportions

I was pretty pleased with the final padded product:

It wasn’t perfect, but definitely good enough. On to the paper mache cover!

Paper Mache

This was similar to my shell process, but took a lot longer. Which I should’ve guessed, but didn’t properly plan for. There were smaller areas, more complex shapes, and lots of changes of direction. Nearly all the strips I pre-ripped were too big, but that was easily remedied as long as I remembered to adjust the size before I got them damp.

I worked with George mostly on his back. I was a little worried about the shell getting wet or deforming but I was careful removing excess flour/waster glue before putting the strips down to prevent that happening. He got flipped over to access the hard to reach areas around the front of the shell, tops of legs, and obviously the neck and head.

I saved the head until last so avoid it making a mess, and dried him on his back as the lower shell threatened to sag – the paper wasn’t held on as well as it should’ve been in that area.

I added some lower shell details I didn’t do at the padding stage – I had no reference for these so I kind of winged it, but it seems to have worked out alright. I can see now that the front shell extension bit should go out further but I don’t mind.

He’s mostly dry in these next photos, but I’m leaving him in the airing cupboard another day just to be safe.

There are a few messy bits, but they’re in awkward areas so I’ll probably just leave them.

I debated, and am still debating, going back in to add some wrinkles. It would be easier to do if my little George were bigger, so I might just paint them on.

Next Steps

Oh yes, painting. To be fair I don’t have that much experience, so I’ll probably draw as much detail on as I can in pencil for reference points and to avoid mistakes. The 360 I’ve been using as a reference is in colour, but it’s a bit washed out so thankfully there are a lot of other photos out there to refer to.

It mostly looks like shades of brown, tan, maybe a little black.

Wish me luck.

When I showed my husband the final product he said it looked great and offered to do the painting. I politely declined. But he did ask another good question…

“How does this work with inner tube?”

Yeah… I’m not sure.

This process definitely helped me get a sense of the shapes involved, and how I might construct it, but also highlighted a lot of hurdles.

The shells will need to have a full wire structure underneath. When making my paper mache version I just wodged a bunch paper balls in there to fill up the space – wouldn’t really work with floppy, stretchy tubes on their own.

I can find tubes in the different widths required for the legs and neck, but how I join them together will be a bit of a puzzler. I might simplify his shape a little more to avoid having to attach different size tubes together for different areas of the leg (like how the back legs get a little narrow above the foot.

Assuming I figure all that out I’ll probably try to assemble it before putting it on, and hope the wire armature doesn’t complain too much about bending to make that work, but the areas where the body meets the shell might be even more frustrating as they will have to be done in situ.

I also have no idea how I’ll stuff it.

I’ll have a think while I’m sorting out the paint for my paper mache and see if I come up with anything.

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Armature

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

This project is definitely not out of the woods yet, but the “Is This Possible?”-o-meter has swung back towards yes. At least in paper mache or clay.

To be perfectly honest, after my last post I procrastinated…a lot. Much of that was due to a deadline for a submission I was working on (more on that if I get selected). But mostly I wasn’t finding it fun.

Sometimes it takes a bit of a nudge to get me over the hump so I start and find something I enjoy. And in this case that nudge was the lady organising our entries getting in touch to say we had a meeting Tuesday the 6th to discuss our progress so far.

I felt like I needed SOMETHING to show besides five paper mache shells and a pinterest board.

So I decided to use the video I pinned in the last post as my method.


I needed to translate my 2D screenshots into a 3D image. I decided to use maths.

I had the handy 360 view of Lonesome George from the AMNH to work from, and I’d taken screenshots and printed out Front, Side, and Back views. I took measurements but was finding it hard to visualise how to combine all those measurements to make sense.

In the end I used this method, hoping to find the distance between the two points:

Does that picture make sense? I ran it past my husband and he said he got what I was on about, so that’s probably good?

Basically I used my quilting ruler to made a grid on top of the screenshots, then measured Lengths and Heights from each applicable view. Then it was a matter of plugging into google’s hypotenuse calculator to get my measurements.

The paper mache shell was double the measurements on the screenshots, so I doubled all my final results. It’s all in this handy spreadsheet:

Which then translated into this diagram:


I followed the instructions on the video, but added extra wires to support the angles of the legs and backbone, as they kept wanting to twist.

So instead of just Left legs / Spine / Right Legs, I also attached separate front legs and back legs wires, AND wires that went from each front leg up part of the neck.

But when I held on the shell…the armature looked a little too big. Still not sure why that happened TBH. I probably doubled at the wrong point.

If I held the back of the shell where I wanted it to be, the join of the front legs was about 3cm further forward than it should be. Proportionally it seemed alright, so I just shrunk everything down by 33% so my 130mm backbone measurement became 100mm.

Here are the updated spreadsheet and diagram.

You following so far? Good.

Assembly Try 2

I followed the same method as the first time, as it turned out really solid. And I’m pleased to say it looked MUCH better.

Funnily enough, if you looked at my last post’s horrible attempt at an armature, it’s basically the same size as my 2nd go. So that rough wire sketch didn’t end up being pointless after all.

I even added a little wire just to hold the shell on for the ladies at the WI meeting to see. I’ll add more wire to create a basic shape for the shell to rest on…and pad with newspaper.

Next Steps

Next up is to make a couple more of these – I’m thinking 2 more. This first one will be for paper mache, the second for (hopefully) inner tube, and the third as a backup…or to try with clay if the paper mache doesn’t go quite to plan.

This method was designed for clay, so it’s possible I could struggle getting the paper padding to stay put. But I think with enough masking tape anything is possible.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

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Inner Tube Tortoise – Armature Ideas

This post in part of a series where I try to make a Galapagos tortoise out of inner tubes. Find all the posts here.

I’ve gone about this all backwards – that’s the conclusion I’ve reached these past few weeks.

So About That Armature…

After finishing my little battalion of five tortoise shells, this is the culmination of my work since then:

Guess what? It’s not as easy to wing a tortoise body out of wire as I thought it would be. Also my husband was poorly and other life stuff got in the way.

Starting with the shell meant I’ve had to work backwards to get the proportions to work for the legs. I really should’ve done everything at once.

I’m not unhappy with the general proportions…that’s about all I can say for it.

So to make something a little less rubbish, I’ve done some research into armatures, looking for a method of that will work for what I’ve created so far.

This is what I’m going to try next:

As for having something to measure, the handy 360 I mentioned in my earlier post has been great. I’ve screen shot side/front/back views, printed them out and made some initial measurements.

Comparing to my paper mache tortoise shells, the length and width seem like the right proportions…though the height is a bit short. Not the worst thing, as I was worried about getting the scutes right in inner tubes anyway.

Next Steps

What I’ll do is make measurements on the photo, scale those up to the proportions of my shell, and create a better armature out of wire. That sounds straightforward, but I can foresee some hiccoughs.

I’m held up as I need thin wire to bind up my thicker stuff, and have been carless or tending to a sick husband, so I’ve not been able to make the trip to Shrewsbury to get it. Hopefully tomorrow I can pick that up and all the refills I need!

But I’m not at all confident the wire will work, so I’ve found another method that looks promising if I need to start completely from scratch.

But as that would mean abandoning my shells, I’ll wait until I’m sure the wire armature doesn’t work.