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Portable Doll’s House

When Issue 62 of Mollie Makes dropped through the letterbox, it was a good one. See the text on the front saying “Kid’s Doll House”? 

Easily missed, I know, but when I opened it onto the relevant page I did a little virtual skip – this would be the perfect present for a little three year old girl in the family.

A fold-out doll’s house, ideal for taking out and about to keep any little girl entertained (and better than handing over your smart phone, any day).

The details were a joy to put together and customise with whatever scraps of fabric I had to hand.

See, I told you that bag full of two-inch scraps would come in handy one day. I can’t throw any fabric out, no matter how minuscule the leftovers.

The teeny tiny tea set could have Velcro on the back for an older child, to make it removeable. As this was for a toddler, I sewed them to the table permanently.

Some of the bits were embroidered by hand….

….and others were stitched on by machine.

Dolly herself also has a dress and some hair bows, but those will have to follow in the post as I didn’t have time to make them before we visited.

Here’s the bed which is open for the doll to get in. She even has a little removeable pillow.

Of course, she needs a bedside rug to step out onto.

A bedside table has open-topped drawers to store those hair bows, and a little lamp.

I added a last minute dog in its basket, for added fun. Kids love things that ‘do’ something, don’t they?

The bathroom had some lovely details, like the bubbles and towel rail. I embroidered the tap using metallic gold thread to make it more realistic.

Once everything had been sewn on, it was just a case of attaching the front to the back and then turning it right side out.

Roof on, handles added.

Isn’t that just the cutest front door?

So, the house opens up and lays flat for play, like this: –

To close it, you simply fold the side in…..

….fold the bottom up to meet the top and then fasten the popper.

It transforms quickly and easily into a ‘bag’ with carry handles – simple enough for any toddler to use without help.

The iron test is, of course, if the girl in question actually likes it.

What do you think?!


Stitching Santa Sewing Idea

Having concentrated on my knitting Stitching Santa swap, I’ve only just started to get on with my sewing swap. Knitting and crochet take longer, so I wanted to finish those handmade items before moving onto the sewn ones, hoping that these will be a lot quicker.

This one took about an hour and I thought I’d share it with you in case anyone fancies having a go themselves. I think it makes a great little gift – I know I’d be happy with it in my Stitching Santa parcel!

I had an A5 hardback notebook in the office, just lying around begging to be made beautiful and, luckily, I found the perfect fabric for a dressmaker in my collection.


I started by cutting a rectangle of wadding exactly the same size as the notebook.


Any PVA adhesive will do – just spread it on lightly all over the front surface of the cover.


Press the wadding on to the tacky glue, then turn it over and do the same with the spine and back cover.


Cut a rectangle of fabric about two inches wider all around than the notebook and spread glue directly onto the wrong side of the fabric.


Lay the notebook cover onto the glued surface of the fabric and press with your fingers. Turn the excess fabric inwards and stick it to the inside cover.


Work around the notebook applying more glue as necessary, mitring the corners as you go.


Use plenty of glue to cover the tiny bit of spine that needs covering. If you choose a PVA that dries clear, any surplus will be invisible when it dries.


Finally, cut a decorative piece of paper to act as an end paper, covering the raw edges of the fabric to achieve a smart finish.



And there you are – a padded notebook, ideal for any seamstress.


I hope my Stitching Santa recipient likes it – I’m tempted to make one for myself!



Upcycled Chair

To see what I did with this old chair, a pot of paint and these colourful fabrics, click on the link below: –

Minerva Crafts Blogger’s Network: Upcycled Chair


Chalk Painted Dresser Makeover

A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to buy this solid oak dresser on eBay for just £96.00.


Now, I know there’s nothing wrong with it and it is, indeed, a beautiful piece of furniture just as it is, but I had plans to paint it.

We have a large kitchen diner with a LOT of wood in it, so yet another ‘heavy’ piece was never going to look right. I spent months searching for the right dresser at the right price and the right size and eventually found this modern one, which was beautifully made and really solid.

Mr H-L drove for over an hour to go and collect it and wasn’t particularly happy about it being painted, but resigned himself to the fact that I was going to, anyway. What he DID object to, though, was that I wanted him to chop a section of the dresser out, in order to fit our coffee machine in.


I won that debate, too:)


Having used Annie Sloan and Rustoleum chalk paint successfully in the past (guest room makeover), I opted for ‘Bleu Clair’ by Autentico, purely because they had the exact shade of blue that I was looking for.


The main reason that I chose chalk paint in the first place is that there is no need for preparation on most surfaces – you just slap it on.


Two coats are usually needed for good coverage, especially when covering dark with light.



When the paint was totally dry, a coat of finishing wax was rubbed in and buffed to a sheen to protect the surfaces.

I’m told it takes a month to cure completely, so be careful until then. It’s been over a month now, and the finish is still blemish free.


With a bit of determination (for which, read ‘impatience’), I managed to get two coats of paint and a coat of wax on in just one day.


Then I left it for a month.

Or two.

And decided that the knobs had to go.


I dug out four wooden knobs leftover from the kitchen cabinet doors and painted them with two coats of ‘Walnut’ wood stain and a coat of Matt varnish.


Now they match the kitchen units.


So this is the finished article, brightening up the other end of the kitchen part of the room, and I have to say that I’m very pleased with it.


The coffee station works brilliantly with everything in one place – all I need now are some beautiful mugs to hang on the new hooks we installed.


Turn around 180 degrees and this is what greets you, so you can see that both the style and the colour work really well as a whole.


Before and after: –

I love it both ways, but it just sits in our kitchen better now it’s painted and if I ever change my mind, it should be easy to get dipped back to the plain oak.

What do YOU think – love, or loathe?




Free Motion Embroidery Workshop

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting a free motion embroidery workshop for four lovely ladies who, very grudgingly, allowed me to take just one photo of them!


The workshop was a birthday present for the lady on the far right and, apart from the sewing, included lots of lovely tapas-style food and prosecco – not a good combination and, yes, one glass did get knocked over on the table!

None of them had ever attempted this type of machine sewing before but, after giving them a run through of the basics and a demonstration, they all managed to accomplish a few little samples.


If I remember correctly, the lady who created the brilliant musical notes below doesn’t even own a sewing machine!


About an hour in and after much laughter and false starts, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and got the hang of it – I love these seed heads.


My advice was to keep it simple to begin with and make sure the backing fabric isn’t too small to manoeuvre under the needle.


All the ladies said they thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and could see how addictive it could become.


I have dabbled a little, myself, with free motion embroidery, with things like this: –

But what I would REALLY love to do is something as fabulous as this! (image courtesy of DaysInDesign).


A course with Katie Essam is top of my wishlist right now…..


#stitchingsanta Reveals!

It has been totally brilliant, not to mention ridiculously exciting, to watch all your #stitchingsanta parcels coming together over the last couple of months.

I’ve loved seeing how thoughtful and creative everyone has been, really getting to know their recipient through their blog and sending the most appropriate gifts possible.

For those of you new to this concept, and for anyone considering joining in next year (yes, I’m going to organise another one!), here’s the link to show you what it’s all about – #stitchingsanta 2015.

I took part in both the knitting/crochet swap and the sewing swap but, before I show you all the amazing things I received, I thought I’d show you the final handmade gift that I included in my sewing swap parcel.

A hexagonal French ‘Cartonnage’ sewing box (pattern by Tialys on Etsy) which nearly didn’t get sent as I only finished it an hour before the deadline for Christmas post!

Cartonnage sewing box 3

It took quite a few hours of construction over a week or so to complete, the glued parts needing overnight to dry before moving on to the next bit.

Cartonnage sewing box 1

It’s a lovely pattern though, and I thoroughly enjoyed making it – I first saw it on Lucie’s blog as she was a tester for the pattern before its release and it is designed by the talented Lynn who blogs over at Tialys.

Cartonnage sewing box 2

The box made it into the parcel along with the other things which I blogged about here and was posted to the loopy-but-lovely Ali, better known by many of you as THIMBERLINA.

stitching santa

Below is the bundle of presents (blogged about here) that went off to my knitting swap recipient, Pippa, from Beads & Barnacles.

The first I knew of Pippa was when she signed up for the swap, so I spent some time looking through her blog to see what kind of things she might like before deciding on a few. There are fewer handmade items obviously, as knitting takes so much longer than sewing.

stitching santa gifts

I took a chance by not adding sender’s details on either parcel so they would be a surprise until the last moment, as I had blogged in detail about all the handmade elements in the run up to Christmas.


Ali, bless her, hadn’t even received my parcel but had already sent me these lush quilted coasters as a ‘thank you’ for organising the swap!


The fabric she used was ace and had funny, and perfectly apt, little quotes in speech bubbles all over it. Thanks Ali – I love them!!!


Now, onto the myriad of gorgeous things that I was gifted.

As the organiser, two people had to draw the short straw and have me as their swap partner, so neither were able to blog about their parcels.

I chose Joey, from Littleblackdogsa, to be my knitting partner as she lives in South Africa and the post can be notoriously unpredictable. It wouldn’t matter if her parcel didn’t reach me for a few months but, in fact, it arrived in plenty of time!

yarn stitching santa

The outer bag was quite badly damaged when it arrived, but the contents were intact so I put everything in the bright red bag that she sent with it and it stayed under the tree until yesterday.

Yes, you read that correctly, yesterday – Boxing night to be exact. Why? Well, it certainly wasn’t because I have masses of will power or patience (quite the opposite, in fact) but because we host Christmas for the family and I spend two days cooking, tidying and making sure everyone is having a good time. I wanted to wait until lunch was over and they were all watching a festive film in the lounge so I could open and photograph my parcels at leisure.

Boxing Day lunch

And this is what Joey sent me!

yarn stitching santa 1

Would you like to see them in more detail?

Firstly, there are two Indian cotton tea towels onto both of which Joey had crocheted a beautiful border. Far too nice to use, really, but I will.

yarn stitching santa 2

A pretty pin cushion in the shape of a pear. Can you believe I only have one pin cushion which I keep in my sewing room? This one will be used on a daily basis by the children in my sewing classes – I think they’re going to love it.

yarn stitching santa 7

Four fab cakes of organic cotton yarn, local to South Africa, which I am thrilled with and can’t wait to use – crochet hooks included!

yarn stitching santa 5

A length of festive cotton tape featuring the music of “Jingle Bells”, some hand sewing needles and an atmospheric South African sunset disguised as a fridge magnet.

yarn stitching santa 3

I love the little rustic angel that she included, too – I am guessing it is handmade from recycled materials?

yarn stitching santa 4

Finally, there were some sweets, a project bag and a card with a lovely message inside. Thank you so much Joey – I am thrilled with all the thoughtful gifts that you obviously spent a lot of time putting together for me!

yarn stitching santa 6

By the time I had finished opening and photographing Joey’s parcel, I was dying to open the one from my sewing swap gifter and almost forgot to take a picture of the parcels themselves!

sewing stitching santa

Teresa, the smiley one who blogs over at Navybluethreads, sent her gifts in two separate packages which arrived a day apart – I only knew there was going to be another parcel when the first one arrived labelled ‘Part 2’!

Look at all this!

There were Christmas cards and a letter – Teresa, you should be a doctor with writing like that, beautiful but illegible!!! No.1 Son and I worked it out in the end though!

sewing stitching santa 1

With the help of the newly-translated letter, this is what Teresa sent: –

Loads of amethyst-coloured knit fabric which WILL be made into the dress on the pattern that she included. She knows that I like strong colours and, being a lady of ample bosom herself, obviously knows that the wrap dress is perfect for that. I will make the long sleeved version and wear it with long boots during the Winter.

sewing stitching santa 2

I simply cannot resist any pretty vintage lace, fabric or doilies that I come across in charity shops, so when I opened these I was beside myself with excitement! I believe most of these came from Teresa’s stash so I am doubly grateful – I wouldn’t be able to part with any of mine!

sewing stitching santa 5

With my new sewing school, The Stitch Academy, in mind, she kindly sent me a publication that would be ideal for the children to use as their skills improve. The stocking pattern is brilliant, too, but I already have it so I hope she won’t mind if I pass it forward to somebody else to enjoy?

sewing stitching santa 3

Teresa even thought of The Boys – they will absolutely LOVE making these fox brooches and fishy keyrings!!

sewing stitching santa 4

So many generous and thoughtful gifts but my favourite from Teresa has to be this one – a beautifully soft infinity scarf, handknitted by the lovely lady herself, in a self-striping yarn of various jewel shades which looks exactly like it does in the photo. I just love it!

sewing stitching santa 6

What more can I say, except a huge ‘Thank You’ to Joey and Teresa for all the fabulous gifts, and a massive pat on the back to all the #stitchingsantas that signed up for this swap and made it so successful and enjoyable.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did – judging by the blog posts I have seen so far, you did and I wasn’t the only one who was more excited about this present under my tree than any of the others!

Look out for the swap again next year when I get the feeling we’ll have an even longer list of participants than the thirty-five that took part this time.

Happy New Year to you all!



How To Make A Waterproof Patchwork Picnic Blanket And Carry Pack

Ah, the English Summer! What does it mean to you?

For me, it’s day trips to the coast, balmy evenings sat outdoors until after sundown, weekend breakfasts in the garden, outdoor concerts in the grounds of old ruins……in short – being outside.

And being outside is made all the more perfect if you take that most quintessentially English thing with you – a picnic. Dressed down with sandwiches and a flask of tea at the seaside, or glammed up with champagne and a candelabra for a classical concert, everyone loves a picnic, with a soft, warm, waterproof picnic blanket to relax on in comfort…….

……except we haven’t got one.

Well, we didn’t have until recently when I decided to take advantage of being part of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network and make one.

I didn’t want to make just any old picnic blanket, oh no, I wanted the ‘deluxe’ version, something a bit special, so decided to make a patchwork blanket with a waterproof backing and a carry handle. As there are four boys in the house (if you include Mr H-L), anything too pink and girly was out of the question, but I thought I could get away with a small floral print if the main colour was blue.

After much deliberation, this is what I finally ordered: – 1.5m each of plastic coated red ginghamfloral patchwork print polycotton, and denim blue polycotton. This makes a blanket approximately 1.25m x 1.25m.


My Olfa Quiltmaking Kit came with this mat, rotary cutter and 6.5″ square ruler, so I kept things simple by cutting the patchwork squares the same size as the ruler.


Cutting through folded fabric made short work of all those squares as I could cut through four layers at a time – using a rotary cutter and the quilting ruler ensured that they were accurately cut, which is essential in patchwork.


In no time at all I had two piles of neatly stacked patchwork squares, 36 of the floral and 45 of the plain making 81 in total.


The easiest way to keep accurate seam allowances is to line up the edge of the fabric with the edge of the machine foot, the needle in the central position. On my machine, that means a seam allowance of 1cm throughout.


Whilst it may sound obvious, there is a quick way to whizz through all those squares.

Start by sewing them in pairs, each floral with a plain, right sides together. You will need to make 36 pairs which should leave you with 9 spare squares – 5 plain and 4 floral.

Don’t bother reversing your stitching at the beginning and end of each set, cutting the thread and repeating with the next pair – just keep feeding the pairs through the machine one after the other as shown below.


When all the pairs of squares are sewn, snip the joining stitches to separate them.



Repeat this process with the pairs of squares…


….until you have rows of 4….


….then sew the rows of 4 together to make rows of 8. Now add one of your left over squares to the end of each row.

You should now have 9 rows of 9 squares.

Press all the seam allowances to one side.


To minimise any bulk at the seams, you may wish to alternate the direction in which you press them flat.


Join these rows along the long edges, matching and pinning the seams as you go.



Continue until all your strips of patchwork are sewn together into one large square.



As I reached this stage, I made the spontaneous decision to add a layer of wadding between this top layer and the bottom layer. (I had plenty in my stash, but you can buy it here.)

I cut a square of wadding slightly larger all the way around than the patchwork piece, laid it on top of the wrong side of the patchwork and pinned it around the entire edge.



Stitch close to the raw edges all around the outside and trim the excess wadding as shown.


Now the wadding is secured, you can use large tacking stitches through both layers to stop them shifting whilst quilting.

Stitch in the ‘ditch’ using a long stitch length until the whole blanket has been quilted along the seam lines.


Place the quilted layer onto the vinyl backing, wrong sides together, and trim the backing so that it is 1.5cm bigger than the top all the way around.


Using clips, fold the excess vinyl over to the right side of the blanket and secure in place.


A teflon foot makes the vinyl move smoothly through the machine, and a leather needle with its wedged shape will stop any skipped stitches (discovered through trial and error!)


A simple long straight stitch close to the raw edge of the vinyl is all that is needed.


Mitre the corners as you go for a neat finish.


I was left with a few scraps of fabric and vinyl, so I also designed a fabric roll to act as a carry pack for the blanket.

For the carry pack, cut 3 floral and 2 plain squares the same size as before and sew them all together in a single row. Press.

Cut a piece of spare vinyl 1.5cm smaller than the patchwork strip and place in the centre of the strip, wrong sides together.


Turn a narrow hem…..



….and stitch in place close to the inner folded edge around all 4 sides, mitring the corners as you go.

Cut two pieces of vinyl for the handles, each measuring 20cm x 5cm.

Fold the long upper edge in to the wrong side by 1cm, and bring the lower edge up to meet it, overlapping a little to encase the raw edge as shown below.


Stitch close to the raw edge.

Repeat with the second handle.


Position the two ends of the handle in the corner of the carry pack using the photograph as a guide.


Stitch in place with a 1cm seam.


Fold the handle to the outside and turn over, vinyl side down.

Cut a 12cm strip of velcro hook and loop fastener and sew the hook side to the fabric side of the carry pack, being sure to catch the handle in the ‘up’ position, securing it in place at the same time.

Repeat with the loop side at the other end of the carrier.


When the blanket is rolled up, wrap the carry pack around it and press the velcro strips together.



For a picnic in the garden (or anywhere), just add bunting, a squishy cushion and a hamper full of goodies.


Sun is a bonus for a picnic, but not when taking photographs (too much contrast)…


The perfect fusion of girl/boy styling that anyone would be happy to sit on.


No more damp bums!


A lovely layer of wadding for added comfort.


The carry pack with handles means that it’s compact and easy to transport.


Marley was interested to see what was going on – sometimes our hens are just a little bit too friendly!



Now all we need is for Summer to return so we can actually use our lovely new picnic blanket!!