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#Stitching Santa Update – Upcycled Cross Stitch

A couple of weeks ago I rescued this beautiful cross stitch from our local charity shop. It was mounted and framed but needed reinventing into something more usable in today’s modern life and was far too wonderful to leave there.

Only measuring a modest 5″ x 7″, I ummed and aahed about what to do with it for a while, having some brilliant suggestions on Instagram.

Ultimately, this is for one of my Stitching Santa recipients (I’m doing both sewing and yarny versions) so I wanted to make it a useful object. This lady is multi-talented across many craft disciplines, as are so many of my blogging pals, and she dabbles in cross stitch herself so I thought this would be perfect for her.

I decided to make a zipped pouch, about the size of a cosmetic bag, which could have a variety of different uses. Maybe for a portable cross stitch project, a small crochet or knitting project, or maybe as an actual cosmetic bag – it is rather swanky, after all!

So here’s a quick run-through of what I did, which might be informative if you have a similar piece of needlework that needs reinventing.

It had been spray-mounted to card and well laced across the back, so all that had to be undone. I then gave it a little steam press.

After trimming the needlework to a useable size, I used it as a template to cut two lining pieces and a back.

Iron-on interfacing was attached to the reverse of the front and back sections to stabilise the bag.

I used the covered tab method for the zip to give as neat a finish as possible (there are plenty of tutorials online on how to do this).

The zipper tabs should be about 1/4″ shorter than the width of the bag to ensure that they don’t get caught in the seam allowance when the bag is stitched together.

After inserting the zip, I topstitched close to the seam through the lining as well. This means that the fabric won’t get stuck in the zip when opening and closing.

OPEN the zip.

With lining-to-lining and front-to-back (right sides together) stitch all the way around, leaving a gap in the lining through which to turn.

Be sure not to catch the tabs in the seam as you sew.

Trim the tabs to reduce bulk.

Cut across all the corners before turning the right way out.

Close the gap in the lining either by hand or machine.

I added a coordinating leather tassel from my supplies.

The sequinned fabric is a small piece cut from a length of fabric that will become a dress later in the week. It adds a touch of glamour.

Some matching blue lining is a nice vibrant surprise when you look inside.

I hope she likes it!


Upcycled Needlepoint

On one of our regular visits to our local charity shop, I spotted this framed needlepoint. It was wedged in a basket at the back of a stack of picture frames and would probably have been consigned to the bin had I not rescued it.

I was struck by the hours of work that had obviously gone into it and was disappointed, if not surprised, that the value that had been attributed to it was just ONE pound.

Unfortunately, as a picture, it just does not work.

It’s old-fashioned and the cheap gilded frame couldn’t be further removed from current interior trends, yet it totally misses the ‘vintage’ vibe, too.

Without really thinking it through, I knew I had to buy it and try to reinvent it as something I would be proud to have in my home – no small task!

A number of Instagrammars had the great suggestion to turn the needlepoint into a tray by adding handles to the frame, or a suitable alternative frame.

I love this idea and very nearly went for it until I was honest with myself and admitted that I have lots of trays and this one simply wouldn’t get used, which seemed such a shame.

Going with my initial idea, I decided to turn it into a cushion cover, after all, the colours would tie in seamlessly with the ones currently in our lounge.

I started by running a blade around the edge of the backing to remove the needlepoint from the frame.

The canvas had been criss crossed with thread to hold it in place, so I was careful not to cut through the canvas when removing the thread.

Having liberated the needlepoint from its frame, it was obvious that it had been a kit originally. I used the colour guides on the side of the panel to choose a fabric from my stash that would serve as the cushion back. 

Luckily, this herringbone tweed matched the colours in the needlepoint exactly. There was just enough cord left on a roll to make some piping, too.

The piping cord was made first, by cutting strips of fabric on the bias and basting it around some cord.

I basted the piping as close as possible to the edge of the needlepoint, clipping up to the stitching to turn the corners.

I had to piece the remnants together to make a 15″ square backing to match the size of the needlepoint front. 

The zip was inserted into the back section rather than any one of the side seams to minimise bulk at the seams. I top stitched it down close to the zip to stop the fabric getting caught in the zip when removing the cover for cleaning.

With right sides facing, I pinned the backing to the front, remembering to open the zip for turning through later. 

As the zip was too long, I would just sew all the way around, in effect creating a new zip stop in the seam, so I didn’t cut it to length at this stage.

The excess canvas was trimmed and the corners were cut across.

Turned through to the right side, this is the finished cushion, shown on a grey chair for contrast: –

I think it will actually live on this sofa.

When I said it coordinates with our existing colour scheme, here’s what I meant – it sits perfectly with the other cushions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think it looks at all dated now, quite the reverse, in fact and I love it!

The total cost of the cushion was…….£1.00

Not bad when you consider that this kit is currently available for around £40.00, not including the backing fabric or insert!

Not so old fashioned now, is it?!


Sunday Sevens #81

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series started by Nat at Threads & Bobbins – why not go and see how it works and how you can join in?

1. No. 2 Son went to Kilve Court for four days with the school and braved all the teasing about having my pink suitcase! (No.3 Son had a pirate day at school).image

2. The postcard we received from Kilve – cheeky little beggar! image 3. A lovely lady in the village picked a posy of flowers from her garden for me. How nice?!

4. Mr H-L and I shared a seafood platter at the pub – it was lush!image

5. Fifi had prime position in the pub window. She loves to watch people walk by.image

6. Bagged these two bargainous ‘as new’ books from the charity shop. I bought the DIY one for No.1 Son only to find out I’d already bought him the same book some weeks ago:)image

7. This amazing cross stitch was going for a song in the same charity shop so I snapped it up.image

8. Just £6.50 for all that work – criminal.image

9. I reckon there’s at last a year’s hard labour gone into that.image

10. After a glorious day on Good Friday on which all the french windows in the house were flung open all day, the rain came on Saturday. It didn’t stop The Boys playing cricket in the garden, though.image

11. We spotted two pairs of extra long full length curtains in a second hand shop, originating from some grand country house or other. image

12. A considerable investment but a bargain at the same time. All interlined and lined, they’re such good quality that they’re going to be dry cleaned and stored until they find a new home in our future B&B.image

13. We stayed with my brother at the weekend and had cocktails down the pub.

14. On the way home we were faced with cattle walking on the road through Burrington Combe – not a usual occurrence and they were lucky not to be hit.

15. Mr H-L and No.1 Son started stripping the wallpaper off the walls in our guest room. We haven’t decorated it in nearly ten years and it was looking a bit tired to say the least.


Well, that was part of my week, although I’ve got lots more to share in blog posts of their own to follow soon, including progress on the guest room decorating front. Talking of which…..back to the sanding down!


How To Turn A Cardigan Into A Coat (and More Charity Shop Finds)

Now the excitement of Yarndale is over I can’t wait to start ‘making’ again.

I’ve got several crochet projects on the go but there’s nothing like a bit of sewing for an instant fix and, as Autumn is trying to oust our Indian Summer, I turned my attention to my Winter wardrobe.

That makes me sound like I rotate my clothes according to the seasons in an incredibly organized fashion. I don’t – they’re all hanging in the same place (except the ball gowns which have their own space). There are a few items that I like but don’t wear simply because they’re not easy to actually wear.

Confused? I’ll show you what I mean.

Take this John Rocha cardigan that a friend passed on to me, I suspect because she had the same problem. It sports an enormous shawl collar that makes the cardigan shift backwards so I find myself constantly hauling it back forward over my shoulders. It also has a kind of waterfall effect at the front which gapes so you need to wear another cardigan underneath to actually keep warm!!!


I had decided to donate it to the charity shop but then asked myself “What would Shawn do?”

Although this is a very modest refashion compared to her standards, it works and now I have a new garment at no cost!

Here’s what I did: –

1. Wrap the cardigan around until it fell the way I wanted it to and pin in place.

2. Sew two buttons to the left side of the cardigan (remember these from my Yarndale Booty?)


3. Cut a piece of scrap leather to use as a backing for your buttonholes. This stops the yarn from stretching out of shape and gives it strength.

4. Pin to the reverse of the cardigan and (right side facing) make two buttonholes on the right hand side of the front to correspond with your button placement.


The buttonholes are virtually invisible from the front and this is what they look like on the inside;

leather back

The finished coat is a real winner that will get lots of use which isn’t bad considering it’s been sat in my wardrobe for about a year now!


I love the cosy cowl neck and this proves my theory that eye-catching buttons really can make an outfit:)

I had a couple of other things to take to the charity shop anyway and, as is often the case, came home with more than I took in!

First were these ice-cream sundae glasses at £1.25 each which the boys will love;


Then I spotted this framed print of Harlech Castle for £2.99;


It’s already hanging in one of the spare bedrooms;


Most excitingly are these four pillowcases for 50p each – pure white and the finest crisp Egyptian cotton;


Initial thoughts are to make some napkins out of them – I should be able to get at least twelve which I could embroider or crochet to turn them into something quite special.

Any other ideas?


Charity Shop Designer Bargain Of The Century!

I am so excited!

I popped out to get some picture hooks and thought I might as well have a quick look in The Charity Shop (there is only one in the nearest town) and came away with what must be the BEST DEAL EVER.

The two labels said “Remnants” priced at £5.00 each. Basically, they were obviously going to be a long and a medium pair of curtains that had been started but not finished. They were each double width, cut and seamed up the middle, and that was it.

Brand new fabric.

ELEVEN metres of it.

Ten pounds.

I snapped it up.

I got home, laid it out and had a proper look.


It was top quality and looked pretty exclusive to me so I checked the selvedges and googled the fabric.

It retails for £76.00 per metre.

That’s £836.00 of brand new fabric for a tenner!

Honestly, I can’t tell you how chuffed I am. Although it does make me wonder about the lost potential passing through charity shops for a song. Am I going to take it back and insist they price it right? No, so that makes me a hypocrite then. But I didn’t know it was designer fabric before I’d paid up and returned home so that makes feel a little less guilty:)

Tess thinks it would make a nice dog blanket.


It won’t.

I’m going to try to piece it together to make a new pair of curtains for the dining end of our kitchen as the silk ones have started to disintegrate in the sunlight.

That wasn’t the only thing I bought though; there was an Ikea double duvet cover going for £3, and I knew just what to do with it…..


Do you remember the day bed that used to be in my studio which is now in the garden?

- 11

Well, hiding behind the bed was an attic full of “stuff”…


Ugh! It does NOT make for a happy studio:(

I cut the duvet cover around three sides and opened it out. I hemmed it and punched eyelets at intervals along the top edge and suspended it on hooks hidden behind the beams and, an hour later – voila!



Out of sight, out of mind – I now have a much more streamlined, tidy space and, not only that, acres of floor space for cutting out those designer curtains:)

I also have quite a lot of leftover fabric so what can I do with that, I wonder….?

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Vintage Treasures and The Craft Revival!

Unless you’ve been asleep since 2006 (pre-recession), you can’t have failed to notice the revival of traditional crafts and the resurgence in popularity of all things vintage.  

Being a child of the seventies with no television(!), we had to find other ways to entertain ourselves in the long winter evenings after the dusk curfew. My grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet and my mother inspired me to learn how to sew – I have been making things since the age of five. During the eighties I was rarely seen without a garment I had made, whether it was a mohair jumper (itchy, but very trendy back then) or a tailored jacket with “power” shoulder pads (ridiculous on my diminutive 5’2″ stature!).

My house was filled with junk shop and auction “treasures”, and my furniture was comfortably dressed with home made quilts, cushions, curtains and anything else I could make myself. My baby daughter wore the most adorable sets of all-in-one, bonnet and even matching shoes, all lovingly and painstakingly made by hand and shown off with pride.

Then came the late nineties and millennium. Ikea and Primark reigned supreme with their cheap flat-pack furniture and throwaway clothes. Everyone could afford to buy new, discard when they fancied a change and repeat every twelve months (about the length of time the furniture was made to last – only a matter of weeks for the poorly made clothes.)

I was embarrassed to admit that I could knit, sew and crochet. I would let people assume that the ironically fashionable “distressed” furniture were new purchases, not the genuine article having acquired a gorgeous patina during the course of an interesting century or so of being.  I am ashamed to say that, with the end of a long relationship, I succumbed to change and donated twenty years of accumulated “memories” to various charity shops or sold at car boot sales for pennies.

Out went vintage kitchenalia, antique pine dressers and patchwork bedspreads. In came soulless Ikea bookshelves and acrylic throws.

And I hated it.

When the recession took hold I was in a new, happy relationship (we’re now married with two children), in a house we bought together and the need for change took hold of me again.

This time, I reverted to my true nature and gradually filled our home with things I loved, mainly eBay bargains (easier than auctions) or charity shop finds.  Sewing and crochet were still not cool, but I didn’t care and made new heirlooms to replace the ones that I’d foolishly given away.

Gradually “Knit ‘n’ Natter” groups became The Thing, vintage tea rooms popped up on every corner and everyone knew what a Granny Stripe was. Charity shops are the place to be. Second hand is no longer a dirty word and hand made is valued over mass produced.

I’m in my element and I couldn’t be happier about the change – which is the only good thing to come out of the recession!

I thought I’d share with you the lovely bounty of things I bought at our local St. Margaret’s Somerset Hospice this morning.  I spent £12.49 in total, a snip and far more beautiful than anything you can buy today.

This vintage pickle jar complete with fork for all my home made chutneys;


An utterly divine jam pot – I swear my Wild Damson and Port Jam will taste even nicer served up in this!


A tiny mint sauce boat – just perfect.


This table runner, not vintage, but so pretty – brand new and still in its original packing!



All this second hand loveliness for £12.49 – amazing!


Do you love vintage and hand made? Show me your second hand bargains and hand crafted masterpieces – I would love to see them!