Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sewing for Pea: Toy Boxes

Well Pea (the nickname we gave our baby girl before she arrived into the world), is well and truly here, 3 months old now and already has a ton of toys. So I wanted to create some unique toy boxes for her.

I took these plain storage boxes which I got from Muji...

... and turned them into these:

 Here's how I did it:

1. I printed off an image of a 5 sided star, taped this under a sheet of acetate and, using a cutting knife and board, cut out the star shape to create a stencil.

2. I mixed up my desired colours of fabric paint, and using my star stencil (secured with masking tape) stencilled different colour stars on the sides of the boxes. To fix the paint, I ironed them (putting some scrap fabric between the painted area and the iron).

3. I then sewed this fancy pom-pom ribbon around the top and trimmed the handles with co-ordinating ribbon.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Sewing for Pea - Christmas Stocking

Before Christmas with the imminent arrival of our new family member (who was nicknamed "Pea" until she arrived), I decided it was time for some new Christmas stockings for all 3 of us. Unfortunately, I only managed to make one by the time our little daughter, Cari Marie, arrived on 8th November. But at least she had a stocking for her first Christmas even if mummy and daddy had to make do with their old ones.

I used some dark teal linen as the main fabric, soft brushed cotton for the inside and some festive patterned cotton for the top of the stocking.

I get very confused about the whole right sides together, wrong side to right side, upside down and turn it all around thing, so rather than attempt to explain how I went about making this, I'll instead refer you to this great tutorial which I followed:


There are lots of possibilities for getting creative with this - using different combinations of fabrics, stencilling your own fabrics for the top part, stencilling or appliquéing the name or initial of the owner-to-be of the stocking.  And then of course, what to put in the stocking ready for Christmas morning - oh wait, Santa does that, right?

Now I just have to make two more for next year!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sewing for Pea - Funky Edged Burp Cloths

For instalment 3 of my "Sewing for Pea" series ("Pea" is the nickname for the baby we're expecting in the next few weeks), I thought I would show you these burp cloths made from plain soft cloth nappies which I edged with some funky fabric.

OK, now I know the baby is not going to take much notice, and having a patterned edge on a burp cloth is hardly a necessity, but as a wannabe surface pattern designer, I get a lot of pleasure from having colour and pattern around me. I hear from other mums that you can't have enough cloths to hand for burping, moping up, as a cover up when feeding, swaddling, pram blanket etc., so I figure why not have them look a bit funky as well as being practical. They also make great gifts with a handmade touch.

Here's how I made them*.

1. I bought a bulk lot of soft cotton nappy cloths in size 70cmx80cm (you can use any size you like, just adjust the binding length accordingly) and some fat quarters of some patterned fabric. As we don't know if we're having a girl or boy, I opted for my favourite gender-neutral colour, turquoise, which looks great with lime greens, pinks or oranges.

2. I made binding tape by sewing together lengths of my patterned fabric with a width of 7cm to make one long piece of just over 3m (so that it would fit all the way around the cloth). I folded the piece lengthways in half, pressed and then folded in the top and bottom edges around 1cm towards the middle and pressed again - see picture:

3. Ensuring that the cloth edge fitted snug into the binding, I pinned the binding tape all the way around the edge of the cloth, at the corners folding the binding in on itself (on both sides) at a 45 degree angle to create a mitred edge.

4. Finally, I machine sewed the binding on to the cloth, removing the pins as I went and stitching diagonally on the mitred edges.


* Don't forget to wash, dry and press all your cloths and binding tape fabric before starting to allow for any shrinkage when they are washed later (which they will be many times!).

For other baby sewing projects, see my Tag Blankie and Patchwork Play Quilt

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sewing for Pea - Patchwork Play Quilt

This is the second installment of my "Sewing for Pea" series (Pea is the nickname for the baby we're expecting in November). And I must admit, as a novice sewer, I am pretty chuffed with this one!

It's a lightly padded quilt that can go on the floor for the baby to lie/play on (I'm going to put a play arch or mobile over it). Since I love print and colour, I really wanted something that was playful, but would fit in with my home and look a bit funkier than the pastel fluffy bunny style or garish primary coloured fabric playgyms available at the baby stores. It's washable so saves you having to get the rug or carpet cleaned everytime the baby decides to make a mess while on the floor.

It was really easy to make - another Lotta Jansdotter pattern from her book "Simple Sewing for Baby". Basically you cut a number of squares and rectangles in various fabrics, the only requirement being that they are all 20cm wide, sew them into strips, sew the strips together and then back with padding and backing fabric.  The full instructions are below. The finished quilt is approximately 98x98cm - big enough for baby and toys, but small enough to put in the washing machine.

I enjoyed making this so much, I even made a second one using different fabrics for another baby due later this year ; )

By the way, you see the fabric with the monkey pattern - that's my very own design and the first fabric I've had printed, very exciting! For more on that design, see this post: Surface Design Week 5.

Here are the instructions to make the play quilt.

Supplies needed:

* Cotton squares and rectangles (enough to create 5 x 100cmx20cm strips - see below)
* 100cmx100cm backing fabric (for e.g. a heavy linen or cotton)
* 100cmx100cm polyester wadding
* thread
* pins
* hand-sewing needle
* scissors
* iron
* point turner/knitting needle
* ruler and paper or fabric marker


1. Cut fabric squares and rectangles from your chosen fabrics. They can be different lengths, but must all be 20cm wide. I used a paper template which I pinned to my fabric before cutting it to make sure I got the width consistent. You could also just use a fabric marker to mark out the squares before cutting them. You'll need enough pieces to make 5 x 1m long strips.

2. Lay out your pieces into 5 strips. Once you are happy with how they are laid out you can begin sewing them together. Take the first two pieces, pin right side together and machine sew along the width on one edge (backstitching at the beginning and end). Then take the next piece in that strip and do the same. Repeat with all the fabric sections until you have 5 x 1m strips (trim the strips if necessary to get the same length).

3. Then you need sew the strips together in the same way - pin the first two strips right side together and machine sew along the length, back-stitching at the start and finish. Then repeat with the next strip until you have all 5 strips sewn together.

4. Measure out your backing fabric (I used a heavy linen from Ikea) and polyester wadding to the same dimension as your patchwork piece (100x100cm).

5. Pin the polyester wadding to the wrong side of the backing fabric and baste/tack together (i.e. stitch temporarily with long stitches by hand) around the entire quilt.

6. Pin the heavy fabric and pieced fabric, right sides together (the polyester wadding will be on the outside) and machine stitch all the way around (back-stitching at the beginning and end), leaving a 15cm opening on one side. You can now remove the tacking stitches.

7. Trim all seam allowances to 6mm (except at the opening), clip the corners at 45 degree angles and turn the quilt right side out (using a point turner or knitting needle to push out the corners). Press the seam edge flat with a medium hot iron.

8. Fold under and press the seam allowance at the opening, slipstich or pin in place and then machine sew around the edge of the whole quilt.

9. Then it's up to you how you want to quilt the blanket. I simply did a "stich in the ditch", machine sewing along the lengths of the pieced seams.

Voila - my funky floor play quilt. Fun for baby, practical and not offensive to the eye!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sewing for Pea - Tag Blankie

I'm expecting my first baby in around 2 months (eeekk!). All very exciting and a little daunting at the same time.  We don't know if we're having a boy or a girl, so the baby's working title is "Pea" (or "Little Pea"), since that what it looked like on the first scan. Now I know I'm not going to have much time for, well anything, once Pea is born, but among all the baby paraphernalia that is apparently completely necessary, I really want the baby to have a few things that I have made for him or her.  So this is the first of a few sewing projects I have planned.

I decided to start with something really simple (I have very little sewing experience) and today made this "tag blankie".

Apparently someone noticed how babies love sucking on the silky tags of blankets and so designed a mini blanket edged with lots and lots of tags for the baby to pull and suck on - hence the tag blankie was born. I used a pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's book "Sewing for Babies" to make mine.

I used some funky graphic heavyweight cotton fabric from Ikea and some brightly coloured ribbons (in gender neutral colours of orange, turquoise and grey) - I don't see why babies have to be surrounded by sappy pastels!

Here are the instructions:

1. Cut out 2 x 33cm squares of your chosen fabric. Be sure to wash, dry and iron your fabric beforehand to prevent shrinkage after you've sewn your blankie.
2. Cut lengths between 14-20cm of ribbons in different colours and widths  (I used 5 on each side, 20 in total).
3. Place the 2 fabric squares right side together and sandwich the ribbons, each folded in half, between the two pieces of fabric, lining up the ribbon edges with the edge of the pieces of fabric. Working one side at a time, pin the ribbons and the fabric pieces together.

4. Machine stich around the (still inside-out) blankie, securing the ribbons as you go. Make sure to leave a 15-20cm opening on one side and back-stich at the start and finish.
5. Trim the seam allowance to 6mm (other than the opening) and trim the corners at a 45 degree angle.
6. Turn the blankie the right way around and, using a long pointed tool, like a knitting needle, poke out the corners. Press the blankie with a medium hot iron, fold the fabric at the opening inside and press that too (at this point you can also insert your final ribbon piece).
7. Finally, machine stitch the blankie all the way around including the opening, back-stiching at the start and finish.

Voila! You have a tag blankie!

I love how creative you can get with the different colour and fabric combinations.  I may make a few of these as baby gifts for other expecting friends.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surface Pattern Design - Week 2, Module 2 (Trends)

Weeks 2 and 3 of Module 2 of the Surface Pattern Design eCourse were all about understanding trends in the design world. How is it that suddenly owls are all the rage, or digital florals, or a particular colour? There's a huge industry involved in trend forecasting for fashion and homewares, so as designers for those markets it's vital to be aware of current trends and trend predictions in our design work.

This isn't to say that you always have to follow those trends. It's certainly OK to "do your own thing", but as a surface pattern designer you should at least be aware of the images that surround your customers and events that may influence your customers buying habits (for example the Olympics, or Christmas).

Here are some of the creative exercises we were set in Week 2 to help our understanding of trends in design:

Seeking out trends 

The first exercise was to get out and start making notes about the trends you see in the stores and on what people are wearing. I took my camera with me and headed in to town to see what the department stores, big labels and smaller boutiques had in store for us for Autumn/Winter 12/13. These are some of the trends I noticed:

1. Black is Back! Oh no - surely not, I thought, as I saw window display after window display with mannequins clad only in black. At least the black trend is tempered somewhat by a smattering of metallics (think studs and faux diamonds), interesting textures, cut-outs and lace patterns.

2. Jewel tones - not all colour has been forgotten though. I'm pleased to report we'll be seeing lots of the jewel-like tones such as a deep emerald, rich amethyst purple, bright pink, and garnet red (hooray, some of my favourite colours!)

3. Tangerine Tango lives on - This year's hot colour (see below) is still everywhere and looks set to continue to be a theme this A/W, albeit it a more muted tone, apt for Autumn.

3. Textured Knits -  we can also look forward to snuggling up in knits in various patterns and textures:

Other trends included strong graphic prints, digital prints, photographic images being used on textiles and hand-printed designs. In terms of motifs, anything woodland is still a big theme for this Autumn/Winter - think owls, foxes and birds of all descriptions.

In summary, there's lots to choose from and creativity and individuality are strong themes. I'm really looking forward to Autumn!

Tangerine Tango - Giftwrap Brief

Every year, Pantone (the leading company for colour matching, ensuring a standardised colour system throughout the designing and manufacturing process), selects a Colour of the Year. For 2012, the colour was "Tangerine Tango":

Pantone described the colour as "reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset... marrying the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow.... providing the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward".

Immediately upon the announcement of Tangerine Tango as the Colour of the Year 2012, designers began using the colour (knowing that other designers would also be) in readiness for the demand that would inevitably follow once consumers started to see this colour everywhere.

In some ways, this type of trend prediction is effectively a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, the prediction needs to be carefully considered in the first case to consider the likely mood of consumers in a particular season and the desire for something fresh and different to what has come immediately before as well as reflect what is happening in the design world at the time.

So, bearing in mind the current trend for all things tangerine, the brief for this creative exercise was to create a fresh pattern for use on giftwrap, using Tangerine Tango as the primary inspiration.  Here's what I created from some sketches of pansies, using Tangerine Tango as the background colour with the pansy motif in a fresh palette of pale grey and aqua:

Giftwrap is a great example of a "placement" design. As the wrap will be a set dimension, it's not necessary for the design to be in an actual technical repeat (for example as is the case with fabric or wallpaper). I've just laid it out to give the impression of a repeat.

I printed out my design and used it to wrap a small box to see how it would look:

I was pretty chuffed with this! I could also see this design on beauty product packaging or stationery such as diaries, notebooks or journals.

Country/Cultural Trends

We were then encouraged us to think about trends in the country we live in - whether they are tied to international influences or the country's own culture/religion/landscape.

I live in Munich, which is in the state of Bavaria in Germany, a state with very much it's own identity, history and cultural traditions. Here are some examples of "Bavarian" style (as you can see hearts are a big theme!):

This has really made me think about how I might be able to work my own style into something Bavarian themed for a design collection. Definitely something to consider for the future.

Celebration and Holiday Trends in Stationery

There are certain trend-influencing events that we know will happen every year at a particular time of year (for example Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother's Day etc.). Others will happen throughout the year (birthdays, weddings, christenings, anniversaries etc.). These are obviously mainly of relevance in the stationery industry.  As a designer (particular if you're designing for stationery products and greetings cards), it's important to have a range of designs in your portfolio that can work for all these different events.

Rachael (our wonderful course tutor) encouraged us to think about these different events and which our designs might be most suited to, as well as collecting samples of designs that particularly appeal to us.

Major Events: Olympic Inspired Design Brief

Major events are a great opportunity to create designs which will be sought out by consumers to commemorate and celebrate those events. A brilliant example of this is the twin London major events of the Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympics. Unless you've been living in a cave, you'll have seen all the Union Jack and London icon inspired designs flooding the shops, on everything from teatowels and mugs to fashion accessories, food and beauty packaging:

Designs by Emma Bridgewater for the Diamond Jubilee
Sephora - Olympic inspired nail polish

With this current "major event" trend in mind, the final exercise for this week was to design a pattern inspired by the London 2012 Olympics. Since the official London 2012 logos and the Olympic rings are protected intellectual property and there are legal restrictions on anything which would depict an association with the London Games (set out here http://www.london2012.com/documents/brand-guidelines/guidelines-for-non-commercial-use.pdf), I ended up going for a generic London/Great Britain design on this teatowel design, using images I had shot in London on film years ago together with some paint drip motifs I had from previous mark-making exercises (which I scanned in and digitally recoloured). I was aiming for an edgy "Cool Britannia" look.

They are a bit different from my usual intricate pretty style, but it was fun to experiment and they have the playful, edgy look I was aiming for. I may even go ahead and get them printed as tea towels as a memento of our fantastic London Games!