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Posts tagged with: DIY

Tutorial: Our Josephine Sews… How to Plan a Simple Patchwork

The world of patchwork and quilting is vast, and if you just want to get started with something simple it can be a bit daunting. It can be especially tricky if you want to use scraps or small quantities of fabric and you’re not sure if you’ve got enough to achieve what you want to do. Here are some hopefully helpful tips to get you started…

1. Start Small

Rather than embarking on a cover for your king size bed, begin your voyage into patchwork by sewing a lap or cot sized quilt or small play mat. That way you can work out if this craft is for you and make something manageable. The sewing techniques are the same so you’ll be set up for larger projects too.

2. Squared Paper is Your Friend

I absolutely love squared and graph paper, and using it to plan your patchwork will really help. If you take a look at this example, I’ve planned a crib quilt that should measure 36 x 36″ or 90 x 90cm. Taking into account the 1cm seam allowance I’ll be sewing with, each square will need to be cut to 12 x 12cm and I can fit in nine squares across and nine squares down. I decided to use five different fabrics and set about planning how they could fit in with a pattern.

Here is my plan. The four corner blocks are all the same and there are three other designs with the central one only being used once.  This illustration may appear a bit naive but it makes a really handy reference. There is no need for you to get the colouring pencils out or fill in the pattern, I just did that for japes.

Planning a simple quilt resized


3. Take Your Time with Your Design

Selecting your fabrics can be time consuming; if you’re working from your stash you will be limited by what you have in your collection. Take time to cut out a 12 x 12 cm square of each option, this will help you to see if what you’ve selected really works rather than laying bigger pieces side by side.

4. Work in Blocks

For this quilt I have created blocks of nine squares, so three rows of three to make nine blocks in total. By breaking it down this way I can create the patchwork gradually and can make changes to the layout if need be. Working in rows can be a really useful approach but I reserve this for a more casual creation.

5. Feel Free to Change Your Mind

The design process doesn’t stop until the patchwork is complete. If you put your blocks together and something isn’t right, don’t be afraid to unpick, make changes or even start again – it is so much better to have a project you’ve spent time on and love, than a quick fix that you don’t even like.

So why not give it a whirl? Enjoy the process and make a simple heirloom piece that you can be really proud of. In my next post I’ll tell you how to sew your squares together to complete your well planned patchwork top.

Patchwork Image for planning post

Tutorial: Our Josephine Sews… A Button Up Cushion

Button Back Cushion

I am always astounded by the power of the automatic buttonhole feature on my sewing machine. If you get the settings right, you can make use of the delightful treasures from your button tin with a minimum of fuss.

When I first laid eyes on the Townhouses print from Cath Kidston I knew I needed to feature it somewhere in my home; and my daughter’s nursery offered the perfect solution. Unfortunately you can’t pick it up online anymore, but I bet there’s some lurking in their outlet stores. The buttons I used are vintage ones from my stash – they are rather glorious. The cushion pad shown is approximately 58 x 40, but this tutorial works for any size: you just need to adjust the measurements. For a nice plump cushion cut your front fabric to the same size as the pad, and work with a 1cm seam allowance to help keep your calculations simple. I’ve put my measurements in brackets in case you happen to have a cushion pad the exact same size; I work in centimetres.

You will need:

  • Cushion Pad
  • Fabric of your choice
  • Buttons and button hole foot
  • General sewing paraphernalia

To make it:

1. Cut your front piece of fabric, this should measure the same size as your cushion pad. (58 x 40)

2. Cut your back piece to the same height but add 12cm to the width, this will give you space to create your button placket. ( 70 x 40)

3. Decide where you want your cushion to overlap and cut your back pieces accordingly ( 50 x 40 and 20 x 40)

4. To make your button plackets: turn over your widest back piece by 1 cm, press and then again by 4cm and press again. Stitch close to the seam. Turn over your narrowest back piece by 1cm, press and then again by 2.5cm and press again. Stitch close to the seam. HC Sew close to the seam edge

5. Work out where you want your buttons to go, mark on the narrowest piece where the holes should be made. If you’re not sure how to use the buttonhole feature on your machine, now is the time to consult the manual. If you have no idea where this is, the magic of the internet should help you.

6. Test the buttonhole is working before sewing into the real thing. If it is playing up, check all the settings – trust me here, you do not want to have to unpick a badly sewn buttonhole! When you’re confident it is all going swimmingly, sew your buttonholes. HC Sew Buttonholes

7. Now you can assemble your cushion. Place the front piece on the table right side facing you. Then put the widest back piece on top, right side facing down and then finally the narrow piece with your buttonholes in. Make sure all your corners line up, pin and then stitch all the way around. Clip your corners and turn it out, ideally use a bamboo point turner to ease out your corners.

8. Mark where your buttons need to go and stitch them in place. Insert your cushion pad, do up the buttons and admire.

Vintage Button Detail


Tutorial: Our Josephine Sews… A Square Zipped Cushion

Bus Cushion

The zip is a marvellous invention, and sewn neatly it gives a really nice finish. There are many methods for inserting a zip and every sewist has their own take on it. Why not give this method a whirl and see if it suits you.

You will need:

  • Cushion Pad
  • Fabric of your choice – I’ve used the spectacular Cath Kidston bus print!
  • Zip foot
  • General Sewing Paraphernalia

1. Cut the front and a back piece of fabric to 4cm wider and longer than your cushion pad. Your zip can either be the exact same length as the sides of your square cushion, or shorter; often I find that I use whatever I’ve got in my stash. You can always cut your zip shorter if need be.

2. Put your fabric right sides together, pin along the bottom edge, lay your zip on top and mark the start and end of where the zip opens. Move the zip out of the way and sew using a 2cm allowance; start with a regular length stitch, changing to a tacking stitch at your first marking and again switching to a regular length stitch at your second marking.

3. This may seem a bit counter intuitive but we are going to sew each side of the zip separately. This should enable you to sew with more precision.  Fold your fabric so just the raw seam is on the right and the rest of the fabric is to the left. Open your zip and pin the right side face down along the seam with the teeth in the centre. Change to your zip foot and sew along the right side of the zip teeth, you should only be sewing through the zip and one side of the seam.

Right side of zip right



4. Close the zip and repeat on the other side. If you have difficulty sewing past the zip pull, use a seam ripper to open up your tacking stitch and move it past the zip foot. It may be a bit fiddly but you can remove the foot to do this, making sure you keep the needle in the fabric to stop it from moving about too much.


other side

5. Unpick your taking stitches to reveal the zip underneath, open it up.

Finished zip


6. Pin your fabric right sides together, sew around the three remaining sides with a 2cm seam allowance, finish the sides as you wish and trim your corners and turn right side out. Press, push out the corners and pop in your cushion pad.

bus and train

My Makes: The Door Hanger Do-Over

Have you ever finished making something, looked at it and straightaway decided that you could have done better? This happened to me recently when I set to work on some hanging pockets intended to create some handy additional storage.

I’d spent a whole morning sewing, so pleased to be getting on with a project from my to-do list. I gave it a final press, proudly hung it in place, then realised that even though it looked splendid, I’d neglected to line the pockets making it a bit floppy and only half as useful as I anticipated it would be. I might have said aloud “oh, it will be alright”, but what I really felt was a huge sense of disappointment – those few precious hours of stitching not bearing the results I wanted.  It hung there for a while, until the other morning when my thoughts turned to the possibility of a do-over – I couldn’t resist.

When I was finding my way around dressmaking last year, there was a whole parade of do-overs, but these changes were wrapped up the sewist’s best tool – the toile and it felt ok to remodel until I was completely happy. The number of times I shifted darts, moved waistlines and pondered sleeve options were innumerable, so why when it comes to interiors projects should it be any different?

With that in mind, I gave myself the opportunity to try again and slowly unpicked my less than handy work. I lined the pockets and even slightly changed the construction to make it more sturdy; and now I have a functional, hanging tidy, ready to filled with baby essentials when the time comes. Although I’d rather get it right first time, there is no harm in a do-over, now what else can I rework?

Tutorial: Our Josephine Sews… An ever so useful Bag Holder Set

Something for a Sunday: Apple Rings

The Sewists: Exclusive Project

Working on The Sewists was an absolute joy, and you may have noticed that the first project in the book, a heritage pin cushion, is by yours truly. I really like writing tutorials, and plan to do lots more – so when I was asked to contribute an exclusive project for Laurence King, I was pleased to share the Tote Pal project. It’s a bag for your bag; a little something to stop all your bits and bobs jumping out of your tote as you gad about town.  Head over to Laurence King and click on associated material to get your free download.

The Sewists: Love Sewing Asks…

I can never resist a peek at the craft mag section when I pop into a newsagent, with so many folks giving sewing a go, especially in the colder months, it’s good to see what’s out there and what people are being inspired by.

Love Sewing is a  lovely new magazine, and I’ve been so pleased to see The Sewists appearing in a couple of issues. It’s packed with sewing ideas, including lots of dressmaking tips and full size patterns to help your stitching get off to a flying start.

This month, in issue 6 you can read all about my relationship with sewing and of course The Sewists. Why not give the magazine a whirl?

Lovely Old Books: Things to Make and Do the Whole Year Through, 1955.

I can never resist picking up old craft books when I’m out and about seeking vintage treasure. Often you don’t get any information on the author and in some cases not even the year of publication, which I always like to know. However a child’s scrawl on the ‘This Book Belongs To’ page is simply delightful.

This book is particularly jolly, I would have been overjoyed to have 365 suggestions for things to do when I was a youngster. Some of the ideas are a little bit antiquated but overall lots of the little projects would be suitable for kids and grown ups alike to try now.

The inside cover illustrations are pleasing too, very mid century in style.

I’ll be sharing more from this book in my regular Something for a Sunday posts, why not give the ideas a whirl?



Something for a Sunday: Spin A Coin

Extract taken from Things to Make and Do, The Whole Year Through. An Heirloom Book.