Saturday, 30 October 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival

I am loving the idea of an online blogger's quilt festival! It was only a few days ago that I blogged about my first quilts, but I didn't have much trouble thinking of another early quilt I'd like to talk about here for my contribution to the quilt festival.

Before I started quilting, I bought Denyse Schmidt's Quilts book to get inspired. I fell in love with all of her quilts in there but the one that really caught my eye was this shabby chic, modern country quilt in red and white. I didn't follow the pattern, but the idea. I had all these strips laid out on my floor for a couple of weeks while I pieced it together. It was a total mess. I had a lot of trouble with the wobbliness of the bars because of their slightly curved shapes. This was my first project of the sort and learned a lot about sewing "wonky" lines. Anyway, I got frustrated with this quilt many times and in the end didn't think it would turn out as nicely as Denyse's quilt in the book. However, once all those blocks were sewn together, the quilt top worked its usual magic on me and I fell in love. I decided against traditional binding, because I wanted a quicker finish to this already very long project. So I folded over the backing an extra two inches or so and machine stitched it in place. Then I hand tied it with red yarn, completing the very homemade look. What do you think?

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Christmas Tree Skirt

I've been working on this Christmas tree skirt since yesterday. My daughter and I were both stuck indoors for the last two days because of a nasty cold, and this was a great way to keep my mind off my sore throat. I got the idea from the lovely lady at Tall Grass Prarie Studio (find the tutorial in the right-hand margin of her page). I don't have a Christmas tree skirt in my Christmas décor, but I do have some leftover holiday fabric from the stockings I made last year. I also wanted to try my hand at some new techniques, specifically the "wonky star" and these cool trees. I have a bigger quilt project in mind with a tree theme, and now I think I have the confidence to go for it.

This skirt is still a work-in-progress, but I was so excited by how it is turning out that I thought I would share. It's been a while since I have enjoyed every moment at the sewing machine, and this project totally put me there.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Sewing Clothes Kids Love - Dortje Pants

A few months ago I bought a funky little sewing book called Sewing Clothes Kids Love. This is the second garment I've made from the book and I am loving the patterns. The whole theory behind the book is sewing something for your child that they will just go gaga over - the examples in the book are a bit gaudy and over-the-top - but they are absolutely fun for kids to wear. 

Still long and loose - but these were a US size 4 equivalent!

These pants are pieced together, which made doing my first pair take a few hours, if you can believe that. I was just very mindful of potential errors that often come out when you're sewing from a new book - and me and my seam ripper are not on good terms at the moment. Thankfully, I only had to take out a few seams (practically nothing compared to my norm), but the process still took me a long time because I felt I had to read and re-read the instructions (spartan as they are, so I do recommend this book for intermediate or advanced sewists).

The fabric I used was all knit, because I wanted something I wouldn't have to iron and that she would likely be able to use around the house most of the winter. It's an easy wearing poly-cotton blend that I am very happy with.

The pattern is called "Dortje" - it's a German variant of Dorthea (I believe it's pronounced like Dor-t-ya, if you're curious). A useful tip: sew a size up and alter the waist for your child if you are sewing these with different knee fabric, this is especially important is your child has long legs like my little fairy above.

Interesting techniques you take from this pattern are:

  • sewing pieced pant legs
  • curved seams
  • gathering knits (if you use them on the bottom ruffle)

I really like this book and I recommend it to anyone who sews for youngsters. The book includes patterns for girls and boys (though a bit lighter on boy patterns) and size up to age 12!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Gifted Quilts


I was searching through my external hardrive for old photos of etsy projects I could relist, when I came upon some of my first and favorite quilts.

From what I understand, my niece actually has this quilt hanging on her bedroom wall. While flattered that they didn't want it to get "messy," I couldn't help being slightly disappointed that she wasn't snuggling her little face into it each night. I had this dream of it getting dragged around on sleepy mornings, to slumber parties later on, and getting enough wear into it that the fabric turns ultra soft from so many washings. I never had a quilt growing up, but I have fond memories of my favorite blankies and I wanted this quilt gift to be one of hers.

this photo taken when my sewing desk was still uncluttered with projects!

 The process of quilting is very multi-step. Assembling the quilt top is the most dynamic and thoughtful part. When you finally square up and get all the measurements checked, the fabric backing cut, and the batting ready, you can begin to actually quilt the fabric sandwich together. This, for me, is extremely arduous. I usually end up with neck aches because I like to just get as much of it done in one sitting as possible. Plus, the anticipation of seeing it all together and bound can be just too much!

Anyway, back down memory lane...this second quilt still stuns me with its color. While I was sewing it, because it was my first more complicated pattern (other than patchwork squares), so I was nervous! Nervous about the color and pattern juxtaposition, nervous that it would be too busy, nervous that it wouldn't be liked...Even when I finished each block, I was a little bit unsatisfied with its progress - because my original vision was getting harder to imagine. However, once that quilt top was sewn together, I was shocked. It worked! There is a lot going on, but it's organized at the same time. Plus, it was a quilt for a baby and I just knew that with something this colorful she would probably be more entertained by her quilt than her mobile hanging above!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Lunch Boxes

 I felt really silly on my daughter's second day of playschool/playgroup. I forgot to buy her a little lunch box to take with her, so I had to send her in with one of my old purses with her lunch inside. She thought it was super cool to have one of mama's purses, but when I saw it lined up with all the other cute lunch boxes, I felt embarrassed! Clearly my issue, not hers. But I decided anyway that a lunch box was what she needed, so I did a search on the net for ideas of making your own lunch box/bag and this is what I came up with. There were various tutorials that weren't actually very good, so I just decided to put something together by eye, with some oilcloth I had already had on hand from previous projects.


Some of the projects I liked from other bloggers were cute, here for example, but they left the edges of the bags raw and I wanted something more durable and tidy. There were lots of little things I would change if I were to do it again, but I think the general idea came out just right.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Can you hear it?

Yep, this quilt ROCKS.

Made from my two-year-old pile of scraps.
Backed in soft yellow flannel and quilted around various stars.
Another layer of warmth for my daughter's bed this winter.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Make New Clothes but Refashion the Old...

One is silver and the other gold! Cheesy, but appropriate. It has gotten unseasonably chilly around here and Isabella has totally outgrown most of her warm pants/trousers from last winter/spring. We're talking major high-waters here. During the past couple of years, I have squirrelled away a lot of my husband's unworn clothes - mainly t-shirts and sweatpants - waiting for the ambition to turn them into pants for my toddler.

It's such an easy under-25 minute process, that there really is no excuse when I'm making much more complicated, and less useful garments for her. I find it easiest to use a pair of pants that already fit her well, then simply trace around the pants as they are folded (outer-thigh to outer-thigh). There are plenty of online tutorials for this, but you this site has a particularly elegant version.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Fall skirt

This week, I have commited myself to making more things for my daughter. At the same time, the weather in our part of the world has turned chilly - a sign autumn may already be on the way. So I was doubly inspired to make my girl a fall skirt. I whipped this beaut in less than 30 minutes. The fabric is medium weight, but paired with thick textured tights and little boots or her leather maryjanes, and she'll be ready to help rake leaves. Well, maybe not in this skirt.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Scrap quilt sneak peak

Since I began sewing, I have kept just about every tiny cast-off that is left over from any given project. I hate to throw things away so I have been organizing them into little bags over the last year and a half. I was absolutely inspired by this post, so I finally whipped out those scrap bags and set to work on my own interpretation. The original pattern is meant to be funky, but I wanted to go a step further and be totally irreverent about it - more overlapping lines and wild color.

All of my scraps came from projects that I made for friends and a few that I sold on etsy. This is my way to keep a little bit of all that hard work for myself. I just finished the quilt top and haven't assembled all of the layers yet, so when I do I will definitely be posting the pics!

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Oh the aprons!

new to the shop, tulips!

and only a small part of my wholesale order - unfortunately I'm out of most pictured prints now

Getting creative again

I have been swamped with work on a large wholesale order, family visits, and travel so I have had little spare time to make room for creative sewing for my daughter. After all this stuff ended recently, I finally pulled out some interesting striped jersey fabric and was inspired to sew a circle skirt with it. I found some fabulous online tutorials (links in my twitter stream) and got to work.

My girl has a thing for little yellow chicks, so I freehanded a little tweety bird that turned out very partridge family. I love it. This skirt took me less than an hour to put together. The waist is elastic so she should get quite a bit of wear out of it - at least through next summer.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Complete Satisfaction!

Oh so pretty, even if I do say so myself.
As always, my girl is involved in the process.

I really love the end result of this type of quilting.

The baby boy getting this quilt will have it on his bed in his college dorm room. I can see it all now.

Finished size, a generous 47" X 60" (approx).

Monday, 24 May 2010

Boy's Quilt: Almost finished!

I am working on my first quilt commission. I have made about half a dozen quilts for myself, family, and friends, but have never done it for money. That is about to change. I think that each time I endeavor to get a quilt done, I am surprised by the amount of work and hours it takes to get it finished - like childbirth you forget the pain when the end result is so beautiful (and of course, it's not pain all the way through)! Yesterday, I finally finished the quilting part. I also treated myself to a new ironing board before getting started on the binding (isn't it just lovely? Simple pleasures, I tell ya.)

The person I'm making the quilt for only requested a certain color palette, but the rest was up to me. Let me say that making a quilt without a specific desire laid out for you is like cooking a meal for someone whose tastes you are totally unsure of. She seemed to like simpler square forms so once I decided on the fabric I thought the best way to show it off would be a modified "around-the-world" pattern, which is similar to the quilt I made for my daughter earlier this year. It really shows off color and fabric in a way that doesn't get dated over time, and I think it is especially nice for a boy. I will post the finished photos soon!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Before and After

I love to redo old ugly furniture. Actually, I've only redone about three things, mostly simple projects like this one, but I'm working my way into more difficult projects. In this case, I had this old plant stand, decaying in my garden for a few years, when I finally decided I wanted to bring it into the house to use as a small table in my bedroom.

I used some Mexican oilcloth in an interesting silver pattern (found here), got out a pair of scissors and my trusty staple gun, then simply re-covered the worn out base. The cast-iron bit could use a new coat of paint, but that will come later.

Voilà! A beautiful new little table for inside the house.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

New Work

Check out the shop for new aprons, bibs, and hopefully homewares soon!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Aprons on Film

Check out the latest photos on facebook from the filming of Florentine and Pig - you can see some of my aprons in several of the photos!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

For a little boy...

I was in an amazing Swedish department store that had tons and tons of fabric I loved. When I saw this striped fabric (along with a few others I have yet to touch) I immediately envisioned this little boy's overall set.

Months ago, I bought a packet of patterns from a thrift store for mere pennies and I have been working through the packet, redoing and redesigning some of the almost frumpy-style kids clothes. Amending patterns can be daunting at first, but as long as you cut conservatively to start with you can always adjust sizing later.

I've been primarily sewing for little girls but with this creation I'm absolutely sold on boys clothes. Actually, the overalls could be worn by a little girl as they're not especially boyish.

You won't see these in my shop - I'm just too in love with them to part ways. If I ever have a little boy they will be his! Unless one of my friends is very lucky :).

Sunday, 9 May 2010


Last week, I was contacted by a rep from an up-and-coming children's cooking program in the UK; she found one of my apron designs on my folksy shop ( and wanted me to create a variety of aprons for use in the first 10 filmings. The brand and name of the program is Florentine & Pig, and presenters from CBBC (Children's British Broadcasting Corporation) will be hosting the show from a quirky cottage in the English countryside. And most importantly for me, my aprons will be featured on one tiny wearer - very exciting!

Friday, 7 May 2010

And we're off!

I sewed this adorable little girl's summery handbag for my niece this week. I got the pattern from a brilliant magazine called SewHip! (no online version, unfortunately). The pattern called for adorning the top ruffle with with a mixmatch of buttons, but I love how it looks now, so I've decided to leave it as it is.

It was a bit time consuming to make the ruffles because the seams are all internal, but it adds such whimsy and texture to the bag. My niece is going to adore it: she's five and full of spice!

Second Post!

On Sewing

I started sewing over a year ago, inspired by a working mother (a busy lawyer, in fact). She sews for her two children in the tiny amount of free time she has once the kids are in bed. I thought to myself, If this woman can put together these beautiful things for her kids, with even less time than I have, sure I can try, right? So I bought a sewing machine and began sewing scraps of my husband's old shirts. Just after getting my machine, I met a passionate quilter who went overboard in lending me all kinds of her expensive materials and giving me free lessons. I had no intention to ever sew a quilt, because for me, quilt piecing was too far into the domain of domesticity and I thought I was entrenched enough as it was. Long story short, one year later I've sewn five quilts (!) and dozens and dozens of other projects - from clothes, to accessories, to homewares. I'm a devoted student and once I get going there's no stopping me.

I adore sewing for my little girl. I love sewing for my nieces and nephews. My friends can count on handmade gifts. And now I sew for my shops on etsy and folksy!

As it turns out, we're all busy, but we make time for the things we love.

First Post!

After lots of deliberation, I decided to start this blog, Bella Lou, inspired by my etsy shop and all the other things I create. My intention is to post photos and descriptions of my projects and the process I went through the finish them. I also intend to publish my frustrations - there are many of those! I originally thought I would name the blog "The Seam Ripper," because I'm pretty sure I undo more seams than I sew. BUT, someone cleverly thought of that domain name before me , so I will be sticking to what I know, "Bella Lou."

More to follow soon!