The Bothered Owl

Alex and Sarah's crafty corner of cyberspace

Sneaky Peek Part 2: They Came With Cameras June 8, 2010

Filed under: Knit Nation — thebotheredowl @ 10:54 pm
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I did promise I would try to get some photos of the pieces we took into IKnit and despite massive technofailogicality (hee hee, neologism!) here they are. Click on each photo for an explanation of what each one is.

We delivered 10 of each of these designs to IKnit, along with 10 of each size of yarn pouch, tall and small, in a huge variety of fabrics. There are a few matching items mixed in there but on the whole we tried to give a fairly wide range.

And I’ve just listed one new fold out envelope on Folksy as a trial. Check it out and see what you think. Once I get my computer woes sorted out I’ll try and pop a few more bits and pieces up there, but at the moment it’s a wee mite tricky to get at all the photos I’ve taken, since one computer is dead and the other has a non-functional SD card slot. Bloody technology!

And now, to bed.



Works (about to be) in progress January 31, 2010

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 8:02 am
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With Esme being ill and thus not napping unless in physical contact with me, getting any work done has been a bit of a challenge the last few days. It’s been all small lapbased handsewing or knitting of late.

Last night however, she hoodlummed round the loungeroom and I got to do some cutting. No idea when I’ll get to actually sew any of what I cut up, but it’s a start.

All intended to become sock/yarn pouches. There’s a couple of really nice patchwork pieces in the offing, all made from coordinating Moda fabrics, and a few other bits and pieces. I’m quite looking forward to putting these together. I’ve refined the design I used for the ones for the Stitch and Bitch London comptetition and I think these will be even better. I’m planning on including a pocket for extra DPNs and notions as well.

The above two photos offer a glimpse at The Stash. I have three boxes of ‘scraps’ in varying sizes and one massive tub full of fat quarters of varying fabric. Most of it is intended for specific projects, so it’s kind of like sock yarn in that I don’t really think of it as stash.

(And I’m not showing you my sock yarn stash because it’s just embarrassing how much I have. Three enormous tubs full of yarn and I would still happily buy more. What if all the sheep die out and there is no more yarn? At least this way, I’ll be able to keep knitting for a couple of years before I run out. Thinking ahead, see? )


Things finished, things waiting to be begun January 11, 2010

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 10:18 am
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I’ve finished Lola’s custom yarn pouch. It’s really cute, it’s reversible and I’ve done mitred bag corners to give it fullness and a flat bottom. It also has a tiny hole in it on one side at the bottom, because Lola wanted to be able to crochet with both ends of her wool, without it getting all tangled up.
We were going to go with a draw string at bothe ends to facilitate that, but that seemed silly to me as I would have had to put in a false bottom or something so the yarn wouldn’t just fall out of the bag.
So instead there’s a tiny hole, hand edged with hand over hand stitch, perfect for feeding the end of a yarn ball out of.

And I would put up pictures but I still can’t get my SD card to read on the computer, so that will, frustratingly, have to wait.

Speaking of waiting, I am still waiting with baited breath the arrival of a couple of metres of calico. I cut out a bunch of hat outer shells just before Christmas but have nothing to line them with. I was looking into using black and cream cotton rather than calico but I couldn’t find any that I felt happy with, so calico it is. I like calico. It goes with pretty much everything, it’s machine washable and it’s hardwearing. It’s not fancy but it does work hard.

Charging forward with my new year resolution about learning new techniques and getting serious about making my own clothes, I bought a copy of The Perfect Fit the other day because it apparently has a nice clear guide to the Mystical Full Bust Alteration. I’ve started reading and it’s got some interesting stuff in it about clothing design and fit. The pictures look very 80s to me, lots of shoulder pads and big hair, but the information itself is useful so I  shall press on.

I have plans to try and finish off another couple of messenger bags today. Let’s see how far we get with that one child has a temperature, the other is flinging herself on my lap howling and hitting at me in a tiny toddler rage.

I suspect it may be another one of Those Days.



Screwdrivers, skirts and sadness January 5, 2010

There’s not much sadder in a crafter’s life, than finishing a project you were excited about, trying it on and going “oh…”

By which I mean to indicate that I finished my 6 gored skirt and it’s a bit meh. It’s not bad, it’s not the worst thing I ever made, it’s just not… quite… right.

It’s still a little loose round the waist, despite several hours of surgery. Not an exaggeration. I unpicked each of twelve seams, re-sewed them, tried it on, re-pinned and re-sewed using the  first seams as guidelines, cut the old seams off, tried it on again, re-sewed, re-cut…. you get the idea.

It’s not fitted enough. Because of the way the gores work, the skirt has a fair amount of fullness to it – I think that’s the right word. It’s meant to be loose and swishy. But it’s loose in the wrong places. I want it to skim down over my waist and hips and then flair out to be all swingy at the bottom. It doesn’t.

And the colour, which I loved yesterday, today feels all dingy and drab, like a maiden aunt.

The worst part? It’s all my own fault, because I drafted the pattern. I can’t blame poor instructions or the pattern company conspiring against me with sizing issues or any of that. Because it was my own pattern.


Anyway, that’s the sadness part out of the way.

I also wanted to show you why a screwdriver should be your new best friend.

My machine’s been running a bit funny lately, making lots of disturbing clunking noises. I broke no fewer than five needles on this project and they were all jeans needles. The thread was breaking every five seconds and I couldn’t backstitch or anything.

After cursing and throwing a massive hissy fit, it was time to get down to brass tacks. Or in this case, steel screws.

Screw driver a-twirling

I whipped out my screwdriver – the one that came with my machine – and tried to follow the instructions in the manual for my machine. After ten minutes of trying to unscrew the needle plate following the instructions in the manual, I realised that there was just no way it was coming off, if I followed the instructions and didn’t think for myself.

Lo and behold, depsite the fact that it doesn’t actually mention this in the instruction book, the only way to remove the needle plate on my machine is to take off the lightbulb cover that sits directly above it, because otherewise there isn’t actually room to get a screwdriver in to take out the needle plate screws.

See, no mention of removing a light bulb cover. It all looks so easy in the drawings. GAH.

Once I figured that bit out and got hold of Jake’s amazing magical screwdriver with a million changeable heads, taking off the needle plate was a piece of cake.

Avert your eyes, naked sewing machine!

Really embarrasingly dirty cake.

Turns out there’s a really good reason why my machine was groaning and grumbling at me and it’s because I am a neglectful sewing machine owner. The feed dogs were totally clogged with lint, there was a big piece of thread hooked around something or other inside the move-y uppy downy bits (technical language, I know, hold onto your hats, folks.)  and the bobbin holdy bit (shuttle and thread race, I think) was thoroughly disgusting.

Got an old (clean) children’s paint brush and carefully dusted everything. I didn’t oil anything because I’m never entirely sure where to put the stuff and knowing me I would end up putting it somewhere really stupid! Then reassembled everything carefully. There were no small screws( leftover so Douglas Adams clearly knew nothing about sewing machines, though he was in every other way a wise man.)

That done, the machine sewed beautifully and I could finally finish my hem. Gah.

The moral of this story is get to know your screwdriver and the inner workings of your machine. If you rely on something to do a good job for you, take care of it and make sure it has what it needs to work properly.

And don’t always trust instruction manuals.

Now, here are some pictures of my finished skirt.

Green, corduroy, six gores and a zipper. What's not to love? I just don't know...

Orlaith took this photo. I guess the skirt's not as bad as I think? It looks almost jaunty in this picture.

And this is what happens when you let a three year old have a go at doing a photo shoot.

The last photo is included just to really puncture any sense of self-importance I might consider developing. And now I have crackers and cheese to eat and a three year old who wants to read Fantastic Mr Fox… again.

If you decide to make your own 6 gore skirt or have a sewing machine tale of woe, leave us a comment or drop us a link-y. We love to see pictures of the stuff people make!


New stuff in the shop December 1, 2009

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 8:17 am
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Sorry for the lack of imaginative titling, I’ve been up since 2am with crazy jetlagged Wide Awake children who have been busy singing, pretending to be elephants (why? How the heck should I know? Does a 17 month old really have to have a reason for wanting to be an elephant?) and fighting over pretty much every toy in the house.

This is just a head’s up (heh, pun totally unintended) for those who have been asking, to say that I’ve just added the custom made hats to both Etsy and Folksy. I’ve had to do some jiggering with prices to try and figure out the various economies of the people who want to buy them and I’ve tried to come up with a price that’s fair and also reflects the amount of work that goes into each hat.

I’ve put two options up, one for baby or child size and one for adult size. Both take a similar amount of work, but the adult ones are slightly more expensive as they require more fabric.

Here is a glimpse of what you or your small person could be wearing if you buy one: namely an enormous grin. And a mighty fine hat.

Monte's pirate hat

Indiana Esme

Farmer Orlaith











Elsie's mermaid hat

Esme in spots

I made a bunch of these for the Armidale Farmer’s Market the other week and they pretty much grew legs and walked off the stall.  Do please go and check them out!

I’m also working on a new hat design as well. It will be a slightly more patchwork affair!


My Creative Space November 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thebotheredowl @ 12:05 am
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You wait all week for a post to come along, and then two come along at once. While the magic computer mojo is working and allowing me to actually upload photos, here’s  a picture of what I am up to at the moment.


A pretty pile of patchwork pieces waiting to be made into pouches.


And look, some pretty patchwork pouches. Just the right size to fit in your pocket.

I call them the Be Prepared Pouch. You can fit your lipgloss, a feminine ladytype product or even certain types of contraception into one. Or just your change for the bus. Whatever you choose to put in it, you can be like a girl scout and be prepared!

Plus they are super cute and have a beautiful button and a loop of black cotton cord to close them up. Lovely. They’ll be up on the website sometime in the next week or so.  Or you can come visit me at the Armidale Farmer’s Market on Sunday (in Civic Park, down by the Tourist Information Centre) and buy one in person!


How to Make a Reversible Bag November 11, 2009

Filed under: Tutorials — thebotheredowl @ 10:39 pm
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I’ve been promising for ages to write a tute for this but for various reasons it just hasn’t happened. We had a massive sewing frenzy the other week and I took loads of pictures, and now I finally have a quiet moment to sit down and add words to them.

So, here we go.

StepOne: Choose and Cut Your Fabrics

You need to decide on shape, size and colours. I’ve been doing a lot of patchwork bags lately and my favourite shape for these is a square or rectangle as it makes doing stripwork nice and simple.

If you’re planning on using a mixture of fabric, say in  a patchwork or stripwork style, make sure you place them next to each other and really look at them.


Have a good rifle through your stash, what you find may surprise you. You can even use up craps and leftovers from making other projects such as skirts.

Check that colours and patterns are harmonious together bcause the last thing you want is a riotously clashing bag. Unless you like that sort of thing.

Personally I don’t, so I generally lay the fabrics out together and move them around to see how they look laid out in a cariety of ways – dark to light, maybe with the strongest/boldest colour in the centre etc.  Oonly once I am happy with how the fabrics look together will I start cutting out.

You’ll need to choose lining fabric too – unless you’re going for an uber simple unlined shopper style. I really like calico for lining bags. The pale colour makes it easy to find your stuff inside the finished bag, it’s lightweight and it’s sturday which is important.

Next, think about sizing. Do you want an enormous sack of a bag or are you after a simple little tote? You need to be certain before you start cutting that you will have enough fabric for things like bag handles. Loop handles, like the ones I’ve been making lately tend to be between 10 and 15 cms wide and somewhere around 60 – 65 cms long. Remember, they need to be able to fit over your shoulder or arm comfortably. You don’t want to cut off circulation in the aid of having a nice bag.

Having taken all these factors into consideration, chop away. You need to cut two exterior pieces and two interior pieces, all the same size and shape. You will also need two handles. I generally don’t line the handles.

You should also consider using some fusible (iron on) or sew in interfacing. This stuff is amazing. It plumps up your bags like you wouldn’t believe and gives them a really rich texture. If you’re sewing with lightweight fabric such as cotton, you want a light to medium weight interfacing.

Cut two pieces of interfacing the same size as your exterior pieces. You can put interfacing in the handle if you like but it makes it a right bugger to turn right side out.

Step Two: Sew the handles

Take your handle strips and press them nice and flat before you start sewing.


Nice flat strips, ready for sewing.

Then with right sides together, fold the strip in half lengthways down the centre and press to get a nice neat crease. Then sew the long sides together using a straight stitch. NB: don’t sew the short ends together, we’ll take care of those later.

When you’re done, turn it inside out and press it. It will look like this:

Sew the edge using a straight stitch. You could do this by hand but for this project the machine really is better.IMG_2132IMG_2133

Repeat for the second handle.


And look at that, like magic two beautifully made, ironed bag handles, ready to be lovingly wrapped over your arm. Now you just have to make a bag to go with them…

Step Three: Prepare the bag shells for sewing

Match up the lining and exterior pieces. Check sizes, trim excess fabric and make sure the shapes match up.

This is the point where you iron in your interfacing.

Now I cannot stress this strongly enough: be extremely careful when ironing your interfacing that you do not iron the glue onto your iron or ironing board.

Interfacing is wonderful stuff but it will destroy your iron if you get it wrong. It has a right side (smooth/dull) and a wrong side (rough/shiny). The wrong side is covered with dots of glue.

Place the gluey side on the back of your exterior piece and follow the instructions for whichever brand of interfacing you’re using. Most of them will require around 8 seconds of heat and a bit of steam to set the glue. Don’t swoosh the iron about, just use a bit of pressure. The pressure and heat will melt the glue and ensure the interfacing sticks nicely to your fabric.

Now you’re ready to start sewing everything together.

Step Four: Pin and sew the bag top and handles.

Take one exterior piece, one interior piece and one bag handle.

Lay the interior piece down on a flat surface with the right side (the side you want people to see) facing up. Mark out where you want the ends of your bag handle to be and lay your handle out like so:


Then complete your fabric sandwich by laying your exterior piece on top, right side facing down, and pin it in place thusly:


Pinning the strap. Fabric sandwich!


You can see the three layers of the fabric sandwich here, with the strap snug and secure in the centre.

Sew across the top of the bag  from one side to the other. As you sew you are capturing your bag handle in the seam, so when you turn it right sides out you will just have a lovely smooth organic looking join.

I strongly suggest sewing back and forwards over the handles a few times,  just to make sure they are really secure.

Now repeat this process for the other side of the bag.

Turn both pieces out  flat and check that your seams are nice and straight.

Step Five: Sew the main seams and finish the bag.

Now that you have sewn the handles and the top of the bag, it’s time to sew the main seams of the bag.

Take one of your complete bag pieces and spread it out on a flat surface like this:


Right side facing UP, remember. Unless you want to make a deconstructed bag, with all the seams showing.

Note that you want the right side facing up and the handle tucked away neatly in the centre, so you don’t catch it in the seams.

Now take the other bag piece and lay it on top, right side facing down. Make sure that the seams where you sewed the handles in place are matching or your bag is going to look wonky.


Match up your seams neatly. Very important or your bag will look slightly out of kilter once it's done.

Pin those seams in place, like in the picture.


This time, the wrong side is facing up. Now PIN, PIN, PIN!

Now work out your seam allowances. Remember that this bag is intended to be reversible, so you need the lining and the exterior shell to be totally interchangeable. The last thing you want is to have one bag shell turn out to be way smaller/bigger than the other. So measure carefully and place your pins where you want the stitching to be.

Leave a gap at the bottom of the interior shell for turning the bag the right way out. You probably need to leave a space of 5 – 10 cms to be able to turn the bag comfortably without stretching the stitches close to the opening. Again, you probably want to place pins to mark this opening because if you sew this shut, it’s a pain in the wotsits.


The vertical pins mark out where the gap should be left to turn your bag inside out.

Once it’s pinned and you’re happy with all your measurements, start sewing. I normally begin at one side of the bottom opening and work my way around the outside in one continuous line of stitching. Because it’s a rectangular/square bag, you can turn the corner fairly easily and smoothly to keep an unbroken line of stitches.

Do this by sewing up to your marker.


Sew to your marker or edge of fabric.

Leave the needle inside the fabric. Rais the presser foot and pivot the fabric, lining up the next side of the bag without removing the needle from the fabric.


See how the needle is still in the fabric? It acts as a pivot and makes sure there's no gap between stitches. You're basically turning at a right angle.

Lower the presser foot and continue sewing.


See how you've turned the corner?


Now you just continue sewing down the other side. Easy peasy!

At the beginning and end of your seam, don’t forget to do a little bit of backwards and forwards stitching. It strengthens the seam and makes it a little harder for your stitches to unravel.

Once you have completed your seam, use the gap you left at the bottom to turn the bag right sides out.


Looks vaguely like some kind of animal husbandry.

Check that the two halves of the bag fit together neatly, one inside the other. If not you will need to unpick the seam and sew it again. It’s worth doing because otherwise the finish on your bag will be poor.

Once the fit is right, turn it inside out again and clip any excess fabric from the seams to give a nice smooth line. Then turn it right side out again and close up the gap at the bottom. As usual, I recommend using blind stitch because it makes a largely invisible seam which is ideal for a bag intended to be reversible.

And there you go, a lovely reversible bag.


Now stuff it with your belongings and prance around feeling clever and glamorous. Or just take it to the market and use it to carry your veggies home.

If you want to make things more complicated you can always add a pocket or a magnetic closure, buttons and so forth. But if you add closures or buttons, be aware it will no longer be reversible. Also be aware that you need to be extremely careful with magnets around kids as they can do lots of damage if swallowed.

I hope this tute is useful, if you do make something from it maybe you could leave us a comment or send us a photo of what you make!

ETA: It’s taken me an extra week to write this, as every time I tried to upload the original photos I took the computer refused to let me. I wept tears of rage and fury, it was a pitiful display. But finally, FINALLY, it’s done!