The Bothered Owl

Alex and Sarah's crafty corner of cyberspace

Finished Objects March 19, 2011

Filed under: Custom Orders — thebotheredowl @ 8:01 pm
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I was trying to come up with some kind of witty title for this post but to be honest, I’m exhausted from actually finishing the pieces I want to show you so I’ve given up on that! I’ll focus instead on trying to write some kind of coherent account to accompany the pictures. Does that work for you? Excellent. Let us begin.

Selena of The Couture Cookie Shop got in touch the other week and asked me to design a couple of new items for her.

First up is an adjustable belted waist pouch, a bit like the ones we wear for doing markets.


Selena does a lot of walking with her kids and needs something she can store her stuff in that’s easy to carry (hands free is good when you’re a Mum) and also secure. This pouch has three pockets, two with button flaps and one enormous one, hidden away inside, with a zipper:

Capacious! Pocketty! Yay!

Fully adjustable waist band with back pack style snaps

I made the waist band the same way I do the straps for our messenger bags. Both sides needed to be adjustable so the pouch didn’t end up lopsided and weird when adjusted, so I used a couple of grippy tri-glider thingies to make sure there’s plenty of wiggle room. The snaps were a must. Much less irritating than trying to tie a secure knot when busy with a couple of active toddlers!

I have plans to make some more of these, if nothing else I must make myself one for when I start doing markets again.

The second item I want to show you was something of a learning curve and if I’m honest, the main thing I’ve learned from making it was that I really don’t want to make one again! I’ll explain why after the visuals.

It’s a mei tai style baby carrier.

Check out those dinos!

With a button up pocket on the front for those little bits and pieces you need to have with you. It’s hot, wearing a baby, so coats and jackets tend to be awkward and jeans pockets are a pain. Hence the need for a front pocket:

Flappy. Useful. There's a limit to how much I can really get excited about pockets in this post, isn't there.

Selena chose the same cute dino fabric that I used for the trims on Orlaith’s pirate jacket the other week. And to go with it I picked a chocolatey brown cord. I chose cord because it’s fairly tough and when folded in layers it’s very very soft. Given that this is going to be used to carry a heavyish toddler around, tied on, soft padded feeling straps are a must.

And there is the main reason why I will almost certainly never ever make another one of these. It’s going to be used to carry around someone else’s child. Which means it has to be securely sewn to the point of paranoia and insanity and it needs to be sturdy beyond belief.

In terms of construction, this is a really simple item. It’s a big rectangle, with four longer, thinner rectangles poking out at each corner (the straps.) But to make sure that everything is secure and won’t unravel you have to sew it over and over and over again.

The main rectangle has to be made of at least 2 to 3 layers of cloth, for padding and for strength. Do NOT use jersey for this. Sturdy woven cloth is what you need here. I used quilting cotton, reinforced it with interfacing for a bit of added stiffness, a layer of plain lining cotton and then a layer of the brown cord, to make sure it was really cushy and strong.

The straps were the real killer though. Each of those babies is a long strip of cord, folded in on itself several times over for thickness and strength, then top stitched 3 times with straight AND zigzag stitch for extra strength in the seams.

I stitched them onto the centre layer of cloth in the main body of the mei tai, then I put all the layers together, sewed around leaving spaces for turning inside out. Once turned inside out, I had to do triple rounds of top stitching round the edges and THEN I had to securely topstitch each of the four straps in place:


Doesn't look like much but it took me over 3 hours to put the straps on.

It’s not the prettiest stitching I’ve ever done but by gum, it is secure.

In summary, if you want a pretty mei tai carrier, don’t ask me to make you one! I found it interesting to try out a new technique and the finished product is very satisfying to look at but I won’t be making one for Brutus. I’ll be sticking to my enormous woven cloth sling or if I’m feeling adventurous making myself a stretchy Jersey one like the one I whipped up for our friend Claire.

If you want to have a crack at making one for yourself there are tonnes of detailed and fantastic tutorials out there, for example this one: how to make a Scandinavian style mei tai, which explain in great detail how to do so. But there are also lots of lovely people who already make them out there, who are specialists and who can probably make one for you faster, sturdier and with a lot less cursing!

I’m looking forward to handing over Selena’s finished items and do make sure to go and check out her website, especially if you’re in the South London area as her cakes and cookies are AMAZING!

And now, I have a date with my rotary cutter. Just ONE custom order to go! It’s a big one, but I know that once it’s done, I don’t have to panic about going into labour leaving anything unfinished. Ahh, the relief!

Sarah 🙂

PS I can confirm that Alex has landed safely in Bris Vegas and appears to be enjoying herself thoroughly in the warm weather. Huzzah!


Something new! December 28, 2010

One of the fun things about doing custom orders is getting the chance to try out a new technique or even sometimes invent a whole new design, or just add something new to an existing design.

So when my friend/student Syeda asked me if I’d make something for her cousin’s birthday I jumped at the chance because what she wanted was something I’ve been meaning to have a crack at for AGES: a box purse. I’ve seen them around, heck I even have a really horrible plasticky one I got free with a knitting mag years ago, but I’ve not yet had a chance to sit down and figure out how they work.

Had a brief scout about for tutorials and confirmed that I was right about basic construction and then I went to town, tinkering. All the tutes I found were for purses made without a bottom seam, and with the side stitching showing on the inside. Which is fine but I am a little … funny… about exposed stitches. (The day I figured out how blind stitching works was one of the happiest of my sewing ‘career’. ) Couldn’t be too hard to do one with the stitches all neatly concealed, thought I.

And it wasn’t! I think it took me about an hour and a half, all up, to make this little cutie and part of that was just because I stopped part way through to figure out how to make this work and how to trim that seam and so on. The actual construction is fairly simple.

And as always, it’s all about the right fabric! This fabric is amazing – subtle hints of gold mixed in with the paisley. And with that black background, the colours just BURST out at you.


I’m already thinking about ways I can improve on it, make it longer, make it wider, put a handle in here, stick a little pocket on there, maybe attach some kind of clip so you can attach it to the strap of a bag…Then I can say I’ve really mastered a new technique!

Now, if I can just find a decent tutorial for making a mitred corner pocket, I’ll be really happy…




First project of the New Year January 3, 2010

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 11:29 pm
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In keeping with our New Year’s Resolution of keeping a balance between crafting for ourselves as well as the Bothered Owl, I thought I would tell you about the skirt I’m working on.

Normally I just do plain a-line or pencil skirts. They’re neat, they’re simple and I can run one up in under two hours, without the need for a pattern or, to be honest, any conscious thought. All you need do is change a few basic elements and you have a whole new look. Team up two unusual fabrics, like a denim and a cute print, or make a skirt with an underskirt in a contrasting fabric. Change the length, or if you really want to get fancy, you can always try adding some pleats or add some applique.

But I’m fed up with only being able to do a-line. I kind of feel like a one trick pony. Yes, my wardrobe is bursting with cute skirts, but they’re all really the same skirt in different colours. One of my resolutions for the year is to try new things, new techniques. I want to really learn to sew properly, get to understand how garments work and learn to make things like dresses and really fancy skirts  and tops for myself.

I found this amazing project the other day. Some one posted it on Twitter. This woman is wearing only items she has made herself, including shoes, for the next year. Every article of clothing she wears, every accessory, every thing is going to be made by her. I was looking at some of the gorgeous dresses, tops, pants and so forth she’s been sporting so far and thinking, “Wow, I really wish I could do that.”

To an extent I probably can. I mean, the sewing skills are there, it’s just applying them to new types of garments that I need to learn. The one major skill I really need to put into place is the magic of the Full Bust Alteration.  I plan to conquer that one this year. With or without the assistance of a proper teacher. Maybe I just need to buy myself some cheap gingham or calico and just go nuts.

Anyway, I digress. I decided yesterady that I really wanted to make myself something new, something special just for me. And not an A-line skirt.

So I trawled the internets and came up with a couple of websites that give you nice clear instructions on how to draft, cut and sew gored skirts. A gore is a panel, most skirts will have an even number of them but you can have as many as you want, even or odd numbered.

This is the set of drafting instructions I eventually used. It has instructions for drafting a zipper waisted skirt. If you want to make an elastic waisted skirt try this one. It even teaches you how to do french seams, which I really must try at some point.

I’ve got all the pieces sewn together and waiting for a zipper. Unfortunately, I second guessed my measurements, thinking that there was no way that the tape measure could be right, and I added an extra inch onto my initial waist measurement. Sigh.

You can guess what happened when I tried it on for fit. On the plus side, I seem to have shed a bit of weight (though God alone knows how, given the Christmas feasting) . On the massive pain in the bum side, I now have a date with my seam unripper to unpick 12 seams.

But, stupid mistakes with numbers aside, the gored skirt really is a nice easy project, slightly spicier than a simple a-line without blowing the top off your skull. Give it a try.

I’ll post some pics when it’s all done! I’ll also try and get my bum in gear and collate some of the great free pattern and instructional websites I winkled out. I’m sure they’re probably nothing new to most people, but they were new to me and actually had some really useful its and bits.

And now, I’m going to continue my selfish bent and continue adding waist shaping to my Basic Black cardigan. So nice to have some time to sit and knit!