Friday, 12 December 2014

How to Make a Patchwork Christmas Stocking.

Forgot someone on your Christmas list? Want to make a hand crafted gift or decoration but haven't got time t visit your local fabric shop or order from an amazing fabric website?  Fear not we're here to help you create a stunning Christmas stocking to fill with nuts, fruit or small toys out of little pieces of scrap fabrics. Many people may find the patchwork simple, but I have a lot of people in the shop ask me how you avoid any raw seams in the finished article.
You will need:
Fabric for the stocking (any off cuts will do)
Lining fabric. (I've used satin lining but you can use any thin fabric that you have laying around.
Tea or Hot chocolate
A good Christmas movie or soundtrack to work to.

To begin with gather all your little odds and ends of fabric. One of our previous blogs covers ways of storing fabrics by the way. You can either just pick  what fabrics takes your fancy or  break the fabrics down into themes, such as "cool colours" or "natural colours" or just gold old "red, gold and green"
I adore this red and gold fabric (I've made a rather fetching jacket from it) but I just didn't have enough fabrics to compliment it, so I've gone for silvers and whites, a clean cool but festive stocking.

Draw a template 

I used an existing  stocking, and then cut out 4 of these stocking shapes out of the lining. I'm using a satin lining so I made sure to have 2 from each side so it looks like I have 2 "right" stockings and 2 "left" stockings. Then use this to sort out a rough stocking shape out of the scraps of fabric. I've decided my stocking will be made mainly of horizontal strips.

 I found a beautiful Crystal organza which has a iridescent shimmer. It reminded me of some of the Christmas decorations from the 80's. (this is why Christmas fashions goes around in circles as each generation of adults borrows ideas from their childhood, I'm sure of it.) Now my lining is white satin so the organza would look lovely over it, but it may be hard to control. So I decided to top stitch the organza over the lining to form a big square of shiny shimmering magical goodness. You can do this if your lining fabric isn't something you want visible as well.

Now start sewing your strips to form one sheet of fabric. You can keep placing one of the stocking panels  over it to give you a guide to which bit of fabric will go where (I wanted the shimmering white to form a heel). Don't worry if this fabric is not stocking shape yet, We will use the stocking shape as a template and cut out the proper shape next.

Place the stocking shape over your patchwork and line everything up until you're happy where each piece is, pin and cut out.

If you are using a lining fabric that looks the same from either side then which piece you top stick your patchwork to will not matter. However in my case I need to ensure the patchwork is laid and sewn onto the SHINY side ! Why? if I laid the fabric onto the mat side then either one of the inside pieces or the back of the stocking will be mat as well.

Top stitch in place, sewing close to the edge so these stitches wont show in the finished stocking. If you wanted a padded  quilted feel to your stocking you would add the wadding between the two layers here.

Now is a good time to add ribbon or ricrac. I used some organza ribbon to fold under a little excess of the light weight silver fabric that was bulging out slightly.

Now right sides together sew your stocking front to the stocking back. Repeat the process for the  lining, BUT leave an inch gap in the middle of the back of the stocking (to pull the stocking right side out after). Cut noticed into the seam allowances around the curvy bits on the stocking.

Pull the outer stocking right side out THE slide it into the inside out lining.

Now sew the inner and outer stocking together along the top and pull right side out. and her presto, you have a beautiful hand crafted stocking!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Fabric8 in Felixstowe

Up until today I have found every blog a joy to post. I've covered some arcane facts of sewing and knitting as well as explaining terminology and providing many free tutorials for projects you can do at home.  The inspiration for many of these blogs came from working in one of the Fabric8 shops out there in the real world, in the Essex town of Colchester in fact. And some of you may be aware there are two shops in the Fabric8 family, one in Colchester and one in Felixstowe. The company has been in the same family for over 70 years since it started out in the stairwell and hallway of a flat in Felixstowe.
  Over this time shopping habits have changed a lot. What began as a stock of linen and antimacassars transformed many times over the years until it became 2 fabric shops and a website supplying dressmakers, tailors knitters and those with a love of crafts. However some changes have not been for the better. In recent years our Felixstowe branch has suffered from the failing economy and regrettably the decision has been made to close down Fabric8 in Felixstowe. As you can imagine this was a very difficult decision to come to as Fabric8, in all of it's incarnations has been a fixture of Felixstowe for so many decades. 
  Fortunately  Colchester has faired the economic storms better than many other towns and so our Colchester branch will be remaining open along with our website for many more years to come. All of our Felixstowe customers will find a warm welcome at our Colchester branch  where their loyalty cards will be honoured. Our website is expanding daily and we hope you will find all of your sewing, crochet and knitting needs met with only £3.50 delivery charge no matter how large your order. If there is some stock you miss from your local Fabric8 that you can't find on-line feel free to e-mail us at  and we will do our best to get what you need available. 

We hope people will pop into the Felixstowe shop to say goodbye during our January sale and on our final day of trading in Felixstowe on January 31st.
On behalf of the Felixstowe staff we would like to thank everyone for visiting us over the years and on behalf of the Colchester and Web teams we look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve all you want in the fascinating world of stitch crafts. 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How to make a shrug or bolero top

In December Colchester is playing host to a Narnia themed party night that promises to be most enchanting. As with many themes nights there is a lose dress code of "Narnia character  or white". I decided to help out with this tutorial for a regal white queen shrug project which could be adapted for many other uses. This shrug was first taught to me by my fashion tutor Julie Stammers when I studied at adult community collage. She has very graciously allowed me to replicate it here for you all (she's lovely, trust me)

The initial shrug requires between half a metre and a metre of fabric depending on how long you want it and how big a collar you would like.

All you need are some 
Fleece would work very well with this shrug.

Step one
 Draw out the pattern.

I know this is an odd little pattern, the shrug is actually one single pattern piece.

As the diagram says the long rectangle in the middle is the measurement of wrist to wrist across the back with the arms fully extended plus 30 cm for ease. The bulbous bit in the middle is from armpit to armpit plus 20 cm for ease.  How high is the bulbous (or from this point on the back and collar) of the pattern? That's entirely up to you. In college we used a  far shorter back and collar, but I want this to have a regal quality so I went VERY large. Once you see how the shrug is sewn together you will understand how to alter the back and collar for different styles. 

Step two 

Cut out your fabric using the pattern and sew up the sleeves.

Right sides together fold the pattern piece in half along the length, Pin the sleeves section together and sew, stopping about 5 cm before the back/collar section. Pull the shrug right side out and check it out :)

Our beautiful model Jane showing off the new shrug.

Now hopefully you can see how the height of the collar and back effect the garment. This shrug covers the entire back and then has a large collar. If you have used a fabric that is fray proof and looks nice on both sides the behold you have a shrug! If your fabric looks nice on both sides but frays you could just hem the back and collar or bias bind them along with the cuffs. A warm snugly shrug made of fleece would be lovely by this point.

However the joy of this garment is you can adapt it and bend it to your evil will. I want a  shrug that's lined in white satin lining and even a little pipping. 
Lining and outer pinned together on the back and collar.

Step Three
 Cut out the lining and sew the arms up of the lining just as we did with the outer layer.
RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER pin the lining and outer together around the back and collar.

If your using piping with a flange just sandwich it between the outer and lining and sew together using a zipper foot.

Some people stress about where the lining joins the outer around the sleeves. Just take your time, pin everything in place and you'll see where you need to sew.

Pull the garment right side out through the sleeves. 

Pull the shrug into shape and hem the sleeves inner and outer together and you have a simply stunning regale shrug
Suitable for  any white or snow queen.


The back and collar are easily adjusted. They don't have to be the same size so you could have a larger section UNDER the arms to form a long back and then less above the arms to form a smaller collar.

We HIGHLY recommend making a mock up first in a cheaper fabric such as lining or muslin first. Different people tend to need different amounts of  ease etc. 

This shrug is so quick and easy to make you could use different fabrics for different parties as well as day to day wear.

Monday, 17 November 2014

What is the difference between lining and interlining?

Often a blog is inspired by a project and tutorial, However this blog, much like my facing and interfacing blog last month was inspired by a question asked in the shop. A customer had heard of lining and interlining and wasn't sure which she needed. Fortunately she asked the right people, but for those of you unlucky enough not to live near an awesome fabric shop I present this brief summary.

Last month we looked at the differences between facing and interfacing.  Facings and interfacing are quit different, however lining and interlining have a lot more in common.

We find both lining and interlining in clothing and furniture like curtains.

In clothes a lining is simply a copy of the garment made in a lighter fabric. There are many good reasons to line a garment ;
Lining a garment reduces wear and tear
It can be a lot easier to put clothes on if they have a silky smooth lining
Lining looks neater and more professional
Lining hides a multitude of sins!

An interlining in clothing is a layer of often fluffy fabric like wadding to make the clothes warmer, think of the old parka coats. Interlining is more common in colder climates and in the UK you rarely come across it in clothing except in winter coats.

In curtain  making we find a few different sorts of lining and interning. Again we always recommend lining your curtains to make them last longer and to help them block out light and the cold.
Check out our blog "How to line your curtains" for details.

Interlining however is more of a personal preference. If you interline your curtains any pleats, tucks and folds become MUCH more pronounced. Curtains that have been interlined also tend to be far more insulating and have a much nicer draping quality.

So which to use? Well regular curtain  interlining works very well, however if you don't want to go through the bother of measuring and cutting out another lot of fabric for your curtains you can simply use bonded interlining, this is effectively a lining and interlining in one!

So there you have it, a quick run down of what the difference is between lining and interlining.
 Many readers of the blog may find all this elementary, but remember we were all beginners once and sometimes the smallest bit of knowledge can make the difference between success and failure of a project (or even worse, not starting a project).,

 I'll do a cool new tutorial next time, honest :)
Keep sewing, keep having fun!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Our Fabric Web Shop.

Disney Princess fabric from our website
We've been running this blog for a few years now, and much has changed in this time. Our shops have become more modern with knitting sections now included and sewing classes now being held.

Our website has also been through some changes. Our old site worked but it was held together with the coding equivalent of sticky tape and bubble gum. The new site is linked into our database in the shop so we can't accidentally offer a product that we've sold out of. However due to a few teething problems we were without a site for a few months, and so now we have to attract visitors and customers all over again.

The sagely Almond Rock suggested "bread Crumbs" this is a facility to allow people to see where the product they are viewing is in relation to other categories. We've just implemented this, but we are always looking for ideas to help serve our customers better. Take a quick look at our website and leave any comments about what YOU would like to see done there.

Monday, 20 October 2014

What's the difference between facing and interfacing?

Our sewing classes in Colchester and Felixstowe  Fabric8 have been a  great success. We have covered all sorts of subjects such as patch working and how to follow a sewing pattern. I always find it fascinating to find what people struggle to follow. Paying attention to these things makes us  better teachers as well a guiding all our staff on how to help people new to sewing in our shops.

One such issue is that of interfacing and facings. Due to the similar names people seem to get the two mixed up, not helped by the fact that in many patterns ask you to interface the facings! So what are they?


What is a facing?

Here the facing extends a little into the garment
and ends with a  straight edge to make finishing easier. 
Facings are not something you buy they are a feature of a garment. The facing of a garment is normally a piece of the outer fabric on the inside of the garment. Whilst a lining is effectively a duplicate of the garment the facing extends only a little inside the garment. Sometimes a garment only has a  facing, other times the facing the joins a traditional lining.

What is a facing for?

Here the facing joins the lining.
Often a facing is used for cosmetic reasons. By having some of the outer fabric on the inside of a garment people do not see flashes of the wrong side of the fabric or the lining on the opening of the garment or at the arm holes. A facing will sometimes be used to add stiffness to a garment if it  has been interfaced (more on that later) or to avoid raw seams or to prevent you having to use a fined seam on a tricky part of construction, such as on the arm holes. The facings themselves can be shaped so if they have to be finished neatly then the edge needing finishing will be straight and easy to hem.


What is interfacing?

Interfacing is normally a special fabric you can buy from your sewing shop, occasionally a pattern will show you how to make your own. It comes in 2 main sorts, "sew in interfacing" and "fusible or iron on interfacing".

What is interfacing for?

Interfacing is attached to the wrong side of the fashion fabric to add body and stiffness to the garment.

How do you use interfacing?

Your sewing pattern will tell you what shape to cut out, normally it's the same as one of the pattern pieces. To use sew in interfacing simply lay the interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric and press with an iron, lining up the edges. Then using a basting stitch (a long stitch) sew around the edges of the fabric and interfacing within the seam allowance.

To use fusible interfacing lay the side of the interfacing with the glue (the shiny side) onto the wrong side of the fabric and pop a damp cloth on top. Then press through the cloth with an iron set on setting 2 for 12 seconds or so. Start from the middle and work your way out to avoid creases.

When things can get confusing.

a contrasting facing used in a lapel 
Sometimes a facing is made from a different fabric than the outer fabric. In these cases they TEND to
be lapels of a jacket or something similar that are contrasting with the fashion fabric.

Sometimes the only part of a garment that gets interfaced is the facing, If the patterns says that don't worry you've not misunderstood, some garments are just like that.

Sometimes a facing IS a complete lining. This is rare and normally happens in children's' clothing where it's possible to cut out a lining from the left over fashion fabric. Again if the pattern says to do this don't panic, you haven't misunderstood.

And so there you have it, a brief guide to the difference of facing and interfacing and a little of the terminology used by patterns. If you ever find yourself struggling with a pattern just pop into your local Fabric8 shop or find us on twitter. We're always happy to help.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Robot toys and the Zeitgeist

A few years back I spoke about just how many butterfly fabrics we had in our shop.  I had in away touched on the concept of zeitgeist. Many people like to follow and be part of fashion. Other people like the idea of being in touch with society but treading their own sartorial path. Others of us just wear waistcoats. But even when we are forging our own fabric creations in the crucibles of our sewing rooms we can still show that we are wear of the word outside. And this is the zeitgeist.

 Zeitgeist is a German concept meaning "Spirit of the Age". In other words capturing the scene of the moment, that indefinable  thing that connects us all. Our staff are charged with the duty of working out what will be "In", what people will want, but also to ensure our customers can then take our fabrics and mold them to their will and to express their individuality whist;t also being fashion savvy.

I suppose right now themes around us include zombies and general retro mad science.
I was in a coffee shop reading a book about a scientist fellow of old with questionable sanity.

Vintage robot fabric
Whilst thinking of giant robots and death rays I spotted a young lady who was a shining example of what I mean.  She had a rather fetching bag in the shape of a fuzzy green monster whilst her sweater had a collection of vintage or retro robots! I just had to take a picture to show everyone in our shop around the corner. You see we'd just taken collection of a simaler pattern, but in a heavier cotton fabric.
Retro robot fabric

And so there you have it, how to be fashionable and yet also individual. 
There are plenty of other cool retro sci fi fabrics  out there, like this fantastic Rocket Capitan fabric.

Experiment, mix different fabrics and textures  go  forth and create, to infinity and beyond! (well to the sewing machine and beyond!)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Making a Princess Bubblegum Cosplay Dress

I was around my friend Keely's  house when she started talking about a Fancy dress event called INVASION COLCHESTER! Her and her family were planning on going as characters from Adventure Time, a strange cartoon for children set in what appears to be a post apocalyptic nuclear wasteland. My friend was stressing about getting a dress to become "Princes Bubblegum". I asked why she didn't just make one. "It's okay for you with a full sewing room and hundreds of reference books, it's much harder  to make things up as you go along". Challenge accepted. Can I make an affordable costume (around £20) using a standard sewing gear and no fancy or difficult techniques.

Many of these ideas would work just as well for a Halloween costume. 

Step one - Reference

What does Prince Bubblegum look like?
The dress looks simple enough, puffy sleeves, tight bodice, long skirt section. Then a contrasting collar and belt.

Step two- Initial planning

I decided to make a pattern for a tight-ish bodice and a floor length circle skirt. These would be sewn together at the waist and the belt would hide the seam. The whole garment would be made of poly cotton and have a zip fastening at the back. Initially I was going to leave the seams untreated and the garment unlined, however my friend said she would like to be able to wear it a few times. As a result I quickly change my  plans to make the dress more durable.  The bodice section would be lined and all exposed seams would be bias bound. The hem of the circle dress would be bias bound as well.

Step three - Making a pattern

Normally in my studio I have proper pattern paper or brown paper. However these aren't essential. You can just tape newspaper sheets together. use MASKING tape however and not sellotape. If need be later on you can iron your pattern if you use masking tape but sellotape will melt everywhere. You can also draw on masking tape much easier than sellotape.

I didn't have access to my books and so I had to come up with a pattern off the top of my head.
I can not stress the following enough- There is no supbstitute for a good pattern or a pattern making book.
However here's what I did. I drew a rectangle that measured 2cm more than my friends' nape (bottom of neck) to waist measurement high. The width was half her bust plus 5cm. I worked the neck out by measuring her neck and adding some ease this is VERY unscientific. The waist darts are easier, just take the difference between the bust and the waist and half it (as the pattern makes half a garment). The amount left is the amount you have to dart into the waist.I guessed at what angle the should sloped at and then drew in the arm hole, going down as far as the bust line.

Once the pattern was drawn  I cut it out, and then cut up through the bust darts, the side dart and the back dart. This left me with 3 pattern pieces.

Step four - Cutting out fabric

The fabric was folded selvedges together and the centre bodice panel placed on the fold. The pattern has NO SEAM ALLOWANCE. At home I'd use a seam guide to ass a traditional 5'8 of an inch seam. However I was back to basics here and so I fashioned a guide out of a cereal packet.

Step five - Making up
Construction of the bodice was relatively simple.  Just sew the panels together, right  sides together. The sleeves were slightly trickier. Now  here I went totally off track. I knew the sleeves were going to be VERY puffy, this gave me a lot of wiggle  room in design. I just taped the pattern together  the shoulders to give me the outline of the arm hole. I drew this on to some newspaper and then stretched the design making it Twice as wide and nearly twice as high. I then added 15cm to the bottoms length for the actual sleeve.

I removed the seam allowances from the arm hole of the LINING and bias bound it. Each sleeve was sewn along it's length and then pleated into the armhole of the bodice.

A pattern for the collar was made the same was as the sleeves with it being cut at the back for the zip.

Before the collar and lining were attached to the bodice  the circle skirt had to be made and attached.
Check out our guide on " How to make a circle skirt ".

The seams of the circle skirt were pressed open and bias bound and the hem was bias bound.
The collar was basted with minimal seam allowance to the neckline and the circle skirt was sewn to the bodice. All that remained was sewing the lining around the neck hole and  then pulling the dress right side out and pressing it. I tacked the lining to the bodice around the shoulders and around the waist as well to give it stability.

Final Thoughts.

This post isn't one of my typical "how to make" posts. It's more a collection if ideas and concepts. If you are not sure how to make something just get some poly cotton and give it a go, fly hands free once in a while, you may surprise yourself by your own ingenuity.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Where's the website Dean?

Still no website! The problems behind this reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend a few years ago. I was watching the news when the terrible tsunami laid waste to Fukashima. My friend kept telling me I shouldn't be so concerned with things on the other side of the world, that I was "buying into the global panic".  I didn't feel like I was panicking, I was concerned for the people affected and also aware that the impact of this disaster would be far reaching.  Three months later the same friends was complaining that his new hard drive cost much more than it would have a year ago. I explained  the hard drive factories in Fukashima were destroyed, causing a drop in supply hence an increase in cost.  A global event on the other side of the world had affected his bank account, take about a butterfly effect.

Such is the problem with our new website. Our old site just worked on pay pal. The new site is built and ready to go, but needs a merchant e-commerce back account for payments. These accounts have been used by terrorists and criminals in the past, and so they are now strictly regulated. A global issue is slowing us up. However we have now been given the green light, it's just a matter  of getting our account number sorted out and transferring our domain! Much like the old British Rail, we're getting there, and like any great journey  the destination will be worth the travel.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

So where is the website, and where have we been?

Okay so there's no website yet, why? We've had people panicking (including us at one point) but it's all being sorted. In an exercise of radical honesty, I thought I would share exactly and honesty what's been going on behind the scenes.

The big huge plus of our new website is that it's linked directly to the database of stock. This means if we only have 3 metres of something it will warn the customer that there may be a delay in ordering if they try to order more than 3 metres.

To use this new sight we need to have a new payment gateway as the system will not allow us to just use PayPal like our old site did. Here lays the problem. A new payment system means a new merchant account. In the post 9-11 world there are a LOT of hoops to jump through to set up one of these accounts.

This is almost sorted, so the website will go live about 48 hours after the payment system is sorted.

So where have the blogs and the tweets been?
ALMOST all of the social media is done by one person, the same person is sorting out the web.  And here we hit another snag. The current database is about a year old. A lot of products were imported from an old data base. This worked fine, that is until we started putting things on the website. There is no structure to how the yarns are arranged on the database. This in itself causes no problems in the shop, the wool is scanned the bar-code brings up the correct product. However if you were to look through the database you would find it very hard to find something as there is no real organization, at least for yarn.  So every single yarn had to be duplicated, photographed, new product info imputed, and then the bar-code transferred from the old one. A long laborious processes and there just wasn't enough time to sort out the  social side, esp as I like to link the webshop to the blogs, and there was no webshop.

We're through the worst of  it now though, so we're back!

Friday, 9 May 2014

So what's happening with the Website?

We've noticed a change in our relationships with our customers in the last year, and quite frankly, we like it.
Our customers are no longer just coming to us for fabric (although they are always welcome to do so), we are becoming more of a service than a vendor.  People come in for advice on projects and inspiration for things to make. We are embracing this whole heartily and so want our blog to not just have a few projects but to also let you know what we're up to, to treat you as part of our Fabric8 family and to keep you informed on what's happening at your shop. We don't want to just tell you about any changes we're making, we also want you to know WHY we are making them.

Some of you may have been along to our website and found it shut down. Fear not we're not shutting up shop, in fact quite the reverse.  We had an epiphany a few weeks ago.
Our Colchester branch of Fabric8 has had a bit of a re-arrange.  Our knitting section is now downstairs to help those with reduced mobility to carry on with a past time they love.  Whilst working out what changes we can make in store we decided to have a look at what improvements we needed in  our virtual store as well.

  We've been working very hard on our webshop but there were some things the software we were using just couldn't do.  These included:
Presenting all the linings on one page and having icons to pick out the colour you need.
Easily linking to complimentary fabrics
And the biggest change for me, hooking up the website to the tills so the website will not offer fabrics that we are out of stock of.

Luckily we have a solution to all these issues with our new website system. But here's the downside, we have to take our website off line for a few days. When we go live again the website will be better than ever complete with a few added touches such as being able to post to a news section as well as highlighting new stock.
Make sure to check back this time next week when we will have a new and improved website, and I'll show you the ropes. Until then, take care.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Bridal and other Wedding Sewing

I don't know if it's my imagination but we're getting a lot more bridal parties come into the shop to prepare for weddings. Sometimes they want something simple like dress net to make favour bags with, or ribbon for the cake.  Other brides (or their mums) are tackling the wedding dresses.

  I myself am about to get married (this coming Sunday in fact) and so I'm sewing for my wedding as well. Many people were expecting me to sew the wedding dress, however my bride has put her foot down on that matter. I'm not allowed to know anything about the dress and I can't very well sew whilst blindfolded. 

So have I made all of my (the groom's) outfit. Surprisingly not. I've been a busy boy with other aspects of work, however I did want to have some of my own creations in the wedding. This  was when I realised I could sew and save a fair bit of money.

I am guilty of having an "All or nothing" attitude at times. BUT I realized I don't have to make ALL of my outfit. I love making waistcoats and cravats so decided if I wear plain black trousers I only need a frock coat for the day it's self. Renting a wedding suit cots around £90 however BUYING a frock coat second hand on E-bay, £50. So by making a waistcoat and cravat I'm saving money and I get to have a frock coat to KEEP (and trust me I will get use out of it). There will be many pics of my creations for the day coming (and maybe another blog) until then I suggest you check out these past entries...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Tao of Fabric8

We have a new addition to our little Fabric8 Family. A strange but fantastic thing about getting a new member of staff is we end up seeing ourselves in a  new light, or examining everything we do in the shop as we explain the running of the shop to them. In the past we've picked up some very odd little quirks when our new member says "But why do you do it like that, it's so illogical?"  Sometimes we have to do things a certain way because of something else, but then when that "something else"  is removed we may still have a long winded or illogical system in place. Other times we hear some lovely things from our new staff members such as "This is the most friendly place I've worked in" or my personal  favourite from a new  member of the furnishing team "I just keep wanting to hug everyone here!"

  One observation really did start a long conversation. Our young acolyte said she was surprised at how much time we were willing to spend with customers who weren't spending much money. This came as a shock to a few of us you see we're not there to sell stuff, we're there to help people. This may sound cheesy and corny but our mission statement goes along the lines of " To inspire people to be creative" and not "To sell 5 meters of white velcro". As a result we're not fussed with how much people are intending to spend, we're more interested in helping them work out what they want to do, and then how to do it. It's a happier way of working as it's much more enjoyable to help someone on their journey through creativity than it is to try and get their cash. 

Some people have dismissed this idea of how we should work, but in the long term we think people enjoy coming into our shop because of the help they get, and because they know we wont try selling them things they don't need.  We have a few customers who are very talented fashion degree students who I remember helping with their GCSE projects. This firstly makes me feel quit old, but more importantly it shows that treating our customers with care and not pressuring  them makes for life long customers. 

When asked why I work  at the shop I responded simply with "I want to change the world". This elicited a bit of a giggle from the questioner but it is true. I personally feel the world would be a better place if people made things. We're forgetting the simple joy of achievement and of self expression.  Okay so maybe working in a fabric shop in Colchester only lets me help a small number of people, but it's a start. And it's through Fabric8 that I get to do these blogs with hints and tips and projects for people to try.  

So why am I writing this? Partly to share with you WHY we do what we do. However I also wonder if this is a normal way of running a shop. So the next time your'e in any shop try asking for help, even if you're not spending much money, they may just enjoy helping.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

How to make a cushion or pillow case.

Last week's blog was "How to make a quilted panel"  to be part of a steampunk fabric  cushion. Top stitching this panel on to an existing  pillow case could prove difficult. If I simply stitched directly onto the case it would be very easy to stitch through both layers of the pillow case. I also didn't have pillow case at hand which I thought would fit well with the room.  With this in mind I thought I would make my own pillow case. This way I could top stitch the panel onto one side of the case before making the whole case up.  Making a pillow case or cushion cover is pretty simple, the only tricky thing is the  envelope opening at one end. This envelope style is useful as it doesn't require buttons, Velcro or zips which can be uncomfortable when you lay against them.

You will need:

Two strips of fabric one 3cm longer than your pillow and 6 cm wider.The second piece has to be 15cm longer again.

Step one
Cut out the two rectangles of fabric. About the width of your pillow with 6cm added to width of both rectangles and 3cm longer than your pillow on one piece and 15cm longer on the other (this extra length will form your envelope). Hem one of the short sides of each rectangle. A trained kitten to hold the fabric in place is useful here. An untrained kitten on the other hand makes things a lot harder.  Check here to see how to hem .

Step two
If you're adding a panel to your cushion or pillow case then now is the best time to top stitch it in place. Decide which side of the pillow or cushion case you want your panel to be on. If it's on the shorter piece then place the panel in the middle. If you want it on the longer side remember it does not go in the middle, but 15cm to the side of the middle to allow for the envelop opening of the pillow case.

At times it can be tempting to try and hurry through stages like this. However it is often quicker to take your time. In this case I positioned the panel in the middle of pillow case panel and pinned it in place before carefully top stitching the middle section to the pillow case.  This secures the panel to allow you to then smooth out the fabric and pin and sew the outer edge of the panel to the pillow case panel.
Top stitch the out edge to the pillowcase.

Step three.
Place both panel pieces right sides together, lining up the NON-HEMMED short sides. One piece (in this case my red piece) will be longer than the other.

Fold the extra length of fabric over the shorter piece. Now pin and stitch the two sections together, leaving a 1cm seam.  Sew lone edges together (at the ends you will be sewing through 3 layers of fabric). Sew the un-hemmed short edges together as well.

Pull the pillowcase right side out, and hey presto you have a pillow case.  Once you have the hang of making pillow and cushion cases you will find you can run one up very quickly. These projects are perfect for using up any old odds and ends of fabric you may have at home. So get creative !