genevieve – print and pattern

print and pattern


sewing school finale: le weekend bag

weekend bag - genevieve blog

And now for my final trick…

Yep, as the main event and big finale to the excellent six-week sewing school I’ve been doing at Ray Stitch, we made a rather fetching weekend bag. Or large handbag, depending on how you see it. It was certainly the most complex project I’ve tried, and so the sense of achievement is jump-up-and-down high. I loved the cheers of glee and applause that erupted periodically in the room as each of us turned our bags the right way round to reveal the final thing. It took me and my lovely fellow bag-ladies three sessions to complete, and incorporated a zip, lining, piping, an inner pocket and various panels (just don’t mention the gusset…).

weekend bag - genevieve blog

weekend bag - genevieve blog

weekend bag - genevieve blog

weekend bag - genevieve blog

weekend bag - genevieve blog

We were advised to pick out a medium/heavyweight cotton which makes for a more sturdy bag, and I found this dark blue herringbone design in Ray Stitch, and chose a bright yellow lining, yellow zip and orange tape handles. Certainly a summery combo which is making me yearn for warmer days.

herringbone fabric - genevieve blog

orange tape for the handles - genevieve blog

weekend bag pattern - genevieve blog

Prior to the bag project, we had a whistle stop tour of all manner of seaming and finishing techniques such piping, bias binding, French seams, gathering and more besides. I never realised that gathering simply involves pulling the thread until it bunches up to the desired length, much like a drawstring. Much less complicated than I thought. And piping is definitely my new favourite thing – so satisfying and looks mega pro.

gathering - genevieve blog

practising gathering – pjyama-bottoms drawstring style

We also made a cute stuffed heart in time for Mother’s Day. I intended my mum’s to be a pin cushion but I think it’s ended up as a grab-able and chewable soft toy for my baby niece. Endless uses!

stuffed heart - genevieve blog

disclaimer: this pretty heart is not mine, my one was shipped down to my mum before I got a chance to take a picture…

I’m really tempted to sign up to the sewing school dress making course, which Moyna our teacher is taking, but sadly I think I’ll have to wait as I’m going to have a lot on in the next few months (moving house and getting married!) It will be first on my list of courses once I’m back in the groove though.

tape measures - genevieve blog



week-night sewing with ray stitch

sewing at ray stitch - genevieve blog

Although I know my way around a sewing machine, it’s not quite second nature yet and there are a lot of techniques I don’t know. So when I saw a six-session crash course ‘sewing school’ on at my favourite fabric shop, Ray Stitch, I signed up in a flash. I was loving the claim that by the end, I will know how to do: “zips, darts, piping, elastic casings, pleats, gathering, hemming, facings, handmade buttons and machine buttonholes”. My reaction to that list is still an incredulous ‘really?!’ but I’m keeping the faith!

ray stitch fabrics - genevieve blog

I’m two weeks in now, and what I’m enjoying most is the guaranteed two and a half hours of quality time with the machine each week, and a highly satisfying ‘thing-I-made’ to show for it at the end of each session. Moyna, our teacher, is great – it could so easily be stressful but she sets us all at ease and the hours fly by in what feels like a second.

wine and brownie - genevieve blog

wine, snacks and killer chocolate brownie come as standard

In the first week, we made a good old tote bag – a staple of beginners machine sewing classes – but it was a better than usual pattern, and I liked using tape for the handles rather than the same fabric, aesthetically and practically. I chose a slightly heavier fabric with an owl pattern. I liked the way the fabric was very soft and strokeable, which made it feel more luxurious than the standard cotton.

tote bag - genevieve blog

tote bag - genevieve blog

owl fabric - genevieve blog

owl fabric - genevieve blog

Our next challenge was a lined zipped pouch, which definitely upped the difficulty stakes. The zip was the trickiest bit, as you would expect, but it’s a nice hurdle to have overcome finally.

pinning the zip - genevieve blog

I wasn’t in love with the fabric I chose, which pained me, as life is too short for less than amazing fabrics, right? But we only have (free) access to the ‘sale rail’ fabrics, and a lot of the ones I liked were too ‘big’ a pattern for them to work on a small pouch. I’m looking forward to the last project where you have to buy the fabric, as I intend to lay aside plenty of time to ponder / drool over Ray Stitch’s lovely selection, in order to choose the perfect one.

lined zipped pouch - genevieve blog

lined zipped pouch - genevieve blog

Talking of amazing fabrics, I’ve fallen in a big way for this range of soft brushed cotton, ‘pyjama’ fabrics (as I like to think of them), which wink at me from across the room while I’m sewing.

brushed cotton fabric - genevieve blog

One day, I will sew a pair of perfect pyjamas with one of those. I actually have to – I have no choice now I’ve seen them.

A great perk of the course is 15% off Ray Stitch fabrics as well as a copy of the Merchant and Mills sewing book, which is a thing of beauty. Merchant and Mills have really nailed the utilitarian chic, practical-but-beautiful market in sewing, and I, along with the rest of the craft world, am head over heels.

merchant and mills book - genevieve blog

I’m dying to go to their new shop in Rye. Along with Rye’s many antique shops, it’s an excuse for a weekend away if ever I saw one. The patterns in the book are all flawlessly stylish as well as practical (fisherman’s top anyone?) and I want to make all of them. So many patterns, so little time…

the maker's apron - genevieve blog

Stay tuned for more sewing school updates.


sewing and snowing

janome sewing machine - genevieve blog

Well, after agonising for many months, I decided to bite the bullet and get a brand new sewing machine. I’m very pleased with it. It sews like a dream and everything just seems so easy. Shock of shocks, even the product manual was simple to follow.

It was like a snow dome outside last Sunday with big fat flakes falling all day so I when I got back into the warm, it seemed an idyllic moment to crack out the new machine.

snowy view - genevieve blog

I decided to test run it on an easy project: two tea towels with hanging loops.

When I was in Japan, I found some lovely linen (in an enormous craft shop called Okadaya) which had ‘cute kitchen fabric’ written all over it. It was the perfect cloth for the job. It’s quite unusual in that it has a different pattern on each side – spots on one side, stripes on the other – which in my eyes is the best of both worlds. You get the double-sided pattern without having to line it separately. It also means there’s no ‘wrong’ side on a tea towel. In fact I actually prefer the ‘wrong’ side as it has the thin line of contrasting fabric around the edge, in a bias binding effect.

tea towel - genevieve blogpinned tea towels - genevieve blogsewing tea towels - genevieve blogI followed the instructions from Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter but barely needed to, as tea towels are as simple as it gets really. A great quick win for adding some colour or pattern to your kitchen.

hanging tea towel - genevieve blogtwo tea towels - genevieve bloghanging tea towel - genevieve blogI have quite a bit of the fabric left over and, if I’ve interpreted correctly, it seems to be saying  ‘make me into an apron’. I’ll post the results in due course!

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my first sewing machine

This lovely-looking little sewing machine is always on the shelf when I come home to my bedroom in Cornwall.

It’s not actually my first sewing machine but my auntie’s. My mum thinks it’ s probably around 50 years old. The handle still turns and the needle goes up and down, but I confess I’ve never tried to sew something with it. I just like to look at it – I love how chic it looks with the dark wood, shades of grey and that great logo and font. I doubt they make children’s sewing machines that cool these days.


the ephemera fair

the society describes ephemera as “minor transient documents of everyday life”

Despite being a big fan of ephemera, I didn’t actually know it had a name, let alone specialist fairs – until I came across the Ephemera Society. This is one of the reasons I love this city – if it exists, you can get it London.

Last Sunday I paid my first visit to one of the fairs, incongruously held in the swanky Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Holborn. We paid the £2 entrance fee and were greeted with an overwhelming array of bus tickets, theatre programmes, maps, magazine ads, postcards, posters, greetings cards, magazines – if it’s made of paper, they had it. Some were frighteningly expensive (£250 for a tiny ticket, clearly rare and for serious collectors only) and others pleasingly budget (50p for a bus ticket) – but all were from times gone by.

My first find was this gorgeous Carter’s Lemon Syrup ad (love its bold claim to prevent cholera) and was pleased to discover a fantastic bonus print on the back of the Great Wheel at Earl’s Court, the world’s tallest ferris wheel at the time.

Unsurprisingly, I cleared one seller out of sewing and knitting-themed items (resistance was useless), which I plan to make into a framed display for my as yet non-existent craft room.

I’m going to do a similar thing with these lovely bus tickets. There are some beauties in there, my personal fave is the Last Tram Week one.

I longingly left some other items that would have blown my budget. But there’s always next time – fairs are held approximately every two months.


liberty print napkins

I made these napkins as a wedding present for a friend, roughly following this Purl Bee tutorial.

Courses are great but this project made me realise nothing compares to actually just getting on and designing and sewing something on your own from start to finish. I thought it would be fairly straightforward but I learned a whole load of things I didn’t expect to learn, and gained a massive dose of confidence on the sewing machine along the way.

first napkin hot off the machine

I decided to make my own bias binding as I wanted total freedom to choose the fabrics. I say bias binding but for this project you don’t need to cut the fabric on the bias as it’s straight edges all round. My mum gave me some Liberty tana lawn fabric from her stash and I also bought some from the London shop. I don’t even want to admit how long I took to choose! Talk about fabric heaven.

I found the cream linen in another of my favourite fabric treasure troves, the Cloth House, where they had an impressive range in lovely natural colours and weights.

Discovery of the month: amazing little bias binding-making gadget. I got mine in John Lewis for about £12 and they come in a few sizes so you can make different widths. I chose the 18mm one, which gives approximately 9mm deep of edging. I had to make two strips and sew them together for each napkin, as the fabric wasn’t long enough to do it in one. I love the way a thin edging injects a tasteful dose of colour and pattern in a chic modern way.

From fabric to finished:

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a tote a day

the calm before the (sewing) storm

I used a sewing machine a bit when I was little, but only started again in earnest about 2 years ago only when I was given my Gran’s old Viking Husqvarna 3010, fully signing up to the craft revolution along with the rest of East London. My mum used to make all her clothes back in the day and is pretty handy with a sewing machine, so she’s been holding my hand as I’ve progressed through sewing straight seams, quilting and zips. Excellent (and patient) teacher though she is, I’m a methodical soul and in the name of confidence-building, recently took a beginners sewing course at the Make Lounge to make a simple tote bag.

colour coordinated fabrics

I was afraid I was going to go into fabric-overwhelm when I arrived, but my pattern radar homed in on these two in the first couple of minutes:

which one to choose

The slow-to-medium pace was just right in helping me through my constant mini-panics and keeping me progressing at the same time. The teacher was great and I had a relaxed but satisfying sewing experience (NB. the wine definitely helped).

at the foot of the janome

I loved the Janome machines we used in the course, and I am sorely tempted to buy one, if it weren’t for the guilt of selling out to a modern and less beautiful machine than my Gran’s. My Viking sadly has some key problems and so the debate continues – pay a lot of money to fix it (or perhaps not) or pay slightly more money to buy a new modern one.

tote in the making

I’m pretty pleased with the end result, which has found its calling hanging from the kitchen door as a cloth-bag storer.

Usually, I would never consider making anything on a Monday night after a long day at work, but this course has inspired me to overcome the need for a long free Sunday.

totes lush