“It accelerated smoothly, leaving physics squirming in its wake …”

I have written my fair share of fan fiction (lo these many years ago) but never fanart – never had the knack. Turned out all I needed was a change of medium.

cushion-3.jpegAs well as a reasonably functional cushion (see! form and utility!) this is also an abstract representation, in patchwork form, of an antediluvian alien intelligence manifesting as an outgrowth of black cubes fighting another ancient alien intelligence manifesting as an entire oceanic ecosystem, as portrayed near the beginning of Alastair Reynolds’ Absolution Gap. (I love Reynolds’ writing, and would highly recommend it if you like hard science fiction.)

Not pictured: boat-bound humans desperately attempting to get out of the way.


I’m stuck between garment projects, so have been messing around with patchwork. This began as an experiment in producing work with 3D forms growing out of it, so I decided to make some cubes, then remembered the terrible alien cubes and ran with the theme, pulling out all the sea-coloured fabrics in my stash and also making some icebergs. Continue reading

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Patchwork bag (+ pattern and tutorial)


My mum has a little squooshy bag she brought back from, I think, China (Edit: My sister tells me it was Korea), made of a patchwork of tiny silk squares. It’s quite delicate, and some of the seams are coming apart. A while ago I sat down with it and tried to figure out the underlying pattern so I could copy it; I never got very far, then forgot about it for about a year (yes, I do this a lot) and then abruptly decided to have another go this week. As sometimes happens, what had been incomprehensible the first time seemed obvious the second time.


The underlying structure is simple enough – a box in the ratio 1 by 1 by 2, with the opening and handles added along one of the long edges. However, the patchwork pattern wraps around the box diagonally, which makes the underlying shape harder to perceive. Measured in terms of the patchwork squares, the fillable volume of the finished bag is two sides deep and broad, and two diagonals long. I started with 10cm squares and an 0.5cm seam allowance, making the finished squares 9cm to a side and the usable volume of the bag 18cm x 18cm x 25.5cm, near enough.


The pattern is a net of twenty-two squares. On the bag my mum has, each of the 22 fundamental squares is made of four smaller squares; you could potentially use any square quilt block you wanted, for a more or less complex final design. For this attempt, I kept it simple and just used plain squares. The strap is the leftover end of handwoven linen trim I used on my Viking kyrtillContinue reading

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A blanket, and nostalgia

Hello from darkest Yorkshire! By the time this post goes up, I will – all being well – be ensconced in a Girlguiding bunkhouse for the weekend, gamely attempting to keep 14 under-10s fed, washed and diverted for a whole two days. In other words, it’s time for Brownie Pack Holiday.

I don’t tend to talk about my Brownies much online, but they’re important to me. I’ve been with my current unit since 2011, first as a non-uniformed helper, then from autumn 2013 (when they changed the wording of the Guiding Promise) in uniform. I qualified as a full Leader this winter just gone, and am now doing my Pack Holiday license, the assessment for which is approximately “run a Pack Holiday, pass a spot check by a senior Guider, and bring them all back alive.” So I’ve spent the last month or so panicking about that. I’m sure it’ll be fine.


One of the great traditions of Guiding is The Camp Blanket. All sections earn badges: Rainbows put theirs on a tabard or jacket, Brownies put them on their sashes, and Guides and adults put them on their camp blanket. Long-serving members’ blankets end up as a sort of visual record of years or decades in the association, with badges accumulating alongside mysterious stains and occasional repairs. Compared to some I’ve seen, my blanket is a poor thing; but it is mine own.


It’s fleece on the back and quilting cotton on the front – a map print in the middle, with sashing in a print my mum brought back from Australia based on Indigenous Australian designs. (The map print baffles me on two counts: I know neither why it is in Italian nor why Brazil has merged uncomfortably with West Africa.)


I actually didn’t make it: mum did, and my contribution has just been to attach the badges. It’s perhaps appropriate – Guiding is inherently an intergenerational endeavour, both in terms of Leaders supporting girls, and within the volunteer organisation as older leaders mentor and support younger ones.

(We have a lot of Brownies whose mothers were once members; one time when we brought in some old uniforms to show the girls, several of the parents stopped and pointed out which had been the uniform in their day.)


My blanket is a bit short on badges as I’ve only been accumulating them since 2013, and as an adult you mostly only get them for special events and one-off challenge schemes. I’ve also, though, sewn on my Brownie sash – lovingly preserved by my mum since I left Brownies 16 years ago. I suspect, though can’t remember for certain, that the wonky stitching on some of those badges was the first sewing I ever did.


The badge designs have changed since then, and the Pixie Six I was once in is no longer one of the standard set. Some things are very much the same, though.


Were you ever a Brownie? I’d love to hear from other sewing people who are or were in Guiding.

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Small projects

It’s summer and I have a hunger for projects I can do in one evening. Also I recently threw a mostly-finished button-up shirt into a corner and am a wee bit burned out on wovens and their fitting woes; I love me a good shirt, but I have spent a couple of weeks emulating Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow and embracing the joys of knits.

First off, repairs: these are my messy jeans, which I must’ve had for … eight years? I’m pretty sure the liberal dusting of cream-coloured paint dates from the shed I built in 2007. A while back they were retired even from messy duty when the entirety of the left back leg ripped out. I dug them out, patched a hole on the inner thigh and mended the tear in the back leg. (This is how repairs always go: sat in the pile for months, repair itself takes 20 minutes.) The mend was going to be very visible in any case, so I put some piping in it as well. Feature!


And now some t-shirts: Continue reading

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My oldest UFO, in numbers



I have a stash. I am seriously crunched for storage space. What I need to do is use some of it, but an interim palliative is reorganisation. In particular, I recently got fixated on one shelf that had remained quietly undisturbed since I moved into my little flat – the shelf containing my oldest unfinished object.

This dates from the dawn of my sewing career, when I was only making LARP kit. I was still getting to grips with the very basics of sewing and hadn’t ventured into garments that needed fitting. Pretty much all the seams in this are straight lines.

But you can do a lot with straight lines … Continue reading

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I’m not dead! Sewing’s been slow, though, thanks to dentistry – I’ve had three wisdom teeth out in the last month and do not quite trust myself to operate the go-fast-and-stab-things machine when dealing with dental pain and/or dental painkillers. I finished these … a while ago … and never got to blogging them.

I don’t do skirts other than in costume. I’m also woefully short of lightweight trousers. This means that every summer when the sun finally comes out I run up against a trousering dilemma: wear shorts and burn, or wear jeans and boil? Some middle ground is called for.


Continue reading

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I have a leopard. Do you have a leopard?

So in our Friday night D&D campaign, one of the other characters had a familiar – a giant spider. The player in question brought a plushie spider along to the game and used it as a prop: talking to it where appropriate, puppeting it when the spider was doing things, occasionally throwing it at other people’s heads, that sort of thing.

My character has a leopard.


So I made a leopard.


I used the cat pattern from McCall’s 6485 (includes patterns for a cat, dog, horse, frog and hippo) but with the legs from the hippo variant. The fabric is some sort of synthetic short-pile faux fur from B&M Fabrics in Kirkgate Market. The eyes and nose came from Samuel Taylor.


I put the nose on a bit too high and so it looks permanently surprised. I also think I got the ears on backwards. Oh well.


It’s stuffed with jersey scraps and is just about solid enough to stand on its own.


I can’t quite get over how hapless it looks.


I’m thinking of making a bigger one to go on the back of the sofa.

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V8772: Rocket Edition


Necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, when I spotted this light blue fabric on the Pin It & Stitch stall at the Knitting & Stitching Show, it was suddenly extremely necessary that I make a shirt out of it and wear rockets to work, because rockets. The invention came when the nice lady on the stall unrolled it, measured and told me apologetically that there was only one-and-three-quarter metres left.

“I’ll take it,” I said breezily, announcing to my mother that I could easily do it if I switched out the shoulder darts for a back yoke and cut that and various other bits in a contrasting fabric. We spent the next three hours scrutinising every blue cotton in the Show, swatch in hand. Continue reading

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A sweater dress-tunic-thing

The Jasper sweater by Paprika Patterns is named after the semiprecious stone, but to me Jasper will always be the name of my short-lived first character in Savage Tide. This is his meeple:


And this is what happened to him:


RIP Jasper, eviscerated by a dinosaur who had more rogue levels than he did. Alas. Such are the traps that wait for the unwary.

There were no actual dinosaurs lying in wait for me, but I fell into just about every sewing trap there is and it was entirely my own fault.  Continue reading

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Are you ready, boots?


I like boots. Boots do not like me.

I own one pair of knee-high boots, which are heavy goth platforms that do up with Velcro (as seen here and here). They’re the only knee-highs I’ve ever tried that actually fit, thanks to that forgiving Velcro fastening. I have 17″/46cm calves and apparently chunky ankles (I can sometimes get wide-calf boots that go round the widest point of my calf, but they almost never fit at the ankle) and I have basically given up on getting properly fitting non-Velcro kneeboots until such time as I can afford Duos.

But I still really want some, and every couple of years I’ll grab a pair off eBay in the hope that maybe this will be the time that the advertised wide calf actually materialises. It never is.

This time round, I contemplated the pair of wasp-ankled boots sitting forlornly on my table and reflected that they were mostly pleather, which compared to multi-layer denim or real leather is a walk in the park in sewing terms … Continue reading

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