A closer look – Christmas Woodland Friends

by Helen on September 1, 2014

It’s September!  I can hardly believe it – where did the summer go?  And for me, like so many other stitchers I’m certain, September sees the beginning of my Christmas stitching.  In this month’s issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine you’ll find my first Christmas patterns for 2014.  One of these is the first part of my set of Woodland Friends …. little animals peeping out of 3″ hoops …..

The first three designs feature an owl in ear muffs, robin in a hat and a cute reindeer with Christmas baubles dangling from his antlers.  I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at the materials I’ve used to create these little friends – especially if you’re planning to make your own set for Christmas.

It was important to me that the friends would very clearly be a set so I used the same background fabric for them all (and will continue for the second three friends coming in October’s issue).  I like a medium weight fabric – rather like a Cath Kidston cotton duck for applique work as it’s nice and substantial to take all the stitching – and any loose ends won’t show through.  For these friends I chose Blue Dotty from Clarke & Clarke.  I thought it looked a bit like a snowy sky perhaps?  Above you can see the beginnings of the applique.  I’ve transferred my designs to the fabric and marked where the hoop will be with my temporary fabric marker pen.  I love these pens and personally haven’t experienced any problems with erased lines reappearing, though I know others have reported this on their blogs.

Here’s a closer look at the reindeer beginning to take shape.  I’ve used scraps of vintage linen for all the animal bodies – again this will help the feeling that they belong together – and some tiny pieces of Tilda fabric for the deer’s head marking, owl’s wings and the branch the robin is perching on.  Similarly the owl’s eyes and robin’s hat are the same green – only the robin’s red breast is a unique fabric to that particular hoop. I ALWAYS work with natural fibres – and must admit I’m even a bit sniffy about mixes such as poly-cottons.  I think natural fibres simply look and feel nicer and are much easier to work with too.  Just look at the texture of the linen in the deer’s head below.

Although natural fibres can be more expensive, you only need very small quantities for these designs, and may well find you have suitable scraps left over from other projects.  You can save a little too when mounting them as there’s no need to purchase the more expensive Elbessee hoops to mount your work – cheap craft hoops will work absolutely fine.  I painted my hoops with some leftover chalk paint as I thought this worked well for a light – possibly feeling a bit snowy, Christmassy feel.

I’ve used the same colours of embroidery floss for all three animals for a harmonious set of designs.  I simply can’t stress enough how important it is to choose a good quality floss for your work.  You just won’t achieve nice results with that awful cheap floss that gets sold in huge quantities on eBay or similar.  It tangles and breaks and is incredibly frustrating to work with.  I always use DMC or Anchor flosses, both of which are widely available internationally.   I hope you like my little animals and be sure to look out for the final three Woodland Friends in the October issue of the Magazine!

And finally … I nearly forgot to mention – the September issue is now available in paperback from Amazon.

CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.co.uk and CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon.com


Sunday Baking

by Helen on August 30, 2014

I love this time of year as the summer begins to slip gently away, the days grow shorter and it will soon be time to light the log burner in the evenings.  In the garden there are apples ….

And the postman left a most interesting and eagerly-anticipated parcel for me in the log store ….

Some yarn and new needles for an autumn knitting project!  Rosie thinks I’ll look very funny in my hood – but I think it will be perfect to keep my ears warm when I’m out walking with the Newfies this winter …

And it’s cool enough now to get up close to the Aga and enjoy baking again.  Rosie and I both love to bake and so we’ve decided to include a new baking feature in the Bustle & Sew Magazine starting with this month’s issue.  I was so pleased when Rachel of Sunday Baking let us include her delicious recipe for Cinnamon and Nutella Muffins this month.

We had to try them first of course and I can guarantee they are ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!  Rachel’s blog is called Sunday Baking and I would definitely recommend a visit as she has some amazing recipes that I can hardly wait to try.  Rachel told me that ….

“The aim of Sunday Baking is to prove to everyone that anyone can bake. Nothing on my blog is too complicated and I try to break it down as simply as I can so anyone can follow the recipe. I want to share my passion with everyone!”

I think my next recipe to try from Sunday Baking will be this one ….

Apple & Cinammon Cake with a Crumb Topping 

Perfect for all those apples in my garden.  And wonderful served warm with a little cream when my friends come for tea.   Thanks so much Rachel, I’ll definitely be back for another look through your lovely Sunday Baking blog.



Less than 24 hours to wait

by Helen on August 27, 2014

I am so VERY excited!!  Tomorrow is publication day for the September issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  With all these projects ….

And lots more inside as well.  Rosie and I have been working very hard on the look and feel of the magazine, adding some new features too..  Below is a preview of the contents and I really hope you’ll approve of the changes we’re making….

And if you were considering subscribing to the magazine then please don’t delay.  This is your final chance to subscribe at the current price of $6.50 per month (bargain!).  The price to new subscribers will rise to $7.50 per month on 1 September. (if you’re already a subscriber, then don’t worry your price will remain unchanged forever)

I’m really sorry about the price rise for new subscribers from September, caused by rising costs and a strong pound.  But I do hope you’ll agree that the Bustle & Sew Magazine is still great value for money!


Two little pin cushion mice … so cute… so innocent … so …..


Well .. that’s not entirely true – there was certainly a lot of greediness surrounding Carolyn’s birthday cake, but it was all of us and our friends, not the Pin Cushion Mice.  Our  Pin Cushion Mouse cake was a really fun thing to do – so if like me you enjoy sewing, but don’t enjoy spending a lot of time decorating a cake then why try this idea instead?

  • You’ll need:  Two little Pin Cushion Mice (Carolyn loved hers and is taking them all the way home to Dubai with her).  If you don’t have the pattern already you’ll find it on my free patterns page here.
  • One silver covered cardboard cake board
  • Two bamboo skewers
  • Washi tape
  • Fabric scraps
  • Bakers twine or string
  • Glue stick
  • Birthday cake

Wrap washi tape around your bamboo skewers to within 1/4″ of the pointy end.  Push the points into the cardboard cake board making sure you leave enough room for your cake to fit between them.

Cut small diamond shapes approx 3″ long and 1″ wide – I needed six for my bunting string and my cake was 10″ wide.  Fold in half widthways and press.  Fold the diamonds over the string and secure the two sides together with a dab of glue.  Knot the ends of the string around the bamboo skewers.  Position cake and add mice at the sides.  Candles are a nice touch, but be sure to position them so you don’t set fire to your bunting!  Perfect!