Another peek behind the scenes …

by Helen on September 14, 2014

Thank you so much everyone for all your kind comments on the making of Miss Matilda Catkin – who I’m delighted to report is now finished, though I haven’t taken her official photographs yet.  But a lot of people told me they liked to see what went on behind the scenes, before I present my finished projects, so I thought you might like a peep into this afternoon’s activities.

Of course before you start work it’s very important to make sure your “helpers” are all quiet and content – especially our little visitor who, I have to say, is more trouble than both the Newfies put together.  However, even lively energetic puppies have to stop and rest sometimes ….

She looks as though she’s finally managed to find her inner newfie – though I don’t think for a moment she’ll stay this way for long!  But anyway, while they were all resting, having enjoyed fun and games in the garden, a long walk, and a delicious tea, I sat down and switched on my laptop.  It’s been cloudy and a little chilly here this afternoon, so I’m back indoors ….

Though there’s no need to light the log burner just yet!  Here’s the view from my laptop – I am stacking up projects that need their patterns writing for this month’s Bustle & Sew Magazine.  There’s my Toadstools Patchwork bag and Miss Matilda Catkin – looking very pretty in her vintage feedsack dress with little lace trim.  She also has a lovely necklace decorated with a flower-shaped button, but I’m not sure if you can make it out very well in this picture.  My Cath Kidston mug was a gift from Rosie a few years ago now.  Sadly it has a hairline crack in the side so I can’t use it for coffee any more, but it looks very pretty holding an assortment of pens, pencils and brushes. At the back is a blue box that contained my new camera – very exciting!  I’m still learning how to use it, but already I think I’m taking much better pictures than before.  Then on the other side of my laptop (I’m a very messy worker I’m afraid) ….

Is what I think will be the final set of three images for my Christmas Woodland Friends hoops.  There’s a bear, fox and (disappearing from view on the right) a rabbit wearing his Christmas stockings on his ears!  I draw my designs out quite a few times, tweaking and changing, before I reach this final version that I hope will be good enough to scan and print ready to work with.  You can see the dotted lines marking the bottom of the hoops and at the top is a rejected bear  – I think there was a problem with his scarf.

Then over the coming evenings I’ll be stitching them ready to photograph for the magazine.  But my canine friends are on the move and I think I’d better go and see what’s happening – what mischief Tilly has led Daisy and Ben into now, I wonder!?



The making of Miss Matilda Catkin, or ….

by Helen on September 12, 2014

…. why you should never give up on your softie!

As a child I much preferred my collection of stuffed animals to the dolls that misguided relatives presented me with from time to time. These were always left on my toyshelf – beautiful – and often naked as I would heartlessly remove their pretty clothing to dress my teddies, rabbits and most favourite of all, my panda! Now I love to design and make my own softies, and sometimes it’s hard to limit myself to just one in each issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  But sometimes, even after carefully drafting and re-drafting my pattern pieces, as well as making a sample in some scrap fabric, actually continuing with a softie make can be a bit of a leap of faith.

This year I’ve enjoyed putting together a collection of long-limbed, jointed softies, beginning in January with Fred and Ginger the dancing rats …

Then continuing with Miss Mabel Fox, and later in the summer Emily (and Albert) Rabbit……

And this month I thought it would be fun to add a cat to the collection.  I knew the body should be fine, although I made a couple of small adjustments to the limbs, giving my cat rounder paws, to which I plan to add little stitched claws.  But the head was trickier.

Here she’s beginning to take shape.  I decided to add nice plump little cheeks – I’ve been staring very hard at some of the cats that live nearby, and have noticed they have quite round faces that only narrow to little pointed noses quite low down.  I’ve marked the position of her eyes with glass-headed pins to try to imagine how she’ll look, but honestly?  I’m not feeling too enthusiastic at this point.  But experience told me to persevere, so I gave her a body and a nice long tail with a cream tip to twitch …..

(yes, it’s been warm enough to sit and sew in the summer house still .. lovely!).  Then the next afternoon she grew a leg ….

And a temporary nose – an old button secured in place with another pin (sorry Miss Matilda!).  And I could at last begin to imagine how she would come together.  This morning I finally finished assembling her body, giving her proper beady eyes, a pink button nose and long whiskers.  Now she’s helping choose the fabrics for her dress – and perhaps she needs a flower or a headband too?

I’m glad I persevered with Miss Matilda Catkin and think she’ll look very cute when she’s finally finished.  But I have noticed that almost all my softies seem to go through that ugly stage, when I ever-so-nearly lose faith and think they’ll never turn out OK.  If this happens to you too, and you’ve discarded any half-finished softie projects, then it might be worth taking a second look as they (nearly) always come right in the end!



Alice the Elegant Cat – new softie pattern

by Helen on February 7, 2013

Alice the Elegant Cat

 Sshhhh…. there’s a cat in our summer house.  Don’t tell Ben.  I wonder if she’ll turn around ….. 

Alice the Elegant Cat

All the way around?

Alice the Elegant Cat

 What an elegant cat! 

Alice the Elegant Cat

A cat called Alice!

Alice the Elegant Cat is the first pattern for the March issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  I have felt for a long time that there was a large, feline-shaped gap in the Bustle & Sew collection of softies, but as I have never owned a cat I wasn’t quite sure how to begin.  And then I had an idea – at the end of our village is an upmarket hotel, whose resident cat is extremely snooty.  He (or she, I don’t know) is a slender, elongated brown feline who loves to perch on the hotel gate post and hiss at Ben as we pass by.  So Alice (who is much nicer and more friendly) reflects this elegant pose, tail curled around paws, exactly.  

Alice the Elegant Cat Softie

 She measures about 12″ tall and has a nice round beach pebble in her base so she stands up nicely.   Hope you like her! 


The only cat allowed!!

by Helen on October 8, 2012

I don’t know if I have ever mentioned before – but Ben, normally laid-back and placid as he is – strongly dislikes cats!  This is partly Amy’s fault as she taught him that cats were BAD.  Amy was adopted, coming to me at six years old, so I don’t know what had happened in her past to make her dislike felines so much.  

cheshire cat

I do think however, that the natural friendliness of Ben’s nature would probably have overcome Amy’s teachings  if he hadn’t been badly scratched on his tender snout when, as a puppy, he was trying to make friends with the next door cat.  From that day on he has regarded cats as good for only one thing – CHASING!!    Cat lovers do not need to worry however, as Ben is most definitely not built for speed.  He has no chance whatsoever of  catching his tormentors, who delight in adopting the pose shown above and delicately twitching their tails when they think Ben might be getting bored of staring at them.  

I remember an occasion, when Ben was still quite young, certainly less than 12 months old (but already weighing 100 lbs or more), when we all went to our local pub for a cool drink at the end of a hot day.  Townie Husband and I were relaxing, talking about the day’s events, whilst the two newfies snoozed gently at our feet.  Amy could be trusted not to wander away, and Ben’s lead was secured to our table leg.  All was peaceful – until the pub cat strolled into the bar.  


  Amy looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth!

 In a flash Amy was awake, alert and moving…. the cat shot out through the open door (luckily onto a peaceful country lane)….. Amy streaked after her….. I leapt up in hot pursuit whilst, to my horror, behind me I heard a loud crash as our table was pulled to the floor and started to travel across the bar behind the young and very active Ben who was determined not to miss any of the fun!

Townie Husband was left standing – mouth open in horror with two glasses in his hands that he’d had the presence of mind to snatch up before the table went over!  And the cat?  Quite safe and unharmed of course.  As I made it to the door I was met by a very sheepish Amy who – with her crippled legs – would never have caught it.  All that was left to do was to calm Ben and somehow restore order within!  

But even Ben can’t object to this little kitten –  the perfect gift for cat-lovers everywhere – and included in the November issue of the Bustle & Sew ezine

Cosy Cat Cushion

Cosy Cat Applique Cushion Cover 

Or can he? …..