Posted by: michelenel | 18 March, 2017

Scuba and lace….

I picked up the most gorgeous scuba material from Abakhan recently because I have never sewn with it before but I really like the look of it.  I wanted to make a few girls dresses with nice twirly skirts and today eventually got around to one of them for Miss M.

I didn’t want to use a pattern and having her with me made measuring and transferring the size onto the fabric was a simple process.  I started with the full circle skirt and then cut out 2 fronts and 2 backs to create a fully lined bodice with button up tabs on the shoulders.  I cut through the centre front of the bodice to add in an external lace zipper for a bit of fun.

The end result was so cute, but I felt that the scuba needed something along the hemline and I had just the right pink lace to finish it off and give a contrast between the two textures I was looking for.

Scuba is so much fun to sew because of the stretch, and this is one of the prettiest things apart from lingerie that I have made.  I LOVE lace….. 

The addition of the lace made this little madam go from saying it was nice, to “I’ll take off my birthday dress to try the new one”….

And the twirl factor is apparently a 10/10….

But then the request to pose for the camera had an altogether familiar result….. Please, please, if anyone has any advice on how they get beautiful pictures of their girls in new clothes, I really need to know how…..

The exposed lace zip was very popular with her and adds a bit of fun to the dress.  Not many small children’s clothes come with zips and certainly not on the front where they can zip into and out of them themselves…..

Now that I know how easy the no-pattern sewing can be, I will make one for the other beautiful granddaughter in my life.


Posted by: michelenel | 16 March, 2017

Trap that foreign hornet…..

Bees are our friend; 

We keep bees in our back yard;

Foreign species and disease are trying to kill our bees – not just ours personally, but the UK in general;

Something has to be done to help; 

Enter “swissarmywife” with her plan and her trap. 

According to all the information provided by Defra, Beebase and the BBKA, all bee keepers need to be extremely vigilant so that the Asian hornet does not get a foothold in The UK. It is already causing massive hive losses in Europe and the first ones were spotted in the South late last year. 

Advise from all of them is to build an Asian hornet trap / observation unit, but I prefer the trap ’em and kill ’em approach because we are SUPER protective of our girls – and the odd boy! 

A quick DIY / handmade project for today using a fizzy drinks bottle, tape and a bit of garden wire. 

A bit of snipping, some twisting of wire, a few holes and some tape and we have a trap…..

The idea is that the bait attracts them through the downturned neck of the bottle. They enter through a hole drilled in the lid and can’t get back out. The bottle on top is to keep out a bit of the British weather and the sieve/drilled disk near the base prevents them getting to the bait but smaller insects can escape through a few holes below the mesh. 

For my bait I opted for some red wine and honey mixed together – I reckon that if it’s good enough for the Hornets in France where they have the same problem, then that’s good enough for me – and after all it is worth sacrificing good Hesketh Arms Winery red for our bees. You can use all sorts of things to lure the hornets including meat and prawns, but considering that  going near a prawn may kill me I decided to not risk it – or the stench after a few days! 

Out to the garden and I have hung the trap near, but not too near the beehive. The idea is to trap any queens that survived winter  before she can begin to reproduce in Spring…..

Anyone can do this to help our bees, even if you aren’t a beekeeper. If you trap anything that looks like the enemy, please contact Defra or the BBKA immediately as they will investigate and send out their hit squad to find and destroy any hives they find. 

I joke, but it really is that serious so please help our bees against this nasty foreigner….

Posted by: michelenel | 12 March, 2017

Handmade update 11….

We are on the home stretch!  Today I think I have almost caught up with my made items – apart from quite a few that I don’t have pictures for so we will have to ignore them for now.

And now for something a little different…my first ever crochet shawl.  A lovely pattern that only cost £2 from and with the green yarn a lovely lady gifted me, this went together in only a couple of weeks (obviously with lots going on in between).  I am very happy with the results and will definitely do another in the future.


I made myself another Plantain t-shirt by Deer & Doe patterns in the left over red stripes from Daughter1’s maternity top.  Fabric from Abakhan.  I am thrilled with the fit and how comfy it is to wear….no pictures.

Then something completely different.  This time, it was something to help hubby move my wine around the winery and then into the cellar.  He has to lug these huge 25 litre glass bottles filled with wine and that is no easy job.  I have to hold my breath every time because I am terrified that after months of hard work in the winery, one little slip and it is literally all down the drain…..and then I might cry.
Something had to be done so I ripped apart an unused curtain and sewed it together using the industrial sewing machine and super strong thread, in the form of a carboy carrier….
He is really happy with it so I can now go and make him a few more.


Here he is using my wheelchair to transport the carboys from the winery to the kitchen and then carry them down into the cellar…..every bit of help with the heavy lifting is a bonus 🙂  I am of course lounging on my day bed while he does all the manual handling….I do believe he deserves a glass of red!





Posted by: michelenel | 11 March, 2017

Handmade update 10….

It is all about the Plantains and maternity wear today. 

I needed a few new comfy shirts and looked for a decent free pattern and was really pleased my search found The Plantain t-shirt by Deer & Doe patterns. A great Tee to sew and a lovely pattern which is free – perfect. 

I made myself one in this very pretty t-shirting from Abakhan fabrics….

This one is a modified Plantain for my daughters maternity wardrobe. Same size cut out for her but then ruched at the side by stitching in some stretched elastic along the inside seam allowance. It fits beautifully.  I also made the same in a plain grey.  Striped fabric from Minerva was a bargain on sale. 

This is one of three maternity skirts. The Erin pattern from Megan Nielsen. These look amazing on her – the other two and the dress hack of the skirt are without the ruffle.  

Then a short sleeved version of the maternity Plantain. This gorgeous stripe is also from Minerva and cost around £2 because of the sale….

And to finish off the day, a Pom-Pom bunny made by Miss M …. he is so ugly we may as well say he is cute – but not where she can hear! 😁

Posted by: michelenel | 10 March, 2017

Handmade update 9…..

Hello folks, today I have a couple of different items to share.   Firstly purses.  Here are two types.  One with a stitched frame and another with a glued frame.

These are both made with Liberty fabrics and lined with Liberty too.  The purse frame at the front is from the lovely online shop at u-handbag and apart from frames you can buy all sorts of purse and handbag notions – a great place to start your adventures in purse and handbag making.  After making these for myself – one for my bits and pieces in the knitting bag and the other long one for knitting needles – which was a modification on the existing pattern…..



Once I had mine completed, I scheduled a workshop in Postcode Coffee House in Wigan to teach others how to make them too…..img_7308

We had such an amazing group and a wonderful morning of sewing, chatting and drinking lovely coffee and cakes….Here are two of the youngest members looking adorable….img_7319

A very proud owner of a lovely new purse…..img_7317

We run monthly workshops in the coffee house the 2nd Saturday each month from 9am -12pm.  These are to encourage people to explore all sorts of crafts and handmade things they may not have tried before….and socialise of course.

Next on my list was a spur of the moment, and 5 minute sew for hubby.  He always sits in bed with his iPad and doesn’t have a comfy stand for it.  I had seen a pyramid pillow somewhere and thought it would be quick and easy to make – and it was.  I guessed the size and stuffed it with foam beads and a few minutes later he had a place to rest his iPad.  img_7268

I don’t think any coffee house can have too many aprons and I still hadn’t finished off the ones I had promised – better a few months late than never!  Another two done and dusted, and they are just as lovely as the original few…..img_7277

A bit of a diversion from sewing is our weekly knitting and crochet group in Postcode Coffee House – Good Yarn.  We gather each Tuesday at 10 and have a whale of a time and inspiring each other to lovely makes.  These two beauties are for a couple of newborns in the church….made using the Tunisian crochet technique with a twisted spiral effect.  These are just too adorable but I have a suspicion they will be a bit small and I may have to make some more…..img_7351img_7367

Hey Ho, that’s me done for today, I am off to prepare for April’s Handmade workshop at Postcode Coffee House….See you tomorrow for the next instalment of Handmade Update.

Posted by: michelenel | 9 March, 2017

Handmade update 8…..

Today’s post is all about the little ones.

The current baby accessory coming out of Sweden seems to be baby cocoons/nests.  These allow baby to feel more enclosed and can be used in your bed or the baby’s cot or pram too. The biggest problem with them is the price tag and when I was asked if I could make some for a friend I knew it couldn’t be that difficult.  Well, it wasn’t difficult at all, just hard work.  The pattern was drafted from images I found online and made up as I went along.  It worked out really well and was a relatively easy make apart from the muscle power need to wrestle the stuffing into the sides…boy, did I get a work out!

Here is baby nest / cocoon number 1 in contrasting inner and outer fabric with two extra little sheets made to allow the base of the cocoon to be kept clean….


Cocoon number 2 was a joy to make because I love the colours so much.  The yellow hombre is divine and a happy find at my local Abakhan store in Bolton.  img_7243img_7244img_7250

For this one, I added 3 extra sheets out of the matching fabrics and backed them with terry towelling from a baby nappy for extra absorption….img_7251

Next on the list were a couple of pairs of much needed, and long awaited, pyjama bottoms for hubby….he is so patient!  These are a very simple self drafted pattern using the old tatty pair for sizing.  The blue pair were in fabric from my stash and leftover from a dress daughter2 made a couple of years ago.  Pair 2 were made using a beautiful 100% cotton, also from Abakhan and on sale at only £1.97 per meter…what’s not to love about that price!  The only problem is hubby is rather tall and needs 3 meters of fabric just for pj bottoms…ridiculous!  On the plus side, he is over the moon with them and I loved the fabric so much I went back and bought another 8 meters for future projects.  img_7290

Finally today we have a garment that is a real favourite…the fluffy, princess dressing gown for Miss M.  As much as she hated the dungarees, she makes up for it with her total love of this dressing gown.  So much so, that she wears it constantly and insisted that last Friday when she visited for the day, that it had to be a pyjama day – just so she could wear it all day!  A definite winner.  Made without a pattern and simply marked off on the fabric as I went along.  This is the softest snuggle fleece from my favourite place….Abakhan of course!  Edged in the green cotton from Oupa’s pj’s and a selection of coloured buttons…..img_7293

A matching dressing gown promptly followed for granddaughter number 1.  Miss P is equally happy with hers and because of the comfortable size this will fit her for a few years at least.  Miss Ps version is edged with fold over elastic and big orange buttons.

These were such a pleasure to have made because the girls love them so much…..img_7333







Posted by: michelenel | 9 March, 2017

Handmade update 7…..

Good morning folks and welcome to my update for today.  Firstly an apology for the images that decided to load on their side….and for the life of me I could not edit to face the correct direction!  Today is another non sewing post for my other hobby….wine making.  Don’t get too excited, this is all in the cellar ageing now and NOT for immediate consumption.

You may have seen a previous post where I told you about our winery….a used kitchen from the 1970s which we installed below our stairs in what was once going to be the office but we changed our mind when we realised our wine making really did need a decent space of its own.  It is working out really well and apart from a few things that still need to be done, it does the job really well.  Here is a shot of the area we set out for the wine to ferment…because it has a radiator and we can control the temperature in the void using a heat lamp and a curtain over the opening.  My latest and now favourite item in the winery is my new FastFerment….that’s the conical-shaped fermentation vat that we have placed into the countertop….an amazing piece of kit that saves so much time and fuss when making wine.img_7042

Here is a close up of it happily bubbling away with a 30 bottle red wine which has now been turned into a sherry and is ageing in the cellar for a family wedding…..img_7043

Another view of the wines that were fermenting at the time…A few whites and a mix of reds….also all finished and ageing in the cellar…..img_7046


All I can say is that this is going to be a very happy wedding because together with this lot I have already made 100 bottles of various red wines that are also ageing in the cellar.  Now all I need to do is keep the families grubby mitts off this lot until September!

Perhaps I should get that lock installed on the cellar door?

Posted by: michelenel | 7 March, 2017

Handmade update 6…..

If I keep posting a project or two each day, I may eventually get through the backlog! 🙂


You know you love a pattern when you are prepared to make not just one garment from it, but multiples.  Here is a prime example – another two Friday dresses from Petitapetitandfamily.  This is such a lovely pretty pattern which fits really well and has definitely delighted the 7-year-old and the (super fussy) 3-year-old granddaughter.

I bought a bag of fabric from someone, sight unseen, which can be risky, so when I opened it and found what were clearly fabrics meant for a Santa suit,  I thought it would sit on a shelf unused forever.  Not longer after I realised that the Friday dress would be perfect to turn this into a skater/winter/elf type dress for the girls for Christmas.

I used a different collar view for these and trimmed them with ribbon from the stash…..img_6980img_6994img_7014img_7018

What an adorable pair!  These cousins have such a wonderful bond and this is made all the sweeter when they love to wear matching outfits….img_7152-2img_7159

A few pyramid purses for the girls for Christmas.  Really quick and easy to make.  I used the tutorial from Crafty Gemini on YouTube…..


This Christmas we needed a new wreath.  I had seen a number of handmade wreaths like this using a pool noodle – well, I didn’t have a pool noodle, but I do have a rather interesting cellar with some unusual items in it.  In this case the pipe lagging or pipe insulation that was used to keep the beer cool on its way to the customer upstairs via the beer engine, so it found a new use – a wreath base (I am very, very partial to a bit of upcycling so two birds, one stone).

The wreath was supposed to be for the front door, but once it was made I loved it so much that I couldn’t bear to have it on the door where I couldn’t see it and where it may get lifted by someone who obviously loved it as much as I did, but didn’t necessarily have the skills to make their own!

Little Miss M was a huge part of the process and helped stick on all the baubles.  She has a very particular style which clashed on occasion with mine, but in the end we managed to agree on colour and layout and finish it off without finishing each other off 🙂


It looks so amazing hanging above the corner fireplace in the Assembly rooms.  I may need to make another one next year as well.  img_7076





Posted by: michelenel | 6 March, 2017

Handmade update 5…..

A few out of the ordinary items on today’s update.

What could possibly need me to bring out the big guns i.e. Addie the industrial Adler sewing machine?

Our Pastor sent me a cryptic message about a sewing challenge.  Ever quick to take the bait I asked for more details and a month later we had a refurbished coffee shop at Today’s Community Church in Wigan!

The request was for upholstered benches and other seating for the refurbished coffee house.  This was no ordinary upholstery, but rather upcycled jeans and shirts to create a rather unique look.  First we made the fabric from denim and added bits of the jeans and shirts to create a patchwork.  Add a bit of foam and cushions and you have…..



Every time hubby and other church members sit here they say “Hey, I recognise that shirt/tie/jeans!”


Next was a request from the Postcode Coffee House’s manageress for some aprons.  She had a particular vision and she left me to my own devices and interpretation.

All the hardware for rivets, studs, buttons and denim.  All made with a pattern I drafted and designed just for Postcode Coffee House……


Leather straps and accents using pieces of leather that were gifted to me a couple of years ago.  This made for a wonderful and unique apron for the team…img_6502img_6510img_6506

For the barista’s I wanted something that was hard wearing and easy to wipe clean.  Enter a sofa?????

Yes, a sofa, from Ikea.  These had been in the church for many years and were on their way to the big landfill in the sky,  but not before I got hubby to cut all the leather off them.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with all that leather, but inspiration struck and it became – barista aprons.  Rather fitting that the sofa’s that were in the coffee house pre refurbishment should land up as part of the new establishment 🙂

Add a bit of contrast leather for the accents and you have a very sturdy and handsome apron that will probably last a lifetime…..img_6518img_6519img_6521img_6523img_6532

Postcode Coffee House in Wigan welcomes you…..img_6534


Posted by: michelenel | 5 March, 2017

Handmade update 4…..

A few items on today’s update.  This first one was a request from a friend for a really big beanbag for resting her weary bones on 🙂

No pattern for this, just cut what looked like a good shape the full width of the Ikea fabric I had in the stash.  Rather different from the ones you see for sale.

Now all this needs is stuffing…..



Another Friday dress from Petitapetitandfamily.  This is such a gorgeous pattern and 7 year old granddaughter absolutely loved it when she arrived for Christmas.  This was made with a pretty baby cord that I bought a while ago at Leon’s in Manchester.  Trimmed with a black lace and big black buttons to create a smart winter dress.


And finally a very simple crochet project which started off as a square for a blanket but quickly got boring, so the only square I made was hastily turned into a teacosy instead…. img_6931

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