My favourite snips

I’ve had all sorts of scissors and snips for trimming thread over the years – I’ve used nail scissors, embroidery scissors, small Ikea scissors, crafting snips and fancy branded snips.  They’ve all done the job (well, most of them – one pair of snips had to be immediately returned to Hobbycraft in disgust for failing to cut sewing thread), some better than others, and until a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have expressed any real preference in my thread cutting tools.

But then I discovered these beauties.  I first discovered them when I attended a dressmaking class locally and fell immediately in love with them.

Thread snips, thread cutters

They’re basic, cheap, unbranded (really, I have no idea who makes them) and I bought mine for something like a pound.  They are a pure joy to use and I have several pairs dotted throughout my sewing areas.

Light, robust and very sharp, they have a very satisfying, definite snipping action, finishing their snip with purpose, a little ‘full stop’ at the end of the motion.  I use them to cut notches and clips out of my fabric, too, and they fit snugly in my sewing machine accessories drawer with my seam ripper, another essential tool.

The final reason that these are my favourite snips is because they look ‘proper’ – I love that they’re made  completely of metal and painted blue with bits of the paint flaking off, it makes them look industrial and hard-core.  Which in turn makes me feel like a tough, no-nonsense kind of a sewer. Which I love.

Do you have favourite sewing tools?

Tell me about your favourites in the comments

under stitching tutorial

Four steps to perfect understitching

Understitching is one of those magical sewing techniques that are simple to understand and apply, and which will immediately lift the quality of your sewing from a polite “Did you make that?” to the much more impressed “No Way! You made that?”

I’ve spent a fair bit of time recently in my offline life explaining what understitching is, why it’s important and how it works, so I thought I would show you why you should understitch and how to do it, as I have used this technique in Briabaloo and intend to use it a lot more in future patterns.

How to understitch tutorial

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A bit of a rambling blog – and a GIVEAWAY!

Sometimes you have so many things going on in your head, so many ideas jostling for attention and elbowing each other out of the way so they can reach the top of today’s priority list that you end up doing nothing.  A bit like before they discovered L Dopa in Awakenings.  (I love that film, my husband’s never seen it, this needs rectifying.)

Just at this very moment I am twirling round and round, but staying in the same position, not knowing what to do first.

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6 ways to overcast on a sewing machine

6 ways to Overcast with your Sewing Machine

Before I had an overlocker I remember seeing tutorials and pattern instructions everywhere that asked me to overlock my edges or seams.  I remember feeling a bit excluded from the ‘overlocker owners’ club, and frustrated that I was left to finish my seams with a zigzag stitch or  boring, old-fashioned and time consuming seam finishes like binding or French seams.*

* (Please note that the ‘boring and old fashioned’ judgement stemmed purely from envy – It’s nonsense.  The non-overlocked seam finishes are almost always the most beautiful and the strongest.  But I was blinded by ‘I want an overlocker, it’s not fair’.  Now I have an overlocker I look for reasons not to use it – ha, there’s no pleasing some people!)

When I started designing my own patterns and writing their instructions I wanted to be as inclusive as possible – nobody should feel that they can’t play in my gang because they don’t have an overlocker – but we don’t always have time for bound seams, we don’t always want the extra bulk, and French seams really don’t like curves.  So what can we do?

Simple – pull out your sewing machine manual and take a look at the overcasting stitches that your machine is capable of – you may find you never never need to reach for your overlocker again!


6 Ways To Overcast Using Your Sewing Machine


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Animal costume sewing pattern by sewabaloo

Anibaloo – Costumes for imaginative play

Last week I showed you the best bits of Briabaloo, my new dress (and peplum top) pattern, so this week I want to show you all about Anibaloo, my lovely animal themed dressing up pattern – perfect for Halloween!

Anibaloo is a fabuously versatile dressing up costume pattern for children aged 2-8.  It’s essentially a loose-fitting, lined, hooded waistcoat with ears and a tail, which give hours of pretend of make-believe time as your child’s preferred animal.

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Briabaloo sewing pattern variations: shirt dress, pinafore / jumper, peplum blouse

Briabaloo – a dress for all reasons

Briabaloo is my first published dress sewing pattern for children, and I’m thoroughly proud of it.  I’ve  carefully designed and drafted it with lots of thoughtful detailing for ease of sewing, practicality, comfort and playability.

It’s a short sleeved, collarless shirt dress pattern with patch pockets and ties, with two variations which make a sleeveless pinafore with inset pockets or a cap sleeved peplum blouse with a Peter Pan collar, or any combination of these elements, and it’s available from size 1-12.

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Upcycled Spiderman girls dress

Tutorial: Making a Superhero jersey dress from upcycled t-shirts

My youngest daughter has a preference for superheroes and monster trucks (Spiderman, Supergirl and Blaze and the Monster Machines specifically) but this doesn’t mean she doesn’t still like to wear dresses.  Like many families we’ve been frustrated by the lack of cool superhero girls clothes available in shops, but luckily for us, this is a sewing household, so we made our own from a boys t-shirt and a ladies t-shirt.  And I can show you how to make your own in this neat little tutorial.

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6 reasons I love to sew

6 Reasons I Love To Sew

Sewing, along with many other traditional crafts, is enjoying a resurgence of interest, but still I seem to be among the minority of my friends who sew.  And I really don’t understand why everybody doesn’t do it.  It’s so easy, so satisfying, and gives endless opportunities for ‘smug’, who doesn’t love the occasional ‘smug’ every now and again?

In case you’re reading this blog as a non-sewer, and in case there’s any chance of me persuading you to pick up a needle, here are the big reasons that I love, love, love to sew.

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5 Steps to troubleshoot your sewing machine jams and tension problems

Five steps to troubleshoot your sewing machine jams and tension problems

We’ve all been there – we’re merrily sewing away, marveling at our cleverness and efficiency,  when suddenly the sewing machine hiccoughs, growls and grinds to a stop, the needle juddering and jammed in the fabric, refusing to budge.  Underneath is a thick, complex knot of thread, reaching down into the throat plate and around the bobbin like a great tree root or something out of a James Herbert novel.

Jammed sewing machines are supremely frustrating, and are most likely to happen during a late night sewing session with a tomorrow-morning deadline.

Don’t worry, though – your machine is most probably not at fault.   A quick troubleshooting check of a few key areas on your machine will, in all likelihood, get you back into the sewing groove in no time.

So calm down, take a deep breath, wipe your sweaty palms, and pour yourself a brew. We can sort this out together.

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