Monday, October 21, 2013

handy dandy notebooks

Remember the stamping I did with carved pencil erasers and an ink pad? I used those stamped cards as covers for little notebooks.
(The other two patterns you can see here were done with little potatoes and an ink pad)

Usually when I have proper moleskine-style notebooks, I get overwhelmed by the permanence of them - I feel like I should fill them with profound thoughts and beautiful sketches, and so don't end up using them at all! I made this batch of notebooks with the intention that they would be ephemeral - I used normal old printer paper, and my stamped cards for covers and I decided they would be used for mundane things - shopping lists, little reminders, that sort of thing. And if I happen to jot down a profound thought, well then that's an added bonus! I will not hold on to them forever, I will enjoy their covers for the time it takes to use them, but then off they go.

They are A6 size with 16 pages.
I followed this tutorial for making notebooks and the same lady's tutorial for doing the saddle stitching.

I didn't have waxed thread so I used 4 strands of sewing thread and holding them as one, ran them across a block of beeswax before stitching. I used my new flower press (without the cardboard layers) to flatten them overnight before trimming the edges the next day.

Ready and waiting for boring old to-do lists!

burnish your brogues!

I recently bought these lovely oxford brogues from Clarks. They are super comfy and I will be wearing them a lot this winter (and I know I'm not the only one!) But...

...have a look at the holes, see how the pale raw edges makes the shoe look a little... undercooked? I decided to remedy that by burnishing my brogues!

This is a technique I have used on other pairs of brogues and it is designed to deepen the colour of the punched pattern, and in this case to darken the stitching too.  Here's how.....

Grab an old toothbrush and some shoe polish that is darker than you would use if you were just going to give your shoes a polish. You might want to test it out in an inconspicuous spot first to make sure you're happy with the result before doing the whole shoe! 

With polish on the tip of the toothbrush bristles, use small circular motions to work the colour into all the holes - you're trying to dye the edges of these holes, so get those bristles in there! 

You want to darken the holes as well as the stitching, but not the rest of the shoe, so be quick about wiping off any stray bits of polish. 

Now, you can either let the polish sit for a little while before polishing it off (in which case the leather between the holes will deepen in colour too, which can give an interesting effect) or you can polish it off the surface straight away. Make sure there aren't any clumps of polish stuck in the holes.

Make sure you dye the raw edge as of the toecap, vamp etc as well as the edges of the holes. Here you can see the difference it's made already.

Raw edges left, burnished edges right.

A couple of days later I went over it again, this time leaving the polish on a little longer. So there you go - a way to get a richer, deeper colour into you brogues and to get them looking more finished (and dare I say looking more expensive?) 

Now that my brogues are sorted, bring on winter!

Monday, October 14, 2013

signs of autumn (past)

I bought this flower press at a local charity shop recently. It reminded me of the one I had when I was a kid.

When I opened it up I discovered that the previous owner had carefully preserved some favourite colourful autumn leaves. I have no idea how long these leaves have been slumbering between the layers of the press.

I like to think that these leaves are time travellers. They escaped their fate of turning into mulch the year they turned these colours, and have managed to be transported between layers of paper, cardboard and wood (cue sci-fi voice) TO THE YEAR 2013!

I left them on the balcony so that the wind could scatter them - to mingle with this year's crop of fallen leaves and tell them what autumn was like back in the good old days.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

stamp stamp stamp!

I have been experimenting with stamps.

I started off with some simple potato printing, but the results were too crude and clumpy for my liking, so I went for something much smaller that would allow me to do more intricate designs...

I carved into pencil erasers and using a normal old ink pad started playing...

I allowed myself not to think too much about where each mark was going. The repetitive nature of the exercise is quite calming and therapeutic. I'd recommend it!

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I made a squishy owl for my friend's baby's first birthday.

 (and yes I am aware that this is a potentially frightening gift to give a small child!)

This is a pattern I developed a few years ago and is a good way of utilising small amounts of interesting fabric. This fabric was part of a stash of fat quarters of lovely Japanese fabric given to me by my mum.

In case you are concerned - I stitched the buttons on very securely and let my friend know that if she was worried about them getting chewed on/choked on, I'd happily re-do the eyes without the buttons.

I wondered whether I should add wings and feet but I quite like the minimal nature of this little fellow.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

zig zag zebra

Here's another of my last-of-the-summer sewing projects - a Wiksten tank.

After experimenting with my wispy dress version of this pattern, I wanted to have a go at the tank version as I know I'll get a lot more wear out of the shorter style.

I found this navy blue and white fabric on the fabric remnants stall in the Lewisham Market for £2/m. When I first saw it I thought "I'm not sure if I like this crazy Zig Zag Zebra pattern... but I think I kinda like it!" 

I cut the tank pattern as is and used pre-made bias tape to make life even easier. It was satisfyingly quick to put together. 

It's such an easy relaxed top to wear and I have already worn it a lot. I have discovered that the fabric has impressive creasing abilities but I'm pretending that the crumpliness is not shabby, it's sculptural - like a 3D interpretation of the crazy pattern. This way I can further justify my non-iron stance towards my clothing. Phew!

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Mawwage is what bwings us togevah today...

After an excellent hen do, what better way to commemorate the wedding of some dear friends than to recreate the legendary wedding speech from The Princess Bride in embroidered goodness? Especially given that a reading from The Princess Bride novel featured in their wedding ceremony!

I used the same process as my previous celebratory stitchery, again presenting it mounted in a 4" hoop.

I had originally planned to include some Buttercups and a Dread Pirate Roberts mask in the decorative border, but after much experimenting and practising I couldn't get them looking right and so I decorated it with a spray of little stars instead.

In case you'd like to put on a production of The Princess Bride in your own living room, you can find the script here. Inconceivable!

(Why you keep using that word? I do not think it means what you think it means.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

wispy wiksten

This wiksten tank dress was one of my coping strategies for last month's HEAT WAVE. 

I found this birds-on-floral-boughs fabric on the remnants stall at Lewisham market (£2/m woo!) It's a lovely pale green, sheer and drapey. It's the kind of fabric I like to wear, but I've never sewn with it before.
I had originally planned to make the tank version of the pattern. I didn't really consider myself to be a tunic-y sort of a person and even while making it I wasn't too sure about whether I would like the result, but I figured this make would be a good opportunity to practise working with a sheer fabric as well as doing French seams. I thought I'd make the dress version and if I didn't like it I'd chop the bottom off to make it a tank.

I hand basted the neckline and arm holes so they wouldn't stretch out (I'm not sure how effective this was though) and I used pre made bias tape as the fabric was so quick to fray that I didn't think it would survive.
I was quite pleased with my French seams and check out my Rorschach-style pattern matching! Oh yeah!

I found the fabric to be a bit tricky to work with. It didn't like being ironed and was really stretchy on the bias. This meant that I didn't get a great finish with the bias tape where the fabric bunched up a bit (the section pictured above was pretty much the only decent part!) I did get a big pucker right in the centre of the neckline which I unpicked and re-stitched, and I'm hoping the rest can be overlooked by donning a distractingly large necklace!

I was a bit surprised to like the tunic length and I have left it as is. Teamed with a strappy vest and leggings/jersey pencil skirt, I wore it often during last months hot weather and was very happy to have something cool and floaty to swan about in!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

clutch me quick!

Last weekend I was at a friend's Hen Do. There was a floral theme and while I managed to find a lovely hydrangea print dress and had some appropriate shoes, I didn't have a small evening bag to finish off the ensemble. So I had a rummage around my leather stash to whip up a quick fold-over clutch.

I had this lovely soft magenta leather in my stash although there was not very much of it. I knew my fold over clutch would only be two pieces, so I measured out the largest size I would be able to squeeze out of the leather and used those dimensions as the starting point for the pattern. I played around with a paper mockup until I had arrived at a size and shape I liked (I even stood in front of the mirror with the paper pattern to see if the proportions were right) and drew a scalloped edge at an angle. I thought the scalloping would add a bit of interest and echo the petals of the hydrangea print.

I wanted this bag to be super quick to put together so I decided to leave it unlined - a front and back piece in leather and a zip, that's it! Although I did want to have a finished look to it so rather than cutting a rectangular slot for the zip leaving raw edges, I decided to fold the edges back. In the photo above you can see I have cut along the centre of the zip slot with V-shaped cuts at the ends.

To ensure a smooth line I hand skived the edges of the leather. Skiving is the process of cutting away some of the bulk of the underside of the edge, tapering it down to nothing making it easier to fold back and giving the folded edge a smooth finish. I glued it with neoprene, folded the edges back using my pattern as a template and hammered down the folded edge. I then centered the zip in the slot, held it there with some double sided tape and stitched it in.

With the zip in place, I dusted a little bit of talcum powder onto the visible bits of glue so that they wouldn't stick to the sewing machine (although really I should have been a bit more careful with the glue in the first place - more haste, less speed!), and placed my leather pieces right sides together, making sure the zip was open. You can't pin leather the way you would with fabric as the holes will be remain visible. I like to use these mini pegs I found in a craft supplies shop - they hold the leather in place without being too bulky.

I stitched around the edge with a 2-3mm seam allowance, clipped the corners, snipped the curves of the scallops and turned it right side out through the zip. I then spent a while poking the corners out and shaping the scallops. I find that rolling the seam between my fingers helps to loosen it up. Once I was happy with shape of the bag, I gave it a quick press with the iron using a thick press cloth. I then made any final adjustments to how the seams were sitting while it was still warm. If you're going to iron leather, always use a thick press cloth and test it out on some scrap leather first. Some leathers reeeeaaaally don't like heat or steam and you don't want to get to the end of a project before ruining it!

I then added a little zip pull tassel and we're ready for Hen Do cocktails!

A last minute fold-over clutch in magenta leather.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wedding shoes for Tron and Tebbs

It's wedding season! This time two years ago my friends "Tron and Tebbs" got married and for their special day I got to make them some special shoes!

     Beautiful photo thanks to Peartree Pictures

Linatron (not-her-real-name) wore a beautiful floor length white wedding dress and her brief for the shoes was "art deco with a touch of robot". We met up for a drink after work and came up with the design above - clean pearlised white leather court shoes with art deco style sun ray motif in silver and pewter leather. The two tones of metallic leather play with the light differently and add a flash of interest peeking out from under the dress.

The motif is repeated up the back of the shoes and down the back of the heels.

I used blue leather for the sock (the bit of lining that covers the insole) to match the lining of Tebbs' wedding shoe request...

    Dancing photo thanks to Peartree Pictures blue leather and blue suede two tone oxford brogues!

The pale blue suede is visible through the brogue holes of the toe cap and foxing, navy blue leather visible through the holes of the vamp. Pale blue lining leather (as used for Tron's sock) and silver leather sock to match Tron's toe detail.

Mr & Mrs Tebbsatron.
...with Tron's shoes radiating more light than my camera can handle!

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Me Made May '13 Roundup

So Me Made May is over for another year and I am so pleased I participated! Having watched from the sidelines for ages, I decided to jump into MMMay for the first time last year. My goal was to wear at least one item of me-made clothing/accessories/footwear every day for the duration of May. And I succeeded! I smashed my goal!

This year it didn't feel right to do the same thing, mainly because it would be the exact same thing. My life in the past year has been about growing a baby and then looking after that baby and I've not spent very much time making clothing, accessories or shoes for myself, so to repeat the challenge really would mean repeating all of last year's outfits (some of which no longer fit).

And it's because of my dwindling creative output at home that I decided that this year I would use Me Made May to kickstart my making mojo and to see if I could get back in the habit of making. My MMMay'13 pledge was:

I, Emily Botterman of The Botterman Empire, sign up as a participant of Me Made May '13. I endeavour to make at least one item of clothing/accessories for myself and/or the Little One each week for the duration of May. 

And did I succeed? Here's a recap of the month's makes...

completed: May 4th

beard bib for the little one
completed: May 4th
(a productive day!)

completed: May 9th

completed: May 17th

completed: May 25th

completed: May 28th

Success! Hooray! Six items completed during May! But wait, there's more... Here's a 'before' shot of a dress I've been refashioning this month too...

...I don't have an 'after' shot yet because after replacing the waist elastic and taking a few inches off the bottom, I've realised the bodice is still too big and I'm figuring out how to solve that. So an uncompleted item too. Although I did also re-hem some trousers. Does that count?!

I must say I'm pretty pleased with my output this month. My projects are varied and I think I struck a good balance between things that can be whipped up fairly quickly and things like the Miette and the handbag which required a bit more work. I've got some new pieces which I have incorporated into my wardrobe and my baby girl has a long beard bib. Everyone's a winner! Best of all, I feel like I'm back in the habit of making. I noticed at one point while making the Miette that I fell asleep thinking about the next step of construction. And once I finished a project I was already thinking about the next one!

Big big big thank you to Zoe for dreaming up this challenge and for championing it with such passion, and bravo to all my fellow MMMay-ers! You've done an amazing job!