Tag Archives: Dotty Bobbin

Summer Craftiness at Dotty Bobbin

Only a couple of weeks ago I embarked on my first Summer Crafting Workshop for adults and children following the success of the Christmas and Easter one. It is such an enjoyable day, although the preparation and clear up is mammouth!  I love crafting almost as much as sewing, and the aim of these days is to get adults and children engaged in crafts they have never tried or had the time or equipment to experience. The day ran for two hours and there were about 12 activities to choose from. We consumed 24 homemade fairy cakes during this time! Honestly I have no idea why I have a problem with my weight (I ate two of them at least!).

Making fabric wreaths kept the lovely Rebecca entertained for at least an hour! I think the result looks fantastic.

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I can never tell which activities will be most popular, but this time, by far the best was the leather work. Children and adults used metal stamps to create names, telephone numbers, messages and pretty pictures on their real leather, before stamping holes and inserting a metal eyelet and chain.

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We had lots of new wooden laser cut birds, hearts and butterflies for decoupaging, the process of applying paper (in this case single ply of napkins and old Beano magazines) with PVA glue to the wood.

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I laid out a little taster for embossing, where we used a special ink with a variety of stamps followed by some glittery powder and a special heat gun to create an embossed finish on gift tags.

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Rock painting, a simple but effective idea, using rounded rocks, some I prepared with white paint to give it a lighter background, and then they painted them with acrylic paints. Some we made with googly eyes into monsters and some into decorative paper weights. A coat of PVA glue once the paint has dried gives it a nice glossy finish. These are most useful as weights for your sewing patterns when cutting to avoid using pins. For this the better your brushes the better the results.

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Tania and Milan are trying out the needle felting machine for the first time in these pictures, an easy and relatively safe introduction into needle felting, where we join fibres, wool and felt onto a felt background to create lovely pictures and works of art! You can even use bits of old woolen jumpers! Upcycling at it’s best.

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Another big hit was the wood burning tool! Kindly lent to me by my son Sam, you can see Rebecca and Sofia creating their personalised door hanger. Rebecca used a hot glue gun to attach the shells lovingly collected from Frinton Beach by Sam & Annelies, to tie in with her girls mermaid theme bedroom!

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Summer hamma bead class covers with straw hole! A nice idea stolen from Pinterest, these covers fit perfectly over the top of a glass. I used IKEA Hamma beads, which we proved worked much better than the real ones, they are easier to melt with an iron and the oven.

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Which leads me onto our melted Hamma bead bowls! I managed to ruin a couple of Denby bowls in the process as we discovered the Hamma beads stuck to the bowls whereas the IKEA beads didn’t. Lesson learn’t buy a cheap bowl from the charity shop! Firstly we laid a layer of beads on the base of a cake tin, using greaseproof paper. We cooked these in the oven on hot, for about 15 minutes. Then we let them cool off for a few minuntes, but before they hardened we placed them over the outside of a bowl, baked it again for a few minutes and then let it cool down before removing it from the bowl.

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We also had a couple of quick activities where we glued buttons and bows onto hair combs to great effect and glass nugget googly bugs, but I don’t have any photos of those I am afriad.

With the Christmas crafting event around the corner, on the 5th December, it is already booked out, and I am now busy planning some new activities! If you have any requests or ideas for me please use the comment box.

Please let me know if you have tried any of these activities and what your favourites are.

Finally a big thank you to Isabelle for taking a lot of these photos (the good ones!) and to Aileen for helping with the massive clear up and of course to everyone for coming.

Saskia x

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Creative Kids where should they go to School?

A different post from me today. Things are rather unsettled at the moment in our household. My eldest son is about to transition to secondary school, my daughter is unhappy in her current school. When we moved to Hemel Hempstead we did so in most part because we wanted to change schools as my son was unhappy. It worked out in our favour and my son was much happier at his current school. He has been very fortunate with his teachers during his time, however my daughter has not been so fortunate. She has had a myriad of different teachers, at one point even having 4 teachers during a week.

As the children get older, the gaps in the friendships seems to show, and my daughter feels very alone. She is super creative, follows her own fashion, doesn’t let anyone push her around and although I am very proud that she is like this, it has left her isolated at school.

At the back of my mind for the last 6 years has been the possibility of sending the kids to the Steiner School in Kings Langley. We seriously considered it for my son, before we moved house, but it was a choice of move house and find another government school or use the funds to educate our son in the Steiner School instead.

Now I am thinking, should my daughter be there? After all they have spaces in her class (currently they only have 18 in her class, compared to 32 at her current school), and it is only 10 minutes away. Whilst waiting for news of next years teachers, I am preparing for the worst or the best whichever way you look at it. I shall be visiting other government primary schools and the Steiner School this week so that we can make an informed choice when the time comes. A school that encourages creativity like none other, a hope that she would be amongst other like minded children and be happier. But at what cost? To re sit a year of school (as would be required by Steiner)? But she is already near the top of her class, so will she get bored? What if funds don’t continue and we have to go to a government secondary school? Will she be even more isolated then? What if my son isn’t happy at secondary school and wants to go there too? We can’t afford two children to go there. So many questions, no wonder my head is all fuzzy.

When you have children that enjoy the creative arts so much, would this help them? Would it help them find a career doing something that they love? Some people say I am running away from our problems, I disagree, I think I am facing them head on, and if there is a better solution out there, then don’t our kids deserve the best?

In my role in Dotty Bobbin, I have met people from all walks of life. I have also met lots of people that have traumatic memories of school. I don’t want this for my children. I want them to have fabulous memories. I want sewing to be a fun activity for them, not a means of escape from the stresses of mainstream schooling (although it is a fabulous escape!).

However lets hope that over the next few weeks we have great news, that my daughters new teacher will be an amazing one not (2,3 or even 4), she will make some more friends, and that we will be happy to leave her where she is and use the funds to redecorate the living room instead! Who knows what may be round the corner?



Dotty Bobbin Creations!

So the first week back at school following the Easter holidays is upon us, the sun is still shining, washing is hanging out to dry and I find myself for the first time in months with a spare 1/2 hour to write to you! I thought you might like to see what we have been up to!

We have had a really busy couple of months, firstly the new addition to the Dotty household is Buttons, our puppy. He loves playing with the threads and sitting on the foot pedal making the machines sew by themselves during my classes. His latest trick was to chew up some bespoke foam that I was making into window seat cushions for a commission!!!!


Then came my Easter crafting class. I run seasonal crafting classes and this was the second ever one, following a roaring Christmas success. We had a great time and everyone went home with some lovely Easter creations, from making egg candles, Easter wreaths, blowing eggs, hessian bunting, needle felting, washi tape projects, lino cutting and printing, making hairclips and so on……. Have a look for yourself at the photos below, these were taken by Isabelle Christina Photography (I am lucky she is a sewing client).

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Then things went a bit crazy for my daughter Annelies. She has had a lot of interest with her textile art that she has been creating on the sewing machine. So much so that an art gallery in Walton (Twizzle Gallery in Titshmarsh Marina), offered to display and sell her work. So the lovely Isabelle Christina took some lovely photos for her, and then I fired the photos off to the Hemel Gazette. Less than a week later she made it on the front page of the Hemel Gazette and a week after that she was also in the Frinton Gazette. One proud Mum! Here is the work she has been exhibiting:

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She now has a page on my website to showcase her work. She is interested in doing some pet commissions as well.

My son also has something in the pipeline, for another blog….he’s not quite ready yet. Watch this space!

Then onto what I have been making over the last couple of months. Firstly I guess was the world book day, where Annelies and myself made a costume for Pippi Longstocking and Sam pulled together a costume for Indiana Jones. Personally I loved making the bloomers for Pippi!

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Then I have been practising with anything stretch, stretch cottons, knits, lycra, stretch stitches, twin needles, elastic insertion etc. Here are some of the creations I have made:

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And non stretch I have also made myself a lovely blouse (not photographed yet) and a shirt and leggings for Annelies.


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The green fleece onesie is for Sam but turned out fitting me! But he still loves it! Mostly I stick with Oliver and S patterns for myself and the kids as I trust the patterns and they fit nicely on me. The figure skating costume was from a Jalie pattern. They do loads of patterns for gymnastic, speed skating, dance and even jock straps! I also tried out a two piece red velour stretch shorts and dance top for Annelies (I was testing the pattern for a client) but she’s a bit too exposed to print the photo! I have also made another Oliver and S pattern, this time a bag that doubles as a rucksack. It is interlined with canvas making it super strong. This is a surprise for her upcoming birthday, and I hope it will make a nice school bag.


II do need some more boy ideas though if you have any suitable for a tall 10 year old! He can’t live in onesies although he would disagree!

Have you been following me on facebook at DottyBobbin1 to see what all my students have been creating? What a fabulous bunch I have, tailored skirts, dresses, cushions, bags, trousers, bunting. You name it, they are making it! A recent highlight was a party I did for a group of 6/7 year olds, where they did some amazing open toe embroidery pictures and took them home in a frame. What do you think?


Please keep spreading the word, I have nearly reached 60,000 page views and 18,000 visitors, and I am getting new enquiries almost every day, so thank you for your continued support.

Saskia x







Automatic Buttonhole Hints and Tips

When I get clients who open up their new machines for the first time, I like to show them what all the attachments are for, and the buttonhole foot usually scares them! So I wanted to share the things I have learn’t along the way having used it many times.

If you have a digital machine like this one there will be various buttonhole functions. Generally you can have rounded buttonholes or square ones – this is purely down to taste, however there is always a buttonhole with a wider hole at one end. This one is for thicker fabrics, like coats.

Select your chosen buttonhole on your machine. Then make sure you have the foot the right way around. It should be like this picture with the button section at the back.

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Usually the white bit shown above is squashed together and you have to push the white bit that sticks out on the left in the picture. Then it should slide up, opening a gap in which you insert your button. Once the button is in, clamp it down so it holds it in place. My buttons were too big to clamp so I removed them once I had the correct size on the foot. The reason you put your button in there is so that the machine will sew the hole to the exact measurement.  On the older machines you have to measure it yourself and you run the risk of making the hole too small or too big. It’s very useful for this project (which is a waistcoat my son made for himself), as I have used lots of different buttons from my box, each being a slightly different size. Measuring them all would have been a nightmare!

So before you go any further you need to mark out on your garment where you want your buttonholes. If you are working from a pattern, then usually they will provide a guide for button placement. So I just used a ruler and some tailors chalk to mark where I wanted the buttons.

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What I have learn’t about this is try to avoid the seam where your fabric doubles up at the edge as the automatic buttonhole functions much prefer a flat seam and get all muddled up if you try to mount the edge halfway along a buttonhole. So I have marked mine just past the seam. Place the buttonhole foot on the machine just like any other foot attachment, but the bulk of the foot will sit at the back of the machine not the front or it won’t work. Then the part that most people forget is that there is a lever to the left of your machine, next to the needle threader if you have one. It is usually a black lever. If you pull this downwards it should sit behind the white ledge on the foot as shown. This lever tells the machine when to stop at the top of the buttonhole so it is really important or it will keep going!

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Position the foot over your chalk mark, making sure you are exactly the same distance from the edge on every buttonhole so they don’t look wonky. Make note that all the machines I have ever used (a fair few!) sew buttonholes from front to back. So we are all set up, buttonhole stitch selected, foot on, button in foot, foot positioned on garment away from the hem. Then all you have to do is to start sewing, the machine does all the work for you! I found with this garment which was lined in fleece that it worked better if I did it fleece side up. The reason for this is that fleece is stretchy and the teeth (feed dog) are at the bottom of the machine and they can stretch the fleece as you are sewing making the button hole far too small.

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Another tip, especially if you are using a thinner fabric, is to interface wherever you are sewing a buttonhole. This will add strength to the buttonhole and because it is stiffer when you are sewing the buttonhole, it will be neater and more accurate, and much easier to cut a neat line through at the end.

Once you are happy with your buttonhole, use your seam ripper (make sure you have a decent sharp one otherwise you can undo all your hard work!), to carefully cut through the hole in the middle. Voila! I hope this has helped you a little and encouraged you to try out that foot on your machine! Let me know how you get on!

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Batik Shorts Tutorial

Hi, here I am going to show you how easy it is to make a pair of shorts without a pattern. After all summer is just around the corner (it’s actually snowing outside!).

I chose a lovely batik fabric which used to be my grandfathers sarong when he lived in Indonesia and I chose some shorts that fit me nicely.

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I folded the shorts in half and folded the fabric in half as well, laying the folded shorts on the fabric, making sure that the pattern on the fabric is facing the right way. Then I drew around the folded shorts with chalk, adding about one inch seam allowance all the way around, otherwise your shorts will be too small. I then cut around my chalk markings and repeated this once more for the other leg of the shorts.

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Cut a waistband out, this needs to be about 15cm deep and the length needs to long enough to go all the way around the top of the shorts, plus a seam allowance. Then zig zag your fabric. The reason I zig zag is to make sure that the fabric doesn’t fray when it is washed.

Take the two pieces of one leg and lay the fabric good side to good side. Pin the two longest straight sides together and repeat with the other leg.

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Use a straight stitch to stitch the pinned sides together and repeat for the other leg. I used the edge of the fabric with the edge of the sewing machine foot as my guide. Remember to go forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end to secure your stitch.

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Press your seam open using the iron. This means that when you stitch it all together later, you don’t get big bulky bits.

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Turn one leg the right way out and put that inside the other leg which is the wrong way out. Pin the curved edges together matching the seams and sew using a straight stitch. Then turn the shorts the right way around, you should now have something that looks like a pair of shorts without a waistband.

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Get the waistband and put the two short ends together. Pin it and then sew it together using a straight stitch. Take the pins out and then open out the seam using the iron. Fold the waistband in half across the length like in the picture, press.

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Open out the waistband as shown and pin the top edge of the shorts, lining up your back seam. The back of the waistband (where the seam is), needs to be pinned to the back of the shorts. (Just decide which side is nicer to decide which side is the back). Stitch this seam using a straight stitch.

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Press a little seam at the top of the waistband as shown in the picture. Mine is about 1cm long. Fold the waist band over the seam  and then pin it, leaving an inch gap to insert the elastic. I have marked the gap with two pins either side so I don’t forget to stop sewing here.

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Stitch this seam nice and close to the edge where the open side is. This will prevent any flapping bits of fabric on the inside. Then insert the elastic, I used a safety pin to do this. Try them on before you cut the elastic to make sure they fit over your hips. Then tie the elastic with a strong knot and stitch the hole in the waist band together, following the same line of stitches as before.

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Using the iron fold a neat hem line. I folded it over twice so that it looks nice from the inside (it also means I can turn them up on the outside if I want to). Pin and then sew the hem line, keeping your stitching nice and close to the open edge.

Press and wear!

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Dotty Christmas Trees

Christmas is finally upon us. Seems I have been preparing for months and months. But I wanted to share with you some of our creations and hopefully inspire you to make a tree yourself.

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Firstly my fabric Christmas tree. This took 4 hours to make and about 8 metres of fabric. I used fabric I purchased in a charity shop for £1 a metre and mixed it with some other fabric that had been given to me. It took 2 whole double duvets to stuff plus more, but I am delighted with the results. The decorations hang beautifully with the upholstery pins and no damage is done to the tree. There isn’t anything on the tree that isn’t handmade, I have treasured collections from my 2 years I spent in Indonesia, there are decorations that I made with my sister and my mum when we lived in Norway and there are beautiful beaded decorations from our travels to South Africa, plus some lovely ones we have made ourselves with my own children.

The tinsel is handmade and you can see a tutorial on how to make that @ https://dottybobbin.co.uk/christmas-tree-fabric-tinsel-tutorial/

I also have a tutorial on how to make the tree in case you missed that @ https://dottybobbin.co.uk/fabric-life-size-christmas-tree-tutorial/

Can you imagine how delighted I was when I went on one of my monthly trips to IKEA (I get withdrawal if I don’t go), only to find a roll of fabric with life size printed photograph of a Christmas tree on it?  I don’t know how I missed them last year!

I have a digital embroidery machine, mine is a Brother Innovis V3, and I love it! I used this machine to create these embroidered decorations on my trees. The first one is for my Mum and is hanging by her patio doors. She has a double curtain track in her pelmet so its a perfect place to hang the tree. Every year I have promised to add a decoration to her tree. If you don’t have an embroidery machine you can make fabric or felt decorations and velcro them on. One of my sewing clients has made an advent tree using this fabric, with a new decoration to put up every day. Alternatively try applique using a satin stitch and you can add hearts, stars, snowflakes etc.

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Here are a few samples of the decorations. Do you like the Dotty Bobbin?

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Below you can see my finished Christmas tree, which has pride of place in my porch, hanging from a curtain pole at the top and it has a pole inserted at the base to add some weight. I lined it with a white sheet and I appliqued the star on the top on my regular sewing machine as I couldn’t do one big enough on my embroidery machine.


I have also been making some felt trees with the children at a crafting party, and look what they made. Why not try making some yourselves with your own kids?


Lastly I wanted to show you my own little Dotty Bobbin embroidered Christmas tree!  Guess what people are getting for Christmas this year?


Merry Christmas, I hope Santa brings you all a lovely sewing machine for Christmas!

Bambino Bobbin Tutorial on how to make a bat cushion for Halloween

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Hello today I would like to talk about how to make a Halloween bat cushion. Look on the computer for a template for the bat. There are lots to choose from on the internet.

Cut out two square pieces of fabric. I used purple velvet fabric for the squares and I used black felt for the bats. Position the bats on one of the squares, using pins. Next, with chalk draw a triangle on the bat like I have done in the picture above.

If it is a thin fabric that frays when you cut it then make sure you zig zag your edges before you begin to sew.

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Then sew on the chalk lines, using straight stitch, remember to go forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end.

My mum helped me put the zip in, but she has attached some pictures to show you. This is a fancy zip, called a lace zip, that shows on the top of the cushion at the back.

First I cut the back square in half  (the one without the bats on), and then marked with chalk where the zip started and finished. Using a zipper foot my mum attached the zip.


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After the zip I attached both square pieces together good side together with good side, and pinned all 4 sides together. Make sure you put the pins in like I have shown on the picture then the machine can sew over them instead of you having to take the pins out every time to reach one.

Using a straight stitch, going forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end (to make sure the stitches don’t fall apart), I sewed all four sides. I sewed the edge of the fabric with the edge of the foot as my guide to make sure I sewed a straight line.

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I hope you like it!  I got the idea from Pinterest, you can find all the links if you search for Dotty Bobbin on Pinterest. If you don’t have anyone to do the zip for you then you could make it as an envelope cushion. I have also done a tutorial on that!

I want to do a tutorial on inserting zips for kids soon, but this time I was being lazy and my Mum did it for me!

Christmas Tree Fabric Tinsel Tutorial


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I was given this idea a couple of years ago by a crafting friend, however I have tried it out many times and have discovered what works well and what doesn’t. So I am going to share my mistakes and successes with you.

I found that 25 meters of ribbon makes about 6 meters of ruffle, depending on how gathered you would like your ruffle. I used 1 inch wide ribbon, gingham, which I purchased on Ebay for about £12. It sounds expensive but 1.5 meters of quality tinsel is about £6! Make sure you don’t accidentally purchase ribbon with wire in it as that will prevent it from gathering.

You can cut strips of fabric and use an overlocker to finish the edges, or keep them frayed if you like that look. Hessian with unfinished edges looks nice. Ensure your fabric or ribbon has a pattern on both sides, or at least looks nice from both sides. The first one I made I didn’t do this and then you are forever having to arrange the ruffle round your tree with the right side up.

The first ruffle I made I used a long length of string, I held down the center of the ribbon and used a wide zig zag over the string making sure I didn’t catch the string with the needle. As I went along I held the string and pulled the fabric to gather it as I sewed. This is very quick and efficient way of gathering your ribbon. However what I found was that as you drape the ruffle round your tree or carry it around the house, the gathers move out of place with gravity. If you accidentally sew the string, it won’t gather at that point. I also found that if your string broke, then the whole ruffle would come undone!!!!!

Finally I tried a completely different approach which was a great success. The discovery of the gathering foot!  These only cost a couple of pounds on ebay or Amazon and are a must have for your sewing box. It can be done without the gathering foot but the gathers are not as tight if you do it that way.

So place your gathering foot on your machine, or use a regular sewing foot. Increase the tension dial to 9, set the machine to a straight running stitch, place your ribbon under the foot and stitch in the center and it will gather as you sew. The stitches will hold the gather in place as you sew. It does take about 5-10cm of ribbon before it starts to gather really well, so be patient. Ensure you don’t try to pull the ribbon as the machine is doing the gathering. Once you have reached the end of your ribbon, secure your stitch by going forward and backwards or using a lockstitch. You can even out any bits you are not happy with using your fingers, as you would if you were gathering a skirt for example. I decided to go over mine again once it was finished with a regular tension and a regular foot just to make it stronger and more durable. If you would prefer a smaller gather, then reduce the tension from 9 to 7 and experiment until you have your desired effect.

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Let me know how you get on.

Dotty Bobbin x

Crafty Halloween

I have been working on my first ever homemade Halloween decorations this year, Christmas usually gets in the way!

Anyway I thought it would be nice to share with you my creations and hopefully I can inspire you to do the same.    I have tried to keep them friendly, as I don’t really want lots of blood, guts and gore in my living room. So I settled on bugs and bats!

My first point of call was Pinterest. If you go onto my Pinterest page (for which there is a link at the bottom of my web home page), you will find all the original links where I adapted some ideas I found on there. The first project was actually completed by my daughter Annelies, she will shortly be publishing a tutorial on how to make it, but the finished result is this gorgeous bat cushion. She used purple velvet and black felt for the bats. It turned out really well and was really easy to make.

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Next on the list was a quilted wall hanging. This is a piece of fabric I bought a couple of years ago and never used. So I put wadding inside, quilted around some of the designs with an open toe embroidery foot and added a couple of spiders on my digital embroidery machine. It has pride of place above my fire place.

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Next was a labour of love, again the idea was found on Pinterest however I made it much larger and grander! This fits my dining table and it is a fabric with a purple sheen to it that I had in my fabric stash! It is a stiff fabric like they use on ball gowns. I drew a freehand spider web with chalk, I didn’t want it to be totally symmetrical. Then I set my machine to a zig zag stitch, and reduced the length to 0.4 and off I went. I did the first couple with wide zig zags and gradually reduced the stitch width as I came towards the middle of the web. Then after I had finished I randomly did a running stitch around to give it a more authentic spider web feel! Now for a spider! I have the luxury of a digital embroidery machine, so I stitched a spider in the middle and an unfortunate moth on the side. After trimming off the edges it was done. It can even be washed in the machine.

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Then for some mandatory Halloween bunting!  Made with a polyester satin fabric, I embroidered some bugs, this one is my favourite! I stitched in some tassels I had in my supplies and overlapped the bunting and it is now hanging in front of my fireplace.

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Next on the list was to decorate my candelabra which I put up occasionally when we have a nice dinner or something. I used the same bat template as my daughter used for her cushion and threaded ribbon through the bats, attaching some Halloween charms (readily available on Etsy), and then simply tied them on.

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Well that is Halloween complete, I had fun making it all and I am sure they will come out year after year, along with the pumpkins. Let me know what you think.

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Dotty Bobbin x

Dotty Bobbin Beach Photo Shoot

The idea of going to the beach to do a photo shoot for Dotty Bobbin was born a few months ago. I am lucky enough that my parents live just a few minutes from Frinton Beach. We came to stay for a week’s holiday whilst they lived on their boat to let us have the house.

The morning after we arrived I woke up early and took a picture of the sea from the house.  The weather looked a bit unpredictable so I quickly texted my sewing ladies, and told them the best day to do the shoot. Luckily Aileen, Sharon and her twins were able to make it. These are the results.

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I was on the beach before 9am, and the tide was out and so was the sun, gorgeous isn’t it? We had the beach to ourselves to set up, although we got a few looks from the dog walkers. We just about managed to transport all the stuff from the car, and the Gazebo went up in less than 10 minutes. The Gazebo has been a labour of love of mine, an idea I had a while back that I just had to make! I was donated some lovely blue flowery curtains, I also cut up some of my own green gingham curtains (much to my husbands dismay when he got home and the window was bare!), that with some leftover Jane Churchill fabric and a bit of IKEA and Clarke and Clarke fabric, 20 metres of fabric and a few months later the Gazebo was finished. I have lined it all as well so that it looks nice from the inside too but if you want to make one, I would suggest using a woven fabric that looks good on both sides as it is quite heavy and the frame is meant for lighter fabrics.

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Sharon, who comes to my Wednesday morning sewing classes, put up her lovely bunting that she has made. I took some pictures of my deck chairs and a little wind breaker that I made, which I lined with contrasting fabrics. Next time I might add some pockets on for stuff to stay sand free, or possibly a glass holder for the wine! Sharon is sitting in her own directors chairs that she recovered in class, using some gorgeous fabric she purchased on one of our trips to a secret fabric hoard!

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Aileen, fondly referred to as the bag lady, also from my Wednesday morning class, brought along a selection of her latest bag creations which they all modelled. This a a really successful and easy pattern that is great for swimming or sports kits. After all the setting up Sharon, Aileen and myself take a well deserved break!

Annelies, after a cold dip in the sea sports her towelling robe, which was made from a thin Primark towel and edged with some of my grandmothers cotton lace from an old tablecloth! It got a lot of use that week, and only took about one hour to make.

Next up, the twins, they made these fairy wings themselves in a class with me, from some sheer pattered fabric with simple elastic straps for their shoulders and cuffs with elastic inserted down the centre to gather the fabric. It is a very effective, quick and easy way to make fairy wings and they are washable, no wires! I think you will agree they look very fluttery!

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Now, although 11am was a little early for wine, we decided we deserved it and the girls dressed up in their aprons made from pillowcases to serve homemade cake and biscuits (and wine..). Sharon made a table from the cool box and the body boards, decorated with a tablecloth she made from some old curtains. Annelies is modelling her hoody which I embroidered with her Bambino Bobbin logo.

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We couldn’t resist this shot with the stripey beach hut! Of course Dotty Bobbin had to be etched into the sand as well before we settled down to relax whilst the kids just enjoyed the beach and our picnic.

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Once the tide was up we went back to the house and then came back down in the late afternoon, early evening for another swim in the sea!

Thank you ladies for joining me at the beach and for being a part of my sewing classes. It is lovely to make new friendships and share skills.  Hopefully this blog will show people how much fun we have at sewing, and what lovely useful things we can make, if you know how. Thank you to my parents (who entertained my son whilst we did the photo shoot), and also to my husband who secretly enjoys it all!

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Now for Christmas planning……………………………………………

Pillow Case Aprons Tutorial

Welcome to another Dotty Bobbin Tutorial. Here I would like to show you how to convert those unwanted pillow cases into gorgeous little aprons. If you are anything like me I am constantly in the charity shop picking up things such as mismatched pillow cases, in this case the fabric is a lovely brushed cotton. It came with a bed sheet that I have already made into a winter nightie for my daughter. The lace is from a vintage stained tablecloth that was no longer required so I saved the lace. The blue cotton ties are from Primark packaging! The pink cotton lace was saved by my grandmother from a tablecloth that she no longer wanted. True upcycling!

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First cut the pillow case, I took off the section with the envelope on it, otherwise you will have too much fabric bulk on your apron. Then you need to secure the open end and prevent any fraying by serging/overlocking or zig zagging the raw edge.

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Next, I have attached the cotton lace, I have firstly pinned this in place and then used a zig zag stitch to attach it. If  I used a running stitch then I would have the lace flapping around a bit, hence I chose the zig zag, however if you were using a narrow ribbon or lace a running stitch would probably be best.

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Next how to gather, if you are using a single layer of fabric then you can use a gathering foot on your machine, but they don’t work as well with multiple layers, so here is the old fashioned way. You need to set your machine to it’s longest running stitch. DO NOT go forwards and backwards at the beginning and end of your stitches as you need to pull the threads and that will stop you doing so.

Sew two parallel rows of running stitch along the top edge of your apron. If you want a ruffle at the top of the apron, then sew your rows a couple of inches further down the apron. Tie a knot in one end of the rows (make sure you tie a knot in the same end for both rows). Then from the other end very gently pull the threads, you will need to pull only the top or only the bottom threads for this to work. Using your other hand gently gather the fabric as you pull, evening out your gathers until you reach the desired look. If you snap your thread you will need to start again, so be gentle!

Now carefully stitch a normal length running stitch in the middle of the two rows you sewed before, stitching over the gathering (going forwards and backwards at the beginning and the end). This will secure the gathering in place. Now you can remove your gathering stitches if you wish with an unpicker. I didn’t bother as I was covering it with the lace afterwards anyway.

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Next pin your lace or whatever you are using as a tie onto the top and secure in place using a running stitch. I have first attached the blue ribbon then I have attached the lace. Below I have made a second one, slightly different with some pink cotton lace instead. Here my friends twins are modelling them, whilst serving us adults some wine on the beach. Could life get any better?

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Creative Business Start Up Marketing – what works for me, Dotty Bobbin



Hello all, these last few weeks I have been spending time on my business marketing and am now the proud owner of some branded mugs and even my car is branded. I would like to share with you what is working and what isn’t.

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I found an A frame chalkboard in a skip (yes I am a skip raider ), painted some more blackboard paint on it, purchased some waterproof chalk pens and voila I had a chalkboard outside my house 24 hours a day.

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My husband thought I would never get any business from it, but actually I have had one drop in customer who drove by, saw the sign, pulled up the car, checked my website on her phone and then called me to purchase 6 of my lunchplates. How lovely. Then I have had at least 3 enquiries about my classes (it hasn’t been up that long), with one lady Donna, even just ringing my doorbell and introducing herself from up the road, and starting the week after. So roadside marketing does work. However it does have it’s downside, as they might catch you in your dressing gown! I will let you know if I get any interest from the car branding. The mug was just indulgent of me really, but the photo of the mug nicely sums up my classes I think!

I also had two unexpected radio mentions this week, from Heart Watford and Hemel, and Dacorum Radio, these were by one client just telling Heart on facebook what she was up to that morning (which happened to be coming to my sewing class), and the other is, by chance one of my new sewing ladies presents on Dacorum Radio on a Wednesday morning during my class, so we chose a favourite song and sent in a request from the sewing ladies!

All of this marketing is either free or very cheap (the car magnets cost £14 for two). This means I can keep the costs of my classes down, as I want them to be available to everyone.

I am the proud owner of a magnificent digital embroidery machine, so of course I have been doing my own logo on my own clothing and much to my daughter’s delight I have also made her her very own Bambino Bobbin fleece. Probably unnecessary but fun marketing and free.

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What I have found very useful is that my fabulous web designers Stuart and Deborah from SVS Web Design put statistical analysis on the back end of my website for me, so I can see what works and what doesn’t. Suddenly all the marketing analysis that I absolutely despised doing when I worked in the corporate world, is actually fun and would you believe it USEFUL! I can see what the impact of a mention on the radio has to my website hits for example, I can see how many people read the blogs and which pages they visit on my website. I can even see what countries they are from and what search tools they are using (more useful to the web designer this one!).

I have also given some business cards to the local haberdashery store Needlecraft, and have a regular client and her daughter who came from their referral.

By far the most useful marketing tool has been a business facebook account and word of mouth. By publishing lots of pictures of what my fabulous students have been up to, has inspired many others to start sewing classes with me.

I must not forget my website of course. It has proved invaluable, not just in generating business on its own but also by showing potential clients that are interested that I am a viable business, and by giving me a platform to launch new products, new courses, testimonials and so forth. Having a bespoke website built means I am in control of it as well, and I can make changes and tweak the site as I grow, instead of having to fit my business into a standard model built by someone else.

I am compiling a little advert for the local primary school fair brochure, cost £12, mostly to support the school and hopefully it will generate some interest (although most people at the school know what I do already as I run the sewing club there!). I will let you know if it works!

Twitter……three months ago it was alien to me, now I already have 145 followers and growing every day. The best way I can describe it to those who don’t use it for their business is like business networking meetings but online, in your own time. People support other people, show interest in other businesses and they will show interest in yours, and you discover a massive GLOBAL community of people doing what you love to do, you can ask advice, share ideas, showcase what you have done, the list is endless. There are loads and loads of twitter groups where you can showcase your services or products and have a look at everyone else’s. I use two groups mostly , #indiehour on a Tuesday evening and #handmadehour on a Wednesday evening (where I try to do a live twitter feed during my evening class). The downside is that some of the things others are making are too irresistible and I end up spending money!

Pinterest, an endless source of ideas for my sewing classes mostly but increasingly a marketing tool as well. I can post our creations there and I now have a business account (free), allowing me to put ‘pin it’ markers all over my website so other people can share my web content on Pinterest. I also use Pinterest as a support tool for my students at home, where I post things that might interest them, things they can make at home without my help and help them with ideas and inspirations of things to make.

My next task is to complete my outlook contacts page, so I can easily email people. I am trying to keep a list of details of people who have enquired or expressed an interest but not actually booked.

If you have any thing else that worked for your creative business start up please share with us in your comments. Thank you 

Saskia x