Wednesday, 2 February 2011

How far can a straight line take me?

That's not an entirely rhetorical question. You may remember that over the winter, while the veg patch sleeps, I've been exploring the world of the haberdasher. My sewing skills are limited, I've never followed a pattern, never sewed in a zip or made a button hole. In fact my one and only skill is my ability to sew in a straight line. It's true I've dabbled in a three stitch zig zag on prone to fraying raw edges but, to be honest, it makes me anxious. So straight lines it is.

Sewing is supposed to be a thrifty activity but it doesn't take long to discover that the mainstream approach of purchasing fabric and patterns from the local haberdasher is more expensive than you might think, so I've been rather enjoying the challenge of finding alternative means of sourcing cheap materials.

Charity shops are an obvious first stop. My local Oxfam sells bundles of about 5 roughly fat quarter sized pieces for 99p as well as cards of buttons presumably snipped from clothes destined for the rag bag. Zips (which are beyond my capabilities) seem to be a perennial charity shop favourite too at 50p a pop. It's also worth keeping an eye on the Lidl website for their twice weekly specials which a few times a year throw up bargain sewing machines, boxes of thread and well stocked sewing boxes.

I'm also lucky enough to live relatively close to the heart of the silk weaving industry. (Sudbury, seeing as you ask, it was news to me too) I know of two silk mill factory shops, Vanners and Stephen Walters. I drove over to Sudbury just after Christmas, unfortunately Vanners was closed (Thank You chap on the phone who assured me they would be open on Tuesday but he actually meant Thursday. Still, they both begin with 'T', an easy mistake to make, what's a two hour futile round trip between friends? Tsk) but, happily, I unwittingly walked in on the first day of the Stephen Walters January Sale. I came away with about 6 meters of brightly coloured silk destined for tie making plus a couple of bumper patchwork bags of satisfyingly heavy, seriously good quality fabric for £19. If anyone knows of any other silk/fabric mills with factory shops, please let us know.

Oh, and I think we all know Ebay is our friend, especially for bulk buying ribbon, cord, buttons, trimmings etc. And another obvious one, there are lots of free patterns and tutorials out there on the net.

So, how far have I got with my bargain materials and a straight line?

I'm quite proud of myself actually. I mentioned in a previous post that I made 2 fleece backed patchwork quilts for the living room. I have also made a crazy patchwork table runner, a curtain to hide the toy shelves in the living room, Christmas stockings, a dog glove puppet, 2 drop bags and 2 drawstring bags for the children to keep their toys in and a series of 'pockets' to go along the side of Xanthe's new bed to keep her treasures in. Next on the list is a Nintendo DS pouch for Willow. Then we bring out the big guns - an actual pattern (eek) to make some soft toys and cushions for the kitchen chairs with (bated breath) zips! Does this mean I've come to the end of the straight line??

Update! Talk about timely, Lidl are stocking some sewing materials, yarns, needles etc on Monday 10th Feb.


  1. Well I think once you start following patterns then the straight lines will still be there...just with a few more turns.

    I have to admit that I am hopeless with a sewing machine...I can do buttons and buttonholes and zips but they are all done by hand...and I am a genius and taking things up but I guess you learn quick when you never reached 5 foot and your Mum refuses to take stuff up for you once you've left for patterns and stuff though...give me a pair of needles or a crochet hook over a piece of material any day.

    Would love to see some pics of what you've made.. :-)

  2. Oh, I wish I could knit! My Nan taught me how to knit plain squares but not how to follow a pattern so it got dull very quickly!

    I'm impressed re the zips. My sewing machine has a zipper foot (apparently) though I'm not even sure which bit of shiny metal in the spares bag it is ....