Domestic crafts and household linens

13 August 2018
August in The Simple Home

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” 
William Morris

There are few things better on a cold winter’s day or evening than settling down to do some craftwork or mending. As the cold weather swirls around the house, it’s cosy and warm inside with plenty of flannel, wool and fleece to keep you warm. Like all of our simple life activities and tasks, handiwork, mending and making go on all year but you need a time in the year to plan projects, organise your materials and learn new skills. This is it, welcome to domestic crafts and household linens month.





I am certain that many of you would be very skilled in various domestic crafts, some will have made a few things and some nothing at all. So for those of you who are experienced, I hope this will serve as a reminder of how important the skills you possess are. I encourage you to share your knowledge and abilities with your family and friends so that many more people are able to do this kind of work in their homes. If you’re less skilled, I hope you find inspiration and a few ideas here. There are many projects that will add to the beauty, productivity and comfort of your home that are within the scope of a beginner or someone with a few more skills. 

These little bunnies are the Maggie bunny created by Alicia at Posy Gets Cosy. I've made several of them for various babies.



Crafts, sewing, knitting and crochet are really wonderful ways of connecting with your community too. If you’ve never done any craft work before and you’re not sure where to start, have a look around the noticeboards in your neighbourhood and at the local library to see if there are any beginner classes. Join up if you find them. If you can't find any beginners workshops, look on YouTube because there are many fabulous tutorials for absolute beginners there. Working on individual or group work is a great way to socialise with your friends. Instead of just talking and drinking coffee, meeting with friends to work on projects, talk and drink coffee gives a warm feeling of productivity as it strengthens those friendly ties. 

From left: Sandi, Tricia, Jude and Jude's cousin Rhonda. We met for tea at my place but the main topic of conversation was sewing. It's a great way to learn tips and tricks from other people interested in sewing and craft.

Gathering
When you start collecting materials, look for good quality older clothing, fabric and wool so part of the benefit of making things for your home will be the recycling aspect of it. If you haven’t decluttered, or if you have but there are still a lot of clothes and old fabrics in your home, you may be able to use that excess to make some of the items you want to make. It will be easier for you to create all those wonderful future projects if you make a little stockpile of materials. If you have a sewing/craft room, store all your resources in there but if not, make do with a large plastic box that will hold what you’ve collected and keep it all away from the dust and moths.

 Organise yourself and your materials. 


With the resurgence of handicrafts, sewing and knitting, brought to our attention by blogs and the ability to see what is happening in homes around the world, has come the inspiration to hand-make a lot of what we have bought in the past 40 years. We are nesting again! Now there are women and men creating homes that feature homemade embroidery, leatherwork, wire and cane baskets, clothes, hats, soft furnishings and painted features that come from vivid and wild imaginations and not from an overseas crate. It’s a enriching creative renaissance and we can all be part of it.


If you’ve never had the opportunity to take up a needle and thread before or if you’re keen to use everything that comes into your home, craft work will give you a new focus and help you develop new skills while creating gifts and useful household items. 

Old ripped sheets are an excellent source of cleaning rags for your home.  Try to keep things going for as long as you can. It will save you money and cut down on what you send to land fill.

I've finished adding cushions to my sofa. The two on the far left were bought at a shop, the Australian coat of arms was a gift from Tricia and the rest of the cushions made here, including one knitted one.
A little runner I made up for a side board I have at the front door.

If you feel guilty about taking time out to do craft work, don’t. Enjoy the creative part of housework; celebrate it. Sewing kitchen curtains, cushion covers, aprons and mending clothes adds to your worth as a homemaker so don’t feel guilty for doing something you enjoy. Imagine all the gifts you can make, the unique touches you can add to your home, the tea cosies, jug covers, scarves, slip covers, baby clothes, wood worked bread boards and coasters, leather pouches, belts and bags you can make. Most of them aren’t for sale in shops the way you’d make them. Making these bits and pieces for your home can help you recycle various things that will get a second life and not end up with all the rotting rubbish as the local landfill.

Setting up a sewing kit
As you have a bit of spare money, buy a pair of good quality dressmaking scissors, a pair of snips for cutting thread as you sew, a pair of pinking shears, cotton thread (I use Gutermann) - first in white, beige and dark grey because those colours will cover most mending jobs when you’re starting out. When you’re more established and are well into craft work, buy embroidery threads (I use DMC) in the colours you like or those you need for a project you’re planning. As you build up your collection of embroidery threads, you’ll need thread organisers too. They are plastic boxes that will store the rewound threads on spools and as they’ve got compartments and lids, you can keep colours together and you’ll will keep your threads away from dust and moths.


You’ll also need: a few hand-sewing needles and embroidery needles, tape measure, straight pins, patchwork pins, seam ripper, embroidery hoops and a darning mushroom or egg if you’ll be mending. I bought my darning mushroom on ebay for $5. If you can buy a self-healing cutting mat and a rotary cutter you’ll be able to cut straight lines very easily. If you can’t afford those straight away, make do with a ruler, fabric marking pen or tailor’s chalk and scissors. There is no reason to buy everything at once if you don’t have the money. Just add pieces as you can afford them but always buy the best quality you can afford so it will last a long time.

Happy crafting everyone. 💈

34 comments

  1. Beautiful handicrafts Rhonda. I really enjoyed your photos. Sewing is not a skill I have mastered yet beyond mending and sewing simple things. I make bunting, bags, cushion covers, tablecloths/runners and pillowcases.
    I am tired of buying clothes that I only partly like because of quality or shape/ fabric and fabric pattern. There most often seems to be a compromise on these aspects.
    I have recently invested in two patterns that can be made up into simple tunic style dresses with or without sleeves. Then I purchased light indigo denim/ light blue chambray and a dusky rose linen/ cotton mix in the 20% sale from Fabric Online NZ. I have found a local dressmaker who will make these up at a reasonable cost with the advantage of having a fitting. The patterns have simple things like darts for shaping even on such simple designs. I have worked out through trial and error that is important for my shape and size 16/18.
    I am aware that I am talking about purchasing but this is my compromise to buying things that end up a disappointment and don't wear well. I have a limited lot of clothes so will get a lot of wear out of these items. I also intend to learn how to make up these simple patterns especially when I can examine the made up pieces closely. So I hope it is a wise investment.
    For the seamstresses out there the patterns I chose were 'The Willow Tank Dress by Grainline Studio and 'Calendar dress' by Frankie and Ray.
    These purchases come out of my clothing budget.
    Out of my personal spending budget I purchased some Liberty bias binding in a 20% off sale. I've never seen it before and will make a great finishing touch in the same colourways.
    Eventually I intend to sew my own dresses and tunic/tops because that's what I live in coupled with black leggings.
    I'm 54 and its taken this long to work it out!
    From Ingrid

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    1. That's a great comment Ingrid. I am a complete non-sewer, never having been taught as a child. I too struggle to find good quality clothing in sizing for the 'curvier'lady. Also I struggle to find clothing that is suitably modest for my age (late fifties). I don't want to wear low cut tops or dresses and skirts that are too short. I know what I would like to wear and I think that your idea is a great one. My problem is I don't understand anything about fabrics so am unsure what will make the best material for a dress, given that I live in hot Queensland and need to dress to combat the heat.

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    2. Susan cotton or linen are best in our climate.

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  2. I have grown to love stitching and sewing and knitting, Rhonda. I just make simple things but try to learn something new each time, a new stitch or pattern. I recently did a weekend course at a local community centre where we learnt how to make a pattern from an existing garment. I now have a pattern for my favourite skirt and it sews up well! Yesterday, I made a simple top and when I couldn't figure out the neck facing, I just did it my way and that worked too. I thought to myself just how much I have learned. The fabric for the top cost me a few $ as it was a remnant from an op-shop. I follow along with you-tube tutorials too when I get really stuck, they are really helpful. Meg 🤗

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  3. I love your cushions and that cute apron! At the library where I work, we've had a woman come in to give sewing lessons; they are making three projects. How popular it is! We are all surprised, but glad to find a need we can help out with.

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    1. I would have whizzed along to that, what a great idea! There is not much of that in the small town I live. I tried to talk the seamstress who will make my dress into giving me some lessons. She told me quite a few people have asked about this so there is a need. At the moment she is too busy with her own business sadly.
      She did tell me that the local college are selling all their sewing machines. I don't think they do lessons anymore which is a shame for those young people who want to learn.

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  4. Goodmorning Rhonda,
    I am off today for the Ekka show holiday, I’ll be spending some time in my very neglected sewing room, it has, yet again, become a dumping ground for all sorts of bibs and bobs. I have an almost finished quilt that I need to get done, it’s only a few years over due😩 thanks for the reminder to enjoy my time sewing and not feel guilty about it. Have a lovely day,
    Fi

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  5. Thank you for sharing some of your crafting. I have been building up my supplies over the past few years and have been doing various projects from knitting, English Paper Piecing, general sewing, making shopping bags and altering clothes. It is very satisfying. I spent part of yesterday sorting out my embroidery threads as they had got a bit muddled. I used one of those plastic boxes you mentioned and now they are all sorted into their colours. Happy crafting!

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  6. I homeschooled our daughter ( and son) and now she does things with craft ( and cooking) that i had not even thought of doing so therefore i find it inspiring to watch the next generation. I love old linens and do patchwork quilts, knitting, sewing, cross stitch ( am looking forward to doing more of that once i get my new glasses this week) and i would like to upskill in crochet. Great post Rhonda :-)

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  7. Hi Rhonda,

    I wanted to mention that for those people just beginning in sewing, or those who may be a little rusty, which was me a couple of years ago, search out your local area for a Boomerang Bags group. If you haven't heard of them, they are a volunteer group springing up in towns and cities all over Australia, and indeed the world. Their mission is to sew reuseable fabric bags from repurposed fabric, and have them available for people in their community to use if they forget to bring their own bag.

    I joined my local group in February 2017, and I absolutely love it. It has reignited a passion in me for sewing, that I didn't really know existed. I learn so much from other members in the group, and we always enjoy a chat and a laugh, while doing something good for the planet. I started out with the really basic sewing, straight sewing of handles, and now, I do the more intricate sewing (finishing the tops) you don't even need to sew, we have people cutting, pinning, ironing, piecing etc. It's a great way to launch into sewing if you are a bit unsure, and it has certainly built my confidence, to the point where a couple of weeks ago, I made a pattern from a 'green' Coles bag, and sewed my own fabric bag from old bed sheets! I couldn't have done that 18 months ago!

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    1. I'm very proud of you Cheryl. What a great way to be motivated and inspired back into the wonderful world of sewing. Thanks for telling us about this great group. I found their website for our other readers here. https://boomerangbags.org

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  8. What a beautiful post! I love seeing all of the projects that you have made. Those bunnies are so sweet. The shoes are adorable. I love the detail. What a sweet gift. I craft at home every day. Have just spent a lot of this lazy Sunday knitting a shawl on my front porch. Watching the birds and bees, and gazing at the vegetables and flowers that are growing like crazy relaxes me. It's so rewarding to wear and give as gifts the items that you make. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. I love the bunnies! Those are so sweet. I'm able to sew enough to get the job done- I've made several Halloween costumes for my son, a pair of shorts and a pair of pajama pants, some aprons (out of old button-up shirts), a skirt, and a superhero cape for my daughter. Now that I've got my basement mostly cleaned out, I'm hoping to be able to use my sewing machine more (the basement is where my machine is stored). I'm looking forward to being able to grow and develop my sewing skills!

    I also knit and crochet and find it relaxing. I've already completed 18 dishcloths this year and just finished a pair of mittens, which I'll give as a Christmas gift. I'm not sure what's on the list next, but I *do* have a list! I'll pull it out in the next few days and fire up my next project. :) Thank you for the reminder as to how useful these skills are. I oftentimes find myself doubting my worth as a homemaker, so it's nice to have these reminders!

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  10. Rhonda - Thank you for showing/reminding us that we are all capable of making something creative, no matter how small or how skilled we are. I love the way you had all the greens sorted together. I think I will sort my materials by color. Thanks for the idea!

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  11. Gods bless the seam ripper. Im a very slap dash crafter and constantly sew things the wrong way out or back the front. My craft area is a little sad atm because its just a table covered in junk, i really need to find a way to organise it all, i may need a whole room haha

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  12. Yay! Thats my favourite and most treasured apron. It always makes me think of you and how your hands crafted it together with care. Xx

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    1. I like that apron too. I really like sewing linen. ❤️

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  13. Ahhh, I think this is my favourite month in The Simple Home! It sure does make your heart happy creating with your own two hands. No matter how simple or complex the item. I love sewing and patchwork. As you mentioned it is very worthwhile to invest in good quality tools when you can, and it is wonderful to eventually build up a bit of a stockpile of materials. I feel excited by the opportunities to create that my stockpile gives me. Thanks for sharing some of your lovely creations and snapshots of your craft area with us. Happy crafting everyone! Kelly

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  14. Dear Rhonda,
    it is true that creating something with her hands is very satisfying, I really like creating things with recovery, saving a piece of cloth, wool ... and creating with my hands makes me happy and proud I just wish you a lot of beautiful stitching or knitting.
    Sincerely, Françoise

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  15. I was inspired by a blog you linked last year to make an ironing board caddy. I hadn't sewn anything for years but got into it and had a great time. It looks wonderful and is so useful - I was very proud of myself and realised how much I enjoyed it. Thanks for providing the inspiration once again to slow down and enjoy what I'm doing.

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  16. If only you could see how green with envy I am at you material stash and your lovely 'makes'.

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  17. I am not skilled enough to sew clothing (mostly because I find patterns confusing to understand) - but I do love to repurpose old things using the sewing machine. One thing I do a lot is buy old sheets at the thrift shop and then turn them into curtains or pillow cases. In fact, other than a couple of lace curtains, every curtain in my house is made from an old sheet and was practically free. I have also cut up old sheets to make napkins or handkerchiefs, and all my children have homemade pillowcases on their beds that came from sheets.

    Actually, my favourite thing to do with old sheets from the thrift store is simply to use them as a table cloth. They make lovely, large table cloths and I love it if I can find one with a cheerful vintage floral pattern from the 1960s (although those are getting a lot rarer!).

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  18. I am slowly learning to embroider and I love it. It is calming and a wonderful way to slow down at night. I can actually feel my brain and body begin to calm down when I pick up the hoop and needle.

    On a totally different note, I LOVE your shelves over your couch. I am showing them to my hubby tonight. I have a blank canvas over my sofa and these would be perfect.

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  19. Lovely photos of your fabric stash and crafts.
    I have recently been invited to join a monthly sewing group - I am not good at sewing but am learning and enjoying the new skills - its important to keep learning no matter your age isn't it. My mother was a really skilled seamstress and I think I didn't pay attention and learn from her because she made everything so I didn't need to - what a silly youngster I was.I wish I had those skills now. I can embroider and do cross stitch and very simple quilting and am looking to set up a craft room in a spare bedroom in the future.
    You set us all such a good example Rhonda and it makes good sense for us to repurpose and recycle fabric to make something useful instead of mindlessly buying new. Thank you.

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  20. Now that I am retired from the OR, my rag supply is dwindling down (I would bring home lap pads not used in a surgery, they would throw them out, sterile lint free cotton rags, horror). So, now I found taking old cotton shirts and layering ( 3-4 layers) sewn together make GREAT rags, and I can sew them to any size i want. This was actually my husbands idea for his workshop, I liked them so much they are now being made for the house.

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  21. I enjoyed looking at your fabric stash...so many colorful fun prints in there! I am slowly remodeling my entire house. Both my children grown and moved out (although not their stuff-therein lies the problem!) and I am creating new purposes for the rooms. I have been gathering up my scrapbooking supplies which are currently stashed all over the place and organizing them. The sewing supplies are next. All will go into the larger of the two spare bedrooms for a craft room. I am greatly looking forward to it!

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  22. I am so happy to help or teach when anyone needs a hand. It is a concern that so many people struggle to sew on a button or do a basic repair. While helping at the nursing home I have found the happiest oldies were the ones who can sit and stitch, crochet, knit etc. Such a feel good moment for me to visit someone and see some homemade goodies.

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  23. Thanks Rhonda for putting my feet "down to earth" once in a while...'cause I'm someone who needs a remainder of what it is all about in life and to get back to the basic...pay attention to budgetting, to mending and making/being creative!!

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  24. Just this week I bought some fabric on sale to sew some sundresses for my granddaughter. My Mum taught me the basics of sewing and then I just bumbled my way onto more complicated patterns and techniques.
    I love feeling self sufficient and being able to mend things myself. However I am not a Seamstress , just a home sewer 😊

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  25. What an encouraging blog post! You write in a way that lets everyone know they can do it. I'm so glad my daughter is teaching my granddaughters to sew. They are making Renaissance costumes and learning so much they probably don't realize it all.

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  26. While you are out learning to sew, please rescue an old sewing machine or two. I used to get so frustrated sewing. My husband convinced me it was time for me to get a treadle. I did. Then he found another and another.....I do still have two older electric sewing machines, but I prefer to sew using my treadles and my hand crank. There is something about having a piece of machinery that is well over a hundred years old. If they are rusted, you clean and oil them and they are good to go. It's a slower pace and makes working on a project relaxing.

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  27. For Susan,

    I started making Folkwear's Walking Skirt. I like the long version but there is a shorter version. I use their Edwardian Underthings for the petticoat pattern. I use cotton lawn fabric for the petticoat. It is very lightweight and cool in the summer. I usually use lightweight cotton or even linen for the skirts. I have one made from a rayon/wool blend for cooler weather. I got tired of not being able to find the clothes I wanted to wear in my size. These skirts have a flat gored front and gathering in the back, so they are flattering. Not a lot of pieces to put one together. I am old enough I don't really care what other people think. You might want to check out curvysewingcollective.com for more modern ideas

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  28. I smiled when I saw your bunny's boots. I make people-sized felted boots just like those from old wool sweaters and coats. Do you too? I wondered when I saw how carefully the bunny's were made.

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    1. Hi Kathy. Bunny boots are the limit of my boot talents but I love that you're making people boots from old wool. Lovely idea!

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