Saturday 29 May 2021

Little things without patterns

When motivation for a big project is lacking, I quite enjoy making something up in an afternoon using scraps.

In that way, our guinea pigs have come to be the happy occupants of not one, but two woollen winter tents.

Here's the original with them kind of modelling in it...

I cut a 10"x10" square for the base then 4 triangles, each with 10" wide base and whatever side length (you do the math) resulted from cutting to the centre of the top of the square.

The main fabric is scraps of wool coating. That was then basted to stiff interfacing. The lining is some leftover sweater wool from this very cosy jumper.

On this first version I constructed both tents, outer and then inner and then attached them by hand sewing the bias binding around the door opening. I didn't secure the lining inside as it's good to be able to pull it out through the door to shake out all the poo (so much poo!) and when washing.

It's getting cold, and they definitely like their tent. It needs a wash once a week when we do the hutch clean out so I thought I'd make a second to be used while this one's drying...

I've just bought myself a new sewing machine (I think she needs an introductory blog post of her own, doesn't she?!) and it's a beauty.

So, in playing with some of the automatic embroidery stitches I added their names over the door..

This time I sewed the opening bias binding on the machine at the start and then constructed the outer tent to one side and the inner lining tent to another side before finally turning the whole thing inside out through an opening in the back of the lining tent.  The lining on this one was an old ready to wear wool sweater of mine which had a few holes in it, but I could cut around those.

They are so stupidly cute.

Equally cute is the big kid who started high school this year and needed a laptop case for his school computer. I was keen to make one but wasn't sure he'd let me... He finally realised he'd never be able to purchase a simple pouch that also had space for a mouse, charger and ear phones. It seems laptop cases are either minimalist shells or big bags. Mum to the rescue..

I started with just some measurements and what was  in the stash. Thankfully the "Glory Days of Motor Sport at Albert Park" was in the book stash and is exactly the same dimensions as the school laptop so I used that as my template.

The design was dictated by having a vintage zipper that was exactly the right length to go around three sides and make it open flat. The fabric was a remnant of a thick cotton moleskin, some wool batting and lining from Flipper's Tron shirt. (If you're in the mood for a flashback, here's some cute little baddies in their Tron pyjamas!)

I started with a welt pocket opening for the earbud pocket

Then added a flap with some reflective piping sewn in.

And then I made some maths mistakes so I stopped photographing the progress shots as that seemed too much like tempting fate.

For the main front pocket to store the mouse and charger I used the technique from the bellowed pocket of the Oliver + S Field Trip cargo pants

I thought I'd calculated the width of the pocket plus the extra for the height, but when I went to make the box corners I realised I'd only added the height once, rather than twice (each side).

So the pocket ended up slightly smaller and shallower than I'd intended. but it also ended up exactly the right size for its purpose. Go figure!

I trimmed some sections of the Vlisco lining fabric to use as highlights, then just ran a basting stitch to enable me to fold under the curved edges and applique stitched them onto the front. I was deligted with how cool it looks. I even remembered to tuck a little "You Can't Buy This" label under the applique on the main pocket.

Sewing metal zippers around corners isn't exactly fun, but it's not really that hard either. I'm glad I bothered as he loves how it lays flat and he doesn't have to get the laptop in and out through an opening. The one addition he's said that he'd like is little elastic corners (like photo corners) so the computer can keep wearing it's cover once opened. I think that confirms that he thinks it's pretty cool too.

I wonder if, in two years time, my scribblings in the sewing journal make any sense. I'd love to be able to get the maths wrong in exactly the same way and make one just like this for the littlest when she starts high school.


  1. What a fabulous custom made laptop bag, you are inspiring. Now those cute tents looks so cute, even cuter with their inhabitants. I have some old wool slippers that I am trying to work out how to make Katniss one.

    1. I don't think you'd get far with wool slippers. it's surprising how much fabric you need, even if you throw grainlines to the wind and cut however you can. A cat size teepee would need more than a pair of slippers.

  2. The guinea pig house is so gorgeous, I'd love to make one for a stuffed toy quoll I bought for my granddaughter, he can live in there between her visits. I'm not as clever as you constructing without a pattern, but maybe I can stretch my brain and have a go 😀

    1. Thanks Anita, now I feel bad for not taking photographs as I went. If you don't care about lining it and having every seam facing the right way then it's much easier. I'm sure the quoll will be delighted however it turns out. Just recently my phone reminded me of six years ago when my daughter got to bring home the kindergarten bilby toy for the weekend. We photographed it doing all sorts of fun things.

  3. That laptop case is next level...welt pockets and everything. I will need to make one in a few years - might take me that long to figure out how to make one as nice as yours!


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