Japanese sewing and origami

Today we head off on a family holiday to Japan, so I thought this would be a good time to showcase the 'Japanese' crafting I've done over the years - from Japanese style bags, to fabric and paper origami and some Japanese fabric too! Hope you like them!

This is still one of my most popular tutorials. These bags are fairly easy to make and super cute.  

I also made a few of them from upcycled old nighties:

And I also tried out a giant version of this bag.

Some Fabric Origami Boxes, square and triangular.

A Handibag made with Japanese Fabric. (made using this tutorial)

Paper Origami Flowers I made for a friend's daughter.

And finally what I recently learned about Origami and 

I hope you enjoyed these Japanese themed features!

If you're interested in seeing some pictures from our trip - I shall be posting some on Instagram and my Facebook page - so please do take a look!

Chocolate Orange Pots

I make this super simple and very tasty chocolate pots whenever I have left over cream. All you need with the cream is chocolate, honey and orange juice. They make the perfect little snack or dessert.

Here's how to make them.

You will need
400 g plain chocolate
4 tblsp clear honey
3 tblsp fresh orange juice
500 ml whipping cream

Break the chocolate up into a heatproof bowl and pour over the honey and orange juice. Microwave in short bursts of about 20 seconds, stirring well in between to completely melt the chocolate and combine the mixture.

Let the chocolate mixture cool slightly while you whip the cream.

Carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the cream.

Then spoon into pots or bowls and refrigerate until you're ready for a yummy sweet snack!

If you liked this recipe, you can find more here.

I'd love if you followed me on Instagram or Facebook where I share pictures of things I bake, cook, and create.

How Creative Problem Solving can Save The World, One Bag at a Time

The problem

Plastic Bags are unnecessary and are destroying our environment.
We've all seen images like this. This particular photo was taken on a family holiday travelling through Asia in 2015, at a small village in Cambodia. So much waste littering the ground - and so much of that waste is plastic, and plastic bags.

Every day I hear or see another story, on Facebook or in the news about waste and environmental pollution. The problems seem so big and insurmountable for the average person.  What can just one person do to alleviate such immense problems like 

This Mokumentary created to raise awareness of the plastic bag problem in California - could have been made anywhere.

My Decision to make a difference

Plastic bags - particularly single use plastic bags are everywhere. We all use them, but this is one thing that we can all do something about. And this is what I chose to try and make a difference with.

 I sew, I make lots of bags in particular and I mainly sew with upcycled and recycled materials.  So this was definitely the problem for me to try and solve! 

My personal experience of the problem

Reusable Shopping Bags have been around for years. I bought myself a set and started using those for my weekly grocery shopping several years ago.  They were a great idea and I was very happy with them. BUT I often forgot them and left them in the car. 
They also weren't easy to clean. If any food spilled on them, the bags weren't easily washable, so began to smell after a while.  Some shop assistants were very aware of customers bags smelling and would, and still do, put meat and other things that may potentially leak - into plastic bags before putting them in the reusable bags. Which to me defeats the whole purpose of the reusable bag in the first place.
Not only this, but some of these reusable bags I bought from the supermarket were biodegradable. One day I went to use my bags and some of them literally fell to pieces.

So - I decided to use my creative problem solving skills and come up with a solution.

My own solution to the plastic bag problem

First of all, back in 2010, I made myself a set of reusable shopping bags from an old sheet - and a small drawstring backpack to keep them in.
These were much more compact than the store bought reusable bags, and could be easily washed in the washing machine if things spilled on them by accident.

I used these bags for years - reducing the need for hundreds of plastic bags over that time.

However, there were still times when I forgot and left those bags in the car when I went to do my weekly grocery shopping and ended up with a few extra plastic bags.

So, over the next few years I played around with designs and finally came up with my own solution to getting rid of the need for any plastic bags when shopping.

I finally came up with a design and made my own 
Eco-Friendly Shopping Bags Handbag.

This is a handbag that has a hidden compartment in the base where a bag full of reusable cloth shopping bags are stored. This means that as long as you have your handbag with you when you go shopping, you will also have your reusable bags. No more leaving them in the car!

I made a few bags over the course of designing and perfecting this bag. I also added some mesh produce bags in the side pockets for buying fruits and vegetables, and an extra handibag from a pillowcase inside for those times when I buy a few extra things.

An all round eco-friendly solution

All the while I was making this bag, I had the environment in mind and wanting to do my part to reduce waste. So these bags are made as much as possible from recycled and upcycled materials.
I like to work on the basis of

Use What You've Got

So, the main handbag is made from a pair of jeans - plus some co-ordinating fabric - from my stash or charity shops. The zips and bag accessories were reclaimed or again bought from charity shops.
The main reusable shopping bags were made from old sheets and pillowcases and the produce bags from old net curtains.


Once I had completed my bag design and pattern, I had a fabulous team of ladies to test the pattern and instructions out for me.  They made some gorgeous bags and gave me some very positive and constructive feedback to enable me to polish and finish off my pattern, which had now grown into a small e-book.
Here are the bags they made:

Making a difference

I use my bags each and every week and never forget my shopping bags now. I always get lovely complements on all of my eco-friendly shopping bags and feel proud that I am taking some action and making a small difference to the problem of single use plastic bags.

Not only am I making a difference in having made and now using my own set of these bags, but through the sale of my e-book of patterns and tutorials I hope I am inspiring others to make their own eco-friendly, reusable shopping bags thereby further reducing the need for and use of single use plastic bags in other parts of the world where my e-book has sold to! The e-book contains instructions and plenty of photos to help make the handbag itself and all the reusable shopping bags that fit inside it too.

So if you sew (and I tried to make all the tutorials as clear and detailed as possible with LOTS of photos) so even a confident beginner sewer can give these a try. Or perhaps you know someone who sews.  Then why not buy this e-book.  
To buy one simple click here to head over to Amazon where all my ebooks are available.

Help to make a small difference into a bigger and bigger difference by spreading the word.

I believe that one small action by a single person can grow and make a big difference.

What skills do you have that you could put to use Creatively Solving a Problem to make a difference. Even if the difference is only small - it's a beginning that can grow into something HUGE.

I'd like to leave you with one of my favourite quotes and one that inspired me to create these bags and sell this e-book.

What will it inspire you to do?

I would love if you shared this post with your friends and on social media - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest - anywhere. Help me make the small difference I'm making into a bigger and bigger one.

Thank you!

Traditional Scottish Shortbread

Shortbread is one of the simplest cookies to make and tastes so good.

Here's how to make your own Traditional Scottish Shortbread.

You only need 3 ingredients: 

250 g (9 oz) plain flour
75 g (3 oz) caster sugar 
175 g (6 oz) butter

First heat the oven to 160C, 325F or Gas Mark 3

Mix the flour and sugar in a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Then kneed the mixture well to form a smooth ball of shortbread dough.

Roll this out into a rough rectangle shape around 1 cm (0.5") thick.
Don't ask me why my rectangle isn't straight on my board...things don't always work out the way you plan! :)

Using a flat knife, cut into small rectangles the size you want your shortbread to be.

Transfer to a greased or lined baking tray and prick with a fork to decorate.

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until pale and golden.

Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

If you like this recipe you can find more here

Luggage Tags from Jeans Pockets - an Upcycle Tutorial

We're off on a family holiday to Japan in a couple of weeks time, so I finally got around to making some luggage tags that will be easy to spot when we're collecting our luggage at the airport.

Since I do a lot of jeans upcycling, I thought, what would be better than some upcycled tags from jeans!

So here's how to make your own distinctive luggage tags from jeans pockets.

You will need.

A pocket unpicked from a pair of adult jeans, a length of jeans seam (around 20 cm (8")) scraps of co-ordinating fabric, a little clear vinyl, slightly bigger than the size of a business card (you can cut a piece from the packaging of something like a sheet); and a business sized card to write your address on.

First take your piece of clear vinyl and sew fabric strips onto two opposite sides.

Open up those fabric strips, then pin and stitch another two on the other two sides of the vinyl like this.

Now trim the border you have stitched around your vinyl so the edges are all straight.

Now place this 'window' on the front of your jeans pocket with the card with your address on underneath so you can read the address through the window. Fold the edges under and pin then stitch all the way around.

I stitched a double row of stitching around my window.

Now take your jeans seam and fold it in half. Place the ends at the top back of your jeans pocket. Pin then stitch into place.

Finally lay your pocket face up on your co-ordinating fabric. Trim the edges of the fabric so it is around 2 cm (1") wider than the pocket.  

Fold the raw edges in behind the pocket and pin then stitch in place all the way around.

Again I did a double row of stitching - just as is used on a jeans pocket itself.

Now you can attach your tag to your bag and you're ready to head off travelling!

If you liked this tutorial, there are over 100 Free Sewing Tutorials to explore here on my blog, for all levels of sewing ability.
Please do take a look at