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I'm Heather McGarrigle and this is my blog - a colourful celebration of culture, crafting and creativity in Northern Ireland and beyond.

I love it when a plan comes together!

I love it when a plan comes together!

In my last post, A Crafty Plan, I pledged to get pro-active with my crafting and I'm pleased to report I actually got off my backside and did!Through my Facebook page for The Patchwork Quill, I discovered the Belmont Craft Circle, headed up by a lovely woman called Ruth. When I bemoaned the fact I couldn't come along to their new beginner's sewing class due to work commitments, she immediately got in touch with Jan, who was just beginning a class at the Ballybeen Women's Centre in Dundonald.

A few online messages and texts later and I'm driving through Dundonald on Thursday evening with the beloved Singer in the boot of my car... and I'm running half an hour late with only a vague idea of where I'm going. (Those who know me will be highly amused but not in the least surprised by this.)

Despite being late, I'm welcomed in to the little class (eight of us in total) with warm smiles and introductions and invited to get my machine plugged in and catch up. There are a few oohs and aahs when I unveil the old girl. ("Oh my mum used to make our clothes on a machine just like that!") However, it's not long before her age and my lack of maintenance and experience are glaringly obvious.

We're starting off this week by making a simple pocket tissue case and I'm handed a printed sheet of instructions and pointed toward the materials and equipment. We cut two 7" by 6" pieces of fabric (kindly provided by Jan) and two strips of fabric, 2" by 6".

All the material is ironed (an iron is just as important as a sewing machine, according to our wise leader!) and then we iron the two strips in order to create two pieces of binding, or edging, if you like.

First, each strip is folded lengthways and ironed to create a crease in the middle. Next, each 'half' we've created is folded in towards the middle crease and ironed in place - you've folded each half in half lengthways again. Then, keeping it like this, you fold the strip in half lengthways again and iron. Essentially, leaving you with a piece of folded material about a quarter of the width of the original strip.

Sorry I didn't take more detailed or 'step by step' pictures, I was focused on keeping up with the rest of the class!

We were then to take our pieces of binding and sew them in to place on each shorter end of the two larger bits of material, which we had placed together, wrong sides facing.

Then the piece was to be folded up with the two bits of sewn-on binding meeting each other, a seam of about an inch or so sewn down the two sides (at right angles to the binding), turn the piece inside out and... voila! Your tissues need never be seen naked again!

Except... this is as far as I got (see pic to right). 

The machine had been working OK. I had done my practice straight lines earlier in the class - they were a bit tight and bunchy and not very straight but they were there and would have held a garment in place.

But as you can see, when I got through one stage of this project, the thread started to work itself loose, leaving gaps in my sewing and eventually, refusing to sew at all.

Jan reckons it is just a case of playing around with tensions and stitch lengths, with the possibility that the tension in the lower bobbin may need adjusted.

Given that I haven't had the machine serviced, and had been planning to give it an MOT anyway, I thought this was the perfect time to leave it in to the sewing machine clinic.

So today (Saturday) I popped in to the Singer Sewing Machine Centre on Sandy Row in Belfast and spent an enjoyable twenty minutes or so chatting to proprietor Gwyneth. She took the machine, gave me a handwritten receipt (I LOVE a handwritten receipt) and told me to call on Monday at which point, they would tell me how much it would cost to service the machine and get my approval before going ahead. I love this kind of old fashioned service, great to see it is alive and well in Belfast.

The shop stocks a number of machines, with the most popular being Pfaff but she recommended a couple of reasonably priced Bernina models when I enquired about budget friendly modern options for me.

A few anecdotes later, including power outages caused by working on previously-tinkered-with machines and a few interesting tales about gentleman knitters and ninety-year-old nuns buying their first sewing machines, I was headed back to Lisburn with a smile on my face.

It was then I remembered about the jumbo 10mm knitting needles I recently acquired, so I called in to BP Sew and Knit in Market Square. This is one of my favourite craft and sewing shops - brilliantly stocked and staffed by crafting experts always happy to answer questions and give you their time.

I was looking for some really chunky wool to use on the needles and again, the shop didn't disappoint. This is Life Super Chunky by Stylecraft, ideal for 10mm needles, in colour 'Denim Mix' (2373).

I couldn't resist a bit of embroidery thread for some friendship bracelet making... or these GIANT MONOCHROME BUTTONS!

There are so many things I could do with these - customise old jackets, turn into brooches, necklaces or earrings - but these particular buttons are going to be my first glue gun project, brightening up a pair of shoes.

The plan for next week's sewing class is to make a cushion cover, so hopefully the Singer will be serviced and I'll have gained a little crash course from Gwyneth in threading and tensions before Thursday rolls around again.

Wish me luck!

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Crafting 2 Thrifting 1......Culture 0

Crafting 2 Thrifting 1......Culture 0

A crafty plan...

A crafty plan...