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Campfire Messenger Bag

Campfire Messenger Bag

Hey there everyone, I have finally had some time to make another bag… whoopie-doo.

Feels like it has been ages since I have been able to hole myself up in my sewing room with some cheesy music on and sew merrily away for a few hours.

I have been itching to make this bag since I found the pattern last year. It is a great little pattern called the ‘Campfire Messenger Bag’ by noodlehead . I wanted to make a bigger version that would hold A4 things for my college course in January but totally ran out of time and had to make do with my doggy bag instead, which is a slightly bigger version of my ‘for pleats sake‘ bag but with rather cool mustard doggie fabric. It did amazingly well at lugging my heavy notes back and forth – considering it was homemade I was stunned it never broke under the weight!

doggy bag

“Doggy Bag” Can’t believe I’ve not shared this one with you guys… it is one of my favourites. Made it bigger than the pattern says, much more roomy! It has inside pockets too.

Anyhoo… since finishing my course, my daughter has been asking me if I would make her a bag for school, she is starting secondary in September and has a long list of requirements for her new school bag! She has written me a spec of all the pockets she is gonna need – so I need to find a pattern with lots and lots of storage!

bag spec

…and the moon and the stars please…

I was wondering if I could go back to my adapted Campfire Messenger idea and use that, but was worried about jumping right in and altering a pattern I have never made before, especially after several months of no sewing, am feeling a bit rusty.

So I came up with the near genius idea that perhaps I should make myself a campfire messenger – just to test out the pattern you know – and make it exactly as it is meant to be and see how it goes and see if I can learn as I go along how I might adapt it for a school bag.

It also gave me a brilliant excuse to use some of the gorgeous (oh my god I’m in love) Eloise Renouf fabric I ordered last year, plus the bag looks to actually be a really dinky handy size just as it is.

So off I went and got started…

Firstly – it took me forever to decide which gorgeous bit of co-ordinating Renouf fabric ought to go where. And sadly I am not sure I got it right looking at the finished result.

Secondly, I had so many other things land on my plate to deal with that I kept having to stop and then go back to it days or weeks later and kept forgetting what I was thinking before, so it was all a little disjointed.  But it came together in the end.

front piece

The front piece with two rather useful water bottle sized pockets and a perfect iphone size zipper pocket.

back piece

The back piece with one big pocket


sneaky little snap inserted onto back pocket








I was really pleased with how the strap turned out, it may be my neatest yet, with topstitching right on the edge… beautiful! Am having second thoughts about the yellow snap tabs though, A) they are not the same length B) they stick out at a funny angle instead of being straight and C) I’m not sure they should be yellow, I think the blue fabric would have worked better. Oh dear, what would Patrick and Esme say…

Beautiful little strap and closures ready to go on

Beautiful little strap and closures ready to go on

In my defence, I must say that it is very very hard to work out quite where your little snaps are going to line up with their partners on the front pockets when the bag is not constructed, but you have to do it then, otherwise the backs will show through. I adapted the pattern closures to use snaps so I couldn’t even use their measurements, I know, I only have myself to blame, trying to be too clever. I know, I know I said I was going to stick to the pattern…

Frantic Pinning

Trying to work out where on earth the yellow snap tabs need to be by frantically pinning everything together before construction!

And then, the big muss-up… I realised (too late) that the front and back and gusset pieces should all line up at the top BEFORE you sew on your concealed zip or put your binding on. I think I had added a couple of cm’s to my front and back for safety and then probably cut out the gusset on another day and did not add more safety fabric, so the front and back stick up about 1-2cm from the gusset. Bother.

I didn’t think this would be an issue until I tried to put the binding on, and then oh dear oh dear oh dear… instead of just whizzing a piece of bias binding on in a oner to cover up all those orrible little thready ends, I had to do it in not one, not two, not three, but FOUR pieces of binding, one for each face of the bag, and yes the result is not very pleasing.

grumpy sewing

I always hate this bit… the final sew around the top of the whole bag… my machine hates it even more than I do! Sorry Janome baby!

Still, at least the zip worked out quite well, and the lining fabric is lush! And the bag itself is surprisingly roomy and I love the many many pockets.

The other major muss-up was in the gusset where the pattern recommended slitting notches in the fabric to help you angle it around the corners, but I then stupidly sewed my two gusset pieces together opposite ways around so had a notch on each side! Doh. I sewed one up with a bit of nifty zig zag stitch but it still shows, and so does the notch on the other side as it sticks out a bit leaving a raggedy edge. I think if I do that pattern again I will forget the notches and just snip the seam allowance after I have sewn it together. You live and learn hey?

open bag

Will you just look at all those bits of binding around the top… shocking! Gasp!

Ta dah!  I think there a six pockets in all. Not quite enough for my daughter’s massive spec list perhaps but not bad, and certainly enough for me and my little expeditions.

Campfire Messenger BagIMG_5031IMG_5027

We went out for our first little trip out today to the shops, it did me proud actually and worked very well for all my little bits and pieces and felt good to wear, it is a really handy size.


Now the question is just do I get cracking on a bigger one for my daughter or is she going to get ridiculed turning up first day at secondary school with a bag made by yer mum!

The tricky thing is that it has to be black and semi-waterproof so I was thinking to use pleather or some sort of raincoat fabric. All the girls currently at the new school seem to have cheapo New Look type leather totes – so I don’t want her to stand out.

Unless she wants to stand out of course and make a statement and be the envy of the whole school.

We went down there a couple of weeks ago to drop off some forms and overheard a couple of girls saying: “Oh yah – baskets are just like SO last term” which has thrown me somewhat… since when were baskets ever cool as a school accessory?

It’s a crazy world out there!


Running… How hard can it be?


So I finally decided that enough was enough and I really ought to be doing something to get myself feeling a bit fitter.

I feel like such a cliche, ooo look at me approaching a scary landmark birthday, let’s panic and freak out about our health. Is this what a midlife crisis looks like? Shouldn’t I be buying a sports car or something fun instead? Or is that just for the boys?

So anyway, after downloading the app on my phone about a year ago,  I have begun the couch to 5K challenge this week.

I completed week one today walking for 5 mins then alternating running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds for a total of half an hour including a 5 min warm down at the end.  Sounds easy right?

Unfortunately it occurs to me now, that I haven’t actually increased my pace above a sort of business-like stride for about 26 years!


When I was about 14, a friend and I found a cunning way to skive P.E. lessons by not turning up for the very first lesson when they would create the register, and then hanging out in the Art Department instead when everyone else went to P.E. My art teacher Mr Gill didn’t mind a bit and thought we were very sensible and my mum didn’t seem to notice that she never had to wash my P.E. kit again. Cunning huh? How we laughed, ha ha, I thought I was so clever… until now… now I really sort of wish that I had been a bit more enthusiastic about sports and keeping fit when I was younger and I might have avoided some of the issues I have now !

But maybe it is not too late? Maybe I can still reverse some of the damage done from 26 years of sitting on my butt doing nothing more strenuous than a yoga class?

However there is one tinsy tiny little snag.


I absolutely hate running, I hate it with a fierce passion, I hate the wibbly jelly legs you get whilst also feeling like your legs are filled with cement, I hate the thundering of my heart when it feels like it is about to burst out of my chest, I hate the simple inability I have to run anywhere for more than 60 seconds and I hate the impact of your feet hitting the hard ground and jangling your whole body, or if you go off-road the lumps and bumps in the ground just waiting to grab your ankle and twist it.  I don’t know what to do with my arms? I keep swallowing flies as my mouth hangs open gasping for breath! I hate the hills! I hate the sweating, I feel terribly embarrassed every time I pass someone I know and desperately hope they don’t stop me for a chat as A) I can’t really stop once I have started or that is IT. And B) I really can’t actually talk… at all…

So why am I running then?

Well, that’s a good question. I have slowly been trying to improve my fitness since I finished my course in April. I have been walking the 2 mile round trip to the school every day which is a good start.

I tried some exercise videos, but couldn’t stick at it as got bored. And I hate the idea and expense of the gym and I hate swimming and getting wet even more than i hate running and I can’t cycle sadly due to pesky nerve pain.

Plus the idea of running actually appeals to me, the “theory” side of it as it were. I like the idea that it is free and simple and you can do it anywhere, just pop on some running shoes and off you go. I like the idea of the freedom and headspace it gives you, the sense of achievement when you stop, the energy it gives you and the smugness – don’t forget the smugness!

I even saw a fox when out running this week!

And I like the structure of couch to 5K. The gentle start and the promise of great things at the end of the 9 weeks. I like the idea of seeing my progress from gibbering flappy thing to sleek energetic runner!

Although, the idea that I will ever be running solidly for 30 mins is quite frankly absolutely preposterous and ridiculous and unbelievable – but yet…

but yet… maybe. If I stick at it, then just maybe?

And that little thought is quite exciting.


I would like very much to be able to keep up with the children, to play rounders and badminton with them and run around and be silly without mummy needing a little sit down after 5 mins!

Also I have issues with my body, especially my back and nerve pain around my pelvis and legs. And I have used this as a brilliant excuse to not exercise for years. But the pain is not getting any better for it. It has been getting a bit worse. So there is a little part of me that wonders and hopes that maybe just maybe if I can get fit, then maybe some of that pain will ease up a little bit? After all, the sedentary plan seems to have failed terribly.

But my problem is that I am finding couch to 5K way harder than I expected. It’s from couch right? So presuming little to no previous fitness at all. Surely people much less fit than me take this up and succeed, so there is no excuse really is there? But I did expect it to feel a little bit easier in week one that it does. After all you are only actually running for 8 minutes, that’s nothing right?

I’m just not sure I can envisage a day when I go running because I really want to, because I like it, and I can do it, rather than prizing myself out of the house with a crowbar!

Anyway – perhaps the more people I tell that I am doing it, the more embarrassed I will be when I quit, so it might just keep me going that bit longer.

Maybe I stick on week one for another week or two, until I feel it getting a bit easier?

Should I stick to the roads and save my ankles or should I persevere with off-road when it is not too muddy – it is certainly a nicer experience to look up and see fields and trees rather than looking over my shoulder to make sure I am not about to be mown down by a car.

Any wise words of wisdom or hope from my fellow runners (that’s a couple of words I never thought I would use next to each other!) very much welcome, please comment below.

How hard can it be? Extremely!!!!



Adventures in Graphic Design

Graduation Poster

Oh my goodness – I’ve graduated!

Hello everybody – I’m back!

I feel like I have been away for a year – I cannot believe it has only been 3 months.

I completed my 3 month intensive training course in graphic design at Shillington College on Friday 8th April. We had a big grad show and showed off our shiny new portfolios and drank much wine and felt mightily relieved!


City Identity Logo for Villa Joyosa in Spain

I don’t think I have ever worked so hard and so intensively on anything before in my entire life! We worked on 32 briefs, learnt how to use Illustrator, Indesign and PhotoShop, along with learning a whole heap of theory – design principles, how to generate ideas and take a brief, how to prepare things for print and digital and lots of lovely design history and appreciation and where to get inspiration and keep on top of what other designers are up to. It was so lovely to be studying something where there are no boring bits, everything was interesting and useful and fascinating. (perhaps I got a bit bogged down with the UX stuff but mainly because I’ve done it all before in my previous job.) I met some lovely lovely people and went on a complete rollercoaster of emotions.

Hitchcock Poster

Poster design for BFI Hitchcock Season

I learnt a huge amount, not only about design but also about myself and what I can achieve and how far I can push myself and how I react under extreme pressure. It turns out I swing wildly from sobbing uncontrollably at the slightest thing (sleep deprivation driven!) and laughing hysterically at the slightest thing. Like seriously… I didn’t realise how you could really really laugh, tears rolling down your face, chest hurting, unable to stop, over… well not very much really!

Misunderstood Monsters Book

Mock up of my children’s A-Z book – Misunderstood Monsters

It got completely crazy towards the end of the course when we were putting together our portfolios. I kept on getting up at 5am (as I had to to do all through the course as it began at 8am in London and woe betide you if you were late.) throughout the weekends and worked solidly until midnight Saturday night and 2.30am Sunday night, sort of forgetting that I needed to be up and out again at 5am Monday morning… ooops.

Turns out my body does not react well to such sleep deprivation and constant brain strain and sitting staring at a computer for hours on end. I felt super rubbish by the last week, tired, aching, foggy headed, coldly, heavy limbed – dead on my feet, unable to string a sentence together… but we were done. We all made the print deadline and created beautiful portfolios and websites.

Book Cover

Handmade Project – book cover for Liane Moriarty’s Little Lies

I am so proud of myself for sticking at it. There were many moments during the course where I thought, I can’t do this, I am not creative enough, I am not lateral enough, I am not good enough, I am never going to make the print deadline, I’m never going to have a beautiful portfolio like everyone else.

But behold… it all came together in the end and now I have had a week to recover I feel really good about the whole experience. I’m so proud of all my lovely fellow students who made it through. We all found it much more challenging than we had ever dreamed, but also so rewarding. I love graphic design, I love the challenge, and now I feel confident that I have the knowledge and the tools to get out there and help other people solve their graphic design dilemmas and make beautiful things.

Monster type

How the Monster A-Z book began… as a quick exercise in how to use illustrator – we were asked to create a typeface after day 2 of learning illustrator. I thought of my little boy and decided to make some monster letters. I only managed to get to G in the time given!

Now the scary part really begins where I have to try and find a job or set myself up as a freelancer and try and find clients. So please do spread the word for me my blog buddies and if you know anyone who needs something designing, then point them my way. I am raring to go and excited to get my teeth stuck into some real briefs and create some real things.

You can find my new website at: where you will find more examples of my work and contact details.

How hard can it be to become a graphic designer? Well as it turns out – very very hard indeed – but hugely fun and rewarding!



I shouldn’t really be writing my blog now, I ought to be doing homework for college. So this will have to be short and sweet. Have got to come up with an idea for a book or album or film cover that is handmade! Gah – could do anything! Literally anything, I could use play doh to make letters, I could do a pop-up card, I could sculpt something, I could do some paper art, one past student used double sided tape on a brick wall and made them into letters which she then stuck grass clippings to, and one used different flavoured tea bags and dipped them in water and then stuck them to paper so the different coloured tea stained the page…!?! – my mind has gone blank… so any suggestions gratefully received. I was thinking whether it was possible to sew something which I could then photograph and use somehow… but I’m not sure how…

Anyway – so while I procrastinate, I thought I would share with you one of my non-bag related Christmas makes. I made this little free machine embroidered family portrait for my sister-in-law and her family. 2015-12-02_161339456_758EB_iOS

I started out with my applique pieces and some bondaweb, and then I free machined over them. It puckered a little bit which is annoying as I did use tear and stitch on the back, but maybe I ought to have hooped it up or used a double layer of tear and stitch.

It was really fun to do, trying to make the people look a bit like them, and add in little detail’s like Joe’s beloved Norwich football team shirt – but my favourite bit is their cute little kittens Hunter and Hudson, they turned out really well.


I think it really helps make a piece like this look that bit extra special if the family happen to have a pet or two!

I might have to work on my free machine lettering a little bit…

I wish I could make a living sewing portraits all day long… it was such fun. Sadly I don’t think it would pay the bills… so back to my college work I go…

Until next time my friends…

Tote-ally Fabulous Bags! AiBM – Part 4


Last but not least in our Christmas run-down of bag related presents, we have the Elizabeth Hartman quilt as you go tote, and the Poppy Treffry Knitting Bag.


I watched a video on YouTube a while ago about quilt as you go and have been itching to have a go ever since. I still have quilting on my wish list of things to try and this seemed like a nice simple way to start. Although I know that ‘proper’ quilters may frown upon this method, it seemed like fun to me.

You basically just choose strips of fabric that go together and starting in the middle (in this case) you sew each piece on either next to or above or below the first piece and work your way out until you have filled your quilt area.

In this pattern you sew horizontal lines straight across each piece, but you could sew any quilt pattern you like really.

I won’t lie to you, it was quite labour intensive and when I got to the top and bottom sections and realised you had to sew the horizontal lines across them too, I was starting to get a bit less patient with it! But it was good practice for sewing straight lines, which I do really need as my lines are rarely ruler straight!


I like this bag as it is nice and roomy for all your shopping bits and bobs and has some nice pockets inside and a magnetic snap closing.


I sewed this one for my mum in colours I know she loves like peach and minty green.

Of course it did not go 100% smoothly – the issues with this bag are just that the facing piece that flaps over the top edge got a bit puckered up around the magetic snap as you can see above.

And I sewed on my SewHappie label before realising how wide the facing piece was and then realised it would be partially hidden – so I snipped it off and accidentally nicked a hole in the lining which you can see just above where the label is now, and I also tried just using fabric glue to stick the label back on as the bag was now pretty much made I couldn’t sew it in without stitches showing on the outside – and I just bought some special fabric glue recently and wanted to try it out!

Sadly it didn’t really work and just looks soggy and scrappy. I wish I had just left it off now, but oh well… am sure my mum will forgive those two little mistakes!

Everything else went really well, except that I lost my dressmaker’s scissors in the middle of making this bag, just after I had sewn it together and turned it right side out and sewn up the turn hole… I really badly thought for a long moment that I had sewn them INTO the lining!!!

Luckily they turned up later in a drawer, but not before much massaging of the bag and searching around the house to check where they might be! – doh.

The knitting bag is for my sister-in-law who I never really see without knitting in her hands and she never seems to have a nice bag to carry it around in, so when I saw this pattern in my Poppy Treffry ‘Free Machine Embroidery’ book, I thought it would be perfect.

It includes pockets for your knitting needles and a bit of felt for your sewing needles and loads of room for all your yarns of wool and your current project, and some nice tie handles to keep everything snug and safe.


I thought she would appreciate the funky bear fabric for the interior to add a bit of a pop inside the bag, and I made the handles out of the same fabric.

And then I had a lot of fun ‘free machine embroidering’ the exterior on some nice plain linen.


It’s the same pattern I used on my peg bag many moons ago, which is quite odd really as the patterns both came from different sources! I probably ought to have spent a bit more time thinking of something a bit more personal or knitting themed to embroider on there, but it was getting very close to Christmas by this time and I just wanted to get something nice made for her, and I do like this washing line pattern.

My husband was home while I made this one on a rare day off and kept me company while I was merrily sewing away which was nice. He suggested the finishing touch of cutting out one of the bears from the interior fabric and sewing one on the back of the bag.


Everyone notices him and likes it – he’s very creative really my hubby! I might have to get him to hang around while I am sewing more often!

I certainly might use this idea again.


I was really glad I made this bag, it went together like a dream with no big boo boos –  and it was really interesting with both these bags to use a pattern by someone different, who I have not followed a bag pattern with before. Everyone has their own ways of doing things so you can learn lots from not being too loyal to one pattern designer!

The Poppy Treffry bag had a totally different method for joining the exterior to the interior which I still cannot quite get my head around now without looking it up again, as I am so familiar with Lisa Lam’s method now of putting the exterior inside the lining with right sides together and sewing around the top. But I remember as I was doing it thinking, wow this is a clever way to do it. Much more simple.

I think I will have to look it up again before I make too many more bags!