Mr Beanie’s Grown-up Advent Calendar

There’s all sorts of things you can put in these little pockets, as Mr Beanie has proved. Cheers and Merry Christmas!


These are actually full size bottles in a gigantic 12 foot high advent calendar. Don’t expect Mr Beanie to be of any use in December

Don’t miss out on the fun, order one here and fill it full of miniatures


Advent Calendar Perfection

I love the countdown to Christmas. As a child I had one of these

Catherine a

Cadbury’s are not giving me any money (or chocolate) for this advertising… They should!

(ok, so I’m using the term ‘child’ quite loosely; my mum kept buying me one until I bought my own house!) But for 2014 and each and every subsequent year I have my new, improved advent calendar

Blue Oversized Advent Calendar £35

Midnight Tree Advent Calendar

And this is what I shall be filling it with


Mmm yummy

You can order yours here

Christmas in the Beanie Cave

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted: I’ve been super busy getting ready for Christmas, beavering away in the Beanie Cave…


I really need to badger NPower to connect me to the national grid. Hand-cranking a sewing machine has left me with an overdeveloped right arm

Next year I’m going to start preparing for Christmas in April. You see, working in the dark of my cave, with only a head torch for light, really tires my eyes and I need to take frequent breaks. Not to mention that this cave is actually in Fife, it takes a fair amount of time to commute to work each day.

In spite of all that, preparations for Christmas are coming on apace and I’ve roped in the techno wizard that is Mr Beanie to aid me in showing my Christmas goodies to the world.

Really I think the messages I want to convey to you now, in the strongest possible terms are:

1) Sorry I have been ignoring you

2) My Christmas shop is OPEN

How to Applique: Easy Peasy with Bondaweb

Most of the things I make involve some applique work, which is to patch or “apply” something to the original piece of fabric. I love the extra dimension it gives, lifting what might be plain and utilitarian into something beautiful.


Appliqued bunting, bags, and superhero sets

I’ve recently been making an owl bag for a very lovely lady. Today I thought I would give you some insight into one of the handmade processes that went into making it: how to applique using bondaweb.

What is bondaweb?
Bondaweb enables you to applique without using pins, and it makes delicate fabrics like cottons easy to cut precisely. It is essentially a piece of paper which has a web of heat-activated glue on one side. You buy it by the metre in haberdasheries, Hobbycraft and from the internet. I’m sure other products are available but this is the one I’ve seen and used

You’ll need                                                                                                                     Pencil, fabric to applique, backing fabric, bondaweb, iron and ironing board, fabric and paper scissors, sewing machine all threaded and ready to go!

Let’s get started then  

  • Draw your shape onto the smooth side of the bondaweb (This is the side which feels like normal, bog standard paper)
  • If you’re wanting to applique a shape which is not symmetrical down it’s y axis (like a letter for example) you’ll need to draw the mirror image of it, so that it is the correct way round on your finished item. When you start it is easier to use symmetrical shapes so that this does not matter.
  • If you doubt your artistic skills, it can be helpful to use a template (a picture in a book, a print out from the internet…) The bondaweb is transparent enough for you to be able to trace your image easily.

Draw your shape in pencil onto the smooth side of the bondaweb

  • Cut roughly around your shape, leaving a small margin around the edge.
  • Put the fabric you’re going to applique face down on the ironing board, give it a quick iron to get rid of any creases and place the bondaweb shape on top, with the smooth side facing up. If you’re using a patterned fabric, you might need to be aware of placing your shape so that the pattern is the right way up, centred and that any stripes or checks run down in a straight line
  • Following the manufacturer’s instructions, iron the bondaweb shape onto the fabric. (This usually means, a fairly hot iron, with no steam pressed onto for about 5 seconds)

Iron the bondaweb onto the wrong side of the fabric. Make sure the paper side of the bondaweb is facing up, you want the glue side to stick to your fabric, not your iron

  • After the fussed fabric and bondaweb have cooled, cut out your shape, right up to the pencil line you drew
Cut out

Cut out your shape, you should find the bondaweb has stabilised the fabric, making it easier to cut without the edges fraying

  • Now remove the paper from the fabric, You’ll be able to feel that this has left behind the gluey web, fused to the wrong side of the fabric. Place your shape on your backing fabric, and when you’re happy it’s in the perfect spot, iron your applique shape onto the backing fabric (again following the instructions on your packet of bondaweb)

Iron the applique shape onto the backing fabric

  • The last step is to sew the applique shape in place. This provides extra security to prevent the applique coming away from the backing fabric and also seals the raw edges which may fray. You can use any stitch you like, a blanket stitch or a zigzag stitch work very well. A simple straight stitch is fine, if you don’t mind the raw edges on the applique. I used a satin stitch, which is really just a very close zigzag, because I think it gives the most professional looking result.

Sew the applique shape using the stitch of your choice

After a few more hours work, here’s the finished owl bag…

Owl bag


If you have followed this tutorial I’d love to see your finished item. Post it to my Facebook wall

If all this sounds like too much fuss and bother for you, why not check out what’s in my shop or contact me using the boxes below for a custom order

The Sewing Doctor

I’ve always been one of those crafty types; drawing, painting, sticking, making. Sewing though, that was my favourite, that’s stuck with me from childhood. I progressed from a mouse shaped pincushion made out of felt, complete with whiskers and cotton tail which I made when I was about 5, to great big cross-stitch embroidered pictures which took months to finish.

Mouse pincushion

Poor shabby little thing, but I have been sticking pins in him for 25 years. That’s a fair age for a mouse…

Then school got in the way, exams, and then university. And very slowly this wonderful imaginative and creative side of me was squashed by a pile of books and leaver-arch folders. I enjoyed school, I was academic but before I quite knew it I was a doctoral student in a cancer research lab, working far too many evenings and weekends to discover something new and important about a protein called CRAF. Science can be quite beautiful, and I loved it. I even found out quite a bit about my little protein.


Beautiful picture of a cell [Science stuff: Immunofluorescence image of a fibroblast, showing BRAF localisation to the nucleus, Green: BRAF:GFP Blue: DAPI]

So there I was a doctor, not the kind that can tell you if your mole will kill you (though people did ask), but the kind that knows quite a lot about just one protein which might contribute to whether your mole will kill you. It’s a fine distinction! But after the birth of my daughter, science wasn’t a good fit for me anymore; it didn’t work for our family, so I became a stay at home mum.

My creative side peeped out from hibernation; having a small child is a great excuse to play with glue and glitter again. I learnt to knit with my Little Beanie crawling around by my feet, trying to pull the ball of wool to the other end of the room. So knitting became an after hours pursuit and youtube filled in the blanks when my mum couldn’t describe a particular stitch over the phone. I started designing my own patterns, and I made my daughter woolly jumpers – literally; have you seen Woolly and Tig?


It’s only a woolly jumper!

A fellow mum-friend invited me to join her on a machine sewing course. The possibilities for creativity with a sewing machine and a bit of cotton were a revelation, and so here I am now creating clothes and accessories.

I tried to tell the Little Beanie the other day that I’m a doctor, she said, “Don’t be silly Mummy.” She might be wrong about that, but she’s absolutely right when she sends me home from the school drop-off telling me “Do your sewing work mummy… and the ironing.”