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July Sewing Challenge – Trousers

My challenge for July was to make trousers; I made trousers at the beginning of the year but there were a few issues that I wanted to perfect. Controversially for a sewing project which I knew I would be writing about on a blog… I didn’t take very many pictures..  But here it goes anyway!

I decided to use this Simplicity pattern which is unusual for me as I very rarely use any of the more commercial pattern companies. I had also heard that Simplicity patterns aren’t actually very simple at all… I loved the floaty style though so decided to give it a go.

I wanted to be sure that I had a good fit so made a toile before I started. Last time I did this, I didn’t add the zip and just pinned where I thought it would close; this just wasn’t accurate enough! I didn’t need to make the whole length of the trousers as the bottoms aren’t fitted so I now have a nice pair of calico shorts…

I used a light fabric for optimum ‘swoosh’ factor. Even though there is swoosh, this fabric was not fun to work with; it was really slippery when I was cutting and sewing it! But also the needle kept catching and showing the white base of the fabric weave; apparently it’s because the pattern is dyed on after manufacture. After hopping on to the Sewing in the UK Facebook page, people suggested that I use a ballpoint or finer needle; I’ll definitely try that next time I work with a similar fabric. Luckily these parts aren’t obvious on the finishing trousers.

This pattern has a zip at the centre back of the trousers so I couldn’t use the same method I’ve used before for attaching the two legs together (putting one leg inside the other). So there was a bit of a headache while I tried to make sense of the diagrams and confusing language in the pattern. It seemed to work in the end though and there aren’t any holes in the crotch region so that’s a win.

I must admit that I did have to wing it a bit with this pattern and I did go off piste and just did what I thought would work. I’m a very visual/kinesthetic learner so bare-minimum diagrams just don’t work for me! I have enough sewing knowledge that it was fine and the finished trousers look like real trousers.

One reason that it’s taken me this long to finish is because I got to a point of almost finishing in July, then thought that the style didn’t suit me. I’m still not 100% sure but the tie belt makes a big difference. So now that I’m at a point where I’m not embarrassed to share it with all of you, here it is!

My August challenge (that I’m starting 13 days in) is going to be a 50s walking coat… Wish me luck!

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June Challenge – Slippery Fabrics

I can’t actually believe that I’ve stuck with this challenge for a whole 6 months! I honestly thought I’d do January then get bored… but I’ve surprised myself and have managed to persevere. So last month was working with slippery fabrics and as Devon is going through an insane heatwave, I decided to work with velvet. Yes, velvet in 30 degree heat! So I won’t be wearing this dress any time soon but I couldn’t resist the beautiful fabric and it definitely fitted with the challenge as it was indeed slippery.

I found out quite quickly that velvet looks different depending on which way up you cut it. One way is light and the other creates a rich, darker colour. Of course the first piece I cut out was the light version which I didn’t like as much so there was much swearing, re-cutting and really trying to squeeze the pieces out of the fabric that I had left. Now this is fairly standard for a sewing project but cutting velvet is an actual living nightmare and I wasn’t best pleased with having to do it more than I had to. As you would expect, it slips and slides all over the place. There were lots of sharp pins and a rotary cutter involved and it was still tricky.

After a good couple of hours I had all of my pieces cut out and couldn’t resist fitting them on my mannequin to see how it draped; I just love how it looks on the skirt pieces. And this is how it stood for the majority of June… standing there, looking pretty but very much not in a ‘finished dress’ way. It’s not that I didn’t have the time; I made several other non-sewing challenge items. It’s that I thought that if cutting the fabric was as bad as it was, what on earth would the sewing be like?

In the end, I needn’t have worried as I finished it all in a couple of hours and didn’t come by very many issues at all. I think this was down to a couple of reasons: lots of pins and a walking foot. The only time I had a problem was right at the end when I was rushing the waist and didn’t bother to use as many pins as I had before so of course both sides slid away from each other.

I didn’t actually try to sew this velvet without a walking foot but I imagine the outcome would have been messy and inaccurate. The foot works by providing an extra set of feed dogs for the top of the fabric being sewn so keeps everything where it should be. It meant that my sewing was stress free and my fabric wasn’t chewed up or destroyed.

I’ve learnt that slippery fabric (or at least velvet) isn’t too horrendous if you have the correct tools to make it work. I’m pleased with the dress and, even though I can’t wear it any time soon, I will be well kitted out for any Christmas parties that might happen!

So here is my Christmas dress… in June!

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Bunyip Craft, an update: week 1

It’s been a week since I sat down to share the news that Bunyip Craft was on the move. It’s been an incredible rollercoaster of a week, with tears and smiles, cake and support from all over the world and lovely, lovely comments and suggestions. I’ve had a piece on Devon Live and been on Radio Exe. I feel held together by the care, compassion and belief of so many people; friends, customers, family and people I’ve never met. Sometimes all your hard work is repaid in kindness.

The strong possibility that we’re not going to find a retail space to move into is slowly dawning, I was hoping something would instantly jump out of the bag, but it hasn’t happened so far. Please keep spreading the word for us.

Really genuinely lovely people have offered to share space with us, with so many different concepts that my business brain has been spinning. I’ve been offered workshop space, party space, a couple of bespoke jewellery range possibilities, those DIY craft pub nights are most definitely going to happen, I’m not the first person to think of the shared makers space and have some of the bigger influences of the arts community on my side.

I’ve been out and about: looking at trading estate office spaces, community spaces, searching about in Topsham, out of the way city shops, city centre offices and more. I have a list of the possible spaces, with pros and cons on each, none are exactly right, though some are very close. I’ve come to a few more realisations; I need to be in cycling distance of my kids school, the main change for us as a family, is that my husband is going to be working full time, so I need to be able to do school pick up and don’t want to get in the car everyday. If we do take on office space, while we wait for a retail opportunity to come our way, then it’s going to be much easier if it’s on the University side of town. I need to be able to store all my stock, paperwork and shopfit, so the office space can’t be tiny. I want to carry on doing parties and workshops, whether out of the office space or from some of the other spaces I’ve been offered, I’d like to be able to do ‘open days’ from any space we take so that customers can still come and see us and the stock before they buy.

I’m petrified of not having the day to day footfall and spend of customers. I really want to hold on to my wonderful staff, and will need to pay for any space we take on, so will need to carry on taking a decent sum each week. Can I do that from only my online sales?, will anyone want to take my crafty kits and jewellery wholesale? Can I have some time off before I start the next adventure, to get my head together and allow some creative freedom? It’s beginning to look like I need the cheapest yet biggest office space I can afford, which isn’t much to ask…

Meanwhile, Bunyip is still running as brilliantly as ever, the Sale has started on lots of end of lines so come in and grab them while stocks last, I will keep on adding more as time goes on. I’ll keep you updated on any further developments in the land of Bunyip Craft.

Enjoy the sunshine, we are!




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What happens next?

I like to think I am an endlessly positive person, especially where Bunyip is concerned, but this is a tough one to write and has been a tough decision. I’ve come out of the other side of the shame and failure, and am trying really hard to see change as good.

Bunyip Craft is on the move once again. The costs in our big, beautiful shop have become too onerous, despite cutting every cost to the bone, lowering staffing hours and working in the shop as much as I can. Business Rates have gone up twice since I’ve been here, and in the last re-evaluation the percentage discount the shop used to get for being landscape shaped rather than portrait shaped was taken away too, so my rates are almost entirely made up of retail zone A, ouch! Being over the VAT threshold doesn’t help either, with VAT at 20% many businesses struggle at this point of their growth.

My lease is up on 1st October and I just couldn’t afford to re-sign it. This is not because we’re not a successful business, we have a good take through the till, and online, but the costs are too high to be able to make the maths work and customer spend is going down. Our footfall is steady, as is our number of sales, but sales are getting smaller as customers feel the pinch and worry about their own incomes, Brexit and the world economy.

So, the upshot is, we are looking for a new premises, something more affordable, smaller certainly, but nothing right has presented itself yet. We would love to have a place with an office and workshop space, so that we can carry on with our parties and teaching, as well as the shop. We don’t mind where it is really, we hope we have the customer loyalty and brand recognition to take being off the main drag. If you know of anywhere, please get in touch, all offers considered!

This might be a chance to change the way I run the business, I’ve been running Bunyip for over 15 years now, and with 2 kids and a husband who can work more hours if I give him the time, life has changed a lot in that time.  I have loads of ideas I’d like to work on, I’d like to wholesale my jewellery making and sewing kits, along with making jewellery for other shops, I’d like to do more shows and craft fairs, I’d like to have time to spend on my website, Etsy shop and blog, I want to run DIY craft pub nights, I want to host Pop ups all over the place, I want to teach more, I want to have the flexibility to be able to run with an idea or offer that comes my way. I can’t do any of this at the moment because I have to be on the shop floor to sell a 40p metre of elastic or 6 buttons. I’m grateful for every person who’s bought that 40p metre, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have survived without you, but this might be time that I get to put my entrepreneurial and creative hats back on.

Retail is an ever fluid market, and the times, they are a changing. I think the future of retail may be in shared spaces, people working together to have the presence and knowledge each business needs to survive. I would love to be part of something like that in Exeter, and be as present in the fight for supporting Independent business in Exeter as I’ve ever been.

Please get in touch if you have any ideas, spaces for rent, wholesale opportunities or just want a chat, I’d love to hear from you on or in the shop… for a while longer!

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May Sewing Challenge – Stretchy Fabrics

Now that The Contemporary Craft Festival is over, I can finally get around to writing about my May Challenge (yes I’m aware that it’s now the middle of June!). I challenged myself to sew with stretch fabrics for this month as I’d never done it before and I actually really enjoyed it. I’ve always heard horror stories about how hard jersey is to sew with but I didn’t have any issues and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is feeling a bit nervous about it.

I decided to start by making the Joni Dress which is in the Tilly and the Buttons Stretch book. I used a relatively cheap fabric so it was quite thin and very stretchy. I realised that I’d have to do things differently to when I sew with woven fabrics when I tried to fold the fabric and got all of this puckering. No way was it going to be possible to cut accurately with scissors so I decided to use my rotary cutter and do pieces that were on the fold individually. I have no idea why I don’t always use a rotary cutter! It is so much easier; I’ll definitely be using it for all of my cutting in the future and it was perfect for this jersey.

Before I started sewing, I changed my needle to one specifically for stretch materials, changed my stitch to a zig-zag and kept my regular sewing foot; so easy so far. The first instruction was to attach clear elastic to the waist and shoulder seams which stops them from stretching out after wearing the dress a few times.

Now the real perk to sewing with stretch fabrics is that sleeves are a doddle! Everything can be stretched in to place perfectly. I inserted the sleeve ‘on the flat’ which was so easy and all I had to do was match up the notches and then sew up the sides of the sleeve and bodice. I’m pleased with the finished dress but I’ll definitely be making it in a slightly sturdier fabric next time.

This was the first month when I decided to make two items for my monthly challenge! As I was flicking through the book, I came across the Stella Hoodie and decided to give that a go as well (not that I ever do anything even remotely active…). I bought some lovely teal sweatshirt fabric and matching lining and jumped straight in. I actually managed to make most of this in one evening from cutting out to being able to wear it. The only thing left to do is the hem at the bottom as I didn’t have a twin needle suitable for stretch fabrics.

Most of the hoodie was really straight forward, the only thing that was slightly different was having to stabilise the buttonhole so that it didn’t pull out of shape. Again, the sleeves were easy peezy and even the cuffs worked well. So now all that’s left is to take up a sport …


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April Sewing Challenge: A Shirt

As my sewing challenge continues, I’m stepping it up each time. This time I challenged myself to a fitted shirt. I decided against a collar in the end which kind of seems like I’m cheating but there’s always next time.

I decided to use a pattern that I made a while ago with the help of my sewing teacher at the time. We took my measurements and drew up the pattern together; it’d be quite a good exercise for me to draw it up again to see if I can remember how to do it at some point. It definitely looks more complicated than it is!

I did a double check of the pattern as I made it a while ago and wanted to make sure that the sizing was correct, luckily it was still ok! I decided to use a nice plain turquoise fabric that I had bought when I was in Thailand. I have made so many patterned skirts and trousers that I needed something plain to go with them.

I decided to be over cautious with this make as the fabric was quite slippery. So that meant loads of pins and tacking stitches which turned out to be a huge help.

After the palava of my sleeves challenge, I was dreading setting them in. This was really nice and simple though; I have no idea what I did differently but at least I managed it without wanting to throw my machine out of the window.

When I started trying to pair the finished shirt up with what I already have, I found that it goes quite well with one of my me-made skirts. So here is the finished outfit; perfect for when I need to be a bit smarter! 


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March Sewing Challenge: Pockets

After the debacle of my challenge last month, I was quite pleased to have a slightly easier challenge this time round. I still didn’t finish it before the end of March… but what’s 10 days.

I think any outfit can be improved with pockets and really wanted to learn how to add them in to patterns. I decided to make the Miette skirt by Tilly and the Buttons. This pattern has big patch pockets but I fancied trying in seam pockets (for those little things that you need to hand). As a side note, I’m so in love with this fabric; I bought the last bits from the shop and had to buy an extra half metre from elsewhere! I just knew it had to be made into a skirt.


Instead of winging it, I found some instructions by Tilly herself which even came with a pdf pattern. The instructions are pretty easy to follow with photos for you to check you’re on the right track. For my next project I’m going to make the pattern a little bigger so that my very large phone will fit inside.

I marked where I wanted the pocket to sit and reinforced it with interfacing then stitched it in place within the seam allowance. Can we just take a moment to admire the pattern matching? I then sewed the side seam, going around the pocket and voila! Easy peasy. I’m definitely going to use this technique on some of my future makes; I think it’ll be great in circle skirts and is such an easy addition to make.

My challenge for this month is going to be to make a shirt… a whole real life shirt, so only time will tell if my next post will be as positive! Wish me luck!


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February Sewing Challenge – Ergh… Sleeves

I have learnt one thing from my February challenge… I do NOT enjoy setting in sleeves. It’s hard and time consuming and I’m pretty sure I still haven’t cracked it (Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that). Sadly this won’t be a tutorial that you can follow to get the perfect sleeve but at least you can share in the experience…

I did A LOT of research for the February challenge. In fact, most of my work for the month was just reading stuff (if you are interested take a look at Tilly’s advice for creating a gathered sleeve) and begging for advice from the Sewing Challenge Facebook group. I decided I did actually need to produce something though and that something was going to be the Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress.

I decided to do my first attempt on calico so it didn’t matter if it went wrong. I adjusted my stitch length to the longest it would go and did my two lines of stitches which I would technically use to create my gathers. I then pulled the threads to gather the sleeve and spread it out so that it wasn’t too bunched up. I think in the future it’d be good to use a different coloured thread for the bobbin so I can see which one needs to be pulled. To get to this stage took a long time and I used my knee to try and manipulate the shape!

After a lot of procrastinating, I moved on to my actual fabric. Just to keep me on my toes, I decided to use a nice slippery and slightly stretchy fabric… After cutting, overlocking and creating a mock turn-up cuff, I proceeded to spend a huge amount of my time trying to get the over-sized sleeve to fit into the smaller sleeve hole while using all of my pins to do so. At one point I really did question if I actually needed to have movement for my shoulders.

The first picture was my first attempt. Note those tucks at the top there… they were not part of the pattern. I huffed, puffed, swore a bit and shut the dress away for the night. With a fresh head and a more objective pair of eyes, I looked at the dress again and realised that actually, they were to wide for my shoulders. By pure chance, that meant that I needed to increase the seam allowance at the top of the sleeve, thus hiding the tucks. Hurrah for my abnormally shaped shoulders!

So despite bodging it a bit… I managed to finish the dress (while learning lots of other skills along the way). I may avoid setting in sleeves like the plague in the future but I have a dress that shows that, one time, I did it (half) successfully.


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New Stock Alert: Craft Hobby & Stitch International 2018

ribbons at SE simons

It’s that time of year again! CHSI 2018 – the trade show we attend in February each year to choose buttons, touch all the fabric and have a little cry in the Rico stand. This time we took a whole squad of people and stayed overnight in the much envied ‘Willow’ room at the Arden Hotel. It’s a glamorous life!

We’re really excited about the new products we chose that’ll be winging their way to us in the next couple of months, including beautiful books, awesome patterns and of course – a whole pile of new cotton fabrics. It’s also so exciting to say we found a supplier of Sashiko equipment! So keep an eye out for workshops and kits in the gorgeous art of Japanese folk embroidery soon.

Here’s a little run down of how we spent our two days at the Birmingham NEC – enjoy!

bunyip team at CHS

We set off at a painfully early time with the thought of a Gloucester services breakfast keeping our sprits high. Rachel, first time visitor of Gloucester services, had this to say of the experience: “It was fine.” Either we bigged it up too much or she is immune to it’s majesty and wonder. If you know, you know.

bunyip gang at CHSI 2018

For the last couple of years Mattie and I have been attending the show solo, so it was lovely to have fresh eyes on everything from Rachel and Lisa. Lisa was of course choosing beautiful wool to bring back for her concession and she was soon weighed down with free samples (why are samples of wool so weirdly heavy? And WHERE were all the fabric samples?!).

ribbons at SE simons

A big part of the show is meeting a lot of our suppliers face to face. Although some of them pop in to the shop and say Hi, there’s some that we only get to lay eyes on once a year! It was great to see our friends from our favourite Bristol based ribbon supplier and their quite frankly, outrageously beautiful display.

(I’m never 100% sure if you’re allowed to take photos at these things so you will notice a lot of nervous blur in these as I was worried about getting arrested. By the craft police.)

I sadly was the first to succumb to the first hysteria of the day, brought around by this page I flipped open to in a book entitled ‘Crazy Cat Lady Crafts.’ I don’t think I need to explain why.

It’s no secret that we’re a little Rico obsessed – I’m started to theorise that I’ve actually been brainwashed by them as surely I shouldn’t be enjoying every thing they do to quite such a hysterical extent? We made a vow to all meet up at their stand together so we could all witness the fitness together, but I did manage a sly walk past to photograph this, quite frankly delightful, poster.

If you think we peaked at furry cat skirt and unicorns, then please think again and add wine. One of our suppliers literally gives you booze (also weird bits of cheese on a stick but the less said about that the better) while you look at the fabric. Heaven is real.

So much fabric to choose from! We had to sit down for a post-wine coffee to gather our thoughts before we were ready to order. Eventually we managed to narrow the ridiculous choice down to 10 beautiful cotton prints to arrive in the shop soon – bears were a particular winner…

knitted fireplace

Here’s another peak: a knitted fireplace! We find it’s best not to ask ‘why?’ too often at these things.

fabric samples

We finally made it to Rico! I just fell totally in love with everything in the entire stand, as is the custom, and we were so excited to order some leather-look-metallic-paper that you can sew with. The stand had loads of stuff sewn with it, including gold make up bags with glittery lettering on that I’m so keen so try when it arrives.

rico stand CHSI

I’ll take one of everything thank you please.


With day 1 done, we took ourselves off to the ‘British Craft Awards’ which we were eager to attend because we love British craft (the free bar is just a happy coincidence) and had our silhouettes cut by this amazing artist. I managed to snap this photo of Lisa, professional model, demonstrating her extreme professionalism and poise. Check out the finish portraits on her Instagram!

We kicked off day 2 of our craft adventure with a trip to one of our most eclectic suppliers where Mattie chose some awesome new haberdashery, including more feather trim and GIANT pom poms! Squeal.

We’re also thrilled to say we ordered a gorgeous range of Tilly and the Buttons patterns! Set to be in the shop in the next 2 weeks, Rachel is a huge fan of these and it’s going to be awesome seeing her make through the whole bunch.

mickey mouse fabric

We moved back in for another go at fabric come Monday afternoon and ended up failing to resist this Mickey Mouse print collection! We’ve got two of these coming when they go to print, along with some more amazing Disney prints. Exciitttting…..!

One of our suppliers had a giant roll of thread with a secret office in on their stand, but this is CHSI so no one was even bothered. However, we were very bothered to find Sashiko sets! Ever since Mattie visited Japan last year we’ve been trying to get our hands on Sashiko equipment, and we’re so excited to have some winging it’s way to the shop soon!

button stand by Jones

And with a final visit to Mattie’s favourite button supplier, we were done for another year. Head into the shop soon to see all this ridiculous goodness arrive – and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Insta for many, many photos of it all.


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January Sewing Challenge – Adjusting Patterns and making a toile

So often, in the past, I’ve dived straight in to a project only to finish it and find it doesn’t fit me properly. It does make perfect sense, we’re never all going to be the exact size of the pattern; there’ll always be the odd thing that needs a tweak. This month I wanted to remedy this by practising adjusting patterns and in particular making a toile.

What on earth is a toile you ask!

It’s basically an early version of a pattern made up of cheap fabric so that sizing adjustments can be made without ruining beautiful fabric. You’d use a fabric that is similar to what you’ll use for the final piece and trace any changes to make a perfect pattern. I’ve always put it off in the past because it seems counterproductive to pre-make a garment when you have no intention of wearing it. But my 2018 challenge is to do things that I don’t usually do so here it goes.

I bought some really beautiful fabric a while ago but had been putting off making with it because the thought of ruining it terrified me! So it seemed like the perfect time to make a toile so that I could check the fit.

My toile for the Tilly and the Buttons ‘Francoise’ dress.

This is my finished toile which I also tried on myself and pranced around in to check movement of course. It turned out that the fit was pretty good. I have fairly standard measurements apparently so I didn’t need to adjust the bust which is often the main problem area.

One thing I did decide to change was the sleeve. On the long sleeve, little creases appeared quite quickly around the elbow; I don’t like ironing so this wouldn’t do at all. I took off the sleeve on my toile and traced it onto paper, making sure that I included all the markings from the original pattern.

So overall a great success and I had the confidence to cut in to my beautiful fabric knowing that the fit would be good.

Just the one toile was not enough though; I wanted a challenge. This time I decided to make one for a pair of fitted trousers and boy am I glad I did. The fit of my toile was all wrong and didn’t lay properly near the ankles. So with a little bit of a helping hand I pinned in the areas that needed pulling in and marked the changes with a pen. I then took everything apart and this time, used the toile as my pattern piece. I used carbon paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the markings on to my trousers fabric (polka dot trousers anyone?).

So, making a toile IS extra effort and I wouldn’t do it for everything but it is a great way to get a good fit and to eliminate the fear of ruining fabric.