FREE DELIVERY on UK mainland orders OVER £40

Tag Archives: Guest Bloggers

Introducing our latest guest blogger Louise from Sew Sofia......

sew sofia logo 1.jpg.opt295x295o0,0s295x295

We have admired Louise's work for a while now and are really delighted that she's agreed to join the guest blogger team here at Poppies & Polka Dots. Her first tutorial which will be available from Sunday 12th June and is an absolute beauty, featuring one of my favourite fabric collections so far of 2016 - Wonderland by Melissa Mortensen .DSCF3042

It's become traditional to introduce our guest bloggers to you with a few questions..... so here we go, introducing to you Louise Ambrosi the founder of the wonderful Sew Sofia shop and blog.

1 - Have you always been a fan of making and sewing and when did it all start?

I’ve always been into making stuff. As a child I would spend ages finger knitting, cross stitch/tapestries and handstitching patchwork hexagons together. When I reached secondary school I was sewing cushions on my Grandma’s old Singer for my bedroom, crocheting blankets for the needy and making polymer clay bead necklaces and key rings for friends and teachers. I never really got sewing properly until I got married and we needed curtains for our new house! Then my daughter Sofia came along and I started Sew Sofia in September 2011, inspired by her enthusiasm to create new things every day and I love making new things for her and her brother to try out.

2 - What was the catalyst to opening your shop?

It all started when I was made redundant from a business information centre in 2011. I was looking for something more creative than an office job to keep me busy for a few hours while my son was at nursery. I became interested in making bags after buying the book Sew! By Cath Kidston which gave the basics for bag making. I made a couple of tote bags for Sofia’s teachers and a ballet bag for a friend’s daughter – I got lots of compliments for my first bags and when my friend said “You could sell these!” and put in an order for another bag, I was encouraged to make more!

I then received The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam from my sister for my birthday – I initially thought the bags looked far too difficult to make, but once I tried one pattern I became hooked and have not looked back! Now the more challenging the bag pattern the better!

3 - Where do you find inspiration for your makes?

Fabric is a key source of my inspiration – if I see something I like I start dreaming up what I can make with it. I’m also inspired by all the bag pattern designers around the world who come up with some wonderful patterns just waiting to be made into beautiful bags. il_570xN.1000938685_er2g

4 - How would you describe your style?

Funky, Fun and Functional is my strapline for Sew Sofia – I like making items with a purpose and in eye catching prints and colours. I also like working with wipe clean fabrics like laminated and coated cottons which are practical for keeping bags clean and lasting longer.


5 - What is the make you’re most proud of to date?

That would have to be my camera bags, they are a challenge to make but I really love the way they come together at the end.

6 - In terms of sewing, is there anyone in particular that inspires you or someone we should be looking out for / reading their blog?

I’m an avid follower of Melissa Mortensen of The Polkadot Chair blog, she has some brilliant bag patterns and other tutorials on her blog and has recently started designing fabrics too like this Wonderland collection for Riley Blake. She also has some great party ideas for kids!

I love Swoon bag patterns  by Alicia Miller in the US – her work is inspiring and I love taking part in her Facebook group page. I’ve made friends with lots of fellow bag makers around the world and we spur each other on.

7 - What was the last thing that you made for yourself?

One of my Weather Girl wallets in laminated cotton umbrellas print from Dashwood. il_570xN.769957848_638t

8 – Is there anything in the craft calendar you are currently working towards or particularly looking forward to?

I love making quilted advent calendars for Christmas – there’s something lovely about creating a timeless keepsake for families to enjoy year on year. It’s also a pleasant change from making bags.

9 - What’s the most rewarding thing about running Sew Sofia?

I really love what I do, I get just as excited as my customers about picking out fabrics for their chosen bag and find it so rewarding creating something unique and handmade that someone will appreciate. There’s something really special about making something that will end up as a birthday or Christmas gift, a changing bag for a new mum, wedding favours for a bride-to-be or even an ordinary women just wanting to treat herself to a new bag! I love the flexibility of my job too. With most of my customers ordering online, I can choose when I want to be busy or keep a low profile when I need a break. It means that I can spend more time with my family as well and they grow up so quickly so I don’t want to miss out!

10 - Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting a sewing business?

11060D__01713.1406084663.1104.1280Oh where to start! Stay on top of admin (she says!) – it’s my downfall as I’d always rather be sewing than keeping those accounts in order.

Product pricing is key…it took me a long while to figure out the right prices for my products and admittedly I started out with much lower prices at the beginning without seeing much profit. Handmade should not be cheaper than mass produced items, it should reflect the time and care and materials that have gone into the end product. I would highly recommend the book “Sewing to Sell - The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Craft Business” by Virginia Lindsay of Gingercake Patterns for some great tips and also clever patterns to get you started.

11 - When not sewing, how do you like to relax?

Aqua Aerobics and walking – to ease the daily tensions of sitting slumped at a sewing machine all day! Plus I enjoy reading and a good bit of not too scary sci-fi!

Massive thank you to Louise for this wonderful insight into how Sew Sofia all began and for the fantastic suggestions and advise. Hopefully this has whet the appetite for the next tutorial which is by Louise and will be available as of Sunday 12th June, for now here's a lovely taste of what's to come.....




Comments Off on Introducing our latest guest blogger Louise from Sew Sofia...... Continue Reading

Nature Trail Tote - by Katy Cameron - The Littlest Thistle

Nature-trail-toteAbout Me For SidebarDesigned and made by Katy Cameron


Finished size: 11.5inch x 13.5inch

Seam allowance, unless otherwise stated: 1/2inch



Dashwood - Double Border Nature TrailMaterials:

1/2 m Double Border print from Nature Trail by Dashwood Studios

1/2 m Bunnies print from Nature Trail by Dashwood Studios

1/2 m Fusible Woven Interfacing

1 m Cream Mini Pompom Braid 

1 m Orange Ricrac 

Basic sewing supplies

Cutting Instructions:

Cut the following pieces from the outer fabric:

2 front/back pieces, 12.5in x 14.5in (if using the double border print, fussy cut the borders between the duck and the hedgehog, and do not cut the selvage off)

Cut the following pieces from the lining fabric:

2 front and back pieces, 12.5in x 14.5in

2 handles 4in x 21in

Cut the following from the fusible woven interfacing:

2 front and back pieces, 12.5in x 14.5in

Cut the following pieces from each of the trims:

2 pieces 12.5in long

Preparing the pieces:

Step 2-3 1. Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse the woven interfacing to the back of the outer fabric pieces.

2. Sew the mini pompom trim to the outer bag pieces, 4in from the top of the 12.5in edge, parallel to the edge.

3. Sew the ricrac to the outer bag pieces, 1.5in from the bottom of the 12.5in edge, parallel to the edge.

 How To Make The Tote:

4. Take one front and one lining pieces and place right sides together, matching top edge. Stitch together along the top edge, then open out and press seams open. Repeat with the remaining outer and lining piece.

Step 5 5. Place the 2 pieces from step 4 right sides together, matching all edges and seams. Stitch all the way around, leaving a 4in turning gap in the bottom of the lining, then press the seam allowances open (you can do this by pressing one side at a time towards the body of the tote)

Step 6

6. Clip the corners of the outer and lining as per the photo and turn through the turning gap using a small pointed object, such as a chopstick, to push the corners square, and tucking the seam allowance from the turning gap inside.

7. Sew the turning gap closed, then tuck the lining inside the bag and press. Topstitch 1/8in from the top edge all the way around.

Step 88. Take one of the handles and fold in half, matching long edges, and press. Open out and fold the long edges in to the centre fold and press again. Fold along original fold line and press again.

Step 9a9. Open out along the original fold line so that the short ends are right sides together, as per the photo.

Step 9bUsing a 1/4in seam allowance, sew the short ends only, then clip the corners as you did in step 6. Turn the handle right sides out, so that the short seams are now on the inside, folding it along the original fold line.

10. Top stitch all the way round the handle 1/8in from edge.

11. Repeat steps 8 -10 with the other handle.



Step 1212. At each end of the 2 handles mark a box using a removable pen as per the photo, 1in up from the end.

13. Step 13Pin the handle ends to the bag so that the end of the handle is 2.5inch in from the side and 1.5inch down from the top, catching both the front and back of the bag with the pin. Stitch in place by sewing around the box twice, including the diagonals.




14. Step back and admire your new tote bag

About the pattern:

When I first saw this print I knew it would be perfect for a little girl who would be needing a present soon. The Nature Trail prints are so cute, and the wee trims just added a little extra something to the tote.



Comments Off on Nature Trail Tote - by Katy Cameron - The Littlest Thistle Continue Reading

Introducing Katy Cameron - AKA - The Littlest Thistle

About Me For SidebarWe stumbled across Katy's blog some time ago and have loved reading about her wonderful makes, including gorgeous quilts, patchwork and the most scrumptious of totes, ever since.

If you haven't come across her yet, you'll find her blog here and she is also a regular contributor in 'Quilt Now magazine'.

If you like to sew and are especially keen on bags or quilting, then Katy's work and tutorials are definitely worth checking out!

Dashwood - Double Border Nature TrailSo you can understand our delight, when having got in touch with the lovely Katy she agreed to become part of the Poppies & Polka Dots Blog team! Yeaaaay! And have we got a treat for you this month... Katy has been busy creating an irresistible tote for you using this little package of yumminess, which includes the lovely double border print from the Nature Trail collection. Think, perfect gift for someone (or yourself!), so be sure to check this out over the coming days.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a little more with you about Katy, so here's some questions we recently put to her.....(and some pictures of her makes!) Enjoy x

Have you always been a fan of making and sewing? When did it all begin?

I am what my mum would call a ‘fidget’. I swear I spent half my childhood listening to her saying ‘will you sit at peace!’ so I made things to keep me occupied and when I left home, woah, there was no-one shouting and I had so much more space to make things! I’ve meandered through a number of crafts, having learned to embroider when I was very small, hijacked my mum’s unused sewing machine in my teens, wandered past glass painting, watercolour, scrapbooking, jewelery making and teddy bear making before settling on bags and quilts.

IMG_6726What was the catalyst to starting your blog?

I used to make my one of a kind artist teddy bears to sell, so I started the blog    after encouragement from fellow artists as a place to show progress in the making and maybe even sell. That never really happened, but when I stumbled across Sew Mama Sew giveaway day in 2011 while looking for dolls’ clothing patterns, I both found a whole new area of things to sew (quilts) and a set of things to focus my blog on (initially clothes and bags, then quilts).

Where do you find inspiration for your makes?

IMG_2167All over! I carry a sketch book in my bag, and especially when I’m travelling you can see me sitting in train stations and airports furtively sketching bag shapes and design features. The women at work also provide all sorts of ideas with their handbags. I’ve never copied a whole bag, but I’ve certainly noted down what I consider to be ingenious ways of doing things. There’s one girl who was sitting in front of me at a company meeting recently, and there was an adjustable bit at the top of her bag that I’m dying to use somewhere!

p19eho46odgf2enc1qs7t55vdi9How would you describe your style?

Practical, for the most part. I’m not good at girly and pretty, and until very recently I didn’t even use handbags, preferring to shove everything in my coat pockets, but then someone pointed out that the handbags might be a good marketing tool if I actually used them! My mum has received most of my smaller bags over the years, but the bigger ones are usually ones I make to fulfil a need when travelling.

Can you explain the ‘bear’ thing?

See previous answers :o) I used to make and sell one of a kind artist teddy bears out of mohair. The bear that is my blog avatar was my very first design, and the one that is my Facebook avatar was a finalist in the British Bear Artists Awards.

In terms of sewing, is there anyone in particular that inspires you or someone we should be looking out for / reading their blog?

These days I’m all about the eye candy on Instagram. I’m quite selective about who I follow because I don’t have a lot of time to spend, but recently the #beesewcial bee have been making some fantastic quilt blocks, lots of great improv and interesting inspiration.

IMG_3715We’ve seen that your patterns have featured in various magazines, how did your first feature come about?

My first feature was in a one off bag making magazine. My friend Jo from My Bearpaw happened to know the editor and was making something herself and suggested I send in a pattern. I’m a regular in Quilt Now magazine after one of my patterns was successful in an open call to submit for the first 3 issues magazines. I’ve been in almost every issue since.

What was the last thing that you made for yourself?

Ummm, well I’ve got 2/3 of a ‘My Small World’ supersized quilt top made, which will be for me, does that count?

Are you planning any Christmas makes? If so, what are you most looking forward to getting started on?My family demands homemade every year. My mum has requested a bag, and has specifications, so that will be my favourite as I won’t have to imagine the whole thing from scratch ;o)

IMG_8119What are you most looking forward to in 2016 in terms of sewing & any upcoming projects?I’m most looking forward to Sew Brit Bag Camp, a weekend bag making retreat that I’m running with my friend Samantha from Patterns By Mrs H, which will be in March. It’s a lot of work, but should be such a fun event!

If you want to learn more about Katy and her latest tutorials, patterns and much more, be sure to head over to The Littlest Thistle

Don't forget, her latest tote and 'how to instructions' for the lovely Nature Trail double border fabric, will be available here at Poppies & Polka Dots in the next couple of days..... be sure not to miss it!




Comments Off on Introducing Katy Cameron - AKA - The Littlest Thistle Continue Reading

Crocheted Sunglasses Patterns by Steel & Stitch

So here they are our first yummy patterns created for Poppies & Polka Dots by Emma at Steel & Stitch.

Given the time of year and the fact that we have recently been enjoying some lovely sunshine here in the UK, we thought it would be a lovely idea to provide a pattern for anyone wishing to make their very own, unique and much prettier than the average shop bought sunglass case. Here Emma provides us with 2 very pretty designs, both using the tapestry crocheting technique. So take you pick - which do you prefer?

maypolecase johnolga case

All you need to make these lovely cases are the following yarns:

Stylecraft Classique Cotton DK:

John&Olga (Hearts) Design:
1 ball of Azure
1 ball of Fondant
1 ball of Teal
1 ball of White

Maypole Case Design:
1 ball of Azure
1 ball of Fondant
1 ball of Teal
1 ball of White

To make it a little easier for you, we created 2 packs especially for these designs:

John & Olga Sunglasses Yarn Pack Maypole Sunglasses Yarn Pack

To access and print your free pattern and instructions for these cases, please click the links below.

John & Olga (Hearts) Sunglasses Case Pattern by Steel & Stitch

May Pole Sunglasses Case Pattern by Steel & Stitch

If you have any questions or comments, please do feel free to get in touch with us or Emma directly.
Happy Crocheting!

Comments Off on Crocheted Sunglasses Patterns by Steel & Stitch Continue Reading

Emma Friedlander-Collins: No.1 Guest Blogger!

Lots of very exciting things have been happening here at Poppies & Polka Dots over that last few weeks, not least that I am now able to introduce our very first and incredibly lovely guest blogger - Emma Friedlander-Collins. For those of you that haven't come across Emma before, she is the author of the fabulous Crochet Dress-Up book:

Emma Friedlander-Collins - Crochet Dress Up
A wonderfully original book full of delightful crochet patterns for children's dressing up costumes.

Emma has very generously agreed to create some exclusive tutorials and patterns for Poppies & Polka Dots which can be downloaded free from our website. The first two of these are going to be available from Monday 15th June!

In the meantime, I'd love to take this opportunity to introduce you a little more to Emma, so here are a few questions that I recently put to her.....

What first got you interested in crochet?

I remember seeing a little amigurumi unicorn somewhere and completely falling in love with it. I’ve always been a sewer, but knew I’d never be able to make it from fabric, so I’d just have to learn how to crochet.

When and how did you learn to crochet?

About four years ago I was on maternity leave, waiting for my littlest to arrive, I found some online tutorials, and started to teach myself. I’d tried knitting a few times and never taken to it, so was really surprised at how easily and quickly I fell for crochet, and now I think about it, am astonished at the journey it’s taken me on!

In terms of crocheting is there anyone in particular that inspires you?

I recently discovered Molla Mills, she’s the first crochet pin-up there’s ever been! Her designs are bold and graphic, and she definitely does her own thing.

How would you describe your style of crocheting to anyone that hasn’t seen what you do?

My work is quite playful. Having taught myself I’ve never been restricted by what you ‘should’ do. In my first book the editors called to say I’d been making up stitches! I like to play with shape and structure I suppose, and I also  really like subverting the traditional idea of what people think crochet is like, and making it a bit edgy.

Where do you get your ideas/ inspiration for new designs and patterns?

Oh goodness, they come from everywhere, all of the time! The first book was all from things that the children could play with and in so very much driven by them, but recently I’m obsessing about colours and flowers, so lots of things are going on in my head inspired by them.

How did you come about getting your first crochet book published?

I’d been making my own patterns for ages, and it was my husband who encouraged me to write them up and get them on Etsy. I thought he was bonkers, but very quickly I started selling at least a pattern a week. Eventually there were enough patterns on there that I thought they’d make a fairly cohesive collection, so I went online to find out what I’d need to do to submit the idea to a publisher
It was a friend that suggested I try CICO, they specialise in non-fiction, arts and craftsy books, so I sent them an email and after a few weeks they got back to me and it all went from there.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your work?

Sometimes I get this sudden picture in my head of something that I just think would be so cool to make, and sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not. What I’m most proud of is when I work through a hundred different iterations of something to finally make the thing I had in my head – the fairy wings is a really good example of that, but so are some of my newer patterns like the Aztec bag or the flowercrown that I’ll be releasing for Halloween.

Do you have a favourite crocheted costume from your book? If so, which one and why?

Probably the pirate costume, because it’s the first ‘set’ I ever made and my boys wore the hell out of it, it’s still seems bonkers to see it in a book.

Pirate Costume - Emma Friedlander- Collins

Where did you find inspiration for your second crochet book?

I’d bought some really chunky yarn but couldn’t find a hook big enough to get the tension I wanted, so my husband sawed the end off our broom and carved me a new, super-size hook. Then it was a case of seeing what I could find to use it on!

What’s your favourite type of yarn to work with and why?

At the moment I’m really into natural wools, but that’s because I’m learning to spin my own. The more wool you get in a yarn mix the more elastic the finish and I’m finding that really interesting to work with.

Do you have a favourite item that you’ve crocheted for yourself?

Right now I’m going over all the things I’ve made and getting excited about almost all of them. The thing I use the most though, is a tapestry crochet bag I made for myself, it’s just the right size and has a big blue block of colour above a geometric design and is just really cool.

What does the rest of the year hold for you in terms of crochet and your work?

I’m learning about the submission process for magazines at the moment, as well as working on a new collection to take to the publishers. I’m also getting a teaching qualification to start teaching adult evening classes in ‘modern’ crochet. So there’s a lot going on, but it’s all crochet based which is really rewarding.


Emma Friedlander-Collins - Big Hook Crochet

Emma's second book, Big Hook Crochet is out in September 15 and is available at Waterstones and other good bookshops as well as Amazon.

If you'd like to follow Emma's crocheting adventures, then why not keep up to date with her blog Steel & Stitch or follow her on Instagram @steelandstitch.

Remember to pop back on Monday as we'll have two fab crochet patterns on our blog created by Emma, exclusive to Poppies & Polka Dots, so keep in touch, Katrina x

Comments Off on Emma Friedlander-Collins: No.1 Guest Blogger! Continue Reading