Feed on

Yet more shuffling about.

Ivory Hat

I’m still shuffling things about between Etsy shops, as I think about where they really need to live. This ivory hat has been really popular in terms of Etsy favourites, but it hasn’t sold in the Emporium, so it’s now going to live in the Eternal Magpie Etsy Shop for a while.

The hats generally seem popular on both Etsy and Pinterest. They’re being included in Treasuries and re-pinned like mad (thank you!), but people seem very reluctant to buy. I’m hoping it’s just a seasonal thing – after all, who wants to think about wearing a warm felt hat in the middle of summer?! Now that the weather’s started to turn a bit more autumnal (I WILL NOT put the heating on in August, damn you summer!), perhaps people will be thinking more hat-related thoughts. I hope so anyway, as I have a batch of felt hoods in lovely autumnal colours just waiting to be turned into more hats.


These headscarves, made originally for the Vintage Night at work, back in May, are also now in the Eternal Magpie Etsy Shop. I must take some new photographs of these, I hadn’t realised they were still on the polystyrene head – and in some cases, not on a head at all! There are eight of these left (two of the dark blue floral), and I don’t think I’ll be making any more once these have sold out. They were really just for that one occasion, and not something I want to keep going with. I have too many different ideas to restrict myself to making the same thing over and over again! I might consider putting together a kit or a pattern though, as these are very easy to make.

Four sash belts

And finally, these sash belts have undergone a make-over, and have also moved into the Eternal Magpie Etsy Shop, out of the Emporium. The starry velvet one has sold, but the other three have had nice heavy D-rings added to one end, so you can just loop them through instead of having to tie yourself in knots. I made one for myself which fastened that way, and then immediately changed all the others, as they’re so much easier to wear – especially with trousers. No more having to wrestle with some nightmarish Gordian knot every time you want to go to the loo!

Once again, I probably won’t be making any more of these belts in precisely this incarnation. I started work on a prototype felted version weeks and weeks ago, I just haven’t quite got around to finishing it yet. I want to wear it a bit first, before I decide whether felted D-ring belts will become a new addition to the shop. I think they might.

I haven’t set foot into my craft room for what feels like weeks now – although I did sleep in there for two nights, while some friends were visiting! That was strangely comforting, to be sleeping on a little fold-out bed surrounded by all of my Stuff. Being the school holidays, I’ve been doing a few extra days at work (teaching wet felting and how to make bread and butter – not at the same time), and all of my spare time at home has been taken up with gardening and tidying and enjoying having guests to stay. Hopefully once we move into September (next week! already!), I can start to get myself back on track again.

An unexpected venture.

Oh, good grief. It’s a month since I last posted here, and I haven’t made a single one of the buttonholes I mentioned in my last post! I have made four in this blouse, though I accidentally made them on the left instead of the right. I decided it didn’t matter too much, as the blouse was for me… but then it didn’t fit, and now the blouse is sitting in the Etsy shop, waiting to find its new home. What you may or may not be able to tell from this little snippet, is that the print is covered with My Little Ponies!

I made the executive decision to split my Etsy shop into two, although at the moment they’re both selling a mishmash of the same things. Once the listings start to expire in one place I’ll re-list them in the other, and hopefully it should all be sorted out over the next couple of months.

The eternal magpie Etsy shop will sell bits and bobs that I’m clearing out from my stash, organic cotton clothing and zipped pouches as I make them, and the more “everyday” styles of felt hat. Oh, and my own sewing patterns, more of which in a moment.

Mr & Mrs Magpie’s Inexplicable Emporium has become a little bit too explicable lately, so I want to have a bit of a tidy-up. This is where I’ll be offering some gemstone jewellery pieces, some of the more complicated-to-make styles of hat, and some corset belts and felt work, once I get around to making them.

So, I mentioned sewing patterns…

A little while ago, a customer who I’d made one of these tunic dresses for (way back in 2009!) got in touch. She wanted to know whether it was possible, as I no longer made these tunics for sale, for her to have a copy of the pattern. I thought about it for a minute, said yes, and set about writing up the instructions.

Since sending off the pattern, Maria has already made not just one, but three tunics – and in the absolutely most fantastic choice of fabrics! And proving that word of mouth is absolutely the best way to sell things, Maria has been very kindly sending everyone who’s admired her tunics over to the eternal magpie Etsy shop, where you can now buy the pattern!

It’s a bit of an experiment at the moment – I’m drawing out the patterns by hand onto brown paper, as I don’t quite have the technology to get them into the computer. I drew them by hand in the first place, and haven’t yet managed to replicate them accurately with my pattern drafting software, which is very frustrating. Also, my greatest bugbear about printing out patterns is having to spend ages sticking all the pages together, so I thought that sending out the patterns complete would be a nice way of saving other people from having to do that.

So, I’ll see what kind of feedback I get about the patterns – whether they’re the right sizes, whether people can understand the instructions, that kind of thing – and decide after a little while whether this is something I want to carry on with or not.

I seem to be pulled in so many different directions these days… I’ll have to see what starts pulling me most strongly.

Back again.


Hello! I seem to be getting into a very lazy habit of only updating the blog about once a fortnight. My excuses are that it’s too frustrating trying to post using the iPad, and it’s so much easier to update Instagram and Facebook. Probably best to follow me there, if you feel like keeping up with me on a more regular basis.

Here you can see me in a fantastically stereotypical Instagram shot – staring whimsically into space as I contemplate how I’m going to get out of this dress when I haven’t added the front placket yet.

I was originally going to make a dress, then I changed my mind and decided to make a shirt. Thanks to a slight maths error (okay, the fact that I didn’t measure my hips properly) the shirt didn’t fit, so I decided to chop off the bottom eight inches and make it into a dress after all. But because I was cobbling together two patterns, I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to get in and out of the thing. My task for today is to cut into the skirt and add a placket, so I’ve got room for buttons below the waist.

I have quite a few buttonholes in my future – this petticoat needs eight of them. (I just need to find eight matching lingerie buttons from my stash.) The pattern is Butterick 3263, and I made the slip to test the fit of the bodice before I embark on the combinations. Just as well I did, as the petticoat didn’t fit me at all! I took in two inches at the centre back bodice, half an inch at each side, an inch out of each shoulder, and added a dart at the centre back skirt to accommodate my sway back. I’m now slightly paranoid that I’ve made it too tight, but I won’t find out until the buttons are in place. (Cue the traditional cursing of my sewing machine that refuses to make buttonholes unless I’m standing in the sewing machine shop complaining to Sue about it – when of course it makes them perfectly. Git.)

In an attempt to be more organised, and to try and keep both my pattern and fabric stashes under control, I’ve started work on a new system. I’ve printed out a little picture and the fabric details for each of the patterns I sew most often, and glued them down to the pages in a small Filofax that was sitting empty in a drawer. I plan to add swatches for each garment as I make them, so that I can see what I’ve got already and where any gaps might be. The second section will be swatches cut from my fabric stash, so that when I go fabric shopping I can see what I’ve got at home, and make sure I’m not duplicating things. This will also allow me to match up the patterns with the swatches, and hopefully shrink the stash a little bit by actually sewing something from it!

Section three, which you can see poking out on the right, is swatches from clothes that are already in my wardrobe. (These were cut from inexplicable horizontal loops on the back of my jeans.) Having these with me will mean that I can buy fabric (or wool) to match clothes that I have already, thereby creating Actual Outfits rather than a wardrobe full of lovely clothes that bear no relation to one another. (Currently I have nine pairs of smart trousers, and no tops at all to go with them. I’m very bored with black t-shirts already.) I’m also contemplating knitting tiny swatches to match my cardigans, though I think that might be a step too far into madness. Perhaps just sticking in a few strands of yarn would do just as well.

Speaking of madness… the other day I made this little doll face. I found her a bit fiddly (hence the slightly squiffy eyes!), so I enlarged the pattern, thinking I’d try making a doll on a slightly larger scale. Except that when I really looked at the photocopied pieces, I realised that “slightly larger” is actually going to turn out about three feet tall! Do I really want to make a doll at that kind of size? Well, I’ve got a big enough piece of felt, so why not?! We’ll see how long it takes for me to get bored of stuffing all the pieces. (I predict: Not Very.)

In Other News… 

I’ve been clearing out my pattern stash into the Etsy shop.
There are a few vintage patterns that turned out not to fit me, a few that I bought and then changed my mind about, and a few that are cut out to sizes that I now can’t fit into. More to come over the next week or so.

My zipped pouches were reviewed over at Blonde Ambition.
Thank you Katie, for the lovely review!

The Vintage Haberdashery Mystery Boxes have disappeared from Etsy
…but I do still have one left. Let me know if you’d like it, and I can pop the listing back up just for you. Otherwise it’ll sit on my shelf feeling lonely, until I can find a good home for it.

And now? Buttonholes. Lots of buttonholes.

(And hoping that it doesn’t rain on the four loads of washing currently drying in the garden, because I’ve got no room for all that laundry in the house if the weather decides to chuck it down!)

All hats, all the time…

Felt cloche hat

Okay, that’s not strictly true, and I don’t even really know what I’ve been doing with myself over the last fortnight apart from working a lot and feeling a bit ill, but I have just finished a little flurry of hats, so here they are.

The one above is the colour of a perfect cup of builder’s tea, trimmed with gold lace that took weeks and weeks to arrive from China. I won’t be ordering that lace again, but I’m making good use of it while I’ve got it. This one in particular is very pretty, and I have enough left over for at least one more hat.

Felt cloche hat

This one’s more the colour of coffee, or really good dark chocolate. This is also lace-from-China, which I’ve altered slightly from its original form. It had a segmented piece at the top which is designed to have ribbon woven through it, but in this case I preferred it without. The loopy bits are all couched down securely to the crown of the hat, but the teardrop shapes are left loose to allow a bit of movement.

I’m hesitant to describe these two hats as “Steampunk” just because they happen to be brown and gold, but perhaps they’ll be the perfect addition to somebody’s outfit.

Felt cloche hat

I wasn’t at all sure what I was going to do with this lavender coloured felt, and then I spotted this gorgeous organic cotton lace from Lancaster & Cornish. Okay, so it’s a lot more expensive than the Chinese lace (in this particular instance, fifteen times more expensive!!), but now I’ve worked with it I’m in no doubt that it’s absolutely worth it. The quality is amazing, it’s organically produced, and to be honest it’s just plain gorgeous.

The flower embellishment is also organic – a cotton and bamboo blend from the Organic Textile Company. I have quite a lot of little scraps of this fabric left over from a dress, so I can feel a few more of these flowers coming on – perhaps as brooches.

Felt cloche hat

And this… this is what came off my new cloche block from Guy Morse-Brown. Isn’t it just gorgeous? I realise I seem to be singing my own praises here, but really it’s the hat block that does all the hard work, and Owen Morse-Brown (who makes the wooden blocks) has carved an absolute work of art. I’m in love with the asymmetrical shape, the way the crown hugs the head, and the cutaway at the back of the neck which makes it incredibly easy to wear. I’m keeping this one, and I’ll definitely be making more!

Felt cloche hat

The flowers are made from the offcuts of felt that I trimmed away from the brim, and they’re cut out with Sizzix paper punches. It’s quite hard work to hammer the punches through the thick felt – they’re not really designed for that kind of punishment – but the flowers have come out with nice clean edges. The centres are Swarovski crystals. (I’m trying not to think about how much it looks like one of those flowery swimming caps.)

The hats are all on Etsy, should you fancy a closer look.

I’m now at that awkward stage once again where I need somebody to buy a hat (or a bunch of smaller stuff from the Emporium) before I can afford to buy any more felt hoods to make new hats with. It seems unlikely that wool felt hats are going to fly off the shelves in the middle of summer, but at least it’s not as though I have a shortage of other materials to make things from in the meantime. I have some carded wool batts on order to make some felt which will hopefully be heavy-duty enough for slippers or hats, I have lots of organic cotton to turn into tunic tops, and I have plans to make a few things for myself. Summer dresses, perhaps. I certainly won’t be short of things to do!

Garden, 6am

Garden, 6am

I’ve been awake since about 4:30 in the morning, something that’s increasingly common now that I’m not taking sleeping tablets to control the fibromyalgia. I wake up (this morning thanks to the entire dawn chorus taking place in the forsythia outside the bedroom window), and I don’t go back to sleep again. Today, after having a bit of a grumble about Nature on facebook, I decided to go outside and have a bit of a look at it.

Garden, 6am

This wild corner is in the top right of the picture above. The garden’s about 30 metres (120 feet) long, and this is standing right at the back (underneath the blackthorn tree), looking towards the house. It might look like an overgrown mess, but this is my favourite part of the garden at the moment. We’re letting it run completely wild, with just a little attempted management of the overgrown lawn grass. I need to look up when you’re actually supposed to mow a meadow, because that’s what I want this to become.

Garden, 6am

Who’s been sleeping in my bed?! We haven’t seen any evidence of foxes in the garden at all, but this squashed patch of long grass is there every morning, which suggests somebody’s been sleeping here. Could be a fox, could be a cat, could be a party of hedgehogs. Who knows? Whoever it is, I’m pleased we’ve got company.

Garden, 6am

The tiny apple tree (not even five feet tall and only a couple of years old) is absolutely bursting with braeburns. Last year we harvested them too soon, worried about losing them in the storms. This year it’s going to be even harder to wait, having watched them grow all year!

Garden, 6am

The tiny pear tree (ditto) is also looking great. The pears had all gone before we moved in, so we don’t know what they’re going to be like, or quite when they’ll be ripe. And who knew that pears grow upside down?!

Garden, 6am

The enormous hypericum is just starting to come into flower, along with some of the other long-neglected shrubs. I can’t wait to see it in full bloom, it’s going to be fantastic.

Garden, 6am

Is this a type of geranium? I’m not sure. I haven’t got around to identifying anything that’s growing in the wild patch. Whatever it is, it’s all over the place at the moment, along with lots of campions and the last of the garlic mustard. The bees are loving it, even at this time of the morning, and so am I.

Improving on Me-Made May


You may have spotted that I didn’t post very many photos from my Me-Made May escapades. This is partly because I mostly look like some kind of strange triangular bag lady (I like layers, and most of my clothes are comfortable-shaped), and partly because it turns out that I only wear about four outfits, over and over again, with very minor variations. How boring!


Towards the end of the month I made a last-ditch effort to wear some of the smarter clothes in my wardrobe, only to discover that when I put them on… well, suddenly they’re not so smart any more. This dress is now very firmly on the “waiting to be chopped up and turned into something that doesn’t look like a giant floral sack” pile. There’s just no point in wasting time and fabric making clothes that require waist shaping in order to look nice, when waist shaping isn’t something that I actually have myself. Although, having said that, my other vintage dress (also made from an Advance size 18½ pattern without alterations) fitted really well and looked lovely!


See? I still don’t have a waist, but the dress looks smart, not like a huge great cushion’s attacked me while I wasn’t looking. I think this is partly down to the fact that this dress has a smooth skirt rather than miles of pleats. (Also: not a selfie, vintage-style foundation garments, not layered with t-shirts and bloomers and giant boots on account of it being freezing at work.)

Lace crop top

Sadly, even if I did have the budget to wear lovely things from Kiss Me Deadly every day, the fibromyalgia simply wouldn’t allow it. But, the whole Me-Made May experiment did reveal that I am very much lacking in the Me-Made underwear department – despite the fact that I spent plenty of time and money on the London College of Fashion’s Structured Lingerie course back in 2011. I bought this lace when I came back, in a fit of enthusiasm, and it’s been untouched in a box ever since, along with a metre and a half of pink, and four metres of a prettier-than-it-sounds grey. This particular lingerie is about as unstructured as you can get (no wires, no fastenings, nothing), but I used a lot of the skills I learned on the course to make it. The pattern itself is from Sewing Lingerie, a Singer reference book, where it’s described as a “sleep bra”.

The wide stretch lace that I used to make this is actually really affordable, and comes in lots of different colours and patterns. If this one (and the pink one I’ve just finished, and the two or three grey ones I’m going to make next) turn out to be comfortable, I can feel a drawer full of these coming on before Me-Made May next year!

Well, most of the time.

Today I woke up to discover outrage all over the Etsy forums, because a percentage of shops have been enrolled in an “experiment” without any prior warning. Okay, I’m sure it says somewhere in the T&Cs that we’ve all agreed to this kind of fiddling about as part of our contract with Etsy, but in this particular case a bit of advance notice would have been nice. What Etsy have done is to remove all information about shipping costs until after an item has been added to the shopping cart. This is resulting in loss of sales (who wants to faff about adding things to a cart to find out information that should be part of the listing?), and for European shops, anyone involved is now in breach of EU distance selling regulations by not displaying their international shipping fees up front. There’s no way of opting out, no way of changing the situation, we just have to ride it out until Etsy deems the experiment finished and hopefully reinstates the shipping information!

I have to admit that I’ve been thinking about moving away from Etsy for a while… not because of any problems I’ve had with Etsy (until this morning!), more because I’d like to have my own store with its own design and branding, which I can’t have on Etsy. One of the strongest points about the stalls I’ve done with the Emporium in Real Life has been the branding, and that’s lost amongst all the identical-looking stores on Etsy. I’m doing what I can with my product photography, but it’s not brilliant, and I’d like my branding to be stronger.

I’ve used Big Cartel before, and I’m quite tempted to try them again – although with around 100 products in the store at any one time, their fees will be more than I’m paying on Etsy. But then I can do things like adding the different styles of zipped pouches under one listing and still retain inventory control of each different print, which is something you can’t do on Etsy. The shipping information is set up in the same way, which I like – you simply set a profile for each object. This works well, as it allows me to charge exact shipping fees, whether it’s £1 for a sewing pattern or £12 for a hat.

I’ve also been looking at Shopify – a friend has recently set up a lovely gift shop on this platform, and my husband’s using it to launch a board games shop very soon. The fees again are more than I’m currently paying on Etsy (and Shopify’s lowest monthly fee is only 99 cents less than Big Cartel’s highest!), so I’d need to be sure I was definitely going to be making enough sales to be able to cover the cost of the fees. On Etsy you pay by item rather than by month – so at least if you don’t sell anything (depressing thought), you don’t pay anything. The other down side of Shopify is that you can’t specify shipping per individual product, you have to set a flat rate based on the overall total of the order, or by the weight of the products. This simply doesn’t work when Royal Mail calculate their prices by size as well as weight – hats aren’t heavy, but they’re big, and I want them insured!

Shopify is perhaps the most professional-looking of the three though, and allows a great deal of customisation. It would also allow me to import and maintain this blog, which would be a bonus! Both Shopify and Big Cartel would allow me to use a custom domain name if I wanted to, and they both have integration which allows direct selling on Facebook. What they don’t have, however, is the huge community surrounding them which is the biggest benefit of Etsy. Admittedly I don’t get too involved in teams and forums and groups, but the fact remains that almost two-thirds of traffic to my current shop comes from within Etsy itself. And that would simply disappear if I disappeared from Etsy, which means I’d have to do an awful lot more work on marketing – which frankly is not my forté. I want to spend my time making stuff, not running a marketing campaign to sell it.

I don’t do very many stalls in Real Life, and my products simply aren’t priced to be sold in other people’s shops, so I really need my online presence to work for me in terms of actually selling the things that I make.

If anybody has any suggestions based on their own experiences, I’d be really grateful to hear them. I’m so confused right now that I don’t know what to do for the best!

New mannequin, new photos

First glimpse of my new ghostly mannequin. Isn't she lovely?

Please excuse the grainy Instagram snapshot and the incredibly messy sewing room, but this is the first glimpse of my new mannequin. Isn’t she lovely? Much more sophisticated than my polystyrene heads.

Organic bow tie

The arrival of the mannequin has led to a day of product photography, which (as it turns out) is rather difficult. Especially when your “studio” is two pieces of wallpaper propped up on the bed, and a reflector that’s quite difficult to wrangle at the same time as the camera! Still, these photos are a definite improvement on the previous ones, even though they do still need improvement themselves. Work In Progress, and all that.

I wanted to showcase the last few bow ties, as I’ve added a coupon code to the Inexplicable Emporium. Simply enter “FATHERSDAY” when you check out, and you’ll receive 20% off your order. This is valid until June 15th – but don’t forget to allow enough time for your parcel to arrive in the post!

Purple cloche hat

I’ve also re-photographed all the cloche hats (some with greater success than others), to try and make them look a bit more tempting. I’ll finally be able to work on some new hats soon, as the lace I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived! Although I had a slight incident with a vegetable slicer at the weekend, which means I can’t do any hand sewing until the hole in my thumb has healed a bit more. Oops.

(By the way – the code “FATHERSDAY” works throughout my Etsy store, not just on the items that your Dad might like. So if you’ve been coveting a hat, you can take advantage of the offer to buy it at a bit of a discount.)

I do love this pink and purple one. If somebody doesn’t snap it up very soon, I think I might just have to keep it.

Dress Success!


You remember that whole work/life balance thing that I was talking about the other week? It seems to have toppled over slightly. It happened not least because I was working towards an Inexplicable Emporium stall that took place at work, at our Museums at Night event. The combination of making sure I had enough stock ready on time, coupled with staying out long past my bedtime, and then compounded by an extremely hectic day off, have led to me hobbling to work today with my walking stick, because I was simply too exhausted to stand up all by myself. Oops.

But! The event itself was a fantastic night out, we sold enough stock to make all the effort worthwhile, and I managed to finish my new dress in time to wear it. Phew!
(Note to self: NEVER wear those shoes again. Beautiful, but so uncomfortable. Ouch.)

Advance 8065, 1956 dress pattern

The pattern is Advance 8065, a shirtwaist dress from 1956, in an extremely modern-proportioned size 18½. Next time I need to shorten the back bodice ever so slightly, but otherwise it’s an absolutely perfect fit. And after wondering whether I’d ever wear it again after the Vintage Night, the answer is a very definite yes! The dress was so comfortable, and so easy to wear, that it’s actually going into my work wardrobe rather than my Special Occasions pile.

I only made one alteration to the pattern, and that was to eliminate the side zip. Because the bodice front matches up with the side front skirt seam, it was easy to simply leave that seam open a few inches, add a placket, and then close it again with snap fasteners. Next time I’ll add two more buttons, but I needed to get this one finished in a hurry and didn’t have time to hand-stitch two more buttonholes!

In fact, I enjoyed wearing this dress so much that I may have already bought the fabric for another one… to match my niece’s Christmas dress. Because honestly, how could I resist a navy blue dress that’s COVERED IN BEES, with buttons to match?

Surprisingly popular!

A little bouquet of felted flowers. Wet felt for the petals, needle felted in the centre to hold them onto the bobby pins at the back.

This little pile of felted flowers (complete with grainy Instagram filter – I’m “inexplicableemporium”) is waiting to go to work with me on Saturday evening, where I’ll be having a stall at our Museums At Night event. Well, that was the plan, anyway! The two green were ones were made by request for a friend, and the blue one sold on Facebook this afternoon, to another friend who’s also ordered a waterfall jacket that I’m really looking forward to making. Thankfully I still have seven hair flowers to take with me, plus another nine brooches the same size that are just waiting for the pins to be sewn on.

Small felt hair flower on a bobby pin

This is the size of the smaller flowers – about 7-10cm (3-4″) across, and quite deep. It’s attached to a bobby pin that has a little round pad at the top, which holds it firmly in place. The pad sits in between the flower petals and the centre ball, so it’s completely hidden and very secure.

Large felt hair flower on a ribbon-covered comb

This one… well, first I was going to keep it. Then I sewed it onto a comb, and remembered that combs really don’t stay put in my hair. But I was worried that it would be too big, so I popped this photo onto Facebook to ask for some feedback. Apparently it’s not too big at all, a friend has claimed it for her own, and I’m in the process of making half a dozen similarly-sized ones to take to the Vintage Night tomorrow!

Yesterday's felt flowers, now dry and ready for brooch pins. More enormous flowers for hair combs on their way!

And this, again from Instagram, is a selection of the flowers I made yesterday. I’m hoping that there’s enough of a range of colours to appeal to lots of people, although from the response I’ve been getting to the photos, I’m hoping that their popularity isn’t going to be a problem!

Oh gosh, that sounds smug, and it really isn’t supposed to. In fact, I’m a little bit overwhelmed about how supportive and enthusiastic people are being. I’ve seen links to my Etsy store shared on forums, received offers of collaborations, and everyone’s just generally being lovely. I think I’m gradually starting to whittle down my making into things that I’m really happy with – so the fact that other people are happy with them too is the icing on the cake!

Older Posts »