Friday, May 27, 2016

Announcing Leslie Astor Handmade

I'm so pleased to announce that I will be running a series of crafting workshops here in the Cotswolds in the coming months. Please take a moment to visit Leslie Astor Handmade to get a sneak peek. At the moment this website is under construction, but for now  you can leave your e-mail address if you'd like to hear about where and when new workshops are happening. I've got plans for a fun introduction to embroidery, where you'll use one of your child's drawings to make a textile drawing of your own, an introduction to tapestry weaving workshop using low tech, easily sourced supplies, and an introduction to cold process soap making. 

But first I'll be in Warwickshire, on June 7th, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., teaching Handmade Bath Bombs 101. As ever, I'll be sure to focus on using natural and sustainable ingredients that are good for you and the environment. £20 pp person includes all materials. Get in touch if you'd like to come along-space is limited.

For more information, send me an email at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Signing Off

Dear friends,

A million thanks to those of you who have read about and cheered on my creative endeavors in this space these last few years. I have really enjoyed sharing it all with you. I've decided, though, that's it's time to call it a day here at CABL. I haven't posted in a long while, and the last time I looked, another crafty blogger (whose aesthetic is very different from my own) has started another blog by the same name on Wordpress. So it's really time to pack it in.

I'm in the process of working on a new personal website that will include all of the disparate creations coming out of my studio, and will indicate here when that is up and running.

My Etsy shop is still up and running, so if you need any knitting accessories you can get them there.

Until we meet again, farewell and thanks for all the love.

P.S. If you're on Instagram, you can also say hi to me there @leslieastor
I'll never get the hang of Twitter.
I think I might have started a Tumblr account a long time ago.
I've more or less abandoned Facebook.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Five Easy Pieces

Last Fall I read an article about the slow clothing movement, in which the author wrote about a year long fast-fashion fast she undertook. I was inspired to try it, and made it about four months before buying some new jeans and boots on a recent trip to New York. But I'm certainly thinking more about my clothes: where they come from, what they're made of, who made them. And I'm pausing before making new purchases, and putting a lot more things back on the rack than I used to. The truth is, throughout the winter I mostly wear jeans and a blue Uniqlo puffer just about every day. I don't need most of the clothing I buy.

I'm also trying to make more clothing for myself, which is infinitely more expensive, time consuming and impractical than buying them. But I really like to sew, and it's really satisfying to make a pretty blouse myself, so I'm working on a few new things for spring. Here are five pieces of clothing I've made recently that are fairly simple to make (I consider myself an intermediate level seamstress, so "fairly simple" might be a relative descriptor.) None of the clothing below requires sewing buttonholes or installing zippers, so if you can sew a straight line you can probably handle these patterns.

Probably my favorite of the five pieces, this pattern from the folks at the mecca of making aka Purl Soho is very well illustrated and written, so worth trying to make even if you're a beginner. The trickiest bit for me was sewing the bias tape around the neckline; I always find it tricky to do. This pattern calls for making your own bias tape, but if you've never done it or don't feel like trying, you can just buy a pack of readymade. This tunic was made with double guaze cotton on the front and arms and a Liberty cotton back. This was a pricey piece: the pattern was $18.50 (about £12) and the fabric and notions together were roughly $70 (about £47), though I do have enough fabric leftover to make a little something else.

2) The Schoolhouse Tunic by Sew Liberted
I love tunics for their versatility and comfort and this one is very pretty, made from a simple purple linen. I have to admit that I found the instructions tricky; I would've liked more illustrations and at one point in the pattern I couldn't reconcile how a right side piece and wrong sided piece were side by side. I emailed the folks at Sew Liberated and they kindly tried to help me through the issue, but really they just reiterated the written instructions that came with the pattern. I'm not sure if I actually made it correctly in the end, but it's pretty anyhow. This tunic was a lot less than the Purl one; about $14.50 for the pattern and about $35 for the fabric or about £35 in total.

3) The Taproot Tunic

This pattern was by far the easiest to follow and a great beginner's piece to try. It was free in one of my issues of Taproot Magazine, which you can buy here. I made this tunic from a linen sheet I bought at an antique store (the tag said "antique french linen", so, fancy). The pattern calls for adding a pocket, which I left off, and instead I added some pretty embroidered flowers and bias binding on the neck and cuffs (I know-I just said a minute ago how much I hate working with bias binding.) This was the least expensive project: $9 for the magazine (I get a subscription, so add a little more for shipping to the UK) and about $9 for the linen, though I have a lot of that left over from the big sheet after making the tunic. About £12 in total.

4) Liesl and Co. Everyday Skirt from Oliver + S
My rubbish photo doesn't do justice to this pretty skirt, which has nice pleats in the front, an elastic waistband in the back, and pockets. The pockets were a first for me, but I find the instructions and illustrations on Oliver + S patterns to be reliably clear and accurate, so it was worth the extra time to add them. This skirt was made with a Robert Kaufman chambray cotton I picked up at Purl last year. The pattern can be digitally downloaded, costs $14.95, and the fabric and elastic were about $25 (about £27 total). Worth it.

5) Nicole Blum's Pretty and Full Skirt, from the Sew Mama Sew blog
This skirt is very similar to the Liesl and Co skirt above, with nice pleats and an elastic waistband, but doesn't have pockets. It calls for an unfinished hem, but I finished mine. Another bonus: it's free online and the instructions are clear and well illustrated. I would suggest making a few of these at a go and you've got your skirt situation wrapped up for the season. I can't remember where I got this stripy red and white fabric, which has a bit of a stretch to it and works great for this skirt. I'd say it cost me about $10 or £6.50.

Though signs of spring are all around me, at the moment I'm still wearing the jeans and puffer coat. But you might see me wearing some of these things in the months to come.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Zip Pouch Tutorial Roundup

There are so many great tutorials online for how to sew a simple zip pouch, and today I'm going to share a few of my favorite ones with you. Once you get the hang of them, zip pouches are pretty easy and very satisfying to whip up. Sometimes when I'm feeling a little stuck in my studio, I make a bunch of pouches just to get things moving along. If I cut up the fabric assembly line style I can crank out quite a few in a morning or afternoon, and feel like I've accomplished something. They're very handy to have around as last minute gifts. (The pouches pictured here were made with wool remnants I bought on my trip to Cotswold Woolen Weavers back in the fall.)
If you've never worked with a zipper before, I have a tutorial on this blog for making a very simple felt zip pouch which is good for beginners because it's unlined and uses felt which doesn't have a right or wrong side. That means you can focus mainly on learning how to sew the zipper in rather than worry about what layer of fabric goes where and which way it faces.

Once you're confident with that process, you can move on to a making a lined zip bag from the always excellent Purl Bee blog. This photo below is a simple lined bag I made using one of my precious Liberty fat quarters. It's lined with a lovely cream raw silk, not pictured.
Adding a lining to your zip pouch really bumps things up a notch, as seen below. My advice is to be very careful that lining and outer fabric sizes match perfectly, or else you'll wind up with a rather wrinkly, beginner's looking lining. You can see what I mean in the photo of the blue and white lined pouch two photos down on the right.

Another very well photographed and clearly written tutorial, which throws a zip cover embellishment into the mix, comes from Flossie Teacakes. This one took me a bit of practice to tackle; it's important to pay attention to the bit at the end of the tutorial about the "zip ends pointing into the lining side and not the outer fabric side"; failure to heed this instruction results in a wonky zipper.
These box zip bags above were the ones I mentioned in an earlier post having made my boys for Christmas. The first one I made was the plaid one on the top right; I botched the placement of the lining and outer fabrics so that half of each were on both the inside and outside. But Michael didn't mind, so I kept it and learned from my mistake and was more successful with subsequent bags.
And here is Henry's bag, for which I used this very manly grey tweed. Below you can see a shot of the slightly more whimsical lining I used. These were all made using the box bag tutorial from the Say Yes blog. The only downside of this one was that is doesn't hide the edges on the lining of the bag, though I tidied them up as best I could by trimming the seam allowance with pinking shears.
For a tutorial that shows a box bag in which the seams of the lining are hidden in between the layers, you can check out Truly Myrtle's tutorial. This one also includes a handle on the edge of the bag, so is the most advanced of all the ones included here. My eyes started to glaze over a little bit as I scrolled through the instructions; they are clear, there are just a lot of steps.

If you've tried zip pouches using other tutorials not mentioned, or have other useful tips for working with zippers, feel free to share in the comments section below.