Life Changing Decisions & Wine.

If you’ve popped in lately you may have noticed some slight changes to Bunyip & Otton’s since the start of April – although these outward changes have been minimal, we have actually gone through a fairly significant  change in the structure of our businesses. Like all excellent life decisions, Mattie and I had this one after a few glasses of wine in a hotel in Birmingham in February.

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Flashback: since we moved Bunyip out onto Fore Street in 2013 we’ve been functioning as 2 businesses – Mattie’s long standing Bunyip Beads & Buttons, and my own Otton’s Haberdashery. I could never have done this without Mattie & Bunyip (and other wonderful people of course!), from the business starting advice to the friendship support to the relief of so many financial burdens of opening a retail space – especially one in such a big, beautiful and expensive shop!

I’d always wanted to open a haberdashery (well I always wanted to open a ribbon shop, but that’s because I have weird ribbon love that I’m not sure would be reciprocated by the public enough to sustain a business) because I’d always felt most at home when sewing, a feeling that I think you can only relate to about that one thing in your life that makes you feel centered – craft or gardening or dancing or music or whatever it is that makes your soul happy. This has never meant that I’m the best sewer in the world, but I never wanted to be – I just love to make things, and get masses of enjoyment out of the process.

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I opened the shop on very little money, and was incredibly lucky to be allowed to live at home by my ever generous parents, who still continue to house me and make me cups of tea when I’m hungover. This meant that I never had to pay myself from the shop profits, ensuring that I could put almost the entirety of any excess money back into stock, keeping the stock levels as high as I could. The downside to this was that I never had a huge amount of money in stock, with the actual costs of running the previously mentioned big & beautiful retail space meaning I really struggled to build the business – my (respectable) turnover was covering costs and stock but not allowing me the chance to grow.

Speaking of growth, there was obviously my life too. When I opened the shop I was 22, fresh out of University and more than willing to give the shop everything, sacrificing being able to settle myself financially – get a full time job, start paying my student loans back and get a place for myself. The shop is now 2.5 years old, I’m 25 and increasingly desiring the financial stability to start feeling like a fully fledged grown up – or at least a young woman who buys wine that costs more than £4.75 a bottle (joke – I’ll never give you up delicious cheap Sauvignon).

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Back to present day. We’d spent the weekend at the CHSI show in Birmingham, a trade show that in theory showcases the upcoming trends & hot items for the next year. What we’d noticed, even with our hangover heads on, was that it was all sewing related. Beautiful fabrics and contemporary kits – this was where all the innovation was. This was pretty deflating for me, since I wanted to buy so many wonderful things, knowing that they’d sell to our super cool customers (hey guys) and that they would be as excited by them as I was – I just didn’t have the money to put into it, especially with rent day looming. This is when the idea presented itself – Mattie offered to buy my business, giving me enough financial stability to move myself and the business forward. Under her ownership the shop could really grow, gaining all this wonderful stock that it so desperately needed and really allow it to flourish in the way that I always wanted it to.

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To be honest, I jumped at this idea. Although I loved owning the business and being self employed (well, it has its moments!) I really felt like this wasn’t about me. I wanted the shop to reach its full potential, and I knew that I wasn’t able to do this, at any time in the near future at least. The real thing that sealed this deal was Mattie’s other offer, to employ me full time. So for me, I would now be getting paid more than £1 an hour (genuinely what I was paying myself a lot of the time), would still get to do the best job in the world and would get to see the shop, hopefully, grow and conquer Exeter, and then the world. Easy decision.

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Now the important bit – how does this affect you, wonderful customers & friends of Otton’s Haberdashery? It doesn’t! The shop is still functioning in the same way, I’m still here, the stock is still here, it’s all just hopefully more awesome than it was before (it so is – even just a month in!). The Otton’s website will eventually have all its shop items moved over to the Bunyip website, and you may just notice a decline in my Otton’s social media posts. This is only because I’m now concentrating on the Bunyip Beads pages – it’s still me writing the posts, just in a slightly different location. We hope to rebrand the entire shop at some point, as our craft offering is becoming more and more diverse and it would be great to have a name to reflect this. But all in good time – the next year should be really, really exciting for Mattie and I, and the other badass Bunyip ladies.

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In summary, keep coming in to see us in the next few weeks and months, because we have loads of exciting things to buy and share with you, and new awesome workshops to get you involved in too. Stay in touch on the Bunyip social media – facebook, twitter, instagram as linked.

If you’ve made it to the end of this, I salute you. Thank you for reading! And for being our customers and friends – I hope this is all as exciting for you as it is for me.

Big love🙂

English Paper Piecing: Not that frightening.

Hello!

This week I wanted to talk about something that I’ve been working on recently – paper piecing. I was looking for something slow-ish to work on while doing a couple of days by myself in the shop last week, since it means you can’t really leave the shop floor, so it’s good to have a long winded project on the go. Normally I run away screaming from this sort of craft, which seems to be all about precision, accuracy and making things perfect, whereas I enjoy flinging things together and having fun with it and not taking crafty life very seriously. However, I’d been having positive vibes towards this kind of slow build patchwork since Mattie leant me The Last Runway to read, written by Tracey Chevalier, of Girl with the Pearl Earring fame. In it there was a lot of talk about quilting – the protagonist was an ace sewer who was always perfectly stitching something together and it basically talked about it so much that I started to develop a real desire to give it a go myself.

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Obviously I then massively forgot about this. Luckily, I was reminded about it at CHSI (always banging on about CHSI aren’t I?) by two very cool companies. Firstly, House of Alistair, a wonderful small supplier who stock the most amazing Liberty print products, had just introduced a paper piecing pattern that we had a chat with them about. Secondly were amazing duo The New Craft House who design and sell super cool kits, including a paper piecing cushion kit. (Side note: I just popped on their website to grab the link and started reading their blog and couldn’t stop – they’re so cool! They’re doing a bomber jacket class! I’m obsessed.)

So I thought I’d give it a go. I did a standard bit of google searching to make sure I didn’t totally faff up a whole days work completely wrong. I flicked over this intro, and this very useful blog and then decided to get started.

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You can buy pre cut hexagons (this seems mad to me but then I am very good at doing tedious things like cutting out the same shape 100 times – life skills) or buy patterns that you then print out and chop up. Being the resourceful (cheap) young woman that I am, I got my goddamn geometry set out and drew a hexagon, each side measuring 2″. The best thing I read so far on the internet about paper piecing was that it dated back to about 1770, and then people ‘used to use scrap paper and hand drawn shapes.’ Well screw you guys because I’m rocking a 1770 vibe in my habdash apparently.

I then cut another hexagon out that was about 2cm larger on all sides than the first one, and used it as a pattern piece to cut about 10 hexagons out of anything that was big enough from my scrap fabric box. Finally I’d found a use for these pink clips that have been sat in my sewing box for ages – you put one of your smaller hexagons in the middle of one piece of fabric, fold over one edge and clip it into place. You then fold over each edge at a time, popping some tiny messy tacking stitches in each corner. I so enjoyed this! Probably because it did not involve being particularly careful so I could just bash the stitches in, drink some tea and chat to some nice people.

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Once I’d covered all of my hexagons, I then had to stitch them together. This was the bit I had my concerns about (not helped by an older lady coming in and commenting on my work with “You have to be VERY ACCURATE with your shapes you know,” probably spying my hand drawn/crumpled bits of paper vibe. I soldiered on regardless, and started to piece my shapes together using what I think is technically a ‘whip stitch’ but I chose because I decided it was easiest/quickest. This was pretty straightforward actually, you couldn’t really see my stitching on the right sides up, and it made time in the shop fly by. Complaints: it really made my finger hurt! Not as bad as the time I bruised my palm cutting out bunting triangles, but still.

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Basically, I really enjoyed this. More than I thought I would – I can totally see now why you might spend a year or so covering teeny tiny triangles to make into something really wonderful. But the point I really wanted to make with this blog is in the title: it really wasn’t that frightening. We see it in the shop a lot, where people are so overwhelmed by not having tried a craft before that they get really freaked out and ‘I can’t do it’ and don’t even want to give it a go. This is especially true of something really traditional like paper piecing that looks so intricate, I was certain that I should stick to slapping glue on things and bashing things through the sewing machine. But it really wasn’t that hard, and I only have a pretty standard level of hand sewing ability. So give it a go! Craft is only as difficult as you make it, and I think as long as you get happiness from making something then it can be as perfect or as crappy as you like.

Jewellery Inspiration: S/S 16

When I worked for Bunyip Beads, one of the best jobs ever was (pretty obviously) making up jewellery. The first day I started I had no frigging idea what a jump ring even was, but all the other Bunyip babes coached me through all the techniques and skills I could pretty much ever need, and now I even teach jewellery making to other such keen souls.

8 years ago (argh) when I first started, we had a really core range of set designs that flew out time after time, and I was mega happy to spend the day making these up in new colour ways. It probably wasn’t for a couple of years that I got brave enough to try my hand at designing anything, but once I did I loved it so much. While I’ve been working for myself and focusing on the habdash side of things the last few years, this joy has kind of taken a back burner (DRAMATIC TWIST) until yesterday.So I thought I’d take you through my design process for an extra special treat, mainly because I want to bang on about tassels and I couldn’t think of another way to get them in. Smart.

So clearly, you have to start somewhere. All I pretty much had in my head regarding S/S 16 trends until recently was the Pantone colour selection, which makes us very happy.

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This is always an interesting one, because I look at this and go ‘Oh yeah, I bloody love Rose Quartz. I’m so clever and on trend and I don’t even know. I should be putting together these colour reports!’ when actually it’s highly possible that I just….like pink. But, you take from it what you will. They’re lovely colours and they will probably influence the shit you buy this season/next season, and that’s alright with me.

The next level of inspiration came from visiting the CHSI show at Birmingham last month, where most of the key players in our industry showcase what they think are gonna be the best sellers for the next year. Now, I think we all know that craft is a pretty traditional industry, so you do have to kind of hunt out the trend led suppliers and traders at this show. It’s no secret that our favourite is Rico, our German supplier who are ridiculously cool and super on trend and I love them and Mattie got so excited in their stand she had to sit in the middle of the floor. What was clear trend wise from Rico and a few other super cool stands was this: tropical. Everything tropical. Massive flower prints and bright colours and pineapples and flamingos and mega fun times, basically. The thing with trends is that there’s no point trying to being influenced by them if you hate them, but luckily this is right up my street.

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When I was at University, I would say that I definitely spent more time faffing about in the giant flagship Topshop then I did working or revising (I was doing a fashion degree so was quite capable of considering this as valuable research time). What happens when you do this is the trends become really ingrained in your mind, because high street retailers like Topshop are pretty damn on it when it comes to get new fleeting micro trends into store as soon as they’ve been pinpointed. Surrounding yourself with that environment sounds like a cop out, but it is a legitimately good way of figuring out what you do and don’t like. One of the most inspired I’ve felt in a shop lately was in mega delicious lifestyle store Oliver Bonas in London. I wish we had one in Exeter, but am also kinda glad we don’t because I would be pushing cash through the letterbox and crying on the reg.

So these were a couple of the designs especially that ticked all the boxes for me.

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Good colour? Check. Thin Chain? Check. Tiny tassel? CHECK CHECK CHECK.

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Another delicious tassel-y winner. So it becomes clear that what I’m about is delicate chain, dangling tassels off of things and bluey/greeny colours.

After building a pinterest board picking up on these elements, (one of the funnest /most inspiring things to do before making anything) I started to gather things from the shop that made me pretty happy.

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I grabbed a few colours of chain, all the tassels, a whole box of seed beads (tiny glass beads) and then a few different pieces from our little semi precious collection. Including: ROSE QUARTZ. Bum ba dum! See how this all ties together?

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This super useful grey thing is a bead board, which has markings on so you can see how long the piece you’re making is/little compartments you can tuck all your teeny beads in so they don’t roll onto the floor. Clever!

I always go for that beautiful turquoise colour of seed bead, so I messed about adding different bits and pieces in to make it a little different this time. I love love love the peachy colour of this tiny tassel, and thought the bright orange was great for tying in with that while being pretty badass all by itself. I like to bunch a couple of things together too, so I popped one of these rose quartz cubes on a head pin, tucked the star charm onto a jump ring and added these all on to the tassel. YAY.

The putting together of all these pieces was pretty straightforward. I used a thin waxed linen to thread the beads on, covered the knots at each end up with a culotte (a finding which covers the knot up while giving you a hook to play with), broke a ready made 24″ chain in the middle and added my bead piece to either end. Boom. That’s it! I made them mega long, about 32″) because I think the tassels look particularly cute on the end of a long dangle.

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However, when I was then playing around trying to get a good light to photograph them in, I felt that the chain/bead ratio looked quite off. They look great on, but just slightly out of balance when laid out. So there was a really easy to develop this further – you can simply cross the chain over and wrap it around your neck again to make a shorter necklace, which an extra loop of chain which actually looks rather pretty too.

And that’s it! If you make jewellery too, or do any kind of design work, it’s so interesting  to actually work back through your process and see how you arrived at your final piece. Sometimes it just feels like I’m just plucking inspiration and ideas out of thin air, when actually we’re all being pretty heavily influenced by the world around us all the time. I’m sure there were countless other things that I’ve read or seen that affected my colour combinations and design choices that I probably wasn’t even aware of. And it’s never over – every idea is constantly evolving into another one.

I hope this has been a vaguely interesting read – thanks for sticking with the longest blog I’ve written in ages! And good luck with whatever you’re making next. Pineapple themed, I bet.

February 2016: What we did.

Hello!

Here’s a round-up of the fun stuff we did in February 2016. Hope you enjoy!

Studio 74

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I mentioned last time that we were heading to see Bridge of Spies at the new(ish!) cinema found at Exeter Phoenix, Studio 74. This was predictably awesome – and amazingly an even older crowd than we normally find ourselves hanging out with at the Picturehouse. Why do we have the same taste in activities as 80 year olds? What will happen when we’re 80?!

You can totally take wine into the screen which is my number one requirement for cinema enjoyment (I especially liked the way the girl on the desk said ‘er, yeah’ when I asked her if I was allowed, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Outstanding.)

Downsides: it was about a million degrees in the screen. I stripped off all my layers until I was slumped wearing a vest top, sweat dripping down my brow desperately clutching my increasingly tepid glass of white wine. I’ve heard since from someone attending at a different time that it was cold in there, so who knows, I’m sure it was some kind of glitch. Will definitely be trying again soon – will just remember to pop my bikini on next time.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Mattie passed me on a copy of this book and I’ve been making my way through it the last couple of weeks. I really really wanted to enjoy it and thought that I would – strong lady being independent, overcoming emotional obstacles, my kind of vibe. But I just could never get into it. It was perfectly enjoyable to read, but I felt like I had to put in effort to get myself to actually pick it up and read it. There were even a couple of long train journeys where I stared out of the window instead of dusting off a couple of chapters – a bad sign. I haven’t seen the film either – if you have please let me know what you thought!

The Oscars

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This was our approach 2 years ago, when we were still attempting to stay up until 5am.

So the very last day of February was – Oscar Day! Despite the controversy we were as involved as ever – and practised our new technique of recording it, shutting off all contact with the outside world, and then watching it around 8am the next day. This is a risky technique – we even had to get someone else to turn on the TV for fear of some kind of spoiler being shoved in our faces. We also had the vague embarrassment of making ourselves Bellini’s in the early hours in front of some builders doing work in the garden, who clearly thought we were just some kind of unemployed lushes.

We popped down our predictions the night before but only managed to get 11/16….not too bad but I’m still glad we didn’t put an accumulator on it like we planned.

Matilda The Musical

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For my Mum’s Christmas present Daisy and I (mainly Daisy) organised a trip for us all the go up to London, which came to fruition last weekend. We booked tickets to go and see Matilda the Musical, which I had pretty high hopes for since it’s written by Tim Minchin who I loveeee. That many e’s love. It totally didn’t disappoint – the children in it were AMAZING. Like, make you question where you’re such an untalented adult amazing. And the production was crazy – there were actual lasers! Confetti! At points there was so much going on that it was faintly overwhelming, in a good way.

And that’s it! Who knows what’ll happen in March? Cinema, probably.

Craft, Hobby & Stitch: 2016

I think it’s important to point of first of all that I’m not even 100% sure if that’s what CHSI stands for. Craft, Hobby & Stitch International maybe? Why don’t I know this?!

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Anyway – Mattie and I have been away for the weekend for our yearly trip to this big tradeshow in Birmingham, where we generally get faintly hysterical about craft things and then drink lots of wine at the Craft Awards. We ended up leaving slightly later than planned on Sunday morning after attending the very cool Salt City 25 year anniversary bash at Hole in the Wall, so did a bit of wandering around with fuzzy heads post 2pm at the show. Turns out the cure for a hangover is a tiny tiny tiny pot of tassels in colours that were so beautiful that I almost started crying, and forced Mattie to have to sit on the floor. We’re in the right industry, even if we are a bit strange.

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The best stand, obviously, was German supplier Rico. It breaks my heart that we’re not allowed to take photos (and that I’m not rebellious enough to defy this) because I know how much lots of you would love it – we just walked around gasping and touching everything and being general crafty weirdos. I ordered the most wonderful cotton fabric that had actual gold glittery watermelons on it, but god knows if I’ll be able to put it down long enough to sell any of it. The main trend that everyone was rocking was Tropical, so I also ordered pineapples and flamingos and more of my favourite bright florals. Also cactus cross stitch sets, obviously…

The other best thing we discovered was one of the very first stands we walked past on Sunday, who were selling really amazing detailed black & white prints that you then embroider in to – like colouring in with thread! So gorgeous and so fun for practising all those different hand stitching techniques that constantly evade me. It’s definitely the kind of thing that I’ll be stealing as soon as they turn up on our doorstep. This is what we decided was best described as ‘slow craft’ – the kind of thing that’s most fulfilling when left nearby so you can just pick up and work on for a little bit at a time. Mega wonderful.

Stay in touch on social media (facebook/twitter/instagram) because I’ll be posting the standard irresistible photos when these things come into stock. Habdash excitement.

Exeter Living Awards: 2016

Hello!

So the big news of the week in my habdash world is that I have totes been shortlisted in the Retailer category for the Exeter Living Awards! I feel like it’s not very cool to be as excited as I am but screw everyone else because I’m REALLY pleased. I’m mainly happy because I genuinely like the magazine, and it has pretty much been my goal for the past 2.5 years to make it into the society pages as much as I possibly can. Here’s me in the last issue hell yeah (please note the sisterly look of love I’m rocking here, so much adoration):

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Exeter Living have been really supportive of me ever since I opened, and they’re utter champions of Independent Retail. I find that our audiences cross over pretty wonderfully too – when we were first featured in the ‘Special Shops’ feature a couple of years ago, we had the the most amazing response that we find we don’t often get from print advertising. Here’s a photo of Mattie and I wearing the loudest shirts we own (and I was trying to live my life as a brunette, shocking):

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“Inspirational Technicolour Craft Hub’ is still the best way anyone’s ever described the shop.

So the other great thing about this news is that Mattie has also been nommed! We entered separately because we are really two businesses, so it’s mega awesome that we’re both in together. ALSO, Mattie is a judge! Yeah I know what you’re thinking, but I’m pleased to say the decision as to who would make finalist was made by Exeter Living, and not by the panel. And sadly, Mattie won’t be allowed to judge the Retailer Category now – gutted for us, but I suppose it’s fair if you want to be no fun and that.

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Anna also asked me to be the first person featured in the Extragram section, which was super cool and again made me very overexcited. She chose the photos and managed to sum me up perfectly – sewing, cinema, getting my nails painted, drinking chocolate cocktails at work (why has this not happened since?!) and pretty fabric with Cacti on. That is an excellent round-up of what I’m about generally – see? We get each other.

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So now it’s just about waiting until April 14th to see what happens. I obviously don’t harbour much hope of beating off the other candidates in my category, but hey – weirder things have happened…right? To sum up, here’s an excerpt of what I wrote in my application form in response to the question “What makes you different?’:

“I have real pride in the shop’s customer service, and love having such a good relationship with a lot of my customers. Everyone is valued here, whether investing in some beautiful designer fabric or just buying a spool of thread – I make time for each customer regardless. I also frequently get told that it’s very relaxed in the shop, which is exactly what I’m aiming for! I believe customers are happy to browse for as long as they like, and feel really comfortable asking for help or advice. Often customers will get their phones out and show me photos of the wonderful things they’ve made, or will even bring in the finished pieces just to show us. In what can be thought of as quite a stuffy, out of date industry, I think this fresh & friendly attitude is definitely the shop’s point of difference. The shop is bright, colourful and fun – exactly what a crafty shop should be!”

I don’t half overuse the exclamation mark.

So thank you for hanging out with me, buying nice stuff and letting me do what I love doing for as long as I can. And cross your fingers for both me and Mattie!

xx

How to: Pom Pom Cushion

Hey!

So February’s tutorial is my favourite ever (I say that a lot but this time it really is) POM POM CUSHIONS. Look how wonderful:

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Pom poms are just the best. It can’t be denied.

So if you fancy whipping up a couple of these (it’s mega moreish, once the pom poms get you) you will need:

1 piece of fabric for the front of your cushion, 43cm x 43cm

2 pieces of fabric for the back of your cushion, 43cm x 30cm

Pom Pom Trim, approx 2 metres.

Sewing machine/needle & thread

This makes a 16″ cushion – adjust accordingly if you want to make a different size. Giant, preferably.

First things first – cut out your pattern pieces. I used this ridiculously beautiful organic cotton for my front piece, a plain lilac cotton for my back pieces and teal pom pom trim, which looks beautiful with everything.

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Once you’ve got your front piece ready, you need to pin and tack your pom pom trim all the way around all 4 edges, with the pom poms facing inwards over the fabric.

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Note: I never ever say you should tack unless you really should, since tacking is for serious people and not super ace fun sewers like us. So, tack that stuff on guys, it’s necessary here.

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Once you’ve over the tediousness of assembling this, you need to chop out your back 2 pieces, and grab an ironing board.

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On one long edge of both bits of fabric, fold down and press 1cm, and then another 1cm, hiding the nasty raw edge.

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Machine stitch this down on both pieces, just in one nice straight line of sewing. Ah straight lines, you’re the best.

Now you’re assembling the cushion – here’s where it all gets a bit fiddly. (If I can do it you can do it, I believe in you). So, with your front piece of fabric front side up, place your back pieces front face down, over lapping each other, lining up on all 4 sides and with the hemmed edges in the middle. Pin all around the edge. Tacking may be wise again here, but in all honesty I just stuck with the pins. This visual aid will assist:

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The next bit is simple: machine all the way around the edge, with a 1.5cm seam allowance. Unfortunately, the pom poms have a habit of getting in the way since you’re almost sewing on top of them, so I find I have to do this bit mega slowly, constantly checking that you’re not stitching over the pom poms but you are hiding the strip of tape they’re attached to. There’s no rush when it comes to pom pom beauty – take your time.

Once you’ve mastered this, clip off your corners (without cutting through the stitching) and flip inside out. And that’s it! It’s deeply straightforward but just a tiny bit fiddly. Pop in a nice fluffy cushion insert and you’re all set to marvel in the comfort of this lush thing you just made. Ideal.