Bernadine phenna 1

5 times when it was problem solving and not just sewing

Did you know that I’m in the business of problem solving? I look like a mild-mannered textile artist but I’m also a problem solving ninja. That’s because so many of you come to me for help when you need a specific size of bag, a desk caddy for a new job or a meaningful gift for your bestie who’s having a tough time. So here are five times when my problem solving ninja ways saved the day. Cue the Hong Kong Fooey music!

Robyn’s rucksack

When Robyn came to me she wanted a rucksack that would be waterproof, comfy to wear and with easy-to-reach pockets for medication. She also wanted it to be in specific colours to represent her sexuality at a Pride event. Now, that got me all excited, not just because I could do a little light problem solving but because it meant a great deal to make something so personal.

I sourced purple striped waterproof fabric, grey leatherette, purple webbing, lining and buttons and set about making the rucksack, something I had never made before. It had 31 pattern pieces and I spent a huge amount of time designing and measuring before even lifting a scissors.

Amazingly, since making the rucksack I’ve had other customers ask me to make it for them, even in smaller sizes for their kids.  So thank you Robyn! If you hadn’t have asked me to do some problem solving other customers would still be lugging about half-hearted bags.

Cotton Sanitary Pads

Now, this is problem-solving for your pants. Several of you suggested that I make cotton sanitary pads for a while before I had the chance to really apply myself to their design. So when I was finally approached by a customer with an order it was a chance I couldn’t miss.

I had never made CSP before so, in problem solving mode, I researched how they are made and did a massive amount of reading, designing and fabric testing too before I finalised my product. Would flannelette be an adequate base for the pad? How many layers of towelling would make an absorbent core? And how could I reduce bulk? I built up an impressive pile of prototypes before I decided upon my final design.

That’s when loads of you started asking me for pads too. So now, still in problem-solving mode, I make pads to fit each of you depending on your fave shape, length and absorbencies. You each even have a template in my design file and whenever you want a pad I’m ready for pant-partying action. So thanks for nagging me to make cotton sanitary pads. It’s true that the customers are always right.

Pottery apron

This was cracking problem solving challenge because I didn’t even know that pottery aprons existed until I was approached by my customer. She loved the flamingo fabric that you can see in the pic and wanted a lined apron that would cover her legs even when they were either side of a splatty pottery wheel.

It was clear that a split-front apron was needed but that it wasn’t enough to just make a regular apron with a slit up the lower half because it wouldn’t be very protective. The individual halves of the lower part of the apron needed to overlap as well as have enough fabric to adequately protect my customer’s legs. She sent me her measurements and I got stuck into building the apron pattern. Well you can see how it turned out in the pics and my customer loved it. It looks gorgeous but is also completely functional when messing about with clay. I mean, who can resist flamingo-based problem solving?

Mini slouch

Now this was fun to make. Susan, my customer, loved my slouch bags but she wanted something smaller and with an integrated zip. So – you guessed it – I heard the problem solving siren, stuffed myself into my Wonder Woman outfit and got stuck in. The fact is that now I know how to make this mini-slouch it’s easy.

At this stage, though, I hadn’t ever added a zip to this style of bag so it meant fiddling with the pattern to work out how the zip could be best integrated. It completely changed how I worked with the bag pieces and when and how I attached them to each other. It also took a good amount of experimenting because the addition of the zip completely altered how the finished bag looked and functioned.

Well, I cracked it and Susan duly ordered another four bags from me as Christmas gifts, all in different prints. Since then I’ve made them for lots of you too and it’s become a staple of my commissions. Thanks Susan!

Table runner and placemats

Now this was a different kind of problem solving altogether. My lovely customer came to me because she had fabric from a dress that she loved as a child. She wanted to re-use the fabric but in a way that meant she could see it regularly rather than have it tucked out of sight.  Her suggestion was to make a table runner and placemats but there wasn’t enough of the prized print to cover the entire set.

So using a bright yellow cotton, that was replicated in the print, as the backing, I cut my customer’s fabric into enough pieces for the upside of four mats and a table runner panel.  I was left with just a teeny square of the print so cut out the remaining two dogs and appliqued them to the outer panels of the table runner. I was thrilled with the outcome. We’d used every scrap of my customer’s fabric and the sunny yellow fabric really made the print pop.

So if you have a problem that can be solved with fabric, I’m your woman. And if you can’t see an item similar to what you need on this site don’t let that stop you asking for help. I’ll do a little light problem solving and you’ll get exactly what you need to make your life easier. Now, pass me my cape will you? I can see from my Kraken Kreations signal that someone needs an oddly shaped notice board…