June Stitching News

Diary dates:

July 21st & 22nd – Cowslip workshops Summer Fair at Newhouse Farm, Launceston PL15 8JX :  £2 entry fee 10am – 4pm – Saturday 21st July. 10am – 3pm

Sunday 22nd July – August 4th  Flowerpatch Quilters 35th Patchwork Exhibition Central Methodist Church Hall, Launceston, PL15 8BA  10am – 4pm  Entrance fee £2.

Tuesday October 30th  and Tuesday the 6th November I am teaching two workshops for Roseland Mews Studio, Liskeard.  Further details are at the end of this newsletter.

 

What have I been up to this month?

  • Using some of my eco dyed leaf prints to good effect!
  • Working on my next stitched panel
  • White line printing
  • Phone case

 

Eco printing on paper.

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The first time I had come across Eco leaf printing, was when a wonderful friend, Janine, invited me to stay with her, and she had made a beautiful book for me, of the printed leaves from her garden in the Middle East. I was hooked from that moment.

To the left is a photograph of the book.

I have experimented hugely since then and learned such a lot.

I have been making and selling cards with my leaf prints for a while now, so have changed tack this month, and  decided to make tags instead.

To get to my intended end result is quite a labour intensive process, as you will  understand after reading what is involved. If you have never tried this technique, it is very simple, but be warned, it is also addictive! First is the actual Eco dyeing process, which takes up most of a morning, and involves cutting and concertina-folding paper strips, which must be soaked in a mordant. White vinegar is the mordant of choice and I use a high grade wall paper lining paper for the printing.

DSC00851.JPG The actual printing process takes place in a steamer. This should be a steamer dedicated to this type of activity, (not one used in food preparation). I asked around and fairly quickly found the couple that I use, one from a member of my family, who had pushed it to the back of a cupboard, because it badly burned! and another from a very elderly family member who also had a redundant one, again pushed to the back of his cupboard, because he didn’t use it any more….that one is an old aluminium pan!

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I also use a 3 lb kitchen scales weight (on  loan from dear friend Susie)  in the steamer, as it makes sense to me that the better the contact with leaf to paper, the better the resulting contact print should be! The weight is made from cast iron, and therefore also creates a reaction on the paper and probably in the steam as well. Here is an example of when I put the weight directly on top of an Acer leaf. I actually like it! I have used a bronze metallic thread and just stitched around rust mark. Will probably make this into a card!

 

If I have both steamers on the go, which is most times! I use a flat Cornish stone from the garden, which fits in the second steamer.

Leaves are then gathered, and a leaf is placed in between all the paper folds. Two or three of the concertina folded packages are then tied together with string, checking first that every surface has a leaf contacting it. They are put into the steamer, with a weight on the top of the pile, and steamed for about two hours. I check the water level every half an hour, and make sure that either the kitchen windows are open, or that the hob ventilation is on.

Until recently, everything I have read has suggested they remain in their bundles and tied up, over night, and opened up the following morning. I have wrapped them in newspaper, changing it a couple of times during the first couple of hours, and have put a pile of books on top to give as even a weight distribution as possible and left them overnight opening them up next morning to remove the leaves, and allowed the prints to dry.  This is always the exciting part!!

Recently, however, I was reading another article in which the author, steamed for one hour, and opened the results immediately, so I have tried that, and had good results as well! For me, it is always a “trial and error” process. Everytime I do it I build up my own information, expertise and reference. I learn which leaves give a good print, and which don’t, and if I obtain between 50-75% good prints from a session of dyeing, I am delighted. It is often a higher % than that! Virtually all my information has come from the internet. Pinterest has some excellent sites.

I have been experimenting for about three years now, just on paper. There is still so much to learn, and I haven’t ventured into printing on fabric yet, but I will do before long!

So, the steaming is the first stage of the process.

Next I look through all the results, discarding those I don’t think are worth working with, and chosing the ones I want to use.

DSC00836 (2).JPG The chosen ones are trimmed, with a rotary cutter and ruler , then a piece of card is cut to size. This takes a lot of time because each leaf print is a different shape and size, so the card shapes have to be bespoke!

After each print has been mounted using double-sided Cellotape, a hole is punched in the centre at the top and a hand dyed tie is threaded through the loop. Then I sign each one, dating it with the year the eco print was created. I have never found that the prints deteriorate with with age, in fact, rather the reverse!

A selection of four different ones go into a cellophane sleeve, and a price tag is attached.

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These will be for the Charity day sales table. You can get an idea of the finished sizes, by looking  at the photograph above this last one. The unmounted prints are on a cutting mat so sizes can be estimated. The finished sizes are aproximately half an inch larger. The tags clearly vary in size, but a packet of these would make a delightful little spontaneous gift.  They are useful as book marks, gift tags, and little notes. Indeed, I wrote a get well note on the reverse side of one just this week, to a friend who is poorly. It is a little different to the commercial get well cards and we all know how much pleasure a hand made card gives.

 

The photograph below shows work in progress on my “second in the series” of stitched panels, using a distorted grid.

This and the previous panel, (shown in the May Blog) is loosely based on the Fibonacci sequence.

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The main grid remains the same as in the first panel but I have removed the two additional lines which I added to that original panel, and this time I have added two different ones. I have also created trees. Green is the complementary colour to red, and certainly adds an additional zing to this piece, along with the HOT colour palette! Both panels have their very own “chemistry”! I am currently hand quilting  this, and all the while my thoughts are developing for the third panel!

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This close up allows you to see more detail.

Although I am definitely a “quilting makes the quilt” fan, I do feel that in these small panels, less is more. They could easily become far too fussy. The spaces offer a place for the eye to rest! The scale of the work doesn’t demand more than simple outlining, in my eyes. I shall continue with that, as there is quite a lot more to do yet and then I shall be able to review that decision again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White line Printing

I had a very interesting day recently when I was a student (what a joy!) on a “white line” printing day”. The workshop was taken by Nicky Harwood, who is just finishing a degree course at Plymouth University.

She was very enthusiastic about this method and had some lovely art work with her that we were shown.

The workshop was at Roseland Mews Studio,  Liskeard.

http://www.lynhervalley.co.uk/roselandmewsstudio/index.htm#courses

We were given a small rectangle of soft 3ply wood, and we had to draw a design or “picture”. It could be abstract, or representational. Then along each line we had drawn on our piece of wood, we cut out a groove with a craft knife. These grooves would ultimately produce the “white lines”, separating all the different shapes with our design. The grooves, of course, create spaces!

I chose to draw an abstract design which related to my present textile work. Below are two of my prints sitting side by side. I had experimented all day, and came back to water colours, at the end of the day as I preferred them. The one on the right is a water colour print on paper, and the one on the left is also water colour, but I printed onto fabric. In essence each print is a monoprint.

 

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We were encouraged to experiment with oil paints, as well as water colours. Personally I far preferred the water colours, finding them a softer palette with more control over the depth of colour I was trying to obtain. I felt that the oils were much harsher and “brash”, certainly for my particular design. I think that the uneveness, blotchy finish, call it what you will, of the paint on these two samples was due to the fact that the oil paint I had previously been using on the plate, was resisting the water colour a little!

Although it looks quite simple, there is a lot to learn about the technique, and we all did many prints each.  We worked on the same “plate” all day, and then took it home with us and each print was hand printed. No press was involved.

We fixed our printing plate in position with a large tab of masking tape underneath it. It was well secured, so that it couldn’t move.

Then we fixed the paper or cloth, to the left of the plate, with a long strip of masking tape. The masking tape acted like a hinge, being fixed about 2″ in from the  left edge of the paper. We creased the paper well, just beside the masking tape so that it easily lifted backwards and forwards. Plate and paper always had contact in exactly the same position,  as both were fixed securely in place. It was clever!

The plate was painted up a section at a time, and then the cloth/paper lifted across to the plate. We rubbed the back of the paper/cloth, firmly over the painted area, helping to transfer the colour from the plate, repeating this process until the print was complete. For me, this result is a starting point. I would love to experiment further and I shall also think about how I would like to work further into both the paper and the cloth samples! A most enjoyable day.

New phone case

When our German friends came to stay at Easter, I noticed that Karin had an intriguing case for her phone. I asked her about it, and she had made it out of a thick, commercial felt. She was happy for me to explain the design in the newsletter. I don’t have a photograph of Karin’s, but this is how I made a similar one for my phone, using hand made felt which is not as thick, and therefore not quite as protective as Karin’s, but I love it!

The felt I have used was very generously given to me by Janet, who is an experienced felt maker. The colours are gorgeous, and right up my street. So, once again, many thanks indeed Janet. Very kind of you.

It is definitely not as thick as Karin’s, but I felt it was quite sturdy enough for my requirements, and, indeed, I have been using it every day, and there is no sign of wear and tear at all.

The “intrigue” was the fact that she had a little tab at the back of the case, which she pulled up, and the phone lifted out! The tab only needed lifting an inch, and this was quite sufficient to be able to easily remove the phone.

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The first photo shows the inside of the case, before assembly. I had cut a slit in the top back of the case after stitching a felt tab onto the end of the tape. Then I threaded the opposite end through the slit so that I could assess how much tape I needed, and where I was going to machine stitch the tape to the inside of the front. It is only necessary to stitch down about 3″ of the tape there. The rest of it “lines” the case, and then exits at the slit. When the phone is in the case, it sits on the tape. When the tag at the end of the tape is pulled, it lifts the phone! Ingenious! When the phone is placed back in the case, it rests on the tape, and pushes it down, resulting in the tab, resuming its inital position.

I have used a tape which is a faux tape measure, and have sewn two measured lengths of this tape together for sturdiness! Strength is not particularly required, as the phone is not heavy.

The second photo shows the outside of the case, after I had machine stitched the tape into position, and prior to the felt being folded in half, wrong sides together, and the sides being stitched.

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The third and fourth photos, immediately above, show the assembled finished case. I added the support strap at the back of my case, as the felt doesn’t have the strength that Karin’s commercial felt has. I decided that anything that might help prolong the useful life of mine, and maybe reduce the impact of wear and tear was worth doing. It all works a treat! 

 

I am teaching two workshops for Roseland Mews Studio in late October and early November. There are spaces available for both. Details of costs, etc are on the Studio website;    http://www.lynhervalley.co.uk/roselandmewsstudio/index.htm#courses

The first one is a printing workshop. Learn how to make your own printing blocks and try them out on paper and/or fabric. We can all buy commercial blocks, they are readily available from many sources, but when you make your own, they are unique!

We shall use compressed foam, erasers, and potatoes. Clearly potatoes wither and deteriorate after a few days, but they are great for spontaneous results, and will last a day or two. The other printing blocks will last forever! We shall use acrylic paints with a fabric medium, and print onto paper or fabric. I will provide the paints and medium, you will need to bring the other requirements on the list.

The second workshop is to make a hussif, an old fashioned name for a sewing kit, that the armed forces would use when away from home on active duty.

Mine is a contemporary version, which hangs around the neck, and has three sections. The back pocket has three little pockets on its back wall, for holding scissors, pencil, 6″ x 1″ ruler, etc.  Threads can be stored in the main back pocket. There is a front pocket, for other essential sewing equipment, and between the two is a thimble pocket, which is secured by a poppa. For this particular workshop, it is essential that students cut out all their fabrics before coming, and a thorough plan is given on the requirement list which Jane, who owns the business, sends out. This way, students go home with their project completed, rather than spending half of the morning cutting out!

What a lovely month June is, and we have been lucky enough to have more warm weather. It is a busy month for all of us who have gardens; so much to do all the time!

Enjoy, and hopefully you may be able to find some sewing time. It is such good therapy!

Happy Stitching.

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May Stitching News

Diary Dates:

June 8th, 9th 10th The Contemporary Craft Fair, Mill Marsh Park, Bovey Tracey, Devon, TQ13 9AF

July 21st & 22nd – Cowslip workshops Summer Fair at Newhouse Farm, Launceston PL15 8JX :  £2 entry fee 10am – 4pm – Saturday 21st July. 10am – 3pm Sunday 22nd July

September 4th – 8th 2018  “chainREACTION” by Textile Maids; a group of ten contemporary textile artists based in Cornwall.jane

This is their third exhibition and incorporates aspects of textile art inspired by their own personal responses to a linked chain of words. The eclectic mix of techniques, from mixed media, patchwork, hand and machine embroidery and handmade felt, has resulted in a show of exciting and diverse contemporary textiles.

10am to 5pm Free admission; The Spring Gallery, The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth. Cornwall. TR11 3EG      Contact 01326 319461

There will be a second opportunity to view this exhibition from October 10th-October 16th 2018, 10am to 4pm.  Free admission. The Blanchminster Room, Bude Castle, The Wharf, Bude. Cornwall. EX 23 8LG. Contact 01288 357300    N.B. Bude Castle has full disabled access.

 

In this issue of the newsletter I am writing about:

  • A dressmaking book I am currently using.
  • A birthday gift I made with another idea for the gift tag!
  • The start of a new body of work
  • Kam snaps
  • A wonderful tip for stuffing narrow tubes (e.g. arms and legs on small dolls)

For two or three years I have been looking for a pattern for a simple little jacket. I have been looking for no fastening, just edge to edge, round neck; in essence an unfussy, long sleeved jacket. I have searched high and low for a pattern, without success. Then I saw this book on the bookshelf in Cowslip workshops: http://www.cowslipworkshops.co.uk  DSC00807 (2)

If you are coming down to Cornwall and have never popped in to Cowslip workshops in Launceston, you have missed a real treat! It is only just off the A30, and a perfect resting place as you travel north/south, or on a return trip!

There is a wonderful Aladins cave of a shop, and a lovely cafe, perfect for coffee and delicious home made cakes, or, for a light lunch, an excellent selection of savoury dishes and salads are served. A warm welcome awaits everyone.

I looked through this book and realised that there are three of four patterns that I would like to make, so I bought it, and am making my first item. The book is written by a Japanese lady and has been translated into English.

To be fair, having had some experience with this book, I would say it is not suitable for complete beginners to dressmaking. I am not a beginner at all, having made many of my own clothes in the past. The latter three words being very pertinent! I am coming back to dress making,  so have managed to work my way through this initial process!

The patterns are on large pieces of paper, folded into a pocket at the back of the book. I had to send off for some dressmaking paper, to trace off the pattern as my stash didn’t have anything suitable at all.

It took me a long time to get to grips with all the pattern pieces overlapping each other. I also had to be constantly referring to the “layout diagram” which is found in the appropriate section on the jacket construction as some of the information about seam allowances (which are not constant) is only written on the small diagram of the layout in the book! Very confusing (particularly when that isn’t explained anywhere in the general instructions! I just happened to notice it!) I was also more than a little confused about the facings!

However, when I had sussed all this out, and had highlighted the appropriate size to trace, I was fine! It is a Japanese book, so it is not surprising that the sizes are definitely on the small side. I was careful to compare the pattern measurements with a similar item from my wardrobe.

I made a toile; this means I have cut out a test pattern made from an old cotton sheet, and stitched the main side and shoulder seams, and the sleeve, in place. By doing this, a kind friend has been able to assess the fit on me, and has made one or two adjustments, improving on my efforts! I shall now undo the main seams of the toile, leaving the pinned adjustments in place on the fabric pattern pieces. Then, by placing them back onto the paper pattern pieces,  I can mark the necessary adjustments. When I use the pattern again, it will be ready to cut out and just make up! Time that has been really well spent in my eyes!

A couple of weeks ago, 20180429_131816-1I made a zipped pouch for part of a family member’s birthday present.

She absolutely loves Orla Kiely designs, and her reaction when she saw this was “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” It was so spontaneous, and really made me smile!

For the gift tag, I cut a scrap of the material that was left, trimming it neatly. Then I cut a plain piece of white card, fractionally bigger than the fabric. I used double sided Sellotape on the back of the fabric…and lined up the Sellotape absolutely to the fabric edges. Stuck this onto the card, which had a blank side for a written message!

 

I have started developing a new body of work.

My continued theme is; surprise, surprise; houses! I have returned to two very different sets of design work that I developed many years ago… but have never used, and I have combined ideas from the two sources.

I intend to make a series of about four or five small panels initally; and then make more choices after that!

In this first panel I am concentrating on tonal values with a relatively neutral colour palette.

The patchwork top has been machine pieced. All the seams were trimed to 1/8th of an inch, at the completion of the seam.  This helped to reduce the bulk as seams met each other at junctions! It is now in the throes of being hand quilted!

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Kam Snaps! Last autumn, I was teaching a great group who have been coming down to Cornwall from Cheltenham for the last 7 or 8 years. During a lull in the proceedings Sue showed me a little wallet she had made which had a Kam snap fastener. Very simply, if you have not seen them or used them…a Kam snap is a plastic snap fastener, the two halves of which are inserted into the fabric, using a tool that comes with the set. They are made of a strong and durable type of plastic (polyacetal resin).

She was very impressed at its durability as she had been using the wallet very regularly and the fastening seemed very robust. So was I!

I am sure they have been around for a long time, but it isn’t until they become “relevant” that they become an interesting commodity, is it? Sue knows that I am constantly making items for sale and thought these were a great buy.  I bought a set online and love them. I hadn’t really had the time to try them out, until another friend came to stay, and she has used them for a while, and took me through the steps! What is it about getting old(er) that the confidence to just get on and try it out often needs a prod! Anyway Karen showed me, and I was then away!!

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There are several choices of  snap fastener colours, in all the sets, as you can see, plus the pliers tool to press them into position. You need an awl as well to make the hole in the material. It isn’t so clear in the photo, but my awl has the red handle and I have pushed the pointed end through the fabric to create a hole

For each fastener, you need four components; two rounded “heads”. which  look a bit like plastic drawing pins, and two opposing “fronts”. These two “opposing fronts” can be seen clearly in the photograph below.

Basically you press the pin of the  “head” through the hole and then rest the head on the depression in the black plastic part of the pliers. Next, place one of the “fronts” on top of the pin, and carefully but firmly close the pliers over it, tightly.

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It will squash the pin thus holding the “front” scurely in position.

The photo to the right shows that the first “head” and “front” (on the left) have been pressed in position. The second part of the Kam snap (on the right) has had the “head” pin pushed through  the material, as you can see,  and the opposing front part of the snap is lying to the right side of the pin. Repeat the procedure just explained. This completes the proces of the Kam Snap partnership! When the two components are now pressed together, they become a plastic “press stud”, aka a Kam Snap!

The link below will take you to the Kam Snap video where you can watch the process if you are interested.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ThHOltF5eE

I am very impressed and have made several items using them now. Whereas it takes me about 15-20 minutes to sew in a press stud, it takes approximately one minute to fix the Kam snaps.

I don’t know about anyone else but when I stitch the traditional metal press studs in place my thread invariably breaks. I always feel that there must be a sharp edge on the metal somewhere! It is really frustrating!  So, there is no contest! I am a fan!

One of my favourite blogs is written by a lady called Ann Wood

http://www.annwoodhandmade.com/category/resources/

The link above gives you an idea of the sort of work that she does. It is quirky, and fascinating, and she gives some wonderful tips at times too. A tip in one of her recent blogs, and I apologise that I cannot find it to give you that link, is on stuffing tiny tubes that have been sewn for arms and legs on small dolls. When stitching four limbs for one doll I find it easiest to have two pieces of fabric, right sides together on which you can draw around your arm and leg templates all together, leaving two seam allowances in between them all. This avoids having really tiny pieces of fabric cut for each one individually. In the photo shown below, the arms and legs are both the same size for this project. Leaving the bottom of each “limb” open, I sew up one side, round the top and down the other side, securing the stitch line at the start and end of each leg/arm.  (N.B. I inadertently drew across the bases of these limbs which was incorrect!) They can then be cut up and trimmed to leave an appropriate narrow seam allowance.

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Ann’s tip for turning the tubes through to the right side, is to push a straw up to the rounded end, then using a fine blunt ended tool, start to push the end of the tube down inside the straw.

Personally, I found that once the end had been pushed in about half an inch, I could then remove the straw, and continue  to push the fabric down, inside itself, gradually turning the tube to the right side.

 

 

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I realised that I didn’t need to use such a long straw, so cut some of it off. This also had the positive result of making it more stable!

All these little tips can help to make “fiddly projects” so much less of a chore. and certainly far less time consuming. People who don’t do such activities, would honestly have no idea how much time can be spent turning through four arms and legs!!

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This lovely little rabbit, which is a Hatched and Patched pattern called “Bippity and Bruce (and friends)” was  a delight to make. I bought the pattern from Sally at www.coastandcountrycrafts.co.uk/  a couple of years ago. I noticed recently that it is still in stock.

At the time I felt that it was expensive, but I still bought it! She had a little basket full of “friends” and they were just asking to be made!! The addition of the clothes patterns is excellent and, of course contributes to the cost of the pattern. I have actually altered my pattern slightly. Two sizes are given and this is the small one. The clothes patterns are for both sizes, and include a dress, and “dungarees”! I have also shortened the dress pattern.

In the original pattern the rabbit’s face is asymmetrical. I preferred to make my rabbit’s face symmetrical, so made that adjustment. I love it. I love the lined dress, etc, and I don’t think it is unusual to make slight changes to a pattern when you have tried it out once. I have made several of these rabbits, and will make more!! The use of the tip, above, on turning the arms and legs, for little ladies like these is terrific! Now, in as much as I have got a lot of use out of the pattern, I feel quite justified in buying it in the first place!

Until next time….

Happy stitching!

 

 

Stitching News April 2018

It has been lovely to have had such good weather recently, and a pleasure to have had glorious hot sun very recently. I could visualise everyone out in their gardens, saying “phew, ain’t it ‘ot…”!

What is there to read about in this newsletter? I have had a busy time over the last three weeks; lovely visitors; few days away; only a rather limited amount of sewing for the sales table in September, as well as the ordinary stuff that has to be done! Contrary to what some people imagine, I don’t sew all day! However I do try to do something with a needle most days! As I have always said: ” a few minutes here and there, do add up”, especially when the alternative is no sewing done because “there isn’t time”! So I have included:

  • My favourite three sewing machine feet, and additional ways I use them
  • Personalising a gift by making your own gift tag.

My sewing machine has to be my “can’t do without” sewing tool. I have a Bernina 1015, which I  bought in 1987, 31 years ago. I use it virtually every day! It is a real workhorse; extraordinarily heavy, as it is all metal, but I love it, and wouldn’t change it for any other machine.

Having said that there are attributes which could be equated with other machines on the market, so some of the suggestions about how I use my machine could really work for others as well.

From its number, 1015, and its age, you can probably tell that it is a reasonably basic machine. It has about half a dozen decorative stitches, and the same number of basic functional stitches.  Recently I went away for a few days, this was the view from the little cottage window that I was staying in….20180417_120733 (1)

…and, YES, this is my sewing machine on the table! I apologise for the poor quality of the photograph, but it was very bright outside, and consequently, taking the photo from inside was never going to be good! The view is wonderful though, and does actually illustrate that I am away from home. Although we live in a Cornish village, our house is not by the sea.

I have always taken my sewing machine away with me, if it has been possible! I can then use it in those early morning hours, when no one else is up…etc. On this particular day it had rained steadily all morning, so I sewed very happily and then when the sun came out, we went out for a glorious long walk.

I recently had my machine serviced, and  what a difference. It was in dire need, I have to say, but finding the “right time” to do without it is not easy! It sounds totally different and very quiet now, instead of the clanking noise it was making! I have always regularly cleaned it to remove fluff from the bobbin race, and from under the needle plate etc, but, of course when it is serviced the whole of the machine front is removed. Each part can then be cleaned and adjusted if necessary. It needed a lot of that!

I mostly only use three feet!

The 1/4″ foot; number 37. This is a really versatile foot. I use it for four techniques;

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1. An accurate patchwork seam allowance

2. Topstitching

3. A very fine satin stitch

4. I also always use it, instead of a zipper foot, when inserting zips into pouches and bags. I wrote about this method in the February blog.

(N.B. All the blogs are listed and can be accessed by clicking on them under archives to the top right of the current blog. The function of the scissors in the photos is purely to support the foot.)

The 37 foot is sold as the 1/4″ seam allowance foot and I use it all the time for this purpose, when piecing. It also has a second purpose, which many people I talk to, aren’t aware of. You can see that inside each arm of the foot the width changes, half way along. This indicates that the measurement from where the change of width occurs, to the needle is exactly 1/4″.  This is really useful if you are sewing along a seam towards a corner, and want to be able to pivot accurately at the corner and continue stitching along the adjacent side, maintaining the accurate seam allowance. As you approach the corner slow right down for the last few stitches. When the change of width on the foot is in line with the end of the fabric, you can pivot, with the needle down and start stitching again, confident that at the point of pivot, you will start sewing again with an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance. So, with this foot on the machine you can accurately sew with 1/4″ seam allowance and also accurately judge when you are 1/4″ away from the end of the seam.

For top stitching I often use the inside edge of the 37 foot, as my guide. DSC00801 (2).JPGTo do this, try it out on a sample first. Fold a scrap of fabric in half. Line up the inside edge of the foot so that it touches the fold. Insert the needle into the fabric, and stitch slowly, making sure that as you stitch you are checking that the inside of the the foot runs along the fold line.

I like using the 37 foot to satin stitch.  It is imperative to do very careful sampling when estimating the width and length of the stitch.  There is only a very narrow gap for the needle to swing from side to side, so I take my foot off the pedal and turn the flywheel by hand while making this adjustment. Then I can watch the position of the needle as I slowly, manually lower it against the inside edge of the foot. The wheel is turned really carefully so that, as the needle swings across the width of the gap, making the zigzag for the satin stitch, I can make any adjustment necessary to the width of the stitch, ensuring that the needle clears both arms of the foot. As soon as I am happy with the clearance, I can use the pedal and work at normal speed again.

The small, neat satin stitch, worked with this foot, is a very useful technique which works well for me because I frequently work on a small scale! I use it either to cover the raw edge of applique,  or purely for embellishment. Below is a reminder of how I had used this stitch in the “remake” of the block I showed in the December blog. The stitch is functional as well as decorative here.

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The open-toed free machine embroidery foot, number 24, is my choice for free motion quilting, when the feed dog is lowered.

DSC00773 (2)It has an open circle which means that I am able to see exactly where each stitch is made as the open ring gives clear visibility right up to the needle.

There is another foot which is used for exactly the same purpose. It is very similar but has a complete circle. That suits many people but is not for me!

I have also used this foot  for free zigzag! I work out what width of stitch is suitable for the needle to swing from side to side, in the same way that I prepare for the satin stitch with the 37 foot, above.

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This photograph shows a very small contemporary hanging that I stitched many years ago, possible in the late nineties! I had visited an exhibition of work by a group, then called “The Six”, of which Bobby Britnell was a participating exhibitor. http://www.bobbybritnell.co.uk/about/exhibitions

I was really drawn to her work and particularly liked the textures that she had created. My impression was that she had used free motion zigzag over the surfaces of her hangings. I was keen to have a go. Because the feed dog is down you have the flexibility of increasing the the length of the stitch, by moving your fabric at different speeds. It is really interesting. Why not try a sample, just for fun!

you can see in the photograph that I have created a texture over the surface of my work, and equally, a different texture was created in the areas left unstitched. This added another design element to the end result. It is a contemporary little piece, and as such I deliberately chose not to make it square cornered

. You can see more detail if you are able to enlarge, using your touchpad; click on the photograph, then spread two fingers on the touchpad. You will have to scroll down slowly to find the photograph again, but the detail will show more clearly. Press ctrl+zero to return the screen to its normal size. The above, small (A4) sized hanging was my first attempt. I then followed this with another three small hangings still using the same free zig-zag stitch all over the surface. I learned how to stitch the zigzag row, then switch to a free straight stitch, to travel around the edge of the area I was working on, to get to the next area to be zigzag stitched. I used the open-toed, free machine embroidery foot, number 24 to quilt this entire little hanging.

My walking foot is in frequent use too.

DSC00777 (2)I have had this foot almost as long as the machine, and it is very straightforward to fit; something that I understand isn’t always quite as easy with the more modern Bernina machines and their walking feet.

When I put it on, I ensure that the needle is at its highest position. Then I turn the foot so that the side of it is facing me and slightly tilted towards the machine so that the peg on the machine can fit into the socket on the foot, whilst the arm with two small prongs is eased, simultaneously, onto the needle pin by the user.

(For the purposes of the photo I have used the end of my scissors to lift the arm so that the prongs are visible).

I use this foot for straight line quilting, and often for sewing bindings onto quilts too. I also use it if I am working with “difficult fabrics such as velvets, or slippery fabrics. The way it works is that there are two movable “feet” which sit on the top, towards the back of the walking foot. They move the top fabric through at exactly the same pace as the feed dog is moving  the bottom layer of fabric through, thus eliminating any drag on either surface. All the surfaces end up exactly together at the end of the stitching. The foot is quite sensitive to lumps and bumps in the work they are stitching. So if the foot does not appear to be advancing, (this often happens when crossing a bulky seam) stop sewing with the needle down, lift the presser foot, and you will notice that the little feet move forward. put the presser foot lever down again and when you start stitching the top-feed feet will work perfectly again.

It is still possible to stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance, using this big and rather bulky looking foot, if you are able to change the needle position on your machine. On my machine I can move the needle two positions to the right and two positions to the left of centre. I am aware that this function is not always available on all machines.

The 1/4″ needs to be worked out accurately, not just judged by eye! The easiest way is to place your quilting ruler a bare 1/4″ over the edge of a piece of plain paper. Draw a line on the paper with a razor sharp pencil, angling the pencil into the edge of the ruler.

DSC00778 (2).JPGPlace the paper under the machine and the machine needle onto the pencil line. Put the foot down, checking exactly where the edge of the foot is in comparison to the edge of the paper. If it isn’t in line, then try a different needle position.

In the photo to the right it is obvious that the needle needs to be moved to the right. Lift the needle out of the paper, and then alter its position on the machine, and try again.

 

 

 

DSC00781 (3)In this second photo you can easily see that the needle position has been moved across to the right, now indicating that an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance can be stitched, using this foot, now!

When I teach, I notice that often students use their “normal” machine foot, and assume that it is sewing with 1/4″ seam allowance. It is always a good idea to check, using the method above, to see if it does indeed stitch with 1/4″ seam allowance. After all, we cut out fabrics allowing for that, so we do need to be aware that we are sewing with the 1/4″ too!

Additional machine feet are very expensive to buy, so it is always worth having a look to see if you can use one of your existing feet for any additional purpose.

A final little sewing tip!

I have been stitching with PVC coated fabric over the last couple of weeks. Not easy, but I remembered reading that if you put tissue paper between the PVC surface and the needle plate, you can sew quite freely, without the PVC sticking to the metal! I gave it a go, and it works fantastically! The tissue paper perforates when the needle passes through it, and tears away easily. No more frustration!

Giving a gift. The simplest little addition to giving a gift, is a handmade gift tag. I like to have a supply on hand and have got quite low recently, so I have been recharging the supply. I like to use erasers for small printing blocks. They are so easy to cut into with a pointed craft knife. Inspiration is all around us; in our gardens, during a walk in the lanes or park. You really do not have to look far. If it isn’t easy to get outside, then books, and magazines have a wealth of imagery and ideas.

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I have a shoe box full of printing blocks. Above you can see three or four with resulting gift tags. These are a selection of the few left, so I have cut some fresh card, and printed up a few more. I have used Koh in Nor paints, which are very vibrant. You can make them “calmer” by diluting them a little!

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When they are completely dry I like to use a very fine drawing pen (0.1) to very lightly sketch out the outline, and add detail. This sharpens the image. Compare the printed images above freshly made with the addition of the fine ink pen in the photograph below!

You have to work fast when applying the colour to the block and then printing onto the card, especially if the block has two sections for different colours, as in the Fritillary, because it dries very quickly. If the block hasn’t given a terribly good result, use your brush to add more paint on top of the print, but do it very sympathetically! There should be enough colour still on the brush without having to reload it. Reloading will give a stronger element which you may not like.  Mixed colours always add more interest.

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The blackberry leaves on the right, were certainly turned into a very usable tag, by the outlining. I wouldn’t have used it without!

DSC00787 (2).JPG If you are making your own print, but don’t think you could manage anything too detailed, it can be very simple, e.g. you could print using the end of a cork!

The tag in the picture to the side, was simply made by using an ink pad to apply ink to the end of the cork, instead of paint. The surface was not very even, but a texture was created as well as the outline shape. I painted over the texture, turned them into balloon type kites, and have written the child’s name, Sam, on the balloons. It took precisely five minutes! It could be used as a bookmark after being used as a gift tag!

If you don’t have any blank card, think “recycle”.

Plain card is often used in packaging. It is also used for “order of service” occasions in churches; weddings, funerals etc. Any that are left are usually destroyed. I am sure that the vicar would be delighted if they were used and recycled in a creative and useful way. I know someone who does this, and her vicar is really helpful.

Ask friends and family if they have any plain card that they don’t want. It is surprising who has what!!! Unused card wallets, used for filing documents would make great labels. It is easiest to cut the card into the correct width strips first. Cut one strip to start with, and cut that into individual tags. you may want different width tags, so cut strips as they are required. If you want to shape the top of the tag,  make a “template” from one of the tags by lightly folding it in half lengthways, then cutting off the top corners. Because the corners are cut off together, they will be symmetrical. Write “Master ” on this tag, then match the template to each cut tag, and draw a line against the template where the corners need to be cut off. The tags will then look neat and professional.

The gift tags in the first photo measure 2″ wide x  2.5″ at the longest length. The new printed tags I have made measure 1 and 7/8ths” wide x  2.5″ long.

If you use a favourite printing block (it may be a commercial one), then this might well determine the size of the tag.

Experiment, and see what works for you. At the end of the day, your own handmade gift tags will be hugely more appreciated, great fun to make, and infinitely less expensive than bought ones. I have friends and family who have saved every handmade gift tag they have ever received from me, which is really delightful.

Happy stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News April 2018

Welcome to all my readers. I hope you have all had a very happy Easter.

What am I writing about in this month’s blog…?

  • One of this month’s sewing projects; a cover for an A5 ring binder file
  • Talking Threads DVD. This video was made about 8 years ago, but could have been made yesterday. It is a contemporary technique using mixed media where I am teaching how I stitch into tissue paper, and honesty seed cases.
  • I have also written a tutorial on creating “boxed corners”, for a pouch.

 

Firstly I would like to mention an interesting email I had from Sarah, one of my readers who lives in Plymouth. It was in response to the February Blog about the Hussif.  She wrote to say that she has her father’s Hussif and she has kindly given me permission to show the photographs of it here.

EAA83F1A-4674-4F8F-8C96-A112085763D0 HussifI love the design. When it is opened out, two spools of cotton are tucked into a purpose designed little pocket, specially for standard cotton reels. Behind them the user has a card of thread as well. They all fit together very neatly. There also seems to be a pocket behind the inside layer of the body of the hussif. Maybe that would have contained some patches, or a note reminding the owner of some simple tips…. some needles, still threaded, are pinned into this internal  layer, along with a couple of safety pins.

 

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Here you can see it is rolled up so that it can be stored in the kit bag.Other people have been in touch to say they remember their father’s talking about their hussifs, and someone also told me that today’s soldiers must have one, too.

 

I like simple methods of storage which allows me to have what I need easily available!
DSC00746 (3)Several years ago, I made myself a quilted cover for an A5 ring binder. When I taught in College we were issued with A5 diaries for College use and I used to remove the hard-back covers of my diary, punch holes in the diary pages and insert them into the ring binder. I kept some poly pockets at the back as they are so easy for storing notes, reminders, or receipts etc in and I could slot these in between the appropriate pages within the diary. The ring binder is still very much in use, but I now use it to store all the relevant little projects I am using on an almost daily basis for sales table items for the charity workshop in September!

An addition I have made to the poly pockets, which works really well, is that I cut plain white card to fit snugly inside the poly pockets. This divides each pocket into two; a front and a back. I write the heading of one project at the top of one side of the card, and another project on the back of the card and can then store two projects in one sleeve! Economy and thrift! I like it.

Within the last couple of weeks I had to make a raffle prize for an Easter raffle at our quilting Group. It is a tradition that the committee members all make a raffle prize for a special Easter raffle at the quilt Group. I thought about this long and hard, and decided to make a ring binder cover for my raffle prize, this year.

A brief resume of my method.

Firstly I had to research where I could find an A5 ring binder folder! WHSmiths only had plastic ones, and I specifically wanted a board one. Eventually I found one in Office Outlet which seems to be a spin off from Staples. I took measurements of the folder I had bought, noticing that they were different from my last one, and wondering why, as they are both A5 folders made by the same company! possibly a conversion from inches to centimetres? Who knows!

I opened it out at full stretch, giving me the measurement of both front and back covers plus the spine. To this I added another 7½” for “flaps” which would wrap around the sides of the folder, to the inside. This gives a flap of 3¾” which the front and back of the folder slots into, holding the ring binder in place.

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I cut a piece of pelmet Vilene, to this size, and also allowed an additional 3/4″ in total to the measurement of the depth; (top to bottom). This could be trimmed if necessary later. This was to be the foundation on which to support my fabric. Pelmet /craft Vilene has some body and “clout” which would give the cover long life given reasonably careful use!

I folded and marked the position of the flaps, and the centre of the spine.

The central panel here has one of my screen printed flower seed heads and small button flowers and I machine and hand embellished it. I had hand dyed the buttons using disperse dyes.DSC00734 (2)

Next I cut some appropriate strips of fabric and “stitched and flipped” them over into position increasing the decorative surface above and below the initial panel until I had created the full depth of the front cover, (plus a little to spare!)

The first strip was placed right sides together, with the central panel and stitched with 1/4 ” seam allowance, then flipped over to the right side and pressed, which helped to keep it in place. A second strip completed the main panel.

I then placed this in position on the Vilene, making note of placement from the pencil markings I had previously made.

N.B. The panel for the front cover must be placed near the right hand end of the piece of Vilene. I purposely say “near”, rather than “at” the end. If it is right at the end, part of it will be folded under for the flap! Before actually securing it in position, just carefully hold it in place, and wrap the whole piece of the Vilene around the ring binder, to check that it is indeed the “front cover” and is in position correctly!!

The photograph below shows that I have added the first strip to the right hand edge of the panel, and this piece actually wraps around the edge, and will be topped stitched, 1/8th of an inch from the edge from the top to the bottom. This will hold the fabric firmly in position  and give a professional finish. (Many apologies for the poor quality of the photograph. I was working in the evening, and forgot that electric light is no good for photos and also gives awful shadows!)

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I machine”quilted” everything before I cut the next selection of strips to be applied to the left side. They were varying width strips, and were applied in the same “stitch and flip” method. This time each one was machine “quilted” in straight lines, before I stitched the next strip in place. DSC00757 (3)This ensured that they stayed flat, and didn’t wrinkle before the next strip was stitched and flipped.

Strips were applied right across the vilene, in this method. The two ends were trimmed so that about 3/8ths of the last strip could be wrapped around the edge of the vilene and top stitched in place, from top to bottom.

The folder was then opened out, and placed onto the Vilene side of the work, so that a final size could be assessed before trimming. I needed to allow 3/8th of an inch above and below the top and bottom edges of the folder, before trimming. This was for ¼” seam allowance for the binding, plus 1/8th of an inch for “wriggle room” when pushing the folder covers into the flap!

I drew pencil lines where I was going to trim to; and checked everything a second time before trimming! The bindings were cut and machine stitched in place, right sides together with the edge of the folder, then hand stitched  on the inside, to complete the folder cover.

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I am delighted to say that the recipient was thrilled that she was able to choose it, and I know it has gone to a “good home!”

Talking Threads is a DVD put together by Jamie Malden of Colouricious, probably about eight years ago now. She invited twelve textile artists, to take part in it. I was approached, and I spoke with her on the phone, to find out what would be expected of me!

After our discussion, I was happy to be involved, and delighted to have been asked. I was just asked to fill up my car with as much variety of my work as I could get in and given a date and address to go to! Jamie did tell me which particular aspect of my work she would like me to teach on the video, so I was able to make sure that I had everything necessary to explain and teach the workshop clearly.

The DVD begins with a very general chat about me and my approach to my work. This is followed by a teaching session when I had to teach Holly how to machine stitch onto honesty seed cases and tissue paper, creating a very simple design whilst going about it.

I showed her some pages of my work book, where I had done lots of sampling, and we discussed how I prepared the seed cases and the tissue paper before getting started.

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Holly was a complete natural. She had never ever done this before, and she was using my machine, (Bernina 1015). I purposely decided to take mine to use because I knew my chosen threads etc worked well with it, and I could set it up before Holly started stitching. She had maybe no more than five minutes to try out my machine, before filming continued!

Click on the link below to watch the video. (You will need to dismiss the ad that comes up first!)

How to Quilt – Quilting with textile artist Di Wells – Quilting Arts – YouTube

It was a thoroughly enjoyable, and a fascinating day! I think they were filming three or four artists each day, and I seem to remember that there were 12 of us in all. A DVD is available of all those of us taking part; http://colouricious.com/block-printing-shop/dvds-and-downloads/

Last month in the March Stitching News, I wrote about pouches that I had made, and said I would show you how to “box corners” this month. Boxing the corners creates a kind of gusset at the base of the pouch, without having to sew a purpose cut strip of fabric in position.

Boxing the corners of a bag or pouch, to give shape and structure.

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This was the particular pouch I was giving details of. I gave the dimensions of the finished pouch as: length (i.e. top to base) 7.5″; width 6.5″ at the top of the bag, and 5.5″ at the base; depth 1.5″, and explained that “boxing corners”  creates a depth and a roomy interior. The reason that the pouch is narrower at the base is because when I created the “box” at the corners it took up some of the pouch size and space; changing the shape at the corner.  This next photo illustrates the  results. DSC00729 (2)

The bulk of the work assembling the pouch or purse, is completed first, and the two linings are placed right side together and pinned carefully, and the two main pieces of the bag/pouch are placed right sides together and pinned. The zip lies between the two sections.

Then, the assembly continues by stitching around the edges, with a 1/4″ seam allowance, starting one side of a gap at the lining end (through which the bag will be turned through to the right side ultimately).  The stitching continues around to the other side of the gap.

The following photographs explain how to create the box when you have reached this stage. (The February newsletter, where I was showing how to put the lining and zip into a pouch, simultaneously, explains all the stages, up to this point).

You must decide how much “box” you would like to create. In the photo of the pouch lying on its side, you can see that there is “depth” to the pouch.  The finished width of the “box” was 1.5″, so I had to cut a corner square away, measuring 3/4″; i.e. half the finished required size. Had I wanted a 4″ box, I would have cut away a 2″ square.
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Although we are stitching with 1/4″ seam allowance, the measurement  of the square to be removed, is made from raw edge to raw edge….not to the stitch lines. This can be seen in the photos above.  The ruler is identifying a 3/4″ square. I drew a pencil line around corner of the ruler, and cut out the square on the line. This  was repeated at the opposite corner.

DSC00725 (2).JPG  The next stage is to open out the corner, so that the side seam and the base seam lie on top of each other. Notice how the seams butt up against each other, and lie flat.

This should be pinned securely, and then prefer to draw 1/4″ seam allowance  before stitching accurately on this line, as well as reinforcing the stitching at both ends.

 

It is important that you check that the seams in the opposite corner of the pouch lie similarly, as shown below.

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The final photograph shows that the same procedures are then followed with the lining.

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Please refer back to the February tutorial, to read about pulling the bag through the gap, and finishing the pouch neatly.

I follow Stephanie Redfern’s blog, and found the April one about collage and owls particularly inspirational this month;

https://stephanieredfern.wordpress.com

It certainly inspired me to look at collage in a different light! I have read and re-read it several times, and have no doubt I shall come back to it several times more!!

Diary Dates:

Sat 28th April 2018 – Sat 5th May 2018. (Excluding Sunday)  10am – 4 pm.  George Room, Subscription Rooms, Stroud GL5 1AE. An exhibition of textiles by Pauline Cullimore, Janet Grist and Sylvia Hammond. “Three by 3:  Homage to Vivaldi”.  Part of SIT Select 2018  www.sitselect.org   Admission Free. These are three very talented ladies, (ex students of mine),  who will have a very varied selection of work on display, and for sale.

Malvern Quilts Spring Show 17th – 20th May; Three Counties Showground Severn Hall MalvernWorcestershire WR13 6NW.  10:00am – 5:00pm (4:30pm on Sunday).

Festival of Quilts – NEC 9th -12th August

Cowslip Summer Fair – 21st & 22nd July. Cowslip Workshops Newhouse Farm St.Stephens Launceston Cornwall PL15 8JX.

Happy Stitching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stitching News March 2018

 

Hello, and welcome to March’s Stitching News! If you are new to the blog, I hope you enjoy this month’s blog.

What is there to read about?

  • I decided to share the process I went through when I was putting together a small pattern for sale, recently.
  • I have also used one of my geometric screen-printed panels to make a pouch this weekend.  It is one that I found earlier in the year, when I was reorganising my room (January Blog) .
  • Then there are a multitude of ideas for using the many varied shapes and sizes of pouches I make!

Last month when I wrote about the hussif I mentioned that I sell patterns on Craftsy. These are patterns which the buyer downloads as a pdf. so no consideration has to be given to the physical packaging. I started writing these when I “retired” from teaching. One of my ex students, Sarah, who owns and runs Goose Chase Quilting, a patchwork shop in Cheltenham, suggested it to me one day, and it is an excellent way to carry on imparting ideas, knowledge and skills.

Sarah has written and successfully self-published many books of patterns, over the years, as well as creating individual patterns and kits: http://www.goose-chase-publishing.co.uk   If you aren’t local to Gloucestershire, you may well know her from the shows, as she invariably has a stall at Quilts UK in Malvern and at the NEC Festival of Quilts, and has also been very generous in supporting local causes.

Writing patterns, and illustrating them with step by step photographs or even getting all the steps in the right order, is a long-winded process, (certainly for me!) When patterns are long with many stages, it really is necessary to make sure they are as clear as possible.

I write and rewrite, again and again, as I try try to eliminate ambiguity, and make each step as clear as I can. I have really enjoyed the process, but it is very time consuming, and, I feel quite a responsibility.

Many years ago, when I was a trader, I made up a variety of small kits for sale and recently I found a shoe box with half a dozen small lavender bag kits, left over when I finished trading.  These were designed to hang on coat hangers in wardrobes.  Lavender is a great deterrent for moths, as apparently they loathe the smell.

I had created roosters and dolly/angels kits, and one day a few weeks ago I made up one of the roosters. It really made me smile and brought back many happy memories!  I decided to refresh the whole thing and revamp it, making a pattern, which I could sell myself from home, (rather than putting it on Craftsy). There is plenty of work in preparing all the text, and diagrams etc, but of course there is no fabric to add. When I was a trader, I had access to fabrics at trade prices, but of course I don’t now. But this small patterns can be made from scraps…. and tell me a quilter who doesn’t have any scraps!

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What exactly is involved in putting a pattern together for sale?

I mulled over thoughts about the rooster lavender kit for a good many days before settling on the decision to make a “pattern” as opposed to a kit. Once that was sorted, I felt ready to begin and it then took me the best part of two days to work it all out! So, to go back to my initial question….what, indeed, was involved in the process? 

Size and format were my first considerations. I already possessed a selection of various sizes of clear cellophane bags and therefore wanted a finished format that would fit into one of those.

What does a pattern buyer expect?  I did some research which helped me make my decisions. I have bought maybe four or five patterns over many years, but because I have always preferred to design and make my own patterns I am not an habitual pattern buyer! However I have friends who buy patterns, who have lots of experience about what they like, and, also importantly, what they don’t like about the patterns that they buy…and that information has been really useful!

I also have good friends who proof-read for me and “make up” my patterns from my instructions, which is also invaluable and immensely helpful.  So what might be involved for each packaged pattern and therefore what would my selling price be?

I wanted an affordable price for a small pattern, and felt that this particular one could be suitable for any age group; someone learning to sew, young or older. The more experienced sewer could rattle through some too, and it would be a change  not to have to think too hard about it…just follow instructions, for a change!  It could be a “snap buy” for a friend; maybe an attractive and fun “stocking filler” for sewing friends at Christmas. It could also make a delightful little “thank you” gift… either made up by the donor, or if the recipient was a stitcher, offered in its “pattern format”. It is always useful to have a couple of prepared little presents put by. Costing and pricing could realistically only be assessed at the completion of whole process.

Presentation is really important. I wanted it to be attractive and the essential details of the pattern to be visible and easy to read without having to open the package.

A coloured photograph on the front was essential with further brief details given on the back of the card.

Due to the size I had chosen for this pattern, I printed a format of four photos to one A4 sheet of photographic paper. These were trimmed with a rotary cutter. (Clearly only one of these is required per pattern). I have always bought packs of 50 blank cards  (4″ x 6″) which have already been scored, and I use these for my own hand made cards. It seemed a simple but very effective use of a card, with photograph mounted on the front, to use as a “carrier” for the instructions.  Everything would then be held and supported inside the card. The photograph illustrated the finished item and other essential information could be read on the reverse. It would look professional and neat.

  • The photograph for the front of the pattern was mounted onto the card with double sided cellotape.
  • Essentially I had my diagrams, text and templates from the original kit. These needed some minor adjustments to fit the size and format I wanted to use. I had to learn how to word-process to an A6 format, so that I could write my text within four separate areas of an A4 page! A big learning curve! It took me several hours and much patience to sort this out.
  • I then word processed an A4 document which could be used for the brief details to be read from the back of the card. I wanted the left half blank and the text on the right top quarter. When I had done this I was able to copy and paste my text to the bottom right quarter. The text included: the title of the pattern; a small photograph of a single rooster; the finished dimensions of the rooster and a brief description. A final sentence explains that all proceeds from the sale of my patterns go to charity. The format of this particular word processing is such that I can cut the A4 page in half laterally, and have two copies (each having  the left half blank and the right half with text). These were folded vertically in half; the blank half inside the card so that the fold wraps around the edge, placing the text against the back the card. Finally I added my “Di Wells” personal sticker to the back of the card too. The spare copy is ready for the next package!
  • Inserts were photocopied from my masters, trimmed to size and folded
  • Finally the finished assembly was enclosed in the cellophane bag and sealed with a price sticker.  This account illustrates the process “from concept to sale!” I wonder if many pattern buyers have ever wondered what was involved in the production of their purchases!

 

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Rosemary, a dear friend, has made up the other kit, my dolly/angel lavender bag.
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I shall be offering this as a “pattern” later in the year too. Both of these these were good little sellers many years ago, and hopefully will be again. These two particular patterns will sell for £4.75 each, and will only be available from me, but not until later in the year. By then I will have created another couple of small patterns, as well, and will have had time to assemble some! Details of all of them will be in a summer blog!
Makers can personalise their patterns to suit themselves, and fabrics and embellishments will make each one unique!
 As I give all the proceeds from sales of my patterns, to charity, I have the pleasure of creating and then the pleasure of giving.
A great double bonus!
In my January Blog I wrote about  some screen prints I had designed and printed onto fabric several years ago. These came to light when I was sorting out my studio! This month I have used one of the square geometric ones.
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Immediately above is the photo I showed in January. You may remember that I explained I had over-dyed some of the screen prints because I had originally printed them onto white fabric. The fabrics with the squares at the bottom of the photo are three of the results. However, the piece of screen printed fabric I have used for my pouch was originally printed onto a pale blue hand dyed fabric, at the time, which I liked so left alone and it is this that I have used on this occasion!
 DSC00715 (2)I chose a piece of floral fabric from my scrap bag, and stitched it to the bottom of the printed panel, then chose a couple of colours from that colour palette to make roofs. I then also used them to increase the width.
Below are two photographs of the finished pouch; front and base views.
The dimensions of the finished pouch are: length 7.5″; width 6.5″ at the top of the bag, and 5.5″ at the base; depth 1.5″.  (Apologies for the stray thread  I can now see on the bottom of the bag in the photo!)! To create a depth and a roomy interior I “boxed” the corners of the pouch.
In last months Stitching News I explained and illustrated how to insert a lining and zip together, and in the April blog, I will show you how to “box” corners, for bags, pouches and such like! As I said, this gives room in the pouch but also gives a structure which means it will stand up.
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I love making pouches. They make great little gifts, apart from being immensely useful personally. I keep individual chargers in them for my phone; camera; Fitbit; and toothbrush. I have various small tools in one which I frequently use for sewing, which could otherwise easily become misplaced. They are also so easy and convenient to use for small items when I go to my sewing groups!
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I also take extra ones on holiday,  containing a little sewing kit; first aid; small items of favourite jewellery; any medication etc.
To the left is a selection of different styles.  If some of them look quite tired they have been in constant use for several years.
You may recognise the fabric with the circles on at the bottom of this photograph! …(have another look at the photo of the screen prints!) There is just a little bit left! I made this little zipped container several years ago. It neatly stores my Samsung tablet charger, and plug with USB port. I love it! A real old favourite!
I wonder if any of you tried the simultaneous zip and lining technique after last month’s newsletter? Do you have a different favourite tip or technique of your own for this particular technique…
Very happy stitching to you all.

Stitching News February 2018

This month is already well underway! It is quite extraordinary just how quickly time passes! It has been another busy, and enjoyable few weeks.

I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter which includes:

  • Preparing samples for classes. DSC00079 (2)
  • A mini tutorial on how to sew a zip and lining in at the same time, for a small purse.

 

 

  • Photographs and information about other artefacts that I have made this month.

 

I have taught my “Hussif” workshop, twice during this month. I had groups of delighted ladies, thrilled with their results!

I am teaching it again on Tuesday 6th November for Jane Lockyer at Roseland Mews; places are still available. http://www.lynhervalley.co.uk/roselandmewsstudio/ Please get in touch with Jane if you are interested.

The week before that, (Tuesday 30th october)  I am also teaching a printing workshop: “Printing with Acrylics”. This is also at Roseland Mews. Anyone interested in learning how to make their own printing blocks will be able to make them from erasers; compressed foam, potatoes, or mpount board, and have an opportunity to create and play! The two workshops are totally independent of each other. Although I understand that several students have already booked both, as they would like to prepare some printing to use on their Hussif, the following week!  It is not essential to have a printed panel on the Hussif, that was my choice.DSC00074 (2).JPG

Other choices for the small panel on the front of the bag could be be a “feature fabric” as in the example in this photograph on the right. I actually used the same fabric to line this Hussif therefore using two fabrics, in total. Other ladies prepared some applique, which was prepared beforehand. Everyone was asked to come to the class having followed the cutting instructions before they arrived. This made a vast difference to  how much they achieved on the day! Virtually everyone finished the project in the class time. Three or four had a small amount of hand sewing to do at home. But before they left,  at the end of the day, they had a very recognisable Hussif, with most also completing the pin cushion and needle case!

Please contact Jane if you are interested in either of the classes:

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What is a Hussif? Essentially it is an old term for “a housewife”. Soldiers used to take a Hussif off to war with them. It was a sewing kit; thread, needles, pins, scissors etc, so that they had the means to repair their mufti or uniform when it was required. It took various forms; a roll, or a little bag, etc, whatever they, their mothers, or wives could prepare for them. Every soldier had to have one, and I am told that still applies today…

I have altered an existing bag pattern (which I have made many times over the years) to create my Hussif. I have given it a shorter neck strap, instead of a shoulder strap and have created additional pockets to hold specific sewing equipment relative to the project in progress! The purpose of the neck strap, is so that it can ne worn around the neck, with everything to hand, saving table space. It is immensely useful and mine is in use every day, either hung around my neck or sometimes sat at the side of me, tucked into the arm of the chair.

I designed and wrote this pattern for my Craftsy site, a three years ago; http://www.craftsy.com/profile/di-wells-s-pattern-store

I also sell it from home emailing it as a downloadable PDF for the buyer to print off.  The pattern is a good little seller, but in order to teach a class, in a workshop situation I have had to adapt and modify the text considerably. The pattern on my Craftsy site has numerous photographs accompanying the text and it also contains a section on making the house printing blocks, and printing onto fabric. In total there are 19 pages.

DSC00023 (2)Clearly, it is totally impossible to give workshop students a hand-out with so many pages. So, I have prepared  stitched samples which demonstrate the stages of construction. There are just a couple more bindings to be added to this sample, and I have now typed the scribbled pencil notes which are attached to it. The text is now reduced to a double-sided page.

Preparing this work has been a fantastic way to update my thoughts as it has totally refreshed the technique in my head! As a complete change I decided to make the sample quite “funky” with every single piece of material in it a different coloured fabric!

This teaching sample will remain un-assembled for as long as it is useful, although I must admit, I have very itchy fingers and would love to sew it up to see what it looks like!

About three weeks ago, my camera packed up! I researched what was available to suit my needs and bought a Sony compact, very similar to my old one, although that was a different make. I didn’t buy the camera case that was suggested, as I like to be able to hang my camera around my neck protecting it in a simple open top “pocket”. This camera is smaller than my previous one and looked totally swamped in the old case!

However, I had a redundant very soft leather phone case which was a perfect size; redundant because it was too small for my current phone! I had a good look at it but sadly when I attempted to put a really sharp strong needle into the leather, I met huge resistance. I admit it wasn’t a leather needle!

DSC00025 (2)The case has a fuchsia pink, soft leather inner lining, besides its turquoise outer leather case. you may be able to see this in the photograph at the side. So, I decided to make a snug fabric case, using  a vintage striped French linen. This would be a new  outer cover, and being quite a substantial linen, I would be able to attach a fabric strap easily. I decided to add a tiny detail to the fabric first, and stitched a fine red line down each side of the white stripes before making it up. Then I pressed the top seam allowances in, and machine stitched the fabric case around the top of the leather case. It worked well!

Finally I made a very narrow denim strap which easily stitched to the sides.20180208_083057

I have always liked to have easy access to my camera and this sort of case allows me to grab the wrist strap, pull the camera out and shoot! No fumbling; easy to use! Yet it is tucked in and very well cushioned by the three layers. I am pleased with the result. Many thanks to textile friend, Edith, for planting the seed that produced this end result. The finished measurement of the case is 3.5″ x  4.75″.

 

 

 

DSC00027 (2)This month I have also made insulating sleeves for our flasks using “Insul-Bright” which is a needled insulating lining, manufactured by The Warm Company. It consists of,  and I quote:

polyester fibers needle-punched through a nonwoven substrate and through a reflective metallized film. The needled material breathes and won’t break down with washing. The fibres resist conduction while the reflective metallized film resists radiant energy. The energy, hot or cold, is reflected back to its source.” 

So, the shinier metal looking side should always face the hot or cold item. I have had this “wadding” for several years, having used it for coasters, but I should imagine that it is still available, or if not then certainly another similar product.

In the November Stitching News I showed a couple of little denim zip purses I had made, accompanied by a mini tutorial on the basic construction of them. I said I would explain how to put a zip and lining in together in the December stitching news.  However, in December I wrote a tutorial on how I had made my Christmas cards that month, as it was topical, so I postponed the zip/lining tutorial. Here it is now, the mini tutorial on:
Sewing a zip and lining in at the same time
It is best to just try out the method on a small item such as a coin purse to start with. The secret to sewing zips in with this method, is to start with a zip which is a minimum of  2″ longer than the required finished size. It doesn’t matter if it is longer than that. Indeed you may find it easier if it is! I have given you as much fine detail about the process as possible, in order to help you get a good result.
  •  Prepare the front and the back of the purse first, by doing any piecing, applique and quilting.

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Only quilt through the main fabric and the wadding. Trim the front and back to exactly the same size, then cut linings to the same measurement.

I have quilted simply, in straight lines, spacing the lines at 1/2″ and 3/4″ apart. A little free machining on the printed rose just adds some depth.

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Place the front of the purse, right side up on the table, with the zip centred, right side down. Match the top edge of the purse zip with the top edge of the purse.

 

 

Next, place the lining, wrong side down, on top, covering the zip and matching all edges. Pin, securing all the layers along the top edge of the zip.

 

 

DSC00056 (3).JPGNotice the placement of the machine foot, as shown in the photo to the left.

N.B.  I use my 1/4″ foot for this technique and have centred the left hand “prong” of the foot on the zip teeth, approximately 1/2″ before the edge of the fabric sandwich. (In fact I have started about 1″ away, as you can see in the photograph, purely so that you are able to see the position clearly). It is important that you observe this on your machine with your zip, so that you can then see how much pf the zip/purse lies to the side of the right prong of the 1/4″ foot.

Keep your eye on that position, maintaining it as you sew carefully down the side of the zip. This is your guide for sewing in a straight line. At the end, remove it from the machine and pull the lining over to the back, where It will now lie against the wadding.

DSC00060 (2)  In the photograph to the left, I have pinned the corner back, so that you can see the layers of the sandwhich: lining, wadding and front of the purse. Pin close to the zip to keep all layers firmly in position, clear of the zip teeth.

Top stitch along the edge of the zip from the front of the work. I find that if the left prong of the machine foot now runs along the side of the zip teeth, I obtain a close top stitch which looks good and also prevents the lining getting caught in the zip. Pull the zip along and you will see that it runs smoothly.

 

 

Repeat the whole procedure with the back of the purse, i.e;

1. Place the back of the purse, right side up, on the table.

2. Centre the zip, wrong side down, matching the top edge of the back of the purse with the top edge of the zip. (This time the zip is now attached to the purse front, of course)! Ensure that all edges match.

3. Place the lining, wrong side down, on top, matching all edges. Pin; stitch; and top stitch.

DSC00063 (2)Next, pull back the zip-pull into the centre, and machine stitch across the left edge where the zip gapes open.

This will keep the zip teeth, close together. It could also be hand stitched. (See photo to the left.)

 

 

DSC00066 (2)  Pin the two linings RS together and the back and front of the purse RS together.  You will notice that the zip teeth naturally want to face towards the lining part of the purse…this is correct. Ensure that the  teeth lie closely on top of each other at both ends of the zip.

Draw a pencil line guide, for stitching on, along the top edge of the lining, 1/4″ from the edge, leaving a gap in the centre. (Shown in the photo).

 

N.B. Start and finish stitching at the sides of the gap, reinforcing the stitching at the start and the end. When you get round to the zip, it may be rather difficult to ease the foot over the thickness of fabric and zip. (I am using denim as one of my fabrics, so it is very thick).

DSC00067 (2).JPGIn fact the foot may come to a full stop against it.  An invaluable aid is amusingly called a “jean a ma jig” …or another trade name is “hump jumper”.  I work with denim a lot, and frequently use this.

In the photograph to the left, you can see that I have placed a “jean a ma jig

under the foot, in the same orientation as the spare one at the front of the photograph.  When in position it will lift the foot to a higher level, and enable the machine to continue stitching, without  any skipped stitches. N.B, It is really important to remember to lower the presser foot lever, after it has been placed in position, even though there may notice no discernible difference, otherwise the threads will tangle and knot when you start stitching again.

 

DSC00068When the foot has crossed the thick seam and starts to dip down on the other side, lift the presser foot lever again and remove the little tool. Now place it under the front of the foot. Stitch another few stitches, until you can tell that it is no longer necessary when you can remove it again.

The Cotton Patch is a supplier of the “hump jumper”:

https://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/acatalog/Clearance-Plate-Multi-Purpose-Tool-for-Pfaff-machines.html#SID=488

 

click on the site and it wwill take you straight to it. It is slightly different to mine, in that it is double ended and white, but you will be able to see that it works in the same way. (£1.50)

Continue stitching until you reach the zip at the other side. Repeat the whole process, then continue stitching until you reach the gap again. Remove from the machine. Trim the ends of the zip and the corners.

DSC00070 (2)Pull the purse through the gap to the right side. Use a blunt tool to push out the bottom corners of the purse while the gap is still open. Then close the gap, and push the lining down into the purse, again pushing out the corners at the bottom and top of the purse. I use my finger to push up at the closed end of the zip. You can really “square up” that corner, and ease the open top corner of the zip, easing the lining down flat against the body of the purse.

DSC00071 (2)  The final photograph shows the finished purse with, possibly my favourite tool. It is called a “Purple Thang”. It has a pointed end and a square end, and I use it for pushing out corners; helping me to turn narrow tubes such as (arms and legs) through to the right side before stuffing! It is invaluable. I make many small, and often fiddly artefacts, and wouldn’t be without it. Again, the Cotton Patch stock them http://www.cottonpatch.co.uk/
Diary dates:

Sat 28th April 2018 – Sat 5th May 2018. (Excluding Sunday)  10am – 4 pm.  George Room, Subscription Rooms, Stroud GL5 1AE. An exhibition of textiles by Pauline Cullimore, Janet Grist and Sylvia Hammond. “Three by 3:  Homage to Vivaldi”.  Part of SIT Select 2018  www.sitselect.org   Admission Free 

These three very talented ladies met whilst studying at Gloscat for Patchwork & Quilting City and Guilds certificate and diploma. I am delighted to say that they were all students of mine for four very happy years. They have remained good friends and get together every 2-3 years to hold an exhibition in Stroud, Gloucestershire. For this forthcoming exhibition they are very pleased to be part of SIT Select.
Lots of tips and ideas in this post. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I Wonder how many of you already uses a jean a ma jig, or a hump jumper?

 

 

Charity Workshop Information

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Tutors:     Di Wells (Kantha) and Rosemary Rowe (Angels)

Venue:      Cowslip Workshops; Newhouse Farm, Launceston, Cornwall  PL15 8JX

Date and time: Tuesday 11th September 2018, 10 am-4 pm in the Big Barn

Cost: £35.  The two charities we are supporting this year are: The Albanian Sewing Project and Cornwall Air Ambulance

We are immensely grateful to Jo, at Cowslip workshops,  http://www.cowslipworkshops.co.uk  who has very kindly allowed us to use her Big Barn for another charity workshop day this year. Above and below, are photographs of the workshops we are offering. They are both hand sewing on the day. Please choose carefully from the information given before making your choice, because if your choice is Kantha, it will be necessary to do some preparation, before the day.

You are at liberty to do either one workshop all day, or both, as a half day each.

The kantha workshop involves some preparation of the background, before the workshop day, so that your workshop time can be spent in developing the kantha and embroidery.   A lino printed house will be included for everyone who is doing the “kantha with a house”….and there will be one available, on the day, for those who are doing one of the other options, if you would like one. Please note that you won’t finish your kantha project in the day, but will have hopefully become “hooked”. I am now totally addicted!

I feel that complete beginners and more experienced stitchers would enjoy either of our two workshops.  On both projects you could add your own spin!

Mine is Kantha. 
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The finished measurements of the little panel with the red house measures 3.5″ wide x 4.25″ long, and the panel with the pale lilac house is 4.5″ wide x 3.5″ long.

The third piece, shown below, has a finished size of 5″ square

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N.B. Measurements have only been given as a guide as it is impossible to estimate size from  photographs. You are, of course, free to work on whatever size of panel you wish, but I would advise against working on a big scale if this is your first foray into Kantha. It is a closely worked technique, and you do want to see some results by the end of your day/half day. Placement of strips and oblongs/ squares is purely up to personal choice.

Another kantha choice is this fish panel which is worked on a plain background. I chose a piece of linen which I had hand dyed. The final size of this piece is 6″ square.

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Details of all pre preparation for any of the Kantha choices will be given on the requirements sheet. I will email the details for the panel you have chosen.

You can of course plan your own piece of work, to whatever size you wish before you come to the workshop. The subject matter can be entirely your choice, but if this technique is new to you, I do suggest that you work on a small scale to start with. It is an intensively worked technique, and as such is not quick!! However, it is actually a very therapeutic, soothing, slow stitch method once you get into it.  Please Note that you will not finish the kantha during the workshop, but you will understand exactly how to finish it by the end of your session.

Rosemary will be teaching a contemporary Angel for the second workshop on offer. Below are some variations on one basic structure….and then the world is your oyster! They become individual little characters according to the materials and embellishments you choose!  These young ladies just make me smile with their “Doc Marten boots”; piercings(!) and jewellery!

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All bookings should be made through me, please, by emailing me at, diwells49@gmail.com giving the following details:

  • Your name, and  email address if it is different to the one you are emailing me with.
  • Your chosen workshop(s); Angel, fish kantha or House kantha
  • Payment: £35 for the day. Please make cheques out to; Mrs H Wells, and send to: Cedar Lodge, Trevarth, Mevagissey, Cornwall, PL26 6RX. If you would prefer to pay by Bank Transfer, let me know, so that I can email you the details

On receipt of payment, requirement sheets will be emailed to you.

If you are booking the Kantha workshop, some initial preparation at home, prior to the workshop day is required. The reason I ask you to do this is because it would make such a difference to the time available to really make progress with the Kantha stitching, on the day. You would be able to do this preparation by hand or machine, your choice.

** If you are choosing a kantha panel with a lino printed house, please also include an SAE when you send me your cheque, so that I can send you a house. If you are coming with friends, then it would be sensible to send one sae on behalf of any friends choosing the same workshop too (unless they do not live close to you)! The colours available are: green,  turquoise, red, pink/red, blue, terracotta,  lilac and grey. Please give at least a couple of colour options, because I clearly do not have an unlimited supply! **

If you choose one of the other workshops; i.e. the fish Kantha or Angel,  and would like a house, maybe to work with at a later stage, you are welcome to have one on the day. I will bring some extras!

The angels are achievable in half a day. You can see that these “contemporary” angels allow for personal embellishment, beads, buttons, bows and embroidery etc….whatever takes your fancy.

On the day we shall have a raffle table, and any contributions to this would be gratefully received. We shall also have a sales table, all made and prepared by the two of us.

An “inspiration” table will also hopefully enthuse you, and show what you might aspire to. These items won’t be for sale, but are more a “show and tell”!

You are very welcome to bring a light lunch with you, and there will also be a good selection of luches available from the cafe. I am sure that we shall be able to order before lunch time, so that when we do have our break our orders will be ready for us. Drinks will be available during the day, and home made biscuits/tray bakes etc, which Rosemary and I shall make, will accompany liquid refreshment! After all, that is part and parcel of any quilting day, is it not?

We are very dependent on the weather, and hopefully September will have warm sunny days, however, please be aware that you may need extra layers, if it is a cool day, so please come suitably attired.

Happy stitching!

Stitching News January 2018

Welcome to any new visitors to the Stitching News blog. I hope you find something of interest and some encouragement to fire your imagination, and inspire you this month! Happy New Year to you all. Goodness didn’t the month get off to a very chilly, stormy start? The seas have been very rough, especially those accompanying the highest tides, and the full moon. They were spectacular. We didn’t get any snowfall down here; but it seemed as though we did get everything else…and it hasn’t given up yet; terrific hail storms and winds this evening as I get ready to publish this blog.

In this month’s stitching blog I am going to write about;

  • The changes I have made in my lovely sewing room, and what I found in the process!
  • My sewing projects for this month.
  • A mini, simple little in-house tutorial I have prepared for one of the two  quilting groups I belong to.
  • Progress on the charity workshop  information

Not necessarily in that order!

Over the years, I have been asked how I can find the time to put together a comprehensive blog, quickly! Well, put simply, it isn’t quick! I write little and often, so that it grows in a logical order and I have time to make adjustments as I go along! It is a time consuming activity and needs constant reviewing to ensure it makes sense!

I have had some lovely walks this month, albeit in the wind and showers; definitely in the mud and one memorable day in gorgeous sunshine, joy of joys. Sunny days have been few and far between but it has been a delight walking around Mevagissey harbour,  and in the lanes up to Heligan, and seeing many signs of the spring plants raising their heads to battle with the elements.. 20180111_103601

The little turnstones, returned in December, and their constant busy scurrying activities bring a real smile to my face. It is so good to see them back. The boats have spent many days sheltering in the inner harbour. The tides have been high and the results very evident. The waves crashing over the wall onto the foot path around the outer harbour. In Portmellon, sea weed splashed on the houses opposite the bay, right up onto the roofs ….and sea weed behind the houses! The swell, deceptive! Great care is needed.

My Fitbit is back in use after a few months rest! I find it really works for me as a great incentive to get out walking. When it is in constant sight, it is urging me to get out there! Although it has many functions, I am just interested in monitoring my steps…aiming for the 10,000 per day.  We are so lucky to live by the coast because it is always interesting, and often inspirational, and a pleasure to walk. The harbour is a working harbour, albeit it very small, so there is constant activity. Heligan Gardens are only a 35 minute walk away along lovely lanes, so there are always lovely choice straight from the front door.

I treated myself to a Sue Lewington book for Christmas.P1040790 (2)

P1040789 (2)It is absolutely delightful, and is series of sketches; a personal record of 12 days on the Isles of Scilly during Easter 2013. I have bought several of her books over the years, but I think it was A6 format of this book, that caught my eye, and of course the sketches on the covers, as well as inside!

She uses a variety of media including pencils, pen, charcoal and water colours. The sketches are just that…quite like scribbles at times, which is so encouraging! It is a great read, with the odd accompaniment of text. The majority of sketches have no words. They simply aren’t needed, but the narrative, when it is there, does add flavour, and interest which helps to inform the imagination! It inspires me every time I look at it. and really makes me “want to do”.

Then… within a few days of delving into that, it was meant to be that I read the InStitches blog; www.institchestextilecourses.co.uk/blog/the-10-minute-drawing-project

About the drawing project, the author says, and I quote: “The received wisdom is that practice makes perfect.  By doing something repeatedly you should get better, so 2018 is my year to see if I can actually become better at…drawing.  By allotting 10 minutes each day and limiting the media and subject I want to see if I can improve – I don’t think I’ll become a fine art master, that’s not my plan, what I hope to achieve is becoming more skilled at looking and recording.

So, my plan is to have a go, as many days as I can.  I shan’t be precious about it, because I know there will be days that I can’t do it but I am making a start and have taken my camera out walking, with me. It doesn’t matter what your source is, it is the “doing” that matters! My personal tool kit, for want of another phrase will include water colours and paint brush; charcoal pencil, fine drawing pens, watercolour pencils, Ten minutes a day should be achievable for those of us who are “retired”!! I wonder if I have the discipline to keep going! Sketching is an integral part of design, so we can never have too much practice.

We have recently been helping a longstanding dear friend, who was very sadly bereaved last year, to pack up his huge house as he is downsizing and moving to a tiny lovely cottage by the sea. One piece of furniture that he was unable to take with him, has been welcomed into my own sewing room now. I am thrilled to bits, because it really adds character and interest.

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It is a lovely old pine washstand, with a tiled back, and a replacement marble top. Originally it would probably have had a hole in the marble to set in a wash bowl. It has a  cupboard underneath the marble and plenty of storage underneath the whole unit. It is just gorgeous, and I love it.

The inclusion of this into my sewing room necessitated a big sort out, and tidy up of what I can only describe as a “tip”. I am sure many of you know exactly what I mean! I get so involved in different ongoing projects, that it doesn’t take more than ten minutes to produce chaos! The trouble is with me, that one idea very quickly suggests another, and so on, and before I know it, I am off track and onto additional things, which creates more fabrics, and equipment etc. I was so grateful when an artist friend who asked if he could see what I was working on, once said to me, in response to my “Its in quite a mess…!” “Di, you cannot be creative in a tidy space!” It was music to my ears!

The tidying was actually fun to do, as essentially I do like to be tidy in all other respects, and indeed when I am sewing, …but it just doesn’t last. The fact that no-one else who visits us can see the mess, unless I invite them to, is a blessing in so many ways.

On this occasion I found some of my old screen prints, which I had printed onto fabric, but in the main, had got no further!

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The seed case prints, had got as far as already being attached to a cotton canvas backing, with some machine stitched detail and even some button flowers on one of them. These were intended for book covers, and I shall take them on into fruition! The square and circle prints had been printed onto a white background; not inspiring, and probably the reason I had not gone further with them! I have now overdyed them, and am itching to embellish and work with them….I will show you the results all in good time.

Over many months, I have become more and more aware of just how much time I am spening on the Internet.  Far too much time is wasted on social media sites, and this year I am determined to be much stricter with my time. Being more thoughtful about this, I know will free up a lot of time which I can use in more positive ways. It will be interesting to reflect, at the close of the year, on how well I have done!

Rosemary and I are also busy making items for the sales table…we would like some surprises so I will not be showing you everything in the blogs, (but will perhpas be tempting you!)  In addition, this month,I have also been asked if I would prepare a little teabag wallet for a handbag, to give as an  in-house tutorial to one of the quilting groups I belong to.  I started planning this little item by measuring the teabag packets, and sketching different options of how they might be contained. I wanted it to be simple, and neat. I worked out measurements and made a start in calico so that I wouldn’t be wasting good fabrics in the trial run! I am pleased with the end result (shown below), and know I  shall be making a few more of these, as well! Many people like to keep a favourite herb or fruit tea with them, for when they are visiting friends, and these little wallets do just the job! They hold four teabags, which are kept secure with a ribbon and button closure.

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A great little gift, anytime!                                                                                                September, when we have the Charity day workshop, will be a very good time of year to be thinking about presents, and we shall have an interesting selection of lovely items to tempt you!

I am writing a completely separate blog about the Charity workshop. It is almost ready! There are lots of photographs to show you what is on offer and, additional information about the day. It seems to me that it is easier to to present all of this in its own blog, which I will be posting in the next couple of weeks.

Last, but not least, I have now made changes to the third and fourth quarters of the original pieced cushion top which, originally, just did not inspire me at all. If you remember I cut the original pieced top into four quarters, deciding to alter them so that I felt inspired to make them into something attractive! I discussed the changes I made to the first two quarters in the November and December blogs. This month I have made a start on the last two. I soaked them both in a soda solution, then dyed them both with wine-red procion dye.  They are the bottom two blocks in the photograph below.

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I rolled the bottom right one, from opposite diagonal corners, towards the centre then twisted it and knotted it loosely before dunking it briefly in the wine-red dye. Then I dipped it in a turqoise dye, immediately afterwards, resulting in a mottled pale purple. Both blocks were left for 14 hours before rinsing.  I cut the pink one into four equal strips, altered the strip positions, turning at least one strip upside down, before sewing them back together. I have started to quilt it, but have more detail to add yet. The second one was cut into four equal squares which were also rearranged before being sewn back into a new block. I have quite a bit more work to on this one too, before quilting it. Now I shall have fun using each of the blocks in different items! I will show you how each one has been used in future blogs.

How many of you use overdyeing as a method of changing something that you don’t like? If you never have, would it be something you might now consider? Perhaps you might think about cutting something up, and pieceing it again, differently….It would be good to hear from you via comments at the end of this blog.

Happy stitching, until next time.   Di

 

 

December Newsletter

Christmas Greetings to  you all.  Thank you to everyone who sent me wonderful cards too. It is so lovely to hear from you. Each of the little units in the little hanging below is a 2″ finished Japanese folded patchwork unit. A circle is folded over a square. I appliqued the letters onto the white square and embellished the finished units with tiny star sequins and a single bell.

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I sincerely hope it has been a peaceful and happy time for you.  December is such a busy month for most of us and at times I wonder how I am ever going to fit everything in! I have been making presents, Christmas cards, and gift labels, not to mention preparing the Christmas food, shopping, baking, visiting family and friends to distribute presents and getting organised for visitors. Oh, and one of my sons asked me to make four cushions….! I have to admit that he did ask about three months ago, saying “there is no hurry Mum”…I took advantage of that little thought, as I had rather more interesting things to do, however, guilt eventually hounded me, so I have now made them, just in time for Christmas! Although it is busy, it is also enjoyable. It really is, but the presure is increased, and perhaps I am feeling my age more, these days!

I told you in last month’s newsletter that in this one I would explain how I made my Christmas cards this year; a Christmas tree in the falling snow! (Grahame, a great friend and very talented artist showed me how to print leaves using this method when he and his wife, were staying with us last month). I love the fine detail that can be obtained! Thank you Grahame. This technique opens up all sorts of possibilities!

I  like to use the 1400 wall paper lining paper to work on. It is extremely good value. It supports everything in terms of craft work, dyeing, painting, printing, book making etc, that I have ever used it for over very many yP1040753ears!

For this project I measured my “printing block”; a sprig from a Leylandii branch, and made sure the resulting print would fit my blank greeting cards. Then I cut the wall paper lining paper into strips, having measured what I was going to need. These particular strips were 5 ” wide, and I was going to be cutting them into 3″ units after they had been painted. I covered the floor with a large sheet of polythene to protect it, put disposable gloves on and a pinny to protect myself, then the fun began! I had some left over green dye, from a dyeing session, so I diluted this and used a sponge brush to paint the paper quickly.  I painted the first strip, then immediately placed the next one on top of it, and patted it down, so that it was “taking a print ” off the wet strip. This gave a mottled effect on the background of the second strip which remained when I quickly used the sponge brush to wash over that with dye too. It is always much nicer to have a textured background rather than a flat colour. I treated all the strips in the same way, just painting one side, as it was going to be stuck onto the card. These striP1040754ps were left to dry overnight, then cut up into units using rotary cutting equipment. Next I prepared my printing area; polythene to protect the table surface, then an old magazine, opened so that I could ink up on the left hand pages and use the right hand pages as a printing surface! The bulk of all the right hand pages was firm but also provided a little “give”.  The photograph above shows that I have mixed black relief printing ink with an equal amount of appropriate extender. This makes the ink go further, and also stops it from drying out too quickly. It is an oil based ink; the same that I use for lino printing. I use a small kitchen glass work top protector, which I bought several years ago for about £3. The top surface is textured, but it is smooth underneath, so I use the underside. I needed two rollers; a small one to ink up my “tree” and a larger clean one to roll over the back of the “receiving” paper pressing the paper on to the Leylanddi surface. I also have a small pair of tweezers, to manoevre the sprig into its correct position on the clean surface after inking, and have my prepared papers close by. In the photo below, you can see  a piece of Leylandii tree. This is what I am going to print onto my painted paper. I “worked up” the ink mixture on my glass plate with the small roller, then placed the sprig onto a clean page, and rolled the inked roller firmly  over it, in several directions, making sure it had picked up the ink.P1040762 (3).JPG
Then I  picked it up with the tweezers and placed it down onto a clean magazine page. I placed the piece of  paper, painted side down over the inked tree, and using the clean roller carefully and firmly rolled it over the back of the painted paper, thus producing a print. I was getting about five prints from each inking up. The printed papers were left to dry for four or five days. I had two different printing sessions, about three weeks apart, using a fresh sprig on the two occasions. It is essential to clean up any equipment as soon as the printing session is over. A mixture of a little cooking oil and a good squirt of washing up liquid works fantastically! Work it into any black inky areas with an old paintbrush, then rinse. Pat dry with a clean old cloth, or paper towel, then leave to air dry P1040769 (2)

Next I made a stencil; a piece of the same lining paper into which I punched holes, all over. I prepared a white acrylic paint mixture; 50:50 paint to acrylic medium, ensuring that it was really well mixed together. This would give my snow effect! I placed the holey paper stencil, over the printed tree, and using the small roller, with a good covering of white paint, rolled it over the stencil. In the photo to the side, you can see the results. When dry, I mounted the finished prints onto single fold blank cards, using double sided cellotape, and wrote “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” with a silver pen, and initialled each one.

For my gift tags, I took a photo of one of the cards, then printed it using  the windows 10 software, choosing the option of multiple small photos. These had to be trimmed and then mounted onto folded cut card. I punched a hole, and inserted a tie. A gift card and matching Christmas card, makes a delightful duo! In this photograph I have just noticed that I have a gift tag from the first printing! and the card from the second; but you get the idea! They look very simple, but, as you can tell, now, there is actually a lot of work involved!

20171205_094839-1Earlier in the month I made these little drawstring bags, in various sizes to give with a gift inside. Karen and Maggie taught them as an in house workshop at Gate Quilters. They did a very good job. I had previously made a couple of drawstring bags earlier in the summer, and Karin’s method was far superior to mine! Sewing these made me realise that I had made a mountain out of a mole hill. These, on the other hand were straightforward and quick to make, especially as a “batch make”!

The bags are a useful item in their own right; great for storing chargers for a range of different devices, or for sewing equipment, camera, phone, little sketch book and pencils etc…..there are endless possible uses. They have a double drawstring and are lined. Two or three of these would be fantastic for packing in a suitcase. If they are made with different fabrics, then they are easily identifiable when searching for specific items! I love “containers” of all sorts. They make such practical gifts, even to give as a little thank you with a special bar of chocolate inside! What’s not to like?

Last month I also suggested that I would show youhow to sew a zip and lining in  at the same time”. However, as I have told you all about the Christmas card method,  I shall now hold this over until another newsletter.

I have been using my book press to print off little houses. They make me smile everytime I look at them! I have almost finished a couple of small stitched pieces which have one in each piece! Again I will show next time.

Finally, do you remember in last month’s newsletter how I showed you a cushion top I had pieced a long time ago? As I really did not like it, I cut it into four, and said I would do something different to each quarter to alter it to my liking. Last month’s effort was my first changed quarter! Below, the photo on the left is a reminder of the original, and on the right hand photo shows the changes I have made this month

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A very happy new year to one and all, and I sincerely hope you all enjoy the stitching projects ahead of you.

If you need to email me please note that I have changed my email address to: diwells49@gmail.com 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

November News

We have been away for quite a chunk of this month, and consequently I have not managed  as much sewing as normal! That doesn’t mean to say that my mind hasn’t been working overtime though! I definitely need hour extensions to every day.

We saw Guinea fowl many times on holiday and they totally fascinate me. I love the way they herd themselves to run away, or on other occasions they may run away in a long line. Their black boxy shape and white spots are so smart. The wattle and neck are a gorgeous vivid blue, contrasting with the bright red beak and the horn on the top of their head!

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I had always believed this to be a crest, but on closer inspection of recent photos it is quite solid! I took lots of photos, and shall be making printing blocks, hopefully before too long.

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Before we went away I printed my Christmas cards, and I have been doing the finishing touches to those over the last few days. They are simple technique, which Grahame,  a great friend, and artist, showed me how to do, and I will show them and explain what I did after Christmas, as then they will still be a surprise to my friends! I will also explain how I made my gift tags to match!

I have had a great time dyeing sari silk and threads, this month. Autumn colours are so gorgeous, and inspirational. I also took the opportunity to dye some more threads while I was being messy! I prefer to wind my threads onto small units of mountboard. It does take some time, but the plus side of that is that the threads are totally ready to use; don’t knot as they are completely untangled; and I can really see the lovely space-dyed effects clearly.

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I use cotton and silk threads, and have just tried dyeing some antique linen thread. They all behave differently.  If you look at  the middle row of threads, there are two “golden browns, and a blue all sitting next to each other. These are the antique linen thread. They are much coarser, stiffer and quite “spindly” in comparison to the cotton thread I buy to dye (from Empress Mills at the shows). A lovely friend gave me two big spools of silk, many years ago. One was a dull dark pink, and the other golden yellow. I really wasn’t sure what to do with them, as I had limited use for using a pink and or yellow thread, although they are beautifully soft. Then I decided to over-dye them. Since then I have created quite a range of colours, considering how dark the red is, and the colour mix theory, which clearly sits alongside this process! On the top row of the threads the five on the left hand edge, are silk threads. You can see the slight slub in the thread.

Charity Day:  Jo, at Cowslip Workshops, Launceston, has very kindly booked me another day for a charity workshop, next year. It will be on Tuesday September 11th and, as last time, there will be two projects on offer. Students may spend all day on one project, or chose to do a half day on each. It was a really successful day last year, enjoyed by one and all; a large spacious area to stitch, friends to share and chat with, good food on offer for lunch, or you are also very welcome to bring your own picnic lunch, a sales table, and raffle, and “inspiration” table… and last, but certainly not least, a wonderful shop to browse as well! What more could you ask for? We raised a magnificent amount of money for our two chosen charities, last year, so hope we can rise to the challenge again in September.

I am delighted to say that Rosemary will be team teaching with me again. We have been planning our projects for the workshop, and in the New year we will let you have more details of what will be on offer. I already have three bookings, even though I explained to the ladies that no decisions have been made about the projects on offer yet! As before, we shall split the proceeds between a local Cornish charity, and the sewing project in Albania. There is magnificent work going on out there, and having been run and very well organised from Devises in Wiltshire for the last 20 years, a solid local team over in Albania who have been involved and trained for many years, are taking over the reins themselves now. They have been supported and working towards this, gradually, for a long time, and are doing a superb job. What a success story!

With this in mind I have made a start on thinking about creating items for the sales table for the charity day!

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I always like to aim at some small pieces, that have an element of hand stitching, so that they can be picked up easily and worked on, even if only for ten minutes at a time! This is how I manage to achieve quite a lot of work, as I often tell people! Little and often! These “few minutes”. here and there, very quickly add up, whereas finding “half a day” to sew, can be a large chunk of time which cannot always be found.

However, just because they are small items it doesn’t mean that they are quick to make! Far from it. There is always a lot of preparation in any project before you get to the stitching stage, whether it be large or small. Personally, I like to be neat and have items well finished too, so that if anyone looks inside, upside down etc, there are no raw edges or loose threads! My motto has always been; “If something is worth making, it deserves to be done well”! So, however small, there are no compromises!

The two photos above show the two fronts, and to the side of this text are the two  backs of a couple of pouches. They are approximately 3″x 4″ and 4″ square, finished. The depth across the base is 1″. This is created by “boxing the corners”

Here is a brief overview of the process.

  1. I made tiny individual log cabin blocks from the dyed sari silk. Before the dyeing process I had torn the sari silk into strips, approximately 3/4″ wide.
  2. I  then completed the fronts of the pouches by piecing the little block with recycled denim pieces.
  3. Then I constructed the backs of the pouches out of denim pieces. (N.B. They needed to be about 3/4″ larger than the fronts, to allow for the diagonal slash, and re-piecing).
  4. I folded and pressed one of the silk strips in half  lengthwise. laced the raw edges of the silk to one of the raw edges of the slashed denim. The other slashed edge was positioned, right sides together, trapping the silk in between them so that it was ready to stitch with 1/4″ seam allowance. Only 1/8″ of the bright coloured silk is revealed this way. This is only a small detail, but it packs a punch! As you can see from the photos these two pouches are pieced differently.
  5. Next, I cut two “medium to heavy weight” pieces of calico, and layered and tacked them to the front and back panels.  I didn’t want to add more bulk by using a wadding, but I did want to add stability, for the quilting.
  6. I hand quilted the panels, as shown in the photos, using a white “denim thread”.
  7. Finally I cut linings to size, and sewed the zip and lining in together. I boxed the corners to give the pouches shape and “roominess”, and added a ribbon detail to the zip pull.

I shall always be grateful to Helen who showed me how to sew the zip and lining in to a bag/purse at the same time. I have used this technique dozens and dozens of time since, and taught it to many people. It is an efficient and tidy method. The secret is to buy zips, longer than you actually need, so that you are not having to move the zip pull out of the way, when stitching. Next month I will explain the process in this technique.

This week I found a pieced cushion front, that I had made well over ten years ago. I had potato printed some fabric which I had used in the centre of the panel, building it up as a cushion panel. I didn’t like it then, which is, presumably why I didn’t take it any further. Looking at it again I still didn’t like it, so I have decided to cut it into four, and treat each quarter differently. I aim to make four items for the sales table out of them. Below is half of the cushion front, from which you will be able to imagine what the whole thing looked like.

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Below you can see how I have altered the first one. I trimmed away the pale blue borders and appliqued red circles onto the batik fabric, finally adding the denim borders. I just have some hand stitching to do around the internal edge of the denim. I have decided that this will become a pocket on the front of a cross body denim bag. The back of the bag will be made from recycled denim.  It has come alive now, particularly with the pop of red, and of course the quilting. I have started to prepare the second quarter now, and it already looks very different to this one! How will that turn out! I will show you next time!

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Just a week ago, Rob and I visited Cheltenham, to go to Montpellier quilters exhibition. What a lovely time we had! A really lovely exhibition, with beautiful workmanship in a wide variety of quilts and artefacts; wonderful old friends to see, great refreshments too. Montpellier quilters had told us they had voted to support the Albanian sewing project by having it as one of their chosen charities for this exhibition. We were absolutely thrilled…so another HUGE thank you to them.

Tip of the month:

I have two “non stitching” tips to offer this month! Please forgive me if I am “teaching my grandmother to suck eggs!” I had no idea about these two simple short cuts, until very recently, and they have saved my sanity!

  1. I recently bought a new laptop, and the key board is incredibly sensitive. As a result, my text size zooms in and out frequently, and  alarmingly! I really don’t know why or how it happens! I was getting really irritated by this constant distraction and interruption, having to look up at the top task bar, move the cursor to it in order to return to default size. I have now discovered that this can be done quickly and efficiently by holding down control and clicking 0. This is far easier, and very efficient.
  2. Another problem that was happening far too readily, and was SO frustrating ; “disappearing text”! I could be writing an email or document  when unexpectedly it would suddenly totally disappear. I could never ever find it again, and felt totally helpless. I googled the problem and found out that there is a very easy solution;    ctrl z. This will magically return the text! You have to do it straight away, and very occasionally, will need to do it two or three times, particularly if you hadn’t noticed, and had written another couple of words. It can’t be just me that experiences these really frustrating laptop idiosyncrasies!

Happy stitching until next time……,

Di