October 2020/1

It is a few weeks since I published the last Stitching News. I will be quite honest with you, I seemed to have lost my creative self and any interest in stitching over the last few weeks. I am sure I am not alone in this. I am putting it down to the situation we are all in. With little firm structure to the week, I seem to have spent days and days floundering around achieving absolutely nothing stitching-wise! I am still amazed at how the days still absolutely whizz by!

I feel it is probably all the indecision; lack of ability to plan very much “just in case” scenario; being unable to make firm future plans and decisions, other than maybe one or two weeks in advance, and unwittingly it can become quite demoralising. The shorter days, and colder weather are a reminder that winter is not far away, and maybe that is having an effect too. I have never minded winter in the past, but somehow I feel that the pandemic has insidiously and subtly altered the way some of us are feeling.

Many times I have got my sewing projects out, mulled them over, prepared my machine, but just have not had the desire or the enthusiasm to connect brain, hands and fabric somehow! Then suddenly last week I had an urge to do some Eco dyeing. I got out my equipment, prepared the paper, and enjoyed the whole process. I was thrilled with some of the results, and immediately felt my enthusiasm returning.

The photos below show some of my results. I had done one batch; steamed them for an hour after which I turned all the electrics off, and went out for about three hours, leaving them in situ. On return I removed them from the steamer, cut the threads which had been securing them in small “parcels”. and opened them out! This is always the exciting time!! I was delighted at how well most of the prints had taken. There are examples of wild geranium and viburnum. I had not tried clematis before and was pleasantly surprised at the excellent result (front row of the first photo; second and third print from the right) and cranesbill never disappoints! My experience over the last five years or so of experimenting has clearly shown me how the prints carry on developing and becoming stronger, over many months!

The second batch included black currant leaves, blackberry, red oak, beech, rose of Sharon, and Susie’s hedge! I Have yet to discover what it is!!

This week I completed the hand stitching of a double eco print. The height of the “page, is 3″ and the measurement of each individual page is just over 2.25”

This will be the centre of a valley fold in the new llittle book I am making, which is an ongoing project.

The next process will be to stitch two individual prints which will then create the backs of these two prints. I particularly chose this as the centre spread, because I loved the soft grey on the one print, and the cinnamon colour of the other. This leaf was trapped between the fold, and the print of the back of a leaf is almost always different to the front of the leaf. I understand that this is due to the natural plant chemicals being different on the two faces.

At the beginning of September I had started to prepare a new collage, this time for my brother. Unwittingly I had forgotten his birthday, and one can be forgiven for that … however, I have no excuse whatsoever because he is my twin brother!!! Perhaps that is an indication of how my mind has been in an altered state!

I had looked at it many times, but with no spark there at all. But this week the eco printing seems to have kick started me and I was beginning to feel creative again and spent two lovely days changing my original fabrics, and ideas, and then once I put needle to the fabric, I was away.

The size of this collage is 4″ by 4.5″. I wanted it to represent his enjoyment of the natural world. So the imagery was important.

Westonbirt Arboretum is not far from where he lives and he has trained to be a Westonbirt guide. The training was temporarily halted by the virus, but he has been able to complete it very recently. Both “trees” in the collage are dried leaves onto which I have painted acrylic wax to the fronts and backs.

I dried them two or three years ago, and the acrylic wax has kept them supple. With care, and using fine needles I have been able to stitch them. I machine stitched the detail onto the large cotinus leaf, securing it in place on the collage with small French knots. The smaller one, is hand stitched in place, using a stab stitch which embellishes the surface.

There is a stream running at the bottom of his garden, and a kingfisher patrols the area, hence the inclusion of my little painted kingfisher! Two of the background fabrics are commercial prints but I have also included hand-dyed linen, painted teabag paper, and a synthetic shimmering sheer, which unfortunately does not show to its best advantage in this photograph. Hand dyed threads, and machine stitched flower heads finish the embellishment. These are all small scraps. I rarely throw away anything, and when hunting for snippets it is wonderful as well as time saving to have a ready made scrap bag collection!

A couple of weeks ago made a birthday card for Doreen; a delightful lady who was going to be celebrating her 90th birthday. She loves all aspects of nature, and the changing seasons, so I decided to stitch into some fallen autumn leaves I had recently collected. As they had already dried, I waxed them on both sides, and left them until the acrylic wax was dry.

I chose a background of very dilute soft blue and green painted cheese paper. As we all know, dried leaves can be very brittle, and although the wax gives a certain amount of protection I used a size 8 machine needle. Past experience has shown me that the finer the needle, the less likely the subject matter is to shatter!

I outline stitched the leaves first, to secured them in position, and then added the detail over the rest of the leaf surfaces. Well, this has been a rather leafy newsletter, but I hope it has been of some interest to you. Hopefully next time I shall have more to show you.

Until then, happy stitching!

Stitching News September 2020

I have not done very much sustained stitching over the last three or four weeks, so this is a short newsletter to keep in touch.

One of the things I have enjoyed is slowly stitching into some more of my Eco dyed leaves during the evenings, as I am gradually putting together another small book. These particular prints were made a year ago. Janine, a lovely friend who lives in Abu Dhabi, was in England this time last year and she came to stay with me for a few days in September. We had such fun experimenting and “playing” with our Eco printing.

At that time I developed and subsequently stitched a selection of the prints in a totally new direction, which I loved; link below, if you are interested, and you need to scroll down, once you have opened the link.

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/10/ They became a “matchbox book”, concertina folded so that it fits inside a matchbox. Mine has 24 pages, and is part of a group challenge, within Textile Plus, which will feature in our Thread of an idea Exhibition now rescheduled for November 2021 at The Poly, in Falmouth.

Just a reminder, that a taster of all the exhibitions that have been rescheduled due to Coronavirus is still open at The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG until Friday 12th September 2020. So please do visit and support the Gallery if you are able. It may be sensible to ring to check opening times.

To return to the current book I am making, I also made a more traditional style zig-zag book around the same time, which I featured in the September Stitching news last year: https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/09/

My new small book will be in the same style but crucially it has only 2 valley folds in total, each will have a single fold small page stitched in, so there is not as much work, but it is close and tiny work, very time consuming and emminently portable. It is great to have these small projects that need little space. I find them most enjoyable.

I really should take some “before and after” photos, while I am working on them but my mind doesn’t always connect with that process at the right time, i.e. before I start stitching! Next time perhaps!! I wonder how many times any of us have wished we had taken a photo of “before we started,”….. For me it’s “lots of times!”

I have uploaded a couple of photos of the stages of this new small book, as they are at the moment.

The photo to the left shows the Eco print totally finished, having been stitched and already attached to the front face of the book structure. (As you can see in the following photo, the stitching on the right-hand edge, wraps right around to the other side of that page).

The width of the main book structure is 2.75″ and the height is 3.75″. The cover of any book is usually slightly larger than the interior pages, so the pages of the first single fold unit are 2.25″ wide by 3″ high. You can see the unit lying in position in the second photo, below.

Here you can see single fold attachment lying in position. It will not be secured through to the back until all the stitching on the reverse sides of the attachment, as well as on the front faces is complete. It is unnecessarily awkward to work on the prints after insertion! The two stitched prints are both still in progress. I rarely make definite decisions on how or where to embellish them before I start, but rather prefer to allow those decisions to develop naturally as I go along.

The “outlining” stitch that I use throughout these little studies, is called “split stitch” and makes a fabulous continuous line of hand stitching. From what I read the majority of embroiderers tend to split the previous stitch by coming up through it with the needle, and splitting the thread. As I am using fine machine cotton thread (Aurifil 50wt) I prefer to go down through the previous stitch as I can see exactly where to spit the very fine thread.

I use a fine sharps needle so that I am not puncturing the paper with too big a hole! As always when I am stitching through paper, I make the next few holes before continuing, so that when I bring the needle back to the top of the work, I am not having to guess where to go! From the second photo you can imagine how this single fold will be attached with a simple pamphlet stitch through to the back of the main book structure.

In total there will be 16 little stitched studies contained in this small book. One on each of the main supporting structure pages, a total of 6, plus 8 from the two inserted pages. Many hours of work! The nights are drawing in and this project alongside my mini “Turvy panels” will take me through the winter, I suspect.

I completed another blue mini Turvy house panel a couple of weeks ago. Funnily enough I did not like it at all while I was quilting it. One of the fabrics just seemed a wrong choice, but as soon as I had put the house features on it completely altered! This has happened before, and I should have more faith in my initial decisions!

I have been stitching one of the panels on my first assignment project recently. The photograph shows work in progress.

I have using a mid grey thread for the darker free embroidery stitching

There are only two layers, no wadding but a heavy weight calico underneath the top fabric. I want it to have less depth than the kingfisher unit so that the actual heads and tails of the birds will then lie just proud.

Having completed the darker machine stitching, I have cut another layer of imagery, which I am appliqueing over it,using a white cotton thread in the bobbin and a shiny viscose thread in the needle, this time. I like the complexity and layers of the imagery which occurs with the second layer.

There will be two of these panels; one will be 3″ wide and the other 2″ wide. The kingfishers are almost complete, and will sit on a 1″ wide upright branch, between the two panels. They will give a burst of intense colour, sitting across their branch, and will sit just proud of these two side panels!

I must just mention the stitch ripper which is sitting at the side of the panel on my machine table. It is a Clover product, and one of my favourite tools. As you can see, it has a long narrow handle. I use it such a lot as an extra finger which can get really close up to the needle, without getting my fingers anywhere near the needle! It is fantastic for holding down raw edges when appliqueing, keeping thread ends out of the way, etc etc. I would feel lost without it!

Finally I have made another 4 masks.

We are clearly going to be using masks for a very long time!! All the masks I have made have three layers; the main fabric, lining fabric, with a layer of non-woven interlining between them. Every time I make one I make slight adjustments!

This time, when I was sewing in the nose clip I cut my strip of material (which encloses the plastic covered wire,) folded it in half lengthways and sewed it in place on the inside of the outer main fabric. First I sewed the long raw edges in position, then across the short end and up the long folded edge to the other open end. With the needle still in the work, I then slotted the wire into this now attached tube and finished sewing across the final open end. SO easy! Why I hadn’t thought this through before I don’t know! I had made life very difficult for myself in the past, by preparing the casing and enclosing the wire, then stitching the completed unit in place!!!

Finally, I would just like to say that I am going to have a rest from writing Stitching News during the September, so will look forward to posting again in about a month.

Until then, happy stitching.


Stitching News August 2020/2

Welcome to this new post of Stitching News. My focus this time is on collage.

I have been really busy getting further sampling on my assignment finished, then over the last few days I have had great fun using up some of the precious tiny scraps; as well as “not so tiny” eco prints, stitched sample snippets, unused hand made-prints, etc. that I have been looking at, in some cases just since lock down, but in other cases for several years!! I have a couple of boxes on my table overflowing with scraps that I don’t want to throw away.

I absolutely loved the collage exercises which was one of our tasks in the Colour Unit (Unit 2) of the Machine Embroidery Course.

I have never really done anything much in the way of collage, and the technique and method of choice was left entirely to us. I was hooked, and loved the essence of using colour to create exciting ideas using collections from the fabrics and painted papers we had been creating. The collages then were purely creating colour groups. I have extended my collage content now opening it up in a very different way.

In the collage on the left I have included paper; hand and machine stitch; Eco print, hand-made eraser prints on card. The list could be endless. I have found that the more I do, the more I understand the composition, colour and balance that suits me.

In this collage on the left, the two scraps with machine stitch were off-cuts from a piece of stitching where I was sorting out tensions and stitch pattern on my machine. It was lying around on my table,and caught my eye when I had added the right hand side of the collage with the pink printed flower head. I felt it gave some balance, in the colour to have it repeated a couple of times more.

Inevitably the maker is going to bring their individual style to the work. I have long loved combining hand stitch and machine stitch to my work. I have been Eco printing for several years now, and have a wealth of material to draw from there, and for as long as I can remember I have had a varied and immensely useful scrap bag of decorated papers; printed, inked, painted, textured, etc, and have dipped into them frequently in my work. The Embroidery Course design exercises have significantly stocked me up with a fresh supply!

Collages can be small or large, all fabric, mixed media, or some of both. They can include photos, found objects, paintings, prints, mark making, collections; ideas are endless. They could be pictoral, or abstract. Instagram and Pinterest will give you many ideas if you are interested in dabbling! for my work I haven’t followed anything other than my own nose, and those of you who have known me for many years, would look at these and probably say “that’s Di Wells”!!

If you haven’t attempted a collage before, but would like to have a go, here are a few suggestions that may help you to get started. Consider what finished size you would like to make. At the moment mine are 4″ square. For me this seems to be a nice size to work with. Mine are square, but you can obviously work with whatever shape and size works for you.

What are your interests? Maybe you love gardening…..lots of suggestions and imagery right outside your back door. You may well subscribe to a favourite magazine, if so study photographs that appeal to you, and look at their content, colour palette, change of scale, texture. If you can bear to, tear out imagery or ideas that you know you would use….if you can’t bear to tear it out, photocopy it. Those are just a couple of suggestions. Magazines could be to do with natural history, cooking, interiors, quilting.

We all have unfinished projects … if they are small, and you either know you won’t return to them, or you just really do not like them, consider whether something might be salvageable? That could be an excellent starting point.

The little eraser printed house just off centre in this second collage has been lying around in my sewing room for longer than I care to admit.

I began with this as my focus. I have then included part of a rejected (by me!) machine stitched sample in the top left corner, another scrap on the right when I was testing my stitch tension. I liked the leaves in this one, and felt that the Eco printed leaf I laid on last of al seemed to link to it. I also have some newspaper snippets from my “painting of papers” sessions. I always place some layers of newspaper on top of a plastic sheet protecting my work surface. This was directly underneath the range of different papers I was inking up. The bottom left hand corner shows two snippets, the red one with an arrow, and the other a flower, now turquoise! That particular newspaper page is a myriad of wonderful colours. I just tore out two small scraps. The golden pieces are recycled and over dyed colour catcher. I particularly like the change of scale and mix of hand stitch and machine stitch. The “tree” which overlays the top is an Eco print of a Pieris Forest Flame leaf cluster, one of many dozens of Eco prints in my collection! I have hand and machine stitched in areas and even added a little paper pieced triangle. As I am working I try to be aware of colour balance and tone.

Contrasts add energy. They could be: colour, texture; change of scale; space, machine and hand stitch, large and small, shiny and matt…..etc etc

I cut a 4 1/4″ square of “background to work onto. This might be a fabric or a supporting paper. Alternatively if that is too small for you to work with, cut a larger piece, turn it over to the back, and lightly draw a 4” square centrally. Thread a needle and using a contrasting coloured thread, make a running stitch along the drawn pencil lines of the square. Turn the fabric back over to the right side, and then work to the edges of the stitched lines. Allow a fraction of overlap, so that you can do a final trim with your rotary cutting equipment when the work is complete.

Those of you who did the Charity “Kantha house” workshop in September 2018 with me in the Big Barn at Cowslip Workshops will probably recognise the lino printed house, in the collage above. Those little houses have been really useful! The three collages above have been created for a specific purpose, and have certainly provided a most enjoyable and creative distraction for a few days recently.

Last year I bought a book called “Sketchbook Explorations for mixed-media and textile Artists” by Shelley Rhodes, published by Batsford. It is an exciting read, absolutely packed full of inspirational, creative advice and ideas for sketchbooks, techniques for collage, making marks and collections. Shelley Rhodes has a fantastic method and style of making collages as you can see from the brilliant book cover. The fascination is in the detail …

I have worked hard on more sampling for my first assignment, and my ideas and thoughts have consolidated now. Anne”s initial feedback was constructive and supportive and gave me the confidence to work further on my sampling. My latest samples have been accepted so I shall be moving that piece of work along during the next few weeks, as well as tackling Unit 4. So I have plenty to get my teeth into! I Have now picked up another small Turvy which has been pieced, and is at the hand quilting stage, prior to adding finer detail. (My evening project back again!)

Finally, you may remember that a couple of newsletters past I explained that Textile Plus, an exhibiting group of which I am a member, had to postpone our exhibition this year due to covid 19

It has now been rescheduled for November 8th-12th 2021. 

A taster of all the exhibitions that have been rescheduled, is now open at The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG until Friday 12th September 2020. So please do visit and support the Gallery if you are able.

Until next time, happy stitching!


Stitching News August 2020/1

Good morning everyone. In this Stitching News, I start with further discussion on how I have been working through the preliminary work for my first assignment. For new readers, this is part of the Machine Embroidery Course that I started at the beginning of lock down. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and am constantly discovering all sorts of things about myself, as well as my very simple basic sewing machine. I often have “play” sessions and have a wonderful selection of painted, printed, textured papers I shall be able to dip into for years!!

I have also included an applique sample, and a stitched sample as well as my method of presentation for the work from Unit 3. I have other work in progress, nothing to do with the course and so like many of us, I always have something to hand! I have never been a “finish one project before starting another” kind of person, although I have every respect for those who like to work in that way.

My assignment! My second blog in June explained my initial thoughts about this project. If you would like to refer back to that click on the link. You will need to scroll down on the site.


Since then I have had a few weeks with ideas just being mulled over in my mind while I was working through the rest of the unit. Fresh ideas developed gradually which was exciting and inspired me to start sampling for this work. So I started afresh by going back to my sketch book where I had made those initial drawings, and I have actually removed a page from that sketch book, where I had sketched some of the original pieces of art work. I have stitched a little folded fabric edge to the left of the page, so that I can attach it to another page when I put all my ideas/sampling and work together in my book on this project.

The photo above is the page that I tore out of my old sketch book. I have now painted the drawings. referring back to the original source has clarified the detail in the original artefacts which has been really useful. I had already prepared some pages for my “project book” and this addition will have to be folded as it is a little too long.

On the back of the page I had drawn some different birds that I found on a photograph of a remnant of fabric. The birds were just outlined in a dark thread, so I have painted a couple of these, and am going to incorporate one of them into my hanging. Furthering my research as well as painting in the detail has been really helpful and has helped me to formulate my ideas. The piece of work will consist of three narrow hangings; the centre one will be bold and colourful and will feature three Kingfishers, (naive in their own ways).

The other two hangings, one on either side of the kingfishers, will be entirely free-machine stitched onto a fabric which is has a subtle monochromatic palette and will not detract from the vibrant centre! I have used this fabric in different guises already during this course, and I think it will be really suitable for this purpose. They will be narrow; one 2″ wide and the other 3″ wide. The centre colourful “tree trunk” measures 1″ wide, so the 1,2,3, series of measurements will work very well together! The monochromatic colours will not overpower the central panel, and the subject matter very nicely complements that of the central feature panel.

This is the stitched sample where I have tried out a range of the fabrics, and media I intend to use. I like the kingfisher although I don’t like the use of the cream scrim on the face; that area needs to be a smooth fabric.

I have used a heavy linen on the tree trunk in places, which works very nicely and I shall incorporate more of that and a little less of the scrim! I think it is going to be fun to work on, and I am looking forward to it. I can see in the photo now that I need to slightly tone down the acid green scrim… a little tea should do the job!

Below are another couple of samples from the last Unit. The first one is bonded applique, where I had to admit to Anne that I had to bend the rules slightly in order for my subject matter to work. She pointed out that if this had been a certified C&G course, the verifier would not have been too happy, but she said, as it isn’t…. flexibilty was allowed!!

Several years ago Jenny, a very longstanding lovely friend who lives in Gloucestershire gave me a delightful calendar one Christmas. It depicted some of Charley Harper’s bird drawings, I have been a fan, ever since!

I decided to use some sketches I drew at the time for my sample. I cut out the shapes from my chosen fabrics, and bonded them in position. …adding no further detail at the time.

For several days I considered the little piece of work before making any more progress on it. I felt it needed more, but wasn’t sure what! Playing around I laid some organza shapes over it, and this transformed it for me.

This is where I then transgressed, because I decided that a machine stitch around the edges of the organza shapes would be far too harsh, and totally detract from the other features I had yet to add, so I hand stitched them in position, which for me, in this context worked! (I have a lovely tutor and obviously expressed my concern to her about the hand stitching).

I then could just add the machine stitched leg and beak details, on top of the organza, finishing with a French knot for the eyes! It is a very simple sample, but on this occasion I felt “less is more”.

The second sample shown below is of Whip Stitch, a totally new machine embroidery technique for me. I knew it would involve changing my sewing machine thread tensions so I had completely procrastinated leaving it to the very end of the unit! However, it has been one of my favourite samples of the unit! Isn’t that often the way; like a dreaded visit to the dentist, it is often the thought, rather than the practicality!

So, whip stitch happens when the bottom thread comes up to the surface of the fabric. So, to start with it is necessary to tighten the top stitch tension (sometimes call the needle thread tension) and/or reduce the bobbin tension. There are also some variations to the basic stitch which I explain further on. Before I did anything else I made a very careful note of how the tension screw on my bobbin looked; ( I drew a diagram) and I also wrote down my top tension reading, also sometimes called the “needle thread” tension reading.

It is important to note that after I had completed all my whip stitch explorations I immediately put my thread tensions back to where they were before I started, and stitched a sample to assess the quality of my stitching.

My fabric for the sample was a hand dyed soft grey colour on which I dabbed a cotton wool bud dipped in bleach. I later added a little water colour paint to the areas, to remove the starkness of the bleach. After experimenting on a scrap of the same fabric I freely stitched, creating these individual flower heads, and noted that I really liked the little “on the spot” knots. I sewed with two or three different combinations of colours at the top and in the bobbin, as you can tell.

When I had finished stitching, I still felt more was needed so I added tiny clusters of bright red painted dots. It just finished it!

The variations that can happen: when you are stitching circles and curves the bottom thread comes up even more to the top due to the tightened top tension and this creates one of the variations called “feather stitch”. Another variation is called “cording” and this happens when you make several tiny stitches, almost on top of each other (free machining) and the bottom thread comes up virtually covering the top stitch. I was pleased that my sample demonstrated the various possibilities. The cording variation is how I made my tiny red stitched “knots” for want of another word! As always, Anne gives detailed explanations of how to prepare the machine and encouraged experimentation and exploration of the techniques, illustrating this with two or three of her own samples.

My finished choice of presentation for Unit 3 was a decision made rather late in the day. Although I had decided at the beginning of this machine embroidery course, that I was going to make a selection of books in which to present the samples from each unit, I changed my mind when I reached the end of Unit 3! It had taken me hours to make the cover for the Unit 2 book, which was to contain the concertina book. Even though it “killed two birds with one stone” and I really love it, it was very time consuming. I am still working on the book for Unit 1, so I needed something effective but much quicker for the Unit 3 samples.

So, here it is! It is a “bucket bag”. It holds all my samples, for which I have cut bespoke backings of mount board. These are a little longer than the samples which hang loosely on them, as I have punched holes in the tops of the boards, and tied the samples in place with hand dyed threads.

I made the bag from wallpaper lining paper. I painted onto both sides of the paper with the left over dye from the fabric dyeing exercise in the unit.

For the handles I made twisted cords from narrow cotton ribbon, (bought as a yarn, again), and I threaded the cords through punched holes and knotted on the inside of the bag.

I reinforced the top of the bag so that any extra stress would not be detrimental. The whole construction is very sturdy, and it stands unsupported too!

There was a lot of work to complete in this unit, and in these blogs I have just presented a few of my samples. I was delighted to be able to send everything in, the 23rd of July. I did take longer than originally intended for this body of work, but as with all adults, sometimes “the best laid plans……”

I have received Unit 4 now and have read it through. Once again there is a great deal to explore and experiment with. We have now completed all the design elements and exercises, and the introduction to Unit 4 says that stitching with allied techniques is the main feature of the second half of the course; i.e. Units 4,5 and 6. Unit 4 certainly looks exciting and full of interest! Our first assignment should be completed, along with the rest of Unit 4. Before I get started on it, I will do some more work on Turvy III

Until next time

Happy Stitching


Stitching News July 2020/2

Welcome to another July Newsletter. I have to say that the weeks pass so very quickly, and sometimes I feel that I have achieved very little, and at other times I look back and am surprised at what I have done! Life is still very upside down and I find it quite difficult at times to get myself organised! Today was a good start with two lovely loaves of bread baked. The dough was put together yesterday and had fermented for 18 hours! Wonderful flavour and texture!

In this Stitching news:

  1. I shall show you my finished stitched cover for the concertina book in which I mounted Unit two‘s samples
  2. I am prepared now with my some sewing/ quilting to keep my fingers busy in the evenings
  3. More progress with Unit 3, and a decision about presentation of this work!!
  4. Finally a lovely trip down memory lane, for those of you who remember life in the 1950s!

The finished bookcover measures 17.5″ by 10″.

I started with a layer of Brusho painted coffee filter paper which is brilliant orange and blended yellow. Behind that that is a hand dyed green fabric, which is the lining.

On the top of the orange filter paper I stitched a panel of Brusho painted cotton fabric, and various sizes of blue dyed fabric squares and oblongs from shirting fabrics. They were all stitched securely before adding a variety of strips of the orange filter paper, dyed fabrics, and ribbons, attached with automatic stitched patterns. Embellishments of couched threads etc have also added more interest to the surface. The edges are finished with a 1/8″ binding of the shirting fabric.

I bought the beautiful sheer ribbon in Venice about 14 years ago as a “knitting yarn”. When I saw it I knew it would be wonderful as an embellishment, and indeed it has been used many times in different guises. Here I doubled it and secured it at the back of the book cover, so that it doesn’t part company with it. It makes a very simple, but rather beautiful closure for the wraparound cover.

This cover has doubled up as one of eight “extended stitched samples” which are required to have been worked by the end of the 6 units in this Machine Embroidery Course. The book cover is an example of stitching with the feed dog up, producing line and texture.

In this Unit (3) we have to prepare four of the eight “extended samples” The second, of my four samples is shown below:

On the left of this photo is a partial photocopy of some collages I made of different scales of my drawing of the tree trunk: shown in the last Stitching News.

I used the photocopy as inspiration for this extended stitched sample.

This one is an example of free machine stitching producing line and texture. We have to produce two samples of this technique.

As I write this , ready to post shortly, I have completed 3 of the 4 needed from Unit 3!

Further samples I have worked on during this Unit are; bonded applique, layered and cutting back applique, and finally, whip stitch.

It is surprising how long all the samples take to stitch, because at the same time I am making decisions about the design; the suitability of my chosen ideas for the technique; and overall incorporating a range of fabrics. Colour is another very important factor within all the work. We are also utilising skills practised from all the units, and calling on the design work from previous work, or our own developments for the stitched samples.

Whip stitch is another totally new experience for me. Another time for adjusting tensions! I have found the Aurifil link I gave you in June Stitching News invaluable for reminding me about how to correct top and bottom stitch tensions on my machine. I have printed it off, as the information tends not to stick in my head these days, and I constantly need to refer back to reminders! I have posted the link again below, for those who may have missed it or (like me) knew they had read the information, but weren’t sure where! I shall be learning about the whip stitch today, as I practise!


So with the dyeing of fabrics, and the developing of ideas for the first assessment, there has been a lot to consider. Not to mention thinking about how to “present the work” That has not been far from the forefront of my mind. My decision is now made, and it is going to be in a simple Carrier Bag! which I shall, of course make! I have painted the paper, now! It is really necessary to complete all the work before making the presentation book/ bag/ folder etc etc. By then, you know the largest piece of work, and can therefore make sure that the size will comfortably accommodate the contents!

Initially I had decided to mount all my work in a range of books, but as I am still constructing Book 1, I have decided to change my mind from making 6 books, to making 3 books and 3 carrier bags, and ideally to have completed each presentation at the conclusion of each Unit.

My evening sewing projects have now been settled on! I actually do not want to sell my Turvy I, II, and III, original panels, which has been a disappointment to one or two people. So I am reproducing sections of each, in the same scale as the originals, and in the same overall colour schemes too.

This one on the left, is one such section of the original. They will be mounted and I shall sell these sections, when we finally manage to have our Textile Plus exhibition, “Thread of an idea” which has now been rescheduled for November 8th-12th, 2021. The little stitched panels measure 3″ by 5″ and are machine pieced and hand quilted.

A taster of all the exhibitions that have been rescheduled, is going to be on show at The Poly, 24 Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG from Thursday 30th July to Friday 4th September 2020.

Jane who runs and organises The Poly has very kindly offered to show a selection of up to 7 pieces of work from each group and from the solo exhibitions, which were to have exhibited, but have asked to reschedule.

The exhibition will be in the Spring Gallery, on the dates above, and is called ‘Rescheduled’. She is curating it, making all the labelling and promoting the new dates for each of the exhibitions. It is a tremendous gesture on her part to launch the fresh opening of the Gallery. All galleries are struggling at this time, so if you are able to visit any craft exhibitions near you, it would be marvellous to support them. This exhibition will be physical and open to the public in line with their social distancing policies for reopening.

Finally today I just wanted to share a poem that my brother in law, sent my husband this week. It is absolutely nothing to do with sewing, but an old school friend of his had sent it to him, thinking he would really enjoy it. It really resonated with me, and I am sure it will with some of you too!

Back in the days of tanners and bobs, when Mothers had patience and Fathers had jobs. When football team families wore hand me down shoes, And T.V had only two channels to choose.

Back in the days of three penny bits, when schools employed nurses to search for your nits. When snowballs were harmless; ice slides were permitted and all of your jumpers were warm and hand knitted.

Back in the days of hot ginger beers, when children remained so for more than six years. When children respected what older folks said, and pot was a thing you kept under your bed.

Back in the days of Listen with Mother, when neighbours were friendly and talked to each other. When cars were so rare you could play in the street. When Doctors made house calls and Police walked the beat.

Back in the days of Milligan’s Goons, when butter was butter and songs all had tunes. It was dumplings for dinner and trifle for tea, and your annual break was a day by the sea.

Back in the days of Dixon’s Dock Green, Crackerjack pens and Lyons ice cream. When children could freely wear National Health glasses, and teachers all stood at the FRONT of their classes.

Back in the days of rocking and reeling, when mobiles were things that you hung from the ceiling. When woodwork and pottery got taught in schools, and everyone dreamed of a win on the pools.

Back in the days when I was a lad, I can’t help but smile for the fun that I had. Hopscotch and roller skates; snowballs to lob. Back in the days of tanners and bobs.”

Credit: Pat Fairless

I hope that has brought a smile to some of your faces! It certainly did to mine …. Until next time,

Happy Stitching


Stitching News July 2020/1

Welcome once again to this July post of Stitching News. Several new readers have joined us again in the last couple of weeks. I sincerely hope that you enjoy this first post of July. The summer is upon us, and Cornwall is getting busier, even before July 4th, when the extra relaxation of the rules since lock down begin. I must say we are staying put, and being very cautious about wandering amongst the visitors, although we would love to see our grandchildren and family.

In this post I am writing about:

  1. Make do and mend!
  2. Further progress in Unit 3 of the machine embroidery course which I started in March. So much to learn and practise, but my enjoyment continues.
  3. Progress on Turvy III

I have been meaning to buy a new ironing board cover for months!! Then there was lock-down and the cover had deteriorated to a point that was driving me to despair! So a couple of weeks ago I decided to mend it! I hasten to add that the deterioration is nothing to do with household ironing, but due to additional wear and tar from the constant small fiddly bits of ironing when I am stitching and pressing seams etc. I do this a zillion more times that I iron clothes!!

I had a large torn area near to the iron stand. For many years that has been the area that has always been vulnerable on my ironing boards. The badly worn patch with a large hole in it had been exposing the inner foam sheet for far too long! It always happens where the heel of the iron sits! Why have I never thought of mending ironing board covers in the past? It was a doddle!

I cut two large pieces of white cotton; one for underneath, and the other for the top. On the under fabric I had ironed a piece of Bondaweb the same size. It was placed with the Bondaweb uppermost. The top layer of white fabric, was placed over it, and the burnt very damaged area was sandwiched in between. I could see to match the placement! No hems, as I wanted it to lie as flat and smooth as possible. I then added a smaller patch for good measure. This is the blue one in the photo, which still well and truly covered the damaged area. Everything was stitched in place with a zig-zag stitch. I hasten to add that the area I have covered, is far larger than the damage! It just seemed sensible, while I had the cover off, to reinforce a larger area. This cover should last for a good while now, before being patched again, maybe several times! Boro comes to mind! However, these are “make do and mend times”… and strangely it has given me a great deal of satisfaction!

Unit 3 has been in my possession for a couple of weeks now, and I went straight to the end of it, when it arrived, and started on my planning etc for the first assignment, as you know from the last post! So I have now returned to the beginning with Exercise 1; a drawing exercise in the design element of the Unit.

This is about form and texture. We had to choose a “natural object” such as a shell, branch of wood, stone etc.” to draw, endeavouring within the drawing to create the 3-D nature of it, as well as the textures.

Then we had to isolate one area and reproduce this as a collage using a variety of papers and card to create the textures as well as possible. We had to disregard colour, and concentrate on the form and texture. I took the photo of this fabulous tree trunk, hosting a well established climber of another species, when I was abroad on holiday a couple of years ago.

It seemed a very good example to work with as you can see. Not a great deal of variety, but sufficient to think about!

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

I must say that this was a huge challenge for me. I was well out of my comfort zone, but commonsense tells me that I need to challenge myself in order to progress. I lost my way a little as I was nearing the bottom, but I was pleased with the majority of the drawing, especially as I had not attempted anything quite like this before! I have always been a fan of the saying: “If you want to grow, push your limits” as my ex students can probably well recall!

I used an HB propelling pencil, and a 2B pencil for the drawing. Next I isolated an area and thought seriously about how I was going to produce the collage.

The brief in the Unit actually says “You are now going to interpret this in depth, using a wide range of papers to create a texture sample”.”Scrunch, pleat, fold, do anything which will create variety and raised areas”.

Anne has also given lots of ideas of what sort of papers we might use….indeed I have been using a wide range of different papers in both of the previous Units, so have become increasingly aware of their various qualities.

Observing my subject matter closely was the main “tool” required to do this exercise We were referred back to various parts of Units 1 and 2, during these exercises….building on skills already practised in the course so far.

It took me a long time to get going with The textured collage, and it certainly wasn’t my finest hour, but I gave it a shot! The background texture of the main tree trunk has worked well, and I think the whole collage relates back to the original photo!!

I have used screwed up brown paper, white card, smooth thick brown paper, torn off corrugated carboard, which I also used. I also used some recycled florists paper, and some Indian rag paper. I must admit that I have used some string as well.

PVA glue was used for attaching it all to an A4 piece of card.

Dyeing fabric was my next task in this Unit. This is one of my all time favourite activities, as those of you who know me, will be well aware of! As was going to use this opportunity to dye a specific range of colours, I actually didn’t use the method that Anne had suggested in the Unit. She gives lots of information on the process, but I needed some dyed fabric for a specific piece of work, so I chose a method I have used many times in the past.

I am actually very low on hand dyed fabric at the moment, so this has come at a very good time for me. I have used Procion and Dylon dyes for years. The latter are easily bought on the High Street and I do like the more muted colours I have to say. I do have quite a selection of Procion dyes too, but for this particular dyeing exercise I have used Jeans Blue Dylon dye, and I made up my orange colour with a Procion scarlet dye mixed with a little Procion golden yellow. Blue and orange are complementary colours and will give a lovely range of earthy colours. Any mix of complementary colours will do this. If I had chosen to do an exchange between two primary colours, the result would have produced bright, clear colours.

I haven’t dyed any fabric for at least two years, and as I am constantly dipping into my stash, it has become well and truly depleted. I prepared a household soda solution, and having machine washed all the fabrics that I wished to dye, in the washing machine to remove any factory dressing in them I took them from the washing machine and put them into the soda solution, soaing them thoroughly. The soda fixes the dye to the fabric. I have a set of measuring spoons, Marigold gloves, an old apron, a plastic jugs, recycled containers and disposable masks set aside (the latter for use when I am using dye powders) and purely dedicated for use when I am dyeing fabrics.

Below is the full selection of the fabrics that I dyed. As you can see I also soace dyed a few threads. Can never throw up an opportunity!

The exchange method of dyeing required me to put my measure of liquid dye into a poly bag, supported in my “dyeing” jug. Then I dropped a piece of soda-soaked fabric into the bag and I squeezed and manipulated the colour into the fabric, through the plastic bag. I pushed the coloured fabric firmly down to the bottom of the bag, twisted the neck of the bag just above the tight wet ball of fabric, so that no liquid could leak out, and I sat the bulk of the bag on its “tail” in an old washing up bowl. I worked through the order of adding dyes to each new bag (there are 9 steps in total, and therefore 9 polythene bags). Confining the wet dyed fabric in a small space helps to give textured pieces of dyed fabric. If you want flat dyed fabric, the fabric needs space within the bag, but even then you will probably have some marks. These are what makes the fabric so unique.

It is important to have a range of pale, mid tone and darker tones in a piece of work as this gives it its energy, and sometimes a little clash of colour works wonders too! You can see here that I have dyed some commercial fine stripe shirtings and checks. Because I often work in miniature, I love the scale of the woven stripes and checks. They work really well in tiny pieces!

So, when I had reached the 9th bag I went back to the first bag and added another piece of fabric to each bag, manipulating and squeezing the bags again, ensuring absorption of what dye was let in the bag into the fresh piece of fabric added. and I frequently added yet another fabric to the bags too.

I have found over the years, that doing this is the easiest way of producing a range of tones that all work so well together. The later addition of fabric, has given the first piece an opportunity to soak up as much of the dye as it can, resulting in a good strong colour. Subsequent additions get paler as they are added. Even if a fabric looks as though it has not changed at all, if you put it up against the original white, you will see a definite pale colour there. It is almost impossible to by really pale fabrics, so this method works fantastically well

Another bonus is that every bit of the dye solution is utilised in the bags. you don’t end up pouring unspent dye down the drain! I leave them soaking for at least 12 hours, before rinsing them until the water is clear. I always include a very hot rinse, followed by a cold one again, during this process. Then I give them a final hand wash with just a little Stergene in the water. I spin them in the washing machine to get rid of the excess water, then I iron them dry!! This is the exciting part when you can see all the subtle variations of colour and shading within each individual piece. They are always darker when they are wet, and while ironing them their true colours and the wonderful marks, and shading appear.

I hadn’t really achieved the “terracotta” range I was looking for after rinsing drying and ironing the initial dye run. Some of the fabrics were very brown, so I removed some of them, as well as the really vivid orange results. I soaked them thoroughly again in the soda solution, and over-dyed them with Procion magenta. This time I was delighted with the finished results. At the top of this photo, you may notice that I have also included some of the “unexpected grey/green results from the first batch of dyeing.

Some of these fabrics will now be used in the rest of Turvy III. I have given an explanantion of my choice of colours for this panel, which clearly illustrates my particula choice of colour for this session of dyeing!

I have given a great deal of thought to Turvy III, since my last Stitching News. Getting it out and reveiwing it a coupe of weeks ago, whetted my appetite for working on it again! I was also inspired by two friends, who are very talented textile artists to begin working on it sooner than later.

They don’t know each other, but during the last couple of weeks they had both independently told me that they had some hand sewing of hexagons on the go.

That really resonated with me and I thought that I might stitch Turvy III over papers. I am very fond of English piecing over paper templates. It is a great project to have as it is portable and easy to work with in the evenings. So I traced the top two rows onto freezer paper, ready to cut them up into templates, and I prepared and pieced the first couple of rows over a few evenings. My original design is here on the left.

I like to use freezer paper for my templates when working with small pieces, and fine fabric. The combination works well for me.

Here are the first two rows of paper piecing laid onto my master copy of the design. However, when I looked at them I could see that they were coming up a little larger. I understand that; it is due to the nature of folding the fabric over a template. But my main concern was that the technique was also looking very different to the other two panels, so after some consideration I decided to go back to machine piecing. The panels are in “series”…and as such I feel they should not look so different due to the technique!

Here is the fresh start of the piece now that I am machine piecing of the top three rows. I have completed three rows. you can see that I have drawn the straight grain of the fabric onto each template with a red crayon.

The row of templates will stay in place until the next row been sewn to this row. Only after the two are stitched together, will I take off the templates from the above row. The measurement of this piece, so far, is 8.5″ wide by 3.25″ in depth, (inclusive of seam allowances). I am much happier with the appearance now! I already have another plan for hand sewing in the evenings!

So, in both of the last two items I have discussed; the dyeing, and the piecing, it is evident that my initial efforts in both weren’t giving me what I was looking for. All the experimentation was invaluable, and I could make the changes I wanted with little fuss. The moral in all of this is not to “make do” with how things are going, if you feel uncomfortable, or disappointed with what is happening. Just have another go, and see if you can make it more to your satisfaction. Nothing is ever lost. Every part of the process is a learning curve for all of us; experienced sewers as well as beginners!

My colour palette for Turvy III is a muted palette of colours with a range of dark, medium and light tones, using the complementary colours of blue and orange. All the house roofs will be within the dark terracotta tones, with the body of the houses depicted within the warm medium and light tones. For the “background” I am using a range of soft blues, taupe and grey fabrics. Hence my colour choices for the dyeing exercise! I have an excellent range now for this and further work to compliment it.

So, onward and upward. I have plenty of Unit 3 work ahead of me. I wish you all well, with any projects that you are working on.

Until next time … Happy Stitching


Stitching News June 2020/2

Welcome to this edition of Stitching News; the weather has changed; lots of rain, and cold! The rain has really helped the garden and has been most welcome, but the cold has not been welcomed in the same way. We were so spoilt in May! I am hopeful for a return of warmer weather soon! I have been “finishing off” projects this last couple of weeks. It is a really good feeling!

In this Stitching News I am talking about:

  1. The issues I have had completing my dress.
  2. The house panels and further developments; also completed.
  3. My thoughts on my first assignment in the third unit of the machine embroidery course.

This week I finished my pinafore dress/ sleeveless dress, which I started last year! You may remember that it started life as a toile for the black linen dress I made last summer. I did have short sleeves in that one and I embellished it with hand embroidered lazy daisy flowers, using my own hand dyed threads. https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2019/09/25/stitching-news-september-2019/

I made the toile initially to check the size across the bust, as it was the first time I had used the pattern. It is the Merchant and Mills Trapeze dress pattern, a loose fitting pattern so there was not much else to “fit”! When I made the toile I didn’t bother to cut out the sleeves. I used a good quality mid weight white cotton fabric, and as I didn’t want to waste it, I over dyed it soon afterwards, deciding to alter the neckline and and turn it into a “pinafore dress”. Fortunately I dyed another short length of it at the same time, which was invaluable for the facings

I have added a feature decorative pocket. It is a “quiet” feature as I also over-dyed the striped fabric at the same time that I dyed the toile, so apart from its size, it blends in quite well!.

The intention at the time was to make a simple short sleeved blouse when I bought that remnant. However, I just could not get it out of the material so I have made use of it here, making a narrow bias trim for the hem on this dress, and the pocket!

I have had one or two challenges along the way with the construction, not least the process of the facings for the neck and sleeves, being sewn together into a yolk, and the very awkward way of sewing the sleeve facings to the dress, so that when you have finished there is a neat yolk-lined internal facing.

I couldn’t even begin to explain how the yolk facing works! It took some “fathoming out”. I rang Janet, a friend who I knew had made the Trapeze dress, to ask her advice, and it seems that what I had started to do was correct, even though it felt so bizarre! At the beginning of lock down Janet had made the same sleeveless dress, with the same method of facings, and she said to me; “just plough on Di … follow the instructions to the letter!” To be fair to the pattern, it does say “this may seem awkward”! I will hold my hands up and say that I would do it again as the finish is so good! I can’t say fairer than that, can I? I love the finished garment. It is so comfortable and easy to wear.

The two pieces immediately below are Turvy I, on the left, and Turvy II on the right I was devoid of any ideas for a title for them, and asked Rob for suggestions. “Turvy” he said, and the notion of Topsy- Turvy just made me smile, so I knew that was the choice for me!

… and this week I have finished them. I designed them a couple of years ago and made very good progress on their construction, and had even started the quilting. I had to finish the quilting, choose fabric for the bindings, and make hanging sleeves for the back. The panels are both the same size which is approximately A4; 8.5″ wide, by 11.75″ long. They are machine pieced and hand quilted.

The four panels to the left, are actually miniatures! I have enlarged the photos so that you can see the detail.

They each vary a little in size, but fall within 2.5″ wide, and 4″ long.

They are variations on the same theme, and illustrate that ideas can develop the more you work on them!

I often find it easier to work ideas out by photocopying in a reduced size and working on the smaller images.

I have over painted in some areas and enhanced or added small detail. I have overlaid thread lines and added stitch. My original intentions were to make them into cards, but as I calculated the time spent on them, if I was going to sell them, then they could not be sold at stitched card prices!

I would probably mount them and sell them unframed, allowing the buyer to make their own decisions according to their personal choice. Of course this all takes time and experimentation, which isn’t necessarily taken into account on top of the originality of the work, when work has been priced up., and I think that is particularly pertinent when the work is so small.

In the last week I have also been looking at a third panel in the Turvy series which I have already spent many hours developing. I have not yet put needle and fabric to use on it, because I could not decide on colour. However, looking at it again after a long break, I can see it more clearly, and ideas presented to me immediately! The work is A4 in size, again, and is thus Turvy III, in progress. Now that I am well ensconced on the Distance Learning course, any further progress on T III will have to be put on hold for a while longer!

In Unit 3 we are asked to consider our first assignment and send our ideas to Anne for her consideration and support and for her to give constructive feedback. There is a comprehensive list of items to choose from and clearly the skills we have learnt and have been practising should be used within the design and decoration of the chosen item.

I have set my own Brief:

To design and make a piece of Contemporary Wall Art taking the imagery of early Nasca Embroideries as my inspiration.

Five years ago, my son gave me a wonderful birthday present; a book on Early Peruvian Needlework. Some of the naive “embroidery” fascinated me immediately.

This and the next photo illustrate Hummingbirds. They really captured my imagination and made me smile!

I have nurtured ideas about this in my head for a long time, and now the obvious opportunity has arrived for me to develop those and create my piece of work! The original imagery is in fact knitted as you can see. The knitting also incorporates the “stick/branch” on which the bird is perched but I intend to use fabric and stitch to create my ideas. The branch will support the bird but will not be integral as in the knitted version!

I have been stitching British bird panels recently, having had a long fascination with our wonderful British birds, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process,and have used traditional techniques of applique.

This will be different and could take that study into a different and potentially exciting development.

I have started by sketching and painting some naive bird shapes and then I added a kingfisher to the page as well, as this will be my choice of bird to work with. The painting of the kingfisher on the page, is not “naive” at all, but having other options on the same page, and having painted one of them in the wonderful colours of the bird, I can see that it could work, so now I can look at further changes and options.

The bird will be mounted on a “stick” in a similar approach to the original inspiration. I intend to use two or three layers of pelmet Vilene for this which will be covered in various textures of small pieces of fabric, machine stitched in place. The piece will hang from this structure, but I have to think about whether I would like it to be round, or flat!

For the bird, I intend to make my own “fabric”, which I shall either dye or paint! Preliminary experimentation will determine technique, but I am thinking about using fabric and tissue paper.

Below are my initial drawings.

I have painted these initial drawings with Koh-I-Nor ink dyes. Colour is going to be an important design consideration in this work, as it was in the Peruvian textile world of many centuries ago.There is a lot of development still to consider; more drawings, lots of sampling and exploration. I wonder where it will lead to!

Within this unit we are also going to be dyeing fabric, and learning some new stitching techniques. Lots to contemplate! I wonder how far I shall get before I am in touch again!

Until next time, happy stitching …


Stitching News June 2020 /1

Good day to all and a warm welcome to new readers. I sincerely hope you enjoy this latest newsletter. Haven’t we been amazingly fortunate with such glorious weather for many weeks? Admittedly when the easterlies set in, and we have had quite a few, the sun may be golden all day long, but there has been a nip in the air down here. An extra layer of clothing is all that is needed though! Thankfully we have had a drop of rain but we could do with so much more.

In this newsletter I am reviewing:

  • More stitching on the embroidery course
  • My method of presenting the work for Unit 2
  • One particular style of face mask
  • a couple of interesting links, from Susan’s blog.

I am pleased with the progress I have made on Unit 2 since I last wrote. I have finished all the samples and write up and it has now gone back for assessment. I shall take a short break to catch up on some necessities; the priority is tidying my sewing room. I would also like to finish a pinafore dress I started last year and then I shall be raring to go again.

In retrospect I realise that for a few years now I have been returning to my “favourite” techniques; safe and fairly predictable techniques. I hadn’t realised quite how much I needed a new stimulus, and something to stretch me again! I have not been disappointed. I am thrilled with the fresh and inspirational ideas that are now buzzing around my head.

Twin needle stitching using the automatic stitches, was the next sample to get started on. I got out the stitch sampler that I showed you in the last newsletter; https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2020/05/26/stitching-news-may-2020-2/ stitched in red it has notation written beside each pattern I had tried out. This has provided invaluable information for me, this time round, saving a lot of time. I always do several test runs before I commit to my final stitched sample. This time, a little after I had started practising, I noticed that the right needle of the two was “missing” stitches! I re-threaded my machine and cleaned it, but no change! Sadly I didn’t have another twin needle. I cannot remember the last time I used one, to be honest!

So, I rang Cowslip workshops; https://www.cowslipworkshops.co.uk/ Jo answered the phone. I know from friends who have been speaking with her recently that she has been working SO hard to get her orders out to people ordering by phone, or on the internet, as quickly as she possible could.

I rang her at 4 pm on a Friday, and felt guilty realising that she would be exhausted at the end of the day. But she was as brilliant as ever, and I was amazed and thrilled, when the parcel arrived the next morning, meaning that I could get on and finish the sample! I salute and thank Jo very much and the Royal mail, for their excellent service, particularly during this sad and strange time. Very difficult times indeed for the specialised sewing and quilting business, which are really struggling in so many was to stay afloat.

It is more important than ever to support our local suppliers, as we all hope desperately that they will be able to open again. I know we all miss our days’ out at Cowslip; the wonderful garden, and fantastic cafe. So much has to be considered and it must be an absolute nightmare for them. Our hearts do indeed go out to them.

Couching threads has also been an important part of Unit 2, as has cable stitch.

The photo on the right, at the top of this post is a section of my stitched sample illustrating the use of couched threads. But first, on the left here, is the painted paper I have used to stitch on, for this sample. This paper was the only one that I really could not abide out of all my stash. It really bothered me because it looked such a mess but also the colours just didn’t work for me! However, I decided to start adding some “marks” to it with a fine black drawing pen (0.1). What a difference instantly! I did not like the golden coloured strip at the top, so I tore it out, and brought the pale blue/soft mauve down and stitched that in place to the top of the blue/ green. I also tore off the bottom two rows. Now it was beginning to look more balanced.

Below is the whole of the stitched sample.

I was happy to start the stitching now as I knew I was going to enjoy the process! I have made the two trees on the left from hand-dyed thick cotton string! The “tree” across to the right is hand-dyed dishcloth cotton. I had dyed them all several years ago and the dishcloth cotton colour was rather an acid green so I toned it down by soaking it in some blue/green Brusho.

I have used a range of other threads from my stash; all my own hand dyed cotton threads, of various thicknesses. I have used them singly, double and the purple/blue one in the purple section two rows up from the bottom actually had four strands twisted together and knotted at intervals.

Having finished this sample, I decided to be more adventurous, with another and drew some shapes onto a piece of Brusho painted cotton fabric.

I drew triangles, circles, and oblongs, linking them together; lots of angles, and circles and movement; perfect for practising.

I used a wide variety of threads; colourful, pale, thick and very thin. I have a cone of natural coloured Swedish linen thread, and I have dyed some hanks several times. The colour uptake is gorgeous, but it breaks so easily, so I have been reluctant to use if for stitching! However, now I have found a way to use it! Couching!

It was great to use 4 strands at a time of the linen thread, and because it is quite “rigid” although fine that worked well. They have created the circle nearest the bottom of the panel, also the small triangle nearest the top/

Others were single threads, some were double.

I didn’t use a twin needle, I felt I had enough to deal with turning right angles etc!  But I used two contrasting threads on several occasions in this sample.

In the main, I stitched with the feed dog down, alternating on some of the shapes between zig zag stitch and straight-line stitching.

I learned such a lot doing this sample. Really pleased I did it!

Sample size7” by 3.75”.

There is clearly a great deal more to this Unit, but I will end by just showing you a small section of the concertina folded book I have made to present the work in.

Within this folded book I have included three additional inserts as well as three pockets. Each pocket has two samples in, and although I have stitched another two samples directly onto the page, I have left six “free” so that they can be easily removed for demonstration purposes.

I have increased my machine stitching skills and refreshed other skills and feel that this last month has been a wonderful exploration of colour and stitch.

Unit 3 is going to be about texture and form, observing detail and drawing small sketches of that detail from our choice of “natural” form. The garden is going to be an excellent resource for this part of the Unit!!

We also have three techniques and new stitches to master. In addition we have to start to consider our first assessment piece. This does not have to be completed in this unit, but our ideas must be consolidated and sent to Anne so that she can assess them and give feedback if necessary.

I am sure that many of you have been busy making face masks. Until now I haven’t made any although I have looked at a variety of shapes and styles, and read lots about them. With the recent advice now saying that the wearing of face masks on any form of public transport, and within a group where social distancing is very difficult to achieve is compulsory, then the time is not far off, I am sure, when we are going to be having to wear masks, possibly as the norm.

My husband asked me recently if I could make him one as he was going to have some treatment in hospital. So, here was my challenge! I have made one each; indeed I have made 4 in total, because I made a sample for each of us first, in calico, and without the interlining as I didn’t want to waste it. Primarily the sample was to check the fit.

A lovely friend of countless years, Teeny, had sent me a link to an excellent site with a video which gives a very clear tutorial on a fitted face mask. I am aware that there are probably hundreds of sites out there, and probably many for “fitted masks” too.

The link below is well worth watching as it is full of tips and is very well explained. Please don’t think that I am deriding any of the other tutorials, I can only recommend what I have personally seen and made! What I like about this “fitted style”, is that I have been able to make masks which have been made to our personal facial measurements. The video shows a demonstration of the whole process of making the mask. The presenter is likeable and although there seems a lot of “chat” on the video it is all about the process, and the reasons for her choices. We learn that she has worked for 20 years within the medical field, and how important it is to have a well-fitting mask.

http://www.fabricpatch.net/face-masks-for-covid-19-relief.htm This link also has another 3 video’s in total which you will see listed below the top one:

Video1 The Basic Tutorial. Video 2 Additional tips and tricks. Video 3 The Difference in masks and Video 4 What we have learned. You will learn about Jesse Hillon if you do watch them all, I have to confess that I cannot remember which of  2, 3 or 4 he is mentioned in. I do know that it is not in the first video. I learned the order of making the mask, but I chose to make the Jesse Hillon mask, because two specific facial measurements are taken from the person who will be wearing it.

Jesse Hillon is an engineer, who decided to buy a sewing machine as he wanted to make himself and his family face masks. He had seen the first video and followed those instructions to make one. (there are 4 sizes given on the template.)

I am sure that many people are more than happy with their choices, but Jesse felt it didn’t fit him well enough. Being an engineer, he decided to take two measurements, one from where he wanted the mask to come up to, near the bridge of his nose , down his nose to under the chin. The second measurement was from the mid-line of his nose to before the ear.

He then drafted 30 patterns for a wide range of face shapes. I matched my husband’s measurements to one of these templates, and found it on Jesse’s PDF download of the range of sizes. I noted the number of the page it was on. I repeated the exercise with my measurements. Then I was able to print off the two relevant templates.

  • Having made 4 of them now, I have 5 tips for those who might consider making this pattern, that I have written down for my own benefit, as I shall definitely make several more.

1. Add the straight grain to the pattern, somewhere parallel to the centre of the nose seam.

2. Make a sample. It is well worth the time. I made an alteration at the ear seam, reducing the measurement from nose to ear, and altering the angle a little too, and therefore creating a new seam allowance. you will notice that I have made it a generous one, so that I can push the elastic inside, and sew it securely top stitching the very edge in addition. I reinforced the stitching over the elastic each time I crossed it.

On my first attempt with Rob’s mask the elastic came out!! I just undid the seam and carefully pushed it back in, reinforcing the stitching. It has been fine since. I am using round hat elastic, as that is what I have available here and I am using this double for extra strength. For those who know me of old, you will realise that we used this for making the button bracelets!

3. I used my walking foot throughout thinking that with all the layers it would hopefully keep them all together. It worked! As I have explained recently my machine is a basic Bernina. I can move my needle as far across to the right as it will go, and then it is exactly 1/4″ from needle to the edge of the foot. To check on your own machine draw an accurate 1/4″ line with a sharp pencil parallel to the edge of a piece of paper. Then drop the needle onto the drawn line, put the presser foot down and check where the edge of the paper is in respect to the edge of the foot.

4. When sewing in the “nose clip” check before you sew that it is at the nose end, and not the chin end! Mistake number two for me!! The two ends are surprisingly similar!

5. When you sew the prepared lining to the prepared outer mask, double check the orientation of the inner and the outer of them, so that both nose ends are together. I haven’t actually made that mistake, but it would be SO easy to do. I keep my paper pattern out, and just lay the work in progress against the paper regularly, checking orientation all the time!

Finally I am including two links that I have recently found very interesting. The blog post which they had been included in was written and sent to me by a lovely friend, Susan who has come down to Cornwall many times with lots of her friends for a long weekend of stitching and fun with me.

She has valiantly been writing a regular blog post during this lockdown, for the quilting group she belongs to near Cheltenham. Members of the group keep her up to date with what they are doing; stitching,………. etc and then she puts the information together and sends it out to the members. A lovely way to keep in touch. When I read this post, I instantly asked her if she would mind if I copied them into my Stitching News. She was more than happy to share them. She had found them on the internet.


I am a huge fan of Aurifil threads, and have been for about 18 years now. They are Italian and were launched in 1983, so they have been around a long time. They are very economical although they may seem expensive to buy. However, when you see that there are 1300 metres of thread on the spool, you will realise just how much you are getting for your money. The information on the link above is really interesting. I certainly learned a thing or two!

The following link has 8 ways to use up scrap triangles. You can always cut triangles, of course, if you don’t have scrap ones!


Happy sewing … until next time…


Stitching News May 2020 (2)

I seem to have inadvertently published my blog (2) long before it was finished! I am struggling with a new format on WordPress! Technology, Grrr! WordPress has changed its format for writing the blog and from June 1st the creaters of blogs must adhere to this new format. Nothing changes for readers, at all.

I decided to get it over with! “Strike while the iron is hot mentality”! Technology and I dont get on too well, but I decided to take the bull by the horns straight away. So how have I got on? The immediate answer to that is … not at all well! I spent several hours last night trying to sort out the new system. Then, trying to retrieve everything I had lost when it disappeared! What a nightmare! I searched in every possible area, but even though I had been “saving” all along that journey, it had gone, never to be retrieved. …. and of course, I have no idea why, which is SO frustrating. I kept checking in “drafts” quite unbelieving that it was not there!

I have slept on it, and am trying, from scratch once more! If this doesn’t work, I shall have to give up!
It totally takes the shine off writing, and that is such a shame.

I am still thoroughly enjoying Unit 2 of the machine embroidery course.


I have three stitched samples left to do now, then I will have finished this unit. During the time I have been working through the Unit, I have repeated many techniques that I have covered several times over the years. It has been a great refresher, and I am really excited about the wonderful stash of painted papers I have which will last me for years!! New ideas have been developing, and I admit I have got distracted several times, having to “pull myself back to the case in hand!

The first exercise after working on the basics of colour theory was to create a scrap bag of painted and decorated papers and fabrics I used Brusho as my favoured medium for these, having used acrylic paints painting onto as wide a collection of paper surfaces, and a few fabrics, to use in the rest of the stitched samples. I used Brusho for these papers, and had a fabulous time.

I have discovered new favourite surfaces for painting onto and thoroughly explored the lovely qualities that Brusho has. I love the transparent quality of the paints, because they give wondrous bright colours, and you can build on the marks you create with your chosen brush, or sponge or other painting tool, by painting the same colour over the first dried colour; or indeed a different colour, creating layers of intrigue!

Here are a couple of photos which sample a fraction of my results!

Another of the exercises in this colour unit is to make a set of collages, using our decorated papers.

The photo above shows a collage on the left with a painted paper on the right. I had added some “marks” to this painted paper; one from my collection. It has the secondary colours, so was a very good choice for a collage representing these colours. We didn’t have to have a source to start with, but my mind was blank, and I just needed a nudge to get me going. It worked, and subsequently I could have spent hours and hours putting together other collages. In total I produced five, which was what was asked for in the course material. Choosing from my stash of papers I chose dark, mid and light tones within the colour ranges for the collage.

The papers I used were; tea-bag paper, wallpaper lining paper, Indian rag paper, tissue paper, Khadi paper, white packaging paper and cheese paper. The latter was given to be by a tutor coleague when I was teaching in FE. It is very fibre like, takes Brusho paint wonderfully, and is not easy to tear! Very interesting paper to use.

However the real surprise was the packaging paper that came to us recently surrounding and protecting an item in a parcel. It was lightly scrunched up in the box. What a find. An off-white which gives a sharp representation of colour,. The brusho immediately soaked through onto the protective newspaper underneath. It dried crisply, and is a fine paper as opposed to a coarse or heavy paper. I have wondered if it is plain newsprint paper. If anyone has used newsprint paper in any of their art work, I would be interested in their opinion. It is even more interesting because I am recycling at the same time!

Here is another of the collages. This time it represents two of the complementary colours; red and green.

The complementaries sit opposite each other on the colour wheel.The papers I have used here are:

wallpaper lining paper

white packaging paper and

cartridge paper.

Again I have chosen papers which have tonal ranges and interest. I was itching to add hand stitch to my collages, using hand dyed threads, but had to be mindful of the fact that this is a machine embroidery course!!

My sewing machine (shown above) is a Bernina 1015. I bought it in 1987, and it has been a real work horse for me since then. I have used it hugely over the years, not only for quilting but for dressmaking, and house hold furnishings; curtains and cushions. Unless it became obsolete for any reason, I would not change it, or trade it in! It is one of the original heavy metal machines, but what I do love about it is that I can manually fine-tune stitch length and width to exactly what I want, rather than having computerised fixed settings.

It is very easy to take apart and clean, the walking foot, which I purchased, probably at least 20 years ago is very easy to attach, as are all the other feet too. It doesn’t have a knee lift, but I know my machine inside out and back to front, and I can stop it with the needle up or down, without really even thinking about it. The foot pedal also has two speeds. These days I rarely change from the “fast” switch but when I first bought the machine it was an invaluable feature. It runs at a very even speed which is also very easy to control.

When I took the photo above, I noticed an implement in the far background. It is a small weighted paper holder.

You just slot the bottom edge of the paper into the space within the holder, and the page will stand upright. I have no idea where or when I bought it, but it is a really useful piece of kit. I have had it for very many years!

I am currently working on two hand made “book” assemblies. One I have had to sample several times to get the measurements and the method straight!

I wrote down the stages I have to go through for each page when I had finally cracked it, so that I could refer to the notes quickly. It is so easy to refer to them before I start sewing, when I have it stood at the side of my machine! I have quite large gaps between working on each page, and my memory is hopeful. I need reminders all the time!

Prior to starting on my first proper stitched sample in this unit, we were asked to make a stitched practice sample of the automatic stitches. Mine is shown here to the left.

As you can see I stitched everything in bright red, and wrote my own notes on the sample at the same time. Referring back to this sample frequently, enabled me to work out exactly how to set my machine, once I had decided on the stitch I would like to use on my first proper stitched sample using my automatic stitches.

I learned a huge amount about my machine and the few automatic patterns I have. I had never used some of them, ever!

Finally here is a photograph of one of my stitched samples using the automatic stitches on my machine.

I have not stitched anything like this in the past, so it was a fabulous learning experience. I shall definitely use some of these techniques again.

I have used a mixture of ribbons, strips of fabric or paper, and a wide selection of my stitch patterns. These were all worked on top of one of my painted cheese papers.

I am very relieved to have completed this blog. It hasn’t been without its traumas, including the unfortunate posting early on!

Until next time, happy stitching


Stitching News May 2020 (1)

Good day, from sunny Cornwall, where we have another beautiful cloudless blue sky.

During the last week I have been busy gardening, walking, baking and of course getting on with my machine embroidery course. Naturally there are always the basic household chores to get through as well…mostly I skim over them, just giving them more attention when necessity kicks in!
I am sure I am not alone in saying that my creative self is quite erratic at the moment. Some days I am full of enthusiasm, and others are quite different! No day is uninteresting but the creativity definitely comes and goes!

This newsletter is about;

  • Colour; the design element of the second unit in the course is all about colour.
  • A little about my work on the presentation of Unit one.
  • Creating an original patchwork block.
  • My favourite “easy access” tool box.

I have been really itching to get on with Unit 2, and have been reading around the subject, and also had great fun looking back at some work I did years ago. It is always fascinating to go back and review old work as it is almost always still relevant to today!

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For the course and the start of Unit 2 we had to start with colour basics; a colour wheel. We could choose our medium with which to paint white paper, and my first choice was acrylics. I know the colour wheel inside and out and back to front, as the majority of readers probably do! There are several different colour wheels, but this is the basic one, and we had to paint papers with the three primary and the three secondary colours. I was quite happy to repeat the exercise, and began to consider the different combinations!

I soon cut the relevant sections from my papers and glued them down onto a background. I cut elongated triangles from scraps putting the complementary colours together too. The latter sit opposite each other on the colour wheel. I followed this by playing with the left over secondary colours I had mixed. Combining these created even more colours, a different array of sludgy ones which always appeal to me. I made some small collages from these. Great fun!

For an alternative set of painted papers I decided to work with Brusho. These paints come in powder form and are mixed with water. I made up solutions of blue, red and yellow and painted papers as before. Using this totally different medium gave very different results! I should have made the colours stronger, which I cna still always do.  Pale colours are always essential and so, on reflection I am sort of pleased! There is equally nothing to stop me increasing the strength. The first six are acrylic paints, the second are Brusho.

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This is just the beginning of exploring colour… there are many more exercises to do, which will be fun too, but in the meantime, I have put the colour work in Unit 2 on hold! I had completed all the course content in Unit one, but at that time had not decided on my format for the presentation of the work. I have considered many options and a final decision made; a book.  So many book ideas, which is what has taken my time… I have had it OK’d, and have returned to work on it.

I find I am working through this course in regular but very small capsules of time. That has so often been the way I find my ideas can develop. I have worked like this for many years. I like to have some space and time to really think ideas through. Strangely this “thinking time” more often than not happens in either wakeful periods at night, or when I am hand stitching on other projects. It is never ever a conscious action on my part. It just happens and it is surprising how the germ of an idea expands quite quickly once it appeals to me! When I am happy about my thought processes, I can start working out the nitty gritty; size and techniques. I have already made samples of the techniques I am going to use for this constructionand have already made samples using scrap paper and scraps of fabric. Part will be hand stitched, and part on the machine. I had to do several samples just to get the proportions right. This is invaluable use of time, and well worth the effort.

I am actually deconstructing a book that I was given maybe as long as 15 or even 20 years ago. The paper is a high quality cartridge paper but it has been so tightly bound that the book will not lie flat when it is opened. This makes it impossible to even write in! It was never going to be used, so I am cutting out the pages very carefully with a craft knife so that they can be re-used now to create a workable book! Great to recycle!

I had a fascinating time recently looking through some of my past work. I found two pieced 16″ blocks along with the initial design work. It had all started with a simple 1″ square that I had cut from polystyrene packaging and used as a printing block.

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As you can see from the photo above, I have printed a straight square alternating with a square on point all over the paper. I then lightly outlined the printed squares with a fine black drawing pen to give a little definition and highlight the small irregularities the uneven printing had created. Next I trawled a 1 inch square “window” over the page, looking for possible areas that might be suitable for a patchwork block. I considered three areas, finally choosing one with part of the negative space as well as tiny sections of adjacent squares. Simple but effective!

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The newly identified area, has been slightly modified to give continuity and balance. The first of two additional lines runs from the top left corner until it comes to a stop at a right angle to another line. The second line creates a small triangle in the top right corner. These additions serve to break up what would have been two large spaces.




I tried various arrangements of this final block, then coloured in the one that I liked; as shown below.

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In this coloured version, have a look at the yellow corner; it is four of the original design blocks. Each original block has been rotated by 90 degrees in a clockwise rotation. This could be called a 4-patch, and four of these create the whole design, seen here on the left. Each of the coloured corners consists of four of the design blocks, all coloured identically.

The final design could be called a 16-patch.


The photo below shows the bottom left quarter of the design after piecing.

This finished patchwork block measures 16″ square. The finished design as in the coloured version above, would be 32″ square and could make a very nice wall hanging.

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Use of colour plays a huge part in any block, emphasising shapes as blocks are put together. Below is another way I created interest, by inclusion of a change of scale;

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Three of the corners in this red block are the size of the green blocks above. However the left top corner has a 1/4 size of the whole design. Here, the large corners measure 8″ square. But the top left corner consists of four x 4″ squares, creating the final 8″ sized corner. I like the way that the black individual striangular shapes, touch each other and create the distorted z shape. The use of black, really makes a sharp impact. All this came from a very simply printed paper!

Below is another block which I created in exactly the same process as above, but from a different source.

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Below you can see repeated blocks which have been assembled identically in the three versions, but I have painted them in different ways. The different use of colour illustrates that a range of final options are possible if you take the time to explore them. All the design lines are still in place, showing the way to construct the block.



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Finally, I was browsing in Coast and Country Crafts late summer last year, and saw these little storage units.  https://www.coastandcountrycrafts.co.uk/

I thought they were fabulous, and would make great Christmas presents. Of course I had to try them out didn’t I, so that meant “one for me” too!

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Mine is packed with everyday tools which were previously in other pots, pencil cases, boxes etc, but here they are instantly visible, and accessible and tidy! Probably a bit of a luxury, but hey ho!

It is called a “stash ‘n store”

All of the items are used very regularly, and I find the little unit fantastically useful and organised! It sits on a table just to the right of my sewing machine.

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The silicone top surface has an interlinking circular grid, which can accommodate a wide variety of tools, as you can see. They are gripped by the silicone, so won’t “fall over”.


Take care and stay safe. Until next time, Happy stitching!