November News

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Here is a brief overview of the process.

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

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

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

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

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

Tip of the month:

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

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

Happy stitching until next time……,