May Stitching News

Diary Dates:

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

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

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

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

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

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


In this issue of the newsletter I am writing about:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I have started developing a new body of work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Until next time….

Happy stitching!