Stitching News December 2018

Welcome to the second stitching Newsletter of this month. Indeed, it is the last of 2018. Hopefully you have all had a lovely Christmas. It will have been very busy for some of you and hopefully quiet and peaceful for others! In this newsletter I have included items about;

  • A house warming present
  • “Dotty Lottie” and her little folded book
  • My new Light box

A friend, Suze, moved house in mid December. She has often admired the different small stitched house projects I have been working on, so I thought it would be a nice surprise for her if I made one of myStand Alone” little houses, for a house warming present.


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For the main pieces I have used fine quality shirting fabric which I dyed. The three front pieces were English paper pieced. The papers were removed, then the front and back were ladder stitched together with a trapped “wadding” layer. The Guterman thread spool in the photo gives an indication of the scale of the little house which is 6 cms tall, (2 and 3/8″). From start to finish these little houses take 12 hours to complete and are all hand stitched. The gift tag was painted with water colours.

About two months ago the very same friend, asked me I would like a child’s basket chair that she wasn’t able to take with her to her new house. Her grown up son wasn’t keen to have it but she thought that our 3 year old grandson may love to use it. I was delighted to have been asked and a couple of weeks ago I made a cushion for the seat.

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The larger photo shows off the gorgeous fabric more clearly.  I bought it from “The Fabric Bee”;   It is a Makower fabric, range “UK Home Grown”, reference number  1776/B F5908

What a lucky little boy our grandson is! The chair is such a delightful old fashioned shape and has obviously been well loved in the past and was loved to bits again this Christmas. He sat in it at every available opportunity and loved the cushion too, especially that it was just for him and the chair!!

To make the cushion I cut a newspaper pattern of the seat shape. I was able to cut the front of the cushion from a fat quarter, but had to piece the back. It matched well, so the join doesn’t really show. I decided to allow for a little depth in the cushion and I already had a long strip of denim which had been cut on the bias and was 1 1/2″ wide. This was perfect to give an inch depth between the underside and the top of the cushion.

An old feather cushion was well past its sell-by date so I modified it, re-using the original down-proof fabric. A few feathers flew around the room but with my husband’s help and a very large polythene bag to catch most of the excess feathers, the job was quickly completed. I am very pleased with the end result. The gift of the chair and the notion that it could be loved once again by a younger generation is a joy.  A lovely way to recycle.

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During the summer I made this dolly and have decided to give her to my great niece, Adela, for her birthday early in January. I don’t see her very often as she lives in Hong Kong but her Mum, my niece, has told me in the past that Adela loves any hand made cards I send her!  A few years ago, when she received one of these from me, I was told that she had kept it on her bedside table for a whole year. It was such a joy and a lovely compliment to hear that.

This doll is 9 3/4″ tall.

I have also made a little folded book to accompany the doll. It gives a small explanation about the detail on her. The book measures 2″ square. Below is the very short story that I have written inside.


Hello Adela. 

My name is Lottie. My Great Aunt Di made me. Sometimes I heard her call me “Dotty Lottie”!

My hair is wild, and I am not glamorous, but I have some nice features! 

I like my pretty necklace. Aunt Di made some of the beads from paper and she did a lot of stitches on my dress. It was just a plain blue and white striped material, but she used her hand dyed threads to make it prettier! She also made me pretty shoes.

I am not sporty, like you, but maybe I might become clever if I work hard, like you do.

I hope you can find room for me in your bedroom, on a little table or a shelf. Happy birthday Adela! I hope you have a lovely day.

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This is a photo of the little book which will acompany the doll. The pages are Indian rag paper. I tore a 2″ strip and concertina folded it along its length. Then I wrote my text with a 0.1 Unipin fine line pen. This is pigment ink, water and fade proof, and is my absolute favourite pen for hand writing tiny text.  I left the first “page” blank, as this would be stuck to the inside of the front cover. It also gave me a little flexibility in case I wanted to write anything else on it! I also left the last page blank. I then cut off the excess of the paper strip.

Employing this approach, seemed the best way to work out how many pages I would need for the book! I didn’t need to do a “practice write” which I usually do if I have text to fit into a specific space. I could just write my little story and then see where the text finished and make sure that the last fold was a “valley fold”, matching the first fold. If it hadn’t been a valley fold, I would have moved along the strip of paper to the next valley fold and trimmed the paper accordingly. Should there have been a couple of blank pages, they could have been easily utilised by writing another couple of sentences!

N.B. A valley fold receeds, and a fold that comes forward is called a mountain fold. You can identify these two folds in the photos, if you are not familiar with the terms.

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I  used mount board for the book covers with a Tana Lawn fabric, shown here in the photo to the side. The mount board will give stability if the book stands up. It also keeps the cover flat, and sharp.


Cardboard would not be as effective as it is pliable and can easily get damaged. The right-hand cover in the photo is the front cover.

Closure of the book is by a button and fine cord. The button was sewn in place through the mount board, before the back of the first page was glued to the cover. You can see the button on the right hand cover.

The fine cord has two tiny buttons tied to the end of it, which makes it very easy to hold onto. The cord was glued securely to the inside back cover, before the back of the last page was glued to it. Finally the two flowers inside the covers were cut out from the Tana Lawn fabric. To do this I cut a small section of the fabric, which had two flowers reasonably close together. I ironed some Bondaweb to the wrong side, and cut out the flowers. The Bondaweb makes the fabric very easy to handle as the paper makes the fabric stiff.

After peeling off the paper, I position the flowers and  briefly placed the iron tip to each of them, and checked that they were stuck down. It is important to “press” these fabric flowers in place, rather than “iron” them down. No marks will be left on the page this way.

I do hope Adela likes it! It has been great fun to make!

When one of our sons asked if there was anything particular I would like for Christmas I asked for a light box. I must admit that I saw this fantastic one being used last Autumn. I was teaching a group of ladies who had come down for a long weekend’s workshop. Maureen was actually working on a project that she had brought with her, and was tracing off her pattern using this light box. I really thought it was an amazing tool. Years ago I had a light box which involved having a sheet of perspex balanced on supports which were placed under each end of it. There had to be enough height to clip a lightbulb underneath. I used it a great deal in the past but then, to be honest, I have no reollection of what happened to it!

This one is a totally different kettle of fish! It is light weight, ultra slim, and daylight LED lit.  I chose the A3 size. It is also available in A2 and A4 sizes. It comes with its own storage bag. The controls are all touch buttons, flush with the top surface, and they respond immediately. On the underside are anti slip disks. There is an on/off  button and four levels of brightness. It plugs into the mains, with 6 feet of available cable.

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I read various reviews of similar products, and eventually decided on this one by Vario; a British company which also offer a 2 year guarantee. It was £35. A fabulous present!

This photo shows the light box, with a Vario document underneath, and a piece of computer paper just laid lightly over two thirds of it. You can already imagine how clearly the information could be seen, and this is with no pressure on the top paper, at all. Finger tip pressure as there would be when tracing is all that is needed! It does come with two clips, which do not have enough extension so are practically useless! I would just use other little weights on the surface! So no problem!

I hope you find something of interest in the newsletter. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those of you who have contacted me throughout the year, some by leaving “comments”,  and others emailing, but all saying how much you thoroughly enjoy reading them.

I wish everyone a very Happy New Year and very best wishes, for good health, and inspirational creativity!

Until next time…








Stitching News December 2018

Christmas Greetings to you all!

Welcome to my Christmas newsletter! This month I have written about;

  • My Christmas card choice for this year
  • Preparation for my Christmas cakes; …and “what has that to do with patchwork?”  you may ask yourself! … Well, it’s all in the tools!
  • A quilt which I am endeavouring to finish for September 2019….I am hand quilting and it is huge!
  • My plans for my tiny wooden spools
  • My Advent calendar and a few other decorations!

Most of us will have been planning  for Christmas in various ways recently. Since my last newsletter I have been making Christmas cards;  finishing little presents; working through the rest of the present list; making Christmas cakes, and planning menus.

I made my Christmas cards towards the end of November.

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I actually made this little stitched panel about 12 years ago. It was an extra sample for a class I was teaching about using sheer fabrics. It measures 8.5″ x 5.

As you can see it is hand stitched, with hand dyed threads. I have trapped layers, (some of which are also sheers), under a top layer of sheer fabric. In other words, it is a sample of shadow applique.

I remembered it, when I was thinking about ideas for this year’s cards.

I photographed it, and printed the photos, in three different sizes onto standard A4 glossy photographic paper. The larger photograph size fits 4 photos to an A4 sheet.  One photo can be mounted onto a standard A6 single fold card; therefore 4 cards per sheet.

The middle size fits 9 photos to an A4 sheet. I also mounted these onto A6 cards, but because the photos are smaller, there was room to write the start of the carol…”while shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground… ” around three sides of the photograph. This particular size is a plus, as one sheet yields 9 cards!

The third size fits 35 photos onto the A4 sheet, and I make gift tags using these. I cut 2″ x 4″ units of plain white card, then fold them in half making a square gift tag. I trim the photos with my rotary cutter and mount one to the left of centre on the front of the tag, leaving space to write “Merry Christmas” along the edge of it. Inside, I punch a single hole near the fold, at the top of the card, to thread to loop a cord through.

The three sizes are photographed below! I just love the fact that the Christmas card and the tag are an item!

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I also made my Christmas cakes on the last weekend of November….probably should have done it about three or four weeks earlier! I thought it apposite that I should explain why my 6″ Omnigrid square is in the photograph below!

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You can also see my cake tin in the photo. It is the 12″ Lakeland cake tin that has dividers which can split the tin into various size units within the 12″ framework. Each year, since I bought the tin, I have made four six inch Christmas cakes to give to various members of our family. I use the Omnigrid square in the preparation of the liners for the four divided sections.

I cut baking parchment into a square; the size of the square is the width of the roll. Next I fold the square diagonally in both directions, centre the 6″ Omni square and draw around it’s edge. I then cut away a square at each outside corner of the large square, and make a sharp crease along the 6″ border of baking paper which is left along each side of the internal square.

When each surface of the individual 6″ cake tins has been lightly greased, the baking parchment liner can be dropped accurately into its area. The folded sides of the paper square can then be lifted up and will sit snugly against the walls, and will stick in position! It is fiddly, but it works well, and I feel the time taken is well worth it.

I really have my work cut out for the next few months, as I am aiming at finishing a very large bed quilt by September 2019. It is a present for my niece. I asked her  to measure across the top of the mattress and down to the bottom edges of the top mattress. It is a king sized bed, with a very deep top mattress.

Her choice of colour scheme was black white and grey, but she left the actual choice of fabrics to me We discussed design possibilities and she said she loved “traditional” patchwork but left the final choice to me.  I had a great deal of work to do before I could go shopping. I drew out an outline of the finished size, and had to divide it up, so that the central part of the quilt design fitted on top of the mattress with the borders hanging down the sides. I could then work out the size of the design elements. I worked out placements of the dark, medium and light values and the sizes of the various components within the quilt, and then roughly estimated quantities…and how many fabrics I would like within each value. I rounded all quantities up, and bought  a little extra of everything! With all that information written down, I was ready to purchase!

I largely used my machine to create and assemble the quilt top, but I am entirely hand quilting it. The centre is completed, and I am now quilting the borders, which are 15″ deep. The whole quilt measures 105″ x 108″. Most of this work was completed over two years ago. For various reasons, it was then put on one side, and I am just picking it up again.



Although it is a traditional design, I have amalgamated six borders reflecting the use of fabric and elements from the central panel. Squares, circles and pieced stars, of varying sizes, predominate. I just had to have a little bit of me, and what I do, in there somewhere! Hence the group of five little houses in one of the setting squares! The finished size of the setting squares is 3″.

The preparation of this square was started by drawing a 3″ square onto freezer paper. I drew the group of five houses within the square, allowing a 1/4″border between the group and the edge of the square. The drawn shapes were all numbered, and then cut up, and ironed onto the right side of my fabric choices, before cutting each shape  out with a 1/4″ fabric seam allowance around each shape.

The same freezer paper templates were then peeled off the front of the fabric, and slid underneath, in preparation for the English method of piecing the individual houses. (Each piece of fabric was tacked over the template, so that the raw edges were hidden. When each of the 5 houses had been assembled, it was pressed carefully, before the tacking stitches were cut and the paper templates removed. The reason for pressing them was to give a sharp crease at the edge of the houses, which would keep the raw edges in place. The next stage was to stitch the windows and doors  in place. Finally each house was tacked into its correct position on the 3″square, and appliqued in place.

Last month I teased you with a photograph of empty cotton reels, and asked you what I might be going to do with them! I have started!

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The reels are tiny; measurements 1/2″ tall  as well as 1/2″ across the end of the spool too! So they are almost “square”!

The very large spools in last months photo will not be used, as they are too heavy, but I have some others, only slightly larger than these here, which I will include!

By now, if you didn’t realise before, you probably understand that small is beautiful to me, and doesn’t phase me at all! I know that “small” is incredibly fiddly and fussy for a large majority of people, but there are some of us, who actually enjoy “small”!! “Small” often means easily portable too, which has definite advantages.

They will be part of a string of bunting…, but not necessarily for Christmas. The fabrics are all Liberty prints which I have sewn onto the spools. So far I have done about 50 and I have the same to do again, They will be threaded onto a cord, interspersed  with little flags, that I am also in the process of making. About 10 have been completed with a little channel on the reverse side to thread the cord through. When looking through my UFO’s the other day, I found some house bunting that I had started a couple of years ago. I actually got on really well with it but never finished it.  Note to self….want to finish that this year. Seeing it again really enthused me!

I will show you more, as the spool bunting progresses! Ideas pop in and out of my head, about this bunting, all the time!

Another spool item! During a holiday in Canada recently, we went to see a quilter who lived on the Cabot trail, and opened her studio to interested quilters. I loved her front door, which sported a wonderful row of cotton reels, which were “half shapes” so that they fitted flush to the wooden door. What a fabulous idea!

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Her name is Anne Morrell Robinson, and she is a prolific and amazing quilter.

She had a beautiful studio, which was huge! Many of her quilts were stacked flat and high on a large wooden surface,akin to bed size!

Downstairs she had another comparable stash which we were also thrilled to view.

Making quilts was her business, and she advertised and sold her work extensively.


I have long had a fondness for Advent Calendars. This year, a dear friend gave me a Sally Swannell Advent card.

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It is absolutely delightful, I didn’t know anything about this lady’s work, but she has gorgeous ideas and is worth looking up if you are interested;

I have some favourite Christmas decorations which go up every year. This is one of them; an advent calendar, which I made almost thirty years ago!

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It is in two parts. The photograph on the left shows the 24 days leading up to Christmas day. The pieced and appliqued squares are 3″ square. Each one has two little black hooks above it for a numbered cover to hang from.

When it is hung, on December 1st, I don’t put the covers on in any specific order, apart from the 24th, which is always covering the crib in the bottom right hand corner.

There are no pockets for sweeties or little presents,


The “game” was always to guess which picture was underneath the cover before it was removed each day! I made this when our two boys were about 9 and 10. They watched the progress as it grew over the course of many months, and even made suggestion for some of the 3″ blocks. At one point when I was wondering what to do next, one of them said “You can’t have an advent calendar without a Santa”! We talked about how he might be represented; “Coming down the chimney, of course!” was the answer!

When it was all finished and had been up for its first Christmas, my husband said; “It is likely that at some stage you are going to lose one or two of the covers…so perhaps you should make them “work”! He suggested that I make another hanging, that the covers could hang from!  So this was the idea I came up with!

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First, we had to work out a phrase with 24 letters in it!  “A  VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU” worked well! Then I could draw a working diagram.Red green and the same background fabrics were used.

I pieced it in horizontal rows, and hand quilted a Sashiko design on each of the coloured squares, using a Sulky gold metallic thread.  With the covers, I  stencilled the appropriate letter onto the reverse of its partner number, using a metallic gold paint. Then each letter was back stitched by hand to emphasise the outline, being careful not to go through to the front of the cover!

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Fortunately the numbers on the front of the covers had been quilted before the covers had been assembled, and were stitched with just a square of wadding underneath. Tehy were then layered with the backing square, and bound.

Now, number 1 has an on the reverse side; number 2 has a V; number 3  an E; number 4 has an R; and so on. You get the idea! The photograph shows 3 numbered covers and three covers with 3 letters.

So, by Christmas Eve all the covers on the advent calendar have been taken off, turned over and hung on the partner hanging, revealing the Christmas message.

It is a “working” Advent Calendar”! It is difficult to clearly photograph the detail on the second hanging, but at the top two corners I quilted a Christmas tree, and secured a bugle bead topped by a star sequin at the end of each “branch”, suggesting candles. The densely patterned fabric hides the small detail, unfortunately.  In between the words at the bottom of the hanging (position identified by the wooden red berries) I quilted holly leaves.

Here are a few other favourites!

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All are hand made, and some are typically very traditional which I love! There is nothing wrong with that!

The two 3-D tree decorations each consist of three identical oval card shapes. which have fabric glued to them, and the seam allowance glued over the edge, so that it is hidden when the shapes are sewn together.

In 2010 I recorded a video of this particular decoration, with Jamie Malden of Colouricious.  If you would like to see a detailed version of how to make the little decoration, just copy and paste How to Make Christmas decorations – Di Wells – Jamie Malden into a Google search and you will see a detailed tutorial on You Tube.  (You will need to delete the initial advert that always precedes any You Tube film!)

I made the Christmas houses about 5 years ago. They are double sided, with “snowy” roofs, and a Christmas tree on each side! This means that they can hang on a tree and the detail can be seen which ever way they turn! I over-dyed some very fine woven quality shirting fabrics. This took away the stark white background, giving a more muted result, and some texture too. The tiny fabric trees were cut out of a Christmassy fabric, and bonded in position. We hang several of these houses against our Cornish stone fireplace, at Christmas! They are suspended from a fine dowel threaded through the chimneys!

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I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, which will hopefully be filled with fascinating and inspired stitching!

Until January…