Stitching News September 2019

Good day, from a blustery Cornish coastal village. The sky looks threatening today, but the sun is shining and the rain drops from a sudden shower are glistening. Last week and this are like chalk and cheese! I love the changing season from summer to autumn. Everything is really overgrown and when we finally get down to cutting back, it will look tidy, and be so gratifying. Today is crisper. I needed an extra layer.



Dead heading, cutting back, gathering the already falling leaves; there are hours of work to be done! This is a fraction of our very overgrown garden. My excuses are many!


I had a wonderful and very creative friend staying last week and although I had planned several outings …we only went out for one half day trip….and guess what it was to a quilt shop. I needed nothing, you understand, although I did get ideas for Christmas presents, and of course, I had to buy one of those ideas for myself, to try it out! Janine my friend, came away delighted with her purchases.

This month I have several things to share with you.

First is the scrap quilt I have started. My cousin Patricia and I share all sorts of ideas we have seen, or heard about, and I told her that I was wanting an easy, project; scrap fabric, and hand sewing to take to my two quilting groups. I didn’t want to have to think too hard about it. You know the sort of thing I mean!

She had seen a photograph of a scrap quilt made from 8 oblongs. The finished size of the individual oblong was  2″ x 1″. It is portable; needs no serious planning; could be assembled in small blocks, (finished size 4″) and is perfect for hand piecing.  It ticked all the boxes. I liked the idea this presented, but wanted to change it slightly, to make it “mine” I suppose!  I decided to use 7 oblongs  as above, and two 1″ squares. I have a stack of cut pieces, and have made a start. I will post a photo when I have made a few more of the blocks. The size of the oblongs could be increased and this wouldn’t take long to make on the machine! Maybe I will think again!

Since the last newsletter  I have made a dress and a top from the same Merchant and Mills “Trapeze Dress” pattern.  The dress is made in a black linen/cotton mix. It is a good weight and I bought it from Coast and Country Crafts; Cornish Garden Nurseries, Barras Moor, Perranarworthal, Truro TR3 7PE

Coast and Country Crafts are also now stocking some  of the Merchant and Mills Patterns.

DSC01505 (2).JPGI apologise for the quality of this photo. For some reason I cannot produce a good photo of the whole dress. Whether it is something to do with it being black I have no idea. It just goes out of focus. It is not for want of trying, believe me!

I lengthened the pattern to make the dress mid-

calf length. I have tried to edit the photo to show a close up of the double daisies, but it does not want to know!! It just goes very fuzzy. The daisies I have embroidered around the hem of the dress are a larger size than those of the neck and sleeve. All the daisies have been embroidered using my hand dyed threads. Each individual lazy daisy “petal” has another petal embroidered inside, hence the “double daisies”. A single French knot sits in the centre of the smaller flowers and a group of French knots sit inside the larger daisies around the hem. Sometimes I have used a different tone of the same colour, sometimes I have used a complete contrast! I certainly used up a lot of threads.

To return briefly to the black dress, I made a toile first in order to get a measure of the sizing of the pattern. The toile was in a good quality white fabric that I bought from Whaleys for dyeing, many years ago.  I just hand tacked the shoulder and main dress seams. I didn’t put the sleeves in as it was the bust measurement I was really assessing. I have since over-dyed the toile in the washing machine, using a navy Dylon and following the machine-wash directions for dyeing, to the letter. I have tried the toile on again and I have decided to turn it into a pinafore dress, possibly slightly enlarging the arm hole. I will make this version shorter, and give it a “feature” pocket! Watch this space.

I made the top, shown below, from the top part of the dress pattern. It is quite full and loose,but very comfortable and easy to wear. This fabric is a linen/viscose mix, very soft when it had been washed. A lovely quality.DSC01654 (2)

I bought this fabric from Bridget who owns The Fabric Bee in Gorran, a village very close to Mevagissey. She has a lovely Log Cabin shop in her back garden, with a fantastic array of both patchwork and dressmaking fabrics. Phone to ask if you can visit her, and you won’t be disappointed.   

Bridget says:  “After running Fabrics Plus in Bristol for 31 years I decided it was time for change and along with my husband, moved to the south coast of Cornwall. However, I still wanted to share my passion for sewing and lovely fabric, hence, “The Fabric Bee” was born. Our extensive range of patchwork fabric includes well-known brands. There is also plenty to choose from in our gorgeous selection of dressmaking fabrics, including linen, jersey, lace, viscose, cotton poplins and denim.”      

The Fabric Bee The Hawthorns, St Austell, Gorran, Cornwall, PL26 6HN.                    Phone   07928 398134

I love to have “hand dyed” threads available. They are so versatile and useful. So, I just had to prepare some more after making the dress! I find it a very therapeutic exercise.  I did them in batches of ten at a time. First I had to wind the thread around the top of a wooden chair into individual hanks. Many moons ago, I measured lengths of thread and wrote the results down in a book.

“So many complete winds around the top of the chair = so many metres of thread”. It took a while to make up my chart at the time, but it has paid dividends since.

I then add one extra wind to allow for shrinkage as I always give them a boiling hot rinse, during the washing process.   When I have a handful of “hanks” I  soak them in a soda solution making sure that the solution has totally penetrated the thread. I make up very small quantities of about 5 different Dylon and/or Procion dye colours.

I place one or two hanks in several recycled plastic trays and using pipettes dribble the dye over the soaked threads, leaving  them to sit in the dye for several hours and usually rinse them out the next day. They need plenty of rinsing to remove any excess dye. Then I roll them in an old towel to remove excess moisture and hang them up to dry.

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When they are completely dry, I wind them onto small units of mountboard,  as in the photo above and that is the exciting part. Yes, of course it takes time!  But it is time well spent. Nothing annoys me more than thread in a complete mess when I come to use it!

Look at the threads in the photo above, you can see the variegation in colour so clearly when the thread is organised like this. Another “plus” resulting from the winding process is that the threads never knot or get tangled thereafter.

Those of you who have been loyal readers for the many years when I was sending out my newsletters by email, and more recently when I had to change to a blog format, will know how much I enjoy Eco Dyeing on paper.

While Janine was here last week she wondered if we could do some Eco dyeing together.  over the years I have read as much as I can find about it, and have experimented several times a year.

It transpired that Janine hadn’t done any for quite some time, so it was just a refresher that was needed! Well, that was the start of almost three days of experimenting! We were getting some fascinating results, adding more to the pot; choosing different ways of producing our individual results, and getting more and more enthusiastic and excited at our results.

Over the last three days I have produced a zig- zag book with some of my Eco prints. This book may become part of my personal exhibition pieces, along with other work that I am not ready to show at the moment. Textiles+ group, of which I am a member, is having an exhibition of work, in June next year. More details will be given in due course about dates and venue. In the meantime, we are individually and collectively working on our projects.

The photo below was taken looking down on the book, which is lying on its spine on the table.

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Here are a few glimpses at some of the pages. There are 24 “page surfaces” within the book….and most of these are my results and interpretations of plants in my garden.

The extension ideas are more abstract, and very definitely more contemporary! I have started work on a selection of these which will be presented in a different format zig-zag booklet but there is much more to do yet!






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This photo gives some sense of how I have constructed the book. The outside supporting structure is concertina folded watercolour paper. I know virtually nothing about watercolour paper, but this seemed a good supporting weight, and I thought it would produce a sturdy “hard back” feel to my book. I am not disappointed.



I concertina folded a strip of it to produce 4 valley folds. It stood up on the table, firm as a rock and I was happy that whatever I added to it. it would remain secure.

Each valley fold has another folded paper insert and pressed tightly into the original folded watercolour paper. These were all secured in place by a simple pamphlet stitch made through the two folds. Any work that was going to be added to any of the four surfaces of the inserted paper, as well as the two watercolour paper surfaces was completed before the pamphlet stitch secured that particular unit of work.

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The thread I used for the pamphlet stitch was the thread that had been wrapped tightly around my Eco dyed parcels while they were steaming. Some of those threads were further boiled in the bottom of the steamer. After completing the pamphlet stitch the thread was knotted at the back of the valley fold, and as you can see in the photo, it acted as a carrier though which to thread my “closure” ribbon!

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The view of the back of the book also shows the marks I made on the watercolour paper, before any work was applied to the surfaces. I had some Cotinus leaves in the bottom of the pan,  and I took a leaf out and used it like a paint brush to “paint” the watercolour paper!



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This final photo shows a blackberry leaf with fruits on the left page and a male fern on the right with a glimpse of a wild geranium just peeping from an inside page.  I love the detail that has printed from the blackberry fruit, not to mention the detail on that particular leaf.

What a joyous time we had “playing”! I cannot emphasise enough that it is this kind of continual experimentation with whatever project you are exploring that gives interesting and inspirational results. Years, quite literally; untold hours of trial and error is what gives textile artists all over the world, whatever their medium, the skills and informed plans for further experimentation! It doesn’t “just happen”.

This particular session of work has now given me more ideas! Thankfully I have been writing notes and thoughts down as I have been working.

Finally, for those of you who look forward to visiting Westonbirt Arboretum in the autumn, the poster below gives all the details of what will be an excellent exhibition of work by “Cotswold Edge”.  There will be inspirational, very professional collections of unique and skilled work to view and buy. Talk to the makers! Find out “how they do it” and make it a feature of your day’s visit to the Arboretum. You won’t regret it.

Liz (Brooke Ward) will be displaying her wonderful “new” selection of textile work, which is stunning;

David (my twin brother), will be displaying and selling his fused glass.  Very sadly Dave is no longer able to do copper foiling due to his eye problems. However, he has terrific ideas and some amazing fused glass to exhibit.

Grahame will be exhibiting his unique, fascinating wood sculptures. You will wonder at how he achieves his end results.

2019 Cotswold Edge poster-A4

I shall be able to visit the exhibition this year, so I hope to see you there too!

Happy stitching!







3 thoughts on “Stitching News September 2019

  1. Hi Di,

    Well that was a mammoth read, very interesting and the dyed threads look lovely, that photo could make an interesting card. Your garden looks amazing, I love the fact that plants are close and no soil showing, lots of interesting colours and textures.

    We have had massive amount of rain so my water buts are full again. (I have 4) I use the water to do my felting, then use the used water to flush the toilet. Luckily I am in a bungalow so it’s easy to walk next door with a bucket full. I had to have new deeper guttering put up, luckily it was done just in time before the heavy rain.

    I am busy getting things made for Open Studio’s starting the first week in October. I haven’t made anything for the past five months as it has taken a long time to get over my virus and shingles. Three months of lying down most of the time has taken its toll on my leg muscles. I am getting there now though. I am sharing a friends space in her house as I didn’t want to use mine. I like the fact that I am tucked away and no one knows the bungalow is there, very private. Also I don’t think anyone would find it easy to find if it was on the trail.

    Two weeks ago I went on a tour of Moroccan cities which was pretty tiring but wonderful as well. We want to go back next autumn and visit the coast and south but not on a tour, just taking it at a slower pace. Marrakesh was so inspiring on its own, there was so much to see.

    Poppy is due to have yet another Kidney op tomorrow, we are hoping that this is the last. She has now got lyphodema in one leg so has to wear a stocking but she is still upbeat. I am so proud of her. Thankfully she and her husband had a wonderful holiday in Crete a couple weeks ago, so well deserved.

    I will away and finish a batch of fairies and book covers now

    I look forward to your next blog

    Love Brenda. x


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