January 2020

This is an extra post this month to explain how my scrap quilt is coming along.          I am aware that I have hardly mentioned it over the last few newsletters. I have had many interruptions over the last three months so progress has been slow or to be honest it had virtually come to a halt. However I am picking it up again now, so hope the momentum can continue alongside other projects on the go!

I like scrap quilts and have made several over the years. As a result I have been asked similar questions many times, so I shall address some of these here. Please forgive me if you are well versed and experienced in this field and have your own tried and tested methods for creating and stitching scrap quilts. I know there are many people who are “young” in the quilting world, so reading and observing a variety of ways to work with any technique can be invaluable. I learn something every day by reading, stitching and experimenting and this constantly refreshes and invigorates my knowledge.

  1. How do I chose my colours?
  2. Do I have a theme or is the result random (in the old fashioned sense of the word)?
  3. Do I plan everything first?
  4. What colour thread do I use when there are multiple colours in the work, and what is my favourite thread?
  5. How do I iron multiple seams in a small or indeed a large quilt?


The basic block in this little scrap quilt is a completed 4″ square consisting  of seven rectangles which measure 2″ x 1″ finished, and two finished 1″ squares. One of the squares is red in every block, but the placements are varied within the blocks.

How do I choosing my colours? This, and the next two questions in the list above, are answered in this section.

Basically I am choosing “brights”, and patterned fabrics, intermingled with some plains. When I talk about “brights” in this sense, I mean that I am not using the “sludgy” colour palette.

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As you can see, I also have some finished size rectangles which measure 4″ x 2″, cut from a lovely “gull” fabric. When I saw this at Cowslip workshops a couple of years ago, I thought it was fun, and different enough to make a statement.

My only criterion for these gull units are that they are introduced fairly regularly.  I have cut 5″ squares and either cut them horizontally across the centre, or vertically down the centre, because I want to keep the rotation of the gulls the same throughout. Having the gulls looking “north, south east and west”, was far too busy when I tried it out. However, when the gulls were all in the same rotation it looked calm and pleasing.Introducing these units also had the effect of breaking up the regular 4″ block arrangements . I hadn’t really thought it through, or had anticipated or realised the effect it would have. Another reason why it is sometimes a very good idea not to have a set idea in your mind, because “serendipity ” might never occur!

In the photo maybe half a dozen of the blocks are sewn together, but most are just placed in position on the floor of my sewing room, which is why it looks haphazard and rather uneven in places. I am continually assessing the arrangements, and often changing them! Looking at the photo, I can see one or two placements again that I shall change!

Another way I have also changed my original thoughts; and why not….?                          I decided to cut more 2″ x 4″ units AND  some 2″ squares, but this time using some of the fabrics already in use. These two additions have been really useful, because they have been able to infill some gaps, and that has worked really well. They blend in because the same fabrics as are in the quilt already are being used. This still ensures that the gull fabric is still a feature.

The subtle change of scale within the work is a plus, adding more intrigue and interest. It also gives the eye somewhere to rest, other than on the gulls! I have long found it fascinating to try to work out if quilts have been designed with a “regular” block size. (It certainly aids with final construction). It is not always evident what the technique has invilved, and to me that is always an interesting feature! As long as the designer/maker is happy with their choices that is all that matters. 

What colour thread do I use when there are multiple colours in the work? 

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In the photograph to the right, I have laid a white thread, and a khaki coloured thread onto one of my fabrics.

I think you would agree that the white shows up more readily than the khaki. This is because the white is very light, and the khaki is a mid tone, which blends so much better. I always piece with mid tone threads, for this very reason. They almost never show in the piecing, even if seams are opened out to press.

My favourite piecing thread is Aurifil 100% cotton. Although the reels are now in the region of £8.80 per reel, it is important to read that there are 1300 metres on an Aurifil reel, which is very economical, and it is an excellent quality thread.

The cost of Gutterman 800 mtre cotton thread is now in the region of about £7.50 ish per reel. Again, it is undeniably a good quality thread, but not nearly as economical! We can all look around for a bargain,  and will always find prices a little lower. But overall I have always thought that Aurifil is always reliable and always very economical and for that reason it is my first choice.

How do I press seams when they are small and there are multiple colours?          There are many ideas for pressing seams, and I usually tend to press towards the darkest colour. However this isn’t always easy, for a range of reasons. In my scrap quilt I am using lots of different colours and tones, as well as lots of small pieces, so I am letting the fabrics show me which way the want to be pressed! I will explain what I mean! I am using different weights of fabric, all 100% cotton, but ranging from Liberty lawns which are very fine, to mid weight cottons, which are heavier and firmer.

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In the photo to the right, perhaps you can see that the right hand piece of fabric wants to lie totally flat. It is a slightly lighter weight than the green one. I iron from the right side of the two unit piece sliding the long side of the iron from the lighter fabric to the the turqoise one. N.B. The angle of my camera in this instance, has given a slightly distorted view of the pieced unit. Both pieces were cut accurately! The way that the

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turqoise fabric is lifting slightly at the seam, shows that the paler fabric is lying flat. The two photos above illustrate the same point, but shown from the reverse side where there are multiple pieces.  All of the smaller units, such as the two pieces sewn together first in the top row and the three pieces sewn together in the second row, etc,  had been pressed after this inital pieceing and before they were finally all stitched into the “finished block”. Here the mid tone thread is seen more clearly. It doesn’t make a statement it just blends in!

At this stage I wanted to see how the individual units wanted to lie naturally. Then I turned the whole block over to the right side, allowing the iron to glide across the seams, but checking all the time, that all was well underneath! You can see that the top horizontal seam in the block on the right, has a twist in the seam. I don’t mind that. There is very little bulk overall, and that is the way it naturally wanted to lie. When it lies on the “cushion” of the wadding layer, it will not be noticed at all.

You may also notice that there are pencilled template shapes on some of the pieces. This is because I have hand pieced occasionally and had prepared some units in advance. Then I have used them within a machine pieced block instead, which I pieced with my 1/4″ foot.

After pressing individual blocks I always re-measure, wanting a 4.5″ block at this stage, so sometimes the finest trimmings need to be made!                                                              This is the stage I am at, as I write. When I have finished piecing the workI will give another update!

Below is a very different scrap panel, which I constructed from another quilt maker’s scraps a couple two years ago. It is approximately 6″ x 13″.  As she was working, Susan was putting all her scraps into her waste bin. The amazing quilt that she was making was to depict the flowers which grow with the challenge of the Atlantic seas and the Cornish weather during one year. Some days later when the scraps were building up she suddenly thought of me!!

DSC01785 (2)She had seen them in a different light when she peered into her bin.            I, apparently, came into her mind! She knew that I really liked the challenge of working with tiny pieces. She also knew that I liked recycling too. I was thrilled to bits when the bag of bits arrived, with a covering letter. Her scrap size, and my scrap size are rather different, but then we do both work on a very different scale! SUsan’s quilts are large and amazing. The photo on the left is my finished result.

It is a tiny Log Cabin panel, with distorted little blocks, and some very tiny pieces. I chose to face the finished piece of work, rather than use a traditional binding and I hand quilted with hand dyed threads!

When I initially looked at the scraps as a group, contemplating how I might use them,  I decided to add one more fabric of my own. It is the red batik. The other scraps were some of the “left overs” from a fantastic quilt, which has been well exhibited, and is truly a masterpiece. I am thrilled that I  made a special little panel using the special fabrics sent to me. Using up fabric scraps gladdens my heart, as I know it does for many quilters.

You may remember that A couple of years ago I put out a tentative request via my newsletter for any spare fabrics which might be recycled by putting together yummy fabric packs for sale. I, along with Rosemary, a very good friend, spent some happy hours putting fabrics packs together which had been sent to me from quilters all over the country.  We made well over 100 with each pack having 1 metre equivalent of fabric scraps which I colour co ordinated. All those bags sold and I still have some of those fabrics stored ready for another blitz. I know I shall enjoy the stimulation of creating gorgeous combinations of colours all over again. They are brilliant charity fund raisers. 

To complete this post I have been preparing for the next bird panel I am looking forward to making. This time it is to be a goldfinch. Many goldfinches visit our garden bird feeders every day. They are such a bright splash of colour, and we love them.

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All the finch family seem to be fearless! When they perch to feed, they can sit for a long time, seemingly concentrating hard on the process in hand. Most of the other small garden birds, flit on and off the feeders, taking flight, (or is it fright), very easily so I have easily been able to study the typical colour distribution in the adult gold finch.

They all have the same basic markings, but each bird is unique. I have used two reference books and a photo taken through our kitchen window of a goldfinch and  I have enlarged and traced my chosen image. From this I shall make a card template to transfer that outline shape onto my background fabric.

I have also chosen my fabric palette, so with my resources to hand I am itching to get started! Hopefully there will be something to show before too long!

Until next time…

Happy Stitching!


Stitching News January 2020


Welcome to the January Stitching News and a special welcome to new readers  who have signed up recently.

In the Newsletter this month I am talking about:

  • Producing my own Christmas cards and labels
  • Editing my photos using the Windows 10 software. Really simple!
  • Printing  my photos for my Christmas cards and gift labels using the Windows 10 software
  • New ideas and experiments for my Eco printed leaves.
  • Christmas stitching project
  • Organising my Sewing room
  • The many uses of That Purple Thang!

A Very Happy New Year to you all. The start of a new decade for everyone, and an opportunity to make fresh decisions and plans for the future. I have been slowing down over the last couple of years, and have had time to reflect, and I intend to slow down a little more alongside increasing my personal exercise activity. It is so easy to get absorbed in things at home, but fresh air and regular walking is certainly going to be high on my agenda this year “Use it, or lose it” readily comes to mind!

I would like to sew more “for me” this year too. Is that selfish? No, I don’t think so!! It will certainly require using my time far more economically than I do now. Realistically that means reducing time on electronic devices! Something I am increasingly very aware of. Sometimes we do need to be kind and thoughtful to ourselves, and perhaps this year I will be a little more self indulgent! I hope to make it a fruitful year, and I don’t know about you, but I am a great “list” producer! When I make a plan for the day, I have a real sense of achievement when I can tick off the list of “to dos”. It is also a way of checking if I have aachieved something for myself, as well

Producing my own Christmas cards and labels: December was a hectic month, so I wasn’t able to get a newsletter out. Had I done so I would have shown you my Christmas card for 2019.

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It featured an appliqued robin with lots of hand stitch embellishment. The legs and beak are hand stitched using a “back stab stitch”. Not being an embroiderer, I am sorry to say I don’t know the correct name of the stitch, but it is an outlining stitch which I learned from Mandy Pattullo on a workshop day. It is a very useful stitch and I have used it many times since. Instead of making a normal back stitch, I actually pierce the last stitch instead of just putting the needle against the last stich.

Eight of the background rows of stitching, are machined; the only time I used my sewing machine in this project. These rows are interspersed with my hand dyed threads used in the hand quilting.

As always I created (A6) cards, as well as small square cards and gift labels too. Three sizes in total. I am frequently asked how I get the different sizes of photo, so I thought I would explain that here.

In December 2019 I posted two blogs;    https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2018/12/

If you scroll down to the second blog you will see the three different sized versions of last year’s cards. I use the windows 10 software. I do not have any fancy photo software.

First thing is to choose the image you want to use for the card. I always photograph my finished projects, and often the processes leading up to to completion too. These are downloaded from my camera card onto my laptop and the photos automatically go into “my pictures”.

I edit my chosen photo using the Windows 10 software. To access this software go into  your “pictures” gallery and double click on the photo of choice. Then just follow the options available. It is very straight forward. The photo below helps to clarify the text and explain the process. “Why edit?” I can hear you saying. It is often necessary to crop out imagery around the photo!


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Above is a photo of my laptop screen after I have double clicked on my chosen photo in preparation for editing it. (Apologies for the quality! It is almost impossible to get a clear image from the screen, being so close up to it!)

Look to the top right of the photo above where you can see “Edit and Create”. Click once on that and a new screen will appear with the photo image with a white frame around it. This allows you to crop the photo as you wish. Put the curser on one of the sides, and carefully manoeuvre it, making the required adjustment. Repeat as necessary on the three remaining sides. Above the  photograph there is also an “adjustment” optionwhen you have completed the cropping, it will slightly enlarge and subtly brighten it as well, which all helps to sharpen the image.

At the same time a new set of options appear to the left of the image with another set of options.  If you are already happy after cropping and “adjusting” click once on “save a copy”: one of the options available. Alternatively experiment with the various options. Your original photo is always in your picture gallery unchanged. Once saved exit the screen and return to your main picture gallery, and the saved version will appear with a (2) to indicate that it is a new version. You can, if you wish, continue making different versions which will appear as 3, 4 etc. For example, you may wish to isolate a small section of the original photo. So this is done in exactly the same way; double click on the original photo; single click on Edit and Create….and so on…

Printing your photos; Choose the relevant photo in your pictures gallery that you wish to print. Click once to highlight it then right click on the touch pad for a drop-down menu to appear. Click once on “print” which is near the top of the options and the print page appears on your screen with your chosen image. Below is a photograph of the screen at this stage. Apologies for the quality of the photo, as I have photographed my laptop screen again in order to get the image!


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At the right hand side of the page is a selection of sizes to print out. As you can see these are all shown visually. I use 4 to the “page” for my standard A6 cards; 9 to a page called “wallet” for my standard small cards, and 35 tiny photos called “contact” for my gift tags.you can see these at the side of the screen above.

Click on your chosen format, and at the bottom of the print screen you that you are requested to enter how many copies you want on page. It then asks if you want the images to fit the frame. Try out fitting the frame and also look at not filling the frame. The latter choice sometimes cuts off some of the detail of the photos. I find it also matters what shape your cards are; i.e. square or oblong. Experiment to get the result that you want. Nothing will print until you press PRINT at the bottom right of the screen, so you can make changes, as many times as you like! Do not print until you have placed photographic paper into your printer! A very easy mistake to make! Always remove any photographic paper not used, at the end of your session! allow sheets to dry for about an hour. Trim the photos individually. I use my Rotary cutting equipment to do the job! Then I use double-sided Sellotape to securely attach them to the front of blank cards.

Thess  processes can be done a little at a time;  in the 20 minutes waiting for the dinner to cook, for example. I will often sit with a tray on my knee in front of the TV, attaching photos to the cards;  it takes about 5 minutes to trim a sheet of 9 photos, so two or three sheets can be prepared in odd moments. I am always using my time, for projects like this, as economically as possible, and have done so for many years! It works well!

I belong to a small group  of different textile artists called Textiles Plus, and a few months ago one of the group produced a bundle of envelopes with an old embroidery transfer pattern in each envelope. We all chose one of the blank envelopes and were asked to use a tiny section of the transfer for a Christmas present swap. The patterns were really old fashioned and certainly “of an era”!

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My paper pattern had had a large area cut off and apart from a very straightforward border design and a group of what I thought may have been weird strawberries, I was left with a tiny very babyish bird, and very elementary flowers! What to do??

I had been quilting a really lovely scrap of fabric left over from a quilt I had made and it was looking at me from my sewing table as I pondered!  I also found a spare patchwork block, made from black, white and grey fabrics, (again, it came from the same quilt) and gradually an idea was beginning to form. I decided that the “bird” could become a little chick.

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So I made a template, and drew around this several times on the paper side of a piece of Bondaweb, then roughly cut the shapes out.

I wanted the chicks to have some interest so I turned over the patchwork block, and placed the Bondaweb shapes, “glue” side down onto the block in such a way that I hoped would create a nice use of fabric for each chick. When I was happy that each chick would have three different fabrics they were ironed in place. Then they were cut out accurately on the pencil line, and turned over, and placed onto the quilted panel.

N.B. I have used the reverse side of some of the block fabrics as the “right side” in the patchwork block. please also note that I have just used a small block, to illustrate y text here. The one I used for all four chicks had no useful area left to use as a demonstration piece for this article!


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I played around with the positioning of the chicks before removing the Bondaweb paper and ironing them in place. The sewing machine was only used to outline their shapes. This served to secure them in place, as well as sharpening their outline. I hand stitched all the marks on the chicks using very simple hand embroidery stitches; running stitch, French knots; Single fly stitch amd cross stitch.


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The  panel measures 7.5″ x 5″ and makes a spacious mug mat; (Mug and biscuit!)

As soon as I placed the images onto the quilted panel I liked the juxtaposition of the tiny chicks against the large scale of the leaves. It really made me smile! To me they appear to be tip-toeing through a forest!

Since my last blog in November, I have been experimenting more with my Eco printed leaves.

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I cut some of them out and painted one or more  coats of acrylic wax to a few, which I discovered made no difference at all on some but brought out a wonderful glow to others! I could not understand why, unless some of the prints ame from the back of the leaves, and others were prints of the front of the leaves!

The front and the back of leaves, give different quality prints,  apparently due to the different chemicals in them.

I also painted some with Koh I Nor dyes;  experimenting with three or four coats. It made a difference!

Then I experimented with machine stitching into the prints too, which I really liked.

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I started by stitching around the outside edge of the print which secured it to a background. This also made it easy to do the internal stitched detail.

I really like the subtle marks and colour that some of the background papers picked up during the steaming process. The end result of this leaf is very “leather like”, visually as well as the feel of it..

In my June 2018 newsletter I wrote about the method I use when I am Eco dyeing leaves



Very gradually I have been sorting out and organising my work room over the last few months. It had become unbelievably  untidy, and I found it so upsetting that I just didn’t want to go in there at all. So, it was obvious that I had to knuckle down and just do it, bit by bit!!

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I have had a gorgeous studio since we moved down to Cornwall, and I feel very privileged to have it all to myself, so it is important to me that I want to keep it organised. I am a great one for having several projects on the go at the same time. so it is effortless, in a way, to just let it all get out of hand!!

This is half of my space, looking totally different now! I have been through my teaching files ruthlessly. Several sit on a windowsill in the other half of the room, and I found that the sunshine has totally destroyed the plastic sleeves! What a mess! I have now invested in box files, and have no plastic sleeves at all but lists of the contents on the outsides of them. The process has been very cathartic as well as revealing lots of lost and/or forgotten items and I definitely feel back in control! Such a good feeling. I feel inspired to crack on once again!

Finally “That Purple Thang” is one of my favourite sewing tools, and has been for a very long time. IF you have one yourselves, Are you aware of its many uses?

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Recently Christine, (a great friend of many years, since we first met when we took our two boys to playgroup for the first time)  ordered herself a new one as she had lost hers recently!! She sent me an email with a video she had found which explains some of the uses that the Purple Thang can be used for. It has certainly enlightened me! It has far more uses than I had realised!! It has always been my “go to” tool for pushing out corners because of its blunted but pointed end. Click on the Youtube link to learn more:


Diary Dates

Shipton Quilters are holding their 14th Exhibition on Saturday April 4th 2020 (10 am- 5 pm) and Sunday April 5th (10 am – 4 pm),

Venue: Rendcomb College, Rendcomb, Cirencester GL7 7HA. Admission £4under 16’s, free. Parking free. Disabled access. There will be quilt displays, demonstrations, traders, sales table and more!. Refreshments are available.

Raffle is in aid of Maggie’s Medical Detection Dogs and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. They have made a beautiful quilt, which is first prize. For further information e-mail:


Thank you for reading, and Happy stitching until next time….