March Stitching News 2020 (3)

What would we do without the Internet!  With the enforced restrictions that we are now having to adjust to, I am certainly relying on the internet for keeping in touch with friends and family more than ever! So often we have decried the intrusion in our lives and have made determined efforts to limit the time we are on it But, to be fair in the circumstances we now find ourselves in, I am sure it is a life saver for many people. Personally I don’t use Facebook, but I do post on Instagram. With a couple of exceptions I just follow the wonderful creating stitching community,  and it is a joy to keep up with the lovely creative work that is posted.

Welcome to this month’s newsletter the contents of which are;

  • Birthday card
  • Seaweed printing
  • decorating
  • Distance Learning course Machine Embroidery

This week it was a dear elderly friend’s birthday. She is an avid stitcher, and constantly interested in “stretching her brain”.

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So, I made her a birthday card, with a decidedly contemporary style. I knew she would be intrigued, so I also included the method inside explaining  how I approached the finished result”

Below is a closeup photograph and an explanation.




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There are three layers to the worked surface; dressmakers tissue on top, with newsprint underneath, and finally a layer of fine iron-on Vilene to protect the upper layers from perforation and tearing when I was stitching.

The piece of news print was one of my layers underneath the tissue, protecting the table as I painted the swirls. It was just one section of the paper, and had several marks layered up on it!! As you can see I have machine stitched the outlines of the swirls with bright red thread, everything else is hand stitched. The long very thin lines are stitched within the “spaces” of the newsprint lines, or actually on top of some of the printed straight lines which were sectioning off an item.
I like the hand stitching down the centre of the swirls where I have used a hand dyed thread. A lady deserves flowers on her birthday, so that is the reason for the double daisies! A few french knots just finished it off.

Rob my husband was taking part in an annual seaweed survey earlier in the month.

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So, I just had to have a go at eco printing it.

Janine, my friend in Abu Dhabi, was so excited when she told me how she had got some good results from pressing seaweed between paper, which had only been sprayed with white vinegar. Weights were put on  the parcels in order to try to maintain an even pressure and contact with the paper. She decided not to steam them (the normal way of obtaining eco prints) I just had to have a go. I was very impressed, with my results. She recommended that they were left to dry naturally, and I left mine in our conservatory, for about 4 days.

Since I separated them they have sat in the glorious sunshine we are enjoying, and the prints have gradually got stronger. One can only presume that the salt is a factor in this process.

Two weeks ago, when suddenly everything in my diary had been wiped out within about three days, I began to feel rather “directionless!” I knew I needed an injection of fresh energy and a more structured week than what seemed to be looming ahead. So I decided to become a “student” again and booked onto a Distance Learning Design and Machine Embroidery Course with Anne Griffiths.

Anne Griffths, Contemporary Textile Art :

Anne and I were colleagues when we both taught in further education  in Cheltenham, and have remained very good friends ever since.

It has done the job!! I am feeling a different person. Now I have a structure to my days and weeks. Strangely it has also given me fresh incentive within everything else I suddenly have space and time to do! I am enjoying more experimenting with cooking/baking. My husband and I have put some structured time table in for small bouts of gardening regularly in the week, as well. I have a sudden urge to spring clean, and we are even decorating as well. After all we are not going to have visitors or even drop in callers, so what does it matter if some of our space is totally upside down for several days!

I am also enjoying the space and quiet and calm as we have our daily walks around the harbour.

I had my preparatory chat with Anne, when I rang to discuss it all. It is not easy teaching another tutor, albeit one who’s discipline is different, so I do understand her apprehension.

It is reciprocal! What will be expected of me! I am rusty now, very rusty, which is why I decided to learn new skills during this period of forced containment..

I assured her that I wanted to be treated exactly as any other student. to be given advice; sorted out when I “just don’t get it!” I know absolutely nothing about machine embroidery! Yes…I clearly know how to drop the feed dog on my machine, and free machine stitch, but I would say that is the limit that I have ever needed to do. This is marketed as a one year Course with 6 Units.

So I was sent the Introductory Unit, and Unit 1. I must say, they are very well written; clear, concise, with plenty of suggestions and advice, and photos of some work, along the way. Lastly it is very easy to follow. A brilliant start! She recommended that I let her know how long I would like to working on the first Unit, and I decided on one month. With everything else I am packing into a day, I felt that was about right.

This first Unit is divided into three sections with two or three exercises in each section.

It is the “old” one year C&G Course, which was one of the courses she taught in College, and therefore also covers the design element on which samples etc may be based. She has no affiliation with C&G now, so she is unable to offer the certificate…….that does not change the course! It is suggested at this stage we just work in neutral colours; whites and  blacks and see what else develops.

I have been working through some mark making exercises…. preparing a selection of marks on different papers using different mediums. Then doing similar ones on a range of fabrics. Anne gives a suggested list of mark making implements, as well as different media to use.

Below are two photographs of mine; the first are marks made on paper, and in the second photo I have been making marks on fabrics.

Anne give lots of ideas, to get you going, and as I have always said in the past; “it’s the doing, which brings more ideas into your head. Ideas don’t just leap in, especially when you are a novice, but while you are experimenting you gradually begin to think; “I wonder what would happen if I did “so and so”…..the answer is, just try it.

Anne says “nothing is wrong”. What you work through are your own personal ideas. If one student interprets the text in one way, and another interprets it in a completely different way, that is absolutely fine too. It is the individual student’s own way of working that produces innovative and fresh ideas, as well as developing her own style.

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I am enjoying myself! I have almost finished the first of the 3 sections, in Unit 1, and have started the second, and have got on well with that. I wanted to give myself time to reflect on what I have done so far, so beginning the next section has been a nice break and change.

The last section is all about stitching! Can’t wait to get on with that!

I have a great structure to my days and weeks ahead now, and something interesting,  and challenging to get my teeth into. I shall have a completely new set of skills at the end. What could be better!

Stay safe, and try to make the most of every day. Very best wishes to you all for remaining virus- free or for the strength to fight the virus, if it does affect you.

Happy stitching, until next time.



March Stitching News 2020(2)

Welcome to this March blog,in which I am discussing:

  • My new little Eco printed book ; work in progress.
  • Easter raffle prize finished!
  • Mermaids’ Purses

My fascination with Eco mark making and stitch continues! I am in the process of making another little folded book using some of my papers which I printed last autumn.

This book will be smaller than my last one, but I shall still have a good number of surfaces to display my little stitched prints. I am using a heavy water colour paper again as the main “carrier”. I have concertina folded the strip, so that I have two valley folds. Into each of the valley folds I shall stitch a single fold paper. The pages will turn really easily, and the book can be displayed either flat, or stood up.

The following three “pages” give a glimpse of  how the contents will gradually develop. The first photo will be on the front cover. The second will be attached inside. I haven’t decided on the definite position yet! The third photo is the inner aspect of the single fold insert in one of the valley folds. Before I stitch it into the valley fold, I shall stitch and prepare two prints to place on the outer sides of this insert. It is so much easier to stitch a completed unit into the valley fold!

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I don’t make a plan of how I would like to stitch into the pages, but as I work into each, the ideas evolve. When stitching into paper there is often “no going back!” I have learned from experience always to make the stitch holes from the front with my needle, so that when the needle has travelled through to the back, I am not guessing where to push it back up again! Making the holes first, I can see exactly where the needle has to return.

I have used contrast threads, in colour and in weight, echoing some of the printed lines in this page. The finished sizes of these pages are 3.5″ long by 2.5″ wide.


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This print is interesting because the string that tied the package of papers together has also made its mark. The black colour on the string prints has come about due to the iron content of the old weighing scale weights I use to increase the contact process during the printing process. 

This particular page was clearly at the top of the pile of papers, just underneath the string, to have given such clear markings!




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On the left of the double fold above, I have cut out the leaf of one of my prints, painted it and acrylic waxed it, all of which has given a very leather-like quality. Then I machine stitched it in place onto a specifically chosen backing paper. If you enlarge the photo on your device, you will see the machine stitch all around the perimeter. Hand stitched lines echo or emphasise line and space. To the Eco print on the right I have added stitch to some of the spaces on the leaf and have just emphasised additional lines which were created by the steaming process.

It is such a therapeutic way of working as it is slow and methodical! Lots of time to think about the next stitch.

Last week, my husband and I, plus our good friend Anne, went beach combing looking for  “mermaids’ purses”. I knew nothing about them before this activity. For those who are equally unaware,  they are are egg cases of rays, skate and sharks.  When these “purses” are found they are mostly dry and are very hard. If they are newly deposited on the beach, and therefore still wet, they are more flexible. Most of the ones we found were very dry and hard. However, if you leave then to soak in a bowl of water they soften up considerably! They can often be found at the top of the beach, where the wind has blown them, although last week the majority of the ones we found were actually entangled in bunches of seaweed.

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My husband was wanting to collect the mermaids’ purses for a specific purpose, and Anne was keen to scour the beaches for any and all interesting finds!

Soon, during the school Easter holiday, our local Marine Conservation Group is organising a session for children to  learn all about these special little egg cases and they will be searching one of the local beaches for them. (We purposely didn’t search that particular beach, so hopefully some may be found). They are not so easy to discover around our part of the Cornish coast, and indeed we spent many hours looking for our catch! Not wanting the children to go home disappointed, there will now be a collection ready for them if there are non to be found on the day!  I am seriously thinking of trying to add stitch to one, and “decorating” it, in the way that a tiny “purse” may be embellished! Time will tell. It isn’t my priority at the moment, but you can be sure that if I do achieve anything I will show you!

I have been completing my “Easter raffle prize” which our quilt group committee prepare for at Easter. I know I have mentioned it in the past, but not sure if I have actually photographed it before!

Below is the front of the pouch. I pieced the background first, prepared and applied the chicks, then hand stitched the top section.

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Below is the back which I am just about to Quilt. The lovely little bone tool which I have used as a “Hera marker” to mark my quilting lines, is just beautiful. Given to me by lovely Anne who stayed with us recently while she was teaching up at Bodrugan, it could also be used as a page creaser/bone folder or a letter opener, but it is unique as a Hera Marker! We were exploring the riverside town of Lostwithiel on Anne’s day off, and this was one of three purchases Anne made in the very interesting selection of antique shops there. The carved detail is so pretty? It is also very effective, as a hera marker as you can see below! Thank you, again, Anne

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We had a fabulous day, and came back refreshed, and inspired. Below is the finished pouch!

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I wrote about sewing a zip and lining in together in the February 2018 Blog:

Dates for your Diary:  

Firstly, please note that here is an important change to a diary date I posted back in January:

After much deliberation Shipton Quilters are postponing their quilt exhibition on 4th and 5th April 2020 at Rendcomb College, Cirencester.  It has now been rescheduled for next year on the 17th and 18th April. A reminder will be posted at the beginning of January 2021.

  • 29th – 31st May.  Bristol Quilters Quiltfest 2020    Open 10-5 (Sunday 10-4)  Venue: Redmaids High School. Westbury Rd, Bristol BS9 3AW Admission £2 Free car parking on site. Served by No 1 bus. Full details at   Please check on Bristol Quilters website for updates before travelling to the exhibition.

Currently we are all in a very worrying and unsettled period, with the fast-moving changes due to the corona virus illness. We must all be as careful and thoughtful within our communities, respecting and supporting people who are less fortunate than ourselves.  Keep safe, and well, and perhaps with the advice increasingly to stay put and not travel we shall have the unexpected opportunity to sew more!

Happy stitching, until next time.











Stitching News March 2020 (1)


  • Today I have included a great sewing tip for use in dressmaking, although it could well be adapted for other stitched projects!
  • The soft zip bag project; requirements and method, illustrated throughout with photos to illustrate the text.

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  • A brief look at my gold finch which I had started preparing a couple of weeks ago.


Having said in my last blog that I was going to write shorter newsletters, this one is quite long, as the bulk of it is given over to the project mentioned above. I have written detailed instructions for this, with photographic steps to make it as clear as possible.

However, I would like to start with a fantastic tip that my lovely friend Rosemary gave me the other day. We were discussing dressmaking and she was wearing a delightful skirt she had made recently.

DSC01789 (2)She had bought a remnant of a beautiful mustard coloured fabric which had virtually nothing to spare to make a traditional hem. So, she told me that she had used a technique that that was not dependent on having a good hem seam allowance! Apparently it works particularly well, as well, with a garment which is made from a heavier material. It also means that the final hem is really flat and minus any bulk. In the photo (above and right) Rosemary has turned the hem over to the wrong side and you can see lace in situ. The  lace is the “magic ingredient”!

She pressed the tiniest of seam allowances to the wrong side of the skirt, (that being all the fabric that was available) and had secured it in place by machine stitching a strip of lace as close to the folded skirt hem as possible, using a very good colour matching thread  to the main skirt material in the bobbin. The opposite edge of the lace was then caught down by hand with a tiny hem stitch. The photo below shows the right side of the skirt, with a beautiful flat hem line. Magic! I was so impressed, and I know I shall try this out myself! It is obviously akin to using a bias binding, but the lace has no folded edges, which is why it lies so flat.

I shall look for lace remnants in shops now. They are often labelled with their length and there are often many bargains to be had!!

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In the last newsletter I promised to give you my tutorial for the little soft zipped bag I am keeping my travel Eco mug in.  I saw these many years ago in a book called; “A Passion For Patchwork” by Lise Bergene. They appealed to me because they looked roomy, having depth as well as height! When I read about them, I was also intrigued by the method of inserting a zip as well as the construction of the pouch. Both are really easy to get to grips with. I have adapted the technique a little as I have gone along, as little changes I have tried have worked well for me! This is a perfect little project for a wet, stormy day!

Soft Zipped Bags   Please read the instructions carefully as you start each section.

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To me “a bag” suggests that it has a strap, so maybe a better description might be a soft zipped pouch.  Basically, as you make the item, you will see that you are making a “roll”, or “tube” from a quilted sandwich. The way the ends of the “tube” are folded, gives the bag/pouch its shape! The photo above shows a selection of some that I currently have in use! They are perfect for taking away on holiday to keep a range of items temporarily:  jewellery; cables for charging electronic devices; medication; sewing threads and kit etc, Eco Mug!

The blue one on the right hand side of the photo above was the very first one I made and I thought I would take a short cut, and leave the tabs off at each end. Big mistake!! The tabs are needed to hold onto the pouch when you are opening and closing the zip! 

Never mind! I have used it as a spare pencil case to house items that I don’t use on a very regular basis, e.g. “tippex”; craft knives and spare blades; my hinged spray diffuser etc.


Below are 3 suggested sizes, with additional requirements. N.B. The zips are a minimum of 2″ longer than the width of the pouches.  I  actually prefer even longer than this extra allowance. You will be able to read and see why this helps in the method section.

  1. Main fabric 11” wide x 11½” long. Wadding and lining very slightly bigger. (plaid version). zip  either 13″ or 14″ long.
  2. Main fabric 9½” square.  Wadding and lining very slightly bigger.  (stripe version) zip 12″ long
  3. Main fabric 6½” wide x 8½” long.  Wadding and lining very slightly bigger. ((small pink and grey version, and small blue version) zip 9″ long.

(You can piece the main fabric, if you like, or it can be one fabric. Applique doesn’t really work on this technique.)

  • You also need 2 strips of fabric, 2″ wide. These will be pressed in half length-ways then sewn to either side of the zip.  They may be a contrast to  the main fabric, or be the same; the choice is yours!  The 2″ width measurement of the strip is standard for whatever size of pouch you make. However the length of the 2″  strip will equal the width of the pouch you choose to make. Thus the strips would measure 2″ wide by 11.5″  if you are making for the first size pouch in the list above!
  • For the “tabs” at either end of the bag/pouch you will need two strips of fabric           2” wide  x 2.5” long.
  • For neatening two internal seams you will need a small piece of your lining material; 1.25″ wide by approximately 4″. You will have to measure your finished seam for true measurement of length.
  • Machine threads to match fabrics, rotary cutting equipment, sewing machine, and hand sewing equipment.

In the photograph below you can see that I have a main fabric with the wadding underneath it; then below that, the right side of the lining fabric is shown. On top of these is a zip and the two strips of fabric which have been pressed in half, wrong sides together!  (Apologies, I forgot to add the tab strips to the photo at this stage!) For the purposes of this sample I have cut the main fabric, 10″ square. I am using a 14″ zip.

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Cut out the top fabric. As you can see I just have a straightforward piece of fabric for this sample! Layer it with the wadding only, at this stage and quilt as desired.

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I tend to quilt in straight lines, as very little of the quilting ultimately shows! As you can see above, I have used a coloured thread to match the zip!

  • After quilting, trim so that it is an accurate square/rectangle. Now trim the lining fabric to the same size as the quilted piece. Place the wrong side of the lining to the wrong side of the quilted panel, and pin or secure in several places. I have used hem clips around the edges to stabilise the layers.

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When secure, machine tack all the layers together using a large stitch, within the seam allowance, around the four sides. Remove pins or hem clips as you stitch, and pivot at the corners.

Change the stitch length on the machine back to your normal stitch size.




  • Prepare the zip strip.  Fold the 2″ wide strips in half length-ways and press. Place the folded edge up to the zip teeth, and pin securely. N.B. I am using my 1/4 inch foot to sew my zip to the strip, as shown below. This technique is one that I devised myself, and it suits me and my machine. I never seem to be able to get a good result using my zipper foot!

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The left hand prong of the 1/4″ foot sits on top of the zip teeth and I use my stitch ripper as a slim extra “hand” to keep the fold of the material close to the edge of the zip. You can see that my stitch line is going to be close to the zip. (I have never had the fabric get caught in the zip.)

If you prefer to use your own method, and by all means go ahead.

By using a longer zip you are able to place the zip pull, out of the way and thus avoid having to stitch around it! Hence you can keep a straight stitch line. (Later you will trim off the excess zip!)


Next, do another row of stitching approximately 1/4” away from the first stitch line, as shown below. Personally I just feel that this gives a professional finish to the end result.

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In the photo to the left, I have completed the second line of stitching, but for the purposes of demonstration I have placed the fabric strip back under the needle so that you are able to see the position of the 1/4″ foot. This time instead of the left prong of the foot riding on top of the teeth, it lies close to the edge of the teeth.






  • Turn the fabric strip, with attached half of the zip, 180 degrees and repeat the above two stages with the second folded fabric strip….placing the folded edge close to the edge of the zipper teeth…. follow the instructions above.

IMPORTANT;  After the second folded strip is sewn in place bring the zip pull within the centre of the zip panel as shown below.

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Then stitch across both ends of the zip. I did another stitch line inside that first row, later on, as I felt I had stitched just a little too close to the edge! NOTICE  how this little stitch line only goes across the width of the actual zip, NOT across the entire width of the folded strips of fabric.

  •  Flip the zip panel over so that it is right sides together with the top edge of the quilted panel. Secure in place with clips or pins . Then stitch in place with 1/4″ seam allowance. Notice how it is the bottom layer ONLY of the folded strip that is going to be stitched. The hem clips are holding it in place and the (now) top layer of the strip is held out of the way at this stage! (Photo below)

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Stitching is in progress.

Neaten off the threads, then turn the top layer of the folded strip over to the wrong side of the quilted sandwich, and hand hem it in place, (photo below).





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  • Repeat these processes on the opposite edge, i.e. fold the quilted panel “loosely” in half, right sides touching each other, match the other side of the zip panel to the other edge of the quilted panel in the same way.  (I opened the zip more to make it easier to hem the second edge). When the zip is finally all stitched in place, and hemmed to the wrong side, you will have an open ended “tube” with the main fabric inside!
  • Trim the zip to match the raw ends of the tube now.
  • Make two tabs. Cut two pieces of fabric 2” wide  x 2.5” long. Fold the two long edges in a 1/4”. Press. Leave the short edges. Top stitch along the two outer edges of both tabs.  then fold in half across the width. Tabs complete.
  • Turn the tube to the right side, and place the tabs over the ends of the zip as shown in photo below. Pin in position. Move the under layer of the tube just out of the way to avoid it getting caught in the stitching. Stitch the tabs in position across their width only.  Turn the tube inside out again.

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  • Flatten the end of the tube, ensuring that the wrong side of the zip is centrally placed on top of the “tube”. Place a pin as a marker in the fold at each corner. Bring the pin almost up to the centre of the zip, creating a pleat. Pin in position. Repeat the action the opposite side of the zip, at the same end. Check that both pleats are equal sizes either side of the zip.

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  • Stitch across the end, from one side of the edge, to the opposite side, so that all of the pleated edges are caught securely. See photos below
  • Measure the length of this stitched seam, and cut two pieces of fabric 1″ longer and a generous 1, 1/8″ wide, from the lining fabric.  Stitch this in place, with right sides together on the zip side of the item, matching raw edges.

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  • Turn over and, wrapping the ends carefully fold the seam allowance under, pin, and hem by hand. Repeat at the other end of the tube. Put your fingers inside the tube and pull the zip tag along to the end. Turn the pouch through to the right side, and manipulate into shape.

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I hope you have enjoyed the process. once you have made one, others will take much less time.

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Finally, I have made a start on my goldfinch. I am  enjoying the process  and am currently working out how I might do the white flashes in the wing and tail feathers! I think it will have to be with stitch….but there again, maybe some tiny white patches!

I have lots of stitching to do on the body and head yet, but it is lovely “thinking time”. There is no hurry whatsoever.


I am thinking that a thistle might be making an appearance somewhere on the panel, too!