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!







5 thoughts on “Stitching News March 2020 (1)

    1. Hi Gill, Many thanks for your comment. The goldfinch will look very different, hopefully by the next blog. I have a great deal of stitching to do yet! Next week I will bring the robin, goldfinch and heron that I have done (as long as I remember!) then you can see them in the raw, so to speak!


    2. Hi Gill, Many thanks for your comment. By the next blog I hope the finch will be looking quite different. There is a huge amount of hand stitching to do yet, and of course the feet! I will get there! Take care,
      Di xx


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