April Stitching News (2)

Good afternoon. Hopefully you are surviving the lock down and staying safe. Rob and I seem to have settled into a steady routine, and “time” has almost become inconsequential. Breakfast seems to get later and later, but I have often been up for three hours or even more hours by that time;  more often than not … sewing!

In this edition of Stitching news, I will be showing you;

  •  details and a link for a different pouch. You will know that I am very fond of making little zipped containers! I have many, and use them all at various times.

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This has a different assembly, still giving a lovely roomy shape.

More about this later!

 

 

 

  • An update on progress with the machine embroidery course.
  • A request from our 4 year old grandson!

But first a thought for the week! I read this quote one day recently, and it really resonated with me;  “You don’t stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things.”  The quote isn’t new to me, but perhaps it hasn’t been so stark in the past! It could also be thought of as a variation on the theme of “use it or lose it”! We are all having to make adjustments to our normal routines, and often use our time in a totally different way. Learning a new skill, or honing past skills are a couple of ways we stitchers’ are spending some hours these days.

A few months ago I was looking at different pouches, when I found this link:

http://terrabytefarm.com/wp/2012/01/04/boxed-pouch-tutorial/

I made one of the pouches very quickly, loved the shape and the ease and speed of making! It is an excellent tutorial. There are two versions, one short tutorial, and the other giving  fuller tuition for new students to patchwork, e,g, how to create the patchwork fabric for the main fabric. There is plenty of visual material, for those who like photos of stages, as well as text. For myself, I prefer to “finish” off raw seams with a binding. In the link tutorial the finishing of the seams is done by using a zigzag stitch over the raw edges. I  just prefer to make make the finish a little more professional. Another addition I made, was to include a tab at each end of the zip. It isn’t very easy to open the zip without a tab to hold which “anchors” the pouch while you are pulling on the zip.

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You can see the tabs in this photo, positioned at either end of the zip.

If you have looked at the tutorial, by clicking on the link, you can see that there are no tabs included.

You will also notice that I have also chosen to use the method of inserting the zip into the pouch, which I showed in the “soft bag tutorial that I taught in  recent post about zipped soft bags;

https://stitchingnews.wordpress.com/2020/03/01/stitching-news-march-2020-1/

So if you are interested in making this pouch, you can follow the initial stages of the soft zipped bag to start with, as from that post, in conjunction with this one! I have given the basics in the text below.

  1. Decide on the size you would like to work with, referring to my soft bag tutorial.  Cut a main fabric, wadding and a lining fabric, all the same size.
  2. I actually decided to quilt the three layers together for my black and white pouch. I pieced my main fabric with central strip and a strip from a second fabric either side of this. There are endless ways you can piece the fabric, or clearly you can just choose one fabric.
  3. Then prepare your zip in the same way as in the the soft bag tutorial. I have chosen to use this method, as opposed to the method in the link, because it offers another contrast fabric within the design of the pouch and it also increases the “roominess” a little too.
  4. Pull the zip pull into the centre,  as shown in the soft bag tutorial, and trim the ends of the zip, stitching across the ends of the zip exactly as shown.
  5. Sew the zip to the to the main panel as shown in the soft bag tutorial
  6. Make the two tabs.

I will illustrate the next stages now, as I did them on my black and white pouch.

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7. Essentially you now have a tube, with the right side of the fabric inside. My pouch is lined with pale blue fabric, which is what you see in the photo.

I have shown you one end of the “tube”. Next stage is to insert the folded end of one of the tabs inside the tube, so that the raw edges of the tab match the raw edges of the zip, and the zip teeth lie directly over the midline of the tab. Pin securely and repeat at the other end of the zip.

 

8. Before stitching anything, the next stage is to prepare to “box the corners”. The box creates the shape of the pouch, and  I decided I wanted to have a finished 2″ box. I therefore drew a 1″ square at both corners. The drawn square is always half the size of the required finished box. 

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Repeat this at the opposite end of the tube as well.

9. Cut away the corners on the drawn lines. Pin the layers together, near the corners to secure.

10. Next, notice in the photo, the line of stitching across the remaining short edge. This was stitched with a 1/4″ seam allowance, reinforced at each end of the seam. Repeat at the opposite edge of the zip. These lines of stitching seal the ends of the pouch and secures the tabs in place.

 

11. Measure the length of this stitched seam, and cut two pieces of fabric 1″ longer than this measurement and a generous 1″ wide. This will be the binding, (I used a very fine fabric, a Liberty Lawn fabric, to reduce bulk as much as possible, it worked really well). Centre the strip of fabric, right sides together on the zip side of the tube, matching raw edges. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance.   Turn the strip over and wrapping the ends carefully around the edges of the seam, fold the seam allowance under; pin, and hem on this side by hand. Repeat at the opposite end of the tube.

12. Carefully open out the corner, so that the seam you have just dealt with, is opposite the centre of the folded edge of the tube. it is a very short edge to bind. You will notice that as you “open” the corner, the folded edge will automatically be almost  opposite the end of the bound seam. Adjust, pin and carefully sew 1/4″ seam allowance. from the raw edges. Repeat on all 4 corners. Bind in the same way as the short edge. Photo below.

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As you can see, the boxed corners are exactly what gives this pouch its shape. I also feel that the very nature of the bound corners means that they are firmer, and that helps the pouch to keep such a great shape!

 

 

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In the  photo above, you can see that I have almost finished  hand embellishing the top of  this pouch. A little afterthought, that took quite a time to do, as it was awkward to do on the finished item! But it makes it very individual and pretty! Still have a few French knots to add.

I am currently working on another, because I do like the embroidered flowers. I am doing the embroidery this time,having just sewn one edge of the zip to the main quilted panel! This means it is flat and therefore much easier to do. I will only have one side to complete after assembly. I like the idea of the embroidery occasionally being worked into the zip unit,  though, hence not being able to complete the other half until it has been assembled into the tube!!

An update on the machine embroidery course.

Well the first thing is that I am loving it. I have completely finished the first Unit, and have had very positive and constructive feedback, with further possibilities for extension ideas of some of the techniques. Very exciting.

Here are a couple more of my samples from Unit one: This one based on my mark making, and we had to just use straight stitch, with the feed dog up.

The second sample below is one using plastic as a medium to stitch onto, and we had to free machine with straight stitch and the feed dog down. It was one of my favourite samples in this unit.

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I have received Unit two now, which looks very interesting, Colour is a feature of the initial design work,  and that follows through to the machine stitching techniques , of which there are four. More on this in the next newsletter!

Finally, My little grandson’s request, was for a Spiderman Cloak! I did a little research, and it was very clear that Spiderman didn’t actually wear a cloak! Relaying this to my son, he said “Doesn’t matter Mum, Joseph would be so excited to have one. Please can you put a spider’s web on the back!”

Took a bit of courage, and quite a lot of practising drawing one, before I dared “just go for it” on the material. Red was requested, and I did a pale blue lining!

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As one friend remarked: “You will never lose him in the park!” I don’t want to include him in the photos, but his daddy sent lovely photos to us when he received it. He looked like the cat that had eaten all the cream!! It was a joy to see!

If you ever want to refresh yourself about a technique, or a link, or particular post I have written on this site, but you just cannot remember what year or what month,  look on the right hand side of any Stitching News post, and there is a box headed “What are you looking for?” Enter one or two specific words relevant for your search in the box .Press enter, and a list of posts which have those words in, will appear. For instance, if you wanted to see the post about the Robin Christmas card I made, entering Robin and card would  do the job!

Happy sewing! Stay safe,

Di

 

 

 

 

 

April 2020 Stitching News (1)

A warm welcome to you all at the end of this Easter weekend. 

In this Stitching News post I shall discuss:

  • Problems with bedroom curtains!
  • Progress on my  machine embroidery course
  • Sharing recipes!

It has been the strangest of Easters living here in Mevagissey, such a beautiful Cornish coastal village. The weather has been amazing, but the streets and shops empty! Scenes which will have been echoed all over the UK. Hopefully we are now beginning to adapt to the social isolation we are having to live with and beginning to create new routines. 

We have been decorating, as are many other people it seems! Having finished the painting in our bedroom, I decided to wash the curtains before re-hanging them, just to finish the job properly! I washed them on a cool wash, but … they shrank!  Now, I am not normally someone prone to expletives, but I couldn’t stop myself as I realised that what was just going to be “the finishing touch” was suddenly looming as a major repair job!

I decided to “sleep on it”. Come the morning I had the solution! I was going to make a patchwork border to hide the evidence!

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I woke early and started gathering  a selection of fabrics which I felt would be sympathetic to the blue stripes in the curtains.

The majority of these came from a jelly roll I had bought for another purpose, a few years ago. There were still plenty left. A few hand dyed fabrics increased the palette and introduced some “plains”. Most of the fabrics are cotton with a couple of hand dyed linens.

My mother was always saying to me: “measure twice, and cut once” so after checking measurements several times, I cut 5-6 strips from each fabric. These measured 7.5″ long, and between 2 1/4″” and 4″ wide. The measurement along the bottom of each curtain was 80″ but I also needed the border to wrap around the sides of each curtain, so I added another 6″ to give a final total of 86″. I had to make a border for each curtain, of course!

It took me just over two days to complete the task in between other chores, but I am pleased with the end result. It saved the day!

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In between the decorating, and the gardening and of course the “normal” routines of daily living, I have also been working on my distance learning machine embroidery course. It is such a positive feeling to have a structure and purpose to my days ahead.  I can work at my pace whenever time permits. I have been an early riser for decades, especially after the clocks change for summer time, and before breakfast is often the most productive time of day, for me! Every time I repeat an exercise there is always something new to learn. There are infinite ways to do most tasks, which is why it is always stimulating and interesting.

I have been through more exercises in this first Unit, but I had also put one on the back burner; the collage to be created from some of my mark making papers. A landscape was a possible option suggested in the text, and I had found one quite early on, but in my heart I knew that my procrastination was due to the fact that it didn’t inspire me at all! So I began trawling through photos I had taken this year and found one of a pheasant who has been visiting us regularly, every day, for many months. I took it in February. I seem to be “homing in” on birds recently, and this photo certainly attracted me. At last I felt some enthusiasm, and knew I could get on with the exercise now!

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On the left is my original photo, copied in black and white. I have highlighted the shape of the pheasant in a 0.1 fine black drawing pen, just to give him a bit more clarity.

His actual colouring is not traditional. There are many variations down here, and this one is particularly silvery grey on his back. He struck a very elegant pose as I clicked away!

I also particularly liked the ceramic pot behind him. It was a welcome change of scale to all the small detail in the photo. The pheasant is walking across a pebbled area around our patio and pond. I knew that this surface would probably be labour intensive to collage and I wasn’t wrong! Looking for suitable papers, I turned some of mine over to the back, where I found many of the sort of marks I needed, for example the way the ink that I had painted onto the paper had seeped through to the back leaving pale tiny spots in patches, which were just perfect! I had also painted some bleach onto the inked side of the paper when it was dry, and although I was disappointed with the results on the front, but the way the bleach had also come through to the back, was just perfect for what I needed now!

The moral of this story, is “always try to look for a positive, or to put it another way “something that makes you think that perhaps it might be useful at sometime”. Save everything, throw nothing away! As I had written notes on everything I did, I was also pleased that if I needed to repeat the effects I knew how to start!

Another instruction was to tear the papers for the collage, where possible, so by far the majority of my collage has been created with torn papers. Very occasionally I have used a sharp cut shape where appropriate! Below is a photograph of my end result.

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The collage did not have to be precisely identical to the chosen source photograph so there was room for manoeuvre, and indeed, whenever a collage is created, it becomes our individual interpretation and, therefore unique!

Because of the similar tones of the bird against the background of pebbles, I decided again to highlight the outline to give the pheasant “more substance” within the context of the collage.

 

 

He was the last piece of the jigsaw, so to speak, so I mounted the finished bird onto black paper and cut the outline leaving a minuscule black border. I know that the legs and feet have turned out too clumpy, but if I were to produce this in fabric, that would then be easily adjusted. Did I enjoy it? Yes, it really refreshed the process of creating a collage, and particularly the importance of the order of work.

Finally I decided to end this post with something that is not stitching related at all, but is a welcome “refreshment” when sewing!

Shortbread biscuits! I have home baked since my teens when every weekend I used to help my mother with baking for our family of five! I love it, and I know that many of you have eaten my ginger oaty biscuits, a favourite recipe that I have baked numerous times, including for all our customers when we had “Patches”; the number of baking sessions is certainly into four figures! However, I had never been successful with shortbread biscuits, that is until my dear friend Rosemary gave me one of hers one day when I visited her, and I LOVED it. The recipe never fails, and is very straightforward!

I am taking the liberty of sharing it with you, I know she would be tickled pink as we are both very happy to share our recipes. Whether this was handed down by a family member, or was one she found from a different source, I have no idea. Be warned, this gives a good yield! But they never last long enough!

Ingredients;  250 gm of butter. 1 cup of sieved icing sugar.  2 1/4 cups of plain flour.  1/2                           cup of cornflour.

Method;     Beat the sugar and the softened butter until creamy. Mix the plain flour and cornflour well and add to the creamed butter and sugar. Knead well until the mixture is well combined. Roll into two “fat sausages”, wrap them in cling film or an alternative and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Slice into biscuits approximately ¼” thick. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 170 degrees C,  on lined baking trays.  I check after about 13 minutes, they usually need another couple of minutes! They should be golden brown.

They are so simple. I mix everything in my old Kenwood mixer, using the K beater. When the flour is added, I keep the Kenwood working until everything is really well “kneaded” so that minimal hand kneading is then required.

For myself and Rob I usually add 3 chopped stem ginger balls, and a good teaspoonful of the syrup from the jar. I add this after creaming the butter and icing sugar.  If you like ginger flavoured biscuits, this addition is delightful. Another variation is to add lemon essence, or the grated zest of half a lemon and a couple of teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Both of these make for excellent variations. It is also a great base for …….

Millionaires shortbread (A real treat).  Make the shortbread recipe, and roll it out on a floured surface, and press it into an oblong tin measuring 12″ x 9″  (35 cm x 23 cm),  bake. To make the caramel layer, heat the contents of a 397 gram can of condensed milk, 100 gm of butter and 100 gm of soft brown sugar carefully in a saucepan, stirring continuously until it comes to the boil. Still stirring continuously allow the mixture to simmer until it begins to thicken. I just use my instinct to estimate when to pour it over the shortbread! Spread  it evenly. Then melt 50 gm of butter and 200 gm broken chocolate. (I buy Tesco’s or other supermarket home brand of chocolate…about (£1 – £1.50 per 200 gm bar). For me it tastes far better than “dedicated cake chocolate”) When it has all melted together pour over the caramel on the shortbread, and help it with a knife or spatula to the edges, and corners.

This is a great treat, as you will gather from reading the ingredients! It freezes well, and is therefore not too big a temptation when not in sight!.

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The photo on the right is of part of a batch made yesterday, Easter Monday, which I cut into 32 pieces. It is rich, so a little goes a long way.

 

 

 

I put it into the fridge, so that the chocolate begins to harden before cutting it into pieces.  If the chocolate goes very hard, it shatters when cut!

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The photo on the right shows shows that the biscuits have some depth using this recipe with the quantities of ingredients given and baked in the size of the tray bake tin that I use.

Occasionally we really need a treat these days!

Happy stitching and creativity, until next time!

Stay safe, and well.

Di