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!







Stitching News February 2020 (1)

This year I would like to think that I might be able to post a newsletter more often, but make it shorter in length. A lot of time is involved in writing posts which have a lot of content, so I am going to try out “little and a little more often” and see how it goes!

In this one I am including:

  • Slow stitching…hexagons for tunic trim.
  • Travel cup and sandwich wrap ideas

For several weeks  I have needed hand stitching projects on hand, that need little concentration! I have had to travel rather a lot. Indeed, I am “on the road” and away from home for two or three nights every week at the moment and I do find it difficult not to take some sewing away with me. Contemplative stitching rests the mind, body and soul. It is precious time, and extremely therapeutic requiring very little concentration for experienced fingers! When you are immersed in it, time just disappears. The action of the calm rhythmical stitching; the simple project, and beautifully soft prints, become almost mesmerising,

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Two weeks ago when I was home and able to go to one of the quilting groups I belong to, two or three of us were having a conversation about stitching hexagons. Some time ago the group purchased three different sizes of hexagon punch, to cut the hexagon shapes for paper piecing.  We went to find them, and “lo and behold” there was a half inch one. My mind sprung into action immediately!

I have a couple of different stretch denim tunics, and for several weeks I have been chewing over ideas for a tiny colourful trim around the bottom of one of them. As soon as I saw the 1/2″ hexagon cutter, I put my name in the book. paid my very modest fee of 30 p to borrow it for two weeks. I knew exactly what I wanted to do couldn’t wait to get started.

The punch I used was a “Fiskars squeeze hexagon punch”, specifically for cutting paper hexagons for English paper piecing. There are three different sizes for hexagons.  It is easy to use, very accurate, and takes a fraction of the time that drawing around a template then cutting all the drawn shapes out takes. In a word; magical!

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I have a lovely variety of Liberty lawn prints, which have increased over the years thanks particularly to one very generous good friend. I use them in small applique items such as brooches and cushions and they work particularly well in Kantha projects, with soft edge applique.  I save all my tiny scraps, many of which came into play here.

This project was ideal to take away with me. With the papers cut very accurately, I just had to iron a selection of scraps before I left home, pack a hand sewing kit and threads and I was prepared for hand stitching when the opportunity arises.

I began by preparing about 30 tacked hexagons and laid them out in a straight line on the table. This enabled me to distribute fabric, colour and tones fairly evenly between the group. One or two of them I actually removed, as they didn’t seem to work with the others! I used a medium to dark tone navy thread to stitch them together, and the same colour thread to applique them onto the tunic. When a row was stitched together, I ironed them with the papers inside to give a sharp creased edge and then removed the tacking stitches and the papers, except for the two at either end of the row. This was so that it would be easy to carry on adding more hexagons in the next section of the row. With the paper still inserted (I was actually using very thin card) there remained a sharp edge to stitch the next hexagon to.  A soft, floppy edge is not as easy to handle. This project was finished relatively quickly, and was just perfect.

A couple of years ago I made several sandwich wraps. They make great gifts. You could probably find a method of making them on Pinterest. Probably lots of choice and various methods of closure, too. You may even find instructions.

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Rob and I had been given a commercial one each as presents, several years ago, so I also had a sample. However, I discovered how inaccurate it was when I came to measure it! It was not well made at all.  It also had a cheap clear plastic lining and Velcro as a fastener and I have to say I am not a great fan of Velcro.

Having “found” Kam Snaps a couple of years ago, I decided to use these as fasteners and was delighted at the way they speeded up the process, as well as providing a professional finish to the project.

The photo above shows the sandwich wrap I made for myself on the left, and I also made a little wrap for a fruit knife. I am fond of apples, but cannot bite into an apple so I have to cut them up.  I use both of these items very regularly.

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N.B. I suggest that you read everything carefully if you are thinking of making one and make a sample out of two pieces of old fabric first. You will learn a lot, which will be invaluable. It also give you an opportunity to work out where to place your fasteners and what method you might choose to use.

  1. My method for preparing the main squares. Cut two 13″ squares of fabric for the sandwich wrap. One of the fabrics should be 100% cotton and the other a laminated cotton, thus “wipe-clean”. Turn the fabrics over to the wrong side. Make a mark either side of the corner exactly 1.75″ distance from the corner. Draw a line between these two points and cut on the line, removing the corner. Repeat at each corner, on both fabrics.  Press carefully, mindful of the laminated fabric, with the heat of the iron.
  2. Preparing the poppa straps  (my chosen method of closure)                                    For the short strap cut a piece of fabric:  2″ wide  x  3″ long. Fold in and press 1/4″ seam allowances on both long edges, and one short edge and press. The other short end can remain raw edge. Fold the strap in half, lengthwise. Press before machine stitching. Pin or use your favourite method of keeping folded edges in place. Then top stitch to finish the strap, as in 3, below.
  3. Start top stitching at the raw edge end, reinforcing the start and end of the stitching. stitching. Continue close to the folded edge along the long side of the strap, pivot  with the needle down at the corner, and continue across the short end pivoting again at the corner, and continuing down the other long side. Press.
  4. for the long strap cut a piece of fabric:  2″ wide x  5.25″ long, and repeat the process as above. If you are using Kam Snaps, do not attach the poppas yet.
  5. Placing the straps in position. Scroll down to the last of the wrap photos and notice the the straps positions. They lie opposite each other centrally on two opposite sides of the wrap. The raw edges of the straps should be in line with the raw edge on the right side of the cotton wrap fabric. Tack the straps along their centre, so that they will stay free of the machine stitching., when the two layers of the wrap are being sewn together. Tack across the short raw end of both straps, matching the raw edge of the wrap fabric. This all helps to keep them in position.
  6. Now place the right sides of both main fabrics together, matching all the edges. Do not pin them, as this will leave holes in the laminated fabric, but if you have a means of holding them together, securely before stitching, (e,g, with hem clips please use them. Alternatively carefully stitch with 1/4″ seam allowance around three sides, checking that everything stays in position; side to side, corner to corner. Leave the last side open. Turn the wrap to the right side through this gap, and push out the corners carefully with “That Purple Thang” if you have one. (See Stitching News January 2020  to read all about it!) alternatively use another blunt pointed tool. Fold the seam allowance on the final open side and finger press to the inside. Iron press ; mindful again of the laminated fabric and the iron heat.  Finally top stitch that final side, close to the folded edge.


The photo above, shows the wrap, with the last section to be folded across. Notice one poppa at the left hand side of the wrap. When the second half of the wrap is folded over, the right hand “short strap” which has a poppa (very difficult to see in the photo, apologies!) can be snapped into position on the receiving poppa. Another design choice I made was to give the left hand “strap”  two choices for the Kam snap to “pop” into, thus allowing for a thick sandwich or a slimmer one! The two poppa options can be seen in the photo below.

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The whole wrap should then be pressed firmly, creating the folds, that will be used when it is functioning.

Now is the time  to work out the placement for the Kam Snaps.





Finally, I have had a passion for making zip bags for a very long time. They are so practical and come in useful time after time after time! They come in many sizes and styles and serve a multitude of purposes.  I rarely make them for a specific purpose, but I am equally rarely in position of not having one to cater for a specific need!

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Showing in this photograph is a soft zip bag, from my stash, which was perfect for my  re-usable coffee cup! So this accompanies me now, on my road trips! I added the swivel hook and large kilt pin, (again from my stash), so I can attach it to my shoulder bag, when needed. I can equally remove them and keep them inside the zip bag, with the cup for use at any time!

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Here is is in use. The cup looks far too big for it, but that is just the angle of the photo I have taken. I stood the cup up inside, for the purposes of the photograph. It lies easily lengthwise inside, with plenty of wriggle room.

Next time I will write a tutorial for these particular zipped bags, giving three different sizes. Until then…

Happy Stitching.


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;

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 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….




Stitching News November 2019

I have a dear friend called Janine whose home is Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. She is currently  the president of the Quilters Guild group there which is called “Capital City Quilters.” 

Earlier this month I was invited to be “In The Spotlight” for their monthly newsletter!

I included a photograph of me here, simply because I included it in the article, feeling that it would make my contribution more personal. I have many readers/followers to my Stitching News who don’t know me, and I thought this was a way of introducing myself!

One of the members of Capital City Quilters, called Sarah, works very hard during the weeks surrounding the monthly meetings to produce an amazing, comprehensive newsletter about the group, the members, and the meeting. It is full of information, tips and features; it is a quality “mini magazine”. I am full of admiration for her huge contribution to the group.

As it has taken me many hours to produce the article I am taking the opportunity to use it in my blog this month, particularly as many of the subscribers to Stitching News do not know me. For those who do,  it is a little trip down memory lane. So read on …

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“My name is Di Wells My husband and I retired to Cornwall in 2009 to a small coastal fishing village called Mevagissey. Before retirement I had been teaching patchwork and quilting for 18 years, and having done a lot of teaching since we moved to Cornwall, I could add 10 more years to that!

Initially my classes were 2 hour “beginners” evening and daytime classes, in the community. After about 5 years, I started to teach a City &Guilds course in the local Further Education College. Gradually, by the time I “retired”, I was teaching all levels up to diploma level. A colleague and I also wrote a distance learning City & Guilds Patchwork and Quilting course.

DSC01731 (2).JPGIn 2003 and again in 2005 I was invited out to Dubai to teach a “summer school” week. It was an exciting time, and it was on my second visit that I met Janine. We sat next to each other at lunch time, and we chatted about my College teaching. I told her about the Distance Learning course, and she asked if she could sign up!

I was her tutor, and Janine was an inspirational student. I loved receiving her parcels. In each one there was something magical! It was instantly obvious that she had many skills. Her work was always fascinating, thoroughly explored and creatively presented. We became very good friends during those two years and have met many times since, allowing  our friendship to flourish.

On the left is a photo of one of Janine’s pieces. It is hand printed onto fabric, and mounted onto hand painted textured tissue paper.

I love it and am delighted that it hangs in my sewing room.

My mother introduced me to patchwork, (English pieced hexagons), when I started my training as a student nurse (52 years ago). At home on leave one day, she showed me how to make and use a template then cut out the fabric hexagons. I was keen to go the whole hog and started a quilt… finishing it 10 years later!

I learned all the traditional methods of patchwork and quilting by going to local courses taught by excellent tutors in the early 80’s.  I love contemporary work these days, as well as exploring methods, and techniques, old and modern,  and I sew every single day, even if it is only half an hour. I make do with twenty minute here, and twenty minutes there ; it is surprising how much you can do in a short time! I always have several different projects on the go; hand and machine projects, and I more often than not combine hand and machine work in the same piece. My sewing machine is a Bernina 1015, which I had for 35 years. It does everything I want it to, although it is a basic machine. I love it.

Printing is one of my favourite techniques. There is something for everyone in printing. For instance, have you ever tried printing with a Brussel Sprout? Years ago, I was making a quilt depicting 6 typical houses in the medieval town of Tewkesbury where we lived for 24 years prior to moving to Cornwall.

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I wanted to add texture to some fabrics that I was going to use in the gardens, so I cut a sprout in half with a sharp knife and painted fabric paint onto the textured surface. I experimented with the printing first on paper and fabric before finally printing the marks onto my chosen fabrics. This gave me the feel of how much paint I  needed to use (It is important to realise that printing on fabric usually requires a little more paint, than on paper; also that subsequent prints can give lovely changes in quality, which can be brilliant in their own right!  If you look at the black “framing strip” in the centre of these two panels, there are “trees” either side and apart from the dark green one in the right panel, they have all been “sprout” printed!” The printing gave just enough texture to make a difference.

I made this quilt in 1996, and the photo shows two of the six panels. The finished size of the individual panels is A3. The houses and gardens are appliqued. The miniature curved log cabin quilt was machine pieced and measures 4” from the centre of the top binding, to the centre of the bottom binding. Measuring in a similar way, the width is 3.5”. Each of the 9 blocks which form this particular miniature is a different shape due to the perspective. It was foundation pieced for accuracy. The Amish miniature was hand pieced and quilted, and measures 4” by 2.5”

My favourite methods for printing are using eraser blocks, compressed foam blocks, carved lino blocks and Eco printing.

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The selection shown on my cutting mat allows you to assess their sizes. At the top of the photo, from left to right there is a spiral polystyrene block made from a packaging block of solid polystyrene. The small black box contains some of my eraser printing blocks of houses. Just below the box is another eraser block illustrating that letters and words have to be in mirror image.

To the right of the box are four more eraser blocks; flower heads plus two abstract designs which feature in a later photo, and a gull.

The compressed foam blocks are the fish, the row of houses, robin and large squawking gull. Below are some examples of work, in which I have used some of the selection of the printing blocks in the photo.

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This is a page from one of my sketch books called “Around the Harbour”. I have made several printing blocks of gulls, and this is the large, thin, compressed-foam gull, printed onto han dyed blue cotton. The small gull is printed onto paper.

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This hanging inspired by Klimt, is made from painted and waxed brown paper. I had ironed a soft iron-on Vilene to the wrong side of my brown paper, then printed it before I cut it up and made the hanging. The reason for this is that  stitching through one surface of paper will perforate the paper, resulting in easy tears! The Vilene, makes it more like a “fabric”.

The lower two sections of the hanging features spiral prints in metallic blue paint, made by the spiral polystyrene block seen in the collection of printing blocks above. I purposely printed them so that they were discreet, i,e, not too much paint on the block.  The small paper spiral hooked over the large paper spiral, illustrates the shape of the printing block very clearly, and leads the eye to the printed background behind it.


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The compressed foam row of houses has been lightly printed in my sketch book. I like the almost ethereal feel to the print. The different imagery and media on the page increases the interest and instantly leads to suggestions for a piece of work!



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This marshy landscape panel is A4 in size. Perhaps you can see the heron at the bottom left, in the rushes swaying in the breeze. The heron is appliqued. The border at the bottom of the panel, and the section on the mid right have both been printed with the two abstract eraser printing blocks shown in the printing block photo above.

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These leaf prints were created using a method called Eco printing. Janine first introduced this process to me about four years ago and I have experimented ever since. There is a lot of information to be found on the internet and to me it is endlessly fascinating. Basically it is a “direct” form of printing. Leaves are placed between plain sheets of paper which have been dipped in white vinegar. The “parcel” of papers is then tied firmly together with string and put in a steamer with a weight on top to help with creating as much leaf to paper contact as possible. (It is important to use dedicated equipment for non-kitchen use). The parcel is then steamed.

I make books, cards, bookmarks, and notelets from them and am currently experimenting with machine and hand stitching into the papers.

DSC01720 (3)Finally, I have been really interested in Lino printing for several years.

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Two years ago, I was given a Victorian book press, which has totally revolutionised my printing technique because I have been able to print onto fabric very quickly, whereas beforehand I had to burnish each print and the process was so slow.

Above left is a carved lino house block and a subsequent print onto blue cotton fabric. I printed it onto many different colours and gave them to students in a Kantha class. They chose their own colour of house before the class and built up a “garden” with a palette of fabrics from their own stash, surrounding the house. Finally the Kantha class arrived, when they learned the rudimentary and simple rules of the technique! The lovely texture produced by Kantha quilting is what the technique is all about.”

As many of you know, I enjoy several other forms of printing too but for the article I obviously needed to limit myself. I have been able to add a little more information within my own blog, and have taken advantage of that.

One of my favourite blogs is by an American stitcher called Ann Wood. i Have mentioned her before, and I particularly enjoyed her latest blog, and have copied the link for you to dip into if you are interested. As you may have devised she works entirely by hand stitching all her projects. They have a particular charm, and she has a very definite individual style. Click on the link       to access the latest blog.

She makes delightful birds, each one so individual. I have to admit, I love all things small and that is probably why I find her blog so endearing. She often includes tips which I have found really useful, and certainly relevant to my own work. Occasionally she produces free patterns too. She has an excellent shop on her website….really interesting to view.

This is a very busy time of year for all of us. The autumn weather has produced excessive storms and rainfall over many areas of the country causing much heartache and huge stress for so many people, and I am sure that we hold them all in our hearts.

Until next time….

Happy stitching.





Stitching News October 2019

Welcome to the October Stitching News blog.

A warm welcome to new readers who have signed up for the newsletter over the last three months. Hopefully you will find that there is something for everyone in the newsletters. I do hope you enjoy them. Autumn has very definitely arrived and there has been so much rain that the ground is really sodden! Working in the garden has been a very muddy affair, and we have had to pick our moments! Often I have just resigned myself to “having to stitch instead”!

In this October Blog, I am talking about;

  • paper bags!
  • A new stitched panel for Christmas
  • A new hand made folded book (mentioned but not discussed last month)
  • Avocados!

Many people make their own hand made paper bags. It has always been a great source of delight to me when I have been handed my purchase in a “hand made” paper bag. It has invariably been abroad, particularly India and Africa.

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A couple of weeks ago I was given a bag made from a sheet of musical manuscript (a score) at a local craft fair. I loved it! I went home and folded my version of bags from magazine pages. Subsequently I have bought wooden pegs of various sizes to hold the tops closed!

The photo above shows a selection of sizes. Once I started it became quite compulsive!    I  intend to use them for putting Christmas presents in whenever possible! I have used a Pritt stick rather than Sellotape, avoiding plastic. Many Christmas wrapping papers contain plastics in various guises so I am trying to be as Eco friendly as possible. These fill that brief beautifully. I am also going to experiment with making the back of the paper bag taller. This will allow it to be folded over to the front, making the contents more secure.

Christmas Robin; I have had great fun this month creating a new applique panel featuring a robin.  This will be this year’s Christmas card. The size of the finished panel is 7″ x 6″.

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The background is hand dyed as are the majority of the other fabrics. I have used three fabrics in the red breast of which one is  commercial as is the batik fabric I have used for the “tree” trunks.

Robins are frequent daily visitors. in our garden, they have learned how to perch on the bird feeders which makes it easy to observe them. I had read and subsequently noticed that they are a very olive brown colour. I had some pale hand dyed browns, but nothing remotely olive brown, so using Koh-I-Nor paints I mixed an olive brown, and painted a small area onto a couple of light brown dyed fabrics in my stash.  When they had dried I could see that the colour was far better than anything I had, and with adding in some black threads at the end of the tail, I was pleased with the end result. I have quilted the background of the panel in straight lines, varying between machine stitching and hand stitching;  the latter using hand dyed threads from my stock. I really like the mix of textures and added interest that these choices give.

I have also been totally absorbed in making a concertina folded book, which contains  twenty two little stitched studies. These papers have all been “extra” delights resulting from my Eco dyeing. I have had similar results many times over the years, but have never really paid much attention to them. Recently I have been quite captivated by them.

Last month I posted a few glimpses of the book and contents that I had made after Eco dyeing plants from our garden. This new zigzag presentation is totally different, as it will hang vertically.

When I Eco dye the leaves, they are sandwiched between pieces of paper. I wrap theses “parcels” with cotton string which holds all the layers together. The string also acts as a resist to the colours coming through from the plants, and weights etc. This results in different grids on the outer paper where the string directly touches it; by definition these papers are at the top and bottom of the little parcels.

I use old fashioned iron 2 lb weights on top of the parcels to press the paper surfaces as closely together as possible. The weights are made from cast iron. The iron can also add colour and marks to the papers. Finally the marks within the steamer also create more patterns and grids on the papers where they are in contact with the steamer “shelf”.  I have used standard machine sewing threads when stitching into the majority of the pages and the stitching throughout has been by hand.

Of the two steamers that I use one is a very old electric steamer that my friend Phyl was discarding. She had used it regularly for many years but it had become really discoloured. It was still totally safe to use, but not at all aesthetically pleasing any more. So when I asked her, she was very happy to give it to me to for Eco dyeing and was delighted it could still be useful. The “shelf” that the steamer contents sit on is a plastic grid. The other steamer is stainless steel with holes in the floor of the steaming pan.  A lovely muted palette of colours was obtained on the papers during the steaming which I love. All in all I have had great fun of thinking of different approaches of stitching into the papers.

Unfortunately this project is incredibly difficult to photograph as a completed book. Each stitched page is 4″ long by  2.5″ wide, so you can imagine that the entire  folded book is very long, and therefore showing detail is completely lost. So I have just photograph  a limited number.

DSC01685 (2)Here are two groups of three pages which, for ease, I shall number 1 to 6 from the top. They  illustrate some of the wide selection of patterns I have been working into to create these little stitch studies.

They were all created when I was Eco printing leaves, and in the main were the top and bottom pages of the little parcels of paper which enclosed the leaves in the steamers. Within the book I have also included 3 or 4 pages which include printed leaves, or a section of a leaf….to link the processes.

Page 1. This paper was the bottom layer of one of the parcels, and as such was touching the string. I have stitched along these lines with fine black thread.  The paper was also in contact with the electric steamer shelf.  The latter has a fine “brick pattern” plastic grid which I have stitched in a matt gold thread.

Page 2. has a piece of rosemary Eco printed on the page, and was also pressed against the “bricky” shelf. The stitching has resulted in a rather Japanese feel.


Page 3. I have amalgamated two printed pages  highlighting the black/  grey  palette. I have used black and copper coloured threads to link it up with other pages. Seed stitches, and cross stitches occur within the group of papers, several times.






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Page 4. is another page created from two printed papers. Both had prints from the 2 lb weights. Limited stitch in black thread echoes the black shades  deposited by the iron.

The soft browns, are wonderful, and soften the colour palette.






Page 5, was sitting on the stainless steel steamer pan which has perforated holes in it. I have stitched long straight stitches across some of the holes but it is still possible to see faint ones at the right hand edge of the paper. The seed stitches pick up the beautiful copper colour on the paper.





Page 6. Finally, I have used the fine cotton “string”,  which wrapped the parcels, to stitch on some of the papers,

I have used this thread in several of the stitched studies. The contrasts between the fine machine thread, and the string, is interesting. A third iron weight which I picked up in a junk shop, has a ring handle, and is a totally different size and shape to the other 2 lb weights. It is tall and has a smaller base. It also has a hole in its base creating a change in scale of circles on some pages.

This page, and several others, seem to have an industrial quality to them.



I didn’t plan any of the stitching before starting on each piece. It happened quite organically according to the marks.

Throughout the folded book the design elements of line, repetition and pattern, colour, texture and form are repeated; the 3-D element resulting from the folded zigzag presentation.

“Aren’t you going to save the avocado skins?” came the throw-away comment from a friend. Georgina, an avid quilter, and long term friend was staying with her husband for a few days and went on to tell me about an article she had read about dyeing fabric with avocado skins and stones. Unusually for plant dyeing, avocados don’t need any mordant.

I have never done any “natural dyeing”; using plants and vegetables to dye fabric. Having said that, I grew up in an environment of natural dyeing, as my mother was a skilled natural dyer. We had a Rayburn coal fired heater and oven in the kitchen, and there were often hand dyed hanks of spun wool first boiling in saucepans followed by drying after they had been immersed in her “concoctions” as I thought of them. At that time, I had no interest whatsoever!!

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I gathered some more skins from other friends over the next few days, and had a go! I could not find much information on the internet in my brief search, so just had to have a sensible guess! I read that you need to remove any green flesh still inside the skin, and really wipe the stones clean. I had 5 skins and stones.


Avocado water gives various shades of pale pink to different fabrics when they are boiled with avocado.

A while ago I was given four old pillow cases which had wine coloured floral sprays printed onto a white background. Unfortunately the original pure white, had taken on a grey hue from use. It was hoped that I might be able to recycle them, but the colour didn’t lift my spirit at all, shall we say. So, I felt I had nothing to lose by boiling one with the skins and stones.

I cut up the skins into small pieces. (the larger piece of skin you can see in the photo above, was noticed and cut into small pieces).  It all went into a saucepan with hot water and I added half of the pillow case to the solution with two pieces of Indian Rag Paper and a skein of  white cotton thread to see what their uptake might be too.  It all simmered for an hour, at which point I added the 5 avocado stones then left it all to simmer for a further hour. I then took it off the heat, and left it to steep until the following morning when I washed everything in a warm water with a touch of Stergene in it. I rinsed it all gently, then left it to dry.

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This photograph shows the results, alongside samples of the fabric, paper and thread before they were dyed! Very subtle but I love it. It is a sort of rose pink or pale taupe.








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Using the same dye stock, flesh and stones, I repeated the action, to the letter with the remaining half of the pillow case. The photo below show the results.The largest amount of the pillow case, which is sitting underneath the other two pieces is the result of the second dye, in the same dye stock. The white is the original, and across the bottom right corner, is a piece of the first dyed cloth.

I am delighted with the second dyed result, and almost tempted to try a third dye!!  I feel the dye stock could still yield enough to give a soft colour to the front of another pillow case.

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I have been doing a little stitching into the fabric….It has a very tight close weave, so I thought it would be difficult. However, my needle just glided through it when I did a little embroidery on it as a single layer. I felt as though I was stitching into a beautiful quality fabric. It was a dream to stitch…and I wondered about its origins.

I have placed  a thin cotton wadding as a second layer, and am quilting now. It is more difficult this time! The pale thread is the one I dyed in the pot, and the dark wine coloured thread is a silk that I dyed a while ago. I haven’t added a third layer, as I am going to be making draw string bags, which will be lined.


Happy stitching!























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.

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

Happy stitching!







Stitching News: August 2019

Welcome to the August Stitching News. It is earlier than normal, but we shall be away towards the end of the month, so I am trying to get ahead of myself!

Seventeen years ago, in 2002, I made a quilt which I called Inca. It is one of my all time favourite quilts and was constructed with many “wonky spiral” log cabin style blocks and predominantly machine quilted throughout with spirals. The two large warrior blocks at the top and bottom of the quilt were developed from rubbings that I took from our Peruvian leather topped coffee table that was given to us as a wedding present by my brother in law.

At the time he was stationed out in Peru with the RAF. I recreated them in Mola work, and the work in those panels was all done by hand; the applique and the quilting.

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This photograph shows closer detail of the wonky spiral blocks which surround the central panel, and also the little Inca warriors, which form two long borders down each side. 

If you can zoom in on the device you are reading this on, you can see that every Inca Warrior is different. All pattern on them was inspired by Peruvian pottery.





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This photograph shows the detail of the “centres” of the outer blocks. I created many “centres” first. They were all wonky, and in the region of 1″ finished!

I then built the rest of the block around them. The intention was that the spiral would catch the eye and the rest of the block would sit quietly!






I made this quilt seventeen years ago in 2002. When we moved down to Cornwall in 2010, I was asked if I would do a workshop on the irregular spiral log cabin blocks.

I always like to refresh myself before a workshop, especially if it is a while since I have approached the technique, so I decided to create some new blocks and turn them into a bag.  It would be a totally different use and could show them off well. So here I can explain the process of actually making the “wonky spiral” log cabin style blocks.



Making bags has always been a great joy for me. The one I am showing you now I made several years ago, but I hardly ever used it….. probably because I was onto the “next one”!! However, it is a really nice size and is particularly roomy as well and I am enjoying using it now!


At the designing stage I had worked out the size of the bag, and the size of the pocket I wanted on the front. This view, on the left,  shows the front of the bag, with the patchwork pocket.


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I drew out the full sized finished shape of the pocket onto freezer paper. It was to be 10″ wide by 7.5″ deep. I divided that shape into two. The central dividing line would be a stitch line when applied to the front of the main bag, thus dividing the large pocket into two, both having one large wonky block. I also chose to have a change of scale by creating a 1.5″ deep border of small blocks across the top of the pockets, and then divided the top border into 6 units. Finally I numbered each individual section.

I marked the top edge of each block, then cut them up into the individual freezer paper templates. ….eight in total.  An example diagram is shown above.

I then prepared my strips, choosing two hand dyed fabrics, which contrasted well. Wonky units are made with some strips cut as a wedge shape. I also had standard strips of different widths. Some are thin and others much wider, especially in the larger blocks. 

Those of you familiar with the assembly of various traditional log cabin blocks, will be able to see the seam lines of the blocks and therefore work out the order of piecing, starting in the “centre”, but the photo of the order of piecing is below, as a refresher, and also for newcomers to this technique. The order of sewing the strips is very important as the colour placement creates the spiral.

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The function of the freezer paper templates is crucial to ensuring that the blocks fit well together.

I worked on several blocks together and as they seemed to be approaching the size I wanted, I could place one of the freezer paper templates over them, and could instantly see which edge required another strip, bearing in mind that I needed to trim the blocks half an inch larger then the freezer paper template. As each block became viable, I ironed the appropriate template in place on the right side of the block, lined up the 1/4″ line on the edge of my ruler, on top of the edge of the freezer paper, trimming the blocks with rotary cutter, thus including the seam allowance outside the template.



You can see the back of the bag in this photo.  I made more wonky blocks and stitched them together, making up the “rectangle” to the size of the front panel using the navy blue patterned fabric down each side and along the bottom.

As you can see this wonky panel is asymmetrical….my choice! There was always the option of creating a regular rectangular wonky panel if preferred!






The corners of this bag have been boxed if you are interested in this technique which creates a nice roomy bag it explained the technique in the April 2018; link below

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As the bag was so roomy, and I was going to add a poppa closure with tassel, I decided to make the top of the bag a little less “open”, and vulnerable to “gaping”.

I did this by stitching and linking buttons, back to back at the top of both sides, stitching through the folded gusset….the photo shows the detail.

I just fiddled until I got the result I was imagining! It does the job admirably, helping the bag to keep its shape well!

It does us all good to “think outside the box”.  This is the way our personal ideas and creativity expand. I created interesting straps with this bag as well, because I didn’t have enough of the main blue fabric for two blue straps. but the end result is much more interesting!

In last month’s blog I said I wanted to make a dress and bag, and would show you them this month. The dress is made and the bag will be during the next few days. However I am going to post them next month because there are a few friends and family who read this blog, and I want it to be a surprise when I see them in three weeks time! I have very definitely made the dress “mine” as you will see, next month. I am delighted with it.

I will show them both next month as they go together! The dress pattern is the Merchant and Mills Trapeze pattern. It was very straightforward. I made a toile first, so that I could estimate the size, and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it made up. I must admit I only hand tacked it, without putting the sleeves in even though I had cut them out. It was sufficient to show me that I could get on and make up the dress in my chosen fabric. The toile was made out of a very nice weight white fabric 100% cotton that I bought from Whaleys many moons ago. In the autumn I shall make it up and dye it in the washing machine over dyeing jeans at the same time.

Dates for your diary. 

Brenda Thomas, who many of you will know makes absolutely beautiful pictorial hangings, has an exhibition of her work at Cowslip workshops; Newhouse Farm, Launceston PL15 8JX, until August 30th.  Among the exhibits the “Good Morning Gorran” quilt will be there and a large quilt of Mousehole. Not to be missed if you are looking for a lovely day out in a perfect venue!

August 30th, 31st and 1st September,  Leominster Quilters exhibition at Bodenham Parish Hall, HR1 3BL. Opening times 10-4 each day. More information available at:   (Please note that this is a new venue for the exhibition.)

12th –14th September. Harbour Quilters Exhibition.  Jubilee Hall, Chapel Street, Mevagissey, Cornwall PL26 6SS Open 10am – 4pm. Admission £2. Two beautiful raffle quilts (one French linen & one Irish tweed), trade stall, refreshments (incl. home-made cakes & light lunches). Disabled access to hall, and parking within short walking distance. For further details please contact Pam McCallum on 01726 843520.

Happy Stitching until next time.