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.




Stitching News: July 2019

Welcome to this month’s Stitching News with a special welcome if you are reading this blog for the first time.

I have had many emails from loyal readers, asking if I am OK as I have missed several of my regular monthly blogs. Thank you for your concern,  I haven’t been too well, so decided to have a break from writing, and pretty much from sewing too, but am feeling so much better now, and am picking up the pieces again.

In this post I am including a couple of projects I have been working on and information about Harbour quilter’s exhibition in Mevagissey, this September, as well as other quilt exhibitions that may interest you.


DSC01375 (4)I have always enjoyed making zipper pouches. They are endlessly useful for a myriad of different items. They are instantly identifiable because they are so personal, and fantastic for keeping individual pieces of “kit” especially when packing for a holiday: sewing kit; medication, chargers for various devices; camera, sketching equipment; jewellery items etc etc.

This photo on the left is the front of one such pouch. I have used various fabrics with along with some white batik fabric I found in our local market a couple of years ago. It had white spots of wax on, so I decided to dye some to see what happened! I space dyed, and when it was dried and ironed, I could see that the “wax” spots had taken up the golden yellow dye, rather than resisting it! That was interesting!!

So I added two or three more fabrics, and then quilted with hand dyed threads.




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To the left here is a photo of the back… a different arrangement of the same fabrics, with machine as well as hand quilting this time. Finally below the photo shows a possible selection of contents for this pouch!

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Pouches make great little gifts. I say “little” which rather denies the amount of work involved when hand and machine quilting  as well as lining and inserting the zip!

The finished measurement is 9.25″ x 4″

Another small project, I have been working on started off as hand stitched cards for sale at our next Textiles + exhibition which will be in June 2020.

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My initial thoughts were for cards, but as I worked on them and realised how much work I was putting into them I have had to change my thoughts!

I will mount them onto mount board and sell them ready for any prospective buyer to frame.

I took a photograph of some earlier stitched work (which will be in the exhibition) and I printed the photo onto computer paper, as photographic paper looks awful when stitched! However, the representation of the colours was poor..they had “greyed” …understandably. I should have used a much higher grade of paper!

Anyway, I painted over the individual areas again, with Koh-I-Nor inks.  (The original pieces of work are fabric and are A4  finished size.)  I then cut some plain Indian rag paper, using a very diluted blue ink, to mount the painted paper onto so that it would support the paper when stitching, as well as give a pleasing first mount. I really disliked the result of the inked rag paper, as the colour was far too dense. I turned it over, and the ink had bled through in places, which was just perfect. I am pleased with the result now!! The moral in this story is keep going when you don’t like something… until you do like it. This has worked so well for me in many situations over the years. It is really important to keep evaluating your your work as you are working!

Rob, my husband,  has been very creative himself recently. He has always been very involved with wildlife, both when he was a teacher, and very much more now. In fact most days his volunteering is the mainstay of his day! Many of you have known him a long time as he has always been so supportive of everything I have done, joining in with a wide range of the activities over many many years.

He is one of the founder members of Three Bays Wildlife group, which keeps an eye on the health of the wildlife along our local shoreline and up the streams. One of the regular activities of the group is a harbour floor clean. This activity is always done during a school holiday when  visitors are encouraged and warmly welcomed to participate! This year he has been collecting the old, small coloured plastic fish forks. These were discarded in the harbour, over many years. Apparently wooden knives and forks have been used for many years now….indicating that some of the plastic ones maybe tens of years old.

Rob has been playing with an idea of how to use the imagery of this plastic! He washed the last haul, and left them to dry having gathered them into colour groups. some are damaged, which doesn’t matter in the least, He saw them as all being part of family groups. He arranged them onto a piece of black fabric, and when he was happy with the result, he photographed them. He took his photo to a T-shirt shop in St Austell, and had the image printed onto the front and back of a black T-shirt.

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As you may see, there are various configurations of “family”. It has certainly caused some comment and interest! He even wore his T-shirt when 3 Bays wildlife group were presented to Prince Charles when the Royals came to Cornwall for a three day visit last week! The committee had been doing a harbour clean whilst waiting for the visit, so Rob also had a few forks in his hand to illustrate what it was all about!! They all had there wellies and shorts, and high viz waistcoats on! Prince Charles shook their hands and chatted with them.

I have a dress and a little bag to make over the next couple of weeks. Hopefully they may be photographed for the next blog…..we shall see!!

Dates for your diary:   A selection of Quilt Exhibitions this summer.

  1. 1st to 4th August at the NEC Birmingham, The Festival of Quilts
  2. 6th-10th August  Flowerpatch Quilting  Exhibition, Central Methodist Church, Launceston, Cornwall, PL15 8BA Admission £2. Refreshments available, sales table, disabled access. Raffle quilt in aid of a new Air Ambulance for Cornwall. For Further details phone Anita on 01566 86666.
  3. 15th, 16th, 17th August   The Mint Methodist Church, Exeter EX4 3AT. Admission £2. Refreshments, trader, sales table. Disabled access available. Public car parks nearby. On Matford Park and Ride route ( green bus). Contact Pam Smith 07825649694
  4.  29th, 30th,  & 31st August, The West Country Quilt Show.  University of the West of England Exhibition Centre North Entrance, Frenchay Campus, Filton Road Bristol, BS34 8QZ.
  5. 12th –14th September. Harbour Quilters Exhibition.  Jubilee Hall, Chapel St., 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.

It is always a delight to visit the local exhibitions, sample the cakes and often the lunches too. quilters are masters of baking….It is inspirational to see the lovely quilts on display and the vast array of skills; ideas and technical abilities on show.

These exhibitions demand a huge effort before hand, and a great big thank you goes out to all those who have been organising the “behind the scenes work” of planning and making the raffle quilts; and often a huge array of goodies for sales tables; organising the raffle tickets; planning the publicity (which involves contacting the quilting magazines months before the event; finishing work to be exhibited; preparing labels, and/or a catalogue. Quilt stands have to be got out of storage, and cleaned. Many groups who do not have stands, have to organise the hiring of stands from other groups who are able to hire theirs out. Then props, flowers, hanging of the quilts have to be considered, traders contacted, and refreshments bought and made…..lists of stewards are one of the last things to plan. I am sure I have left other considerations out!

ENJOY and be inspired wherever you go.

Happy stitching, Di

















This is the reverse side. I have used the same fabrics in a different arrangement, and with different proportions

As above, I have used machine quilting and hand quilting.





Stitching News March 2019

Welcome to the March blog. It has been a while since I last wrote. I missed out February …the first month I haven’t written a newsletter for many years….but I am back again now!

It gladdens my heart to see and feel the sunnier weather we have had during this last week! The garden flowers are glorious. Ours is very much a spring garden and it makes me smile everytime I walk outside. In almost every nook and cranny, in every flower bed, under the hedge and in the paths, there are primroses. The pond is teeming with life, and the birds are announcing the herald of spring as they chase around, flirting with each other and collecting nesting materials! Lets hope that winter is indeed behind us!

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This month I have been really focussing on my very big quilt, indeed it has been my main focus for several months now, so I thought I would go through the stages of the planning and execution of the quilt in this newsletter. It is a wedding present for my neice.

She lives in Canada and when she told us she was getting married, I asked if she would like a quilt as a wedding present, stressing that I would not be offended in anyway at all if she didn’t think they would use one.

When she said they would absolutely love to have a hand made quilt I explained how to measure the top of the mattress and the drop to the bottom of that top mattress, as this will be the finished quilt measurement. Beds over there are huge! Hence the final measurement of 105″ x 108″ It is the largest quilt I have ever made!

The palette requested was black, white and grey.

When we discussed the design possibilites she said to me: “I love traditional patchwork designs Di, so I will be delighted with whatever design you would like to choose”.

She is not a quilter, so I chose a design which would show off the huge diversity of fabrics I wanted to use. I was conscious that I needed to choose a design where the black fabrics would not dominate, but would make a “quiet statement”, integrating well with the white and grey!

Once I had the measurements of the mattress and the drop required, I could see that the border was going to be 15″ deep. That is a very wide border all around the quilt! I wanted it to reflect the fabrics and the design elements in the main body of the quilt as it was important to me that the whole quilt should blend as one design.

In order to just give you an overview of the quilt design I chose I have posted a photo above which shows a small section of the quilt laid onto my dining table. The top had been pieced, and hand quilted, but the quilting of the borders had yet to be started….but it shows you the main design of the quilt, before I go any further.

Ninety nine percent of the fabrics were bought from Jo at Cowslip Workshops in Launceston, Cornwall, and I added in two or three of my own hand dyed greys.

I actually started the quilt in 2014. No! I Haven;t been working on it that long! I will explain all, later on!

The inital planning was a challenge as it was essential to try to work out the quantities of fabric I needed to buy. Having been given the measurement of the mattress top I was able to work out the size of the main blocks (12″) and the width of the “sashing” (3″)and consequently the size of the “setting squares” (also 3″). The main design of the quilt would sit on top of the bed and all of this was worked out on imperial graph paper.

Next I planned the borders. Having a depth of 15″, there needed to be variety and interest in them and I chose more stars as the main feature. These would be in black framed by white fabric. At this stage it was also really important to plan the corners of the borders. They had to look interesting and an integrated part of the whole design! 

I was now in a position to estimate fabric quantities. I made myself a comprehensive list and bought the fabrics in Cowslip January sale, that year.  This helped considerably with costs!  I added an extra metre here and there,  a wise decision, as it turned out. All fabrics were washed and ironed before commencing! 

The king sized beds in Canada are vast! I don’t want the quilt to fall to the floor, because of the safety issues. It is so easy to catch your foot and trip, especially at the corner of the bed where there is more fabric in the drape of a quilt.

I decided to begin with the setting squares, and counted the different white fabrics I had. Although this is a black, white and grey quilt, I have used many different fabrics within each of the colours. This is not immediately noticeable, particularly with the whites. However they do have different white on white patterns, and a variety of different weaves. Some have a sheen, others are matt, etc. and overall it does add so much more interest to the finished effect.

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I cut the correct number of squares evenly distributed between the white stash. Then I repeated the process with the black circles, cutting them from a wide selection of the black fabrics.

To create perfect circles I made a 2.25″ diameter card template and drew around this on the reverse side of the fabric. The circle was cut out allowing a “generous 1/4” seam allowance outside the drawn line. I then made a running stitch in between the drawn line and the cut edge, starting with a knot, and leaving a tail.

This done, I positioned the fabric circle wrong side up on the table and placed the card template so that it matched the drawn line again, and I could then pull the ends of the thread so that the fabric circle pulled around the template hugging it tightly. The threads were then tied securely with a knot and I could press the “unit” as a whole with the iron on cotton setting. I had a perfect circle!  To remove the card, I just carefully bent the whole unit, and could ease the card out of the back of the fabric. I made several templates, so I could work economically with my time.

Each circle was then appliqued onto a square, by hand, matching the fabric grain of the backing and the circle. The photo above shows a limited selection!

The stars for the border were my next focus. Again, I needed to work out how many stars I needed, and using my stash of midgreys and  blacks create an even distribution of fabrics again. A lot of work…but so much more interesting than just black and white!!

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The most straight forward way to prepare these was in batches. If you look at the photo of the 8 pointed stars, to the left, you can see that they consist of a centre black square; four corner grey squares; 8 grey and 8 black  “half square triangles”.

So I could cut these out in batches,  putting each “star” in a separate pile, and I could then assemble them, one or two at a time, as I was able. They were all machine pieced.

I laid them all down on the floor in my sewing room and could keep an eye on the “mix and match sequences!

I chose to do the 8 pointed stars in the border, because at each of the corners of the main blocks in the body of the quilt, the way the sashing is constructed creates an 8 pointed white star, where four blocks meet. The “setting square” becomes the centre square of the star, as you can see below. It is also clear to see the white stars in situ in the very first photograph at the top of the newsletter.

It is probably appropriate here to explain how the stars were quilted after assembly, when quilting the borders, (then I shan’t forget to explain later on)! I quilted a 2″ square centrally within the middle of the square. Next I quilted in the ditch of the main 3″ square at the centre of the star. Then I marked out a third square 1/2″ in from the outer edge of the star block and finally the edge of the star block was quilted in the ditch. So each star has four quilted squares reducing in size from the middle.

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Setting Squares sit at the corner of the main blocks. Sashing sits along each side of a main block. Above is a “one-off” setting square in this quilt. The reason for it is that I just had to have a “bit of me” in this quilt, so I chose to create a unique area of 5 tiny appliqued houses on one of the 3″ squares! This will sit at the left hand corner on top of the bed! All the other setting squares have white squares with the appliqued black circle.

At each end of the sashing unit, which is made from one of the black fabrics, there must be two white triangles. When four sashing strips with their white triangles meet,  an 8 pointed star is created. I used many different white fabrics for the points of the stars.

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This photo shows one of the main blocks with the stars at each corner.

When the whole of the quilt top, including borders, had been constructed, my husband helped me to centre the backing fabric, right side down, on our dining table. We marked the centre with a fold line. The 100% cotton “Request” wadding was then centred in the same way on top of the backing. The centre of the pieced top was obvious from its design and this was placed on the top. The weight of the fabrics hanging down over the table kept it all flat. I slid the “sandwich” across the table to pin the layers in place initially,  working on 1/4 of the quilt at a time. When it was all pinned, I then tacked it all, constantly ensuring the layers were not rucked up, and working in 1/4’s again. I tacked it all in a square grid. Each tacking line was approximately one hand ‘s width apart. It took me three days!

Stabilising the quilt…

In order to do this, I used the walking foot to ensure an even feed of fabric. I machine quilted down each side of all the sashings, “quilting in the ditch”. I worked from the centre sashing on the top row of the quilt, and stitched straight down to the bottom sashing.  Then, turning the whole quilt around 180 degrees, I machined from the “bottom to top”, in effect, on the opposite side of the same sashing  with the next row of quilting, and continued in this manner working from the centre towards one side of the main body of the design. Quilting top-to bottom then “bottom-to top” in long rows, helps to keep the quilt flat, as it evens out any possible tight tension. 

I then repeated this…i.e. top to bottom, bottom to top….across the other half of the quilt.

After that I made a quarter turn of the whole quilt, and repeated both processes once again…eventually creating a machine quilted grid across the main body of the quilt. I also had to machine quilt in the ditch of the six strips which made up the borders all the way around the quilt.

Hand Quilting. Once the stabilization was complete, I could start hand quilting the main 12″ blocks. The quilting design repeated elements within the piecing; circles, squares, and an 8 pointed star. This can be seen clearly in the last photograph.

Each piece of black sashing was quilted 1/4″ inside the perimeter with a central quilting line down the centre of the sashing. Each of the circles in the setting squares was quilted 1/8 of an inch away from its edge. …and it is impossible to see, but the white star was quilted in the ditch on the “outside of the star”. Again, most of these features are visiblein the photo above. I made card templates for the circles, and used a hera marker and omingrid ruler to measure and mark the long straight lines.

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The photo above shows the arrangement of units at the four corners of the quilt.              From the outer corner:  A black 3″square,  a 1.5″ black square, the 6″ black star square; another 1.5″ black square and finally on the inner corner of the border, another 3″ black square.

Wedding called off! Sadly the wedding was called off and the making of the quilt was put on hold. It was put away But now our niece is to get married, and would love the quilt to be finished, So I am working hard to do this, if possible by this August. She has stressed to me that she does not want me to feel pressured for the wedding date, as they will be delighted to collect it whenever it is convenient. I am not quite sure if I will make that date at the moment, but I am making a good effort.

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The photo above shows the hera marker, a piece of white plastic with a point at one end, and a curved edge at the other, lying on the black star. Using my 6″ Omni square I can run the hera marker along the edge of the ruler, pressing firmly onto the quilt sandwich. In this photo you can see where I have marked indentation lines ready for quilting along the top white border and also in between the stars. I haven’t yet marked the long white border at the bottom of the photo. Using the hera marker means that there are no smudgy pencil marks to get rid of. The indentation line disappears into the ditch of the quilting. This is one of my favourite methods of marking quilting lines.


Finally I would like to show you my favourite fabric in the whole quilt. It is the pale grey and white leaf and flower fabric above the long white strip, shown in this last quilt photo. It just begs to be outline quilted, as you can see where I have quilted the leaves and stems. …(the flower has more detail and looks delightful when finished). It is taking me a long time to do, because there are two very long strips (108″ long x 2) of this fabric within the borders along 3 sides of the quilt, and two strips 105″ long on the top of the quilt.

I am using a 14″ hoop for quilting the borders as it is so much easier to manouvre, than the 18″ hoop I used when quilting the main blocks. I have used a pewter coloured Empress Mills cotton thread for all the hand quilting. It is a lovely quality; soft, but strong.

The needles I have used for the hand quilting are size 11 Roxanne betweens. They are very small but have a good sized eye, and they are very strong; the best needles I have ever used for hand quilting. I bought them online, 50 needles in a little file. You can see how short they are as there is one threaded in the bottom white un-marked border.

The yellow handled needle nosed pliers are a boon. They cost about £1 in our local market “tools” department, When I have loaded the needle with between 3 and 5 stitches, I often need a little help pulling the tiny needle through all the layers. These spring based pliers are fantastic. I wouldn’t be without them!

This quilt is a real labour of love, and I can’t say that I shan’t be pleased when it is finished, but I am really delighted with it.

Happy stitching! Until next time….



Stitching News January 2019

This month’s Stitching News gives details of:

  • Little Miss Lottie; a new pattern I have written
  • The proportions to help you design and make your own rag doll
  • Dritz tube turners! These are new to me and already a firm favourite!
  • A delightful needle case to make …from one my favourite stitching blogs.
  • Brief update on my black and white quilt

If you are new to reading my “Stitching News”, a very warm welcome!

I hope there is something to interest everyone in this first blog of 2019.  Why not sign up for it to drop into your inbox when every fresh post has been written.  You can do that by clicking on the FOLLOW button, and giving your email address when requested. WordPress, who manage the blog for me, will then send an acknowledgement into your inbox. You then need to acknowledge the message, as requested, then sit back and wait! Job done!

I usually just write one fresh post per month; very occasionally I will write a second.

For the last few weeks I have been quite lack lustre, battling a chesty viral infection.  I just think I have “cracked it” then four or five days later it is back again! It has been quite exhausting, back with a vengeance again as I write, now! So I have been concentrating on creating a new pattern. This will be my 6th pattern over the last twelve months. It will be available from next month. All money from sales goes to the Albanian sewing project.

Little Miss Lottie is a stuffed doll pattern. Cost; £8

On the outside of the pattern pack, along with a simple description of the doll I have impressed that Lottie is meant as a “collection” doll. She is not suitable for a child.dsc01301 (3)

She measures 9¼” from her toe to the top of her head (excluding her mop of unruly  hair!)  There are endless ways that she could be embellished; the imagination can run wild.  All information is given for making her patchwork dress, as well as assembly. Included in the Little Miss Lottie pack is:

  • A requirements list
  • A template sheet.
  • Method sheets (with photographic stages)

In addition to the above I have made up small packs of the yarn that I have used for Lottie’s  “hair” as well as a piece of mount board around which to wind it. I measured the amount of yarn I used and this is the amount supplied! This additional pack is inclusive in the price of the pattern, but not included in the pattern pack, allowing the purchaser to make a choice! I have two different colours of hair, (one pack of hair per pattern). Lotties hair colour is a browny/aubergine. The other choice is shocking pink, as shown on Lotties companion, Lulu. (Photograph below on the right.)

I have made Lulu using the same templates.  DSC01309 (3).JPGI wanted to illustrate that although the method sheet gives all the instruction for Lottie, once you have understood the basic method…you can alter anything according to your own personal skills and taste.

Lulu’s dress material is a hand dyed fine soft cotton. I ironed a drapable iron-on Vilene to the reverse side of the fabric to give it a little more weight. I appliqued a patchwork strip across her dress using a blanket stitch along the bottom edge and French knots at the top edge. Then I added a couple of rows of hand stitching above the strip.  I also made her a beaded bracelet, instead of the necklace that I made for Lottie.

dsc01308 (4)N.B. I shall only sell the patterns locally. The reason for this is that there is only one of me, and I do all the preparation!

At face value that may seem to be a simple process, but it is really time consuming. There are different amounts of preparation, printing, etc involved with all the patterns, and the prices reflect this.

Those details are in: Stitching News  September 2018

There you can also see a photograph and read the contents of each of the pattern packs listed below:

  • Funky Angel £4.75
  • A concertina folded, dip-dyed booklet with inspiration for creating a tiny “woodland walk .     This is a pattern/half kit, as you can read… £8
  • A rooster lavender bag£4.75
  • An Angel lavender bag£4.75

A fifth pattern is another small project; to make a purse where the zip and the lining are sewn in simultaneously. This technique lends itself to a range of different pouches and bags. The instructions are written over several printed sheets, with coloured photographic stages. Cost £7

I have been invited to three or four different Cornish quilting and embroidery groups this year, and have also been invited up to Bodrugan to meet up with various groups who will be spending a fabulous week of sewing there. Whenever I am invited to a group, I always have a selection of small sale items and this will include patterns.

I have mentioned Ann Wood in my Stitching News before. She lives in New York and designs and creates imaginative fascinating little creatures, insects, birds and dolls, to mention but a few of her ideas. Occasionally she gives some useful sewing tips for particularly tricky techniques. In her latest blog she has given a free mini workshop on a delightful little needle case. Take a look. It is really interesting, and immediately suggested to me other ideas for a similar project!  She has explained the process and illustrated it very nicely through her blog.

In her December post she recommended a few of the favourite tools she often uses in her sewing projects. She highly recommended a set of Dritz tube turners.

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When I read about them I instantly knew that I would find them very useful so I sent off for a set and have used them for making the limbs on both of these dolls. As soon as they arrived I could see that the first thing I would need to do before anything else was to make a long thin bag to store them in! Ten minutes later…and it was finished!

The set consists of three sizes of purple plastic “straws”, for want of a descriptive word. Each end of these “straws” is cut at an angle. Accompanying each “straw” is a “prodder”.  For the purposes of the photo I made a “doll’s leg” in the dyed dark blue fabric to demonstrate how to use the tool.

In the photograph to the left, you can see the wrong side of the prepared leg. I inserted the straw into the open end of the leg, and carefully pushed it right up to the top of the “shoe”, which was the closed end of the tube.

Then, as you can see, I have gently pushed the wooden “prodder” into the shoe (the closed end of the fabric tube), pushing it down inside the “straw. This action means that the leg/shoe is being turned to the right side.

It isn’t always necessary to to push the stitched tube the whole way down the inside of the straw. If you withdraw the stick, you can continue the process by hand, if you wish. It all depends on the length of the fabric tube you are wanting to turn to the right side!

Over the years I have spent many hours, turning tubes…had even tried using a straw with varying success. This tool worked in seconds! I used the middle size for the dolls’ limbs, as you can see. Such an amazing, simple, useful tool! Well worth the £6.95  with free delivery. I notice they have gone up by about £1 since then. On reflection I think they were on offer when I ordered mine. Two of the “prodders” are wooden, with a smooth pointed end and a flat end. They are perfect for pushing in stuffing! The smallest prodder is a strong, metal rod. The “straw” is made from a sturdy, good quality purple plastic. Have just bought a set for a friend’s birthday!

Dolls have interested me for a long time, recently really capturing my imagination and I have been researching facts and figures of proportions for making a doll with a head, neck and trunk, as well as the limbs. I tried some sketches but quickly realised I had no idea how to draw something that seemed in proportion! I am NO artist!!

I want to be able to make a body, and then clothe it, rather than the approach I have used for the doll above! There is a great deal of information on the Internet, too much that was of no interest to me at all, so it took several hours to search out the basics. I have found some very useful facts, from a range of sources and the drawing below has been drawn using the facts and figures I discovered. Within the search information I had included that I wanted to make a cloth doll of about 8-9″ in height. Armed with some basic information I then drew a very simple diagram using the simple proportions.

DSC01311 (2).JPGI drew around the template for Lotties head and neck, estimating where the top of her neck may be and then applied the formlae I had found. I stress that these measurements are for a doll, not a human body (although some of them are very close apparently).

The body (length from top of neck to crotch) = 1.5 x the length of the head. The width of the body, is the width of the head. That seemed weird to me, but I drew it on my diagram, and when I added the arms, it looked better and ok to begin with.

The legs and the arms are also 1.5 x length of the head. Feet are an added extension, personal choice I think, as I could find no suggested ratio.

This information came from a German Doll maker. She made a point of saying that it is a starting point and the designer/maker can of course make longer legs, alter the body shape etc.  The site was not secure so I have not included the URL here.

From another source I learned that the width of the head is 2/3 of the length of the head.

From yet another source I discovered that in order to place the facial features on the head, it is necessary to measure from the top of the head to the chin and then divided it into 1/4’s. The front hair line is 1/4 down from the top of the head. The eyes are half way between top of head and chin. The nose is midway between the eyes and the base of the chin, and the mouth is half way between the nose and the chin. (Note to self: I think I will put a note in with the Lottie pattern, explaining that I have discovered this information since I made Lottie.…but clearly the maker can also make her own choices about the facial features!

Finally, I continue to work on the huge bed quilt) 108″ x 105″ I am now hand quilting the borders. There are many, many hours of quilting still ahead of me but I have managed some steady hours lately, which is very pleasing. My enthusiasm comes and goes with my energy levels, so there are many reasons to get this virus out of the way!

Happy stitching until next time!