Upcycling – an old office chair

New from old, recovering an old office chair

This old office chair was destined for the tip, it was black, uncomfortable and would not raise in height to be of any use – but I am reluctant to send anything into landfill these days, so I decided to give it a new lease of life!

the frame with the seat and back removed

The seat and back came off separately, as they were just bolted on – sadly there was no way of repairing the old mechanism for raising the chair, so I decided to come up with a thicker seat to add height. The cushioning on the chair was not very deep, making it very uncomfortable. I bought some 3inch deep foam the width and depth of the seat. I placed the seat onto the foam and drew round with a marker pen. I cut away any excess from the foam to create a seat the right shape.

I covered the foam in wadding – to prevent the foam from being broken down by the movement of the cover using large stitching to remain in place. I used crochet cotton, which is thicker than ordinary thread and works well for this. Hand stitching is key to creating these covers, some can be done on machine, but its being able to sew seams closed that makes it easy.

piping for the edge

To get a really crisp edge round your chair of any shape, simply lay your fabric right side up, lay the cushion on top and pin the piping neatly around the shape. You want the open edge to the rough edge of the fabric, the piped edge needs to be pinned hard up against your foam pad. I have a piping foot for my machine that makes the whole job so much easier. If you are making a box cushion you then stitch the side edges to the bias binding right sides together / wrong side uppermost.

You can see along the edge the seaplane has been pattern matched. I could have used on continuous piece but it uses a lot of fabric – making smaller strips is more economical. As the bottom of the seat was wood, I simply drew the fabric together and hand stitched, gathering in the fabric to make a clean bottom edge. I then used a glue gun to keep the fabric from fraying and covered it up with gimp. (glued over the seam edge to neaten it)

Then it is repeating the process for the back, here it was more challenging to get the right shape as the back section was very curved, however I laid out the piped edge around the back. You can see the original fabric of this seat, it was black with a stretch.

the back section ready to be covered

The back section did not have a uniform depth nor was it a regular rectangle, the top was wider than the bottom and the depth was thinner at the top and wider nearer the seat cushion. It is why I chose to do most of the cushion by hand, using the thinner crochet cotton because of its strength. You have much more control and the ability to stitch very close, which is not so easy when you wrestle trying to get your fabric under a sewing foot! I did do both the panels piping by machine and then stitched the sides by hand.

It isn’t perfect but it is complete! The shape turned out to be more complex than I imagined, but it is the hand stitching that makes all the difference. Stitching in the ditch with a curved needle meant all the stitches remained hard to see. However, it is hard on the hands, a good set of pliers is very handy to pull the circular needle through all those layers of fabric.

The wonderful thing about this revamped chair, is that the cushioning is so soft it is like using an armchair but with the added bonus of wheels! It will have more good years of use which is good for the environment!

ttfn x

My soul is fed by needle and thread… mini quilt

My soul is fed by needle and thread blue and green mini hexi quilt

I have been experimenting with printing onto fabric using my desktop printer, this is the first project I created using ‘pages’ to create a hexie quilt pattern. I never really know if I choose the threads first or if the colours of the project are foremost in my mind but I adore blues and greens – they are so calming.

colour variation of photograph depend on the time of day.

I have to admit to being obsessed with negative space, I adore hexies but struggle with patterned fabric to get the look I want – I have some beautiful Vintage Laura Ashley fabric but the shape just doesn’t sit right. It was the reason why last year I ended up creating a hexie quilted cushion – but I embroidered all the hexies instead of using fabric.

Embroidered Hexies on white cotton March 2020

This time I wanted to introduce a back ground colour but still embroider the tops, so I made a very simple design of hexies on the computer using pages (the Mac equivalent of word). I have been using a lot of quotations in my stitch meditations so I decided to use one of those. I laid out the quote altering the fonts and size until I was happy with the layout of the words. I really did not want to spend hours stitching text so I was happy to use a printed text.

Adjusting the font and size

I didn’t like the centre hexie to be coloured, I wanted it plain but then I liked the idea of the flower shape so I added a pale yellow circle to the centre of the flower. I wanted the other hexies to drift down the quilt as if they were falling petals. I liked the muted palette; keeping to blues and greens with a small amount of yellow. I did play with the idea of adding in shades of pinks and purples but decided against it.

Variegated threads and textural stitching

It has been a long time since I last picked up stranded cotton – I abandoned these threads for cotton Perle and more recently Crewel wool – however, coming back to them again made me appreciate the flexibility in terms of thicknesses and ease of stitch. Cotton glides through the material when comparing it to wool. I varied the thicknesses, using 6 strands for the French knots around the centre – two strands in the spider web and four strands around the border.

My soul is fed by needle and thread blue and green mini hexi quilt

There are so many possibilities with hexies – but I decided to focus on two styles a more linear effect – creating a shell pattern and straight lines of chain stitching alongside feather stitch created a geometric effect. The circular motifs were a nice contrast the variegated thread giving a lovely effect as it moved from green to blue and back again.

My soul is fed by needle and thread blue and green mini hexi quilt

I decided to use a white thread for the quilting – once again a fan of negative space, but I followed random lines of swirls or curved lines. I had to add another layer of wadding as the cotton batting did not give me enough loft.

My soul is fed by needle and thread blue and green mini hexi quilt

The hexies now stood out as I stitched the background, compressing the white to create a contrast. Its not easy to see that the hexies are printed on, or if they are ‘proper’ hexies – some would insist this is breaking the rules, but in the end it is about pleasing myself.

My soul is fed by needle and thread blue and green mini hexi quilt

Its been a week long project that has soothed me, life has been tough the last couple of months, but sitting pulling needle and thread through cloth, soothes my soul.

ttfn x

Little stitching practise and playing with Crewel wool

Work measures 2inches by 3.5inches (ATC)

I have been playing around with printing fabric on my computer, before I have always used T-shirt transfer papers, but someone told me about a very simple method of printing that has worked. (the image is a little more faded but it is still lovely). I’ve tried to combine stitch and vintage lace – these tiny lace pieces came from a doily I bought at a vintage fair -it was already in a stage of degeneration with holes everywhere, so I like to think I can give it a new lease of life. I have a stash of these but I can never cut into them instead I get them out occasionally and stroke them reverently.

blue hues chain stitch

I have also discovered Appleton wool – I love the texture wool brings to embroidery especially when combined with felt or wool. Having always shopped in stores up to now, I never realised you could buy hues and tones so it is a joy to experiment with these shades. This piece combined chain stitch with long and short stitch.

felt and wool explorations and stitch meditations

These pieces are soulful meditations which give me such pleasure. The heart on the right was for a lovely lady and new zoom friend, its her Birthday this month and I put it on the front of a card. I dyed the Aida myself, I like the way it slowly unravelled and I helped it a little on its way. The lower one, was an acrylic piece of spotty felt, which I covered with what ever stitch took my fancy, I love the flowing lines. The top leaf was made a few weeks ago, believe it or not it is on a white felt background that is now entirely covered with blues.

Tiny credit card size meditation

Mostly chain stitches but the wool brings a whole different texture to the felting than you see using cotton. This all came about because of a Leamington Embroidery Guild challenge to take a book off the shelf and try something. I picked up a RSN Crewel wool book – because I loved the flowing colours on the front cover.

Crewelwork RSN Guides

The book is wonderful, very clear instructions and inspiring pieces, but Crewelwork designs seem to lack the flowing lines of the Art Nouveau style I prefer. However the possibilities for shading are well worth investigating.

Crewelwork RSN Guides

I think the combination of felt and wool can create the most textural 3dimensional opportunities and I am enjoying following this pathway. The ATCs are not long projects but they offer practise pieces, although the size is on a very small scale.

January challenge

We were in lockdown so I had to use what I had – I found a half completed chair back and a bag of mixed wools purchased from a charity shop. After nearly three months of feeling too low to Stich I felt a glimmer of enthusiasm return. I rifled through the bag – I now recognised the finer wools as crewel wools and I separated them from the thicker tapestry wools. The left hand leaf is what I did with the colours I had and the right hand leaf is what I did when I had more wool variations to play with having found an on line supplier – Wool Warehouse who stock every colour and shade! its like being in a sweet shop!

January challenge flower in more detail

I loved creating the flow of colour, using long and short stitch, but I wanted more depth of texture so I introduced French knots. The wool is very fine – the leaf shapes were taking one or two evenings! these flowers are no more than 4inches across. I liked the French knots, I decided to explore this using the tapestry wools.

January challenge RSN Crewel Work – leaf combining stitches

I loved the way the thick tapestry wools brought a more 3d, dimension to the stitches, its as if the leaf is now a pea pod with the peas popping out! I also had more colours to play with using deeper greens. I tried Pekinese Stich along the stem, but the weaving made my stitching look uneven. I tried a whipped back stitch (on the bottom right) and thought the effect more lovely.

I think I will be exploring this in more detail – if you haven’t tried it then give it a go.

ttfn x

Home wasn’t built in a day…

I moved here back in 2017 – yet I am still only half way in my journey of home making here. All the Pinterest boards with their 30days declutter challenges, or Marie Kondo’s magic of tidying up would have me believe that it can all be done in a few weeks; I disagree. You have to sit with a place, watch the seasons come and go, take time to work out what is dear to you and what can be gifted elsewhere – for a whole year we used the largest of the two bedrooms but I found that it never got the early morning sun, and given the office was at the end, it never felt comfortable having business meetings five yards from my bed. We moved our bedroom to the smaller one so that I could look out over the garden from the bed, but it took another year for me to realise the room wasn’t flowing right – we moved the bed at right angles a couple of months ago so that I am alongside the window – still enjoying the garden and the room flows right. It gets the early morning sun six months of the year, but is gone by 10am, the sun moves round the building to the other large bedroom (now a craft room for us both) and the sun floods in the south facing windows for most of the day.

Craft Room window – on an overcast January Day.

It has taken me a good couple of years to get the curtains right for the craft room window: I am not a fan of nets, but we have public pathways not far from our windows and lack of privacy made them a necessity. I bought full length nets, then tried making them 4 times the width, but you could still see straight into the room. Then I tried, half window nets, increasing the gathering, but still no luck. I bought Broidery Anglais but it was too opaque eventually I bought some cheesecloth and combined the two, it is just the right amount of privacy and enough transparency to suit my nosy nature. It is the most beautiful 3m height Georgian window, and the top six panes are bare so I can see the swaying pines or the racing clouds scuttling by.

birds and flowers

The birds and flowers are pretty, I would have preferred something more crochet but I know I have a tendency to err on the side of twee.

Home making takes time – it can’t be rushed but when the right piece of furniture shows up at the right time, it is worth the wait. The joy of living in a very spacious Georgian building is that you can take big furniture – my 3m triple door pine wardrobe is the prime example, advertised second hand on Marketplace and well worth paying for the delivery guys to collect. It fits the wall space perfectly and is a another one of my joys – now my clothes pared down to the space provided makes life easy for both of us.

I feel as if it is some sort of marathon, rather than a sprint, but it is so important to get in touch with what you need, what you use and what you have room for. The stack of books in the earlier picture are just a few of my dressmaking books, I have pared down, but I also understand that I need more shelving to accommodate my dear friends. If I hadn’t moved the bed, then the wall space would not have opened up, like a puzzle it all begins to slot together slowly.

Up cycling – Seat covers for cane seats

I bought this gorgeous duck egg fabric a good year or two ago, I love its crisp cool colours that remind me of spring. I tend to revamp my cushions generally for the season – given that I bought 6 metres of the fabric for a bargain price of £5 the warm sunny days have made my thoughts turn to summer and had me rifling though my fabric stash.

chair revamp

There are two of these chairs in my studio – I picked them up from the local tip for £3 over ten years ago! The cushion was left from a recent re-vamp of a Chesterfield sofa E did at the end of last year. He kindly shaped the foam for me.

I used some calico to make a template of the chair – it is easier to push a sharpie right into the corners to get a good shape. Then I tidy the shape with a different coloured pen – a ruler and a French curve.

This clover wheel tool is great to add seam allowances, I just tape the pen to the guide at the right distance. (wish they would make these with pen attachments!)

I wrapped the foam in a thin layer of wadding, followed by a second thicker layer. This helps to protect the foam from disintegrating, as well as filling up the cushion pad. I love the process of hand stitching this on, as it is a lovely relaxing process.

I added a zip to the curved edge so that it would be easier to slip the cover off for washing if necessary. I decided against piping as it was hard to colour match the fabric from my stash. Either my bias binding was too blue or too green! In the best make do and mend tradition I decided to do without!

I find it a lot easier to hand stitch the bottom cushion piece, as you can have complete control over where the stitch goes without wrestling all the oddly shaped fabric under the presser foot. It also means that you can achieve a really snug fit.

It took me one weekend to complete these cushion covers, they are so comfortable! They fit in nicely with my mostly white colour scheme of the studio. They also match the sofa cushions I did last week!

Feather cushions with piping

Keep safe and well x

Recycling Challenge

At the local stitchery group our challenge for 2019 was to re-invent an item purchased from a charity shop. This is a teeny tiny skirt, about a size 6 – but I loved the material – it was just like tweed.

Embroidery Guild Challenge

I decided to use the waistband as a collar for Barney – staffs have very thick short necks, most collars I have bought cause skin irritation.

Charity Shop Skirt revamp

With a little hand sewing it fitted him very well. The poppers were ideal, as he sometimes gets a rash under his collar, so if it was irritating him he could easily slip it off. I tend to use a harness when we are out walking so the collar did not need to be used to hold him.

A nice snug cosy collar

I then took the panels apart and really liked the centre panel, it would make a wonderful little bag.

recycled charity shop skirt challenge 2019

I loved the shape, it would double over and create such a nice little frame bag. I discovered an unusual frame in the bag section of the charity shop and it was just a simple case of dismantling the lacy fabric from the frame and incorporating it into the bag.

Embroidery Guild Challenge

After years of wrestling with a sewing machine being part of the Embroider’s Guild has given me a real love of hand sewing. What I have fallen in love with is the ability to get real accuracy and stitch around objects like frames without wrestling to get it under the foot of a sewing machine. Hand sewing is so liberating and you can also do it in your favourite armchair while watching Peaky Blinders or Vera! (Popular TV series in the UK) in case you are not from our shores dear reader!

The panel made a bag in just the right proportions.
Charity Shop Skirt revamp

I decided to make a little bow but it needed a little more embellishment so made a lovely yellow daisy with silk ribbon embroidery.

unravelling the weave to make leaves
leaves detail on bag, unravelling the woven fabric

I unravelled some of the weaving to make feather like leaves, to sit alongside the flower, they came out like feathers and were a lovely textured effect.

Charity Shop Skirt revamp
Charity Shop Skirt revamp

I used the skirt lining to make a quilted lining for the purse following the curved shape of the bag, it is simply wonderful to realise just how easy it is to make something when you can do it by hand. All those little fabric sleeves to go round the frame were easy to make – no fighting to get it under a foot!

There was still some fabric left over so I decided to make a bracelet pincushion. (I don’t know about you but I never seem to have a pincushion handy!) Using yet another purchase from a charity shop, a pretty bead bracelet.

recycled project bracelet pincushion.

I was rather delighted with this object, the green and pink was a lovely contrast. The bracelet is so easy to clip round my wrist and was just the right size (which is rare for me!). I had the pompom trim in my stash and it made quite a pretty flower in the centre. I packed the stuffing in quite tightly which supported the flower shape.

Recycling project.

I also tried to dye the fabric, which proved very resistant – bleach did not affect it, nor did a week in a strong dye bath. In fact the fabric stayed reislliently the same throughout my various treatments. It turned out to be more acrylic than natural tweed. which was fairly disappointing, but shows just how fantastic some of the modern fabrics are. If I were able to actually wear this garment, it would pretty much resist any stains at all! Great for a piece of clothing but not so great for experimentation.

I did make some Singleton buttons with the fabric left over, I might make a few more things, as I have a few more scraps left but I wanted to share this now.

Needle felted seascape

to show the process of the picture taking place

What I love about creating needle felted paintings is that they are tactile, you can touch them. I love the way the fibre unravels making the movement of the sea and the sky.

adding small flecks of white on the sea gives the sense of waves
tufts of grass can remain upright

It is lovely to watch the fibres unfurl to bring waves to life. I also use tapestry wool which can be purchased in most charity shops at the moment for a bargain price. I like to let the grass remain upright to allow the observer touch it and fluff it up.

grasses are made using tapestry wools unravelled to make grasses, various widths and textures

the grass is loose at the edge giving a distance to the foreground. I really love the variety of greens available.

some of the grassed areas remained plain.
Needle felted sea scape grass foreground

I have built up the layers by using wadding on a background of cotton batting, it makes a delightful surface to ‘paint’ the needle felt onto.

how the layers bring the foreground higher
using layering to bring the foreground forward. I was going to have a house initially but decided against it.

You can see how the light and shadows are created using darker shades under the landscape by the horizon and the lighter shades where the sun would hit the sea.

The pebbles in my other seascape, are raised to create the illusion of coming towards the observer.

mounted on canvass

The piece was mounted simply onto a canvass – so that it can be touched and the grasses gently stroked and re-arranged.

Needle felted memories and Paper stitch adventures

This month’s travelling book page – Memories of Mexico

This month’s travelling book belonged to a lady I don’t know at all, so I felt a little unsure of what to do, especially as the book was entitled “memories’. I leafed through pages of complete work, where happy childhood memories were celebrated in stitch – it isn’t a happy place to go – so grumpily I put the book aside for a few days. In the end, I was browsing through my photos on my external drive and came across my photos of Mexico.

My grumpiness forgotten, I was lost in fond memories of warm aqua sea, white sand and blue skies – except they weren’t always blue skies – what I loved was the way suddenly black clouds descended, then there would be an absolute downpour. Normally I would run for cover, but not this time, because the rain was delightfully warm. Oh, I cannot express my joy at being in a warm rainstorm! It was short lived, in no time at all, the black clouds had skudded away and we were back to glorious blue skies again.

So, at last, armed with my barbed needle and some delightful wool in various hues of blue and white, I set to work.

I love the texture you can achieve with needle felting.

I had signed up for a day’s workshop with the Portsmouth Embroidery Guild – on one of the hottest days of the year! I have to admit, I was stepping well out of my comfort zone, never having combined paper and stitching before. I did not know what to expect as there wasn’t any ‘examples’ to see, the artist wanted us to spend time playing… there were no rules.

So – turned up I did with bagfuls of tissue paper, napkins and all kinds of threads, needles… I wisely took my own fan and some cucumber to chop up into a jug of cold water in the fridge. (Try it, it really is blissfully refreshing!)

paper and stitch combined.

I must admit, a lot of the machine stitching was done at home, we were supposed to do all hand stitching – but I made the mistake of using a type of cork backing paper, then built up areas of tissue paper and then followed it by watered down glued mulberry paper – while I loved the effect – seen in the cloud above, it was horrendous trying to hand stitch through all those layers! (I did take my awl, but it was hard going!)

Free motion embroidery workshop

I decoupaged areas with floral napkins – which created a contrasting texture to the stitched areas which were quite chunky wools, and thick paper couched in place.

Free motion embroidery workshop

I loved the thick wool contrast in the flower heads, but it was tough! To be honest, the day flew by – most of us quietly working away – I was amazed at how quickly the time flew.

Machine embroidery

I didn’t take pictures at the end of the day, but spent a very happy Sunday afternoon free motion embroidering over the top. I had forgotten the sheer pleasure of the way the stitches just flow in rapid succession!

As an experiment, it was successful although I have to admit, I really did not love it enough to carry on any further. I found the stiff cardboard too difficult to stitch. I just love the softness of cloth… but sometimes it is good to explore other mediums.

I learned a great deal about my machine embroidery through this sample, I am in love with variegated threads that flow from one shade to another, because the artist in me loves the play between tones.

Travelling Books, decluttering and stitch meditations

Travelling book, Singleton button quilt to play naughts and crosses game

I was pleased with how my Dorset button naughts and crosses game turned out for Gemma’s travelling book this month. These buttons are quite addictive! Singleton buttons are a variation on the Dorset button. At a time when button making supported many rural families, each had their own unique style.

how to make a singleton button

Singleton buttons get their name from the Singleton family who specialised in this particular type of button. They are easy to make, you can find the tutorial on my made for mi, blog. What I think is great about them is you can match the buttons to the fabric perfectly!

Clarke and clarke plates

I have joined the Stitch meditation group on Facebook, the idea is to spend 20 minutes stitching randomly. I managed to do one random piece but it is just not me, instead I like to use up old scraps and do a little meditation stitchery – without any particular purpose. It is the best way to really experiment with stitches – even though I end up with button hole stitch one of my favourites.

Blank prepared squares for meditation

It is one of those activities that once you have done it, it is so pleasing and calming you wonder why you don’t find time to do it more often. Sadly – it is all to easy to find an excuse not to. Last Sunday, I spent the afternoon overlocking cream and white cotton squares, backed with a fine muslin, so that I have no excuse – the stash of squares invite me to do a stitch meditation. I have also put a stash of fabric scraps, cotton Perle and some embroidery hoops ready – so that it makes it as easy as possible to pick up.

prepared aida for embroidery

I’ve also been doing a huge clear out – since I moved (nearly two years ago) I haven’t really got organised – so Easter weekend we shifted two major rooms round which seemed to disrupt the whole place! I had lots of Aida, so I created a couple of prizes for the raffle at the Embroidery Guild.

Kitchen cupboard organising

The kitchen cupboards are beginning have a little more organising, I have given away a great deal of items and it has been a really lovely experience. I use Facebook Marketplace mostly, I met a lovely couple who came to pick up a tall bookcase, and ended up taking away some Ikea shelves and a couple of smaller bookcases for me. I could never have got them to the tip, and it was so nice to see them go to a good home.

So far I have given away a clothes rail, a hallway cupboard, two small coffee tables and three car loads of items to the local charity shop. I also gave away some pink rock boots – the lady who picked them up was delighted, she had just passed her HGV test and would be wearing them for her new job! Another lovely man, collected some Irregular Choice shoes for his girlfriend. Giving things away gives me such pleasure, and it frees up space!

Pastry can be just like playing

I’ve been baking – I found a book in the reduced section of the local post office, that simply winked at me, it is a baking book by Chilli Vanilli, and it has totally transformed my baking! For the first time I understand how gluten in flour should either be encouraged, to make bread or discouraged to make cakes! The recipe for pillow soft Victoria sponge is divine!

recipe book review

Not to mention it has a mint green cover with pink edged pages! I have been making a lot of little fairy cakes using the recipe and they have disappeared in no time!

That about sums up what I have been up to recently, I notice the elderflowers are just about ready to make some cordial.

ttfn x

Singleton button naughts and crosses game

Travelling books – singleton button quilt game

I am participating in our group project – called travelling books, this month I was creating a page for our delightful hard working Secretary, who is a very talented Dorset button maker and gamer!

how to make a singleton button

There is not much you need to make Singleton Buttons – they have also been described as self cover buttons. If you are making a garment or have knitted your way through a jumper or cardigan and can’t find buttons to match then these little delights are the answer! You can make them in any fabric to match your clothing!

I used key rings, but you can use old fashioned curtain rings of the size you would like your button to be.

Simply cut out a circle of fabric twice the width of the ring, and do a running stitch approximately half way between the ring and the outer edge. I tend to use cotton Perle because it is quite strong.

tutorial for self cover buttons, singleton buttons and dorset buttons

Place a tiny piece of wadding or toy filling in the centre. How much, or how little, you use will either make your button domed or flat.

tutorial for self cover buttons, singleton buttons and dorset buttons

Pull the tread to gather the fabric around the ring, and secure with a few stitches. I have used a popper on the bottom of my button for the game, but you can make these traditional buttons by stitching through the centres.

tutorial for self cover buttons, singleton buttons and dorset buttons

Stitch with a running stitch round the ring – this gives the button definition, but you can leave it unstitched if you prefer.

tutorial for self cover buttons, singleton buttons and dorset buttons

Attach the backing to the button and then you have completed the button.

quilted naughts and crosses using singleton buttons

I made a little quilted game using two types of buttons, strawberry and polka dots. I used a large gingham square for the ‘board’ section and used a running stitch and weaved the red around it to create a candy stripe.

Each square has a popper so that you can play the game

The poppers allow the game to be played, with each player taking a turn on the 9 square grid, the first one to make a line of three wins the game. The additional square on the left, is for the spare button, as each player needs 5 buttons.

Travelling book, Singleton button quilt to play naughts and crosses game

Here is the finished page, such fun to do!

Ring of Roses – Silk Ribbon Embroidered pincushion

All assembled ready to go!

I took a lovely relaxing silk ribbon embroidery class recently – it is such a wonderful medium for capturing flowers. The ribbons are 100% silk – which allows them to flow through your fabric easily. However, the ribbon roses are weaved through cotton Perle – so any ribbon can be used to make these roses!

If you think there maybe no room in your life for rose frippery, just imagine having these lovelies stitched onto your lingerie, they add a luxurious touch, or make a beautiful padded coat hanger for a special occasion dress. These things might seem old fashioned, but we have lost a lot of grace and charm – these little lovelies lift any item of underwear into a high end feature. Who doesn’t want a little bit of girlie luxury next to the skin?

I had the velvet passed to me among many vintage fabrics, it is a lovely deep blue, which compliments my little Japanese blue and white pot; which is the inspiration behind this project, it is beautiful but needing a purpose – a vintage tea cup would work just as well. I thought I would use the 4mm ribbons, as I wanted to keep the project quite dainty. Alongside you might need a little cotton Perle – I used green and pink. You also need stuffing to pad out the pincushion.

Create wheels with odd number of spokes

The ribbon effect is created by weaving the ribbon through cotton Perle spokes – in order for this to work effectively the number of spokes needs to be odd.

Anchoring the silk ribbons onto the needle

Use chenille needles, they should have a wide hole that runs within the needle shank and a sharp point, so that the needle can glide through the fabric easily. After you have threaded the needle, turn it back on itself and run the needle about 5mm from the point, (as shown by the light ribbon) pull this through to form a knot (the darker ribbon). The ribbon is now anchored – tie a knot the other end and begin as close to where your Perle spokes meet in the centre.

Weave your ribbon through the spokes

Weave the ribbon round the spokes, going over one and under the next, in a rotation. You should end up alternating – so that the ribbon goes under the spoke in the first round and over the spoke in the second round etc.

Stages of ribbon roses

If you twist the ribbon between the spokes, you will find you get petal like effects. You can even begin with a lighter/darker colour in the middle and change shade when you get to the outer petals.

Pure silk ribbon embroidery

Pulling the ribbon tight – creates a smaller rose, (left) or leaving it looser makes it more fluffy, (middle).

Ribbon embroidery, roses, ring

To make a ring, first draw a chalk line to follow – I then did a ring of Perle fly stitches along the line. My initial intention was to alternate roses inside and outside the line, but on this small scale it was better to keep them central.

Alternating inside and outside is losing the line

Keep making roses until the ring is complete – you can add little rosebuds by making two petals together.

ring of roses completed,

Because my pot was ceramic, I had to use a glue gun to secure the fabric in place – it is quite a tricky job. I stuffed it with wadding before stretching the velvet over. Making sure the ring was central to the pot.

Silk ribbon embroidery

I gave my cushion a real dome – this pot is only 5cm across, so it is tiny! But it looks very old fashioned and romantic, but then who doesn’t need a bit of romance in their lives?

spring flowers ribbon embroidery

This is the sampler from the workshop – as you can see you can make some delightful spring flowers – in no time at all!

I did my course with the very inspirational Lorna Bateman, you can see more of her wonderful work here, she also does a lovely ribbon rose pincushion kit if you want to make one of your own. Lorna has also written a wonderful book illustrating this fantastic medium available here. Or there are some wonderful silk ribbon embroidery books available. I can’t tell you how much I love this – while slow needlework is soothing to the soul, silk ribbon embroidery is really fast and fun!

Travelling books with the Embroidery Guild

Travelling book

I am a member of the Solent Embroiders Guild – the meetings are wonderful – one of the highlights of the month. There is something joyous about meeting with other women who have a passion for textiles. Despite the name, all things textile related are covered -from historical talks on techniques right through to ribbon embroidery and block printing.

I am participating in their travelling books – these are small sketch books that pass from one member to the next each month, where each person does a small piece of work in one page. The books get swapped every month in the end returning back to their owner.

Keeper of lost things ribbon embriodery

I created my design on paper – using the title of a well loved book – putting a combination of embroidery and ribbon embroidery as an embellishment. giving it an old fashioned quality. The thickness of the letters is created using a red velvet ribbon, couched down and then the rest of the writing was done in running stitch.

Why keeper of lost things?

One day, while I was searching through my stash I came across a piece of paper pieced patchwork that I had done with my son while we were on holiday. Just looking at it brought back so many lovely memories. However, I had fallen out of love with the fabric and really did not want to continue with the project – the stitching wasn’t great, we had used black thread – so I decided to make my book a home for all the lost and abandoned projects like these. I made the bag with the patchwork and spent a few happy evenings, (or maybe quite a lot of evenings) happily exploring variations on stitches.

crazy patchwork

There is something quite liberating to pick up one colour or the next and experiment. As this was a lot bigger than a page in my book I decided to use this to create the bag for my book to travel in.

The finished travelling book bag

For the first page I found a very small embroidery lurking at the bottom of a sewing basket – a very early attempt of embroidery. It must have been done during the school holidays when I had a little more time. I think this remained at the bottom of a basket for over 10 years – still in the hoop. I knew nothing about embroidery at the time and could only remember statin stitch. 

Embroidery lost in the bottom of a box

I loved painting and sewing – I remember really enjoying doing it – but not really sure what to do with it when I had finished! I was so busy with studying, working, teenagers, housework, I promised myself one day that I would do more hand stitching. Here I am – ten years of so later, an empty nest and time to sew! 

If you wish to find your own local branch of the Embroidery Guild there are groups all over the country – even if embroidery is not your thing, learning new things can really up your construction techniques in dressmaking or quilting. All textile enthusiasts are welcome you can be a total beginner to an expert, there is always something Wonderful to learn and grow. You can find their website, along with a search facility to find your nearest group here.

Thoughts of summer

Needle felted sea scape

I discovered some lovely shell buttons in my studio the other day – which reminded me of a sea scape / beach collage that I have been planning in my head for the 7 years since I bought them!

With the drizzle, blustery March weather – it was nice to consider warm sunny days, blue skies and the calming roll of the sea.

needle felting collage

I layered the collage up a little towards the bottom to allow the stony beach to come away from the background to give it some depth. I love how the unravelled wool – curls itself into realistic seaweed. I used old sheer curtains for the foamy spray and beautiful silk roving to create the frothy waves.

The blue was one of those fabulous balls of wool that change from one colour to the next, the blues seemed to deepen without any need for direction – going from dark to light shades as they came. I dabbed in some green shades amongst the waves and let the wool loop slightly to give it a little more depth.

When I came to add the buttons – it just didn’t look right as everything else was made from wool – so they are still waiting patiently for me to turn my thoughts seaward again!

Mounted on a canvass it is quite delightful to see on the wall reminding me that summer will soon be here.

Don’t beat yourself up over UFO’s

Vintage thread

Speak to anyone creative about their stash and they will admit to having a pile of UFO’s or unfinished objects. It’s like a guilty secret – I also suffered from the same – it wasn’t until I moved out of a home of 10 years that I was faced with a mountain of half completed projects – I felt incredible sadness for all the waste and money that I had quite simply thrown away. 

I have changed the way I think about these recently, because guilt stifles creativity and experimentation. There are times when we need to develop a technique or experiment with a new hobby – and it really is an opportunity to grow and stretch ourselves. 


Permission to play

Giving yourself permission to play is key to finding new ways to develop your skills and improve your techniques. Release yourself from the obligation to have something to show at the end of the session and see the time and materials as an investment of your skills rather than judging things by outcome. 

Don’t cheat on materials too, use the same material you intend to use on your project if you can – like a recipe – each element of your project will affect its overall effectiveness, using a lovely drapery fabric like georgette will not be the same if your toile is made from calico. 

Vintage thread

Recognise what to keep and what to bin

Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes we hit on a block and what we hoped to do just did not work out. Recently I was making cushions and for some reason the bias binding was getting in a right tangle around my piping – yes, I could have spent hours unpicking, but in the end, I simply cut it off and threw it away.  I did not keep the binding as a reminder of my failure, I just found another way to do it. 

Sometimes letting go of what doesn’t work – is the best way to release yourself from the guilt. Keeping the project in a plastic carrier bag in an ever growing pile will stifle your experimentation because it is a reminder of ‘failure’. Don’t let your sewing space get cluttered up with negativity. Just let it go. 

Give yourself some time

Sometimes you hit a block on a piece of work, you just don’t know how to move forward with something. These are the projects you need to keep, but don’t hide them away in plastic bags. Leave them out, on a noticeboard, have a fabric box or use a sewing basket to keep these objects in and now and then take them out. 

This piece of needle felting (above) did not feel finished to me – although my creative friends suggested I frame it. I kept on looking at it, but could not see a way forward. 

Then – I came across it again this week, (you can see from the state above that was over four years ago!) Suddenly, looking at it, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I began the process of completing it. It only took an hour or so, but it was delightful progress. 

needle felting

I just needed time – and that is what you also need to be creative, patience with yourself. Be kind to yourself about your Unfinished projects, see them as work in progress and allow the creativity to come without guilt or reprimand. Most importantly, have fun! 

Knitting and Stitching Show, 2018 Alexandra Palace London.

knitting and stitching show 2018

I’ve joined the Embroiders Guild my local group is very welcoming and full of other ladies with a passion for textiles to match my own. They organised a coach trip up to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace – it was lovely to go along as a group!

The photo above greeted us in the main foyer, called Edwards Menagerie by TOFT – there were 400 different crochet creations  on display which were an absolute delight to browse. They also sponsored a craft lounge where you could make a crochet Autumn leaf.

Royal School of Needlework

Royal School of Needlework

The Royal School of Needlework‘s exhibition of tea and cake was a delight – their stand was a great demonstration of embroidery and I drooled over their course booklet – I would love to spend a few years studying for one of their degrees, in the glorious setting of Hampton Court Palace…. maybe one day!

Royal School of Needlework

Royal School of Needlework

The spoons were silver work and so delicately done – as were the stump work flowers which I am sure were hand done – but were so fine they looked as if they had been on a machine!

Royal School of Needlework – Version 3

Royal School of Needlework

What I cannot show you, is the exquisite embroideries by the Embroiderer’s Guild because they do not allow photography. Their annual competition was incredible too, it just amazes me how many talented people there are out there who lift this to an art form.

One exhibition that took my breath away was called The Dementia Darnings by Jenni Dutton. It is a set of thread portraits of her mother’s decline into dementia – the portraits are absolutely stunning – its not until you get up close do you realise that they are made from thread.

Ideas associated with loosing the threads of memory, stitches that bind and unravel are implicit in the work, reflecting the gradual loss of memory

I don’t know where the exhibit is going next – but if you get a chance to see it, it will be well worth it.

Knitting and stitching show

I asked this young girl if I could take a photo, she looked amazing in her Sailor Moon outfit – the Japanese have such a playful sense of dressing up.

There were many suppliers with just about every stitching notion you could wish for, and never knew you needed! But it was the fabric suppliers that I most wanted to connect with. There are so few fabric retailers in my locality so I was most impressed by the following:

M Rosenberg & Son  and Montreaux Fabrics – they had a huge selection of fabrics including some beautiful tweeds from Italian designers.


I was in awe of Sally Hewett’s talent for padded stitched body parts! they were amazing to see! There were even portraits of different types of nipples as well as portraits of post mastectomies, large bottoms, and bellies with stretch marks. It is all part of a body positive movement and was an amusing way to end the day.

The exhibition is on for three days there are some wonderful workshops to do – I think it would take three days to get the most out of it! Looking forward to next year!