where I’m at this week

An emery block was the next Home Sweet Home accessory to embroider and I did begin it but wasn’t happy with my stitching so I put it aside for a few days. That was weeks ago and I’m still not enthused enough about it to pick it up again. It’s not nagging at my conscience though since I didn’t set myself any completion deadlines for this project.

So, if I haven’t been embroidering, what have I been doing?

  • Watching YouTube videos and getting ideas for mixed media things (which may or may not come to fruition).
  • Trying not to be ‘precious’ about things I’ve sewn or made in the past and actually toss them if they’re not worth keeping or re-purpose them.
  • Properly reading and not just skimming through the content of books I have on design and colour and drawing, in the forlorn hope that some of it at least will finally stick.
  • Making a start on a fabric book
  • Joining a newly formed up-cycling group at a local charity shop. More on that as it evolves.


I made felt and wired fabric flowers a few years ago for my son and his partner’s coffee lounge but they were looking a tad sorry for themselves by last year so I put them in a bin liner, brought them home and tossed them onto the top of a bookcase. Two weeks ago I finally did something with some of them. Destined to be pages of a kind of reference book made of fabric for finished pieces of work as well as small samples that are currently randomly stored amongst fabric supplies.

Yes, I know that the fabrics in the first piece are not square with each other  – I was after a scrappy random look and yes, the stems are real twigs which will probably snap off in a book but it’s hanging on a wall at the moment, out of snapping danger and we have to experiment don’t we? The background in the second piece was painted a long time ago but why or with what kind of paint I don’t now remember. I free-motion stitched around the edge just to attach it to the stiff interfacing background.


new books

I bought the following with a recent birthday gift voucher and I think one will form the basis of my next project although I’m not sure which one. Any suggestions?

I haven’t been able to find the post/article where I saw this book mentioned recently but I was intrigued enough to buy a copy. It’s a 1985 edition, mainly printed in black and white but the diagrams and photographs are very clear and seem easy to follow.


A idea for a modern style of raised embroidery on a casket/box has been brewing in my mind for a while and the following two books might help me formulate a proper plan.


The last item is a gel printing plate. I’ve got lots of acrylic paint and medium to turn it into fabric paint, and I’ve begun collecting things with textured surfaces to use as stencils and mark makers. Any successful printed fabric will be used for future textile projects – perhaps even for the covering of a box or a bag! My brayer will be wiped of paint onto my sketchbook pages to help avoid the dreaded blank page syndrome.

what if? #2

Using yet another ‘fail’ piece of fabric painting, I placed the cut-out words from what if! #1 underneath and rubbed oil pastels and water soluble wax pastels over them before free machine stitching and couching too. I then roughly cut the piece into strips, and then small squares.


This simple six rows of five squares layout used all the squares and that was how I left it overnight.


This morning it seemed too safe and boring but more essentially, a pointless exercise if the text couldn’t be read. I also realised that I didn’t need to use all the squares so I selected the text squares, divided some other squares further and settled on this:

It reminds me of graffiti and I like that there are little pieces missing from the text. I also like how I succeeded in turning a fail piece into something I’d be happy to see on my wall.

The painted fabric is blackout curtain lining which doesn’t fray, accepts paint well and stitches through easily. The dark background is cotton sheeting and an additional layer of re-cycled white sheeting was stitched behind that.

zippered pouches

I thought it was time to start using up some of the odd bits and pieces of fabric that I have so I made these little zippered pouches which will go on sale in my son’s shop. Hopefully they will ‘fly off the shelves’ as they say!

fabric bird

I recently bought a secondhand copy of The Artful Bird by Abigail Patner Glassenberg who blogs at whileshenaps.com. The book has 20+ pages on techniques and several on materials and tools and I read through all those pages twice before starting on the wren, which according to the book is the one to master, after which the other birds will come “relatively easily”. I found some parts of the construction slightly challenging, particularly free-motion machine embroidering the wing parts once they’d been made up so I’d do that differently in future.

The book does not state if a particular level of expertise is necessary for making the birds but having made the wren I would say that it’s not a book for a complete novice. Abby recommends that even those with sewing experience read the instructions carefully and I concur! The wren was fun to make and I like the idea of a small flock of fabric fun birds perched around my work room so I’m looking forward to making some of the others.


you can never have too many…

…bookmarks that is and in the best Blue Peter vein, here are some I made earlier this week together with a new large mug rug for my workroom. Free motion stitched on a double layer of heavy duty interfacing then coloured with water colour pencils, backed with cotton fabric, and sealed all over with diluted PVA glue.

bookmarks 2

bookmarks 1

diy custom-fit sewing area

Part the first:

Until last week, the surface that my sewing machine sat on was 31″ high and as I’m just over 5′ 4″ tall I had to adjust my chair height to its highest setting and put the foot pedal on a box whenever I wanted to sew. Additionally, this setup didn’t give me much room to easily sew anything larger than half a metre square so for more than a year I’ve scoured the internet for ways I could improve things with a very small budget and no specialist tools. After several trials, I realised that making a simple table at a height to suit me would be my easiest option. I already had mdf so all I needed to buy was some timber for the legs and on the way to purchase this, I stopped at a charity shop to donate a load of books and spotted a 22.5″ high side table for only £15 which has turned out to be ideal. Two lengths of 2″ x 1″ timber sandwiched between the table top and a length of mdf created the perfect working height for me. Nothing has been permanently attached so far but it’s lovely to be able to just pull my chair up to the machine and sew without having to adjust anything beforehand. It’s very stable and an additional bonus is the paper rack underneath to store packs of fusible interfacing etc.

sewing setup

Part the second:

A fair-sized transparent extension table came with my sewing machine but it’s designed to be used with the accessories box in place and both of these have to be removed to access the slider switch that lowers or raises the feed dogs. A custom-made extension table that’s shaped to fit around the free arm is beyond my budget so I thought I’d have a go at making one from a large piece of old plexiglass I sometimes use as a lightbox surface. I found a YouTube video where someone attached a craft knife blade to a soldering iron which sounded like an easy win but didn’t work with my soldering iron so I attached a short length of thick copper wire instead which I knew would work although it took me more than an hour to cut five of the seven cuts required and the cuts were not clean. I then had a sudden flash of inspiration and made a cheese-cutter type arrangement as shown in the image below. Pushing against the plexiglass as well as employing a gentle sawing motion close to the soldering iron where the wire was hottest made the cutting quicker and easier although the wire snapped a couple of times and had to be re-attached. Areas where melting plexiglass had built up along the cutting line were easy enough to remove with wire nippers and a large diamond nail file subsequently smoothed all the edges. For all its roughness, my diy version fits quite well around the free arm of my machine and simply sits on the original extension table which I lowered slightly so that the diy version is level with the needle plate and the feed dog switch at the back of the free arm is easily and quickly reached by sliding my hand under the table.


diy plexiglass cutter

diy extension table 2

diy extension table