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 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

hems and stuff

Not so many years ago it seems, there was always something that I needed to be sewing. Curtains, or clothes for myself and our sons, or repairs to school trouser knees (lots of those!).  Costumes for various themed school days were a favourite challenge for me and a decade or so ago I enjoyed making fancy-dress party outfits regularly for four adults and I even made a camel costume for an amateur pantomime production which was particularly satisfying to make.

I miss those former challenges and with no young children in the family to make things for and none of the adults asking me to sew them clothes or anything else, I potter and faff and flit from one idea to another and end up ‘making samples’ or just ‘having a play’ and rarely make anything really useful that anyone but me would find a use for. Lots of people seem able to find one area of expertise and happily run with it in all different directions but all my life I seem to have run in all different directions with lots of different things and acheived only a general level of expertise in anything. At times I think this is okay and at other times like now, it leaves me frustrated and frequently without a path to follow – evening embroidery projects excepted.

I blame the gremlin who sits on my shoulder telling me that the next thing will be the one area of expertise that will provide the ultimate in satisfaction so I should/must therefore buy the book(s)/DVD/equipment/course and give it a go.  The gremlin hasn’t been right so far although it’s been fun trying all these different things but I’m still left with my ‘what shall I sew now?’ dilemma.

After several sessions this week of pulling various fabrics out of my boxes and putting them back again with a sigh, I was delighted when JP presented me with his favourite denims and asked if there was anything I could do about the frayed hem. I don’t generally inspect trouser hems when tossing laundry into the washing machine and JP does the ironing otherwise of course I would have noticed sooner that the hem was fraying had a huge hole in it and would have repaired it Right Away. Anyway, it was a chance to vent some frustration by free-motion zig-zagging over a scrap of denim and I saved a future repair by doing the same on the other hem.

Riding this mini roller-coaster of successful sewing, and after watching yet more You Tube videos on stitchy stuff, I made a rubbishy scribbly free motion appliqué rabbit. I refuse to use the word sampler for it since it is big enough to be useful as one of those things you put between other things to prevent scratching, so excuse me while I go and put it in the pots and pans drawer.

denim hem repair

scribble rabbit