Silly Sunday skirt.

•September 14, 2014 • 15 Comments

I think the quilters will agree with me that printed cotton is the crack cocaine of the fabric world. I don’t even quilt but I always think “ohh I’m sure I could find a use for half a metre or so of that, and it’s sooooo cheap”

Compared to the wools I use for costume, the £4 a metre stuff on leeds market is like sweeties.

This is why Gareth ends up with so many mad shirts.

Also, lots of little leftover bits that I don’t have the heart to throw out. So at the beginning of summer I started sewing them together to make a ruffly skirt.

Honestly, I think there’s a mad skirt gene running down my mothers side of the family.


I did take this to our neighbour, Charlotte, yesterday, because unlike me Charlotte is a proper seamstress who actually knows what she’s doing. I asked her if she thought it was too foofy.

She said no. I think she may have been having a laugh at my expense.

But it has- Asparagus, Buttons, COws, Dolls house furniture, Elephants, Foxes, Greenhouse windows, Hearts, Iced cakes, Killer bees, Liquorice all sorts, Maps, Notions with which to sew, Old postage stamps, Poultry, Questionable florals, Russian dolls, Safety pins, Tape measures, Union jacks, Various polka dots, Wheels, X-rayed dinosaurs, and Zoo.

Amongst others


stitch along part one A

•September 11, 2014 • 10 Comments

I know I said I’d do this MOnday, but I’ve been full of cold and just didn’t have the energy.

IN the mean time Sue very kindly made a group for everyone on flickr

so you can post progress pics

I tend to outline in split stich, as I find this easier to do with work under tension – I have to work without a frame to do stem stitch.

I apologise if a few of these are a bit blurry, gareth normally takes my detail pics for me, and these looked ok until I blew them up. I will also refer you to my early post on stem stitch, as split and stem stitches are essentially the same stitch, its just that with split you split the stitch and with stem you push it to one side.

bring your needle up and make a small stitch about 4mm long (four or five threads of the wool canvas if you’re using a kit)


then go halfway back and bring the thread up through the stitch


Your next stitch will be about the same length as the first, but because half of it covers the first stitch, you will only advnace half the distance. When you come back to split the stitch it should be in roughly the same place the intial stitch ended.


and repeat ad infinitum. I’ve remembered why I always draw stitches for my handouts. The crucial part is that in order for the front of split stitch to look neat, the back of it should look like backstitch, without gaps



Many people are tempted to get theri split stitch done quicker by stretching the stitches out. By making the stitch a little bit longer and not going halfway back, perhaps maybe only a quarter instead.



split 7

and as you can see, this way scraggliness lies.

See how much I love you. I did appalingly bad stitching and took blurry photos of it. Its like the bad 70s porn of needlework.

Right, now we’ve got the basics out of the way (and seriously if needed I can re-post better pics at the weekend, just tell me) you can start outlining your dragon.

The dark outline stitches are shown on the second pdf in the first post. Some are worked over the laid and couched work, others go along the edges.

when working an edge be careful to use the same holes as the edges of the laid and couched work in order to get a neat edge


I’ve worked the eye as a negative space that lets the white canvas show through, but you can give him white irises if you wish. Working the eyeball can be challenging as small circles are difficult – you will need to make your stitches much smaller and tighter.


He’ll still look a little flat until you start filling in the white (pdf 3 I think)


There isn’t really a way to mark where the inner lines go. You just have to have confidence and trust yourself, it’s really no harder- and certainly a lot slower – than drawing the lines with a pencil, and most of these lines are really simple.image

the wallet saga

•September 8, 2014 • 18 Comments

so I had this wallet that I loved. I bought it in the sales for a tenner.

I think most people are kind of particular about how they like to carry thier money around, we all know what works for us. And this wallet was just right for me – the right number of compartments without anything superflous, not so small it got lost in my complete midden of a handbag, and large enough that I could shove my mobile phone inside and dispense with the handbag entirely in security concious museums and galleries.

The fact that it was pink with kitties on was just a bonus
wallet 1

I even liked the plasticyness. I know I love natural fibres and handmade things, but sometimes there is also a childsih joy to be found in the kitsch and tacky (and also, kitties!!!). But then the plastic has it flaws, and as you can see it started to split.

wallet 2

I saw a wallet I really liked two years ago but couldn’t afford it because it was £90, it had cut out panels of gilded leather. I almost stretched to it, but then didn’t because although I liked the idea, I didn’t love the actual designs that were cut out.

I’ve been meaning to have a go at my own version for months now, and that crack was getting really bad, so I allowed myself one day to do something that was actaully for me.

However, this meant sacrificing my old wallet and dismembering it so I had a template. That proved to be quite tough and difficult to neatly dissect – especially for something that appeared to be falling apart!

wallet 3


I was looking for a new supplier of gilded leather, so I ordered a scrap packet. They had red metallic leather and I have a complete perve for all sorts of red leather (seriously, my ex once almost lifted me up and dragged me out of fenwick in newcastle cos I was getting a bit too excited on a big red leather sofa) I didn’t use the red yet, but I decided it would be fun to use all the different colours and textures for the inside of the wallet. Gareth rolled his eyes and said it was very me in that disparagng way he has that implies he thinks I have the taste of a toddler (I may have blown a big raspberry in his general direction).

I started with the side pocket because that looked like the easiest step

I did all the stitching in red because nothing was going to match everything. This may have been a mistake because my stitching wasn’t that neat. The reallly big mistake was buying topstitching thread adn not realising that it was polyester. All polyester thread is the work of beelzebub.

however I got both sides done and they didn’t look too bad

wallet 6


Then I glued the cardboard onto the interior. I recently discovered gluedots and I’m converted. I used them a lot on this in place of pins – you can’t really pin leather because it scars, but with this needing a fair amount of precision I needed to hold things still.

Next came the central change pocket – it was at this point I was really glad for the ritual sacrifice of the old wallet, otherwise I would never have realised the flappy bits are actaully asymetrical in order to make the pocket sit neatly inside the zip

wallet 8

wallet 9

The outer too a lot of thought. I considered dragons, but in the end decided to stick with tradition and go for kitties. Then is took me all afternoon to draw kitty silhouettes – an operation complicated because opbviously they had to be recogniseably maine coon kitty otherwise branny would be deeply hurt.

So I eventually cut them out and sewed the gold leather underneath – again using gluedots to hold the leather together whilst sewing

wallet 10

wallet 11

wallet 12

Then I spent what felt like forever carefully glueing the zip around the edge, making sure it worked ok, and glueing the outer over the zip.

Then I machine sewed the whole thing together.

It was a total mess, the stitching was all over the place and had scarred the leather horribly. I had to discard the whole outer layer with it’s carefully cut and sewn kitties and start all over again.

I was pretty pissed off.

Also I didn’t have time to do it all again right there and then, so I carried everything around in a pencil case for a week.

Last night O got back to it, and this time I handsewed the last stage

wallet 13

wallet 14

Ok, so it’s a long way from perfect- the stitching is all over the place (leather is hard, even soft leather), and I wouldn’t be happy to give this one as a gift, but I finally have a functional wallet again.

I want to have another go, but I think I’ll be asking santa for a better machine for Christmas (am using an ikea one at the moment due to long indecision over what I want to replace the big machine with. poor little thing is a tropper but I dont think it was quite up to this). I also really want to have a go at a metallic leather/tweed version.

stitch along part one, the dragon

•September 5, 2014 • 36 Comments

Right, Let’s get this party started.

To start off you need to tension your ground fabris on whatever frame you’re using. Laid and couched work is not something you work in hand.

Stitchalong scans-0Stitchalong scans-1

Stitchalong scans-2
Stitchalong scans-3

I always prefer to tension the fabric on the frame before marking the outline as it stops the fabric slidng and keeps the outline more accurate. YOu can use a pencil or a proper fabric marker (I often just use pencil)

You only need to mark the pattern from the first pdf onto the fabric, the others are for the outlines.

We’ll begin at the centre with the wing. One first point is not to be intimidated by the sheer length of the initial stitch used in this technique. Work up the length of the wing, rather than across – always take the longest stretch you can with this part of the stitch. Lay one long stitch down. At this stage we’re using the crewel wool doubled over.
then bring your needle right back up again. Laid and couched work doesn’t go across the back of the work. Be careful to make sure you get these initial stitches nice and close together (don’t worry if you occaisionally come back up the same hole, and forgive yourself if you accidentally take a stitch along the back now and then, we all do it). Keeping everything on the surface not only conserves expensive naturally dyed threads, it also makes the finished piece lie smoother and flatter
Work along until you’ve covered the surface area with long stitches, remembering to keep all the threads at the front.
Dont worry if it looks a little ruffled at the point, the couching will eventually even it out. If you look at the back all you should see at this point is a series of tiny stab stitches and the bits where you’ve anchored your ends.
I’m showing you the next stage a few rows in because I started at the very tip of the wing wehre there wasn’t really a long enough piece to show you how it works, you may find it easier to start in the middle and work outwards if you find the short bits harder. For this part of the work go down to one strand of thread rather than two (with my dyed stuff its best to halve the length as well).

bring one thread up at right angles to the laid stitches and strech it right across them before takng it though

bring the needle back out again a few millimetres back along the thread and sew it down – this is the “couching” part.

work your way along the bar you’ve just put down, stitching it into place, before startng another. Your bars should be between 3 and 4 mm apart, and the couching stitches holding them down should be about the same distance. Don’t be tempted to make your gaps too wide or you will jeopardise the structural integrity of the work once it’s taken off the frame.

Also, don’t line up the couching stitches or you will encourage gaps in the laid work to appear. Stagger them instead.

the back should look something like this


Once you’ve completed the wing, move on to the contrasting feathers at the wing base.

Dont be tempted to do all the laid work first and then couch everything at once. The long laid stitches are unstable and easily snagged, so it’s far better to stabilise one area before begining the next.

Next comes the little strap across the base of his wing – notice that I’ve worked that at right angles to the wings themselves, instead choosing to take the thread across the longest stretch.


next his leg and the front half of his body. When using this stitch the definition is added to the body with the later suface stitches, so if two parts the same colour run together, do them as one and add the detail later.

If you prefer you can fill in the eye with a bit of white, but I’m working the eye as negative space (leaving the background fabric to show through) because I like the way it adds a little depth.


Fill in the wing tip, and then the tail, remembering to treat the whole tail as one area. Now there is a technique you can use to work laid and couched work around a curve, and I did think we’d use that on his tail, but I tried it four times and unpicked it fourtimes (and I NEVER unpick) but there was simply no permutation of a curved stitch on his tail that works, so just work if straight like the rest.

dragon 15

However, I am going to show you how to work the crest that runs around his tail on a curve.

Start by doing the top of his tail fairly straight running down his spine, then, when the curve starts to drop away, brng the stitch back and instead of going back to the start, tuck it under the last row of stitch

dragon 17

Then bring the needle back up again in the normal place


BY overlapping the stitches in the tight part of the curve and splaying them out around the wider edge you will begin to curl the laid work around the curve. You can see that it looks different at the back because you get a longer rown of stitch around the inside of the curve.


dragon 16

It might take a bit of practice, but you should be able to get the laid stitches to curve elegantly around his tail


which means that the couching stitches are worked like the spokes of a wheel, which is less abtrusive to the finished design.


Once you’ve filled the little tip of his tail all of the colouring in is done

Right, my dinner’s ready and it’s been a long week, so I’m going to stop there and do a second installment on Monday. I Plan on having enough wine to be reasonably incoherant so anything I wrte afer this won’t make sense anyway.

For part two we will be using the second third and fourth pdfs with the outline, but that ought to keep everyone busy over the weekend

Stitch along materials list and kit option

•August 27, 2014 • 51 Comments


This is the dragon I’ve gone with for the front of the stitch along purse, he’s based on a c12th capital from st Pierre chauvigny, France

I missed out the nekkid guy getting eaten.

I’ve gone for a biggish purse, about 7 inches square for the design area, as smaller is more difficult and I don’t want to make things too hard for any beginners taking part. It’s not big enough to be unachievable within our time frame though.

And the leopard for the reverse side will be a surprise.

The kit is listed on folksy and will contain

- wool ground fabric( please note that I will mark out the design unless otherwise specified) 2x12inch square.
– naturally dyed embroidery thread, enough for both front and back designs,braids, and tassels. Five colours plus white, if you’re using your own you want something about the weight of appletons crewel, nothing too heavy.
– needle
– linen thread for assembly
– wax for linen thread
– silk brocade or damask lining fabric
– silk thread to sew lining
– individual colour key

As with the baby dragons no two kits will be alike, since I don’t want two people having identical purses. Some will have minor variations, others will be entirely different colour schemes, so if you would like a red or green dragon, say so when ordering, or tell me here, otherwise don’t bitch when you get what you’re given.

Complete kits are listed on my folksy shop ( button in side bar) or comment and I can send you a paypal invoice. I’ve also listed a simple wooden frame of the sort I use for classes,( frame is uk only) some of the white ramie I use for opus Anglicanum, and some gilded leather strips for appliqué.

If you only want a kit for one side of the purse without the trimmings, leave a comment and I’ll sort it out.

I’m going to post each stage on the first Friday of each month between now and Christmas. So that’s September 5th, October 3rd, November 7th, and December 5th. That’s my time, and could be any time that day, possibly the day before if I’m going to be away for any reason.

Cushion complete

•August 23, 2014 • 15 Comments

I was going to lay this aside because I had more important things to do, but then I wasn’t feeling well and anything that involved thinking just wasn’t going to happen – so the cushion got finished.


I was going to do corner tassels, but then realised I’m still a bit too brain dead for tassels.

I’m quite pleased with it, even though the central shield is a little skewiff. If I did another I think I’d sew the shield on last- you live and learn.

When my brain is working again, probably Wednesday, I’ll post the materials list and kit options for the stitchalong.

Working weekend

•August 19, 2014 • 6 Comments

I meant to post this yesterday, but got a bit overexcited about the fabric because it felt like I’d been waiting for weeks. In reality it was probably ten days. I think in these days of internet shopping we are so used to things turning up almost instantaneously, waiting for the spoonflower order was like being a kid again, when anything mail ordered meant waiting a month whilst cheques were cashed and pack mules ambled their way across the Pennines – at least I always imagined it was pack mules since it seemed to take forever.

Anyway, the weekend at the ashmolean. We had Friday ambling round town because I’d booked the hotel too early, which was nice because I really really needed a day off- I spent over a week prepping stuff.

The appliqué course on Saturday was jolly good fun. Nobody actually finished but everybody made good progress. I’m hoping people send me finished pics because as usual I was so preoccupied making sure everyone had what they needed I forgot to take any.

Sunday, the first of three opus Anglicanum days, was slower and more serious, but I think everyone got the basics enough to make their own progress for next time. We were concentrating on drapery, and I’m hoping everyone takes the time to work on theirs because it will leave them better prepared to do the faces next time. I will try to take progress pics next time.

For today I have pics if a second appliqué piece I started as a sample. This one is taken from a German hanging in the europaische stickereien book. I’ve done one of the 12 panels as a cushion.

I normally cut all of my pieces and tack them before sewing anything, but in this case I thought it would be best to start with the couched vine that acts as the foundation for the whole design. I was keen to play with the 2 1/2 / 2 fluffy white silk I’d just bought because it’s so soft it feels like it’s made from kittens. I can never see the point in marking organic designs with too much precision, so I simply roughed out a single line with tailors chalk.


It was enough to keep me on the right track, and I added twigs and what have you as I went. The outer line was the hard part and then the inner just sort of followed round. I didn’t bother plunging the silk through the background wool, instead I just ended it so that could eventually be covered by a flower


I kind of liked it at this stage, but of course to replicate the original it needs leaves and flowers. These are mostly so tiny it made no sense to tack them, instead I’ve simply been holding each one in place as I sewed ( this wool is like fuzzy felt and doesn’t slip much) and I’ve been sewing the leather strip on as I go.


I’m hoping I have time to finish it soon because I really like they way it’s looking, but I need to concentrate on a couple of articles and of course the stitch along first.


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