Hillarys Craft Competition 2015

Whilst browsing for a new blind recently I discovered the Hillarys craft competition and decided this was just the excuse I needed to get out my machine!


I didn’t really have a project in mind and choosing from the four fabrics on offer was difficult as I could see potential in all of them! Eventually I decided on this Rayna Apple fabric.

Each entrant is sent 1 metre square of their selected fabric with which to make an item of their choice and adding any other materials required.

I decided that the lovely upholstery weight of this fabric would make it ideally suited to a bag; something that could be used to carry my craft equipment to workshops or as a shopping bag.

These A4 plastic storage boxes have become an essential item for carrying projects and therefore were the key to sizing my design.

Other essential elements included pockets suitable for specific items and zipped pockets for security.

The Rayna fabric design is linear and directional so I had to do some careful planning to line up the motifs on the pockets with those on the main body of the bag and to be able to cut out suitable handles.

These are my plans and prototype made up in paper:

I chose a contrasting fabric for the lining and to add a band to the top of the bag – Kona cotton in Pomegranate. I think this contrasts well with the grey tones.

All the main bag pieces were interfaced using an iron on woven interfacing. I decided to omit a wadding layer as I want a bag that can be folded up if necessary for shopping trips and the wadding adds extra bulk and structure.

The top band was stitched to each of the main body pieces; pockets were constructed and stitched to the outside of each main body piece and squares were cut out of the bottom corners so that the base could be squared off. The side and bottom seams were then stitched.

I added a zipped pocket into the seam joining the top contrast band and the main fabric on one side of the bag.

To square off the base the seams are pressed open then the side seam and bottom edge seam are brought together, (with right sides together), and this diagonal seam is stitched.

When turned through this gives the bag its boxy shape.

The main lining pieces are joined in the same way as the outer bag except that a gap is left when stitching the bottom edge – this is for turning through after joining the bag fabric and lining together. Before constructing the bag lining I also inserted a zipped pocket.

I used strips of Rayna fabric and lining fabric to construct open ended straps; as these are quite wide I folded the central area together and top stitched in order to make them more comfortable for carrying.

I also made a lined pouch with a magnetic snap fastener and a key fob both of which I stitched into the top edge of the bag.

Here is my finished bag – plenty of room for all my craft essentials and more!

On one side the pocket is large enough to hold an A4 cutting mat whilst an A3 cutting mat will fit inside the bag.

The other side has a divided pocket so I have 2 compartments each large enough for glasses or a small sketchbook. The outside zipped pocket is useful for anything I need to keep accessible like keys or a phone.

The inside – 3 x A4 craft boxes, rolls of paper/fabrics, my Hussif, books and an A3 cutting mat – and still room to spare!

I can see the pouch being really useful for my camera, rotary cutter, fragile items …. so many things.

And what’s left? – only 2 small strips!

Thank you Hillarys for a competition that is a challenge but a pleasure to complete, and, of course, for the lovely fabric.


Sewing Withdrawal

I found this funny seamstress vintage sewing machine sticker on Funny seamstress vintage sewing machine by BigMRanchhttp://www.redbubble.com/ by BigMRanch.

I think this just about sums up how I’m feeling just now!

Life keeps interrupting the decorating and the process of getting everything straight after our boiler installation so progress has slowed down a bit.

Never mind I did get to the Stitching, Sewing & Quilting show at the SECC in Glasgow. The addition of the quilt exhibitions was a real bonus as there were some beautiful quilts on show. Although it is several years since I last visited there were a number of regular exhibitors missing; this was disappointing but it did mean that I saved some money!

The thing I enjoy most about the stitching shows is the chance to meet and talk with textile artists whose work I admire. Before visiting a show I always check the list of exhibitors to plan who I’d like to see; top of my list this year were Christine Plummer & Lynda Monk.

Christine Plummer Display

For some time now I’ve been a bit obsessed with collecting brown packing paper to use for printing and I’ve always enjoyed making books and journals. It was whilst searching for inspiration that I came across Christine Plummer’s lovely recycled journals.

I love the rustic simplicity of these little journals and purchased a kit at the show, here is the journal I made from the kit after some expert advice from Christine:


The revelation for me was the use of an interfacing called DGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAecovil to make the firm covers; I hadn’t come across this product before, it is an iron on interfacing by Vilene that handles like a soft leather and works beautifully fused to the brown paper.

I like to crumple the brown paper before I use it as this gives a nice textured surface, I also added the orange papers from my stash.

The pages for the journal are included in the kit with a good variety of weights supplied.

You can see more of Christine Plummer’s work here: http://www.jeudis.co.uk/jeudis.php?page=christineplummer



Lynda Monk is another favourite textile artist and I purchased the two books above, along with a Thermofax screen and some transfer foils so that I could make a start on some of the techniques described.

There are lots of wonderful surfaces to try so these are just a few that I’ve tried so far.

Crumpled tissue fused to Lutradur 30 Brusho colour 2 layers fused together sealed with Acrylic medium

Crumpled tissue fused to Lutradur 30, Brusho paints to colour, 2 layers fused  together then sealed with Acrylic medium. The sample below is the same but using the heavier Lutradur 70 and only a single layer.



Lutradur 100 coloured with Brusho then transfer foil fused to the surface with dressmaking tissue applied using acrylic medium.

The way that the colour migrates from the bottom layer through the foil when the acrylic medium is applied is quite magical! The photograph doesn’t do justice to the lovely glow given to the surface by the foil.

I also tried this technique using drawing inksGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA to colour some Lutradur 130 – I wasn’t sure if the inks would work but the sample shows they did, the colour is stronger but in some instances this might be desirable.

This is just a taste of what is in the books, I am still working on other techniques so lots more to come!

Lynda’s work can be seen on her website http://www.purplemissus.com/index.htm and on her blog http://www.purplemissus.blogspot.co.uk/

A Stitching Hiatus

Who knew that getting a new boiler installed could cause so much upheaval?

Our house is very small, it cannot really accommodate a stitcher/crafter and a musician in the same household! Trying to confine all our equipment to the small area not impacted by the work took a long time only to have them come in on the morning work started to announce that more space was needed and a frantic effort was required to move more furniture!

Now the new boiler is in but we are still waiting for the chimney breast to be blocked in so that the decorating can be completed; it feels like we have been squeezing around obstacles for months but we are slowly getting there.

This has been an ideal opportunity though to focus on organising all my materials and equipment in a more business like manner. To get some inspiration I have been trawling websites and magazines for ideas. My most coveted workspace would have to be this one at http://www.infarrantlycreative.net/craft-room-reveal/ take a look at the rest of the pictures, oh for this much space!

craft room organization

My reality is a tiny dining area that has to function as dining room, home office and sewing space so I have to make use of some outside storage and a bedroom cupboard; I think this is where most of my problems have arisen – having similar items in different locations.

So here’s my plan:

  • Sort through EVERYTHING and only keep what I will really use.
  • Store similar items together.
  • Sort out my fabric stash and create a record of what I have and how much.
  • Label and record location of everything.

Do you have a dedicated workspace or a shared space? What would be your best advise for getting organised?

Something went wrong with blog post!

I don’t know quite what happened but something went wrong with some of the images in my previous post and in trying to fix the problem I inadvertently deleted the post!!

So here is a recap of my projects over the past few months; I attended a silk paper making workshop with the local embroiderer’s Guild where we made sheets of paper and molded vessels – I made my sheets up into little concertina books and attached leaf motifs also made with the silk fibres, these are so detailed.


I dried my vessel upside down with all the excess bunched up into little folds to achieve this frilled edge.


I used dried daisy heads in the undyed sheet and covered a little box with some of it.


I was delighted this summer to be invited to join a group of ladies from Edinburgh Embroiderer’s Guild for a weekly stitching group, I thought this would be a valuable opportunity to plan and work on specific projects but have to say that so far I haven’t been very organised just working mostly on random items including this piece using procion dyed silk viscose velvet that has been gathered and stitched to a ground of calico fabric, I added borders of seed and bugle beads.


I plan to be a lot more organised this year and will try to have some structure to what I am working on, we’ll see how that goes!

Eventually I got around to making Christmas gifts and surprised myself with how much a achieved. Some months ago I purchased a couple of ‘Mr. Chillingsworth’ panels one of andover_chillingsworth_skeleton_panelwhich I made into a quilt for my daughter. I ran into some problems despite having spent several hours working out the maths to give me the number of blocks needed so I ended up having to insert the pieces on the sides, not ideal but for my first attempt at such a large quilt I’m quite pleased with the result and will certainly learn from my mistakes!

I really enjoyed making this quilt and will definitely plan another soon.





This is the quilt hanging on the line before being layered and stitched. Below is the finished quilt  – my daughter was delighted with it so it was well worth the effort.



I also made patchwork cushions for my sister in law using coordinating fabrics in 4 different designs.








My final Christmas project was a foundation pieced stocking for my daughter’s friend, I altered the foot slightly to give a quirky elf like pointed toe rather than the usual rounded toe.

Stocking Stocking 2








I think I will have to plan early for next Christmas as I thoroughly enjoyed making these gifts. What projects did you work on for this holiday period? Do you have any major projects planned for the New Year?

This year I will be Gelli printing!

8x10_plate_final_largeHave you checked out the GelliArts website & blog? http://www.gelliarts.com/

I really enjoyed mono printing when I was doing the City & Guilds course and have been coveting the Gelli plates for some time! Imagine my excitement on receiving a 10×8 plate for Christmas, I couldn’t wait to get started!


I’m very out of practice and my samples are a bit hit and miss but it’s important to make mistakes, how else can we learn! 😉 So, that said, here are my first Gelli prints.

Most of these samples have 2 or 3 layers, this gives good dimension with details showing through from the lower layers. Some will work better cut into smaller sections perhaps as backgrounds for collage or for making books.

I think some more practice is needed before moving on to printing on fabric, I also plan to make some samples using fabric transfer paints, this could produce some interesting results.

An added bonus when Gelli printing is to roll off excess paint from the brayer to sketchbook pages where layers can continue to be built up producing backgrounds.

Gelli Sketchbook

My brayer clearly has bubbles in the centre that create the bear patches that can be seen on these pages, I quite like this effect.

I’m pleased with the results obtained with little to no planning and using only items to hand to create textures. This is a quick and fun method of printing with great scope for good results.








Just opened a shop on Etsy!

Firstly I must apologise for the long gap!

The reason for my absence is that I have been working hard to finish stock for my Etsy shop!


Small zipped pouch with wrist strapThis has been a huge step. I’ve been working on designs that might be suitable for some time, refining the embroidery motifs and the production to make them the best products I can but it’s quite nerve wracking to see how they will be received.


Having built up a stash of dyed fabrics from my low water immersion experiments, https://stitchednotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/dyeing-for-some-colour-2/ I was keen to find a way to use them in a practical way.

You may have noticed that I love making bags! Zipped pouches are a logical extension of this passion and they are SO useful, I always have 3 or 4 on the go for my camera, Kindle, sewing projects and stationery as well as for toiletries and cosmetics.

These are just some of my designs –

Dragonfly Cow Parsley Lighthouse

















Please take a look and feel free to let me know what you think I would really welcome your feedback.

Summer Holidays

La Corbiere Lighthouse, Jersey, Channel Islands

Sorry for my absence over the past few weeks; holidays, exam results/back to school & life in general have kept me away from the blog, but I have been busy!

We were home in Jersey for a week visiting relatives and friends; the weather was glorious and, as always, I got to visit my favourite lighthouse – I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for lighthouses!


Back in Edinburgh and the Festival is in full swing. The ‘StitchEdinburgh at 60‘ exhibition by the Edinburgh Branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild is going very well; members are taking turns to steward the exhibition where lots of beautiful work is on display. Images from the exhibition will be available on the branch website soon – http://www.edinburghtextileart.co.uk

My first task on return from holiday was to make a costume for a friend going to Comic Con in Glasgow in September – he is going as Spock from a very specific episode of Star Trek. I will post photographs when I have them of the person in full costume and make up!

Messenger Bag – Pattern from The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam  https://www.u-handbag.com/

My teenage daughter is just about to start college so I have made this messenger bag from the Michael Miller ‘Nevermore’ fabric that I won back in February – https://stitchednotions.wordpress.com/2014/02/

To make this quilting cotton stand up to the rigours of student use I backed it with an upholstery weight cotton secured by stitching around the various shapes in the design. Woven interfacing was applied to the back of this double layer fabric and fusible wadding was applied to the lining fabric, this gives the bag body and strength.

I inserted a fairly large zipped pocket on the back of the bag.




The lining is 100% cotton dyed using procion dyes – https://stitchednotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/dyeing-for-some-colour-2/

I have inserted another zipped pocket into the lining and added a pen holder with space for 6 pens/pencils and an elasticated pocket. I have also attached a lobster swivel clasp on a fabric strap to the side gusset for hanging keys on.

I used all the same hardware that I used on my ‘Hope’ Messenger – https://stitchednotions.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/hope-messenger/                            This was all purchased from https://www.u-handbag.com/

A word of warning, if backing a finer fabric with upholstery weight fabric use a larger machine needle – I used a 16/100. The seams do get quite bulky so where they join the needle has to penetrate several layers. I also remade the adjustable strap using only the quilting cotton with a strip of fusible woven interfacing down the centre as it was just too bulky with the upholstery fabric included.

A tip for sewing across bulky seams

Among the accessories included with my machine are 3 strips of plastic of varying thicknesses; when sewing across bulky seams – when using denim for instance – the machine foot has to travel at a sharp incline over the seam and sometimes stalls. This is where these strips come in.



As the foot starts to rise at the front stop stitching with the needle down, raise the presser foot and place the strip/s behind the needle. 

When you lower the presser foot it is level which makes it much easier to stitch across the seam.           You don’t need to have these plastic strips as you could easily use folded paper/card to level out the presser foot.


I hope you find this tip useful, if you have a favourite sewing tip to share I would love to hear it.

New Tutorial For Twisty Bin


Back in January I showed you the Twisty Thread Bin https://stitchednotions.wordpress.com/2014/01/10/twisty-thread-bin/, finally I have completed the tutorial which you can find on the tutorials page.

I always have my bin next to me when I’m either machine or hand stitching so that I don’t leave little piles of threads and fabric snippets laying around. They’re great for workshops or when stitching on the go too as they simply twist closed containing all the bits until you get home or can dispose of them.

You don’t have to use them exclusively for stitching, they’re great for kids to keep by them when crafting or for pencil sharpening when drawing; perfect in the car to prevent rubbish piling up in the cup holders; on the dressing table in fact anywhere you just need a small bin!

I hope you like the tutorial and find it straightforward. Where will you put yours?

‘Putting on the Glitz’ With Maggie Grey

The Edinburgh branch of the Embroiderer’s Guild is 60 years old this year, last weekend we held a celebration day and were lucky enough to be joined by renowned textile artist Maggie Grey and her husband Clive.

Maggie is also the editor of Workshop on the Web; this is an online textile journal that is produced 4 times a year with workshops by world renowned textile artists and tutors, http://www.workshopontheweb.com/. As a dedicated ‘WoWie’, having subscribed since the very beginning, I was particularly delighted to have the opportunity to meet and learn from Maggie directly.

The day started with a fascinating look at the history of goldwork embroidery. We were shown a slideshow of beautiful examples, from the earliest pieces using real gold, to modern day work incorporating a much wider range of metals and metal products.

Maggie gave us a wealth of information talking us through the pieces and how the work was achieved with Clive providing historical context keeping us right with dates. We were then treated to an in-depth look at Maggie’s own work, not just through slides but with many examples that we were encouraged to look at and handle.

The following images are shown with Maggie’s kind permission, please respect copyright.


Maggie very generously allowed us to take photographs and gave permission for them to be posted here, please take a look at her blog http://www.magstitch.blogspot.co.uk/ where you will find lots more examples.

After a lovely lunch organised by the committee we split into 2 groups and each group had the opportunity to work with Maggie and Clive. Maggie demonstrated a number of techniques for creating small patches and embossing and colouring metal, whilst Clive showed us a variety of ways to make ‘wiggly wonders’ from GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAcoiled and twisted wires. Materials were provided so that we all had the chance to work on a small sample and have something to take home, here’s my completed sample.


Our chairperson and committee did a wonderful job organising and setting up this very successful event; it was a great way to celebrate this milestone and everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day.

Thank you Maggie and Clive, I hope you enjoyed your time in Scotland as much as we did!

Do check out the free taster edition of Workshop on the Web; as someone without an art background who loves to learn new techniques and get inspiration from professionals I’m an ardent fan. http://www.workshopontheweb.com/july2001/tasterop.htm

Dyeing for some colour!

In February I talked about a Dvd called “Color by Accident : Exploring Low-Water Immersion Dyeing” with Ann Johnston. The You Tube video below is a preview of this Dvd.                                                                                                                            Since June started with so much rain in Edinburgh I thought it was a good time to try out some of Ann’s techniques!

Preview of Dvd “Color by Accident : Exploring Low-Water Immersion Dyeing” with Ann Johnston


Dyeing with Procion MX Fibre Reactive Dyes                                                                                                                                     There is so much packed into this 4 hour Dvd; colour mixing, dye properties, recipes, different methods of applying the dyes as well as lots & lots of beautiful examples. I was particularly interested in Ann’s low water immersion dyeing as my very limited experience has been with direct dyeing where small quantities of dye solution are made up including soda ash solution and painted onto the fabric.

Colours – There is a bewildering choice of tempting dye colours available; Ann explains that within each range there are a limited number of single chemical procion MX dyes from which all the other colours are mixed.  Different suppliers all make up their own mixes of these single chemical dyes, just as an example, Fibrecrafts (http://www.georgeweil.com/) have 23 colours in their own brand dyes & 43 Jacquard dyes!

Fibrecrafts Fibre Reactive (Procion MX) Dyes, 50g

George Weil Procion Dye Colour Chart

Jacquard Procion MX Dyes, 18g

Jacquard Procion Dye Colour Chart







                                                                       So how do you choose? – I have previously taken a workshop with textile artist Ruth Issett who recommended using 6 colours – 2 each of 3 single chemical primary colours, lemon yellow, golden yellow, scarlet, magenta, ultramarine &  turquoise.

Ann Johnston uses all 14 of the single chemical dyes from Prochemical & Dye (http://www.prochemicalanddye.com/). When mixing colours Ann often uses more than of each primary colour in the mix; she describes how the different dyes react at different rates with the fibres causing the shades to split and ‘halo’ – this gives wonderful depth and patterning to her fabrics.                                                                                                                                                    I have only worked with 6 dyes, my first batch of dyeing used Colourcraft dyes in lemon yellow, golden yellow, scarlet, magenta, ultramarine &  turquoise. My 2nd batch used Jacquard dyes from George Weil in Lemon Yellow 004, Bright Gold Yellow 010, Aquamarine 069, Midnight Blue 079, Bright Scarlet 028 & Carmine Red 032 & Brown Rose 126  – these were brought as a set and I have subsequently discovered that only the yellows are single chemical dyes, this may explain some of the difficulties I had mixing colours with these compared to the Colourcraft dyes!

      From this ……                                                                     

                   ……. To this GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA



Dyes are made up in very concentrated solutions, Ann Johnston’s recipe is 2 tablespoons of dye powder with 2-4 tablespoons of urea in 240ml of warm water.                                                                                          I only have small quantities of dye so I used 1 tablespoon of dye powder with 2 tablespoons of urea in 240ml water – as you will see my results were still quite successful.                                                                                                                        A separate solution of soda ash is made up; I used 3 tablespoons of Soda Ash to 1 litre of warm water as I don’t have room to store a large quantity.

With each colour made up into separate concentrated solutions it is easy to mix colours and dilute as required for GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAeach piece of fabric. Working on the basis of 240ml liquid to dye 1 metre of fabric the ratio of dye concentrate to water can be adjusted depending on the tone of colour required – using 1 teaspoon of dye concentrate made up to 240ml with water will produce a very light tone whilst 1 tablespoon of dye concentrate made up to 240ml with water will give a much darker tone.

The effects achieved by this method vary depending on the technique used as the following samples will demonstrate.

Basic method

  • fabric soaked in plain water & squeezed out,
  • damp fabric scrunched into container
  • dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated
  • left for 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • left for at least 1 hour before rinsing
View album

These samples are on a variety of fabrics using the ColourCraft dyes – 100% cotton, silk noil gauze, cotton muslin, cotton/linen scrim and some poly/cotton mix fabrics that are not really suitable for procion dyes – 2 pieces were obviously a higher cotton percentage as they dyed quite well but I have shown the higher polyester content piece to show the difference – almost none of the dye was absorbed into this fabric.

The following examples are all on 100% cotton fabric using the Jacquard dyes from George Weil.

Parfait –

  • fabric soaked in plain water & squeezed out,
  • damp fabric scrunched into container – I cut the top off a 2litre plastic bottle
  • dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated
  • left for up to 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • 2nd piece of damp fabric scrunched into container on top of previous piece
  • 2nd colour dye solution poured over & pressed to ensure all fabric penetrated, this also mingles the 2 dye colours
  • left for up to 15 minutes without any agitation of fabric
  • soda ash solution poured over & pressed into fabric
  • repeat these steps for as many pieces of fabric as desired, after last piece of fabric leave for at least an hour after addition of soda ash before rinsing.


Don’t be put off by the way this looks during the process, as you can see from the pictures the results are amazing!



This piece was first soaked in soda solution then folded whilst damp, concertina style, then in half, as it was too wide for my container. the first dye colour (orange) was put into the container and the fabric was stood in the tray so that the folded edge only was in the dye. After 10 minutes I took the fabric out, poured away the orange dye, replaced this with turquoise dye then rotated the fabric and pushed the undyed portion into the dye bath, left for an hour before rinsing. I kept the fabric folded during the initial rinsing only opening it up when the water was running almost clear.                                                                                                                                                         My container was quite small so the fabric was tightly packed giving more pale areas towards one end.

Folded_dipped_edges This fabric was soaked first in soda ash before being folded concertina style then again into a small square. The whole square of fabric was left for 15 minutes in the first dye bath (a beige colour), then removed and the dye poured away, replaced with a burgundy colour and the edges each dipped in and held for a couple of minutes. The whole package was left to absorb before rinsing.

The beige colour was mixed from lemon yellow and rose brown, I like the way the yellow has absorbed more rapidly giving very subtle changes in colour in the light areas.


These pieces were first soaked in soda ash solution, scrunched into a container and dyed the first, (lighter), colour then removed and twisted. The piece on the left was twisted from the centre and the piece on the right from one end, before being coiled back into the empty container and the 2nd dye colour poured randomly over the coil. They were left for an hour before rinsing.




This piece was pre soaked in soda ash then scrunched into a container and dyed with yellow, left for 15 minutes then squeezed out. The fabric was opened up and re-scrunched before being put back into the container and dyed with the orange.

The effect is very similar to that achieved by the ‘parfait’ method which allows more fabrics to be dyed at once.



The images below and right are the same piece; this wasGEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA actually my cleaning up cloth! There was so much dye on it by the end of the session that I decided just to twist it up, as if wringing it out, and pour over the bits of dye I had left over from ‘painting’ some final pieces. I left this for about 15 minutes then poured over soda ash solution and left to cure before rinsing.



A final point – the ColourCraft dyes were much easier to mix; being single chemical dyes it was much easier to assess the colour. With the Jacquard dyes I had particular difficulty assessing any mixes using the blues and reds as they appeared very ‘muddy’ – that said I am very pleased with the final colours after rinsing and drying the fabrics.

It is possible to mix an infinite range of colours using single chemical dyes in the primary colours, especially if selecting more than one of each so it is certainly worth investing in these alone unless there is a particular mixed colour that you use a great deal.