Author Archives: veryberryhandmade

About veryberryhandmade

Mum, artisan, gardener, baker, home-educator

Giveaway: Cotton & Steel – Love Patchwork & Quilting

So, one of the reasons why I was so quiet on the Very Berry blog over the spring and early summer was that I was busy beavering away on English Paper Piecing patterns for the current issue of Love Patchwork and Quilting. I created all the designs for the little booklet attached to the front cover – using a nice big octagon template, along with very pointy diamonds and little squares. I’m really excited to finally share my designs with you:

Hexie tote

Diamond pouch


Lone Star

As usual, they’ve been styled to perfection by the lovely women at LPQ – thanks Alice & Jen, and more thanks to the wonderful tech ed, Sarah, for clearing up any pattern muddles!

One of my aims was to combine quite traditional ways of using EPP blocks (the two hoops are pretty trad!) and then do something a bit different (and a bit quicker) with the pieces. So for the tote bag I have chopped off a piece of the octagon to create a different shape entirely, and used the strips of that pieced cup-shape to frame and emphasise some negative space. On the pouch the diamonds are very quickly machine appliqued into place, and I solve the (tricky) problem of finishing those sharp diamond points by covering them up entirely! I think the zippy pouch is my favourite of all the projects (with the starburst hoop a close second), and I’m hoping to use the same quick applique method on a couple of larger projects very soon. 


As usual, the LPQ team have sent me a contributor’s copy of the magazine, but as I already have a subscription, that means I have a spare to give away. I also have a heap of left-over Cotton & Steel fabric from the project, so thought I would throw that into the mix too, as a big thank you to all the regulars out there who have stuck with Very Berry through thick and thin – realised just now that I am approaching my 5th anniversary here on WordPress (with 3 years before that on Blogspot – I am definitely an Old Timer Blogger now!). So you all deserve a reward I think… There’s approximately 7 FQ of fabrics in this pile, in about 9 different designs:

Starburst giveaway

If you’d like to be in with a chance of winning this little bundle of goodies then just leave a comment and I’ll make the draw on Friday evening (my time!). You are very welcome to just leave a ‘pick me’, but I’d be particularly interested to read any suggestions you all have for patterns or tutorials (for completed items or particular techniques) you would like to see on Very Berry blog during the rest of 2015. Very happy to post anywhere in the world, so don’t let that stop you joining in!

And I think it’s time for me to start planning an even bigger giveaway for the end of August, for my 5th birthday celebrations!


Filed under Sewing, Stitching

Adventures of an ATC Newbie

This week’s ATC guest post is from Helen of Midget Gem Quilts – thanks so much Helen for your fab personal take on the fun (and stress!) of making a first ATC (how come an ATC is ALWAYS smaller than you think??). 

When I saw that Ali was taking names from those interested in another ATC Swap, Season 7, I leapt at the chance. For me Season 6 was my first, an ATC newbie. when Ali asked if there any interest in writing a tutorial, I leapt at that chance too. Mine is from a slightly different perspective, not so much how to make an ATC, but more how not to make an ATC. Or an anti-tutorial if you prefer.

So, children, sit quietly and listen to your Aunty Tutorial. And, if you all behave, Ali will make you some of her delicious raspberry ice cream.

First get your ATC, use a business card as the base. Keep it simple. Just use a business card, or a coffee loyalty card if you prefer. Marks and Spencer do a nice one, the green will be covered anyway. Raymond Blanc Brasserie do a nice loyalty card with a nice weight. Don’t faff about as I did cutting scrap booking card, some will be too light, some will be too heavy, and it’s a pain having to look for a set square and a pencil.

Helen ATC pic 1

Next, choose your base fabric and mark it off. Last year I carefully drew around the card on the reverse of the fabric and left a ¾in margin. This year I will be tacking around the outline of the card, and leaving a generous overhang.

Helen ATC pic 2


Helen ATC pic 3

Last year, I appliqued and embroidered my ATC. But I went to mount it and it had all shifted about ½in upwards. I have no idea how this happened. There was not enough fabric to draw over the back of the card and secure. I can only assume the embroidery had tightened it all up.

Use a very thin wadding. Obvious but not so obvious. Even thin wadding is bulky by the time you had a front, a back and a label.

Don’t bother sewing on a binding. I had to due to the lack of fabric at the top. I carefully hand stitched my binding, every so carefully round the corners. But …. When I tried to pull it tight at the back it took on a life of its own. I laced the back rather like a Victorian corset, as tight as I could. The binding which had sat in place ever so neatly at the front was now all higgledy piggledy. By this time the sweat is breaking, the postage date was getting ominously close.

Helen ATC pic 4

On the reverse I used a little double sided tape, again from the scrap booking box. (I love when these hobbies interconnect), a little bit of wadding and then my backing. All of a sudden my nice slim ATC/business card had ballooned in a fat little pillow. Add on the label, and that’s another layer. Never mind an envelope, this would have needed a parcel box all of its own.

Helen ATC pic 5

After posting….My partner was very gracious and said she loved her ATC. It was made with good feeling and I was happy with the embroidery and applique on the front. Little bits of Liberty and lots of French knots. I have fallen in love with French knots all over again. But, it could have been neater, and slimmer…. A little like myself I suppose.

Oh, and one last obvious thing, flag the email with your swap partner name and address. Obvious isn’t it?

And now for this year. “Favourite”.  I’m going with one of two options. Lighthouses and the seaside, or a big cream bun. The Lighthouse is at the Gobbins, Whitehead, Northern Ireland. The cream bun is from a cream tea I enjoyed last year, one of many.

Helen ATC pic 6

Helen ATC pic 7

Whatever you do have fun. And as you have all listened so well to Aunty Tutorial, enjoy your Auntie Ali’s raspberry ice cream. I hope to make some this weekend.


Filed under Sewing, Stitching

Fruit & Nuts: A sort-of recipe

Recently I’ve been making my own fruit and nut snack mixes to reach for when I am on the very edge of popping up to the shops for a Wispa Gold… (I can’t have one EVERY day). I’ve tried various dried fruit brands in pursuit of the perfect tangy burst of flavour. I am choosy about this – if it is going to be my one sweet treat of the day, then it has to be just right. I don’t like sticky when it comes to dried fruit, and I definitely don’t want added sugar, and I don’t want the dried up sweepings from the factory floor (save those for your Garibaldi biscuits guys).

I also want a good variety of fruits to choose from, so I can mix it up and keep things interesting. Even though they are a bit more expensive than some other brands, I have settled on getting my supplies from Urban Fruit because they meet all my criteria… plus no sulphites, and I now know (having read the website!) that the fruit is slowly dried at low temps so keep more of its nutritional value.

So because I am already a fan, I was delighted to bump in to Urban Fruit’s marketing team at the Blogger’s Love food event, and blag a couple of free samples:


I told them I had a whole bunch of their goodies in my cupboard already, but they insisted!  So far I have tried the pineapple, mango (see above), and also (paid for by me) the cherries, strawberries and blackcurrant & blueberry mix, and they are all quite yummy.


My Tropical Snack Mix

Take equal quantities of:

Dried mango
Dried pineapple
Dried coconut strips
Brazil nuts

Chop all the ingredients into small bite-size pieces, mix together in a bowl and then transfer to a clip top jar (a jam funnel is useful for this!). About 50g of each will fill a litre glass jar, which will keep you going for ages.

Mind you, what normally happens is that certain people pick out all the mango and pineapple – good job I like the other bits…!

A quick google tells me that this mix contains, amongst other things, vitamin A, B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, copper, manganese, iron, mono-unsaturated fatty acids, protein and dietary fibre.  Hurrah!



My beautiful blue bowl is by the lovely Victoria from Little Wren Pottery

Another favourite snack combo is the one I think of my Dark Chocolate mix – this one has equal quantities of cherries, strawberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of cocoa nibs.  It’s yummy!

Or course, there are times when only chocolate will hit the spot (what would life be without it?) but when I need a quickish boost and it’s not a chocolate day, these mixes are a real treat, and it’s good fun to play around with nuts, seeds and fruits to make great flavour combinations – I recommend it.

What are your favourite healthy snacks?


Filed under Food and Drink, Ingredients, Recipes

Less Stress Sewing

A friend asked for my sewing tips. Here’s what I came up with. Some are really small practical things that have been important to me in getting a better finish on my projects. Others are about the approach I take to my sewing, and probably should take towards life too!

Less stress sewing

#1 – First up I think the only way you can ever get a really good finish is to go into the process knowing that it might not go according to plan. Time and materials might be used without an end product, but it is not a waste, you’re learning.

#2 – Buy the best that you can if you want your creativity to last. And when it comes to sewing tools, it makes sense to buy the quality, well-recommended products,  because they will save you hours of frustration.

#3 – Look after your sewing machine – clean it, oil it, get it serviced. And as with everything you love,  get to know its quirks, foibles, strengths and weaknesses.

#4 – So small but so important!  Learn about needle sizes and make sure you use the right needle for the right project and fabric, whether you are machine stitching or hand sewing.  Change machine needles regularly,  it will make all the difference to the quality of your stitching.

#5 – Try and figure out how the pattern works and pieces fit  together before you start. Make sure you have everything you need.

#6 – Oh yes, go on, please build your stash! Especially if you are a patchworker, or use lots of fabric in your work, it makes such a difference to your sewing and your freedom to experiment if you have lots of fabric to work with and choose from. Make sure you keep your stash colour balanced too. Let’s go shopping!!

#7 – Experiment with linings, interfacings, waddings, stitches, seam finishes, and decide on the ones you like for the finish you want to get. Some of this will come with experience, and (see rule 1) it is ok, although a bit hard sometimes,  to make mistakes. I feel it really pays off not to skimp on this stuff.

#8 – You know that big fabric stash? Well, the lesson I am only just beginning to learn, as my scrap mountain gets more and more out of control, is that you need to keep it sorted. By colour, collection, size, value, designer – whatever works best for you. It’s a great way to see the gaps in your stash too, so you can do more of Rule 6 ;-)

#9 – It’s all going wrong? You’ve sewn that block in upside down for the second time? You’ve forgotten to interface your collar? You just can’t work out how the pieces are meant to fit together? Your pineapple block looks more like a banana?  Take a break! Sleep on it, make a fresh start in half an hour, tomorrow,  next week…

Ignore all the rules (even these – well, except the one about needles…and #6 of course), there’s usually more than one approach to take,  more than one way to do things. Just remind yourself of #1 and then chuck the rule book out the window.




Filed under Buying fabric & supplies, Sewing, Stitching

String Bag: A UFO and a tutorial

Another item finished from my UnFinished Objects pile has been completed! I started this tote bag so I could have a quick practice with my design for the Black Sheep Wools Sewing Bee. I had to leave it at the lining stage to complete other things, so it has been sitting around since early June (and is therefore probably one of the youngest UFOs I have!) until I had a moment to finish it. This is one of those makes that brings MUCH satisfaction because I am happy with every part of it – colours, fabrics, shape, stitching. Big Smile!


It was a pleasure to sneak a few bits of selvedge into the design. Navy blue, zesty orange and grey is one of my favourite colour combinations just now.


If you are interested in making your own version, I have written up the pattern, and it is available as a free download from the Black Sheep Wools website. Unfortunately, I didn’t take pics on competition day (no time), so you can marvel at my amazing drawing skills as I try to explain how the string patchwork is done!



Filed under Sewing, Sewing Patterns and Tutorials, Stitching

Bloggers Love Food & Drink Festival

Yesterday I had a bit of an adventure. A while ago I heard about a Bloggers Food & Drink Festival happening in London, and because I love an excuse to visit my old London haunts, and love to blog about food, I signed up to attend.

I arrived a bit early so started the day with a little walk along the South Bank and had a few nostalgic moments. It has changed a lot since we moved away from London in 2003. But I was glad to see the Founders Arms was still going strong and stopped for a little half of Dutch courage (aka Young’s Special, which tasted as good as I remember).

New bag on trip to London
It was good to have a few minutes people watching – there were children playing down on the foreshore of the river, I wished I had had the time to pop down and search for some Thames treasures.

Next it was over the Millennium Bridge (where I saw the amazing Ben Wilson – who transforms discarded chewing gum into tiny works of art) and into the City to a rather dark nightclub to the festival. In spite of feeling rather nervous about all the networking that was ahead of me (am out of practice in recent years), I had an absolute blast – and was reminded that it is always easy to talk to people who are so enthusiastic about the lovely goodies that they have created. I came home with a huge haul of samples, leaflets and business cards and I’ll be blogging in more detail about them over the next few weeks as I try them out. But for the time being I wanted to give them all a shout out… in no particular order:

That Protein
Equinox Kombucha
Brownie Brownie
Cocoa Hernando
Of the Earth Superfoods
Harrie’s Coffee
Miss Millar’s
Slendertox Tea
Granny Mary’s Potted Meats
Thanks for Franks
Urban Fruit
Pearl and Groove

Bloggers Love food fest

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Filed under Food and Drink, Ingredients

Artist Trading Cards Update 1

I’m really pleased that for this round of the Very Berry ATC swap, some of the swappers will be guest blogging about their progress and experience. First up is Jo of JoZart – thank you Jo! I met Jo at the Black Sheep Wools Sewing Bee – and I am really excited she is swapping along with us. Jo is an old hand at paper ATCs, but making a textile version is new to her. Here’s what Jo says:

I’m thrilled to be joining in the 7th Fabric ATC swap, with Ali – and the theme is:

My Favourite …..
and the rest is up to me……

so I decided to make my mini collaged, embroidered, doo dah-ed tiny piece of textile art all about my favourite artist……. first a couple of doodles to try to get an impression of his work.
I decided that this one, below, might lend itself to the task but it looks so bland as a simple sketch of black on white, when he works in bold colour and with such a great sense of freedom. I’ve had to reign myself in.
He worked in design, art, textiles and architecture, all on a big scale, and had extremely innovative ideas about conservation. He was certainly non-conformist and used his art to spread the message for alternative living.
Maybe you will guess his name???
I’ll keep that to myself for a little longer unless you are canny enough to guess?

I rushed to gather a few fabrics so I could begin to transform my ideas and add colour to my mini tribute to him. This is my inspiration and my first steps and it is amazing how daunting but exciting it is to contemplate a creation which is only 2.5 inches x 3.5 ins. I’m looking forward to seeing how I get on with these tiny bits of fabric (which are still far to much) and I don’t think it will be a simple task. Looking forward to doing some free machine embroidery, maybe I’ll add a few beads too….. ooooh ! It’s so little but really exciting!

Stage 1 over, now watch this space!!!
I have been lucky enough to see his art in a major exhibition and I have also visited several places where he transformed building with his architectural revamps.
Here’s the interior of a station:
and sinks in the public conveniences…

How will I shrink a bit of this into such a small area?

Good luck Jo and thank you so much! Now Very Berry readers – I guessed the artist – can you??


Filed under Sewing, Stitching