Big stitching

When it comes to stitching, I have a penchant for small things. I love tiny EPP projects, foundation piecing little Artist Trading Cards, making tiny appliqué mini-hoops, crocheting adorably small crochet animals, making tiny mini-quilts and sweet little pincushions.

Tiny Liberty hexies
I’m currently stitching up these tiny 1/4inch hexies.

Given the choice I would always choose to work on some tiny stitching project rather than a huge ambitious quilt.

There are a couple of problems with all this tiny stuff… I get super-tense about making sure each tiny stitch is at least in the right place. This results in gripping the fabric and needle for dear life, and the joints in my hands get really sore, and my shoulders feel like I have been working at the coalface all day! I have to remind myself to relax and breathe on a regular basis (maybe that’s not such a bad thing – a topic for a future blog post there!).

Hoop swap work in progress
My other, ongoing, stupidly small project is this teeny appliqué for the Very Berry Mini Hoop Swap.

And then there’s my eyesight. I use reading glasses and and a magnifying lamp which helps a lot, but when I settle down for an evening of relaxation, I absolutely don’t want to be sitting there with my reading glasses perched on the end of my nose and the bright light of the daylight bulb affecting my ability to go to sleep later on!

So, my head, hands and eyes are telling me I need a break from all this close up work, and my heart seems to have recognised this, because I’m constantly being drawn to quilting and sewing styles where the focus is on big stitches, texture, improvisation and fun. Quiltmania, my favourite quilting magazine, has been a great source of information and inspiration on this. It was there that I first read about the kantha quilts of India, and more recently I saw the fabulous work of Akiko Ike (here’s a little introduction to her work), read about the style of stitching that she calls Chiku Chiku (aka Crazy Sashiko), and from there started to spend ages scouring Pinterest and blogs for pictures of Boro and Sashiko stitching which influenced her. I won’t go on about this – but if you are interested, the fabulous Susan Briscoe has written a blog post which serves as fab introduction and there’s a fabulous description of her meeting with Ike-san and her introduction to Chiku Chiku just here.

This is a very long introduction to telling you about my current project! Hidden away amongst all the gorgeous treasures at Beyond Measure (my new favourite online shop for stitchy gratification) there are the most wonderful bundles of wool tweed fabric (which are amazing value and top quality wool).

Beautiful pile of tweeds from Beyond Measure
Gorgeous wool tweed! I love all these, but the one with the square spirals (second bottom) is my absolute favourite.

When I was lucky enough to my hands on one (kindly contributed to my stash by lovely Grace who is the brains behind Beyond Measure), I knew what I wanted to do (influenced by this beautiful Boro-inspired bag, and this one, and many more!). Here are some pics of my progress – I’m making it up as I go along, as you can probably tell.

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure further away

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure closer up

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure close up

I am making two panels for the bag front and back, quilt as you go style. I’m still working on the first side, and the great thing about knowing that I will be making the other side is that I can put what I learn into practice. I am going to end up with a bag with two very different sides!

Wool tweed from Beyond Measure furthest away

I’ve used quite big pieces so far – but will probably add some smaller pieces (maybe circles) on top, further down the line. I am really enjoying the improvisational nature of the project, and my decision not to worry about whether I am breaking any rules (mainly because I am not sure there are any…).

Can’t wait to show you my further progress and what I am learning. And if you skipped over all those links back there – do go and check out Susan Briscoe’s lovely post about her meeting with Akiko Ike, it’s so nice!

Thanks so much again to Beyond Measure for the lovely lovely fabric. If you are feeling inspired, here’s the link to the wool tweed again, and they also have some wonderful Sashiko needles too. And if you fancy a day out, there’s a Beyond Measure Open Day in fabulous Todmorden on April 1st

Foam stabiliser for structured sewing

I’ve had the opportunity, over the last week or so, to experiment with Bosal In-R-Form foam stabiliser. I’ve been working on a pattern for little boxes/baskets made from fabric and wanted something sturdy to ensure that the sides didn’t sag and bag. In the past I have used a combination of Vilene S320 and Vilene H640 to create structure whilst retaining softness, but because I had easy access to the Bosal product at my local fabric shop, I thought it was a time to give it a try.


Bosal In-R-Form is a strange  looking thing – it reminds me of something medical.. but don’t let that put you off, because it is a dream to work with. It cuts very easily, is very easy to sew, and because it doesn’t have the fluffy edge you get when you use fusible fleece, it’s much easier to see where you are sewing. It’s probably a bit less than a quarter of an inch thick, and adds stability without lots of extra bulk.

Basket class 1

There are three kinds of Bosal In-R-Form available: sew-in, one-sided fusible and double sided fusible. I used the single-sided fusible, with the outer fabric fused to the Bosal. I am not a fan of double-sided fusibles full-stop, because I find it all too easy to accidentally fuse something at the wrong time. The single-sided was good, but after fusing, I found the fused fabric crinkles quite a lot if you bend or squish whatever you are making. For my basket project, this was absolutely fine, because once made and pressed, there’s no real reason for it to get squished. But I would be cautious about making a bag using quilting fabric fused to Bosal.

Basket class 2

I mentioned this issue of crinkling (it’s a bit hard to describe – it reminds me of when you put sticky back plastic onto books and get those annoying wrinkles…!) to sewing friends on Instagram and there was fairly widespread agreement that this can be a problem. The wise people there, were pretty much in agreement that sew-in Bosal In-R-Form is best for bag making. Other people also mentioned that the crinkling isn’t a problem if the Bosal is fused to heavier weight fabrics. This made me wonder about the possibility of using iron-on interfacing between the quilting fabric and the fusible Bosal, but this seems like a lot of hard work!

So I will stick with using the fusible for baskets like this, and invest in some sew-in to try with a bag.

By the way, if you are within striking distance of Newcastle-under-Lyme in north Staffs, I will be teaching how to make these little baskets at Hollies Haberdashery on April 22nd (a Saturday morning). It’s a great fun little project and will be a lovely way to spend a morning – would love to have you along.


Support Very Berry by visiting my wonderful sponsors, Black Sheep Wools.


Sewing Tools of Note: All Kinds of Magnets

Another one in my series of useful tools that make your sewing life run that little bit smoother. Today we’re talking about magnets… now, before you panic about my beautiful computerised machine getting scrambled because I’ve filled my studio with electro-magnetic waves, I really do urge you to read Magnets Won’t Break a Computerised Sewing Machine and emit a sigh of relief….


At my sewing class last week (I teach sewing classes now!), one of my students had a cute little magnetic gadget to help keep her seam allowance straight. It was so simple – just a magnet with a straight edge – and effective, and as I knew it would work on my machine (it wouldn’t be suitable for all, so do check), I added it on to an order I was making this week.

Seam allowance magnet

Now, I like to think I can eyeball seam allowances quite well after all these years of practice… but sadly the passing of the years is also causing a hideous falling off in my eyesight, so this is great for me –  I don’t have to focus quite so much on where the edge of my fabric is or where the lines are on my needle-plate. I love it! Not sure how it useful it would be for a 1/4 inch seam, but I have the edge of my presser foot for that..

I also threw some self-adhesive magnetic tape into my virtual shopping basket. I have long wanted to attach some to my sewing machine to store some of my Clover Wonder Clips whilst I’m stitching.

Magnetic strip for clip storage

Magnetic strip for storage

Looking good, although I have my doubts about the strength of the magnet, and I keep knocking the clips off with my saggy jumper sleeves, but hey, it’s nearly summer…

And finally my little do-it-all Merchant and Mills magnet, a stocking filler gift from my lovely husband, who knows me very well…

Quick magnet for picking up pins

I use it All The Time. It’s really great for picking up escaped pins from the carpet and pin spillages from the work top. I also keep it next to the sewing machine when I am stitching and just throw pins at it as I pull them out of the way. Much quicker than using a pincushion, and although not as fancy as a magnetic pincushion, it will do for me.

If magnets aren’t for you… I have plenty more Sewing Tools of Note


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