English Paper Piecing With Coloured Pencils

Hydrangea serrata ‘Grayswood’ – my favourite, from last year’s cuttings.

In this post I am looking at how using both regular and water soluble coloured pencils can enhance your English paper piecing or appliqué . In spite of the length of this post, this is just an overview and if you want to learn more there are plenty of Youtube videos that go into more detail.

Why use Coloured Pencils on fabric?

If you want to add colour detail on an EPP block or piece of appliqué, or you don’t have the right colour fabric for a small piece you want to insert, or the fabric you do have is lacking a highlight, shadow or outline, you might find a solution in the use of coloured pencils. However, these are best used to accentuate small areas of your work rather than anything large scale and can, of course, be further embellished with embroidery.

Coloured Pencils

The Tools you Need:

Regular Coloured Pencils : You need only regular coloured pencils (though a big selection is worth having). Crayola works fine at the cheaper end or Prismacolour at the more expensive end. Prismacolour and Artesa have a softer lead which works well, as opposed to the harder leads in the Caran D’Ache and Rexel Cumberland that I have in the house. Rexel Cumberland are made by Derwent Studio (who also make Inktense Pencils). Regular coloured pencils allow you to control colour and intensity in a way that is more difficult with Intense pencils, which are ink rather than wax based. However colour pencils give a softer, less dramatic effect.

A Design on Fabric: It could be a black and white fabric with line drawings, or you could transfer a design onto fabric, or draw your own. To experiment I have made some white cotton English Paper Pieced fabric squares with a series of embroidery designs transferred onto them. I have used fabric that is slightly textured to show you that this is not necessarily an ideal choice because, as you will see, the texture shows through the colour. The colour goes on better is your fabric is smooth.

Cotton buds: to blend your pencil shading to a smooth finish.

A very small paintbrush: Size 0 to apply your Textile Medium.

Textile Medium: (also often called fabric medium or colourless extender). It will look white in the bottle and while you use it but it dries clear. Jacquard is one of the best brands. The Tulip brand gives a slight sheen, apparently, and you can also buy some that are iridescent, leaving a glittery sheen(which is nice if you want to paint a dragon-fly wing). Use very little and let it dry before adding more because it’s hard to get rid of the glitter if you add too much at first. There are a variety of textile mediums that create different effects so check out a few to make sure they suit your purpose. Below is the one I use:

A hot iron: No steam!

How to Use Them:

The key to using coloured pencils well, is to use the duller side of the pencil. You want to shade not create harsh lines that do not blend. This is easier with a softer lead and if the pencil is not overly sharpened. Layer your colour, adding a light, almost transparent amount of colour, blend the colour gently with a cotton bud, and then add another light layer, until you get the depth of colour you are looking for.


Coloured pencils on an iron-on transfer added to a 2 1/2 inch English Paper Pieced square

Making it Last:

Although using coloured pencils can easily be used to enhance your quilts or drawings on fabric, the reason many people avoid using them is that in the colour is prone to fade with use, or wash out when laundered.

However, there is a way to make them permanent!

The secret is to brush on a colourless extender like the one pictured above. You only need a little on the tip of your paintbrush. Barely touching the fabric, spread a very fine layer of the extender over your colour pencilled area. As long as you add only a fine layer, the hand of your fabric will remain the same. It won’t stiffen the fabric so you will easily be able to easily stitch in more detail afterwards, if you want. Now let your work air dry. Once it has dried, heat set it with a DRY iron for about 5 seconds. Don’t forget to protect your iron with a piece a backing parchment between the iron and your work.

If you love colouring with pencils, I have come across this wonderful book that covers a myriad of techniques I have not seen before in a book. It is not intended for use on fabric but there is no reason why many of the techniques wouldn’t work on fabric as well.

Other Types of Coloured Pencil that work on Fabric:

Regular coloured pencils aren’t the only coloured pencils you can use on fabric but the ones that give the most dramatic colour are probably the water soluble Inktense pencils.

Inktense Pencils

Intense pencils are watercolour pencils with ink pigments which become lightfast as soon as water is added. The water intensifies the colour to something much more vibrant. They are useful for adding shadows, (for example under rocks in landscapes), for soft background washes, for adding more contrast to a solid colour in a single area, or as a filler between areas of embroidery. They allow an opportunity to add depth and texture that your fabric may not give you, to add more definition to appliqué, or for filling in black and white line illustrations on fabric.

These pencils come as single pencils (I bought mine a few years ago in a small blister pack of six) or in tins of 12, 24, 36 and 72. The bigger the tin, the greater the choice of fabulous colours but the larger tins are eye-wateringly expensive!

What Not to Do:

The picture above left shows Inktense pencils used as they are, without water. Here I have not used a blending pencil or Q tip to blend the colour and it shows. The rough texture of the cotton makes it easy to throw the pencil off balance around the edges.

The picture above right shows the same pencils used with added water. Here you can see how much more vibrant the colour is but the same picture also shows how hard it is to fill tiny areas adequately in a small design like this, or to stop the added water from causing the colour to travel outside your lines. Of course these small mistakes can be covered with outline stitches, if necessary but there is an easier way to control the colour.

Inktense Pencils

The Tools You Need:

Some Inktense pencils: These are available in a blister pack of 6 colours or in tins of 24, 36 and 72 that are eye wateringly expensive!

A sheet of freezer paper: to put under you work because moisture can work into the surface below.

A small paintbrush: A water brush can also be used

A small cup of water and/or Textile medium: to control the spread the colour.

A saucer or small palette: for creating puddles of colour and for mixing your colours

A white cotton scrap of cloth: to test colour and wipe up spills:

A sheet of freezer paper, or watercolour paper below your work: to stabilise the work and prevent colour seeping through.

How to Use Them:

Start with the lightest areas of colour because, once it is dry, you can darken it or add more details. Place a little colour on your work and then add a little water and guide the colour to where you want it. Or wet the fabric first and then add the colour. Another way is to wet your brush and take the colour directly off your pencil lead. You will get quite a bit of colour from a small amount on your brush.

Adding fabric medium is useful for small details or narrow areas, like plant stems, when it’s important that colour does not bleed into other areas, because it gives you much more control. The fabric medium thickens the colour and stays where you place it. Added water, on the other hand, causes the colour to travel and it is less easy to control where it goes. For fine, detailed work, you can even dip your pencil into the textile medium. I have read that using Aloe Vera as a textile medium, mixed in with the paint first, gives a more seamless blend of colour, though I have not tried this. Aloe vera can be thinned down with water, 50 50 water and gel, which gives you enough moisture to activate and control the colour without any bleed. The aloe vera doesn’t have to be anything fancy, not pure or organic, just clean.

You can Inktense colours when they are wet, or, if you leave a first layer to dry, you can then add more detail or shading on top, without fear of affecting the layer you put down previously. You can use a hairdryer to dry the layers more quickly.

Dewent studio also make Outliner pencils which are not designed to blend. They will hold their line but the effect is quite a soft line. If you want a harder line to define petals on flowers for example, a permanent micron pen would be the better choice.

The Inktense blocks pictured above (on the left) can be used in much the same way as the pencils. You will see in the photo above that I have lifted the colour directly from the Inktense pencils (on the right) using a brush and then applied it to my fabric.

Making it Last:

Heat set your work with a scrap piece of cotton over the area and use the cotton temperature on your iron to press it. Heat set 1—15 secs.  If you need to use an eraser to remove any details do this before heat setting. It is also possible to heat set your work between each layer if creating multiple layers of colour. None of the colour will spread by applying heat.

Alternatively use textile medium to set the colour. The medium allows colour staining to bond with the fibres of the fabric and make it permanent. Spread it on after your work is dry.

Testing on scraps of fabric is always a good idea to try out any of these suggestions.

Adding Inktense Colour around Completed embroidery:

You can coax colour toward the the raised line of your embroidery. Add a little colour up to the line and then draw your colour in towards the centre of the area. This will prevent colour staining the embroider while creating shadow at the edges and a lighter tint towards the centre where the light falls.

Aquarelle Pencils:

Another way you might colour fabric are with water soluble pencils, which behave very much like regular coloured pencils but create a painterly look once water is added. They are useful for pastel shaded embroideries, for wall decorations for a baby’s room, indeedPP for anything requiring a soft, romantic colour palette.

The Tools You Need:

Water Soluble Pencils: There are various brands like the one above.

A fine paintbrush and small jar of water: to intensify the colour

A sheet of freezer paper: or something similar, to protect the surface under your work.

A blender stump : to soften your colour and pull it across tiny areas of fabric. If the tip collects too much colour, this can be filed off with an emery board.

How to Use them:

The use of these pencils share many of the same techniques as regular coloured pencils. The effect they create, though brighter than coloured pencils, is much less intense than with ink based pencils. You can lighten a colour by adding water and deepen and mix colours by layering more colour on top or next to the first colour and adding water to blend them.

What Not to Do:

The above pictures show the Aquarelle pencils used, on the left, without water and on the right, with water. I have not tried to blend the colours and the textured fabric did resist my colouring, tending to snag and ruck up as I coloured. It might be worth putting fabric in a hoop to keep it taut or pinning it down at the edges to minimise movement.

Making it Last:

Once the area is dry, heat set it with a dry iron for approximately 5 seconds and it will be permanent. Don’t forget to protect your iron and your work by putting something like baking parchment between them!

It is my hope to write further posts on the use of crayons, paints and inks on fabric but with a house move on the horizon, it might not be for a while. In the meantime I will aim for shorter posts on simpler things. I hope you will try(or have tried) some of the pencils I have mentioned above. Please let me know what you think or have discovered.

Bye for now…

Tiny Portraits, EPP Style

Hi Everyone!

We have beautiful cacti flowers in our sunroom at the moment.

Here (at last!) is the promised post on portraits that will fit inside a 2 inch (or 5 cm) square, adapted for EPP from a workshop I had with the textile artist Saima Kaur. These portraits really have more to do with embroidery, appliqué and paint than EPP, but I have wrapped them around a paper template or piece of iron-on stabiliser, EPP style, and always stretch my idea of what constitutes EPP a little further than most people!

Tools Needed:

  • A tightly woven piece of white or off-white piece of cotton about 20 x 24 inches or 50 x 60 cm – or solid coloured cotton if that’s what you prefer.
  • A ruler
  • A glue stick
  • A piece of paper and pencil to doodle on and work out your designs
  • Fabric paint and small brushes, or water soluble coloured pencils.
  • Tracing paper and pencil, or a water soluble fabric pen, to transfer your designs or draw them directly onto the fabric
  • Up to a dozen 2″ square EPP paper pieces to use as templates
  • Some iron-on fusible webbing (optional)
  • A hand embroidery needle and some sharp scissors
  • Some stranded embroidery cotton in up to four contrasting colours of your choice. Use just one or two strands of embroidery thread. An embroidery hoop is useful (but not necessary) to keep your work flat and to prevent puckering while you sew.

How To Begin

Use the soluble fabric pen to mark out a grid with 9 to 12 squares, each one measuring 4″ or x 4″ or 10cm x 10cm, on your cotton fabric.

Draw smaller squares (5cm x 5cm / 2″ x 2″) inside each of these larger squares. You will create your designs inside this smaller area. You could place a 2″ EPP template inside each larger square and draw around it if you like, to save measuring it out.

Here is part of my grid showing the designs that went wrong or I didn’t like. I forgot to photograph it before I had finished and started cutting it up. It is a good idea to iron your fabric before you begin, which I did but it became crumpled with use. Don’t iron it once it has soluble marker lines on it, or you may not be able to remove them.

Create Your Designs

Now try doodling nine to twelve designs on a piece of paper. Here are some almost finished pieces to show you how some of mine turned out. Try a few profiles with different eyes and noses and hair styles.

Here is simple profile. Faces are fun to do

Introduce movement, or around play with scale.

I cut out a scrap of fabric for a dress and went around the edge with stem stitch here

Add background pattens, more colours, small details to suggest context and so on. You don’t have to do a face.

I tried using different coloured threads here and adding more detail.

Look over your doodled designs and choose a few of your favourite ones to transfer into the smaller squares in the grid marked on your fabric. Draw them on directly with water soluble fabric marker, as I did in the photo below, or use tracing paper or dressmaker’s carbon paper to make the transfer. Then put one of the designs into a small hoop, if you prefer to use a hoop, or just begin sewing one section at a time. Don’t cut out anything until you have finished sewing all the ones you want to do.

Doodled armchair cat

Embellish Your Designs

Explore a variety of ways of stitching and presenting your pictures. Add patterns or shapes to backgrounds,

I tried adding a mini border and using Inktense pencils for colour but spritzing the water-soluble pen marks caused the colour to run.

Experiment with a variety of stitches to outline and embellish. Outline or fill in small areas with paint or stitches, sew on scraps of fabric for clothing and dream up interesting hair styles. All these help to add interest, movement and texture.

I used needle weaving to create a cushion for my armchair cat

When you have sewn and embellished as many designs as you want to do, cut each one out along the outer lines of the grid, so that you have your 2 inch square with a border all the way around it. Fit your 2″ EPP paper piece behind and wrap each fabric border around it, folding them to the back. You can secure these temporarily using pins, or a small stitch from corner to corner without sewing through the template, until you are ready to press them. Or turn them over straight away and press the fabric from the back to create sharp creases at the sides and nice crisp corners.

If you prefer, you can remove the paper piece once the turned border is firmly folded and creased to the back, and replace the template with a 2 inch square of iron-on fusible stabiliser. I used medium weight Vilene H250 iron-on interfacing. The decision to do one or other of these may depend on how you want to use your designs.

To Frame or Not to Frame

If you want to frame your designs, the stabiliser protects the threads, prevents fraying when borders are much reduced in size, is thinner where fabric bulk could be a problem and makes the back look tidier in frames where the back of the stitching is visible. The paper template will hold your design firm but may not fit all tiny frames. However, it will be needed you want to use your designs in a larger patchwork/ EPP project. In each case you now need to trim away some of surrounding fabric to about a half inch border, perhaps less if it is going in a frame.

A square of iron-on fusible stabiliser has been stuck onto the back of the design in place of a paper template
These two faces were sewn onto a loose weave dish cloth fabric and backed with iron-on stabiliser

The frames I have used are Indian brass frames from a company called Nkuku. They are sweet but rather expensive. Other, less chunky ones, are available on Amazon and also come in other shapes like hexagons, which would be fitting for an EPP design. Those are a little less expensive but I am not sure of the quality. All of these frames have glass on both sides, so your stitching is visible from the back.

The photo showing the back of the design, below left, shows fusible web added AFTER stitching with the fabric border wrapped over it. The one, below right, shows the fusible web added BEFORE stitching, to stabilise the very thin fabric I used on that occasion. The stabiliser allowed me to cut the borders away completely. If you hate your stitching showing at the back, it should be possible to add an iron on stabiliser, cut away the borders and glue on a separate back using some thin fabric. Choose the fabric carefully though, as it could show through to the front.

Using Your Designs for Patchwork

Each of your designs could be basted onto the paper template instead and treated as regular EPP patchwork squares for a larger project. You could create a small wall hanging or runner with these sewn designs interspersed with solid white squares. Perhaps they could suggest a narrative?

“Here’s Looking at You, Kid”

What I have learned from this experiment:

  • Using pale cloth with dark stitching means threads show through from the back, so cut away all stray threads, or better still, use paler threads or coloured cloth
  • If you spritz soluble pen with water after you have added paint, the paint will run. If you do it before, you lose your design! Tracing a design would be better if you plan to use paint. Or embroider it all first, spritz with water, let it dry, then add paint.
  • Although my frames are 2″ (5 cm) square, the size inside the frame is only 1 3/4″ (4 1/2 cm) square. So fit your design to the measurement of the glass, not the outside frame.
  • Allow enough space around your design for it to be cut smaller. If you embroider right up to the edge you can’t do that.
  • Iron-on stabiliser is worth using for so many reasons, if you want to put your design in a frame.

Today’s post was intended to be a short post!! as I seem to have less and less time for sewing and posting at the moment. There is so much to do, that I am going to have to take a short break over the summer to manage our house sale and subsequent move which seems to be dragging on. If I do get any sewing done, I will post mini updates but I know that I am unlikely to pick up a needle over the next month at least.

I had to cut off her pigtail because there was no way it would fit in the frame!

Back before too long I hope. Wishing you all a happy, sunny, summer….

A Pre-Regular Post Update

Hi Everyone,

I thought I would write a quick catch up post before adding further ‘proper’ posts in the near future, about two things I am working on. One is how to create embroideries for tiny frames using English Paper Piecing and the other is a post on some ways of colouring your fabric, which I have been promising you for a while. However neither of them are quite ready yet and I realise it’s been ages since my last post.

There are two main reasons why I have not posted for a while, both of which have prevented me from sewing. The first is that we have decided to move house (this year, arrgggh!) and that has meant a flurry of activity both in the house and outside. The front of the house has been painted from cream to olive green (but not the back, as yet, so it is still two different colours!)

Two-tone house!

and we have had new carpets put through the dining room and study as well as new flooring in the utility room and cloakroom and I am certainly enjoying these changes. Moving the furniture out of two rooms at the same time so that the carpet could go all the way through both rooms was a nightmare. The other downstairs rooms ended up with bits of furniture parked here and there for a couple of days, and lack of room there meant that all the books from my study had to be carried upstairs. I started making piles in our bedroom and they stretched out into the landing, around the corner at the bottom and on towards the bathroom and then all the way back on the other side.

Some people in Scotland do actually have tartan carpets in their homes!

Hmm. I am beginning to think I have too many books.

The other thing that has got in the way of my sewing is toothache. I lost a crown and a filling after Christmas and can’t seem to find a dentist who will see me right away. My previous dentist closed his practice and moved away and other local dentists are not taking on new patients. I have registered with one a distance away but it seems I have to wait my turn, and with Covid still about, it could be a long wait. It’s very hard to focus on anything when your face hurts all the time and often your ear and throat as well. I am living on porridge and noodles because I can’t chew. It’s pretty miserable but painkillers are helping a little.

A group of sweet smelling Hyacinths around a birch tree but nettles are already making an appearance.

I also need to get out and deal with the garden now, as it alway needs a huge tidy up at this time of year. I usually have an audience while I am doing this, as you can see by the title photo above.

I do try to post once a month but is always difficult each Spring when there is much to do outside before the grass gets too long and everything explodes into flower. And now I have the added pressure of the house going on the market very soon which creates an emotion that falls somewhere between excitement and terror! I hope you will bear with me as I navigate my way through all this stuff. I will post as soon as I can, and if I can’t manage a long post I may do it parts.

On a happier note, while I was feeling unwell and rather low, I received an unexpected gift from a friend. I can’t remember getting a surprise from a friend in the post ever before. I mention it here because I think you might love this unusual gift too.

The photo above shows the outer packet of ‘Pigeon’, inspired by origami and intended for people who love to write and receive hand written letters. However, these letters have no envelopes. You write in them, fold them up, add a stamp and send them. I love how the stamp goes over the last fold. The come in a packet containing a set of six, each one a different colour and each one featuring sea birds created by the artist who sent them to me.

Her name is Lisa Hooper and and she is a printmaker, specialising in wildlife and bird art. Please do visit her website Hoopoe Prints at https://hoopoeprints.co.uk and see some of her stunning work. If you love these quirky letters as much as I do and would like some for yourself you may find these packs listed as ‘Hebridean Pigeons’ (because they are letters featuring oystercatchers, curlews, and ringed plovers found within these islands’ coastal habitats.) They are available online from Lisa’s website https://hoopoeprints.co.uk/product/hebridean-pigeons/ from ‘Pigeon’ and from ‘Down to Earth Cards’ who also sell some of Lisa’s greeting cards.

So, back to sewing. I have made a start on a quilt for children from fabric I bought years ago and no longer like but I want to get it done. It has sashing (the solid colour rows that run up and down and across between each coloured block)and I really don’t like quilts with sashing and have never made any before. However, I felt I should make one with sashing at some point because sashing is quite traditional and maybe I won’t be a proper quilter until I have done it.

I was auditioning the pieces on my bed here. The stripes behind are my winter bed sheets, not part of the quilt.

I am planning to add blue cats (and one red one!) at intersections to relive the dullness of off- white channels going between blocks and I might jazz it up with some coloured quilting stitches . Each spotted block with a clamshell patterned roof will be a house with windows and doors. Quilts never look like much at this stage but they liven up as they reach completion.

And here is a sneak peak of my mini 5 cm square embroideries, so far from finished, as well the mini brass frames that they fit into. They would make lovely gifts for friends and family, too, but more of how to do them in a later post.

What will he be looking at in the frame next to him?

I hope you are all well and happy and enjoying some sunshine.i

Until next time…

Storm Drama + New Ideas for EPP

Hello Everyone,

This photo of a robin was taken by a friend of mine, Jane Carlton, who takes wonderful photographs of our local wildlife.


It’s a cold grey day and we have an amber warning here in Scotland as we await the arrival of storm Dudley, followed by closely by storm Eunice. Let’s hope these don’t bring any more of the drama that we had in last week’s wind and rain.

In the past few years, any very wet weather with strong winds seems to have brought down at least one tree. They are always old, tall, beautiful trees and though they may each provide us with firewood for years to come, I grieve for the loss of them and it takes a while to get use to the empty space they leave in our garden. Last week it was the tall confer that I used to watch swaying outside the window when I was in the bath. It had been beginning to lean a little for some time and we knew we would have to reduce the size of it soon, or it would hit the house when it came down. We had my son here at Christmas taking the tops off several other trees that were close to the house or had heavy branches interfering with the growth of others but by the time these were done, it was getting dark and the conifer was left for another time.

It did come down. And it did hit the house. 

I am thankful I was not in the bath to see it coming towards me. I was at the other end of the house and didn’t hear it, though I did wonder why the kitchen was so very dark when I walked into it and why the windows were a mass of smooshed branches.  

It takes a while to believe your eyes. Thankfully there was no structural damage, just a broken sill and a gouge out of the frame to one window, upstairs. We were so lucky.  

Now we have yet another tree to chop up and remove the heavy chunks of wood, burn all the spindly useless pieces and clear away the mess of the wood chip made by the chain saw.

a long, tedious job that takes us away from other things we want to do at this time of year like move more snowdrops into our snowdrop area.

Mini Quilts:

Since my last blog post I have managed to finish the commission I received before Christmas – two mini quilts featuring sheep. Here they are:

This is what they look like on a wall, preferably with a thin pin through the metal loop rather than a picture hook. I took down a picture to show it to you.
This was my first attempt at a drystone wall in stitch – it took forever!

An Experiment:

I have also tried some simple transfer printing of ferns from my garden onto paper, after an online workshop with artist Monique Day Wilde who is based in South Africa. This was my first attempt:

Garden ferns onto paper using acrylic paint, tissue paper and matte gel medium.

I am about to iron some fusible interfacing onto the back of the paper to stabilise it so that I can add some stitching. Then I will try the same thing on fabric. This would be such a wonderful idea for making your own fabric for EPP, using old sheets, instead of needing to buy commercially printed fabric. I was so taken with this idea that I bought myself a Gel Printing Plate though I have not used it yet.

Pinterest seems to have a lot of tips on ways of using these, so I am going to check some out.

Something for You to Try:

Here is a different idea for you to try with paper which will also work with fabric. It would be great for designing your own blocks for English Paper Piecing (it could be done with any shapes that fit together) or as a interesting background to appliqué or embroidery

To try it out on paper, find a small pad of sticky notes. I used a dozen 2” x 1 1/2”  sheets from a yellow Post It pad, like this:

but you can use an even number of any size and as many as you like. Stick them down onto a piece of paper, (not glued, just using their sticky strip so that you can move them around later) butt them up together like jigsaw pieces.

Now get out your paints, markers, inks, coloured pencils or crayons and make marks all over them. They do tend to curl a bit with the wetness of paint, so you can use bits of Blu Tack underneath to keep them down if necessary.

Once you have done that, let them dry and then move the pieces around to make different patterns until you find one that you like. Here is my first attempt, using acrylic paints in blue green and purple: 

1. First marks

Then I moved the the sticky sheets around:

2. Fragmented and Rejoined

I painted on more green leaves and tried again:

3. Repainted, shuffled about and joined again

After a few tries you may find what kind of marks are most interesting when re-arranged. I don’t think the single fat purple line worked as well in my sample (too intrusive) as several more slender lines may have done but perhaps it depends what you plan to do with afterwards.

You can use this idea for EPP by wrapping and basting your paper shapes with white cotton fabric and adding a dab of fabric glue behind them to keep them still on a cloth background. Mark them in any way you like and, once dry, move the pieces around to find an arrangement that you like. Then whipstitch the shapes together to form your patterned piece. Take the papers out and sew the piece to some backing fabric, quilt or bag, or stabilise the back with a fusible stabiliser if you prefer, and it is ready to embroider and make into a book cover or a decorated piece for a frame.

You can use fabric paints, fabric markers, Inktense pencils, inks, water soluble coloured pencils or fabric crayons. Using stencils might be fun, too. Some of these marks will need to be heat set if you want them to be permanent but do use some baking parchment between your marks and your iron to protect it from damage.

I want to leave you with two photos of the snowdrops in our garden this month. They tell us that Spring will soon be here. We have been adding more to these areas each year and we still have spaces to fill. Till next time…

From the garage to the potting shed…
and beyond…….

2022 Is Here – But Where Am I?

Hello Everyone!

This bird stand was one of my Christmas presents from my husband. Less than a week after it was set up, two of the baskets are empty and the rest nearly empty!

I wish you all a happy and productive year ahead but most of all a healthy one.

I am sorry I have disappeared for so long. In late November I travelled up to central Scotland to see some friends that I’ve known since I was twelve. I had a wonderful time but started to feel unwell almost immediately I got home. It had been years since I had a cold or any flu symptoms but these were so severe and went on so long that I had a PCR test, afraid it might be Covid. The results came back negative, so I seemed to have some kind of mega cold. Perhaps I had self isolated for so long that I had no defence I against what was waiting for me outdoors. I was not completely over it by Christmas Day, and though much better by New Year’s Day, a persistent cough still kept me up at night.

My kids came up for a visit on the 4th and stayed until the 7th which I had long looked forward to, but it is only now that I am able to put the whirlwind of Christmas and New Year behind me and relax and try to recover some of the energy I had at the beginning of November.

I wrapped all the presents for my family in fabric this year.
You will see that some of these have been wrapped/tied using some Japanese Furoshiki methods.

I feel curiously dislocated from everything, as if the world has zoomed on without me and I can’t catch up. The last sewing I did seems so long ago. I felt too unwell to read at first but then suddenly had a huge desire to read and bought a rash of books. I bought a couple of second hand novels (I don’t know how long ago it was that I read a novel!) I am a short story reader usually and my favourite authors are a group of American writers, writing mostly during the eighties and referred to as the ‘Dirty Realists’ (Jayne Anne Phillips, Raymond Carver, Larry Brown, Richard Ford, Richard Yates and lots more!) I have read most of their short stories so I thought I would make a start on some of their novels.

I also bought three books on Abstract Art . The two below both explore shape and colour, line, tone and size, texture, composition, and more, as well as secondary elements like contrast rhythm and balance, which I don’t know enough about. ‘Realistic Abstracts’ (my favourite kind!) goes more into how reality and illusion can be combined

I want to learn more about abstract art but also about design and to see if I can transfer any of what I learn to my quilt making. I bought a third book on Kindle, called ‘Creating Abstract Art’ by Dean Nimmer, which is much more formulaic, with a series of exercises to work through. I bought this one for fun and for practice in loosening up a little, something I have always found difficult.

I bought two textile books ‘Textile Folk Art’ by Anne Kelly and ‘Sketchbook Explorations’ by Shelley Rhodes and these have been hugely inspiring. I am fortunate to have joined each of these artists in online workshops, as part of my textile course.

Another book I bought fairly recently was Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopaedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

Older copies had become rare and expensive but this new edition has brought the prices down and made copies readily available. I am fascinated by American blocks and their origins and names and, although I keep saying I want to stop making them and move on to different things, I am constantly drawn back to them. I have a perpetual calendar of these blocks on my window sill.

With regard to EPP I was delighted to receive a commission in November from someone I met recently; to complete two mini patchwork quilts for a wall, that featured sheep. They were supposed to be finished by Christmas but are barely begun, so I shall be getting back to work on those in the next few days.

This is the first of two 8″ quilts in progress, featuring sheep for someone who has a several pet ones! It does’t look much at the moment but it will improve.

So, what of my plans for 2022? I want to vary my posts a little with some ‘how-to’s’ and ‘things to try’, (e.g. making some little fabric books) so that the posts are not just about progress with my quilts. I want to include some posts on colouring fabric with paints etc which I had intended to cover last year, I want to do some appliqué work with a Scottish theme, and I really want to try some fabric collage. And while I am working on those I want to learn how to layer fabric in interesting ways and how to do free motion embroidery. That should keep me busy most of the year!

I have 40, part-finished, mini quilts (yes 40!), sitting in a pile, waiting for me to find some backing fabric so that I can quilt them. Then I have more that I planned and bought fabric for, long ago, that I want to get out of the way. However, there is one large quilt I am itching to begin working on. I am going to call it ‘Houses and Dolls’. It is made up of blocks of patched houses and ‘dolls’ of different sizes which are all joined by improvised paths. It is based on a quilt design called ‘The Burbs’ by Sarah Fielke from the book ‘Material Obsession’. I have not seen any quilt top put together in this way before and want to give it a try.

Here is a section of Sarah’s quilt, so it will be something along these lines. I love it! I’ll probably leave off the appliquéd flowers that are dotted around, though. I find that I learn a lot from reproducing someone else’s quilt design now and again (though obviously the chosen fabrics will be different), especially if there is something unusual about them or I am intrigued by the way they are made. It’s the same with recipes for me. I follow the first attempt to the letter and from that I learn not only what is involved in the making but how I would definitely do it differently. And I won’t be selling this one so no need to worry about accusations of it not being an original design!

A close up of one section of ‘The Burbs’ by Sarah Fielke

I also want to re-open my shop on Folksy.com and finally open the one I set up over a year ago on Etsy.com. I have abandoned the idea of selling from this website because I can’t include enough large images to show detail and I can’t easily sell to other countries. It may be pricey to list multiple items on these Folksy and Etsy but there is a lot of support for beginner sellers and invaluable help with postal calculations.

I am surprised to find that this EPP post is mostly about books! In between my reading binges I have been thinking and making lists, trying to hone in on the nitty gritty of what interests me, what matters to me, what brings me joy, what I want to say, whether I want to go on making quilts or move onto making textile pictures. I have a book of lists. Making lists is fun to do and interesting to read back later. It reveals quite a lot about you and is strangely therapeutic. I can recommend it.

So, until next time……stay safe and well.

Larger EPP Quilts and Labels

A lovely photo of a dry bright day in our local area taken by a friend of mine, Sally Hinchcliffe.

Hello Everybody,

I have some great news! My work has been accepted to be displayed and sold at the Barholm Arts and Crafts shop in Creetown, not far from my home in south west Scotland and I am delighted! I took in four different pieces, two with Scottish theme, one humorous, and one Indian. All of them were in frames. On Friday I heard that there is an envelope waiting for me at the gallery and that means I have sold something but I don’t yet know what. I have wanted this for so long but couldn’t imagine anyone liking my designs enough to want to buy one and use it in their home. When I began this journey about nine years ago, my dream was that one day some of my quilts might decorate homes in different places across the country and bring people pleasure, or make them smile. This coming Thursday I am going to take a few more quilts into the gallery. This time none of them are framed, most are smaller and a few have a Christmas theme.

Since I was invited to take work to the shop I have been madly sewing labels on to my stack of quilts. There is a lesson here. Please add a label to the back of your quilt each time you complete one, because sewing on close to a hundred all at once is not fun. Labels look much neater sewn into the binding, rather than stitched on like an afterthought.

When something has taken you hours to make it is important to put your stamp on it as being your work and no-one else. Also, all of my quilts have names that make sense of the pattern on the front and give them personality. I want my label to display that name, where there were made, who by and when. Who knows, one of them could be discovered a century later and still bearing your name. I’m all for the immortalisation of quilts. That said, I still find myself wanting to avoid doing them.

I have made some observations about labels this week. I began by buying labels because I didn’t know how to make them. Some fabric designers do sets of them in panels though there is not often much room between the images to allow for a decent seam allowance. They are often black and white but sometimes they are coloured. Some have vines and flowers around the edges that you can colour in with a coloured marker.

Labels cut from a panel. I don’t find them hugely exciting.

You can colour labels with markers, inks, crayons and coloured pencils but make sure it is colour fast if your quilt is to be washed.

I would avoid the more sentimental ones with ‘Made with Love Just for You’ or ‘To a Special Person’ type wordings if you want to sell your work and go for plainer ones, which are harder to find. Other designs available (often on eBay) have blank centres and coloured edging which can be useful but are often too large for mini quilts. They could be cut smaller though.

Labels from Ebay, thin enough to trace some printed out handwriting in a font you like

It’s taken me a long while and a lot of “meh” labels to realise that the best labels are ones you make yourself. The best fabric to choose for a label is the one that best fits the colour and style of the quilt it is attached to. The best fabric designs for labels are tone on tone fabrics that read as solids, or just simple solids in not too dark a colour, because these look good as well as clearly showing the writing on the label (either in permanent pen or in stitch). Embroidered labels are more do-able on large quilts; with smaller ones it is easier to stick to a waterproof permanent marker with archival ink that won’t run or fade. If you hate your handwriting you can trace a font that you like online. For more detailed information on the making of labels, see my previous post on “An Easy Way to Label your Quilt’ in October 2020.

Another very good reason to add your label before completion is that a triangle shaped label fits well into the the corner of a quilt with the ‘ears’ of the triangle disappearing neatly into the binding at either edge. If you sew the label on afterwards, it is a devil of a task to hide those ‘ears’ by folding them inside the triangle points. Too big and the point looks bulky, but cut away causes them to fray.

The photo below has been magnified so that you can see the difficulty with the corner on the left hand side, where there is so much bulk with the ‘ears’ turned in that the stitches struggle to close the gap.

In the photo below you can see how much better the label looks sewn into the binding (and it’s more difficult to remove, too). However, remember to leave enough space to add the binding at each side, or some of your writing may be covered up, as in the example below. Luckily this one is not for sale.

I think I may have another solution for the added-on-later label, an idea that popped into my head a few nights ago when I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t tried this yet but I think an EPP fabric hexagon with the print facing front, its backing fabric folded over the front and stitched down, and a slim piece of interfacing inside between back and front, would make an attractive label that could be appliquéd on and would avoid all the previous problems I have encountered. It is actually what’s called a Quilt-as-you-go hexagon and looks like the ones in photo below. The centre area would hold the writing, ideally on a paler background. I will give the idea a try and let you know how I get on.

Borrowed from raspberryspool.com to show as example only.

So, enough about sewing on labels. However, because I have had to sew so many lately, I have not managed to complete any EPP work in the past month. However I have made a little progress with the piecing of three separate quilt tops, all larger than my usual mini quilt size and intended for frames. I bought the fabric years ago when I was just starting out but wasn’t brave enough to try anything that big. I had just moved here and fancied some Scottish hand made fabric pictures on my wall.

They are both Lewis and Irene patterns and fabric. The first is ‘Country Life.’

‘Country Life’16 inches square

I really wanted to like this one but I am not a fan of triangles and getting a whole bunch of them to meet in the middle is asking for trouble. They are all supposed to nest together at the back and they do, sort of, but not very neatly and they are still uneven at the front. There are five pieces to each block and once these were sewn together to make four separate blocks, I then sewed one block to another going around the quilt in a clockwise direction. I think this is where the mistake occurred. It seems to me that sewing the top right and left block together first, then the bottom left and right, and then sewing the top and bottom strips together straight across the middle would have avoided this problem. I am considering picking it apart and re-doing it. Oh joy.

The second is another Lewis and Irene pattern and fabric, ‘The Glen’. I have joined the grey centre to the on-point red triangles and joined the smaller pieces that make up the large corner triangles,. Now I have to sew it all together.

‘The Glen’ – 18 inches Square

The third is a quilt that you will have seen in an earlier post when all the pieces were laid out on the table, ready to sew together. This is what it looks like now. I called it ‘Once Upon a Chicken’ at first but have changed that to ‘Once upon a Hen’, in memory of a much loved golden brown hen called Speckle that I once had as a pet.

‘Once Upon a Hen’ 15 inches square

The octagon in the centre is not right but it will be easy to redo that. It’s just appliquéd on. I have found some fun fabric for the back, with more hens!

I have found some fun fabric with hens for the back of my quilt,

The clocks have changed overnight and now, at not quite three o clock today, there is very low light and it’s beginning to rain. Despite the wetness though, there is some lovely colour in the garden. Many of our trees are changing, tor red and gold, there are still a few flowers lingering in the greenhouses and some black grapes coming along. For October it is surprising warm and but a very long dry spell, there is now a lot of rain. I am hoping to spend next week in the garden pruning trees and shrubs, weather permitting. Covid is still lurking about the place in Scotland but there is always plenty I enjoying doing at home so I’m happy to stay home.

If you have any ideas for posts you would like to see here or have a question, please leave a comment. If there is anything you want to ask about specific quilts or something you want to say that you prefer not to share in the general comments, you can reach me via the ‘Got a Question’ page on this site or via my business email address lesleyjackson@forestmoordesigns.com

So, until next time….

Taking Stock at this Stage of the Journey

Two little boys playing footsie in the grass.

Hi Everyone,

I have been doing a lot of thinking this past month; of the where am I, where am I going and why, variety. I’ve been looking at what I have done, what went well and not so well and wishing there was more time in any day for what I want to do. I’ll come back to this in a moment, but first, a little of what I have be doing since my last post.

I have finished ‘All Roads Lead Home’, quilting it and adding what I call a ‘proper’ binding:

‘All Roads Lead Home’ (with geese to fend off intruders!)

I have decided to add bindings like this to all quilts of this size and larger, from now on. I used to just fold the backing fabric to the front because it was cheaper and easier, and it works fine on 8 inch quilts or smaller that go on the wall and don’t get a lot of wear. However, adding your own separate binding gives a more professional look and wears better on larger quilts such as table toppers, runners and bed quilts that are going to handled and washed more often.

I added embroidered details onto a couple of mini quilts that seemed to lack something. Both took HOURS to do and I am not sure I like them any better. Both need binding, so perhaps that will improve how they look.

The first is ‘Daffodils in the Garden’ which I had hoped to complete before the end of Spring:

‘Daffodils in the Garden’

The stem stitch on each of the trees does give them more texture. I love how they feel to the touch but they took HOURS to stitch, so I won’t be doing that again, anytime soon. It might be nice for a more special quilt though. Embroidery does tend to pucker the fabric, so I usually dampen and stretch it a little. The binding will straighten up the squiggly edges.

The second one is ‘A Home in the Hills’:

The embroidery on this took ages, too, and though I am happy enough with some of it, the house and the tree behind the house in the centre square, are not straight, and this makes the rest of the quilt look wonky. I could have removed the whole centre square and rotated it a little at an earlier stage but this is not really possible once it is quilted. This is why you need to keep standing away from your work and looking at it from a distance. When you are hunched over it, with your focus on the tiny bit you are stitching, you can lose sight of the whole picture until it is too late to change it.

I have a whole pile waiting to be quilted. I like quilting. It’s quick and easy once you have decided how you are going to do it. I don’t mind adding binding either. There is something very satisfying about seeing your quilt slowly reach completion, with this last step in the process. I notice that there is not a single Pinterest ‘how to’ on sewing both sides of the binding on by hand. It seems that everyone resorts to a machine at this point.

The weather is sunny and warm but I have been avoiding the garden because I came out one morning to water the plants that I have been nurturing all year, to find the deer have been feasting on them, biting the heads off flowers, and chewing the leaves and stems off shrubs,. Some are now no more than a couple of blunt stalks.It’s heartbreaking. The deer visit from time to time but it’s never been this bad.

This used to be a Hosta!

But they did miss this one, thank goodness. Too close to the front door for their liking, maybe:

A lovely red Dahlia

Each year I look at all my boxes of fabric and quilts done and in progress, and all the ones unfinished for one reason or another. I usually decide I don’t like any of the ones I have done, haven’t finished any of what I planned to do and haven’t got any closer to what I have wanted to do. So what is the solution? A change of plan to start with, I think.

The bookcase where I keep my stash and quilts waiting to be quilted.

When I started out I wanted to make children’s quilts. I no longer want to do this but I have collections of fabric that I bought, for specific patternsTh that are still waiting to be made. I still like the patterns and the fabrics but somehow they belong to a different me. I also have fabrics for two quilts of single bed size and fabrics for several traditional patterns I wanted to try at the time, like Courthouse Steps and a Log Cabin. I also wanted to make a quilt using a Jelly Roll and to try some ‘liberated’ quilting where there was no set pattern. At that time everything was new and I wanted to try a bit of everything that I saw. Designing something for myself never occurred to me.

I love American quilt blocks and their evocative names, and at some point I realised that I could either manipulate the shapes in a single block to create a different design of my own, or I could add something pictorial to a block to give it a more personal meaning. I could add birds to ‘Return of the Swallows’, a farmhouse to ‘Farm Friendliness’ and so on. And I could make them about Scotland because we have farms and swallows, too. I made mostly 8″ size mini quilts because that was the largest pattern that my printer could cope with, and I cut out the paper shapes to wrap them with fabric because I couldn’t afford to buy the paper pieces (and there weren’t as many available a decade ago).

‘Farm Friendless’ Block, re-imagined.

My brain is always ahead of my hands so it wasn’t long before I had a situation where I wanted to move on, and do something completely different, but was stuck with all my quilts-in-progress and there were so many to do before I could get there. Does this happen to you, too?

Eventually I found myself juggling four separate strands of quilt making – the early quilts that I never completed, dozens of Scottish mini quilts in progress, the new ideas I want to try with English Paper Piecing and the constant pull further closer to textile art where I could take the time to design things of my own. I feel there is so much more to discover about English Paper Piecing and where it might fit into textile art rather than quilting. There are so many ideas I can’t get even begin to get close to right now.

I called this blog ‘A English Paper Piecing Journey’ because I think I realised, even then, that my experiments with one thing or another would eventually lead me far from where I began.

So, I have made some decisions:

I do not want to sell or give away those early quilt fabric and patterns, so the only solution is to get them done and the sooner the better. So, I am going to make a start, right now. There are about 17 of them, so I won’t be done with them this year.

I do not want to make 8″ mini quilts anymore, but want to make some slightly larger ones for the wall. These might be between 36 and 48 inches square, so not huge, but bigger. Having said that there are about fifteen Scottish mini quilts still in progress but I am going to put these aside for a while.

When you are making tiny quilts it is entirely possible to have something different to share in each blog post. Making larger ones could mean lots of posts about progress on the same quilt. Although I plan to work on a couple of them at the same time, I don’t want my posts to be like watching paint dry. So, I have decided to intersperse the making of these with some ‘how to’ posts that you might find useful. I want to start with colouring English Paper Piecing; how to add paint, coloured pencils, markers and crayons to your work. And then, if time allows, I want to experiment with using English Paper Piecing in non-traditional ways, such as using tulle to trap objects and so on.

Having made my decision, I spent much of August going through each box of fabric, sketching out the pattern, deciding on the size I want to make it and the paper pieces I would need. I am now buying the paper pieces and cutting out the shapes. The idea is that every box will contain everything needed to complete each quilt (no more procrastination because I don’t have all the paper pieces, or I haven’t decided on the right pattern, or size). It should now be possible for me to take any box I fancy off the shelf, and begin.

A ‘Neighbourhood’ quilt waiting to be made with Moda Neco

I always buy my paper pieces from https://www.linapatchwork.com because she has such a great range of simple shapes that allow you to reproduce any block pattern in any size you like, or design your own. Of course she also stocks the shapes for the hugely popular Passacaglia and other such patterns and kits, as well, but I have never been interested in those. She will also custom make paper pieces for your own design if you ask. I really want to ask her to make me the ‘Storm at Sea’ pattern in EPP one day. Have you seen it. It’s made up of straight lines that look like curves.

Some Paper Pieces that arrived this morning. She always includes a few complementary shapes to try, too.

HOT TIP: I have discovered that when you want a size that is not generally available, you can join paper pieces together to make the size you need. For example, you can join four 4″ squares to make an 8″ square centre, or join to 4 x 1″ rectangles for the 8×1″ outer log for your log cabin. If you stick them together with a strip of Sellotape at the join you can cut them apart again later and re-use them, though it’s possible that if you joined them with washi tape, you could just peel the tape off afterwards. I’ll try that and let you know if it works.

Despite all the laudable decision making, planning and organising there is always the problem of how overwhelming the sheer volume of what there is to do, can become. Why do we do this to ourselves? Maybe we think we have more time than we have, or can work faster than we do. I think it’s often about seeing fabric we love and want to use, and we think if we don’t get it now, it will be gone forever. Why can we not see that, like ideas or creativity, there will always be always be more. Maybe this is me. Maybe you are a great deal more sensible.

Till next time……

Macz (short for MacKenzie) taking some time out in the cat kennel

How to add Embroidery to Your English Paper Piecing

Hi Everybody! (long post alert!)

It’s been unusually hot here in Scotland, lately, hotter than I remember, and for so many days in a row! My arms haven’t seen this much sun in a long while. I recently started growing vegetables in pots so I am having to do lots of watering to stop them drying out, as well as nurture the crazy number of Hydrangea cuttings I took last year. They are just beginning to flower.

These are fewer than half of all the Hydrangea cuttings I took last year!

I am ridiculously excited to see my first runner bean, a tiny courgette forming and a pink flowering Hydrangea with petals larger than I have ever seen before.

A HUGE petalled lace cap Hydrangea

My ducks are dozing in the pond for hours at a time or seeking out the shade under large ferns. Here they are in the early evening, having found a spot that catches a slight breeze.

Duckies enjoying a shady spot

I have been lucky to have sold two of my quilts this month. It’s wonderful to think of them being enjoyed in another country, far away. I have some new, tiny business cards that I love, each one showing a detail of one of my creations. And I am almost ready to start listing my quilts for sale in various place online, so that’s all good.

My tiny business cards – Aren’t they fun!

I have not been sewing much but I have been thinking about what is next for me. I realise I am being drawn more and more towards collage and surface stitching, to stitched portraits, the addition of text and textiles with a narrative; all techniques that I have been learning in my textile course online and want to do more of. However, I have not yet figured out how I might use them in interesting ways with English Paper Piecing.

Embroidery, or what I like to think of as Surface Stitching is something that is easily added to English Paper Piecing. In my mind Sewing = dressmaking, Embroidery = a traditional set of fancy stitches but Stitching = a more intuitive type of embroidery that uses traditional stitches in looser and more expressive ways. This is what I am working towards, and so can you. No fancy embroidery police to pester you here.

Traditionally English Paper Piecing, indeed any patchwork, has been about putting shapes together to make patterns. This trend continues today, even more so in the Pasacaglia quilts that have become so popular recently. They are like kaleidoscopes with their huge rings of colour and fussy cut motifs, creating intricate patterns that take your breath away. The down side is they are expensive to make, rather wasteful of fabric and can take years to complete. However, if you want to make an amazing heirloom quilt to pass on down through the family, one of these could be the perfect choice.

An English Paper Pieced Passacaglia quilt in progress, by Karen Tripp

For those of us that are more time and penny poor, or who prefer to make something smaller, or enjoy something more pictorial, there is another way to achieve something a bit special. Patterns in quilt blocks can also be used as a backdrop to showcase some embroidery (or appliqué). The wonderful thing about embroidery is that just a small amount can transform a simple project without being difficult, time consuming, or expensive.

One plain DMC and one variegated Anchor skein of stranded cotton, a water soluble pen and aJohn James ‘Pebble’ holding different sized embroidery needles that are great for beginners.

If you have never embroidered before, buy an embroidery needle and some DMC or Anchor stranded cotton, grab a scrap of cotton fabric and give it a try. You don’t need a ‘how to’ book of stitches. There are free video’s on Youtube which are more useful because it’s easier to learn something you are being shown, than trying to work out a diagram in a book. Check out Mary Corbet’s site at NeedlenThread.com. She can show you pretty much anything you’ll ever need to know. Pinterest too, has photos and videos which help. My boards on Pinterest (Lesley J Jackson) are divided into different types of stitches as well as one called Embroidery- Beginners Basics.

And guess what? You don’t even have to learn many stitches. Start with three basic stitches and then add more if you enjoy working with those. I found outline stitches like running stitch, back stitch, and stem stitch to be the most useful to begin with.

From there you can progress to filling in the areas that you have outlined (you can use stem stitch as a filling stitch too) and then onto more decorative stitches like Chain stitch for borders or Lazy Daisy for flowers. Most stitches (and certainly all the basic ones) are very easy to learn. You can master them in minutes. If you are used to quilting stitches, then you already know running stitch and back stitch is just a variation of that. Straight stitches are great for little blades of grass around a cats feet or next to a house.

I started with a piece of printed fabric, one with the outlines of large flowers printed on it, and followed the printed lines. Then I started making simple drawings with a water soluble pen and followed the outlines of those, spritzing away the drawn lines with water when I had finished. You can draw straight onto your pieced background in this way, or you can transfer a traced image using tissue paper (let me know if you’d like me to show you how to do this).

I embroidered the printed hair on this fabric in stem stitch

Here is a very simple pieced background, a traditional block called Bonnie Scotsman. I decided to appliqué a stag onto it and call it ‘On A Winters Night’. If I had kept the appliqué I would have filled in the antlers with embroidery and the whole design would have jutted out slightly from the background.

‘On a Winter’s Night’

However, I changed my mind and decided to stitch the outline of the stag to match the antlers using a simple backstitch. I felt that an appliquéd stag would look quite heavy, whereas I wanted a more ethereal effect I wanted with a stag that was barely there. Which do you think you’d prefer?

‘On a Winter’s Night’ – Take Two

Outlines in back stitch are a very easy way to add a ‘barely there’ image if you are a beginner or a not very confident embroiderer, and can also be used for adding upper case text. Stem stitch takes curves well and can be used for circles or vines, for lower case text and is wonderful for tree trunks and branches.’On

Here are more ‘barely there’, back-stitched, images on a pieced background in the quilt below, I was afraid that the a trio of white geese would detract from the house so I didn’t fill them in. I want them to lead your eye to the main image, rather than being part of the main image. Does that work? Or would they be more like geese if they were filled in? (The quilt has basting stitches holding it together for now, because any embroidery has to be completed before it is quilted)

All Roads Lead Home’

And in the unfinished quilt below I wanted the fox to be a surprise, hiding on the periphery as foxes do, rather than part of the main picture in the centre. I think I will have to wait until the quilt is completed before I am sure that it works.

Tiptoe through the Snowdrops’

After a while you can begin to fill in a design rather than outline it. Keep your image fairly small to begin with, so that it isn’t daunting and won’t take ages to finish. Try embroidering over an image, one that is already printed onto your fabric, like I did with the one below. Once it is covered with embroidery no one would know that there was anything underneath. This is worth trying if you don’t have much confidence in your drawing skills.

A little embroidered scene in the centre of a mini quilt.

Later, when you are more experienced, you can do whole embroideries of your own designs that can be cut out and appliquéd onto a pieced background if you want. A little embroidery on a quilt label is a nice touch, too.

I like designing crazy hats

So, are you ready to give it a try? Go on, I know you’d like to…

Till next time….

A Rat’s Tail Cactus that hasn’t flowered once, in the eleven years we have lived here!

Little Steps with Mini Quilts

Hi Everyone,

My beautiful blue poppy, a gift from a friend several years ago

I’m sorry that I seem to have been away so long. It was my plan to have the whole of May to garden but May turned out to be wet windy and cold. I think I managed about three days in all and made very little progress. Then, as it turned to June, the days suddenly became hot and buggy and the garden exploded into huge patches of nettles. I feel rather disheartened as I made nothing like the progress I usually do. I will try again towards the end of the year when the swallows have gone, the weeds begin to die down a bit and the weather is more pleasant to work in.

I have planted around my duck area to make it look pretty and feel more secure but they do tend to trample over everything, so I don’t plant anything precious there.

The cows have become very interested in my ducks lately and spend hours staring at them over the wall. The ducks pretend they haven’t seen them.

Those peeping Toms

The pots in my courtyard are looking good but it takes all morning to water them. I usually keep things in pots until they are fairly large before they are planted or the deer eat them.

The sitting area in our courtyard

What has been really successful is all the cuttings I took of Hydrangeas last year. All of them have survived and are just beginning to flower. I will keep some and give some away to friends.

Hydrangea cuttings in our greenhouse

In the hours that the garden was inhospitable I did quite a bit of spring cleaning and sold some stuff on EBay that I had been wanting to get rid of for a while. And I came across a new and interesting product available for English Paper Piecing that I hope to try out and review, as soon as I can. It’s called Eppiflex, plastic laser cut templates in various shapes that can be used repeatedly without wearing out. They are transparent for precise placing and fussy cutting, bendable yet with edges firm enough for precise folding, whip and ladder stitch friendly, easily removable and heat resistant so you can press over them. They sound amazing. The down side is they are much more expensive than paper pieces (about £12 for a pack of 50) but if you used, for example, 2 inch squares in most of your projects they would probably be worth the investment. Anyway I will give them a try at some point and let you know what I think of them. If you have tried them, please let us know what your verdict is. (Check them out at Sewhot.co.uk or look for the video on Youtube)

I did get a little English Paper Piecing done here and there; not what I had planned to do originally (as usual) but I began a few simple mini quilts that I was in the mood for at the time. Of course they are not finished. I sometimes think it would be better to show you one thing that was finished, rather than a number of things part done, but I always seem to have several things on the go at the same time.

I plan to add more to each of them They are all a bit dull at the moment. The first one is a 8 inch block I am going to call ‘Wishing Star’. I have not decided what I want to do with it but I like the gold against the black.

‘Wishing Star’

The second one is a traditional American block called ‘Garden of Eden’, which I thought would be fun to complete with a garden of Eden theme in fabric, hence the leaves and apples. I plan to embroider something in the horizontal yellow bar, a leafy scroll, a couple of small figures, or perhaps a serpent. What do you think?

‘Garden of Eden’

It’s just sitting on its backing fabric of apples at the moment and is roughly tacked around the edges. Those stitches will disappear later and some hand quilting will make it look more interesting. It also an 8 inch block.

The third mini quilt I began was again a traditional block called ‘Castle Wall’. I thought as we have several castles dotted about Scotland I might add some tartan and enclose a unicorn (our national animal) within the castle walls (I did a previous post called ‘Scotland’s Unicorn’ in January 2019 if you are interested in scrolling back.)

‘Unicorn in the Castle Walls’

There are navy blue stars beyond the castle walls though you can’t see them very well here. I lived in a castle in Scotland for a year, once. Here is a photo of their courtyard. It’s quite something, isn’t it?

Megginch Castle courtyard, Perthshire.

There is more to say about the Castle Wall block so I will come back to it in another post, perhaps when this little unicorn quilt is finished.

Lastly I began a larger quilt of roughly 15 inches square, made from almost a whole Moda charm pack called ‘Once Upon A Chicken’. The strange thing is, though, charm packs don’t seem to have much tonal variety; not this one anyway. You can see how flat this one looks; there is not the depth that you can achieve with light medium and dark fabrics within the same quilt. Perhaps they are designed to be added to, so I could of course replace some of the pieces here with other darker or plainer fabrics but I think I am just going to leave it as it is. I am hoping that some dark brown quilting stitches and binding, and perhaps embroidering the chicken in the centre, will give the whole thing a bit more life. If not, I’ll know what I need to do next time.

‘Once Upon a Chicken’

It looks strange like this, all the paper pieces fabric wrapped but none of them sewn together.

Since my last post I have added a Contact page to this site (find the link at the top of my Home page) so that you can get in touch with me if you have any general questions about my work orA its availability. I have also added a Paypal button on my Shop page, which is for UK purchases only for the moment. I shall be listing many more products on my Shop page in the coming months. Purchases from abroad are probably better made on my Folksy site. This is all still a work in progress but will get sorted out in due course.

So, till next time….

This is Macz, sunning himself on the warm steps outside my back door.

Quirky Embroidery for a Log Cabin Quilt

Hello Everybody!

My ducks enjoy ‘helping’ when I am gardening, which can be a little frustrating.

I did say I was going to disappear during May to make some changes to my garden but I have only managed a couple of mornings. It’s been cold wet and windy, despite the intermittent sunshine – certainly not what I consider pleasurable gardening weather. So this post is to show you some of what else I have been doing and also to let you know that there have been some changes to this site.

You may have noticed that my web address has changed. I have finally got around to purchasing my own domain, so the address for Forest Moor Designs is now forestmoordesigns.com. This is because I hope to set up a shop with a little of my work listed under different categories, to allow visitors to make a purchase if they choose to do so. I will also have an email dedicated to the site, so that if you want to contact me about any of my work you can do so.

It is slow going I am afraid. I’m not much of a techie person and there is so much to read and familiarise myself with. It sounds easy enough in the guide but by the time I have reached the page to make changes, I can’t find what I am looking for, or I can’t remember all the steps. At the moment I have some of the same information on both my Home page and my Blog page and this needs attention, among other things, so I hope you will bear with me while I make the necessary changes. My blog posts should be coming to you as usual but if this doesn’t seem to be happening, please get in touch and let me know.

My courtyard looks very pink in Spring. Catkins from the Birch tree above turn brown and litter the ground.

Last week I happened to be doing a brief online workshop with a textile artist called Saima Kaur who, inspired by Indian folk art, creates embroidered narratives on bright background fabrics, often with text. This seemed to be a good way to use up some of the bright solids and prints I no longer use. When I first started quilting, I bought lots of bright fabrics because I intended to make quilts for babies and young children but I no longer want to do this, having found that I enjoy making very small wall quilts instead, with a more subtle colour palette.

I had the idea of making a small improvised Log Cabin quilt with bright embroidered centres. By improvised I mean that the pieces that make up each block will be slightly random; different in size and shape and placed irregularly within the background – unlike the multiple rigid box shapes that you see, one inside the other, in traditional Log Cabin patterns.

Here is a very rough pencil sketch of what I have in mind:

When my daughter sends me a card for any occasion, she decorates the inside of them with little coloured drawings of animals, to make me smile. I decided to embroider these drawings onto bright solid fabrics so that each one would form the centre of one of the Log Cabin blocks. I have chosen to use four bright Moda Bella solids, pink, green, red and possibly gold, the sorts of colours found in Indian folk art, with a view to having three embroideries on each colour background, so twelve blocks in all. All of embroideries will co-ordinate with the printed fabric that will surround them.

Each of the drawings has a playful, almost circus theme. Here are the first three, on pink:

There is lots more to do. I shall probably add more to the ones I have done, too, especially filling in the backgrounds with small dots or stars. I want them to be bright and busy.

Here is an example of one of the co-ordinating fabrics; they are Indian cotton, striped and checked fabrics that I bought years ago. I am not sure they will lend themselves to English Paper Piecing as they are rougher and thinner, with a looser weave than the high quality cottons I usually use, but they suit the theme. I’ll see how it goes.

I’ve made a start on the red

English Paper Pieces for a traditional log cabin design can be bought from linapatchwork.com, and it’s easy to use parts of it to design a non-traditional one. Alternatively you can ask Nancy to make pieces for you according to your own pattern.

I hope by the time I write my next post that my website will be beginning to look and behave as I want it to. In the meantime, I will work towards faster progress with it – and my garden!

Till next time…

This month is the first time this Rhododendron has flowered in the eleven years we have lived here. It was quite a surprise to see these flowers. They open in pink and then turn to white.