Book review: “Goldwork” by Helen McCook for Search Press = 4*

To start off with transparency, I want to be clear that I was sent a free copy of this book for an honest review. The word honest is key here. Everything I write is always completely and utterly unfiltered and these are my own, honest views through and through.

Royal School of Needlework (RSN) Stitch Guides – you know you’ll see high quality work within and this book is no exception!

Goldwork” by Helen McCook (a Royal School of Needlework tutor) is a comprehensive book that seeks to share the history of the needlework technique, the tools required to try it, a breakdown of the associated techniques as well as images of inspirational projects.

The images are sublime and are a testament to the true beauty of this technique and the interwoven elements of colour, light and texture.

The contents page is clear and inspiring with such rich colours and textures. The introduction includes background information about the Royal School of Needlework as well as the technique of Goldwork itself before then providing a detailed exploration of fabric, threads, hoops and frames, tools and more.

It provides clear and easy to follow information about how to frame up or hoop up depending on your preference and project.

What I really like is that this book does not presume prior knowledge so it really does guide you through the whole process in a way that is useful for experienced stitchers and new stitchers alike.

Next, the book moves onto the methods involved in goldwork.

These methods include couching with different threads, finishing your stitching with different threads, how to handle angles when stitching, cutwork, basketweave and more.

I had a go at couching with rococo, before subsequently following the instructions for couching angles.

The book then moves onto the stitches that can be used as surface stitches in goldwork (chain stitch, feather stitch, trellis stitch). I can’t wait to try these out!

Lastly, the book presents a section on ‘Combining Techniques’. In this section, a range of photos are presented along with information about the materials and techniques used.

Personally, this section was less useful than the other sections. I absolutely adored seeing the photos of Helen’s work but I would have loved the last section to actually have projects so that I could use the techniques that had been taught earlier in the book.

All in all, this is a beautiful book so I would give it 4*.

Book review: “Quilt As You Go” by Carolyn Forster = 5*

To start off with transparency, I want to be clear that I was sent a free copy of this book for an honest review. The word honest is key here. Everything I write is always completely and utterly unfiltered and these are my own, honest views through and through.

Carolyn Forster is a sewing extraordinaire and someone whose work I have admired for many years. If you don’t already follow Carolyn on Instagram then I would really encourage you to do so as she posts such incredible and inspiring makes. Carolyn has published extensively and I was so excited to see Carolyn’s new book!

Quilt As You Go‘ is published by Search Press and it is a detailed, inspirational and comprehensive book that explores the quilt-as-you-go technique.

The book contains 14 individual projects for quilt-as-you-go techniques including hand-sewing, machine sewing, log cabins, stitch-and-flip methods, cathedral windows and so, much more.

In the introduction of the book, Carolyn explores the history of ‘quilt-as-you-go’. I absolutely adore reading the history of techniques and I think this is such an important section to include as it shows that the book has been comprehensively researched. Again, the inclusion of this section as the start of a book is a true testament to Carolyn and her work ethic.

Carolyn then guides you through the tools and materials that you’ll need (threads, fabrics, needles, wadding etc) before then explaining quilting and binding techniques. The layout of the book is extremely accessible, intuitive and inspirational.

Then Carolyn moves onto the 14 techniques. I’m going to start off by saying how incredible they all are! Genuinely, each technique made me think “oh my gosh, this is amazing! I’ll start this straight away”…then I turned the page and fell in love with the following technique, and the following technique, and the following technique and so on! Be prepared to fall in love with them all!

Carolyn starts by presenting each technique with some information about the history of the technique, the measurements, the methods involved and inspiration for developing it further.

I really like that the requirements for each technique are clear, detailed and leave no unexpected surprises! I also really like that Carolyn encourages you to explore your own tastes and creativity when making.

The instructions for each of the 14 techniques comprise of clear textual, step-by-steps accompanied by labelled and coordinating photos. This combination is invaluable for supporting you as the maker. Carolyn then gives instructions, and inspiration, for joining your blocks together.

There are templates to accompany all of the projects that require them. They are printed at full size which is always helpful as it means you don’t have to do any increases.

The photography is utterly sublime. The level of sumptuous detail is breathtaking.

I can wholeheartedly say that this is the best patchwork book that I have read in a long, long time. It is my must-have book for 2021….and 2022 too! 5* (and I’d give it more if I could!)

Book review: “Transfer & Stitch” by Search Press

I was sent a free copy of the “Transfer & Stitch” book, published by Search Press, in exchange for an honest review.

‘Transfer & Stitch’, a new publication by Search Press, is an amalgamation of 140 embroidery designs from previously published, bestselling transfer designs. The difference this time, is that they’re all brought together into a single publication. The fabulous pro to this is that they are all encompassed within a beautiful, new folder edition!

When you open up this fabulous folder edition, there are 2 books inside. One book contains step-by-step photos of embroidery tutorials followed by images of the finished embroidery designs themselves and ideas for how to use those designs (tablecloths etc).

The imagery is absolutely exquisite and the stitch tutorials are very clear and accessible.

The 2nd book contains the reusable embroidery transfers themselves. I love that they’re multi-use so that you can use them again and again (and again and again!) You simply cut out the page of the transfer design that you’d like to embroider, place it face down onto your fabric, cover it with a tea-towel and iron!

When you remove the paper transfer, you have a folder ready to store it in thanks to this new book edition! You are then left with the stunning design on your fabric ready to start embroidering.

The book doesn’t give you a step-by-step tutorial for which stitches to use on the design. The idea is that the book acts as a source of inspiration and then you, as the stitcher, can use any stitch/thread/colour combination to make it your own. Personally, I think this can be both a pro and a con. If you’re new to embroidery or not very confident in designing embroidery, it could feel quite overwhelming to have to choose the stitches yourself. Conversely, it could act as a springboard for creativity so that you can make it to the style you’d prefer.

The designs themselves are absolutely fantastic. Such a huge variety of designs and motifs so there is sure to be multiple designs that catch your eye and heart!

This will make a breathtakingly beautiful and creative gift for yourself and for loved ones too with inspiration aplenty!

Fabric postcard tutorial

I wanted to share a photo tutorial for how I made my fabric postcard. I made this postcard as part of the ‘Dear Me’ postcard activity for the ‘Crafting During Coronavirus’ research project but I wanted the tutorial for the postcard to be available generally too as it is such a fun, creative project.

I’ve also made a YouTube tutorial for creating a stitched postcard which can be found here:

Materials for making a stitched postcard:

  • Fabric (this will be for the front of your postcard) measuring 5″ x 7″
  • Wadding measuring 6″ x 8″
  • Vlieseline bondaweb measuring 5″ x 7″
  • 160gsm card measuring 6″ x 4″
  • Baking parchment measuring 7″ x 18″ (it is really important to use baking parchment rather than greaseproof paper)
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Rotary cutter, mat, ruler, scissors, pen
  • Iron and ironing board

Instructions for making a textile postcard:

1. Choose the fabric you’d like to use as the front of your postcard and iron it so it lies as flat as possible.

2. Using a rotary cutter, ruler and cutting mat: trim your fabric so that it measures 5″ x 7″.

3. Cut a piece of wadding measuring 6″ x 8″ (having it larger than your fabric piece makes it easier to hold whilst quilting). Place your fabric on top of the wadding with the right/top side of the fabric facing you.

4. Quilt your fabric/wadding. I tend not to baste the 2 layers as they aren’t that big but if you’d rather baste then you absolutely can. Using a walking foot can help if you’re machine quilting but you can hand quilt if you’d rather.

Don’t worry about securing your threads at the start/finish of your quilting as you’re going to trim it all down.

5. Once you’ve finished quilting, lay your quilted piece on top of your cutting mat.

6. Trim your quilted piece so that is measures 6″ x 4″.

7. Get your piece of bondaweb (measuring 5″ x 7″) and your baking parchment (measuring 7″ x 18″). Bondaweb is a double sided fusible adhesive. One side has a paper covering on it (protecting the adhesive on that side) and it will feel smooth. The other side will have a rougher feel to it and that is an adhesive side. Take the time to feel the 2 sides so that you know what the adhesive feels like.

8. Place your quilted fabric on top of your baking parchment so that the back of your quilted fabric is facing you.

9. Place your bondaweb on top of your quilted fabric. You want to make sure the rough side of the bondaweb is touching the back of your quilted piece. The smooth side of the bondaweb should be facing up towards you.

10. Fold your baking parchment over so that it creates a sandwich and covers your quilted fabric & bondaweb.

11. Using a hot iron (no steam), press these layers together. I tend to press it for approx. 5-7 seconds. Make sure each area of the postcard/bondaweb sandwich is pressed. Leave to cool (don’t take it out of the baking parchment yet).

12. Take your 160gsm card measuring 6″ x 4″. I’ve found this card weight works best as it is strong enough to withstand the pen/writing but not so thick that you can’t see through it. It is personal preference though so you can find/use what works best for you.

13. Write your postcard message. My writing reflects what I wanted to say as part of the ‘Crafting During Coronavirus’ research project. I’ve chosen not to leave a space for a postal address as I always think it is more protective/private to put the stitched postcard into an envelope if you’re going to send it.

Leave a thin border (0.5″ max) around the edges of your postcard so that no writing is obscured when you add the zig-zag stitch to bind the edges.

14. Now the ironed piece has cooled – remove it from the backing parchment and gently peel off the smooth paper backing of the bondaweb. If it isn’t peeling away easily and/or if the web hasn’t adhered to your quilted piece then put it back in the backing parchment and repress. Leave it to cool and then try to peel the smooth paper backing off again.

15. Place your card with the writing face down onto the baking parchment.

16. Place your quilted piece on top of the card so that the back of your quilted piece is face-to-face with the back of your card.

17. Fold the baking parchment over so that it creates a sandwich.

18. Press in exactly the same way we did in step 11. Leave to cool.

19. Trim it down so that all of the edges are the same size and nothing is overhanging.

20. Still using the walking foot (to help with the even feed of all the layers), you’re going to create 2 rounds of a tight zig-zag stitch all the way around your postcard. I used a stitch width of 3.4 (although if I remake it I would probably go to 3.6) and a stitch length of 0.6. Test the stitch on an offcut of fabric first to check it is the right length/width for your postcard.

Start with the needle on the right hand side of the zig-zag (so that it is off the card/fabric). The needle should be butted up right against the outer edge of the postcard.

21. Continue to work your way around the postcard. The needle will go side-to-side from the outside (butting up against the outside edge) to the inside (going through all the layers of fabric/wadding/bondaweb/card). This creates a binding stitch that secures the edges and binds them together. Sew this tight zig-zag stitch all the way around all 4 edges of your postcard and then keep stitching so that you sew all 4 edges for a second time.

22. Once you’re back to where you started, having sewn twice around all 4 edges with a tight zig-zag stitch, secure your thread by reverse stitching 0.5″ and sewing forwards again by 0.5″.

23. Trim any loose threads.

Your stitched fabric postcard is now complete!

“Dear Me” crafted postcard

The ‘Dear Me’ activity is part of the ‘Crafting During Coronavirus’ research project. The idea for this activity is, if you could craft a postcard to send to your past self (March 2020) from your current self (March 2021), what would you say to yourself? What craft would you use for your postcard?

I spent some time reflecting on what I’d like my postcard, to my past me from my current me, to say and how I’d like it to look. I knew I wanted to use something I’d made during 2020. For me, it felt like a tangible, crafted piece of positivity and I love the idea of showing my past me (even if only hypothetically) that there will be positive things/times/creations in the year to come.

On the 17th March 2020, before lockdown started here in the UK, I did some marbling at home.

I was watching the news and I was increasingly anxious about it all but I also found comfort and calm in the soothing repetition of marbling (something I haven’t done for many, many years). I shared a video on my Twitter showing some of the process:

I haven’t used the marbled paper since but this activity felt like the right time to use some of it.

So, I cut a piece of card (160gsm) measuring 6″ x 4″ and wrote my “dear me” message on the back. I didn’t leave space for a postal address (which postcards normally have on them).

I then cut a piece of marbled paper so it would measure 6″ x 4″ too.

I then turned over my marbled paper and put a border of acid-free double sided tape around all four edges (on the back of the piece) as well as a diagonal strip from one corner to the opposite corner to make sure the middle would be stuck too.

I’ve tried normal double sided tape but find that after a few years the acid can ruin whatever I’ve made.

I peeled off the double-sided tape’s protective backing and then stuck the back of the written postcard to the back of the marbled piece.

This is my completed “Dear Me” postcard for the ‘Crafting During Coronavirus’ research project! I also made a second postcard as I wanted to do a tutorial for making a fabric postcard which you can find here:

The writing on the fabric postcard was exactly the same, but I used fabric that I printed during 2020 and which I wrote about in my ‘Crafting During Coronavirus’ diary.

2020 #focuscuttingsewalong group quilt – the ‘Floating Orbs’ quilt

Here it is! The idea for the 2020 #focuscuttingsewalong group quilt. If you’ve taken part in the 2020 #focuscuttingsewalong at any point (from 1 week through to all the weeks) and you’d like to make a block for our group quilt then I would absolutely love it if you took part. This year, there is a new optional extra to the group quilt and I’ve made a YouTube video explaining the block, the written (optional) extra and how to make your own templates if you’d like to. Please, please watch this video as it covers some of the key points! The video can be found here:

There is absolutely NO pressure to take part in the group quilt – it is completely optional and it won’t impact your participation in the sewalong in any way. I also want to say that I won’t share any photos of your writing or of your block unless I’ve got your permission to do so as this is your work.

Ideally, please could they arrive before the end of December 2020 at the very latest. I will let you know when your block arrives and share update photos of the quilt coming together. If you’re sending it to me from abroad then please could you mark the block as a ‘gift’ on customs with a value of less than £10 otherwise I get stung by customs. Please do know that I value your time and effort and that I know your time and effort is worth a lot more than £10.

So excited to see how this quilt progresses!

Some housekeeping points:

  • Please take the time to watch the YouTube video that I made in relation to this block. That video can be found here:
  • Please make sure you use a minimum of 3/8″ seam allowance on your houses and half square triangles. This is a really big help to me to make sure it can withstand the handling as I stitch it all together.
  • Please can you thread baste your houses and your half square triangles. I’ve got a YouTube video exploring how to thread baste these shapes which can be found here:
  • We’re going to focus cut blue fabric for the houses, we’re going to use low-volume fabric for the half-square triangles, we’re going to embroider, in orange thread a word that represents the sewalong to you (this may be your overall reflections, what it has meant to you, what it has been like to be part of the sewalong this year or another word related to the sewalong entirely) and a word to represent your location, and we’re also doing an optional extra of writing down a bit about your block so that I can make a memory album to keep alongside our quilt. I talk about this memory album in the YouTube video so I’d really recommend watching the video as well as reading the instructions on this page (which also covers the memory album).

The 2020 group quilt ‘Floating Orbs’ block:

The block for the 2020 group quilt uses 2″ houses and 2″ half square triangles. In the YouTube video I show you how to make these shapes using a pencil, ruler, scissors and a sheet of 160gsm. Please do take the time to watch the video as this helps to make sure the blocks are all the same size which makes it much easier to sew together. The video is available here: I’d really recommend watching the video for making the templates and ensuring they’re the correct size for the block as this makes it much easier for me to be able to stitch the blocks together.

Making the templates for the ‘Floating Orbs’ 2020 group quilt block:

  1. Take a sheet of 160gsm card (if you prefer a different weight card then that’s absolutely okay, use what is to hand and what works for you). I’ve used an A4 sheet.

2. Along the longest edge of the card (this is the top of my A4 sheet), make a pencil mark every 2 inches from 2-6″. This should give you three pencil marks in total.

3. Along the opposite longest edge of the card (this is the bottom of my A4 sheet), repeat these 3 pencil marks every 2 inches from 2-6″ (to give you a further three pencil marks) so that they’re opposite your three pencil marks from step 2. Then, use your ruler to draw straight lines to connect these marks.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the two unmarked sides of your card (these are the left and right sides of my A4 sheet) and then, using your ruler, connect these marks together so that you’ve made a grid of 9 squares with each square measuring 2″. If you’re using an A4 sheet, you may have some marked off card left over so I find it helpful to draw a cross through it so I know that isn’t the piece to cut and/or use!

5. Now we need to make the points for your house blocks. Using your ruler, you’re going to draw a cross in that centre square. Place your ruler across that centre square so that it is joining the opposite, diagonal corners. Use your pencil to draw that line into place.

6. Repeat step 5 so that you draw a line into place joining the other 2 opposite, diagonal corners.

7. You can then either use an eraser to rub out (like I do in the video), or scribble out, the 4 lines of your square that are surrounding that centre cross. This helps to remind you not to cut those lines.

8. Using a pair of scissors, cut out the lines of your block so that you have four houses and four half-square triangles.

Embroidering your words for your ‘Floating Orbs’ 2020 group quilt block:

  1. Take two of the half-square triangles. Make sure that the longest edge of both of the half square triangles is at the top. This bit is really, really important because it means your writing will all face the same way on the quilt.
  2. Using a pencil (or a black fineliner), write a word on one of the triangles that represents the sewalong to you and, on the 2nd triangle, write a word that represents your location.

3. Once the block is pieced, your written words will face in to the centre of your block like this:

4. Place your low-volume fabric over the top of your half-square triangle and you should be able to see your writing on your triangle.

5. Copy out your written word onto your fabric. I’ve used a pencil for writing onto the fabric but you can use a fabric pen (just remember to erase the pen after the embroidery).

6. Pop your fabric into an embroidery hoop (don’t cut it out yet, the hoop helps to keep the tension when you embroider) and use an orange embroidery thread to embroider your word. I used 4 strands of a 6 stranded cotton and I embroidered the word using backstitch with the following tutorial:
You can use any stitch that you’d like! If you’d like a tutorial on different embroidery stitches then I really recommend the following website:

7. Once the word is embroidered, don’t forget to secure your thread (I use a knot) before removing it from the hoop. Then, using your half square triangle template, cut the fabric with a 3/8″ seam allowance.

8. Thread baste the half-square triangle. Thread basting really helps me when piecing the quilt together and I look at how to thread baste in this YouTube tutorial:

9. Repeat this process to embroidery, cut and baste your half-square triangle for your location.

10. Cut and baste the low-volume fabric for your remaining 2 half-square triangles and put all 4 half-square triangles to one side.

Focus cutting your houses for the ‘Floating Orbs’ 2020 group quilt block

  1. Choose a blue fabric to focus cut for your houses (this doesn’t have to be entirely blue, just so long as a majority of it is blue then it is fabulous and helps to bring all the blocks together). The focus cutting is a big part of this group quilt because focus cutting is the foundation of our sewalong! I chose to focus cut these Art Gallery Fabrics windows to represent how windows have been such a big part of 2020 (I’ll explain more further down the page). It is completely up to you whether to focus cut stripes, whole motifs, mystery sections, kaleidoscope sections, motifs that represent this year for you or the sewalong for you, a fabric you love or another reason entirely – this is your block and it is your chance to make your voice and your style seen and heard!

2. I joined my houses by stitching them into two pairs.

3. I then joined these two pairs together. The YouTube video also looks at how to stitch the houses if this is something you’d like a refresher on:

4. Once the houses are joined, you can then join your half square triangles into each of the four corners! Please make sure your 2 embroidered half square triangles are opposite one another.

5. Then, ta-da! Your ‘Floating Orbs’ 2020 group quilt block is made! If you’d like to read about the accompanying memory album (which is optional) then keep reading. If you don’t want to do the memory album part then please drop me a message on Instagram for my postal address to send your block to so that I can stitch them together into our 2020 ‘Floating Orbs’ group quilt!

The ‘Floating Orbs’ 2020 Group Quilt Memory Album

This part is completely optional! You can make the block and not do this written part and that’s absolutely okay! I thought it would be really good to make a memory album to keep alongside our group quilt. This is the chance to write down something about your block and this could be writing down a bit about the word that you chose or the fabric that you chose, it might be reflections on the #focuscuttingsewalong (previously the #fussycuttingsewalong) this year, your experiences of being part of the sewalong overall, it might be a combination of all of these factors or another #focuscuttingsewalong piece of writing entirely. It can be as long or as short as you’d like it to be. This is your voice, your words and your text to capture your experiences and your block however you’d like to. The plan is to keep this writing alongside our quilt as its legacy of both the quilt itself and of the stitchers who’ve made it possible. I won’t share any photos of your writing or of your block unless I’ve got your permission to do so as this is your work.

For my writing, I explained a little bit about why I stitched the word ‘constancy’. This year has felt so ever-changing and the constancy of the sewalong has been my rock. I know our themes have changed and our shapes are different from previous years, but the foundations of the sewalong (in terms of the focus cutting, the positive and supportive camaraderie, the humour, the understanding and the creativity) have stayed the same. I also wrote a little bit about why I chose to focus cut windows. Here in the UK, many households crafted rainbows and displayed them in their windows to show support for the NHS keyworkers, to display bunting for VE day, to display balloons and banners when people celebrated their birthdays in lockdown…they became our home-galleries. The window felt like a really important motif for me personally to focus cut for the 2020 so I wanted to record that alongside my block.

Again, I want to stress that you do not have to do this. You may have chosen a fabric because you love it and for no other reason than ‘just because’ and that is a fabulous reason in and of itself! This is your block and you can make it for whatever reason you’d like to with no explanation necessary. This writing part is only an extra if you’d like to do it and I will be guided by you!

Please do drop me a message if there’s anything I’ve missed out!