Hearts & Stars: The Stitchbook issue 7

Page 1

1 The Stitchbook www.thestitchbookcollective.com Issue No 7

We are looking at one of my favourite projects (which has particular poignancy for me this year, as I now have in my possession again, the hearts which were made for my parents.) The original project was called Christmas Stars 2007.

NEW for 2023 I have renamed the project FAMILY & FRIENDS HEARTS and STARS. It doesn’t have to be a Christmas project (that’s just it’ s legacy) .. but its a great concept/ project to unite groups of people who may be parted physically from one another, for whatever reason.

2 CONTENTS Page WORKSHOP 3 Noticeboard 11 Featured Artist 12 Stitch of the Month 13 PROJECT UPDATE 14 Food for Thought 16 Conversation Starter 17 MEMBERS PAGES 18 This month : HEARTS and STARS www.thestitchbookcollective.com 2007 No 20/26 Anne Veronica Barter


This workshop is really more of a concept, and how you choose to bring it to fruition is a completely individual decision. I will give you the concept outline, and some examples which you may like to follow, but equally, you might like to simply use the star or heart motif to decorate a page in your Stitchbook.

(There is also a ‘group project’ element to the workshop, should you wish to join in)

It doesn’t matter which direction you take not everything will work out, but you’ll learn from it anyway!

DON’T PANIC or feel stressed! Take a deep breath and just get started ... see where it takes you!

The group is here to support and encourage everyone. We have members with enormously varying levels of expertise remember to share knowledge and ideas generously, and BE KIND. The archive of 12 techniques is permanently available to you whenever you want to try something new, and the monthly workshops and the magazines are there as inspiration and encouragement.

WORKSHOP www.thestitchbookcollective.com presented by Helen Birmingham Issue No 7: first published July 2023
Like family and friends, these stars are now spread far and wide, but each one still forms an integral part of the whole group.”



This month I am introducing you to an idea rather than a new technique.

It is up to you, as an individual, to decide how you’d like to bring the idea to fruition. I’d really love to hear all of your different ‘takes’ on the same starting point. I’ve included another small FREE kit in your magazine this month, to say THANK YOU for your monthly donations to MIND.

How you use this kit is up to you: You can either use it to create a design for a page in your Stitchbook … OR

If you would like your heart to be part of The Stitchbook Collective’s Celebration Tree which will be displayed (and added to each year) at Untangled Threads in Scarborough, I would absolutely LOVE to receive a finished heart in the post. (Maybe instead of a Christmas Card?) x x.

This kit (with instructions) will also be on sale for non-members to take part. The kit costs £5.00 (incl UK P&P) and £1.00 of this is donated to the mental health charity MIND.

2007 CHRISTMAS STARS by Helen Birmingham 2023 CELEBRATION TREE with HEARTS made by members of The Stitchbook Collective 2008 Heart Tokens


In 2007 I had already begun research for my 2009 exhibition: ‘Voyage of Discovery: Darwin-inspired artwork’ which was to be held in Cambridge as part of the University’s Darwin Anniversary Festival.

Part of this research was to take a close look at Darwin’s seminal sketch of ‘the tree of life’ and to try to understand his theory about how hereditary and evolutionary connections affect our own existence.

The CHRISTMAS STARS project was a direct result of my thoughts about how I could freeze a moment in time, in order to record and unite all of the people who were significant in my life at that time. It turned out to be a really powerful way of recording history and connections. I’d love to share it with you.

• I took 26 photos of sections of my work.

• The photos were stitched onto felt stars.

• The surfaces were embellished with stitching.

• A ‘group portrait’ photo was taken.

• Each star was photographed individually.

• Each star was numbered and ‘allocated’ to a member of my ‘family’.

• I then made 26 little books, each one showing all 26 of the stars and identifying the recipient.

• The stars were sent, with a numbered copy of the book, to each of my family members.

‘Like family and friends, these stars are now spread far and wide - but each one still forms an integral part of the whole.’

‘Darwin’s Notebook’ by Helen Birmingham Mixed media Collage (15cm x 20cm)

These instructions are copied from the leaflet in your FREE kit. PLEASE NOTE that the template in the kit is the correct suggested size for The Stitchbook Collective CELEBRATION TREE project! The reproduction here in the magazine is over twice as big!! Of course you have total control over the size or ambition of your own HEARTS or STARS project. These instructions and the online VIDEO give you an example of simple ways to make and decorate a heart.

* This could be a perfect use for a snippet roll!

If you are a beginner, why not take a look at the video in the online archive called: EMBROIDERY ON FELTED SURFACES?


If you do decide to make a set of hearts or stars for your own FRIENDS & FAMILY project, why not think about connecting the designs in some way. Remember the COLLECTIONS work we covered in Issue 1.

The following pages show you examples of different decoration styles and more complex construction methods. If you are a beginner, I would highly recommend using felt as the main fabric for your hearts or stars: it is easy to stitch into, has no problems with fraying edges, and is very forgiving in terms of accuracy of stitching and construction.


SUGGESTIONS for decoration

Cutting line

You may want to make a more substantial heart or star. You could, of course, simply increase the size of the felt shape, OR if you want to use calico or another fabric which frays, you will need to add a seam allowance to the pattern. In this example the black star is the original felt shape which I decorated and stitched onto the calico star BEFORE stitching, trimming, turning and stuffing the final star. The corded edge was added in the same way as the original felt design.

This project is a PERFECT way to use your SNIPPET ROLLS or little scraps of offcuts from other projects. The tiniest piece of stitching will make a great centrepiece for your design.

You may already have heard of ‘INCHIES’ .. if not take a look on Pinterest under FABRIC INCHIES. These are a perfect start for this project.

One way to get a consistent look to a ‘collection’ of hearts or stars is to have the same ‘starting point’ for each design i.e. all the same colours, the same fabric etc. This is a perfect example by our sister group ’Stitched Together’ (run by Sandra Dorey). Although each of these squares was made by a different member of the group, they all began life as one piece of fabric.

You might like to replicate this way of working by taking a piece of your own stitching, and cutting it up into a number of pieces, using one section for each heart or star you want in your collection.

8 Stitching line Leave gap for turning and stuffing Clip Trim

This is a fantastic way of achieving consistency over a number of similar designs. This is the work of one of my oldest friends, Marion Heasman. (She’s not really old, but we’ve known each other for over 30 years!) XX

You can see from this piece of work (even though the final result is a patchwork) that the repetition of circles from similar weights of fabric, all cut with pinking shears, the addition of a button and some off-cuts from trimming the circles, has produced a fantastic cohesion between the squares. The addition of embroidery over and around the circles turn this work into something really very special.

Now, for this project, imagine each of these squares becoming the centrepiece of one heart or star

You might like to take this opportunity to revisit the exquisite embroidery of Salley Mavor(Wee Folk Studio) which we looked at in The Embroidery on Felt workshop (online archive).

If you take a look at American Folk Art Designs on Pinterest you will find some wonderful inspiration too

A simple alternative might be to decorate a number of selfcover buttons and use those as your starting point.

t forget to revisit all of the decorative effects we’ve looked at in the past .. you might find the project we did on IMAGE TRANSFER particularly useful in this project, if for example, you’

d like to use photographic

You may have noticed that I have 2 quite distinct design styles, although there are obviously clear overlaps. We have said before that slow stitching will be unique to you, rather like your own

In the featured artist section this month, (page 12) I would like to ego. Her name is Helga Spirallenwasser, and she is responsible for a lot of my strong colours and spiral designs. She is heavily influenced by the Austrian-born artist, architect and philosopher, Freidensriech Hundertwasser



There are obviously lots of different ways of recording your Hearts or Stars, and I’m going to be really interested to see and hear about some of the ways you discover or invent. For me, the important features were:

To record the names of the recipients

To number each star and record which one each person received For every recipient to have a record of ALL the stars in the collection

For a ‘group photo’ of all the stars to be taken and sent to each recipient

To provide a safe storage option for each star and photos

My solution was to create 26 handmade books. Each book measured 8cm x 12cm and had 28 pages. The group photograph became the FRONT COVER image. The ‘project motto’ and an image of the numbered star appeared on the BACK COVER. A photograph of every star in the collection appeared in every book.

The group photograph also became my Christmas Card design for that year. The star, together with the card and the book were sent to the recipient in a small bag, with a tag label which simply read ‘With love from Helen x’

My world has changed considerably since 2007. Marriages, divorces, births and deaths are the usual culprits for a change in group dynamics, and my family and friends have been no different.

I am really keen to create a NEW record for 2023. There will be some very special people missing from this year, but equally, there are wonderful, treasured, new members of the ‘family’ too.

2007 No 20/26

Anne Veronica Barter


SORRY that this is LATE notice, but it’s worth knowing about for FUTURE YEARS. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, or are visiting, PLEASE would you think about writing an article for our magazine!?

WOVEN is a biennial festival that began in 2019, with the next big event from 3rd June to 9th July 2023.

It is initiated and funded by Kirklees Council, but is owned by everyone, including community groups, textile businesses, cultural and educational organisations, artists and heritage sites across the district.

WOVEN’s theme is generations of innovators, connecting a strong heritage with today’s innovative developments in industry, university research, a strong arts and crafts scene and the creative expression of the district’s rich and diverse communities. Whilst a big festival event will happen in June every other year, there will also be long term projects and smaller events happening in between.


WATCH OUT FOR an UPDATE on the DNA spiral in next month s magazine: I may have found an exhibition venue for Oct/Nov!

I needed some help in making 200 sugar molecules to sit between the representation of phosphate Dorothea very kindly offered to provide lunch, and Jackie Emmerson, Judith Horsman, Dawn Woollens and I spent a happy day making Suffolk puffs out of pre-felt and merino wool!!

See page 22 for more photos

We are very lucky to be able to welcome author, Jan Dowson as a member of The Stitchbook Collective

Expressive Stitches Search Press

ISBN 978-1-78221-750-3

I would like to introduce you to my alter-ego. Her name is Helga Spirallenwasser, and she is responsible for a lot of my strong colours and spiral designs. She is heavily influenced by the Austrian-born artist, architect and philosopher, Hundertwasser.

One man has one name; when he has many names he is many persons. When you have filled one name with a meaning, then you need another name.” FH


Helga Spirallenwasser’s cushions are all totally unique, but pay homage to Friedensreich Hundertwasser’s energetic artistic style. Hundertwasser wanted his paintings to be ‘considered as his children; like living being.’ It is Spirallenwasser’s hope that he may have seen her cushions rather like members of his own extended family; they have their own distinct identity but have a shared heredity and philosophy.

“It is important to me to maintain a sense of intimacy with the work, and therefore the cushions are produced individually, by hand, in series, but not editions. The cushion’s family trees can be traced back to 5 distinct starting points.


Spirals: Couched wool spirals, bullion knots and silk patches

Tree Tenants: Concentric circles and squares

Postage Stamps: Repeated patterns

Architecture: Keystones, pillars and onion domes

Cross Referenced: With direct reference to one of Hundertwasser’s paintings


Friedrich Stowasser, better known by his pseudonym Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, was an Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. (1928 - 2000)

His natural epidermis, his clothes, his house, the social environment and the planetary skin which are all directly connected to the biosphere; the quality of air, water and soil.

13 STITCH of the MONTH: Machine Couching Yarn FREE BONUS VIDEO on the website www.thestitchbookcollective.com


Representing The Stitchbook Collective, the first 6 issues of The Stitchbook Magazine, Janilaine’s Legacy and DNA inspired artwork by Helen Birmingham

If we all stitch for just one hour, it is the same output as one person working a 40 hour week for 4 and a half weeks.

First of all, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has taken part in this project. As you can see from the above image, the quilt is nearing completion (just as well, coz it needs to be photographed and submitted to The Festival of Quilts between 10th and 23rdJuly!)

It was important to me that the quilt not only connected with my own work (DNA-inspired), but that it said something about the way we work, and the sort of issues we are concerned with as a group. I am REALLY pleased with the design of

the quilt and the way the different elements have come together.

At the top of the quilt there are wooden letters which represent all the people who might become part of our group. Dorothea and I often say, ’if you don’t really fit into any other sewing groups, you will probably fit into ours’.

The letters A,T,C & G are only present in the gradually appearing sections of Janilaine’s blanket (which each member worked on separately.) These letters represent the 4 nucleotides which pair to form an individual’s DNA fingerprint.

In this representation, the letters form into increasingly large groups, which tumble and settle, forming the foundation of The Stitchbook

Collective. The foundation is strong and supportive. I was inspired by a quotation from William Irvine about Charles Darwin:

‘..tiny sands of evidence had gradually accumulated some very alarming strata of thought on the very bottom of Darwin’s brain.’


The other elements which gradually appear in the design of the quilt represent the formation of chromosomes. Chromosomes are threadlike structures which hold our genetic information.

The obsessive, almost compulsive, quality of the work of a research scientist appeals to my own nature. Many pieces of my work contain precious yet seemingly insignificant scraps which have been carefully set aside and cherished, until their time in the spotlight appears. Janilaine’s blanket is a perfect example of this. You will see that even the frayed pieces of wool created whilst cutting the blanket are included. We shared a love of textiles, the poetry to be found in friendship and sharing, and most of all a strong feeling of being ’connected’.

You can see from the above diagram that the letters A,T,C & G form into a series of 3 letter codes, (i.e. AAG ). This code is then twisted into the familiar double helix shape of DNA (a bit like a twisted ladder).

The ladder of genetic code continues to twist tighter and tighter, rather like making a twisted cord rope, until it forms into knotted tangles called chromosomes.

I still miss her terribly, but working on this quilt, based on a blanket which I know she had plans for, has given me a great amount of pleasure. I feel a strong sense of connection to all past and present members of The Stitchbook Collective, and all of you help, every day, to combat the feeling of sadness for the unutterable waste of such a beautiful life, cut short.

P.S. The ‘pom poms’ on the quilt are a integral part of its structure, providing the anchors for mattress tying the layers together, but they also remind me of one of my favourite photos of Janilaine, and her irrepressible sense of fun and mischief.

I am fascinated by genetics, and although recent advances in science and technology have begun to ‘untangle’ some of the mysteries, I would be the first to admit that a full understanding will probably always be beyond most of us. BUT, at times in my life when I have sought the strength which comes from a shared belief or understanding, heredity and genetics have not been found wanting - what greater shared experience is there than being ancestrally connected to every other living thing. I love the idea that life has evolved from Primordial Soup.

Primordial Soup is the hypothetical solution, rich in organic compounds, from which life is thought to have originated.

STILL AVAILABLE www.untangledthreads.co,uk


Anchorage Alaska artist, Amy Meissner, combines traditional handwork, found objects and abandoned textiles to reference the literal, physical and emotional labour of women.

Edith Joy Scovell was an English poet who once summed up her life by saying, with quintessential English reticence, “I have had a fairly ordinary life I think,

Deaths of Flowers

I would if I could choose Age and die outwards as a tulip does; Not as this iris drawing in, in-coiling Its complex strange taut inflorescence, willing Itself a bud again - though all achieved is No more than a clenched sadness,

The tears of gum not flowing.

I would choose the tulips reckless way of going; Whose petals answer light, altering by fractions From closed to wide, from one through many perfections, Til wreched, flamboyant, strayed beyond recall, Like flakes of fire they piecemeal fall.

Simone de Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher, writer, social theorist, and feminist activist.


“There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning - devotion to individuals, to groups or causes, social, political, intellectual or creative work In old age we should wish still to have passions strong enough to prevent us turning in on ourselves. One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, compassion.”

“Hand stitching isn’t fast work. It’s a quiet skill that feels tenuous, nearly lost when placed in a contemporary context; it slips away like childhood, like domesticity, like safety beneath the weight of something handmade. I sew because I don’t know what it is to not sew, despite the connotation of “minor art” or “women’s work.” It’s this expectation of what the hand-sewn form is — protective, warm, decorative — so much like the definition of the domestic role, which compels me to heave against it. I take the traditional, beautiful handwork I was taught as a girl, then later as a professional seamstress and couch it within the painful, uncomfortable or frightening. My intent is to create thoughtful, arresting work, reliant on layers of narrative within the pieces themselves and within the history each viewer brings. This is time-based work, using old skills. An act of cutting apart, then piecing oneself back together.”

Image by Helen Birmingham

The story of art for our times one with women at the center, brought together for the first time by the creator of @thegreatwomenartists.

From Leonardo da Vinci to Jean-Michel Basquiat, the great painters and sculptures who have defined the fine art canon have largely been men. Katy Hessel seeks to right that wrong by cataloging, celebrating, and elevating women artists and placing their groundbreaking work in its historical, political, and cultural context. From the Renaissance to the present day, Hessel breaks down each time period and movement using a global lens, expanding the canon to include the work of non-Western artists, queer and racially marginalized artists, photographers, textile artists, and more.

(ISBN: 9781529151145)

aware of the very real exclusion of women, bar a favoured few, from the history of art and set about researching. What she has put together in this hefty tome is a wonderful journey from the 1400’s to the 2000’s of only female artists. Yet I am disappointed.

About halfway through this book I arrived at chapter 11, ‘weaving new traditions’. In this chapter I learned that the royal Academy of Arts in London banned embroidery within eighteen months of its opening, this meant that women had to actively reject the medium if they wanted to be taken seriously as artists’.

This chapter begins ‘artists have been working with textiles for hundreds, if not thousands of years’ and yet this is a sadly thin chapter and seems only to cover fairly contemporary textile artists (with Tracy Emin’s ‘My Bed’ 1998 popping up in chapter 15). Disappointingly it seems even within a book about women's art spanning 600 years, written by a woman, textile art is put to the side.

or have you something to say, in your voice, with your stitches?. I am an enthusiastic amateur sewer/crafter/painter but one thing I am sure of is that I am an artist no matter what medium I use.

Within our group, there have been pieces made that beautifully demonstrate learned techniques and there have been other pieces that I have personally found creatively inspiring. Through the use of thread and fabric our creators have expressed heartfelt ideas, thoughts and feelings, surely, that is the very definition of art?

What do you think?

Please email your comments to: thestitchbook@aol.com

Use the subject line: Food for Thought

or post to Helen Birmingham, Untangled Threads, 5 Belle Vue Parade, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1SU



Star Letter this Month:


feel free to send ARTICLES for the magazine


Exhibition reviews, comments, opinions, obsessions etc will all be considered for publishing. I will do all of the formatting and layout. You just need to send words and pictures!

I hope that this will broaden our horizons into looking at some of the associated art/textile activities which our members undertake in addition to the Stitchbook workshops. I also hope that it will give us the opportunity to express ourselves and to offer feedback and discussion about the work of others in the collective. Between us, we have a huge pool of knowledge, information and opinion. Let’s share it!

You don’t need to be asked ….. please email articles for consideration to :


or by post to:

Helen Birmingham

5 Belle Vue Parade


North Yorkshire YO11 1SU

Just to say thank you.

X is going through a difficult time at the moment. She is receiving some counselling but I also mentioned MIND to her. She was aware of them but had not looked into it. She told me today that they have a "chat" group and she has joined that. Her depression is not something that I can personally understand as I am very fortunate that I do not suffer from depression but I know I just have to be here for her and support her as best as I can .. I sometimes feel helpless so am happy that I have been able to make a suggestion that may in some small way help her.

I am thrilled that The Stitchbook Collective and our donations to MIND have been so positive, on such a personal level. XX


My Head is a Shed

My head is a shed. Nothing is done. Look at the fabric. Look at the thread. And I run away.

My head is pining. The housework and chores forever in the background, like errant children whinging. Look at the fabric, colours emerging. Look at the thread, spools need unwinding. I walk away.

My life is a mess.

Health is failing, relationships some toxic, some chaotic and some draining; no time for me left remaining.

Look at the fabric, colours emerging, demanding nothing.

Look at the thread, spools need unwinding, promising length and promising strength. I stand still.

Myself exploding, imploding, nothing left. No space to move, time going fast, time going slow, time just going; no direction, nowhere to go, stuck in one spot. The me inside forgot. Look at the fabric, colours emerging, demanding nothing, textures and fibres all converging.

Look at the thread, spools need unwinding, promising length and promising strength; adding a needle allows for its freedom. I sit.

My breathing slows. The world moves slower, outside sounds diminishing around me.

Look at the fabric, colours emerging, demanding nothing, textures and fibres all converging; with needle and thread shape and form develop.

Look at the thread, spools need unwinding, promising length and promising strength; adding a needle allows for its freedom. It converges with fabric, its needs met, each stab of the needle helps to forget.

I start to sew.

My head, my heart, myself; slowly mending. The world is on the outside, I am safe on the inside, just me, myself and I. Look at the fabric, colours emerging, demanding nothing, textures and fibres all converging; with needle and thread shape and form develop. Patterns, thread journeys, endless space and no space at all, all limitless. Look at the thread, spools need unwinding, promising length and promising strength; adding a needle allows for its freedom. It converges with fabric, its needs met, each stab of the needle helps to forget. Creatively like the thread flowing forth. Knotted, straight, back, stems and seeds; all meeting that one need. Me, myself and stitches. I am slow stitching; I am one with fabric and thread.

My head is fabric. My breath is thread. Look at the fabric. Look at the thread. Yes it’s me, alone at last inside my head.

I was absolutely thrilled when Denise agreed to let me put this poem into our magazine, and beyond happy when this image came through to accompany it! The figure was adapted from a soldier on The Bayeux Tapestry, and the stitching is beautifully executed. The work was made in sections with the joins sewn over, like the original. (The work measures 13” x 5”)


One of our members, Sally-Ann Duffy, is the co-Founder of Bailieborough Creative Hub in Co Cavan, Ireland. I asked her if she would write a short article for the magazine about the truly amazing work they are doing there. (I had no idea that her personal like has also been so challenging over the last few years.) I am totally in awe of her dedication and courage, and honoured that she is a member of our group.

Stitching my life together......

After a series of life challenges I needed a new path in 2018! I decided to go back to college and did Entrepreneurship for the Creative Industries, a Speech craft public speaking certificate, I travelled to the US, Venice, France, the Canaries and The Netherlands where I had a piece of my textile art accepted into a group exhibition.

Even though I had been sewing for as long as I can remember I was mainly self taught. I started a City & Guilds in hand embroidery. I had won a bursary following a public vote of my textile work. Later that year I had my first solo exhibition: 'my 7 year stitch'

I had stitched and created through all the challenges of my previous 7 years, it had literally kept me going.

I joined a project 'The Next Chapter', aimed at encouraging women living in the border counties of Ireland with northern Ireland, to continue the good work done through the women involved in the Good Friday agreement, an activation program to encourage women to go into public or political life.

This is where the idea for Bailieborough Creative Hub was hatched and with a friend I set up the mixed ability community arts group. In January 2019 We hit the ground running creating all kinds of arts events.

.....More challenges arrived in May 2019 and I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer after my first routine mammogram. 2 surgeries followed and just before I was due to start chemo my mother-in-law died suddenly. We were very close and she'd planned to look after me through my treatment.

Chemo was horrible but I kept positive with stitching and coordinating creative events with the group. My treatment ended just 2 weeks before we were all locked down for covid and I spent lockdown days completing my City & Guilds modules in hand embroidery and working on different textile techniques with The Stitchbook Collective.

Stitching stopped me from going crazy during those awful lockdown days. I didn't leave the house for 4 weeks!

I have now completed 2 Stitchbooks and I am working on this year's albeit at a slower rate because of my busy schedule as Development worker for the local volunteer centre and the all arts events for my group!

I have introduced slow stitching to a series of creative programs with diverse groups such as cancer patients, Syrian Women, Ukrainian refugees, young people in alternative education and kids in an afterschool. I also did a 6 week SALS (Slow And Leisurely Stitching see what I did there lol) workshop teaching a small group the benefits of slow mindful stitching.

Taking Helens heart project as my inspiration over 2 or more years I have been researching the men from Co Cavan (my adopted county in Ireland) that died in WW1 ( 752 men). I have been getting kids and adults to create hearts that I plan to construct into an art piece.

I still have a way to go but it will happen one day. In the meantime amongst all the other creative pursuits I plan to start another mindful SALS group in the autumn. Stitching is the fabric of life my life! I love the monthly magazine, my daughter posts on from England, and l Iook forward to getting more of the projects completed. Thanks Helen you are an inspiration.


Dyeing wool using food colouring

I was inspired by a former crafter who made beautiful rag rugs and used this method when she couldn't find woollen items (always recycled jumpers) in the right colours to make her rugs. There will be a smell of vinegar whilst it's in the microwave, so I would open a window.

Items needed

• Off cuts of cream wool blankets (10"x10" is a good size to use) or wool skeins (natural colour)

• Food colouring gel Wilton icing colours (available from Amazon)

• White vinegar

• Washing up liquid


Put wool blanket pieces into bowl of hot water, add a good squeeze of washing up liquid, slosh around and leave for 10 minutes. Wring out.

Step 1

in a jug put a tablespoon of hot water, to this using a cocktail stick add a few drops of food colouring. The more you add the stronger the colour will be.


Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Top up with warm water to 1/4 pint. Put the wool/ blanket piece in a microwave dish, pour contents of jug over the wool/blanket. Microwave on full power for approx two minutes.

The wool / blanket should absorb the colour and remaining liquid should be paler in colour. Once done (remember it will be hot) remove and rinse under warm water, and leave to dry.

If you want a multicoloured piece, follow step1 mix various colours in separate jugs, and drop onto areas of the wool piece, then pour 1/4 pint plain water/vinegar mix. The colours will mix with each other, to give a mottled look, sometimes a mucky brown but interesting.

This method will not give you a precise pattern, and no two pieces will be the same. The colours may be lighter when dry. It's just fun experimenting to see what happens. I tend to do small pieces, if doing larger pieces add extra fluid and time in microwave.

Be mindful not to overcook as wool will felt/ burn.

NB: I have tried other fabrics without success, and having tried other food colourings the Wilton icing colours are the best to use.


I looked at each months magazine starting at Collections. I was struggling with what I could include in this. I don't really collect anything, I wasn't inspired by buttons. I have a few pieces from the beach but nothing was calling to me.

Then I thought back to my childhood and I used to go with my dad to visit churches as he was interested in their architecture. At each church I would buy a postcard and stick it in a scrapbook. Sadly those scrapbooks have vanished through various house moves, but the memory of those visits remains.

This year postcards seem to have been a theme in other projects that I've taken part in - a fabric postcard swap, a needle case swap based on postcard size. So I have decided my collection will be postcards. I am going to make each months workshop into a postcard which over the months will then become my collection.

This is the first one finished based on Journey's. It is my journey to work. I have travelled from the same house to the same place of work been at the same place of work for 20 years. I worked out how many journeys I would have made, how many miles I have driven. It's quite staggering when you think about where those miles could have taken you - round the world a few times?

On the back of a postcard is a quote which resonated with me. My journey is to the hospital as I'm a nurse, and I loved the link with stitching within the quote.


The responses to last month’s project on The Bayeux Tapestry were great, but none more of a surprise for me than this piece written by Christine Medcalf. Christine tells us about a really amazing tapestry called ‘The Last Invasion Tapestry’ which can be viewed in Fishguard, Wales. Patricia Hughes also posted a link to the website on the facebook page. Really fascinating stuff THANK YOU!

Those pesky French …

I haven’t been fortunate to see the Bayeaux Tapestry but I have recently seen another remarkable embroidery: The Last Invasion Tapestry was stitched to mark the bicentenary of another French invasion of Britain and can be seen in the public library at Fishguard, Wales.

Commemorating an incursion in 1797, the tapestry was designed by professional artist Elizabeth Cramp. Three other artists acted as advisors for the actual embroidery: Rozanne Hawksley, Eirian Short and Audrey Walker. All three had previously been lecturers in textiles. The tapestry was stitched by over 70 local women using 178 shades of crewel wool.

The invasion, led by American William Tate, saw four vessels head for Cardigan Bay and anchor west of Fishguard. Mostly kitted out in British uniforms, the French soldiers and their ammunition were brought ashore at night and a company of grenadiers set up a base a mile inland. When a French ship entered Fishguard Bay, news of a suspected enemy landing was delivered to Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Knox who instructed his volunteers to head for Fishguard Fort. But Knox quickly realised that he was outnumbered so retreated from Fishguard to meet up with reinforcements mustered by Lord Cawdor, captain of the Pembroke yeomanry Cavalry.

In 1797 the last ever invasion of mainland Britain took place when a French force landed three miles west of Fishguard in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The fascinating story of this event is told in our embroidered tapestry which was designed and sewn by around 80 local women. It is in a similar format and shape as the Bayeux tapestry and like the Bayeux tapestry is 100 foot long. The tapestry was commissioned as a permanent legacy of the Invasion Bicentenary commemorations in 1997. It took four years to complete and is on permanent exhibition in our purpose built gallery attached to the Library in Fishguard Town Hall.

Up until now everything had gone smoothly for Tate, but many of his men had resorted to pillaging and there was a lack of discipline. The Welsh peasants weren’t going to go down without a fight. Several of Tate’s officers were counselling surrender, causing Tate to offer a conditional surrender to Lord Cawdor –which was refused. The following morning Tate agreed to an unconditional surrender: the invasion had lasted just three days. lastinvasiontapestry.co.uk culture4pembrokeshire.co.uk


Having joined the Stitchbook family in January, I have been inspired each month by the new challenge. On a few occasions, I have been initially concerned, wondering how I might interpret the project introduced, and whether I would have the fabrics and threads required. I had the same reaction this month, but having given it some consideration, and having read the magazine and watched Helen’s video, I decided to begin by sewing a sample to practise stem stitch, layering and couching Bayeux stitch.

I accessed my ‘Bayeux Tapestry by David Wilson’, and looked at all the colour plates in detail. I chose a shield as the design for my initial piece, and having selected several possible designs as a basic possibility my sample, I drew my shield.

As I didn’t have any linen, I cut a diagonal piece out of my windowcleaning scrim, and the only threads in appropriate colours that I had in my stash were stranded threads. The finished piece sewn with these threads was rather too textured but was satisfactory as a first practice piece. The border was sewn with stem stitch, cross stitch, and French knots. The lettering was back stitch and the most difficult part of the sample.

I couldn’t work with my boss anymore whilst at the same time scouring Herefordshire and Wales for a new home so I handed in my notice. Downside I've never been out of work for more than a month since I was 18, (which is an awful long time ago) and financially that's scary. Upside I have time to sew!!until we get movedI still have a couple of bits half done from last year and had done nothing this year's course.... So I starting at the most recent magazine and bayeaux stitch and then started at the beginning with my collections of red and buttons. Feels good to be back stitching

I was given some lovely variegated grey cotton thread which I wanted to use with some dark grey woollen fabric I have . It seemed just right for this month’s Bayeux stitch piece. I used these as my basis for selecting my colour palette, and used the cotton threads that Helen kindly sent us, for most of the couching.

I struggled with last year’s Bayeux trees, so wasn’t looking forward to this one. Seeing the circle pattern Helen showed us inspired me to think of this in a different way ! I really enjoyed stitching this during my rather rainy holiday on the Isle of Arran.


Please find attached photo of my bayeux stitch pieces. I really loved doing these pieces, it reminded me of a stained glass window and found the effect really pleasing. My bayeux tree turned out to be court jester like and I love it. Great magazine as usual and I enjoyed stitching with the cottons included this month.

Forty Shades of Beige

A larger snippet made using off-cuts from making my Stitchbook book pages! Other bits of yarn, threads, again leftover from other Stitchbook projects, have found their way into the mix! I sandwiched the off cuts between water soluble stabilizer, then machine stitched... haven't decided

I have a book on the tapestry bought for me by my son about five years ago and it has been on my "to do" list all this time. So this had to be done. Not enough threads in Helen's pack and not really enough in my stranded threads stash either. It takes an amazing amount!

I will get round to doing something a bit more creative but for the moment I am embroidering a dragon from the prow of a ship.

I thought it fitting that a woman from Canterbury (although now living in Yorkshire) should sew this, thinking about the women from Canterbury who sewed the original.


My snippet roll piece started with some scraps of Kaffe Fassett striped fabric I've had for years. I used complimentary colours and made an A4 piece, which looked a bit dull; so I decided to use it as a background for a piece of reverse applique. Usually you cut the shapes in the top fabric after you've stitched the two layers together, but aware of the likely chance of cutting into the snippets, I cut the 3 rectangles out first, then chose a section I liked that would make a piece to fit my stitchbook. I think the orange embroidery helps to lift the piece. It struck me, that using reverse applique, it enabled snippets to be used for larger projects eg. cushions, tote bags etc.

Hi everyone, this is my first post to this group. This is me doing my 2nd year indigo dye workshop from 2021 it's better late than never. I was inspired by Casa Batllo in Barcelona and I only allowed myself to use the contents of my bundle tin that i got

Finally got around to doing another piece for the machine embroidery workshop. I thought about adding more embellishment or additional text but I think I quite like it just as a "still life". Maybe this is an idea I will play around with a bit more to develop further...


In Issue No 8 we will be looking at FABRIC COLLAGE and TEXILE PORTRAITS

You may need:


Iron-on interfacing

Tulle or netting

Variety of different fabrics




Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.