How to make a narrow hem on curves

I tend to avoid narrow hems if I can get away with it. I’m always a bit suspiscious about curved hems as well.

So when I saw a post about easy narrow curved hems, I was curious. And I think for those of us who have overlockers, this could be a way forward.

So the next time, instead of thinking of another way round the issue, I will probably give this method of make a narrow curved hem a go.

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Pin cushions

Pin cushions are an essential part of a sewing kit. Yes, you can manage without them, making do with the box they came in. Or even a card. But it is more difficult to pick them up and put them down, which slow2020s everything up.

You will notice I said pincushions, because it is useful to have one in every room where you will sew.

There are various factors influencing the success of a pin cushion:

  • It needs to be thick enough so that the pins don’t go straight through, leaving points exposed to scratch you or the furniture.
  • The thickness will vary with the length of the pin, and the number of pins you will need. Most sewing tasks might need several dozen pins, if only to ward off the chance of running out. Hat pins, on the other hand, need a thicker base, sometimes mounted in a vase, but the surface can be smaller, as not so many are needed.
  • The stuffing needs to be firm enough to hold the pins (and sometimes the shape of the pin cushion).
  • In some climates, you have to guard against he possibility of insects eating your stuffing, or humid atmospheres reacting with any metal.

Various types of stuffing can be used:

  • Probably the easiest and most readily available is polyester wadding. It is cheap, doesn’t cause allergy problems, and is easy to manage.
  • Where a bit of weight is needed, rice or lentils can be used. It is said that over time, the pins will break this stuffing down, causing the volume of the stuffing to decrease. I used a combination of rice and lentils to stuff my circus tent I made about three years ago, from an idea in a magazine. I must say I haven’t noticed a problem yet. It is a very heavy cushion, and it took far more than I expected to get the right effect.
  • Emery powder is a traditional filling. Emery is made from powdered rock, and is what is stuck on to sand paper. It polishes the pin every time it goes in or out of the cushion, keeping it sharp. I used to have one of these, but the covering fabric wore out, and it began to leak.
  • The same theory applies to sawdust. This is easier to get hold of, particularly if you have a friend who is keen on woodwork.
  • The final traditional stuffing is crushed walnut shells. These have a polishing effect, but as the pieces are larger, they are easier to manage. The hardness means they are less likely than some of the alternatives to break down.

For my patchwork pin cushions, I decided to give the walnut shell option a go. So far they seem to be working well, but as so many people have allergies these days, I also make them with a polyester stuffing. And the nut stuffed ones have nice clear labels, and are kept in a separate box.

Of course, pin holders don’t have to be the traditional cushion. You could make a more complicated sewing organiser, like the wine bottle doll shown here. You can buy the pattern from my shop.

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Fabric Marking Tools

I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories about various methods of marking fabric.

The ones where the mark should have come off and didn’t, and the ones where the mark came off too soon. My worst experience was when I was little. I was working on a picture of Westminster Abbey, in brown stem stitch on cream cotton. Mum was doing one of Worcester cathederal at the time, where by brother was a chorister. He still has that picture. Mine never got finished, because the printed lines wore off the fabric. I tried to improvise, but it didn’t work.

I try to avoid marking the fabric, except for things like this picture, when you know it won’t show, and the easiest thing is to mark the seam line in pencil and cut the shapes out afterwards.

I’m a big fan of drawing on paper, sewing with the machine through the paper and fabric, and then tearing the paper off.

But sometimes, you can’t get away without using a textile marker, so this post is useful for explaining the differences between some fabric marking tools.

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Getting side tracked

For the last few weeks, I’ve been away from the screen a lot.

I’ve been jotting down ideas for blog posts, and in some cases getting them nearly ready to go. I knew I had loads of posts scheduled, so I didn’t need to worry.

But it was ages ago when I did all the posting, and I hadn’t spotted that.


So now I’m having a session of finishing off posts and scheduling them. And while I do that, I thought I’d post a picture of a partially finished quilt.

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The world’s largest pictorial carpet


Well, if you are going to have something big on your wall, you might as well make it interesting.

Read about the world’s largest pictorial carpet.

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The last of the Festival of Quilts 2019

This is my final selection of pictures from the Festival of Quilts 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham. These are the ones that didn’t group together nicely with any of the others.

For example, this one on the left, which uses a simple design to show off a collection of printed fabrics.

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A scissor holder

A while ago, I saw a display on a stall selling kits to make scissor pouches and “keepers” for embroidery scissors. You know, the sort that is permanently fixed to the handle of the scissors, so it is always handy.

It is a really difficult to display small items in a crowded space. You need some way of lifting them up from the surface of the table so people see them as they approach the stall, making them more likely to stop and look. This stall holder had a collection of old bobbins of different heights, grouped together, with the scissors  pushed into the top, and the beautifully embroidered case hanging down, high enough to catch the eye of the passer by. Brilliant, and so simple.

I love old textile kit, but I have never bought and old reels and bobbins. They are lovely, but what do you do with them? I’m reminded of my friend, who used to say as we walked to work past gift shops in York “Huh. Dust catchers!”

But now I know better. So I started keeping a look out. The first one I found was on the short side, so long scissors go right through the hole and might scratch the table. Felt seems the obvious solution. Too thin? Yes, the scissors could easily get pushed through that. So I planned to stick a piece of firm vilene, canvas or something similarly tough on first.

While I was rummaging, I found an offcut of a cork tile. Much better. I drew on a circle a bit smaller than reel, stuck it on with PVA glue, weighted down while it dried.

Job done.

So now, I am gradually working through the house. Every room needs a pin cushion, a bits bowl, and a pencil pot. And now a scissor holder. So far, just the living room and the studio are equipped…

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Hexagons at the Festival of Quilts 2019

My very first experience of patchwork was with hexagons. I must have been about 6 or 7, and I made it with offcuts from my rag doll’s dresses. I still have the dresses, and Beth still watches over my desk in one of them.

But after about 40 years, the cushion was past mending. It had a lot of wear. It classic flower design seemed very grown up.

But these pictures from the Festival of Quilts 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, really show what can be done with a hexagon.

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Sewing in a zip can be a bit of a pain. I tend to avoid it when I can, because of the hassle of remembering to buy the right length. And often they don’t sell the colour I want.

But sometimes there isn’t a way round it. For those times, this post on three easy ways to sew a zip is useful.

And while we are on the subject of zips, here is a post about invisible zips.

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Compass quilts at the Festival of Quilts 2019

I love a good compass block. And here are some absolute corkers from the Festival of Quilts 2019 at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham.

How they keep track of all those tiny pieces of fabric beats me. When I made a quilt of sample blocks, I included a compass. It was intended to have each piece cut from a different fabric. The experience of that one twelve inch block has never been repeated. And given the size of the “quilts to do list,” I don’t think it ever will be.

But it does mean that I have proper respect for the makers of these quilts:

And one that needs its own collage, so you can see the details:

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