Gathering Threads

Simple Drawstring Bag Tutorial

Posted by on Sep 06 2017

This is a simple bag pattern that makes up quickly and is great for a lunch bag, small shopping bag and general catch all.

It’s super quick and easy to make, too, so it’s perfect when you need a quick gift or sewing project and don’t have a lot of time.  It was recently featured on The Shopping Channel and it makes a great project for the beginner sewer, with lots of options and ways to personalize it.  I used fabrics from Camelot Fabric’s new Flutter and Buzz collection, Threaders fusible fleece, plus a few bits and pieces from my stash.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

  • 3/8 yd fabric for bag fabric
  • 3/8 yd fabric for lining
  • 12 x 33″ fusible fleece (optional)
  • a scrap of contrasting fabric at least 12″ x 2 1/2″ or 24″ of 1/2″ wide single fold bias tape
  • 1 yd of 1/4″ ribbon
  • thread to match


  • Sewing machine
  • Rotary cutter and cutting mat
  • Ruler
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Marking pen
  • Pins
  • Safety Pin or blunt darning needle
  1.  Print out the DrawstringBagPattern and cut the following pieces from both the outer fabric and the lining:  two rectangles 12″ x 14″ for the upper bag and one circle for the base.  From the contrasting fabric, cut two strips each 1″ wide and 11 1/2″ long for the casings.  (Note: if you’re using 1/2″ bias tape, cut two pieces 11 1/2″ long instead).

2.  For a sturdier bag with more body, cut out two rectangles of fusible fleece 11 1/4″ x 10 3/4″ and one base circle, using the dashed lines of the base piece for your cutting line. This is an optional step, and your bag will be just as nice without it, if you decide to skip it, just floppier.

3. If you’re using the fleece, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and fuse the fleece to the wrong side of the outer fabric, leaving a 3/8″ (1cm) space along the long sides and the bottom edge.  There should be approximately 2 1/2 of the outer fabric above the top edge of the fleece.

4. Fold in the long sides of the casing strip to the centre to make the strip 1/2″ wide.  Press.  Then turn under the short ends 1/4″ and press again.  Repeat with the second strip.

5. Lay the casing strip 1/2 across the outer fabric, so that it is 1/2″ above where the fusible fleece ends.  With the RS (right side) of both the outer fabric and casing facing up, pin the top edge of the casing to the line, centering it between the long edges.

6. Stitch the casing along the long edges.  If you have one, use your edge stitch foot.  This foot has a metal guide in the centre, which runs along the edge of the fabric and makes getting really straight top stitching easy-peasy.  If not, use your regular foot and just stitch slowly and as close to the edge of the casing as possible.

On my Janome S7, my stitch settings for the edge stitching were alignment to the left 2.1 and a stitch length of 2.4.

Remember to reverse you stitching for 1-2 stitches at each end to secure the casing.

7.  RS (right sides) facing, pin the outer fabric with the attached casings together.  Sew down the two long edges of the outer fabric rectangles using a 3/8″ seam allowance and being careful not to catch the openings of the casing as you sew.

My stitch settings for the construction were needle centered, stitch length of 2.4:

Press the seams open.

8. RS facing, sew down the long edges of the lining rectangles using the same 3/8″ seam allowance and a stitch length of 2.2-2.4 that you used for the outer fabric.  Again, press the seams open.

9.  Following your machine’s instructions, remove the base of the machine to convert it to free arm sewing.  Free arm sewing lets you get into smaller spaces, like sleeves and the inside of bags.  Very useful.

10.  Turn the lining inside out and put the outer fabric pieces inside, so the right side of the lining is facing the right side of the outer fabric.  Pin the layers together and stitch around the top edge of the bag, using a 3/8″ seam allowance and rotating the bag around your free arm as you sew.

Press the seam allowance towards the lining fabric.

11.  Switch back to your edge stitch foot (the one with the guide).  Edge stitch the lining using a straight stitch of 2.2-2.4.  Edge stitching helps make a flatter, neater edge and ensures that the lining fabric won’t peek up over your outer fabric when you’re using the bag.  Here’s what it looks like:

And here’s what the bag should look like at this point:

12.  Switch back to your standard foot.  Baste the bottom opening of the outer fabric and the lining together.  From this point forward, treat the upper bag as one layer.

13. Still using the free arm, sew through all the layers of the bag just underneath the casing. This will let you ‘draw’ up all the layers when the bag is finished (and sorry, I forgot to get a picture!)  Set the upper bag aside for a moment.

14.  Put the base of the sewing machine back, so that you are no longer using the free arm.

15. Pin the circle cut from the lining to the fused base so that you have a sandwich of lining-fusible-outer fabric.  Pin.  Baste by sewing around the edge of the base to secure the layers together.  From this point forward, treat the base as one layer.

16.  RS facing, pin the upper bag to the base.  Make sure your pins are perpendicular to your stitching line, not parallel.  This way, if you do miss a pin or sew over one (and you should try really, really hard not to sew over your pins — it’s BAD for your machine if you hit one and can cause a lot of damage), chances are your needle won’t strike it directly.  This part can be a little fiddly – I pin the circle at 12, 3, 6 and 9 first and then ease the rest of the circle to fit the upper bag.

Using a 3/8″ seam allowance and , slowly sew around the base, securing the upper bag and the base together.

17.  Trim the seam allowance to 1/4″, neatening the edges. Then overcast the raw seam allowance, using a zigzag stitch.   My setting for the zigzag were W 5.0 and L 0.8.

18. Turn the bag right side out and press.

Here’s what the inside of the bag will look like at this point:

19.  Cut the ribbon in two even lengths and thread it through the casing using the safety pin or a blunt darning needle.  Knot the ribbon together at both ends and trim any excess ribbon.

Enjoy your bag!

An Applique Quilt Finish

Posted by on Aug 06 2017

Summer is a chance for me to recharge my sewing batteries and tackle a lot of the UFOs and Otta-dos that I put off during the school year.

This quilt — the design is by Kim Diehl from her book “Simple Appeal” — was pieced and appliqued ages ago and then sent off to Allison for her to work her magic last summer.  Clearly, I was motivated by a burning sense of urgency!?!

The pattern itself was quite straight forward and I used my usual invisible machine applique technique for all the leaves and the layered circles.  My one beef, as I mentioned in my original review of the book, were the yardage requirements, which were very poorly calculated and left a quilter with huge amounts of wasted fabric.

Nonetheless, I’m really please with how this quilt turned out.  It’s the perfect size for a throw at 64″ x 64″ and long enough to cover your feet if you’re chilly while laying out on the chesterfield without making you feel like you’re being buried alive.

I also like the orange peel and oak leafs that Allison and I decided on for the quilting.  They fit the vintage ‘nature’ vibe that this quilt has going for it.

So why haven’t I posted about it before?  Well, because I got it back last fall, got it trimmed…and then…nothing.  Because I couldn’t find a binding I liked. We used it all winter, with no binding at all (‘cuz we’re fastidious like that chez nous!) Months passed, I auditioned three or four from my stash and even bought half a yard of another stripped fabric, hoping it would work but they didn’t.  Then a few weeks ago, while I was in Owen Sound, I found this perfect brown stripe and finally had the impetus to finish it.

I really prefer narrow bindings, and this quilt, which doesn’t have a sashing or outer border, requires it.  The bindings finish at 1/4″ on the front and 3/8″ on the back side.  I apply my bindings by machine but I almost always sew them down by hand.  I just prefer the look.

I have developed a no-pin technique for sewing on bindings that is super accurate and very efficient.  I used to glue my bindings down before I sewed them, to reduce the wander factor, but since I’ve started using this two-step process, I don’t even bother to pin my bindings before I apply them.  Instead, I baste the binding down inside the seam allowance, aligning the edges by hand as I baste down each side, and then make a second pass at the correct spacing from the edge (either 3/8″ or 1/4″) before pressing them to the wrong side.  Breaking it into the two separate steps makes all the difference in the final product  and it’s so nice not having to haul the heavy quilt sandwich around, sew, steer and keep the binding aligned all at the same time.


Visiting the Queen’s Bush Quilt Show 2017

Posted by on Jun 29 2017

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Queen’s Bush Quilter Guild’s 2017 quilt show in Markdale, ON.  I had a great time.  My good friends Nancy F. and June W. are members of this guild, so I wanted to support their effort.  Markdale’s big claim to fame, in case you aren’t up on your Grey County geography :), is that they are home to Chapman’s Ice Cream.   For the past three years, we’ve spent our summers there and we love it.


Sometimes, a quilt show can be so large and so dense with displays and vendors, that there isn’t possible to see or appreciate the quilts.  But guild did a wonderful job.  There were quilts from across the region and they were carefully displayed and really easy to study.  I really liked that they gave all the visitors disposable gloves.  I didn’t touch any of the quilts, but it was nice to know that if I had wanted to ‘lift the curtain’ I could do so respectfully.

Queens Bush Quilt Show 2

The vendors were also really good as well.  They take their quilting seriously in this neck of the woods.  I picked up a couple of nice quilting books (because, you know, my to-do list isn’t already three thousand kilometres long…) and I also found some new shops in Bruce county that I hadn’t visited before.  I’m thinking they’ll make a great day trip destination this summer.

Of course, the focus of a show like this is always the quilts and there were quilts in styles and techniques to suit every taste.

These paper pieced quilts both caught my eye.  The first is a wall hanging.  I’m not a big fan of paper piecing myself, but I could see myself making something like this cheerful basket of flowers (and my apologies – I always try to photograph the quilt labels so I can give credit where credit is due, but I forgot to in this case!)

Paper Pieced Flower Basket

Paper Pieced Flower Basket

And then there was this stunning Judy Niemeyer design.  It just felt so tropical and vibrant.  I’m telling you right now, I will never make a Judy Niemeyer quilt but I certainly marvel at those with the patience and skill to construct them.

"Fire Island Hosta Queen"  Pieced and Quilted by Arlene Marchuk-Wilkens

“Fire Island Hosta Queen” Pieced and Quilted by Arlene Marchuk-Wilkens

As you know, I am a big fan of applique.   There wasn’t a lot of applique on display but this cheerful design, called “Enchanted Garden” caught my eye.  I think it’s a Piece o’ Cake design, if I’m not mistaken, and I think the quilter, Lynn Mokriy, did a wonderful job.

"Enchanted Garden" Appliqued by Lynn Mokriy

“Enchanted Garden” Appliqued by Lynn Mokriy

Hand quilting was also on display all over the place.  There is a sizeable Mennonite population in Grey county, which isn’t surprising given that it’s a highly rural area.  A lot of the quilts in the show were either hand-pieced or hand-quilted or both.

This whole cloth quilt really caught my eye.  Isn’t it lovely?  Of course, in my house, an all cream coverlet would stay all cream about 0.62 seconds, between the dog, the two cats and the two boys, but even then, I can admire from a safe, fur-free distance.

"Queen Anne Star" Hand quilted by Suzanne Hill

“Queen Anne Star” Hand quilted by Suzanne Hill

Queen Anne Star quilt cu

And then there were gorgeously interpreted classics like this Pineapple quilt by Carla Crowther.  The combination of the colour scheme (I love blue and white) and the muted scrappiness were what attracted me to this quilt.  ‘Modern’ quilting hasn’t made much headway in this neck of the woods but seeing such lovely timeless designs makes that OK.

"Blues March" Pieced by Carla Crowther, Hand Quilted by South Bethesda UCW

“Blues March” Pieced by Carla Crowther, Hand Quilted by South Bethesda UCW

Blues March quilt cu


Here’s another very fresh feeling classic. The pastel batiks really shimmer and I thought there was a lovely balance between the postage stamp border and the more open centre patten.

"Bloomin Step" Pieced by Erika Gillis, Quilted by Lynn Mokriy

“Bloomin Step” Pieced by Erika Gillis, Quilted by Lynn Mokriy

Bloomin Steps cu

Then there were the quilts that incorporated techniques I could see myself using on future designs.  This quilt uses a really large scale poppy fabric.   Large scale novelty prints can be really tricky to use, I find, which is why I tend to shy away from them.  But here, while the strong colours and big print could be overwhelming, but I think that the geometric lattice helps balance it really nicely.  I think this is a great technique for showcasing a distinctive fabric but at the same time, making it ‘liveable’.  (And this was the other quilt I forgot to get info for!  Sorry!)

Poppy Quilt

Poppy Quilt

Poppy Quilt cu

“Parade of Cats” was a very simple quilt design, but it too tackled a tricky fabric – namely border prints.  I’ve seen great border prints.  Everything from farms to cars to lilacs and holiday scenes.  But what to do with them?  I think Joanne Inglis’ use of the cartoon cats was great.  The bright stars add visual interest while the horizontal bands of cats tie everything together.  This one’s definitely going in the ‘ideas’ drawer.

"Parade of Cats" Pieced by Joanne Inglis, Quilted by Meaford Presbyterian Church

“Parade of Cats” Pieced by Joanne Inglis, Quilted by Meaford Presbyterian Church

Parade of Cats cu

I also liked that the guild included quite a few antique and vintage quilts.  This log cabin, for instance, was made locally by a Grey county resident and her two sisters in the 1920s.  According to the note, the sisters would come for long visits in the winter and they would work on quilts and other sewing projects during their stay.  It’s such a classic design, and I like seeing the dress and suit fabrics it was constructed from.

1920s Log Cabin Quilt

Having experienced three winters now, I can totally appreciate the value of a stay-cation back in the day.

So all in all, a lovely visit and big kudos to the Queen’s Bush Quilter’s Guild for a great show!


Whitework and Broderie Blanche

Posted by on Apr 24 2017

I’ve been making steady progress on my EAC whitework course work.  I’m finishing up the fifth and sixth lessons and then it’s just the lessons on finishing and my major project before I’ve got it wrapped up.  Hopefully, I’ll be finished by the end of the summer.

Broderie Anglaise: coton à broder #25 on batiste

Broderie Anglaise: coton à broder #25 on batiste

I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying it – it’s a much better thought out course than the Basic Crewel course I moaned about last year.  The projects are small and quite reasonably sized and the research reports (one for each subject) are a reasonable length for an intermediate level class.

Ayrshire Sample: floche #60 on batiste

Ayrshire Sample: # 60 floche on batiste

Thus far, I’ve tackled Broderie Anglaise, Monograms, Cutwork, Hedebo, Mountmellick and Ayrshire embroidery.

Monogram Sample:  Coton à broder #30 on white linen ground

Monogram Sample: Coton à broder #30 on white linen

My favourites have definitely been the Broderie Anglaise and the cutwork.  Seriously, I had no idea that cutting holes in fabric could be so much fun!

Richelieu Sample: coton à broder #25 on linen ground

Richelieu Sample: coton à broder #25 on linen

I’ve got some gorgeous white linen that’s burning a hole in my stash.  I really, really want to make a cutwork table runner but a few things are stopping me.   First off, my dissertation.  I’m more than half way done, but that third remaining chapter isn’t going to write itself (sadly – a self-writing dissertation would be awwwesome!)  This means I need another big project like I need another hole in my head.  I’ve got two smocked dresses, and three quilts in various stages plus my all my academic obligations.  Tackling another project won’t help either goal.  So I am resisting…for now…

My least favourite has definitely been Mountmellick.  It’s the thread. It’s not mercerized and it’s just thick and it feels yucky and stiff in my hands.  It’s kind of like embroidering with butcher’s twine.  The technique itself is quite pretty and the book I’m using — Yvette Stanton’s Mountmellick Embroidery: Inspired by Nature is wonderful.   Great instructions, lots of wonderful stitches and some really lovely projects.  And Tanja Berlin’s mail order services were wonderful, too. I just don’t like how the materials feel in my hands and hand embroidery is definitely a tactile process.  If the hands don’t like it, it doesn’t matter what your head says.

I already know I won’t be doing more Hedebo in the future, either.  Not that I minded it – the knotted edge stitch was quite cool and I liked the folk vibe – it’s kind of like if Hardanger and Schwalm had a baby, it would be Hedebo – but it was an academic appreciation, rather than a ‘ooh, cool! I’ve gotta try doing more of this’.  I’m glad I learned about it, I’ll be able to identify it in the future but I’m Hedebo’d out.

Hedebo Sample

Hedebo Sample

Hedebo Sample

Hedebo Sample

It’s also been nice working with a whole bunch of different threads.   I’m in love with Marie Suarez’s No. 80 floche. It’s like butter, but better.  Better, never bitter, butter 🙂   I’ve also got really fond of the DMC Coton a Broder.  It’s just a nice handling, nice looking thread.  I’ve used the #16, the #20, #25 and #30, just to get an idea of the coverage of each.  I prefer the #30 but since only the #25 comes in a range of colours, that’s what I’ll use if I ever tackle the big cutwork project that I’m definitely, probably, well-maybe not going to start any time soon.

Marie Suarez floche skein with magnifier

Marie Suarez floche skein with magnifier

And here’s a sneak peek at my ‘final project’ for my EAC course.  I’ve been stitching away on this Broderie Blanche dress panel for the past couple of months, on and off.  I’ve got plans for an heirloom dress with lace bands.   Isn’t it pretty?  It’s my own design, inspired by a couple of different designs from Martha Pullen and Sarah Howard Stone’s books on heirloom and French hand sewing.

Broderie Blanche dress panel:  #80 Floche on batiste

Broderie Blanche dress panel: #80 Floche on batiste

I made a sample and tried the stitching with DMC#16 floche, and then the MS #60, #80 and #120.  I loved the #120 but it was so fine, I knew stitching with it would be like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon.  The #60 is pretty comparable to DMC’s #16 (clearly, it’s a different numbering system).  It would have worked but I liked the results of the #80 best, so that’s what I’ve been working it all with.

The scale is very tiny – each leaf is about 1/4″ x 1/8″ inch  – flowers are all between 1/4″ and 3/8″; the biggest centre flower is around 5/8″.   I’ve got another couple of evenings stitching ahead but I’m nearly done.   Four or five more flowers, one more eyelet chain, and a couple of leaves. Then it’s on to the construction.

Broderie Blanche floral spray CU

Broderie Blanche floral spray CU

I stitch with a magnifier, of course, and this is where the super fine floche really shines.  It’s just so easy to get the fine details with the thread.  I’ve timed myself.  Each leaf takes about 10 minutes to stitch; a flower takes about 18 to 20 minutes.

Broderie Blanche dress panel CU

Broderie Blanche dress panel CU




Online Sources for Whitework Supplies in Canada

Posted by on Oct 11 2016

Over the summer, I started another embroidery course through the EAC.    My first experience with EAC correspondence courses was pretty underwhelming (see this post and this post for my review of my experience with the Beginners Crewel course).  But I won’t deny that my stitching improved and I learned a lot about working with crewel wools.  In fact, my biggest beef was with the course *design*, not the actual stitching.

My samples are off being evaluated by my course counsellor right now – when I get them back, I’ll be sure and take pictures so you can see what I’ve done so far.  But a big part of my reasoning for taking the crewel course in the first place was because it was a prerequisite to the course I was really interested in: the Intermediate Whitework course.  So earlier this year, when I saw that the EAC offered a scholarship that covered the cost of enrollment, I threw my hat in the ring.   I learned over the summer that I was one of five EAC members to receive a Pauline Glover Educational Grant this year, which will cover my enrollment and my binder review.   So with that in mind, my first stop was to start gathering my supplies.

Thread shopping.  What a hardship!  said no stitcher ever.  Hee, hee.

I thought you might find it helpful if I detailed where I sourced my various materials, threads and tools from.    Of course, I could order a lot of this from the States but with the dollar the way it is right now, and the sometimes stupid shipping rates, I really try and support Canadian businesses whenever possible.   No duty, cheaper shipping, no credit card exchange fees.  Win, win, win.

First stop was of course my own supplies and I gathered together all of the threads and fabrics already in my stash that would work for whitework.   I’ve already got lots of white linen, white batiste and white handkerchief linen, so I haven’t had to shell out for those.  The only thing I will have to order is the cotton jean fabric when I come to the unit on Montmellick embroidery.  It’s a specialty fabric and something I definitely can’t get locally.  I plan on ordering it from Tanja Berlin in Alberta – she’s a wonderful embroidery resource for fine needlework, including thread painting, blackwork, goldwork and Mountmellick, among other pretty things.

One of things I found as I was sourcing the various specialty threads and materials I needed was that it can be quite tricky to locate these.  Shops have them classified every which way and the websites are very rarely optimized for search engines, which means they get overlooked.  It’s also hard to restrict your search to specific countries.  So I took a little time out from my dissertation writing (oh, the endless dissertation!) to cshare my findings with you in the hopes that it will help cut down your own search times.

None of the sites I’m reviewing and suggesting here have paid me or given me any sort of compensation; my views are my own, based on my experiences with them, and offered in the hope that you’ll find them helpful.

Golden Threads

Michelle’s shop is my go-to source for needlework supplies.  I’ve shopped with her for years.   She use to have a lovely storefront on Upper James here in Hamilton but has since shifted to an e-commerce only model.  I miss the shop but still love Michelle’s service.  She carries a wide range of threads, the website is easy to use and the shipping is very reasonable and super quick (although, that’s not a big surprise since we’re located in the same city).   I ordered all of the Appleton wools for my crewel course from her last year and I ordered my skeins of No. 16 and No 25 white and ecru coton à broder this time.   She also carries some smocking resources like patterns and dots.

L’Atelier de Pénélope

This is a true thread lovers paradise, located in Quebec.  I’d never ordered from L’Atelier online before but I have bought from them when they were at the Creative Festival in Toronto and when they attended the EAC’s Seminar in Kingston a number of years back.   She carries the widest range of threads of any needlework shop that I’ve found in Canada, including supplies for goldwork and silk threads and more.   A dangerous place for your credit card, in other words.

The most exciting discovery was the fact that she carries coton à broder in sizes from 12 to 35!! and offers it in 80 different DMC colours.   Finding it was a bit of trick though.  English stitchers call this thread coton à broder; but in French, it’s called it Broder Spécial.  So if you were googling the former, you wouldn’t find it.   La grande solitude apparently extends to stitching?!   This is the only needlework shop in Canada that I could find that offered coton à broder in these sizes and in colour.   I went a little nuts!

Trillium Lace

This is a shop also based in Quebec.  The site is in French, with an option for English.   This was my first time shopping here and I was pleased.  On the surface, the website looks like its geared to lacemakers, not embroiderers, and they certainly have a huge range of threads and tools for that.  But she also offers some really hard to find books on regional and ethnic needlework traditions, like Hedebo, and many of the threads work equally well for tatting, crochet and surface embroidery.   If I ever want to make coloured tatting, this is where I’ll go first, in fact.    I’d never heard of some of the threads she carries – DMC Tobino?  Venus? Lizbeth? – so I ordered several spools, just to to play.   I’ll let you know how they pan out.  The order interface is not the greatest, I’ll admit (you have to send an email and type in your selections and there’s no ‘basket’ function, so it’s clunky) but the shipping was prompt and everything was very nicely packaged.

Marie Suarez

This Belgian site has the finest whitework threads currently available on the market.  She carries white floche in sizes 60, 80 and 120.  To put that in context, DMC and Anchor’s floche are both sz 16, or slightly thinner than one strand of No. 25 coton à broder.  This is the only international source I used while I was sourcing my threads.  The threads she sells just aren’t available *anywhere* else that I’ve found and I’m really looking forward to trying them out.  The site is in French, so if you don’t read it, you’ll need google translate.  Definitely check out her kits and her gallery of work is well worth a drool.  The standard of work is really inspiring.

Guild of Needle Laces

Finally, I treated myself to a new set of tools from the  in the United Kingdom.  All of the tools are of the highest quality (seriously, they feel incredible.  They’re the nicest needlework tools I’ve every owned!!).  I got the Beginner’s Needlelace tool set, which comes with two sizes of ring sticks, a lifting stick (although I still don’t know what I’m supposed to lift with it?), a lovely stiletto and a superfine crochet hook.   There are a variety of tools for stumpwork, needlelace and more and the Guild sells them to help offset their costs.  Worth every penny!