Categories: p&q; slow stitch; tips and tutorials



Plain Hand Sewing For Slow Sunday Stitching

Break Up

Well helloooo! It’s great to be back after such a long unforeseen (and unwelcome) break – I’ve missed you very much.

I buggered up the site. Well and truly broke it – you may have noticed. It was a simple enough job to reload a backup, but I couldn’t even log on to do it or leave a message to let you know. I had to wait for help from the host, but thankfully it’s all sorted now so we can get back to business as usual!

Work In Progress

I’ve been sharing pictures of work in progress over on Instagram in the interim, and if you follow me there you’ll know I finished my quilt top Fete. I’ve been sporadically working on Plain Sewing too, but I haven’t show any pictures because the changes aren’t that discernible. I thought I’d make an exception today.

Plain Sewing

Plain Sewing improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Enlarging the panel

It’s taking an age to piece this one together because I change my mind about the layout every five minutes. My latest innovations are the very contrasty string sections. I didn’t like the circles on their own because there didn’t seem to be any flow, but the strings change that and draw the eye around.

Plain Sewing improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

A string section

I love the particular strings in the picture above – it’s a triumph of make do and mend! The section’s small but includes pieces from a shirt, a pair of pyjamas, 2 pairs of linen trousers, a linen jacket, a tablecloth, a handkerchief, my childhood dress and gifted quilting cottons. I don’t think I bought any of the fabrics in this piece at all, which is gratifying. Trying to make all the disparate fabrics work well together is an art in itself.

Different Weights

It does have its disadvantages though. In this piece the different weight fabrics cause problems with surface bubbling, when weighty suit linens are stitched next to lightweight cottons, for example. But after all the practice I had getting my improv triangle quilt to lie flat I decided to make more of an effort with this piece too.

The bubbling didn’t bother me initially because I plan to do lots of close quilting and I thought it would add to the texture. Then I realised it would probably just look badly done! And we can’t have that, can we? No. So I’ve spent this week remedying that on the sections I’ve already made.


Unpicking and restitching is obviously part of the repertoire, but even that’s not always enough. In some places I’ve equalised the weights of adjacent fabrics with iron on Vilene. It’s worked well, but there are other sections where that wasn’t the only problem.

Plain Sewing improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Iron on Vilene from the back

I’ve been piecing this in an organic way and unpicking it’s a nightmare in places – if I go down that route I might as well start again!

I came up with an alternative that involves rolling the seams on the right side to take out any excess fabric and then stitching them in place with little visible black stitches. I really like this approach because it adds to the utilitarian aesthetic – and it’s much more fun that unpicking!

Plain Sewing improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Rolling the seams and stitching them with black thread in an effort to make the piece flatter. (Centre vertical patch.)

Slow Sunday Stitching

The first panel is pretty much sorted now and I’m making sure the new ones are flat as I go along. I’m probably getting obsessive about it. I’ve managed to make a few new circles too, like the one below. This one was made from a linen napkin and I drew some threads out and had a play. I’ve got some more playful ideas up my sleeve and that’s what I’ll be stitching this afternoon.

Plain Sewing improv patchwork in progress. © Stephanie Boon, 2017.

Drawn threads on a linen circle.

What will you be working on today?

I’m linking up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching, for the first time in an absolute age, coming?

Happy Sunday

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015


Hi everyone! It’s been brought to my attention by Kaja that the comments aren’t working on the blog at the moment. I have no idea why so please bear with me while I try and sort it out. In the mean time, feel free to drop me an email if you’d like. Back soon.


Rag Wreaths, A Festive Way To Use Your Scraps

My Band New Rag Wreath Tutorial Is Here!

Rag Wreath Tutorial


A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with bow and bells. In a range of teal and blue colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A scrappy festive wreath

One day in summer my friend Sally from Coast and Country Crafts came round with two bin bags full of fabric scraps. Sally travels the county meeting quilters and selling her lovely range of fabrics (as well as running the shop) and quilters donate scraps for swapping with others. The bags she gave me were full of left-overs. I had a quick rummage through and discovered there were plenty of strips that would be ideal to put towards a string quilt. Then we had to move home and the scraps were buried in boxes for a few months.

Waste Not Want Not

I got them out the other day and began to have a proper sort through, bagging them up by colour – there are some real gems in there! Most of the useful pieces are small squares and narrow strips, but there are quite a lot of strips that were too narrow for piecing. It was tempting to throw them out, but they must be useful for something.

Waste not want not I thought to myself and put them to one side. Then, when I was scrabbling around for ideas for Christmas presents, rag wreaths popped into my head. It seemed like the perfect way to use up the scraps and help reduce the world’s fabric mountain at the same time (granted it won’t make much of a dent, but every little helps!). I got excited and got to work on the first one.

Detail of a handmade rag wreath in teal colours. Showing a detail of some added decoration. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Jingle bells, jingle bells (yes they really do jingle)! Mixed blue, green and teal scraps.

Choosing Colours

I bought some 12″ wire wreath forms from a local florist and picked out lots of blue and green prints from the scraps. I wanted the overall colour to be Teal – a favourite of the recipient. Its not a colour I associate with Christmas but I had to put aside my doubts: the person I’m making it for loves it.  I needed a way to ‘lift’ it though and realised that something sparkly would do the trick. Enter 20cm of a forest green lurex fabric that sparkles when the light catches it (as I’ve mentioned before, it really isn’t good having a fabric shop 5 minutes down the road!) and a couple of shiny jingling bells. About as festive as it gets.

It’s a miracle I managed to get a second one finished too. Making the first one was tedious enough! I spent hours tying knots and shoving them hard against each other to get a full and fluffy effect. Obviously the final effect was worth it and I got to work on number two.

White and Frosty

This colour scheme was down to me. I love frosty mornings when the mist hangs low in the air, or temperature inversions where it seems to hover above the ground and I wanted to capture that. I went with whites and white on white prints, some naturals, soft pinks and blues and a touch of grey. Half way through I discovered I didn’t have enough – these things take a lot of scraps! Back to the fabric shop for some sparkly white. Still nowhere near enough, so I raided my stash of linen.

I’ve been given lots of linen clothes over the years and have a collection almost big enough to make a quilt. Not any more, out came the whites.  The beauty of linen is that it tears wonderfully for rag wreaths. You get that gorgeous frayed edge that adds enormously to the texture. I even found a couple of bits of embroidery Anglaise ribbon that I tied in.


Detail of a handmade rag wreath in teal colours. Showing a detail of some added decoration. © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Version number two was meant to have a frosty feel in white, silver and grey. Brrr!

I worked this one a little differently from the first. Instead of tying in a continuous circle, I added the touches of colour all around the ring first and then went back and filled in the whites. I wanted little pockets of colour to add depth and interest. Some of the linens seemed to tie up very closely and it seemed a lot longer to make.

A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with a linen bow. In a range of white and silver colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A linen bow and a string of silver snowflakes hang from the bottom.

I was so pleased to finish it! I finished it off with a few strands of sparkly ribbon and a really sweet length of snowflakes. It still didn’t look quite right so I added the linen bow. Perfect, even if I do say so myself!

A festive handmade wreath made from torn and knotted fabric scraps, decorated with linen bow. In a range of white and silver colours. © Stephanie Boon, 2016.

A range of soft greys, pinks and blues added to the mix of whites and naturals. Look at the edges of those linens!

I had a couple of people on Instagram ask me how I made it and I wondered if you’d be interested in a tutorial? It really is a fab way to use up your quilting scraps and I know some of you have been collecting selvedges, which would look amazing! I kind of wish I had some now… Oh well, onto wreath number three: creams and golds this time. Watch this space.

My Instagram Account Has Been Hacked…Again

Instagram has been the bane of my life recently. My account just keeps being hacked. All my personal info is changed, my login details, my password… I change them back only to find that they’ve changed again next time I try to log in. This time all my photos seem to have disappeared too. I could cry I really could.

I’ve had my fill of it these last couple of days so decided to take a break until I have the patience and headspace to tackle it.  I’m really sorry, I miss my IG friends – it’s such a friendly place and so much more fun than Facebook.  I’ll try and get it sorted over the next couple of days, so bear with me. It does mean that there are some gaps in some of the posts here though where I’ve embedded my IG photos. I hope I can get them back…

Tutorial or No Tutorial?

My Band New Rag Wreath Tutorial Is Here!

Rag Wreath Tutorial

Don’t forget to let me know what you think about the idea for a tutorial on using up scraps to make a wreath. And if you have any other ideas for ‘scrap management’ let us know in the comments! Someone uses them for compost (great idea) and of course there are rag rugs and garlands – what else can we come up with to help stop textile waste going to landfill? I bet you’ve got some fantastic ideas.

Back with some quilting next time – it’s been a bit slow around here lately!

Linking up with Kelly for NTT this week, where I’ve just had the shock of my life and seen my quilt top Fete as one of her featured quilts! Also happy to be sharing these finishes over at Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish It Up Friday, woohoo! See you there!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015




15 Great Ways to Repair Your Favourite Quilt

Patchwork quilt top with a stain that needs mending. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

It’s horrid!

We’ve all done it, haven’t we? A blood stain on a quilt. A frayed seam. A tear. A worn hole. We’ve all found something on a quilt that needs a repair or mending. Sometimes they’re easy to cover up and sometimes they need some serious attention.

On Sunday I revealed a horrid dried blood stain right in the middle of a quilt I’m working on at the moment. It was a bit of an eyesore, so I decided to disguise it (because I couldn’t get rid of it). It’s not the first time I’ve had to repair something (not even the first time on this quilt!), so I’ve often trawled the internet looking for mending advice. And I’ve asked you too.

Today, I thought I’d share the best repair and mending resources and recommendations I’ve come across.  I hope you’ll never need them, but if you’re human, my guess is that at some point you probably will!

Reader Recommendations

Blood Stains

Probably the most common stain us quilters have to deal with is the blood stain.  It’s definitely best to deal with them as soon as you see them!

  1. How I added a small patch to cover a blood stain – this article shows how I covered the blood stain you can see in the picture above (you could use an appliqué motif too)
  2. A number of readers (here and on Facebook) recommend hydrogen peroxide for dried blood stains (see 33 other uses for hydrogen peroxide around the home here!).
  3. Dina of Little by Little by Bossymamma (and others on Facebook) recommend saliva for wet blood stains.   I can confirm that this does indeed work on small drips of blood from a pricked finger.  If you get a nosebleed on your quilt though, or manage to stab yourself with your needle, rather than prick it (yes, I’ve done this!), I recommend taking your work to a cold tap and rinsing it out straight away; you can rub it with a mild soap too, if you need to.

Frayed Seams

  1. How I fixed a frayed seam – hmm, same quilt as above, different issue!
  2. Ann of Fret Not Yourself recommends FrayCheck for stabilising frayed seams. There’s a YouTube video showing how to use it here.
  3. Deb of Frugal Little Bungalow has used appliqué butterflies and flowers to repair frayed seams and tears.  Any needle turn appliqué motif that fits with the theme of your quilt would work well. If you have spare fabric you could even fussy cut a motif to cover it, or use a piece of matching fabric to completely hide it (this would work well on printed fabrics).

Repairing a Quilt – ideas and instructions from around the web

Repairing a Quilt by Cheryl's Teapots2Quilting image ©Teapots2Quilting:

Repairing a quilt by Cheryl’s Teapots2Quilting (image © Teapots2Quilting)

  1. What do you do if your dog has chewed a hole into your favourite quilt? Cheryl of Teapots2Quilting shows you how to repair the type of damage you can see in the picture above so that it’s barely visible! This is definitely the way to do it if you have a large repair to deal with.
  2. 3 Tips from Craftsy – including a ‘bleach pen‘, which I’ve never heard of before. Must look out for one!
  3. Mend Your Favourite Quilt by Instructables. A good way of making template patches for worn out fabric – and a neat way of using embroidery stitches to sew them in place.
  4. How to Repair your Thrift Store Finds not for the faint of heart this Sew Mama Sew article gives some ‘quick and dirty‘ ideas for workable repairs on much loved, but not precious quilts
  5. Repairing a Quilt your Long Arm Quilter has damaged Sympathy and advice from Generations Quilt Patterns for damage made to your quilt by your long arm quilter (the quilter and the machine!)
  6. Video Repairing a Sun Bonnet Sue quilt with Quilty, shows how to use Heat and Bond Thermoweb and mentions the quality of fabrics to choose when you’re making a quilt
  7. Quilt Repair Pinterest board by Lynette Danuser, some links to tutorials and tips, including darning
  8. Quilt, Repair, Conserve is an informative article on Quilt History, which you should definitely read if you’re looking for advice for what to do with an antique quilt
  9. Q & A Caring for Old Quilts and Textiles Bonnie Hunter answers a reader’s query about caring for some inherited utilitarian quilts – including washing

I hope you’ll find this list useful next time you have to make a repair.

Here’s One My Mum Made Earlier

Quilt repairs to a 1970's patchwork coverlet © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Mum’s patchwork made in the mid 70’s

Here’s a patchwork my mum made in about 1976 (give or take a year or two).  She made it for a single bed and I remember her sitting at her industrial machine zipping the pieces together with a kind of overlock stitch. She’d never made one before and used up lots of offcuts from cheap dressmaking fabrics she had.  She gave it to me in the early 1980’s and I turned it into a curtain for a doorway. Then it was on the back of our sofa for years.  It’s falling apart.  It wasn’t in great condition when she gave it to me, but now it’s practically threadbare.  In the ’90’s I attempted some repairs, realised quite how much repairing I’d have to do, gave up and put it away.  I think it’s probably best to preserve it the way it is: to repair it would mean there’ll be little of the original left!

Quilt repairs to a 1970's patchwork coverlet © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Look how thin it is – and some of my embroidered repairs that I did way back when!

One thing I must do though is make a label for the back. It’s about 40 years old now and has survived this far, so maybe it’s worth it.

Tell us your favourite mending tips! If you’ve got a story to tell, let us know – and feel free to leave a link to your blog post too 🙂

Linking up with Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts for this week’s Let’s Bee Social, I hope you’ll come over with me and see what everyone’s been up to!

Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015

I hope your week is not filled with mending!  Back soon.

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Is that a Blood Stain on my Quilt?

Summer Blues

Wunderlist - my Summer Blues quilt To Do list, should now include mending... © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Summer Blues To Do List

Check out my Summer Blues To Do List! All the sashing is now hand quilted and I happily crossed it off the list earlier this week. A little late, but no worries. As for week 2, well I consider it to finish at midnight tonight and I reckon I’m close on target for that too – I’ve only got a couple of nine patches to go. This could all be going rather too well…

Horror of Horrors!

As I was quilting the sashing I discovered there should have been something else added to the list: it needed mending.

Patchwork quilt top with a stain that needs mending. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Hand quilted sashing done.

Can you spot it?  It’s right there in the middle of the sashing, in the middle of the quilt: one big nasty dried blood stain!

Just in case you missed it, here’s the offending blood stain up close and personal:

Patchwork quilt top with a stain that needs mending. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Bit of an eyesore!

I have no idea where the blood stain came from, but this quilt top’s been hanging around for seven years so your guess is as good as mine!  I don’t actually know for certain that it’s blood, but no amount of washing will budge it.  I’d like to blame my cat Daisy who took to sitting on it as it was waiting to be quilted, but it’s more likely it was me carelessly pricking a finger and not noticing, don’t you think? So utterly annoying! If it was on the edge of the quilt I’d probably forget about it. I love the quilt, but I’ll be honest it’s not the best craftsmanship you’ll ever see (I’m sooo glad I’ve improved!). But it’s not on the edge, it’s right there in the darn centre! Humph! Cue yet another repair on this poor quilt (read about another repair here!).

A Blood Stain Disappearing Act

After washing I don’t know how many times, it was pretty obvious the stain wasn’t going to move, which is what makes me think it’s most likely dried blood.  I decided I had nothing to lose and would, as a last resort, give some bleach a try.  Still no effect.

In my mind I now had three choices:

  1. Unpick this section of sashing and slip stitch a new piece in it’s place. This seemed like a great idea, and would probably be the least obvious repair I could make.
  2. Do a bit of reverse appliqué by cutting through the stain, folding it under and then slip stitching a piece of fabric underneath it.  I thought this might make the fabric weaker and would probably be an obvious repair.
  3. Put a patch over the top of it. I thought I could make a patch the same size as the sashing and just slip stitch it in place. Simple.

Yes, all of these seemed like good ideas until I discovered I had no more of the fabric left and nothing large enough that even resembled the same colour.  Buy more, if it were even possible?  No. Emphatically not! Just make do.

Quilting a patch over a blood stain on a quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Covering up the blood stain

I managed to find a tiny piece of fabric on the corner of a floral printed design that just about matched. It meant a small, more obvious patch. It would have to do. Then I discovered that the fabric was see-through enough that I could still see the blood stain through it, grrrr!  I had to double it, thereby making the patch thicker and yes, more noticeable.  Still, just make do, I told myself.

And so I did.

Repair on a patchwork quilt to cover a dried blood stain. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Now you see it, now you (almost) don’t!

And it’s not too bad after all! Put it this way, it’s a whole lot less visible than the dried blood stain was and it’s easy enough to remove the patch and do something else with it another time, if the mood ever takes me. And I find enough close-match fabric!

And the Moral of the Story?

Don’t prick your finger and get blood all over your quilt?  No.  That’s always going to happen.  The moral is this: always keep a bit extra fabric for repairs and mending! Maybe even put it to one side with a great big label on it.  

I bet you’re all more sensible than me though. But do tell, what’s the biggest repair you’ve had to make and what do you do differently now?

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend.  I’m off to link up with Kathy for Slow Sunday Stitching (I’ve still got an hour left before it becomes Monday!), but it might be tomorrow morning before I can catch up with you all 🙂

Have a great week.

Check out my favourite link parties here

Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Can You Help?

Before I head off into the sunset, I wonder if you could help me make a decision?  I like the look of this blog very much (barring some minor tweaks I still need to make), but do you find the links in the text easy enough to read and find?  Would it be helpful if I changed them to a brighter colour? Please let me know by leaving a vote in the poll (no

Thanks for you help!

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Slow Stitching Sunday

In the Pub

Another grey Sunday afternoon.

Slow stitching at The Norway Inn, Cornwall, UK © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Red or white, anyone!

And the inconsistent summer weather might well drive me to drink…

Slow Stitching with friends, © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Meet Janie.

But not today!

Yes, it’s a grey Sunday, but that means it’s Slow Stitching Sunday with Kathy’s Quilts, which also means meeting up with my friend Janie for a pub lunch and show and tell session.  Janie brought along her knitting and was working on a sleeveless jumper for her imminent great nephew. She’s knitting it up in a lovely cotton yarn that she picked up at a charity shop.  I’m always envious of her thrifty finds: it’s not something I seem to be very good at.

Slow Stitching Ocean Waves

I brought along some half square triangles to hand piece for my Ocean Waves quilt.  It’s very relaxing to sit and chat while I’m hand stitching and know that by the time I get home I’ll have enough squares sewn together to make another few blocks. In fact it seems to be becoming a Sunday habit: I sit and do some slow stitching with Janie, ride home on my bike and finish up two or three more blocks on my hand cranked Singer, continuing with the slow stitching theme.


Slow stitching: hand sewing patchwork pinwheel blocks made from triangle scraps. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Pinwheel border perhaps?

I have about 30 blocks made now, but I think I’ll need either 48 or 55 for a double (queen) size, depending on whether I put a border on or not.  I’ve been making up small pinwheel blocks with the remnant triangle pieces I have. I think they might work well for an on-point border, but I’m still undecided.  Hopefully I’ll have the top finished by the end of the year but I’m in no rush.  I’m making this one for Kim when he leaves home – which doesn’t appear to be imminent, haha! (He says he might like to study at the local university in a couple of years time, so I could have some 5 years left yet.)

If you’re interested in using up old shirts for a project like this Ocean Waves one, check out how I repurpose a favourite shirt here.

Before I head off I was just wondering how far ahead you work on a project – do you prefer to work with or without deadlines? I wonder if it’s even possible to set a deadline on a hand sewn project, what do you think?

Linking up with Kathy for Slow Stitching Sunday and looking forward to seeing what everyone’s been up to this week.

Check Out My Favourite Link Parties

Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.  Until next time.

Happy stitching!

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How to re-purpose a favourite shirt


Make it into patchwork!

If your favourite shirt is sadly past its best but you can’t bear to part with it, why not give it a new lease of life and incorporate it into a patchwork quilt that you can use everyday!  Just one shirt and a piece of co-ordinating fabric would be more than enough to make a pillow, add in a couple of other shirts and some fabric from your stash and you could have enough to make a lap quilt, or a cosy quilt for your bed.

It’s a wonderful feeling to reuse something you love, but how do you know whether your shirt is suitable and what do you do with it if it is?  Read on to find out!

© Stephanie Boon 2013, Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

Repurposed shirts make a great patchwork pillow!

What is it made of?

This is important because you want to know how it behaves with other fabrics and how to care for it.  For example you don’t want to mix silk fabrics with cotton fabrics, because they need to be cared for differently.  They also shrink and stretch at different rates, which can make sewing them together fiddly.  It’s easier to mix polyester-cotton and pure cotton fabrics together as they behave in similar ways – but you’ll need to remember to iron them at a lower temperature suitable for the polyester content.  However…

I prefer to stick with 100% cotton shirts, then I know that once I’ve cut it up and added it to my stash it will be safe to use with my quilting cottons.

  • So, step 1. is to check the label to find out what the fabric is made from
Checking the care labels before repurposing an old shirt for patchwork © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Check the labels

Which bit shall I cut first?

  • Step 2. is to cut open the shirt to get single layers of fabric:

The first thing to do is cut off the sleeves.  Lay the shirt on a flat surface, right side up with the sleeves out to the sides. Cut either side of the armhole to get rid of the seam, as shown in the picture below.

Cutting sleeves off a shirt before repurposing for patchwork. © Stephanie Boon,

Cut either side of the armhole seam

Next cut off the cuffs and then cut either side of the sleeve seam so that you can lay it out flat.  Cut off the placket as shown below.

Repurposing a shirt for patchwork. © Stephanie Boon 2015

Opening out a sleeve and cutting off the placket

Cut off the collar next, then cut the shirt into three pieces by cutting off the side seams followed by the shoulder seams.  Cut off the button plackets from the two front pieces. If the back (and/or front) piece has a yoke cut this off too and remove the seam, this will potentially yield two pieces of fabric – providing the inner yoke doesn’t have any iron on interfacing (discard it if it has).

Repurposing an old shirt or patchwork, © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Cut off the collar and check to see if any parts are salvageable (see section ‘Which Pieces Shall I Get Rid Of?’)

Repurposing an old shirt for patchwork. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

If the shirt has a yoke cut it off and separate the pieces

If the shirt has any pockets cut them off around the seam as shown below. Separate any layers and discard any with iron on interfacing.  Don’t worry about removing the seam from the main piece just yet.

Repurposing an old shirt for patchwork. © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Cutting off the pocket and salvaging any useful pieces


 Which pieces shall I get rid of?

  • Step 3. is to check over your pieces to mark any imperfections and discard unsuitable pieces:

Once you’ve cut out the shirt there will undoubtedly be areas that aren’t suitable to use for patchwork , usually due to wear, staining, or the construction of the garment:

  • The button plackets (these will usually be too narrow to use) – although don’t forget to cut off any buttons to save for future projects!
  • Pieces with iron-on interfacing attached (check the collar, cuffs, pockets and yoke)
  • Worn or stained areas – pay particular attention to the elbow and underarm area, hems, collar, cuffs and pockets – highlight with tailors’ chalk
  • Faded areas – you might find some areas are particularly faded and although this might not be a problem for some projects (providing the fabric itself is stable) you might want to keep these pieces separately
Repurposing and old shirt for patchwork, © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Highlighting stains on the back of the shirt with tailors’ chalk


What’s Next?

Step 4. is to decide how to store you fabric:

At this stage you can press the pieces you’ve decided to keep and fold them up neatly to add to your stash, or you can cut them up into patches for a project. If you decide to cut them up into patches you could cut them into regular shapes and sizes that you use often and add these to your stash, or you could cut them to size and shape for a particular project.  Once you begin cutting patches ensure you avoid any of the worn or stained areas that you’ve marked with tailors chalk, or any remaining pocket seams.

Repurposing an old shirt for patchwork, © Stephanie Boon 2015,

Cutting patches to size for Ocean Waves blocks

Repurposing an old shirt for patchwork, © Stephanie Boon, 2015

Storing shirt pieces

The picture above shows how I store my shirt pieces:  I cut a few patches to size for a quilt I’m working on and store larger pieces in a plastic tub with other shirtings. I store narrower strips together with other odd strips to save for a potential string quilt like this one.  I found out the hard way that it’s best to store my nicely pressed strips in a tub like the one above, which is actually sold for storing pencils! Previously I’d put them in a basket and discovered it’s really easy for them to get screwed up and then have to spend ages ironing them again – not my favourite job in the world!

What will you use your shirt for?

Check out these great links for more help and ideas:

Before I sign off…

I’d like to thank the lovely Ann of Fret Not Yourself for the idea for this tutorial – check out her amazing quilts, she has great style and colour sense and is so prolific I’m in total awe!

If you’ve found this information helpful feel free to share it on Pinterest by hovering over one of the images above and clicking the Pinterest link, or use one of the links below to share it with friends on your favourite social media sites!

Linking up with Lorna over at Let’s Bee Social – have a look at her fab houses quilt…hmm I can just imagine that in old shirt fabric!

Thanks for reading and happy repurposing 🙂

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Make do and mend – mending a quilt

Make do and mend wasn’t on my mind when I picked up this quilt to work on.  It’s one of those quilt projects that’s been on the go for a number of years and the poor thing’s been dragged all over the house and even in to the garden to work on. It’s the largest quilt I’ve (mostly) hand pieced and now I’m finally hand quilting it. When I took a few stitches on Saturday I was pretty mortified when I put my needle into the ditch along the sashing and the seam suddenly frayed apart on me.

Summer Blues patchwork quilt in progress., Feb 2016 © Stephanie Boon, 2016

Summer Blues – hand quilted 9 patch

Dragging it all over the place before it’s finished could have weakened the seams, but the more I work on this the more I can see how inexperienced I was when I started it years ago.  I cut it with scissors (shock horror!) and my seam allowances are all over the place. I think I probably clipped this one too close to the stitching, or it was smaller than 1/4″ in the first place, either way I was cursing my poor craftsmanship!  After a good telling off it was time to decide what to do.  Rather than rip it all out and add in a new piece of sashing (this would have been more work than I think the damage warranted) I decided to follow the ‘make do and mend‘ principle that’s embodied in the history of patchwork and quilting. As I was thinking about it, I realised that my method for repairing a frayed seam might be helpful to you too.  I made a successful, fairly invisible repair that’s strong too. Here’s how to do it.

Make Do And Mend – Tips For Frayed Seams

How To Make Do And Mend a Frayed Seam On Your Favourite Patchwork Quilt © Stephanie Boon, 2016

How large is the frayed area?

The sooner you discover a frayed seam the easier it will be to repair. The fraying on this seam was fairly minimal – probably about an inch or so.

Where on the quilt is it?

Will the repair be in a conspicuous area, in the centre of the quilt for example, or somewhere less obvious?  The more central it is the more consideration you’ll need to give to the method you use. The area I needed to mend was close to the border so would be hanging along the side of the bed, which gave me more options.

Hand quilting a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2014

The place that needs darning is along the top edge of the blue nine patch

Which Type of Repair is Best?


A patch is a fairly straight forward repair to make, but you need to consider where it will be on the quilt. It’s not necessarily to do with whether the repair will be in the centre or towards the edges of the quilt, but which fabrics it will cover. In this case a patch would be fairly conspicuous because the repair will span two contrasting fabrics. If you need to repair a section that’s all on patterned fabric though a patch would be a great method to use.  One thing to remember when you make a quilt is to

always keep a few scraps for repairs!

Cut a patch in the same or similar coloured fabric that extends an inch or so beyond the fray, plus 1/4″ seam allowance. Turn under the seam allowance and hand stitch into place. If you have enough of the same fabric you can match the pattern motifs exactly and it would barely show at all (this would be a great repair for a fray or hole towards the centre of the quilt). Once the patch is in place it’s a good idea to stabilise the fray from behind with a piece of iron-on Vilene (see below).  Once you quilt over it it’ll blend right in – and it’s the perfect make do and mend solution for a patchwork quilt!


Sometimes you’ll find you have a more difficult repair to make, as was the case with this quilt. In this case a darn is a good option.

Make Do And Mend: repairing a frayed seam in a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2014.

Beginning the darn

I made a few vertical stitches from the blue fabric into the more stable area of the frayed white fabric (which you can just see in the picture above) before I undid a few of the quilting stitches either side of  it. Next I made running stitches under and over the vertical stitches, just like weaving (the picture above shows the beginning of the darning process). At this stage it doesn’t look particularly neat or inconspicuous, so what I did next was to roll the seam over the darn as neatly as possible and then blind stitch it in place (it’s much easier if you put a hand underneath the seam and hold it in place with your thumbnail, as you stitch with your other hand). Rolling the seam like this gave a very minor distortion to the straightness of the seam (as you can see below), but it looks a whole lot neater than seeing the darn!

Make Do And Mend: rpairing a frayed seam on a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2014.

Rolling the seam after darning


A frayed seam is pretty weak so you want to stabilise it as much as possible. In the case of a half quilted quilt stabilising the repair is probably the more fiddly part of the operation!  It definitely was for me: I had to unpick some of my basting and quilting stitches so that I could see the back of the darned seam.  Once I’d exposed it I could see the fraying is still close to the seam even after darning. The best way to stabilise this is to iron on some light weight fusible Vilene, which should stop it fraying any further. Cut a piece of Vilene at least half an inch either side of the repair and iron into place according to the instructions.

Make Do And Mend: Repairing a frayed seam on a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2014.

Stabilising the back of the seam.

Next you need to reassemble the quilt sandwich ready for quilting again. Once you’ve got it all back in place you can carry on quilting. I continued along the ditch, through the Vilene, which will hold the repair in place and stop excessive movement and friction in the area.

Make Do And Mend: Rpairing a frayed seam on a patchwork quilt. © Stephanie Boon, 2014.

Frayed seam? What frayed seam!

This is real make do and mend stuff: the repair is barely noticeable close up and to be honest I can’t even find it any more! And even if you know where it is, I don’t think anyone else will spot it without a microscope!

I learnt that a frayed seam doesn’t have to be a disaster and certainly doesn’t mean you have to put all your hard work back in a box and forget about it. All you need to do is take a bit of time out, add in some patience and ask yourself “can I make do and mend this?”. You’ll probably be really surprised at what you can achieve.

What tips do you have for mending quilts?  If you’ve had a ‘disaster’ tell us how you fixed it, I’m sure there are more ways to skin a cat!

Need Some More Ideas?

If this isn’t quite the repair method you’re looking for, take a look at this article with readers recommendations:


What Next?

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Make do and mend: happy darning!

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015


Waves of inspiration

Well hello, here comes the weekend already! Onwards and upwards with Operation Get Christmas Presents Made here! Here’s what I’ve been up to this week.

A few months ago I was inspired to give the Ocean Waves patchwork block a go after seeing a quilt in Densye Schmidt’s excellent book Modern Quilts Traditional Inspiration and then this totally fabulous borderless quilt that Ann from Fret Not Yourself finished earlier this year (I can’t tell you how much I love the sense of movement Ann created with her wonderful colour placings – the eye just dances around catching those reds and oranges amongst all the calm blues –  I could look at it for hours!)

Ocean Waves © Ann Brooks,

Ocean Waves © Ann Brooks, Fret Not Yourself (Click on the image to go to Ann’s inspiring blog)

My own efforts weren’t quite what I was hoping for! For all my quandaries about my limited stash collection I’ve actually been given/collected a number of worn men’s shirts over the last couple of years which I think will look great repurposed in this design. So I got my pencils out and planned a quilt for a single bed knowing it would be quite a lot of work and thinking that maybe I’d take a year or two (or four!) to complete it, as I’d want to hand quilt it. So I duly made a start and although my first two blocks were a bit clumsy they were passable enough. The next two were better quality,  but over all I wasn’t happy with the finished size (they came out much smaller than I intended) and decided I’m going to make them a good few inches bigger (around 10 – 12″ perhaps instead of the 8″ these finished at; more experiments to follow). So I put them to one side and forgot about them whilst I got on with other projects.

© Stephanie Boon 2013, Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

Ocean Waves pillow

Then earlier this week, as I was wracking my brains about what to make for a particular male of the species (aren’t they always the hardest to make for?!) I had a bit of an epiphany, dug out these 4 little orphan blocks and put them together to make this lovely soft cushion. And I’m over the moon – giving it away might be harder than I thought! I made a modification to the traditional design by adding an appliqué patch to the centre: there was a pretty big white space slap bang in the middle and I felt the centre really needed to have a more interesting focal point than that! It was also a very handy solution to covering up the fact that my four blocks didn’t quite meet up together in the middle either, but I’ll gloss over that bit and focus on the positive outcome instead, haha!

© Stephanie Boon 2013, Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

The centre panel

As I was needle turning the patch in place I was thinking about Victoria Gertenbach’s Work Quilts series (also check out her wonderful blog The Silly Boodilly) and thought maybe it would be fun to emphasise the utilitarian quality of the shirtings, so I embellished the patch with blanket stitch and buttons and gave the opening on the back a shirt quality too. Pleased indeed! (It doesn’t happen very often for me, so please bear with me whilst I bask in the glow of ‘success’!!!)
© Stephanie Boon 2013, Ocean waves patchwork pillow/cushion Centre detail with blanket stitch patch and buttons.

The simple back

So it’s not just a gift to cross off the ‘to make’ list, but something that reminds me of the people that wore some of the shirts, quilters that inspire me and part of the quilting tradition I love: waste not want not 🙂 Good times!


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Take one jacket…

Double-breasted women's purple velvet jacket with alterations. Stephanie Boon 2012

and give it a facelift!

To say my winter coat looks a bit scruffy is an understatement. It’s about 7 years old, too big for me, and well, very, very scruffy. I feel embarrassed wearing it and I think it’s fair to say I’ve finally worn it to death. Thrift being the order of the day, I bought this replacement velvet jacket (not a coat, but you can’t have everything!) for £7.00 in a local charity shop.

£7.00 for an old, obviously worn, H&M jacket seems somewhat overpriced, considering they’re a cheap brand in the first place. But then again I did see a summer GAP jacket in another charity shop for £12.99. On inspection there were holes on the outside of the patch-pockets and the velvet trim was very worn. I put on my ‘disgusted of Truro’ hat and marched it up to the counter. “Ooh, that’s such a lovely jacket that one”, said the volunteer behind the till. “Well it might’ve been once upon a time, but I don’t want it, it’s full of holes. And you’re asking £13.00 for it. That’s disgusting.”  “I think the best thing we can do is take off the floor until we can speak to the manager”. Really?  I think the best thing you can do is take a reality check. This is a CHARITY shop. It comes to something when the poor can’t even afford to shop there… I mean, second-hand, cheap supermarket clothes are only a £1 or so cheaper than they are to buy brand new. It’s ridiculous. But, hey ho, that’s the way it is. And if you’re lucky enough to see an ‘ok’ jacket in your size when you need one, well needs must!

Once I got it home, it was time to give it a facelift. First to go were the clanking, military style burnished silver buttons – I really don’t like the idea of rattling as I walk down the road. This in itself was quite a feat as there are 14 of them! (2 on the back, 2 on each cuff and 8 down the front.) I had a pretty, grey and cream print fat-quarter on my shelves I thought would give it a more feminine look, so decided to make the cover buttons you can see in the photo. I still had a bit left, so teamed it up with some black velvet to make the corsage. And…I’m quite pleased with the results 🙂 Surely this is what being thrifty is all about?  I really enjoyed doing the makeover, although I can’t say that for shopping for the jacket in the first place, ha, ha!

Making the corsage was the most fun part. I haven’t made them this way before (more structured), but I was inspired to give it a go after seeing a couple of gorgeous ones a friend made recently. I adapted her method to get the style I wanted and it worked really well. (Another talented friend made the scarf in the photo by the way!). As it’s coming up to Christmas I thought they’d make lovely gifts so I’ll write a tutorial with a pattern and you can have a go too! Look out for it over the next couple of days.

Now, what can I do with that old coat?

Stephie x