How to: English Paper Pieced Patchwork

Patchwork has a long tradition of using precisely cut, paper pieces to ensure that the complex geometric designs fit neatly into place, ensuring fewer mistakes and more economical use of fabric – which was and can be expensive.

Patchwork 7

Finished, hand stitched Pinwheel design.

Follow these simple instructions below to help you with your own English Paper Pieced patchwork.

Patchwork 1

Stage 1

  • Pin the backing paper to the ‘wrong’ side of every fabric patch.
  • Fold over the seam allowance and pin it so that the paper and fabric are the same size.
Patchwork 2

Stage 2

  • Tack around this edge – contrast cotton works well as it can be easily removed later.

TIP: When sewing the corners, use your nails to ensure you have folded the fabric neatly to the points, then create ‘wings’ in the excess fabric, which will remain on the underside of your patchwork piece – giving you a neat sewing edge on top.

Patchwork 3

Stage 3

  • Place two patches, ‘right’ sides together, line them up carefully so that each corner you are going to sew from matches.
  • Pin along this line.
Patchwork 4

Stage 4

  • Then sew a very small whipstitch/over stitch, sewing this edge together – try not to sew through the backing paper.
Patchwork 5

Stage 5

  • Continue placing new pieces together.
Patchwork 6

Right side of English paper Piecing.

  • Looking at the ‘right’ side of the fabric, you should be able to still see the hand sewn whipstitch you used to sew the two pieces together. This gives it it’s authenticity and adds beauty to the piece.
  • The tacking stitches you can see around the edge (and the paper inside) will eventually be take out, once all of the patchwork/quilt has been pieced together, before the backing fabric is placed on.
Patchwork 7

Finished, hand stitched Pinwheel design.



How to: Knit Socks Part 1

First finished sock.

First finished sock.

To start with, knitting socks can be tricky….but well worth the effort! AND, once you’ve grasped it, you’ll never stop! Socks make great presents for anyone and everyone, for almost every occasion. Plus, the great thing is, what you need packs away really small, so if you have a nice small bag, you can keep the contents of your sock knitting inside and take them anywhere – so hours previously wasted sitting on the bus, long car journeys, by the side of swimming pools or gym lessons etc can be put to good use!

Over the next few blog posts, I will try and talk you through, step by step, ‘how to’ knit socks, using some of the funny little tips I’ve picked up from other sock knitters to help you on your way.

For a traditional pair of socks, you will need 4 double pointed needles size 2  3/4 [12], a ball of 4 ply sock wool and a tape measure. I have used sock wool which is variegated and gives the impression of fair isle.

Part 1: cast on and rib ankle cuff.

For an adult sock, cast on 64 stitches using ‘Cable Cast-on’. (See also photos below)

Cable cast-on: take needle between the two stiches to 'cast-on' the new stitch.

Cable cast-on: take needle between the two stiches to ‘cast-on’ the new stitch.

Row of 'cast-on' stitches, ready for next step.

Row of ‘cast-on’ stitches, ready for next step.

Next, separate the 64 stitches onto 3 needles – I separate them 20, 24, and 20.

Cast-on stitches separated onto 3 needles.

Cast-on stitches separated onto 3 needles.

Before you start to knit on these stiches, one tip I was given, was to take the first stitch and place it on the last needle AND then take the last stitch and place it on the first needle (these stitches over lap each other and pull the circle together).

ALSO, ensure that you cast-on edge is not twisted and runs evenly around the base of your stitches.

Knitting in the round on 4 needles.

Knitting in the round on 4 needles, with first and last stitch ‘crossed over’.

Now you begin to work the 64 stitches on 3 needles ‘in the round’. Using the fourth needle, you knit across the first needle with 20 stitches on it. As you come to the end, this needle you have just worked is now free of stitches and will be used to knit across the next row of 24 stitches. As you come to the end, this needle you have just worked is now free of stitches and will be used to knit across the next row of 20 stitches. You have now finished knitting your first ’round/row’ of stitches.

Continue working in rounds using ‘Rib Stitch’ (knit 1, purl 1) until the cuff of your sock measures 6cm.

TIP: When knitting the last stitches on one needles and the first stitches on the next needle, keep your tension tight, to ensure you don’t get what looks like a ‘ladder’ appearing between these stitches. Elsewhere, knit with a slightly loose tension as one danger I have found is that if the cuff is too tight, some people may find it harder to pull the sock over their feet.

Completed sock rib.

Completed sock rib.

Once you have completed the ribbed cuff of your sock. Change to knitting rounds in ‘Stocking Stitch’ and complete the first section of the sock using the length guides below.

NEXT TIME: Turning the heel.

‘Hook a Portrait’ textile workshop at the Biscuit Factory.

Louise Underwood

‘Hook a Portrait’ Textile Workshop

Saturday 4th July 2015

£40 per person

10am – 4pm, 1 hour lunch

Matriarchal Trefoil

Matriarchal Trefoil

Suitable for beginners, this workshop will teach you how to use the traditional North Eastern technique of ‘Hooky’ matting to create a portrait of your choosing (family member, self-portrait or famous personality – it’s up to you!) Tools, hessian and other materials will be provided. Hooky would have traditionally used old clean clothes from family members and you are welcome to bring fabric which you may wish to ‘hook’ into your design. Using distinctive garments which you associate with a person may add extra meaning to their portrait, although this is not essential).

Aunty Wilma

Aunty Wilma

10 places are available on this workshop, adults only. No experience necessary – come and get creative! Lunch is not provided. You are welcome to bring a packed lunch however, a discount voucher for use in The Factory Kitchen will be available for participants.



To book please email Louise Underwood – or call 0787 949 5031. Cash payments can be taken at the gallery reception in The Biscuit Factory prior to the event.



Before the workshop, please email a suitable close up portrait photograph to Louise, which shall be prepared for the workshop as a template. Just a head and neck image will do! Participants please note: your contact details will be added to The Biscuit Factory mailing list. If you have any objections, please state at time of booking.

How to: Yarn Bomb a chair!

WARNING!! -This is a really fun one and could possibly get addictive!

Finished yarnbombed chairs.

Finished yarn bombed chairs.

You will/may need:

Knitting wool – double knitting and above in thickness, and lots of colours!

Crochet hook or knitting needles,

Wool needles,

Foam/seat pad,

Fabric for patchworking,

Webbing and webbing stretcher if there is not ‘seat’,

Tacks/small nails,

Hessian or similar fabric for underside of seat.

This is a great way to recycle an old chair you/friend may have or that you’ve found down a charity shop. Firstly, you need to clean your chair and tighten up any nut and bolts. If your seat has wicker for the ‘seat’, strip this as close to the wood as possible.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

If you have a wooden seat, check there’s no nails etc sticking out, which could be dangerous. If you have a seat which was a woven wicker, which you have now stripped, then you will need to ‘web’ a seat – YouTube has many sites explaining this method.

Finished 'webbed' seat.

Finished ‘webbed’ seat.

You are now ready for the fun stuff! Using either crochet or knitting, make narrow strips according to a rough estimate of the width and length of you chair. I started with the legs. I calculated roughly by first crocheting a chain which I wrapped around the base of the leg and worked in treble crochet, making brightly coloured stripes.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

When I had reached a ‘joint’ in the chair, I would slightly decrease the number of stitches to work around the joint, then increase again after. (When two joints meet the crocheted sections will be sewn together to cover the join.)

Once, the crocheted length was the correct size, I would cast off, then sew the section to around the leg of the chair, pulling tight to ensure the wool stitching is discreetly disguised.

Continue working this way, making lengths of crochet to wrap around the different joints of the chair.

Stitching the 'joints' together.

Stitching the ‘joints’ together.

If you have webbed the seat, stitch the lengths of crochet through the webbing. If you have a wooden seat, using small tacks, nail the crochet length around the base of the seat, ensuring your tacks will be covered over with your seat pad later. Also, ensure all tacks are safely hammered in.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Once your chair is fully yarn bombed, you will now need a foam seat pad which you can either buy pre-cut from a shop. Then, you will need to decide how to cover it. I choose to cover my seats using my daughter’s skirts and trousers they had grown out of. These were in great fabrics – ideal for upholstery – such as cord, velvets and denims. I decided to cut them and sew them into ‘crazy patchwork’. This is a traditional technique, which uses up small pieces of fabric. But, you could choose to continue with the crochet/knitting and make a cover or use a full piece of fabric to cover the cushion pad.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

The fabric, with the pad positioned underneath, was tacked around about 1cm from the top edge of the seat. I then, made a crochet binding to cover the tacked edge, by crocheting a long length in two rows of double crochet. This was then discreetly sewn onto the patchwork and the chair.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

You’re now almost finished! To make your chair look neat and tidy, it’s always best to cover your working, so that there’s no little wool ‘tails’ dangling from your chair. I would, therefore, recommend to now cover the underside of the seat with hessian to hide your working. This can be done with a small square of hessian, or another fabric you have at hand, and tack that to the underside of the seat.

Underside of seat, with the 'working' of your chair hidden underneath.

Underside of seat, with the ‘working’ of your chair hidden underneath.

Now, you can enjoy your most gorgeous and fabulous seat – invite your friends round and maybe make another!

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

Finished chair.

Finished chair.

How to: Broomstick Crochet

Broomstick Crochet is a traditional technique dating back to the Victorian period. It is a very decorative technique which can make the finest mohair’s, to the cheapest polyester and the chunkiest wools, look beautiful – whether by giving them a spider web feel or an architectural structure.

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

Finished Broomstick Crochet Scarf

To make this scarf, I used some beautiful wool my husband bought me for Christmas. It is called Jitterbug, made by Colinette, 100% wool, 4 ply and 400yds in length. It’s not cheap, but the colours available are fabulous! He bought it in a lovely wool shop called Woolaballo in the pretty market town of Hexham.

To make this scarf you will need:

1 x 4mm crochet hook (larger if using chunky wool)

1 Ball of wool, sock weight/4ply

1 x 15/20 or 25mm knitting needle (the larger the needle, the bigger to loops)

Wool needle to finish off the ends.

Stage 1:

Cast on in multiples of 5 (for each loop series). I usually cast on 40 chain stitches, plus 2 for turning.

Crochet cast on

Crochet cast on

Stage 2:

Crochet 3 rows of double crochet (40 stitches on row)

Foundation of Scarf

Foundation of Scarf

Stage 3:

Using your crochet hook, slip stitch one loop from the top of each stitch from the previous row and hook it onto the large knitting needle. (Not lady like – but I do find it helps to place the knitting needle between my knees to do this!) If you started with 40 stitches, you should aim to have 40 loops. (The odd one more or less is fine as you can correct it later*).

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 4:

Next row. Pick up 5 stitches (loops) together with the crochet hook and double crochet 6 times into them (first set of stitches only). Continue picking 5 stitches together across the row, but now just crochet 5 double crochets into each set. You should now have 40 stitches on your row again.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Picking 5 stitches together with crochet hook.

Stage 5:

At the end of the row, you should now have a pretty ‘fanned’ effect across the top stitches.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Fanned and twisted effect caused by Broomstick Crochet.

Stage 6:

Now, double crochet 2 more rows. Then, as before, make slip stitch loops into the tops of the 40 stitches and place them onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Making new Broomstick Crochet loops onto the knitting needle.

Stage 7:

Continue this way until you have reached a length you are happy with for your scarf then cast off last stitch and fasten in all your ends.

Keep working further rows.

Keep working further rows.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

The beautiful fanned, texture of Broomstick Crochet.

Besides making scarves, I have also used this method to make lovely warm neck collars for the tops of coats and small, more fitted snoods which work well as a roll neck on a jumper. Once you know how to achieve the technique, there’s lots of beautiful things you can make.

Below, is a ‘figure of 8’ snood which I made for my niece. This was made using organic, aran weight, Welsh wool. As you can see, this weight makes the Broomstick Crochet less ‘spidery’ but it gives it a lovely architectural look.

Broomstick Crochet Snood

Broomstick Crochet Snood

*Occasionally, you might find that you end up with 39/41 loops. Don’t worry about this as you can amend this by picking up a batch of 4 or 6 loops to correct the number and ensure you still crochet in a multiple of 5 double crochet stitches to rectify the mistake – no-one will know.

In the orginal photo of the scarf you can see at the top of this blog post. I wrapped the scarf round twice, then placed the two ends of the scarf over each other and pinned it with a brooch. This creates a cowl/snood, very warm effect.

The brooch was made using the last length of the wool. To make it, I French knitted a length, folded it into a flower shape, which I stitched together. Then I decorated it with a piece of broken jewellery in the centre and stitched beads around the edge. This can now be used to keep my scarf together (which doesn’t have to be just an outdoor scarf) or used to decorate a jacket or bag.

French Knitted brooch.

French Knitted brooch.

How to: Simply applique and ‘bling-up’ a cushion!

You will need:

1 plain cushion or pillow

Assorted fabric

Needle, thread and pins

Scissors, ideally pinking shears

Buttons, beads, sequins (I found these in Poundland!)

Paper and pencil


Step 1:

Autumn cushion 1

Draw out on paper a simple bold design of your chosen idea. If you do not feel confident doing this, search Google Images for a desired image, which you can enlarge if needed on your computer. I have chosen to create an Autumn tree as we are now reaching the last days of Summer and Autumn is my favourite time of year.

Cut out the picture, pin it onto the fabric you wish to use and cut it out.


Step 2:

Autumn Cushion 2 

Once you have cut out all of your design from the fabric using pinking shears, pin it to the front of the cushion. This may sound stupid, but do remember to place your hand inside (try not to stab it with the pins) to ensure it doesn’t get pinned through to the back. if it is a large image, try and position it centrally but if it’s a smaller one, sometimes placing it in the corner or at an angle may look much better.


Step 3:

Autumn cushion 3

Use a simple running stitch to sew the fabric to the cushion. This technique of layering fabric is called applique. Once you have done this, you can have fun and further decorate your cushion using beads, sequins, buttons and ribbons. Again, when sewing the beads and sequins on, I have stuck to a simple running stitch, sewing the beads or sequins into place in the ‘up/right-side’ position of the cushion.


Other cushions I have made like this in the past include fun gingham and floral reindeer as well as other woodland creatures, many of these using IKEA fabrics. The beautiful Floral Fox below was made by a crafter who visited one of the workshops I ran at IKEA Gateshead last Christmas.

Gingham reindeer          Floral reindeer  Floral fox

How to: Customise your Doctor Martins

My lovely red patent leather Doctor Martins had finally begun to look a bit desperate, the patent was peeling away and no longer could nail varnish patch them up any longer. The actual boot itself was fine, just didn’t look too cool anymore. So rather than put them in the bin or turn them into a clock like a previous pair of mine have been, I decided to have a go at customising them.

My first attempt was with fabric paint, thinking this will cover the exposed suede and the leftover patent, but it wouldn’t stay put and would rub off easily.   So, I tried super gloss outdoor spray paint which has worked wonderfully!!

You will need:

1 pair of old Docs

Masking tape

Assorted super gloss outdoor spray paint


Stage 1:

Doc 1

Peel off any patent from your Docs that is flacking away (this is not a quick job!). Then cover any areas you do not wish to get the spray paint onto e.g. the rubber sole, fabric tops.

Stage 2:

Doc 2

You must spray your Docs outside, or in a very well ventilated area. Place your Docs onto some newspaper and start spraying, one colour at a time. Try not to add too much spray paint at each stage as the paint will get too runny and dry with drips (unsightly.) When spraying, dry and layer up your colours slowly. Leave to dry for at least four hours or whatever the spray paint recommends. Repeat this step a couple of times, until you are happy with your look.

Stage 3:

Doc 3

Once dry, take off masking tape, treat any areas where the paint has slipped through the masking tape – even a permanent marker pen might just do the job of touch-ups to the rubber sole. Lace back up and enjoy!

How to: Catherdral Window

This is a beautiful technique which simulates the look of quilting and patchwork but the great advantage to it is that once each piece is completed, it will already have a tidy, finished backing which means there is no extra work to be done.

I hope you find these instructions, accompanied by photos simple and straightforward. As with many techniques, working through the process a number of times, is the best way to ‘get it’.

Materials needed:
4 x 25cm squares of cotton fabric
4 x 9cm squares of contrasting fabric
Needle and matching thread

Step 1:
Stage 1 CW
To make it easier to fold your fabric over the next few stages, iron diagonals to create a cross crease and a centre point from corner to corner. Then iron a 1/2cm border all the way around the square.

Step 2:
Stage 2 CW
Fold corner points of square into the centre and iron flat.

Step 3:
Stage 3 CW
Again, fold new corner points into the centre of square and iron flat. Then, stitch the centre point flaps, where they meet in the middle, to opposing flap but not under-layers of square.

Step 4:
Stage 4 CW
Make another folded square, following the instructions above and then whip stitch the two outside edges of the squares together (this will be covered by a cotton square, so don’t worry about neatness on this ‘right’ side so much).

Step 5:
Stage 5 CW
Place 9cm square over the stitched line and pin squarely.

Step 6:
Stage 6 CW
Fold the fabric from the under squares to form a frame around the 9cm square. Create a curve on each edge, so that it is wider in the middle and narrower at the edge, ensuring to neatly cover the under stitching.

Step 7:
Stage 7 CW
Slip stitch the border frame around the 9cm cotton insert ‘window’.

Step 8:
Stage 8 CW
Repeat stages 1-7 to create another pairs of squares with one ‘window’ insert. Stitch them together like Stage 4 and then place two more ‘Cathedral Windows’ following stages 5-7.

You can now continue, following these instructions, to make beautiful Cathedral Window pieces.

If you make two squares and one window, why not turn it into a needle case. Four squares and four windows could be a cushion or a table protector. Join squares to create a rectangle for a table runner or just go mad and make a quilt!

Traditionally, Cathedral Windows would have been made with white fabric (I find cheap curtain lining works well – recycle from your old, washed curtains) and small, square scraps.

Have fun, variegate your fabrics, use up leftovers!