Needlecase community workshop


Needlecase project and ‘maker’ essential equipment.

Last year I worked on a large project to create the Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, whilst doing that I worked with a small, lovely group of women who were part of the ‘Syrian Family Group’ who met up regularly in Gateshead. The women made about 10 of the hand stitched patchwork squares for the quilt that is now on display at the Shipley Art Gallery.


Hand stitching a needlecase.

Recently, the women have asked if I could work on developing some other projects with them, to help them get back into sewing. We decided it would be helpful to make up ‘sewing maker packs’, so that everyone had the essential equipment to get them going back at home. The pack included and pair of scissors, needles, thread and pins. So it was decided to make a needlecase as the first sewing project, to keep the needles and pins safe.


Sewing flower designs onto the needlecase.

The needlecase was made with felt, so that it was practical, versatile and gave a lovely finish. The cases could also be further embellished with buttons and extra stitching.

We meet this Saturday at the Shipley Art Gallery and had a very busy afternoon. When crafting in groups, I always love the social aspect of it: lots of nattering, laughing and cups of tea!

Here are some of the finished hand stitched felt needlecases made by the group on Saturday.



The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, finished.

In 2016, I was asked to work on a lovely, large community project to help the Shipley Art Gallery celebrate their 100th Anniversary in 2017. The Shipley Art Gallery has a fabulous collection of the decorative arts and a very long, established link with the traditional technique of patchwork and quilting. Within their collection they have hundreds of hand quilted pieces, which have either been wholecloth designs or made using English Paper Piecing.

The project took over 9 months and was ready for the anniversary celebrations in November, 2017. We had over 100 patchworked squares made by members of the community, some local and few were posted from different part of the UK. The pieces which didn’t form part of the finished quilt (not because of quality as the standard of the finished, hand paper pieced squares was fantastic), have been made into pieces which can be used with schools, community groups and general visitors to help explain the process of hand paper piecing.

Quilt 5

Planning the final position of the patchwork squares for the centenary quilt.

Once all the squares were collected in and registered. A small group of people who had worked closely with the quilt over the last nine months, came together to help with the very tricky job of deciding where to place all the finished pieces. At this point, the paper templates were still in the back of the squares. Members of the group took a couple of rows away to join the individual squares together, then two rows together.

Quilt 6

Reverse of the centre panel for embroidering, with it’s paper templates still intact.

During this time, I worked on the centre panel, which was made up of cream and white self patterned ‘Grandmother’s garden’ hexagons, which would become the area to embroider the text upon. This section was then sewn into the middle of three rows of squares.

Quilt 3

Detail of the embroidery onto the central panel. The silk was hand dyed and hand spin by one of the members of the group.

Once all the rows and the central panel of the patchwork were sewn together, it was then placed, pinned and quilted to an organic cotton wadding centre and cotton backing. It took a long time to just pin the three layers together, accurately, as the quilt by this point was 200 cm by 220 cm.

Quilt 2

The finished patchwork ‘top’ being pinned to the organic cotton wadding and cotton backing, in preparation for hand quilting.

I decided to use a new tool, called a basting gun, which I bought from Cottonpatch to ‘pin/tack’ the three layers of the quilt together. A bit like the tools used in clothes shops to attach price labels to clothes, which can delicately keep the layers together but also quick and easy to remove. It made things much quicker and cut out the damage pins could do. It also allowed me to use a large hoop to quilt with, as it was too large for my frames.

Quilt 4

Binding the edge of the quilt.

The quilt needed to be finished a couple of weeks before the centenary celebrations, as it had to go in the large freezer at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle. This is something which the museum and gallery service will regularly do with new items to their collection to ensure that no new contaminates are brought into their collection.

Throughout November 2017, there were lots of different events at the Shipley Art Gallery to celebrate it’s centenary and the quilt was at the centre of this. People from the local community including the women of the Jewish community, women from the local Syrian community, plus local craft groups, the Shipley Quilters and all those who had individually made a square, were invited to a lovely afternoon of celebrations at the Shipley.

Local Syrian ladies community group

Some of the women from the local Syrian community who worked on the quilt.

Quilt in situ 22.11.17

Finished Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt on display.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

The Shipley Art Gallery Centenary Quilt, 2017.

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.


Jewellery making inspired by the Shipley Art Gallery’s collection

I am currently working with a women’s group in Gateshead and over the last couple of months they have been learning how to make jewellery. Using these new skills, the women are making some pieces to go on display which are inspired by the jewellery designer Nora Fok, whose jewellery is on display at the Shipley Art Gallery. Her pieces are very delicate, often gentle shades of white and quite beautiful. Saying that – they are also very bold!

In our latest pieces, we are working with wire (even garden wire), beads and Beadalon’s monofilament illusion cord. These are some of the pieces I have made so far, in preparation for our last stages of the workshops.

Starburst ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

Starburst ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

The ‘Starburst’ bracelet below, was made using a French knitting bobbin, knocked up from an old wooden cotton reel and nails – as they would have been made traditionally. I do find most French knitting ‘dollies’ don’t work particularly well.

French Knitting bobbin.

French Knitting bobbin.

Starburst bracelet, inspired by Nora Fok.

Starburst bracelet, inspired by Nora Fok.

Using wire, I created this bracelet by wrapping the top section around a marble and the bottom section round a lid of a bead tin, then fastened them together.

'Up-do' ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

‘Up-do’ ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

The last piece I have made so far inspired by Nora Fok’s works, is this ‘illusion cord’, twisted ring decorated with beads.

'Illusion' beaded ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

‘Illusion’ beaded ring, inspired by Nora Fok.

My daughter’s have also been having fun creating some pieces, as they never like to be left out and I shall take their rings along to this weeks workshop as further ideas.

Middle Mini Obsesivcreativ's  ring inspired by Nora Fok.

Middle Mini Obsesivcreativ’s ring inspired by Nora Fok.

Little Mini Obsesivcreativ's ring inspired by Nora Fok.

Little Mini Obsesivcreativ’s ring inspired by Nora Fok.

Once the jewellery making equipment was out and my juices flowing, I have also made a few Steampunk inspired pieces to!

Butterfly sitting on vintage Czechoslovakian coin, with 'diamonds'. Ring.

Butterfly sitting on vintage Czechoslovakian coin, with ‘diamonds’. Ring.

Roses on vintage Maltese coin. Ring.

Roses on vintage Maltese coin. Ring.

Still work in progress. Layered necklace with found, recycled and broken jewellery.

Still work in progress. Layered necklace with found, recycled and broken jewellery.

Over the next week or so and particularly on Instagram, I’ll update you with the jewellery pieces we have made in our workshops for the Shipley Art Gallery.

Jewellery making workshop using leather

Teddy keyring Gateshead women's group Leaf earring GW community group

This afternoon I ran a workshop for a fantastic women’s community group in Gateshead, who I’ve worked with in the past. The brief from the women was that they would like to learn to create leather jewellery and accessories inspired by jewellery artist Nora Fok whose work is currently displayed at the Shipley Art Gallery. Learning new skills, the women designed, cut out, threaded, beaded, glued and pliered their earrings, rings and key-rings together. As you can see from the photos, they have made some lovely new pieces in just one workshop.

Heart keyring GWCG  Green earring GWCG Star keyring GWCG

Butterfly keyring GWCG      Ring GWCG

Heart keyring 2 GWCG      Leaf keyring GWCG