Thirty days, thirty boxes, one box a day. Counting the days, observing the minutes, watching time as it hurtles past.

November daily stitching

As always, I’ve only used very simple embroidery stitches – mostly variations on running stitch and straight stitch, with a little blanket stitch here and there. Life is complicated enough without trying to figure out double braided Hungarian dragon stitch, whatever that might be. I may have just made that up.

November stitch journal, detail

It looks more complex than it is probably because of the variations in colour and thread weight. Some threads are very fine; some are thicker. There is probably meaning in the colour and thread weight I choose for a given day, but if there is then it’s unconscious.

early November, detail

You can only see the patterns in your life when you’re far enough away to be able to look back on them. Close up, it’s hard to see a difference. But stand back and squint, and you can usually make sense of the threads.

There is still no date for our house move. Today’s square is the shadowy ghost of a house. I know (I hope) our new home is waiting for us, but without a date I can’t connect with it. And frustratingly, I can’t (daren’t) start any packing.

our new home doesn’t seem real yet

I will have to temporarily close the shop for a week or two when we do get a date because at some point I will have to pack everything away. In the meantime, if you’d like to help me have less to pack, there are quite a few threads left and some of the fabric scraps packs are reduced. I’ll post updates here when I know more about when the shop will close, but keep in mind that we may not get much notice. My last international posting date is 6th December.

thread available here

Also, while we’re on housekeeping, my stitch journal PDF templates are now available in my Teachable school as well as in my online shop. They’re exactly the same templates, just in two places at once. This is in response to requests from those of you who signed up for my Intuitive Daily Stitching class (thank you) and wanted easier access to the templates. If you’ve already bought the templates from the shop (and thank you, if you have) then please don’t buy them again from Teachable. If you have problems downloading any templates, or if you’ve lost access to them, please let me know so that I can email them to you.

I think that brings us all up to date – and here we are, poised on the doorstep of December, wondering what the last thirty-one days of the year will bring.

Next month, stars:

December (yes, it’s biro. All the outlines will be covered up)

Dear Diary

Last year I bought a diary, to help me plan my newly self-employed activities for the year. I had great hopes for it. I planned to write down all the weird and wonderful national days, like National Kazoo Day and Inane Answering Message Day (28th and 30th January respectively, if you’re interested) or World Three-Legged Zombie Day (ok, that one’s yet to be confirmed).

birdie gets to work

I intended to plan and schedule blog posts, dyeing days, shop updates, accounts days, and lots of other things besides. It was a great plan.

Here’s a fairly typical diary page from this year:

blank. Of course I will recycle and reuse the paper.

It’s not that I have nothing to do.

It’s that I have So. Much. To. Do that I haven’t got time to write anything in the diary. I did fairly hit the ground running in January, and it’s been pretty much non-stop ever since, but it’s mostly reactive activity rather than planned activity. Fire-fighting is exhausting, and I see now that I do really need to set aside some time to plan things better. I’ve been so busy this year that I haven’t found the time (and if I’ve had the time then I haven’t had the energy) to make the art that I thought would be possible.

Next year I really must make time to use the diary for effective planning and scheduling, because all work and no play is no good for anyone. There are Skillshare classes I want to take. I want to become more proficient with Procreate. There are all kinds of messy mixed media avenues I want to explore. I want to make sketchbooks and draw more. I will schedule and ring-fence play times. All play and no work is no good either, of course. I will also schedule strategic planning meetings with myself and maybe even a weekly team meeting (can you be a team of one?) It’s a good plan. Let’s see if any of that works.

So I’ve bought another diary and next year I will try again. I will only use it for planning, not for writing my life story as it unfolds. It will be a purely administrative tool, holding and measuring time, and will let me see how I can use my time better.

All of the above has been a very lengthy – and probably very dull – prologue to the real content of this post. As you may know, I like to make covers for books. Just because. Making a slip cover for a book is quite quick and easy – you just need something long enough to wrap around the book and under the front/back covers and something an inch or so wider on each long side.

I placed a few scraps on a foundation cloth. The ragged vintage lace down the spine was exactly the length I needed. I always think if something fits exactly without needing to be cut or shaped, then it was probably meant to be there. The lines are fairly straight, but the photo is a bit crooked.

Diary cover

A little hand stitch here and there and it was soon done.

diary front cover (eco dyed leaf fabric from Jane Hunter Textiles)

I stencilled 2024 onto a piece of painted card and attached it by over-laying a scrap of sheer tulle that has little dots on it and just stitched around the edge:

diary front cover in progress

Once the stitching on the front, back, and spine is complete, you can turn the long edges down so that the height of the cover is about 1/4″ longer than the height of the book. I just tack the hem down with tiny stitches on the surface because you won’t really see the wrong side.

For the wrap-around edges, I usually just try the book cover on the book, wrong side outwards, folding the long sides around book and then closing the book to make sure it’s not too tight. I can then mark the outer edge with a pin and oversew along the top and bottom edges to create the slip case for the front and back covers. There are lots of other ways to do this. I’m sure there will be many tutorials online for making book covers like this one.

stitching the slip case

Turn everything right side out again and the book just slips nicely into the cover.

half in, half out
all in

I like it.

front cover
back cover

And there we are, fit for the future. I can see next year coming and I’ll be ready for it.



You may recall this sample made as an example of what might happen with the 2024 stitch journal map

stitch journal 2024 (artist’s impression)

and this failed sample of the patchwork version:

patchwork sample

Two orphan samples, both alike in dignity, but – unlike Shakespeare’s ill-fated star-crossed lovers – destined for a happy ending after all. I’d prepared my stitch journal for next year, tracing the templates:

stitch journal 2024 (yes, that’s blue biro)

It’s the same fabric as the last two years – vintage cotton/linen, from an old French bed sheet. Next year will be a large square rather than a long strip, just to see how that works. It’s ended up about 36″ inches (ish) square (allowing for a little border around the stitched area), and folds up quite nicely. Then I thought it’s going to need a cover of some sort, just as a little protection from dust and light.

Aha, I thought. You probably know what’s coming next:

joining two samples

A little extra work, and it looks as if that might be a nice way to combine both samples into a Useful Thing. Not that everything needs to have a purpose, but they turned out to be exactly the right size, and I always think that’s a Sign. I’ve made the cover slightly roomy to allow for some expansion because the cloth will become slightly thicker as it’s stitched. I’ve found it surprising to see how much bulk is added by thread as the months pass.

in progress
a little more progress

A few hedges (textured yarn, couched with one strand of DMC) and a little extra stitch here and there:

fields sample

And there it is – it’s almost making itself. I’ve folded the lower half up, stitched the edges together, found a piece of fabric exactly the right size to make a lining, and then the other (embroidered) end will fold over, like a very simple clutch purse:

under construction

Still not finished, but you can see how this will work:

cosy home for a stitch journal
simple clutch purse construction

Ready for a new adventure next year.

Progress but slow

In the UK when you buy a house, it’s all very exciting at first but then there are weeks and weeks where nothing happens. The buyer’s and seller’s solicitors are all busy doing land searches, drawing up contracts, and asking each other questions. In the meantime you can’t do anything because there aren’t any dates for exchanging contracts or actually moving. Until contracts are exchanged, the buyer or seller can change their minds and withdraw at any point. It’s quite stressful even before you start packing.

So, for now, it’s a question of being stoical, trying to keep calm, and carrying on.

This doesn’t look any different, despite hours of work. Another case of art reflecting life.

hedges in progress

It is actually quite calming.

hedges and boundaries

I made a repeat pattern based on the fields and sampled it on a little zipper pouch from my RedBubble shop:

zipper pouch

As a result of seeing it in real life I tweaked that weird wedge-shaped field/hedge and re-uploaded, so the current design looks slightly different. Better, I think.

fields design – lots of choice

Maybe next week there might be some news…


Another month; 31 daily leaves taking us to the beginning of winter.

October complete

I really enjoyed this one. My template just has plain leaf shapes but you can adjust and adapt the outlines as much as you want to. I made some of my shapes into oak leaves, for instance, and I added saw-tooth edges to some of the others.

early October

Mostly the stitches are very simple – running stitch, whipped running stitch, couched yarns, seed stitch, straight stitch. They can look really effective in hand-dyed thread, where the colours change subtly or unpredictably. There is nothing very difficult here. If you want to begin this practice yourself, you might find my online course helpful.

late October

There are just two pages left in my cloth book of the year, which seems unbelievable. Pages are each about 9″ x 12″ or thereabouts – September and October in their double page spread (or 61 days of my life):

September hagstones and October leaves

Between stitches I’ve been playing with Procreate again, taking the tumbling leaves vibe into digital form with some Procreate watercolour brushes. Surprisingly satisfying, though nowhere near as messy as the real thing:

digital watercolour leaves

This design is now in my Red Bubble shop and can be printed on all kinds of things.


I don’t enjoy the whole self-promotion side, by the way, but the Marketing Manager post is still vacant and generally you have to do these things yourself.

Next month, boxes:

November tomorrow

I find it amazing how these things turn out sometimes. When I designed these templates ten months ago, moving house was absolutely not on our radar. And yet here we are: boxes ready to be stitched, and if all goes well there could be real-life boxes ready to pack. Art mirroring life, or the other way round?


Probably my favourite colour, which is just as well because this is all very green indeed. Curiously, my camera doesn’t seem to like it and refuses to accurately render the colours. I can only say it’s much nicer in real life. Textiles are notoriously difficult to photograph in any case because of the way they hold and reflect light.

I’m starting to add some hedgerows between the fields, with silk boucle and various textured yarns. Just couching along the seams. I tried a few colonial and French knots but had to unpick most of them. You wouldn’t see that much detail from that high up, I don’t think.

As usual, simpler is better, and the textured yarns seem to be holding the lines ok on their own.

box of luscious textures with Valdani perle 12 threads

I’ve layered the patchwork over a piece of brushed cotton (cotton flannel) and backed it with an old hand-dyed cotton tablecloth, with the outer edges turned in over the mid layer so that the irregular edges of the patchwork will sit on the surface. Technically it’s a quilt, having three layers, but the brushed cotton is less dimensional than wadding (batting).

on the edge

I’m finding it difficult to get myself motivated at present, with the house move looming (though we still have no dates yet), so stitching hedgerows is quite a nice soothing activity for these uncertain days.

patchwork fields


Not quite a square yard – it’s about 32″ x 34″, and all pieced together now. Some people think English paper piecing is too fiddly and takes too long, but I find it fairly quick and very enjoyable. I’m already thinking about a bigger, bed-sized version.

slightly blurry picture, but you get the idea

All the curves went together just fine, after I added the balance lines.

look at that lovely curve

The best part of English paper pieced patchwork is removing the tacking thread and papers, when all the piecing is complete. The cloth starts to relax, and you can see what you’re working with.

some of the tacking and papers removed

Much nicer to handle, and the colours seem to come alive more.

A few more to go, then I need to think about how to back it, line it, or quilt it. Haven’t decided where it’s going yet. There will probably be textured yarns couched along some of the boundaries and of course some stitch here and there. Maybe even some tiny sheep.

some tacking still in, some already out

Initially this was going to be a PDF pattern but I think it might be a bit too complicated for that. There is quite a lot of tweaking and easing, to get the curves to lie correctly and line up the balance marks, which is easier to do than to explain. Maybe a PDF for the intrepid.

And, incidentally, there is thread in the shop.


I anticipate that this may well be the last thread update before Christmas, as our house move may or may not happen before then. Everything is still very up-in-the-air at this point. Good job I have the patchwork to keep me grounded.

2024 daily stitching template

It’s early to be thinking about next year, but I’m launching my 2024 daily stitching template now for a couple of reasons.

mapping 2024

Firstly, we have accepted an unexpectedly prompt offer on our house, so it looks like we will be moving at some point in the next few months. I will need to close the shop temporarily when that happens, possibly at short notice. If we end up moving during the weeks directly preceding the start of January then the templates may be unavailable for a time.

Secondly, there is some optional preparation for next year’s template. You can either work one month at a time and add on each following month’s template as you go, or you can do some cutting and sticking to make one large template for the whole year, as I have done. Full instructions for this, including diagrams, are in the PDF.

2024 templates

I stitched a little sample just to see how it might look. It’s intended to be a kind of aerial map, a landscape seen from above. The whole thing will be about 30-31″ square or so. It’s about mapping the days to create a visual record of time passing, and thinking about the seeds we sow, the harvests we reap, and the paths we travel through the year.

2024 template sample

You can stitch field boundaries in whipped running stitch, or you can couch textured yarns and threads around each block to create something that might represent hedgerows or stone walls.


And of course you don’t need to use it for daily stitching at all; you could just make a stitched sampler if you’re feeling ambitious or in need of a challenge. You can add paths, lanes, rivers, mountains – whatever you like. (If you’re new to daily stitching, you might be interested in my online course here.)

stitch journal template

It’s exactly the same as life, really. It can look unmanageable when you imagine the bigger picture but somehow we get up every morning and work our way through each day, just to keep going. We always get somewhere in the end, even if it’s not where we initially intended.

So here’s to new beginnings just beyond the horizon.

stitch sample

Balancing curves

You might recall the patchwork I started last month, using my proposed 2024 stitch journal template to piece together an aerial map of fields:

false start

I got so far with it and then hit a slight problem: having pieced two A4 sized blocks together, it became clear that none of the next A4 blocks were going to fit properly. My mistake entirely – a couple of mistakes, actually, and schoolboy errors at that. I had failed to read the plan before stitching, so mis-aligned the outer edges, and I hadn’t marked balance lines on the template for accurately joining the curves.

It was less work to start again than to unpick, so I’ll use my false start as a practice piece and then will probably turn it into a sketchbook cover, so nothing is wasted.

So for attempt no. 2, I added balance lines to the template.

balance lines (in red) for piecing curves

Piecing curves is tricksy and has to be accurate, particularly when a lot of separate pieces are involved. You can see how this works:

balance lines in action (in blue/red)

It’s just an extra insurance for making sure everything is going to fit correctly later on. If the balance marks don’t join up on either side of the seam, then you know you’ve gone a bit wrong.

curves fitting nicely

The second thing I’ve done differently this time is piece the thing in irregular sections rather than A4-sized blocks, and it seems to be working better.

sections completed

I’ll wait until each section is finished before joining them all together.

fitted but not joined

It’s probably about half done, and is continuing to come together quite nicely. At this stage it’s still very portable so is an easy and relaxing thing to work on in the evenings.

box of tricks

I only roughly planned the colours (as in all of the M section will be greens and golds, the A section was greys and browns etc) so it’s a nice surprise to find out what ends up sitting next to each other. Keeps it interesting. And I always think patchwork is a kind of piecing together of life’s problems too, and finding a solution in the whole. Art, stitch and therapy all at the same time. What’s not to like?

%d bloggers like this: