5 things bringing me joy this week

March sure does have a sensation. And it’s not even technically here yet. But the days are already gloriously longer and blustery.  In addition to spring seeming like a real possibility here are a few more things that are bringing me joy right now:

1. Recreational ironing.  Which led to recreational sorting. Which led to the next item on the list.

2. Making to-go sewing projects. Way ahead of time. So far I have color coordinated hexies, tiny doll clothes, and lots of mending (one of my favorite road projects).  Pro tip: medium gray thread is super handy for travel sewing. Color-wise it works with most things and it’s way easier just to bring one color.

The most urgent mending project is the eternal shorts. They started as pants and have been on the job for 20 plus years.

Making a bunch of projects completely organized ahead of time makes me feel like an overachiever. I can just grab whichever one I like to take to the park or the beach or for the train. And I’m not done yet, I’d love to have a whole summer of projects, lined up and ready to go.

If you need project bags find a sweet bag tutorial here and a needle book is super handy too – find the pattern here (and the little flower pin cushion on the needle book above here – you can make it in about 3 minutes.).

little bird sewing pattern

 

3. Birds in the world – A customer sent me some amazing images this week of the library she created for the birds she made with the little bird sewing pattern.

Everything about it is detailed and delightful. So full of joy.

From the maker Jennifer : “I have become an expert maker of tiny books! Many are the same books that I have in my own bookcase, including a full set of Nancy Drew mysteries that match the ones I received for Christmas when I was eight years old. Now, I’ve been making tiny plants out of things in my recycling bin, so they may have a garden soon.”

 4. Plants and pottery. Two things I can’t get enough of. And they work well together. I’m propagating new plants from cuttings and making pots for them.

5. Working on the tiny rag doll world.  I decided to downsize her hearth. The original one was huge and ended up being overwhelming for the house – functionally, spiritually and aesthetically.  The new mini one feels right and  It’s easy to make (cardboard, egg cartons spackle and paint),  there’s a giant tutorial here.

What’s bringing  you joy right now?  What are you sewing for spring? Do you secretly love to iron?

the 2021 scrap festival : 11 + ideas for your scraps

Consider this magnificent scrap, I’ve been holding onto it for 50 years or so. Loosely rendered daffodils on cotton, one of my all time favorites. It was my grandmother’s dress. This last little bit will be a couple hexies, there is pretty much, just barely, enough. I like scraps. My beginnings are in the mountains of scraps my mother kept in the attic. Giant garbage bags (seriously, the jumbo ones) bursting with mostly cotton prints.

For the third year in a row, in February, we celebrate scraps. A little extra. I’ve rounded up a bunch of scrap friendly projects and made you a new free sewing pattern.

stacks of cotton print scraps arranged by color

11 + project ideas for your scraps :

 

minimalist mice pattern

1. Minimalist mice (or bunnies) by wild olive. You could turn the sweet, simple  design into all sorts of pocket creatures.  The combination of raw linen and small charming prints is lovely.

2.  This needle and thread case. I shared this in the newsletter last year and I think it is the most popular project to date.

scraps pieced into edge binging

3. Scrap seam binding.  Checkout this easy way to make seam binding from scraps. I use tons of seam binding for mending and I love the way this pieced together stuff looks.

4. Angry apple cores – my newest free pattern – disgruntled and mostly eaten fruit.

quilt top assembled from scraps

5. Scrap quilts. This collection is impressive and inspiring and it might motivate me to finish one of the many scrap quilt tops I have begun and abandoned.

6. For your wool and felt scraps – an embroidered scissor keeper.

7.  Fabric sailboats – they twirl in the breeze and cast lovely shadows plus they are great for your bigger scraps –

hexie and log cabin potholder piecing

8. Hexie-logcabin  pieced potholders from sewshecan.

9. Stitched envelopes. so many possibilities for these. Find a DIY for cotton envelopes here and   and a wool or felt version here.

10. And you will of course need sweet stamps.

11. For tiny scraps, classic sarubobo plush.

And so many more! I added  a bunch of other scrap projects last year – lucky fish, minimalist chickens and a little owl ornament among them –  find them all on the free pattern page.

Do you have a great idea for a scrap project? Do you have a half finished quilt top in your closet?! Let me know in the comments and happy 2021 scrap festival to you.

apple core sewing pattern

Valentines day is right around the corner and nothing says “Hey, I love you and thought of you” like an angry apple core you made yourself. Just saying. Plus I made you a free sewing pattern and everything. Say it with ragey, mostly eaten fruit this year.

Everybody’s in such a bad mood!

download the pattern sheet

You will also need:

  • cotton fabric scraps
  • a little wool felt for the stem
  • wool stuffing
  • a bamboo skewer
  • a chopstick
  • a basic sewing kit

apple core sewing pattern materials - fabric, stuffing and thread

1.  Cut out 3 center pieces and two top/bottom circles. Draw the seam allowance on the wrong side of all pieces – you can trace or use a ruler.  Mark one of the center pieces with the dots on the pattern (this will be the opening for turning and stuffing). Cut out the stem and two leaf shapes.

2.  Flip one center piece (not the one with the dots) over and trace the face lightly on the right side of the fabric in  pencil. You can embroider the face at this point if you like. I prefer to embroider on finished stuff shapes.

3. Pin the center piece with the face to the center piece with the opening marks together as shown – right sides together (remember the face is on the right side of the fabric).  Stitch the seam that does not have the opening marked.

4. Open the pieces you just stitched so the right side of the fabric is facing you. Place the third center piece over the face piece and pin.

5. Sew the seam.

6. Pin the two remaining edges together and sew the seam- leaving open between the marks.

7. Make clips in the seam allowance at the opening marks. Be careful not to snip the seam.

8. Fold back the edges of the opening, press and baste each edge down – we will remove these stitches later.

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the big 2020 review and plans for the new year

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

let’s start with the first project of the new year:

Years ago I got a very old, wobbly, pink console table at a flea market in Brooklyn. Turning it into a place to make my little daily paintings was the first project of 2021. My current living situation (Guilford, Connecticut since June) is serviceable but I have not really made friends with it. The pink desk is the first thing that has made me feel at home, less disoriented in disorienting times.
It needed a thorough cleaning to brighten the odd pink paint and tightening the leg screws completely eliminated the wobble.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

Ritual and habit anchor me. And the pink desk adds to the painting ritual. They happen mostly in the evening, the last thing I do each day. Pretty much. I haven’t missed a day in two plus years. I love that it’s waiting for me. It removes an obstacle to beginning. Removing obstacles is super helpful when committing to practice, to building a habit.

art and drawing supplies on a pink desk

more on new year plans in a minute, first let’s look back

Amidst the swirling debacle that was 2020, two lifelong dreams were fulfilled.

You know I love a list. Partly because I like to look back and see what stuck and what didn’t. What plans turned into reality and what stayed in the someday folder. I made an intentionally audacious (audacious for me anyway) list in 2015.  Looking back at it now I’m surprised how much of it came true. It also pointed me back at some things I’d still like to accomplish and some I’m probably letting go of. Like surfing. Mostly cause I’m scared of sharks.

Two big items on the list happened this past summer:

I planted a garden and took a pottery class. The hurricane at the beginning of August dropped a huge tree on the little garden and pretty much wiped it out but still… some stuff survived (mostly herbs and radishes) and I got to play in dirt and ate stuff I grew myself. I also learned a lot about bunnies, bugs and deer…

3 ceramic handmade plates

The pottery class was at the Guilford Art Center over the summer. It took most of the ten week class for me to figure out what I want to make and learn even the basic rules of clay. I am swirling with ideas and all the energy of being a beginner.

hand holding a tiny ceramic mushroom

And I made a painting. I’ve been intending to bust out the mini scale of my painting work and experiment for a long time.  At the end of the year I made it a priority. It was an experience. I learned a lot, including that paint is expensive. It’s something I’ll continue to experiment with but at a less ambitious size unless I win the lottery.

blog and shop stuff

A few highlights : The Elegant (and sometimes nude) Rag doll pattern was released as well as 9 new free tutorials:

picnic bugs
wire doll house bed
overalls for the tiny rag doll and mr. socks
miniature paper hens
scrap flower garlands
chicken ornaments
owl ornaments
pin girls
lucky fish

mouse doll house tea party

My favorite project of the year was the mouse house. Made for joy. 100% Joy. And that’s my plan for 2021. Look for Joy. Indulge in and commit hard to things that bring Joy and let go of things that don’t.

Two of the big lessons from 2020 for me were:

1. Take nothing for granted.
2. I’m capable of more than I think.

Weeding out the things that don’t really bring Joy is harder than it sounds. But I can make it the first question. Put it at the top of the list when deciding what to spend time on, let it steer me. I think the daily painting practice helps with that. Showing up and listening to myself.

If you’re feeling up for a daily practice the 100 Day Project is a good opportunity to test drive one. The next round starts January 31st. Think of it as an opportunity to listen to yourself.

I’m still feeling around for my goals for this year. There are a few things I know for sure in the short term – in the next few weeks you will see a new sewing pattern (the crow), prints and notecards made from daily paintings and plans for the third annual international scrap festival.

Lots of other ideas are still swirling and percolating and I’m giving them room to do that. Building more time in my days to feel around for Joy.

creatures and dolls stitched by readers

It’s hard to choose what to share here, there is so much. And one of the ideas I have swirling around for this year is making it easier for you to share images with me and with each other.  It’s ambitious but I think it would be lovely to have our own community, a place for sharing what you make and ideas. And I think it adds to the charm of the patterns – you all come up with such sweet variations and details.  Does that idea appeal to you? You can let me know in the comments and I’ll keep you posted as I explore possibilities for that.

Checkout the reader made items below and you’ll also find some instagram feeds that I think will be right up your alley.

Love the color and fabric combinations in this songbird in progress by @summerkiser

*you can click the thumbnails for larger images

4.

Elegant and sometimes nude dolls with lots of reader added details.  Made for the the elegant rag doll sewing pattern.

1. @rukodelie_vesnushki

2. and 3. @marilinalittlecraft

4. @angelamarry1

Sweet tiny rag dolls! Full outfitted for adventure. Made from the tiny rag doll pattern and some of the free miss thistle society patterns.

1. @little.village.time
2. @each.of.these

The last free project of the year was a big hit.  There are lots of little Rocky inspired owls in the world now. Made from the Owl Ornament Pattern

1. @cjasews

2. @catsinthecupboard

3. @paper_thread

Chickens! by @cote_jardin28 I love the garland! Made from the minimalist chicken pattern.

I Love this songbird’s attitude and body language. It’s got lots of birdness. Made by @erinsloanprints  from the Songbird Sewing Pattern.

So dastardly! These ill tempered owls are by @erinpcf using the Dastardly Owl Pattern.

Dear Mr. Socks! All bundled up. The sweet coat is made from this free pattern.

1. @everbelles

2. @terrywilsonnecco

There are so many great things to see. You can checkout #annwoodpattern and #missthistlesociety  on instagram for more.

And please let me know what you think about making a community here- is it redundant? Does it sound interesting to you?

handmade christmas: oranges, tinsel and wax paper

making citrus slice ornaments

Simple and sweet. Low pressure. That’s what I’m looking for this year. Plus most of the Christmas stuff is at the bottom and back of all stored things. It seemed like a good idea when I moved in June but now digging it out is entirely unreasonable. I sure do love a Christmas tree though. And a festive smell. Making citrus slice ornaments delivered both. It was easy and I had fun doing it. The smell is exquisite.

making citrus slice ornaments

I followed this tutorial.  A couple notes: I sliced pretty thin and setting the timer was key. 175 degrees turning every hour worked well, my slices were done after four hours.

baking orange slices on a cookie sheet

A couple that were thicker were still a little soft and a couple of the lemon slices were overdone. I’ll eventually paint these with something shiny and clear for extra preservation.

orange slice ornaments on a norfolk pine christmas tree

I love the effect. They are super light and perfect for my norfolk pine who isn’t that into being decorated. I also had some wax paper snowflakes from last year, my mother’s glass bead garlands and some antique tinsel (I’ve been using the same tinsel for years).

I’m super happy with my super simple tree. For wrapping I’m sticking with painted craft paper with tags made from the paper trimmed off the daily paintings.  I go on and on about this here.  And the owl and chicken and fish make perfect additions for extra sweet packages.

hand painted brown paper and tags and ornament extras

I hope your holidays are peaceful and healthy and happy!

ann

owl ornament diy

And I’ve made you something!

These little owl ornaments are a perfect project for little scraps and they are quick to make. I’m making lots as gifts or to add to packaging.

They’re inspired by the little, lost Saw-whet owl who was accidentally transported to NYC with the giant tree for Rockefeller Center this year. He has since gotten some first aid and been returned to his forest.  What an ordeal for the little guy!

owl ornament sewing pattern

Let’s make little owl ornaments!

You probably already have everything you need. And they lend themselves to batch production A glue stick really helps with that – the parts are little and a glue stick is much quicker and easier than pins. You can set up a bunch of fronts so they’re all ready to stitch.  It’s easier than pins.

download the pattern

You will also need:

  • scraps – wool, cotton and linen are great
  • a basic sewing kit
  • chopstick or similar
  • gluestick
  • buttons
  • embroidery thread

1. Cut out two body pieces, two eye pieces and one head and beak and one each of the three wing pieces.

2. With the right side of the front body fabric facing you use a tiny bit of glue stick to place your pieces as shown. Leave the top wing piece off for now.

3. Use a contrasting color embroidery thread to stitch the head cover and wing pieces in place.

4. Stitch buttons to the center of the circles with embroidery thread also. Use regular sewing thread in a matching color to stitch the beak in place with tiny whip stitches around the edge.

5. Uses a contrasting embroidery thread to stitch around the eyes and add some straight stitches to his breast.

6. Create a loop of string or embroidery thread for hanging and knot the ends. Mark the 1/4 inch seam allowance on the wrong side of the back fabric.

7. Place the hanging loop on the face of the owl with the loop facing down and the tails near fabric edge.

8.  Place the back body over the front – right sides together-  pin and sew the seam leaving open along the wing side.

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what’s on my worktable : mending, rag dolls and other loose ends

mending a linen smock

mending a linen smock

Mending never ends. The contemporary holly hobby look requires constant maintenance and if I let it get ahead of me I have nothing to wear. I currently have nothing to wear except yoga pants so I’ve officially declared November wardrobe maintenance month. Plus I like to do it, I love the meandering stitches, patches on patches and unexpected color combinations. It chills me out and invites the universe in. Once I sink in I can spend lost hours stitching, percolating ideas and talking to the plants.

mending a linen smock

(Find the free pattern for the awesome pin cushion here)

Hexies sneak into everything, I love the way the look, just popping up once in a while in non-hexie situations and they are also super handy for tight spots with angles, like near a zipper or seam corner and little pull holes near pockets or straps.

I’m working on patterns too – the crow is coming, seriously it is, there was a technical debacle but I’m still shooting for this year. Also patterns for the soldier doll, more clothes for the elegant rag doll  and a new botanical are in the works.

textile owls and birds in progress

And finishing other almost done stuff feels like a good way to end this weird year. For me that starts with making piles and gathering the supplies I need to finish. Also known as tricking myself into starting. The tiny bit of progress gets my wheels turning.

rag doll parts on my worktable

There was a big box of elegant rag doll parts and semi-done samples made for shooting the pattern. Naked and not naked ladies are emerging. I’ll start putting them (and anything else that makes it across the finish line) in the shop soon.

elegant and nude rag dolls

 What are you stitching this November? Are you mending? Making holiday stuff? I’ve got some gift an ornament stuff going too and  I’ll show you next week.  And check out this raccoon!  It’s genius! Made by @erinpcf from the very nice mice pattern with very clever modifications. I love him.

tiny felt raccoon made form the very nice mice pattern

shop news:

tiny rag doll sewing kit

Tiny rag doll and mr. socks kits are back in stock. And the stitch paintings are available again too including two new designs!

embroidery - blue rooster stitch painting

embroidery - bird stitch painting

8 ideas for your scraps : the autumn scrap festival and swap

scrap sewing projects

scrap sewing projects

It’s officially cozy season and I’m comin’ in hot, in full Autumnal mode. I’ve got a spooky book, scraps in warm fall shades for hexies, wool and felt to bundle up littles and another brand new free pattern for you, it’s perfect for scraps. Plus I’ve scoured the internet for a few more awesome scrap projects for you.

*This post contains an affiliate link marked with an asterisk –  I get a small commission  if you purchase through the link.

And a swap! By popular demand we are having an autumn scrap swap – the rules and details are pretty much the same as the spring.

Find the rules, signup link and the “don’t make me turn this car around” speech right here.

*The swap is full and signups are closed

 

burnt offerings by Robert Marasco

Let’s talk about the *spooky book – a classic haunted house situation. It was recommended by a friend with excellent taste last year and I finally got around to it this year. I’m enjoying it immensely (about ¾ of the way through). Besides being spooky it’s set in the 70’s in New York which I love.

Back to the scraps:

There are tons of scrap appropriate projects in my free pattern collection the most recent being:

1. the minimalist chicken

2. slow stitch fish

3.  Another favorite for this time of year are the trees – I’m working on  a little group now.

stuffed pine tree sewing pattern

A few more awesome scrap projects for you:

hand stitched merit badges diy

4. merit badges – who doesn’t need a charming acknowledgment of their accomplishments  – big and small. I can think of all sorts of interesting contemporary categories like – great job putting on pants today…

5. reversible patchwork bag – it’s adorable and the tutorial is great. I’m a big fan of project bags and patchwork so it’s a double winner for me – plus you could keep scraps in it.

6. For your bigger scraps – a sweet multi pocket apron.  You can never have enough pockets.

nostagi christmas light ornament diy

7. nostalgic christmas lights – It’s not too early!  Especially if you’re making stuff for gifts. Man these are sweet and nostalgic. The tutorial is great and they are super easy to make.

8. A super simple and charming quilt. I love this and have started cutting rectangles. I’m not sure if I’ll quilt and bind it or use it as a duvet. I love the way the rectangles look and the simplicity of construction – strips of varying width but the same length.

Do you have a favorite scrap project, awesome spooky book  or a seasonal indulgence to share? Please leave it in the comments!

Till soon,

ann

the somewhat weekly newsletter

Do you get my free weekly-ish newsletter? There are tips and tricks, ideas, stuff to try, all the latest news and blogposts and extra stuff, just for subscribers, delivered mostly on Friday. Pretty much.


scrap project ideas

chicken ornament : free sewing pattern

fabric scrap chicken ornaments

fabric scrap chicken ornaments

Let’s make minimalist chickens. They are quick and easy and the sort of thing you can make in batches. I bet you know at least a dozen people who need a chicken ornament. Stuff them with wool or something that smells good, they are a sweet and silly surprise either way.

The idea for them turned up in my sketchbook and then bounced back and forth between drawing and sewing as many things do for me in the percolation phase. As the design became increasingly simple I was more and more happy with it. The little legs especially make them expressive and animated. I used laundry starch to stiffen them so I could get just what I wanted.
You just need scraps (stay tuned for scrap swap news later this week) and a few other things to get started.

**download the pattern**

You will also need:

  • fabric scraps – light cotton or linen
  • felt (I like wool felt)
  • embroidery thread
  • glue stick
  • stuffing
  • a basic sewing kit
  • pencil

1. Pin the body pattern to 2 layers of fabric with the right sides together. Mark the seam line lightly in pencil. Cut out the three small parts from felt. Pin the body pieces – right sides together – near the tail end.

2. Fold back the front of the top body piece.

3. Add a tiny bit of glue to the edge of the beak and waddle felt pieces and place on the body fabric exactly as shown – note that there is a little empty space above the beak.

4. Fold the top body piece back down and pin in place. Stitch just the bottom curved seam. Place the felt comb piece as shown above the body.

inserting the felt comb

5. Insert the felt comb between the layers – placing it exactly as shown – note the little triangle of space between the comb and beak.

6. Stitch the top seams leaving the center open.

7. Clip little triangle notches around the curved seam and clip  off seam allowance  the corners. Be careful not to clip the seam.

8. Use your chopstick to turn the chicken right side out.

9. Stuff the body.

10. Make a loop with embroidery thread and knot.

11. Fold the edges of the body opening in and begin to whipstitch closed. As you are closing the opening insert the loop tails with the knot just inside the folded edges and stitch it in place.

embroidering details

12. You might find this method for hiding your knots helpful for embroidering the details. I added an X on each side for eyes.  Small buttons would be sweet too. Make a few stitches for the wings on each side. For the tail I stitched through both sides with straight stitches.

13. For the legs make a knot about two inches from the end of a length of embroidery thread. Make a tiny stitch in the seam about 2 and 1/2 inches from the point of the tail and pull until the knot catches.

14. Put the needle back in and come out about 1/2 inch away in the seam towards the head.  Make a tiny knot.

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lucky fish : slow stitch project

slow stitch scrap fish diy

slow stitch scrap fish diy

Who doesn’t need some luck? Plus these very simple fish are pulling me out of slushy, stubborn stuckness.

One thing leads to another, if you let it, but first you need to start. Where I really started was ironing, ironing scraps. It went on my to do list because it was an easy win (I felt like doing it). And I had saved a couple bundles of scraps, each sent by a friend, to sort and iron pre-move.

slow stitch fabric fish diy

As I ironed and sorted by color the wheels started to turn and I felt a strong and persistent spiritual directive to slow stitch some fish.

Maybe you feel like stitching some fish too. Let it be a meandering process, try stuff. Let one thing lead to another.

** DOWNLOAD THE FISH TEMPLATE **

You will also need:

  • fabric scraps – light cotton or linen
  • little scraps, buttons lace for embellishing
  • stuffing
  • a basic sewing kit
  • pencil

cutting out fabric fish shape

1. Pin the pattern to 2 layers of light cotton fabric – right sides of the fabric together – and cut out. Be sure to clip out the little triangle notches.

2. Mark the seam line lightly in pencil.

3. Stitch the seam by hand or machine, leaving open between the notches. Find hand sewing tips here. 

4.  Clip notches around the curves and clip off the points at the nose and tail. Be careful not to clip the seam.

5. Use a chopstick to turn the fish right side out.

6.  Pro tip: use a plastic mechanical pencil to push out the corners – retract the lead first.

7. Stuff your fish.

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hand sewing tips

As chill and relaxing as hand sewing can be, something not turning out right or completely falling apart after hours and hours of work sure is frustrating. I asked the somewhat weekly newsletter subscribers a question last week – are you a beginner and if so what sorts of questions do you have? The most common answer was about basic stitching. From non beginners too. In fact most people who responded were not beginners. It has also been a question at every single workshop I’ve ever taught.

I have a strong opinion on hand sewing: small is the way to go. Really small, between 1/16th and 1/8th inch stitch length. Definitely no bigger than 1/8th. The gaps between the stitches too – smaller than 1/8th. I hope we’re still friends…

A few other tips to set yourself up for success:

*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission if you purchase though the link. Affiliate links are marked with as asterisk.

Don’t be in a hurry – take a meditative approach. And practice helps a lot.

Have adequate light.

Mark your seam line – lightly in pencil or with a disappearing marker.

Use a good needle. I like size 9 -11 for basic sewing. *John James is a good brand and easy to find.

Thread – historically I’ve been kind of a slob about it – whatever’s around.  I think cotton is best and recently I tried  *Aurifil and it is fantastic.  And don’t use a super long length of thread – it’s tempting to avoid having to stop and rethread but it will tangle and slow you down.

Secure knots are important – more on that below.

Let’s practice on a simple shape

I’m using the heart from the free needle book pattern.  Use any simple shape you like. We will also turn and stuff the heart to demonstrate a couple more tips.

fabric heart with seam line drawn on

Before you start sewing mark the seam line clearly on your fabric, It helps immensely. Especially when you are sewing small items – the margin of error is small. Also besides large and loose stitches wandering away from the seam line is the biggest reason for hand stitching failing explosively and who wants an explosive failure?

making the knot

Solid knots are key to success! So is the thread length. Cut a length of about 16 inches. Longer thread will tangle.

1. Thread your needle and double the end of the thread.

2. Tie a knot in the doubled end.

3. Pull the ends down and clip  most of the ends – leaving just a little.

4. Bring the needle up through the fabric.  To make extra sure your stitches don’t pull out knot the first stitch – make a very tiny stitch and put your needle through the loop before you tighten it.

5. Tighten the knot. Put the needle in about 1/16th inch away to begin the next stitch.

6. Notice that I’m bringing the needle through the fabric from the top.

7. And then back up from the bottom.

multiple stitches at the same time on the needle

8. As opposed to weaving the needle through to take multiple stitches at once. This is a controversial point. The multiple stitches method goes faster. A lot faster. But the result is, in my opinion, looser and less consistent. I use it for decorative stitching but never when I’m joining layers of fabric.

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