Monthly Sewing Update December 2019

The last month of the year is often associated with finishing and endings. However, this month we had a broody chicken and she hatched ten chicks. This is the first clutch of chicks for our chickens, so for me, December 2019 will always be associated with a new start.

Wendy and chicks 2.jpg

In this post, I’ll update you what about all the creative projects I’ve worked on in November and December. I won’t reflect on the new year because I do that on my birthday in November.

I will mention one goal in the conclusion though because sometimes it is good to make a headstart with good intentions to avoid the rush in January.

New quilt or embroidery projects

Quilted kitenge fabric pillows

This month I worked on quilted pillows made with a combination of Kitenge fabric and solids. Kitenge is a fabric popular among places in East-Africa and thus also Kenya where I live now. In the picture, you see three of them. More information about how to make them and the patterns I used will follow in a post later this month.

All the fabrics used are sourced from tailors. Tailors are a great place to get cheap materials and also to turn waste into something valuable. I’ve talked before about more environmentally friendly ways to find materials in the post below:

Quilted Kitenge fabric pillows
Quilted Kitenge fabric pillows

Kitenge quilted baby blanket

The wife of one of my friends is pregnant. My mother has as traditional to quilt a baby blanket for people and I want to honour that tradition. My blanket is going to be bigger than hers because it is more practical to give people something to carry their baby around in.

Quilted Kitenge baby blanket
Quilted Kitenge baby blanket

Progress ongoing quilt and embroidery projects

Dear Jane Sampler quilt

Behold … ,

Top five rows Dear Jane quilt sampler

… this month I finished the top five rows of my Dear Jane Quilt! It is amazing to see all the quilt blocks come together like this. And this is not everything: this month I’ve also finished 129 of the 169 square middle blocks of this quilt. This means the middle blocks are more than three quarters done. A post will follow to celebrate that occasion. For now, I’ll present the post where I detail about the five rows milestone.

Quilting of the Kenyan quilt

The Kentan quilt is another one of my long-term projects. The quilt top is done and now I am hand quilting it. If you do a little bit every month it’ll be done before you know it.

Foundation piecing Kenyan inspired quilt

Yes, I am making another Kenyan quilt. This is going to be made with foundation paper piecing (FPP). Also, I will design most of the patterns myself inspired by elements that fit with my Kenya experience. The block below is made with a pattern by Amarar Creacions. She has a lot of interesting FFP patterns with animals.

Foundation piecing origami bird quilt block

Stained glass cross stitch dragon

Before I started this cross stitch project I had been eyeing it for months. Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I finish the dragon’s head this month! The pattern is made by the always lovely and amazing Pinkythepink.

Hot air balloons cross stitch

There was some progress on this piece as well this month. Not a lot of progress though, so we can play a game: do you spot the difference between the two pictures below?

The pursuit to finish very old projects

The project on the picture below I started a long time ago. The plan was to create a night scenery with a figure who is stargazing.  That plan is still alive, however, I stumbled on execution. Most of my quilt designs are abstract. This means that more realistic scenery is a challenge. I am sure I will think of a way to finish this one eventually though. Sometimes it simply takes longer for a quilt to be born.  This quilt hangs on my wall for me to find inspiration to finish it in the next year.

  • What do you do when you are stuck on a project?


Conclusion: beginning early to fulfil the scariest goals

Although I said I would not reflect on the next year, I am going to do it anyway. Often when I have an idea or plan to further my goals and dreams I struggle to execute it because of fear. It is some kind of self-sabotage that freezes my body and mind and makes me unable to do anything. However, I’ve also noticed that fear gets less when I talk about my plans and find a way to execute them step by step.

My big dream is to become a fabric artist and to inspire people to pick up embroidery or quilting through my work. One day I would like to pursue teaching as well and selling some of my work. For that, I need to be more active in social media. If nobody sees your work it is impossible to inspire people. Also, I think it is good to add my positive voice of making beautiful items out of discarded materials to all the voices telling us to consume more and more. Therefore a facebook page where I share my art is a good next move.

I haven’t started one yet though because of the fear I mentioned. It is partly a fear of failure and partly a fear of ridicule. Both are unlikely to be true because I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback so far. Also, failure is unlikely when you set achievable goals and work towards them diligently. Fear of showing myself to the world has always been a part of me though. It took me more than a year to be comfortable sharing my blog with people and to be open about my passion for quilting and embroidery. Something I already talked about in this article:

So, to avoid spending even more time talking about it instead of doing it, here is the link to my facebook page:

I’d love it if you’d check it out and follow me. Also, any tips or feedback on how to run a facebook page is so much appreciated.

Some questions for you:

  1. Do you have a creative facebook page for me to follow?
  2. Which was your bravest creative achievement? How did you find the courage to go for your plans?
  3. What is something you want to do creative wise, but you haven’t found the courage for yet?
  4. Which social networks for creative people do you prefer? I have a website, Facebook, Instagram and DeviantArt and it would be good to know where people go so I know where to put my focus.

What have you missed?

Next week’s post:

  • Five lively Kitenge pillows to perk up your home

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

Storytime with a smart cross-stitch dragon, a clever upcycle and a theft

Like all good stories, this story has three elements. A book-loving dragon, a bookmark made with creativity and theft of something valuable, by the author even! And as all good fairytales, there might be redemption at the end when the bad person shows remorse. If she doesn’t there will be a bloody ending.  Come, open this book with me, and listen to my story.


Materials used for the cross stitch bookmark

This bookmark is made from two rose cross stitch kits I got at the second-hand store. They are the packages on the left in the picture below. The pattern was confusing to me and somehow the kits included a whole variety of colours which were not in the pattern, so I decided to do my own thing. I buy a lot of cross stitch kits at second-hand stores because even if you don’t like the pattern, they are a great cheap way to get materials for. I wrote a whole post with tips on how to find cheap materials for quilting and embroidery:


The cross stitch pattern and a confession

It is time for my confession of the theft.

I found the pattern of the reading dragon on Pinterest for free. And when I say free, I mean that somebody put it there who had no rights over the pattern. At that time I was young and inexperienced and I saw it as a great opportunity to have a free dragon pattern. I should have known better of course. There are after all sites such as Tineye and Google Reverse Image Search which allow you to search for the source of images,  but I did not. When I started with my fabric art I wasn’t conscious yet about the importance of supporting artists and designers. Only when I started to pursue a creative career myself I realized how vital it is to pay for patterns with either money, recognition or both.

The designer of the pattern spends hours on it and a big chunk of her or his creativity. Not even all artists ask for money for their patterns, but it is still important to name them and link back to their respective pages when you use a pattern. It is incredibly discouraging when your work is stolen by someone else to flaunt. Pinterest is a good place to find inspiration for your artwork. Especially their function to search for particular words or key phrases has helped me out many times. However, Pinterest is a particularly bad place to find patterns, because often the images don’t link back to the source.  Instead, the images come from websites displaying large quantities of stolen patterns and artwork. Each time it turned out I had used a stolen pattern I got them from Pinterest. To not discourage you completely I’ll share some great places to find patterns at the bottom of this post.

I hope by sharing my story,  and how I prevented further mistakes, I’ll encourage you to be more conscious about the patterns you use and where you get them. It does not take a lot of time to find the original artist and compensate them for the work they’ve done. Especially if you compare it to the time spent in making the item. At any rate, most patterns these days are not expensive at all anyhow. Also, buying and sewing a pattern from a small designer often means you made a new friend because they will follow your updates with much enthusiasm and encouragement. And who doesn’t want a new friend?!

Sadly, in the case of the pattern of the reading dragon, I haven’t found the original yet. Therefore, I also can’t share the pattern. Once I do I will pay for it retroactively (please tell me if you know where it is!). However, I have found the artist and I encourage you all to go to her website and facebook and admire her talent in designing cute dragons:

To end this unhappy tale I will share my interpretation of the reading dragon called Alfonse. I hope Alfonso brings you some cheer with his aura of highbrow intellectualism.



From cross-stitch to bookmark

In this section, I’ll tell you how to turn the cross-stitch into a bookmark.

In the pictures above you can see, I added colourfull lines on both sides of Alfonse. Those side-pieces form the back by stitching them together. To do that you fold the piece in half with the right sides inside as seen on the picture.  After that, you stitch the outer edge marked with the pins.

small part pinning.jpg

Next, you turn the cross stitch inside out, and voilá, it is almost done. Press the piece to give it a nice, flat look. This can either be done by an iron or a stack of heavy books, whatever is available. But since you are reading a post about a bookmark, the stack of books is most likely.

To finish the bookmark you have to fold the seams of the top and bottom inside. After that, close the top and bottom with a tiny whip-stitch or blanket stitch. Press again to make the bookmark look neat by pushing the fabric in the right shape, and done!

This technique is only one way to make a cross-stitch bookmark. Other options are using specific pre-finished bookmark fabric, sewing the stitch of fabric or glueing it on cardboard. The technique used depends on the look you want and the kind of cross stitch fabric you used. The technique in this article works best with stiff cross stitch fabric.

The end of the story


The confession of my theft and how I mended my ways are too important to clutter the conclusion of this post with other things. Don’t make the beginner mistakes I made now you know better. This post was my redemption, more posts about this topic will follow later. Some questions for you to end this post:

  • How do you make sure you get your patterns legally?
  • Where do you get an awesome cross-stitch, embroidery or quilting patterns?
  • Have you ever used a stolen pattern by accident? If so, what did you do once you found out?

Where can you go for patterns?

The most obvious and well-known place is Etsy. Etsy has a HUGE collection of artists from all over the world selling their particular creativity. However, Etsy is overwhelming when you don’t know where to look. You can join facebook groups with your particular craft or creative groups on other social media such as DeviantArt. You can join general groups or more specific ones with for example only snarky cross-stitch or only patterns by a specific designer. By seeing the work of other people you can find patterns you want to make for yourself or get to know new pattern designers to be a fan of. Most of the pattern designers have an Etsy shop or a personal website which you can look up once you are ready to buy a pattern.

If you already know which kind of pattern you are looking for Instagram is the place to go. With Instagram, you can search using specific keywords. Those keywords can be as broad as #crossstitch and as specific as #rainbowcrossstitch. Also in themes, styles and disposition, there is something for everyone.  It ranges from #kinkycrossstitch to #religiouscrossstitch. From angry stabby embroidery to heal a broken heart to the soppiest eternal love cross stitch full of flowers and baskets with kittens and rainbows. I am sure that once you start looking you will have an evening of entertainment and tons of new ideas for patterns to make!

Would you like to know more?


See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

My birthday or wow what a year was 2019

It was my birthday on the 10th of November! – Happy birthday to me – Last year I wrote a post reflecting on the year that had gone by creative wise. I thought that’s a good habit to keep so here is my post for this year. The post is a bit delayed because I was on a holiday with my family and too busy laying in the ocean and too occupied relaxing to write. I’m sure you’ll all understand.

What kind of year did I have?

This year I spend most of my time in Kenya. First to finish my master studies and later because of love and to settle down in Kenya. I came back to Kenya for love, research and adventure. Read more about why I decided to come back here:

The settling down has gone very fast because I’ve been in Kenya for three months, and we already have nine chickens and I’m working on a baby quilt for a friend.


My quilts of 2019

The first exhibition: Look Behind the Lines mini quilt

This year one of my quilts participated in a Dutch quilting exhibition. I’m very proud of the quilt I send in because it is one of my first pieces with a meaning behind it. Also, the process of exhibiting the quilt and visiting to see my quilt and those of my quilting friends made me reflect about sharing your own work. I wrote a blog post to honour the occasion:

Look behind the lines mini quilt
Look behind the lines mini quilt

Picknick blanket scrap quilt

One of the quilts I finished this year. I have some people in mind who should get this quilt, but it will be a while before I can get it to then. Until then, it will adorn my parents’ living room. So many scraps were used in this quilt, as I explain in the post below. The quilting is done by hand with glow-in-the-dark thread. However, it is unfortunately not visible in the dark. Does anyone have experience using glow-in-the-dark thread successfully?

scrap quilt af 40% cut

The Kenyan Quilt

This is the quilt I started the first time I moved to Kenya. It is made completely out of fabrics I got there. Now I am back I am in the process of hand quilting this piece to finish it. It is a nice way to tie both my Kenya journeys together.

Kenyan quilt block finished
Kenyan quilt block finished

The piece below shows what you can do with leftover blocks from your quilt! This is going to be a small blanket or scarf once it’s quilted.

Crazy quilt blanket
Crazy quilt blanket

Nearly Insane Machine Sampler Quilt

This quilt is designed by Liz Lois based on Salinda Rupp’s original quilt. In between my two stays in Kenya, I worked a lot on this quilt. And although I didn’t finish this quilt I did make a lot of progress! The motivation to finish this quilt grew especially when I started putting the blocks together using the Quilt-as-You-Go method. This quilting technique allows you to put blocks together as soon as you finish a block instead of having to wait until all the blocks are done. I hope to finish this quilt when I visit the Netherlands sometime.


The Dear Jane Hand Quilting Sampler Quilt

This is by far the biggest quilting project in my life so far. Dear Jane is a sampler quilt based on an original quilt made by Jane Stickle during the Civil War. Brenda Papadakis made patterns out of the more than 200 blocks of the quilt. Now, Dear Jane is seen as the ultimate proof of skill upon completion by quilters. Therefore, I started this quilt to teach myself to quilt by hand. My reasoning is that once I have completed this Dear Jane quilt I can call myself a skilled hand quilter. By now, I have finished almost half of the blocks and assembled a part of them. You can follow my progress by reading one of the many blog posts I have written about this quilt so far.

Click this link to see all the Dear Jane related posts:


Tutorial: How to make your own awesome star quilt

One of my goals is to one day become a quilting teacher. To get there, I am writing this blog and I also enjoy writing tutorials. This year I finished a tutorial to make your own star quilt.

Part 1: Quilt tutorial: How to make a patchwork star

Part 2: Quilt tutorial: How to finish your star quilt

Star patchwork quilt block tutorial

Lastly: new beginnings with Kitenge and Kenyan fabric quilts

Here are some examples of other quilting projects I am working on made with Kenyan fabrics.

Embroidery and Cross Stitch of 2019

Death of Discworld cross stitch

This cross stitch is for an art trade. I made this cross stitch and get awesome crochet dragon gloves in return.

complete bewerkt

Bukowski Biscornu Cross Stitch

This was made for a competition where the prompt was to make something embodying positivity to you. I didn’t win, unfortunately, but I am very proud of the result nonetheless.

compilation picture.png

The cross stitch design is based on and inspired by this poem:

Crewel embroidery landscape

One of my goals this year was to learn how to make crewel embroidery. I bought a pattern by Sol Y Mano study to practice and the result is below. It turns out that crewel embroidery is tricky, especially to remember all the different stitches. However, I really love complicated embroidery pieces so I will keep on practising and developing this skill. Embroidery is like painting with thread and I love that idea.


Coat of Many Colours embroidery patch

The piece below is one of those places I’m developing my embroidery skills. This is going to be a patch for my man who is an MC and artist. He has a special connection with the Dolly Parton song ‘Coat of Many Colours’ on which this design is based. To keep true to the idea of a patchwork coat I am using leftover floss from previous embroidery projects.


Any one colour running cross stitch design

This piece was finished more than a year ago for another competition. However, I wrote a post about it this year so it fits in this post. In the post, I talk about my design process from idea to drawing to the finished piece.

Other projects of mine 

Other topics I wrote about

These stories fall under the category Artisan Life on my website.

Other websites of mine

I started a writing website to share my experiences of living abroad and to show-case my short stories.

Another website I am working on is focused on music, especially sharing music from all over the world. More about that project later.

Conclusion: plans for the new year

How am I doing?

Better and better! The past year I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching and looking at how my life has been functioning so far. I realized that I spend a lot of my time feeling stressed and anxious. Not for any particular reason, but more because of insecurity and worrying about other people’s opinion. This stress has stopped me from doing a lot of things I wanted to or should have done. Projects I didn’t dare to execute, people I didn’t have the confidence to befriend or people I didn’t help because I thought I was somehow wrong about what to do. The past year I’ve started the process of calming down and focusing more on my own life and goals, and I’ve noticed the more I focus on my own goals and values the calmer and more confident I feel! I wrote a bit more about this process in one of my Monthly Updates:

Goals for this new year:

  1. Worry less and grow confidence.
  2. Focus on my own projects and building a life that suits me.
  3. Continue to learn embroidery and crewelwork.
  4. Make and sell bags with Kenyan fabric.

Now to end this post with some questions for you:

  1. Do you set periodical goals for yourself? If you, would you like to share some of them?
  2. What is your proudest achievement this year?
  3. What are the methods you use to feel calm and secure in life?
  4. What kind of posts of mine do you like most and would you like to see more of?

Next week’s post: HQAL update with the Dear Jane Quilt! (big finishes)

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

Monthly Sewing Update Oktober 2019

This Monthly Sewing Update is all about organization and finding your focus. I lost my focus after finishing my master thesis in July. After that, I moved to Kenya to build a life there. Also, I was a student for more than seven years and it is strange to not be anymore. As a student, it is easy to decide what you have to do because there is always an assignment, a test or a thesis to focus on. Also, you get gratification you get from the grades you get. When you are no longer a student gratification and motivation to work on projects, and most of all focus, has to come from somewhere else.

The past few weeks my posting schedule has been irregular because I was figuring out what to focus on next. One of the things I’ll keep my focus on is this website and my artistic career. I will switch focus towards articles about sustainable ways to execute your fabric art and inspirational articles about techniques and amazing fabric art by other people. In this way, I aim to motivate people to start quilting or embroidering for themselves in a sustainable way. Fabric art has brought me a lot of good in mental health and self-esteem and I want to transfer that to other people!

In this article, I’ll show you the projects I’ve worked on this October and I’ll tell you a bit about what’s going on in my life in Kenya. I got a lot of new Kenyan fabric, so the two things are related.  Last month I published two posts, one monthly sewing update and an article about finding materials for quilting and embroidery in an environmentally friendly way.

Inktober 2019

This is not quilting or embroidery, but because it’s my first year joining Inktober I’m going to talk about it. It is my goal to learn how to draw this year so pattern design becomes easier. Inktober was the perfect opportunity for me to start with that goal. Here are two examples of my Inktober quest: Day 15 legend and day 16 wild. See all my Inktober drawings on my DeviantArt profile: Bella Inktober 2019. I can proudly admit that I finished this years’ Inktober. It was a lot of fun.

Coat of many colours embroidery patch

The stitches in the coat are finished and my boyfriend loves it so far. Now I have to decide if I will stick to only the coat, or if I add some background to the embroidery. My man is an MC and artist and he wanted something with his artistic name, Jessey Baby. However, it depends on whether I can make the design work. This piece is based on the Dolly Parton song ‘Coat of Many Colours‘, which is about a patchwork coat. To symbolize the sentiment behind the song I used leftover floss from embroidery projects.


Positivity contest: Colourful cross stitch biscornu

There is a contest on DeviantArt with as prompt: make something that makes you happy. I love colourfull art and birds, so here you go. I am designing this piece as I go. The next step is to think of a good quote which will lift people’s spirit which isn’t cheesy. Does anyone have any recommendations? The deadline is for the 10th of November, my birthday, so I’ll report back next Monthly Sewing Update!


Dear Jane hand quilting sampler

This is one of my long-term projects, meaning that I plan to finish my Dear Jane quilt in 10 years. Considering I am quilting this one by hand and that there are more than 200 of the blocks you see here, that is not a pessimistic estimate. I am two years in and have finished 115 blocks so far. I also write about the Dear Jane blocks I finish. You can find the posts and more information about the Dear Jane Sampler Quilt here:

Kenyan quilt

I started this quilt the first time I came to Kenya. Now I am back  I work on hand quilting this amazing project. I finished about 1/15th of the hand quilting so far. Read more about the Kenyan quilt and to see the finished top here:



One of the nicest things that happened this month is that we got a bookcase! A home is only complete with a bookcase. This bookcase helped me to sort my quilting and embroidery supplies. Sorting my supplies has helped so much to have a clear mind and to figure out which projects I should be working on!  You can see that some of my embroidery projects have also found their way outside the bookcase. I swear quilting and embroidery materials fly in at night into your home without anyone knowing!

A bookcase compliments every decord

That was my month. I hope your month was equally nice and filled with wonderful colourful projects. I’m especially pleased with my new bookcase and my steps towards having a more organized and focused life. Some questions for you:

  • How many projects can you work on at a time without losing the plot?
  • What is your best organization post?

Would you like to know more?

Next week’s post:

– An update hand quilting the Kenyan quilt

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

How to get good materials for quilting and embroidery creatively and cheap

line shrunk

The most obvious place to find supplies for quilting, embroidery and sewing is, of course, the quilt or embroidery shop. Those shops are either brick and mortar stores or online. However, there are many alternative ways to get supplies for quilting or embroidery. In this article will tell you about four of them:

  1. Befriend a tailor or dressmaker.
  2. Second-hand stores.
  3. Give away groups.
  4. Old clothes and other leftover materials.

I depend mainly on the options I’ve mentioned above. I don’t want to discourage you from going to official stores. Especially the small-scale indie designers do great things for the creative industry to keep it fresh and lively -I will dedicate an article to my favourites later. However, there are many reasons why it is sometimes better to find alternative ways to get supplies:

  • The environment: Every new item we buy needs to be made and requires resources to do so. It is better to use materials that are already created, be it second-hand materials or materials which had a different use before like clothes. This also prevents more waste from going to the landfill or waste incinerators.
  • Budget: Buying from specialist shops can be expensive. It is possible to find high-quality material cheaper if you learn how to look for it.
  • Creativity: Working with a limiting range of materials you cannot influence a hundred per cent triggers creative thinking. Also, I love that each piece becomes unique because you cannot buy the same materials time and time again.

I’ll discuss each alternative option below with some examples of my work. In that way, I want to motivate you to try alternative ways for yourself. It makes the whole creative process less predictable and controllable, and to me, that is part of the fun. And most importantly: it makes our beloved crafts more sustainable.

1. Befriend a Tailor or dressmaker

When I lived in Kenya for the first time in September 2018 I build my fabric stash with scraps from a tailor. At first, they gave me a long and strange look the first time I came round asking for their scraps. However, they gave me what they had and I showed them my work and both parties were happy.  When I came home to unpack my scraps I discovered that scraps might not be the right word. Some of the pieces they gave me were HUGE. Most of the fabrics in my Kenyan quilt are from that tailor. Also, there were enough leftovers to give my mother as a souvenir.

Kenyan quilt block finished
Kenyan quilt block finished

Currently, I am living in Kenya again, and I am doing the same trick with tailors to build a fabric stash again. However, this time I am using different tailors to get more of the African kitenge fabrics. You can see some of my loot in the picture on top. The picture below will give you an idea of how many scraps I already got. I’m planning a paper-piecing quilt with the fabrics and also the Bible Sampler Quilt by Laurie Aaron Hird, creator of the Farmer’s Wife Sampler Quilt, with these fabrics. It will look amazing and colourful. And something says me my mother will be interested in these fabrics as well…

A treasure chest bag of scraps
A treasure chest bag of scraps

The added benefit of getting fabrics through other creative people is that you will make friends. The last batch of fabrics I got through a new friend who makes souvenirs from kitenge scraps. Also in my experience, tailors love to see what you do with the scraps they give you which gives you a perfect reason to visit them again to check on their scraps. You don’t have to only focus on professions though, you can also ask hobbyists. I’ve seen many people in clothes sewing facebook groups wondering what to do with their scraps. You can do the honourable thing and relieve them of that problem.

2. Second-hand Stores

I love second-hand stores! They have such amazing potential to find the unexpected and awesome both in cloths and crafting materials. Plus, those stores are habituated by friendly old ladies which make you instantly feel at home (at least mine where). The start of my first fabric stash, both for sewing and cross stitch is from second-hand stores. Also, I got many cross stitch kits and finished embroidery pieces from those stories, which can be used in so many amazing ways. One example of that is the dragon bookmark you see below.  This dragon is created from a pattern I found online. and two cross stitch kits with a rose pattern. I didn’t like the rose pattern, so I used the floss and fabric to create something else. I’ll write a detailed post about this process later.


Finished embroidery pieces add a nice original touch to sewn projects. And since I don’t have the time to embroider the number of pieces I’d like to use, I also save finished pieces from second-hand stores, because it makes me sad to see that something somebody has spent months or years to create ends up in the landfill. One thing I did with one of those saved pieces is making a small material bag:

30% cut 2
Embroidered material bag

Second-hand stores are an amazing source for materials, however, it depends on luck as well. I used to live close to a second-hand store which always had an amazing stock of fabric and embroidery materials. Which is interesting, because it was tiny. It felt as if all the old ladies in my old hometown were on a schedule to donate their materials so I could stumble upon it. Although, it is more likely that the manager of the shop knew embroidery materials sold well in that place, so all the national supply went to that particular branch. My tiny store was part of a chain of stores run for a good cause.

3. Give-Away Groups

Most of the giveaway groups I know are on Facebook. However, I also hear people getting materials from Craigslist and other websites. It serves to check local buying and selling groups and see what is available for free or a small price. I asked people for leftover fabrics and clothes in a local facebook group and got enough materials for more than two quilts! Creative people like to give stuff away because most of them have more materials in their homes than they can handle. My rally for materials ended in my first finished big quilt:

Finished scrap quilt
Finished scrap quilt

Also, sometimes your local quilt or embroidery guild gives away materials during meetings. At my local guild in the Netherlands, there is a table every meeting where people put fabrics and books they don’t want anymore. Members can take what they want and pay a price what they think is fair for the guild account. There, and second-hand stores, is where I got a lot of the fabric for my Dear Jane Quilt and my Nearly Insane Quilt.

Lastly, there is a specific cross stitch facebook group where you can offer a WIP you don’t want to finish anymore. This group is perfect for people who get stressed by all the WIPs they have, but they fell out of love with:

There are groups like this around for any kind of craft. Google and the search function will help you out here.

4. Old clothes and other discarded fabrics

The last way to get fabrics I want to discuss is using old clothes and fabrics. There is a particular style of quilt called a memory quilt where people use the clothes of persons as a memory to that person. This quilt I’m making for a friend is an example of that:

The big Quilt example
The big Quilt example

Beyond this kind of quilts, clothes are in general not considered as suitable quilting materials. I don’t agree with that though, because it all depends on picking the right clothes, knowing the right techniques and the end look for the quilt you’re going for. I love the challenge of making any kind of fabric work in a quilt. It gives the quilt an original look and it teaches you lots of sewing techniques and tricks on how to make unruly fabric behave. And using any kind of scrap fabric is the tradition were quilting comes from after all: in the older days, quilts were made from any old scrap people had.  The scrap quilt above has a lot of material from clothes, my Kenyan quilt has, and the quilts below are made from old clothes as well.

The most suitable clothes item is a shirt. Shirts can have amazing patterns, especially the funky shirts that are popular nowadays. Also, they are made from a non-stretchy material. The quilt below is made from shirts and ties. Ties are trickier to work with because the fabric is slippery, but nothing using a lot of pins cannot deal with. The shiny effect of the fabric compliments the shirt fabric nicely in this quilt below.

Folded finished pinwheel quilt

This bird tote bag is another example of what you can do with old shirts.

Geometric bird tote bag
Geometric bird tote bag

Beside old clothes, there are also other fabrics you can use for your sewing projects. The bag below I made from leftover curtain fabric from a friend. It was a strong fabric, which makes it suitable for a backpack. Especially because I like to carry around a lot of stuff. It was a fun thing that when I visited that friend to see how long it took people to see the similarities between his curtains and my bag. Jeans are also very popular to work with. My aunt makes amazing bags and pillows out of old jeans.

Finished penguin rucksack

Conclusion: And did you learn?!

Now, here are my suggestions to find quilting and embroidery fabric cheap. Now it is time for you to go out and to explore for yourself. Maybe you’ll save a tree by upcycling some long ago loved coats or you’ll keep the ocean a bit cleaner by using the forgotten cross stitch supplies of a neighbour. Anyhow, every little thing we do in our day to day life to reduce the number of resources we use and the amount of waste we create contributes to a better environment. And many small steps will add up into a big leap. Follow my blog to read more of this kind of articles in the future. Let me end this post with some questions for you:

  1. Which alternative ways to get materials do you use?
  2. Are there techniques you use to make your hobby more sustainable?
  3. Which of my alternatives inspired you most and why?
  4. Will you share some of your upcycled projects in the commentary sections?

Would you like to know more?

Melanie Brummer has created the Up-cycled cloth collective. She aims to motivate sewing people to re-use more materials and to buy less new materials.  In this way, the creative communities become more environmentally sustainable. Her global facebook group is a good place to start:

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.


Monthly Sewing Update: September 2019


This blog is about quilting, embroidery and sewing. However, there are also other things in my life. That is why my new chickens are on top of this post. Me and my boyfriend acquired six chickens so far, and I derive great pleasure out of observing them and trying to understand their chicken ways. It is especially funny to see their excitement when they get human food. Sadly, they only lay one egg every two days, so I need to have a stern conversation with them about that. The names of the chickens and cock are Claus, Katrien, Patricia, Henkie, Wendy and Jeanet.

Now I’ve introduced my chickens I can continue with the purpose of this post: showing what I’ve been up to this month creative wise.

Finished sewing projects

It always gives a sense of accomplishment to finish stuff. Here are my accomplishments of this month:

Maasai Fabric Laptop Case

Most of my work I do in cafes because that are the places with WIFI. However, my new laptop was getting damaged because of all the carrying around. That’s why I decided to create a laptop sleeve. I prefer to make my own stuff because you can make an item precisely the way you want to.

If you are interested in one of my laptops sleeves email me


Death of Discworld Cross Stitch

Death is a Discworld character and the quote is from the book Hogfather. It is about the importance of fantasy and believing in things. This YouTube video explains it all: Video. The pattern is made by Lyndisfarne Cross Stitch designs.

complete bewerkt

Projects I’m working on a lot

The Kenyan Quilt

I’m hand quilting this quilt and it’s progressing steadily.  I love the moon landscape effect in the picture below. The biggest benefit of hand quilting is that it gives you time to contemplate every part of the quilt, quilting it in the way most suited to the patchwork.


See the posts below for pictures of the quilt top and the quilt blocks:

A Coat of Many Colours Embroidery Patch

This is going to be an embroidered patch for my boyfriend. It is based on the Dolly Parton song ‘Coat of Many Colours’, which is one of his favourite songs. I am using left-over embroidery floss to keep the quilted feel of the coat in the song. The feature picture is a detail shot of this piece. I’m mainly using the satin embroidery stitch and the chain stitch. Find the song here: Coat of Many Colours.

coat update

Shards Of Fire Dragon Cross Stitch

This is a cross-stitch project I am making completely for myself. I love dragons and drama, so this was the perfect pattern for me. The pattern is made by Pinkythepink based on the original artwork by Euclidstriangle. The pattern uses a lot of special embroidery floss I had zero experience with before I started this project. That has made this cross stitch a fun challenge. I love experimenting with new things.

A Pillow Case Made from Recycled Materials

Alright, I admit that this is a boring picture. I am showing you this black pillow because of the plans I have with it! This pillow is made out of recycled materials, old clothes and unusable fabric scraps. I plan to make more pillows like this once I have more scrap fabric. Also, after I have gotten my nice African fabrics I will make pillowcases for the pillows to sell. This is in line with my philosophy to reduce waste and to create something beautiful or valuable out of waste.


The extreme long-term sewing projects

The projects below don’t have a clear finish date. I enjoy working on each of them now and then in the firm believe they will be done when they are done.

Dear Jane Sampler Quilt

This sampler quilt is for me to learn hand sewing and piecing techniques. I’ve been working on it for two years now and finished block 112th of the 169 middle squares.  Read more about this quilt in the link below. I also wrote a post about my Dear Jane quilt this month:

Hot Air Balloons Cross Stitch

This project is about one year old and now one corner of this cross stitch is finished! For the longest time, I was afraid this cross stitch kit would look hideous, but it doesn’t and I am happy. Seeing how the corner came together motivates me to keep working on this piece.


Conclusion: An abundance of projects

That’s it! Seeing all the projects I work on, you must believe I am rarely bored when surrounded by my projects. I do feel itching fingers when I am gone for a long time without anything to work on. That is usually the time I get a lot of story ideas. Another thing I’ve been working on this month is a website to share the stories I write (Bella G. Bear Writes). Stories are one way I can share my research finding in pastoralism and nature conservation and my experience living abroad with a wider audience. I believe research should be shared. Now, I have some questions for you.

  • What have you been up to this month?
  • How long can you go without working on a creative project?
  • Which of my projects do you want to see finished most?

What else have I been up to?

I like to use the Monthly Sewing update posts to also share a bit about my life. This month I went to the farm (shamba) of my boyfriends family. On that farm, I found a way to make myself useful. It has been long I used skills learned in all the years I was a scout. His grandmother was pleased with the firewood we cut for her.


Would you like to read more?

Next week’s post:

– The use and beauty of Sampler Quilts

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.




How to turn a drawing into a cross stitch piece: The any one colour design

Any one colour cross stitch design finished

This piece is originally made for a contest on Deviantart. The challenge of the contest was to only use one colour in a piece. Different shades of the colour was allowed. With this cross stitch piece, I taught myself how to use a drawing as a pattern, how to blend embroidery floss and how to use colours and design intuitively. In this post, I’ll explain to you how I did it, so you can learn as well. Cross stitch is a specific embroidery technique where you create a design by making Xs with embroidery thread.

From drawing to cross stitch: A running design


I always thought that a mandala would be a great basis for a cross stitch or embroidery design. This particular mandala caught my attention because I like trees and leaves. To get the design on the fabric the drawing was printed, cut out and traced around with a water-soluble pen.  As you can see, the finished embroidery piece is different from the drawing. I ran out of the dark green and my local craft shop also ran out and I was finishing close to the deadline so improvisation was necessary. I like how the design came out because not it looks like the piece is running away.

This piece is made on some kind of linen. This allowed me to play around with the positioning of the crosses to give the piece the organic feel a nature-inspired piece needs.

Any one colour cross stitch complete cross stitch

Blending embroidery threads

Bark detail any one colour cross stitch

Blending embroidery thread is a technique to create a shading effect in your embroidery pieces. Because I blended floss I could create the feel of many colours in this piece, while I only used three colours: a light green, a dark green and one in the middle. When you blend embroidery floss, instead of using two strands of the same colour floss you use one strand of each colour. The leaves are stitched with the two lightest threads and the bark with the two darker threads.

Intuitive cross stitch

In the picture below you can how I filled in the leaves. I started with the darkest colour, then added the blend, finishing up with the lightest colour. In this way, I could make sure the balance of colours in every leave was right. Not all the leaves are stitched the same to create an organic feel.  I didn’t have a clear plan while stitching but placed the stitches where they felt right. The bark of the branches is build up in the same way.  That is why I didn’t need a more precise pattern, I rather do what feels right in the moment. To work like this in an effective way the only thing I can say is to practise and make sure you stitch without many distractions so your creativity can flow.

Leaves detail any one colour cross stitch

Conclusion: the finished cross stitch

It’s always a fitting  to end a story about a cross stitch piece with a photo of the back because they have the fantastic name the ’embroidery butt’. As you can see, I don’t mind carrying thread for long distances so I don’t have to end and start my thread. It is advisable though when you use white cross stitch fabric and dark threads to not to that too much because you might see the thread behind the fabric. 

Any one colour cross stitch embroidery butt

This piece taught me that cross stitch has more variation opportunities than I thought. Cross stitch is not defined by the strict grid of Aida and you can break pretty much every rule or convention to come up with something creative. Some questions for you to end this post:

  • Which technique in this article did you like most?
  • Have you ever blended embroidery thread?
  • What is your favourite embroidery or cross stitch technique?

Would you like to know more?

Next week’s post:

–  Mixing quilting techniques in one block with the Dear Jane Quilt.

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

A Nearly Insane quilter quilting QAYG?

Is Nearly Insane a title I should give myself? I certainly do notice the taxing looks people throw me when I tell them about all my massive 10-year plans. You know the kind of plans that need yards and yards of aida, boxes of embroidery floss or quilts made out of 10.000 tiny pieces.  Insane… is what I hear their minds whisper. I would only accept the title Nearly Insane though because I don’t accept that ambition is equal to insanity. The Nearly Insane Sampler quilt is aptly named though, I’ll admit to that. This quilt made by Salinda Rupp, and which Liz Lois turned into a pattern has many small pieces in each block. The quilt consists of 99 different blocks in total, each having at least a 30 pieces and at most 200+. 

Why am I doing this to myself? Well, a woman has to learn her art in some way, and sampler quilts are a good way to learn quilting. Sampler quilts consist of many different blocks which allow you to practice different techniques in one quilt. I am making the nearly Insane quilt to build my machine piecing and quilting skills.

To assemble this quilt I use the Quilt As You Go technique, or QAYG. With this technique, you sew the blocks together after they are quilted. This is the other way around from the standard method where you first assemble the blocks before you sew through the three layers. The benefit of this technique is that you can start putting together your quilt before you’ve finished all your blocks. And I must say, seeing the direction this quilt is going, has motivated me so much to continue to work on it and finish the quilt soon!

This post is dedicated to showing you how the QAYG quilt technique works. If you want to read more about the Nearly Insane sampler quilt check this link:

Nearly insane quilt in the sun
Nearly insane quilt in the sun

Step 1: Make the quilt blocks

First, you need to sew blocks to put them together. For that, I am using the foundation paper piecing method where the fabric is sewn on a background. This is a great method to create neat quilt blocks with a lot of small pieces. Read more about the method here:

Nearly Insane quilt block 35
Nearly Insane quilt block 35

Step 2: Quilt the quilted blocks

Quilting sometimes has a too-limited vocabulary, using derivates of the word ‘quilt’ all over. In the second step, you put the batting and backing behind the quilt block. After that, you sew through the three layers, which we call quilting. You can do it in any pattern you want. It creates tiny soft cushions on your quilt blocks.

Nearly Insane quilt block 85
Nearly Insane quilt block 85

Step 3: Find border strips to put the quilt together

Say hello to the guest appearance of my Dear Jane quilt here!  For a long time, I was not sure which colour border strips I wanted to use. Then someone gave me the idea to use ‘any kind of flashy colour’.  So, instead of picking one, I went for all of them. I use solids to balance out all the flower fabric in the quilt, but also because I had a lot of solid fabrics I use for my Dear Jane quilt.

It is nice to use Dear Jane fabric in this quilt to connect the two samplers I’m making. Each is meant to teach me a skill: hand quilting and machine quilting. After finished these quilts I will consider myself fairly accomplished in basic quilting skills. So both in use and fabrics, they will be connected now. To connect the Dear Jane Quilt with the Nearly Insane I plan to use the same backing fabric. I bought all of the available fabric in a second-hand shop because I thought it was pretty. Now, it’s purpose has materialized. Read about my Dear Jane hand sampler quilt here:

The many colours border strips
The many colours border strips

Step 4: Put together the quilt blocks

Two border strips are used to connect the blocks. One at the front and one at the back.  When the quilt is finished you get a pattern like on the picture above.

  1. First, you sew the two strips to a block
  2. Then you pin and sew the second block so when you flip it over it looks like the second picture
  3. The last step is to fold in the edge of the other border strip as you do when sewing down the border. This you can either stitch down with an invisible stitch or with a machine. If you sew it by machine you will see a line on the front of the quilt.

Quilt as you go intimidated me a lot before I gave it a try. This youtube movie from the Gourmetquilter helped me to make sense of it:

Step 4: Admire your results

The most important part of every quilt process is to sit back, drape your finished quilt parts over something. and enjoy the pleasing sight of your own work.

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Conclusion: is QAYG the technique for you?

Have you ever tried the QAYG technique? It really intimidated me at first, but once I had the first four blocks or so together it started to become routine. Some questions for you:

  1. Do you prefer hand or machine quilting?
  2. How do you assemble your quilt blocks
  3. Are you a bright colour person or more calm?

Would you like to know more?

Next week’s post: Kenyan quilt update!

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

Monthly Sewing Update: May 2019

This month I finished my 100th Dear Jane quilt block! Also, I put my Kenyan quilt together, finished the literature draft of my thesis, wrote some stories, had a bachelorette party and helped my brother move. All in all a good and busy month. I hope yours has been great as well. Follow my creative exploits in this story and see the posts you missed this month at the end.

Another thing is that I saw my quilting group this month and they helped me to bast the borders of my Kenyan quilt. Always nice to have some helpers at hand for those kinds of jobs


The Kenyan quilt

The quilt top is together! But I won’t show you until next week when I’ll write an update about the Kenyan quilt. The top is so pretty though so it’s worth the wait. In the picture below you see a preview of the part I’ve already quilted. I am quilting this quilt by hand and loving the process so far. Read more about the Kenyan quilt here:


Crewel embroidery

This piece is finished! Somehow I did not see that coming. Once I planned to border the round shape with embroidery work mimicking the Maasai blankets people wear in Kenya. You see in the picture the Maasai blanket which inspired this idea worn by a lovely man. However, the first corner took me forever, so I gave up. I persevered though while giving it a less dainty look, you can guess in which corner I started, to speed up the process. The embroidery piece is finished now and I am very happy with it! This is a practice piece because I’ve always wanted to learn embroidery. I am sure more pieces will follow. I love how it’s like painting with yarn.



Nearly Insane sampler quilt

Because I use the Quilt-as-you-go quilting technique I can assemble the quilt while not all the blocks are finished yet. I was very impatient and eager to see how the blocks would work together. I am very happy I did start to put this quilt together because seeing how it looks motivates me a lot to continue. It’s so pretty and the bright colours with the greyish blue background fabric really make it a cheerful quilt. It makes me so happy to look at it and contemplating sleeping under it one day. See this post if you want to know what the Nearly Insane sampler quilt is:

NI cut and shrunk

Tanzanian fabric bag

This is made with an old souvenir I gave my grandpa from Tanzania. I was there about 10 years ago. He gave the artwork back because he has other stuff to put on his walls, my grandfather is a very practical man. My experiment was to make a tote bag out of it without using additional fabric. And it worked! My mother kept saying how simple this idea is with a surprised expression. I’ll write a post or pattern of this piece of sewing ingenuity soon so everyone can learn.

When I sell this bag I will use the tagline  ‘Also nice with a cat’.




This month I hope to do a lot of cross stitching on old projects I want to finish. There’s this crazy masochistic group on facebook who strives to do 24hours of cross stitch once in a while. I like those kinds of challenges and want to participate in June’s edition. They also have an extra challenge for June where you have to work on some project for a set amount of time or stitches. There are a lot of small cross stitch projects I want to finish, so this challenge is perfect to motivate me to actually sit down and stitch them. The project below is not small, but a project I really want to work on as well. It’s an Unconventional Xstitch pattern. See the Facebook group here: #24hoursofcrossstitch.

colossal octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort and UXS
colossal octopus by Pierre Denys de Montfort and UXS

This is the end

Well, of this post not of the world. I hope not at least. How was your month? I hope just as filled with creativity and great works as mine. Some questions:

  1. What did you work on this month? Please link a blog post or something if you want and I’ll check it out! I am always looking for more creative people to follow.
  2. Did you ever change your creative plan to finish quicker?
  3. What are your plans for the coming month?

Posts you might have missed this month/ missed posts

This month I will write about:

  • A Kenyan quilt update
  • Dear Jane colours: white with shock
  • Tanzanian fabric bag: how to make your own tote bag

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.

When and how to quit a quilt

Sometimes things don’t work out. That happens in life and love, but also in quilt design. All quilters know the problem of having a list of unfinished quilts longer than all the thread they own combined. We quilters call those projects UFO’s, unfinished objects. Maybe we call them UFO because they are that mysterious presence in our homes nobody else in our family takes seriously. There is the question quilter families always asks scornfully ‘whether we actually finish any quilts’, and that one has not been original anymore since 1452. However, in this post, I want to discuss the question when, and how, we are willing to give up on projects. And why giving up is not a bad thing. I will do that with the help of one of my own discarded quilt projects: the danger quilt.

The plan: a danger quilt

Danger quilt idea

The picture shows the initial design ideas for this quilt. I named it ‘the danger quilt’ because it reminds me of those hexagon warning signs. The spider web drawing was the plans I had for the quilting of the quilt.


Work on this quilt started promising. I made some stencils from cardboard and started cutting fabrics. The pile of pieces grew and grew. I decided to cut the fabric without first drawing the pattern pieces on the fabric like I usually do. It would be good practice and a time-saver if managed well. However, cutting fabric turned out harder than I expected.


What went wrong with this quilt?

Once I had the pile of the hexagons, I started putting the quilt together. I tried and tried to sew the Y-seams, even by hand, but the quilt somehow did not get together. I think my hexagons were not cut precise enough. In the pictures, you can see I tried assembling the hexagons both in groups and in long rows. Both did not work though, and in the end, the whole process frustrated me so much that this project ended up on top of my bookcase for almost a year.



My solution: give up on that quilt

How to know to abandon a project, or to leave it in a cupboard for a few more months? Because there are also those projects that get finished. With this one, it took me more than half a year to know. When I was living abroad I had no access to most of my ongoing quilt projects. So, when I returned I looked at each with fresh eyes. Some of the projects get finished, like this mini-quilt I’m very proud of:


The danger quilt won’t be finished though. I felt such an aversion towards working on this quilt, that I decided to choose happiness and give up on this quilt. The quilt has served its purpose in teaching me valuable quilting lessons. Now I want to move on and use the new knowledge and ideas for a new quilt. It is time to give myself the space for something new without worrying about projects I don’t want to put energy in. So what to do with the pile of hexagons?

Repurpose! the start of a secret quilt project

Yes, it is a shame I cannot tell you about my plans. But I promise you, I will tell when this mystery quilt is finished and delivered. The point is that, for me, it works to think of a new use for fabrics to justify giving up on an old idea -I have a pillow somewhere with an unnamed project in it as stuffing because I could not face it anymore…  It makes me sad and it is wasteful to throw fabric away, so I always try to find a new use for them. Especially for the pieces that are already cut.


This perpetually inventing and re-inventing of ideas seems to work for me, together with the recycling of clothes. I need to see the practical outcome of an idea before I can see how good or bad it actually was. I see the fruits of a bad idea not as a failure, but as the first stage of a future project. In this way, I keep learning and when you learn, nothing is a waste of time. To think in failures only brings you down.


Don’t keep doing something if it makes you feel bad, especially if it’s for a hobby. If you don’t want to finish a quilt, and there is nobody waiting for it, just don’t. Take the project as a learning opportunity and rip the pieces apart for pillow stuffing or whatever you want to do. Give yourself the freedom and space for a new project. This is what I’ve learned from my danger quilt attempt:

  • Precision is key when cutting fabric pieces without marking them first
  • Don’t be tough on yourself when you don’t want to finish a quilt
  • There will always be more ideas to work on when a previous one doesn’t work out.

Some questions for you:

  • Do you discard projects, and if so when?
  • What is your longest living UFO? Do you think you will finish it?
  • Do you easily change plans and re-invent creative projects and material use?

Would you like to know more? 

See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.