A simple boro bag

This bag was based on one seen on Pinterest. I haven’t tracked it down further than that! I have made it twice as I mislaid the first attempt. It uses an approximately A4 piece of boro. I used Essex linen and butter muslin for my second attempt plus a similar sized piece of cotton for the lining and a variety of largely rectangular pieces of cloth for the boro patches[1] and the two hangers. Both bags featured straps made from sari yarn from Rainbow Silks in nice mixed blues and a variety of threads (mainly coton perlé).


Take your backing fabric with muslin or similar beneath it. Then pin and/or tack the patches in place.


Now work your boro. Use coloured and/or white threads, Sashiko stitching and blanket, whip, darning and seed stitch as appropriate.


Trim to a neat rectangle and cut your lining to the same size. Fold each of them separately right sides together and sew down one long side and the bottom on your top layer. Sew up your lining the same way, leaving a gap in the lining seam so that you will be able to turn the bag right side out.


Make two small hangers from rectangles of suitable fabric (3 x 6 cm) long sides turned in, folded in again and stitched. Fold ends together.


Turn your outer layer right side out. Pin the hangers in place. Insert into the lining, right sides together and lining up the side seams. Sew around the top edge.


Turn right side out. Thread through and tie on your cord straps. Stitch up your lining.

These boro bag instructions may be freely distributed with my name on it and with the link to my website www.muntus.com.

[1] Acquired from EuroJapan Links to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude. What I have got from them over the years has provided me with some lovely fabrics. And making best use of them has contributed to the Wabi-Sabi element of my work!

© Rosemary Muntus, 7th February 2019

What is a ZIA?

What is a ZIA?

A ZIA is a Zentangle Inspired Object. I do a lot of these, especially now I have discovered Zentangling. Having doodled all my life I feel that I have finally come home. If you’re less comfortable with the idea at the moment, there are dozens of aids and books designed to help you Zentangle.

True Zentangles are done on small cards 4″ square, and you work them in the central 3½” of this square. You need a pencil, an ink pen and a burnisher as well as a few ‘tangles’, as we call the various designs. The card has four dots on it (see the templates page for a printable set of cards) and you use the pencil to draw a freehand square. Next you pencil in ‘strings’ to divide this square into areas.


The Zentangle card
Card with a string
Adding the strings

The real value of these strings is that you no longer have a blank white space and you will very quickly build up a set of patterns that you like to use.

In the Zentangle world you use the pen to fill in the patterns.  And you can also use the pencil to add further shading, and your burnisher to soften this.

Zen card filled in and shaded
Marking strings and some patterns

Applying your ZIA to a fabric

This technique works very well when you are quilting – but not generally at this scale. So first decide the size of square you want to work on. Then prepare the cloth sandwich, with your blank white sheet of cotton, linen or silk on top. Now secure the edges with clips or pins.

Next measure your square, and mark the corners with dots (or faintly draw in the square you want). Sew this square in – freehand if you are feeling brave. Add the dividing lines – again freehand, if you can. You can do the border of the square and the dividing lines using conventional machine sewing.

I created the design above for a magazine. But as it was for the Spring edition, I thought it was a bit dark. I did a paler version using Rose Quartz and Serenity Blue etc. (this year’s ‘in colours’). This version appeared in Zen Doodle Workshop, Spring 2016. I also did a yellow version – and learned quite a lot as a result. I would recommend applying your design lightly in a colour that you will be using. Ideally do this before you assemble the wadding sandwich.

My ZIA for Zen Doodle Wrokshop, Spring 2016
Bright version of the pattern

Members will find a template for this ZIA on the template page. In the next blog I plan to look at tangles that work well as quilt designs.

Making a fine finish

A work in progress - but how will you finish it?

You’ve doodled your fish or whatever, you’ve quilted the doodle and perhaps created a border design. Now you need to finish it off prior to making mat, wall-hanging, picture, cushion or bag. Of course you could just apply a conventional binding strip or facing. However many pieces just evolve and don’t necessarily end up with straight edges.

For this doodle you might use a facing.

But the easiest solution, I think, is to finish it off using rows of machine stitching. And to this you can add extra threads or cords…

Not all pieces will have a straight edge, so finish is important
A choice of threads you could use to finish your piece

I have a lot of embroidery threads. Stranded cotton, wool, coton á broder etc which are very useful for small pieces. Rat tail cord, knitting wools and cottons and russian braid work really well with larger pieces. There are lots of novelty cords which have somehow ended up in my stash. This is great opportunity to make use of these little treasures.

And here’s what you can do with them…

If you have a definite edge, trim close to it. If in doubt you can always sew a couple of rows of straight stitching to define the edge and then trim. Using a suitable colour thread both on top and in the bobbin, zig-zag stitch over the edge. Start sewing a little way away from one of the corners.

Don’t make this first row too tight, but do go all the way round. Take care at the corners so that you don’t mash them up to much. I usually sew nearly to the corner then do a few stitches going backward. With the needle down and centred on the corner, lift your foot, swing round 90°, possibly do two stitches back and then sew forwards again.

And so on until you get to the end. If it seems to need it, repeat the stitching all the way round again. Using small scissors trim away any loose threads.

You can use a zig-zag stitch around the edge of your piece to finish it.
If adding a braid or thread, start again away from the corner and leave a short tail of your thread/braid. Experiment with the width and the density of the machine stitching. Use the end of a stitch unpicker or even your scissors to keep the braid close to the edge. widen your zig-zag so that it catches the braid as well as the edge of your masterpiece. If you can, you might experiment with where you centre your stitching. My machine gives me up to a 9mm zig-zag. I usually use about 6mm and set the needle 2mm to the left of centre.
Finished with a combination of a light buttonhole machine stitch and a zig-zag stitch
Trim the tail of your braid with an oblique cut close to where you started.finish the braid off with a similar oblique cut. Add additional rows of stitching if desired. Here I used my machine’s light button hole (flipped horizontally) followed by another row of zig-zag.

Sitting pretty

The original article, with some useful diagrams

One of the things you need to look at carefully when you do a lot of quilting is just how comfortably you are sitting. Handi-quilter, the maker of long-arm sewing machines, gives ten rules for comfortable quilting. You can get a copy from the Handi-quilter website.

What they say is most relevant to heavy duty quilting machines. Or is it? If you aren’t sitting comfortably you will find quilting a chore rather than a pleasure.

I have re-written this for someone quilting on a domestic sewing machine. And after the amount of machine quilting I have been doing recently I know the trickiest bit is getting the machine (and you) at the right height for one another.

  1. The correct height of you sewing table is essential for both posture and comfort while quilting.
  2. Make sure to get a chair that is the right height for proper hand and elbow position. It must be comfortable and easy to move.
  3. When in front of the machine, your elbows should be at a right angle with your hands resting comfortably on the quilt top.
  4. You must relax while quilting. Don’t grab the fabric too hard and try to keep your movements fluid.
  5. Stop between sections and vary the pace at which you quilt.
  6. Take breaks, drink and stretch. Stand up from time to time to admire your work at a distance.
  7. Try to work close to your machine — not at arm’s length. And if you’re using a foot control try varying the foot you use.
  8. A quality, supportive mat on the floor helps protect your feet, legs, and hips if you spend long periods quilting. It makes it easier to retrieve dropped spools etc. (Memo to self — that worn carpet really won’t do!)
  9. Poor lighting causes eye strain. Think about additional lighting options if necessary.
  10. Blink often. Plus, every twenty minutes or so, stop and focus on a distant object for 10 to 15 seconds to stretch your eyes. (Second memo to self — I need a timer so that get up out of my chair at regular intervals and stretch and blink.)