A Genoa Tote with a touch of Sashiko

It’s present time! ¬†A big one this year as my Mum turns 70. ¬†I try to make something special for my parents on these big occasions, especially as I am not in Yorkshire to celebrate with them.

I made this for my Dad’s 70th a couple of years ago, it’s a gilet for the garden and it took me an age. ¬†If you haven’t seen this before, it’s probably because it was one of the first projects I ever blogged about. ¬†Read all about it here.


I needed to pull out the big guns, here. ¬†I had considered a kimono but because Mum is the ‘Queen of Returns’ (at Marks & Sparks) I thought better of it and went for a bag.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of the Genoa Tote pattern in the raffle at Sydney Frocktails back in February.  I was then gifted a set of the hardwear for the bag by the lovely Blogless Anna (Thank you Anna)! I had my pattern sorted, now for the design.

It had to be Sashiko for Mum and I really wanted to work on a design I had never tried before, I wanted impact, so I chose the triple persimmon flower stitch.  I bought my stencilled dotty fabric in navy  and some white Olympus sashiko thread from Bebe Bold and off I went.

I am not even going to begin to explain how to do this, no need, Susan Briscoe’s, The Ultimate Sashiko Sourcebook tells all with helpful illustrations and examples. But lets just say it requires concentrations and patience.


I had ploughed my way through the maze of vertical lines, feeling a little despondent as I couldn’t see how this would ever work.¬† But then the magic happens when you start stitching those horizontal lines… So awesome!



Let’s not be under any illusion here, this piece took me ages. ¬†But worth ever stitch because it is really beautiful and I like it even more for it’s imperfections, the odd wonky stitch adds to the beauty.

Now to apply it to my Genoa Tote.

I chose a heavy indigo denim which I found at Achieve Australia. ¬†I make lots of tote bags from this fabric as it’s really sturdy stuff. ¬†It was also the perfect match for the Sashiko panel. ¬†To make the pattern piece I just added a strip of denim to the top and bottom and cut out the piece as I would any other fabric.

Here it is.

FRONT: This is the smallest size Genoa, using the tan leather handles
BACK: I kept the back Sashiko free and used the indigo denim

For the lining I used some gifted vintage fabric. I suspect it’s Liberty, it certainly has the quality feel of a Liberty fabric but I can’t be sure. ¬†It’s really beautiful though. ¬†I am also super pleased with the internal zip pocket.

Zip: Who Says Sew

This piece of Sashiko is called rice flower stitch, again from Susan Briscoe’s book. ¬†It was a little piece I was sampling for another project. It just happened to be the right size for this pocket, so I added it in here. ¬†I love that little hidden gem.

The Genoa as a pattern is super simple to make and I can see many more in my future.  I just loved adding the leather straps and the studs, it looks so professional.

The great thing about this gift is that it is being hand delivered by my biggest kid. ¬†He’s flown to the UK to visit the family for a few weeks (without us). I think he is the best gift to my Mum could want, but maybe this will come a close second. A very belated Happy Birthday, Mum!





The denim clinic: mending my favourite jeans

I can’t throw these jeans away. ¬†They aren’t particularly ‘cool’ but they are comfy and they fit me and I like them, so they are staying.

The problem with these jeans is that they are very light weight denim and so are wearing out at a very fast pace.  The only solution is to keep fixing.

They started out with a single knee patch, then a second knee patch and now I am onto fixing more knee thinning.




I patching it up, to strengthen the area. ¬†I used some grey and white striped cotton fabric, a scrap I found in my box. ¬†It’s a thin cotton and because I wasn’t at the studio and machine-less, I just used iron-on glue to secure the piece. I left the edges raw. ¬†Just because.



I used the white lines in the stripe to guide the straight lines of sashiko stitching.  I thought I would experiment with the crosses.  I think it paid off.  The white rows were an afterthought, aiming to pull it all together.  You can see there is one row of straight stitching.  Clearly I missed that row, oh well, happy accident!

Can you spot the straight stitch row?
Close up


If you are wanting some visible mending on your favourite jeans,  just drop me a line.  I am happy to help.


Mending, thou shalt not be boring!

I picked up a pair of jeans recently. ¬†They were new jeans with fake ageing. ¬†I have to say I am generally not a fan of such techniques, but they fit really well and I was in need of a quick fix. ¬†This doesn’t exactly fits with my ideals, but hey ho.

I knew that the knees would go pretty quickly as the ageing made them pretty weak and so a hole quickly emerged. ¬†Of course, cool people leave such holes, but I just can’t. ¬†I see creative possibilities and I just can’t leave them.

I have been wanting to try some more complex Sashiko for a while and these jeans presented an opportunity to experiment.

A few months ago I visited the Craft and Quilt Fair in Sydney, not exactly my bag, but worth a trip to meet Jane MacDonald, the owner of Bebe Bold, a local Sashiko supplier and teacher.  It was crazy busy but she chatted to us for a while and helped me choose some thread and impart some of her vast knowledge.  I bought some lovely pieces, three Olympus threads, long Sashiko needles and some Kogin fabric.  Jane also gave me instructions for a pin cushion, the Hitomezashi Hydrangea pattern.

NB: Kogin fabric has little dots printed on the fabric, it helps to make the stitching process a little easier.  When you wash the fabric, the dots disappear.

I have been dying to try it for a while but it looked frightening complicated so I have been sitting on it.  Time to bite the bullet.

Here’s what I did;

WRONG SIDE: I started by repairing the hole.  I used the selvedge of the Kogin fabric (no waste here!) and used some iron on glue to press it in place. 
RIGHT SIDE: Hole reinforced and ready for patching
I cut a piece of Kogin fabric to cover the hole and pinned in place
Then it was a case of following the instructions, starting with 2 rows of crosses in blue and orange thread.
The final stage was weaving the white thread between the crosses


I am not the neatest hand sewer, even with the dots to help me out. ¬†But it’s quite lovely all the same.


Boring mending?  Definitely not. Enjoyable mending?  Most definitely.

I loved sitting down with the kids, I rarely do it. ¬†They watched ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ while I stitched away.

Cosmic x