how long should my stitches be?

Lilipopo blog stitch length copyA question I get asked quite a lot is how long my stitches are.  The first time I was asked I took a ruler and measured, a fairly consistent 3mm.  But this morning I was a little distracted while I was stitching this first draft of a princess and listening to podcasts and when I looked down I noticed something strange.  I had naturally stitched much smaller stitches on the inside curve of the dress.  I expected my stitches to be the same size throughout as I do such a lot of back stitch but my subconscious had decided that the waist of the dress would be better with smaller stitches.  The funny thing is I think it does look better, it adds to the sense of the dress pulling in tightly around the waist then billowing out into the full skirt.

Door and borderI do know that the backstitch on my little caravan door is bigger than 3mm probably because it's a longer straighter line.  I've realized that I often don't think too much about the stitch size.  It seems to happen naturally.  There are occasions when I might deliberately use a tiny stitch or a much longer stitch for a particular effect but usually I just start stitching.

In the past I haven't included a suggested stitch length in the pattern but now I'm thinking it might be helpful for beginner stitchers to have a sense of how big the stitches should be.  After all I have no idea if other people's back stitch is the same length as mine or not.

Lilipopo chain stitch hairMy stitch length and tension are something I have been paying more attention to recently because I have been playing around with chain stitch.  Chain stitch changes so completely according to the stitch length and tension so you can create really different effects.  A tight tension and smaller stitch makes beautiful hair (this would work on the ballet dancers hair too) whereas a looser chain with bigger stitches looks completely different.

I will share more of my chain stitching explorations soon.

Today is a beautiful sunny day but I am stuck indoors waiting for a parcel for my son hoping the sunshine will last for the weekend.

I hope you have a beautiful weekend no matter what the weather





A beautiful book by Yumiko Higuchi

IMG_6180When I first began Lilipopo it was zakka sewing that interested and encouraged me.  I love the way very simple designs can be beautiful with a little care.  So over the Easter weekend I had a little time to do some personal stitching and pulled out my zakka embroidery book by Yumiko Higuchi.  I have had this book  for quite a while now.  I did stitch one design when I first received it, loved it and then put the book in my bookcase and left it.  This week my train pass wallet fell to pieces in my hands so I decided that, rather than get another ugly plastic one from Great Western Rail, I would stitch my own pretty one and I remembered this book

IMG_6181 (1)There is a card wallet pattern in the book but I wanted a different design on it so I used the wallet pattern but spent some time working out where to put elements of the botanical design onto the wallet pattern.  I think most of the designs can be put onto most of the projects.  I love this design!  Flowers and insects are fabulous for stitching.  


this little bee is stitched with stem or outline stitch in the book.  I got ahead of myself and misread the pattern and stitched it using backstitch.  But he still looks great.  I had to use double my normal number of strands but I love the way it stands out from the fabric but it still has the details.

IMG_6184I really wanted to stitch this flower!  I was a little wary of all the chain stitch and at first I did have to do some undoing until I had a chain that seemed a good size but, once I got stitching, it was a dream to stitch.  I love love love the effect of the chain stalk and the running stitch petals.  I'm not too sure why I put the bird where I did other than that I wanted to stitch the bird!  I think he could be elsewhere but I still love the simple design.  The final wallet is perfect for my train pass and library card.


and I am so addicted to these designs that I have started another tile pattern.  This is a little lavender or pin cushion, I haven't decided yet... I just wanted to stitch it.  Lots more chain stitch practice.  I think chain could be my new addiction, which surprises me because it's not a stitch I would normally use very much.

I absolutely recommend this book, it's perfect for making small projects that you can carry around anywhere with you.  The focus is on one or two colours so you don't even need lots of threads to take about with you.  The projects would make beautiful gifts too. 

I would love to hear about your favourite embroidery books, after all you can never have too many!

Now I'll hide this stitching away for the weekend and get on with my work!



Easter and bunnies

Lilipopo little bunnies coasters

Spring keeps showing it's head for a moment here and then disappearing back into cold grey rain.  I think it's probably always like this at this time of year but I do love the sunny days!  So I wanted a happy project to fill a little time this week.

Lilipopo little bunnies idea

With Easter rapidly on it's way... this weekend!  I decided a quick bunny stitch was in order.  I took the little bunnies embroidery pattern  and played around with it a little to make two little coasters.  This pattern is so quick to stitch up and would fit nicely onto little drawstring bags for mini eggs too.  

Lilipopo little bunnies backing and lace

I cut a 4.75" square from some white linen (Robert Kauffman Essex linen) and the same of pink phoebe liberty fabric for the back. Then I cut a 5" square of quilt batting (warm and natural) for the wadding.  I traced the elements of the bunny pattern that I wanted onto the linen square.

Next I centred the linen onto the wadding and hooped up and embroidered through both.

Lilipopo little bunnies stitched

I like the padded effect of stitching through the batting too.  I used just four colours for this - DMC 451 (brown) DMC 603 (pink) DMC 761 (pale pink) and DMC 564 green

Lilipopo little bunnies applique tummy

I gave this little bunny an appliqued liberty pink tummy using bondaweb to stick the fabric down and little pale pink stitches to keep it in place.

After embroidering the pattern I added french knots in the pale pink all around the bunny, leaving a space all around the edge for the seam allowance (0.25")

Lilipopo little bunnies embroidered

and then, because I realized I would have to get my machine out I stitched another bunny on natural linen and added a lace trim and a liberty print border.  I also appliqued a little heart onto the linen backing fabric.

Lilipopo little bunnies machine stitching

These little coasters are very easy to finish just place your padded embroidery right side up and then place your backing fabric right side down on top of it.  Now stitch around the edge leaving a 1.5" - 2" gap for turning (I used a 0.25" seam allowance)

Lilipopo little bunnies finished 2

Once you turn them out poke the corners gently out, hand stitch the gap closed and give them a gentle press.  These were such fun to stitch, especially as they embroider up very quickly and you could add all sorts of trims to them or, if you're a quilter, bind the edges.

I hope you all have a very happy Easter and we get to enjoy some sunny spring weather, unless you are in the Southern hemisphere in which case cosy Autumn stitching is probably in order.

Happy Easter 


embroidery essentials - tools

Lilipopo tools of the trade

Today's #marchmeetthemaker prompt was tools that I use so I thought I would write a blog post about the tools that I use and where I buy them (in the UK).

The thing I really love about embroidery is that you need very few tools and materials, a needle, thread and fabric with a pair of scissors and you can start stitching.  But there are a few other things that can make life easier...

Lilipopo simple tools

These are my most basic tools.  I use wooden hoops because I prefer them, they are reasonably priced  and they look prettier if you decide to frame your embroidery in the hoop (you can even paint them).  They come in lots of sizes and I do have lots of sizes but my go to hoop is a 5".  I like to use a small hoop and move it around my embroidery as I find bigger hoops harder to manipulate when I get to the centre of my stitching.

My pen for transferring the pattern is (as I have probably mentioned many times before!) a pilot frixion heat (or friction) removable pen.  I have just read somewhere that you can use a hairdryer to remove the pen, which would save hovering over my embroidery with a hot iron, but I haven't tried it yet so I will let you know (or if you have tried it you could let me know).

I have a mini sun light pad for transferring but you can use a window.

I have a pretty vintage pair of embroidery scissors to snip the threads but any small scissors will do.

My usual needle is a crewel number 7.  I occasionally use an 8 for single threads but to be honest I usually just use the 7.  I put a crewel 7 needle in the kits.


I mainly use two fabrics, the first is an organic calico which is a soft (after washing) medium weight cotton that has a natural creamy look to it and is never completely smooth or flat.  The second fabric I use is Robert Kauffman essex linen in natural.  I have also used the ivory, white and linen.  These are lighter and I now use a backing cloth so that any stray threads don't show through.  I usually use the same fabric as a backing cloth and stitch through both layers.

Sometimes if I want a more padded effect I use a quilt wadding as a backing (warm and natural).  My needle cushion was backed with quilt wadding, it made the cushion a little firmer.


and these are the little extras.  I find it absolutely necessary to have at  least ten different pin cushions to hold my needles!  Partly because I love making them and partly because I am always leaving them around the house.  I also use a metal thimble because this is the one I have had most success with.  If you don't like the metal ones there are lots of others out there ranging from leather to rubber.  I only use a thimble when I have a lot of stitching to do (I think my fingers are hardened to the needle now!) so it's not a necessary item.


I love all threads and one of the beauties of embroidery is that you can stitch with any thread and get different effects.  But, because I design patterns for other people to use I stick to DMC threads.  I used to use Anchor thread too (some of my older patterns will still have some anchor threads in them) but I found customers were finding Anchor harder to get hold of so I do stick with DMC.  I also only use six stranded thread rather than perle because you can choose the number of threads for the thickness of line that you want.  It also means you don't have to buy lots of different threads for a single pattern.  DMC thread is beautiful quality and there are lots and lots of gorgeous colours.

Once I start the threads I wrap them on a card holder with the number written on it and they get stored in a box.

Lilipopo notebook

One thing I can't do without is my notebook and pen!  (I write this as though I only have one, no-one ever has only one notebook do they?) I take notes on all the threads and stitches that I use and draw little diagrams for any tricky stitchy bits.

The things I didn't photograph - my tea, always by my side while stitching and my phone playing podcasts, audio books (I have a penchant for crime thrillers but at the moment it's 'Middlemarch') or radio 6 music.

Where I buy my things

needles and hoops - siesta frames 

threads, needles, card thread holders and more - sew and so

organic calico - raystitch

essex linen (where ever has it in stock) - emma's fabric studio  or celtic fusion fabrics  

warm and natural quilt wadding - the cottonpatch  

My pens I buy locally at Ryman's I think they are quite easy to find now.  My mini sun A4 light pad was bought from Amazon.

I do also have a magnifying craft lamp (mainly because our house is very wind proof but also quite dark in the winter!).  I don't think it's available any more but it's by the daylight company and has worked well for me.  It's also great for colour work using long short stitch.

I think I've covered everything that I use regularly.  If you are a beginner stitcher and would like to know more about transferring the patterns and starting stitching I have posts here

beginning stitching

I hope you found this post useful and please pop a comment in with the tools and materials that you like to use.  I always love to find new ones 



March meet the maker


I don't normally like to begin my blog post with a huge picture of me but this month I have been taking part in instagram's #meetthemaker (my instagram account is @lilipoposketches) and so I decided to come out from the shadows and share a little about myself.

My name is Kate and I do all of the things at LiliPopo.  The name came from my daughter (many years ago when she was only nine) mixing my middle name and surname up together and we both thought it suited the first design that I sold.

Still stitching

she wasn't the first girl that I stitched but she was the first pattern that I sold and she is still there in my shop.  She also got featured in Mollie Makes magazine so she is still very important to me.

As some of you will know I was home educating for more years than I care to remember and while I was doing that I was drawing and stitching.  These things go back to my childhood as we always had paper and pencils, especially on rainy days.  I still think they are the best boredom busters on rainy days.  I started sharing pictures of my stitching on flickr and opened a folksy shop selling little purses with simple embroideries on them.  Other stitchers began to ask if I sold patterns so I looked into how to go about it, took a little advice from my partner and eldest son on how to use Adobe illustrator and set up my Etsy shop.  


At the moment this is my workspace, although the stitching tends to happen wherever there is a comfy seat and someone to listen to chatting away (usually my daughter, teenage life is so much better than a soap opera).  This is about as tidy as my space has ever been as I am usually quite a messy worker (I always thought I would be a tidy worker).


The next prompt is all about routine so I may share that next week, a sort of day in the life of...

If you pop over to instagram and have a look at the hashtag #marchmeetthemaker there are lots of lovely makers sharing their workspaces, routines and stories, a nice way to while away a little spare time.



March but not spring!


March has arrived and spring really should have sprung here in Cornwall.  It was definitely on its way towards the end of February 


This is the magnolia in our local park (Morrab Gardens) in full and beautiful bloom against a blue blue sky.  For me this always means that spring has arrived but this year is a very strange one because two days ago this happened


We almost NEVER get snow in Penzance, it has been years since we last saw proper snow.  So even though the weather warnings were out there we still didn't expect it.  Two days of proper thick sledging, snowman building snow.  I'm so glad that we made the most of it because this morning we woke up to grey wet and not a sign that it had ever snowed.  Although it's still pretty chilly!  A very exciting blip in our year!

Hopefully the grey will lift and we will be left with my idea of March, full of spring flowers and sunshine.

IMG_5798 (1)

I've loved using chain stitch for the lettering on this personal piece this week.  I have had quite a few commissioned pieces to stitch with names on them and I'm finding chain stitch a great way to stitch letters, especially joined up writing.  It's a very satisfying stitch once you get into a rhythm.  It has taken me a long time to find my rhythm with chain stitch but sometimes that's just how it is and now it feels worth the struggle.

I have lots of plans for March, probably more than can actually be done in March but we'll see.  I have begun two new patterns that I'm working on at the same time one with birds and birdhouses and also flowers in my hair which I sketched and began last year but it got put away for a while.  I will share pictures of my progress here as I go.  There will be kits and samplers back in stock later this month too.  And there's some painting and drawing going on too.

Do you have your March plans ready (the nice crafty stitchy ones) I would love to hear about your projects and your weather as I know you don't all live in the UK!

Have a lovely stitchy weekend


hints for stitching to frame in a hoop

Recently I've been using ivory essex linen for my stitching which is a lot lighter than the natural colour.  I do try to keep the backs of my embroideries very neat, avoiding knots and carried threads, but sometimes (almost always) there is a place where I just have to carry a thread.  If I then want to frame the finished embroidery in a hoop there is a risk of it shadowing on the front of the embroidery.

Lilipopo on the wall

I originally framed this fairy in a flexi hoop temporarily but liked her so much she has stayed in the hoop with no backing.  She was stitched on the natural essex linen and there is no shadowing coming through despite using black threads

Lilipopo light

As you can see, if I hold her up to the light then the shadowing is clear (all those carried threads!!).  With the lighter colour Essex linen I was worried that this would show through.  I normally back the hoop with felt but I would hate to put all that work in only to turn it over and realize there was a shadow of a thread showing through.

So a simple solution

Lilipopo double fabric

I know there are lots of stabilizers out there but it seemed far simpler to just use a second piece of fabric behind the first and stitch through both.  I like the effect as the fabric feels less translucent and I can still use the lovely Essex linen to stitch and no shadowing.

This works beautifully on the printed fabric panels too.

I do have a tutorial for the way I normally back a hoop over here

It would be lovely to hear about what you use as a stabilizer or backing and how you like to frame or finish your embroideries.


a mermaid tale

Lilipopo mermaid stitch fixed

I have been enjoying a quiet but busy January so far, lots of stitching and even more sketching and painting.  Yesterday I decided it was time to warm up the old computer so I could get on with finishing the mermaid pattern and this morning I have her in my Etsy shop 


I have been having some fun playing around a little with stitches and so I came up with her tail stitch which fills the tail very prettily.  I have also been practicing consistency with my chain stitch (testing my patience a little) but I think I finally have a rhythm going, as long as no-one interrupts me. 

Generally speaking I like to use a hoop as I find I can keep the tension in my stitching more even.  But I found long lines of chain stitch a little easier without the hoop really or at least with a small hoop just covering the area I have to stitch.  An 8" hoop can be a little unwieldy for rhythmic stitching sometimes.  Do you prefer to hoop or not to hoop?

The fish tail stitch is very simple and began with rows of back stitch

Lilipopo mermaid stitch 1

I made sure that my stitches met at the top point of all the half stars.  My star stitches are roughly the same size as my back stitch

Lilipopo mermaid stitch 2

Lilipopo mermaid stitch 3

Once the half star stitches were in place I added french knots in between using 3 strands of thread instead of 2 and a contrasting colour.

Lilipopo mermaid stitch 4

This is such a simple stitch but I love the textural effect.


I think the mermaid would make a nice cushion doll.  Just stitched on her own and then cut out with a seam allowance and backed and stuffed.  This might be my next bit of stitching...

Lilipopo mushroom reader

Another project that I have been busy with this month is creating this girl who has found a quiet spot to do a bit of reading.  I am thinking of creating prints of this and possibly notecards (I have an addiction to notecards!).

I hope you are enjoying a quiet cozy creative January


stems and outlines some tips


Stem stitch is not a stitch I use a great deal for outlining my figures because it tends to create a thicker line than I like but it can make a good outline for clothing or a decorative line but also fabulous hair. 

For the longest time I have been stitching two different stitches under the mistaken impression that they were the same stitch just approached from a different direction.  I thought both stitches were stem stitch but it turns out that one was stem stitch while the other was outline stitch.  I had even seen it referred to as outline stitch but there are quite often different names for the same stitch so I didn't pay too much attention.  It was only when I came to do some research for this post that I realized that they are indeed two stitches.  One, outline stitch, has a smoother edge while the other, stem stitch has a more jaggedy edge


The example above is outline stitch  (it is stitched onto a piece of Robert Kauffman Essex linen in dusty blue).

and I stitched the top straight row using 4 strands of thread.  The second straight row and the curved row were stitched using 2 strands.


To begin make a straight stitch but before you pull the thread all the way through bring your needle up through the fabric about half way along the stitch making sure the loop from the first stitch is above your needle (or further away from you).  This is what makes it an outline stitch.


Pull the whole thing through and you can see that my thread, in the picture above, is  coming from underneath the first stitch.  Now take your needle down about half a stitch length from the end of the first stitch (your actual stitch length goes back to the middle of the previous stitch).  Again don't pull your stitch right through


Now bring your needle up at the end of the previous stitch as shown above.  You will continue in this way until you get to the end of the line.


You can also follow a curved line beautifully.  Making the stitches shorter or longer can also change the way the stitch looks.  I like to use this stitch with more threads to create a thick rope like line, it makes fabulous hair because it curves nicely.


For stem stitch you create your first stitch but pull it through fully then bring your needle just above the middle of the stitch as shown above


Next bring your needle down about half a stitch length from the end of the first stitch as you did for outline stitch and pull through


Bring your needle back up just above the middle of the last stitch and continue in the same way


I'm sorry for the slight blur (fast fading light in winter!)  Hopefully you can see the stem stitched pink line has a more twisted edge than the lower green outlined line.  Both can be used well on curves you just need to decide whether you want a smoother edge or a more decorative edge for your stitching.


A fun use for stem stitch are these little flowers.  I made a french knot using 4 strands of a paler pink (I double wrapped it).


Next I made a small straight stitch along the edge of the knot (you can push it into place with your fingers so it doesn't cover the knot).


Then, using the same stem stitch technique, I brought the needle up just above the centre of the first stitch and made another stitch moving around the french knot centre.  You just continue going round until the flower is as big as you would like it to be.  The stitches should be a little longer on each round.

Have a lovely weekend and I hope you find some time for a little cosy stitching.


Happy New Year


I can't believe it's already New Year, I haven't even had time to start on my Christmas reading! I have started the beautiful moomins diary though. 

I'm not very good at New Year planning, it seems as though I should be ready to go on the 1st January but actually it generally takes me half of January to make my plans for the year, both for Lilipopo and for myself.

This year I'm taking the beginning a little slower


I was lucky enough to receive this beautiful Jessie Chorley friendship quilt kit as a gift at Christmas and so I'm taking my time, doing a little thinking, a little planning and a little stitching along the way


This quilt kit is the perfect stitching for the long evenings of January, with little hand printed templates and some fabrics and threads to get you started but plenty of room for you to add your own creative touches.  I already have a little clock with a bow and lots of ideas and plans in my head and some in my notebook.  In the background I am also working on the mermaid embroidery pattern, redrawing and getting ready for the final stitching


I have some blog posts planned and next week I will be sharing a little stem stitch tutorial (as I realized I don't have one).  

I have just downloaded 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen to listen to while I stitch the mermaid up so I'm looking forward to some quiet contemplative days filled with stitching and day dreaming before the proper New Year starts (which for some reason always feels like the 1st of February for me).

I hope you're finding January peaceful with plenty of time for stitching