Cloth as Friend

Before the real going and making begins, I just want to review a bit about cloth and how to get to know it.  I began this "considering patchwork" on the blog way back and I am collecting the information from the few posts made , putting it here so it is all in one place.

Don't be afraid to mix many kinds of cloth.  A lot of the  "rules" about patchwork  were  a result of machine sewing,  which is different.   There is a different and more gentle relationship between you and cloth  during hand stitch.

You will learn a lot about cloth by just trying.  Cloth is like clay. It is ready for your touch.

AUDIO-Cloth and Cloth

Cloth and Cloth


This is an exercise I go through now and then.  The washing of a random mix of small cloth. Let me talk.

AUDIO- Washing Cloth

Washing Cloth


If you use a dryer,  add a terrycloth towel to the mix,  it roughs up the edges more.  On loose patches that you would like to use with a natural edge, it is sometimes nice  to encourage the fray.  Expose the nature of the edge.

Fabric Grain

Also, If you come across a fabric that is too floppy or slippery, hard to handle... you might invisibly baste it to another  more stable cloth and then treat them as one.  Consider thickness when choosing the cloth.

I have put a little video here (above) , about fabric grain, an excerpt from a blog post here.  I am still focused on squares here, for now,  but  this discussion would apply to any puzzle pieces created  from off grain cutting.  In order not to waste cloth, cutting any which way might be necessary.  It's simple really,  I am not under stress about cloth.  I normally do not do things over or rip stuff out.  I like to keep the evidence of how it goes.  It is often more beautiful that what is expected.  It is like cloth talking, sharing its story.  And that is part of mine.

All these little patches/ puzzle pieces... I almost need them to speak.  They have become  a bridge between cloth and me.  Part of a language system, to get my thoughts out.   I use them to create story blocks.   Right now I am  creating more.  Even while on the road looking for a new home.  Seems  I've used a lot of them this past year, I must have a lot to say.  I'll talk about how that language/story system works for me next.



  1. Tamar

    I’m not sure I’m clear on sewing together three patch rows when the individual patches have already been basted. I watched you sew two strips together and move the seams over so you stitched under them, instead of through them, near the join. Should I be taking out the baste stitches before I decide to stitch patches together? Perhaps I’m missing something elementary. Thank you!

      • Tamar

        Thank you! I’m sure it will all become clearer to me when I start stitching basted patches together. I’m really enjoying this exploratory process!

  2. Anne Thompson

    In yesterday’s post you made reference to and I believe it is called baker’s string. Black and white thread that is twisted. I have made a lot of thread for things in the past. The thicker one is w/ 8 thread the tiny one is 4 threads. I am showing the 4 thread set up. Was going to try 2 threads but This thread is the tiniest I have ever used works up very smooth . I will send sample.
    Just realized can’t figure out how to post photo.
    Will post on ragmates.

    • jude

      I have hand twisted single threads, but it is slow and I use so much of this stuff. The magic thread is a softly plied combed cotton, so dreamy to stitch with. I want o manufacture it somewhere on a small scale, but so far the samples have not been to my liking. are you hand twisting?

  3. ravenandsparrow

    I like these discussions about the qualities of cloth. I can almost feel the pieces in my hands as you speak. The flexibility and tactile aspects of fabric combined with its ability to carry color and pattern make it compelling as a medium for the expression of anything. No wonder we love it.

  4. Joan

    loving this! Sometimes it is just the basics that excite me, first that invisible baste stitch which was shared earlier makes me so happy. Now, this idea of pinning tiny scraps to a bigger cloth to wash…why did I not think of that? I have passed up bags of yummy scraps at thrift stores or yard sales because in the past my experience of washing them was not pleasant, they would come out a tangled frayed mess. I am so excited about this simple solution, thank you once again, Jude for a light bulb moment!

  5. Maria

    Hi Jude can I ask a basic question? What sort of sewing cotton do you use? Is it embroidery cotton? Thanku enjoying your content very much . 🌸🌷

  6. Donna Josselyn

    Jude I love your system of creating these patches, the concept is fantastic. I have started my puzzle pieces in all sizes and enjoy looking at what I have created. Waiting to become something, I am enjoying my first class with you!

  7. Henrietta

    Still learning-the checkpoint stitch really seems like a simple solution to keeping things even. I’ve had that issue the matching up of ends because I’m not fond of pins and so this will be good to keep in mind. Also the irregular cuts on your scraps, would the irregularities of the sides offset some of the stretch aspect. It’s wouldn’t be as uniform as an evenly square cut piece is what I’m thinking.

    • jude

      i never use pins, i just adjust as I go usually.
      I dont think the odd cuts affect anything really, I often clip the extra off later, but then sometimes not, depends…

  8. Michele

    Do you iron the squares with the template before you baste them? That must be difficult with one inch squares!

    • jude

      i do! I have even done 1/2″ squares. I seem to be able to handle the small size. Maybe I should prove that, oh ha! I will make a video. There are some alternative methods, like tracing around the template and just fold and baste. Or do
      it paper piecing style. Most folks are more comfortable with 2″ as small. But the little one’s are so special to me.

  9. Jen NyBlom

    I think I need to work on just creating components without a clear idea…. I tend to imagine and then build for a specific project. Perhaps it might be more freeing to just sew patches for the future. No stress or direction involved, Just Going…

  10. Kay

    I too use cloth and stitching to get thoughts out. Sometimetime they tumble out and sometimes they splutter – stop, start… if you know what I mean. I don’t always know what the thoughts mean and i don’t mind that. The physical act of picking up cloth and stitching can be more than enough.

  11. Joanne

    I started making my patches and they ended up being sewn together. I guess I wasn’t supposed to do that??? I’ll do better from now on as I now have some graph paper templates. I had just been making them free hand. My own sizes. But I guess that is okay? And interesting that rayon is a real fiber. I had been discarding rayon as a choice. Now I know better.

    • jude

      oh ha! anything is fine… I think it’s great that they got connected so quickly. it’s great, the freehand, I started out like that on a commuter train years ago, when I realized it could done.
      Rayon is made from wood pulp, regenerated cellulose, it can be slippery to work with in it’s filament form but the spun kind is really like cotton. It was created to be “artificial silk” a kind of cheaper replacement product and although it is processed, it is really a naturally based fiber.

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