Needle Book Tutorial

I’ve really been enjoying getting back to my craftwork. I used to sew and knit quite often but lost touch with it, and it’s good to pick up my old craft kits again!

One of the first things I needed to make was a proper needle book, to store all my embroidery and normal hand sewing needles, as well as the thimbles, threaders and random small pieces of string which could be used to patch up a small piece of fabric.

IMG_8182-2I found a few tutorials, but none that were exactly as I wanted them, so I decided to just sketch out my own ideas.

I’ve had this sketchbook for about two years, and this is the first thing I’ve actually made from it. One day I hope to get to all my other ideas!

I began by laying out all my scrap fabric on the table. I’ve collected a lot from my travels and from kind strangers on Etsy who enable my habit indulge my pleas of “can you put all your pretty fabric in a bag and mail it to me please, they’re sooooo beautiful but I don’t have the space for a thousand fat quarters!”


I bought a sewing kit from Ikea, but didn’t like the zippered box it came in, and I wanted to have separate storage for my different materials. My brother’s girlfriend got me this beautiful wooden box with the leaf carving, which I use for my threads, buttons, chalk, safety pins and pencils. Much more convenient! The smaller one houses my giant collection of embroidery threads.


I wanted it to be quite a large needle book, so it could also take pins if I didn’t want to make a separate pin cushion. So here’s the tutorial!



As you can see, it folds down the middle and has two inner pages as well as a felt inner cover. I saw a nice tutorial which made the most use of the space inside, so I wanted to do something similar. I changed my idea midway through the project, and didn’t sew a separate strip for the inside cover.

You’ll need three strips of felt measuring 30cm by 20(ish)cm (I used three different colours for these), and four strips for the pages (you can either use two colours like I did, or just one).

I wanted contrasting colour in the pages too, so got two different lighter blues. By adding a second strip of felt to the pages, on either side, I made sure that none of the needles or pins would go through the felt to the other side of the page, so they would all be secure and stay in place.

I started by cutting the black felt for the inside cover, and laying that on top of the fabric for the outside cover.  I wanted to use scrap fabric for the cover, so chose a pretty print pattern I picked up in Zanzibar. The scrap piece fit the size I needed perfectly, which was handy! Since it’s a print, I didn’t need to embellish the cover, but if you want to, do it before sewing the felt inside cover to the fabric. You’d think this was obvious, but I would show you some of my early projects from years ago which would prove otherwise…

I used this black felt as a template to trace the pattern for the other two pages, rather than using a ruler since this was soft felt. If your felt is also soft and pliable, you’ll need to trim them down, since the inner pages will stick out when the book is closed.


I wanted to add inside pockets to the cover, rather than another strip as per the sketch (I am nothing if not impulsive) so I could store the thimbles, threaders and spare thread. I cut these from pieces of the contrasting felt strips for the inside, stitched these on with a running stitch in a contrasting colour, then stitched the black felt to the fabric cover. If you want to add anything to the inner cover, be sure to do it now before you stitch it to the outer cover!

Adding a chalk line down each page helps you eyeball where they’ll sit and where your spine needs to be.


Then I sewed the two cover pages together, and secured it with a blanket stitch in a contrasting thread. You can definitely tell I’m relearning how to hand sew!


I cheated here, I have to admit. I didn’t want to sew four strips of felt to the inner pages because by this point it was getting late, and I was binge-watching Season 2 of ‘Daredevil’ and it was getting intriguing, so I used fabric glue to sew these smaller strips to the pages. I was planning on a simple running stitch to all three layers.

I purposely wanted different colours so they didn’t match, because I liked the colourful look the book would have. Each page had a darker blue front and a turquoise back, so every time you turn the page you see a different colour. Once the strips are glued in place, leave them to dry for a bit – mine needed about ten minutes in total.

When you have both pages ready, lay the entire book out as you would want it, with the outside cover on your table. Pin the bottom page to the cover, and the top page to the bottom.

IMG_8129The spine is a simple backstitch down the middle, securing all three pages together. You could first sew the two inner pages together and then sew it to the cover, but I found this method a lot easier. A special embroidery needle for felt comes in very handy at this point! They’re shorter than most needles, but much thicker and with a larger eye so you can use six-strand embroidery threads – as I did for this entire project – without having to kill yourself threading it properly!

Once everything is sewn together, fold the book in half and you’ll see that the inner pages stick out a little, owing to the bulk of the extra strips of felt inside. I just used a ruler and chalk to measure a straight line down each page, and cut off the excess felt. You could also eyeball it, as I tend to do. This project began with quite specific measurements, but when you’re working with layers of thick fabric, sometimes it’s easier to just go by sight and feel rather than a ruler.


I wanted to be able to see the eye of each needle, so arranged them in two rows on each page, tips facing the inside (thereby minimising the risk of stabbing myself). The contrast of the darker background of the felt pages helps to identify which needle you’d like to use.



And that’s it! Took me about an hour and a half, including frequent red wine-fuelled breaks and chunks of gaping and re-watching fight sequences in ‘Daredevil’. The book now houses all my dozens of needles, as well as the bits and bobs I might need for a sewing project. I even have a pair of embroidery scissors stashed in one of the inside pockets!

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Have you made a needle book, and if so how? Would you make this project? What would you change about it? Let me know 🙂






Fabrics from the US

I’ve been collecting fabrics from different countries for my around-the-world skirt, and found Rekha’s lovely business in NYC, Divine NY. 


Rekha specialises in hand-dyed and hand-printed textiles; she also offers interior design services and holds workshops on designing, block printing and dying, in her Manhattan studio. She’s inspired by Indian and Asian design, and uses Japanese Shibori as an inspiration for her hand-dying. Check out her shop, where you can buy some beautiful home decor items like recycled sari throws and hand-dyed napkins, as well as beautiful silk and cotton scarves.

So I got in touch with her to ask about scrap fabrics – my first port of call, since many online shops only sell by the metre. She’s been of great help in this, sharing ideas for the design of the skirt and her philosophy on textiles. We’d arranged to meet in NYC in December but sadly couldn’t, so she mailed me a pack of scrap fabrics.


Sadly, many of them were rather small for the project in mind, or were upholstering fabric rather than for sewing a skirt, but they were put to good use decorating my sketchbook!




Here are the fabrics I will be using for the skirt, hand-made and hand-dyed in NY. Aren’t they beautiful?


To top it all off, Relha sent me a lovely thank-you card too!

So if you’re looking for some inspiration or new ideas for home decoration, with a modern and elegant style, have a look at Rekha’s shop and send her an email – you will not be disappointed!

Fabrics from India

I was scouring Etsy a couple of months ago for fabrics from India. Being of Indian origin, I knew this would be the easiest country to get stuff from, so I started there.

I found a woman who makes bunting out of fairly traded fabric. I think she, like me, found it hard to get actual textiles from ethical sources, but finding handmade skirts using ethically-sourced fabric is oddly easier. Don’t ask me why.

Claire is a remarkably talented woman who makes stunning fabric works for the home, and also sells some of her knitting and crochet work. She was very helpful when I asked about fabrics – she didn’t have any scraps lying around, but she could give me bits of the skirt that she was taking fabric from. It turns out that her bunting actually came from a patchwork skirt itself, so we had a little giggle about the circle of life! 

The listing for the bunting itself is no longer available but here are some examples of Claire’s work:




She created a custom listing for this and it was with me within the week. Check out this beautiful skirt – my favourite part of it is the sheer range of colours available!




Around-The-World Skirt

Disclaimer: I have never made a skirt before. I’ve used a sewing machine a couple of times to customise jeans, tops and dresses, sketching out ideas for how I want to add fabric, beads or paint on them. I have never looked at a pattern and made a piece of clothing from scratch. Time will tell if I’ve inherited any talent from my mother and my grandmother on this, I guess!

I’ve been wanting to make a skirt of this type since I was about 14, so I figured what better time than now to do this, especially now I’ve got more than a year?

Some ideas for patterns that I’ve been researching

It will be made with fabrics from around the world, but I don’t want to use anything mass-produced or cheaply available. Wherever possible, I want to use handmade, hand-spun, hand-dyed, environmentally-conscious and/or ethical fabric.

If this isn’t available, I will also be using scrap fabrics since that is recycled; but I’ll try to make sure that even these scraps contain some other ethical dimension.

I don’t want to buy bolts of fabric and if it’s avoidable, I don’t want to buy fat quarters since that creates more waste. However, I’m having so much fun thinking of what to do with them, I don’t think even a square inch will go unused!

I realise this has made the whole thing a lot more difficult for myself, but I think the skirt – and the process of making it – will be all the better for it.

Some ideas for patterns

I’ve been collecting these fabrics for some months, so wanted to share the incredible people and companies who make and sell these gorgeous items. I’m going to dedicate a whole category on WordPress to it, because I want to showcase each country or producer.

The fabrics will come from the countries I’ve lived in, visited or want to live in (So basically, it’s from virtually every country in the world! I said I wasn’t going to make it easy…)

I’ve found the process difficult and challenging at times, especially when I write to people and it turns out their materials are actually made in a factory in China. It’s also been challenging finding people willing to ship to Hungary, and to find materials from all the countries I want to get them – many are either in or next to war zones, have export bans on such things, or there simply aren’t websites dedicated to them. It’s not easy, but if the skirt gets made and looks awesome, how amazing will that be?!

I was lucky enough to visit the US in December, for work and I combined it with a few weekends with family. My patient and lovely cousin allowed me to order all manner of stuff and keep it in her room for about a month before I showed up! Have I mentioned I’m a little obsessive organised?


Time will tell if this is going to be the biggest disaster of my life, or a triumphant success. Watch this space.