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





embroidered butterfly needlebook tutorial and pattern (part two)

Today I have the instructions for sewing the needle book together.  If you are looking for the pattern and the embroidery tutorial it is over here

To sew the needle book together


Place the lining fabric and the embroidered/quilted piece right sides together and stitch around the edge with a 1" or 2" gap for turning (see picture above).  Stitch with a 1cm seam allowance.

Trim the edges and clip the corners.  My edges are about 0.5cm from the stitching line


Then squish the whole thing through the gap and turn the right way around.


press it open making sure you have good sharp corners.  Whip stitch the gap closed by hand. 

Now you will need your piece of felt


Place your felt inside the needlebook with about a half centimetre around the edge as above.  Find the centre by folding the whole thing in half (you can draw a chalk line on the felt if your fold isn't clear) then stitch down the centre line using running stitch and anchor 874.


To attach the fastening threads measure half way up the side of the needlebook where the lining meets the front cover.

thread your needle with 3 strands of Anchor 874 about 20cm long.  Put your needle in at the half way point and pull the thread through as though you are making a tiny stitch (as above) but only pull the thread half way through then take the needle off.  You are left with two tails about 10cm long.


Now tie a knot close to the edge of the needlebook to fasten your threads there.

Do exactly the same on the opposite side of the needlebook

Now you can tie the threads together to close the needlebook as shown below


I hope you enjoy stitching your little butterfly and (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) it reminds you that spring is on its way, especially when we get to February that longest shortest month!

Happy New Year and I will see you again in 2018






embroidered butterfly needlebook tutorial and free pattern (part one)


I hope you have all enjoyed the winter celebrations and are looking forward to a wonderful New Year.  As a little thank you for all the lovely support you have given me over this past year I have created a little butterfly pattern that you can download here

I used it for the cover of a little needlebook but you could pop it anywhere.  I think it would look sweet on a little notebook cover.  You could add flowers or stitch lots of butterflies.

These are the threads I used for the butterfly

IMG_5413 (2)

DMC 598 blue

DMC 3854 orange

DMC 352 coral

DMC ecru

Anchor 874 gold (the equivalent DMC is DMC 834)

DMC 451 brown


a piece of cotton or linen (I used cotton calico) 17cm x 11cm

a piece of quilt batting 17cm x 11cm

a piece of co-ordinating lining fabric 17cm x 11cm (I used Liberty tana lawn Claire Aude D)

a piece of co-ordinating felt 14cm x 8cm

a number 7 crewel needle


If you are making the needle book you need to fold your calico in half and trace the pattern onto the left side (what will be the front of the needlebook) using a removable pen (transferring patterns). 

Now, using 3 strands of DMC 598 and stem stitch outline the top wings of the butterfly.  Next, using 3 strands of DMC 3854 and stem stitch outline the lower wings.


Now work on the upper wings stitching both in the same way.

Take 3 strands of DMC 352 and, using rows of back stitch fill the edging of the top wings on both sides as above.


Now fill the tall triangles on the top wings using 3 strands of DMC 3854 and back stitch.


Fill the circles with Anchor 874 and satin stitch, again using 3 strands.

Next fill the wings with ecru thread and back stitch.  I used a slightly longer stitch than usual for this part (about 3 - 4mm)  Just stitch lines of back stitch and then add more lines next to those until you have filled the whole area


Next take 3 strands of DMC 451 and use back stitch to outline the body and stitch the antennae but not the tail

then fill the body with the same thread and stitch


For the tail stitch alternate single stitches using first DMC ecru then DMC 451 until the tail is filled


I stitched the very tip of the tail using DMC 451 and vertical stitches.

Next, using Anchor 874 and stem stitch embroider the lines on the lower wings.


Pop coral french knots in between the gold lines as above using 3 strands DMC 352.

Next add more french knots to the top wings where indicated using 3 strands of DMC 352.

Add a coral french knot to the top of each antennae using the same.


Once you have finished the butterfly stitching you need to place the embroidered calico onto the quilt batting ready to add the french knots and running stitch


Leave a 1cm border all the way around as a seam allowance as shown.  Then stitch through the cotton and batting making lots of french knots (you could use seed stitch if you prefer) on the front cover.  


For the back I drew straight lines 0.5cm apart and then stitched through the cotton and batting using running stitch

Tomorrow I will share how to stitch the needlebook together



part two of the tutorial

autumnal wanderings and a Kitty embroidery pattern

Flowers and leaves

We have just had a little break in Lincolnshire visiting our families.  I love going up in the autumn because it is so very autumnal up there.  There are so many trees and my mum's garden is full of apples and pears and dahlias.  All very inspiring to an absolute non gardener!

Wonky shed for real

I also love the wonky shed in the corner of her millenium garden.  Great inspiration for sketching and stitching.  Cornwall is very beautiful but our little corner is moorland, dunes and windswept beaches in the autumn.

Autumn girl

and at the end of it all I came home to autumnal dog walks along the sea shore with my autumnal girl.  I think I have enough flowery inspiration to keep me going for a while

Full stitching

when I got back I got on with some stitching and pattern writing

Full line stitch

and did a second stitching in a simpler quicker form (without the filler stitching)

so today I have listed this little kitten lover over in my Etsy shop where you can also find (at the time of writing this post) lavender girl kits and flower gardener samplers back in stock

Flower gardener collage

Lilipopo lavender girl embroidery

Now to go find a pumpkin for us to carve