The lost art of tacking, and the joy of remembering it...

I'd seen a couple of gorgeous pencil holders lately that had inspired me to have a go at making one of my own. One on Sarah London's site (You'll need to scroll down to find this one, but I love the way the Jack & The Beanstalk picture goes horizontally across as if it's part pencil holder, part picture book), and another on Yellow Owl. There's something so satisfying about seeing pencils all lined up in a row and getting the colour order just right that it really appealed to me.

Mine is a smaller pencil holder for mini pencils so that I can fit it into my handbag easily when we take the children out to a restaurant.

I love the dog applique that I've used on it - just a silhouette, but it somehow looks so playful - it's the Puppy Love applique printout from Anna Maria Horner's site - a very much smaller version.

Making the pattern for the pencil holder took me a ridiculously long time, trying to work out how far apart all the pencils should be...but that was only the start of my problems! I've worked with bias binding a couple of times before, but have always used much wider binding - which obviously is easier to attach, but I thought with the pencil holder being so miniature that a wide binding would dwarf it, but what a complete nightmare it was to sew on! I had pinned it all perfectly, but ended up unpicking my stitches countless times as I just couldn't seem to keep the binding in quite the right place. It was only at about 11.30 at night that I had a eureka moment and did the thing that most sane crafters would have done hours ago; I had completely forgotten that those with a little more patience would use a tacking stitch before attempting to sew it all up on the machine. I haven't tacked anything for years, but suddenly I was transported back to my Home Economics classroom, where this was the precursor to all creations (I loved that room - a line of sewing machines going along three of the walls around the outside of the room and massive chests holding fabrics and ribbons). Once I'd done that it all got a bit easier!

I did the vertical stitching with clear thread, a tip that I got from Sarah London's site - which was an excellent one as the it would have ruined my puppy to sew through him. I'd only ever used clear thread for hand-sewing before, which has always been a frustrating experience as it's strangely stretchy, as well as virtually invisible, but using it with a machine is far easier.

I had been wanting to use this pink and brown polka dot ribbon for ages and was so happy once I'd picked out all my fabrics that this was obviously going to be the perfect project for it.

Anyway, the binding still isn't quite a perfect as I'd want it....but that's one of the perks of having two children; I have a legitimate excuse to perfect it while making another one!

By the end of the evening I was left with several questions:

1. Am I the only one that, despite good intentions, ends up with strands of thread literally covering the entire floor...creating a sort of second carpet? (don't hide your light under a bushel - if anyone actually manages this it will spur me on to try harder knowing that it is actually achievable).

2. The same again, but with pins!

3. How many times a week do find yourself being told off (probably quite reasonably) for vacuuming up said 'thread carpet' after midnight?


  1. Love the pencil roll - it's so pretty.

    As for thread...ah yes, that would be me. But my craft room has a wooden floor so I just slide it under the sofa bed, or push the cat around it. Okay I'm only joking about the last one. I do use a plastic tub on my table when I'm sewing where I put all the nipped off bits of thread and material, which makes things a little bit less messy.

    But pins - no solution for pins

  2. A plastic tub would be a good place for me to start...although now I've started thinking about it I'm daydreaming about making weird contraptions involving strips of velcro, interspersed with nice fabrics...perhaps best not to think.

  3. What a wonderful blog! The things you make are beautiful ... my kids were entranced! You were the first to respond to my post today (couldn't find your e-mail though) ... did you want the pirate quilt? Let me know at

  4. hello florence, thanks for coming by and for sharing your experience at a market :)

    Thin binding are evil! I don't even have the skill to sew them hahaha.

  5. oh what a adorable pencil roll-up and you have such an endearing creative blo ;-)

  6. You did a beautiful job! Binding is truly evil and you've conquered it nicely.
    Thread and pins all over the floor-me too. I have a wood floor and I use one of those little electric sweepters. It's cordless and rechargable and works wonderfully for my small space.

  7. Thank you for all your kind comments! It would seem that a wooden floor is the only way to keep things tidy...I'm thinking that an unsealed one would have the added advantage of having small cracks for stray threads and pins to drop down into and so halve clearing up time (but double pin buying).

  8. Hi again florence.... Kids in bed and am back for a read.
    I used to work in theatre making costumes and we always had large magnets for picking up our pins.. the only side effect to this was that sometimes the pins magnetized (hope that's a word), and then stuck to the scissors. Tacking seems really underused these days but is so useful.
    ps.. i have tried with a bin under the sewing machine but thread still seems to end up all over the floor.


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