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Twiddling Tucks with Jennie Rayment

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1. Cut a wide strip of fabric, and remove the selvedges. On the Right Side (R/S) draw small neat and clearly visible marks (use a pencil/chalk/fabric marker) along both long edges at 2.5cm (1in) intervals. Mark one edge first then mark the opposite one - both sets of marks on either edge should be aligned. Do not rule lines across the fabric.

Thread top and bottom spool of the sewing machine with thread to match the material.

2. Fold fabric on the first set of marks (pencil mark on the edge of fold). Using a normal stitch length (approximately 2.5) sew from edge to edge about 0.75cm (¼in) from the fold. The seam need not be precisely this measurement but should be consistent. Try to sew a parallel seam to the fold, and use a thread saver (page 10).

3. Having made the first tuck, turn the work round and refold the fabric on the next set of marks. Sew the next seam, taking care not to catch the outer edge of the material in the second tuck. Repeat the folding and stitching on every set of marks. Turn the work each time, sewing each seam in the opposite direction to the previous one, as this helps to prevent the tucked fabric distorting.

When lines of stitch are constantly sewn in the same direction i.e. top A to bottom B, the presser foot drags the fibres slightly each time, consequently pulling the material out of shape. By commencing sewing from A towards B, turning work and sewing next seam from B to A, the fibres will be less distorted.

As the work is turned, on every other seam the tucks will be underneath.

4. Continue until all the tucks are made or boredom sets in! Press all the tucks firmly in the same direction; press both the tucked (right) side and the reverse (wrong) side well. Do not worry if the seam lines on the reverse appear to be uneven, once the tucks have been manipulated any little meandering or deviation in the seaming will be concealed.

Stitch all the tucks down in the same direction along one edge.

Turn the work and sew a second line parallel to the first line, twisting the tucks over as you go (tucks lie in opposite direction). The distance between these two lines of stitch is your choice. If the second line of stitch is too close to the first then the tucks will not lie absolutely flat and the fabric may distort. Does it matter? Why not experiment?

Complete the panel with parallel lines of stitching (equally or randomly spaced, the decision is yours), finishing on the outer edge. Lines of stitch spaced approximately 5/6.5cm (2/2½in) apart will create an interesting texture and not distort the finished sample too much.

Keep the stitching straight by ruling guidelines, lightly marking the edge of the tucks (this will be hidden when the tucks are twisted over). Mark one line at a time to avoid confusion - as the tucks twist, on alternate rows the tucks need to be marked on the opposite side.

Use a small wooden barbecue/kebab skewer or point of stitch ripper or small fine scissors to help turn the tuck and hold it down while sewing. Fingers are not always nimble enough to hold the fabric precisely where needed, and a machine needle through the finger is best avoided.

Create Simple Texture

Tucks are a very simple way to create texture for garments as well as textile art (we saw it used to great effect recently in the Water Water Exhibition which is in the Out and About section of the site).

Add Colour by using Thread

Think about the threads you could use too to colour the edges - there are some wonderful varigations around these days.


About Jennie Rayment

This skinnyish, red-haired, slightly wacky Brit is totally obsessed with 'Nipping and Tucking' - fabric manipulation and surface texture.

Unique in her field, she's now internationally known for her quick, simple, innovative and original techniques with manipulated material and her hilarious lectures with real ‘Strip, Show and Tell’.

Jennie teaches a wide variety of classes for all levels and abilities of sewers from patchworkers, quilters and embroiderers to fashion, soft furnishing and home décor enthusiasts.

Indeed, anyone interested in any form of needlework will be totally captivated by her deviously ingenious textural designs and can benefit from the wealth of creative ideas arising from her magic manipulations.

Why not try her classes in Emsworth - for lots more information and the latest joke plus a 'Sew simple' project go to

and you can join her on her Creative Sewing weekends as well as the Sewing Weekend both of which are held at Dunford House in Midhurst - for more details visit the classified section/quilting holidays.


NOTE:  Jennie will be in the QIA section of the Festival of Quilts 2014 - stop by and say hi!

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