New Year, New Inspiration – the Hepworth project

Thank you for all your amazing feedback on last week’s post about Barbara Hepworth – it’s always great to hear from you. I promised a project this week’s inspired by her work – did you guess what it would be?

Squares with Two Circles 1963

Yes – it’s the holes!! I am so fascinated by Hepworth’s pierced sculptures, so I designed a project inspired by these.

To begin with I’m going to show you one technique for making a hole in your textile work (often known as a porthole). This porthole will have a feature fabric showing through. I’ll then give you some suggestions for how you can vary your portholes. To finish, I’ll explain how to make a hanging featuring both the portholes and a piercing right through the middle. Do you remember how Hepworth liked to explore the relationship between her sculptures, the viewer and the landscape? This was the inspiration for my hanging.

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to just try the technique or go on to make the full hanging. It may be that you have a go at a porthole and then incorporate it into your own work. I’ll give you plenty of suggestions along the way.

Making a Porthole


  • 10” square main fabric (dark grey in the example)
  • 7” square lining fabric (pale grey in the example – you need to choose something similar in colour to your main fabric)
  • Feature fabric (aqua bears fabric in example)– this will be fussy cut after you’ve made your porthole
  • Template for 4” porthole (below) – print or draw your own


  1. Cut out your fabrics as listed in the requirements above.  Cut out the circle template. Draw around the template on the back of lining fabric in the middle.

2. Place the lining fabric right sides together with main fabric and pin in place. You can choose whether to position your porthole in the centre or offset but you don’t want it too close to the edge – leave at least two inches between the circle and the edge of your main fabric.

Stitch around the circle – work slowly to keep it as flat as possible. Every few stitches stop with your needle in, raise the presser foot and turn the work. This ensures a smoother curve than trying to force your way around it without stopping. Stitch all the way around until you meet the start of your stitching

3. Cut out the centre of the circles – both the main and lining fabric. Leave a 1/8” seam allowance.

4. Push the lining fabric through the circle so it is at the wrong side of the main fabric. Finger press the edge – roll between your finger and thumb so that there is a tiny amount of the main fabric rolled to the back. Press in place – work slowly and carefully to get a good finish.

TIP – if your fabrics are not lying flat, it may be that your seam allowance is too big so you’ll need to trim it down. Alternatively, you may need to snip into the seam allowance.

5. Once you have your porthole lying flat, use it to choose the area of your feature fabric you want to appear through the porthole. Mark temporarily (I used a water erasable pen) and then cut out a 6” square with chosen part of the feature fabric in the middle.

6. Pin the feature fabric in place under the main fabric. Stitch around the edge of the porthole. This can be done by machine or by hand and you can use a decorative stitch if you want. The important thing is that the stitching is as close to the edge as possible. This will reinforce the small seam allowance underneath and stop the circle distorting.

7. Press well (removing temporary marking lines first if needed) and trim the excess fabrics away from the back of the piece. Make sure you don’t cut into the main fabric. If your main fabric is light, you need this trimming to be very neat as it may show through to the front.

So – that’s your first porthole done!

What next?

You can use your porthole in a piece of patchwork – to do this, trim so it’s square and then treat as any other piece of fabric. For example, if you trimmed your block to 9″ you could then join with other 9” squares to go into a quilt top.

OR – if you’ve enjoyed making your porthole and want to keep going you could try some variations. The following examples are made in exactly the same way as the first porthole.

The first variation could be what is behind your porthole. I’m sure you have loads of gorgeous fabrics to show off – I know I do – but these don’t have to be plain. You could make some patchwork first, and then display this behind the porthole.

Another idea is to vary the shape and/or size of your porthole.

When making different shapes it’s best to maintain gentle curves. Make sure your seam allowance inside is small and you will need to clip the curves in the seam allowance to make them lie flat.

Hepworth Inspired Hanging

The hanging is double-sided. It uses four blocks with portholes and feature fabrics – then the centre has a hole that goes all the way through the hanging.


  • Four porthole blocks with feature fabrics of your choice – each starting with a 10″ main fabric square as in the instructions above
  • Two additional 10″ squares of main fabric
  • Two additional 7″ squares of lining fabric
  • Five 10″ squares of wadding
  • Fabric for sashing and binding
  • Quilting threads – hand and/or machine


  1. The first step is to make the holes for the hanging (the central blocks in my example). Using your additional squares of main and lining fabrics make two portholes as before. As you are going to match these portholes to create a hole through your hanging, you want to make sure they are positioned identically. To do this, fold your template in half both ways to find the centre. Repeat with the lining fabric.

2. Position your template centrally by matching the creases and draw round it. Then fold your main fabric in half both ways to find the centre. Again, centre your lining fabric by matching the creases and pin.

3. Stitch around the circle and cut out as done previously. Turn your lining fabric to the wrong side and press. This time you are not adding a feature fabric – you want to keep the hole as a hole. Top stitch carefully to hold everything in place on both pieces.

4. Place one of your holes on top of a piece of wadding and draw round the inside of the hole. Cut a hole out of the wadding about 1/8″ larger than your drawn circle.

5. Put the fabric back on the wadding so the hole line up and pin in place. Turn over and add the second hole to the other side of the wadding, again making sure the holes line up. As the wadding hole is slightly larger you should be able to position the fabric pieces so no wadding shows.

6. When you are happy that the holes are in the right place, pin and then stitch around the hole through all the layers. I did this by hand and added some extra stitching to make a feature of this.

7. You now need to quilt your pieces. Start with the four portholes with feature fabrics. Place each onto a wadding square – you don’t need a backing. Quilt the main fabric only (not the porthole / feature fabric). Trim each square down to the size of the main fabric or slightly smaller if needed so the four blocks are the same size.

8. Decide upon the layout of your hanging. Pin the feature fabric portholes together in pairs.

9. Hand or machine quilt the portholes – this holds the layers together. I did this by hand and used a contrasting thread to make a feature of the quilting as you can see it on both sides.

10. Quilt the holes block. Trim the three double-sided blocks so they are all the same size.

11. The blocks are joined using a ‘quilt as you go’ method. To join two squares, cut two strips of fabric – one 1″ wide and the other 1 3/4″ wide. They need to be slightly longer than the blocks. Press the wider strip in half lengthwise, right sides out.

12. Pin the strips to a block – the 1″ strip should be right side towards the block and the folded strip should have the raw edges in line with the block edge.

13. Stitch in place with a 1/4″ seam. Trim off the excess fabric at either end of the block.

Flip the 1″ strip up and pin to the next block, right sides together. Stitch with a 1/4″ seam.

14. Flip the second block up so it lies next to the first one. Press the folded strip over to hide all the raw edges and the line of stitching. Hand-sew in place using a catch stitch as you would to attach binding.

15. Repeat to add the third block on. Bind your hanging.

16. Add a hanging loop. I stitched a button to both sides of the hanging in the middle of the top edge and then tied a ribbon around. Display your hanging where both sides can be admired – and the viewer can see through the hole – just like a Barbara Hepworth sculpture.

Please do tag us in any photos of makes inspired by this tutorial. We’ll see you next week for our next inpsiring artist.

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