Hand Stitch a Bevy of Boro Bobbles

Hand sewing is the foundation of needlecraft, and quilting is no exception. But trust art quilters to take needlework and turn it on its head!

Hand sewing a bevy of boro bobbles is fast,
easy, and satisfying.
Art by Victoria Gertenbach.

For me and many of the art quilters I know, quilting is something we mostly do by machine. Handwork is reserved for embellishment, mark making, and design.

But while I admire the intricate, mesmerizing lines of free-motion machine stitching, hand stitching is what I love. I'm always looking for sewing projects where I can add a bit of hand sewing. It's charming and shows the hand of the fiber artist.

Victoria Gertenbach's Boro Bobbles are just such a project. These tiny embellishments, made from fabric scraps and hand stitching, are the perfect thing to work on while you watch soccer games or TV. Victoria uses shot cotton that frays beautifully, but you could use any kind of fabric scraps you like.

Here's an abbreviated version of the directions.

1. For each bobble, cut two 2", 1", and ½" circles from three colors of fabric, respectively.

2. Place the 2 larger circles together with the wrong sides facing.

3. Using a single thread and a scant 1⁄8" seam allowance, hand stitch a small running stitch around the edge. (Begin by pulling the needle in between the 2 circles, so that the knot is hidden inside.) Stitch 3⁄4 of the way around the edge, then stop, but do not knot or cut the thread.

4. Take a palm-sized amount of fiberfill and roll it into a ball. Stuff the fiberfill through the opening between the 2 circles. If the amount seems to be too much, remove some, and if the amount seems to be too little, add a bit more.

5. Continue sewing the running stitch around the edge until the bobble is closed.

6. Still using the same colored thread, stitch around the entire bobble again, this time using a whipstitch on the raw edge of the seam. Stitch just past the running stitches, thus catching them in the edging.

7. Stitch the smaller circles each side of the bobble, using a small overhand stitch.

8. Using a contrasting thread, knot 1 end of the thread and insert the needle at the edge of 1 of the 1" circles. Bring the needle back up at the center of the 1⁄2" circle. Give a gentle pull to tuck and hide the knot underneath.

9. Imagining that the ½" circle is a clock face, stick the needle down at the 3 position, and bring it back up at the center. Repeat on the other side, sticking the needle in at the 9 position and again bringing it back up at the center. Do the same for the 12 and 6 positions, and then again in between each of the 4 stitches. When you are done, you will have 8 stitches radiating out from the center.

10. To finish, take the thread back down through the center of the 1⁄2" circle, and back up at the edge of the 1" circle. Knot the thread 1⁄4" from the edge of the 1" circle. Insert the needle at the edge of the 1" circle, and pull it back up on the other side of the circle, pulling the knot under. Cut off the excess thread.

11. Repeat steps 1-3 for the opposite side of the bobble.

Of course, you could use French knots in the center or edge the smaller circles in the buttonhole stitch. I'm sure you can think of creative ways to put your own spin on these bobbles.

This project is so much fun, we've included it in a new eBook, Hand Sewing: Projects and Techniques with Embroidery, Felt, and Embellishments. This eBook is full of easy sewing projects where you can indulge you love of hand sewing.

P.S. Do you love hand sewing? What's your favorite project? Leave a comment below.

Other topics you may enjoy:


Hand Embroidery, Quilting Daily Blog, Sewing Techniques

10 thoughts on “Hand Stitch a Bevy of Boro Bobbles

  1. On May 16, 2010, I started a Grandmother’s Flower Garden. I finished it and shipped it to my youngest daughter on May 16th 2012! Two years of totally hand stitching. I found it such fun – so portable! Recently I started another flower garden quilt but I’m using only batik material. Beautiful!

  2. On May 16, 2010, I started a Grandmother’s Flower Garden. I finished it and shipped it to my youngest daughter on May 16th 2012! Two years of totally hand stitching. I found it such fun – so portable! Recently I started another flower garden quilt but I’m using only batik material. Beautiful!

  3. schmatta, you can use the boro bobbles as pin cushions, stitch them together edge to edge to make a larger piece of fiber art, or use them as embellishments.

  4. Just finishing a denim usable wall hanging with sewn on denim pockets etc.for my grandson.He can fill the pockets etc with his precious bits and pieces. About a metre square. All pockets hand quilted to out line the shape. Coloured buttons attached to the actual pockets to match the colours in his bed quilt. Various blues,lime greens. The hand sewing really enjoyable. Intend to make some bobbles.Picture looks like felt has been used.

  5. I adore hand sewing; it’s my lifeblood! Too many different sorts that I enjoy to pick just one but Crazy Patch is probably my most favourite. The Boro Bobbles look really interesting and I’m sure I’ll try them soon. Love to add handwork to my machine pieced quilts where possible and will always hand quilt where possible as well. Thanks for your daily emails with enough inspiration to please everyone I feel! Jan In Australia

  6. Just made “ruffle butt” onesies for a friend’s baby shower with hand embroidery along the neckline and a bird motif at the front center to match the ruffled fabric. Love small, hand-sewing projects — they’re portable and can be worked on in those odd “extra” moments.

  7. These look very cute and I can see them adapted for use as pincushions or for brooches, hatpins etc.

    However I do not know what ‘boro’ means and I have seen it used in several places now so it seems to be something I should know. Help, please.

  8. I have a LOT of favorite hand-sewing projects but one that is similar to this one is to make small pieces shaped like a heart or a hand, using very small stitches and leaving a small opening. Instead of stuffing them with fiber filling, use a large funnel and fill the shapes with millet seed. Finish sewing up, and embellish if wanted. You have a gift to give to a friend- a hand to hold or a heart to hold – a comforting little “feely”!

  9. I’ve completed two hand sewn quilt tops, now. I love doing it while accomodating my addiction, tv watching. I sew everything by hand. I feel a much closer relationship to the finished product. Quilt I gifted to a dear friend recently is so much more meaningful to me.