A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!
Aimed at stitchers who have a love of making.
ALL SOLD OUT I’M AFRAID – well actually I’m delighted!
I was completely overwhelmed by the popularity of my first Workshop in a Box and just thrilled by people’s responses as they received their gorgeous packages through the post. So I’m totally excited to announce that pre-orders are will open on Friday 1st November for my second: my beautifully festive Patchwood Christmas Tree.
I LOVE the idea of you creating this lovely seasonal wall piece that you will enjoy bringing out year after year!
My aim for these boxes is for them to fall somewhere between an inspiration pack (where materials are provided with no guidance for using them) and a kit (where there are step-by-step instructions and everyone makes the same). Because of the nature of this one – it definitely falls nearer the ‘kit’ form but you will find that I have included suggestions for how you can change things around a bit and make it your own. Not least you will start off personalising it by choosing your own colours.
Please note that PAINT IS NOT INCLUDED in the box.
This was to help keep costs down (this box is already more expensive because of the sheer amount of time involved in preparation & some of the tools needed) but also because I thought you would want to choose your own colours. I use matt emulsion ‘Match Pots’ from the DIY store, available very cheaply in every colour imaginable.
You could even go metallic & glittery if you wish… just don’t tell me! Rumour has it that in December I frisk my workshop participants to make sure they’re not trying to smuggle glitter into my class!! This may or may not be true but I do have a serious ‘bling’ phobia. However even I will make an exception for this and admit that a wee bit of added shimmer might not be a bad thing! (Not included in the box though because I just can’t!)
In my own art practice the theme of my work always suggests the materials that I use. These are generally old, collected, washed & worn. I have an absolute passion for vintage materials so this project is highly unusual for me in that it mostly uses ‘new’.
Because I’ve taken my favourite patches from four years of making Patchwood Christmas Trees and brought them altogether in the design of this tree. Although I prefer to use vintage treasures wherever I possibly can, it dawned on me that my favourite Christmas Tree patches were actually made from new bits from craft stores. Yikes I never thought I would utter these words – but in this instance it’s absolutely true!
But true to form, I have managed to include some vintage treasures such as: Vintage text – an old book page, newspaper & magazine cuttings for you to cut out letters to use ‘Ransom Note’ style, vintage fabric scraps and other little bits & pieces.
I have prepared everything in the box myself, as I would for a workshop and I’m really excited at the thought of people rummaging through it! I had such wonderful feedback on the presentation of my first Workshop in a Box, this is SO important to me. My aim is to keep packaging simple and re-usable…. but also rather beautiful!
You’ll receive seven wooden ‘patches’ and all the materials and tools required to make your gorgeous Patchwood Christmas Tree with, as I said earlier, the exception of paint. I have pre-drilled all the stitching holes, ready for you to start assembling. These are done by hand and I don’t pretend for a minute that they are perfect. Participants in my workshops always think that I drill perfectly uniform holes and I am very happy to point out the wonky bits. Wood doesn’t always behave exactly as you wish and the grain means that sometimes the drill is pushed out of line. To me this is the point of it – part of the anomaly of trying to ‘sew’ wood. They are drilled as I would when working on pieces for selling or commission.
There is, of course, a story behind why I wanted to stitch wood in the first place, a bit long to tell here, but it’s to do with mixing up some of the stereotypical domestic roles – taking a traditionally ‘female’ role of sewing and working it in a traditionally ‘male’ material. My workshops are always developments from my own personal art practice – read more about my series of Patchwood Samplers.
There will be a limited number of 30 Patchwood Christmas Tree boxes available and I will start posting them out on Monday 11th November and will post throughout that week. They won’t take too long to make so there will be plenty of time for you to complete and get them hanging on your wall for Christmas.
You can pre-order a box from Friday 1st November by contacting me by email. Payment will be by Paypal or Bank transfer.
The cost of the box is £45 plus UK postage of £3.00
I can ship overseas but the following postal rates will be added:
United States £9.10/ Europe £6.65 / Australia £9.80 / New Zealand £9.80
I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see pictures of the results!
A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!
Aimed at stitchers who have a love of making.
I first had the idea for my Workshop in a Box during a wonderfully relaxed holiday in Rome earlier this year. Within a few hours of first expressing the tiniest glimmer of an idea to my husband, I found myself with a list of month by month projects that I could develop. Three months down the line I have experimented and played and come up with my first gorgeous little package.
Ta dah – I’d love to introduce you to my first Workshop in a Box my – Scrappy Hand Stitch Sampler
My aim for these boxes is for them to fall somewhere between an inspiration pack (where materials are provided with no guidance for using them) and a kit (where there are step-by-step instructions and everyone makes the same). I have provided all the materials for making my sampler along with ‘Making Notes’, a chart and photographs. Many of my followers on social media and in person by attending my workshops are already enthusiastic and often experienced stitchers so this box is aimed at them. Anyone who is not familiar with any of the stitches used can look for online tutorials, or even better in my opinion, invest in an embroidery stitch book. I love collecting vintage of course and still use my very first sewing book “Embroidery Stitches’ by Barbara Snook. There are some really lovely books, vintage & new around.
Everyone who knows me will know that I have a love of vintage, a love of using materials that are used, washed & worn. In so doing, we are not only preventing these beautiful treasures from ending up in landfill but we are also bringing their stories to our work. There is an energy & vibrancy in old textiles, we may never know where they came from, we may never know their stories but they capture our imagination and conjure up pictures in our minds and emotions in our heart. Wherever possible I will be using vintage materials in all of my Workshops in a Box, which is both challenging and exciting. Because of this there may be marks, or some of the fabrics may be faded or slightly damaged. I’ll be including the pieces that I would choose to work with myself – I usually make a bee line for the damaged bits as I know many of you do too!
I have prepared everything in the box myself, as I would for a workshop and I’m really excited at the thought of people rummaging through it!
There will be a limited number of 30 of this workshop available for now.
The Story of the materials in this box
The sampler is worked on a woollen blanket ground. Found as a friend cleared out her mother’s cupboards. I’ve also included a spare bitty blanket to test out your stitching if you wish.
A stitch grid pattern
Printed on a page from a 1950s Woman magazine. It tears easily and is so much more pleasing than anything else!
A fragment of lace
From a big tangled box of tatting, crochet and lace pieces that I bought as a job lot from the Textile Tent at the Newark show ground. I’ve also included a few tiny scraps extra for you to use (or not) in this project. Just patch them on wherever you fancy!
A scrap of tape measure
Also from an antique fair at Newark. I have a THING for tape measures, ever since I was tiny and called them ‘mithers’. This is slightly ironic as I can’t measure for toffee! You’ll have to excuse wonky lines!
Cash’s Name Tape
An Ebay treasure. Little bundles of tape in the original box. I have a fascination for Cash’s name tapes – I love that this one belonged to a stranger but you might have one of your own that you wish to use or substitute it for something from your stash!
A gorgeous fragment of quilt
Another find on Ebay – this is a phrase you will see a lot in future boxes! It’s a little scrap from a hand stitched antique Durham quilt. It was very scrappy so perfect for sharing.
Now these are very special pieces. Antique Japanese scraps bought in the wonderfully amazing Asia Gallery in Aukland, New Zealand. This beautiful antique fabric, was found while rummaging amongst kimono, wonderful boro pieces and other most gorgeously special antique Asian treasures. This very special place may be on the other side of the world but I’d love to think I’ll return there sometime!
Fifteen boxes have blue fabric patches included & fifteen have a gorgeous green & cream stripe – I honestly can’t tell you which I like best. Tell me which colour is your first choice and whether you are willing to accept the alternative when you order.
I’ve absolutely no idea where these have come from. They’ve been collected over time, vintage mother of pearl as these are my favourite, especially when they are a bit bashed and marked through use. I also love and covet linen buttons but I never quite knew what to do with the ones with no holes in them until I came across instructions in a vintage book so I’ve popped one in!
These are from a hand stitched vintage bed cover made in old batik fabric. These are little extras that I have popped in – I didn’t include them in mine but you may wish to swap around a couple of patches to include one.
These are typed on bias binding. The tape is new but I’ve typed them myself using my mother in law’s old typewriter. I always love how some letters don’t quite come out right so no apologies that they may not be 100% perfect!
New fabric printed on my inkjet printer. There’s a choice of headings for the sampler including a little line that tickled me from the introduction of one of my vintage needlework books ‘Needlework For Student Teachers’ by Amy K Smith. the introduction is written by ‘The Lady Wolverton’ and is one of my favourite parts of the book. My copy of this gorgeous book belonged to Maria Davies of Taff’s Well near Cardiff and she has handwritten the date 1895 inside.
DMC Cotton Perle no 8 in numbers 413 (Grey), 321 (Red) and Ecru. The stranded cotton is also DMC number 321.
I’m so hoping that people will enjoy using all these bits & pieces that I have hoarded over the years but I also that they’ll personalise their samplers by adding bits from their own stash and by using their own favourite stitches. The possibilities are endless.
There will be a limited number of 30 Scrappy Hand Stitch Sampler boxes available and I will be posting them out from 1st October. You can pre-order a box from today Tuesday 24th September by contacting me by email. Payment will be by Paypal. If you do not have a Paypal account then let me know and we can arrange another method. Remember to tell me whether you would prefer blue or green antique fabric patches and whether you are willing to accept the other if your first choice is no longer available.
The cost of the box is £35 plus UK postage of £3.00
I can ship overseas but the following postal rates will be added:
United States £9.10/ Europe £6.65 / Australia £9.80 / New Zealand £9.80
I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see pictures of the results!
Hands up if you have a friend who, after you have spent a day in their company, you realise that you feel inspired, invigorated, re-energised and excited to get on with things! You find yourself feeling focussed because you have had the opportunity to talk things through and clear a bit of head space, and you feel ready to tackle the world because at some point during the day’s conversation you came up with some ideas for simple actions you could take to get things moving again.
I am very lucky to have a friend just like that in Carole Fitzgerald of Lazy Sunday. We first met a few years ago when she attended a workshop that I was teaching in my studio – The Purple Thread Shed. Sometimes you just click with someone immediately on meeting them. When I looked up Lazy Sunday online and saw Carole’s stunningly gorgeous creativity around the whole food and dining experience I have to say I was a little awe struck.
Anyway to cut a long story short Carole attended more workshops, we got to know each other a bit better and a friendship grew. We realised that we both felt exactly the same wonderful mix of invigoration, clarity and energy in each other’s company and we started to look a bit more closely at why. For a start we were choosing to set aside a whole day for each other (we don’t live next door unfortunately), we would meet in a beautiful, inspiring space (we recognise that we create these quite naturally round about us) and we would talk…about everything. About work, about family, about the things that are ‘sticking’ us and about the things we would like to get off the ground. And while we were talking, we would be making something or photographing something … just creatively doing something!
We had a bit of a lightbulb moment after one particular day when we had been making a beautiful scrappy journal and Carole returned home and found herself filling this journal with new plans and ideas for her business. As she was writing and doodling and cutting and sticking she found that ideas flowed, tricky decisions became easier and the more she wrote down the more the fog in her head cleared. The next time I saw her, last Autumn, she showed me the most beautiful journal (far prettier than mine) and a new idea was born.
A Retreat called Nourish and Nurture
We decided that we wanted to share this creativity, this energy or process or whatever you might want to call it with other women. It felt so exciting and so absolutely right that we booked our chosen venue there and then. (Would you believe that they had one free week left in their calendar and it coincided with us both having a rare gap in our diaries – some things are just meant to be). So having made the most very exciting decision to just DO IT our Retreat called Nourish and Nurture was born.
Of course we have chosen the most stunning of venues – Cardy Net House in Fife – a house by the sea where we will make and chat and cook and eat and be for 3 days and 4 nights. We will consciously practice beautyFULL living and show you simple ways to bring this way of living into your home life – in a very real way rather than an Instagram photo kind of way.
I, personally, am totally excited about cooking together. I have always cooked to ‘keep the family alive’, to quote Carole Decker when she appeared on Celebrity Masterchef, but it’s definitely not my thing. However when you hang around someone who quickly, easily and utterly gorgeously produces beautiful food and presents it so that you just want to photograph it (and eat it) immediately, the enthusiasm starts to rub off. I’ve found myself feeling such pride when I put a big plate of stunning food on the table and listen to the family making the ‘mm mmm mmmm’ hamster noises and I am now smitten. I want to know more and more and can’t wait to take part in preparing our food open plan and sharing with others round our long table…and getting my hands on some beautyFULL recipes!
Escape for 3 days and 4 nights?
So, if by any chance things have been a bit full on lately, then maybe the chance to escape for 3 days and 4 nights to a house by the sea and become totally engrossed in making and doing and chatting and being might be exactly what you are looking for!
Spaces are very limited so give us a shout ASAP to claim your place at the table!
Carole and I planned to launch news of our Retreat months ago, at the start of the year, we know we’re late in doing so now. BUT life happens! We both run creative businesses, we both have family responsibilities – things haven’t gone excatly to plan this year for either of us. THAT really is what this retreat is about, acknowledging that and moving on anyway. So we’ve had to delay – no drama!
As you may already know I’ve decided to take a break from teaching my own programme of textile workshops for now. However the two that I taught earlier this year at The Restoration Yard, near Edinburgh were such a success, and such fun, that I’ve decided to return to this big, beautiful space this coming October and November to teach just two more!
The first one will be one of my favourites (yes I probably do say this about most of them).
Stories from the Sewing Box / Stories from the Scullery
This is a gorgeous day of ‘slow stitching’, nostalgia and sharing stories. This workshop is perfect for lovers of ‘vintage’ especially those who have fond memories of sewing as a child, of playing with mum’s button box or being fascinated by nan’s sewing box or maybe childhood memories of licking cake mixture out of the mixing bowl and the smell of home baking.
We’ll spend six glorious hours designing and creating a gorgeous textile collage with a ‘sewing box’ or ‘scullery’ theme.
I’ll be raiding my supplies from my studio, The Purple Thread Shed, and will provide a fabulous selection of vintage materials for you to use throughout the day. I LOVE using old & used materials so I’ll be looking out boxes of vintage embroidered table linens, 1940s floral fabrics, scraps of old lace, paper from 1950s magazines and vintage dressmaking patterns and anything else that comes to hand while I’m packing. Ooh maybe some old quilt fragments and definitely a great selection of vintage haberdashery. And for all you who love to rummage through a good old ‘button box’- there will be buttons…lots of buttons!!
I’ll also prepare some printed fabrics to bring along. These will be printed from text and images from old sewing magazines, books and jotters and some of my precious vintage recipe books. There isn’t time on the day to print your own fabrics, but I’ll talk you through how it’s done and provide a great selection ready for you to use.
I’ll work with everyone throughout the day. I tend to demonstrate a few techniques and then work with people individually because you’ll all be doing something different and completely personal. While I provide all the materials that you’ll need, people very often bring along their own bits & pieces to work with. What could be more personal than using your own fabric treasures collected throughout the years from your own family stash? I’ll give suggestions for what to bring when you book your place but do know that you can turn up completely empty handed – perfect for those of you who don’t have a minute to swing a cat (there’s something not quite right about that) or for those who don’t have a stash of their own!
So – using an old woollen blanket as a ground, I’ll show you how to piece together a gorgeously scrappy background from our vintage fabrics and papers. This is a lovely intuitive process and be warned – it will take much longer than you think! You’ll add more pattern using old haberdashery (don’t you just love that word?) and then you’ll be ready to start the lovely process of slow hand stitching.
Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced stitcher – running stitch and cross-stitch are all you need. A love of textiles and scrappy vintage style is far more important! I encourage people just to start stitching. Once you get started, ideas will grow from there – I promise!
I’ll help you to create balance and flow in your design through your stitching and bring all of these scrappy little patches together as one gorgeous piece. If you feel more adventurous, I’ll demonstrate some of my favourite stitches and will bring along a lovely selection of vintage ‘stitch’ books from my growing collection! Neat perfect stitching is not the order of the day, making lovely personal ‘marks’ with needle and thread most definitely is!
Warning! The picture above is to tempt & inspire you BUT don’t expect to finish your hanging on the day. Hand stitching is slow, as is the design process. I’ll give you all the guidance you need to finish your gorgeous project at your own pace at home.
Stories from the Sewing Box / Stories from the Scullery workshop
Saturday 6th October 2018
The Restoration Yard, Dalkeith Country Park – near Edinburgh
The workshop runs from 10.00am – 4.00pm
The cost of the day is £65 inclusive of refreshments & materials
You’ll find out all the details here and I’d love to have you join us!!
I will be teaching one more workshop in the Edinburgh area before the end of the year
Patchwood Christmas Trees on Saturday 17th November at the Restoration Yard.
You can find out the details here and do book soon as there are only a few places left.
Find out where else I will be teaching and I’d love to hear from you if you would like me to teach in your own gorgeous craft venue or to your textile group.
PS – Can anyone accurately count the number of times the word ‘vintage’ is used in this blog? Clue – it’s an awful lot and I even took loads out!!
Following on from part one of this blog about my recent week teaching with Phil & Fran at Crafty Retreats in beautiful, rural France.
Although much of our week was spent in the studio we were also given the opportunity to do some exploring out and about. We discussed the options during our first evening and decided that we would have two half day outings. So on the Sunday we set off in search of tatty treasures at a couple of ‘Vide Greniers’. The first was pretty much a car boot sale with more people behind each stall than there were visitors – clearly a bit of a family day out. ‘Treasures’ were short on the ground though I did get an absolutely beautiful monogrammed linen sheet for 10 euro and Paul and I also found a great set of brass & copper cooking utensils for 5 euros. They’re not particularly old but beautiful crafted (Paul knows a good rivet when he sees one) and as we’re doing up our kitchen and kitchen related ‘stuff’ was on our wish list we were happy. We were even happier at the next stop when we found a set of small copper pans for 20 euros – these ones are old and will clean up a treat! There weren’t particularly rich pickings here either – just a few bits and bobs. I found some lovely old envelopes and Phil found a 1990s 1 year old child mannequin without a head or arms and priced at all of 4 euros it had to come home with us – worth it just to make the ‘it’s armless’ joke if for no other reason!!
We split into two groups for our outing with half setting off to explore the ‘butchers quarter‘ in Limoges and the other half of us opting to visit Oradour-sur-Glane. It’s a very sobering and poignant experience and I can’t even begin to tell the story here. It’s hugely thought provoking and should be experienced if you are ever visiting the region. I was truly fascinated by the number of houses with old Singer sewing machines amongst their ruins. I had been told to look out for this but really wasn’t quite prepared for the impact. I’ll maybe say more in a future blog, maybe not – maybe just something to ponder on myself!
As the week and our Patchwood Samplers progressed Phil had the wonderful idea of creating a ‘Group Sampler’ to display on their stand at the Festival Of Quilts. Everyone was tasked with creating a personal patch and Oscar the pooch agreed (?) to represent the animal team (2 dogs, 2 cats and 1 tortoise) by having his paw printed. He looks most engaged in the whole process!
Time did fly and all too soon we found ourselves on Day 8 with everyone preparing to leave on afternoon flights. There was some last minute finishing off in the studio in the morning (everyone did finish their pieces and some people even left with more than one), some frantic trying to fit into suitcases (although we had taken this into consideration in all our planning & designing throughout the week) and then we came together for an emotional ‘Show and Tell’. Even I, who had continually been working with everyone throughout the week, didn’t quite appreciate the extent of personal stories in each and every finished sampler. For me it is a huge mark of success when people get emotional talking about their piece of work and I think a few ‘family heirlooms’ were established.
The samplers below:
Celebrating a love of typography and all things sewing related. I’m particularly loving the cardboard child with the scissors in hand. I can just hear my ex mother in law saying – ‘that bairn’ll take its eye out!’
The samplers below:
Irish roots, a love of sewing and childhood memories and ‘sides to middle’ – see part one for the story behind this phrase.
A collection of family antique ‘treasures’ with a bunch of tiny wax flowers from a wedding cake. Can you spot the brooch by Hens Teeth?
The samplers below:
So many family treasures – an old christening bracelet and a grandson’s hospital tag, dancing awards and a pair of pliers from dad’s tool shed.
Three samplers celebrating a love of sewing . Loving the perfectly worked cross stitch pieces ‘for mother with much love’
The samplers below:
Stories of bicycles and breathalysers (see previous blog post), a lifelong passion for dressmaking a love of blue, labels and all things Liberty.
Sewing box treasures – an unexpected gift of a pair of old scissors and mother in law’s thimble -probably the biggest thimble I’ve ever seen!
The samplers below:
Celebrating family roots, a love of all things fibre and some naturally ‘mushroom’ dyed yarn.
Oh where to start celebrating the life of a much loved mum with memories from entertaining 70s style. Loving the fragment of ‘fur’ coat and the scrap of lurex fabric from the ‘party apron’!
The week ended all too soon. Despite teaching in the studio from nine in the morning until seven in the evening (and more) I left with as much energy as I had when I arrived and that has just got to be the sign of a fabulous week. A week of being so generously looked after by Fran & Phil and making such lovely new friends in the most very gorgeous of settings. I even got a ‘night night’ kiss from Tutu the dog every night (because I asked him nicely not because he was dishing them out I hasten to add). Actually if it wasn’t because I was coming home to Annie the Purple Thread Shed pooch and a little grandbaby, I don’t think I would’ve wanted to leave at all.
What next? We’re returning in 2020 for another week of Patchwood Samplers and maybe some Patchwood Tenements thrown in for good measure. And maybe even another week of something quite different – more news of that later. But in the meantime bookings for the Samplers has already started and as there’s only eight places I’d get signing up quick.
A couple of years back I received a most exciting email from Philippa & Fran of Crafty Retreats inviting me to join them in France in 2018 for a week’s teaching. Of course I absolutely jumped at the opportunity and planning began. Now, sadly, it’s all over except to reflect on a glorious week, lovely new friends and the satisfaction of seeing some beautifully thoughtful Patchwood Samplers coming to life over the time we spent together.
I got really excited when I started thinking about the actual programme for the week as I realised that we’d have time to make one of my full size Patchwood Samplers. My problem was the amount of equipment and materials involved and the thought of packing everything onto Ryanair seemed a bit impossible. Husband Paul quickly came to the rescue and suggested we both go, pack everything into the back of my mini clubman and have ourselves a road trip. So with the help of Tom Tom and several stop-overs en route we drove from Edinburgh to the Limousin region of France until, finally, we ‘turned left at the hole in the tree’ and arrived in the tiny hamlet of Mallety.
Any ‘nerves’ left as we went through the gate and a smile hit my face that I don’t think left me for the entire week. Gorgeous welcomes from Phil & Fran , as well as the lovely Lee & Jackie, a couple of ‘early arrival’ participants, and introductions to ‘Tutu and Oscar’ the pooches followed by a perfect cuppa outside in the courtyard. We were then shown to our ‘home’ for the week and the all important studio. I have to tell you that this place is stunning – I really am still grinning!
So time to get to work (still grinning). We got the car unpacked and everything into the studio. Phil, Jackie & Lee set to work hanging Patchwood Samplers onto every available wall space as I unpacked the boxes of vintage materials that I had brought from The Purple Thread Shed. I made up everyone’s ‘party bag’ and we were ready to go. Paul deserves a seat by the way having not only done all the driving but also having cut about 300 patches of wood before we left home!!
I always love unpacking the materials at the start of a course. I’d brought along everything needed to make ‘sewing box’ inspired samplers – vintage buttons & haberdashery, old floral French fabrics, handmade lace scraps that I’d found in the Textile Tent at Newark, old paper patterns and lots of other lovely treasures! Materials are really important – for me they have to be old and used, tatty and torn before they are of any interest, each tiny scrap embedded with its own hidden story.
The rest of the day passed in a blur of sunshine, food and cups of tea until it was time for Phil to do the airport run and pick up the new arrivals for the week. Paul and I explored our farmhouse – yes it was actually big enough to ‘explore’, unpacked our bags and generally wandered about feeling pretty smug.
I was heard muttering ‘this place is completely stunning’ – a lot!!
Did I tell you that there is a hot tub outside next to the studio?? There is actually even a hot tub outside next to the studio!
Suddenly everyone was here and we were all meeting for the first time, glass of fizz in hand munching on delicious canapés made by Fran. Our furthest traveller was Trine who had come all the way from Newfoundland and not for the first time either, such is the lure of this place! Everyone was shown to their rooms and before we knew it, we were all sitting round the beautiful farmhouse table having our first meal together. Gorgeous food, wine and chat with the loveliest group of women that I could imagine. Mostly people travelled alone, two friends travelled together and one brought her camper van, her husband and her dog setting up camp outside our farmhouse! With only eight participants everyone gets to know each other pretty quickly and something I really did love about the week was sitting round the table at mealtimes, sharing stories.
On the first full day we woke up to gorgeous sunshine (as we did every day) and everyone made their way to the studio for an impressively early start. I explained about my Patchwood Samplers and the story behind them and also pointed out that it was not only a week of making but also a week of listening and telling stories, of reminiscing and thinking. I gave everyone a simple handmade ‘sketchbook’ to capture some of the thoughts and information that we would be gathering over the week ahead.
Explanations over, work started in earnest as people started sanding their 24 ‘patches’ of wood. I showed how to start playing around with layouts for their Patchwood Samplers and then all the patches had to be painted and finished. This was a lovely social way to get the week started and this activity took up a good chunk of the day.
We planned an afternoon visit to ‘Marie-Helene’ the local Brocante and spent a lovely hour or so rummaging there for little bits & pieces that we could include in our samplers.
Yes I do realise that I have the best job ever!!
Back to the studio and to the really exciting bit of starting to design our ‘patches’. I love when everyone starts to produce their own little collections of ‘treasures’ that they have brought along with them. I always, always get ‘the envy’ at some of the beautiful bits and pieces. Boxes, tins and bags started to emerge with everything from real collectable pieces to the plastic top of a beer keg – memories of entertaining 70s (I think) style!
Lots of playing around. Lots of arranging and rearranging and rearranging all over again. Great progress made on the first day and by the time dinner was ready around 7.00pm, I think it’s safe to say that everyone was addicted! Another gorgeous dinner by Fran accompanied by lovely conversations left me feeling that Day 1 had been a good day.
Turns out that it wasn’t to end there though as just about everyone piled back into the studio after dinner. Entirely voluntary I hasten to add – there were no thumb screws used or even any threats (my favoured method of coercion). I left them to it and wandered off back to our farmhouse to fall straight into bed.
This pretty much formed our pattern for the week! Up early – delicious food – studio time – coffee & cake – studio time – delicious food – studio time – coffee & cake – studio time – delicious three course dinner & wine – back to studio for most but home to bed for me!!
The second day started with a catch up and then a lesson in planning and marking our patches for stitching and a lesson in using the drills including a health & safety warning about using drills after dinner and accompanying wine! I have to say that A LOT of drill bits were harmed in the making of these pieces, so much so that we enrolled Paul as official ‘drill tec’ and it’s fair to say that it was a role that kept him on his toes throughout the week.
I think people are amazed at how long these Patchwood Samplers actually take to make – so many hours of work go into them. I think they’re also amazed at just how addictive it all becomes. And all the more enjoyable for being able to wander in and out to work in the glorious sunshine.
Whenever things start to seem difficult my advice is always ‘put it down, step away and then come back with fresh eyes’.
A little wander round the hamlet of Mallety is just the remedy and Paul and I snuck off for a wee explore with Oscar the pooch as a willing companion.
The upshot of people choosing to spend so much of their time in the studio meant that some really intricate pieces started to emerge in the first few days and develop throughout the week. There is ‘thoughtfulness’ behind each and every patch and once confidence starts to grow, so does ambition. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for these – we’re continually problem solving and working out how best to go about things. I have no idea how best to attach a ‘plastic beer keg top thingy’ but if you give me a minute I’ll come up with ideas!
The lovely thing is that everyone soon starts to come up with their own ideas – most work, others not so much but the trick is to work out which it’s going to be before holes are drilled!
A bit of instruction on the writing of ‘ransom notes’ ( I let slip my ‘day job’ with that one) and Paul’s mum’s old typewriter allowed us to add text onto the patches. ‘No soggy bottoms’ accompanied a rather lovely pastry tin found at the brocante and those of us of a certain age may know the phrase ‘sides to middle’ – Lee tells the story:
‘Bed sheets tend to wear thin in the middle of the bed – sometimes an unwary foot can go right through! Instead of buying new ones, women would cut them down the middle then re-sew them back together with the worn parts at the sides and the less worn parts in the middle – hence, “sides to middle”. I can remember my mum doing this by hand – with a French seam! All this after a full day at work and with three kids to take care of!’
The gorgeous coloured stitching in the above picture is a pattern in bell ringing – seriously! The white plastic tube thingy and little bicycle charm is a reminder of a story that unfolded on the first day involving a husband (who is an expert cyclist), a bike ride on the scale of no normal person, a sat nav with no signal, phones with no signal and a random ‘don’t worry about me but if you could work out where I am that would be splendid ’email. This led to discovering he is over 60k away absolutely in the middle of no-where and trying to get directions to him (with barely any phone signal remember), darkness falling and finally a rescue mission. The white plastic thingy – a breathalyser from Paul & my ‘RAC driving in France kit’ was to check that Phil could drive after having wine with dinner. Luckily she could and the rescue was made and husband was grateful having already cycled around 80k and was at the point of looking for a barn without a dog in it that he could bed down for the night!
I told you there were stories a plenty and you couldn’t make them up!
Part Two of this blog with tales of our excursions and our final finished Patchwood Samplers to follow.
Oh yay to be sat at my desk today after three weeks of working on the building site that is currently our home. It feels great to have bare feet rather than wearing steel toe caps and its bliss not being covered from head to toe in a fine layer of plaster dust! I usually rather grudge ‘desk’ days compared to ‘studio’ days but today I’m feeling pretty content – making plans for the next few months and setting my priorities for the year.
So to start by wishing you all a very happy and successful 2018. I’m excited by my year ahead. Last year didn’t quite go according to plan so that’s made me more determined than ever to make more time for my own textile work as well as developing my textile workshops. I’ll look forward to sharing my news of ‘goings on & happenings’ here on my blog – I’m determined to make time to update it and get myself just a wee bit more online savvy!
I do already have some fabulous workshops lined up this year. I’ll be visiting Sally at Needle & Thread not just once but twice as we have just added a sneaky wee date in June in addition to my two day visit in September. In June we’ll be making Patchwood Tenements and in September we’ll be making Patchwood Samplers: Personal Collections and Scrappy Story Collages. Bookings are already underway and as always places are limited. If you’ve not visited Needle & Thread before it is a gorgeous venue in Lincolnshire where Sally runs a fantastic programme of workshops.
I’m hugely excited to be teaching on my first ever retreat in June this year in rural France with Crafty Retreats. I’m sure I’ll be banging on about this much more in the months to come but if you could fancy spending a week in the sunshine in the most gorgeous studio situated in the Limousin area amid the forests and low mountains of the Monts D’Ambazac then do check it out quickly as I think there are only a couple of places left! We’ll be making Patchwood Samplers – my original full size ones with twenty one wooden ‘patches’ all embellished with your own little treasures. It’s going to be the most gorgeous week of creativity, friendship, delicious food and local excursions and I for one have to keep pinching myself to make sure that it is for real!
My own workshop programme is currently listed on my website and I’ve made BIG changes to the way that I am doing things. I’ll be hosting workshops in two very lovely local (near Edinburgh) venues over the next few months. My venues have been carefully chosen as places that have the same quirky vibe as my own studio The Purple Thread Shed. I’ll be starting the year at the Wellbeing Lab within The Restoration Yard at Dalkeith Country Park with my first workshop ‘Patchwood Samplers: Personal Collections’ on Saturday 10th February and then in April we’ll be making ‘Patchwood Tenements’.
I do know that people love visiting my own studio so I will open the doors to The Purple Thread Shed for a few workshops in May & June. There are only four places on each so early booking is essential starting with ‘Handmade Journals’ & ‘Patchwood Samplers: Natural Collections’ in May and followed by ‘Rusted Samplers in June’. Hopefully I’ll be able to restore my garden to it’s summer glory by then – it’s currently looking very sorry for itself as it’s been been ravaged by the house renovations.
So that’s a wee round-up of what’s going on – I’ll be posting more details & pics of individual workshops as we go along.
I’m really excited to be teaching four workshops this weekend in the Crafts Theatre at The Country Living Christmas Fair in Glasgow. I’ll be showing how to make a rather lovely vintage style bag brooch. I don’t know whether this is a real thing or not but they look great pinned to a cloth bag or can simply be hung as a teeny miniature textile hanging.
I’m including the instructions here for anyone who takes part but doesn’t quite finish (we’ve only got forty minutes – gulp!) Also come and see me throughout the show on stand J15
A teeny fabric photo printed from a vintage postcard
A scrap of lace
A safety pin with vintage style charms
Stranded cotton in pink, blue & green
A picture & instruction card
In addition to your kit you’ll also need a glue stick (I use Scotch) and a needle of course!
I’ve started it off for you and attached one of the floral scraps to the blanket background. (Whenever I write a ‘To Do’ list I always include at least one thing that I’ve already done so that I can tick it off immediately – so there you go – you’ve already finished step 1!)
Use the glue stick to put glue on the back of your photo. Try to get glue to the edges but don’t use too much – you don’t want it to seep through the fabric.
Stick the photo about 2cm from the top, ever so slightly to the left rather than bang in the middle.
Put glue on the back of the two small floral scraps.
Slightly overlap the bottom of the photo with one scrap and then layer the other on top.
Stretch the lace fragment over the top of the picture and using two strands of your thread stitch down with a running stitch.
Note On Using Stranded Cotton
Each colour of thread in your pack is made up of six fine strands of cotton. Pull out each strand individually and then put two back together and thread your needle.
Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.
Make some long, straight stitches along your floral scrap going up onto your photo. Make them uneven – about 8 in total.
Stitch little crosses at the top of these.
Stitch a button at each end of your lace and one at the bottom of your picture.
Make little stitches over the side edges of your photo – these don’t have to be even.
Attach your safety pin at the bottom. You can either pin it into the blanket or stitch it with 3 little crosses.
Attach your kilt pin to the top by stitching a row of cross stitches. I start with one in the middle and then make another two crosses on each side – before you stitch check that the opening part of the pin is to the top!
And Finally – Enjoy wearing!
Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.Start and finish your stitching by making two or three teeny stitches into the back of the blanket layer – be careful not to go all the way through to the front.SaveSave
Oh my goodness I’ve been pretty rubbish at updating my new website and posting on my blog so far. The problem is that whenever I have a lot going on, I go into ‘radio silence’ – which is kind of unhelpful for social media! My head gets so involved in what I’m actually doing that I totally forget to take any photographs. Also, although I do mentally write lots of blog posts while I’m taking Annie the pooch out walking, I somehow never quite get round to writing them for real! Anyway I’m here at last and bringing some exciting new workshop news.
But first a wee update of goings on.
We’ve been lucky to have had some gorgeous days over the last couple of months. I’ve finished all my workshops at The Purple Thread Shed for the summer and I’ve closed the shed door to visitors for a while. The reason being that we’re doing some pretty major house renovations and the place is heading into turmoil. I do know that it’ll be worth it in the end (because I tell myself this about 100 times a day) but to someone who is a bit of a control freak the thought of my whole house being turned upside down is a wee bit daunting! I think Annie the pooch and I will be escaping to the shed and barricading ourselves in as much as possible. However the upside of not running any workshops from here over the Autumn is that it is giving me a break to think, to plan and to concentrate on my personal textile projects – and that definitely feels exciting!
And now for some actual workshop news.
Although I won’t be running any textile workshops & classes from my own studio, the Purple Thread Shed is taking to the road to some other great venues over the next few months.
I’m really excited to be working with Edinburgh Museums for the first time this summer and have created two workshops to support their Edinburgh Alphabet exhibition at the City Art Centre. It’s worth noting that the cost of these workshops is £25 which is an absolute bargain!
The first is ‘Patchwood Houses’ which is taking place on Saturday 19th August during the Edinburgh fringe and festival. Perhaps some of you from further afield will be in Edinburgh at this time and would like to join me for the day.
It will be a day of hand stitching with a difference creating a colourful little row of Edinburgh tenements from ‘patches’ of repurposed wood all stitched together. Inspired by the Old Town, you will design your own row of tenements embellished with Edinburgh ephemera, vintage papers, tweeds, floral fabrics and other small treasures all hand stitched into place. Your buildings will then be stitched together to create your own ‘Edinburgh Close’.
We can include house numbers, street names and other personal details and I love the little washing line strung across the close. Before you can begin to stitch, tiny holes must be drilled into the wood. By the end of the day you will feel as at home using the drill as you do your needle and thread.
All the materials will be provided but to make your piece even more personal you may wish to bring along some of your own small treasures and Edinburgh ephemera to include.
Booking is essential and can be done by contacting the City Art Centre reception on 0131 529 3993.
The second workshop at the City Art Centre is taking place on Saturday 16th September
In “Patchwood City’ we will be creating one of my Patchwood Samplers inspired by our beautiful city of Edinburgh. Using “patches” of repurposed wood, you will create your Patchwork piece from vintage Edinburgh ephemera, found objects and images from old Edinburgh postcards transferred onto fragments of wood. Everything will be stitched into place and your “patches” stitched together.
Again all the materials will be provided but to make your piece even more personal you may wish to bring along some of your own small treasures and Edinburgh ephemera to include.
Last Thursday I set off on a wee trip down to Birmingham where I was exhibiting as part of the textile group “Prism” at the beautiful RBSA gallery.
At the start of 2016 I made what seemed like a huge decision to stop ‘making’ for shops and selling online and to concentrate my time instead on my own personal textile projects for exhibition.
I love to start the year by writing an ‘action plan’ where I set short, medium and long term goals. As a way to move forward my personal textile work, I set myself a medium term goal of joining a UK wide Textile Group with the specific aim of exhibiting further afield in the UK.
At this point I was already a member of edge- textile artists scotland and knew how well this works for me. Being a member of a group not only gives me deadlines and something definitive to work towards but this, in turn, seems to stimulate my ideas and motivation. Not to mention all of the advantages of being part of a group of likeminded people – especially when I tend to spend a lot of my time working alone.
I therefore set out on a bit of research to find a UK wide group and turned to textileartist.org where I found the feature: Top 5 Textile Art Groups. Further research took me to the various websites mentioned and after looking at the work of individual members I decided that I could see my work sitting alongside other members of Prism so I decided to take the plunge and write an application.
I once more turned to textileartist.org where I found another great feature: ‘Top tips for applying to Textile Art Groups’ I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered that the article was written by Anita Bruce – one of the chairs of Prism!
Anyway to cut rather a long-winded story short, after submitting photographs and statements I was asked to send some of my work down for the selection panel to consider and was absolutely delighted to be invited to join the group. I was even more thrilled when, at the start of this year, the work that I submitted for their 2017 exhibitions ‘Another View’ was accepted for both the RBSA Birmingham and later in the year for Hoxton Arches, London.
Now reading that back makes it sound like a very straight forward and painless process – it is SO NOT!! It’s hugely scary to put yourself and your work out there. You are essentially inviting a group of people that you aspire to belong to – to either accept or reject you – yikes!! I actually didn’t make any announcements on Facebook until about three months later because I kept expecting the email to say that they’d changed their mind. Me – paranoid? Not at all!!
I’ll tell you more about the work I submitted “Not Just Blue” in another post but in the meantime you can find out more in Cloth Work.
In the words of Prism Chairs Anita Bruce and Jackie Langfeld :
‘The title ‘Another View’ presents opportunities to explore different ways of looking, seeing and understanding; a chance to visualise the complexities and possibilities of people, places, events and the world we live in. It also perhaps engages the viewer in discussion about contemporary textile practice; offering a different perspective on the ancient craft of stitch.’
The exhibition itself absolutely lived up to expectations. Spending a day stewarding in the gallery allows a glimpse at the public’s reaction. I love how something will catch someone’s eye the moment they walk through the door and they’ll be drawn straight to it, for that moment not seeing anything else around it. And the best of it is that each person will be drawn to something different.
I love too when someone calls over their companion to point something out and an enthusiastic discussion takes place. I quite like when arms get tightly folded across the body but the person continues studying – you know that something has touched a nerve. And of course there’s the moment when someone’s face lights up and you know that they’ve just experienced that slightly breathless sensation of when something has touched the heart and is ‘speaking’ to them.
Also, of course, it is such a thrill to see your own work hanging in the space. No amount of ‘mocking up’ at home compares to the moment you walk into the gallery and see that after all of the many hours of work that your piece ‘fits’ and that your idea for hanging ‘works’. I gave a huge sigh of relief when I first walked through the door and saw my quilt hanging, and then later in the day I couldn’t help a wee smile of pleasure as we opened the window and it gently moved in the breeze, casting its shadows around it.
Another View will be showing again with a slightly different collection of works at Hoxton Arches, London from the 17th – 29th October 2017
I made a wee pledge with myself that when writing my blog posts that I would try and give a ‘real’ account so I’m sharing the conversation that took place between me and my other half when I first saw a photo taken at the exhibition opening.
‘Me being me’ means that despite having had my pieces accepted for the exhibition I don’t dare believe that they have actually been included, until I see them with my own eyes!
Me: (peering at a photo on the Prism Facebook page and frantically zooming in) ‘Look, look that’s it – that is definitely mine isn’t it? They’ve definitely hung it – haven’t they? Oh yay – that’s amazing!!’
Paul: ‘Yes definitely yours. Well done. I’m so proud of you. And look there’s someone standing looking at it.’
Me: ‘Yes they are looking at it. How cool. And it looks like they’re talking about it – amazing! Short pause – D’you think he’s saying that it’s sh** and has to come down?!