Laundry Tales – a new Workshop in a Box

So sorry – though I’m actually delighted – but these went super fast! Orders halted for now!

A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!

Aimed at stitchers with a love of vintage

At long last I’m ready to launch my latest Workshop in a Box and I’m keeping everything crossed that you’re going to love it! Pre-orders open on Monday 3rd May for ‘Laundry Tales’ – a rather lovely Story Collage.

I aim for these boxes to fall somewhere between an inspiration pack and a kit, so my expectation isn’t for you to make an exact replica of the piece pictured below, though by using the materials provided, working through the Making Notes and referring to the diagram and picture you can, of course, do so.

I absolutely encourage you to personalise my design and I’ll offer suggestions along the way.

Available May 2021 – Laundry Tales Story Collage

To inspire & delight

The aim of these boxes is a simple one – to inspire & delight – in fact it’s become a bit of a mission statement.

I prepare everything in the box myself, as I would for a workshop and I love the thought of you rummaging through it!

The prep is completely ‘low tech‘, with everything done by hand which is incredibly time consuming, intensely satisfying and, in my opinion, rather beautiful. This is just one of the reasons why numbers are limited.
Tapes are typed by hand on my vintage typewriter that belonged to my mother-in-law.

The story behind

The inspiration behind Laundry Tales is an old domestic science jotter that a very lovely workshop friend found in her local charity shop and then very kindly gifted to me. I know –  I’m afraid I would never part with it, if it were me that had found it!!

Anyway it belonged to a girl named Patsy. I don’t know her age, but she did have the most beautiful handwriting so I’m guessing she was almost old enough to step out into the big wide world of starching and ironing frilled pillow cases, stiffening and polishing shirt collars and calculating the weeks food budget for a family of five consisting of an active man, a woman doing house work, a boy of 14, girl of 12 and boy of 8. I’m hoping that the woman doing the housework was on double rations if this book is anything to go by, but sadly I suspect not!

However, the jotter pages are in pretty good condition, they don’t look well thumbed so maybe she tossed the jotter and escaped this life for something more exciting! The very last page contains some intriguing and totally unrelated notes. I’m guessing that Patsy consulted a fortune teller – how daring!! So maybe Dame Fortune did indeed cross her path  leading to a life of Travel, following a legal or medical path, maybe the young blond gent did bring pleasant news. Lets hope she did beware of the middle aged woman (the domestic science teacher perhaps) and the insincere relative! 

But we’ll never know if she did or not, that’s the beauty of these wonderful old treasures, I never find out the real story, but they spark such a lively picture in my own mind that I have no need or wish to!

The inspiration came from an old domestic science jotter belonging to a girl named Patsy

Used, washed & worn, ripped & torn…and new?!

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that my passion is in using materials that are used, washed & worn.  There’s an energy & vibrancy in old textiles, we may never know where they came from, and just like Patsy’s story, we may never know their real stories but they prick at our memories, capture our imaginations and stir our emotions.

Wherever possible I use vintage materials in all of my Workshops in a Box.  However this does mean that there may be marks on some of the fabrics, or they may be faded or slightly damaged. I only include pieces that I would choose to work with myself – but be warned, I make a bee-line for the wonky and imperfect!

However, I realised that by only using old, I am really restricting the designs that I’m able to offer for my Workshops in a Box. So I am also now embracing the new!! The printed fabrics are therefore new – chosen specially for their vintage style and because they sit so beautifully alongside the old. I’ve also included a page of my treasured jotter, digitally printed onto organic calico, providing a lovely piece of fabric text for you to work with.

Old, new, washed & worn, ripped & torn

But of course there are also scraps of gorgeous old fabrics. The background to your Story Collage is a piece of vintage mangle cloth with that oh so gorgeous red stripe. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for these lovely long lengths of linen. I’m using three different pieces of cloth in these boxes so your background may not be exactly the same as the one pictured, but I can promise you that they’re all equally delicious! And just like any Wash Day you have whites as well as coloureds so you’ll  find a selection of vintage whites – shirting fabric and  old table linens.

Your finished Story Collage hangs from two vintage clothes pegs, echoing beautifully the stitched clothes peg outlines in the design, or you could also mount and frame it in your own way.

A page from the jotter is digitally printed onto organic calico

I’m so hoping that you’ll enjoy using bits & pieces that I’ve collected together for you but also hope that you’ll personalise your own story collage by adding wonderful stuff from your own stash!

Many of my followers on social media and in person 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. But the stitches used are simple and I very much encourage an intuitive approach.

Stand with back to the wind

The finished dimensions are around 22 x 32cm – but don’t expect straight edges! Also please note that my style of stitching (and therefore teaching) uses torn, unfinished edges so if you embrace the perfectly turned edge then this one probably isn’t for you!

This Laundry Tales Workshop in a Box is the first in a series – there will be more to follow at some point – because I just love to work in a series!

Hang colours & woollens in the shade

To Order

There will initially be a limited number of 30 Laundry Tales boxes available (although I will be offering 20 more later) and I will be posting them out in small batches from 10th May and throughout that week. You can pre-order a box from today Monday 3rd May by contacting me by email. Payment will be by Paypal or BACS.

The cost of the box is £45 plus UK postage of £4.00

I am so sorry but I am currently not posting to Europe. I know this will disappoint and I truly apologise.

I may be able to post to other countries at cost but be warned it can be crazy expensive – just drop me a line!

I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see pictures of the results!

 

 

The Story Behind The Piece: Textile Tokens

Love Tokens

You have no conception just how much I miss you.

Meet Jimmy & Peggy

‘I just wish each and every hour away, and yet still they drag’

I was utterly captivated the very first time I read these words and I became a bit smitten with the author and her husband. They’re lifted from a small collection of Jimmy & Peggy’s personal letters that came into my possession a few years ago. The letters were the inspiration behind my series ‘Stolen Stories’. I’ve written about my thought and making process behind these pieces, in an article for TextileArtist. org. – ‘From Conception to Creation’. Do grab a cuppa and have a wee read if you’ve got a minute!

‘Stolen Stories’ Fragments of private emotion pinned out for all to see

So who are Jimmy & Peggy?

To be honest I know very little about them except that they are a young (I assume) fairly newly married couple living in wartime Britain. I have five letters dated between 1942 & 1946. Where the rest of their letters are, I have no idea but as they wrote to each other several times a week there must be many! They were both based in this country but separated by circumstance for the most part. I only have tiny glimpses into their story and the rest is purely in my mind. I’m not quite sure why they fascinate me so much, the letters are pretty mundane but that’s what I love about them.

Every-day people, ordinary lives, extraordinary times!

Your sweet voice is a comfort to me

Then 2020 happened!

So then last year happened and like everyone my world turned upside down when we went into ‘lockdown’ – a word that most of us had no previous use of. I noticed that my regular phone conversations with my 87 year old mum inevitably led to her recollecting her childhood years living through WWII. She’d end each conversation  with the words:

‘at least we don’t have bombs dropping all around us’.

I can always rely on my mum for putting my own troubles back in perspective! However these conversations led me once more back to Jimmy & Peggy and their words to one another. Returning  to their letters, so many words and phrases struck a chord with me. This time I didn’t feel as if I was the outsider looking in to their private world, instead it felt like they could see right into mine and were reading the thoughts and emotions that were tumbling around inside me.

So I started stitching.

Captivated by their letters once more, I started working on a couple of bigger pieces inspired by Peggy & Jimmy’s story. With workshops (my income) being cancelled and money being refunded I found it strangely calming and there was something rather lovely about having the time (oh so much time) to work on bigger pieces again.

‘Missing You” Work in progress

Funnily enough these pieces were never finished. They came to an abrupt halt for some reason and I can’t even remember why. With hours and days of stitching behind me, I just suddenly stopped – maybe that was when the gorgeous weather came our way and my rather frenzied attention turned to the garden. Who knows – but they’re in my thoughts again so I’ll turn back to them soon.

Textile Tokens

When the bigger pieces became daunting, my attention turned to working small, very small. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of making Textile Tokens ever since visiting the Threads of Feeling exhibition at The Foundling Museum in London back in 2010. No time to tell the story of that here but that one afternoon played a pivotal role in the clarity and direction of my own textile practice.

I remember standing silently looking at each exhibit with tears rolling down my face, and I wasn’t alone. I’ve no idea how much time I spent there as each piece claimed my full presence and attention. So much emotion, so many stories held in these little scraps of fabric. The stories remained hidden but the emotion was raw and real and felt by very visitor there.

Darling keep your spirits up and just be patient

So I decided to combine the energy of scraps of old fabric – mostly from a piece of 1940s feed sack quilt that was so washed and worn that I could tear it into fragments with my hands – and the energy of Peggy & Jimmy’s words, suddenly so relevant.    I chose whatever phrase spoke to me at the time and stitched it on silk organza and these tiny scraps of homely fabrics. Stitched intuitively with vintage threads, they became my soothing activity – comforting and healing as my heart ached with missing my special people. I picked them up and set them down just as the mood took me.

I gave some away and the others are now pinned into a little sketchbook. I know that they will become part of something bigger but I’m not quite sure what yet. Having harboured a sense of guilt over lifting words out of context in my series Stolen Stories I have a notion that I want to put the story straight and perhaps create a display case containing the real loving energy of this couple.

God bless you my love and keep you from harm

I became busy with other projects at the end of last summer and didn’t do any more until that brutal Saturday just before Christmas when our longed for plans were wiped off the table. Once more we had to re-adjust, re-compose and re-gather our energies.

So stitching started again.

Love Tokens

Having found a level of acceptance again I’ve been spending peaceful evenings, contentedly stitching once more. I’d had a few enquiries about my tokens whenever I posted them on Facebook & Instagram so I decided to stitch a very small collection and offer them for sale.

These ones have fewer words but focussing on love as it’s the force that’s holding us together at this time, when everything that we are wishing for still seems so far away.

My sweet darling

The words are hand stitched on silk organza, on a background of 1940s quilt and fragments of antique French textiles. They’re worn, torn and marked (aren’t we all?) and each one is decorate with tiny stitches in vintage threads. They’re individually made, I don’t work on a few at a time for speed, and they’re stitched with a contented heart in front of the fire, safe at home (with no bombs dropping round about us).

I just wish

The tokens themselves are small – each one measuring about 9cm x 7 cm and they’re stitched onto a square cream cardboard mount. Exact sizes will be given on individual listings. The tokens can easily be removed from the card to display as you wish – I personally love them displayed in a gorgeous Nkuku zinc & glass frame (5 x 7 landscape is perfect).

My dearest

These Love Tokens will be offered for sale on my Facebook & Instagram pages from Thursday 28th.

There are currently only seven available.

The cost is £45 plus postage.

Do contact me if you would like one to makes it way into your home.

I’m so sorry but I’m only posting to the UK at this time.

Miss you terribly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Workshop in a Box – Patchwood Tenements

A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!

Aimed at stitchers who have a love of making.

I’m really delighted to be offering these gorgeous Patchwood Tenements as a Workshop in a Box – everything you need to make this wee ‘Tenement Close’.

I first designed them for a workshop that was being held at Edinburgh City Art Centre a few years ago. The brief was ‘iconic Edinburgh’ so I decided to create these rather lovely little rows of tenements. It was rather perfect as we looked out the windows of our workshop right over the roofs of Edinburgh Auld Toun.

Everything you need to make a wee ‘Tenement Close’ made from hand stitched wooden patches

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.

I thought you would want to choose your own paint to co-ordinate with your own colour schemes. I use matt emulsion ‘Match Pots’ from the DIY store, available very cheaply in every colour imaginable! You can also use acrylic craft paint.

A delicious collection of vintage ephemera

The Materials

In my own art practice I love using old, collected, washed & worn. I’m in love with vintage materials and papers, wondering about the lives they lived before coming to me. I’ve had great fun collecting together this little collection of papers & ephemera for you to use in this project.

I’ve included some vintage newspaper & book cuttings for you to cut out letters for your ‘Ransom Note’ words. I’ve cut numbers from magazine & book pages, maps and a gorgeous 1930s ledger book.

Papers include old music papers bought from flea markets, maps old & not so old that I can’t quite resist but seldom personally use. I’ve included an old knitting pattern (these somehow just find their way to me), a dictionary page  and an old recipe and other bits & pieces. These can be used for windows, doors & roofs.

I’ve rummaged around and included a scrap of old tape measure, an old bus ticket –oh how these bring back memories, not only of shopping trips to Dundee but of playing bus conductors, ½ a postcard (sorry I didn’t have enough for a whole one)  and other bits for you to use as doors and roofs. The snap fastener card is a copy I’m afraid – but it’s so gorgeous for roofs that I wanted to include. The snap fasteners are vintage though from an old brown cardboard box full of them.

The floral fabric is 1940s – French or German and the tweed is from my mother in law’s stash. Cutting that up actually brought a wee tear to my eye, not in the cutting but in the memories. She had A LOT of tweed and now it’s mine and I’m happy to share!

Windows made from maps, numbers from an old ledger

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 previous Workshops in a Box, this is SO important to me. My aim is to delight & inspire, to keep packaging simple and re-usable…. but also gorgeously beautiful!

A vintage bus ticket door & lolly stick roof

You’ll receive four wooden ‘patches’, Making Notes and all the materials & tools required to make your  Patchwood Tenements with the exception of paint. The stitching holes are pre-drilled, ready for you to start assembling.

Now there’s a story behind the drilling – my husband took early retirement this summer and as he’s a bit blimmin brilliant he’s made me a drilling machine. So for the first time the holes will be drilled, not by me, but by my wonderful little machine. That’s what’s made this Workshop in a Box possible actually – I’d never have attempted to drill these by hand. It’s still not fast mind you, each wee ‘Tenement Close’ takes an hour to drill!

Before you can stitch through the wooden patches, tiny holes must be drilled.

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.

And of course there’s a washing line strung between temenents

 

Stands on a shelf or can hang on the wall

To Order

There are a limited number of 20 Patchwood Tenement boxes available before Christmas and most of these have been pre-ordered but there are a very few still available if you are quick off the mark! Don’t despair though I will be offering more of these at the end of Jan 2021. The cost of the box is £55 plus UK postage of £3.00.

You can order a box now by contacting me by email. As always, it’s on a first come first served basis and payment will be by by Paypal or Bank transfer. I hope to have these posted out by 2nd December so plenty of time if you are thinking of Christmas pressies! The finished ‘Tenement Close’ measures 28 x 20cm.

So sorry but I’m not sending these overseas!

I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see the results!

 

 

A Wonderfully Festive Workshop in a Box 2020

A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!

Aimed at stitchers who have a love of making.

Especially for those who missed out last year – another chance to order this beautifully festive Patchwood Christmas Tree Workshop in a Box. I’m now taking pre-orders but be warned and be super quick because initially there will only be eighteen boxes available

I LOVE the idea of you creating this lovely seasonal wall piece that you will enjoy bringing out year after year!

All the materials & help you need to create a gorgeous Patchwood Christmas Tree

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.

I thought you would want to choose your own paint to co-ordinate with your own colour schemes. 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 every December I frisk my workshop participants  to make sure they’re not trying to smuggle glitter into my class!! (Oh to have the opportunity to do that this year!) 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!)

I use emulsion match pots from the DIY store. Cheap to buy in every colour imaginable.

The Materials

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’.

Why?

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.

Christmas stocking buttons, the cutest little envelope. brown luggage labels, cinnamon sticks and ‘Ransom Style’ lettering – love, love, love!

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 last year’s Christmas Tree Workshop in a Box, this is SO important to me. My aim is to delight & inspire, to keep packaging simple and re-usable…. but also gorgeously beautiful!

Gorgeous vintage fabric tied up in string.

You’ll receive seven wooden ‘patches’ and all the materials and tools required to make your  Patchwood Christmas Tree with, as I said earlier, the exception of paint. The stitching holes are pre-drilled, ready for you to start assembling. 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. But be reassured – they are drilled to the same standard 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.

Before you can stitch through the wooden patches, tiny holes must be drilled. I’ve drilled A LOT of holes!

 

You’ll stitch your patches of wood together (they are glued first) and then embellish each patch. You will actually stitch this little christmas tree through the wood.

 

A most glorious wreath made from scrippy scraps of gingham attached to the patch by French Knots…actually stitched through the wood! Oh and a page from a vintage copy of A Christmas Carol.

To Order

There will be a limited number of 18 Patchwood Christmas Tree boxes available and I will start posting them out on Monday 9th 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 now by contacting me by email. It will be on a first come first served basis but depending on the response I may open a waiting list and make more available. I’m not taking payment just yet but it will be by by Paypal or Bank transfer.

The cost of the box is £55 plus UK postage of £3.00

I can ship overseas at cost but personally I think postal rates are pretty prohibitive. Also if a parcel does get ‘lost’ on it’s way overseas then I will reimburse the cost of the box but sorry I can’t reimburse the postage.

I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see pictures of the results!

 

 

Summer Stitching – a new Workshop in a Box

SO SORRY (except I’m kinda delighted) BUT THESE ARE NOW SOLD OUT

A gorgeous box of goodies that will arrive through the post!

Aimed at stitchers who have a love of making.

So at long last it’s time (or some would say way past time) to launch my third Workshop in a Box and I’m rather hoping that you’re going to love it. Pre-orders open on Tuesday 21st July for this beautifully uplifting Floral Summer Sampler.

Those of you who have already bought one of my boxes will know that they 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 provide all the materials for making this sampler along with ‘Making Notes’, a chart and photographs but I also encourage you to go ‘off piste’, to change things around and make it your own.

 

Available August 2020 – Floral Summer Sampler

To inspire & delight

The aim of these boxes is a simple one – to inspire & delight – in fact it’s become a bit of a mission statement.

I prepare everything in the box myself, as I would for a workshop and I love the thought of people rummaging through it!

‘Omg I’ve just opened your workshop in a box, which arrived this morning
I cried
It is quite possibly the most beautiful and beautifully packed box of bits that I’ve ever received
I spent ages looking at everything, and then carefully packed it all up again
And later I’m going to unpack it a second time’
A message from a happy customer who made me smile (you know who you are!)
 
The prep is completely ‘low tech’, with everything done by hand which is incredibly time consuming, intensely satisfying and, in my opinion, rather beautiful. This is just one of the reasons why numbers are limited.
Tapes are typed by hand on my vintage typewriter that belonged to my mother-in-law.

Used, washed & worn

If you know anything about me, you will know that my passion is in using materials that are used, washed & worn.  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 stir up emotions in our heart.

Wherever possible I use vintage materials in all of my Workshops in a Box.  However this does mean that there may be marks on some of the fabrics, or they may be faded or slightly damaged. I only include pieces that I would choose to work with myself – but be warned, I make a bee-line for the wonky and imperfect!

The materials in this box include a piece of hand stitched vintage quilt to use as your background – this is well washed and worn and the filling is gloriously uneven! There are some beautiful 1940s French (or maybe German) floral fabric washed so often that it’s the softest of soft and beautiful vintage floral linen that was gifted to me by Linnies Pinnies & Bags. Scraps left over from her makes because she shares my belief that nothing should be wasted. There are fragments of ribbon made from remnants from Indian sari manufacture and vintage mother of pearl buttons, some a bit bashed, but all the more beautiful for it. Other little bits & pieces are there to make you smile.

 

Inspired by a collection of Kensitas silk flowers

Inspiration

This sampler was inspired by a small collection of Kensitas silk flowers that have been in my possession for a few years. Although I regularly admire them and fondly stroke them I’d never quite got round to actually using them (sound familiar?). I came across them during an early lockdown clear out (again sound familiar?) and decided that they were far too beautiful and colourful to stay hidden away and that it was time to bring them to life once more.

What are Kensitas silks?

These woven silk flowers were given away free in the 1930s with Kensitas cigarettes. There were three sizes apparently the small ones being given away with packs of 10 cigarettes, medium (that I have used here) with packs of 20 and there were also larger postcard sized ones given away with boxes of 50 though I’ve never seen any of these. One silk flower is included in each box – it’ll be a random selection of reds or blues – all of them very beautiful.

 

The Kensitas silk gave me my starting point and then flowers just started popping up everywhere!

I’m so hoping that you’ll enjoy using bits & pieces that I’ve lovingly hoarded over the years but I also that you’ll personalise your own sampler by adding bits from your own stash and using some of your favourite stitches. The possibilities are endless.

Many of my followers on social media and in person 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.

 

Flowers made from old sari silk

The finished dimensions are around 22 x 32cm – don’t expect straight edges! The picture shows mine on an A4 clipboard (a favourite and very easy way to display) but please note that the clipboard is NOT INCLUDED ( mainly because it won’t fit in the box!) I have included two small bulldog clips for hanging – genuinely another favourite method of mine!

 

I share my designs and stitches used in the making notes

To Order

There will be a limited number of 40 Floral Summer Sampler boxes available and I will be posting them out in small batches from 3rd August and throughout that week. You can pre-order a box from today Tuesday 21st July by contacting me by email. Payment will be by Paypal or BACS.

The cost of the box is £45 plus UK postage of £3.00

I am so sorry but I am currently not posting overseas. I know this will disappoint but I’ve had a couple of parcels go missing over the last few months so I’m afraid UK only this time around.

I hope you love it and I can’t wait to see pictures of the results!

 

 

A tale of two rather gorgeous textile workshops

Crikey it’s blowing a gale and lashing rain outside, so it seems like a very good day to curl up and update the workshops on my website. Long overdue the little voice in my head is admonishing me and what can I say, for once it’s totally right. But I’m here now and have some really lovely workshops lined up over the next few months.

Firstly (and really excitingly) I’m going to be teaching in a wonderful new (to me) venue in April. I’m just thrilled to be teaching at the Wemyss School of Needlework in the tiny village of Coaltown-of-Wemyss in Fife. There are so many stories behind this wonderful school and I have a very personal connection to it as my ex mother in law Mary Birrell was ‘mistress’ at the school for 42 years. She followed in the footsteps of her great grandmother, Mary Webster, who was the very first mistress of the school when it opened in 1877. As a toddler, my daughter (and Michael, her teddy) used to spend many an afternoon there charming visitors, totally at home in the ‘skewing skool’ as she used to call it.

Imagine spending a day stitching surrounded by (Hi)Stories – not to mention beautiful threads & wools

Stories from the Scullery

Wemyss School of Needlework, Fife

Saturday 4th April

This is a gorgeous day of ‘slow stitching’, nostalgia and sharing stories. This workshop is perfect for lovers of ‘vintage’ especially those who have childhood memories of licking cake mixture out of the mixing bowl and the smell of home baking and for those who would rather be distracted from the task of Spring Cleaning and put their time to much better use – and sew about spring cleaning

We’ll spend six glorious hours designing and creating a gorgeous textile collage inspired by old recipes and pages from my precious domestic science jotter. 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 old embroidered table linens, vintage cotton fabrics, some old quilt fragments, woollen blanket and whatever else comes to hand during my rummaging.

We’ll print pages from my precious domestic science jotter onto calico

We’ll start the day by printing text from my jotter and recipes onto calico using an inkjet printer. If you’ve never done this before I warn you, it’s completely addictive. There are some wonderful pages to choose from, some real little gems that will bring inspiration and a real story to your piece. If you have some very special kitchen inspired handwriting such as granny’s favourite scone recipe you can, of course, bring it along to copy.

We’ll use this printed fabric as a starting point to piece together a scrappy collage of old and used fabrics.  This is a lovely intuitive process and be warned – it will take much longer than you think! I’ll help you along the way and then you’ll be ready to start the lovely process of slow hand stitching.

I’ll help you create a beautifully scrappy ground ready for hand stitching

I’ll encourage you to let this become a relaxed and organic process. I’ll show you how to highlight chosen words and phrases from your text with stitch and we can add further text using a typewriter to print on tapes. 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.

Details from two rather gorgeous finished collages

Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced stitcher – running stitch and cross stitch are all you need but you can, of course, be more adventurous and I’ll happily share some of my favourite stitches. Neat perfect stitching is not the order of the day, a love of things old, washed and worn and making lovely personal ‘marks’ with needle and thread most definitely is!

You’ll be inspired by fabrics that have been used, washed and worn

Warning! (Who knew there would be so much warning required) Don’t for one minute expect to finish this on the day – hand stitching is really slow! However you will leave with a gorgeous project and all the ideas that you need to continue working on it in your own time at home. I’ll give you ideas for how you can hang your finished piece as it is and show you how framing will change the look completely.

Everything you need for the day is provided (apart from lunch) but if you may wish to use some of your own special bits & pieces to make your collage even more of a personal story – I’ll give you ideas of what to bring on booking.

This workshop costs £70 for the day. Drop me a line to grab your space at our rather wonderful sewing table or find out more.

Laundry Tales

The Restoration Yard, Dalkeith Country Park

Saturday 23rd May

I’m in love with that gorgeous red stripe in the vintage mangle cloth

With the wonderful weather we have come to expect in May (we kind of expect wonderful weather every summer don’t we? God bless us) thoughts will have well and truly turned to all things laundry. And when I say laundry I do, of course, mean  sewing about laundry.

The background to your collage will be a piece of old ‘mangle cloth’ – beautiful linen fabric with that gorgeous red (or blue) stripe. If red’s not your thing, you can use plain linen or bring along a piece of your own.

Once more we’ll be inspired by domestic science notes, this time flicking the pages to those on starching, washing & ironing. There are Rules for Ironing (who knew) everything from tablecloths, to blouses to frilled pillowcases and instructions for ‘pegging out’ – I hope you knew to ‘stand with your back to the wind’! We’ll start by printing some of this rather delicious handwriting onto calico and this will become the inspiration behind your piece.

We’ll use this printed fabric as a starting point to piece together a scrappy collage of old and used fabrics. You’ll be working with a fabulous selection of old table linens and other vintage materials from my studio. By using old and used materials we are bringing their stories to the piece too!

Creating a collage inspired by some of my very favourite things
You’ll create a gloriously scrappy collage from materials that are themselves used, washed & worn

Once you’ve created your ground you’ll start pulling it all together through the lovely process of slow hand-stitching. I’ll encourage you to let this become a relaxed and organic process using some old mending and needlework samples from my collection as inspiration. I’ll show you how to highlight chosen words and phrases from your text with stitch and how to add hand stitched ‘sketches’ to your work.

Hand made wooden clothes pegs ‘sketched’ with needle & thread

Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced stitcher – running stitch and cross stitch are all you need but you can, of course, be more adventurous. A love of all things vintage, of old, washed and worn is much more important.

You absolutely won’t finish this on the day but you’ll leave with a gorgeous project that you can stitch while you spend lazy summer days in the garden (oh there’s an idea for another workshop!)

The addition of hand stitching starts to pull your story together Details of finished collage

Absolutely everything you need will be provided (apart from lunch) but I will give you some ideas of bits & pieces you could bring to create a truly personal laundry tale.

This workshop costs £70 for the day. Drop me a line to grab your space at our rather wonderful sewing table or find out more. I’ll also be teaching this workshop at Needle & Thread workshops in Lincolnshire in October – find out more.

These are just two of the workshops I’ll be teaching this year. You can check out my full programme at The Purple Thread Shed Takes to the road

I hope to see you sometime soon!

A Wonderfully Festive Workshop in a Box

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!

All the materials & help you need to create a gorgeous Patchwood Christmas Tree

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!)

I use emulsion match pots from the DIY store. Cheap to buy in every colour imaginable.

The Materials

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’.

Why?

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.

Christmas stocking buttons, the cutest little envelope. brown luggage labels, cinnamon sticks and ‘Ransom Style’ lettering – love, love, love!

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!

Gorgeous vintage fabric tied up in string.

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.

Before you can stitch through the wooden patches, tiny holes must be drilled. I’ve drilled A LOT of holes!

 

You’ll stitch your patches of wood together (they are glued first) and then embellish each patch. You will actually stitch this little christmas tree through the wood.

 

A most glorious wreath made from scrippy scraps of gingham attached to the patch by French Knots…actually stitched through the wood! Oh and a page from a vintage copy of A Christmas Carol.

To Order

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!

 

 

Workshop in a Box

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 first Workshop in a Box – 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.

I used some of my favourite vintage needlework books for reference

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

Woollen Blanket

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, an old Cash’s name tape, a fragment of lace & linen button – or use treasured ‘bits’ from your personal stash.

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.

Fabric patches

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.

Two different but equally gorgeous striped antique Japanese fabric patches – blue or green

Buttons

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!

Suffolk puffs

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.

Stitch names

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!

Tape typed with my mother in laws typewriter and a heading stitched with words by ‘The Lady Wolverton’

Calico patches

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.

Threads

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.

Follow my suggestions for gorgeous stitches or stitch your own favourites.

To Order

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!

 

 

The Story Behind The Piece: HiStories Uncovered

Ali Ferguson Textile Art
HiStories Uncovered Installation currently exhibiting at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles

HiStories Uncovered

I’m super excited that this piece is currently on exhibition at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles as part of Excellence In Fibers 2017. This is an annual juried textile exhibition by the magazine Fiber Art Now highlighting innovative and contemporary textile art. I was absolutely thrilled to have my work selected as one of 44 pieces from the 1949 submissions to be not only published in the magazine but also exhibited at the museum. I’m even more delighted that SJMQT are using my image on their website to promote the exhibition. It will be showing until Jan 13th 2019.

It therefore seems like a good time to tell a bit of the story behind the piece

HiStories Uncovered is an installation piece consisting of three textile panels and a pair of vintage baby shoes. The original inspiration came quite by chance while half  listening to the radio. I have absolutely no idea what the programme was or what it was about but something sparked my interest at the time and I wrote down the phrase ‘Locard’s Exchange Principle’ in my notebook. I came across it again some time later and looked it up.

According to the website Forensic handbook:

Locard’s exchange principle is a concept that was developed by Dr. Edmond Locard (1877-1966). Locard speculated that every time you make contact with another person, place, or thing, it results in an exchange of physical materials. He believed that no matter where a criminal goes or what a criminal does, by coming into contact with things, a criminal can leave all sorts of evidence, including DNA, fingerprints, footprints, hair, skin cells, blood, bodily fluids, pieces of clothing, fibers and more. At the same time, they will also take something away from the scene with them.

This kind of fascinated me and really got me thinking. If we accept that we leave physical traces with someone that we come in contact with then, of course, we also leave emotional traces. After all we talk about someone ‘touching’ us (as if it were a physical thing) when we are left with a strong feeling or memory of them. I went on to consider that if the emotional trace was actually physical, what mark or evidence would it leave. I decided to follow this Thread of Thought further and see where it would take me and this was really the start of my  fascination by the thought that an old piece of clothing is implanted with stories of the wearer. Are you with me so far?

I decided to work with old garments and quite literally take them apart piece by piece to reveal this imagined emotional evidence left behind by some person who had touched the wearer in some way. I collected my evidence from text taken from my collections of old letters and used old and worn garments from my stash. The letters and garments were not actually connected in any way apart from in my imagination.

I wanted the pieces to be rather ethereal so I chose to work with beautiful old and very delicate silks and organzas as my background fabric. Again all old and used and bringing their own hidden stories to the piece.

Gillie

Ali Ferguson textile art
The making of Gillie

 

I decided that my first piece would give a glimpse into the life of Gillie a school master at a school in Brighton. I have two letters dated July 1919 from Gillie addressed to a Miss Dorothy Ferguson who was a school mistress at the same school. Bought from Ebay several years ago these letters captivated me from the outset with his opening line of one letter:

Please don’t misunderstand the meaning of this letter but I have felt such an awful cad ever since the occasion I was so unwise as to feel very sentimental, that I owe you a few words of explanation, which will probably read better as distance separates us.

I was, of course, completely hooked! The question I’m sure we’re all asking is what he had done to warrant the ‘awful cad’!! My only clue is in the only other letter which is dated five days previously where he declares his love for Dorothy. Again this letter starts with an apology:

Can I begin better than by asking you to forgive me? It may seem hard for you to do so but all the excuse I can offer is that I love you. To you that really ought to be mitigating circumstances.

I think my favourite paragraph is:

Thinking over everything, I can’t really find sufficient reason on your side to say that I must not hope that some day you will become my wife.

Anyway the poor man decided that the way to win Dorothy over was by telling her more…and more…and even more about himself. I was enthralled by strict and uncaring pater and rather flaky mater and if this hasn’t thawed Miss Ferguson’s heart by now then surely she couldn’t have remained untouched by the line:

David Copperfield could hardly ever have felt worse than I.

I love the fact that I only have two letters and can’t pry any further. There is enough information in the letter to find a lot more out about dear Gillie but I’ve never been tempted – I love a little glimpse into a life but don’t wish any more than that.

Ali Ferguson textile art
Gillie

I used the writing  from the letters and tried to be true to Gillie’s handwriting with my own stitching. This piece was stitched onto a background of beautiful old silk organza. Pinned in places, words and phrases highlighted by stitching and offering the tiniest glimpse into Gillies emotions towards this women who had touched him and won over his heart at this time.

Ali Ferguson textile art
Gillie Detail

 

Ali Ferguson textile art
Gillie Detail

Miss Dorothy

Well it had to be done didn’t it? I had to let Miss Dorothy respond to Gillies letters and capture some of her spirit in doing so. I don’t have any letters from Dorothy so I have no idea of her actual response or how the story turned out. Did they indeed marry or did Gillie offer his excuses and leave the school as he said he would if she asked? I’ve no way of knowing.

I very seldom completely make up a story, that’s something that usually holds no appeal to me. However something about Gillie & Dorothy had me captivated and I found myself feeling (justly or unjustly?) rather indignant on Dorothy’s part. I think it was his assumption that what she really needed to change her mind was to hear more about him that got me riled. He definitely hadn’t read ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus‘!

In my head Dorothy was rather feisty and would not be won over so easily. I decided to write Dorothy’s response myself and to use this as my evidence for my second piece. I still giggle when I read over my imaginary letter. It starts:

You bloody, bloody man. While I confess to a fondness for you, your arrogance infuriates me beyond measure. Just when I begin to forgive your presumptions you follow on from where you left off assuming that your only misdemeanour is in being ‘sentimental’.

It continues in similar fashion and goes on:

You cannot see ‘sufficient reason’ that you must not hope that some day I will be your wife? Have you ever once asked me what I would like? Have you ever once asked me what I might hope for?

This friendship is not compromised by your confession of having feelings for me. Are we not two adults capable of having an adult relationship? This friendship is compromised by your arrogant belief that you know what is best for me and when I do not fall at your feet in compliance it is because I misunderstood you.

You, you why is it always about you? Your detailed explanation of your upbringing provides the answer but I suspect not in the way that you were intending.

And it goes on further in that manner and gives poor Gillie quite a rollicking. I can only think that at the time of writing I was having a bad day! I do love the thought that the words of a complete stranger  inspired such indignation in me. Anyway more about the piece itself.

Ali Ferguson Textile art The making of Miss Dorothy
The making of Miss Dorothy

I used a beautiful antique modesty panel and applied the words of my letter to it. It is made of the most fragile silk which disintegrated in parts as I was stitching. This was layered onto a background of old silk that came from a dress lining. This came from a friend’s mother’s house and had clearly been cut off when a dress was shortened from long to short. Marked and worn with lovely stitched seams, it became a prized piece of fabric waiting for just the right project. I was a bit devastated when I used the last pieces up in my Not Just Blue quilts.

Layered over the modesty panel was another very fine antique dress panel and again I layered fabrics and  highlighted  words in hand stitching. I stretched this piece on a frame to stitch, because it was so delicate and in danger of disintegrating completely. I don’t usually stitch with a frame although perhaps I should. I tend to suit my way of working to whatever materials I am using at the time. In honesty I make things up and experiment as I go along rather than doing extensive sampling beforehand and I’m afraid with no formal training in embroidery I am completely unaware of the right way to do things – and I rather like this.

I’ll be teaching some of my techniques that I used in these pieces at my 5 day workshop next year with Fibre Arts Australia and Fibre Arts New Zealand and who knows maybe sometime in the UK if I’m invited to do a summer school or winter school sometime. Big hint!!

Ali Ferguson Miss Dorothy
HiStories Uncovered: Miss Dorothy

 

Ali Ferguson textile art
Miss Dorothy Detail

 

Ali Ferguson textile art
Miss Dorothy Detail

My Dear Child

The emotional evidence for the last piece in this installation comes from a completely unconnected collection of letters. Again I found these several years ago on Ebay and for some reason it took me a long time to be able to open the little packet of small letters and investigate them properly. They felt so very full of emotion that I couldn’t quite bring myself to read them when they first arrived and actually now that I have poured over them I’m still not hugely wiser as to their content. Written in tiny spidery handwriting and dated 1907 they are very difficult to decipher apart from the opening greetings:

My very dear child, My dear child and My precious child

I can make out the odd sentence here and there:

Ever in my thoughts & prayers, My precious child, you are never out of my thoughts

God bless and keep you, I am sending you some of the leaves out of my prayer book which I trust will comfort and help you. It tells of the loving kindness of our Heavenly father in all that concerns sand his watchful care over us.

and the signing off

Your loving & affectionate mother

I feel rather humbled to have such poignant correspondence in my possession but rather love the act of preserving this emotion in stitch and bringing it back to life. It saddens me in a way that letters like these have found their way onto Ebay because somewhere along the line they have been discarded as of no interest. But I have no way of knowing the back stories and I’m a more than willing recipient of these little treasures and it breaks my heart to think that they could’ve ended up in landfill – or recycling – but there’s a thought that could take on a whole new direction!!

Ali Ferguson textile art
My Dear Child

Again it is stitched on a background of the old silk organza. I have deconstructed a beautiful hand stitched antique baby gown, possibly a christening gown, and added the most tiny mother of pearl buttons. This piece became the inspiration for my Not Just Blue quilts. There was something very poignant about taking apart and then re-piecing together these beautiful little dresses. I am continually inspired by the shapes of garments pieces and find the act of  re-arranging and placing each part to be so very engrossing and pleasing. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Ali Ferguson textile art
My Dear Child Detail

As well as the stories and energies of those who wrote the letters and the recipients of the letters these pieces are also imbued with the stories of the garments themselves and the real wearers. I love how all these energies entangle and interact and therefore become one with each other. I rather imagine this to be much like how the energies of any group of strangers finding themselves randomly in each others company will intermingle and interact with each other – often completely unnoticed but a connection has been made. In my mind this rather neatly takes us back to Locard’s principle of exchange where every time you make contact with another person, place, or thing, it results in an exchange of physical materials. I rather like to think that there is also a very real exchange of emotional energies and I rather think that this thought will keep me inspired for a long time to come.

And lastly – sometimes I like to stitch little pieces in explanation – a bit like a rather gorgeous sketchbook page.

Ali Ferguson textile art
The making of HiStories Uncovered

A Glorious Week Teaching At Crafty Retreats, France Part two

Outings and end results!

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Vide Greniers & a small bit significant haul of treasures

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!!

The remains of Singer sewing machines in so many buildings in Oradour-sur-Glane

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!

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Oscar the pooch takes his personal patch seriously

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!

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Our Group Sampler with a personal patch by everyone including Paul the ‘drill tec’

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.

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Show & Tell on our last morning together

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!’

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Two samplers by Phil

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?

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Sampler by Lee on the left and Gillie on the right

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’

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Sampler by Jackie on the left and Lynda on the right

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!

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Sampler by Linda on the left and Sarah on the right

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’!

Patchwood Samplers Workshop with Ali Ferguson
Sampler by Trine on the left and Haddie on the right

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.

‘The Last Supper’ A glorious week of delicious food, stories & friendship.

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.

Paul & I quite literally can’t wait to return.

Patchwood Samplers at Crafty Retreats
We’re expecting that ‘SPACES’ sign to turn round to ‘FULL’ pretty quickly!

 

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