Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Fashion & Embroidery Show 2018

The Fashion & Embroidery Show was held last month at the NEC, Birmingham.  I go every year and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of skill and talent out there that can produce these wondrous textile treasures. Enjoy........ 

 I am a huge fan of Laurel & Hardy so I couldn't resist this one.

3D embroideries on water soluble fabrics by the very talented Claire Muir 

A felting workshop in progress with a very majestic looking Aslan-like Lion supervising the proceedings with his friend the Lamb. 

The Embroiderers' Guild stand was very busy with drop-in workshops and two great exhibitions

The Junior Embroiderers section of the Guild (JETs) is devoted to encouraging and supporting young people who want to take up embroidery and textiles, from those just making their first stitches to students wanting to base their careers on this area of art and design.  This very talented piece was by Jessica in the 9-12 age group from Leamington Spa Embroiderers Guild JETs

The Ruby Squares Exhibition from Solihull Embroiderers was in pride of place this year as they are celebrating 40 years since the group was established.   A little bit of self interest here - this is my square...

The other exhibition on display was called Page 17 - Imagination, Interpretaion, Inspiration a specially created exhibition of textile artistry where each piece takes a book as its inspiration. As an embroiderer and book lover I was blown away by some of the exhibits....

Who didn't have a Ladybird book when they were little? 

Or an Observer Book?  I remember having the Observer Books of Wild Flowers and British Birds. I wished I had kept them now.  This is by talented wildlife textile artist Anne Kelly.

Janet Payne's inspiration was a book on photography - London, A Celebration in Photographs

Amanda Wright's inspiration was The Poetry of Birds by Simon Armitage 

Loved this one from The Monster Family Knitting Book

Dog Training the Mugford Way

Marilyn from Extraordinary Chickens 

I forgot to note down the title and artist of this magnificent artwork.  Maybe a book on fairytales.  I still have my treasured 1966 copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales given to me by my mum and dad and have now passed on to my daughter. I could never resist a fairy tale, one of my favourites being Hans Christian Anderson's The Princess & the Pea.  This always springs to mind whenever I am at Ikea and running the gamut of the various thicknesses of mattresses, mattress protectors and mattress toppers that you get these days.

But who can resist a little bit of Jane Austen!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Little Top for Summer

Feeling really chuffed with myself about a little top I made recently. For a while now I have wanted to get back into sewing my own clothes because every time I go to the shops to buy or look at clothes I can never see what I want or they are way too expensive.  Don't even get me started on the sad demise of M&S and is it me but I think that shop has seriously lost the plot on fashion!  Frumpy or what?!!!! So I looked through my stash of fabrics and found this lovely pink paisley pattern cotton lawn I had bought at one of the big sewing shows at the NEC a couple of years ago.  

The pattern I used was from Lauren Guthrie from Great British Sewing Bee. Why the BBC cancelled that programme I have no idea?!! I think it was more political than to do with viewing figures. They were running scared after Bake Off was poached by Channel 4 and didn't want egg on their face again, never mind that sewing and crafty pastimes are just as popular as cooking and look how many cookery programmes there are!  Lauren has a fabulous book out called Learn to Sew with Lauren and the pattern is actually the yoke top she is wearing on the front cover. My mum would have called this a sleeveless blouse but I think the word blouse always sounds rather an old-fashioned term to me -  a bit like frock and indeed my mum would always refer to dresses as frocks.     

I haven't done any dressmaking for years but I found the whole process very therapeutic and even though it took me a while to get back into the swing of bias binding, French seams, inter-facing etc. it all came back to me the way my mum had taught me when I was a teenager. 

I used odd buttons from my button jar


Lauren's pattern and instructions were very easy to follow and I will certainly make a couple more for summer from my stash, and even if I do say so myself I think the quality is better than some shop bought clothes (buttons that come off after one wear - Toast!!  Fraying hems M&S!!) and unique to boot!  Happy sewing!!!

Monday, 19 March 2018

A Cosy Hygge Day

With so much snow around lately there is nothing like a spot of Hygge to give yourself a warm glow inside.  Hygge is the Danish state of living well, that is to say "the art of cosiness of the soul and taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things." I recently picked up a bargain copy of the bestselling book "The Little Book of Hygge" by Meik Wiking who is CEO of the cosily and wonderfully titled Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and has spent years studying the magic of Danish life. Denmark has been named one of the happiest nations in the world and it is because of their hygge approach to life and well-being that helps them survive winter.

Denmark has more that its fair share of snow and lack of daylight hours but because Danes spend most of their time indoors from November to March they make the most of it and hygge at home by for example wrapping themselves up in cosy blankets in front of the fire and lighting candles every day that bring a warm glow not only to their living rooms but classrooms and offices too. Denmark burns more candles per head than anywhere in Europe, around six kilos of candle wax per person each year. That is a hell of a lot of wax but  I do agree that candles add cosiness to a room and I love to light candles once it has gone dark, outside too in the summer.  

Us Brits of course by tradition moan about the cold, dark, damp weather but for lots of people the winter months can be a really down and depressing time of year.  But if all this sounds a bit too twee then maybe we should just try a spot of hygge ourselves and start enjoying the winter months a bit more instead of dreading it and wishing the months away until the first daffodils burst forth. From a personal point of view I don't mind winter at all, in fact I get the the whole hygge thing because I love sitting in front of a log fire, knitting or sewing, wrapped in a blanket, sipping hot chocolate or a glass of cheeky little red.

Yesterday for me was very much a hygge day as we had a good fall of snow again so I sat on my bean bag in front of the fire and got my knitting out.  I have been knitting a pair of woollen socks for quite a few months now or at least attempting to knit as I have never knitted a pair of socks before and even with all my knitting experience turning the heel was somewhat of a battle but now well onto the second sock. I have to admit though that a weekend hygge day is better than a working hygge day as it's no joke when you have to battle the inadequacies of public transport just to get to work and I can't help but think that the Danish transport system probably copes a lot better with the snow than here in the UK.  

The Danes have a popular hygge saying which goes "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing" and I can't help but agree as I could really have done with these cosy woolly socks a few months ago not now that spring is almost sprung.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Secret Santa Patchwork Purse

Every year at Ikon Gallery where I work we do Secret Santa.  The rules are spend no more than £5 and buy from a charity shop or make your own which is what most of us at Ikon prefer to do as we are all a creative lot. I always choose to make my own so this year I made a patchwork purse.

For this year's inspiration I searched through my many sewing and textile books and came across this beautiful little neck purse in a vintage book called Patchwork published in 1980. I seem to remember the book was a cast off from my mother-in-law in one of her many 'let's get rid of everything useful' moods.  

The design I used is also featured on the front cover.


It's a gem of a book with a very 1980s feel about it. Very Laura Ashley with lots of spriggy fabrics, frills, flounces and quite a bit of twee, but also containing good practical 'how to' advice on patchwork and quilting and filled with many easy projects to do which was what I was looking for. 

I quite fancy making a few more as it was so easy to make. They would make ideal gifts for children and adults alike and the pattern can be adapted to make a make-up purse. A great stash busting exercise too as it was a chance to use some of my hand-dyed cotton. Nicely padded too with wadding and lining fabric, finished off with contrasting bias binding and a toggle button.  Have a great Christmas everyone and here's to many more stitching and crafting projects for the New Year. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A Snuggly Jumper for a Snowy Day

Thought it was about time I posted as it was early Autumn last time and here we are in the depths of winter and a big fall of snow here in Brum. When it's cold and snowy it makes me want to wrap myself up in big soft slouchy jumpers that wrap me up in a layer of cosiness against the cold. I knit a lot of my own jumpers but this one is a beaut knitted over a couple of decades ago by my mum.

It has what is called a bagel collar, a kind of semi rolled neck which does actually resemble a bagel,  and is super chunky chunky.  A big pins job! It is very big and slouchy, so big that I was able to wear it when I was very pregnant with my daughter who was a winter baby so lots of chances to wear big and slouchy. Funny thing is I went off it after my daughter was born as I still felt huge in it. Glad I hung on to it though.   Today I wore it to shift a huge delivery of logs that had been dumped outside our house half on the road, half on the pavement, but with a lot of help from my neighbours and a wheelbarrow we made light work of it. 

I love snow and I do feel disapppointed that the UK does not get as much snow as I remember back when I was a child.  Those were the days when schools stayed open unless they had a burst pipe. I remember clearly having to trudge through the snow to school and hating how the snow crept over the top of my wellies drenching my socks but oh how we loved building snowmen in the playground and making lethal slides like sheets of glass. I think these days school kids aren't allowed out to play in the playground when it has been snowing - health & safety and all that malarkey!

This is our back garden looking very picturesque and Christmassy. I think it will all be gone by tomorrow evening as rain is forecast. Shame as it was such fun at the weekend with neighbours dragging their children behind them on sledges on their way to the park. 

A long time fan of cookery writer Nigel Slater, I am reading his book 'The Christmas Chronicles', a book he has written not only of comforting fireside suppers and essential preparations for Christmas and the New Year but stories of his love of winter.......

"I love the crackle of winter.  The snap of dry twigs underfoot, boots crunching on frozen grass, a fire spitting in the hearth....... voluminous jumpers and woolly hats, the steam rising from soup served in a deep bowl, the light from a single candle and the much-loved scarf that would feel like a burden at any other time of year. "  

                             Nigel Slater "The Christmas Chronicles", 4th Estate, Harper Collins 2017

A man after after my own heart. Here's to mulled wine, dark chocolate spice cake, spiced lentil soup and pot roast partridge with parsnips. Yum!        

Friday, 15 September 2017

Beer & Books

Anyone that knows me well will know that as well as a passion for stitch I have a certain penchant for beer and books.  Not necessarily in that order but life doesn't get much better than when able to combine the two at the same time. I belong to two book groups and have been a member of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) for over 25 years. So while holidaying in Falmouth last week with my husband (also well into beer and books but unsurprisingly not so much stitch) you can imagine our surprise and sheer delight to discover a pub that not only serves the best beer in Falmouth nay Cornwall but is also a bookshop to boot. 

Beerwolf Books lies just off the main street in Falmouth almost hidden up an alleyway. We got that quickly sussed though and knew we always had to turn right at the Pandora shop. So most days after a long hard trek along the South West Coast Path, or dodging one of the many showers (who was it that said it was always good weather in September?) we would seek refuge there for our treat of a foaming pint of 80 Shilling from local brewery Rebel, or one of the many other cask ales, and hunker down in one of the cosy alcoves with a book of our own or peruse one of the many titles on sale. 


There is a great buzz about the place as Beerwolf's clientele is an eclectic mix of students from local Falmouth University studiously sat at tables poring over their laptops with a coffee or a pint or both in some instances, regulars, and tourists who per chance pop in for a quick pint only to discover the bookshop oasis at the top of the wooden staircase and end up staying all afternoon or evening.  There is an eclectic mix of seating to match including old cinema stall seats, church pews, battered sofas and old barber shop chairs.

On top of all that customers are encouraged to bring their own food so on entering we would often be greeted with delicious smells of Indian spices or freshly fried cod and chips blended with the heady aroma of hops.  Indeed once ensconced here with our beer and books we found it mighty difficult to pull ourselves away so we eschewed the numerous restaurants around in preference to a mercy dash down to the high street to bring back fish and chips two nights in a row.  And very delicious they were too.  

With on average 29 pubs a week being lost across the UK and the sad demise of many independent high street bookshops as buying habits change, could this formula be their salvation?  Why aren't there more pubs and book shops like this on our high street?  What a great combo and what's not to like?  A better take surely than the ubiquitous Costas that you seem to stumble across in Waterstones.  

So not to forget my other habit of stitching I came across this beauty of a book in one of my many book browsings in Beerwolf.  The Gentle Art of Stitching by Jane Brocket with over 40 sewing projects for the home.  I like the idea of creating a quilt from vintage tray and tablecloths of which I have many and fancy having a go at creating a Suffolk puff patchwork.  Plenty then to keep me occupied well into Autumn.  A bargain too at £8.00 instead of £20.00.  Falmouth and Beerwolf we miss you!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Festival of Quilts 2017

So a busy summer spent keeping the plates spinning  and juggling work, gardening, cooking, all the usual stuff that also prevents me from getting into my sewing room for those precious moments when I can relax behind my sewing machine or paint into my sketchbook.  I always find time though in August to go to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC.  As always a huge array of talent and the most incredible quilts and textile artworks but here are just a few that caught my eye.


I loved this quilt which was basically a recipe for Oxford Marmalade with all the ingredients and the recipe itself embroidered onto the quilt.

The canvases on these deck chairs are all quilts. What a fantastic idea to do one of these at home instead of a boring old stripey canvas. More comfortable too if it's padded.


This quilt was made entirely from old jeans. 

A must on my visit to the Festival was to head to the Through Our Hands exhibition curated by the very talented textile artists Laura Kemshall and Annabel Rainbow. 

This is one of Laura's quilts of her daughter Amelie.

Every Thought a Question by Laura's mother Linda Kemshall and the other half of the very successful on-line workshop and design school DesignMattersTV of which I subscribe too and can highly recommend. 

 Self Portrait in the Third Person by Annabel Rainbow
Annabel is one of my favourite quilt artists. Her work focuses on the age of the modern woman with each of her quilts telling a story and exploring themes of age, domesticity, identity and career.  Juggling the balls of womanhood!

This incredible 'darned' portrait by artist Jenni Dutton is of her mother and is just one in a series called The Dementia Darnings depicting her mother's battle with dementia. 

By artist Sue Stone 

Ophelia by Michala Gyetvai another of my favourite textile artists who felts threads onto old woollen blankets. 

A wry note to end on.  I loved this little portrait I found in the Through our Hands Portrait Shuffle  where the idea was to donate a portrait of your own in return for a portrait from someone else and all to help raise funds for Save the Children Fund. I think this is what I must look like when I am down on my hands and knees in the garden weeding.