Wednesday, 7 February 2018

100+ and still going strong!

Those of you who have been in the studio recently may well have been waylaid by Ray showing off the Singer sewing machines that have been donated to Craft Arena!

The machines are both made by the Singer Sewing Machine Company. Singer has been around since 1851, originally an American Company, in 1867 the Singer Company opened a factory in John Street, Glasgow. The company diversified into a number of areas in the 20th Century, and its Electronic Systems Division was purchased by GEC-Marconi in 1990, renamed GEC-Marconi Electronic Systems, and was later incorporated into BAE Systems - a little known fact that may interest readers in Chelmsford and Basildon! Close to home as Ray used to work there!

The Sewing Machine Division was sold in 1989 to Semi-Tech Microelectronics, a Canadian company and the Singer Corporation is now part of  SVP Worldwide, which also owns the Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking brands. This company is in turn owned by Kohlberg & Company, which bought Singer in 2004. The Glasgow factory closed in 1980.

Judging by the number of comments we’ve heard in the Studio, many of you will remember Mothers and Grandmothers having one of these little beauties! The first one given to us is a 1901 Type 27 machine with the famous Sphinx transfer.

Every machine has a unique serial number stamped on the baseplate, and there are a number of websites where you can track down the year of manufacture. It had been stored in a shed for a number of years and so needed a little tender loving care, a little oil and some “percussive maintenance” - Ray hit it with a hammer.

The second one is a slightly older VS2, dating from 1895. This type was manufactured until 1940.

When we took this machine out of its case, we found a comprehensive selection of feet and tools, even down to the cord that would have been used to drive it with a treadle! Many of the feet are recognisable and don’t look out of place today

Both of these machines are now stitching perfectly after 117 and 123 years respectively, a testament to Victorian engineering. The sad thing is that they are practically worthless, a quick ebay hunt will find similar models for under £25 – if you go and collect them that is! The treadles are more expensive as the tables can be repurposed into coffee tables. The value of the sewing machines is low mainly due to the fact that between 1884 and 1943 the Glasgow factory produced approximately 36,000,000 sewing machines!

If you’re interested in seeing the machines in real life – or possibly even trying them out after more than 100 years – drop into the studio and we’ll be more than happy to show them off!


Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Tantalising Textiles 2018

The main theme of this year's Tantalising Textiles competition is Metamorphosis. As usual you are invited to submit entries in any media and any size and can take the subject matter in any direction you wish.

You might like to consider the changes in nature made by the growth stages of a cell, insect, amphibian or plant, the changes of the seasons, landscape or go more industrial and think about the changes and transformations that occur in an urban setting. The definitions from various dictionaries are:

1. A complete change of physical form or substance
2. A complete change of character, appearance, etc
3. A person or thing that has undergone metamorphosis
4. Zoology: the rapid transformation of a larva into an adult that occurs in certain animals, for example the stage between tadpole and frog or between chrysalis and butterfly
5. A complete change of form, structure, or substance, as transformation by magic or witchcraft
6. Any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.

The exhibition will be held in the Alchemy Gallery at Craft Arena from Sunday 1st April until Sunday 29th April 2018. The entry fee for each entry is £5 and you can submit as many entries as you wish.

The competition will be divided into two sections; one with the theme of Metamorphosis and another open section in which you can submit work on a theme of your choice. As in previous years, customers of Craft Arena will be asked to vote for their favourite piece, and the winner (or winners, depending on the number of entries) will receive a Craft Arena Gift Voucher, with another voucher going to the winner of our voters draw.  We will again be supporting St Luke's Hospice who will receive a proportion of the money raised by the fees. 

The Application Form and entrance fee must be submitted by Sunday 4th March 2018 although your work does not need to be with us until Saturday 31st March 2018. The application form will be available to download from from the beginning of December 2017 when you will also be able to pick up a copy from the studio.

Through Coloured Lenses by Sue Shaper
Winner Tantalising Textiles 2017

Monday, 17 July 2017

Done and dusted (almost!)

Well, we made it! I wasn't sure, even up until Friday afternoon that we would do it but with a little help from my friends we were ready for our party on Friday and the official opening on Saturday. There is still a little work to do, mostly in the workshop area where we ended up bunging stuff in every available gap!

This is the sewing machine room, with our Brother sewing and embroidery machines and Babylock Embellisher. You may spot a few cardboard boxes hidden under the tables, but they will be gone soon:

This is the mixed media area with pictures taken from different angles:

Here is my corner, where I will be demonstrating and hopefully finding time to do my own work. Still a lot of tidying and sorting to do here:

The workshop space still needs a little work. The kitchen is not quite finished and there is still more sorting and tidying to do:

I've placed the buttons, ribbon and machine threads together, but I'm not sure if they will stay there - I'll see how it works:

This is the needlecraft corner. I just about managed to squeeze everything but I'm not sure if there is quite enough room. This area may well change:

Here is the view into the shop from the sewing machine room:

And lastly, the gallery, which is now called Alchemy:

So, we got there in the end. I hope you have enjoyed following our exploits over the last few weeks. We had a great opening weekend, with lots of you coming to see the studio for yourself. 

Thanks to Craig De Souza, Executive Director of AFCIUK who was kind enough to open our new Alchemy Gallery on Friday evening, and to Mr X Stitch, Jamie Chalmers (above), who opened the shop for us on Saturday. Thanks also to everyone who helped make this extension possible (this is beginning to sound like an Oscar acceptance speech!), from my wonderful husband Ray, to the crew from Barleylands who did most of the decorating and wall moving, not forgetting Addy from Rowan who told me when to stop.

See you in the studio soon.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Things get worse before they get better!

While I was away in Budapest, things seemed to move quite rapidly. Ray and my granddaughter Emily were in charge, and got an awful lot done.

This is Studio 50, which used to be the gallery and is now home to our Brother sewing machines and Babylock Embellisher. We needed to get this room ready for our Machine Embroidery Skills session on Sunday 2nd July and they both did a great job!

This is Studio 51 from what will be my working area. Ray and Emily managed to get some of my shelving and workshop supplies in place:

Studio 48 is the one I am giving up, so everything needs to be removed. 

I'm not used to seeing this space quite so tidy! Things however, don't stay quite so neat.There is an awful lot of stuff to accommodate into the new space, and it has to go somewhere until it is sorted. The problem with my being away for a week was that I couldn't go through everything before it was moved, and there is now a mammoth job ahead of me!

We worked all day and late into the evening on Monday to start moving the stock and the rest of my stuff into 51 as work will start on putting the door back between 48 and 49 today, then the decoration and prepration of our new Gallery space will take place. All I have to do for that is choose the paint and finalise the new name for the gallery.

Work has started on the gallery.

It will all be done before our opening weekend (either that or hidden away to be sorted at a later date!)

More soon.


Friday, 16 June 2017

Nearly there....

Dean and the boys from Barleylands have finished most of the internal work in Studio 51, so now it's down to Ray to lay the carpet tiles and then we can start to move everything across from 48 and 49.

From the door looking towards my workstation

The view from where the counter will be

The shop area

The workshop area
It will still be a few weeks before everything is completely finished, but we have a deadline of 14th July as our official opening will be that weekend - it WILL all be done by then!


Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Getting on...

The work on our new studio is beginning to come together. All the internal walls have now been removed and the holes filled. Chris and Dean have been working very hard over the last few days and everything should be completed very soon.

This is the view of what will be the workshop area, looking down to where the sinks will be.

This shows the retail area from where the counter and till will be, looking towards where my workstation will be.

A similar view, but from the door.

From my workstation to the door, this will be where most of my stock will be. The door (covered in black plastic at the moment) is the way through to the Sewing Machine room in Studio 50 and on through to the new gallery.

Ray and I did a bit of shopping in Ikea on Monday, but we will probably need a couple more trips to get everything (including a new parcel shelf for the car, but that's another story!). On a project like this, nothing is set in stone, and the plans are continually evolving. I was going to have a coffee station in the sewing machine studio, but that seems to be growing into a second kitchen! I've ordered the new carpet tiles to replace the grotty red carpet and they should be arriving later this week - another job for Ray!

Our opening celebrations will be on Saturday and Sunday 15th and 16th July - we are currently arranging the programme, so look out for more news soon.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

And so it begins....

Things are finally starting to happen! The door between Studio 50 and 51 will be made later this week, which means that we are starting to pack things up ready to move and also to protect things from the dust which, from past experience, I know will get everywhere.

Don't forget that we are staying open througout the process, so do drop by to see how we are getting on. 

It does mean that Gallery 50 is now out of commission, as we are using that for temporary storage. It will all go into Studio 48 soon though, so that the door can be done, but not before our last workshop on Thursday which is being run by Alex Waylett. After that it will be all go. I've been busy ordering fixtures and fittings for the new areas in the last few days - it's scary how the costs mount up so quickly, but all within budget so far!

Next on the shopping list are more kitchen cabinets and a trip to Ikea for display units! I also have to choose new floor tiles.