Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Tidings

This will probably be my last blog before Christmas, so I'd like to wish all my customers and friends (the two actually go hand in hand - one of the great things about Craft Arena!) a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.  Ray and I will be spending Christmas with my elder daughter and her husband, with a visit from my youngest and her daughter. A fairly restful time for me as all I have to do is cook the turkey!

I'm not sure I'll get much crafting done - I'm more likely to fall asleep in front of the television after a third helping of Christmas pudding!  The diet will begin in earnest in January, promise!

Craft Arena will be closed from Monday 24th to Thursday 27th December, but don't forget, that we will be open on Friday 28th to Sunday 30th December from 11am to 4pm when you will receive double Loyalty Card Stamps for when you spend over £5. After a few more days off over New Year, we will open on 5th January with our S A L E. There will be lots of bargains, with a free goody bag for the first 10 customers, so I look forward to seeing you then. For our full opening hours over the holiday period see our website.

It seams strange thinking about Valentine's Day before Christmas is even here, but the latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors arrived today, and it's full of hearts! Mind you, it is the January/February issue so I suppose it is allowed.

The magazine includes tunnel books - reminds me of the paper theatres I used to play with when I was small, there is a new section on basic jewellery making and metalworking skills and articles on encaustic, resin, boxes, stitching, carved drawing, calico hears, a colour exercise, lettering, silk screening, printing and much more - a jam packed issue to get the new year of to a crafty start!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Brother Open Day

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the 23rd to 225th November Craft Arena will be hosting our third Brother Open Day.

Rachel from Brother will be on hand to answer all your questions, and guide you through the range of machines on show, including the fabulous new long arm 'V' series. You will be able to see them demonstrated and try them out yourself.

There are some great special offers available at the moment, and a selection of machines will have very special bargain prices. Do come along and see how you can enjoy your sewing and achieve stunning results with Brother at your side.

If you book a time slot to come along, you will receive a free gift. Demonstrations will be from 10.30 - 4.30 on Friday and Saturday and from 10.30 to 3.30 on Sunday.

We look forward to seeing you there. Contact us for more information.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Stampington and Needlefelting

Two new magazines arrived today from the USA; the winter editions of Art Quilting Studio and Sew Somerset. I only get ten of these and they always sell out (I sold two before I even got them on the shelf), so don't hang around. If you can't get to the studio in the next few days, you can always ring up and buy one over the phone, then I can save it for you until the next time you come in.

Both these issues are full of wonderful inspiration and projects. Art Quilting Studio focuses on fabric, surface design and stitch, whilst Sew Somerset is a lot more ephemeral and includes more mixed media in its projects. They are both lovely magazines!

Another great workshop today with Lyn and Denise (not me, another one). We were playing around with wool and silk fibre today in a needlefelting workshop. You can see what they both did below.  The workshop was a surprise present from Lyn to Denise who had never seen it done before - another couple of converts to this great technique. I just love Lyn's owl and Denise's angel just needs a little embroidery to make it fly!


Friday, 9 November 2012


Fusing Fabric
I've been holding some great workshops lately with some lovely people! I have posted some of these on my Craft Arena facebook page, but hadn't got round to blogging them, so here goes:

Today I had Jan, Annette, Jean and Diane using a soldering iron to fuse fabric. They hadn't done anything like this before, but they soon got stuck in and produced some brilliant samples!

Of course, I had to promote some of my favourite books to give them even more ideas!

Before the workshop
Last week I held a mixed media book cover workshop with Elizabeth. I took a picture of the workspace before we started. You see, I can get organised sometimes!

I experimented a bit with mine (the cover on the left), and used Lamifix once I'd machine stitched the background, then did a bit more embellishment over the top. If you haven't come across Lamifix before, it is a Vilene product that you can iron over your work to create a water-resistant finish. It is available in gloss and matt, although I only have gloss available at present. It hasn't come out particularly well on the photograph, but it is nice and shiny!
Finished covers
Over the last two weeks, I've also had a Button Sampler Workshop and you can see the almost finished results below. They just need ironing and framing. Lovely colours!
Button  Samplers
I have a few more workshops booked in before Christmas: Friendly Plastic for beginners on 16th November, Needlefelting on 20th November and Textile Postcards on 30th November. If you would like to join us on one of these, do give me a call or email me
I take a break from workshops over the holiday period, but have already started booking into February 2013 when they resume.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Never enough books!

I had a delivery of books in today and I still have room for more! I've just put them out on the shelves (those that haven't been sold whilst I was putting them out - it just seems that one sniff of a box of brand new books brings people out of the woodwork!) One of the problems is that some of them are now destined for my personal library. I can totally understand that, you can never have enough books, as I keep telling my grand daughter!

These are my favourites from those that arrived today. Some of them are new and some old friends.

Collage, Stitch, Print by Val Holmes
I've done a little collography in the past and it is something I've always wanted to come back to. This book will help me take things further.
This comprehensive guide from one of Europe's best-known textile artists and teachers contains everything you need to know about the exciting effects you can achieve using the almost endless permutations of collage, stitch and print, and how you can incorporate them into your own stitched-textile work. Includes invaluable information on making a collagraphy plate using embroidery, choosing suitable surfaces for print, combining paper and fabric, embroidering onto prints, and how to work in series. Illustrated throughout with the best examples of contemporary collagraphy in textile art, this book is a fascinating introduction to a technique that could become your latest textile-art passion.

Exploring Dimension in Quilt Art by C June Barnes
Those of you who know me, know that I do like a bit of texture in my work. This great book will certainly help do that!
Quilt art doesn't have to be flat. These days, the most innovative quilt artists are creating intricate raised stuctures, using various folding, gathering, pleating, stuffing, padding, shrinking and layering techniques. This fascinating book is a guide to creating these stunning effects, from the simplest textured quilt to elaborate twisted and embellished three-dimensional structures, including vessels and hanging installations. Popular quilt artist C June Barnes, author of Stitching to Dye in Quilt Art, reveals the secrets of how these sometimes impossible-looking structures are put together, giving invaluable technical construction tips and a wealth of inspirational examples, including work from some of the world's leading quilt artists.

Beaded Tassels by Julie Ashford
I do like a bit of bling and this lovely book certainly has a lot of it! Yet another for my bookshelf.
It is packed full of projects. All of which have detailed recipes and fully illustrated step by step instructions, and all are graded for difficulty. All the basics are explained from terminology to techniques. Design ideas and inspirations throughout plus useful hints and tips. Full colour throughout including lots of photos.

Stitch, Cloth, Shimmer & Shine by Sarah Lawrence
Sarah's untimely death left a big hole in our lives, but this book is a reminder of her talent as well as giving inspiration and ideas for lots of lovely shiny textile projects. Always popular, this book is now back in stock. If you haven't got it yet, you must!
Layered Textiles by Kim Thittichai
This is what I call a 'messing about' book. I never tire of looking through it an drooling over the techniques Kim uses. The techniques are always good for playing about on a cold rainy day and then you can incorporate them into some fantastic texile art.  From newspaper to more modern materials, this gives a good grounding in using these sometimes bewildering substances to give emphasis and texture to your work. Kim features some wonderful pieces of work from other textile artists too. Another must have.

I've got lots of lovely new crochet books too, but I haven't decided which to keep for myself yet!


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Knitting Ribbon

An unexpected delivery of knitting ribbon has arrived - I wasn't expecting it until next week! Just to let you know that there are only limited numbers of the floral designs - they are already going fast!


Friday, 26 October 2012

Getting into gear

It seems ages since I did any textile work. I really must get going on the next project. I've had some thoughts about what I'm going to do for our Minerva Exhibition next year, so at least I'll be able to show something at our next meeting at the weekend!  I've been using my new tablet computer to help me with the design, and I really do love it; so much easier than carrying loads of paper and pencils around with me - I just have to make sure I've remembered to charge it!

The passion for crochet continues. Search Press have just published a new 20 to Make book called Crocheted Granny Squares, and it wasn't on the shelf 10 minutes before I sold a copy! There are 20 designs with accompanying projects from baby blankets and scarves to cushions and gloves. This is a pretty little book with projects for beginners as well as the more advanced. Don't forget that if you are unable to pop into the shop, I can arrange for books to be posted to you with no charge for postage.

My new Christmas ribbons are proving very popular. I've stuck to the traditional colours of green, red and cream this year. They are just right for adding a bit of class to your seasonal projects.

I've ordered more knitting ribbon; this time some 'Laura Ashley' type flowered designs to go with the animal prints I already have in stock. I'm hoping they will be with me in November, and I'll let you know when they arrive.


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Crochet. Knitting and Stitching

Crochet Flowers
There seems to have been an upsurge of fascination with crochet recently! Several people have booked workshops to learn the basics and that has got me thinking (always dangerous!), so I've set up a poll (in the top left hand corner of this blog) to find out if there's interest in having a Crochet Club here at Craft Arena. If you would like to come along please complete the poll, and if enough people want to meet up, I will let you know more.  Of course, if you prefer to knit, you would be welcome too!

Talking of knitting, I went to the Knit & Stitch Show at Alexander Palace on Friday; I felt it was the best for some time. The exhibitions were inspiring, and I thought that the new graduate work shows that there is a great future for textiles in this country. I didn't take any photos though; I was too caught up in looking at everything!

Brother V7

We are having another Brother Open Weekend at Craft Arena from Friday 23rd to Sunday 25th November. You will be able to see the full range of machines, including the new V7 shown here, and again Rachel from Brother will be here to answer any questions. We have a limited number of bookable appointments available with a free gift for anybody booking before the weekend. Hope to see you there.


Friday, 5 October 2012

Tantalising Textiles 2013

I thought I'd give you all plenty of notice:

Following on from the success of our competition in 2012, I'm pleased to announce the second Tantalising Textiles Competition. This year's theme is 'Wish You Were Here'.

The winner of our 2012 competition by Linda Cowan
I want to encourage people who have never displayed work before, as well as established textile artists, to submit their work for entry into the competition. All entries will be displayed in The Gallery at Craft Arena between Saturday 1st June to Sunday 30th June 2013.

As last year, judging will be by members of the public and the artwork with the most votes will win a prize. There will also be a separate prize draw for the voters.  There will be a nominal £5 charge for each entry with the monies raised being divided between the prizes and a donation to St Luke's Hospice in Basildon.

Closing date for applications is Sunday 12th May 2013, and all entries submitted will be displayed in The Gallery at Craft Arena from Saturday 1st June to Sunday 30th June 2013. Entry forms are available in store, online or email me for a copy.

Entries can include any type of Textile Art; Mixed Media, Fabric Collage, Embroidery, Cross Stitch etc., but must not have been exhibited before. 3D items can also be submitted. The maximum finished size should be A2 (594 x 420 mm) for hinging items and 400 x 200 x 200 mm for 3D items.

Friday, 21 September 2012

New Books

I just thought I'd let you know about two new books that I now have in and two which are coming soon.

My favourite by far is ClangersThis fantastic new book will allow you to knit your own Clanger. Choose from Major, Mother, Granny, Small and Tiny. Also includes instructions on making the friends of the Clangers - the Soup Dragon, Iron Chicken and of course the Froglets. There are insider tips and tricks to create your very own Clanger planet with step-by-step instructions for Tiny's boat and Major's rocket as well as sets and trees. 

Next is Di van Nieker's Roses. This is the paperback version of her popular book. Learn how to make delicate, beautiful and realistic silk roses and organza leaves, and have fun making them for a friend, or for a special project. There is a flower for every occasion: adorning a hat or a knitted bag, embellishing a crocheted scarf or adding beauty to a beaded necklace. 
Techniques include 16 different roses, blooming amongst a latticework of rosebuds, leaves and stems. Learn how to make rose petals and rose hips, sepals, stems and leaves, spent roses and stamens, and gorgeous little birds, a bird’s nest, beautiful butterflies, bows and wisteria. There is something for everyone in these pages and it is amazing how easy, enjoyable and rewarding these techniques are.

Expected next week are two books for traditional embroiderers.

First, The Art of Embroidered Butterflies by Jane E Hall. The embroidery is breathtaking, and in this gorgeous book she combines her love of butterflies with her outstanding talent as a textile artist to produce three-dimensional renditions of exquisitely worked butterflies that are almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Using the finest of silk threads and needles, Jane lovingly creates her butterflies' wings using the tiniest of stitches worked on to silk. They are then carefully cut away and the edges strengthened with hair-fine wire before being attached to the bodies, carefully crafted from air-drying modelling medium and brushed with whisper-fine threads to resemble hairs. The butterflies are then placed within a setting of silk leaves and flowers, all made with the same painstaking attention to detail and expert skill as the butterflies themselves. 

This book provides a fascinating introduction to butterflies in nature, reflecting Jane's love and admiration for these exquisite creatures, and goes on to describe the materials and methods Jane uses to produce her incredible creations. Twelve projects, each based on a different butterfly including the Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell and the Brimstone, present the finished piece along with the materials Jane used, and the photographs, swatches, drawings and paintings that inspired it. One of the most striking features of this book is the amazing photography of Jane's work, including detailed close-ups, which, together with Jane's poetic and inspiring text, make this a book that anyone who is an artist, 

The latest RSN Essential Stitch Guide is Goldwork.  This much-needed book features all you need to create beautiful stitched work. Helen McCook includes the major stitches, with expert advice on padding, couching, using colour and mixing techniques. While covering the traditions of goldwork, she develops techniques offering innovative design, new ideas and inspiration. The Royal School of Needlework (RSN) teaches hand embroidery to the highest standard and is well respected all over the world. It not only upholds the traditions of English embroidery that go back many hundreds of years, but is constantly taking embroidery forward in new and innovative ways. 

This series of Essential Stitch Guides has been produced in close collaboration with the RSN with the aim of providing a set of definitive works on traditional embroidery techniques. Published so far are books on Silk Shading, Whitework, Stumpwork, Crewelwork and Blackwork, with Canvaswork to come later this year. They are all in my personal library!

If you can't get to the shop to buy any of the books featured, I can get them shipped to you directly from the publisher with no postage charges, just give me a ring on 012678 523780 or email me.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Very Juicy!

Just before I went on holiday to Istanbul (did I tell you I was going to Istanbul?) A very large package arrived with my new Tee Juice stand inside. I haven't had a chance to play with all the new colours yet, but I have plans!  These pens come in a lovely colour palette and in three pen widths; fine, medium and large. They are great for all sorts of marking on fabric, through stencils and masks, or just drawing freehand. 

By the side of the stand you just might be able to see the other new addition to the Jacquard range - click on the picture to enlarge it. These are little pots of 3D Lumiere paint complete with three different size tips for drawing. This is an adhesive and dimensional metallic paint for fabric, paper, wood and many other surfaces. You can also use it as a glue to attach jewels to fabric. Can't wait to have a go of this either. It comes in a range of colours and I currently stock Rich Red, Bright Copper, Blue, Steel, Emerald, Purple, Pearl and Bright Gold.


Saturday, 1 September 2012


I've just posted some pictures of our exhibition on Facebook. You can find them here

This is the mask I made for the Venetian Fantasy project. The background is thick felt layered with painted Bondaweb, gilding flake and painted garden fleece which was then stitched and zapped with a heat gun. The mask was overlaid with embossed copper, stitched painted and zapped Lutradur, Friendly Plastic and peacock feathers. I also used wrapped cord and Tyvek beads.

Colour Reaction was made with machine stitched triangles on dissolvable film with a stitched Lutradur Crash background.

Swallowtail has a machine felted background, overstitched with free machining then embellished with French knots and beads. Lots of beads!

Quite please with the results. I now have to start planning the next project!


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Minerva Textile Group

The Minerva Textile Group Exhibition opens on Saturday, with our Preview Evening tomorrow, Friday 31st August. If you haven't already had an invitation, I've included it here for you. The themes are 'On the Wing', 'Venetian fantasy' and 'Colour Surprise'. 

If you need any more information, just ask.  Refreshments will be available.

Kay, Wendy, Yvonne and I have been stitching like mad over the last few months finishing off our projects and we will be hanging everything tonight. It's always exciting to see new work hanging up, and nerve-racking worrying that it isn't good enough (well, I feel like that anyway!).

If you can't make it on Friday, I look forward to seeing you during the exhibition which runs until Sunday 30th September. 


Monday, 27 August 2012

Scrim, Screens & Scrappy Bits

Had a great day on Saturday at our workshop with Lynda Monk. As well as using scrim and Thermofax screens, we got down and dirty with puff paint, heat guns, irons, paint, dye and ink! 
Some of Lynda's samples and finished work
Space was at a bit of a premium as I had wanted as many people as possible to get to see Lynda's techniques. As usual on one of her workshops, she was very generous with her knowledge and supplies - we all got a huge goody bag containing everything we needed plus more to try out at home. 
Lynda showing Wendy how
I didn't take many pictures as I got carried away with my samples, but these should give an indication of the fun we had!
Noela, Sue and Liz engrossed 
I didn't paint my samples, as wanted to keep them for future projects, but there was plenty of turquoise procion dye in evidence.

Pauline, Jackie and Patricia busy with their samples
Lynda will be back at Craft Arena for a book signing when her new book is published, and she will be holding an exhibition of her work in our Gallery next year, so look out for details of that.
The aftermath
As always, Lynda's workshop has inspired me to try her techniques and apply them to my work. Can't wait to get some colour on the samples I created and try out more! Thanks Lynda.

My samples

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


View from my hotel in Harrogate
I had a good weekend in Harrogate choosing new stock for the shop and having a mooch round the shops for me! Wasn't too impressed with my hotel room, but the view wasn't bad! Decided to have breakfast at Betty's on Sunday. Very yummy.
Breakfast at Betty's
I have ordered beads, dyes for my Big Shot so that I can make things to sell in the shop (well, that's the idea anyway!) and some lovely cross stitch kits. 

The latest issue of Cloth Paper Scissors has arrive, and this issue is devoted to 'assemblage'. Lots of found objects, dolls, and boxes, plus weird and wonderful models for inspiration. I must admit they are not quite my thing - I really can't get my head round steampunk (must be my age!), but I know lots of you love it.  

I have some lovely new ribbons in, so do ask to see them next time you visit.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Brother Specials

Brother have just announced special offers on a range of sewing machines to coincide with the Festival of Quilts being held at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend. They are as follows:

Innov-is 20LE - Free Quilt Pack 
Innov-is 350SE - £50 off and Free Quilt Pack
Innov-is 550SE - £100 off - Now £649
Innov-is 750E - Free PED Lite 
Innov-is 1250 - £400 off - Now £999
Innov-is NX2000 - £300 off - Now £1299
Innov-is 2200 - £200 off - Now £1999
Innov-is 5000 - £300 off - Now £3499
Innov-is Ie - £500 off - Now £5499
PR1000E - Framing mad offer - all frames free of charge - Worth over £3000!

All these offers are only available until Sunday 16th August, so if you have been thinking of upgrading your machine, now is the time. All machines come with free training. Contact us for more details.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Closed for the Day

Craft Arena will be closed on the afternoon of Thursday 9th August as I am going to see the Women's Football Final at Wembley Stadium between the USA and Japan. My apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. 

We will be back to normal on Friday 10th August.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Art Trail Going for Gold

Today is the first day of the Barleylands Art Trail, and I've just got back from the launch party. You can see a variety of work from artists showing at Barleylands including visual artists, sculptors, jewellers and photographers; a leaflet is available with a full list.

The new knitting ribbon yarn has arrived. you can see here the black and white spotty version, there is also a animal print and two pretty flower prints. I've only got a few of each to start with, but they look so pretty knitted up, I'm sure they won't last long and I'll have to order more.

I went to see the Archery at Lord's on Monday. Had a great day with my friend Jackie. The British hope, Larry Godfrey, shot really well and got through to the next round which was this morning, but didn't do so well today and was knocked out. I still have the Women's Football final and the Hockey final to see and I have great hopes for those!

The latest Quilting Arts has arrived, as usual lots of ideas for quilting, printing and embellishing! The new issue of Molly Makes has arrived, it features a gorgeous patchwork camera strap, lino-printing tote bags, how to upcycle skirts and tops, plus much more.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Books & Big Shot

The Lynda Monk workshop is full, but I am taking a few more onto the wait list in case anyone has to drop out - contact me if you would like to be added to the list.

Several interesting books have arrived this week. For the knitters among you, there are two new titles in the 20 to Make series; 'Knitted Beanies' and 'Knitted Boot Cuffs'.

For designers The Design Library now includes 'Art Deco Designs' and 'Art Nouveau Flower Designs'.

If you prefer crochet '75 Crocheted Floral Blocks',

and for embroiderers, Jan Messent's 'Embroidered Portraits' is a joy

or you may prefer the new 'RSN Essential Stitch Guide to Whitework'.

There is also a lovely little book in the Love to Sew series called 'Hanging Hearts'.

My Big Shot Pro arrived today, so I'm off to put it together - no idea where I'm going to keep it. Just need to get some dies now! Methinks I'll need to get in touch with Mrs Paperartsy! I'll let you know how I get on with it.