Sunday, 29 December 2013

Happy New Year!

I'm currently having a bit of a move around in the shop; Ray put some slatwall up yesterday and I'm hoping it will make things a little easier to find. I've moved the buttons and may be swapping a few more things around over the next week or two, but this is a start. 

A bit more tidying to do, then we are going away for a few days with friends and I intend to make the most of it! We will be closed from Monday 29th December and will open again on Saturday 4th January with our New Year Sale. I'll let you know more about what will be reduced once I've had a bit more of a sort out, but I do know that all our books will be reduced by 20% and there will be lots of half price items as well as 10% off non-sale goods.


Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmas sorting

The problem with me is that my mind wanders. I usually start one project, then something else catches my attention and move on to something else. I did a psychometric test once, the result said that I'm a starter, not a finisher; spot on! My UFO (unfinished object) box is rather large. (Well, actually it's three boxes!)

I have been having a sort out in the run-up to Christmas, and have finally finished some work, some of it started years ago. This is a piece based on a design from the Warner Textile Museum which I was supposed to complete for an exhibition several years ago. I started, but hadn't finished it. I have needlefelted scrim and wool tops to a cotton background and used organza, Lutradur, machine-wrapped cord and beads for embellishment. 

Next is a constructed fabric sketch book cover made with tissue paper, satin fabric, machine stitch, more machine-wrapped cord and beads. I made the fabric before I decided what to do with it, and tried various methods to hold the book in place before trying a thick webbing which I painted to match the cover. To give you an idea of size, it holds an A6 sketchbook.

These little note books have been made from Vilene, paper and Tyvek with hand stitching. I made them as samples for a workshop but decided to do a little more work to them.

The final piece was made from samples of felt from a colour chart. I free machined them to Evolon then stitched on matching buttons.

I'm now feeling very smug, but there are still two and a half boxes to go!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stitched Pictures

The latest exhibition at Craft Arena is Stitched Pictures by Donna Howard. 

Donna has taken the inspiration for her current work from places she has visited. Her pictures have been digitally manipulated, then printed onto fabric and enhanced with machine and hand stitching, building up the texture to create depth. The result is a collection of memories of places, views and landscapes she has visited over the last few months.

Donna's work will be on display until Sunday 12th January. Gallery 50 will be closed on some days over the Christmas and New Year period, see below for more details. 

Donna will be holding a workshop at Craft Arena on Saturday 14th December from 10.30 - 4pm, showing us how to embellish jars to make these pretty decorations which can be used at home or as gifts. If you would like to join us, email or

Christmas and New Year Opening

Our Christmas and New Year opening times are listed below. I'll be taking a few days off to take advantage of the turkey, mince pies and chocolate, and will be opening a little later just to make sure that all the sherry has evaporated. (Actually it's more likely to be a good single malt - I do like a slurp of Highland Park occasionally!) The diet will begin early in the New Year!

Monday 23rd December  - Friday 27th December 2013  CLOSED
Saturday 28th - Sunday 29th December 2013 OPEN 11am - 4pm
Monday 30th December 2013 - Friday 3rd January 2014

Normal opening hours from Sunday 5th January.

Double Loyalty Stamps 

Between Christmas and New Year, on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th December, customers will receive double Loyalty Card stamps on all purchases over £10. Don't forget that once your card is full you will receive £10 off your next purchase.


Our sale starts on Saturday 4th January 2014 at 11am. There will be lots of bargains, many at half price, and a free goody bag for the first 10 customers on Saturday 4th January.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

I'm Back!

I've really been neglecting my blog over the last few months. So much has been going on that I haven't really had time to breathe!

I'll do a run-down of the exhibitions we've had in Gallery 50 over the past couple of months and let you know what if coming up before and after Christmas.


In October we had In Stitches with their exhibition Journeys which proved very popular;

Sandy Draper and Jayne Laouami-Baigent are showing their work Parallel Pathways until 30th November. Sandy & Jayne completed their City & Guilds in Embroidery in different ways, and it's great to see all their samples and finished pieces. Takes me back!

and Donna Howard will be here from 2nd December until 12th January with her Stitched PicturesDonna's work starts life as photographs which are then manipulated and printed onto cotton. The final layer is completed using free machine embroidery to add colour and texture to the pieces. See below for details of Donna's accompanying workshop.

Latest Magazines

The new issues of Art Quilting Studio and Sew Somerset have arrived. I know some of you look forward to these magazines and both include some lovely ideas and projects. I also now stock Workbox magazine, which is a great read and contains profiles, history, information on artists and events as well as projects.


We have some great workshops happening in the run-up to Christmas:

We will also be having a Brother Open Day on Sunday 1st December when you can have a look at a our Brother sewing machines and even have a go yourself! There are some fabulous specials on a range of machines until the New Year, so do come along and see what we have to offer.

If you are interested in finding out more about any of these workshops or would like to book a place, email or ring us on 01268 523780

Craft Arena Newsletter

In case you were not aware, I regularly send out a newsletter to those on my mailing list. Whenever I send one there are always 'bounced' email addresses which may be because you have changed your email address and not told me, or maybe because I have your details down incorrectly. If you think you should be receiving the Craft Arena newsletter and don't, you can always re-register via the website, or send me an email with your contact details and I'll check you are on the mailing list. You can read a copy of my latest newsletter by following this link.

Christmas & New Year 

Our Christmas and New Year opening times are listed below. I usually take a few days off, and open later than usual in the morning - just to make sure that all that sherry has evaporated! 

On 28th and 29th December only, customers will receive double Loyalty Card stamps on all purchases over £10.

Monday 23rd December  - Friday 27th December 2013  CLOSED
Saturday 28th - Sunday 29th December 2013 OPEN 11am - 4pm
Monday 30th December 2013 - Friday 3rd January  2014 CLOSED


There will be lots of bargains in the sale; many at half price, and a free goody bag for the first 10 customers on Saturday 4th January.
Normal opening hours from Sunday 5th January

If I don't see you before, have a wonderful Christmas and a great New Year and I promise to update my blog more often! I'm hoping to have some news soon about a great event I'm planning in 2015!


Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Catching Up

It's catch-up time this week - so many things were left hanging whilst I finished the work for Minerva that I really need to try and get ahead in the lull before the next storm!

New Stock

My DMC stand arrived yesterday in a huge film-wrapped box which the delivery drive only just managed to get in the lift!
Ray, bless his heart, managed to unwrap it last night and dispose of the cardboard, wood and film and it now stands proudly in the shop. 

The stand consists of Stranded Cotton, Colour Variations, Light Effects and Satin threads in sumptuous colours. I've already sold some so feel justified getting them in. I really feel like taking some from the stand for my personal collection but must resist!


I thought I'd update the workshops we have for you in the run-up to Christmas:

Fabric Book with Louise Milner
Thursday 3rd October from 11am - 4pm
Using Pelmet Vilene and Transfer paints, make an enchanting book (approximately A5 size) based on a seaside theme which will be embellished with stitching, paints, stamps, beads, shells, sequins, puff paint etc.
£35 per person which includes all materials.

Strawberry Delight Stumpwork with Yvonne Taplin
Saturday 26th October from 10.30am - 4.30pm
Learn how to paint with thread, make a wired detached leaf and padded strawberries using a limited variety of stitches which will enable you to create this picture (finished sized 10 x 10 cm approx). All materials are provided, although you may wish to bring your own sewing kit and a hoop.
£40 per person which includes materials (apart from the frame which you can purchase separately if required)

Both Louise and Yvonne are part of the In Stitches Group which will be exhibiting at Gallery 50 during October.

Beaded Wire Christmas Decorations with Susan Burns
Saturday 12th October from 10.30am - 1pm
Using wire, beads and charms, make these pretty decorations to decorate your Christmas tree.
£25 per person which includes materials for two decorations.
This is the first in a series of classes run by Susan which will feature making jewellery with wire, beads and knitting.

We will be featuring more special workshops in November and December, so keep an eye on our blog and Facebook page for news of these.

We still have a few spaces in our dressmaking classes with Jane Gore - please contact us for information. These classes are suitable for both beginners and intermediates. We limit classes to a maximum of four students per session so that you get the most out of the class.

If you would like more information about any of these classes, or wish to book, you can email me, phone 01268 523780 or visit the shop.

Charity Knitathon

To celebrate National Knitting Week which is being held from 14th to 20th October, Craft Arena will be holding a Charity Knitathon on Saturday 12th October from 1.30 - 5pm. (I know it is two days early, but we do like to be the vanguard here at Craft Arena!).  

Susan Burns will be leading us, hoping to knit as many hearts as possible in aid of Cancer Research. All materials will be provided, although you can bring your own wool if you wish. We ask that you give a minimum donation of £2 to join us and all hearts will then will be sold to add to the amount we give to this worthwhile charity.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Childhood Dreams

Although I have been dreaming a lot lately, this is the title of the new exhibition by the Minerva Textile Group which starts in Gallery 50 at Craft Arena on Tuesday 3rd September. Minerva consists of myself, Kay Renwick, Wendy Smith and Mandy Tinkler. We have all been drifting back to our childhood, thinking about our favourite books, stories and memories, and stitching furiously over the last few months despite the occasional interruption. I was held up a bit by the Craft Arena expansion, Wendy and Mandy have had family commitments and poor Kay fell and broke her arm and collarbone! Although she is better now, she hasn't been able to do as much as she wanted, particularly as her daughter decided to go into labour early and Kay now has a beautiful grandson to dote on.

I still have a bit of stitching to do on my final piece, but my doll and memory book have been finished.  I also found a piece that I stitched many, many years ago and had not finished, so I've completed that and I'm really pleased with it. 

The exhibitions is on from Tuesday 3rd September until Sunday 29th September during normal shop opening hours, with a private view on the evening of Tuesday 3rd September from 6.30 to 8.30. If you are free, you are welcome to come along; just let me know so that I will have enough refreshments!

Minerva meets on Sunday once a month to discuss and work on our projects and to give each other support. If you would like to join our group for next year, you can collect an application form at Craft Arena.

Back to stitching......


Friday, 23 August 2013

Bank Holiday Weekend Specials

Brother Sewing Machines have the following special offers on just for the Bank Holiday weekend, so I thought I'd let you know, just in case you are tempted!

The fabulous Innov-is Ie sewing and embroidery machine has PE Design Next software and the Premium Upgrade package 3 both FREE. These are worth over £1300.
 The Innov-is NX200 sewing machine (my favourite machine - I had one before I traded it in for the Ie and loved it!) is reduced by £300 to £1200.
And the newest member of the Brother family, the Innov-is 100 Prime Edition is reduced by £50 to £449. This is a lovely machine, with all the features of the Innov-is 350, but with less decorative stitches. Excellent value for money.

We also have a selection of other special offers which are available until 30th September.

If you are interested in seeing the Innov-is Ie or Innov-is 100 demonstrated over the weekend, or would like to know more, just give me a call on 01268 523780. (I don't have the NX200 in stock, but can tell you all about it)


Saturday, 27 July 2013

Felting at Cottenham and more

These are the results of 5 days felting at Cottenham Village Collage Summer School on their Felt, Line and Stitch course. It was the first time I had been to Cottenham summer school, but hopefully it won't be the last! The weather meant that the tutor, Lisa Fretwell, had to rearrange the order of work as the predicted thunderstorms meant that we would not be able to dry our felt outside at the times we needed to, so the purse that had been intended as our final project was brought forward to earlier in the week. 

First we made some large pieces of felt to be used later in the week for shirdak work. This is a type of felting from Kazakhstan, used for making rugs. I used a turtle motif taken from Maori Designs by Penny Brown which was cut out from two pieces of fulled felt then swapped over and stitched with a twisted cord. You can see here that I've only finished one piece. These pieces are traditionally made into large rugs by villagers working together. I intend to embellish them further with stitch and beads. 

I did find it difficult to make thin felt! The purse is a case in point. It looked more like a slipper before I folded the flap over. Need more practice!

I had problems again with the prefelts we made for our repeat pattern piece. Again, too thick, and I think I felted the background too much - the prefelt pattern took its time to felt to the background and didn't at all in some places. I'll rectify that with my embellisher though!

I also made another prefelt including Angelina and Wensleydale wool. I really liked this piece and will be taking this further.

All in all, a great weekend. If you want to see the results, Barleylands Summer Festival is on tomorrow, and I will be demonstrating feltmaking at 11 am , 1 pm and 3 pm - at the very least I will get more practice with those prefelts!

Back to work with a bang today! Lots of emails to go through, and some new stock to add.

My book of the week is Making Fantasy Cloth Dolls by Jan Horrox. Make fairies, mermaids, witches and other dolls using Jan's easy to follow techniques. Some lovely ideas in here - I may even finish the doll I started!

I've been out of stock of Evolon for a while, but it is now back in. This non-woven fabric by Vilene is great for using with transfer paint, ink, fabric paint etc., and can be stitched, distressed with a soldering iron and embellished in all sorts of ways.

Some updates on what's on:

Today is the last day of our sale and tomorrow is the last day of Basildon Embroiderers' Guild exhibition, and of course the Barleylands Summer Festival. Friday August 2nd is the start of the Barleylands Art Trail which features lots of artists showing in studios around the village. Gallery 50 will be hosting some special artists, and will be telling you more about them later in the week.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Sale Time

I've been busy this week sorting out things for our expansion sale and finally got it all ready last night. The sale starts at 10am today and includes lots of half price items and bargains for just £1.

Ten Seconds Studios tools and metal -  half price
Craftynotions Colour Sprays - half price
Buttonbag felt kits - half price
Hemingworth threads - half price
Jester Bobble wool - half price
Plus lots more


Fabric paints £1 a pot
Magazines £1 each
Tassels £1 a bundle
Plus lots more

These offers are only available in the shop at Barleylands.

While you are here don't forget to take a look at the exhibition of work by Basildon Embroiderers' Guild in Gallery 50.

If you can't make it today, the sale continues all week (except Monday) and finishes next Saturday.


Monday, 1 July 2013

Almost There

That's two out of three finished!

After completing the shop in Studio 49 on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday saw Ray and I (well, mostly Ray!) painting and stripping the lights and hanging racks from the old gallery. Then on Sunday evening Wendy Smith, her mum Pamela and myself hung the Basildon Embroiderers' Guild exhibition which opens on Tuesday, whilst Ray finished laying the carpet. Entitled 'Gardens' it contains beautiful embroideries in all sorts of techniques - I was gobsmacked at all of the work they have put in over the last few months! I've decided to call the new space Gallery 50 and if you or a group to which you belong would like to find out more about exhibiting here, do get in touch.

Basildon Embroiderers' Guild 'Gardens' 
Basildon Embroiders' Guild 'Gardens'
We managed to clear a space in Studio 48 for my first workshop on Sunday morning, but still have a bit of work to do to get it looking right. Then we have to finish clearing out the old gallery in studio 55, but at least I feel we are almost there and can begin to feel really pleased with everything. The whole project has gone surprisingly smoothly with only minor hiccups along the way, and although I'm sure Ray has felt that I was continually nagging him to get things done, I really appreciate all the help he has given me and couldn't even have thought about taking it on without his support which has been magnificent; he's worn himself to a frazzle this week, bless him! My daughter and her husband helped as well, so thanks to them too.

Basildon Embroiderers' Guild 'Gardens' runs from Tuesday 2nd to Sunday 28th July and is well worth a visit.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Getting On

I had hoped to update progress on the new studios every day, but my days have been a bit busy this last week!

Ray has taken this week off as annual leave, and started by ripping up the carpet in 49. You can see it wrapped in plastic, together with some of the new carpet tiles in boxes. He also removed the sink and made me a computer station. Still a lot of dust around, but getting better.

Once the carpet was laid, we started moving the stock back into 49, ably assisted by my daughter Jennifer. Some things went together straight away...

and others didn't! I had everything planned out as to where I wanted things to go, but most of the time it either didn't fit or didn't look right.  
This is the Mixed Media area mark 1:

Mixed Media Attempt One
I got it right eventually though. 

Mixed Media Attempt Two
This is the Embroidery corner, complete with the chair that Ray insists should be here for the men 'Because I know what it's like!'

Embroidery Corner
 I've placed the wool, sewing threads and haberdashery together here:

Wool and Haberdashery
With the books just in front of the habby together with a cabinet which will feature workshops and special stock.

And this is the workshop area; very much a work in progress, although it has to at least have a working area by Sunday morning for a workshop!

As for the gallery; just a bit to finish here by Sunday evening when we are hanging the next exhibition by Basildon Embroiderers' Guild! Watch this space!!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Studio Update

After three days without it, Ray has reconnected my internet, so I can update you on our expansion project.

Following our move from Studio 48 to Studio 50, I managed to get everything in place (just about) by opening time on Tuesday morning. There are a few things I couldn't manage to squeeze in but as it's only for a week or so, we should be able to cope!

Studio 50 
Studio 50
On Tuesday evening the builders started knocking the hole for the door between Studios 49 and 50. It was a bit noisy, but not as bad as I thought it might be. There was a lot of dust; in fact at one stage it looked like a pea-souper had appeared in the hallway! (That's showing my age - who else can remember them?)  My aged vacuum cleaner packed up whilst the builder was trying to clear up the dust, which was not surprising really. Ray has managed to get it working again but it really is on its last legs; a bit of dusting to do before we start painting and laying carpet. 
Dust? What dust?
The doorway between 49 and 50
The builders did a great job and I can highly recommend them. Everything is going to plan so far. I wonder how long that will last?


Monday, 17 June 2013

It's all kicked off ....

I shut the shop a little early yesterday in order to start clearing out and moving into Studio 50 so that the builder can make the doorway between 48 and 50. It took longer than anticipated, despite help from Ray and my daughter and son-in-law.
Studio 50 

In the end we just had to bung everything in, and I'll be spending today sorting and organising ready for opening as usual tomorrow (hopefully!). I can't work late this evening as I have Embroiderers' Guild tonight. I think I'll be grateful for the break! I can see an early start Tuesday to get it completed.

Studio 50

Studio 48
Studio 48 looks bereft! Still a lot to clear out including so much paperwork. No idea where it all came from! (Well, I have really - I find it hard to throw anything away!!)