Friday, 19 December 2014

Oh dear!

It seems that I've been a little lax lately updating my blog. September? Goodness, where does the time go?

The Minerva exhibition has come and gone and we have had some really good displays in Gallery 50 since then: O2 Textiles, Tollesbury Totties and now we have The Material Girls until 11th January.

O2 Textiles - Catch My Drift

Tollesbury Textile Totties

The Material Girls - Tales & Textiles
In January we have an exhibition based on our workshops. Anyone who has work which has been started, finished or inspired by one of our workshops can show their work. Just bring it into the studio by Sunday 11th January together with an entry form which you can find here. You can even bring in unfinished work, as customers do like to see what is involved in the making process.

My own creative work is coming along slowly. I have begun thinking about the themes for our next Minerva exhibition in September, but the last couple of days have been spent playing with my new toy:

Brother Innov-is XV
The picture isn't so great I'm afraid; I need to adjust my camera as the XV light is so good it makes the background appeardark! I'm astounded by this machine, it can do so much and I know I'm really going to enjoy using it. 

I'm nearly prepared for Christmas. Most of the presents are bought, the food shopping is almost done (thank you Jennifer!) and I'm looking forward to a few days off. If you receive the Craft Arena newsletter you will know that I am not opening between Christmas and New Year as I usually do. Apart from the fact that I have a new grand daughter to play with, Ray and I have some rearranging to do in the studio, so we will not be open after Sunday 22nd December until the sale starts on Saturday 3rd January. I'm also hoping to do a little creative work as well, and I'll keep you updated with that (hopefully before March!

Have a wonderful Christmas!


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Minerva Exhibition

Our Minerva Exhibition is now on, and panic over, I have a little time before the next project! It does feel strange not to have any stitching on the go - well, I say that but there is the UFO box in the stockroom.... 

I've been delighted at the work the girls in Minerva have accomplished over the last year. Despite babies and weddings etc., everyone in the group managed to finish at least one piece. Our theme for this year was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, with a 3d project as part of that and as usual a colour themed exercise.

I'd decided on a monochrome theme this year: Positive & Negative. I had a piece that I'd started at college and not finished, so it was a little selfish of me to suggest the theme I must admit, but I did do another couple of pieces and had planned more, so perhaps I'll have to do a black and white body of work!

Positive & Negative
For this piece I started with a piece of black felt and layered fabric, thread, ribbon, buttons and beads. Machine stitching embellishment was used in the main. I had a terrific piece of black fabric with white latin text which I scanned in, reversed and printed on Ink Jet cotton. I also used some buttons I acquired at an exhibition at the V & A, made some black and white Tyvek beads and to finish it off altered an Ikea frame to make it onto a box frame.

My main piece is entitled Chained to the Past. Another collage, this time using vintage, antique and modern lace, buttons from my mum's button box (some of these may even be Victorian as I'm sure she inherited my Grandma's button box). I also used lace flowers which were part of my own wedding headdress, and part of a lace doily both of which were distressed with rusting powder.  I had wanted to include a clock, the time of which had been stopped at 8:40, and was delighted to note that the doily was sectioned into 12. I added hands which I distressed (lots of distressing in this piece!) with alcohol ink. There is also part of a lace table cloth which I used to use on my display when I sold Tupperware many years ago (hi Toni!).

The image of  the bridal supper table was printed onto Ink Jet cotton. I first embroidered it with a proprietary ivy stitch from my sewing machine, but decided it needed more texture. The ivy was made by using part of an embroidery design from a Brother V5, stitched onto soluble fabric which was washed away when it was completed and then stitched on. I added a chain, key and a lock and found a little plastic shoe which I couldn't resist stitching in once I had knocked the shine back with a bit more alcohol ink. 

The figure was made on a background of dupion silk, with lace for the skirt which I outlined with free machining, silk gauze for the veil and bullion knots for the hair and the figure was then padded with felt. I backed and edged the hanging with a piece of brown silk which had been hiding in my stash just waiting for this project (never throw anything away!).

The Lost Shoe was my 3d piece. This was made by laying down threads onto a piece of Solufix soluble film, then free machining over it. Whilst it was still wet from washing the film away, I molded it around a shoe last I bought from the Museum of London and left it to dry. I made a sole and a heel from silk-covered Pelmet Vilene and edged the top with silk bias binding. I made a silk fabric flower for the front of the shoe and added an embellishment from a packet of decorative buttons. I added the ivy as an afterthought but think it works quite well. This was made by stitching onto green organza backed with soluble film (where would I be without it?), washed and cut with a soldering iron then wire was wrapped with thread for the stems and tendrils. 

There are more pictures on the Gallery 50 Facebook page and the exhibition is on until Sunday 27th September so do come along and see it.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Catching up (Again!)

I don't seem to find as much time for my blog as I used to. Hopefully now that I have help in the shop I can rectify this.

At the moment I'm working hard trying to finish the final piece for our Minerva Textile Group exhibition that starts on 2nd September. Our theme is Great Expectations, and we have all been working on, or around Miss Haversham. We each plan to make a 3d item, a main piece and then we have a colour-based exercise which this year is positive and negative. I'd envisioned black and white but I think that one or two may have pushed the boundary a little!

This is a snippet from my main piece, but it still needs a lot of work and will probably change by the time it is finished!

I realised that I never did get round to posting images of the finished book I started at the Beryl Taylor workshop I went to earlier in the year, so here goes!

Throughout the book we used Colouricious wooden blocks (some of which I now have in the shop) to print in various ways on all sorts of media, from different types of fabric through to air-dry clay which was painted with Lumiere paint and enhanced with Craftynotions Gleam. 
This is the front cover. which I embellished with machine wrapped cord and beads as well as lace, a clay motif and hand stitching.
Hand stitching, beading, Tyvek, clay motif, buttons and lace.
More buttons, beads, hand stitching and block printing on organza.
Block printing embellished with hand stitching and beads with another page of organza
I liked this page of dyed print fabric, so didn't enhance this any further. I also used it to make the medallions for the next page and embellished them with sequins, beads and hand stitch.
More clay medallions, with a stitched layered stamp. The poppy-head stencil I used for the next page was so pretty, I didn't think it needed enhancing any further.
Moulding paste through a stencil, then painted. Dyed organza.
My attempts at shisha, combined with couching.
More lovely stamps, layered and combined with stitch and a clay medallion.
The darker page is synthetic velvet ironed onto a printing block using a very hot iron, then hand stitched. The lighter page was hand stitched.
And this is the back cover, showing the beads and cording I added to the spine.
I really enjoyed making this book, and will be using it as a basis for some block printing workshops at Craft Arena. Anyone interested?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Basildon Business Awards

I've been selected as an entrant in the Basildon Business Awards 2014. The winners will be announced on Friday 18th July at a lavish ceremony at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon. There are five other entrants who are all very strong contenders - I'm even up against Escape Studios from Barleylands! 

It is a great compliment to get through to the final and does mean that Craft Arena gets a bit of free pubicity! We were featured in the Basildon Echo last night and I've clipped it here so you can read it. I'll let you know how we get on as soon as I can.

I interviewed eight people for the vacancy I recently advertised in my newsletter; it was so hard to choose between all the candidates, but a choice had to be made, and a lovely lady called Jenni has started with me today. Jenni will be here most Thursdays, some weekends and Bank Holidays and as holiday cover, so make her welcome when you meet her. She may even be helping me with the blog!


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Time Out

I've been taking a little time out over the last few weeks, partly to refresh my batteries and partly to get ideas for some new workshops for Craft Arena. at the beginning of June I spent a fabulous five days in Amersham with Jamie Malden and Beryl Taylor at Colouricious; this week I've been at Art Van Go with Clive Barnett.

I thought I'd taken more photos than this at the Clive Barnett workshop, but I'm back again on Thursday to undertake more work with the printed fabric (some of which I need to stitch before I get there), so I'll post more once that is done. These monoprinted samples were made onto cotton and linen fabric using a very special type of discharge paste - dishwasher detergent! 

Monoprinting with discharge paste
Hanging out to dry!
The Beryl Taylor workshops were brilliant! The first two days were spent working with paper; not my favourite medium, but I managed to incorporate some stitch! You can see below the results of our work. I haven't finished the book yet - it's on my To Be Completed pile!

Block printed papers
Book pages in progress
Finished pages 1
Finished pages 2
 Following the paper book, we started on a fabric book. Much more me, although Beryl's work gave us a lot to live up to.

Beryl's Work 1
Beryls Work 2
Beryl's Work 3
Beryl's Work 4
Beryl's Work 5
Beryl's Work 6
Isn't it sensational?

We started off by background printing fabric using paint and Gelli plates, which I had used before without much success, but with Beryl's guidance I managed to get the hang of it. We included the use of stencils and stamps, overprinting and creating motifs to add to our work later.
Background printing 1
Background printing 2
The next two days were spent overprinting, using moulding paste through stencils, playing with puff paint, air dry clay pressed into the blocks, Tyvek, thread, ribbon and beads to put together our book.

Book Cover

Pages 1
Pages 2

Pages 3
Pages 4
Pages 5
Pages 6
I've spent the time since I got back enhancing the pages and putting them together. There is still a lot to do, and I'll show you more once I've finished. If you get a chance to go on a workshop with either Beryl or Clive do go, you won't regret it. I know Clive is holding a workshop for Chelmsford Embroiderers Guild later in the year, so look out for that.

I'm back at Art Van Go tomorrow (Thursday). Unfortunately I couldn't get cover for the studio so Craft Arena will be closed for the day. My apologies if this causes any inconvenience. 


Saturday, 24 May 2014


Quite a few magazines arrived  yesterday at Craft Arena.

Art Quilting Studio

This issue’s Artist Profile shares Elizabeth Barton’s vibrant landscape and cityscapes, Liz Alessi’s free-motion-stitched mini quilts, and Susie Zolghadri’s mixed-media wall-hanging “Gratitude.” You’ll be quite intrigued by Helen Richard’s “Black Quilts” series that we reveal in our Series Showcase, and do not miss how Laura Glass captures everyday moments so beautifully and realistically with fabric.

Sew Somerset

Adorn your outfits with Viv Sliwka’s vintage patchwork bow brooches. Learn new and creative journal stitching techniques from Ellen Wilson, Caterina Giglio, and Roxanne Padgett, as you flip through pages filled with their captivating art, photos, and fun-filled embellishments. Fly away with Colette Copeland’s simply adorable mixed-media kites. These projects and so much more will inspire you to grab a needle and thread and create your own lively creations!

Cloth Paper Scissors: Pages

Whether you are brand new to making books and art journaling or an experienced in this fascinating hobby, you will find loads to inspire you in this issue. Use envelopes to make pages, recycled tissue boxes to house journal pages, using gesso and gouache to paint your pages, decorating parcel tags and make mini folded paper books. A wealth of ideas and inspiration lie inside.

All three of these magazines are bi-annual and worth waiting for - I'm always being asked when the next issue is due!

Back to bi-monthly issues:

Stitch with the Embroiderers' Guild

This magazine has had a make-over recently and this new look really brings out the best in this Garden Party issue. Whether you enjoy hand stitching, machine embroidery or combining the two (that's me!) you will find something to inspire you in this lovely issue.

Quilting Arts Magazine

More garden inspired ideas in the June/July issue of this popular magazine. Creating texture, dyeing, working with twin-needles and organza, plus plenty of inspiration and even simply drooling over the pictures of completed quilts from the reader's challenge and artist profiles make this a great magazine for reading over a glass of Pimms in the garden (I wish!)

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

New Stitching Books

Some lovely new books arrived at Craft Arena this week. 

The first to come out of the box today was 'Hardanger Embroidery' by Frederique Marfaing. I'm a sucker for Hardanger. It's one of the first techniques I ever learned; way before cross-stitch; I can remember doing this at school. Hardanger was also the first thing I taught, so I have a soft spot for it. This book has some lovely patterns, with great ideas for using your stitching. I didn't find the stitch diagrams particularly easy to follow, although the descriptions of how to approach the techniques in lesson form seem good. Definitely one for my bookshelf. Don't forget I hold Hardanger classes, so if you fancy trying a new technique, why not get in touch?

Teeny Tiny Menagerie by Noriko Komurata contains plenty of elements for your stitching. From cows, horses, cats and dogs to lions, giraffes, bugs and birds, this sweet book give you plenty of ideas to add to your designs. This book has arrived at quite a fortuitous time for me as I've been looking for ideas to add to some of my work and has given me much food for thought!

Aimed at slightly different markets, but both with great ideas, Vintage Purses to make, sew and embroider by Sandrine Kielt-Michaud contains some very pretty bags for special occasions which may take a while to construct but will give you something to treasure for years, whilst 30 minute sewing has some slightly quicker projects for every day use.  


For ages now, people have been asking me for transfer patterns, and now these two books have been published which contain great designs complete with reusable transfer images to iron directly onto your cloth. Ideal for all sorts of stitching, these books should prove very popular.

Last, but by no means least, those of you who love crochet will appreciate this new book from Search Press. it contains some very pretty projects to make from Granny Squares; from purses to pin cushions through to scarves, cushions and lamp shades. I know a few people who will be snapping this up! I'm off to Search Press HQ tomorrow to take back the books left over from our Knitting event last week. I wonder what books I will be tempted to bring back with me?