Friday, 20 December 2013

Crafts with Kids over Christmas

It's that time of year again!  I think that Christmas, or more specifically, the hustle, bustle and trimming that goes along with it, is somewhat overrated (sorry to those of you who just love it!).  Put a collection of people with different ages and interests together under one roof for a considerable length of time and there is bound to be some degree of annoyance. It's probably impossible to avoid this, but the trick is managing it effectively. To that end what about getting the kids sewing this Christmas?  It keeps them quiet for a good long while and different members of the family such as mum or grandma can oversee progress and give help or advice when needed. In the longer term you could be giving them a life-long interest and a creative outlet that they will be very grateful for in years to come. There are 10 wonderful little free projects at .  I particularly like this bird, but there are other less seasonal ones to choose from too.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

James Bartholomew

I just love 'immediate' vibrant artwork in most guises and, in my humble opinion, James Bartholomew is one of the best when it comes to animals.  He doesn't overwork and lose the vivacity and vibrancy of the subject but at the same time the detail is still wonderful.  I just have to stop going into the gallery - I always come out with something.  There is always something which 'speaks' to me.  I wonder if there is a textile equivalent of James?!!  Anyone know them?!!!!!!!  You can find more of Jame's work at the Mill Gallery in Parbold or online at

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Stitch Article

We've had a lovely article done on one of our students in Stitch magazine.  Abi Barcay is one of our New Zealand students who has done Level 3 certificate and is now just completing her Diploma with us.  You can download the full article from our Facebook group in the file area if you don't receive Stitch magazine yourself.  A huge congratulations to Abi. 

We were also thinking that it would be great to compile a series of 'success stories' from our students past and present. Newbies are always asking what those who graduate are doing and something like this is so inspiring for them - do let us know more if you have graduated with us and what you are doing now.

Our leak problems

Gosh it is a long time since I posted - so sorry to all. 

We had a big problem at home with a water pipe connection giving way in our lounge ceiling - see photo.  We've been drying out over the last 3 weeks and everything has been at sixes and sevens so to speak, so blogging wasn't the first thing on my mind!

I do however promised to blog more consistently from now on - I've asked everyone in the office to nag me mercilessly unless i do, so hopefully you'll hear a little more from me!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Last few days for City & Guilds Bursary applications

City & Guilds have some not too well publicized bursaries available for students who can prove they would struggle to study otherwise.  This may mean financially or in another way such as travel if attended courses are a long way away. The bursary applications are considered twice a year - May and October - which means there is only until the 30th September to apply for the latest round.

I try really hard to promote this each time it comes around; I feel that it is one of the ways that those who genuinely would struggle to study C&G courses are helped to do so.  Here at SST we have had some wonderful bursary students in the past, who have achieved a great deal, so we know from first hand experience that it works.

City & Guilds will pay full course costs as well as materials, equipment etc., so it has to be worth a try for anyone who thinks they would fulfil the criteria. Sadly it is just open to UK residents.
You can access the details on C&G’s site at and complete the online entry form at

You’ll need the course code for your application, which are Machine Embroidery Level 3 certificate 7716-67 and diploma 7716-70, Embroidery Level 3 certificate 7716-61 and diploma 7716-64, Patchwork L3 certificate 7716-62 and diploma 7716-68.  Our centre number is 047026 Eccles Farm.  

Quick tip: do ensure you ask for the full cost of the course fees to be met – you can check these on our site at the address below - and also include the £85 City & Guilds enrolment fee on top. If you need a sewing machine or other item such as a laptop or threads, materials etc you can also ask for help towards these too.

The best of luck if you decide to go for it. 

Monday, 2 September 2013

Ten Plus @ Bankfield

It isn't always easy to find good textile exhibitions - especially now that attended City & Guilds courses are becoming rarer and rarer.  However it is invaluble when working on a course or as a textile artist to be able to view the work of others, allowing it to inspire and enthuse us in our own work.

Based in the North West, Ten Plus Textiles is a group of 17 fully qualified textile artists who have recently celebrated 20 years of working with fibres and fabric to create contemporary textile art from a wide range of techniques. Using fine hand and machine embroidery, patchwork, quilting and beadwork, weaving, collage and mixed media, their work includes framed pieces and hangings, 3-D items, fashion accessories and jewelry.

You can see an exhibition of their collective work at Bankfield Museum this summer/autumn - 31st August until the 26th October.  Further details from Caulderdale council's website at 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Workbox Magazine

Lovely to see the front cover of Workbox Magazine with a photo of one of my samples - got quite a shock (a pleasant one!!) when I saw their tweet last night. There is also a great article inside on SST with our student and tutor work included, alongside lots of other great projects and articles, of course. Workbox has always been one of my favorite magazines and it has been wonderful to see it up and running again and as strong as ever. It bridges that gap between embroidery, applique, quilting very well. Lets face it, if you do one you often dabble in another so a mag that can inspire on all fronts is very welcome.

The Workbox team also have a new Be Inspired book which is available for pre-order and looks like a real corker

Friday, 9 August 2013

Book Recommendation

I don't usually make too many recommendations in the book department - it's a personal preference to a great extent and what one person likes another will hate. However, as so many students mention the design side of the course and that they would like to improve on their design skills, I do feel its worthwhile recommending this one, Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists by Ann Baldwin. I picked it up in the US around 3 years ago and was impressed then. It has staged photos for the how to as well as inspirational pieces.
Amazon say about it: Whether you have formal training in painting or no experience at all, this new in paperback workshop-style book is the perfect guide for any artist interested in integrating the medium of paint into other types of artwork such as surface design, mixed media, collage, altered art, or art journaling. Creative Paint Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists explores a wide variety of innovative and experimental paint techniques that can add stunning visual impact and texture to many types of work. Develop your sense of composition and learn new approaches to abstract design. Experiment with texture effects, collage, inclusions, and encaustic. Learn how to use the latest new products to achieve magical effects. See how to use digital imagery, including how to do transfers with wax. Be inspired by the work of a wide variety of cutting edge, mixed media artists and experimental painters.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Art Supplies

After a lovely few days staying with friends in Kent, I have returned full of enthusiasm (sort of !!) and also really pleased to be able to pass on a great new art supplier I found completely by chance as we were walking through the lesser trodden ways of Canterbury. 
It's becoming increasingly challenging to find somewhere to stock up on art and fabric colouring supplies, so Chromos is a real find.  They have an online catalogue at so you don't have to be in the area to shop.  Some of the goodies I saw were:
  • Felting needles and pads of all descriptions
  • Really cheap canvas stretchers of all shapes, sizes and depths
  • Glue, glue and more glue - seriously I have never seen so many different kinds!
  • More colouring mediums than you could shake a stick at
  • Batik supplies
  • Direct dyes, procion dyes etc
They were also really friendly and helpful, which can be invaluable if you're not quite sure what you want.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Beads Up North

As usual, Gordon Halfpenny is running the Beads up North show at Haydock Park Racecourse this year on the 28th July.  It's a single day event from 10-4.  You can find out more at the address below

Gordon also has a shop and mail order business situated in Accrington where you can find beads and all the other bits you need for your bead weaving or embroidery.  His site address for that is 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

London Antique Textiles, Vintage Costumes, Carpets & Tribal Art Fair

This fair is a must for anyone who is close enough to get to it and who loves textiles and collecting them. Even if you just love testing your knowledge of old or unusual textiles, then its surely worth the £5 entrance fee just to view such a wonderful selection.  Who knows, you may also get inspiration for your next City & Guilds piece!! The next London Antique Textiles, Vintage Costumes, Carpets & Tribal Art Fair is on Sunday 9th June 2013
The event promises genuine antique textiles, costumes and tribal art. In its twelfth year, now it gathers about fifty leading specialist dealers offering for sale a dazzling array of unrivalled antiques textiles, vintage costumes, aubussons, lace, fine linen, tapestries, quilts and tribal art.
More details online from;

Admission fee: £5.00 from 10.30am to 5pm
Early entry £10.00 from 9am to 10.30am

Olympia Hilton Hotel, 380 Kensington High Street, London W14 8NL

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

WorkSpace - good and bad points

Some of your will already know that I've been having work done at home.  It's now at the stage that I have had to make some decisions about my new workroom.  It got me thinking about what's vital, unessential and nice to have if possible. I also guess this will differ for everyone - I may think a music system is vital, but you may prefer to work in silence.

The first thing I noticed about my allotted room was that there was a lack of lighting (just one wall light and nothing else).  That has to come under the essential heading unless a miners head lantern is to be employed at all times. Probably spotlights to position as and where needed would be a plan. Next thing was flooring: carpet is not a practical item unless you're a very careful sewer and always pick up your stray cottons immediately (I'm not!!). Maybe a vinyl or laminate floor could be the answer. It's an area where we spend a lot of time, so being warm and comfortable are also important, as is good storage and lots of worktop space.

I could go on, but at this point I wondered if anyone had every devised a checklist for an 'ideal' workspace for those using a machine?  If you have or know of one, let me know.  I'd love to pass it on to others. To start everyone off, I found an interesting blog about it at

Friday, 10 May 2013

Textile Trail at Stroud this weekend

36 artists and designers are opening their doors on  11 & 12 and 18 & 19 MAY 2013

Now in the third year the Select Trail 2013 offers work from textile and contemporary craft makers who live and work in the glorious Stroud Valleys. You are assured of a warm welcome from the makers as they open their doors to their unique and private studios, and the individual artist-led exhibitions. For further info go to

You will discover artists who are passionate about their work. Meet them and talk to them about their work and the processes that are involved in the creation of the work. It is a wonderful opportunity to buy direct from the maker or commission an original piece for your home or as a gift. In an age of mass production what could be better than to own something that is original and bears the mark of the maker.
A unique brochure featuring original photos by John Ingledew is available free of charge by sending a stamps to the value of £1.50 to the SIT office: Stroud International Textiles, 49 Bisley Road, Stroud GL5 1HF
This unique and special opportunity to meet the artists, see where they create their work and buy direct or commission new work is not to be missed. further details from

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

It's good to keep in touch............Don't Procrastinate!

Procrastination - a fancy word to describe the condition of people who chronically postpone and put off things they know they should be doing – procrastinators in other words.

Procrastination is now a respectable subject for psychological study.  Believe it or not, there is actually an international conference run on procrastination  (I know what you're thinking, but no, it ran on schedule).  Apparently students are particularly prone to it because learning is often self-scheduled, performed alone and to exacting standards, all factors that enhance people's tendency to put things off – especially when working on creative subjects.  Most students (and tutors!) succumb occasionally. 

Oddly it seems to affect more gifted students. Procrastinators are sometimes perfectionists, putting work off because conditions aren't exactly right or assignments aren't as good as possible. Sound familiar?  And it can be difficult to overcome - in other words if you suffer then you've probably got it for life.

But there may be ways of managing it; realistic goal setting, planning, 'making a molehill out of a mountain' (breaking down a big task into a set of smaller ones), working out why you procrastinate (perfectionism, fear of failure, disappointing others and so on) and seeking help. Linking up with another student can help to keep you both on schedule. 

We sometimes hear from students who seem to have procrastinated for too long and lose all impetus to continue.  We'd like to hear from more so that we can help put them back on track and to this end, we're presently putting in place a much closer monitoring/contact support scheme for students who are just starting out on a course(nearly 50% of dropout occurs during the first module) as well as some less frequent but ongoing contacts when we haven't heard from someone for a while...............all this adds up to much more work for us, but also hopefully a better supported course experience for our students.  Any ideas on how to pair up people with course buddies would be appreciated..............bearing in mind the data protection limitations.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Fine Cell Work

Don't know how many of you have heard of this?  It tends to be quite controversial, with strong feelings on both sides: some take the view that it's a great thing for the prisoners to be occupied and earn money, whilst others feel that its inappropriate for them to profit from their incarceration.

You can see their work at

Also there is a short movie (link below) called Stitched Stories by young director Rachel Tavernor which weaves the interlocking narratives of the Craftivist Collective founder, Sarah Corbett and ex-prisoner Neil who continues to sew for Fine Cell Work. It showcases the power and potential of needlecraft on the lives of those involved with FCW.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Craftfail - a showcase for our failures!

One of my pet annoyances is the huge ruse that 'professional' designers and artists seem intent on practicing on the general public at large.  En masse they seem to manage to convey the impression that they never have disasters or failures when they are working on something and that whatever they attempt always, but always, turns out just fine and dandy and ready to go into their latest book or magazine shoot. I think every time I pick up a book on, for example, wonderful sketchbooks which give the impression of their totally casual assembly done on the spur of the moment that they are jesting with me! Blood, sweat and tears went into the finished product, but the authors aren't sharing this with us as they are concerned it may make them a little too fallible, a little too human and open to failure like the rest of us.
This lack on candor has the (perhaps unintended) effect of totally demoralizing anyone (all of us!) who do have failures, unfinished objects, total disasters and stuff that just doesn't turn out the way we'd hoped when we started on it.  The truth is we all have off days or days that we just don't take the time to plan something as carefully as we should - hence the ensuing problems.  No-one, designer or not, just sits down and produces a masterpiece.  The trick to coping with the inevitable problems which ensue from all original design and craftwork is to learn from the experience and then carry straight on with the project and correcting the mistake BEFORE putting it away.  If you walk away at the lowest point, you'll never return to it.
This said, I had to smile when I saw the site Craftfail - someone is finally showcasing all the projects that didn't work rather than showing us all the ones that did.  Check it out - hopefully it will make you smile if your project hasn't turned out quite the way you intended!

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wonderwool 2013

Wonderwool Wales is the premier Wool & Natural Fibre Festival in Wales. It was set up in 2006 in order to promote wool and natural fibre production and its use in Wales. The Event was funded by a Leader + grant from the EU and managed by Powys County Council, via Glasu, for the first 3 years until the funding ceased, so now Wonderwool has to evolve to become self-funding.

There are some interesting workshops advertised for this year - I particularly like the one which features a curlew brooch (see photo) with Ruth Packham.  Ruth is an artist who lives and works in Borth on the Welsh coast. Before discovering the joys of felt making Ruth worked mainly with fabric, creating screen printed pictures. Her work is inspired by nature, pattern and colour and especially by birds.  However if you want to book a course with her, you'll have to hurry.  I see her Saturday school is already fully booked, so just Sunday is left.

You'll find more details about the event as a whole at

Monday, 4 March 2013

City & Guilds Centre Charges - what they mean for students

Some "interesting" news to come from City & Guilds this month:

I don't know if this is common knowledge or not, but a few years back City & Guilds decided to impose a minimum yearly spend on their centres.  I know of at least two locally (Cajobah in Birkenhead was one) who cited this as the main reason for giving up their centre status.  If centres are only taking a couple of classes, as specialist embroidery or patchwork centres often are, then they would not be able to take enough attending students to meet the City & Guilds spending requirements.  They can then either give up completely, or try to struggle on by increasing the City & Guilds registration cost to the student to try to scrape something back.  Of course, this is often self-defeating, as students resist the larger than usual registration fee and don't enrol at that centre. 

Since it was originally instigated, the yearly spend has risen each year, but this year we have just had a letter to say it has doubled again this year.  Now for us as a distance centre, that is do-able, but for many local individual providers it won't be, so I think this may be the year we lose even more specialist centres than previously, if possible and I'm sure even some of the smaller colleges will also pull out of centre status.  Sadly this will mean that whereas it has been difficult to find a local centre delivering textile subjects, it will now become almost impossible. Way to go City & Guilds - not!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

New Flickr Gallery Uploaded

180ish photos of student work have been uploaded to Flickr today - these are samples from work that came into the SST office since November of last year.  Many thanks to Marj for her hard work in collating them all!

It's wonderful to see so many - thought we'd been working hard!! Of course, we also know that our students and prospective students like to view them too.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Very, very true of such a visual subject as textiles.  To be able to see what others have produced and how they have interpreted their course materials is so valuable.  Hope you all enjoy the resource, not just the ones which have gone up today at, but also the hundreds that are already up there at

Here's one from one of my students, Rebecca W, that I really enjoyed - I love monochromatic schemes.

Monday, 25 February 2013

10+ Textiles at Ordsall Hall

A new exhibition at a favourite venue for the group, in Salford's haunted Tudor mansion, Ordsall Hall. Based in the North West, Ten Plus Textiles is a group of 17 fully qualified textile artists who have recently celebrated 20 years of working with fibres and fabric to create contemporary textile art from a wide range of techniques. Using fine hand and machine embroidery, patchwork, quilting and beadwork, weaving, collage and mixed media, their work includes framed pieces and hangings, 3-D items, fashion accessories and jewelry, all of which will be featured at Ordsall Hall.  For more information Ten Plus' website is

Opens 10th March until 9th June
'Meet the Artist' 17th March,
1pm to 3pm 

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Nations Buttonmakers roll up their Sleeves for The Button Project

A stunning exhibition of contemporary handmade buttons will go on show alongside the silk costume collection at Macclesfield’s Heritage Centre this June.  Running from June 14 – August 8 the exhibition will be launched at Barnaby, the town’s summer festival of art and fun, and will showcase work by artists and makers from across the UK, and even beyond.

The Heritage Centre – one of Macclesfield Museum’s four venues in the town - features fine examples of the local Macclesfield silk button as well as a nationally important collection of silk clothing, fashion and accessories from throughout the town’s silk-making history.  It is an ideal setting to complement top-notch buttons by contemporary makers. And at the nearby Silk Museum – formerly the School of Art where textile designers were trained – there will be more buttons on show in a companion display, creating a button bonanza that spans the town.

Well over 100 makers have put themselves forward for The Button Project, with more on their way. Whether in silver, gold, enamel, glass, wool or silk, these buttons will be tiny works of art, and beware! they can be highly addictive. The artists have many different approaches and techniques, and include those who are just starting out as well as the internationally renowned, plus many who create simply as a labour of love. 

Among the many artists who have committed to the project is Gina Barrett, a talented maker with extensive experience of providing reconstructions of traditional costume accessories for theatre, film and museums as well as supplying today’s designers and artists with modern trimmings; Nancy Sutcliffe is a world-class glass artist who specialises in delicate figurative diamond-point engraving and has work in many collections including Broadfield House Glass Museum. She muses “It's an opportunity to do something new, to experiment, who knows, I might not even use glass or my drill at all!”

Alexandra Abraham makes luscious paintings and jewellery using found and vintage items, often from the Thames foreshore near where she lives. For the show Alexandra has created a button that includes fragments of glass buttons made by Lionel Nichols, England’s last couture button maker (his clients included Norman Hartnell and Hardy Amies). Sue Brown is recognised for her printmaking, but has recently been combining this practice with enamels. She has made a delicate moth-button that seems to flutter off the surface on which it sits – very apt considering Macclesfield’s silk-making past.  Sabine Krump is a self-confessed button obsessive, who is utterly dedicated to the gloriously named ‘Austrian Twist Knob’, and she has sent one of her finest examples of the form.

Buttons have a fascinating history, it is no wonder they attract so many people. Going back a couple of thousand years at least, they have a practical use in fastening clothing, but they are much more than that, and have been used as items of jewellery, decoration, status, and even currency.

For Macclesfield, silk buttons are where it all began.  This cottage-based business flourished into major industry and shaped the town into what it is today. Macclesfield Museums, which recently have been designated the official western end of the Silk Road by the United Nations World Tourist Organisation Silk Road Project, present all aspects of silk use and production. The museum curator, Annabel Wills, says “The great thing about The Button Project is the way that it brings together the historical collections with contemporary artists. The town has its beginnings in the button trade, and Macclesfield silk buttons were all handmade. Today’s makers help to keep that heritage very much alive.”

The Button Project is the first of its kind for the town. The show has been organised by Victoria Scholes, an exhibition organiser with some experience in putting together this kind of collective show, and also a well-respected glass artist in her own right. “I’ve been blown away by the response so far, and by the ingenuity and passion of the artists” says Victoria “New technologies mean that the skills of the hand are dwindling – only a handful of people know how to make a Macclesfield button today – and these makers are a real cause for celebration of what we have”.

If you’d like to submit a button, there’s still time to take part. The deadline for expressions of interest is March 4, and finished buttons can be accepted until 4 May. All details about submitting can be found at

Button shown by Alexandra Abraham made from recycled materials (including fragments of glass buttons by England’s last couture button maker, Lionel Nichols) and 23 carat gold leaf.

For more information or high resolution images, please contact or call 01625 425049

Monday, 18 February 2013

City & Guilds Bursary accompanied by a little light moaning!

Gosh, but its been a while since I last blogged - my apologies. As some of you will already know, we're having building work done at home, which seems to be lasting longer than we had hoped or anticipated!  Also, my father has spent nearly 3 weeks in hospital since the end of January and although he is out now, it was a difficult time for the whole family.  I hope and pray all will eventually get back to normal.........

Anyhow, enough of my moaning - I wondered if all who needed to know had realized that City & Guilds are offering their bursaries again with the closing date being the 1st May 2013 for the latest round. Sadly it is only open to UK residents, so apologies to those of you hailing from elsewhere. I've spoken to a number of prospective applicants over the last week or so and reminded them to makes sure they include the C&G registration fee when calculating their costings, as well as the inclusion of a reasonable amount for any materials or equipment they may need to purchase.

For the registration form and further info, go to

Friday, 1 February 2013

Janome Machine for new course

We're taking delivery of a new Janome machine in the next few days - a DXL603 to be exact - to use for the video parts of our new Sewing Machine Skills course.

Janome say that it gives you computerised sewing with 60 pre-programmed stitches, including 7 different fully automatic buttonholes. The LCD display makes it easy to see which stitch you’ve chosen as well as the stitch width and length, which are fully adjustable. A jam-proof, magnetic, top-loading, full rotary hook system eliminates the need for a removable bobbin case. The hook cover plate opens at the touch of a button, and the extra needle penetration power of the DXL603 lets you sew across heavier fabrics & multiple layers. Adjustable foot pressure means you can fine tune the feeding to suit your fabric. The extension table also detaches for free-arm sewing. This machine also features a seven piece feed mechanism, a drop feed facility, automatic needle threader, a slide speed control and comes complete with a hard cover.

At an average price of £399, its a mid range machine which won't break the bank. It comes with an additional quilting pack which includes most of the well know and usable feet.  Great news for those who are only using their machine for patchwork and quilting.  I personally love the fact that you can choose a needle up or down position, which is ideal for machine embroiderers.  As soon as it arrives, I'll have a fiddle and let you know more. Meanwhile, have a great weekend