Tagged: Selvedge

Apr 26

The Stitch Society* apron

 

 

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An array of aprons c/o The Stitch Society*

 

I’ve been on a quest for the perfect apron for a while now, and I think I’ve found a compelling solution in The Stitch Society*‘s offerings. It seemed appropriate to share details during Fashion Revolution Week when we push for fairer conditions in the garment trade.

I caught up with The Stitch Society*’s Charlotte Meek at the Selvedge Fair at the Assembly Rooms in Bath last month.

 

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Charlotte Meek of The Stitch Society* at the Selvedge Fair in Bath

 

All her aprons are individually crafted here in the UK, from robust materials and often using remnants for pocket linings, and vintage buttons to secure the straps. They’re soulful labours of love, equally perfect for the artisan maker, or just in the kitchen or craft room at home.

So, I had to come home with one.

 

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Delightful packaging – with matching pouch and ‘Friend of The Stitch Society*’ badge

 

Here’s what I love about it:

  • Robust striped twill
  • Deep, capacious pocket – lined with a remnant of fabric, in this case a vintage piece of Liberty from Charlotte’s own family scrap-bag
  • Made sustainably/fairly here in Yorkshire (‘God’s own county’, they say), UK
  • a 10-year no quibble repair guarantee

Yes, Charlotte (who loves mending) will take your apron back any time to fix it for you.

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Vintage Liberty remnant lining pocket

 

But, if you’d rather make your own apron, you can also buy their pattern here.

When it comes to sustainable, soulful aprons, I think The Stitch Society* has really got it all covered. I’m looking forward to wearing this one out. She’s called ‘Martha’, incidentally, and is dubbed ‘the workshorse of the range’. Perfect. I’ll be proudly wearing her for my next darning workshops (early June and early July) at A Yarn Story.

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Ready for work

 

Check out The Stitch Society site for further apron details.

 

 

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Dec 04

Gifts for stitchers

 

Spanish lace pins from Merchant & Mills

 

I’ve been collecting stocking-filler ideas to delight the enthusiastic stitcher in your life. What you choose will depend on the nature of the recipient’s stitching and crafting interests, the size of their stocking, plus the depth of your pocket. But I hope there’s something in here for everyone.

I won’t apologise for piling in with suggestions for buying new things (though not everything on this list is) because a) I always find these lists interesting when other people put them together, and b) I would argue that good sewing tools are a worthwhile investment and will make any creative efforts more effective – which can’t be a bad thing.

 

 

Under £5

 

  • Superior needles, such as these presented in a John James needle pebblehandy little ergonomic cases with needles geared for particular craft purposes and made by one of the best needle manufacturers in the world, established way back in 1840. They sell at a very reasonable £1.39 a pop too. Or you could break the bank, relatively, with these Merchant & Mills betweens that are packaged quaintly in a little stoppered bottle at £4 and are ideal for quilters.

 

 

Merchant & Mills betweens

 

Upcycled crockery buttons by SisterZart on Etsy

 

  • I reckon that a vintage darning mushroom, preferably showing the needle-scratched patina of years of previous repairs, will slip happily into the toe (or heel) of any stitcher’s Christmas stocking – though I may be biased. I have several to choose from for an unbeatably modest £5 each, so please get in touch with me if you’re interested and I’ll send you details of what’s available. I also have some choice, collectable specimen for a little more.

 

Darning mushrooms

 

  • Or how about these pretty Laine St. Pierre darning yarns by Sajou? Just £2.75 per card here from Loop, and such a wide and sumptuous colour choice makes moth-holes almost a pleasure to repair. Or they can simply be used for embroidery projects. 

Laine St Pierre from Loop

 

  • Beeswax is an effective traditional thread conditioner meriting a place in any sewing box, and it’s especially good to have some in a pretty shape like this, though you should be able to find a no-frills, inexpensive bar of the stuff in your local hardware shop which will do the job just as well. For more details on how it’s used, read my old blog post (‘Waxing Lyrical’) over here.
  • Special pins. High quality pins, such as these extra-long glass-headed ones, should do down a treat (glass-headed ones are so much nicer to use and don’t melt when the iron accidentally touches them), or go for just about anything from the Merchant & Mills selection, though be warned that all but the black safety pins come in above the £5 mark. If your stitcher works with light, fine fabrics, some fine brass pins (which won’t mark the fabric) would be an excellent choice too.
  • Unusual stuffing materials, such as natural wool noil (there’s a UK supplier here) or ground walnut shells – with which to stuff pincushions etc – would make a thoughtful gift for someone who likes making those small items, or might want to make a pincushion for their own use. OK, so they are sotto voce gifts which might not elicit actual squeals of delight, but they’ll definitely be appreciated further down the road. Both of these fillings make excellent conditioners for needles and pins, gently cleaning, sharpening, and oiling them to keep them functioning optimally. If you want ground walnut shells, I can provide you with a packet for just £2.50 – please get in touch.
  • And finally, pretty Liberty lawn bias binding always comes in very handy for dressmakers etc. The one below is currently selling at £2.60 per metre.

Liberty bias binding from sewingbox.co.uk

 

Under £10

 

English Stamp Company

 

  • Medical forceps. Yes, this might seem like quite an odd one, but these medical/laboratory implements can be really handy for makers. This little pair of moschito forceps will hold something tight – rather like an extra hand – while you use your original two to sew.
  • Merchant & Mills‘ long and slender black entomology pins (£6) make a real statement (and work well for those fine fabrics too), as do their short, fiery, red-headed Spanish lace  pins (£8) shown at the top of this article, all the way from the oldest pin factory in Spain.
  • if you’re buying for someone who works on fiendishly small stuff, or whose eyes are going (like mine), these rather sinister steampunk magnifiers would make an unusual gift, and they’re currently selling at less than half price.

Above £10 (and all the way up to ouch…)

 

  • Ernest Wright scissorsthese stork embroidery ones are like stitcher’s catnip and will probably win you undying gratitude, if there is sufficient delivery time before Christmas (and be warned that leads on these can be long). But such is Ernest Wright’s exalted reputation that a promissory note might just do the trick (but make it decent pen and ink, for goodness’ sake!).  At £27.50, the price is admittedly ouchy, but these are fantastic implements by the last traditional scissor cutlers in Britain (based in Sheffield, of course) and should genuinely last a lifetime – they can be repaired and sharpened later down the road. I’d be absolutely thrilled with any of the Ernest Wright range, and am confident that any other stitcher would too. Ernest Wright will also give you old pair of scissors a complete overhaul for just £10. The scissors obviously have to be of a sufficient quality to begin with to make the expense and effort of a revamp worthwhile. I have been collecting together my shabby antique and vintage pairs for future renovation. Note that pinking shears are beyond their scope.

Ernest Wright stork embroidery scissors

 

  • A bespoke rubber maker’s stamp at £24 from the English Stamp Company in Dorset (along with a stamp pad plus some really nice labels) would make a very welcome gift indeed. The English Stamp Co is a family business which has been making high-quality bespoke rubber stamps from its Dorset base since 1992.

English Stamp Company’s bespoke stamps

 

 

Silk threads from the Silk Mill

 

 

Silver pig pincushion from the Silk Mill

 

  • Or this Wallace Sewell mending kit from Ray Stitch.
  • Softtouch spring-loaded pinking shears. If your giftee likes making things that require an awful lot of cutting out (bunting, for example) then they should really appreciate these by Fiskars at about £22 – they’re extremely helpful for avoiding painful blisters and RSI, and they work equally well if you’re left-handed.
  • For something really unusual and purely decorative, Becca of Alterknitive makes gorgeous little maker’s sterling silver charm bracelets to order – just look at the crochet-hook closure, and the wee darning mushroom! If you want to spoil someone rotten, email Becca (beccaATalterknitiveDOTcoDOTuk) for further details.

 

Charms sold separately and include tiny darning mushroom

Individually crafted sterling silver maker’s charm bracelet from Alterknitive

 

So, that’s the end of my sewing eye-candy. I have not received any payment at all (in money or in kind) to mention any of these products – I place them in front of you out of honest admiration. In the end, you can’t beat the straightforward pleasure of using really good sewing tools, and listed above are some of the very best. If you have further suggestions to add to this list, I’d be delighted if you’d leave a comment. And may you, and the stitcher that you love, have a very merry and joyful Christmas and a highly creative 2016!

 

 

 

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Jul 01

Book review: Fabric Manipulation by Ruth Singer

 

Fabric Manipulation by Ruth Singer

Fabric Manipulation by Ruth Singer published by David & Charles

 

The subject of Ruth Singer‘s third book, Fabric Manipulation, is something I first encountered twenty years ago on a City & Guilds Soft Furnishings course. We were assigned the task of making a cushion cover using a fabric manipulation technique. And from the tutor’s first mention of the term, I had to giggle. Would we be coercing cloth, getting heavy with hessian, maybe intimidating interlinings?

Fabric manipulation is, of course, nothing to do with Machiavellian behaviour with textiles but about handling 2-D cloth with dexterity, arranging it into folds, tucks etc to achieve (usually) 3-D textural effects. You could call it sculpting with fabric. If you sew, you have fabric-manipulated without necessarily being aware of it: gathering a curtain heading, pleating a skirt, or creating a dart, for example. Fabric manipulation techniques crop up all the time in dressmaking, tailoring, millinery, soft furnishings, upholstery, dollmaking, soft sculpture, embroidery, quilting, and patchwork. And every area of sewing-related activity and design can benefit from further exploration of these dimensional techniques.

Singer’s books are always strong on both the design and the technical sides so I was really looking forward to seeing how she tackled this. And I wasn’t disappointed.  She had quite a hard act to follow. My fabric manipulation bible  for years has been The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff, published in 1996 by Krause. Wolff’s book is astonishingly comprehensive, if a little dry; it literally lacks colour, with all the pictures in black-and-white, and all the techniques worked in plain-vanilla calico. But everything is there. Ruth’s book, by contrast, is colourful, appealing, and much more approachable. The book is divided into three sections:-

  • Pleat & Fold
  • Stitch & Gather
  • Apply & Layer

Each technique is clearly explained with supporting colour drawings and photographs. You can really see what might be achieved with the method she’s showing you. This is particularly useful for the less advanced stitcher. American lattice smocking, for example, looks really sumptuous worked on velvet and not half as interesting in Wolff’s unbleached calico version. English smocking is shown with eye-popping pink stitching on grey linen. And box pleats really come into their own; I learned my box pleats in the traditional context of lined corner pleats on the skirts of loose covers (gah!), but by choosing bias-cut silk organza, Ruth takes them to another place as ethereal sculptural necklace (see below). I love her application for Suffolk puffs: an upcycled lampshade which looks like the puffs just happened to alight there, like a cluster of barnacles on a ship’s hull. 

Ruth is a natural tutor and encourages her reader to experiment. Certainly a little magic happens when you start to pleat, fold and gather. And one thing can lead to another. What if I made this bigger? Or cut here? Or made that square instead of round? Or used thicker fabric? Or thinner? Or pinked that edge first? Ruth encourages this process, coaxing the reader to broaden their horizons. Seeing a variety of colours, textures and weights of fabric used in the samples in this book seeds inspiration. There are nine projects included, but these present ideas rather than being fully instructional; they are jumping-off points. I find this refreshing when so many craft books are simply prescriptive and project-based.

 

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Box pleat necklace

 

Informed by the beautiful textiles and historical methods encountered in her previous day-job as a V&A curator education officer*, Ruth clearly relishes her subject.  She collects antique and vintage examples of dresses, quilts etc and scours old sewing books for ideas. Re-using the old is literally encouraged too as Ruth is an environmentally conscious designer-maker who happily upcycles; one of her previous books, Sew Eco, explored the subject in some detail, and I’d highly recommend both these books to any self-respecting upcycler wanting to up their game. Try making the ripple brooch (shown below) which works wonderfully with felted sweaters. I can’t wait to have a go at the stuffed bobble technique using viscose velvet: the lightweight stuff, often with a little bit of stretch, which crops us as dresses and skirts in charity shops.

 

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Rippled brooch

 

Fabric Manipulation offers unusual applications and delicious presentation. It will be valuable to anyone wanting to broaden their sewing repertoire, in whatever discipline.  What I’ve always appreciated about Ruth’s approach is that she is not ‘Sewing-lite’. Her offerings are well-written, beautifully illustrated, informed and intelligent. It’s a real irony that a book filled with so many stuffed techniques is so free of fluff and padding; she’s done her homework, alright, hasn’t cut corners, and knows her stuff (and stuffing) inside out. With 150 techniques included in the book, if you tried just one a week it would take you the better part of three years to begin to exhaust the possibilites. That’s real value for money. Please get hold of a copy and explore your manipulative side.

 

Ruth Singer’s third book, Fabric Manipulation: 150 Creative Sewing Techniques is published by David & Charles, price £19.99. You can obtain a signed copy here direct from the author. A second volume is in the pipeline.

You can meet Ruth in person at the Knitting & Stitching Show in October and the Selvedge Christmas Fair in November

 

*Sorry, Ruth! My reporting skills are rusty.

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Nov 12

Scrap of the week #25

 

These deliciously vibrant wool and silk Wallace Sewell ribbon-like woven trimmings were being sold on the Ray Stitch stall at the Selvedge Winter Fair at the weekend. I see that you can buy them on the Ray Stitch website too (though I got a better deal at the Selvedge fair – another good excuse to go next time, should you need one!).

Wallace Sewell ribbon trims

 

There’s so much you could do with these strips. I can see them gathered simply along their length to create elegant ruffles, or knife-pleated. They could be applied to a cushion, or the front of a jacket.  Or turned into corsages, or buttons. The zingy colours are so rich that a little goes a long way, so I’d like to try cutting some  of the silk ones into short lengths as tabs or tags, or jewel-like visible mending patches, making a prominent feature of their frayed edges. Or I could just wrap them around the gifts of fortunate friends.

Wallace Sewell woven strips

 

And what would you do with them?

 

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Nov 11

Selvedge Winter Fair

 

Yesterday I had a really magical day in London at the Selvedge Winter Fair.

It was my first time at a Selvedge event though I’ve been hoping to get to one for years. Selvedge magazine — in case you haven’t encountered its square format, matt paper, and distinctive print scent — has to be the read of choice for the textile cognoscenti. It’s always creatively stimulating and often delightfully obscure. The visuals are exemplary, and the tone of the text is knowledgeable, direct and unpatronising. Published six times a year, Selvedge is available infrequently enough for you to work up an appetite for the next issue, and to make the £9.95 cover price just about affordable (though, of course, you get a better deal if you subscribe).

So eager was I to be at the head of the queue for the Winter Fair’s 10am start that, blearily clutching my Earl Grey, I caught the 7.13 train from Bath Spa. The fair, by reputation, fills up fast, so getting in early to a relatively uncrowded hall is worth making the effort for. It wasn’t just the fair; I was looking forward to meeting up with a handful of friends there too. And, according to plan, there were just a couple of people ahead of me when the doors opened.

The Chelsea Town Hall location was a new one for Selvedge, much bigger than those previously used. It is grand and capacious and did the job, though the lighting in some areas left something to be desired.

As I wandered around I was a little starstruck by some of the craftspeople and their beautiful wares, many  familiar from the pages of the magazine. Ellie Evans pincushions, for instance. They are marvellously weighty in the hand, being full to the brim with emery.

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And I have long been drawn to these felt clogs, spotted on the Selvedge Drygoods stall…

Selvedge Winter Fair 2012

Julie Arkell had a stall. I didn’t speak to her, but one of the joys of an event like this is being able to deal directly with the designer/maker, to hear unmediated how they have created an item you are interested in buying. That is a really charming experience. As was getting to spend so much time with talented and delightful fellow visitors Ruth, Alison, Jo and Jo’s sister-in-law. Thanks to all for hanging out  — I really had the best time.

Having resolved not to buy anything, quite predictably all of my good intentions went out the window in the face of such extreme textile temptation. Most of my purchases were gifts and I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but here are some of the things I enjoyed seeing:

Abigail Brown‘s birds

Dyed blankets from Sasha Gibb

Knitwear by Di Gilpin

Knitwear with scrap textile strips by Mary Davis

Welsh loveliness from Damson & Slate

Upcycled blanket wares from Matilda Rose

Painted textiles from Emma Bradbury

The redwork embroidery of Stitch by Stitch

However, rest assured that I’ll be able to show you some more Selvedge Winter Fair delights in tomorrow’s Scrap of the Week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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