Friday, 12 February 2016

... feeling like February......

February has arrived and for most of us it has brought with it wet weather, grey skies and a bracing wind after what had been a mild warm winter so far.

On the positive side, the time indoors will be spent productively dealing with those overdue sewing tasks, whilst making an early start on the spring cleaning chores before our workshop season arrives with Åsa Tricosa's Weekend Knitting Masterclass at the end of April. Something really exciting to look forward to (Åsa's workshop, not the chores, that is).....

Asa Södeman is never one to sit back on her laurels; she's off to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March where you will find her hosting a couple of three-hour demonstrations:  one on Collars and Cuffs, and the other on the Marlisle technique, a new system of creating decorative texture and colour shifts in handknitted fabric with a particular focus on seamless knitting in the round.  Her workshop here will concentrate on tailoring beautifully crafted, top-down garments, with special attention to all those details that make for an expertly finished, knitted garment.  As a moderately competent knitter myself, I'm looking forward to learning those professional touches Åsa is celebrated for, as well as assimilating some of her wonderful Scandinavian colour sense. 

Edinburgh seems to be the place to be at the moment for anyone into textiles, yarns, and all things  in-between. Fiona Rutherford, who will be leading her first workshop, Tapestry Weaving, with us in September this year, is starting her year with an exhibition of new tapestries at CONVERGE 2016 Visual Arts Scotland29th January - 20th February,  "I'm delighted that my triptych, "Familiar Rhythms", has been selected for this exciting mix of fine and applied art and design showing at the RSA galleries". She'll also be showing a selection of her tapestries under the theme "Fragments" at the Knitting & Stitching ShowRoyal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, from 28th April to 1st May, when she herself will be available to talk to.  Well worth a visit!

During Fiona's workshop here, participants will be using lightwieght wood frame looms and a vibrant range of her personal Swedish cotton and linen yarns to weave colour and shape. Whether you are new to tapestry weaving or you want to take time to expand your ideas and weaving technique further in a creative environment, Fiona will guide you through the steps of how to create a small tapestry mounted and ready for you to take home.
If, however, your neck of the woods happens to be Stateside, and Vermont at that, you might like to take the opportunity to view the work of innovative and talented "stitch artist", Emily Barletta whose work will be on view at the exhibition, Intimacy and Materiality,at the Helen Day Arts Centre in Stowe.  

We still have a few places remaining on Julie Arkell's Workshop here: Birds on a Table at the beginning of June. Julie's events here are always a joy, and participants this year will be encouraged to bring nature books they love, a favourite shell, dried flowers or any other nature find, all of which will be used to populate their unique nature table.  As usual, our regular workshop leader and firm favourite,Julie, will be sharing some her celebrated paper maché, knitting, stitching and collating techniques.

We know that Julie would just love the fabrics of Kekfesto Cotton, a small UK importing company run by the aficionado, Gilly Thomson, which sells dozens of Hungarian, indigo printed, patterned fabrics. Reminiscent of Dutch Delft, but also remarkably similar to traditional hand-printed textiles of Japan, these textiles originally came from India, delivered as presents to the French court in the C17th and immediately became fashionable among ladies and nobles .  By the turn of the C18th more than a hundred workshops were operating in Hungary with printing technology and patterns that were top secret within each particular guild.  Today only eight workshops remain, and whilst still producing  the traditional patterns they also experiment with modern ones.  Luckily for us, Gilly stocks most of them.   

Enjoy a fabric-full February!


Friday, 1 January 2016

..... 12 things we've loved in 2015......

Twelve things we've loved this year and that you might enjoy......
The rediscovery of Sarah Moon, fashion and commercial photographer and film-maker since 1968, known for her dreamlike images and her representation of femininity as free from time and context.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Seventeenth-century Amsterdam comes alive in this meticulously researched, enchantingly told tale

Claire Wellesley Smiths' divinely uplifting blog.  So thrilled she will be joining us next year to lead  one of our new Weekend Workshops

Love the music of Blue Rose Code; Edinburgh-born songwriter Ross Wilson. At the edge of contemporary alt-folk, Wilson's music evokes a meeting of Van Morrison and a young John Martyn, both shipwrecked with a bunch of Motown records.
We've long been smitten with the bijou, extravagantly expensive London clothes shop, Egg.  Finally it has developed a website with an on-line shop - a bit clunky, all things considered, but gorgeous photography and edible garments.  

Yes, yes, yes you can buy yarn from almost anyone, anywhere these days, but Wool Inspires, a mail-order company based in Luxembourg, is our latest flame. 

The latest Otto Lenghi cookbook Nopi, named after his restaurant in Soho, London.  What's not to love about these sometimes challenging, but always delicious, Middle Eastern recipes.

A film documentary about the life and work of Sebastiāo Salgado, who has spent forty years photographing  deprived societies in hidden corners of the world.  Directed by Wim Wenders, the film is unforgettably beautiful.... and with an inspirational message.

Introduced to us by a former participant, we're just bowled over by the boundless enthusiasm and creativity of Åsa Sōderman of Åsa Tricosa (her Knitting Masterclass weekend at Les Soeurs Anglaises is at the end of April - can't wait!)

New York based Emily Barletta, whose embroideries on paper are compositionally simple but conceptually complex and beautiful, straddling the two worlds of art and craft.

Our continuing admiration for the dedicated work of the charity Women for Women International, which supports marginalized women in sometimes desperate situations, in countries affected by war and conflict, including North Iraq,  and offers life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency. We believe women are the answer and are currently funding a W4W project in the Sudan.

The curiously fab, mini animations of cartoonist, Moose Allain

(And I've snuck in my personal 13th:  Susu and Carol without whom Les Soeurs Anglaises would just be work and not the joy that it always is.)

And a huge thank you, of course, to all our workshop leaders who have been endlessly enthusiastic, and our past participants for your continued loyalty, your many kind words and most of all for allowing Les Soeurs Anglaises to thrive in these strange and difficult times.  Without you we would not exist, and if we didn't exist what on earth would we do!

Best wishes for 2016 and we hope to welcome many of you (back) here next year!

Monday, 14 December 2015

.... our christmas competition......

We love Christmas! and we thought our newsletter readers might like a little seasonal something to warm up the festivities,  so we have put together a mind-jingling competition with a few ’made with love’,  handmade prizes for the first 12 people who reply to us with the correct answers.  Judging from how popular our previous competitions have been we hope this will get some of you into the festive mood.   We have 12 of our hand-made lavender pillows (which can also be used as pin-cushions) made entirely from up-cycled remnants and filled with textile scraps and fresh lavender from Les Soeurs Anglaises' gardens  - the scent of summer to lift  the cold mid-winter. (And if you're a Selvedge blog follower there's an extra treat!)


So, here's how to play ...........:

First visit our websitethen
  1. You will find a letter of the alphabet in red, at the bottom right hand corner of several (but not all) of the website pages
  2. Go through the pages, collect all the letters and put them together to form the seasonal sentence we're looking for
  3. Finally go to our contact page, fill out the necessary and write "Christmas Competition 2016" in the subject line.  Don't forget to add your answer and postal address to the message so we know where to send the prize if you are one of our lucky winners. 
  4. Clue:  Sometimes known as The Bethlehem Magi
Answers should reach us by Saturday of this week (19th December 2015) so don't leave it too long.  But if you're pipped at the post, we also have a few other handmade gifts to give away to the runners-up

Good Luck!

For those of you who aren't into competitions however, here are a few things of interest that you might enjoy over the Christmas break:
101 Cookbooks:   Always offering delicious recipes made from whole, natural foods and inspired by ingredients that interest the author, Heidi Swanson's, life, and travels, always beautifully photographed  This week's post is full of easy-to-make, festive biscuits;  her newsletters are really worth subscribing to.

Manteau Noir  For our Australian friends, but with an appropriately French name and style, this shop in Victoria comes highly recommended and judging from the on-line boutique it sells just the sort of garb we love.  There's a sale on at the moment so it might be a good time for our antipodean friends to stock up for the cooler seasons ahead.
Empress Mills  The website is simply choc-a-block full of yummy haberdashery and handcraft supplies and offers.  Based in Lancashire, UK, this is a second-generation, family type business with chatty, interesting and unpretentious newsletters and an excellent service!

Dionne Swift Read a fascinating interview with this inspiring textile artist and learn a bit about how she sketches and sketchbook to produce a finished artwork. is a great site to subscribe to generally!
The Weekend Artist:  Last but certainly not least, for those of you who have mentioned they are interested in writing workshops rather than the textile variety (but also anyone who enjoys great poetry), here is a brilliant book by Reg Starkey, one of our participants at the Roger McGough workshop several years ago. Coming soon from the Poundshop Poet, this is definitely something to put on your present list!