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!  



Monday, 23 November 2015

.... an intensive weekend of knitting with Åsa Söderman........

 At the end of April next year, Åsa Söderman of Åsa Tricosa will be leading a two day Knitting Masterclass for us.   We are very excited as this will be our first foray into Weekend Workshops and whilst a weekend away may not seem practical if it involves long haul travelwith a little help from us you might be able to integrate the workshop into a visit to Europe.  And of course you would be welcome to use our B&B accommodation either side of the event to explore the amazing countryside around us and/or visit Bordeaux and the Atlantic coast.


We aim to limit the Weekend Workshops is to small groups of no more than eight so that workshop leaders ensure all participants gets the undivided attention they might need over this shorter period.  Åsa's enthusiasm, technical skills and knowledge about all things knitted, together with her infectious joie de vivre, make her the perfect knitting "enabler" for this Knitting Masterclass.  She will be demonstrating pockets, hems, waistshapings and wowza bust darts, as well as a variety of stitch patterns. This workshop is suitable for both competent and accomplished knitters.
Not many of us have time for the seriously beautiful art of Yarn Bombing, but with the Global Climate Conference in Paris just around the corner, here are some of Åsa's thoughts about how all enthusiastic knitters can make a little bit of a difference.*  
"When I graduated from high school my parents held up a placard (as is the custom) with baby photos of me with two "facts":
1. Who bakes the best "bullar" (cinnamon rolls) in all of Bromma (a suburb of Stockholm)?
2. Who knits the same sweater three times?
    Answer: Åsa!
"I've always reused and recycled yarn – at some times more successfully than others - wildly mixing
yarn weights and trying to force them into service because I like the colours or texture.  Another way I use and recycle is, of course, the trading, destashing and restashing that takes place on websites like Ravelry. This can be fairly hit and miss, but the hits are definitely worth the effort.  It's simply so satisfying making something, both pretty and pretty useful, from yarn that would otherwise be hidden or thrown away. The best example I have is a partly knitted skein of Sundara Silk I bought from a knitter in the USA. I frogged the shawl that was taking shape and knitted myself a splendid shawl using my own Serangoon pattern."
"Below is a photo of a sweater I made with someone else's pattern that I have found too long in the waist for my liking.  My plan now is to unravel it and re-use the yarn to knit a design of my own.  Obviously items like knitted bags, kids' pullovers and mitts -  where the finished size isn't quite so important - lend themselves especially well for this kind of recycling.  Of course, always remember to do your tension squares before commencing!"

Spring is a spectacular time of year down here at Les Soeurs Anglaises with some bulbs still in flower, trees already in leaf and peonies in bud; and if it's warm enough you might find yourself stitching on our magnificent studio terrace.  We'd so love to have some yarn aficiandos here to help us celebrate our very first Weekend Workshop; if you have any questions about the workshop, venue or travel, that aren't answered on our website, please do contact us directly either by email or phone (T +33 553 91 38 40).
Katie :)
*"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;  indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead 1901-1978

Saturday, 7 November 2015

..... with winter on our heels.....

.... and cooler temperatures outside, we at Les Soeurs Anglaises think there's a lot to be said for staying indoors and catching up on some of the little sewing jobs that have been accumulating over the warmer months.  Inspired by the current work of two of our Weekend Workshop leaders for next year, Claire Wellesley Smith and Jessie Chorley, but also by the exquisite Japanese mending of Boro, we're working on our patching & darning skills using textiles. We've been trying our hands at repairing damaged knitted items, too, but more about that in our next newsletter!

A soft, old linen shirt patched and re-patched..

Favourite shirts, sweaters and vintage clothing that perhaps have seen better days, and are now in need of some tender loving care, become not only wearable once more, but also something to wear with pride and pleasure (and not a few compliments!). 

In Claire's fascinating book, Slow Stitch; Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art, she mentions that in the UK alone, ".... we send 1.2 million tonnes of textile waste, much of it good quality, to landfill or for incineration every year."  A staggering amount  by any standards.  If we wear clothes that we hope reflect our personalities then these much-cared for items say more about us than any throw-away garments from the likes of Walmart or Primark; ".......garment production that involves the cheapest and most flexible labour in some of the least regulated workplaces in the world".  If there is a common thread (excuse the pun) in our choice of workshop leaders, it is their celebration of, and respect for, heritage, memory and the hand-made.

Here are a few examples of rescued clothes that we love and that might otherwise have ended up in a land-fill site.

Compared to metal or stone, of  course the lifespan of textiles is much shorter, but with love and attention is it considerably longer than our consumerist zeitgeist would have us believe.  Personally, we prefer to hand stitch repairs, but sometimes the zigzag stitch on the sewing machine is just too tempting.

go to this 
fascinating blog to see how they darned in Medieval times

New Skirt made out of old fabric with a multitude of patches.            Hand-stitched Boro jacket

Elbow patch on a recently found shirt at our local brocante, bought for pennies and patched with other vintage offcuts.

Children used to be taught a myriad of beautiful  darning techniques - a stitching art in itself.  This darning sampler of 1814 is by Martha Woodnutt and was stitched at the famous Quaker Westtown School, Pennsylvania. It is worked in cotton on a linen/wool mix and is a perfect blend of painstaking needlework and practicality. 

5 Day / 6 Night Workshops  
Julie Arkell   Birds on a Table   1st  to 7th June      
Anna Kristina Goransson   Felted Form and Function  
  22nd to 28th June    
Fiona Rutherford  Tapestry Weaving   31st August to 6th Sept    
Celia Pym  
 Knitting, Mending and Darning    21st to 27th Sept   

Weekend Workshops
ASA TRICOSA  Knitting Masterclass  30th April / 1st May 
CLAIRE WELLESLEY SMITH  Dyeing and Stitching   7th / 8th October

Book a place now

Monday, 19 October 2015

It's been a long time coming, but to paraphrase the words of songster Sam Cooke, a change is definitely on it's way here at Les Soeurs Anglaises.  

We have finally uploaded our new website with all the workshop dates for 2016, and what an eventful and stimulating year ahead we have for you.  As usual, there will be our 5-Day/6 Night textile related events spaced over the summer months; one is to be led by returning favourite, Julie Arkell, the other three by new artists/crafters whose work we have long admired: Anna Kristina Goransson, Fiona Rutherford, and Celia Pym.  All three are mistresses in their field of excellence and we expect workshops to fill quickly. 

To stir things up a little, in 2016 we will also be hosting a new series of Weekend Workshops, for those of you who would like a taste of what we have to offer but whose busy schedule or travel arrangements don't allow a full week away. These are for a limited number of participants and will be taught by popular, past LSA Workshop leaders whose work and teaching we have particularly admired.  We suggest you check out their pages on our website, and trust you will find the possibilities as tempting as we do.

You'll find a lot more detail and information on our newly designed website.

Following on the heels of India Flint's highly successful event here this year, and amongst the Weekend Workshop leaders we are hosting in 2016, is the inspirational dyer and stitcher, Claire Wellesley Smith whose book, 'Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art' was published last month by Batsford and is now available on Amazon.

So many of Claire's thoughts and ideas touch a cord with us at Les Soeurs Anglaises, and the illustrations of her beautiful work are truly inspirational.  
Hoping to see you next year
Katie x

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

a taste of things to come……..

Whilst the weather has taken a definite turn towards cool, and the leaves are beginning to drop from the trees down here south of Paris, we have been busy putting the finishing touches to our 2016 Calendar.  Workshop leaders and their dates have been confirmed and the new website will shortly go live, but we thought our newsletter  and blog readers might like a little taste of things to come.  

We don't want to give too much away just yet, but next year not only will we be hosting a number of favourite creatives to lead our regular 5 day/6 night events, but we will also be opening the huge oak doors of Les Soeurs Anglaises, for the first time, to the occasional weekend workshop (i.e. Friday evening to Monday morning), something that we hope will appeal to busy working women whose holiday options are limited and prevented them from joining us before, but who would enjoy some intensive creativity.

Join us for one of our pre-arranged weekends, or better still, why not put together a group of your own - it could be to celebrate a bespoke event (a pre-wedding "makerie" or a special birthday?)  then
 choose  one of our popular workshop leaders to guide you through a creative process; add some date options, and we'll deal with all the rest.  All you have to do is organise travel.  We'd love to hear your suggestions and can't wait to get your feedback about our new  website, which should be live within the next week or so - we'll let you know exactly when.

In the meantime, if you can name the creators of ALL the 9 images above, (clue: not all have lead workshops with us before!) we have one of our much sought after wrap-over aprons to give away as a prize.  Send the answers to 
me and mark them SeptComp.

See some of you soon we hope……..

Thursday, 6 August 2015

a stitching season.....

No better Time to Relax and Learn
We keep our eyes open and our ears to the ground when we're looking for original and gifted workshop leaders and in October this year we are thrilled to be hosting a new knitting workshop to be led by Swedish super-stitcher, Åsa Soderman.  Åsa has almost 2000 followers on Ravelry (always a good sign of a gifted knitter and knit designer) and we are offering a 10% discount to our newsletter followers if they book before the middle of August.   This offer is also available to Selvedge readers.
Seamlessly Clever
14th to 20th October

Over the 5-Day Workshop and using Åsa's specially developed, top-down technique, you’ll measure, contemplate, plan, sketch (and KNIT!) a  personalized custom-fit, top-down seamless sweater or pull-over.  Take time to consider knitted pockets, ribs for hems, ponder stitch patterns and quirky design details; choose between smallish and wowza bust darts (or none) and waist shaping – perhaps a colour accent on the sleeve, a hidden colour spot in the pocket lining or a contrasting button band? But if that’s too many decisions, there's the option of sticking more closely to the choices Åsa has already made in any of her Ziggurat patterns.
tailored shoulders :: necklines & collars      built-in pockets :: built-in button bands    stripes :: hems :: cuffs
Do let us know if you have any questions, but meanwhile, we're looking forward to welcoming some of you in October for our last workshop of the season, always very special......
Best wishes

Saturday, 25 July 2015

....seamlessly clever......

If you haven't heard from us in a while, it's because we have just come to the end of hosting an extraordinary fundraising event in aid of Women for Women International UK, le Fête de Boogie Woogie.  We always knew it was going to be fun, but the weekend exceeded all our expectations:  the quality of the food, prepared by Professional Masterchef finalist Sven-Hanson Britt and Young Chef of the Year, Spencer Metzgerthe spectacular music, performed by Deanna Bogart and young Luca Sestak; and the general involvement and enthusiasm of the weekend guests, Gala diners and general Concert audience made this event something very special.  The fact that we raised over £4000 ($6000) over the weekend for W4W International was just the icing on the cake and we're still all on a bit of a high, especially after receiving such glowing feedback from guests:

"Well, it's back to the routine quotidienne after the classiest, most entertaining and most congenial fête I've ever been too. Can't thank you enough --- and les soeur anglaises (and la frere anglaise) and your staff --- for the wonderful week.  Everyone except the two of you was a stranger to me when I arrived and now, I hope I can say, is a friend."  Prof. Stu Katz, USA

"What an absolutely incredible weekend!  Huge thank to Les Soeurs Anglaises for letting us share in the wonderful life and venue you have    It was just as perfect as I imagined it to be from the pictures I had seen.  Not only that but to experience such delicious food and wine was a very special treat.  The music was a spectacular addition – what a privilege to watch such musicianship at work with Deanna and Lucca.   Everyone we met over the weekend said how much they loved every minute and it was a complete joy to meet so many fabulous and interesting people."  Liz Bunton, London UK

"It was beyond amazing.  I am still basking in the the glorious warmth of the entire weekend.  Everything was wonderful:  the wine, (although I didn't drink it, I loved Mike's comments,) the amazing cuisine, the entertainment and best of all the company.  What a nice group of people.  You worked so hard, Katie.  You are to be congratulated because you created such an extraordinary event.  Thank you so much."  Therese Minton, Boston US 

I can unreservedly say that I had a marvellous weekend, and would like to thank you, Mike, Suzu and everyone else for making it such a success.  You have a wonderful venue and created a great atmosphere for a relaxing, welcoming and thoroughly enjoyable weekend."  Robert How, London UK

"Wow!  I knew the weekend event was going to be exceptional, I just had no idea how wonderful it would be and till remain as a great highlight in my map of life.  I hope it raised a good amount for Women for Women, a wonderful charity well worth supporting." Sue Hodges, London UK
Following on through the summer, we have the India Flint workshop coming up (full), followed in October by Asa Tricosa's Seamlessly Clever Knitting intensive.   It's Asa's first visit to Les Soeurs Anglaises and we still have a few places to fill at this event so are offering a 10% discount if you book before the end of August and mark your application with AsTr1.  
On a personal note, I am expecting another grandchild in September and just about to start an Asa Tricosa shawl/Baby Blanket, with some lovely cashmere I bought from Loop in London.  Asa's patterns are so, so gorgeous I am hoping my daughter-in-law will be able to use the shawl herself long after the baby has outgrown it.  We know Asa will have all sorts of knitting tricks and techniques up her sleeve (forgive the pun) and the workshop will be a fitting close to what has been an immensely enjoyable 2015 season at Les Soeurs Anglaises..

It's been a long hot summer down here - hope you manage to stay cool wherever you are.

make animated gifs like this at MakeaGif

Friday, 15 May 2015 stitching.......

How lucky were we to have both Janet Bolton and good weather here last week!  A brilliant opportunity to open all the doors and let the creativity pour in, led by this wonderful, gentle teacher.  The last of the ladies left yesterday and Les Soeurs Anglaises now feels a tad too quiet for its own good, though it does give us a chance to recharge our batteries and bring the place back into ship-shape order for our next workshop, with Julie Arkell, coming up at the beginning of June.   Janet will be returning to Les Soeurs Anglaises in 2017, probably sometime in May or the beginning of June, and we're taking names already so let us know if you'd like your name to be on the list.

  • If you had your eye on Julie Arkell's workshop, TOYS, starting here on 3rd June, but left it a bit late to book a place, you might be pleased to hear a place has become available as a participant has had to drop out.  We can offer you a £150/$237 discount off the normal price (£1750/$2758) for a single occupancy, standard twin room - which should be enough to cover your Ryanair flight here from the UK - or if you can organise it with a friend, and don't mind sharing, you could split the discount for a shared room (£1350/$2128 each).   If you need any more information regarding booking please contact Susie directly as the booking form has been removed from our website for this event.  Incidentally, this year Julie's workshop dates cover the now celebrated local monthly brocante which is almost worth ta visit to south west France all by itself!
  • We now have only one double en suite bedroom still available for our long weekend fundraiser in July, Fete de Boogie Woogie, in aid of Women for Women International,   If you're a fan of great food, vintage wines and superlative live music, then this will be the perfect combo.  We were absolutely delighted that one of our artists, Deanna Bogart, who is popping over from the States especially to perform at this event, has just won yet another coveted award for her sublime piano and saxophone playing.
Deanna at the 2015-BMA-Awards-Performances last weekMemphis, USA
  • You may not be aware that between workshops, and when time permits, we run an occasional B&Bs, and we had the pleasure this week of welcoming back Dee Puddy and her husband.  Dee hosts her own seriously chic website where she sells irresistible, hand-picked, vintage finds and covetable goodies from both the UK and the continent - her on-line shop is a must-visit.
  • If you're coming to Åsa Tricosa's workshop, Seamlessly Clever, in October (or would like to) and you live in Germany, you can have a taster of this ebullient and colourful knitter at the Yarn Festival, Berlin Knits coming up in a day or two.  There's also a "Meet the Designer Cruise" where I'm sure you'll find Åsa sporting one of her scrummy designs as the day cools - and if that doesn't tempt you to join us for Åsa's workshop here then you're obviously not into knitting.....
  • As a great fan of West Dean short courses, near Cirencester, UK, I was interested to hear that Canada has its very own version called Halliburton Highlands.  One of the talented ladies at Janet's workshop, Sandi Luck, actually teaches fibre arts there, but there are a kaleidoscope of other short workshops to tempt you if felting isn't your thing.
  • With all the property to rent available now in this beautiful part of France, choosing somewhere to holiday that lives up to its publicity is often a lottery, so we thought you might be interested in one that we personally think is the perfect place to stay!  Situated not far from Les Soeurs Anglaises itself, in the picturesque village of La Tour BlancheLa Maison Des Ramparts has recently been completely renovated to the highest standard and is super comfortable and tasteful.  Situated in the heart of the village and with all mod cons, (and with brocantes nearby every weekend over the summer) there's really nothing negative to say about this very special little house that sleeps 4.   Contact Suzy for further information and availability.....