Monday, 5 December 2016

.... changing blogs......

From this month we will be ameliorating our social networking, and our blogs from henceforth will be posted on the new Les Soeurs Anglaises website.  We really don't want to lose our faithful readers so please use this link to re-subscribe.  If you have any problems, do let us know so we can endeavour to sort them out.

Thank you, meanwhile, for all your past and present support.

Monday, 14 November 2016

..... so you might need cheering up a little.......

With challenging news coming to us from all directions at the moment, thank goodness for our ability to sit back and enjoy the various gentle arts  that textiles offer us.

I recently returned from a visit to Basel, Switzerland where I went to meet up with Deanna Bogart and Silvan Zingg who will be performing, alongside another super-talented musician, Luca Sestak, at our biennial Blues & Boogie Weekend, July next year (more of that later).  And what I discovered was a charming, friendly city full of wonderful museums and art!!  Such a well-kept secret, and if you are looking for a cultural break from it all I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It didn't even snow! One of the must-see museums there was the Tinguely dedicated entirely to the artist.  Jean Tinguely grew up in Basel but moved to France in 1952 with his first wife, Swiss artist, Eva Aeppli, to pursue a career in art.  He belonged to the Parisan avantgarde movement in the mid C20th and was one of the artists who signed the New Realist's manifesto.  It's hard not to smile watching his deliberately noisy and sometimes huge moving sculptures made almost entirely from recycled materials, and his work will no doubt fuel ideas for our Motion Impossible project in May 2017 to be led by automata meter, Robert Race.  We can only accommodate 8 participants on this workshop so don't delay if you - or someone you know - would like to join us. 


If you're in or around Wolverhampton from 18th February you might be interested in A Curious Turn; Moving, Mechanical Sculpture, a Crafts Council exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.  It looks to be a treat!
It's never easy to juggle dates with workshop leaders and we have had to make a couple of alterations to our original calendar.  We are delighted to confirm that Celia Pym - whose event Mending, Darning and Knitting was such a success here this year - will be returning in late September 2017 to run a unique combination workshop with fellow artist and stitcher, Richard McVetis (you can read a fascinating interview with Richard at  It will be a week long, hands-on exploration of both traditional hand embroidery techniques and textile repair, with an ongoing discussion about why these skills are more important and relevant than ever.  If you were lucky enough to have attended Celia's previous workshop here we'd love you to return and take your mending a stitch further, so we are offering a 15% discount if booked before the end of 2016. 
reinforced-sttiches-final-7055.jpg    cp_cp003_002.jpg   richard-mcvetis-135164026-1641623.jpg    unspecified-1.jpg  japanese-boro-6868.jpg    IMG_1615.jpg
Our calendar for next year may now be a tad confusing so please note that Åsa Tricosa's workshop, Knitting Im-Mercerie, has now been brought forward to 6-12 September.  This means that it is no longer overlapping with the Edinburgh Yarn Festival so enthusiasts have no excuse for missing what we guarantee will be a wonderful event with a superlative knitting teacher.  
Finally, by popular participant demand we have opened a Recipe Page on this website and we will try our best to upload one of much-loved recipes every month.  Do pay it a visit from time to time, along with our Inspiration pageand let us have your feedback - we really love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, we'd like to remind you that make our lives simpler and the journey across social media smoother, we will soon be dropping this blogspot in favour of our new website blog though we will keep this up for the time being as a record of our past blogs.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

..... sew much patching .....

There's never been a better time to join us for a last-minute-workshop and it's really not too late. 

We've just checked out Ryanair and end-of-season flights are being offered at just over £30 each way from Stansted or East Midlands to Bergerac where we, of course, will pick you up and drive you through the late September sunshine to this amazing area of France.  We're very keen to make Celia Pym's first visit with us a rip-roaring success so we''ll even throw in a free night's B&B if you need to stay an extra night.  

Wednesday, 21st to Tuesday, 27th September
5 Days / 6 Nights

As one of our favourite workshop leaders, Julie Arkell, says:  "The early days of autumn bring many pleasures. One on the top of my list would be a workshop with Celia Pym at Les Soeurs Anglaises in the French countryside at a particularly beautiful time of the year.  Celia's work is amazing, and the opportunity to work alongside her, discovering her techniques and sharing stories about the history of textiles and their repairs, in such beautiful surroundings, is an experience hard to miss.  I feel very envious of anyone who is planning to join this event at one of my favourite venues."

While invisible mending is keeping tailors and seamstresses busy around the world, Celia Pym – a London-based artist, knitter and darner — specialises in visible repairs. Using white yarn on a blue Norwegian jumper and yellow on a pair of blue jeans, Celia’s handiwork celebrates wear and tear.  Finding solutions other than throwing away clothes isn't just environmentally friendly. “I love seeing damage and holes,” Celia says. “Making mending invisible doesn’t make sense for me: things happen, stuff changes, holes appear. Let the darning grow into the old bit so that the garment can be seen to change and age.”  

Through ‘The Catalogue of Holes’, an ongoing project that she began in 2007, Celia mends strangers’ clothes. Recording the items through descriptive ‘mend slips’ and sometimes photographs, has led to exhibitions at the Royal College of Art and beyond. “I find it is a way to get to important conversations quickly, with strangers,” Celia says. “As we look at and examine the garment and discuss work to be done, all sorts of stories come out. Sometimes the most important part is talking about their sweater's history.”

Book now for Celia's workshop (we still have 2 places available) and we guarantee you'll not only get lost in the art of giving new life to beloved items - clothes, haberdashery, household fabrics - you thought were beyond repair, but you'll also have an opportunity to slow down, enjoy the fabulous space, light and atmosphere of early autumn in South West France before the winter months set in.   Autumn at Les Soeurs Anglaises won't come around again for at least another year.


And if October seems like a better time to get away from it all, one place has also become available on Claire Wellesley Smith's Weekend Workshop here from 7th-10th. Don't tarry if you can join us......

Katie x

"Don't chase the butterfly.  Mend your garden and let the butterfly come!"

Monday, 15 August 2016

... hot offer...

Phew, what a scorcher!  After a wet start to our summer we are now experiencing daily temperatures of 32º-36ºC (that's 89º-96ºF) in the shade!  Normally, we don't get as hot here as the French Riviera, though clearly we experience our fair share of hot summers days.  Whilst rainfall levels remain moderate, falling in short showers and thunderstorms, this is also the time when the grass will turn from green to yellow to green again within the space of a week, and the sunflowers that currently surround us have just enough water to keep them blooming before rapidly turning to seed.
 Claire Wellesley Smith, our Weekend Workshop leader for October is someone we know is interested in turning shades of green. She teaches extensively, working in adult education, schools, community projects, museums and galleries. Her workshops involve sustainable stitch, repurposed cloth, and traditional techniques. A consumate planter, dyer and stitcher, well known for her beautifully fragile "slow stitch" collages - Claire takes the same principles of balance, connection, sustainability and rhythm initiated around food by the slow movement, which started in the 1980s in Italy and applies it to textile processes - she is  passionate about domestic plants and how to utilise their oft-times hidden hues to colour equally gorgeous vintage textiles for her collages.  Many of the plants she grows herself in her native West Yorkshire, but she's looking forward to sharing with participants the adventures of discovering the autumnal colour variations of warmer climes proliferating in our mature gardens for the Slow Stitch workshop from 7th-10th October. Late summer/early autumn is a particularly good time for nuts, roots and late blooms that offer natural yellows, oranges, blues, reds, greens, browns and greys.  
Provenance - Claire Wellesley-Smith
Claire recently had the pleasure of working with Richard and Arron from R&A Collaborations on a film as part of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen project Home GroundThey spent a day with her at her studio and allotment (pretty cold in early February and not many dye plants growing...) and talked about slow, localised craft practices, producing a fascinating insight into Claire's methods.
We'd love to fill the studio with stitchers who are particularly interested in natural dying methods that can be employed on a domestic scale,  and we're offering 

10% off both Claire Wellesley Smith's and Celia Pym's workshops
Just type in the code CWSCP on the booking form to be eligible
We also have one copy of Claire's recently published book, 'Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art', worth £20 ($26) and published by Batsford with wonderful photography by Michael Wicks, to give to the first person to book a place on Claire's workshop with this code.

Earlybird tickets available still for the bi-annual Gigspanner concert we hold here, this year the weekend before Celia Pym's workshop.  So if the idea of some first class music, followed by a few days of quiet B&B accommodation in an amazing location, before moving into the world of stitching, we'd be happy to sort it out for you.  Bring your partner and we'll give you a special rate.
Tickets for Concert only
And before we melt here's something to make you smile.....

Sunday, 31 July 2016

..... darn it......

10% off our next 2 workshops  /  earlybird tickets

We've got the summertime blues as 2 or 3 participants have had to drop out of our upcoming workshops for various reasons.  But there are also greens, yellows and reds in abundance all around us!  Yes, the temperatures in south west France have moved up to the 30s most days now, the gardens are at their colourful peak and when we're not enjoying regular dips in the salt-water pools to cool off we're learning a little bit more about the arty craft of darning......
We all know how technological advances have engaged us in constant fast-forward motion making life overscheduled, stressed and hurtling towards the next task, whether at work or at home.  We mostly rush our food, our family time and even our recreation. If, like us, you can make space to sit in the shade for a few moments we'd like to pass on a little information about the slow art of hand-darning as a method of repair, embellishment, and a means of prolonging the life of a garment for economic or sentimental reasons.   Darning offers the stitcher an opportunity to slow down; the hand moving the needle into and then out of the fabric in a soothing, rhythmic pattern offering simultaneously a quiet time to unwind and a meditative recharging of the spirit whilst producing something useful yet beautiful.
Traditionally, darning is often employed where patching is impractical or would create discomfort for the wearer, such as on the heel of a sock, cardigan elbow or trouser knee.  It generally employs a simple running stitch "woven" in rows along the grain of the fabric, with the stitcher reversing direction at the end of each row, and then filling in the framework thus created, as if weaving and  But simple over-and-under weaving of threads can be replaced by various fancy weaves, such as twills, chevrons, etc., achieved by skipping threads in regular patterns. The length of the stitches are often varied to produce geometric designs.Though the skill and techniques of darning and pattern darning are essentially the same, the line between them holds significance in the intention of the maker. Is this pattern being used to repair and extend the life of the garment, emphasise its historical use or simply  to enhance and embellish the piece; possibly all three?

Since the original purpose was to reinforce weakened fabric or replace areas where the fabric had been ripped or disintegrated it was usual to match the repair threads as closely to the fabric as possible and if the fabric had a pattern, it was necessary to find suitable replacements for all the colours. Many sewing baskets contained scraps of fabric that could be unraveled and threads reused. The repair was worked from the topside where fabric remained, and rewoven where it was completely gone.  

Our knowledge of pattern darning originates from textiles from Egypt dating to the 11th century.  Traditional embroidery using pattern darning is found in Africa, Japan, Northern and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Mexico and Peru and designs for pattern darning seem to be carried forward from generation to generation.  Current darning methods are remarkably similar to the much older Egyptian designs. The skill is believed to have moved north along trade routes and is called skakkaglit in Iceland where it appears on altar cloths, bed linens and curtains. In this stitching, we start to see wool thread being used on linen and church inventories mention skakkaglit as an adornment.
Sashiko has been used in Japan for centuries for the continued reuse old clothing and is most famously visible on their Boro clothing (should you ever find yourself with some spare time in Tokyo, we highly recommend a visit to the Amuse Museum  where you will find an amazing private collection of Boro garments).  Starting with a couple of layers of old cloth, a new layer of fabric was added on top using tiny stitches. Sashiko means "little stabs" and resembles grains of rice. Traditionally the thread was white and the fabric indigo blue. Several styles of sashiko developed over time but the most basic pattern is called Moyozashi. This pattern is very geometric with straight or curved lines. The main difference with this type is that the lines do not cross. There should be a tiny bit of fabric showing between the stitches. If the geometric design does meet and cross, then the style is called Hitomezashi. The more colorful version is Nanbu. Kogin is also a derivative of Hiteomezashi but it follows the weave of the fabric and the stitch extends up to five threads in length with fabric threads showing between the stitches.
Our 5-Day workshop, KNITTING, DARNING & MENDING, this September, is to be led by Celia Pym,currently enjoying a UK Craft Residency at Cove Park, Scotland, who has travelled widely in Japan studying their darning, knitting and stitching techniques since completing her degree at Harvard University.   For many years Celia has been the enthusiastic, leading light in the art and craft of "Visible Mending", it's history and value in the household which combines the skill and philosophies of textile repair.  A small hole in a sweater might be darned with a matching yarn for practical purposes, but "Visible Mending" combines the utilitarian with the decorative by choosing contrasting colours and perhaps a different weight of yarn, maybe adding pattern and picture to the work. This visible mend brings frugality, design and frivolity into one place, literally stitching history into our daily lives as clothing and household linens sprout small testaments to a lineage of stitching as an essential skill in the human story.
Several places have recently become available on both Celia Pym's Knitting, Darning and Mendingworkshop, 21st to 27th September - a hands-on adventure learning beautiful traditional methods to repair - as well as a couple at Claire Wellesley Smith's Weekend event from 7th to 10th October.  We'll be writing more about Claire's exquisite work and teaching methods in our next newsletter, but if you can step in and  book a place at either event before the middle of August, we can offer a 10% discount as late-comers.
And just a little reminder that we still have tickets for the incredible Gigspanner concert the weekend before Celia Pym's workshop, (www know this because Gigspanner have performed here twice before!).  So if the idea of some first class music, followed by a few days of quiet B&B accommodation in an amazing location, before moving into the world of stitches, we'd be happy to sort it out for you.  Bring your partner and we'll give you a special rate.
Tickets for Concert only

Monday, 4 July 2016

..... get away with you......

Summer should be upon us, but we, like most of Europe are in the doldrums.  Not just because the sun isn't shining as much as we'd like, but also because of the unsettled times ahead.  For the time being however lets pretend it's business as usual.  We are half way through our 2016 workshops (our last was another super Silver Yoga led by our flexible soeur , Lizi Bolton), and with a quiet couple of months in store we are looking forward to Celia Pym's Knitting, Darning and Mending from the 21st-27th September. 
Celia Pym is a leading London-based artist, knitter and darner specialising in visible repairs - she quite literally celebrates 'wear and tear.'  “I love seeing damage and holes,” Celia says. “Making mending invisible doesn’t make sense to me: things happen, stuff changes, holes appear. Let the darning grow into the old bit so that the garment can be seen to change and age.”  Having trained as an artist with a background in sculpture, she learnt embroidery, tapestry, silk painting and other textile techniques as a teenager.  “I use textiles because I love the way they feel,” she says. “I love the repetitive processes involved, the way colour works, and that colour can be a thing, a line of yarn, a block of cross-stitch, a ball of wool. I also use textiles because they lend themselves to pattern making: in the construction of knit or cross-stitch or darning, there are grids and rows that link together, and you have to teach your hands to relax, to settle, to lead the making."
Celia has exhibited at the Royal College of Art in London and beyond, but it was an old jumper originally belonging to her great-uncle that sparked Celia’s interest in repairs and darning. “I was overwhelmed by the care invested by my aunt in mending his sweaters, and the way the different bits of mending looked together, how the holes gave clues as to how the sweater was used.”
If you share Celia's passion for much used and loved clothing and textiles, we still have a couple of places available on her workshop and we would be delighted if you could join us at what is a particularly beautiful time of year for these parts.  With the kids' holidays over, fares cheaper and the general atmosphere much more relaxed and inspirational whilst still buzzing with brocantes  and marchés it's the perfect time of year.  

For those of you visiting from afar who can squeeze in a few more extra days, we are hosting another wonderful Gigspanner Concert on Friday, 18th September, just days before Celia's workshop.  Staying here you will have an opportunity to meet and mingle with Steeleye Span's fiddler, Peter Knight, his musicians Roger Flack and Vincent Salzfaas. Bring a partner and we'll give you a special deal. For more information we recommend you  take a minute to watch the video below to the very end - it just gets better and better. Gigspanner were invited by BBC Radio 3 to perform at the Shakespeare 400 Celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the ‘Shakespeare and Music’ concert, highlighting Peter's virtuoso fiddling as well as the superb guitar work and Afro-percussion from Roger and Vincent.   Tickets can be bought on-line below.  
5 things to check out this month:

UK's Craft Magazine is celebrating its Summer Issue with drinks, music and craft show in Central London next week.  Email to accept invitation.

Keep an eye on one of our favourite online shops for vintage European goodies, Dee Puddy
The Festival of Quilts, 11th - 14th August, NEC, Birmingham, England is still a month away, but you can buy tickets online now. There will be over 300 exhibitors offering essential supplies, international artists/crafters and a display of over 700 competition quilts. Advertised as the ultimate quilting experience.

Thanks to our current favourite knitting workshop leader, Åsa Soderman, I have finally found the gorgeous navy blue cashmere yarn I have been searching for many a year!  It comes from a Belgium company, Pascuali and I can't wait to start on my next knitting project.  This yarn comes in half a dozen other great colours, and I have marked their Alpaca Fino, 100% alpaca wool for something a tad more wintery.

With changes on the horizon, for everyone including Les Soeurs Anglaises, we are planning a really special project for next year (our 10th Anniversary) with Toy Maker extraordinaire, Robert Race. We're not going to say too much at this stage, but if your curiosity has been tweaked let us know and we'll keep you to the minute with developments.
Book tickets now
Weddings these days need to planned months, if not years, ahead so if you (or someone you

know) hasn't yet chosen the perfect venue, our wonderful studio space and accommodation might be just the ticket.  Another soeur, Carol Temple, of Simply French Weddings recently organised and supervised another wedding celebration at Les Soeurs Anglaises and  feedback has confirmed what we have long believed…..that it is the perfect venue for a smaller, more intimate celebration (40-90 guests) offering stylish celebration space and accommodation;  and with Simply French Weddings taking all the stress and strain out of what can easily become a demanding and tense occasion, what’s not to like?

In October we are joining forces to offer a long weekend to couples so that they can experience the comfort and beauty of LSA's venue, whilst familiarising themselves with the superb and friendly services that SFW  offer (styling, taster menus, champagne & wine tastings, hairdresser, make-up artist, photographer, music, etc.).  Included in the price of the B&B weekend we’ll also be providing a short taster workshop for DIY wedding favours and decorations.   And should a couple decide to hold their Big Day here, the weekend B&B charges will be deducted from the final cost of the event.

Contact Carol directly for a chat or more information and availability:
T +33 (0)5 53 91 19 92
M+33 (0)6 95 05 13 02

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

...... summertime time

We've hosted two fab workshops since our last newsletter. The first was a Knitting Masterclass led by Åsa (pronounced Awsa) Söderman of Åsa Tricosa fame;  we - and I include myself as I was lucky enough to spend a few hours watching and learning - discovered new and exciting ways to knit pullovers and cardigans, in the round, and from the top down which makes sizing and shaping sooooo much easier.  Asa is an ebullient and thoughtful teacher and one we very much hope to have back next year for a longer stint.


The second event was with Julie Arkell, our perennial favourite. This year she was helping participants put together a bird table, demonstrating papier maché, knitting and stitching skills with her usual flair and enthusiasm. A smaller group than usual but even more fun, if that's possible.  The smaller group also gave Les Soeurs a better opportunity to get to know and enjoy, the participants and our view is that in future we will try to keep numbers to a minimum.  More time and attention for everyone.


This last photograph was taken by a young and very gifted photographer, Alexander Hamdy who was here at the beginning of Julie's workshop to take pictures of the property.  The weather was only periodically sunny during his visit, but Alex managed to produce an album of detailed beauty and we can't wait to see all the photographs together on our new website in September.  
The next few months are going to be quiet ones at Les Soeurs Anglaises - unusual for us during the summer months, but not unwelcome.  2017 will be our 10th year offering workshops;  we were amongst the first in this part of the world but are one amongst many these days, and our plan for next year is to shake things up a bit (or slow them down).  We'll keep you posted, but in the meantime we have a couple of places available on both our remaining workshops in 2016.

The first is for the Celia Pym's 5-day workshop, Knitting Darning and Mending at the end of September, followed closely by the gently remarkable Claire Wellesley Smith'Dyeing and Stitching weekend event in October.  Both are formidable talents well-researched in the art of recycling, repairing and using cloth, dye and stitch as carriers of the natural and social history of place, heritage and memory.  We are thrilled that they will both be joining us and look forward to inspirational teaching.  

To book a place on either workshop go to our website booking pageor email me directly

We generally only sell our aprons in the wee brocante we have on site, but if you're in the mood this summer to wear a pretty, comfortable and one-off apron, we currently have a few of our wrap-over linen aprons for sale in various colours and each trimmed with vintage fabric, on  Etsy.
All the best

7 things to check out this month:

Visit Chris Manning's Pinterest page and wonder at her exquisite quilts.  Chris has been a participant at several of our workshops and we are hoping one day she will join us to teach her own quilting workshop.

There's still time to join us for Lizi Bolton's Silver Yoga this month (23rd to 29th June).  Come as our B&B guest and you'll get your yoga classes at half-price, bring a non-participating partner and enjoy a relaxing week away from the stresses of everyday life!  Contact Lizi directly for more information.

If you're around North London during the third week of June, we recommend a visit to GROW, the brainchild of entrepreneur Will Ramsay, founder of the hugely successful Affordable Art Fair, which is now a global brand with fairs in 14 major cities around the world.  There will be a myriad selection of plants and other garden ephemera, and say hello to stall holders All the Fun of the Fair where you'll find everything from vintage buttons to knitted cacti.

We have long admired the machine embroidery of Linda Miller if you can't make it to one of her very popular workshops, you will find her and her work at the Contemporary Craft FestivalBovey Tracey, Devon UK this upcoming weekend (10th/12th June).

We recently bought 4 skeins of Gotland 4ply yarn from The Little Grey Sheep mail order company and have already started knitting a Julie Arkell original cardigan pattern with this absolutely delicious soft wool which is hand sheared, spun with care and expertise, and finally hand-dyed in scrummy colours!

Voices of Industry offer organically grown cotton yarn for weaving and crochet, spun by a family mill in North Carolina. Their credo is:  "We consider the farmers who grow our cotton and wool as co-conspirators and friends.  Our work is an extension of agriculture and we care deeply about that origin."