Hazel & Terry
If you went to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC or The South West Quilt and Textile Show in Bristol you may have joined us on one of our ‘take two stitches’ workshops, where we explored the potential of just two stitches - the straight stitch and a French knot.
This lady enjoyed the class in 2017 and had brought her sampler with her this year to show me and to buy some more of our thread so she could finish it. When I asked her what it was she had enjoyed so much she said it was having the encouragement to start and the inspiration to continue; she enjoyed the slow rhythm and peace that hand stitching brings.
Terry also enjoys hand stitching and often combines it with machine stitch and this year two of my quilts featured dense hand stitching.
My Contemporary Quilt ‘InPrint’ entry ‘Pink Floyd, this way’ and
my entry for The Fine Art Quilt Master, ‘the space between the moments’ both featured a lot of freestyle cross stitch to build up layers of texture to suggest a decaying old wall (Pink Floyd) and pine trees and snow ( Moments). Like the lady who came to show me her sampler, I too find this type of hand stitching very contemplative and soothing: I have to slow my mind and develop a different rhythm.
Through the winter evenings I can sometimes even be found knitting woolly socks on 4 bamboo needles - got to have something pretty to keep those toes warm! Knitting is rhymical and soothing too - and given their size I have a good chance of finishing them as well!
I always like to keep some hand stitching on the go as well, this little blue study was done on a piece of vintage table linen. Can you spot the exquisite darn in the middle? It was that which inspired me to join in with #1yearofstitches2017 over on Instagram.
I kept the daily hand stitching up for a good few months, even as I cycled round the Mekong Delta and Myanmar. Obviously not while I was actually cycling, but when I was having my restorative G&T in the evening! I always mean to keep an art journal when I go off on my adventures but some how it never happens, but last year the stitching did. Secretly in my room at first (I didn’t know what my fellow travellers would think) but then down in the bar and at the dinner table whilst we were waiting. I needn’t have worried - everyone was fascinated and as the days went by the whole group were keen to ensure not one event went unrecorded in stitch! By the time I came home I had a whole stitched account of my 3 week adventure on two wheels.
This autumn the socks are coming along at a pace so I’m thinking that I’ll need another hand stitch project. I don't have a quilt on the go at the moment, but like a pianist I need to keep up with my daily practice, so I’ve looked out some stitch books for inspiration,
collected my hand sewing equipment,
and started to select my threads. I thinking a piece of vintage table cloth or maybe some old linen for the fabric, I’ll need to have a rummage through my stash in the morning.
Or I might continue stitching on this. I put this together a couple of years ago from an off cut of wool wadding and some of our cotton fabric from the studio. It’s a couple of metres long already, so I could piece on another section and carry on! I intended it as a stitch sampler, a place to try out new combinations and threads, but sometimes I struggle to come up with something different.
Which is why I’m really excited to be welcoming Richard McVetis into the InStitches Studio this autumn. Richard is a British artist known for his meticulously embroidered drawings and sculptures and his artistic practice centres on his training as an embroiderer through the use of traditional hand stitch techniques and mark making.
If you feel inspired to pick up needle, thread and fabric why not come and join us on the 12th and 13th November? If you want to know more about the two days then take a look at the workshop Richard has planned for us. All you need to bring is your hand sewing kit - all the other materials are provided as well as homemade biscuits with morning coffee, a delicious light seasonal lunch and a pot of tea and a slice of homemade cake before you head off home after a day of creative stitching. What are you waiting for? Come and join us, I for one can't wait!
Hazel & Terry
The little Victoria plum tree at the bottom of the garden has given me a bumper crop of fruit this year.
Planted about 10 years ago, to provide fruit to make my husband's favourite jam, it has had a mixed track record and quite frankly I was beginning to think its days were numbered!
But as you can see, Mother Nature came out trumps this year!
When you grow your own fruit and vegetables it's lovely to be able to share; although I think my neighbours still haven't recovered from the glut-to-end-all-gluts of courgettes a couple of years back... So I've given lots of the plums away and frozen, poached, baked and crumbled many more, but there are still some left.
This weekend we are taking part in the Wokingham Arts Trail.
In the InStitches Studio we are hosting artists David Cotton and Nina O'Connell and jeweller Machi De Waard as well as showcasing our own work and the InStitches courses and workshops.
We will also be offering tea, coffee and (of course!) homemade cakes, with donations going to Macmillan: an excellent opportunity to convert the excess plums into baked goods!
In the end I made 4 huge sticky plum Bakewell tarts using a 2013 recipe from Waitrose, with the addition of a generous layer of homemade plum jam on the bottom of the pastry case before I topped it with the almond sponge and dropped in the stoned plum halves. To save you Googling to find it, here's my adapted recipe:
Sticky plum Bakewell tart
250g shortcrust pastry
150g butter, at room temperature
150g golden caster sugar
75g ground almonds
75g Self-Raising Flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp (homemade) plum jam (optional)
400g Ripe plums, stoned and quartered
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, gas mark 4. Roll out the pastry thinly on a floured surface and use to line a 23cm deep, loose-bottomed tart tin. Chill for 5 minutes. If using, spread the base with the plum jam.
2. Meanwhile, place the butter, sugar, eggs, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and vanilla extract in a large bowl and whisk until well blended.
3.Spoon the filling into the tart case then press the plums evenly into the mixture (they will sink into the centre as the tart bakes). Scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for 40 –45 minutes until risen and golden brown.
4. Leave to cool. Cut into slices and serve.
I think I was a bit generous with filling the pastry cases so a couple of mine overflowed slightly, but that just provided a cook's treat for me to nibble with a cup of coffee - happy days!
The weather forecast doesn't look too brilliant for this weekend, but if you are free and fancy a day out why not pop in and see us at Venue 10? All the venues on the trail are open 10.30 - 5.30 each day, and if you do manage to visit all 11 over the weekend be sure to have your trail card stamped each time to be in with a chance of winning one of 5 bundles of prizes donated by WAT artists.
Hope to see some of you this weekend,
Hazel & Terry
It may seem a bit odd to start a new mini series called tools of the trade with a non-sewing item, but when you find a simple tool that does what it’s intended for (and does it so well!) then it’s an item worth telling folk about!
We both like making books, from new paper or from found or ‘scrap’ papers, to use as sketchbooks, notebooks, recipe books or just to have and to own. I think I can safely say that each of us have as many unused handmade books as those we have in use...we just like making books!
Having the correct tools does make a job easier and our favourite book binding tool is a bone paper folder - that’s the tool with a faint ‘HR’ on the end in the photograph below.
Made from genuine cattle bone, a bone folder is often the only type of folding tool acceptable to bookbinders and conservators; this essential tool is used for making strong sharp creases in paper and other materials. It is also brilliant for burnishing, smoothing adhesives and tapes: it is a must for book binding and repairs.
I find that mine is so satisfying to hold, nicely weighted and
the slight curve means that it fits my hand perfectly. Over time it has become beautifully polished and very smooth.
But what about if you are a vegetarian or vegan or just don’t like the idea of using a genuine bone? There are plastic versions available but quite frankly they won’t last the course, however Terry has found a great alternative.
Teflon bone folders are an ethical alternative to the traditional bone folders. They are non-stick PTFE which makes them ideal for conservation, separating papers, burnishing, creasing and all the steps in involved in book binding!
These and the traditional version, as well as other book binding supplies can be found here https://www.preservationequipment.com/Catalogue or from many other suppliers.
So, what’s your favourite tool?
Hazel & Terry
With quilts selected and rolled, everything made, packed and priced, it's time to load up the car
which seems to include everything but the kitchen sink. And before you ask, no we didn't take the vacuum cleaner!
Loading the car ready is like a game of Jenga in reverse and Terry has become quite the expert. I just carry and hold, I know better than to make 'helpful' suggestions...
Over the years our essential kit has become quite impressive and this year we splashed out on our own cordless drill. We're women who clearly know how to have fun!
See the festival trolley? It comes into its own at times such as these and I did notice that a lot more smaller stand holders have realised the benefit too. We tend to dump everything down in a heap and then get started. We do have a plan, even thought to the uninitiated it probably doesn't look as though we do.
Build up is a long day with little time for tea and cakes, but I'd like to think over the years we've developed a good system. Being the taller one Terry gets to wield the power tools, spirit level and hang the quilts. I'm a dab hand at dressing the tables, sorting stock and handing up the correct length screw when required. I also take the photographs - well, one of us has to step up to the plate!
It all takes time, but we do like everything to be 'just so' and judging by the comments I over hear visitors making I think we get it right most of the time.
Our stand is colourful, bright and definitely well stocked. As our signs say 'Everything on the stand was white until we dyed it'!
Once we've straightened and tweaked, fiddled and poked the stock into order it's time to cover it all up and go to check into our hotel
and , of course, we definitely deserve one of these at the end of build up day!
The next morning all is revealed: thread...a festival of stitch! at Farnham Maltings
or in the Quilting in action area of The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham
and just this last few days, at The West Country Quilt and Textile Show, UWE Bristol.
Don't you just love our shelves? We were very please with ourselves...thanks IKEA! In fact, where would be without IKEA for equipping both our studio and stand?!
At shows we love catching up with old friends and students and making new ones too. Helping customers select just the right colour fabric or thread,
demonstrating and sharing our passion for fabric printing with all manner of junk, as well as
teaching a variety of workshops and sharing the delight of learning a new skill. In fact 14 year old Millie even ran a poll on her Instagram feed afterwards so her friends could vote on who had made the best brooch - her or her mum. Millie won!
This year I was thrilled at the Festival of Quilts when one of last year's workshop attendees brought back her sample to show me - and buy more of our thread so she could finish it. We had such a lovely chat and catch up - she said that the workshop had awakened a love of hand stitching and now she was hooked. A teacher can't ask for a better endorsement than that!
Of course, we need help manning our stand at shows so we can go and teach workshops and have a sneaky look at the show ourselves! So here's a big thank you to Neel and Gill for helping out at this year's Festival of Quilts and of course the fantastic Christine who also came down and helped in Bristol as well- she also keeps us fed and watered with sandwiches and the occasional gin-in-a-tin(after the show, of course !) We couldn't manage without you. And of course not forgetting my Mum, who for the last 10 years or so, has come along every Saturday of the Festival of Quilts and brought us lunch - thanks mum x
But we can't please everyone all of the time, Morgan-the-Pirate has clearly had more than enough of accompanying his mum and gran around the quilt show and now has other things on his mind. Still at least InStitches could provide him with a chair!
We have just one more show to go before we resume our teaching schedule and that is when we open the doors of our studio and invite you all to come and visit us as part of the Wokingham Arts Trail on the weekend of 23rd/24th September. Pencil it in your diary so you don't forget - we'd love to see you and...sssh! there may be a HUGE surprise, no clues....you'll just have to come and find out for yourself!
Hazel & Terry
Both children in this blog appear with the permission of their parents.
Welcome to our blog! Here you'll find out what's been going on, plus plenty of ideas and inspiration and the odd cake recipe!
Check back often to see what we're up to - it's great to have you along
Hazel & Terry