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