RSN Day Class: Needlelace at the Fashion Museum

As well as the more intensive embroidery qualifications, the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) runs regular day classes as a way for people to try new techniques or get an insight into what it is like to study with one of the world’s most prestigious hand embroidery schools. Occasionally, the RSN teams up with other organisations to put on special classes on either different themes or different skills.

Recently, the RSN ran a series of classes at the Fashion Museum in Bath, with designs based on items on exhibition there. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Needlelace day class, stitching a small butterfly/dragonfly/questionable insect as inspired by a motif on an embroidered Elizabethan woman’s waistcoat.

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The Home of Saori Weaving

Although I was really in Japan for some hardcore temari studies, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a look for some weaving courses. It’s hard not to fall in love with the exquisite and wonderful world of Japanese textiles, in particular the world of 西陣織 (nishijin ori), the intricate weaving behind the most luxurious of fabrics.

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I’d done a weaving experience at the Nishijin Textile Factory where I made a scarf/table-runner hybrid with all the charm and textural properties of a bag of fleas. Past that, I haven’t had much luck finding short, drop-in weaving courses. That was until I had the opportunity to not only meet the creator of saori weaving but to study in her studio.

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Exploring Taiwan and the National Palace Museum

When Taiwan was discovered by Portuguese sailors, they gave it the name, ‘Ihla Formosa’ meaning ‘beautiful island.’ It’s an apt name for a place that, even in November, is still about 30 degrees and is host to some beautiful landscapes and fantastic flora and fauna. I love how you see orchids absolutely everywhere too and I really miss the delicious pineapple that is just as ubiquitous and also makes its way into cakes and sweets.

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Taipei and Yongle Textile Market

Being a tourist is often regarded as one of the most morally reprehensible things a person can be. No one wants to be the hapless soul, guide book in one hand, oversized Canon camera round the neck, clogging up the pavement taking photos of the local highlights, such as cracks in the concrete and public benches.

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Having lived somewhere was definitely a tourist trap in the summer I can sympathise with the tourist-hatred somewhat. I still have no idea how the floor can be so endlessly fascinating to squawking tour groups and quite why the secret to a good photography is maximum inconvenience to other passersby.

In the modern age of the smartphone and Google Maps, I’m usually fairly confident getting around independently. However, sometimes it’s nice for someone else to do the thinking, and as I only had a few days off for sightseeing in Taipei, I needed to be efficient about it and thus began my quest to see if it is indeed possible to take a photograph without causing a traffic jam and find out the local crafting hotspots.

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Please Mind the Gap

It has been far too long since I’ve had chance to update my blog thanks to a rather excessive amount of international travel. I’ve blogged before about the joys and tribulations of travel and how to try and find ways to stop all your craft projects getting lost in work-in-progress (WIP) oblivion while on the road but I really need to learn to take my own advice.

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The worst part is I’m still not quite done with the anxious hours at airports. I have a few days of respite at home before the final leg starts. With any luck, I can get some sleep after that and I might finally be on the correct time zone and not jet lagged before New Year!

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Creative Metalwork

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Durham isn’t often a city I end up passing through, which is a bit of a shame as it’s home to one of the nicest embroidery studios I’ve ever seen, belonging to Tracy A Franklin.

Tracy is a Royal School of Needlework-trained embroider whose work is mind-bogglingly amazing. You can see some of her pieces on her Instagram page here. Her studio is tucked away in a lovely little area by the river called Fowler’s Yard, which is home to range of creative studios and stores, with a conveniently located wool shop for your knitting and fibre needs.

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I was very fortunate as Tracy was kind enough to find me space on one of her classes so I could learn all about doing creative metalwork.

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Leeds Market and City Museum

When I’m visiting somewhere new, I take a multipronged approach to trying to uncover the local craft scene. The first stop is usually Ravelry’s wonderful Yarn Shop finder, an essential part of planning any local roadtrip. Digging into the forums for local groups can be a great way to discover more hidden gems as well, particularly as there are a lot of long-running craft shops that predate the Internet and still don’t have a web presence.

The second part is usually hammering my search engine of choice with the names of various crafts and the city. This often has varying levels of success, as again, it is dependent on the shop having a good online presence. Yelp can be really useful when there’s a local crafter who has put up their ‘top 10’ list of places to see. Unfortunately, it’s only as useful as what people have contributed and it’s not so popular outside of big cities.

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This week’s adventure was to Leeds, home to the Royal Armouries Museum (not to be missed) and a historical centre for the wool trade. If you don’t have a car and aren’t planning on venturing much further than the city centre, Leeds conveniently has rather a lot of crafty goodness one place, Leeds Kirkgate Market.

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Make at 140, Plymouth

It’s an exciting bit of news to hear that there’s a new local craft shop on the scene, and even better when it’s not just a shop but home to a café with a mouth-watering menu and enough workshops to keep any craft addict happy for at least a good few months.

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Make at 140 is the latest addition to Plymouth’s craft scene, situated just between the city centre and historic harbourside. It opened its doors in November 2015 as a ‘creative space to craft, make and create’, run by Lizzy, who has a wealth of experience in button and jewellery design.

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Museum of Fine Arts and Futuristic Textiles

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston boasts a collection that covers every continent, spanning over nearly three thousand years. It’s an impressive feat for a museum that only covers three floors yet still manages to cover every discipline in the fine arts.

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The MFA also do free entry on some Fridays as part of the ‘Free Fun Friday’ program, which means you have no excuse for not popping in for a quick visit. Whereas the Victoria and Albert museum might take you several lifetimes to see all of it, you can see all of the MFA in a few hours so it really is a breakneck speed tour through civilisation.

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