The Black Squirrel, Berkeley

After a visit to Stonemountain & Daughters Fabrics, I headed towards the water and The Black Squirrel, a store promising yarn, fabric and excellent design. This was not the most logical way to do my trip (I should have headed to Lacis first as it’s less than a fifteen minute walk from Stonemountain) but I didn’t realise this until afterwards. Poor planning on my part! I was curious though to see exactly what The Black Squirrel was all about.

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A Quilt Tour of Berkeley

It’s always great when you find a place home to not just one isolated craft shop, but several, all within relatively easy travelling distance to each other. Welcome to Berkeley, quilters’ heaven, home to some wonderfully quirky and welcoming textile institutions.

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Harts Fabrics, Santa Cruz

I’m not sure the traditional image of Santa Cruz comes with sewing machines and knitting needles but it turns out that Santa Cruz is actually a veritable goldmine of craft shops and fabric stores. Then, when you’re done with your shopping, you can grab an ice cream and go hang out with the seals on the pier. That is, if you don’t get trapped forever wandering around the vast expanse of Harts Fabric.

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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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