After my burst of inspiration to finish the embroidery for my canvaswork piece, I ended up signing up to a few craft courses, one on sock knitting, the other on lace embroidery, to try and learn a few new things. A matter of days later, everything was cancelled, but I did at least have the chance to go to a class and, as for the rest, we’ll try again later…
When I heard there was going to be a special exhibition on orchids at Kew Gardens, I knew this was an exhibition I would happily make an effort to see. For those of you not familiar with Kew, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site home to over 50 000 plants and has one of the most diverse plant collections in the world. For the embroiderers, it is a beautiful botanical garden situated nearby Hampton Court palace if you want to sneak some stitching!
The trip to London concluded to one of my favourite museums, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum. Whenever I’m in London, I always try and visit the V&A and I’ve still only seen a small fraction of the incredible collection they have.
Everything about the V&A is fabulous – the building, the exhibitions, the entire scale of the museum. If you can think of it, they probably have a collection on it. I’ve seen everything from a collection of locks and locking mechanisms, to armour for animals alongside more traditional pieces of art.
As it is a British national museum, entrance is absolutely free. You do have to pay to see the special exhibitions (tickets are around £15 for non-members) they have but that is it. They have an extensive gift shop and cafes if you want to support the work they do, which I would wholeheartedly encourage. There are few museums with collections as extensive and varied as the V&A’s.
One of the main reasons for visiting London was getting the chance to see the Royal School of Needlework’s current exhibition, ‘Peacocks and Pomegranates’, which was also a good excuse to visit Hampton Court Palace as well.
The RSN has been based in Hampton Court Palace since 1987, having originally opened its first studio in 1872. It’s a fitting location for the organisation that does a significant amount of work for the Royal Family and is responsible for the restoration and conservation of many treasured pieces of textile history.
Before you enter the palace though, you might want to take the time to visit Creative Quilting, a lovely little quilting shop just before the bridge to the Palace.
It has a great selection of fabrics, patchworking and quilting books and all the assorted paraphernalia you might need. They are also happy to cut fabric from 10 cm widths, so you can get exactly how much you need. I was relatively restrained with purchasing a few Batiks for a scrappy quilt but I couldn’t help but leave with some of this absolutely fabulous Robert Kaufman fabric. Not sure what I’m going to use it for just yet, but it deserves a special project.
If anyone knows a UK retailer with a good range of Robert Kaufman fabrics, please let me know! Having seen Peggy Toole’s Lumia collections, I do want to get my hands on some.
Hampton Court Palace was one of the palaces belonging to the infamous English king, Henry VIII. Although it was originally intended for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, when he fell afoul of Henry’s fickle affections, gifted it back to the king, perhaps hoping he could avoid his downfall.
This week, I’ve had a few days away in London, mostly to see the Royal School of Needlework’s ‘Peacock and Pomegranates’ exhibition, but also to enjoy some of what the capital has to offer. One of the great things about London is just how much variety there is in things to do and places to go. For crafters in a lot places, the local yarn shop’s best offering is some sad looking balls of Robin’s acrylic double knit but in London, you’re spoilt for choice.
Shopping in general is also a different experience, with a wealth of glitzy stores housing luxury brands. However, learning a little about garment construction and how to sew a decent seam has made me realise that there is a lot of smoke and mirrors to expensive clothing. I will never fail to be amazed how many ‘top end’ brands still have sloppily overlocked seams and raw edges disintegrating by the day.
However, while managing to get completely lost in the bowels of Harrods, there was something that caught my eye…
This tiny section of beading and feathers is part of a beautiful velvet evening jacket by Ralph and Russo, a British haute couture fashion house. Normally haute couture is a little too bonkers for me but Ralph and Russo’s work is exceptional. The extensive hand embroidery on their pieces is an exhibit of the finest appliqué, beading, and metalwork. Sadly far, far beyond my budget but definitely worth a look at for some design inspiration.
Inspiration for new projects and designs can come from anywhere. Postcards often have excellent subjects for small embroidery designs and architecture can make an interesting starting point for thinking about shapes or maybe a piece of blackwork in its own right. However, there is one theme that is common in all forms of art, from thread painting to Romantic poets, and that is the beauty of the natural world. We were going to the right place to see nature at its finest, Kew Gardens, one of England’s most famous botanical gardens.