Balenciaga at the V & A

IMG_20170531_124750I love going to exhibitions.  There is something so inspiring  about seeing someone else’s creativity and trying to understand how they came to it.  Personally I don’t mind if it is medieval embroidery, 18th century Japanese art or the work of one of the most important couturiers of the 20th Century, which I visited with the lovely Helen Kurtz.

Cristobal Balenciaga was born at the very back end of the 1800s and was apprenticed early to a local tailor in the Basque region.  Clearly learning pattern cutting and how fabric behaves helped him well on the way to his career dressing some of the most famous women in the world.  The exhibition contains so many dresses and suits that I immediately recognised but hadn’t realised were his.

IMG_20170531_122822What I really loved about the show at the V & A was how they deconstructed some of his most famous pieces to explain his art, using X-rays and animations.  There was even a pad showing one of his most famous coats.  You could peel off a page, follow the fold lines and perforations to make a little model.  I would love to know if I could scale it up to a Juliet-sized coat.

IMG_20170531_122805The final room showed how other famous designers had been inspired by Balenciaga. Amazing!

The exhibition is on until February 2018 so plenty of time to go and see it. I might just have to go again.

Degree Show – Manchester School of Art

IMG_20170609_180719Last Friday I very proudly made my way up to Manchester. My eldest son has been studying three dimensional design for 3 years at Manchester Metropolitan and it was his degree show.  It was also a great opportunity for me to see what the fashion and textile students had been up to in the lovely company of Emma Varnam.

IMG_20170609_180716Following on from his dissertation that covered the democratisation of design and open source furniture, Joe’s final project was called Miss Marble.  He worked with a paper marbling artist in Bristol to learn how to use the technique on wood.  And the hard work paid off.  He won the alumni award for this work, but it doesn’t end there.  He picked up more awards for a collaboration with a glass blower.

IMG_20170609_180510IMG_20170609_180211The Project was called Breathe and Joe created the mould in beech wood based on sound waves before Jadhay blew the glass cylinder to go in.  The scorch marks you can see is because the wood burns when the glass hits it.  They will be doing an exhibition together in 2018.  Joe was really quite overwhelmed with all the accolades, especially because they were from fellow crafts people.

Then on to the textile  students.  I’m afraid I didn’t note down any names.

IMG_20170609_192036I loved this mixture of media.

IMG_20170609_182116A nice mix of machine knitting and crochet.

IMG_20170609_191612Quilting in an intriguing plasticised fabric.

IMG_20170609_191602Just look at those colours!

IMG_20170609_191943Interesting structure on this sleeve.

IMG_20170609_191717Printing on knitting.

IMG_20170609_191739Not sure how these were made but they are fascinating.

I feel so privileged to have seen so much amazing creativity under one roof. Congratulations to all the students at Manchester’s School of Art.

On Spinning

IMG_20170524_105434Are you as sick of my yarn diet as I am?  Well, I had a bit of inspiration a week or so ago and was led astray by the lovely Helen from The Josie Kitten blog.

I was reading one of her posts about getting her hands on some lovely fibre and I had a complete light bulb moment.  Fibre isn’t yarn….yet, so surely I am allowed to buy fibre?

It has been a while since I have had my spinning wheel out.  My lovely Lendrum wheel has been languishing in my mum’s loft and, as much as I find spinning oh so relaxing, I simply haven’t had time, what with making a concerted effort to finish projects.

Helen had written about some beautiful fibre she had bought from Picperfic’s Fluff n Stuff– – you really must check out Marianne’s shop.    I chose Smoothie in the lovely blue colourway and Wylie in shade Doris.

IMG_20170605_162312I took Helen’s advice to split the fibre before spinning to keep the colours reasonably consistent when it came to plying but, as you can see, I didn’t split it evenly enough and I still have a lot of singles on a bobbin. I will have to try Navajo plying to use it up. But aren’t the colours glorious?  I haven’t spun with  a silk blend very often and I will need to increase the draw speed so that I don’t get as much twist when I spin the next lot. Now to decide what to make with my new yarn.

Hooray for fibre!


Alison Ellen

IMG_20170515_084337Alison Ellen is one of the most interesting people I have met in hand knitting and her stand at Unravel a couple of years ago was a feast for the imagination. It’s hard for me to put my finger on why.  Her patterns aren’t always to my taste but in a world where designs can feel regurgitated or formulaic, her take on hand knitting is quite unique and very inspiring.

She studied textiles and worked for a while in print before she turned her gaze, and considerable creativity, to hand knits. But far from being satisfied with a two-dimensional take on the knitted medium, she turned her attention to three-dimensions.  The result is a body of intriguing work in yarns that she dyes herself.  Her emphasis is on construction and most of her designs are knitted all in one piece.

IMG_20170515_084535As part of my year of stashbusting, which already seems endless, I am tackling a simple poncho to get to understand her work better.  It is taken from her book called Knitting – Stitch Led Design which I managed to find on Ebay.  I haven’t followed her colour scheme exactly but am using up some Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal and Noro Silk Garden sock yarn.  Garter stitch is a favourite of mine and these mitred squares are like therapy.  I have tinkered with the pattern a little to get them to sit properly.

I have never managed to attend one of Alison’s workshops but she does teach all over the country and you can find out where she will be appearing next here.



Over the years I have done quite a lot of silversmithing, most recently at Rachel Jeffrey’s school in Wheathampstead.  It’s not always that easy for me to get to her evening classes but when she called to say she was running a Monday morning class I jumped at the chance to sign up for a 10 week term.  I love the way Rachel helps you to achieve a new design, guiding you through all the techniques you need to know and building your skills.

Now, strictly speaking I should be working, sorting through emails, planning posts etc but I have really felt the need to indulge my creative side and this feeling has been growing over the last couple of months. Starting my week by thinking of something other than pr and social media is actually framing my work time in a very positive way. And although I love knitting, working on jewellery is just so different that it’s a real tonic.

I like to make my designs in silver.  I love the way each piece behaves differently when you hammer it, the thrill of seeing the solder run in to a joint, even sawing is fun.  It is taking a bit of a toll on my finger nails but its definitely worth it.

So far I have been finishing off some pieces that have been languishing in my tool box – a lovely long chain with photo etched Mayan holy days linked in among other things.  That’s the picture at the beginning of this post.


Today I finished off this ring.  I cast the ivy leaf many years ago using the lost wax method and the ring is a cuttlefish casting from a couple of years ago.  They seemed to go so well together.

Next week the chain will also be finished and then I will start on a completely new design.  I’m not sure what it will be yet but I know I am going to have fun browsing through Pinterest for inspiration.

When bad things happen to good knitting


Just when I think that I am getting quite good at this knitting lark something happens to make me feel like a complete novice. I am very embarrassed to show you what a cock up I have made.

I have been knitting Red Shift by Jared Flood which is a fantastic pattern.  All my favourite things; stranded knitting, steeking, knitting in the round.  I didn’t use the recommended yarn because, as you know, I am on a yarn diet.  I chose two yarns from Gomitolis in lambswool and lambswool/cashmere from my stash.  They are typically Italian spun yarn with multiple ends and very bouncy.

I really enjoyed knitting the body of the shawl.  It looked great and the steek went really well.  I cast on the first part of the edging but when I finished it one side was a bit cockled.  I knew I had picked up the correct number of stitches so figured I would just block out the irregularity.


Then I picked up the hypotenuse border and noticed that the gap between the decrease shapings and the edge of the steek was really showing with yarn grinning through. Yuk.


Normally I would simply unravel a project.  I believe not being afraid to frog your work is one of the most valuable things I have learned.  But this work is steeked so it simply isn’t possible.

At the moment I am considering unravelling all the borders and trying to tweak the pattern to compensate for the overly lofty yarn that I chose. Instead of just getting on with it, I am trying to find as many other projects as possible to take my mind off my mistakes. I need to convince myself this is a learning opportunity rather than beating myself up for working in the wrong yarn.

Ho hum

Henry Moore

IMG_20170415_145330I remember going to an exhibition in around 1985 or 1986 at Leeds art gallery featuring the work of sculptor Jacob Epstein.  You may be familiar with his work The Rock Drill that I first saw at the Tate.  He moves between post apocalyptic, realistic, religious  and voluptuous figures.  I was completely fascinated especially since the gallery was quite small and you could get so close to the sculptures.

IMG_20170415_144321Jacob Epstein preceded Henry Moore and influenced his work.  I didn’t ever really feel that much for Moore’s work, feeling a bit smug about discovering Epstein, which is probably why I have never been to Hoglands at Perry Green.  This was Moore’s farm and now home to his foundation with a fantastic new visitor centre.  It is just 45 minutes from where I live and now I could kick myself for not visiting sooner.

IMG_20170415_163800 (1)I went with my husband and 3D designer son on Saturday.  The weather was amazing with huge fluffy clouds punctuating the blue sky and apple blossom everywhere.  IT jus couldn’t have been a more perfect way to discover his work and marvel at the curves, his vision and drive.

IMG_20170415_161848 (2)A new exhibition called Becoming Henry Moore is brilliantly curated to include the artists and teachers who influenced him as well as his contemporaries to give his work context.  The exhibition included early South American carvings from the British Museum as well as Modigliani, Hepworth, Epstein, Brancusi and other names I can’t remember. I just couldn’t help smiling as I wondered round just captivated by the richness of inspiration all gathered together in two rooms.

IMG_20170415_163411If you do get a chance I can’t recommend this exhibition highly enough.  It is immersive, interesting, historical, inspirational and plain joyful.