Friday, 10 December 2010

West Hampstead Community Christmas Market

West Hampstead Community Christmas Market
Saturday 11 December
West End Green, London, NW6

A community market organised by Camden Council, in which many local business will be participating.
And I will be doing a stall with my knitwear!

(You don't get the cat too! She appropriated this scarf, that I made for a friend!)

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Heritage Craft Association Spring Conference

HCA Spring Conference 2011

Saturday 19 March 2011, 10am to 4.30pm
Sackler Centre, Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London
This is the first day conference organised specifically for those working in heritage crafts and others who are interested and/or concerned about their future. A number of heritage crafts may be in danger of decline, but this is a day to celebrate the ways in which craft workers contribute to the rich tapestry of British heritage, and are a significant part of tourism and the economy.
After a short guest speech, Professor Tanya Harrod, well-known authority on crafts, journalist and author of The Crafts in Britain in the 20th Century, will talk on Craft Matters. This will be followed by a presentation of life and crafts on the Victorian and Edwardian Farm by Alex Langlands, one of the three people involved in living the life on the BBC programmes The Victorian Farm and The Edwardian Farm.
We have scheduled a long lunch hour which is a chance for you to bring in a piece of your craft for an Instant Gallery. You can either put a notice about how it was made beside it, or stay with your artefact and explain to others at the Conference how it was made, and the tools and materials you used to make it.
Then in the afternoon we have three short presentations from craftspeople, telling us their approach and how they run their businesses, and we finish with positive heritage craft news.
A sandwich (one and a half rounds) lunch, and tea or coffee will be available in the Sackler Centre (please note, lunch needs to be pre-ordered and paid for and tickets for this will be issued).

Programme for the day:

  • 10·00am - Arrival, register and coffee/tea available
  • 10·30am - Welcome, Patricia Lovett, Vice-Chair of HCA
  • 10·40am - A brief history of the Heritage Crafts Association, Robin Wood, Chair of HCA
  • 10·50am - Guest speaker (to be announced)
  • 11·10am - Keynote speech ‘Craft Matters’, Professor Tanya Harrod
  • 12·00pm - Break
  • 12.15pm - ‘Life and craft on a Victorian and Edwardian Farm’, Alex Langlands
  • 1·00pm - Lunch available (please pre-order)
    Instant Gallery of Craft
  • 2·30pm - Sophie Hussain – stained glass
  • 2·50pm - Stewart Linford – chair maker
  • 3·20pm - Break
  • 3·35pm - Gail McGarva – boat builder
  • 4·00pm - Good news! Recent successes of the Heritage Crafts Association
  • 4.30pm - Conference ends


To book:

Please send your completed form, along with a cheque for the whole amount made payable to 'Heritage Crafts Association', to:
Patricia Lovett
HCA Spring Conference
Gracious Lane
Kent TN13 1TJ
Please also enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope for the ticket(s).
You can also send your payment by PayPal to
Please include a note with your payment headed 'Spring Conference 2011' and mark on your booking form 'paid via PayPal'.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

William Morris on embroidery

A fascinating extract from Morris's essay SOME HINTS ON PATTERN DESIGNING.

As to embroidery-designing, it stands midway between that for tapestry and that for carpets; but as its technical limits are much less narrow than those of the latter craft, it is very apt to lead people into cheap and commonplace naturalism: now, indeed, it is a delightful idea to cover a piece of linen cloth with roses and jonquils and tulips, done quite natural with the needle, and we can't go too far in that direction if we only remember the needs of our material and the nature of our craft in general: these demand that our roses and the like, however unmistakably roses, shall be quaint and naïve to the last degree, and also, since we are using specially beautiful materials, that we shall make the most of them, and not forget that we are gardening with silk and gold-thread; and lastly, that in an art which may be accused by ill-natured persons of being a superfluity of life, we must be specially careful that it shall be beautiful, and not spare labour to make it sedulously elegant of form, and every part of it refined in line and colour.

(Some examples of designs by Morris)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Handmade - who pays?

Debate at London Design Festival, 2010

"In this so-called age of austerity, the luxury sector continues to flourish. What can businesses founded on principles of fine craftsmanship learn from luxury, and how can the handmade be best positioned in an era of more considered consumer spending?"

This was how the debate was introduced on the publicity leaflet issued by the organisers, CRAFTED, a mentoring organisation aimed at encouraging fine craftsmanship. This was the panel:

Guy Salter (Chair)
 - Deputy Chair, Walpole
Bill Amberg - Creative Director, Bill Amberg (Crafted mentor)
Priscilla Carluccio - Shopkeeper, Few and Far
Michelle Alger - Buying Manager (Home), Liberty
Ndidi Ekubia - Silversmith (Crafted mentee)

(I was a bit disconcerted when I arrived to discover that nearly everyone else in the audience was young - recent graduates from art college. Disconcerted because I am trying to start a craft business now I am retired!)

The debate was opened by Guy Salter, who posed the question of who pays for fine workmanship, and how can we reach them? The buyer from Liberty said that people tend now to concentrate on buying soft furnishings, especially cushions, with Liberty fabrics, some of which are very beautiful.

Someone from the floor introduced the idea that perhaps there is a move away from the 'throwaway' consumerism of the past into more of an appreciation of heirlooms, and of buying products that last - therefore of MAKING products that last.  Ndidi Ekubia, the silversmith, said that she was discovering that people are interested in the PROCESS as well as the product, people do come to her workshop and watch the process.

 Both  the buyer from Liberty and Priscilla Carluccio, who has a shop in which she sells craft products, were asked what they looked for in craft products. They were agreed that the basic requirement is that items should be hand-made, one-offs, not mass-produced. Furthermore, coming to a craft maker is very personal, it means more to people if they can meet the maker and see how s/he works. People want something beautiful, but also something durable that they can use. (To some extent this raises the question of what is the difference between CRAFT and FINE ART, but of course this was outside the scope of the discussion).

There is also the question of longevity, and sustainability; one member of the audience mentioned this in relation to textiles and fashion, and I joined the discussion at this point, to refer to the inevitable contradiction between sustainability and fashion. Fashion, by its very nature, is ephemeral - but there is also the nature of Classic Style, clothes which never go totally out of date, and perhaps this resolves the dilemma, and takes us away from throwaway consumerism. Someone else did suggest the idea that of course textiles can be recycled, clothes can be refurbished, the idea of Make do and Mend was discussed. I talked a bit about the items I make, mainly lace scarves and shawls, for which I use either Shetland Wool or Manos del Uruguay, which is a mixture of wool and silk, handspun by a women's co-operative in Uruguay.

I have made a hat and scarf set in the blue mixture illustrated in the above photo. There is also a contradiction embodied in the use of ethically produced, fairly traded yarn, in the amount of air-miles involved in exporting it to the UK. One of the things we need to communicate better is where we source our materials.

The discussion moved to the topic of people's need to make things, and Ndidi Ekubia, the silversmith, said that people have to realise that crafting is not just a hobby. That is to say, it CAN BE a hobby, but everyone at this debate is at least semi-professional. Another speaker from the floor then raised the perennial problem of the idea that "handmade" is perceived to be the same as "home-made", i.e something done in people's leisure time. (One of the panel said that this is not the case in France or Italy, which is interesting).

I again contributed to the discussion at this point, as I am only too aware of this problem, since I sell knitwear!! When people come to my stalls, they seem to realise that   a lot of work has gone into the items I am selling, but it still doesn't stop them saying things like, "Can you do me one of those, I'll give you a fiver for it"!! 
No-one would make such a request of  a furniture maker, jeweller, sculptor, for instance: but somehow people associate textile art and craft with hobbies for their grannies! Which brings us back to the point that we need to raise the PROFESSIONAL profile of craft.

Following on from this, the panel discussed the need for promoting and marketing our products - most of us are good at making things, not so good at promoting them! We all need to develop a greater understanding of how retail works.

I think it ended on a fairly upbeat note, giving all the participants a great deal of food for thought.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Knitting History Conference, Saturday 6 November 2010

Knitting History Conference, Saturday 6 November 2010
London College of Fashion,
20, John Princes Street, London, W1.

Speakers and Subjects already agreed:

Dr. Philip Sykas, Manchester Metropolitan University:
Silk Yarns for Knitting and their use in Britain.

Debbie Bamford
The natural dyeing of silk yarns.

Susan  North, Curator of Fashion 1550-1800, V & A Museum:
Knitting Backwards? Deciphering the Patterns of Historical Knitting

Dr. Carol Christiansen, Curator of Costume at Shetland Museums
details of the knitted garments found on the 17th century Gunnister man

There will also be a short AGM.

Fair Isle Sweater

This is the Fair-Isle sweater that I knitted for my partner, Tobias Abse.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Opera Shawls

I decided to make some lace shawls and name them after characters in opera. This one is Mimi...can you guess why?!

And here is the Queen of the Night!!

Shetland Lace Scarves

Here are some scarves I made in Shetland Lace wool, using a pattern from the 1950s (I think!)

My flower brooches

I make these flower brooches to sell; as you can see, they are in a variety of colours. The purple/lilac/mauve ones are intended to reflect the colours of the violas in my garden.