Monday, 30 May 2011

10 Minutes on the Couch with Mr X Stitch


We got a little bit excited in the office when it was confirmed that we were going to, 1) interview a cross stitcher (we’ve not interview a cross stitcher before) and 2) The cross stitcher in question is Male. Mr X Stitch attracts an ever growing following and is bringing a refreshed and welcomed edgy-ness to cross stitching.

How did you get into cross Stitch?
My first stitchery was an Alphonse Mucha art nouveau head, which I bought to take on a holiday to Canada. I liked the content matter, but I liked the juxtaposition of a big bloke like me doing something refined like cross stitch. It took me a year to complete the piece, but in that time I realised how much I enjoyed stitching, and so once I had finished it (framed it and given it to my Mum) I sought out another pattern. This one was Klimt’s the Kiss, and to this day it is my number one WIP, soon to be celebrating its sixth birthday!
My desire to stitch subjects a little closer to my heart led me to purchase some pattern making software, and I created Panika, my first graffiti cross stitch pattern. And it went from there!

Do you do any other craft as well as Cross Stitch?
I’m a bit of a geek so spend my time doing crafty online things – to be honest I consider blogging a bit of a craft, and running the various strands of the Mr X Stitch empire keeps me plenty busy. I have a day job as an IT trainer for a national children’s charity, so I spend a lot of time learning how to use new software, from desktop publishing to sound editing and all kinds of geekery in between!

If there were 3 things you could wish for in the needle craft world, what 3 things would they be?
That embroidery is taken seriously as an art form; that men feel comfortable doing stitching, and that textiles were taught more thoroughly in schools, along with those other practical subjects that seem to have fallen by the wayside. Oh, and that people understood the value of handmade items, therein paying a sustainable price for goods made using traditional handicraft methods.

Sometimes your designs can be a bit provocative, have you ever got into trouble for them?
Not particularly, as you can get away with quite a lot on the internet. I do find that the stuff I produce and the kind of stitching we feature on our NSFW Saturday posts at the website (http://www.mrxstitch.com/category/nsfw-saturday/) are unlikely to make it into mainstream media any time soon. However we live in the 21st century, and these themes are ever-present in popular culture, so I anticipate things will change eventually.

What exciting project are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a series of stitcheries based on the content of spam emails that I’ve received. I’m doing twelve of them to be included in an exhibition in Milton Keynes Gallery that runs from July to September. It’s a bit of fun, but there’s nothing like stitching for a deadline to test your commitment to the craft!

Do you sell your designs? if so where can we get our hands on them?
I have a range of downloadable cross stitch patterns that can be bought from the Mr X Stitch etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/shop/MrXStitch


What resources do you have on your website to help people with their projects?
To be honest, that’s an area that I need to improve. We have heaps and heaps of inspiration for people and our patterns point people in the direction of useful stitchy resources, like Mary Corbet’s series of needlework videos (http://www.needlenthread.com/videos). I have plans to develop the educational side of the Mr X Stitch experience – it’s on my ever increasing to-do list!

Men are into craft in the states, if you had to encourage a man to take up needle craft in the UK, what would you say to them?
“It’s okay. No one’s going to think you’re strange, particularly once they see you’re making something cool.” I’d also look forward to the point where they find the rhythm of stitching and learn how the meditative quality of stitchery combines with the creative side of it to transport them to a very nice place. It’s hard to explain but you know it when you get there.

If someone wanted to take up cross stitch, where online would you recommend they go as a starting point?
You could do worse than visiting crossstitch.about.com. Connie Barwick is the cross stitch guru, she’s lovely and has developed loads of resources to help people get started.

Who is your inspiration?
I get inspired on a daily basis by the different people I see that produce fantastic works with a needle and thread. There are simply too many people to mention. For a taster of some of the people that inspire me you could check out my new book PUSH: Stitchery, which comes out on 6th September. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon and contains interviews with 30 of the best contemporary needlecraft artists on the planet. Push Stitchery Artists  Boundaries Stitched

Describe your work in 3 words?
Kick Ass Cross-stitch.

Finally, we want to see you and your work, when are you coming to London?
I’m running some cross stitch workshops at the Science Museum on the 25th and 26th June, so you can come and hang out with me there. I’ve got lots of other plans, particularly once the book comes out. So you’ll definitely be seeing more of me!

Blog link: www.mxstitch.com
Twitter: twitter.com/MrXStitch
Facebook: facebook.com/MrXStitch

Monday, 23 May 2011

10 Minutes on the Couch with….. amy aardvark




When we heard there was an artist in Dulwich running local craft workshops, we got very excited about meeting with her to find out more, especially as her blog bio states ‘amy aardvark was born under a print table with a squeegee in one hand and needle and thread in the other’ what more could we ask for from our tutor…..

Tell us about your Arts background?
When I was twelve, I begged my art teacher to show me how to print and from there my passion for printing was born. I started with fine art printing before dabbling with textiles. Over the ensuing years, it was textiles that took the helm and – with a business idea brewing – it was textile printing that became the focus for amy aardvark. I have a degree in textiles print and I’ve run amy aardvark for approximately 5 years. My business currently encompasses home accessories – which are hand-printed on organic, fair-trade materials and ethically sourced – fine art print (under my real name, Amy Hutchings) and workshops teaching textile skills.

We love your branding, but tell us more about why you picked the name aardvark?
I had just moved into halls at University. On the first evening, around 30 strangers all sat in a room together. No one was talking, so I introduced myself, said “let’s play a name game – I’m Amy Aardvark, who are you...” and the name stuck!

What drew you to creating and teaching your own workshops?
I love working with other people and then it occurred to me that I could teach others my skills! I had taught creative textiles at a college and I’d run workshops in a variety of places, but I’d never thought to do it for myself. It’s the best thing in the world; I get to make new friends, chatter over cups of tea and cake, be creative and help others be creative – what better way to spend an afternoon?

 
How long have you been teaching craft workshops?
I ran the first one before Christmas and it was a great success. We had wine and mince pies and the girls all left with a cushion that they had designed, appliquéd, embroidered and then made! All in one afternoon – it was an incredible achievement!

Tell us more about your classes, what can we expect from them?
My classes focus on textile techniques, such as appliqué, hand embroidery and cushion making, although there are others: how to update and embellish a garment, plush toy making and purse making to name a few more. I also run badge making workshops for children and at festivals. Everyone rocks up and enjoys a cup of tea or freshly ground coffee and biscuits, then we have an introduction to the session, learn the basics (so the key stitches or the process to make something), consider what each participant wishes to achieve and discuss the best way to approach this and then we get cracking! There is always a point when the chatter of conversation dies down and is replaced by the sound of industrious working. We listen to good music, have refreshment breaks with toasted tea cakes and conclude with a great sense of achievement!

Do you do classes for kids? (put in the age group you cater for)
I run badge-making workshops for children, which pretty much spans all ages. I will be planning a few in over the summer – but at present I’m definitely booked to run the workshop at the South Park Gardens Music Festival, http://www.southparkgardensmusicfestival.com/ which is amazing! It’s an incredible festival that provides a platform for young musicians of all genres. Its host is XFM DJ John Kennedy and the guys who started it three years ago are the best I know.

Which is your favourite class and why?
To date, I think that the voodon’t valentine workshop was my favourite! It was great to see the participants using their new embroidery skills to create something so different, so personal. I was amazed by the results. 

 Do you have a secret sewing tip you could share with us?
When threading a sewing machine needle lick your thumb and fore-finger and wipe them over both sides of the eye. This breaks the tension and threading can be done in one try.

Do you have any exciting workshops coming up this year?
I do – the next one is in June and is the cushion making course. I have very limited places on this, so if you are interested get in touch soon to book. I also really want to run a lampshade workshop, where participants can design and create fabric for the lampshade of their dreams! I will then send their unique creation off to be hand-rolled into a professional lampshade!




Describe your classes in 3 words.
Friendly, informative, fun (don’t take my word for it – check out the feedback: http://amyaardvark.blogspot.com/p/testimonials.html )

Finally, when you add cream or jam to a scone, which do you spread first?
Definitely a layer of cream then a HUGE blob of jam smeared over it! Yummy!


Monday, 16 May 2011

Sew Over It - Clapham

If the thought of sewing a cushion fills you with dread, the cosy and relaxed atmosphere of the newly-opened Sew Over It sewing workshop in Clapham North should restore your confidence in your stitching skills. 

  With pretty dresses hanging in the window, embroidered pictures of birds with tags saying ‘sew me’ hanging on the walls and reams of luxurious material in the shop front, there’s much in Sew Over It to take inspiration from.


But if materials and handiwork doesn’t do it for you, owner, tutor and all round sewing fan Lisa Comfort certainly eases the transition from sewing virgin to eager beginner with her encouragement and calm outlook.

After picking from 14 gorgeous pieces of fabric and feeding us lemon drizzle cake and tea, Lisa takes our group of six downstairs to the workshop and talks us through the cutting process. As we’re all pretty new to sewing, Lisa takes things steadily, patiently explaining the patterns without losing us in sewing-speak. 

Cutting, pinning and ironing done, we huddle around her machine and are given a fool-proof guide to using the machine and plenty of material to practice on to get our stitches in shape.
Next, Lisa shows us how to make the crisp folds in our cushions by ironing a cm flap on each. This done, we listen as Lisa shows us how to sew the whole piece inside out and together, all the while stopping to answer questions and to help with any pickles we’ve got in.

Once the pillows are sewn together, we hold our breath as we flip them inside out and reveal the case in its stitched up glory. From there, we add in our cushions and are taught how to make fabric buttons to add to our finished work.
Lisa’s enthusiasm, expertise and fun outlook to sewing make this a great class to give beginners confidence in trying out new crafty projects.  And you get to take a cushion home too,  now I can take on another class, like the skirt workshop, patchwork lampshade or a leather clutch bag - oh the choices.

Sew Over It
Clapham North


Sunday, 8 May 2011

10 Things I Love

Tag you’re it!

A month ago I was tagged, by the lovely Clazzerati  to write a ’10 things I love’ post. I’ve never been tagged before and it was a little bit of a novelty and a little bit daunting, especially when I had to sit down and really think about, what 10 things I really loved.
A month later and lots of clicking of my camera, finally here are my 10 things I love (in no particular order).
Spring – Daffodiles, Daisies, Tulips and Rapeseed all remind me of spring and I’d always choose a 99p bunch of daffodils to brighten up my home , over any other flower!
Holidays – I’m known for going on and planning holidays. Whether they are in this country or abroad. I’m a big believer in work hard, play hard and I’ve got the bug to see and experience lots of different cultures and activities.
My Family – I don’t see them as much as I’d like too. This is my nephew, Ethan, I’m obviously bias because he is just adorable, every time I see him he has grown and changed a little and whether he is being good or a little bit naughty, he always makes me smile.
Retro Films – Seriously a Sunday afternoon wouldn’t be the same without an introduction of an 80’s film. I know you are smiling when you think films such as Pretty Woman, The Breakfast Club, Coming to America, The Lost Boys, Back to the Future, Greece and thankfully the list goes on and on and on.
Cocktails – I love cocktails, for me it is the taste of holiday. Pina Colada and Mojito are my favourite two. But hey I’m not picky, it’s a quick way to my heart...
    Sewing Machine – Through university my sewing machine was practically attached to my waist! And like all great relationships, when I finished university it was inevitable that we needed a little time apart. But recently I brought a new machine. My new digital machine makes sewing easy and I’ve fell back in love with sewing.
    Shoes – Shoes! Here are some of my shoes. I’m not great with heals, even though I continue to buy them, they are just so pretty, how could I not?
    Sunsets and Sunrises – Not something you often see in London, so when I’m on holiday it’s great to capture the moment. This picture always makes me smile, it was taken in the French Alps.
    Christmas Decorations – As a kid, my mom use to keep all of the Christmas decorations I made at nursery and school and each year she would buy a new decoration to add to the Christmas tree and this is something I have adopted. Every year I pull out my Christmas tree decorations, nostalgia takes over me and I’m in my element, each year I buy a new decoration. 
    As you can see my decoration colour theme is pink and black!
    Cupcakes – Not so much eating them, but I love making them. Last year I entered Cupcake Camp Competition London and Wow was I inspired by the hundreds of entries, it was amazing, watch this space for this year’s entries. (these little beauties are my carrot cake cupcakes)

    I hope you’ve enjoyed my ’10 Things I Love’ and as the rules state I now have to tag another 10 bloggers. 
    Here are my 10 bloggers, ‘Tag You’re It!’


    Rules:
    1) State who gave you this award in your post
    2) State 10 things that you love
    3) Give this award to 10 other bloggers, listing them at the end of the post, and notify them with a lovely comment :)

     

    Monday, 2 May 2011

    How to Make Pretty 3D Felt Flowers Tutorial - From Red Ted Art's Blog


    Materials:

    Felt (with natural fibres, such as wool or cotton), I did have a go with normal acrylic felt that you use for crafting with children. It DID work, but the effect was different – less whimsical maybe? But still pretty.
    PVA or Wood Glue
    Scissors
    a bed or felt bobble or a button, a hair slide or brooch.

    Step-by-Step 

    1) Cut a circle
    2) Cut petals (I did four on the small ones and 6 on the large one)
    3) Apply glue to both sides of the felt (I used my finger, but you can use a brush)
    4) With a brush or pen, shape the felt by folding it round the pen
    5) Put to one side to dry
    6) Revisit and reshape several times (I may have done this 4-5 times throughout the course of one day. If you place these under a light, with some foil underneath, it should speed up the process, so am sure you can get these done during one “TV” session)
    7) Play with the different petals and buttons and see what looks nicest. I found a little pearl button that was just too cute
    8 ) Sew on the button/ felt bobble and then sew onto your slide.

    Finished! Your perfect felt flower in time for the summer
    It's too cute not to make!
    For more great craft ideas check out the website: Red Ted Art
     
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