Les Soeurs Anglaises

Blog

.... let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

Susie, Carol and I would like to wish all the wonderful Les Soeurs Anglaises' guests, past and future - as well as all our fabulous workshop leaders and loyal newsletter readers - an extra-specially Merry Christmas during these uncertain times.  Our workshops this year have been full of exciting, talented and enthusiastic participants, arriving from all over the world and ready to positively rock and roll (sometimes with the punches);  meeting them has been our great pleasure and we hope very much to get to know them a bit better in the not too distant future.  Some have kept in touch with their "groups" and formed enduring friendships; many we have met for the first time but it felt immediately like they were part of our "family".  Thank you!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFMyF9fDKzE

If like us you are passionate about textiles, great food and superb, natural photography in equal parts then give some serious thought to joining us for 5 Delicious Days in June spent working alongside charming, master photographer , Ian Wallace, on our Food Styling and Photography Workshop.  Whilst expert chef and food stylist, Louise Pickford, takes you through the process of creating great food to photograph, Ian will be introducing natural daylight, colour and texture, all elements that inform Ian's work and often require little more than a few props and a mobile phone; simple "ingredients" that, once understood, can be adapted to many different types of photography, including , textiles, still life images, art works and even portraiture. Especially useful for archiving work, portfolios and illustrating your blog.   As Ian says, “To me it’s all about capturing the natural beauty of the subject to produce light, fresh, modern images".

  • Les Soeurs Anglaises and Come Cook in France (Louise and Ian) will be collaborating on a couple of Gourmet Weekends next year, combining fabulous menus, vintage wines, and superb ensuite accommodation for a maximum of 6 couples (12 individuals).  If you are interested, do please let us know and we will keep you posted.
  • And don't forget we're offering a 5% discount on any workshop place booked before the  31st December 2017 using the discount code:  2018/5%

So what is a Comedy Improvisation Workshop like?   It’s sometimes described as “helping you to get a wedge out of your head” (!). It helps you to rediscover your true sense of play and spontaneity. It’s creative - fast moving - and thoroughly enjoyable. It’s laughter provoking - often hysterically funny - often surprising - and is extremely liberating.  In a drama workshop style - with no previous experience necessary - we take you through an exploration of the underlying techniques of Comedy Improvisation and it’s “yes and…” mindset. As adults we have so often forgotten "how to play" and inadvertently get stuck in a “no but…” attitude to decision making and creativity. Comedy Improvisation can help unlock all of that - and help us to 'remember to remember' to enjoy ourselves in how we go about communicating and interacting with ourselves and others.

INSTANT WIT is not just for performers. It’s for anybody who wants to rediscover their creativity, be that for performing, for writing or for music - in generally helping you to unblock - Comedy Improvisation is a verbal form of Jazz!  

The best bit is, you don't have to be a PERFORMER - you just need to have a willingness to take part and a general desire to reintroduce a bit more creativity and spontaneity into your life!

Want to check out INSTANTWIT before committing?  You can catch their show at the Alma Tavern and Theatre on Saturday, January 20th 2018, at 8pm


At a recent "Tea Party" we were introduced to an exciting fabric designer, Caroline Somerville, whose graphic sense of colour and space lies somewhere in the space between the late, great Lucienne Day (whose pivotal, stylised, floral, furnishing fabric design for Heal’s Fabrics in the 40s kick started a long and much lauded career during which she produced numerous iconic designs), the Swedish company, Marimekko, and current hot favourite,  Orla Kiely.  We love her style and sense of fun and think her fabric would make a great outfit to go with a pullover designed by our very own Åsa Tricosa who will be returning to Les Soeurs Anglaises in September next year to lead another of her hugely poplular Knitting Im-Merceries.


 
 
katie armitage
giving fever.......

If, like us, your mailbox is exploding with Christmas offers of various shapes and sizes then you will understand why we have been reluctant to add to your  deleting duties.  However we can resist no longer and here is an eclectic array of our favourite arty-crafty, creative ideas (things that we would love to receive, in no particular order) that have passed through our in-box over the past few weeks and that we thought we'd pass along for each of the 12 days of Christmas just in case you're still stuck for the odd stocking filler or two......

And, of course, if you want to treat yourself this Christmas (because, let's face it, you're worth it), we still have a few places left on our creative workshops next year.  Whether it's folk art or music, laughter or cooking you're interested in, we're offering a 5% discount if you book a place before the end of 2018 (10% if you're a past participant!).  Just quote 2018/5% on our booking form

Make your own lavender or laundry bags with some scrummy vintage French linen from Beyond France.

If you're lucky enough to live where the seasons are reversed, you might be looking for a frock that's a little special for the festivities.  Meta Melbourne could be the answer.

Australia's answer to Delia Smith, Donna Hay recipes never fail to deliver and we recommend a subscription to her yummy magazine - download the Christmas edition full of seasonal recipes.

How about a charming print (or commission a painting) by the gifted watercolourist and past participant at LSA, Kay Elliott (no relation, I promise )?

Another of our past participants, Jone Hallmark of Santa Fe, is a prolific and creative force.  Her delightful felt broaches and "magic" mushrooms are all available on her Etsy page and are perfect for young and old alike! 

We've been searching for a full-finger mitten pattern we really love for quite some time.  Download this Ossify Mitt pattern in short order and you might have that homemade gift to present to your beloved on Christmas Day!

Ah..... what can we say about Cashmere Tights that isn't implicit in those very words?  100% comfort and warmth and soooo current.....

If you have a little more change in your pocket for something special then some wonderful calligraphy stitched onto an equally beautiful quilt might be just the ticket.  Coma Workshops of Colorado.

A little heartfelt gift for anyone who is constantly in danger of losing their keys (we have a red one that's easy to see in our handbag or desk).  Gorgeous soft leather keyring, in a variety of colours with your phone number embossed in case of loss.

Morgan Brig's extraordinary mixed media sculptures are simultaneously startling and equisite.  Available through several galleries in the US, they would be perfect for someone with a taste for the avant-garde.

More interested in des choses traditionnelles?  You're bound to find something of interest at Suzie Meek's French Country Living website with its constantly updated array of vintage French "finds" like this magi crown, perfect for the season. 

Christopher Neimann is an illustrator, artist, and author whose quirky work has appeared on the covers of  The New Yorker,  WIRED and The New York Times Magazine.  We particularly enjoy his cats cradle poster though you can buy his original drawings as well.

All our very best seasonal wishes and looking forward to meeting (again) some of you.

Katie, Susie and Carol

x

katie armitage
One thing leads to another.....

Or so we've found.....  You do something outside your comfort zone, feel that tremor of anxiety before you begin, not quite knowing why you ever agreed to do it and before you know it, a whole new vista of possibilities opens up before you - new people, new opportunities new views on life.  Which  might explain why we have decided to take a small step away from textile based workshops and move into new areas of creativity to host at our warm and welcoming venue in beautiful S W France.  

Always interested in "how things work", a few years ago I joined one of Robert Race's workshops and was bowled over by the gentle and generous way he shared his immense amount of knowledge and skill with those wishing to learn the magical mechanisms of automata. No matter how impractical or complicated the participants' ideas appeared, we were never told, "it can't be done"; instead, at the end of the five days, Robert, with the help of his calm logic and a huge knowledge of the necessary tools, materials and equipment found a way to make sure every one of us came away with our personalised automata functioning to a greater or lesser extent.  Designing and making automata is an incredibly addictive  hobby - whether your skills lie with art, engineering, science, or crafts - and no matter if you're a novice or already have experience in some relevant way, Robert's workshop is a brilliant introduction.  Places on his second workshop here next May, Motion Impossible II are already filling up, but we have a few left for anyone interested in this sorcerous art.

The actress and narrator, Barbara Flynn - who most recently appeared in The Durrells in Corfu TV series which was nominated by the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series - is also, it so happens, a very talented jeweller whose work will be available to buy at the North and South Gallery, Highgate, London N6 between 23rd and 26th of this month (November).  As she says, "My parents were always creative so I was surrounded by their fascination and watched as they made pottery, jewellery, rescued old furniture and also attended auctions in their search for interesting items to add to their collections.  My father introduced me to silver work, but my fascination in gemstones came, I think initially, from my love of colour and how it makes me feel".  We love her precise and stylish designs that upgrade any outfit with a touch of glamour and colour!

These incredible miniature carvings by the artist Salavat Vidai beggar belief!  I've seen them before but was surprised to find them for sale on Etsy.  Prices start at a cool £900 and you probably need pretty good eyesight to enjoy the full beauty of them, but incredible nevertheless.

You might also enjoy the delicately beautiful work of Kate Kato, a young UK based sculptress who works in recycled paper, wire, thread and textiles to produce intimate, life-like fauna and flora.  Her work will be on display at an exhibition at the Thompson's Gallery, Aldeburgh, UK from 2nd December 2017 - 7th January 2018

Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, if you're trying to think of something completely different to give your significant other for Christmas, we suggest you book them in for our first Improvisational Comedy Weekend with InstantWit between the 17th and 21st May; Chris Grimes, who will be spearheading this event with three of his co-conspirators, promises that no previous experience of acting, performing or comedy improvisation is remotely necessary - just a willingness to take part, and a general desire to access more fun and spontaneity in everyday life.  Could be just the ticket for someone you feel could benefit from a few days of relaxed, highly creative, fun and laughter.  This three day workshop, already beginning to fill up, will include the opportunity on Saturday evening to sit back, alongside members of the public, and enjoy a full performance of Instantwit.  

It's never too early to start making homemade decorations and present (is it?).  When most of us have too much in the way of bought stuff already, they are actually the only ones we have on or under the tree these days,.  One of our favourite "crafters" is the lovely Ann Wood whom we've mentioned before in our blog and from time to time she offers on her website several delectable, freebie project patterns.  Based in Brooklyn, New York, near Prospect Park she works with mostly found and salvaged materials, many of them vintage or antique garments and is interested in transformation: cardboard boxes become turreted castles, follies and windmills, and wretched and ruined old petticoats and gowns become roiling, boiling seas for papier maché ships and boats. There's not a lot not to like About Ann and one of these days we WILL get her over to lead a workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about about the exciting events we are hosting next year, or email us directly if you have any questions.

katie armitage
roll up, roll up........

November will soon be rolling around with Christmas chaos not far behind so we'd like to invite you to visit our website with our calendar of events for 2018 before the mania sets in.  The very first thing you'll no doubt notice is that with over 11 years of hosting workshops under our belt, we are straying from the path of textiles, expanding our interests, and fizzing up our choice of creative cross-pollination.  It's not been easy finalising the short-list, and whilst we are delighted that favourites Julie Arkell and Åsa Tricosa will be returning next year to lead their incredibly popular workshops (we love these ladies!) - as well as the talented Robert Race who'll be introducing more movements behind his extraordinarty automata - we've also snuck in some seriously innovative and entertaining events over the 2018 summer season..  You'll need to visit the website for our full programme and we really hope you'll feel more than a little inspired; but if the dates don't quite fit and you know of someone who could use some inspiration at our welcoming and supportive venue, we'd love you to pass along the website details.  After all, there is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.

So here goes.....:

  • A Food Styling and Photography workshop with Louise Pickford and Ian Wallace of Come Cook in France.  Having been on several of their one-day workshops ourselves, we can guarantee this will be a wonderful 5 day / 6 night event, particularly relevant to anyone interested in food, its sourcing and representation.
  • Laughter is definitely the best medicine in these uncertain times, so if you're in need of adding a smidgeon of mirth (and who isn't?) you couldn't be in better hands than those of Instantwit. Absolutely no experience of acting, performing or comedy improvisation is required to benefit from a blockbuster funny weekend with these masters of comedy, who have been making people giggle out loud for the past 20 years.. 
  • After her hugely popular appearance at our Blues and Boogie Weekend last July, the  multi-talented US Jazz pianist, saxophonist and singer, Deanna Bogart, will be returning to Les Soerus Anglaises to lead her first week-long  Jazz Lab here.   Whether you're  someone  approaching jazz for the first time, a more advanced player, or a professional looking to "sharpen your musical edges" this event promises to open your heart to the infinite world of Jazz whatever your musical qualifications (or lack of them).

Next year we've decided to keep our numbers low;  this not only allows more individual participant time with the workshop leaders, but we've found adds generally to the relaxed and informal atmosphere of Les Soeurs Anglaises.   But this mean places fill up a little more quickly, so don't delay if you're thinking of joining us.  To help you decide we are offering a 5% discount if you book before the end of 2017 / 10% if you've been a participant here before.  

Meanwhile, here are a few things to keep you busy....:

  • Matisse in the Studio at the Royal Academy, London:  5 August — 12 November 2017.  This sumptuous exhibition offers a rare glimpse into the artist’s personal collection, as well as the paintings, sculptures and drawings it inspired. Seen together, they reveal how Matisse’s masterful vision of rich and masterful energy first stemmed from the collage of patterns and rhythms which he found in the world of objects. Not to be missed.
  • The Knitters Yarn is a new website offering super stylish patterns and superb yarns.  The mastermind behind the site is Susan Rutherford, a past participant of a Les Soeurs Anglaises/Patricia Roberts workshop several years ago.  When Patricia's yummy, bijou shop in Knightsbridge closed down last year, Susan, and her daughter Alice who studied Fashion Design at College and University,  were keen  to build up a collection of yarn and patterns to encourage others to learn knitting from scratch, to take up their needles again or to extend their existing knitting repertoire.  A crisp and beautifully presented website with easy to follow links.
  • Oh, to be 15 years old again.   Flamenco at 15 the Academy Award-winning short documentary, is a welcome antidote to the depressing specter of youthful bodies in a chronic state of computer-related postural collapse.   Director Cynthia Scott’s thirty-minute vignette cannot help but show off the beautiful, highly trained physiques of the young dancers delving into the art of flamenco at Canada's National Ballet School.  Be inspired....
  • Japanese artist Noriyuki Saitoh constructs life-sized insects using bamboo captures anatomical essences with uncanny skill. The natural material’s versatility lends a surprisingly wide range of colors and textures to each creature. And although the first impression is of insects that are ready to crawl or fly off the page, Saitoh engages a thoughtful process of paring down each bug to its essential forms that give the impression of life.
  • Looking for plain organic fabrics for an upholstery project or long skirt?  We can recommend the mail-order company, Whaleys of Bradford, West Yorkshire..  With everything from plain cotton twills, to linens, muslin, buckram and silk; coated fabrics for digital printing, hair canvas and interlinings.  A veritable candy store of tempting textiles for every and any project you've been considering.  No time like the present....

Want to know more about one of our event for 2018?

Name *
Name
Event *
Looking ahead.....

In less than a week we will be hosting our last workshop of the season:  Asa Tricosa’s Knitting Im-Mercerie.  We are delighted to have a full house for this ebullient, generous and super-talented knitting teacher whose sense of style, and colour creativity is such an inspiration.

workshopCollage-768x384.jpg

Our action-packed events earlier this year included Motion Impossible with Robert Race; Julie Arkell's Museum of the Kind and Curious; Chris Manning's Slow Stitchery Week and our much loved Blues and Boogie Weekend

This summer has been one of our busiest season ever and with ten years of workshops under our belt we feel it is time to ring the changes with a few entirely different kinds of events next year - hopefully to keep things fresh and interesting for both you and us.  Some of them are not textile related but that doesn't preclude stitchers; they are all designed to encourage you to look at your creative world from an unlikely angle, a bit like inverse yoga poses (talking of which, after her super-successful yoga classes at Chris Manning's workshop in June this year, we hope to have Liz Bolton back to supplement some of the workshops with daily yoga sessions).  

Dates haven't yet been confirmed but they will all take place between the beginning of April and the end of September 2018, and if you are interested in us pencilling your name in for one, or simply want to hear full details as they become available, please let us know.  Here are some of the events, but there may be more to come......

COME COOK IN FRANCE

Food Styling and Photography: 5 day 6 night workshop


JULIE ARKELL

Papiér Maché and much, much more:  5 day 6 night workshop


INSTANT WIT

Comedy Improvisation Masterclasses & show:  long weekend


ATO

Self-Publishing for the ARtist/Crafter: 5 day 6 night


BLUES AND BOOGIE

Deanna Bogart Masterclass followed by long weekend of jazz & blues & boogie woogie


For those of you living close to Les Soeurs Anglaises we highly recommend a visit to Emma Whigham's one-man show in Aubeterre, from the 26th September to  7th October.  Emma is currently concentrating on her beautiful collage work - a combination of hand-printed monoprints, outcuts and ephemera, all deliciously fused and framed to perfection.  If you are not in the area but are interested in more information you can contact Emma directly.

Before we leave you, we would like to quote something about love from the late, great  American playwright, actor, author, screenwriter, and director, Sam Shepard, who died in July this year.  A difficult man, no doubt, but the description of his love for his wife of 30 years, Jessica Lange, are worth recording:

I love this woman in a way I can’t describe; a feeling of belonging to each other that reaches across all the pain. It’s as though we’ve answered something in each other that was almost forgotten. I look back ..... and  see myself hunting desperately for something I wasn’t finding. I know the Work point of view is the only true one. That life is inside. That nothing outside can ever finally answer our yearning. I know that’s true but, in some way, finding Jessie has reached something inside me. A part of me feels brand new — re-awakened. 

Ahhh....

RIP

RIP

Until next time

KATIE

katie armitage
.... summer moves on

With three full events this season under our belt and our Blues & Boogie Weekend only a couple of weeks away, we are sucking ice-cubes and spending as much time as we can in the pool, in an effort to stay cool, calm and collected!  August is a quiet month for us and by September we will be all geared up and raring to go for Åsa Tricosa's 5 day workshop "A Knitting Im-Mercerie" .  One of the participants to this workshop has had to pull out for family reasons so if any of you are intereted we can offer one place at a £200 discount for single occupancy of a Superior Room OR £100 discount for two of you sharing.

So why not ask one of your favourite knitting friends to join you for this workshop with one of the most inspiring teachers around (she's been invited by Vogue Knitting Live to teach at one of their seminars next year - that's how good she is)?   Prices can be found here (in the "additional notes" box add the ATspecial for the discount when booking).

We'd love you to join us and, knitting aside, here are some good reasons why:

Dear Les Soeurs, Thank you again for the time of mylife I spent with you – it was so wonderful and restorative and I am still carrying the warmth and creative spirit with me.   Love to you all.   Kate M UK

Dear Les Soeurs,  Thank you so much for a wonderful week!  The food was totally delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed the company, atmosphere and workshop.  Thank you so much for all you did to make our stay so enjoyable.  Susan J USA

Dear Les Soeurs.  Thank you for such an incredibly enjoyable, interesting week and for looking after and feeding us so well.  We had a truly wonderful few day at your beautiful venue.  Suzanna P Italy

katie armitage
...... a visit to the Museum .....

After another delightful week with Julie Arkell and her Museum of the Kind and Curious theme this year,  we are ready for a short quiet spell before our Slow Stichery Event commences.  We are expecting a full house and the weather (at the moment) looks promising, so we'll be encouraging participants to bring along their cossies!  

Last weekend we open L'Espace's studio for a celebration of the life of friend and neighbour, Billie Jean Spillie who died recently after a long and painful illness that she endured without complaint.  People who have attended workshops here will have seen her beautiful, idiosyncratic, spiritual paintings in most of the rooms - some of you may also have been lucky enough to visit her studio whilst you were here - and her artistic integrity (she was never remotely interested in making money through her art though when younger she mixed with the great and the good;  she just wanted to get it out there) and positive, attitude to life, despite her failing health, will be much missed. 

If you are currently in UK we can recommend two exhibitions to take your mind off all the current political shenanigans, one at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; and the other at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne and both representing some of the best of British Art through from the 1920s through the two World Wars to the 1960s.

I have to confess I am a complete typography and graphics junkie.  In fact I have to stop myself from filling my computer with all the downloadable free fonts available on the Internet.  Some   sites, such as 1001 simply ask for a donation to the designer which seems more than fair, others are much more expensive.  

Alexis Tyrsa is a young French graphic designer  with a bright future. For him typography is just the starting point of a project and his goal is to reinvent the letter without losing its meaning or beauty.   Check out his recent design for Medécins sans Frontières and their Dutch agency, Wieden+Kennedy.  We will be contributing all the profits from our Blues & Boogie Weekend this July to this superb charity and we're delighted that young professional artists are donating their talents to such a good cause.

The work of Richard McVetis is both extraordinary and meticulous.  Using his fine stitchwork he explores how objects, materials and places, through the action of hands, bear witness to the passing of time.   Imagine how exciting that becomes when alongside his creative supervision  you learn the traditional mending techniques so beloved by Celia Pym.  This September they will be joining forces at our unique, week-long workshop Embroidery & Mending;  drawing on their shared love of stitching, and paying special attention to time, labour, care and repair, they will be offering participants the opportunity to learn traditional mending skills and then applying those to a personal project.  

The residential places for our popular Blues & Boogie Weekend here in July are almost full now, but if you are in the area you can still buy tickets online to the individual concerts.  Don't leave it too late though as there is always a rush for seats closer to the dates and our bijou venue can only accommodate a limited number of guests. With our three internationally acclaimed musicians performing at each concert, and food throughout prepared by Masterchef Sven-Hanson Britt and his team, it'll be a great way to start your summer in ernest.

Have a sunny, stitchery June!   

katie armitage
.... motion possible.....

We thought we would open this newsletter with a quote from one of the guests at our recently completed Motion Impossible workshop.  

"Just returned from an idyllic week at Les Soeurs Anglaises Motion Impossible workshops in France. I was part of the important support team of thirteen magicians who made things jiggle, ding and go thunk including Tim, Katie, Robin, Sabrina, Helen, Ursula, Ove, Robert M and Dave with #RobertRace as the head of operations. The animatronic sculptures ran on a mixture of wind, solar and water power. There were some rather clever people there, but who cares about them, it was the support team who kept them moving. Fabulous week, amazing experience. Thanks Les Soeurs Anglaises!"

Says it all, really.

Our next two workshops - Julie Arkel's "The Museum of the Kind & Curious"; and Chris Manning's "Slow Stitchery" - are full to capacity but there are still have a few places remaining for Åsa Tricosa's "Knitting Im-Mercerie" and Celia Pym & Richard McVetis' "Embroidery & Mending" events, both this September, a particularly beautiful time of year down here in S W France.  Generally still warm enough to swim but not too hot to sit outside to knit, sew or simply listen to the birds..

Åsa Sōderman has knitted her way from Sweden to Germany via New York and Boston and Singapore, and Sussex; and whilst she's never been interested in knitting academia as such she's seriously attracted by clever knitting solutions (mostly top-down) and her Ravelry followers are legion.   She will be bringing with her some of her favourite Rohrspatz & Wollmeise yarns for participants to try over the five-days of stitching.  We can't wait.

Master mender, Celia Pym, returns to Les Soeurs Anglaises for a week of traditional embroidery and mending techniques, this time accompanied by much-lauded fellow embroiderer, Richard McVetis.  Richard is celebrated for his meticulously worked wools and multiples of embroidered dots and crosses, which explore the similarities between pen on paper and thread on fabric . His beautiful commissioned pieces often explore how objects, materials and places, through the action of hands, bear witness to the passing of time.  Celia and Richard's week-long event offer the opportunity to engage the mind and lift the spirits before the arrival of quieter autumnal and winter months ahead.  Morning and evening yoga sessions with Liz Bolton of Silver Yoga will be offered and are included in the price.

On a different note, betwixt and between June and September this year we will be hosting our second  Blues & Boogie Weekend to raise funds for the much-needed charity, Medécins sans Frontières.  Why not join us and you can knit or sew along to the great music? 

The three concerts between the 21st and 24th July will feature top International blues, jazz and boogie woogie pianists, Silvan Zingg, Deanna Bogart and the fab Luca Sestak.  Thoughout the weekend, food will be prepared and served by Sven-Hanson Britt (Masterchef, The Professtionals finalist) and his team of top chefs.  There will be jive demos (and a class for those with surplus energy) and an opportunity to enjoy our wonderful venue with like-minded enthusiasts.  Join us for the individual concerts, or for the whole weekend (we have one double en suite bedroom still available!) and help an important charity.

katie armitage
.... hare today ....

My favourite animals in the whole world (apart from our dog, CoCo, of course) are hares, and the current spring-like weather we are experiencing appears to bring them out of their "forms" and across our paths on a regular basis down here.  So magical. And what I like to think of as my familiar would also appear to be the favourite of a certain Mrs Bertimus living in North Lincolnshire, a remarkable art tutor, painter, stitcher and general maker of things,

Mrs Bertimus has a wealth of experience and a personality to match, her pieces are a combination of her love of drawing and that of hunting in charity shops for unloved fabric she can collect and reinvent.  She makes bags, pictures, tea cosies and cushions ~ all made on the sewing machine she was given for Christmas when she was 13. {She didn’t want it; she’d asked for pedal pushers} and it’s all environmentally friendly because she is recycling fabric and uses water-based screen printing inks.  Subscribe to her on Instagram and keep up with her extraordinary creativity!

......IF YOU'VE MISSED THE ARKELL BOAT THIS YEAR....

...because all the places on Julie Arkell's workshop here this year are now booked, all is not lost.  Julie's two fab little books - HOME and AWAY - are currently available to buy separately or together at the charming on-line bookstore Ãto who are offering Les Soeurs Anglaises' participants and newsletter readers a special 10% discount if they order using the code: LSA10.  The cherry on the cake is the discount can also be used against any of their wonderfully curated and beautifully designed publications of original artist/makers such as Pauline Burbidge, Ptolomy Mann, Jilly Edwards and Rozanne Hawksley; a website to keep in your favourites file.

....DEFINITELY IN VOGUE.......

... is our favourite knitting queen, Åsa Sōderman, returning workshop leader of the Knitting Im-Mercerie here this September.  If you missed the Vogue Knitting issue, you can read her fascinating and circuitous life's journey here.  Her first book on knitting will be available later this year, hopefully in time for the workshop (a few places are still available).

 ......THINK BIG......

.... says one of our readers, Janie Grimes, who directed us to fibre artist Jacqui Fink based in Sydney Australia.  Jacqui works predominantly with high grade and naturally coloured merino wools from the antipodes and through the lens of her bespoke studio Little Dandelion, she focuses on creating textiles both extreme in their scale and the physical challenge they represent for one pair of hands. The process is entirely self-taught and the textures she creates are rich, luxurious and have the power to imbue both solace and joy to the observer. You can find several patterns and video tutorials of her larger than life technique on her website and whilst launching into a similar project may not be for the faint hearted, extreme yarns are available through Amazon both in the UK and USA. Can't wait to give it a go and burn up some calories.

....EN PASSANT...

.. .. la Soeur, Susie would like you to consider... " that the coming of age should be moved from 21 to 61.  By then you know that the past is your travelling companion for life; that love is flighty and elusive; that hatred is corrosive; that laughter is essential for stability; that happiness is rarely permanent; that sorrow does ease if not cultivated; that health is a moveable feast; that accidents can often be laid at one’s own door; that family and friends are not guaranteed; that experience can make us fearful; that repetition is inevitable; that the brain needs to be nurtured; that you can’t manufacture ambition and that the level of your success in life should be judged by you alone.
......LOOKING BACK.....

Have you ever given serious thought about the amount of work involved in the production of a Victorian dress?  Well neither had I until I came across the precocious 18 year old seamstress, Jessica Pedersen, from Vancouver and her blog The Historical Attire.  Another self-taught crafter, she dropped out of a degree in Costume Design because she felt she could learn more through reading and researching her passion, Victorian clothing between 1840s-1860s, on her own.  The results are quite fabulous and the skill and patience required extraordinary, especially for someone so young. She has also taught herself how to draft patterns, and uses these to make sure her patterns are historically accurate.  Whilst you may not want to go back to wearing stays and petticoats, I'm sure the techniques once learned could be adapted to current styles to great effect.

..... TALKING OF OLDEN DAYS......

... you may associate the harpsichord with Renaissance and Baroque music, but think again.   Luca Sestak - who will be joining us, together with International musicians Silvan Zingg and Deanna Bogart, for the full Blues & Boogie Weekend we are hosting this July - demonstrates exactly how to bring an historical instrument up to modern speed.   We still have a couple of accommodation options available for the full weekend if you fancy a few days of fantastic live music, fabulous food - prepared and served throughout the weekend by Sven-Hanson Britt, Masterchef; The Professionals finalist and Miele's UK executive Chef - and great company, all to raise funds for Medécins dans Frontières.  

The American artist Jodi Colella lives in Somerville, MA, USA and works with a broad range of materials to create provocative, tactile works that often include public participation. Her work is raw and extraordinary and if you are anywhere near Studio 105, Miller Street, Somerville, MA 02143 on the 31st March, 1st or 2nd April we suggest you pop in to see her show.  As she says, "I come from a place of traditional handwork technique. That's where I usually start when making my structures and playing with materials, but then it goes somewhere else. It depends on a little bit of whimsy and what feels right for what I'm trying to create at the moment." Jodi also teaches needle felting like you've never seen before at the Mauds Morgan Arts Centre.

for those of you with time to spare later in the summer, we still have a few places remaining on both our September workshops:

Knitting Im-Mercerie with Åsa Tricosa

Mending and Embroidery with Celia Pym and Richard McVetis

Read the recipe for our much-loved Eggs with Pickled Tumeric inspired by 101 Cookbooks.

katie armitage
.. things to do to keep warm...

Click here to read this newsletter more easily on our website blog (if you are not already doing so....)

Our recipe this month.......

Visit Les Soeurs Anglaises'  February inspirations......... for another little quiz!

If you're currently sitting on a beach in southern Australia, you might be able to pop across to see Viktor Horsting & Rolf Snowden's extraordinary exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (we, European's have no conception of Antipodean distances);  but if, like those of us enduring the northern hemisphere climes, you are stomping your feet and trying to keep warm then you might find a moment for a few ideas to get your blood (and creative synapses) moving.

The cold weather generally slows us all down a tad, but we could of course view this as an opportunity to become more mindful in the present, using the time for unhurried and undemanding projects, recharging our creative batteries and allowing ourselves to enjoy some of life's simpler pleasures, often the most enriching.

It's not exactly the mushroom season anywhere as far as we know (in fact all the delicious local cep here were gathered a good two months ago) but we thought you might, alternatively, enjoy stitching your own.  You can find a pattern for some dear little fungi on Anne Wood's website alongside various stitchable birds and beasties. Incidentally, we're very much hoping to have Ann over next year to lead a short workshop so do let us know if it's the sort of event you might enjoy.

Northern Californian based artist,  Linda Christensen is a firm favourite of ours.   She has no interest in showcasing the perfect human form, or in pedantically depicting in realistic detail a person’s exterior, but rather in expressing the sub-surface focus of emotional interiors which she does so brilliantly with her hot and cool hues layered in oil impasto, often combining palette knife, oil pastel and sometimes graphite stick. The results are nearly always of women, often her own adult daughters, who appear to be unaware of being observed, deep in thought, being mindful of the present even: limbs are heavy and languid, torsos often soft and slumped, and Christensen’s message would appear to be that being alone is not equivalent to loneliness; it is the way to feeling at home within yourself.

It seems everything these days has to be planned weeks (if not months) ahead, so if you're remotely interested in knitting and yarns - and you're within striking distance - you might like to book tickets for this year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival - 10TH/11TH MARCH 2017.  Our very own favourite knitter, Åsa Söderman of Åsa Tricosa fame - who will be returning to lead one of her immensely popular workshops for us in September, Knitting Im-Mercerie - will be there, not teaching this time, but to launch a design from her new book at the Ginger Twist Studio stand.  This hip, vintage inspired, yarn shop stocks high quality fibres and beautiful yarn for a wide range of budgets. It’s like a sweetie shop for knitters, crocheters, spinners and weavers.  Åsa is super-friendly and you won't regret making the effort of saying hello.

A couple of years ago we had hoped to have the very talented Edinburgh-based weaver, Fiona Rutherford, here to lead a workshop but despite our best efforts it didn't pan out. However, for those with an interest in learning how to create the surface lines, marks and textures in weave by a careful mixing of yarns and colours, she will be at Handweavers Studio and Gallery, North London towards the end of February leading a two-day course.  To learn more or to book a place, contact them directly:  T: 020 7272 1891

London is always full of places to visit and things to see, and when we were there last week we popped into the Welcome Collection on the Euston Road.  Situated in their wonderful building with library and myriad resources, the exhibition Making Nature: How we see animals is a year-long exploration into man's relationship with nature, examining what we think, feel and value about other species and the consequences this has for the world around us. It brings together over 100 fascinating objects from literature, film, taxidermy and photography to reveal the hierarchies in our view of the natural world, and considers how these influence our actions, or inactions, towards the planet. Simply fascinating......

We still have a few remaining spaces on our Slow Stitchery week-long break towards the end of June.  This is the ideal opportunity to delve deep into a personal project currently on the go, or perhaps one you'd like to kick start. You'll be working in our inspirationally light and beautiful studio alongside Chris Manning, a passionate and award-winning stitcher and quilter who'll be there to aid and abet your creativity with her wealth of traditional and modern needle working techniques.  Between stitches, brocante visits and quiet time beside the pool, and to help you further unwind and release your creativity, Liz Bolton of Silver Yoga, will be leading optional yoga sessions twice daily.  The choice of what you do, how much and when, will be entirely yours and we’ll actively encourage you to go at your own pace. Meanwhile, if you happen to find yourself in the Utah area of the US, Chris will be exhibiting some of her exquisite quilt work at the Bountiful Davis Arts Centre from the 24th February to 31st March.  Definitely worth a go-to.

Please don't forget our Blues and Boogie Weekend coming up in July.  Whilst it may not be your personal tasse de thé,  you might know of someone who would enjoy three evenings of infectious rhythms, masterful musicianship and riveting vocals, as well as great food and a brilliant atmosphere, and we would very much appreciate you passing the information along. We have two of Europe's, and one of the US's, best-loved pianists donating their talents for a great cause (Medécins sans Frontières), funds that will be much needed in the uncertain times  ahead. 

To close, here are a few words of Goethe's concerning our approach to creativity: 

"We are all collective beings, let us place ourselves as we may. For how little have we, and are we, that we can strictly call our own property? We must all receive and learn both from those who were before us, and from those who are with us. Even the greatest genius would not go far if he tried to owe everything to his own internal self. But many very good men do not comprehend that; and they grope in darkness for half a life, with their dreams of originality. I have known artists who boasted of having followed no master, and of having to thank their own genius for everything. Fools! as if that were possible at all; and as if the world would not force itself upon them at every step, and make something of them in spite of their own stupidity."
katie armitage
.... Let's start again.....

Leaving the old year behind and welcoming in the new, allows us all an opportunity to reappraise and reassess our lives and lifestyles. It's surprising how many goals we put off until this time but, hey, better now than never.  Much as we at Les Soeurs Anglaises love our workshops and the stimulating and delightful people we always meet, this quiet time is as necessary as any trip away from home to refresh our approach to life.

In an effort to prolong this gentle viewpoint, our workshops offer participants the opportunity to leave their adult troubles at home for a few days and enjoy the pleasures of working with our hands; the repetitive processes involved in (re)creating new from old... or simply fixing or reconfiguring what is broken or damaged to make it beautiful - and often useful - again.. A line of yarn, a block of cross-stitch, a ball of wool, some papier maché stained with colours from the garden, a dash of joyful music and we are transported to our younger years when life was so much less complicated.  Once our hands have learnt to relax, to settle, to lead the making, a whole new vision appears. 

This is often the season when we glance back to a time when our lives may appear to have been so much simpler; but there are ways in which we can return to that unselfconscious, creative life without nostalgia. We are delighted that Celia Pym and Richard McVetis, both champions of the art of upcycling will be combining their skills and experience to lead our first joint workshop, Embroidery and Mending, in September this year. During the week long event, there will be an emphasis on the slow rhythms of hand-stitching, surface design, pattern, texture and embellishment to demonstrate how a unsightly flaw in a damaged sweater, or a torn or marked piece of clothing, can offer the perfect opportunity to enhance its beauty and bring it back from neglect.  (Places are already beginning to fill up for what promises to be a very special workshop).

Meanwhile, here are some images to remind you of past experiences.......

Our Slow Stitchery week will be spent under the watchful eye of master quilt-maker (and award winner), Chris Manning whose passion for patchwork and quilting covers both traditional and modern designs and techniques.  For those with little or no experience who would like to learn the basics Chris will be there to guide you through all the skills you need to make a simple small quilt, from beginning to end, from cutting the fabric, piecing and pressing seams to hand sewing the binding in place. With luck (and a little work) you will have a finished quilt to take home with you – and the skills to go on to make other quilts at home!  And for those of you with more experience who want to launch or get on with a project of their own, she will be available for advice and hands-on assistance whenever needed.

To jazz things up a little, we'd like you to know that bookings are now open for our Blues & Boogie Weekend, our second fund raising event, this time in aid of Medécins sans Frontières.   Residential places for this event are strictly limited so don't wait too long before booking - we guarantee it will be the highlight of your year.

Other thoughts for the New Year:

Get passively militant in a crafty sort of way by joining the Craftivist Collective blog and learn a few tricks about how stitching CAN make a difference.

Commission a beautiful necklace by Rebecca Hector Clarke

The wonderful mixed media artist, Cas Holmes, now sells some of her work on  Tictail. Definitely worth a visit.

Or just pop over to Paris in February before all the tourists arrive, for the 14th Aiguille en Fête exhibition.  Always full of fabric and unexpected haberdashery!

 

Don't forget to take a peep at our January Recipe, or head to our Inspirations for some visual delights and another little quiz.  (Last month's hidden photograph was of the photographer Sarah Moon, and the first person to give us the correct answer has hopefully received her little prize by now.)  

Bonne chance!

 

katie armitage
.... time to relax......

With only a few days to go before the frenetic festive celebrations (maybe they've already started where you are!) we thought you might like a few ideas to help you chill out.

As the head chefs and bottle washers for the season, we were looking for a simple recipe to keep everyone happy for at least one meal without using every pan in the house, and we were reminded by a friend of the time Albert Roux was asked his favourite ‘simple’ recipe.  He replied that for him it was simply buttering some hot toast and opening a can of Heinz baked beans. Nothing simpler you'd think.... visit our Recipe Page and think again.......  

With only two days to go, you might think you're running out of time (and ideas) to come up with something original for that little girl who already has everything?  Well, we ask, how long can it take to make one of Åsa Tricosa's fab mini-jumpers? Really? We're already totally smitten with Âsa's designs and colour matches - not to mention her clever knitting techniques which she'll be extrapolating when she leads another of her popular workshop here in September - and this is such a good way to use up some of that excess yarn we all accumulate, whilst sitting in front of the TV watching re-runs ........

Ever since the first time Julie Arkell came to lead a workshop here, about 10 years ago (she'll be returning in June 2017 with The Museum of the Kind and Curious), we have been committed apron lovers... and makers.  We sell them in our little shop and online from time to time, but when we saw this one - for sale at EggTrading for a staggering £745!!! - we thought about how simple it is to make and how charming it would be to wear on Christmas Day.  We don't have a pattern to give you, but Egg supply a little drawing on their website and the design is about as basic as it gets.  Of course, if your plate is already too full, but your wardrobe is not, and you have £745 to spare, you could always pop into their wonderful little mews outlet in Kinnerton Street, London.

We suggest you sit back and enjoy a taster of Luca Sestak's fabulous piano music.  Luca will be appearing for a second time alongside Silvan Zingg and Deanna Bogart at our Blues and Boogie Weekend next July in aid of Medécins sans Fronitères. We'll be posting much more information about the event in the weeks to come, but if you don't want to miss out you can find full Weekend and individual concert tickets for sale already on the new website.

Merry Christmas

from Katie, Susie and Carol and wishing you all a peaceful New Year ahead.

katie armitage
....touch and go......

Let us start by apologising for any confusion concerning our blog and newsletter as we are trying to synchronise our social networking - it's been a complicated journey so we hope you won't lose patience with us.......

Early December is a somewhat unsettled  time for us.  Not quite winter, not yet in the Christmas mood and dithering between catching up with dull paperwork and more enticing textile chores, like making hand-made gifts and festive bakes. It does however give us the opportunity to reconnect with some of our favourite past participants and discover a bit more about them, and we've invited one of them (for what we hope will be the first of an occasional series), Libby from Australia, to share some of her lifestyle choices and favourite things below.  

We'll be posting news about our Blues and Boogie Weekend soon.  We are thrilled to have completed a fully fabulous lineup of musicians.  Meanwhile, with family and friends popping in over the next few weeks, you might be interested in our CURRENT RECIPE for an alternative / additional Christmas Cake or pop over to our Inspirations page for some visual stimulation and our little Festive competition.....

So, Libby, when did you visit LSA and who was the workshop leader?  My first visit to Les Soeurs Anglaises was for a workshop with knitting design legend, Patricia Roberts; and the second was Stitched Calligraphy with the wonderful Rosalind Wyatt (see above).

Where do you currently live? I am a Sydney girl born and bred, but spent 9 years in Europe and have lived now for 25 years in Canberra, Australia with my husband and two daughters

What is it that you love most about living there?  It’s called the Bush Capital, which says it all – National Institutiions – National Museum, National Art Gallery, National Library, science museum , theatre etc AND we’re surrounded by the bush. Kangaroos are grazing ten minutes walk from where I write, and yet fabulous, empty beaches are just 2.5 hours away as well.

When did you start stitching?  As a 20-something - jealousy was the motive. A boyfriend was wearing a jumper knitted by a previous girlfriend and I was determined to do one better!

What is currently your favourite/principle art/craft?  It would have to be fashion sewing ( including baby fashion for my new granddaughter Sofia) and knitting…. with a bit of small quilting thrown in.  And some sashiko after a Japan trip last year.  No formal training.

Biggest textile influence?  My friend Kristine is a wonderful artist in all her endeavours. As an ex-teacher myself, I love being around people who are great teachers.

Favourite artists? Australian Aboriginal art, both traditional and cutting edge modern. Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Rover Thomas and Fiona Hall.  Vincent van Gogh and Japanese ceramics,  Grayson Perry,  and theDinosaur Designs group.

If you could excel at something other than your current art/craft, what would it be?  I took up piano when I retired a few years ago.  Love Cole Porter as well as swing/jazz era….so I’d love to be the musical life and soul of the party with those sorts of songs!

 Favourite place to travel and why? Italy for the culture, food and history. But also both India and Cuba

Favourite music?  In no particular order; African/Spanish/Cuban/Balkan; Opera: Verdi/Puccini; Standards of the 40s and 50s; Jacques Brel, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Rufous Wainwright; The Blues

Recommended book of last 12 months? "H is for Hawk", by Helen MacDonald…harrowing tale of coming through the other side of grief with the help of an animal – at times breathtaking writing.

Favourite supplier of art/craft materials?  At the moment: Tessuti’s online patterns, and Laughing Hens for yarn.

Film idol? Cate Blanchett. Amazing actor - have seen her on stage in Sydney several times…she is simply a role chameleon. Inhabits the character. Social justice agenda most impressive, too. 

Perfect meal? The four course truffle breakfast at Bookplate, the National Library restaurant, Canberra. Light, delicate, unbreakfasty.

Three things you couldn’t live without?  The arts, my family and friends, my garden full of birds. That’s more than three , isn’t it? 

THANK YOU, LIBBY.

FOUR CHRISTMASSY IDEAS:

  • Sign up and stretch those knitting muscles with the Wollmeise yarn Club 2017.  It looks a treat! 4 instalments, 4 mystery parcels, 3 yarn bases, 8 skeins, 4 women from the past, 4 designers in the present.  
  • Go to Dawn Nicol's website to pick up your free 10-page Hand Lettering Kit. If you don't fancy calligraphy yourself, it would make a great project for creative kids with time on their hands over the holidays.
  • Want to learn a little French and French cuisine at the same time before visiting Les Soeurs Anglaises next year? Check out Cuisinez-vous le Francais. A painless but nourishing way to learn the basics of this beautiful language.
  • We've fallen in love with the work of New Yorker, Ann Wood, who makes exquisite fabric birds and vegetables and much, much more.  In fact, we're going to try to get her over here in 2018 to lead a workshop so if you think you might be interested do, please, let us know.  Meanwhile, you still have time to download some of her "patterns" to make as gifts for both adults and children - or to keep for yourself why not?  Have fun......  

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Katie, Susie and Carol  xx

katie armitage
... if you're in need of cheering up.....

With challenging news coming to us from all directions at the moment, thank goodness for our ability to sit back quietly and recharge our batteries with the various gentle arts that textiles offer us.

It's never easy juggling dates with workshop leaders and we have had to make a couple of changes to our 2017 calendar.  We are delighted to confirm that Celia Pym - whose event Mending, Darning and Knitting was such a success here this year - will be returning in late September 2017 to run a unique combination workshop with fellow artist and stitcher, Richard McVetis (you can read a fascinating interview with Richard at TextileArtist.com).  It will be a week long, hands-on exploration of both traditional hand embroidery techniques and textile repair, with an ongoing discussion about why these skills are more important and relevant than ever.  If you were lucky enough to have attended Celia's previous workshop here and we would love you to return and take your mending a stitch further, so we're offering a 15% discount if booked before the end of 2016.

Apologies if you're now be a tad confused about our dates for next year, but please note that Åsa Tricosa's workshop, Knitting Im-Mercerie, has been brought forward to 6-12 September.  This means that it is no longer overlapping the Shetland Wool Week, so enthusiasts have no excuse for missing what we guarantee will be a wonderful event with a superlative knitting teacher.  

I recently returned from a visit to Basel, Switzerland where I went to meet with Deanna Bogart and Silvan Zingg who will be performing, alongside another young pianist, Luca Sestak, at our biennial fund-raising Blues & Boogie Weekend, July 2017 (more of that later).  And what I discovered was a charming, friendly city full of wonderful museums and art!!  Such a well-kept secret, and if you are looking for a cultural break from it all I cannot recommend highly enough.

One of the must-see museums was the Tinguely;  dedicated entirely to the artist.  Jean Tinguely grew up in Basel but moved to France in 1952 with his first wife, Swiss artist, Eva Aeppli, to pursue a career in art.  He belonged to the Parisan avantgarde movement in the mid C20th and was one of the artists who signed the New Realist's manifesto.  It's hard not to smile watching his deliberately noisy and noisy andsometimes huge moving sculptures made almost entirely from recycled materials, and his work will no doubt fuel ideas for our Motion Impossible project in May 2017 to be led by Robert Race, automata master-in-chief.  We can only accommodate 8 participants on this workshop so don't delay if you - or someone you know - would like to join us.

Tinguely's  SCHRECKENSKARRETTE - Viva Ferrari  1985

Tinguely's  SCHRECKENSKARRETTE - Viva Ferrari  1985

If you're in or around Wolverhampton from 18th February you might be interested in A Curious Turn; Moving, Mechanical Sculpture, a Crafts Council exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, UK.  it looks to be a treat!

Paul Spooner's 1983 FIVE ARTISTS REFLECT ON THEIR WANING POWERS

Paul Spooner's 1983 FIVE ARTISTS REFLECT ON THEIR WANING POWERS

Finally, by popular participant demand we have opened a Recipe Page on this website and we will try our best to upload one of our much-complimented recipes every month.  Do pay it a visit from time to time (they won't stay up for more than a month), along with our Inspiration page, and do let us have your feedback - we really love to hear from you.

 

katie armitage
Another season ends at Les Soeurs Anglaises...

After an incredibly busy year for us, we rounded up our workshop season with two amazing new leader events: Celia Pym's Knitting, Darning and Mending; and Claire Wellesley Smith's, Dyeing and Stitching.  Superlatives are still pouring in from participants and we can't wait to work with both ladies again next year, possibly in a joint workshop if it can be arranged. There will be a special Early Bird Booking offer so keep your eyes peeled!

When we haven't been welcoming participants and stitching away, we've been busy giving our image a revamp, complete with new logo and website! We'd love to hear what you think and any suggestions you might have on how we can improve it, so please let us know in the comments below. Don't forget to take a good look around too and see what's on offer for 2017. From Robert Race's enigmatic toys to Chris Manning's elaborate quilts...next year promises a host of exciting new projects, and of course the return of old favourites Julie Arkell and Asa Tricosa. The summer has ended and we're starting to bundle up...but we're already dreaming of next May. Have a look at what's inspiring us now...wander through our brand new venue and accommodation gallery...and start plotting your journey to a creative summer in South West France.

We will be updating workshop and event pages constantly so please do check in regularly and see what's new. In the meantime...we'll leave you with some images from the end of this wonderful past season. Stay warm, stay inspired and stay in touch!

Katie

 

Please note that over the next few months we will be migrating our old blog on Blogspot over to here...so bookmark this page and try to make a habit of coming here instead.