Les Soeurs Anglaises


Everything changes......

When I was growing up in Britain, in the far distant past, we knew nothing of Hallowe'en. Hard to believe but it didn't register on our calendar or conscious at all......

After our school summer holidays the next event to look forward to was always Bonfire Night - a whole ghoulish story in itself about Guy Fawkes, the Houses of Parliament, Gunpowder, Treason and Plot - followed a month later by the much more upbeat and exciting Christmas festivities. Even in the 70s Halloween was essentially a glamourous American import, celebrated for the most part by children of the well-heeled. Nowadays however it has been fully embraced by the whole of Europe, an opportunity to party and dress-up and have fun. In fact, this year we are holding our very first Halloween Party with all its trappings! And having bought into the consumerism of it all, I felt it incumbent on me to research the actual history of the feast and here is a précis of what I found.

Halloween or Hallowe'en is celebrated every year on the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows Day and begins the three day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed. It is widely believed that many Halloween traditions originated from ancient Celtic Harvest festivals and that such festivals may have had pagan roots; some believe, however, that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday. Halloween activities include trick-or-treating, attending Hallowe’en costume parties, carving pumpkins into jack-’o-laterns, lighting bonfires, apple bobbiing, deination games, playing pranks, visitiing haunted attractions, telling stories, watching horrow films and lighting candles on the graves of the dead.

The following day, here in France they celebrate Toussaint(All Saints) and the chrysanthemum is the flower colloquially known as the “flower of the dead”. You'll find all the supermarkets and markets overflowing with every colour and shade from autumnal rust to violent fuschia - their cheery blooms, colours and scent apparently guide the spirits to their respective altars. Family members usually gather at the cemetery and place chrysanthemum flowers on the grave as well as lighting candles to symbolise happiness in the afterlife. And, of course, there are special church services. The remainder of the day is then spent together in a respectful atmosphere (which generally excludes family fights) and is seen as an opportunity to strengthen generational links - a bit like Thanksgiving in the US and Christmas in the UK.

On a more cheerful and less scary note, we have a couple of additions to our events next year. We really don’t have the space, or want to over-populate our workshops and events so we keep a strict limit on numbers and places are already beginning to fill up. Having said that we have, perhaps, more to offer in 2019 than we usually do. Apart from the exciting collaboration between Julie Arkell and Celia Pym, which takes place at the beginning of June, and Åsa Tricosa’s Knitting Im-Mercerie IIIat the end of that month, we will be hosting another InstantWit Weekendfull of laughter and camaraderie.  There is also a classical piano concert weekendin March and Lori Seibert's Snippets and Stitchesin September

July sees our third Blues & Boogie Weekendwith four of the world’s most accomplished musicians, plus a few Masterclasseson the cards for those amateur and professional musicians interested in learning from a pro.. Again, we have limited residential space for this event, but it would make a fantastic once-in-a-lifetime-experience Christmas gift for that special someone..

We’re in the process of collating everyones’ schedules and my next newsletter will, hopefully, have a list of events and concerts where you can get a taste of what is on offer next year at Les Soeurs Anglaises.

Better late than later

Now that the long hot summer seems well and truly over here in Europe, it’s time to let you know our plans for our next summer, and we have some exciting, not to be missed, events coming up that’s for sure.. The new calendar is now up on the website and bookings are already coming in so don’t leave it too late to let us know if you’d like to join us for an extraordinary few days away from the cares and stresses of everyday life at our celebrated venue. The experience will uncover, develop and stretch your creative imaginations in ways you never expected and chock-a-block full of lively exchanges of ideas both with co-participants and workshop leaders.

Over the 12 years we’ve been hosting workshops, we’ve had artists, professionals, chefs, photographers, housewives, authors and others who simply sign up for an adventure. People aged between 20 and 80 from Europe, Asia, USA, Australia, Korea, Japan, Scandinavia and South American, many of whom return year after year after year because they feel welcomed and comfortable. Our workshops are filled with learning, laughter, creativity and the rare opportunity to spend time with people whose creativity may be stimulating not because it the same, but because it is different!

Try something outside your comfort zone and we guarantee it will surprise and excite you. Next year we will be hosting a classic weekend with a critically acclaimed concert pianist; a wine and food gourmet weekend with celebrity chef; a unique combo textile workshop with two of our favourite workshop leaders; a 3-day comedy impro session led by an actor, teacher, trainer, and coach; a jazz weekend with 4 world-class musicians; a top-notch knitting feast; and an opportunity to play with paint, paper and thread simultaneously.

Our wonderful returning Knitting Workshop leader, Åsa Tricosa, who will be returning to Les Soeurs Anglaisses at the end of June next year, has recently published her first book, Ziggurats, 16 Elegantly Seamless Knits, (£35). Knit one of the sweaters from her book, post a photo of it on Ravelry and you may be the lucky winner of voluminous amounts of glorious yarn!

For many years we have tried to organise a workshop down here led by the textile artist Cas Holmes but her heavy schedule and our short season have made it impossible so far. However, her whose beautiful new book, “Textile Landscapes” has recently been published and is the next best thing. In it she explores the tactile nature of textiles whilst guiding the reader through every stage of the creative process: building unique and beautiful works of art through observation, gathering material, experimenting in stitch, collage, screen printing and appliqué. She explores the fascinating relationship we have with the environment and the effect of the local landscape on our own memories and imagination adding her own personal, local pieces and travel diaries, as well as work from international artists.

Living in the Bristol area if the UK? We’ve found a delightful home and fashion shop in the Clifton area that you might enjoy called The Movement Boutique. Launched in May 2016 by sisters Macelle and Leah, it already has a loyal following of customers who know they will get great customer care and are guaranteed to find something a little bit different. Constantly on the search for new and exciting brands, there is however no compromise on quality and style. Most of the products can also be bought online for those who live too far away to pop into this delightful shop!

Though mostly known for his frankly weird trompe l’oeil lettering, Portuguese street artist Odeith has recently been adding larger-than-life insects to his repertoire. Though not for the squeamish, his wall-based works are meticulously placed in derelict spaces and require careful planning to achieve an anamorphic effect. You can see more from Odeith on Instagram.

A bit late in the day, but if you are an admirer (or collector) of early 20th century British art, you might like to visit the website of the Liss Llewellyn Gallery where you will find what remains of a wonderful exhibition, World War One and its Aftermath: A selection of pictures inspired by the First World War to coincide with the Tate’s exhibition ‘Aftermath’, which sadly closed at the end of September with art by R B T Kelly, Paul Colin and Frank Brangwyn.

One of our returning participants, Lori Seibert, also happens to be a successful graphic designer who has worked for numerous US high street companies. In 2019 she will be organising and leading a workshop at Les Soeurs Anglaises entitled Snippets and Stitches.. This is a departure for us in that we will only be organising the venue, accommodation and hospitality for a group put together by Lori herself. We loved having her here as a participant and are quite sure her workshop will have the same joyous quality as her designs and personality. If you are interested in joining her group, contact and booking can be made directly through her website, Creativityabroad.com.

To finish this newsletter we thought you might like to hear what actor and theatre director, David Straun - a participant of the InstantWit workshop this last year - thought about Les Soeurs Anglaises and our venue (totally unsolicited by us, I promise). Should his words inspire you, IntantWit will be returning in May 2019 to lead another of their incredible workshops, Laughter Lab, that proved to be such an inspiration to stitchers and non-stitchers alike!

katie armitage

IF the excitement of a long hot summer is beginning to wear thin........

..... we suggest you make yourself a cup of tea, sit down somewhere cool and consider these "IFS":


   IF you thought a pigeon was just a  city bird with no colour, then you might be surprised by these crocheted bird suits by artist Laurel Roth Hope and her immense skill with yarn and needle. The colorful one-of-a-kind sweaters are each designed to fit a standard urban pigeon, complete with a hood retro-fitted with eye and beak holes. While the project isn’t without a bit of humour, its warning is particularly dire: each suit represents an extinct bird species and highlights the futility of restoring lost biodiversity. Hope has worked as a natural-resource conservator and park ranger, both of which have deeply influenced her artwork which explores themes of environmental harm, extinction, and consumerism. You can see many more of her Biodiversity Reclamation Suits in this gallery.



   IF you're not a fan of the Mad Max movies (we found the bleak, post-apocalypse view a little too rich for our blood), but like the thought of alpha males knitting something decorative (as indeed they have in Peru for centuries), then this picture of actor Nicholas Hoult on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road. in his full makeup might make you smile.  You can almost imagine another film in which his character, Nux, the War Boy, goes off on his own and spends his time knitting scarves for friends - though where he'd find the yarn is another question.



 IF you're a fan of Liberty fashion and upholstery fabrics you'll want to get along to The Dovecotgallery, Scotland where there is a major retrospective of Liberty Art Fabrics (28 July 2018 to 12 January 2019). The exhibition celebrates Liberty's influence on fashion since 1875 and charts their journey through the decades as a source for key trends in cultural history well beyond the realm of fashion. Taking visitors through the company’s history, from early garments influenced by Far East and the Artistic Dress popularised by the Pre-Raphaelites, through the iconic sixties, all the way to the botanical prints of the 21st century,  the exhibition tells the tale of an influential studio who collaborated with the likes of Yves Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood. As a contemporary response to the exhibition emerging artist, Lucy Wayman will showcase her recent sculptural pieces.


   IF you love the music of Debussy, Ravel and Chopin then you'll enjoy this clip of a recital by the talented young Dutch concert pianist, Cyrill Ibrahim - a rising star in the classical music firmament -  who will be performing at our venue for the first time next March.  We're organising a gourmet weekend with fine horizontal and vertical wine tastings around the last weekend of the month for a limited number of guests.

IF you are remotely interested in new knitting techniques, especially top-down designs that fit perfectly, then go straight to Purlescence to buy Åsa Tricosa's fab book with its superbly written and easy, moderate and advanced patterns to follow.  Really can't wait to get our teeth into one or two of the beautiies!  Lucky for us Åsa will be leading her second Knitting Im-Mercerie here in September so any problems she'll be on-hand to help in her hugely generous, enthusiastic way.


 IF you've ever experienced a creative block (and who hasn't?) then Le Nuage, a short film by Russian film student Iulia Voitova which succinctly displays the many frustrations of creative output, including sadness, distraction, and writer’s block is going to hit a chord. The animated film is composed of two collaged paper characters, an earnest young woman in a bright blue dress, and a brooding male writer hunched over his typewriter. In an attempt to shield the writer from a patch of rain, the female protagonist unintentionally thwarts his rumbling brainstorm. The entire piece takes place in less than a minute and a half, yet perfectly encapsulates several shifts in mood through its playful pastel-colored characters and delightful score by Lawrence Williams.


IF you're interested in our preview of 2019 events


Chopin, Debussy Piano Recital /  La Tablée Gourmet Weekend
MARCH 2019 (3 days / 4 nights) 

Laugh Lab
MAY 2019 (3 days / 4 nights)

Mixed Media
EARLY JUNE 2019(5 days / 6 nights)

Knitting Im-Mercerie III
LATE JUNE 2019 (5 days / 6 nights)

Blues and Boogie Weekend
MID JULY(3 days / 4 nights)

Creative Weekend
SEPTEMBER 2019 (3 days / 4 nights)

Please note we will be confirming all these events within the next couple of weeks, but if you are interested in any of them (or know of anyone who might be), please email us and we will make sure you are the first to get firm details for booking.  (This year's workshops filled up very quickly so we recommend early booking to avoid disappointment.)

katie armitage
Getting the |Giggles

Hello again after what seems like a long break  ..... if you missed our previous privacy policy message (or would like to unsubscribe), please hit the links below.

Giggle and grow
Every year we like to try something new at Les Soeurs Anglaises and the idea of stepping outside our comfort zone to host an Improvisational Comedy Weekend was always going to be a bit challenging - but some risks are worth taking and InstantWit proved so much more than worthy.

I don't wish to "spoil the story" by describing this event in too much details, but one thing it definitely wasn't was stand-up comedy.  From the get-go there was a palpable atmosphere of camaraderie and positivity;  once each and every participant had faced the fear of standing in the limelight (with oodles of encouragement and genial support they all did it, they all survived unscathed), there were plenty of opportunities to experiment with and develop their innate spontaneity;  a brilliant aid for creative life that can be learnt and is so very useful when presenting  creative work or when criticism of it, whatever that may be, isn't quite what we'd anticipated.

This spectacularly enjoyable workshop included an hilarious InstantWit show on the Saturday evening of Harry and Megan's wedding - I hasten to add that we'd booked the date long before the Royal couple so, sadly, no chance of attending the reception, however Carol and I decided to dress up for the event regardless (see above).  The delicious wraps on offer were prepared and served by Come Cook in France and a good time was had by all.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who participated especially all four members of the InstantWit team - actors/ comedians Chris GrimesJon Monie and Leah Fletcher, and musician James Oram - for sharing their time and talent and quirky, positive view of life..  We are looking forward enormously to collaborating with them again and meanwhile we'll be practicing their "yes and..."  rather than "yes, but..." attitude.


From laughter to sublimity 
Came across this wonderful photograph of the Russian playwright and novelist, Chekov.  In my late teens my maternal grandmother handed me a book of his short stories and I was immediately hooked.  Though I was never really comfortable reading plays, Chekov's short stories, written between 1888 and 1903, were an introduction to a completely disparate time and culture and from time to time I still dip back into them when I need distraction from the here and now.  What a talent .... and what a face.

Nuture nature
Artist Esther Traugot currently lives and works in Sebastopol, California and her delicate, colourful work involves covering objects of nature with hand-dyed crocheted threads in an attempt to “prop up” or “put back” what has been abandoned, broken. As bandage or cozy, these support structures investigate the relationship between nurturing and controlling nature. The meticulous crocheted, false “skins” imbue the objects with an assumed desirability or value and allows the viewer to explore how we not only experience, but also negotiate with the natural world. 

Esther received her BFA from the University of California Berkeley in 2005.  Her work has been exhibited at numerous US venues, was exhibited at the Art Paris Art Fair 2014 and she is represented at Chandra Cerrito Contemporary Gallery in Oakland, CA.


The future recycled
The timing of the book Radical Matter: Rethinking Materials for a Sustainable Future could not have been better, with high-profile media outlets such as the BBC’s The Blue Planet having brought many of the questions surrounding sustainability and its relation to materiality into the public consciousness. Though the the authors, Kate Franklin and Caroliine Till, originally intended the book for designers, it has found a far wider audience of artists and crafters who want to know how to take action for good in their daily lives as the role of the maker in material innovation is, in their words, ‘massively important’.

The book begins by addressing contemporary issues by exploring how we can turn current waste into new materials. From there it moves on, through chapters with captivating and provocative titles such as ‘Shit, Hair, Dust’ and ‘Designed to Disappear’, to eventually confront a more distant reality with ‘Future Mining’.   It offers an optimistic, alternative vision of the future through artists and crafters who place sustainability at the heart of their work  and is an interesting introduction to alternative methods and materials that could replace unsustainable practices in the future.  

Announcing our new dining club
A couple of months or so ago we kick-started a new venture in collaboration with Come Cook in France and food stylist, Louise Pickford, when we held our first Pop Up, a South-East Asian dinner.  This was followed about six weeks later with an Italian Evening and due to the great feedback from both events we have launched a new Private Dining Club, La Tablée 

Gourmet Weekend this September for a maximum of 6 couples

Whilst the Dining Club may be of interest to  local diners (unless of course you were interested in spending some time with us away from it all), we plan to host a Gourmet Long Weekendtowards the end of September this year for guests from further afield when we will be serving several specialist menus over  three days, together with fine vintage wines from our cellars (Mike, my husband, is a wine connoisseur of some standing and will be both providing the wine for the meals as well as also offering vertical and horizontal wine tastings).  A special treat for great food and wine lovers.  

There will only be space for up to six couples so if you are interested do please contact me directly and I will make sure you are the first to have more details.  It would make a superb end of summer vacation treat, or special occasion celebration.  Iff you would like us to organise  a gourmet event around a personal group of friends, we could do that too!  Just tell us what you need.....

Sorry, can't help myself
Have to share my son, Billy Elliot's (and his Kong team's) animated short for IMAX;  Aaahh, the Starwars generation(s)......



katie armitage
laughter and music

We respectfully suggest you grab your diary and make a note of two exciting events this summer at Les Soeurs Anglaises' celebrated venue... .......

For those of you who have attended a previous event at Les Soeurs Anglaises' venue (or have heard about it), you'll definitely want to know about two weekends and performances coming up this summer about which we are particularly excited.  Collaborating with some of the most exceptional and enthusiastic teachers means that both the Improvisational Comedy (17th - 21st May) and Jazz Lab (24th - 28th July) are going to be simultaneously full-on and laid-back, we guarantee.   

LAUGHTER and MUSIC are two powerful antidotes to anxiety, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh or the life-enhancing benefits of music. Both lighten burdens, inspire hopes, connect you to others, and keep you grounded, focused, and alert - particularly important as we get older. They are also tremendous resources for surmounting problems, enhancing relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.  If you're still not convinced of the benefits of laughter and music we've made a fuller (medically proven!) list below.

Prices start at £350 per person and include.....

  • local transport to and from Bergerac airport and Angouleme train station
  • Four nights' accommodation
  • Three full days of workshop 10am-5pm
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner each day 
  • Refreshments throughout
  • Plus 2 seats at the live evening performance

17th - 21st MAY 2018
Improvisational Comedy Weekend
with long established and highly acclaimed comedy company, InstantWit (and led by Second CurveDirector, Chris Grimes) who have been performing their show nationally & internationally for over 20 years.  The workshops they have created are carefully structured to meet participants' individual needs. They are highly creative, always surprising, and without doubt involve a great deal of laughter, and this three day workshop will include the opportunity on Saturday evening to sit back, alongside members of the public, relax and enjoy a full performance of Instantwit.  Join us for a life altering few days, or just come and enjoy a laughter-filled evening of comedy.
Saturday Evening tickets available directly at EVENTBRITE
or contact us for more details.

24th - 28th JULY 2018
The Music Lab  
led by the inimitable Deanna Bogart, award-winning, multi-instrumentalist musician and recording artist. If you're passionate about creativity, music - and Jazz, Blues and Boogie Woogie in particular -  wish to move on from whatever stage of musical ability you are at and are open to challenge, then this is the workshop for you. Immerse yourself in a week of improving and learning innovative musical skills with likeminded people.  Discover and establish a basic foundation from which to progress, construct solos, learn to accompany yourself and other players, or simply learn about your individual and unique musical roots. Perennially popular, with a knack for engaging her audience, Deanna easily wins hearts with her dazzling keyboards, soulful saxophone and smoky vocals and will be ending the workshop with a small public concert at Les Soeurs Anglaises' beautiful venue.   If you can't make the workshop, we recommend you book seats early for this popular concert.  
pre-booking Saturday Evening Performance tickets only
or contact us for more details.


Laughter relaxes the whole body.  A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45minutes after.

Music boosts the immune system. It decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Music protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. OK, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn about 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Music lightens anger’s heavy load. Listening to up-beat music diffuses anger; it can put problems into perspective and give you the head space to move on from confrontations.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don't laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

There may be friends, relatives or associates you think might be interested so do, please, pass the word along about both these events.

katie armitage
marching on.......
Feb logo2.jpg

Many years ago I talked to a man who had had a near death experience (NDE).  I don't remember a lot of what he said, but one thing that stuck with me was that he told me the only things we can take with us when we die are love and knowledge.  I mention this only because I am sometimes asked why we started organising workshops at Les Soeurs Anglaises and very often I find it hard to put my finger on a good reason other than we enjoy it so much ourselves.  My long walks recently with our young dog, Nellie, have given me the opportunity to reflect however, and it occurred to me that the man's words were, indeed, what had informed the concept of our venue.  Not the love bit particularly (though it is, of course, relevant), but the knowledge aspect.  

If truth be told I am not, nor ever have been, an academic.  R&D is not my thing; but show me how to do something and I am immediately engaged.  Ten minutes with a darning expert, half an hour with a skilled chef or a whole day (or five days) with a gifted musician, and I am hooked.   I may never be an expert knitter, performance jazz pianist or professional upholsterer, nor would I want to be to be honest, but I long to "have a go" at papier maché, bind my own book, feel the magic of playing a simple piece of music, understand the process and see where it takes me.  And I want to share this frisson of learning with everyone I meet!   Luckily I have a sister (Susie), and a friend (Carol), who both indulge and compliment my enthusiasms, and with their support - and that of my long-sufferng husband - as well as the good fortune of havinga great venue, our idea of offering others the possibility to learn developed.  We don't always get it 100% on the nail, but we try our best to offer guests the opportunity to work alongside truly inspirational teachers in a relaxed, supportive and welcoming atmosphere; where all judgement is suspended.  Along the way we have met incredible participants - some are supremely talented, others are simply here to experiment with a new skill and enjoy the ride.. age is definitely of no consequence; it's the experiential knowledge that they take away with them that is important - whether that be in the short or long term whatever that is.....

But enough of my ramblings.....  if you haven't joined us before our new video, by a beautiful, talented, young French friend, Morgane Launey, may well say more than a thousand words.


Not sure how willing I would be to write anything on these memo-blocks, produced by the Japanese company Triad, whose main line of business is producing architectural models.  These incredible Omoshiro Blocks feature various notable architectural sites in Japan like Kyoto’s Kiyomizudera Temple, Tokyo’s Asakusa Temple and Tokyo Tower and are composed of over 100 sheets of paper, each sheet different from the next in the same way that individual moments stack up together to form a memory.

Two books I have read recently by British women and feel worth sharing, if for no other reason than that the writing is so good.  Both are collections of essays but very different in nature:  I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O'Farrell and Feel Free by Zadie Smith.  I have always been a great fan of O'Farrell's, less so Zadie Smith, but was smitten by the latter's beautiful, articulate prose and humanity. 

"The art of mid-life is surely always cloudier than the art of youth, as life itself gets cloudier. But it would be disingenuous to pretend it is only that. I am a citizen as well as an individual soul and one of the things citizenship teaches us, over the long stretch, is that there is no perfectibility in human affairs. This fact, still obscure to the twenty-one-year-old, is a little clearer to the woman of forty-one."  Zadie Smith

In an effort to become more environmentally aware, I have put my name down for a local bee-keeping course, something of which I know little or nothing!  The idea of being stung doesn't appeal to me much, but I feel i should "walk the walk" instead of just pontificating about how we all can make a difference. By keeping just one hive apparently, one is immediately introducing 50,000 pollinators into an local area and that in turn can have a huge impact on the environment.  A small effort, hopefully,  when most of the time I am unable to affect any of the sad changes that are happening to the environment.  In a less pro-active way, I've also purchased two magnets for my washing machine which, the theory goes, does away with the need for washing powder and thus numerous rinses.  Have to say, it seems to work so far.......

Dutch artist Vera van Wolferen creates intricate and meticulously-constructed, ultra-cute scenes out of paper, cardboard and wood. She is inspired by her everyday surroundings, seemingly common household objects, architectural elements and automobiles which she fuses into magical landscapes. There is even a kit to be bought from her website - something to do indoors as the temperature nose-dives methinks.

On the evening of Saturday, 10th March we will hosting our first Pop-Up restaurant with food by Louise Pickford of Come Cook in France - who will also be leading our Food Styling and Photography workshopin June this year - and wine provided by my husband, Mike, who used to run the Interesting Wine Club in London.  Louise is a superlative chef and will be providing a three-course south east Asian menu for up to 30 people - it's guaranteed to be fantastic (I have attended Louise's cooking classes myself and experienced first-hand the quality of food she provides).  If you are local and can join us, do please contact Louise directly to book.



katie armitage
and so to amuse.....

February is generally a slow, quiet month, with the ending of one season in sight and the possibilities of Spring in clear view.  Time to plant those seeds and patch them T-shirts in anticipation of warmer, more active times ahead. But whilst you still have a few gentler  hours to spare here are some things to keep you amused:

We love these huge graphite pictures by Ethan Murrow.  Simultaneously weird and beautiful, they certainly get you thinking......

Two films from 2017 you should make an effort to see:

The Florida Project 

Six-year-old Moonee (the remarkably watchable Brooklynn Kimberly Prince) lives in the motel with her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite), who pulls together cash for the rent by selling wholesale perfume on the estate, hawking stolen theme-park tickets and, eventually, through prostitution. Impish Moonee spends her days roaming the surrounds with her friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera) and new pal Jancey (Valeria Cotto)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
With brilliant performances by Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson, this darkly comic drama has a murdered girl’s defiant mother boldly paint three local signs with a controversial message, igniting a furious battle with a volatile cop and the town’s revered chief of police. 

Have you discovered Plümo? They source distinctive fashion, homewares and jewellery beautifully crafted by artisans and designers from Africa to Asia and are currently offering 10% off your first order.  Still some wonderful designs to be snatched.

The next Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Sale will be held, for the first time at the Freemasons Hall, 60 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London WC2 on 25th February 2018.. This  award-winning shopping event is a firm favourite of those looking to update their wardrobes with unique, retro and vintage garments and accessories at (generally) affordable prices. 

Japanese embroidery artist ipnot creates pieces of food and drink that seem to leap off the fabric and into life. Ipnot enhances the realism of her embroideries by staging them with their real-life inspirations and surroundings, like piles of fluffy rice in a bowl, and slices of stollen crumbling off a miniature fork. Ipnot shares on her website that her grandmother’s embroidery practice inspired her to start, and she uses the needle and thread similarly to the painting technique of stippling. You can see more of the artist’s petite embroideries on Instagram

As parents and grandparents it is sometimes difficult to come to terms with youngsters' seeming  dependence on the computer and social networking.  It was, therefore with interest that I read the words of the fierce thinker and largehearted, beautiful writer, Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929–January 22, 2018).  Her book  No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, is a splendid piece full of her wakeful, winkful wisdom and a commentary on what modern childhood may be missing.

"Kids used to have a whole lot of spare time, middle-class kids anyhow. Outside of school and if they weren’t into a sport, most of their time was spare, and they figured out more or less successfully what to do with it. I had whole spare summers when I was a teenager. Three spare months. No stated occupation whatsoever. Much of after-school was spare time too. I read, I wrote, I hung out with Jean and Shirley and Joyce, I moseyed around having thoughts and feelings, oh lord, deep thoughts, deep feelings… I hope some kids still have time like that. The ones I know seem to be on a treadmill of programming, rushing on without pause to the next event on their schedule, the soccer practice the playdate the whatever. I hope they find interstices and wriggle into them. Sometimes I notice that a teenager in the family group is present in body — smiling, polite, apparently attentive — but absent. I think, I hope she has found an interstice, made herself some spare time, wriggled into it, and is alone there, deep down there, thinking, feeling."

There is always in February some one day, at least, when one smells the yet distant, but surely coming, summer. Gertrude Jekyll

katie armitage
news catch-up....

With the bad weather keeping many of us close to home, here are a few things we hope might motivate you to venture further afield if you get the chance.

Woman's Hour Craft Prize exhibition at the V&A, London; now until the 5th February 2018, celebrates the most innovative and exciting craft practioners and designer-makers resident in the UK today.  We particularly like the work of "patcher", Celia Pym (who led a workshop for us in 2016), and Laura Youngson Coll, whose extraordinary and beautiful work is designed to provoke curiosity and articulates the often overlooked details of the environments we inhabit.

Les Soeurs Anglaises' knitting guru, Åsa Söderman of ÅsaTricosa, will be teaching a few short, sharp classes at the prestigious New York Live Knitting Exhibition in, you guessed it, New York between the 12th and 14th January.  Most knitting workshop places have already been booked, but there are still a few available if you're quick for Åsa as well as other prolific knit designers such as Melissa LeapmanAnnie RowdenAmy Herzog and Melanie Berg. Wish we could be there....

Boquete is a small town on the Caldera River, in western Panama. The surrounding Chiriquí Highlands are home to coffee plantations and the Barú Volcano National Park, to the west. At the end of February every year, there is a Jazz Festival unlike any other!  Organised by our very own Deanna Bogart (who will be leading a Jazz Lab for us at the end of July this year) and featuring great local and international jazz talent, it's a must for lovers of jazz who are prepared to travel a little off the beaten path to experience something special.


If you're nowhere near any of the above, make yourself a hot drink, sit back and be charmed for a few moments with this award winning animated film, The Last Knit which neatly illustrates the obsession some of us have with knitting (at least during the winter months down here).  

katie armitage
grasp the nettle

Getting ready to see the New Year in tonight? 

We know how busy things will be getting, but don't want you to miss our discounts in the excitement, especially as one or two of our planned events are almost full:  Book one of our 2018 workshops (where places remain) before midnight tomorrow - 1st January - and you'll be eligible for a 5% discount (10% if you are a past participant!)...  Full dates, details and booking form can be found on our website.


Only 2 places remaining


Only one place now remaining

katie armitage
.... 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!


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


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?

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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.


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......


Food Styling and Photography: 5 day 6 night workshop


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


Comedy Improvisation Masterclasses & show:  long weekend


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


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. 




Until next time


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!


...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.


... 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.


.. .. 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.


... 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