.... 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
.... 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? 



  • 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......  


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!



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!



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.