I recently went on a really great workshop organised by Selvedge magazine. It was called a ‘Craft Spa Day’ and was held in Bloomsbury. Selvedge, by the way is a fantastic magazine. It has the most glorious photos which I virtually want to eat, plus it has introductions to wonderful craftspersons and the story of all sorts of textiles and techniques. It is a real treat. The only problem is that it makes me want to get up and start doing something every time I read it, so I seldom finish reading it. You can get it in WH Smith and arty bookshops, or you can subscribe. If you don’t want to do that you can just look at the website which has glorious graphics.
Okay, so, the day was divided into two parts. The first had two talks on sewing/craft and therapy. Ruth Battersby Tooke gave a brilliant talk on Lorina Bulwer’s extraordinary textile letters:
Bulwer was put in the Great Yarmouth workhouse by her family because she was, as we would now say, suffering from some sort of mental illness. As Ruth pointed out, this sounds awful but it may have been an act of kindness. She led an independent life and was not put in an asylum and it seems that her brother visited her regularly. As part of her condition she wrote the most astounding letters to local dignitaries complaining about her lot and about her sister-in-law, whom she despised. All the text is couched, and occasionally another panel comes to light. It is now in two massive pieces: one twelve feet long and the other fourteen. Ruth used the pieces to talk about reading history through textiles, and also about the embroideries themselves.
The next speaker, Marie O’Mahoney, was talking about whizzy hightech textiles which was fine, but I sort of thought I’d heard it all before a bit. Textiles to monitor our health, textiles to interact with our environment, that sort of thing. The third speaker was due to be Betsan Corkhill, who had a family emergency and so could not attend. She is the woman who has written about knitting as therapy. I bought a copy of her book:
I found it a bit terribly jolly, but it makes some very pertinent points about the therapeutic benefits of knitting and craft in general. I presume there are also scholarly articles that she has written, but this would give you a good overview of the main arguments for knitting. We should all knit for ten minutes a day, by the way.
In the afternoon we got to choose from a series of workshops on spinning, weaving, basketry and quilting. I chose the quilting I had a lovely calm afternoon stitching as the tutor, Abigail Booth, had already marked the cloth, all of which was dyed with tree-based dyes. I finished my piece on the day which I think is important in a workshop, and because Abigail, who was really lovely, showed me a new way of finishing the edges which I adapted a tiny bit to give a frame. My only problem was that I chose a pale turquoise thread to contrast with the nicely browned pastry colour of the cloth:
Fine close up, but when I stood back it looked like I’d used one of the water soluble marking pens and hadn’t washed it out. Hubris, of course, always gets its comeuppance.