Friday, 19 December 2014

.... enjoy yourself.....

Like us, you might by now be weary of the endless stream of emails flowing into your mailbox in a last-ditch attempt to persuade you to buy, buy buy;  so let me assure you, off that bat, that this newsletter is not one of those.  In fact, if you read to the bottom of the page you will see we have a little competition to keep you amused.  We'd also like to wish you a Happy Holiday wherever you are and however you plan to celebrate, whether you visited Les Soeurs Anglaises earlier this year, have taken part in previous years or simply enjoy reading our newsletters from time to time.  From those who have been our guests, the enduring feedback is that women who knit and sew and make and create are generally more interested in the vintage and recycled, the intrinsic history of found objects, the collected, sometimes-used, fragments of fabrics and ephemera;  not for them the shiny new plastic gismo, the excesses of wrapping paper and last minute panic buys that sit beneath our Christmas trees.

photo by Heidi Swanson, 101 Cookbooks

Nothing brought home more to me the joy of repairing and preserving old clothes, than on our recent travels to Japan when we visited the Amuse Museum in Tokyo where they have a permanent exhibition of Boro textiles and clothing; these are patched and re-patched, re-lined, over-stitched and patched again then passed down from generation to generation. Made and preserved by the poor, rural population in the snowy north of Japan who could not afford to buy new when need required, and who had to literally make ends meet by piecing and patching discarded cotton onto existing sets.  Far from being "scruffy" or ugly, the unselfconscious layers and overworking produced clothing of substance and immense beauty.   They are also becoming incredibly collectable (though not by the Japanese it seems) and various patchworkers like Australian, Maria Cook, a participant at Janet Bolton's workshop here last year, have been using Boro pieces long before they became popular, to produce not only her wonderful quilts, but also lined boxes, hand-made books and much, much more.  


Nobody personifies a modern twist on Boro better than our ever-popular workshop star, Julie Arkell.  Julie's exhibition and residency at the Ruthin Craft Centre in Wales this autumn, was by all accounts another runaway success (people are still talking about her first show there in 2004) and it coincided with the publication of her second book, which like the exhibition is called. "Away".  I have had the opportunity to read through the book and explore the photographs of Julie's "creatures" at leisure and have been blown away (yet again) by her unique style and extraordinary creativity.  As Susan Roberts says in her book commentary, 'Julie's practice is embedded in the the history of the found;  she treasures old stuff, collecting it first, using it in her work later.  Each fragment brings history, past usage and cultural reference."  Is it, I wonder, Julie who makes the discarded beautiful, or the ephemera itself that inspires Julie? To be discussed.....


But just so you don't think we are entirely Christmas party poopers, here is a little last minute festive competition for those with time to spare between now and the New Year.  We have Les Soeurs Anglaises' signature aprons (made to order from a combination of new and vintage fabrics) to give to the first three people to answer the question below correctly.  Please type the word "competition" in the subject line on your entry email, and add your address (and size) in the event that you are one of the lucky winners:

Good luck and best wishes for the season.

Monday, 8 December 2014

... here it comes again.......

We are only a heartbeat away from another festive season and no doubt your shopping lists have become heavy with ink.  We at Les Soeurs Anglaises try hard to use the event to steer clear of the present-giving roller-coaster (although the occasional home-made offering is always gratefully received) but rather use the season as an opportunity to relax, reboot and enjoy the company of those people we love but whom we may have neglected a tad over the year.  Everyone is expected to help in some way, whether it's cooking the goose or clearing away the Scrabble board, and we've found that at the first sign of tension there's nothing like a bracing walk in the beautiful, surrounding, wintry countryside to diffuse the situation.

If you have time on your hands during these crazy Christmassy days, here are a few things you might enjoy and that you don't have to check your list for:

  • Visit our favourite men's clothing shop's website, Albam, for some beautiful photography and a great new take on photographic collages by John Spinks.   You dont have to buy anything to enjoy Albam's style and attitude.
  • Listen to any tracks by the incredibly cool and talented, young, virtuoso pianist Luca Sestak. We are thrilled Luca will be performing alongside other top musicians, at our Boogie Woogie Weekend at the beginning of July.  His latest CD, New Way, has some foot-stompingly good tracks to help with the Christmas cheer.
  • Spend some time with a small friend or relative making the perfect paper airplane..  We've started practicing already for a Christmas competition!
  • Time in front of the TV needn't necessarily be wasted.  Learn a few clever knitting techniques from the ever creative Asa Soderman's website (we're getting a few under our belt before she arrives to lead her first workshop for us, Seamlessly Clever, next October).   Her website is chock-a-block full of concise and helpful tricks with clear enough photographs for even a needle-novice.

  • Read all about Adele Stafford who in 2013 launched a project in the US called Voices of Industry  By investing in the independent grower, the biodynamic alchemist and the punk rock shepherdess they care deeply about the origin of materials in the firm belief that the best work comes from shared expertise.  The   process is intensely time-consuming and choreographic and the results can be seen in their meticulous production. 
  • And before we go a little reminder, if you haven't had time yet to consider whether you would like to join us next summer, please note that workshops are filling up fast, so don't leave it too late.