Friday, 30 July 2010

Crafters' Guide to York

I originally posted this on Craftster, but thought I'd out it here too. love living in York. It’s a brilliant city, and as a crafter I’m utterly spoiled here. In case any crafters feel like visiting, here are the highlights of York for creative types.


Craft Basics, Goodramgate. You can’t come to York and not visit Craft Basics. It’s the daddy of all craft shops. They’ve got everything you’ll ever need, from handbag handles to embroidery floss to wool roving to card and feathers and glass paint and card embellishments. You’ll go in there looking for particular supplies, and come out with supplies for a whole new craft you never know existed. The staff are fab and really helpful – they never batted an eyelid when I asked if they had googly eyes.

Gillies Fabrics, Peter Lane. This is a superb fabric shop tucked away down a little alley, near the shop that sells nuts and swimwear. Seriously. They’ve got a huge range of dressmaking and quilting fabrics, and sell some incredibly high-tech sewing machines. They also run classes throughout the year. I was once at a craft show in Harrogate, and saw this incredibly well stocked fabric stall that stood out above the rest – got closer and realised it was Gillies. Of course.

Viking Loom, High Petergate. The Viking Loom sells a gorgeous range of quilting fabrics, including Moda and Robert Kauffman materials, as well as beads, embroidery floss, wool rovings, and loads of unusual embroidery kits. They also have some seriously fab jelly rolls that I covet every time I’m in, despite the fact I don’t quilt.

Ramshambles, The Shambles. The wool shop Ramshambles used to be Sheepish, but it’s just been bought out by the woman who used to manage Sheepish. It seems to have just as much tasty tasty wool, but it’s now looking really clean and funky – a real destination wool shop. As well as stocking Debbie Bliss, Noro and King Cole, they also sell Highfield Textiles - local Wensleydale and Shetland wool. Yum!

Poppy’s, Colliergate. This wool shop is the new kid on the block. Little sister of Poppy’s in Pocklington, this shop is out to wow. The Pocklington shop stocks much more than wool – jewellery supplies, rubber stamping, paper crafts and more, but I understand the York one will concentrate on wool for the time being. But don’t let that worry you – they have all the big names – Debbie Bliss, Rowan, Sirdar, as well as lesser know ones like Araucania and Yorkshire Yarns.

Boyes, Goodramgate. So, you like the sound of all these shops above, but don’t have the readies to splurge on some supplies. Where do you go? You go to Boyes, the north’s premier cheap and cheerful department store. Their haberdashery department upstairs has loads of fabric, wools, dyes and more and low prices.

The Art Shop, The Shambles. At the entrance to The Shambles, which won the award for Britain's Most Picturesque Street 2010, The Art Shop is stocked full of everything you’ll ever need to paint, draw and more. I go there for my lino and printing ink for making lino cuts.

The Miniature Scene, Fossgate. The Miniature Scene is the UK’s number 1 independent Doll house miniatures supplier. And it’s fascinating. I’m not really into dolls’ houses, but I can’t resist popping in, looking at all the tiny things and pretending I’m a giant.

Duttons for Buttons, Coppergate. More buttons than you ever thought existed! They supplied the buttons for the Pirates of the Carribean, apparantly.

Make Your Mark, Goodramgate. Writing all this out, I realise York has some pretty specialist shops – we’ve had buttons, dolls’ house supplies, and now rubber stamps. Make Your Mark is a teeny tiny shop, full to bursting with rubber stamps and inks. And if you want a particular stamp making up, they’ll do that for you too.

Bead Hive, College Street. Nothing much to say, other than that it’s a really excellent bead shop at the back of York Minster. If you want unique and beautiful beads, you know where to go.


There are a few crafty things to see and do in York – I like the ceramics cafĂ© Rainbows Ceramics in Marygate, and it’s always worthwhile seeing what’s on at the Art Gallery. Good classes run throughout the year, often held by York College. If you’re around on a Monday night, there’s Knit and Natter at the Brigantes Pub on Micklegate from 5.30pm, and on Friday nights there’s Art Jamming at the Art Space, Tower Street – bring a drink and they provide the supplies to paint or draw.

But if you are a crafter visiting York, you must not miss out on the Quilt Museum on Peashome Green, dedicated to quilting and textile arts. It’s based in St Anthony's Hall, built for the Guild of St Martin in 15th century, and it’s also been a workhouse for the poor, a hospital, prison, and a school and archive. Now, the medieval space is filled with stunning antique quilts, and they have regular exhibitions of more modern fibre arts. It’s not cheap, but well worth the entrance fee – even P loved it.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Old cross stitches

I started crafting when I was a teenager. Like lots of people, I started off with counted cross stitch kits, embroidering bookmarks and cards. But I got a bit bored of that, and started to draw my own designs on graph paper.

When P and I moved into our new house I rediscovered two of the pieces I designed as a teenager - I was impressed with myself - they weren't easy patterns, and I think I did them pretty well. The first one was the Dong with the Luminous Nose, a character from the Quangle Wangle's Hat by Edward Lear. The book I had had illustrations by Helen Oxenbury. I see I finfished this in 1996, when I was 15.

early work 1

The second piece was Timmy Willie from the Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse by Beatrix Potter, showing Timmy Willie sheltering under a leaf and eating a strawberry.

early work 2

I finished this when I was 16. It's good to remember that I was strange and creative back then, too.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Oh, and one more thing....

I have a loom! Jess's ma and pa gave me a bag of loomy goodness, which I think once belonged to Jess' gran.

Inside the bag there was a little table top rigid heddle loom with three heddles, some shed sticks and lots of shuttles. There's also a frame for big embroidery pieces or tapestry weaving, I guess.

I have warped it up, and just need to get on with weaving on it now. I want to see if I could weave a stole - it would be very cool to dye and spins some wool, and weave one from scratch.

I've played with looms a bit before now, so it's not totally new. I had a go on the big floor looms at Holy Rood House, and I also made myself a little rigid heddle loom with an old picture frame and some chinese takeaway boxes and wove this:

trial weaving

Happily, the new loom will produce material that does not smell of chow mein.

Encyclopedia of Needlework

I picked up a brilliant book at a vintage fair in York on Sunday - the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont. It was orignally published in 1884, but the version I bought was a later version - still no later than 1900, I'd guess. It's amazing - it covers everything from plain sewing to gold embroidery and Irish lace. And also takes a look at crochet and knitting - everything a late Victorian lady would need to know about handiwork, whatever class they were from, so that (in Therese's words), "those who are able to employ others to work for them, should at least know how to distinguish good work from bad, and those who are in less fortunate circumstances, have to be taught how to work for themselves."

But the most anachronistic part I've found so far? "To keep needles from rusting, strew a little asbestos in the packets, and workers whose hands are apt to get damp, should have a small box of it handy, to powder their fingers with."


Monday, 7 June 2010


My dear friend Fiona is being made a deacon in the Church of England this summer, and I wanted to make her a stole to celebrate this. I decided to make a green one, as that's the colour for the church's Ordinary Time, which takes up most of the calendar - I figured she'd get most use out of it.

Stole 2

Fiona's Stole

I made her two different stoles, with different patterns, widths and lengths, so she could choose which she liked best - she chose the one with just the waves. I used a linen/cotton mix, with cotton batik fabric for the waves, and I attached them with bondaweb and then densely stitching the edges with a zig-zag stitch using metallic thread.

And she loved it! Hoorah!

Tommy and Tess

We can haz new cat-beasts! Well, old cat-beasts, and because I'm a lazy blogger, they've been here for a while now.

Tess and Tommy

Tommy is the black and white cow-cat, and Tess is the naughty tortie. He's 10, and she's 9, and they've big! Tommy is twice the size of Bryher - Tess isn't as long, but she's fat. And heavy. So she's on a diet.

They are ridiculously wonderful. Tess is as friendly as could be - she loves her chin being tickled, and she'll twst her head round like an owl to maximise the tickling. But she's a naughty tortie - so the affection can go to neurotic hissing if you annoy her. She's so cheeky, and bullies Tommy, but it's impossible not to love her. Tommy is quieter - I've never known a more talkative cat than Tess - and he'll take a while to check you out before he says hello. But he's... deeper, somehow. His love and affection comes from the depths of his furry heart, and he loves completely. He plonks himself down on your lap, covering it completely, hangs his chin over your knees, and quietly purrs the evening away. And he's mad for chasing things - and I think he'd eat my wool if I let him. He gets very engaged with what you're doing, and will watch me washing up, or sewing, very closely.

We got them from the RSPCA shelter, where I'm now an offical cat socialiser. They're owner was an old lady who'd died, and her sister or friend couldn't keep the cats and handed them in. We wanted to take older cats, they young ones get snapped up so quickly, but people don't take the older ones as promptly.

Here's a better pic of Tommy -

This is an old pic - they've been with us since May now, and Tommy has a nasty mark on his nose. Took him to the vet about it, and the words "pre-cancerous" were used. Do not like.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Kate Beaton's Fat Pony

I love webcomics. One of the best is definately Kate Beaton's Hark a Vagrant. Check it out if your day needs some more awesome.

She doesn't have many recurring characters, but one dude who pops up from time to time is the fat pony. So I embroidered him, using this comic as a basis.

It's a very simple embroidery, and the fabric somewhat obscures the stitches, but I think it captures the spirit of the fat pony. May that spirit live in you today.

Fat pony!

RIP, furry dude.

A sad thing happened. The furry dude, little Bryher cat, is dead. She had a huge tumour in her right hind leg that had been treated since Christmas. And in the end, she couldn't walk more than a few yards, and I think her kidneys were packing up too. Finally, that leg dragged on the ground so much that she'd worn the fur away, and the skin was broken and bleeding.

I took her to the vets to be put down on 7th April. When she was dead, and lying on the vet's table, I could hold her leg with the tumour, and it weighed about a third to a half of her body weight. She was always a tiny little dude, but she was just skin and bones at the end.

I miss her so much. Rest in peace, cat-face.


Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Saddest Music in the World

...And here's what I've been doing most recently. One of my favourite films is The Saddest Music in the World, by Guy Madden. Isabella Rosselini plays Lady Port-Huntley, and I've embroidered her here saying the film's best line into her depression-era-Winnepeg microphone.

Saddest Music in the World

I just love this quote. I back stitched it on to Aida fabric, and just glued it on.

Saddest Music in the World

I think I'm most proud of her tiara - I played around with stiches and used chain-stitch, french knots and lazy daisy. Nice.

Saddest Music in the World


I haven't been an inactive crafter, just an inactive blogger. So, here's a couple of updates on what I've been making.

I'm totally in love with Lucy Ravenscar's crochet work - I saw her stuff on Craftster and adored it. So, I decided to make myself a version of her Adorable Snow Monster - here's my Yeti.


Friday, 5 February 2010

Two Faun Bobsleigh Team

I entered the wonderful Schmancy's Winter Olympic challenge, and was put in the bobsleigh catagory. Hooray! So I present to you my Two Faun Bobsleigh Team!


Their sleigh is a bit basic, and their ears aren't very aerodynamic, but they make up for it with sheer determination.


Their heads and torsos are cotton filled with poly stuffing, and their legs are needlefelted. Their hair is just wool roving, their faces are embroidered, and their horns and hooves are Fimo clay. Their gloves and scarves are crocheted from yummy Rowan cotton glace.


I'd been doodling a faun (with bigger boobies) the day before I heard I was in the bobsleigh catagory, and when I started to think of ideas for my entry, the fauns wouldn't go away.

Faun scetches

I think of them as Mr Tumnus' sassier sisters.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Nessa from Gavin and Stacey

Nessa from Gavin and Stacey
Originally uploaded by Earwig.
I loved me some Gavin and Stacey. I only got into the show in the middle of series two, but I avidly watched series three and even had a little sniffle at the last episode.

And my favourite character? It's got to be Nessa. She had the best lines in the show, and was such a well rounded, hilarious character. Getting up on my feminist high horse (whoa there Barbara) I would say it was good to see a strong female character in a prime time show. One who didn't give a shit. One who did exactly what she wanted to.

So as a tribute, I give you my line embroidery of Nessa, and her quote about how she felt on her wedding day. Tidy.

Monday, 18 January 2010


Originally uploaded by Earwig.
This weekend I made these slippers. I got the idea from a post on Craftster at They only took a couple of hours, and they are so cosy! I used some fabric with Japanese kitties that I bought at the Harrogate craft fair in the Autumn.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Catland, sometimes called Pussydom

Cat with Lute - Louis Wain
Originally uploaded by Earwig.
My lovely boyfriend P introduced me to the world and work of Louis Wain, the Edwardian artist who painted and drew big eyed, insane anthopomorphic cats. It's a crazy world - you can learn more about Louis at

So, for Christmas I decided to give P his own Louis Wain cat. I couldn't afford a painting, and I couldn't find a print I liked, so I decided to embroider a cat. This is a embroidered version of "Cat with Lute" - you can see the original here:

I've never really been confident with satin stitch, so I decide to get confident, and so this is all pretty much satin stitch. As you can see from the photo it still needs pressing framing properly. It's about 7 by 5 inches. I'm very proud of it, even though it was only finished on Christmas eve at 10pm!!

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Originally uploaded by Earwig.
I also crocheted a Starghan. This is like an Afghan, only star shaped! What will people think of next. It was an exercise to use up lots of old wool, and it ended up being pretty much baby blanket sized.

Since my boss and his wife are producing a human in February 2010, I decided this might should find a home with them. Double ahn.


Originally uploaded by Earwig.
Ach, I'm such a bad blogger. I said I'd look after this new blog and what have I done? Neglected the poor little thing, that's what.

And at the same time I'm crafting away with no place to share my wonderful creations. So for 2010, I want to post my crafty creation here. I'll start with a couple of projects from 2009.

First is a bat I made for Pen and Alex in New Zealand. Bat was made of thin cordeuroy (sp?) and flowery pink cotton, and luffingly hand stitched. Ahn.