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."