Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Easter textiles and sewing camp

Easter sewing and textile camp is up and almost running! the dates are done, the hall is found and all the other interesting bits are going on.What is that you ask? well, for me its the choosing of fabric, the deciding on projects and techniques that we will cover because I love that part of my job!

This year we will be covering a few different ones. I love fabric marbling ice dyeing, batiking, tie dyeing (there is a textiles theme here!) and of course the sewing side as well with a bit of quilting, free motion and regular learn to sew happening. The project ideas come from everywhere with clothing, cushions, bags and zip cases all making a very good case for themselves to be added to the line up!  What will I choose? Each project needs to be rated by ability and by difficulty and age.
The next two weeks will be interesting and I plan to keep working on it.
If you are interested the details are on the website at

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Looking back at 2014 and Looking forward...

 2015 is off to a flying start but of course looking back is so necessary. Last year was incredibly busy  for me. Mr S took a contract working in India and I found myself really struggling to make my work life balance work with the kids. I would be a wreck by Friday and while I love what I do I knew things had to change for this to work for me. 

We ran the first ever Sewing Camp which was amazing, I really got a feel for teaching in a different atmosphere, a completely different vibe. We traveled a lot which was amazing, India and my block printing adventure :)which I blogged about, seeing the Taj Mahal. Sri Lanka, to see family and attend weddings then Disney in Florida which was amazing and really allowed us all to spend quality time together. I met my old college friends, got to meet their kids and had a wonderful time with my cousins and family, people I did not know growing up. I got to meet some incredible people, visit the most amazing places and see some wonderful things. What a year... 

I listed all my goals for 2015, something I am sure all of us do and I found that growing Seams So Easy and my personal sewing were on the agenda. Knowing what did not work for me last year really helped shape my choices and so I hired an admin person to help me with all the nitty gritty work that is so necessary but takes up too much of my time. I have also started the process of hiring teachers and looking at new schools and other venues. The list is endless but once this is all done I would have made the changes I need to make this work for me.. There are plans for an Easter Sewing Camp with a wonderful host of projects and new sewing, dyeing and quilting here's to 2015 being an amazing year for all of us...

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Wanted: Sewing Club Teacher

If you love to sew and would like to inspire young minds to sew, quilt, dye and sew some more, then this is for you...
Seams So Easy is expanding and we are recruiting a part time teacher to help us grow.

What we need:

  • An energetic teacher willing to share sewing experiences and support students creative growth.
  • The job is part time and will involve teaching up to 8 students in a club atmosphere. 
  • Teaching in and around the Beckenham and West Wickham area
  • Students will be 8 years and older. 
  • A teacher that has hand and machine sewing experience. If you have a a particular interest ie quilting, patchwork, embroidery etc we would love to hear from you.
  • There will be set working hours during term time with the option of holiday club hours over Easter and Summer breaks. 
  •  If you haven't taught before but love to sew and like to work around children please get in touch.
  • For more info on the classes and what we do please look at the website and Facebook page.

Interested? then please get in touch by emailing me on with your CV.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Summer Sewing Camp

What an amazing term it has been, I have seen three of four of my initial students get A+'s for their textile work and have received a real boost in knowing that I helped them get there. The work they produced under the expertise of the wonderful teachers at the Langley Park school for girls is truly inspiring to see. I must say that that really made me see first hand what a difference being a part of the club has made to them and indeed to all the students who are involved.
I was thinking of the summer program for a while now, more than a year in fact and I have been dreaming (in colour) of the colors and projects. I enlisted the help of a couple of other teachers, one a wonderful inspirational person who has years of teaching and crafting experience and another who does amazing things with cross stitch (happens to be my mother in law and is conveniently visiting)...After much planning it is now done. I have learned loads about what to do for next year and of course what not to do! A massive thank you to the teachers who helped me do this and the students who signed up, came and really did an amazing job...

A few of my favorite pictures...

A fabulous day with wonderful makes and with some very creative people...

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Block printing in Mumbai Part 2

The workshop in Mumbai run by the very talented Blocks and Prints was part of my great fabric and textiles adventure in India. Part 1 covers a bit of the history about textiles, find it here.

The print starts with the block, here you can see the positive and negative prints blocks. The outlines are stamped on and then filler blocks are used to add the necessary color to each intricate design.

The blocks were used to create the fabric that is shown. I love both the positive and negative patterns shown on the fabric. 

The paint we used was pigment mixed with a fixer agent. I currently use acrylic paints with a textile medium and have found them to be very good with a great hand feel and good wash quality. The trays we used were made of leather (drool) and a piece of fabric, jute like in appearance but made from wool which helps soak up the paint and keep it even.Ms Rao suggested wool felt as an alternative which is something I must try. The paint is poured on and then evened out with a spreader to help the process along. The saturated cloth is then used as a stamp pad for the ink.

I normally dab the paint on with a sponge which is great for small projects and being conservative with paint. However the fabric method meant a much more even paint distribution on the block and then on the fabric. 

The blocks normally have registration marks on them to help know which ends line up. The double lines on this one meant the print lined up with no gaps as we printed a long boarder. 

The block is dipped into the ink then placed registration side down first then followed by the other side. A swift fist is used to whack the block to help the paint  transfer (I must say by the end of the day I was in pain!) and then carefully lifted off to reveal the print. 

Lining up the registration marks...

Second colors are added by using a filler block which has been cut to fit the needs of the original  outline or rekha print. Some patterns have three or four fillers or duttas which then add many colors to the print. 

Loving my peacock on wheels :) 
The fabric I made to take with me was on white cotton and I used three blocks for the main body and two for the bottom edge.

I plan to turn it into a skirt. The planning takes the most time as figuring out which blocks to use together was quite a challenge for me also then colour combo's and the most amazing  
I suspect all over large blocks are easier to work with than placement prints. I used the large circular print in orange and used the dutta filled in blue. I then used an Ikat print in between to add color and design.The bottom edge which is not shown here has three lines of orange and a boarder print in blue. I will post a picture of the skirt when done.  
The variety of the prints and blocks available is amazing, Ms Rao has several cupboards full of blocks and they were organised by boarders, paisleys, flowers, animals etc.. the combinations are of course endless. The best bit for me was how easy it was to do, once I did one line the start was dry which meant you could keep printing, unlike screen prints which require extensive amounts of time to touch dry, this method was amazing as you could keep going! stopping only when done. The print does need to be cured or left to line dry for two nights before running a hot iron on the reverse to set the print. 

A note when buying blocks, 
I was shopping for blocks and saw ones done in brass which I purchased not knowing what and how to use them. The lines in those are much finer with the wooden blocks soaking up a lot more color. 
Look at the design on the block, make sure the lines are clean with no breaks on them. All blocks are not made equal and some are very roughly carved while others are beautifully intricate. 

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Block Printing in Mumbai Part 1

On my list of things to do while in India, was of course to try and do a a part of the textile trail. I did some on line research I found Shymila Rao, of Blocks and Prints who runs block printing workshops in Mumbai. I mailed her and we soon had a date for some lovely block printing to happen.

Part of the workshop was an intro into textiles forms of  the Indus valley which followed the flow of the river. Dyers, weavers and textile artists lived along the banks as water was a vital part of the process of creating fabric. Each area had it's own tradition and in the past, each print could have easily been identified regionally. The Rajasthan area is now most known for the textile processes done there and the hot dry weather of the region is perfect for the natural dyeing process that has been typical for the area. I learned though that there were lots of regions producing very distinct looking fabric using specific techniques and natural dye combinations etc.. The pictures below has textile examples from the Bagh region and the Ajrak region as well. There are more out there, these were simply the two I picked to highlight. The most obvious difference was of course the colours and patterns used. One was floral and very easy  on the eye, the other far more bold and obvious in colour and print style.

Bagh fabrics
Ajrak fabrics
The influence of the Islamic motifs were everywhere. Having been to the Taj Mahal on this trip I recognized the diamonds and star patterns on everything

Some of the places and processes that were discussed during the workshop sounded amazing! The pictures below are of work done with dyeing, block printing, over printing,  resist printing using a natural mud resist and finally an indigo vat.
Happiness! In the next part I will discus the process and the blocks, the wonderful wooden blocks...

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Taj Mahal and Agra...

Mr S is working in Mumbai on a project and I used the opportunity to visit this amazing place. I remember coming to Mumbai when I was pregnant with Master A which seems like a life time ago. I do remember feeling that it was a special place even then. This time we visited Agra and Taj Mahal which is simply amazing to see.
This is the view from the Agra fort of the TM. Shah Jehan built the Taj Mahal at the request of his dying wife. He built a monument that has survived over time. The marble is luminescent and seems to glow in the moonlight. The work decorating he Taj is all done out of precious stones, cut and inlaid into flowers and this is why it took as long as it did to construct. The structure is perfectly symmetrical in every aspect except the two tombs which are different sizes. This was the view he had, taken from his balcony. I found this view and aspect the best.
One of the entrance arches which has carved inlaid work at the top and over the door. 

Impressive when you realize that the marble is carved to size and the precious stones cut to fit exactly, no grout at all :) 

View of the side enterace

Master and Miss were very good considering how hot it was, even at 6 pm! 

The Islamic star and diamond motifs are all over the monument, the ceilings, the fretwork and the floor. 
The Agra fort was also an amazing place to visit. I honestly enjoyed it more than I did the Taj Mahal, the amazing carvings and fun playful nature of a lived in fort is wonderful. The Indian Army still occupies part of the fort and therefore only 15% of it can be seen. I found myself simply enjoying the views and the amazing rooms. 

Amazing place to visit. i wish I had more time and it was a different time of year as the 36 degree dry heat was very tiring.. I am very glad though that I had the time to make this amazing trip.