A Saucy Stitch

Charity Shop Vintage Finds, Granny Chic, Sewing and Baking with Giddy Aunt Lola

Monday, 19 February 2018

Learning how to Darn with Celia Pym

I had a fab time learning how to darn with the very lovely Celia Pym at Raystitch.  I heard about Celia when she was short listed for the Woman's Hour Craft Prize last year and although she didn't win (she was robbed!!) she was by far my favourite contender for the prize.  Celia has revived the forgotten skill of darning and made it into an art form.  Although I hugely admire the skill of invisible mending, I much prefer the beautiful results that Celia achieves with her glorious Visible Mending techniques. The above is an example of Celia's work on a very old moth eaten child's jumper - it's turned it into something precious.

Another example of Celia's work

The two-part course was held at Raystitch - if you never been, it is a gorgeous fabric shop full of wonderful cloth, patterns and everything stitchy.  The shop itself is in London, barely a 10 minute walk from Angel underground and so super easy to find.  I don't live in London, but it was a fairly easy pilgrimage for me to make for the evening. 

Celia's work

Part one of the course was an introduction to darning wooly items - so socks and jumpers and cardi's in particular. Celia explained the basics of darning a hole using the time honoured technique of warp and weft.  It's so simple, just a basic running stitch vertically (warp) followed by a horizontal stitch (weft) that weaves over and under the warp stitches.  I am a clumsy inexperienced hand sewer but I was pleased with my results.  Celia is a very patient, kind and funny teacher which made for a lovely workshop, together with my fellow course mates.  I would say I felt in the remedial end of the class, as others seemed to have more delicate, even, neater stitches, but Celia constantly reassured us all that darning is not about being perfect. That's handy for me, as being perfect is not my style.

my first wooly darn 

It's about adding character to well worn and much loved items of clothing.

The second week focussed on darning woven fabrics - this was much more in my comfort zone and I bought along a pair of jeans that needed repairs to the knees. It's the same warp and weft process but it felt like there was more scope for creativity with darning woven fabrics.  I carried on darning my jeans over the weekend after the course and I am pretty chuffed with my first attempt.  As you can see, this darning style is very much in the school of the Japanese textile crafts of Sashiko and Boro.  I've had a big crush on both these textile art forms for a long time, and can't wait to experiment more. I hasten to add that I wouldn't want to attempt to darn something for anyone else for a long time, until I'd got a lot better at it. (Yes, don't bring me your holey socks if you want them back anytime in the next decade!)

Celia bought along some of her own wonderful darning projects which have been exhibited in the V & A and Somerset House.  The cream knitted jumper she wore on week two had been lovingly darned with some vibrant coloured wool and she showed us a favourite sheet that she has darned many times over and still uses.  It never occurred to me to darn a sheet when it rips, but why the hell not?!
Have a look at the wonderful work of Celia Pym on her website and take a look at the course that I attended at Raystitch.
It's been a lovely boost in dreary February to get stitching and creative with a new-to-me skill.

I know our grannies and granddads darned as a way of life; make-do-and-mend and the need for economy with limited resources meant darning was a necessity rather than a textile art form. I have a lovely little book that reproduces all the government pamphlets on making-do; there are lots of other more advanced darning techniques in there which Celia showed us but I am not ready to attempt those yet. Celia has helped to revive the skill and to celebrate darning, reminding us how to look after things we love and turn them into something beautiful, as they start to fray.

I'd love to know if any of you darn and who taught you, so feel free to comment below. All photos of Celia's work were taken by me on my decrepit iPhone, so not high quality, but hopefully you can still see the quality in her work.


Madame Saucy


Monday, 12 February 2018

Embracing Winter with a stitch and a good book

Hands up if you struggle with the Winter blues?  Do you spend the whole of January and February craving the longer, warmer days of Spring and hiding under a cosy quilt until Winter has buggered off?  I know lot's of us feel like that but I have waded into a far more positive thought stream in 2018, with the help of some inspiring books.

Last October, I discovered a wonderful little book whilst dipping into Instagram; I love the way that Instagram takes you on these little trails of discovery.  The book is The Almanac; A Seasonal Guide to 2018 by Lia Leendertz.  When I was a child, I used to buy the Old Moore's Almanac from the Newsagent.  It was a small grey booklet that looked very Dickensian and I was intrigued by the information about tides and moon cycles and nature.  It all felt very mystical and Harry Potter-ish.

Lia Leendertz has revived the Almanac with a precious little book that helps you to connect to the changing months and seasons.  I've had a growing awareness that being connected to nature and being creative brings me to a deep sense of peace and satisfaction; a sense of being rooted. I keep this book by my bedside and dip into it with my morning cuppa; a sort of seasonal meditation.

Each month you will find little bites of information on the moon phases, sun/moon set and rises, tide times, what to sew/plant/harvest in the garden, what foods are in season, recipes, Celtic/pagan calendar and festivals, what's going on in nature and more.  This book is a little gem.

Moving on, another book I eagerly awaited when I tripped over it on Instagram is, Making Winter; A Creative Guide for Surviving the Winter Months by Emma Mitchell.   This book is luuuuuverly.

Emma says, 'My anecdotal findings that creative activity can lift mood during winter are beginning to be supported by scientific research.  It seems that yarn crafts can lead to a relaxation or meditation like response similar to that induced by yoga'  This book isn't just for those adept in the wooly crafts as it includes projects for paper crafts, baking and preserving, drawing and painting and making lovely jewellery from silver clay.  I particularly like the crafts related to collecting things from nature and making a winter woodland wreaths and bird snacks. 

It wouldn't matter if you didn't actually make any of the projects from this book, as it is a beautiful book in it's own right and I just enjoy dipping into the lovely photos and project descriptions.  Emma has appeared on the Kirsty Allsopp crafty programmes, showing Kirsty how to use silver clay and featured on Woman's Hour last week.  You can follow Emma here on Instagram; @silverpebble2

'Making things during winter is a cunning strategy  to help replace the feel-good chemicals that may falter during these dingier months.

There are a whole stack of other books that are bringing me a whole lot of pleasure - I always have books for Christmas and I've been using the library regularly over the last year too, so my stack of bedtime reading includes:

Abundance by Alys Fowler
Ferment, Pickle, Dry
Tonics and Teas by Rachel de Thample
Shrubs by Michael Dietsch
Botanical Colour at Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos
The Wild Dyer by Abigail Booth
The Art of the Larder by Claire Thomson
Forgotten Ways for Modern Days by Rachelle Blondel
Sacred Earth Celebration by Glennie Kindred

I have given up Netflix for the love of a good book.  I spread them out on the bed with my bedtime milky chai at my side (yep, given up booze as well) and wallow in the cosiness of reading on a winters evening.  I'd like to chat more about some of these books at a later date as I am really inspired by so many of the subjects covered in them.  AND, I am actually sewing and creating, not just reading about doing it.

But for now, I feel like the end of winter is in sight and I am making plans for the garden; I've ordered my seeds and can't wait to get sowing and growing and harvesting!  I've made friends with Winter but am fully ready to embrace and French kiss Spring!


Madame Sauce

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