This summer I marked (but not really celebrated) 15 years of running my own creative business. I was hoping to bring out a new book this year covering what I’ve done in those years but this year has of course not gone remotely according to plan! I should have it ready next year. In the meantime, every month, I share a 10 page PDF letter / mini magazine with my Patreon supporters which covers a lot of the same behind-the-scenes studio insider stories as the book eventually will. The September issue is a focus on those 15 years of working as an artist /maker. I love writing my Patreon letters and twice-monthly blog posts as I selfishly get to focus on my own practice and share behind the scenes in my studio (and often my office) life. If you would like to delve more into my life and practice, Patreon is the place to do it. Over the last 6 months I’ve written about creative collaborations, fabric manipulation, my 2019 solo exhibition work, self-publishing, work in progress, behind the scenes at a photo shoot and much more. Every subscriber gets a discount for my online shop too and over the summer I gave away tickets to my online Criminal Quilts talk. All the previous content is free for new subscribers too, so there’s masses to explore which should keep you going until my new book is finally ready!
My artist statement says that I prefer to use old cloth in my work, enjoying the history embedded within the textile, and I have tried throughout my 15 years of practice to use sustainable textile techniques. It isn’t the whole story as I do also use digital print on new fabrics for specific projects. I wrote a book in 2007 about sustainable textiles and home sewing. It wasn’t that long ago, but things have moved on so fast that I didn’t even cover digital printing as an option for craft stitching, as it wasn’t commercially available on a small scale then. Since then I have used commercial digital print services for school projects, commissions and in Criminal Quilts. Commercial digital print is now available in small quantities on sustainable fabrics and for Criminal Quilts I used fine wool to make the shawl below and for the library commission I used organic cotton. It is a great way to use designs created by participants in workshops and projects, even if their work is on paper not textile. I also used digital print for the Harefield Hospital Centenary Quilt, working with groups to select and print their own images of the building as well as scans of archive documents and photos.
On a much smaller scale, I have also used home printed textiles for smaller pieces including in Criminal Quilts. These small pieces of fabric are printed on my ordinary inkjet printer which works just fine for small projects. I have used ready-prepared fabrics bought online for workshops but for my own work I prefer to use fabrics from my own stash including organic cotton, silk organza and vintage linen. I used to teach workshops on printing textile on a home printer which was exciting but chaotic as one printer between 12 people is not ideal! I’ve now condensed the information into a PDF which is available in my online shop for £5. This also includes a section on creating scanner collages which you can print on textile or paper which is a really fun at home activity if you have a scanner / combined printer / copier.
This is a shortened version of a longer blog post about my use of digital prints which is available to my Patreon Cotton level subscribers for $5 a month. Cotton supporters get 2 blog posts every month while Wool supporters at $10 a month get a digital monthly mini magazine and 5% discount on anything from my online shop. Silk supporters get all the treats as well as a mini print posted directly to you every month, and 10% off shop purchases.
I’ll be opening my studio on Saturday 25th April (12-4pm) as part of the local St George’s day festival.
This is the first time I’ve opened the studio since I’ve changed it from being a teaching space to being my own personal work space where I run occasional creative textiles workshops too.
I’ll be in the studio working on pieces for my exhibition and other projects, and you will be able to see work in progress, textile artworks for sale and find out more about forthcoming exhibitions, workshops and much more. You can also contribute your textile memories for my exhibition.
I share the studio with fine artist Gillian Adair McFarland and you will also be able to meet her and find out more about her amazing work (recently nominated for the Richard Attenborough Prize at Leicester Open exhibition!).
Our studio is open on 15th & 16th November. We’ll have lots of books, haberdashery, kits, gifts and craft goodies for sale. There will also be mince pies, mulled wine and the chance to nosey around lots of other studios in the building.
Directions to the studio can be found here.
This month’s Sew Sociable will be all about old textiles. I’ll be giving a talk about my love of antique textiles, about museum collections, about my own collection of textiles and how I take inspiration from them to create my own textile art. Anyone coming to the event is enthusiastically encouraged to bring along their own historic textile treasures to show to the others. I hope I’ll be able to to identify things, or at least tell the owners something about them, and offer advice on looking after them. I’ll also be bringing along books about antique textiles for you to browse.
What to bring?
Quilts, handkies, embroideries, tablecloths, vintage clothes, handbags, trimmings, haberdashery, old sewing books… anything textile related is welcome!
Sew Sociable is a free monthly event for all stitchers. There are talks, events, activities, competitions and lovely food and drink in St Martins Tea & Coffee House, St Martin’s Square, Leicester city centre. Antique textile Sew Sociable takes place on Friday 17th October 7.30-10pm. The venue is easily accessible by train and bus for those coming from out of town, and there is parking nearby too. All welcome, even if you haven’t been before.
I’d like to introduce the Ruth Singer Studio teaching team (and their cats) to you all. Heather French and Erica Pickles teach classes and 1:1 tuition at the studio alongside me and help me keep inspired and excited about what we offer to students.
Dressmaking and pattern cutting tutor, Erica Pickles, is a professional costume maker, working freelance for a wide range of clients under the name Sewed Souls. She specialises in historical costume, performance wear and cosplay, and has made everything from Victorian gowns to super hero costumes! She also undertakes the dressmaking jobs that come in to the studio, currently including an alien gown and Polish folk dress for a wedding. Erica and I worked out that we have 44 years of dressmaking experience between us!
She also runs activities for schools at Beaumanor Hall, and somehow also manages to work in a pub as well, so she’s used to dealing with all ages and all kinds of chaos! She loves teaching the dressmaking classes for the studio and finally has some teacher’s gold stars to award to students when they remember to pin properly and set in a sleeve perfectly.
Erica is from Yorkshire and came to Leicester to study Design Crafts at De Montfort University. I first met her as a graduate, volunteering on a schools arts project I ran in North West Leicestershire, and I soon took her on as assistant tutor as she’s so good working with kids (and adults!).
Somehow Erica manages to find time to travel to Finland regularly and is learning the language. She’s also keen on video games, real ale, cheese and grows superb chillies on her windowsill.
Heather French shares my workshop space and helps the studio run smoothly. She teaches the complete beginners classes, purse and bag workshops and new print and sew courses. Heather originally trained in graphic design and she is responsible for the gorgeous studio leaflets (using the original brand design by Sophie Hardwicke). She also helps out with marketing and promoting the studio at events and fairs.
Heather runs her own business Heatherjean, specialising in hand printed textiles. Her colourful, geometric prints can be seen in the studio, and on purses, bags and cushions for sale in her online shop. Heather has only been printing a few months but already has local stockists and has been selected for membership of Design Factory. She will be attending her first design fairs this year with the screen printed designs. I’ve been mentoring Heather for the last year or so and it is a delight to see her business taking off.
Heather is taking Erica’s pattern cutting course and learning how to create her own garments from scratch, made up in her favourite vintage floral fabrics. She’s also working on decorating her house, mostly with vintage florals – or at least she would if her boyfriend let her! She’s also taken up gardening and is growing her first crop of vegetables this summer. In common with all of us, Heather is a cat-lover and is the owner of the gorgeous, giant, white 3-legged Hank.
Ruth Singer. I grew up wanting to be a fashion designer. My obsession with clothing was a bit of a surprise to my parents but they encouraged me to make and create all kinds of things, and fed my passion with trips to the late-lamented costume museums in Leicester and Nottingham, where I would spend hours with my nose pressed to the glass staring at 18th century gowns. I haven’t changed much. Rather than study fashion or textiles, I actually went to Manchester University and studied Medieval History and then to Leicester University for a MA in Museum Studies. I worked in museums for a good while but had little to do with textiles; I worked at London Transport Museum for 3 years and became very knowledgeable about trams! My last salaried job was at the V&A, which was, and still is, my spiritual home. I was responsible for adult learning, running courses, artist residences, workshops and craft demonstrations, as well as a lot of textile history lecturing. Working there inspired me to get out from behind the desk and make things for a living, which I have now been doing for 9 years.
I write books about sewing, teach textile history, mentor makers, teach freelance for arts organisations, occasionally manage museums projects and lots more, alongside the studio. I am also an active textile artist, exhibiting in galleries and undertaking commissions and have won awards for my work. I’ve recently been promoted to Fellow of Design Factory too.
My home life is run by Maya, a gorgeous tabby cat who is nearly as fat as Heather’s Hank. I have a somewhat run-down Victorian house and am slowly renovating it into a glorious little museum of my own, full of fabric and my endless collections of interesting old things.
Slow Stitch takes place on Friday evenings 6-9pm at Ruth Singer Studio
Slow Stitch has finished for 2014, more dates for 2015 will be announced soon.
Slow Stitch events are for anyone who loves hand stitching: embroidery, cross stitch, needlepoint and tapestry. These are social events; bring along your stitching and meet like-minded thread-obsessives to share ideas, inspiration and textile chat. You can also browse my huge collection of embroidery books and there will also be a sales / swaps table – bring your excess stash of threads, books, fabrics or tools to swap or sell. Please note this is not a taught workshop, so bring your own project to work on. £5 per event including tea & biscuits. Pay on the day, no need to book.
I’ve had a lot of conversations with new stitchers about the different between dressmaking and pattern cutting workshops. There’s a misunderstanding about what dressmaking actually means and what you learn in each of the classes, so here’s a run down!
Dressmaking means clothes making – you don’t have to make dresses. For our classes you need to buy a suitable commercial pattern and then we help you follow the instructions and solve problems. It really helps to give you confidence in understanding patterns on your own. These classes take place on Wednesday mornings and occasional weekends and Monday evenings. Check dates here. If there are spaces, you can join a class part way through. Just contact us for information.
Pattern alterations means adjusting a commercial pattern to fit you better. Patterns are generic sizes so almost everyone will need to tweak the pattern to fit better. The alterations are best done on the paper pattern not the part-sewn garment. Depending on the pattern, the alterations might be really difficult – it depends on the style as to how easy or complicated it is to adjust a pattern. Sometimes you would have to do so much to a pattern that you would be better off with a different pattern! Our dressmaking classes help you get the right fit from any pattern – we will assess and adjust a practice garment while you are wearing it and help you make the changes to the pattern so the real version is just right.
Pattern cutting means starting from absolute scratch and creating a body-matching pattern. Using your own measurements, you draw out a basic pattern to closely match your body shape, called a block or sloper. You then test this is cheap fabric and adjust the pattern to be perfect. You will end up with a perfect body block which you can then use to create your own patterns, creating your own design for necklines, sleeves, fit, darts or pleats etc. When you cut your own patterns you don’t get instructions, so this is best if you know how to make clothes already or you can bring your pattern to the dressmaking classes. Our pattern cutting classes run over 4-6 weeks on Wednesday evenings, with just one course left before Christmas and then there won’t be any until Easter 2015, so book fast if you fancy this advanced course.
Take a break from Christmas shopping to join us at the studio for a social afternoon on Sunday 15th December 1-3pm – free of charge! Bring along your hand sewing, knitting or other craft and enjoy tea & mince pies. There will also be loads of sewing bargains, as we clear out the studio for a change-around in January. You can also find out about and book courses for 2014.
On Saturday 7th December, 12-4pm, my lovely studio building Makers’ Yard will be open for you to have a look around. Other tenants will be open too, so you can have a good nosey and do a bit more Christmas shopping.
My studio will be open for you to come and have a look at my work, see work in progress and find out about 2014 courses. We will also have some sale bargains around too, both fabrics and finished products so you can buy presents for yourself and others!
Samples and old stock from £5
Vintage fabric pieces
Vintage sewing patterns for 50p
New haberdashery and sewing tools
Don’t forget I also do gift vouchers for anyone you think might like to try a workshop or buy a lot of fabric!