Meet the tutors

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 Embroidery Group at Ruth Singer Studio

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.


Dressmaking & Pattern cutting workshops

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.

Craft Social at Ruth Singer Studio

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. 

Ruth Singer Studio

Ruth Singer Studio

Makers’ Yard Open Studio

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!

Bargain books

Sewing kits

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!

Christmas Shopping at Makers’ Yard

Make it a handmade Christmas and come shopping at my studio building, Makers’ Yard, where you can buy from the other tenants in the studio building as well as me. I’ll have a lot of samples for sale (cushions, bags, scarves, brooches etc), as well as discounts on books, fabrics, sewing tools and gift vouchers for sewing enthusiasts.

Please come along to the exclusive evening event with mince pies and mulled wine on Friday 15th 6-9pm or any time on Saturday 16th November 10-4pm when there will be additional artists and makers selling their work too.


MakersYard_Web copy

2014 textiles workshops

Just a brief outline of the new workshops to come in 2014, full details soon!

Workshops 2014
All workshops are 10am-4pm on Saturdays at Ruth Singer Studio, Leicester. £55 each or book 3 for £150

Miniature Art Quilts. 25th January
Criminal Quilts 2

Shadow Embroidery. 23rd February

Criminal Quilts 2

Cut-surface quilting. 22nd March

'Squares'  hanging, 2013. More details here

‘Squares’ hanging, 2013. More details here

Family Stories. 26th April

Whiting Laundry

Handmade fabrics. 31st May

Suffolk puff cushion

Smocking, Shirring & Gathering. 28th June  Rescheduled for 21st June

English smocking

Found objects and amulets . 19th July

Metamorphosis detailPhotos on Fabric. 30th August

Monumental Folly pincushion  25x15cm More  details here

Monumental Folly pincushion 25x15cm More
details here

Wild Dyes. 28th September Rescheduled for 20th September

mixed dyes

Trapunto Quilting. 1st November

Trapunto quilting

Transparency. 6th December. Rescheduled for 13th December

shadowwork detail

Beginners Dressmaking Course

New dressmaking class starting in August

Dressmaking open session
Wednesdays 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th August & 4th, 11thSeptember,  10am-1pm
£20 for each session or book a term of 6 for £100
Book here

This Wednesday morning session is for new and improver dressmakers to practice with support and learn new skills. Bring your own project to work on and get help when required, and make use of space to spread out, tools, sewing machines and expert assistance. In each session we will cover a different technique to help you develop your sewing skills. Techniques will be demonstrated in the first part of the session (approx 30 mins) and then you are free to use the rest of the session as you wish:, getting on with your own project or practicing the techniques. You will also have access to Ruth’s library of sewing books and magazines for techniques and inspiration. All levels are welcome at the sessions.

Week 1 – Using a pattern; the basics.
Week 2 – Facings and interfacing
Week 3 – Seams and hems
Week 4 – Zips – inserting a basic zip and introduction to invisible zips

Week 5 – Darts and curved seams
Week 6 – Buttonholes

Term 2
9th, 16th, 23rd, 30th October & 6th, 13thNovember
(content of workshops TBC but suitable for all levels)
Book here

Crafty Mamas: a new workshop designed for mums with tiny babies

New mamas don’t have a lot of time for themselves, so we’ve put on this monthly drop-in session to give you a chance for some creative time without having to worry about preparing and clearing up, or sorting out childcare. Young babies are welcome and the workshop is very flexible, so don’t worry if you have to feed or change your baby during the session, and we won’t throw you out if the baby decides to cry! We provide you with a kit and instructions so you can finish making at home if you don’t get done in time. These sessions are designed for beginner and improvers but all levels are welcome. 

“I loved having the opportunity to sew as part of a group without worrying that my baby would disturb others. A lovely simple project which was easy to achieve during the session, a great reminder of a fab morning. Ruth is a really friendly and open teacher with a workspace I am very envious of!” 
Emma, mum of Lauren.  
Workshops take place on the first Tuesday of every month at Ruth Singer Studio, Makers’ Yard, 82-82 Rutland St, Leicester, LE1 1SB. 10am-12pm. £18. Book online here


Notes for mamas 
This sessions is aimed at parents with pre-crawling babies as the workshop isn’t safe for mobile babiesA sling might be useful so you can have both hands free to make. We have a few baby gyms and playmats for your baby and basic baby changing facilities.  Please book in advance but if there’s a baby crisis, you can transfer your booking to the next session if you let me know on the day. Drinks and biscuits included. What about dads? I’m more than happy for dads to come with their babies but men are incredibly rare at any of my workshops so I have aimed this at mums.