Choosing threads

Over the 25 year I have been sewing, I have amassed an enormous collection of threads, which I keep on display in the studio on this home made spool rack.

I can’t help but collect threads when I see them in charity shops or car boot sales but there are some rules I follow. 
My personal preference is Sylko cotton, which is no longer made, so I have to get these threads second hand. It is thicker than standard polyester or modern cotton thread, which I find easier to hand sew with. It tangles less than polyester and the thickness helps create a bolder stitch which I like. 
cottons - 4
For machine sewing I tend to use Gutermans polyester thread, mainly for practicality as it is easy to buy. I aim to gradually replace all my polyester threads with biodegradable cotton. Polyester is best for any seams under strain and for things like buttons and zips but a good quality cotton is quite strong enough for most things too. 
When I am sewing something really special in silk or wool, I use silk thread which disappears almost invisibly into the fabric. 
Thread spools
I can’t help collecting vintage threads but I use them with caution; natural fibres will degrade with exposure to light so they can be liable to breaking which makes them impossible to use in a sewing machine. I tend to use them for hand sewing only, or just keep them looking lovely in the studio. 
I recently bought some spools of organic cotton thread from Raystitch and I am finding them to be really lovely to work with. I am also the proud owner of some Singer-branded thread, a fabulous gift from my friend and fellow thread-addict Scrapiana
Singer thread

Fabric Manipulation workshops

Sunday 1st July 10am-4pm
Stitch & Gather. This is an exciting experimental workshop where you can try out a wide range of decorative techniques suitable for fashion, embroidery or quilting projects. This workshop includes Suffolk puffs, stuffed shibori and American smocking and lots of the techniques Ruth uses in her exhibition work. 

Don’t worry if you have tried some of these techniques before, as I will show you lots of innovative variations, how to work in different fabrics, how to apply the techniques, develop your own interpretations and much more. 

£50 including materials. Drinks and biscuits are provided. There is a cafe on site too. 

Stitch & Gather Fabric Manipulation workshop

Free-motion machine embroidery workshop

I’ve been asked time and again to run a free-motion embroidery workshop at the studio. So I am doing! Well, not me personally, I have booked Jo Hill to run the session. The workshop takes place on Saturday 7th July 2012 at Ruth Singer Studio, Leicester. 10-4pm, £50 including materials (frames sold separately if required)
Please email or call 07740345062 to book.

Jo creates beautiful wall panels and fashion accessories using free machine embroidery and appliqué, with bird and plant motifs.

In this workshop you will learn a range of machine embroidery skills including writing, appliqué using bondaweb, what sort of fabrics to use and how to embellish your piece. You will create a finished wall panel which you can use for a cushion to make up after the workshop or we can provide canvas frames or embroidery hoops to display your work in.

Art House: exhibition in Leicester

It is only a couple of weeks until the fabulous, little known, local Leicester treasure. Art House is an artist-run event where homeowners fill their houses with work by other local artists and makers and let people wander around and buy lovely things. It is truly wonderful. Like the bigger artist open house festivals in Brighton & Wirksworth, part of the fun is nosing in lovely houses.  I will be exhibiting at 6 Aber Rd f just by Francis St where there are great shops & cafes – another little-known Leicester treasure. Even if you are from out of town, it is worth coming over for a day and exploring. The trail is in the very nice Clarendon Park / Stoneygate area of the city which is full of charming streets. There are more shops and cafes on Queen’s Road too.

I will be exhibiting several newish pieces including this quilt from Festival of Quilts last year
This upholstered stool – never exhibited before!
Upholstered stool
and this piece which rarely leaves my bedroom wall!
bedroom and pink quilt.JPG
(the cream panel not the quilt).
Alongside these there will be some affordable small pieces, plus cushions, brooches and pebble necklaces, as well as the kits to make them!

Ruth Singer Studio

Coat of Many Circles

Ruth Singer Studio
One of the many activities I ran during the Ruth Singer Studio in residence at Haymarket Shopping Centre was creating this coat.

Stitchers who came to workshops and free craft social events contributed some of masses of Suffolk puffs which coat is made from. I didn’t count them all but I suspect there are 300 or so…

I’ve wanted to make a garment from Suffolk puffs for years, and a community-collaboration was a great way to do it. The fronts are make up of the reds &  blues while the back is mostly neutrals and grey-blacks.

Suffolk Puff Coat

Circles Coat

Suffolk Puff Coat

Circles Coat

Suffolk Puff Coat

Suffolk Puff Coat

Suffolk Puff Coat

Creative textiles workshops in primary schools


Coming up with workable activities for primary schools is an interesting challenge. I’ve done a few in the last year or two that I am really pleased with. Working with under 11s is exhausting and rewarding in equal measure. I’ve had the luck to work on some longer-term projects recently which have really allowed me to experiment and try more complicated work than a day activity allows.

Large hanging #3

Last term I worked with a small village primary school creating wall hangings inspired by World War II and local history in the village. We used images of residents during the war, plus maps and photos of the local area to create collages and printed designs. Over the course of the project we used freezer paper stencils, bondaweb, patchwork and hand sewing. We looked at silhouettes, tessellating shapes, transparency, design skills, planning and measuring and of course hand stitch.

Silk printed hanging

Large hanging #2

At the moment I am working with a large school experimenting with fabric manipulation to create a costume inspired by the fashion gallery at Snibston, starting with threading a lot of needles!

Threading a thousand needles

We are using calico to create new shapes and structures, looking at pleating and gathering as our inspiration and experimenting with folds and scrunches.

Folding workshop with primary school

Folding workshop with primary school

Folding also comes in with my paper workshops:

paper installation.jpg

oakthorpe paperwork2.jpg

I also run teacher training workshops and am planning to set up regular twilight sessions at my studio next year.

Sewing workshop in action!

This week, along with a new logo & brand design, 2 photoshoots and two massive pieces of work, I also took delivery of a FILM! (if you can take delivery of a virtual thing…)

Steve Friendship (who lives up to his name) of Large Scale Film made this film of one of my workshops at Haymarket last month.

This has inspired me – it is time for *more video*. I would love to have a film of my studio work on my website, as well as film of more workshops and events. This was just a little off-the-cuff and unscripted and unprepared and messy-haired – next time I will remember when someone is coming to film & tidy up a bit!

I also went to a social media course the other day, about increasing your customers and one of the main things they said was FILM IS GOOD.