London Hat Week

It has been and exciting couple of months in the London craft world, first we had Collect at the end of February, then the Contemporary Textiles Fair in March and most recently London Hat week. It has been a real treat on so many different levels! I would have dearly loved to try some of these hats on, if the organisers allowed that I am sure the atmosphere in the exhibition would be buzzing with giggles and laughter 🙂

There were literally hundreds of hats on display under the “World Garden” theme so I have selected just a handful of my favourites to share with you here, starting with those made from felted wool, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did…

Las Vegas Creamsicle by FeltHappiness
Beech Glade by The Crafty Beggars
Wendell’s Tussock by The Crafty Beggars
I love their clever use of wool locks to create a very wearable tuft of grass!
The Animation from Within by Anna Utko
This was a very deserving winner of HatTalk prize
The label said it was inspired by feeling emotions and finding your inner balance
Urban Garden by Antonela K Millinery
It is hard to see with the dark background but the felt of this top hat is lacy and see-through, a curious idea but as someone who wears hats to conceal my “bad-hair-days” it might be missing the point! 🙂
Tango by Jilby
I have often seen needle-felted fruit and vegetables on Pinterest and wondered what people do with them, now I know! 🙂
Winter by Sherry Richardson
I was immediately drawn to the ethereal nature of this hat made from sinamay and crin.
Crista Galli by Nikole Tursi
This hat is modelled on the Ceibo, the national flower of Argentina and is quite breathtaking to look at
Crista Galli from a different angle
Irony – Ration of Thorns by ITAM Designs
I’m still not sure if I am drawn to or repulsed by this hat, the black spidery tendrils leave me a little bit frightened but morbidly fascinated at the same time
Nature’s Way by Hat Trick
Autumn Days by Fascinators of Flair
Made in Holland by Marianne Jongkind Hoeden
This hat made me do a double-take, initially it looks like a large hat to fit a large head but then you realise it must have a double shell to accommodate a normal size head. The visual trickery appeals to my sense of humour.
The Rose Trellis by Wendy Scully Millinery
Life Scenery by Suteni
Butchart Gardens by Sova Design Millinery
I love the Ann Boleyn style hat form body of this headpiece.
Fiona by Vivian Blooms
The shadows cast by this hat are magical aren’t they?
Peacock by Verna Wass Millinery
I so want to see airline cabin crew wearing these!
Peacock from a different angle
Shura by Viviane Go
This hat fascinated me, wondering first if it was a creature? I settled on it being an armadillo only to then read the label and discover it was a Pangolin. Then came the question of how one would wear it, I concluded the tail would have to sit across your mouth and the point would sit over your nose, like a very ornate balaclava.
Even though it isn’t made from wool I think this was my favourite hat in the exhibition.

Which was your favourite and why?

Collect 2019

Collect is an annual show of international contemporary craft, organised by by the Crafts Council. I have wanted to attend this event for the last few years but it is only open to the general public for 3 days so has proved very difficult to schedule, this year however, was different and I finally got to go in person and I am so glad I did! It is a great opportunity to talk to other artists about their craft and processes, especially on the top floor which is dedicated to emerging artists rather than the galleries who occupy the ground and first floors.

It is a pretty incredible show, spread over 3 floors of the Saatchi Galleries. You will need at least 3 hours to do it justice, more if you plan to attend any of the talks.

These are just a tiny selection of the pieces that were highlights for me….

Marian Brjlenga’s delicate, spidery textile hanging
Detail of above photo

Her tiny colourful dots were strung together with fine translucent thread allowing them to be suspended several centimetres from the wall, creating subtle shadows behind.

Jerome Blanc’s exquisitely carved wooden bowls
Detail of above photo

The craftsmanship of these bowls was exquisite, with thousands of precisely carved curves producing a mesmerising optical illusion that draws you inevitably to peer into the hole at the centre.

Detail of “Time Space” by Shihoko Fukumoto, indigo dyed weaving

If you look closely you can see a second layer of weaving behind that gives a feeling of depth to a hanging.

Inger Fohanne Rasmussen
Detail of above photo

I was in awe of the neatness of the thousands of stitches employed in Inger’s hanging, this was clearly a labour of love to hand-stitch such a large and detailed hanging.

Lizzie Farey, willow
Lizzie Farey, willow
Susie Freeman – “Pill Bag”

This is one of many works Susie has created that puts pills and medication centre stage. She traps the pills using by knitting with a fine thread. It’s not clear what Susie’s stance is on medication is but her work certainly makes the viewer consider their own relationship with it.

Mathieu Ducournau – threads on canvas
Mathieu Ducournau – threads on canvas
Detail of photo above

Mathieu’s works were incredibly skilful, from a distance they look like oil paintings but as you get closer the messy, tangled weave of coloured threads revel themselves.

Claire Malet – “Winter Sketch”
Vanessa Hogge – “Daphne” and “Chrysanthemum” vases
Zemer Peled – “In Bloom”
Ricardo Tena Chavez – “Unexpected Creatures”
Su-Yeon Kim – “Forrest of Stools”, drawn with melted glass

This sketch caught my eye, initially I though the stools had been hand stitched but as you get closer you can see how each strand has been “drawn” with melted glass.

Charlotte Mary Pack – “100 Elephants”
These were made in one day and represent the number of elephants illegally killed each day.

Charlotte made a time-lapse video of the making of these elephants, it is only 3 minutes long and worth a look – video.

Martha Rieger – each cocoon had a little surprise hidden inside
Detail of photo above

I hear Collect will be moving to a new venue next year, after 10 years at the Saatchi Galleries it will be moving to Somerset House, I am sure the standard of work will continue to be exemplary in their new home.

Felting for Embroidery

I have been attending my local Embroiderer’s Guild (Farnborough) for a year or so now, we meet monthly and our group is slightly unusual in that we focus on teaching each other practical skills rather than inviting speakers. Last month we made coiled bowls and before that temari balls.

Being a feltmaker it was no surprise when I was asked if I would teach the group to make a piece of felt that we could then embroider at the following meeting. It was quite a tall order, 13 ladies, 11 of whom had never handled wool tops before, let alone made felt and we only had 2.5 hours to complete our projects in…

Most embraced a landscape for their first piece of felt, rather fitting with the Q1 challenge although, of course they did not know about it 🙂


Others took a more abstract approach….



I can’t wait to see how they look after the addition of some embroidery next month, I have great plans for machine embroidery on mine, it is going to be a lot of fun!

If you are local and interested in the Farnborough (UK) Embroiderer’s Guild we would love to hear from you, please email Sue and Anne at for more information

Biophilia and Felting Friendships

It is almost a year to the day that I gave up my day job of setting up clinical trials of new drugs for hospital patients to pursue my dream of making felt full-time.

Related image

A post on FB this week, prompted me to reflect on why I made that choice. One year in to my new adventure and the start of a new year, this seems like a good place to pause and take stock.

The post on FB asked us to choose the 3 main reasons why we chose to use our creative talents to go self-employed because lets face it, most of us don’t do it for the financial rewards, if economic security is top of your agenda, going self-employed in the creative arts is likely to be low on your list of employment choices.

This is the list of values to choose from but you are welcome to add your own, they came from Shannah Kennedy’s book: Simplify, Structure, Succeed.

Which 3 did you choose?

Mine were:

Freedom and Health: being self-employed means I can go for a 2 hour run or a long walk in the middle of the day if I want to, being able to down tools and go outside when the sun is shining has made me far more physically active and the psychological benefits of spending more time outside, in our beautiful British countryside, means I am far less stressed. This also relates to biophilia (see below) which is also supported by working with wool.

I also love that I don’t have to get up a silly o’clock in the morning to sit in traffic jams with thousands of other equally miserable people trying to get to the office before 9 am. There’s a lot to be said for home-working!

Order/stability : I found working in the corporate world could be incredibly stressful, every 2-3 years we would have a new VP, none of them could ever accept that the systems installed by their predecessor worked just fine and so felt they needed to restructure the entire company in an effort to leave their mark, like dogs peeing on a lamppost. We were constantly working in a state of flux, trying to navigate new processes but never being allowed to do the same thing long enough to get good at it before a new VP would come along and change everything again!

I wouldn’t describe my life as particularly ordered; Einstein summed it up well, “If a messy desk reflects a messy mind, of what does and empty desk reflect?”. I am messy and proud! 🙂 But compared to the corporate world my current work-life does feel a lot more stable, my processes only change when I need them to, not because someone else is peeing on my lamppost!

Of course, one downside to being a self-employed maker is that many of us feel we have to take the work when it comes, this can lead to working 18 hour days but that is my decision to work long hours (not due to some arbitrary deadline set by a faceless manager) and if I don’t want to work that many hours, I can always refuse a commission or only accept it with an extended delivery deadline. There’s nothing to say you have to take on every piece of work that is offered to you, in fact I think there are some things you should always say no to, but that is a whole other post!

Biophilia: Not on the list I know, but I think it is very relevant for most of us. Those of you who make felt on a regular basis will understand the deep connection with nature and the past that it brings, taking natural fibres and thousands-year-old techniques to create beautiful works guided only by your imagination and what the materials want to do.

I recently discovered this connection with nature and the desire to surround ourselves with natural materials has a name; biophilia. It seems to be something of a trend in textile studies at the moment but of course felt-makers have been familiar with the concept (if not the name) for centuries 🙂

Felting Friendships

One of the respondents on the FB page also talked about how isolating it can be to be a creative working from home, she described how she has changed from an assertive, confident woman to feeling like a timid mouse. I felt so sad reading that but I can easily relate to where she is coming from. Working on your own, 7 days a week can be tough, even for introverts who are comfortable with their own company, I can only imagine it must be an impossible challenge for extroverts.

For me, while designing and making are where I find the most fulfilment in my work, I realise that attending fairs and teaching are what keeps me sane. I need that social interaction, while Pickle (my cat) is very chatty, his conversation is hardly what anyone would think of as intelligent.

If you mostly work alone, how do you find it? Do you have strategies for coping with the isolation?

I think we are social animals (even the introverts!), we need to connect with other humans and for me, I am finding I need to collaborate and share with others, Open Studio events and craft fairs are great ways to connect but are quite sporadic so I was chuffed to bits to spend a day with Janine and Nancy making winged vessels in Janine’s studio (she has a studio to die for!). I am already looking forward to our next play-date and hope this will become a regular event in our diaries. I have long admired Ruth’s creative textile gatherings and hope we can develop something similar.

These are what we made on the day:

Janine – green vase, Teri – cloche hat with rosette, Nancy – large winged pod

My hat after it was dyed:


Alright, full disclosure…. the observant may have already guessed this is not going to be a textile-related post, if exercise is a dirty word and weight loss / getting fitter aren’t on your 2019 wish list, I completely understand but please come back next week, I promise to have something more woolly to offer 🙂 If you struggle with your weight or maintaining your good intentions for exercise I hope you will find my story of interest….

Last January my GP informed me that my BP was on the high side, nothing to be alarmed about but something that could be improved with exercise. If I chose to do nothing about I would likely end up on medication. That combined with the weighing scales groaning every time I gingerly stepped on them and a family history of diabetes was enough to make me take some action.

So what to do about it?

When I was at school they made us run multiple laps around the rugby/football/cricket pitches two or three times a year. To say I HATED IT would be a massive understatement. I was always the last to finish (walking most of the route) and so became quite convinced I could not run, I firmly believed that for decades (amazing what they teach in schools isn’t it?!)

A few years ago I decided to challenge the label my teenage self had adopted so I started following a couch to 5k (3 miles) program, half way through the program I got stuck and just could not seem to run for longer than 10 minutes so I gave up and and a few months later tried a different program, and then another and another. You get the picture, and of course every failure was another confirmation that my teenage self was right after all.

Fast forward 6 years, to January 2018, and I found the One You C25K app, I’m not sure what changed, was it Jo Wiley’s (a well known UK radio DJ) chatty commentary in my ear, encouraging me to keep going, the nagging anxiety that my health would suffer if I didn’t do this or the structure of this plan? It was probably a combination of all three, all I can say is I am so glad found it. Out of the 6 or 7 C25K programs I have tried, this is the only one I would recommend, and unlike some of the failed programs One You is free, I have posted the link to the iPhone version above but I believe there is an Android version too.

It took me a little longer than the predicted 9 weeks but by April I was jogging (very slowly) for 30 minutes without stopping or walking. That was a major achievement for me! 🙂

Soon after posting my progress on Facebook a friend suggested I try a ParkRun. These are weekly, 5km (3 mile) events, held in parks and public spaces all over the world. Very conscious that my 30 minutes of jogging only covered 3km I wondered if I could really do it and would the teenage humiliation of being the last one to finish be publicly re-enacted? Part of me was dreading it.

I needn’t have worried, yes I was tediously slow, and out of a field of more than 400 participants I was among the last 10 to cross the finish line, but I wasn’t last! I later found out there are always some people who walk the 5km and there is always a “tail-walker”, a ParkRun volunteer who makes sure they are last to cross the finish so no-one has to suffer that indignity, no matter how slow they are.

Through ParkRun I discovered there is a very friendly and relaxed running group in my village. My first outing with them was something else I worried needlessly about. I was having nightmares about drill-sergeants shouting at me to run faster! Don’t be so lazy! etc etc. But the reality could not have been more different, Normandy Running Group are a wonderfully supportive group of people who welcome and accommodate everyone, no matter how slow.

Once I was covering 5 km, three times a week I needed a new challenge, so found a bridge to 10 km (6 miles) plan, and boy was it a challenge! It took a few tries but once I accepted that I didn’t need to run continuously for the whole 10 km I did it, I am now in the middle of a Half Marathon training plan, currently covering about 30 km a week. The big event is in March, wish me luck!

It is hard to believe how far I have come in just 365 days but if an non-runner like me can do it anyone can! I have lost 10 kg (22 lb), my BP is on the lower end of normal for my age and I look and feel so much better.

What do I wish I had known a year ago?

  • take it slowly, there’s no need to run fast and try not to be bouncy when you run
  • don’t be afraid to repeat some of the C25K runs if you don’t manage to complete the assigned run times, you will get stronger and it will get easier each time you repeat it
  • the rest days between each run are just as important as the running days, your muscles need at least 24 hours to recover
  • be brave, try new things, even if they are really scary, you’ll never know what you can achieve until you try
  • give ParkRun a try, its free and everyone is so friendly and supportive they will make you feel like you are Mo Farrah!

I still find running hard but but have gone from hating it to loving it.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?

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