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Open Stitches - Almost Like a Private Lesson!

Private Lessons are actually good value…

When I was reading English at the University of Toronto about a century ago, I remember one half-year course based on book illustrations, and occasionally located in the university’s Rare Book Library. Apart from the charming topic, the smallness of the group appealed because there was ‘room’ (physical and mental) for some really interesting discussions to grow - not only between professor and student, but amongst the students themselves. Since beginning to teach hand embroidery, I have likewise tried to make room for occasional small group get togethers for the very same reason. They used to be called One Stitch at a Time; now they’re called Open Stitches, and they’re online.

Students learn as much from each other as they do from the teacher, especially in small groups.

I believe that many people shy away from the idea of a private lesson because it seems a bit of an expensive luxury for stitchers who don’t consider themselves ‘serious’ or ‘good enough’. Actually, having the undivided attention of an expert in something for, say, a couple of hours every once in a while can be really good value, especially if the ‘rookie’ works out lots of questions to ask beforehand. So often a class takes place with a large group, and asking for lots of detailed information isn’t always so easy, for the student or the teacher. When there’s only one person to concentrate on, it’s amazing how much can be achieved in a relatively short space of time.

If not a private lesson, then a small group session is almost as good - everyone gets a bigger slice of the teacher’s time and the fact that everyone is probably working on a different project isn’t a problem, in fact it’s a great way to get inspirations for future projects of your own. I was thrown in the deep end (with lots of help!) as a graduate apprentice from the Royal School of Needlework, when I taught my first Certificate & Diploma group many years ago now. Six people in the room, all of them at different stages on projects that could be anything from Jacobean Crewelwork to Whitework’s Pulled & Drawn Threads (and everything in between). I’ve done it so often now, I actually prefer teaching groups where I have no idea what I’m going to find until I get started - it keeps me on my toes and I usually have far too much fun!

When I started up the ‘One Stitch at a Time’ sessions years ago in Bristol, they were usually on a Saturday morning and/or afternoon, and stitchers pre-booked whatever times and dates they wanted. I usually held them once a month because all the other Saturdays were taken up with other classes. There were some who came to all of them, so it turned into a monthly thing for them, whilst others only came in the winter (or summer). Some were very experienced and wanted to be pushed to try something different, others were complete beginners and had NO idea where to start. There were those who’d inherited an unfinished project from mum or gran and wanted to complete it, and others who had started a kit in a class years before and needed help on getting it done. Like I say, I’m happiest when I have no idea what’s going to be happening until the session starts, so needless to say I always had a great time.

Now that I’ve moved all my sessions online, it seems only natural to try and establish some smaller sessions like One Stitch at a Time on the same platform (Zoom). So I’ve scheduled the first Sunday of each month for Open Stitches, a morning or afternoon session which is pre-booked and which is intended to be a free-for-all on the stitching front! Each session is 2½ hours in length, and space is limited to a maximum of six people per session. Nice and small! Some of my current students have already booked themselves in, but there is always room for a new face! If you’re not convinced about treating yourself to a private lesson, dip your toes into an Open Stitches session and get a bit of a taster of what it’s like. The journey is really short, and you can have your cuppa made exactly how you like it!


In my workbox...

The first time I came across Sakura Pigma Micron pens ( was when I had a go at making a textile art doll with a book by Jan Horrox called Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls, published by Search Press ( Jan swore by these pens for creating the beautiful facial features on her dolls, and so I followed her advice and got my own set. They come in different nib sizes, and later I went on to use them when drawing very fine design lines on my embroidery projects. They’re archival and waterproof so won’t bleed if they get wet. They come in a variety of colours as well, and my personal favourite is a Sepia 005 (when I can get hold of one!)

(I make a small commission if you click through to Amazon from my blog link.)


A View from The Glass Tent

It was all about basketweave patterns this week - MAN I'm going to have a heckuvalota plunging & tying back next week!!!

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