Brave New World

You may have noticed that there have not been too many posts on my blog recently.  This is because I have taken the big decision to start offering workshops.  When I have given talks in the past, people have asked if I would do a workshop and I have always said no, but this year I took a deep breath and decided that I would like to offer classes in a variety of things that interest me.  To this end, I have been dreaming up workshops that I would like to go on myself and making demonstration samples.  Plus, I have roped in the Medieval Historian to add some historical information relevant to the workshop.  So, Christmas decoration making will have a session with tea and cake where he will talk about the origins of Christmas customs in this country.  My Easter workshop (which may well launch in 2018 – it takes much longer than you think to get these things ready) will include an informal session on the romantically doomed Romanovs who commissioned the Fabergé eggs we will be thinking about.  He will not be caught up in the Romance, though; he’s a proper historian after all.

My vision is to create a series of workshops based on customs and celebrations that we used to have in this country but have lost.  For example: the just-post-Christmas Wren Hunt, the cakes and candles of Candlemas in dreary February, and others to follow.  All will have projects and historical information to drop into any conversation.  Social success is assured.

The biggest step of all has been to have a studio built in my garden where I will offer small courses of no more than six participants.  It’s called Pomegranate Studio as the pomegranate symbolises creativity for me.  At the moment the studio looks like any new build in February – mudastic – but it will be surrounded by an inspirational flower garden when it is finished, I hope.  Here are some far from enticing pictures.  I will add more as I get the decorative bits finished after the hard build:

The studio is insulated so it is warm, has lots of light so that no-one gets a seat out of natural daylight, and is plumbed in so there will always be plenty of tea and coffee.  There will also be my not inconsiderable collection of books to browse through.

I will be posting a lot more about this in the next few days with pictures of the possible products from possible workshops.  In the meantime, let’s hope the rain lets up and I can get round to that flower garden I mentioned.



In which I trim my own bonnet.

This is a blog post from the incredibly talented Tanya which I thought would appeal to those of you who love hats.


Those of you who’ve met me will know I like hats, because it’s kind of obvious. I’ve always been this way. When my mum was marrying my stepdad she asked what I wanted to wear, and I said I wanted to go as a gangster, so she bought me a suit, tie ( pink, to go with the grooms outfit) and a proper trilby, which I refused to take off for over a month, I even wore it in the bath.

but the greatest tragedy of my teenage years was that I didn’t have a seventeenth century hat, I desperately wanted one but my pocket money just wouldn’t stretch to it. My mum used to spend hours before every ecws event torturing my hair into ringlets instead, prompting my stepbrothers to follow me around barking the theme tune to “dogtanian and the three muskehounds”

about ten years ago I bought…

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Teeny tiny sewing machine


I have just come back from a long weekend break in Spain.  While we were there we had a less than successful stay in Murcia, where the Medieval Historian had been many years previously.  Sadly, everything shuts in Murcia on a Monday which was the only full day we had there, so I did not get to do my very favourite thing of sketching in an archeological or folk museum.  But, looking on the bright side, the shops were open and were having major sales.  I will blog about them separately, but this is a quick post about a tiny hand-held sewing machine that I bought in Tiger.  I think it is originally a Norwegian firm, but Tiger now has lots of branches in the UK, and is worth going into regularly as it turns over its stock very rapidly.  I bought these sequins, for example, in the Bristol, and they are now permanently out of stock:


The other reason for going in is that they play great music and I had a nice time singing Tamla Motown classics with the assistant in the Brighton branch on another trip.

Having said all this, it is a cheap and cheerful shop with an interesting selection of things for makers such as rubber stamps, beads, sketchpads, washi tape and so on, but once it’s gone it’s gone.

In Murcia I picked up a pair of snipping scissors with a case which looks like a long thin mouse (I am always looking for scissors to take on planes), and the mini sewing machine.  It is a good job that I did.  I assumed that the product range would be the same in Murcia and Bristol, but I was wrong.  I can find no sign of this product on the British Tiger website, even though I bought it less than 48 hours ago.

So, I bought it because it was so tiny.  I knew that I was never going to make a full set of curtains with it, but I thought it might have potential.  It does sew quilting weight cotton reasonably well, but the stitch is a chain stitch, like the one that I used to have on my toy sewing machine as a little girl, and which I wish I had held onto.  The best bit of this is that the chain stitch is so tiny and delicate:


I wonder if it has potential for use in embroidery.  The stitch is far tinier and regular than I could ever achieve.  I will experiment and report back.


Laura the fox takes a moonlight stroll in her new lacy black stockings


Last week I went to Bristol Quilters’ workshop with Mandy Pattullo.  I had a great day.  Mandy Pattullo is an artist whose work I have admired since I saw it at the Festival of Quilts a couple of years ago.  Her work is with old and often recycled textiles and embroidery.  She was very generous in allowing us to photograph her work and so here are a few photos to show the sort of work she does:


She gave us each a piece of a plain old quilt and some templates for flowers and hearts and things, as well as a couple of pieces of very worn old quilts which we used to start the background.  I decided early on that I wanted to make a fox as we are having fun and games with our dogs getting us up at 4.00 am most mornings to root out whatever is in the garden and which I think might be a little vulpine friend.

I was sitting between two great quilters, Alison and Nathalie, and they gave me the fabric for the fox’s body and legs.  I was really pleased to be able to use Nathalie’s Laura Ashley fabric for the fox’s body as this fits in with the project that I have been doing for ages.  Alison gave me the fabric for the legs – which I would make much finer if I did it again.  Foxes have black legs, surprisingly, and this was the best we could do, but they do look like lacy tights, which I rather like.

The method is to block in some thing like the fox body or a vase and then to take a water soluble pen and draw a line and then improvise round it.  I drew my line which I turned into a tree.  It’s done with chain stitch in stranded embroidery cotton.  The whole piece came together at the end when I put those black flowers clipped out of a quilting cotton and then stitched down with detached chain stitch and colonial knots, the latter done in orange to try and tie everything together.

The fox was done in needle-turned applique which I enjoyed doing far more than I expected.  Then I put a mix of slivers of leopard print cotton and straight stitches in a variety of threads, some of which were given to me by my good friend Mary from her mum’s stash:



I embroidered the eye and nose.  I finished the piece with a backing of terracotta Laura Ashley fabric to echo the fox.


This is the page from my notebook/sketchbook about the piece:


I really enjoyed the workshop and meeting Mandy, who was great.  I want to do a bit more in this sort of style but without the old quilt as I don’t have one to cut up.



There has been a considerable gap in my blog as ill health has been stalking the land with me and the Medieval Historian both.  Things are a bit better now, so I thought it was time to get the blog up and running again.

I was reading a short piece recommended to me on Facebook about sewing films, and I thought it would be a good place to restart.  These are films or tv shows which I find really inspirational in terms of stitching, or are just a feast for the eyes.  A lot of my favourite films are costume dramas which aren’t particularly accurate but are great for costumes.   A good example is the Reese Witherspoon version of Vanity Fair:





This version made a great deal of the influence of India on Regency design.  Sumptuous all round.

But my main list is in sections and is as follows:

Gratuitously great embroidery on costumes which are much better than the show itself

Game of Thrones

I first started watching this for the fabulous costumes, and in particular for Michele Carraghers’s gorgeous embroidery.  She has a wonderful website in which she discusses the Game of Thrones costumes and her design process.  Even if you never watch the show, it is worth looking at the website for lots of close-ups of beautiful beaded and embroidered pieces:


What I love about this is that someone takes the decision to spend a great deal of money on embroidery on costumes which might never be seen.  Certainly the detail is often lost.  I like the idea of the costumes being much better than they have to be and of the highest quality contemporary embroidery being seen by millions.

The Tudors

You can imagine how well this went down with the Medieval Historian, to the point where I had to watch the box set in secret when he went out.  The series was terrible and got worse as it went on, but the frocks were really lovely:


They were designed by Joan Bergin.  The one above was for Anne of Cleeves and her costumes were my favourites.

Films where sewing is integral to the plot

Bright Star

This is a 2009 Jane Campion film about the courtship of John Keats and Fanny Brawne.


The lead actress spends a lot of time in the film stitching and creating rather fabulous garments for herself, despite the family’s apparent genteel poverty:


She also gets to wear this little cardigan which sometimes seems to be a shawl, made of tiny crochet motifs:


I covert this Sophie Digard piece and Abbie Cornish’s slender frame to be able to wear it.

Sewing is integral to the plot here, because Keats’ best friend tries to dissuade him from pursuing  Fanny whom he thinks is a flirt and only interested in clothes.  Smart 21C viewers know that this is Fanny’s only creative outline and means of self-expression in the gendered and classed society of the early 19C.  It is a gorgeous film, with a lot of beautifully read poetry.

The Dressmaker

This is a recent Australian film (2015, directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse) and is a bit of an oddity.  It is set in a tiny settlement in Australia in the 1950s.  Much abused waif, Tilly, returns to her home town a fully grown, drop-dead gorgeous sophisticate.  She comes via Paris, Milan, Madrid, London etc in an echo of both Sabrina films.  She turns up at the station with her Singer sewing machine to solve mysteries about her past and take her revenge on the people who sent her away and so on.


The whole thing veers from high drama to camp comedy to melodrama to slapstick in a big, hot old mess (as Heidi Klum used to say on Project Runway).  It’s like Douglas Sirk meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert (and Hugo Weaving is in it as a cross-dressing policeman).  But, the premise of the film is that women can be transformed – created and destroyed by what they wear, and Kate Winslett creates the most stunning fifties numbers imaginable:


This is my favourite character, Gertrude, just because she looks so much like the original 1950s Barbie:




Kate Winslett looks fantastic throughout and is the perfect shape for all those boned and corseted numbers:





Best ever quilting film

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

This musical has a very dodgy premise about abducting women, but that aside it has fantastic costumes made of quilts (which the women have to make up as they are snowed in for the winter with the seven brothers)

images-9  images-8 images-10

Several things strike me here.  The first is the sacrilege of chopping up quilts to make frocks, so let’s hope they were specially made for the film.  The second is the skill required to make those fitted waists with quilt, wadding and backing.  The third that this is a lesson in self-restraint which again we have to take with a pinch of salt.  I imagine the testosterone that exploded out of that house when the spring thaw came.

The quilting film you wish had been better

How to make an American Quilt (1995)

There is nothing terrible about this film, except I wanted to tell the Winona Ryder character to stop prevaricating and get on with writing up that thesis.  The problem with it is that there isn’t enough quilting for quilters, and there isn’t enough drama for drama lovers.  And the quilt is okay (as it probably would have been for an average wedding quilt), but nothing particularly special.


I also wonder about the advisedness of Winona trailing a predominantly white quilt through the dew:


as she contemplates marrying her pretty dull boyfriend.


Two plus two equals four or more



I think I have posted about this before, but, as some of you may know, I am following a series of prompts on the wordpress site as a way of improving my blogging.

Today’s prompt was two plus two equals four. The aim is to write something inspired by the prompt, not about it. Co-incidentally, just after reading it I was looking at a piece of work by a Scandinavian student in which she talks about the Midgard serpent. This is the huge serpent called Jormungand which is so huge that it encircles the earth and grasps it own tail in its mouth. If it ever lets go the world will come to an end.

I include the Midgard serpent in my list of dragons for the project I have been writing about recently. I know it’s a snake, but, well, I like the story and it’s my project.

But the point of the post is that I have been wondering about the project and what we are going to do with it, and why I am devoting a lot of time to something which is not that CV-friendly, but which I enjoy very much but I feel guilty when I do something on it and not a more obviously useful topic and so on.

This feels like a little gift from the universe – a little bit of encouragement to keep going. So, this unknown person is helping me with my work, which is an interesting case of two plus two being more than four.

Happy New Year – and this blog revisited



I have been blogging now for quite a bit, and so to get a bit of a refresher, I have joined WordPress’s Blogging 101 tutorial group.  The first exercise was to introduce yourself and/or to refresh your ‘About’ page.  Just in case you are interested, here is my revised page.


My name is Ann Rippin.  I am a reader at the University of Bristol in the Department of Management.

My research is centred on the role of cloth in society.  This covers everything from how we organise to produce cloth to why we keep certain items of clothing, to how we form our identities through what we wear, to the importance of what I call Hestia crafts in women’s lives.  Hestia crafts are to do with creating a home, after the Greek goddess of home and hearth, Hestia.  There is very little to do with fabric that does not interest me.   And so, to me, it is perfectly natural that as part of my research, I create quilted and embroidered textiles about the companies I research or some of the themes that I am interested in such as organisational excess, or foundation narratives.   I have set up my blog for people who are interested in my work and want to follow my new pieces as they emerge.

My big project at the moment is about Laura Ashley.  This is partly for me to explore narrative approaches to work, but also for me to do a bit of homage to the woman who got so many quilters in this country started.  I am wrestling with whether I should include a photo of my first quilt, which is old and disgraceful, but which was made with some Laura Ashley fabric, which I bought in the 1980s in Cardiff, as well as some Liberty fabric.  Quilters will recognise this pattern!

I have also just taken over as the co-editor of Culture and Organization, which is a scholarly journal for people who study management.  Prior to that I was Chair of SCOS, the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism ( which is a scholarly organisation of about 1000 members from all over the world, although mainly Northern Europe, dedicated to exploring the more interesting, unusual and provocative elements of business and management research.


Finger painting 1


I have signed up for an on-line lunchtime course on finger painting.  This is largely because I was so taken by the Richard Long finger print pieces in the exhibition on here in Bristol on his work.


I have enjoyed it so far, although I am way behind, because it has made me do things I don’t normally do like painting flowers.  The point is to do it with your fingers and only your fingers, and to paint them from life.  I suppose it was a bit presumptuous of me to start with sunflowers.  Van Gogh has rather cornered the market.  I bought a small bunch and had a go.  I used very heavy watercolour paper as I knew the substrate was going to get a lot of punishment.  This combined with a light touch trying to get all the wispy bits round the edge of petals led to some frankly uninteresting stuff:



The only interest in these is that they have a faintly fifties textile print charm to them.  As I became my usual heavy-handed self and used a lot more paint, the results got a bit better:


Finally, I painted the whole background first and this allowed the paint to go on more easily and made it a bit more controllable:


I quite like the result here, but it looks like a sunflower rather than this sunflower, the one in front of me.

I don’t think that these are particularly great, but they do show some experiments, and I think it’s good to share your mistakes and false starts as well as your successes and final polished pieces.

You win some, you lose some


I came across Carla Sonnheim’s blog as part of a weekly challenge that I periodically dash to catch up with.  Sonnheim has lots of ideas for doing art with children as well as stuff for adults and is well worth checking out.  There are some lovely free short tutorials on the blog which caught my imagination.  One of them was an exercise using washi tape, which is basically exquisite, addictive, collectable printed Japanese masking tape.  My favourite is the MT brand, which I think just stands for masking tape.  I am embarrassed about the amount of it I have got.  It is about £3-£5 a roll so you think it’s a cheap treat, but it rather adds up.  You can get it everywhere now.  IKEA do a nice but limited range, Paperchase has lots, including authentic-looking Japanese designs, as well as lovely vintage-looking stuff.  I even found a reasonable range in Wilkos.  You could also use ordinary masking tape and colour it with felt pens or similar.  So, if you want to have a go at this it is easy to find the materials.

The exercise involved cutting or tearing five pieces of washi which you arrange on a piece of paper in any way you like.  Then you take a different roll of tape and add five more random pieces this time making sure to overlap them with the first five.  Then you turn the paper round and look for an animal in it.  This is fairly easy as we are programmed in some way to recognise faces in abstract shapes and finding animals is only one step up.  Then, when you have found the beast, you add more tape to fill in outlines and build it up and finally finish off with a pen to draw in details and firm up silhouettes.

I had a lot of success with this.  First off was a found poodle with a jaunty hat:


Then a stretching dog:


Then a bird partially hidden in foliage:


I really liked these and they reminded me of the wonderful work of Peter Clark who makes exquisite paper collages of dogs like this one:



So, I thought the next step would be to try to do this in fabric and thread.  I do a lot of drawing with the needle embroidery, and so I was confident I could do a nice sketchy drawing.

I decided to recycle and use the baby wipes I use for putting paint onto my sketchbook pages, dried out and pressed.  I ironed them onto bondaweb and cut them into shapes.  I learned my first lesson right there.  A lot of the energy of the washi pieces comes from the fact that they are torn not cut.  My cut up wipes looked more like tangram pieces.  Tangram is a square cut into seven pieces which you arrange to make pictures.  I think you are supposed to use all seven, and I hated doing it as a child, so that put me in a slightly bad mood – reinventing something I hate:


I persevered and then discovered that the sewing machine, which is my very grate frend, really did not want to stitch through baby wipes and fusible adhesive onto furnishing fabric with cheap polyester thread.  I gave up in the end as you can see in the elephant.  Anyway, here are the results:


This is my found whale, and here is a detail:


I include this to show the very subtle marbling on this wipe used to apply deep blue acrylic paint (I dispose of the cloths responsibly, by the way).  Here is the elephant:


As you can probably see, I finished them off with a very heavy felt marker pen.

So, I loved the washi versions, and the second learning point was that they worked, particularly the poodle, because the washi was so good.  But the technique did not transfer that well to cloth because the edges were too defined and mechanical.  I couldn’t tear the wipes and so a lot of the spontaneity was lost.