As we’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about the current status of Finishing School – thought it was only fair to add a note here to confirm that we’re on a bit of a hiatus.
We’ve absolutely loved running our (sporadic) workshops – but unfortunately time is pretty limited at the moment to continue them on a regular basis.
That said, Finishing School is still in the back of our minds and we do often think about how best to continue. So, watch this space…
I’m scared. I admit it. We’ve managed to get through all of our Finishing School sessions so far without (serious) injury. We’ve certainly had no problems a plaster couldn’t fix.
But now we’re being more daring. We are going to be using VERY HOT THINGS in our next session. Please, please don’t burn yourself if you’re coming. I’ll bring a bag of frozen peas just in case.
On the upside, pyrography looks like a pretty awesome craft and I sure can’t wait to hand out Christmas presents with handmade wooden tags attached (My family were impressed enough by last year’s embroidered ones!)
I’ve been taking a little look at Flickr to gather some inspiration and here are just some of my favourite examples.Curious Bunny by Lauren Magpie – Christmas Pudding by WoodTattoo – Leap by HappyDoodleLand – White tailed deer by Alabam EGA
A huge thank-you to all who joined us at Finishing School for our return to form in the guise of a crafty bookbinding lesson hosted by Lyndsey Seaborn.
Tucked away at the back of the ever-so-glamorous Drink, Shop, Do in Kings Cross, twenty eager women sat down to be taught the intricacies of constructing, binding, pressing and covering a little hand-made notebook. Although hardcover binding by hand is normally a lengthy process, we managed to condense this age-old technique into three hours of cocktail-quaffing, tea-sipping activity.
Using traditional tools such as book binding awls, linen thread and specialist needles we progressed from learning how to sew through the fold to compiling our signatures – bundles of pages – into recognisable text blocks, glued carefully at the spine.
We selected from beautiful endpapers and covering materials to ensure that our notebooks were finished to a high standard.
One generous student had even brought along a treasure trove of ribbons and she kindly shared these with the class so that many of the notebooks were completed with bookmarks too. Cute and practical!
For those of you who want to have another go at making a notebook or missed out on tickets for the class we’ll be popping a step-by-step guide on the website soon accompanied by a list where to get your bookbinding supplies. Keep your eyes peeled and, in the meantime, check out more pics from the night on our Flickr page!
I spent an evening this week baking enough Christmas cookies to sink a ship (or host a Finishing School Christmas party). If you’d like to have a go at making your own, here’s my nan’s recipe. You might want to kit yourself out with a nice set of cookie cutters before you start and these vintage metal ones I found on Etsy are absolutely perfect. The Cakes, Cookies and Craft Shop also do a great set in the shape of Christmas baubles.
Preparation time: 20 minutes – or more if you’re singing along to a Christmas compilation
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes – or more if you’re like me and get carried away and baking several batches!
Makes: 25 gingerbread figures
125g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup
325g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamonMethod
Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 3. Line baking trays with baking paper. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a bowl and stir the melted ingredients into the dry ingredients to make a stiff dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and roll to a thickness of about 5mm. Dip biscuit cutters into flour before cutting the dough. Place the shapes onto the lined baking trays and bake, in batches, for 9-10 minutes until light golden brown.
Remove from the oven. While still warm, and using a skewer or chopstick, make any holes that you will need to hang up the biscuits with ribbon or to make a yuletide garland. If you are decorating your Christmas cake with gingerbread people, make the holes in their arms so that ribbon can be threaded through at a later stage.
When completely cool, decorate with the icing. The gingerbread biscuits can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
And for the finishing touches: Writing Icing; sweets; sparkles; and ribbon.
Here are some statistics from Finishing School’s lesson in lino-cutting and fabric printing night that took place at our brand new venue the Island Queen on 26th October.
Teacher = 1. East London printmaker Catherine Walsh was on hand to suggest block carving techniques and provide design inspiration for all. Head over to her webpage for details of her upcoming classes if you want to hone your skills further.
Attendees = just the right number (to allow for elbow room and no arguments over paint rollers).
Injuries = 2. There are many dangers in this world and it turns out that lino cutting is one of them. For other crafting dangers click here (at your peril).
Plasters used = 8. Gougers are sharp, kids.
Litres of fabric paint = 1.5. The messiest session so far!
Successful nights = 1. Everyone took home a tea towel and tote bag decorated with their own stamp (or a stamp nabbed from another student as everyone had such great ideas it was a shame not to share!). Check out our flickr for more pictures of the evening.
Thanks to everyone who turned up and had a go at creating some really original prints. I went out the following day and purchased my own set of tools from a lovely art shop in Clerkenwell and I know for a fact that Atlantis Arts does a good range of lino so that’s Christmas sorted then.
Firstly, Social Knitworking is an awesome name. Secondly, it’s the title of a really interesting project belonging to design graduate Hilary Grant and creative research organisation Distance Lab.
Amazingly, these smarty pants people have developed a computer programme that analyzes online text and detects conversational patterns (for example, frequently used phrases or sentiments) and outputs an abstract knitting pattern which is downloaded into a computer-controlled knitting machine. Find out more here.
Social Knitworking turns key words and phrases from online social messages and translates them into different patterns that can become personal textile keepsakes for friends and family. I love the idea that ephemeral comments made on twitter or taken from email can be turned into colours and designs that create meaningful items of clothing – like wearing a secret diary and only you can understand the coded entries. The pattern generation concept involved means that ‘sentences’ could be woven into pretty much any accessory, dress, top or bag. We update our online status publicly on a daily basis so why not celebrate this by wearing your thoughts on your sleeve?
The genius doesn’t stop there either! Distance Lab has also created the Lost Values boutique selling unique craft and technology solutions. My personal favourite is the reflective lace which can be crafted into clothes (check out the awesome high visibility socks below)!
All images ©Distance Lab.
Finishing School lesson three (needle felting) was a great success thanks to Susanna Wallis and, of course, our ever-expanding band of eager students.Thanks to everyone who turned up and vented their frustrations by repeatedly stabbing a tiny ball of wool. I’m sure it was 90% creativity, 10% therapy for most!
There were some really interesting creations from tiny teacups, to felty-beads to badges featuring all manner of animal, vegetable and robot.
We had such a great time and hope you did too. Actually, we’ve heard that many of you have caught the needle felting bug and are pursuing your own projects with the materials we sent you away with. This is really exciting and, of course, what Finishing School is all about. Feel free to bring in/wear/show off any finished trinkets at our next session! And, if you’re after more wool or needles – or any other textile craft odds’n'ends for that matter – you might want to check out Susanna’s recommendations of the Handweaver’s Studio (which opens the doors to its charming new premises on 140 Seven Sisters Road, N7 7NS on 21 August) and Wingham Wool.
See you next time!
My current craft project is making pendants and brooches from a recently re-discovered stamp collection and an industrial-sized box of microscope slides. It turns out I was a secret geek as a child and gathered stamps on all subjects from Russian space exploration, to figures from children’s stories, to the animals of the Galapagos.
I decided to find others with a similarly nerdy take on arts and crafts and, as always, the internet has thrown up a scary amount of people who combine glitter and glue and geek culture. Indeed, Etsy has an entire section on geekery (which includes these awesome punctuation earrings)!
However, there are some corners of the web where a minor geek could be well out of her depth… For example, Alicia Kachmer has crocheted this cute (but extremely educational) Pi cuddly toy.
But the geek winner has to be this superb Blade Runner-style origami unicorn that you can make yourself here courtesy of Shigeki Hayashi. Why not give it a go and post your successes/failures to our Facebook group?
All these crafters peddling their wares have made me wonder whether some niche collector out there is in the market for a nice set of jewellery featuring stamps from the Queen’s coronation, 1953. Somehow I think there might be!
Terrariums by mooshoopork on Etsy
I’ve noticed a trend on Etsy lately towards filling every piece of unwanted glassware with moss, sticking a lid on it, and letting it grow. I for one, am a massive fan of this move and would love to have a shelf filled with charming vintage glass bottles and jars, each growing its own little garden. It’s not just crafty etsians who are at it either, there’s plenty of gorgeous and fairly high end options too. I love these hanging bubbles in Pigment. (via Oh Joy!)
There’s also quite a few kits on offer over at Etsy (See here, here and here!) and this all got me thinking… how much mess could it possibly create if 20 girls were to plant one of these each, whilst supping a few glasses of a nice wine… Surely not enough to rule it out of a future Finishing School! Perhaps I’ll start collecting glass containers now….