Thursday, 6 October 2016

New knitting patterns a go go!

The seasons, they are a changin'...

This is my favorite time of year. I love it. I love the crisp air, the crisper leaves and the excuse for layers of knitwear.

You can keep your tropical summers with your barbecues and pina colada, give me some frost, a mulled cider and a knitting project any day. Cosy evenings making stuff are my thing. With this in mind, and maybe like me you are itching to get started on something new ..why not break yourself in gently with something quick and easy.

A little while ago Rooster Yarns asked me to design some super simple knitting patterns for them,  I rpomtly whipped out the knitting needles and got to it. Here is the result. A very smart eBook which you can download for FREE!

Each pattern uses just one ball of yarn (you may have noticed a theme developing with my patterns...just got to use every single centimeter!) so they are perfect for beginners and stash busters alike. You can grab it right here.

Enjoy! x

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

We are bricks and mortar, and local!

Call me old fashioned, but I like a real shop with a door and four walls. I like to leave swinging a bag. You know the kind of place you walk in, the bell goes on the door and a friendly face is behind the counter and you leave with a pretty crinkly paper bag full of good stuff. Sound familiar?

We are often asked if we sell our online and the answer is yes, and no. We sell the yarns online, they are easier to maintain, but we don't have any of our fabrics or ribbons online and here is why...

As those of you who do online sales know, you have to dedicate a lot of your precious time to the cause. I have always felt very strongly that we are bricks n' mortar, old fashioned kind of shop. That's what we do. We have four walls and the door opens to the city center. It gets pretty busy.

The stock turnaround is fast here, things sell out quickly and we move on to the next thing quick as a flash. We don't do big seasonal sales really either, never have for this exact reason! It just works for us.

We realised very quickly that the time photographing, uploading and advertising would take away from what we do best - the face to face kind of selling. We want to be chatting and stroking fabric, marveling at your knits and talking about your projects no matter how bonkers they are (trust me there have been some mad ones). Not staring and screens waiting for the upload to work. We are a tiny team and we know what we do best, and selling online it 'aint.

This doesn't mean we can't send things to you if you cant pop in in person. Anything you see on any of our social media pages is for sale. You can email, message or even call us (I know, old fashioned again) to order and we will happily ship it out to you. We send things out all over the place from Penzance to Massachusetts.

We know its unusual, a bit controversial in this internet age and maybe frustrating for some, but we do personal service here and local trade. It's what we do best. The internet is a huge pool with bigger internet fish. We want to be the local yarn shop, haberdashery & fabric place. We have such great loyal customers and want to spend time with them, not stare into the 2D portal of the internet.

I hope you can excuse us for not playing the big online game. Our focus is this place with its jangley bell on the door, corners full of colour and eclectic playlist.

In the meantime, here's what's new on the shelves. If you fancy a bit of something you see, you give us a shout and we can whizz to the post office across the road. We can get ourselves a Kit- Kat to go with our cup of tea while we're at it.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Six years on and a spot of serendipity.

This weekend we will mark the 6th birthday of Darn It & Stitch, hooray! Yes there will be cake. 

With each year that rockets past I look back and take stock of what has happened. Usually a fair bit. This past year in particular has been full of change for me personally, and this is what this post is about so bare (or is it Bear!?) with me.

I want to introduce you to a new venture, Jolt. But first I need to fill you in on what has been happening in the background.

As you know Darn It & Stitch has taken firm roots in Oxford, and is run by my wonderful staff Makiko and Jenny. The shop is a bit like a chick that has flown the nest, a haberdashery bird as it were. I no longer have to hold its hand, or be the perch. This has enabled me to refocus on my own life, rather than the life of the business. Having lived and breathed Darn It & Stitch for over 6 years I wasn't really sure where it stopped and I began. That's a weird and wonderful feeling, yet I felt ready to peel myself away and let it be its own (lovely) beast.

Part of this process has been making a big bold move - leaving Oxford, and heading for the Shropshire hills (yes really!). There is a long back story here, but in a nutshell it came down to three factors.

Firstly, an opportunity to buy a beautiful house that has been in my husband’s family since 1860. Secondly, a desire just to be able buy a house (don't get me started on Oxford house prices), and thirdly the realization that since having two children my work for the shop was all done from a desk at home – and that desk (and the home surrounding it) didn’t have to be in Oxford. Strangely this very big decision was incredibly easy to make. It's very green and lush around here, and we really quite like it. 

After much searching of the soul and wistful pondering I felt ready for a new creative challenge but wasn't sure how it would materialise. Then through sheer serendipity I found it. 

Close to our new home, there is an amazing artistic organisation were looking for volunteers. This place captivated me from the start, a creative space where those who
have experienced mental health difficulties can create and gain skills in a supportive and social environment.  Wanting to fire up my brain engines after the big move, and while looking for the next opportunity, I joined the team for a couple of hours a week to help in the studio and lend a business hand. They were looking to develop a new range of interior products for wholesale and retail, so I duly rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in. The excitement of a new business venture sparked fresh fire in my belly.  After a short (8 week) gestation period, Jolt has been born!  Its a brand new business full of colour, vitality and a really good story. If you like your homewares bright and beautiful then take a look. We will officially be launching at Top Drawer in September, so its all hands on deck. 

Its a big change for me, but an exciting one. Darn It & Stitch will always be my firstborn (and yes it really is like raising a child) but now that the shop has all grown up, it’s time to stop being a helicopter parent and let it stand on its own two feet. With Makiko at the helm I can oversee the business from afar, and to be honest I am thoroughly enjoying creative pastures new! Its exciting and inspring and so colourful! I am still very much involved in the shop, blogging, buying products, developing classes and will continue to make an appearance in person every so often.

I would love your support in this new venture, so if you would like to follow the progress of Jolt, then please click the relevant links and likes, Thank you for all your continued support as ever, and catch you next time I am around!

Jo x

Introducing JOLT  'In the room' Collection 1.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A little visual tour...

Today I thought less words more pictures! I have always been inspired by colour first, and the shop always reflects that. We don't really do black or beige much (I respect they have their place) but really, why would you with all those colours on the spectrum?

So here, please feast your eyes on these fresh colours for spring that are waiting for you in store...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Quilting and Patchwork... whats the difference?

Hello all!

I hope you are all refreshed and full of zip after the bank holiday? Or if like me you ate most of your childrens Easter eggs because "they dont need them" and they are "too young to notice" then I feel your guilt laden chocolate pain. Bad parent.

During my stash sorting the other week, I found this little wonder and have been meaning to show it off. This amazing quilt top, believe it or not, was considered unworthy of a place for sale in a vintage shop, so it came my way in a plastic sack. To me this is textile treasure of the highest order! A half finished quilt forgotten..all those scraps used in the best way possible, in striking dark and light sections in a traditional Log Cabin pattern. I think its a work of art. So many questions...who made it? Where did all those those scraps from? How long did it take? Oooh the stitch related history!

Way back in student land, I wrote my degree dissertation on patchwork and quilting, and even after having to type that many words night after night, I still have the love for quilts. So when presented with this lonely quilt top I swiftly took it into my stash with the sincere promise of finishing it. That was two years ago and I really ought to crack on.

The conundrum is, which of the many colours do I choose to do the backing with? And then how to quilt the hand or through a machine? You cant beat a quilt for the sheer volume of time, effort, visual effect and pure patience. I have only ever managed mini quilts before, usually then I end up flitting to something knitted I can do on my lap, so this will be the biggest quilt to date. Although I have had the hard part done for me.

Quilting and patchwork are often muddled and mixed up as they same thing. They aren't. They go hand in hand and are excellent friends, but are two separate techniques and uses of fabric.

Patchwork is the use of different pieces of fabric which are combined together by hand or machine to create a larger decorative piece of cloth that can then be quilted, or not. It usually looks a little like my vintage quilt.

Quilting is the creating of the cloth "sandwich" of three layers. A top piece (commonly patchworked) a centre layer of wadding, and then a backing. They can be combined by hand or machine too. The quilting element can be very simple or heavily decorative with swirls and whirls and all sorts. If you look up 'Whole cloth quilting' where decorative stitches are used on plain fabric, you will see what I mean. This blog has a great example of what it can look like with heavy decoration in tiny stitches. Amazing!

For our workshop timetable this year I decided to break down the elements of a quilt into 3 simple workshops. We are asked about the difference so often by customers, mainly on how to start, that here we are with a selection of three classes to help you along the road to Quilt-dom. (maybe not a real word!?)

 For those who fancy getting to grips with the hand quilting element, I will be showing you how in a  gentle introduction to adding texture and pattern to plain cloth using a good old needle and thread.

In May, Jenny (who is the patchwork master working in the shop) will teach English paper piecing. This again is hand sewing but this time its Patchwork with a capital 'P'. Lots of small pieces, joined together with a needle and thread. Be as colourful and as mismatched as you wish!

Then to finish, in June I will be showing you how to make a mini quilted sample. This time we will be doing the whole process on a machine, so much quicker and a bit of a faster pace. We will be joining the top pieces, making the quilt sandwich and then binding it. All the info you need to make a larger quilt, just on a tiny scale.

Come and have a go! A patchwork quilt is the ultimate stash buster.

Jo x

P.s If anyone recognises this vintage quilt know where I am.

Hand quilting for beginners
Saturday 16th April
2 - 5pm
Hand quilted sampler. Learn the gentle and effective way of using simple stitches to quilt your projects.

Current work in progress - hand quilting

Saturday 7th May
2 - 4.30pm
Make a hand sewn patchwork pincushion using the English paper piecing method

Introduction to machine quilting
Saturday 18th June
Start simply! Learn how to piece fabric together and create a small quilt sample.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My introduction to yarn beige here thanks!

Earlier this year I whizzed off to the Shropshire hills to work for two days with the lovely Fiona Nisbit to learn as much as I could about hand dyeing yarns. And oh my goodness...a new obsession has been born!

In Fiona's cosy workshop (trying to avert my eyes from the shelves of wool shaped goodness - blinkers on dear!) we bubbled and boiled, painted and dripped, squirted and squeezed and suddenly blank became beautiful!

 The main thing I had to grasp was you cant really predict what is going to happen...these pesky liquids move, and those colours really morph into each other. I am sure there are ways of regulating it and more seasoned hand dyers will have their ways, but hey I am new to this! The creative control demon on my shoulder had to go on a short break while I embraced the unpredictability. I have now learnt that's obviously the magic of it.

I took my fresh experimental skeins to the shop, and there I carefully placed them on the counter hoping for the best, and you lovely yarn fans bought them! All of them! So, inspired and pumped by the feedback I am now on a dying- of -yarn roll. I am happy to announce that Darn It & Stitch now has an in -house yarn range. Hurrah!

The batches are small, and maybe two or three skeins of each colour are made so completely unique. The yarn is super, super soft. A delicious blend of baby alpaca, cashmere and silk. My personal favorites all rolled into one lovely, lovely yarn!  I don't  fancy ever try to re create the colours, so each batch will be new, different, and there will never be a beige. You may have noticed we don't really 'do' beige.

I will be in the shop all Valentines weekend with my latest batch, so come and say hello. Although you may have to prise the yarn from my hands.

The latest batch...arriving Saturday 13th February!

My first bash at Rainbow dyes....lush!
Coral on sparkly Merino

Blue and green should never be seen...what a load of tosh!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Stitching in the pub? Hell yes!

Happy new year! Twenty days over due, but happy new year all the same!

Many moons ago when the shop was in its infancy, myself and shop regular Ellie (pictured below wearing stripes) decided it would be a rather nice thing if we started a pub knitting and stitching group. What better to do after work than to sit and stitch in a warm and cosy pub with burgers and wine within reach?

Five years on, the group is still going with Ellie firmly at the helm (I have been waylaid by knee high people who keep me in at night). But come rain or shine, snow or sun they are there, stitching away every Monday evening.

If you would like to join the group you can! Its free, very friendly and you can bring whatever project you can fit on your lap. We have had hand quilting, patchwork, embroidery, crochet, knitting and even a drop spindle has made an appearance in the past.

So if you are unsure what to do with your wintry evenings, and would rather stitch in company than alone please pop along to the Royal Blenheim Pub  from 6 - 9pm on Mondays.  You can come every week, or come when you can. Its a free drop in stitching group, and this lovely lot will be there, tucked in a corner click clacking away. Whatever your skill level, and whatever your stitching preference you are most welcome!

So, new year, new stitching starts and all that. Its the new 'going to the gym'.


If you would like to know more, or get in touch please message the group via the Facebook group