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

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A long overdue update...but my oh my, have I been busy!


Well, as you may have noticed I have been a little slack in the blogging department, but I thought it high time I updated you all on the world of Darn It & Stitch!

In the summer we turned five, which is a huge business landmark. We ate a lot of cake, saw a lot of people and felt good about the fact we are still here. Thumbs up all round!

Our 5th birthday celebrations with Cake. Lots of Cake courtesy of The Moving Teashop

As regular customers since 2010 you will know me, Jo (lunging above) as the owner and face behind the counter at Darn It & Stitch. You also will know I popped out in 2012 to have baby, and then again a year ago to have my second. So, boom, there goes a few years in what seems like a minute! If you are new customers, then Hello!

 (This photo had to go into this, as the level of satisfaction you experience when you find a painting to match your jumper is immense. This particular happy match happened in Stavanger, Norway.)

So I am now mother of two, and a shopkeeper. That is so few words when you write it down, compared with what that actually means in real time.

Having the girls has enabled me to step back and really work on the business behind the scenes, explore the bones of it, and permanently be on the hunt for new products.  I have more time to develop new workshop ideas for Pinworks. I have a great new work space (a proper studio!) in my house, where I sit and my desk or sewing machine planning and plotting. If I am not there, I am fiddling about with yarn and scrawling knitting patterns on the backs of envelopes. If a small child falls asleep, then yarn, needles and sample boxes empty themselves across the house. Any opportunity to design and I am there with bells on! The latest one you can find here, inspired by my smallest daughter and the desire for a large pom pom.

Since having my children ( that still sounds far too grown up!) I have also been able re visit the origins of why I started Darn It & Stitch. Six years ago I had a van and a market stall and wore a lot of thermals. I had huge enthusiasm for all things haberdashery related, and a degree in knitwear and textiles. As a result Darn It & Stitch was born. Now, I have a bricks and mortar shop, with lovely staff, and a lot of brilliant loyal customers. After working all the hours there are available to work establishing the shop, I feel I can take a step back and go to the designing and creative part of brain which started this whole story.

Now that I am not behind the till every day, my working time is spent exploring all the things I had in list form for the first few years of business. The shop is managed magnificently by Makiko, assisted by Jenny, so I am going to seize this opportunity and get cracking on a few of those listed dream projects. The next few months are exciting! Up and coming projects include our own hand dyed yarn range, a collection of cotton printed fabrics and a knitted installation for a new local festival. Not too shabby as work schedules go.

These days I am in the shop once a month for a couple of days, children and desk shaped work allowing, but behind the scenes its still me squirreling away finding all the yarn, fabrics, patterns and things you all I am there in spirit. I know many of you ask after me and my girls, so thank you and hello! We are all well, busy, slightly frenetic and happy. We have moved house more than is ideal recently (now on a huge restoration project on at the moment) and  live a little further out from Oxford, but more on that another day ...

Jo xx

Jenny and Makiko. aka Darn It & Stitch Dream Team .

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Today we celebrate four years of Darn It & Stitch. Thanks a million for all your support so far. Let's see what else we can squeeze in to these four walls this coming year.