September 2021 newsletter

Welcome to September and autumn in sight. The conkers are huge on our tree, the squirrels got all the plums and walnuts and the spiders are spinning their webs everywhere. Summer was rather disappointing for sunshine and lazy days, but I expect most of us enjoyed a bit more freedom and even travel, maybe.

With the opening up of travel and social mixing, there are plenty of venues offering culture. Last month various parks and gardens were suggested. Now for the exhibitions and art trails!

If you are travelling around the UK in September, here’s an exhibition you might like to catch (Ruth Issett is so famous for her use of colour).

If you are in London in the next couple of weeks, try to catch the end of “Chintz: Cotton in Bloom” at the Fashion & Textiles Museum, 83 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3XF.

This will be followed from 1st October by “Beautiful People: the Boutique in 1960s Counterculture”, running until March 2022. Booking now.

Check out some fabulous workshops on offer there as well.

While you are culture browsing, don’t forget, closer to home is Nottingham Castle, which has had a major revamp and is now a vibrant exhibition space. On until February 2022 is the Paul Smith exhibition “Hello my name is Paul Smith”. His exhibitions, carefully curated and beautifully staged, are an insight into the mind of one of the UK’s greatest textile sons. Quirky, original and definitely worth a look. His past exhibitions, which often go on to worldwide tours, always start in his hometown of Nottingham and give an extraordinary view of an enquiring and inspirational mind. Take the whole family, there will be something for everyone.

Not for textiles, but those looking at Gardens might like to visit Felley Priory M1, Junction 27,  to look around the beautiful gardens, and there is a Plant Fair there on Sunday 19th September, 10am-3pm. Enjoy the gardens and choose plants from stalls of 15-20 specialist nurseries. Tea Room is open but gets very busy!

I once bought a gorgeous plum coloured hydrangea there, and Felley Priory is famous for its tree peonies (Schedule a repeat visit next May-June)!

 Another event coming up in this month is the Melbourne Arts Festival, 18th & 19th September, with an art trail, live music and lots of refreshments and foodie stands as well as over 100 professional artists displaying work

The Great Northern Quilt Show at Harrogate is having its first show for a while, on Friday 10-Sunday 12th September, at the Great Yorkshire Showground. No competition quilts but plenty of quilt and other textile displays and retailers. Next year’s show will include Needlework in the title!

The Knitting and Stitching Shows are on again this year, very COVID secure, as the Festival of Quilts was. The Alexandra Palace Show is 7-10th October, The Harrogate one will take place 18-21st November.

Normality feels like it is returning and where I teach is cautiously returning to operation, so I’m seeing more familiar faces, socially distanced and well sanitised and shielded! I’ve made a lot of quilts during Lockdown, and prepped a lot of teaching materials, but I found it very hard to get much creative stuff done. Over the last year I attended a lot of Zoom classes on techniques I have never been confident in, like curved piecing.

I’ve now decided to set myself a challenge of a 12” artwork every month, based on abstracting nature, using some of the techniques and colour studies I have been learning about through Lockdown. I am hoping this will set me going creatively and that I can build up a body of work to inspire future projects.

If you have any newsletter contributions, puzzles, recommendations, etc, do please send them to me via the Living Threads email address:  or email me directly at Your newsletter will be all about me if you don’t send me some stories, book reviews, places of interest, etc!

Everyone please stay safe and keep creating. We will get through this and come out the other side. Full vaccination (and boosters) will eventually mean we can all meet up and share our stories and textile work.

Until October,


Gilli Theokritoff, Newsletter Editor

August 2021 newsletter

Welcome to August and the limited freedom from Lockdown. It’s not a lot different for me – still masked and sanitising, but I’ve allowed myself a bit more freedom, seeing friends and family. Some of you have braved going further afield and holidaying around the UK. I cancelled my trip to France, in case it red-listed and I had to isolate in a hotel – I object to the cost, but worse is the thought of being confined to a budget hotel room with no balcony and basic food left outside the door!

Whatever your situation, I hope you have been able to enjoy some of the benefits of a relaxation of the rules, or at least been outside in a garden or park during the summer.

Our Living Threads Virtual Exhibition #3 – Brooches – is now available to view on the website

Do go and have a look at the fabulous entries, tiny and exquisite.

Our intrepid members have been out gaining inspiration for the upcoming exhibition next April.

Julie Williams writes: I went on holiday to East Yorkshire and stayed just round the corner from Flamborough Head. Beautiful part of the country (and Puffins too, at Bempton Cliffs!)
I was lucky with the weather so I went to Burton Agnes Hall and Gardens.
As well as an amazing 1598 house there are woods, water and extensive gardens.
It was a glorious hot and sunny day- the gardens were absolutely beautiful, I took lots of photos and did a bit of sketching,  (with our next year’s exhibition in mind, of course)
I love a bit of topiary, not so much the peacocks and mythical animals, but skillfully manicured, neat shapes and Burton Agnes has a fabulous topiary avenues.
Such a lovely day, if you’re ever over that way, don’t miss it!

Jane Marrows has also been travelling:

I thought you might like some pics of a garden in Sussex which I have visited many times and again on my birthday in June, which may be of interest to members this summer. It is a favourite place of mine. It is Charleston Farmhouse nestled beneath the South Downs at West Firle, East Sussex. It is the modernist home and studio of Bloomsbury Group Artists, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Some of the 20th Century’s most radical artists, writers and thinkers gathered there, including Virginia Woolf. The garden continues to evolve from the original redesigned planting by Roger Fry the art critic and family friend of the Grants, in 1918. It opened to the public in 1986. It is modest in scale but delightful and personable, being absolutely crammed with herbaceous plants which spill over the edges of the narrow gravel paths.  A delightful pond, rectangular lawn, sculptural garden ornamentation and a larger lake complete the living painting. It is filled with the flowers Bell and Grant loved to paint.

If you are in the South East this summer do take time to visit. There is a beautifully restored barn on the site which houses a fabulous cafe bistro with plenty of outdoor courtyard seating. Enjoy!


Janet Humphrey didn’t venture quite so far and has a lovely gallery and café to recommend:

Now that we are all getting out and about a bit more, I thought that I would mention a place that I like to visit for coffee and cake and it’s not too far away. Strelley Hall is a period building set in Parkland in the splendidly preserved Strelley Village. There are a number of walks that take you through to D.H Lawrence country.
Above the Mulberry Tree Cafe you will find the Hay Loft Gallery, an independent Gallery specialising in picture framing and conservation plus a display of original artworks and prints.

Gallery open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10.30 -3.30
Sat nav.NG8 6PE

Anne Bruntlett has stayed closer to home and spent time researching BATS! It’s all a bit batty!
Advance warning: there are lots of links that you can choose to follow/read/just look at the photos/ignore completely!

It started with a new phrase I picked up while looking at medieval herbals … ‘bat books’. Then it was the search to try to find out exactly what a bat book was, who used it, why and how. It certainly sent me back down the rabbit hole and into a different part of the warren.
It seems that bat books were the medieval medical version of NHS on line or the crib sheet used by those people who sit in a room somewhere and question you if you ever have to ring 111.
The book format is somewhat similar to that of an ordinance survey map which could be unfolded easily to access the information. When not in use the book was folded over the belt of physician as he went out on his rounds, and it hung down (like a bat) and unfolded it’s pages like a bat opening its wings.
‘In 2016, the great codicologist Peter Gumbert called them “bat books” – “because when in rest they hang upside-down and all folded up, but when action is required they lift up their heads and spread their wings wide”. The text is upside down so that the book is legible when it is hanging from the girdle.’
Fascinating stuff and definitely a potential way of presenting the fold up page that I am working on at the moment.
By this point I am well and truly lost deep in the maze of the warren.
Next up was a modern artist who makes miniature medieval style books – and I thought that I worked small until I saw this work!
Miniature ‘medieval’ books
Then it was a look at other medieval fold out books. These were more like a cross between an almanac with instructions on the monthly agricultural tasks, and a calendar showing daylight hours and the saints/zodiac signs for each month.

And all this began with a bat!
Does that remind you of the present predicament we are in with the lockdown? It was mooted somewhere along the line that the virus began with a bug that originated in bats in China!
I remembered seeing images of bats carved in some of the samurai houses in Japan where they were used as good luck symbols.
Whatever you think of bats I reckon we could do with shining the Bat Light and getting help of Batman to keep all the covidiots from spreading the virus any more, enabling us to escape from our bat caves!

Wow! That’s a bit of academic research! I came up with some lovely images of bat shaped pages.

Greta Fitchett has been exploring her pincushion…

My Lost Needles

I have always been careful to put my needle away when I have finished stitching with it. Over time I found myself fetching a new needle from the packet and couldn’t understand where my needles were disappearing to. Over many years I used the same pincushion until the top started to tear. Peering inside I could see lots of pins amongst the sawdust and started to pull them out. Then a few needles appeared that were buried deeper. Finally, a magnet was used to lift the metal out, and I was amazed at what had disappeared under the surface. Too many pins to count, but over 80 needles! Some of them were very tiny and I was sure I hadn’t used them. Maybe they were from the previous owner, as I did buy it at a jumble sale!

I’m just back from the Festival of Quilts, at the NEC. Four days surrounded by people – I was nervous but I think we all felt incredibly safe. We were tested, masked, sanitised and double-jabbed so we would be very unlucky to fall ill as a result of the event, but it was so worth it! Wide aisles, lots of sitting down space, sanitised conditions and fewer people gave us a lovely atmosphere of calm. The joy of seeing other textile lovers, smiling behind their masks, greeting friends they hadn’t seen for two years, admiring the fabulous artwork, competition quilts, galleries, cafes and retailers was wonderful. I came away restored and exhausted!

Don’t forget to check out the new Virtual Exhibition of Brooches on the Living Threads website

If you have any newsletter contributions, puzzles, recommendations, etc, do please send them to me via the Living Threads email address:  or email me directly at It’s a gorgeous time of year, with sunshine and gardens, but we still need some tips and interesting or amusing snippets!

Everyone please stay safe and keep creating. We will get through this and come out the other side. Full vaccination will eventually mean we can all meet up and share our stories and textile work.

Until September,


Gilli Theokritoff, Newsletter Editor

July 2021 newsletter

Welcome to July and an extended Lockdown!

I don’t know how many of you are planning summer holidays at home or abroad, but I’m going nowhere! Last year we sold the family holiday home in Bude, Cornwall, and I really miss it. No weekend or week-long spur of the moment holidays! I do hope the new owners are making full use of it. Here’s a view from the terrace, to remind me of what I miss:

My two quilting trips – to Milan and then France, with Stitchtopia – have both been cancelled and I have learnt patience and the delaying of pleasures. I have re-booked on a quilting trip to Carcassonne in October, and to visit the Sitges quilt show in Spain next March. Fingers crossed that one, or both, of them happen. The Spanish trip involves a visit to Girona, where I’ve never been, and to Barcelona. I’ve been there several times but now Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral is open and you can go inside, which I am really looking forward too. If they don’t happen, for COVID reasons, I’ll just wait to see what else is on offer later.

I’m so enjoying getting back in tune with my garden. I’m no gardener and our outdoor space suffers from a great deal of neglect and few flowers, but it is an oasis of tranquillity and shade. We are currently enjoying the heavenly scent of honeysuckle and philodendron (mock orange), the colours of gorgeous blowsy peonies and climbing roses, and I am anxiously watching my agapanthus for the first spires emerging from the straplike leaves. Everything else is textural greens, with beautiful leaf shapes, fat hostas and spiky plants. We’ve already harvested some tomatoes and gooseberries and I can see the fruits ripening on the Victoria plum tree. We might even get some walnuts this year from our beautiful white barked walnut tree, if the wood pigeons don’t break all the delicate branches! Over the winter we had a terrace installed, which is proving to be quite a suntrap. I hadn’t appreciated how much the stone reflects the heat. I’m still awaiting our garden furniture, ordered in early April – excuses so far have been COVID and the Suez Canal being blocked, Brexit and transport problems. However, all good things come to the patient…

Jenny Ashmore and Janet Humphrey took a trip out to gain some inspiration for our ‘Gardens’ exhibition:

“Janet Humphrey and I spent a very pleasant afternoon wandering around the gardens of Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire. We came across this ironwork folly, which was the inspiration for Godfrey Barke to draw the Living Threads logo. I think his drawing is brilliant, having now seen the real thing.”


I’m back to teaching again, in a small way, just two local groups, but it has been so lovely to be together again. I don’t think much work gets done, but we are so enjoying sharing news and each other’s company. The Festival of Quilts is still going ahead at the end of July and I’m starting to get my teaching kits prepared. The management have worked really hard to make sure that the Festival will be as COVID-secure as it possibly can be, with so much more space to move around, bigger classrooms, more seating areas and of course there will be fewer visitors this year, certainly few international ones! I think these shows are very vulnerable and if we don’t support them, we will lose them. The Grosvenor quilt shows have mostly been cancelled for this summer, but Grosvenor has confirmed that it will be holding a show in Newark next January, which is a great time of year to go, as nothing else is happening to compete!

Meanwhile I continue to test out Zoom workshops. I’m doing one this week at the ridiculous time of 11pm – 2am!!! It’s coming from the USA west coast, so everyone else will be bright eyed and raring to go compared to me, bleary-eyed and ready for bed. It is about choosing colour palettes and should be very interesting. I’ve had to collect vast swathes of coloured swatches, paint chips and charm packs as we are recommended to bring up to 400 colours to the table! There’s no sewing, just lots of colour choosing, experimenting and sticking swatches to paper. I think I’ll need a nap before I start…

Our lovely public supporters have kindly sent the following info/ideas to share with us all.

Mary Grooms sends us this:

I have learned the basics of tatting in the last few years, have joined a group called the Charnwood Tatters, where the average age and wealth of experience is mature. Some of them do the most exquisite stuff. They set up a Zoom Tatters meeting and each month we have a challenge.

This was my most ambitious effort ever and was the Easter challenge. I was learning how to include beads. The ladies at Charnwood tatters have raised my skills to be able to follow a simple pattern. They are truly lovely and so patient.
The most frustrating thing about tatting is if you make a mistake it is almost impossible to undo and you junk it or hide it or pretend you always meant to do it that way.
It is making lace with a thread and a shuttle at its most basic!

Dorothy Downie writes:

I thought I would share with you the quilt kit that I finished during the latest lockdown.  Firstly I must say I am not a quilter really a dressmaker –  I bought this kit on a whim whilst on holiday in New Zealand in 2019.  I started this project at one of your classes at Coles sewing centre early in 2020 but didn’t get very far on the day.  Fast forward to this year and with the help of YouTube videos and just guess work it is finished.  Not my finest piece of work but I am so happy to have it done and hanging on the wall. 

Editor: What a great reminder of all those New Zealand flora and fauna!

From Annette Budzisz:

Yes, the sun is here at long last ,and I am loving my time in the garden, though  I have to confess most of it is spent weeding.
During those endless wet days in May I continued to crochet , and had some fun creating a family of hedgehogs as well as turning what was going to be a blanket into a cushion , that actually ended up as a spring wall hanging .
I hope my simple contributions make you smile.
Kindest wishes and happy crafting! 

If you have any newsletter contributions, puzzles, recommendations, etc, do please send them to me via the Living Threads email address:  or email me directly at It’s a gorgeous time of year, with sunshine and gardens, but we still need some tips and interesting  or amusing snippets!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check our website at:  or email us at:  or check us out on Facebook.

Everyone please stay safe and keep creating. We will get through this and come out the other side. Full vaccination will eventually mean we can all meet up and share our stories and textile work.

Until August,


Gilli Theokritoff, Newsletter Editor

June 2021 newsletter

Welcome to June!

Apologies if this reaches you a few days later than usual – I have been enjoying our fine bank holiday sunshine! I hope that those of you who feel ready have been meeting up with friends and family. No hugs yet (if ever!) but it is so good to see people ‘in the flesh’.

I have managed to resume one of my weekly patchwork classes and we were all so happy to be with others who shared our enthusiasm. We’d been keeping in touch via Zoom and WhatsApp but nothing beats being in the same room, showing off our quilts- projects, etc. (Cardigans on, all windows opened!) This week I’m reuniting with three friends for a sit and sew day. We haven’t planned our sewing yet, just the shared lunch contributions!

The garden is taking up more time at the moment. I’m sure it’s the same for all of us. I went to the garden centre to get some Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) and was told that they don’t stock it anymore – “it’s a bit old-fashioned” they said. I was horror-struck. It’s one of my favourites and we have a new garden bed I imagined filled with those froths of yellow fronds and the fabulous leaves that catch raindrops. I did manage to get some from and I’m very happy, if a little out-of-date…

The recent weather hasn’t been too kind for gardening, a bit cold and wet, so I’ve looked indoors too. My daughter is a fiend for houseplants and has showered me with cuttings and cacti. I’ve discovered a great app for my phone – Planta – which tells me when to water each plant and sends me reminders. For the first time in my life I can honestly say all my houseplants are thriving!

If you fancy a real visit to a gallery but London and David Hockney at the RA are too far, how about the Harley Gallery where you can find ‘Same Sea, Different Boat’. The 5 metre embroidered textile chronicles peoples’ lives during the pandemic. , Harley Gallery, Welbeck Estate, Worksop S80 3LT.  It’s a great venue, with artists workshops, café, garden centre, artisan bakery and shop, etc. Well worth a visit!

I’ve discovered a new Zoom workshop website. Have a look at  for interesting classes – drawing, illustration, photography, design, etc. I’ve signed up for a watercolour florals course at the moment, so of course I’ve just had to visit Amazon and buy a lovely box of watercolour paints! It’s a bit like Craftsy, but more European and much more varied.

Last month I mentioned that I was doing a Crafty Monkies Sketchbook course with Gary Mills. It’s just a 3 part, 90 minute boost-your-creativity course, and you don’t work in sketchbooks at all! Gary has you work fast, so you don’t get time to ponder, you just belt out ideas and mix colours and get them down on pages and scraps. You get the videos to access later. For the colour module we turned all our mad scrappy pages into long rolls of collaged bits, which looked great when finished. I really liked his accessibility and simple approach. The next module is Collage Doodles. Can’t wait. All are available via Crafty Monkies, and you can access the recordings if you can’t join live.

I’ve not been sent any news or contributions this month – everyone is obviously concentrating on their gardens. If you have any newsletter contributions, puzzles, recommendations, etc, do please send them to me via the Living Threads email address:  or email me directly at It’s a joyous time of year and but we still need some tips and interesting  or amusing snippets!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check our website at:  or email us at:  or check us out on Facebook.

We wish you all a speedy recovery if you or family have been unwell or had Covid-19, and that the rest of us manage to avoid it.

Everyone please stay safe and keep creating. We will get through this and come out the other side. The vaccine will eventually mean we can all meet up and share our stories and textile work.

Until July,


Gilli Theokritoff, Newsletter Editor

May 2021 newsletter

Welcome to May!

Lambs in the fields, tulips in the gardens and all the showy blossom on the trees, combined with sunny days and little rain have really brought home the changing season.

With life feeling like it might open up soon and the sun shining, I think that many of us are looking outwards again. Many of us will be double vaccinated soon, and although not planning many trips abroad at the moment, we might get out and about a bit more.

Spring is sprung and the garden is looking more inviting for us all. Maybe it is time to get some inspiration for next year’s exhibition? Or our Collaborative gardens project? Both are due for completing by the end of December, so I, for one, need to get thinking! Museums are due to open up again in mid May, but I, for one, will avoid the crowds for a while yet and continue to enjoy artworks virtually. I missed the Gees Bend Quilts exhibition in 2019 but I’ve been looking at to see the early Improv techniques of the Deep South. I’m hoping David Hockney’s new exhibition “the Arrival of Spring” at the Royal Academy, featuring his prolific iPad artworks, will be available online too – although nothing beats the scale of his last exhibition where you felt you were in the woodlands with him.

I haven’t been to any shops yet, unless you count Deb’s Fabrics, in Selston, which is in Deb’s own house. She has a huge range of quilting cotton fabrics, suitable for dressmaking too, wadding, threads and plenty of interesting whatnots. The fabric has taken over her house! You can find her via Google, or  I’ve had coffee or a refreshing elderflower cordial in the garden with a few friends – on our new terrace – and visited the local library. However, come late May I shall be getting back to teaching some classes. Past students have asked me to organise a weekly class for them, so I’ve booked a hall and been COVID-inducted. I’m currently trying to find a convenient small hall to do occasional workshops over the summer. I must get my website organised so that I can advertise them!

Julie Williams has been busy during the last few months of Lockdown:

I’ve tried various online workshops and courses over the past year but by far the most enjoyable has been Laura Kemshall’s Sketchbook Challenge.
Many of you will know how talented Laura is, and both her work and her videos are amazing.
Is my sketchbook ever going to be complete, I wonder?
Whenever I open it there’s something I can add, change or even paint over and redo the whole page…… so maybe not.
This week, using one of the pages as inspiration, I’ve dyed and printed a piece of calico, next step- some hand stitch.”

Julie’s sketchbook

Gorgeous stuff Julie!  I haven’t done much sketchbook stuff since I completed my City&Guilds diploma, but I have signed up for a series of monthly sketchbook workshops by Gary Mills, via Crafty Monkies. For those people less familiar with sketchbook working than those following Laura Kemshall, this might be very accessible. A 90 minute class, monthly, on a different topic. I shall report back next month, after I’ve done the first session.

I’ve also been following Anne Brooke’s #52tagshannemade on her website

For 2021 the challenge is to make weekly embroideries to put on gift tags, inspired by different stitches.

I’ve particularly enjoyed her #sew4thesoul challenge of 2020 and I’ve made several lengths, with bees as my inspiration. (Bees are my current obsession and tailor nicely into the theme of gardens too!)

Anne Batchelor writes:

Hi to all at Living Threads. I was a member many years ago but still keep in touch. Did a zoom class…hate them….on Boro work, but it was excellent. My interpretation made into a glasses case. I hope you are all doing well and I miss Nottingham and The Living Threads Group. Sometimes pop up for courses and your excellent exhibitions. Love to you all Ann Batchelor xx

Rolfie Clennan has been looking online:

 I have a recommendation for you. It’s a You Tube site I found recently and was totally hooked. It’s ‘The Last Homely House’ and the English woman who does it quilts, sews, knits, cooks, gardens, dyes and crafts generally. Kate is really lovely, and watching her videos is like sitting chatting to a friend. I highly recommend the site as I have to all my friends!

Have a look and see what you think. At the moment she is auctioning a quilt she made and donating all the money to support a friend who is ill. Such is her following that it has reached over £4000 on Ebay.

Well, on behalf of the newsletter I researched The Last Homely House, which is a You Tube blog/style subscription to a country lifestyle – full of bees, ducks, sewing and knitting. She also has a website with shop and you can find her on Instagram too. Sit with a cup of coffee and be transported to a homely life the North of England!

If you have any newsletter contributions, puzzles, recommendations, etc, do please send them to me via the Living Threads email address:  or email me directly at It’s a hopeful time of year and but we still need some tips and interesting or amusing snippets!

Meanwhile, don’t forget to check our website at:  or email us at:  or check us out on Facebook.

We wish you all a speedy recovery if you or family have been unwell or had Covid-19, and that the rest of us manage to avoid it.

Everyone please stay safe and keep creating. We will get through this and come out the other side. The vaccine will eventually mean we can all meet up and share our stories and textile work.

Until June (!!)


Gilli Theokritoff, Newsletter Editor