Monday, 1 February 2016

Some fabric stalls and shops, vintage sewing books and exhibitions at Bowes Museum

On Friday morning just gone, on route to Bowes Museum, I planned to go to the market at Chester-le-Street to pick up some fabric for my moulage class next week and have a look for some suitable MOB fabrics as the ones I have don't work as well as I'd hoped. There are a couple of good fabric stalls - they're different from each other and each has its advantages. There is also a Boyes department store which sells fabric and haberdashery. I hadn't worked out that the very heavy winds we've had would mean the market couldn't open because it wasn't safe. Sad. All those empty (permanent)  stalls.  I bought some practice polyester jersey in Boyes, and some glue to mend my boots (another story).

Later, I found a second hand bookshop with some great vintage sewing titles. It was a lot cheaper than Barter Books in Alnwick and I bought a few titles. You know how much I love books! Looking through these books, I've already picked up some great tips. I think my best buys were a Threads book from 1995 'Beyond the Pattern' - I recognise contributors like David Coffin but the others were,  I guess,  before my time; 
Product Details

and Claire Shaeffer’s Complete Book of Sewing Shortcuts. 

One title which appealed to me originally doesn't work for me and I'll recycle that. And I accidentally bought a duplicate.  I've gleaned some great information about thread types and have come across what I consider to be,  for me,  the best explanation about easing and how and when to do it that I have seen. Previously I was confused;  now I see the light!

Despite my purchases, we ended up at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle  earlier than we had planned. David wanted to visit the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition and I joined him on that. The display concentrated on his portraits including self portraits.  None of his still life photographs. David had showcased Mapplethorpe as one of the photographers for his course, showing one of the still life photos for which he justifiably received great acclaim,  a self portrait (this one not in the exhibition) and a portrait of Patti Smith which was used on the cover of her debut album ‘Horses ‘ - this latter was also featured in the exhibition.

I wanted to see the Quiltscapes and Quiltline exhibition by Pauline Burbridge. These are inspired by nature for example, sand ripples,  wheat ears. I enjoyed seeing the process and handling the materials. I loved the Quiltscapes and would have bought one but for the hefty price tags - the one I liked was £15,000. There were a few smaller pieces but I was spoiled after seeing the larger ones (and they were still very expensive). We don't use quilts, so this would have been a wall hanging I guess. Though I have a beautiful machine embroidery wall hanging that hasn't made it to the wall yet so perhaps it's just as well!

We had a lovely lunch in the cafe there. Last time (first time) we were there was for the YSL exhibition  when it was very busy indeed - not so this time. David had chestnut mushroom and blue cheese tarts with walnut salad and I had a variant of Welsh rarebit with treacle cured local bacon.  Both lovely. David liked the look of the green tea and raspberry cake (green!) and enjoyed it but I found it too floral for my taste. I enjoyed my cappuccino cake.

Afterwards, we visited the New Light exhibition which showcases local North East artists and offers prizes in various categories. The exhibits were varied. They were mainly for sale and I absolutely loved one and would have bought it in a second - but it was already sold:
Poor photo and reflections, sorry.
Dunstanburgh, February Rain

I've found out a bit more about the artist, Debbie Loane and hope to visit her studio which is open the first full weekend of each month, between Hartlepool and York. 

I found this dice picture amazing.
Yes, the face is made up of individual dice.

Unfortunately, most of the paintings, some of them huge, were presented in one of the rooms in three tiers but even for me the top pictures were difficult to see and light was glancing off them in an unhelpful way and some filming was going to be taking place and I couldn't get in front of the pictures that were blocked off.

Although I have so much sewing to do, it's important I feel to try and keep some balance in my life. On Saturday I managed a few holes of golf for the first time in many weeks; I desperately need the fresh air and exercise. I realised that I'm only now beginning to recover after having been ill for more than two months!

More fabric shopping (or attempts at least)

I had heard of a new fabric shop in Sunderland  - BST Fabrics in Southwick Industrial Estate (they were previously involved in baby goods) and we decided to detour there on our way home. The prices were excellent and I got some gingham for class cheaper even than the market. There was a great stock of fleeces, though I'm not in the market for those at present. They didn't have the types of fabric that I was after but they offer to look for them. I did buy some more practice fabrics for the bridesmaids’ dresses. It'll be worth going back in the future but probably not for my current projects.

Still on the look out for a particular fabric, we went home from BST via Dainty Fabrics in Washington. Unfortunately, no joy and I went away empty handed.

I then spent some time evaluating my design and fabric options.

On Sunday  I went to 1st for Fabrics in Benton (was out in that direction on another chore - returning a dress I bought in Boundary Mills but decided it just didn't work). No joy there, either. I had already looked in the other local options - Fenwick and John Lewis, both in Newcastle city centre. I'm not keen on the fabric market stall in Grainger Market and find it difficult to get there when it's open, so I haven't tried that.  Another local option, in Wallsend this time, is totally hitty missy. I've seen others with fabulous buys but I haven't managed this. I'll probably pop in on Wednesday as it's across the road from Rory and Dan's studio. I've recently heard of another new fabric place - I don't have details but plan to find it,  you can be sure of that! There is also a sewing machine shop in Whitley Bay which carries fabric; I haven't been for a while as they don't cover my machines so I'm not sure what their fabric stock is like and I'm not too often out that way these days.

A fair bit of travelling between these different places - that's why I always tend to tag them on to something else. BST Fabrics is fairly close to college but closes at 4pm which is really too early for me to get there. If I was also visiting my Bernina dealer,  Tully’s in Sunderland city centre (doesn't sell fabric), which closes at 5pm, that would work.

My problem is I don't want to buy without seeing and feeling the fabric. One of the fabrics I want is viscose with elastane. I want to copy a RTW dress I have which is 92% polyester and 8% elastane, but using the more breathable fabric option. No joy anywhere with the viscose jersey but I did pick up some poly elastane with the right composition - trouble is, it's much too shiny for my taste. It'll do to practice the process; I have two sessions next month on ‘Pattern Hacking’ with Dan and Rory at their Centrefront Studio in Wallsend. Dare I order viscose jersey on line?

I'm going to Dewsbury next week on the Yorkshire Spoolettes meet-up organised by Ali of Thimberlina. I'm an honorary Spoolette despite not living in Yorkshire.  This is my last chance before going the online route, I feel.

Tonight, I worked on the bridesmaid dress pattern and did a toile. Really quite successful and I'm feeling a lot better about it! I'm going to start on the wedding dress first toile on Wednesday. In class on Thursday, it's moulage.


  1. That's a lot of fabric shops! Looking forward to Saturday, might see you on the train :-)

    1. Yep, it's a lot - you know I hadn't realised how many! None of them are that great - though I can usually pick up a zip or thread or whatever.
      Looking forward to Saturday; my train is via York, not Leeds, though.

  2. Wonderful post....and map...thanks for all the information although I don't know when I will be back in that area.....if we are back to Beamish I would make a little diversion to the Chester-le-Street shop.
    Number 2 son has his house sold in North Charlton so we would now be staying further away - Berwick no less.
    Have a lovely time at the weekend - it's just what you need after your time of not feeling so good.

    1. Thanks, Joyce. I'm just back from Dewsbury - had a lovely time being everyone. Bought too much!
      I'm not sure what materials you need to buy for your craft but I reckon either Dainty Supplies or the new craft shop around from it, or Hobbycraft in Team Valley might be better bets for you. If you lack transport but have time, I'll take you. Beamish isn't that far from here.
      We're thinking of taking our grandsons to Beamish Museum this summer - we're hoping they're not too young as they'll be nearly 7 and 4 and a half

  3. Thanks for your worries, have time and wheels when planned correctly!
    Have been to Team Valley and would 'do' Hobbycraft - so are you saying that Dainty Supplies is there too?
    We loved Beamish but then we are oldies.....they should be interested in 'going down a coalmine' - they won't have to duck down.....dank and miserable working conditions. The School House etc might appeal..the sweety shop will definitely be good.....the ride on the tram.....tell you the fish and chips in the chippy (forgotten the name but not the fact that they are cooked in lard) - if you are buying fish one does between two.....and then tea out of a tin mug.....what memories.....could have spent another full day there...DH didn't see enough of the farm.
    Off to make tea....don't know what it will be yet!
    Glad you had a good time...sure you knew fine well the sewing fraternity would welcome you with open arms. What joy to be among fellow people who sew! Take care.

    1. Hi Joyce.
      Thank you.
      Dainty Supplies is in Washington, Phoenix Road, on Crowther industrial estate, 7.1 miles from Beamish Museum, pretty much due east . It's just off the A1 and A1231. Going cross country, Hobbycraft is 5.1 miles but I might be more inclined to go to A1 and north, which probably makes it about the same distance. There's under 5 miles between them, along the A1. There's also a quilting shop in Birtley - I haven't been so don't know what else it sells.
      I've been to Beamish Museum and enjoyed it - we're overdue for another visit so maybe this summer with the grandsons.
      You take care too.


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