• Ray Stitch: Coats

    The sun may have put its hat on and come out to play, but it's still very much coat weather for the rest of us. Hip hip hip hooray! The coat is the centrepiece of the winter wardrobe; it's the item we end up wearing the most throughout the season and they often have to tick many boxes. We need a coat to be warm and comfortable, big enough to accommodate extra layers underneath, deep pockets to keep your hands warm, flexible enough to be appropriate for many occasions and why not make it as stylish as possible too?

    Our new window display features three of our favourite coat patterns made up in our new stock of fabulous wools, perfect for chilly Winter and crisp Spring days too. Above from left to right: 'The Sapporo Coat' by Papercut patterns made from Panama Wool in Heather, Burda 6802 'Relaxed Fit Coat' made from heavy British Wool in Charcoal Grey, and the brand new pattern from The Avid Seamstress, 'The Coat' made up in Chunky Wool Twill in Peach.

    Papercut Patterns was founded in 2010 by Katie Romagnoli who had noticed a gap in the sewing market for modern patterns with inspirational styling. Using her skills in both fashion and graphic design, she creates patterns that are equally beautiful and functional. The Papercut Collective is a blog full of inspiration and hacks so you can make their patterns in your own style.

    The Sapporo Coat (below) has a bold cocoon silhouette with angled seaming and hidden front pockets, cropped sleeves and tapered cuffs. It is a really stylish and functional shape, allowing for extra jumpers underneath. It is also fully lined which means it is perfect for wool, which can be a little scratchy next to the skin.

    The Avid Seamstress is a London-based pattern company, set up by Lisa Falconer. Taught to sew by her mother, Lisa studied Fashion Design, started a blog about sewing, and then completed the circle by teaching others to sew and inspiring them with her creativity, before launching own her patterns in 2015. We love championing independent designers and particularly admire the minimalist style of The Avid Seamstress. Her patterns are suitable for beginners and intermediate dressmakers, and you can find blog tutorials too for extra support and guidance.

    'The Coat' (below) is inspired by classic tailoring but has been simplified to be an easy make. It features princess seams and in-seam pockets with modern drop sleeves for a relaxed and stylish look. We made it up in a gorgeous pastel colour, because why not? That is the best thing about sewing clothes for yourself!

    We hope these garments will inspire you to push your sewing boundaries and make a coat your next project. Look out for our blog post next weekend which will be all about sewing with wool - tips and advice on choosing the right fabric and how to get professional finishes. Until then, if you want to chat with us about your sewing plans please either pop into 66 Essex Road, or email us on Stay warm!

  • Future Fabrics Expo 2018

    Last week, Ray Stitch went across town to visit the Future Fabrics Expo hosted by The Sustainable Angle. In its 7th year, the FFE is a showcase of textile innovation and most notably materials that have a more sustainable footprint than those coming from conventional fibre manufacture. It was incredibly busy - hosted in a wonderfully light studio space - which just shows how powered up those working in the fashion, textile and interior design sectors are about making concrete positive change.

    Alongside having a very good feel of the 5000 commercially available (and viable) fabrics on show, we attended two seminars to increase our knowledge about what is going on further afield in the textile world. The first was presented by Lauffenmühle, a workwear fabric manufacturer in Germany who explained their decades-long efforts to be Cradle to Cradle certified (1 - see jargon buster at the end) - in basic terms, controlling a product’s life cycle from birth to rebirth - and their research into creating an antimony-free recycled polyester (2). While not hugely relatable to our business, the lowering of antimony in polyester is a huge leap for synthetic fabrics, and in particular for the ability to produce an upgraded recycled material - laundering of clothes is a main contributor to the release of chemicals into our water system (3), and Lauffenmühle’s practical research shows that they needn’t be present in the first place. It left us wondering what we can do better.

    The second seminar we attended was an inspiring one presented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation who aim to help redesign fashion’s future by using the key principle of a circular economy (4). They’re currently attempting to crack the issue of how to utilise ocean plastic, transfer it to the fibre manufacturing loop and then keep it there, whilst simultaneously inspiring the redesign of products so that they don’t just end up discarded anyway and therefore disrupting the loop. It’s all about making things in the best way possible; as designers and crafters we find it difficult not to make stuff, but how can we make things with a lower impact on our planet’s resources? The Foundation was aimed more towards those in the fashion sector, those who make decisions on thousands of garments, and while we’re responsible for only a tiny margin of that, we’re still responsible: as retailers and as makers ourselves.

    Explaining how all of the elements in a fibre's journey needs to be addressed


    Ambitions for The New Circular Economy as posited by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Click here for full reports from the foundation.


    Most of the time we make clothes for ourselves because we cannot find what we want in the shops. Of course we get the satisfaction from the process of making, but the end product is what we’re generally working towards. Now that fashion brands have sustainable sourcing teams and are genuinely working towards alternative solutions to the textiles they use and the end-of-life of their garments, it’s up to fabric retailers to take the same approach; you as customers of fabric and haberdashery should have the same - if not higher - amount of choice as if you were purchasing a finished piece, and consequently the ability to decide what the full journey of your product looks like.

    Organic cotton, post-consumer cotton and lyocell jerseys on show


    There are so many avenues of ‘sustainability’ to explore that it isn’t fair to take away or focus on one aspect when another aspect may be of more importance to you. For example, we have an ever growing selection of GOTS certified organic cotton fabrics (5), but alongside that we also have conventionally grown cotton fabrics as the organic market still isn’t that big and choice is relatively limited, especially when it comes to printed textiles (printing is another matter unto itself...). The initial origin and finishing has a massive impact on the difference in their sustainability factors, yet the end of life is still pretty much the same whether organic or conventional fibre. We can present both products to you, and it is up to you to create something with it in the best way possible, perhaps ensuring you stitch it with cotton thread so that it is fully biodegradable, or by reusing/recycling the scraps.

    Wool is a tough one: in comparison to cotton it has minimal demand and lower market value yet requires more land. In terms of sustainability though, a wool jumper or coat can last a lifetime, can be constantly repaired and doesn't necessitate much laundering. The wools on show here included yak (!) and organically-fed and treated British wools from Isle of Mull Weavers.


    That being said, we were so excited by the possibilities of materials on offer that for the most part there wasn’t a restriction in choice - we could switch from a conventionally grown heavily dyed cotton denim to a post-consumer waste low-impact dyed denim and you would still have plenty of option, yet your footprint would’ve already been reduced. So it works both ways - us presenting you with the option of more sustainable materials, and you as a customer committing to use those materials in as sustainable a manner as possible. We’re very riled up to make changes within our business and would be eager to hear from our customers as to what you believe Ray Stitch can improve upon in terms of our material offering, knowledge exchange and transparency, and resource use.

    At the end of 2017 we started collecting textile waste from our sewing school and our aim is to start offering this textile scrap recycling service to our customers - we’re first looking into where this waste goes and what it becomes so that we’re giving you the full picture. We will be increasing our organic fabric offering and giving you further details into where it comes from and how it is manufactured and processed, alongside where possible the details for our other fabrics and notions, with a handy website guide on textile information for knowledge transfer. We aim to start stocking Tencel (lyocell) fabrics as a lower impact and cyclical alternative to viscose (5), restock organic cotton threads, champion textile manufacturers that are based in the UK, further increase our book and journal offering to include those that explore sustainable issues in textiles and product design and, provide a hire service for certain tools. We’re looking into better alternatives to our packaging for our mail order customers (our shop bags are already paper) and we have already switched our Sewing School sewing machines to be on a hire-and-repair basis so that their lifecycle is closed loop.

    There is so much that needs to be done to slow down resource use, and it honestly feels overwhelming, especially when your business is based on selling... yet we’re eager and willing to make change where we can. It’s been very nearly a year since we moved in to Number 66 and we have expanded considerably, so much so that we probably need another or a bigger shop still! Thank you to all of our customers, physical and cyber. Keep asking questions and we’ll do our best to find out at the answers - if we don’t get there to provide them first.

    Jargon buster:

    1. Cradle to Cradle: this is an approach to the design of products and systems that views materials as 'nutrients' constantly circulating. There are certified products, however, the C2C approach is one that can be applied as an inherent design principle anyway.
    2. Antimony: a naturally found metallic mineral that is toxic in large doses. It is found in the PET that your water bottles are made from, and with the disposal of these plastics comes degradation and leaching of the chemical element into our water systems. Further washing of recycled polyester (rPET) that contains traces of antimony will continue the discharge.
    3. Recommended read: Sustainable Fashion & Textiles: Design Journeys by Dr. Kate Fletcher
    4. Circular Economy: an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life (definition from WRAP).
    5. GOTS Standard Certification: "only textile products that contain a minimum of 70% organic fibres can become GOTS certified. All chemical inputs such as dyestuffs and auxiliaries used must meet certain environmental and toxicological criteria. The choice of accessories is limited in accordance with ecological aspects as well. A functional waste water treatment plant is mandatory for any wet-processing unit involved and all processors must comply with social criteria. The key criteria of GOTS, its quality assurance system and the principles of the review and revision procedure are summarised in this section." (definition from GOTS).
  • Ray Stitch Focus: Megan Nielsen

    We started the new year at Ray Stitch with a new window display of some of our favourite Megan Nielsen designs - the Axel skirt and three versions of the very versatile Sudley smock blouse/mini dress (from left to right: 'Big Dots Blue' by Kokka, 'Fruit Like Dots' by Kokka, 'Ahoy Me Hearties' by Janet Clare)

    We have had such a great response to these garments we thought we should have a chat with Megan herself and find out what she has planned for 2018, and we ended up talking about the amazing online sewing community. Before we get to the interview, some background information may be useful to those of you who aren't familiar with her: Megan Nielsen is an independent sewing pattern and clothing designer who lives in Australia. As a working parent, she fits her career around her family life and 3 children. She has said that inspiration comes from everywhere (especially the amazing Australian outback), but particularly from her own personal experience and requirements, and often wears many of her own designs, as do her children. We love the practicality of her patterns - they are very wearable but have lovely stylish details and variations to make the garment your own.



    RS: We first discovered Megan Nielsen Patterns through your maternity range, and that led us to your children's designs. We love the mini versions of your patterns. How important are these ranges to you as a designer, & as a parent?

    MN: As much as I love to sew for myself, I’ve found over the years that I love sewing for my three children even more. That’s really how my mini patterns came about. My kids are always with me while I’m cutting and sewing and my eldest daughter had been going through my patterns and asking if she could have her own versions of the designs. I was so excited to sew her a little capsule wardrobe that was stylish, practical and age appropriate. Releasing mini patterns has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and I get so excited when I see them running around in something I made for them. Right now I’m working on a few more mini designs for my girls, that I’m hoping to release this year. The response from other parents has been fantastic – I think many mums have the same frustrations I do with ready to wear children's clothing and love being able to sew their children something better than they can buy.

    RS: Can you talk us through what a working day is like for you these days?

    MN: My working days are pretty hectic. I try to work in around my childrens' schedules and needs, so I tend to work in 2-3 hour bursts during their rest times, or after they go to bed. My youngest begins kindergarten a few days a week soon, so after that, I’ll be working full days for the first time which is quite exciting!
    When it comes to how I structure my day, I try to be quite organised. I always
    begin my work time with a cup of tea and my diary, and I make a comprehensive
    to-do list of what needs to be done that day. I use a number of workflow management software tools to keep track of our pattern development progress
    and all the other tasks we have going on. I’m a stickler for setting deadlines and
    sticking to them. Most of my team work remotely, so it’s important that we communicate well, and I try to make sure we are all free to work to our own strengths. Each new design usually takes between 6-12 months from idea to being available for sale. Funnily enough, at least half my time if not more is spent on day to day operations over active design development. But I must admit, I really enjoy that there is a mix. I like that I am able to split my time between different tasks as it keeps things really interesting! When it comes to sewing for myself, I’ve actually struggled with that a lot recently. Sometimes I spend so much time working on new designs and sewing samples, that I don’t get to sew myself anything. Which is a little hilarious! I’m trying to prioritise some personal time, by being better at not working on the weekend, and setting that time aside for sewing for myself. Right now I’ve been working on sewing myself some new pyjamas and some swimwear for my kids!

    RS: You have a large and very engaged community of followers on Instagram - how important is this virtual group to you?

    MN: The online sewing community is incredibly important to me, and I feel really blessed to be able to engage with other sewers like me every day. I feel blessed that we can all share a little of our sewing journey together, and be part of each others' lives in a small but significant way. I began sewing in quite a solitary way as a teenager, and as an adult, I’ve found that sewing with friends is so much more joyful! It’s because of the sewing community that I have a business at all, and I never want to forget that. One of the great things about Instagram is being able to collaborate and share things in real time, especially now with stories, and for me, I’ve found it to be a wonderful and natural way to connect with my customers.

    RS: Recently you shared a personal sewing mishap on IG, and we really identified with how you felt... we have all been there!

    MN: It’s funny you should bring up the Matilda dress I ruined, because I feel like that’s a great example of what a blessing it is to be a part of a sewing community. It was such an upsetting moment for me when I cut tried to cut open the buttonholes on my newly finished dress and sliced right down the placket. I honestly wanted to hide under a table and cry. But I decided to share my mistake on Instagram not only because I know that there is an amazing group of sewers out there who are full of wonderful ideas, but because I think it’s important that no-one feels alone in their mistakes. I always try to share my sewing frustrations and mistakes in the hope that it will encourage other sewers and show them that making mistakes is a normal part of creating. In this case, I received so many thoughtful and creative solutions to my problem that I was able to mend my dress enough to make it wearable. And not only that, but I learnt a number of new techniques and ways to avoid it in the future. The sewing community is incredibly supportive and knowledgeable and it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.

    RS: You have a Megan Nielson Patterns App to enhance the sewing experience for your customers and keep the patterns as up to date as possible. This seems like a great combination of technology and physical making...

    MN: The Megan Nielsen App is really dear to my heart. It’s something I dreamed of for a long time, and I feel like it’s a very important step in sewing instruction in the modern world. We all spend so much time with our phones and tablets next to us when we’re sewing that it just made sense to me that people should be able to access their sewing instructions that way. I feel like it’s a good accompaniment to our printed and PDF patterns, and gives people a great deal of choice in how they want to sew. We’ve received so much positive feedback from our customers about how much they love it, and I’m really thrilled that it’s an added extra we can provide.

    RS: Thank you so much for chatting with us, Megan. We know our readers and customers will be keen to know what's coming next. Is there anything you can share with us for 2018?

    MN: Honestly, 2018 is a very big year for me. I’ve been working for a long time on extending my pattern sizing, and this is the year that I’ll be releasing my first
    expanded size range in a few patterns. I’m really excited! On top of that, I currently have two patterns that are at the printer and just a few short months
    from release, as well as another 6 in the pipeline for later in the year, as well as a
    few mini patterns that we are working on too. It’s going to be busy, but I’m looking forward to it.

    Reef Shorts and Camisole Set

    So you heard it here - 8 new Megan Nielsen Patterns plus mini designs coming in 2018! You can keep up-to-date with Megan on the socials as well her brilliant blog Design Diary. Of course, Ray Stitch stocks many of her designs in store and online here, and even though Megan designs in a much more temperate climate than ours, many of the garments can work in chilly weather by layering or using thicker fabrics - wool or even scuba culottes? Yes, please! If in doubt, please ask us for advice. Happy sewing :)

  • Ray Stitch Sewing School - Learn to Sew or Improve Your Skills

    The Ray Stitch Sewing school has been an integral part of the business since we became a bricks and mortar shop and we are passionate about getting people confident to sew. Whether you are a total beginner, looking for a new hobby for the new year, or have got skills but want to take them to the next level we have a class for you! We pride ourselves on teaching relevant skills in fun, sociable sessions with talented and friendly tutors.

    The start of the new year is a time that many people think about setting goals, finding a new hobby or learning a new skill - and if yours include sewing then we have got you covered - from the total beginners sewing machine classes, to hand sewing techniques, advanced sewing techniques, to making your own tote bag, knickers, shirt, coat or even a pair of jeans!  (Plus we run classes for kids too.) Full listings can be found on our website HERE and we also promote classes on our social channels (Instagram or Facebook) but here are some upcoming classes we are particularly excited to share with you...

    6 Week Courses - with evening or morning sessions offered plus small class sizes for maximum learning

    Our popular Introduction to Machine Sewing course is an intensive six-week programme for complete beginners. It is the ideal way to start your journey to being a competent sewer and will also cover the basic skills needed to start dressmaking. After completing the course you will have the confidence to work on a wide range of different projects at home. We start right from scratch, familiarising you with the sewing machine itself, showing you how to wind a bobbin, thread the machine up and change the tension. Then we start building on your skills; you will cover a wide range of invaluable tips and techniques over the duration of the course

    Our popular Introduction to Dressmaking course is the best starting block to begin making your own clothes, every year we guide and teach over a hundred fledgeling sewers until they are fully equipped with the skills and confidence to progress to more advanced dressmaking and feel they can work through a pattern without assistance. Over six weekly sessions, you will learn and put into practice a variety of skills and techniques that are needed to make up a range of different garments using commercial sewing patterns. Our expert teachers will impart invaluable tips along the way by demonstrating parts of every process involved in making and finishing garments, and you will come away from the course with three wearable garments!

    Boro Workshops - Stitch & Repair

    These single session workshops explore the art of 'Boro'. This term is derived from Japanese boroboro, meaning something tattered or repaired; it is a process that is perfect for beginners to learn hand stitching by way of experimenting with Sashiko, a simple running stitch that can be as rudimentary or elaborate as you want it to be. The objective of this class is to use hand stitches including Sashiko to repair or strengthen an item piece or fabric or item of clothing. By looking at the history of Boro and learning different stitches you will understand and practice the art of visible mending. These classes are already proving very popular as mindful activities are on the rise too.

    Couture Hand Sewing Techniques

    If you are an experienced dressmaker or enjoy the art and mindfulness of making things by hand then this is the class for you! In these three hour sessions, you will have the opportunity to develop your technical skills even further. You will accomplish several hand sewn techniques that will allow you to finish garments to a couture standard. We are offering 2 different classes with different techniques taught in each. Mastering these skills will change the way you make clothes and give you a better understanding of garment construction. You will have the confidence to produce professional looking formal evening wear and maybe even discover a slower pace of your projects for a mindful experience!

    Traditional Shirt Making Workshop with Henri

    We love to have visiting artists, makers and designers as tutors at the Ray Stitch Sewing School too. Henrietta Adams is a London based clothing designer with a passion for traditional techniques. She is currently in India tracing the origins of her organic cotton back to the seed. Over the course of the weekend, Henrietta will guide you through the intricate garment construction process involved with making a shirt, as well as sharing her wealth of knowledge.

    Sew a Pair of Jeans - Men and Women's styles

    We are so excited about this new course! Practically everyone owns a pair of well-worn jeans but most of us would be daunted by the idea of making a new pair ourselves. During our 5 session workshop, you will be guided through new techniques that are specific to the construction of jeans. You will also learn more about achieving a better fit with sewing patterns and how to alter your pattern. Step-by-step you will create your very own first fitting pair of self-made jeans! Participants can choose from 2 different patterns to make either classic men's cut or a highrise skinny pair. This really is a great challenge for experienced sewers.

    Weekend Workshop - Make a lined Bomber Jacket

    Learn new sewing techniques and make a fully lined bomber jacket in this weekend workshop - 24 & 25 February. This casual jacket can be made unique with your designer input, colour block the sleeves, add patches, badges or embroidery. It's a versatile style that can be worn all year round, and after you've made it once you'll want to try out a variety of different fabrics! During the workshop, you will be taught a skill set that will enhance your sewing to help you get the most professional finish for your garment and make you feel more confident when using other sewing patterns. Special offer - February's workshop is now reduced to £165 for both days tuition plus lunch and refreshments. Click on the link above for more info and to book your place.

    As well as all these advertised classes we also offer 1 to 1 tuition on request and have also run sessions for groups of friends who want to learn together. Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss any of our classes or tuition available - and if you have an idea for a class we don't yet offer then let us know. As an added extra, by booking a class you are entitled to 10% of all fabric purchases.

    Sewing is a wonderful social activity as well as being practical, useful, creative, imaginative... we could go on! We hope to see you at a class very soon :)

  • Slow Fashion: the new wave of sustainable clothing

    With the start of 2018 very nearly here, many of us will be thinking about resolutions, aims or intentions for the coming year. Along with the more common goals of getting fitter, being healthier and learning a new skill, there is a growing interest in becoming a more conscientious consumer. Being 'Green' is not new, and many of our lifestyle changes have now become the norm: recycling at home, reusable bags instead of plastic carrier bags and composting food waste. But there are still so many other ways that we can be more 'eco-friendly' and the keyword for 2018 is Sustainability.

    Image from The Centre for Sustainable Fashion, a branch of the London College of Fashion


    According to figures provided by WRAP "By 2050, the world will be home to nine billion people in need of shelter, food, water and energy... It would require the resources of nearly three Earth-size planets for future populations to consume at the rate we currently do in Europe. ‘Manufacture, use and dispose’ is no longer a viable model for our world. We must work together to re-think how we use resources."

    The clothing industry has a huge impact on the environment; listed 4th after housing, transport and food, with 6 million tonnes of clothing produced in Europe alone in 2015. There have been some improvements over the last couple of years though, and things look set to continue this way as more people want to become informed about where to buy their clothes, and of course, many of us are making our own. Trending hashtags such as #whomademyclothes have helped to make the industry more transparent in recent years, and the growing success of #memademay celebrates the handmade wardrobe as a possible everyday staple.

    In the past, 'eco-fashion' and handmade garments had connotations of being anything but 'trendy' or high-end, but the new wave of fashion brands look set to change that. Bottletop is a company that was started after a collaboration with Mulberry, and makes designer handbags using waste drinks cans. Not only do they use waste materials to produce their bags, but they are made by artisans in developing countries who are paid fair wages, they also support education programs with their charitable foundation, the interior of their Regent Street shop has been 3D printed using recycled plastic to make it zero-waste but even more surprisingly, the company is not driven by profit (20% goes into the charity foundation.) Founder Oliver Saul believes that "sustainability is starting to matter in the broader world... People are looking for brands that have those values."

    We thought we would share a few of our favourite new brands that are challenging the way fashion is made, sold and purchased. There are actually so many exciting things happening that this list is just the start. We would love to continue the discussion and exploration of these ideas in the coming year, so please let us know your thoughts too.

    P.i.C. Style is a London based label "born out of an obsession to do fashion the right way. Put simply, people want to know where their clothes come from and who makes them." Their garments are designed and made in a London factory, using locally sourced, organic and sustainable fabrics but the really innovative USP is that the collection is totally flexible. Over 50 looks can be created from just 8 items, for example, a jumpsuit becomes high-waisted trousers with a detachable bib. Clever and very versatile.

    Birdsong is a female fashion brand that goes one-step further - not only are their clothes made by talented women's groups often in London (from migrants to grannies), paid fairly and working in good conditions, but they use real women to model their garments and never edit the images. Their slogan of 'No Sweatshops & No Photoshop' mean Birdsong really is a standout brand amongst other fashion labels. Working with a wide range of women's groups with such varied talents means they produce a whole range of garments, including knitted jumpers, tailored trousers and dresses, coats, even bags, jewellery and underwear. Our favourite is this handpainted sweatshirt... be proud of your eco fashion choices and tell the world!

    A city like London often has a sense of progress and optimism that isn't reflected everywhere across our country, or so Saville Row tailor (and Great British Sewing Bee judge) Patrick Grant believes. He created Community Clothing in 2016 to fill the gaps of quiet periods of British garment factories caused by seasonal fashion manufacture. “The whole reason you can’t fill the gaps in fashion is because you don’t know what you’re going to be making in six months’ time – the product is only being designed and shown now” says Grant. These gaps mean seasonal hiring and firing, unfavourable zero-hours contacts or even closure of the factory altogether (such as the Cookson & Clegg factory in Blackburn, bought and rescued by Grant.) His solution was to design a range of classic 'basic' garments, to be produced in a limited range of fabrics. Being standardised and not 'in fashion' means they won't go out of fashion and can be produced by any factory whenever they have a quiet period. Community Clothing really lives up to its name - it was started by a Kickstarter campaign, and operates with the motto of 'Making Clothes; Creating Jobs; Restoring Pride'. Prices are reflective of the cost of manufacture but not prohibitively expensive so these garments can become part of a daily wardrobe. Items are sold via an eBay shop (yes, really!) and we love the jeans and Breton tops.

    Of course, sustainable fashion is a global concern and there are many international brands producing great Green items. Organic Basics are a Danish underwear company and their About page on their website spells out their ethos load and clear: "The fashion industry is a dirty bastard. We don’t like it that way. We believe in setting higher standards when it comes to sustainable production. We are constantly challenging ourselves and our partners to go that extra mile; it may be painful and it may not pay off right away, but we are in this game for the long run. We want to make fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable." You can't argue with that, right? As much as we like our lovingly handmade wardrobes, making underwear is a real skill. If you are looking for great basics such as socks, bras, pants and vests Organic Basics have a good solid range.

    Finally, it is worth mentioning that there are some big clothing manufacturers that are also embracing this new philosophy as a viable and responsible business model, and are making changes to the way they work. American outdoor clothing company Patagonia has been very clear that they did not always do things right but they now offer their workers fair pay, better conditions and many more employment rights such as paid holiday and maternity leave. They have also worked to reduce the energy consumption of manufacture and ethically improve in other areas. Refreshingly, they are also encouraging their customers to not buy so much by introducing the Worn Wear programme - through their site you can buy worn and vintage (second-hand!) Patagonia garments, trade in old items for credit plus there are loads of tips and a forum to show you how to care for and repair your clothes instead of buying new.

    Ray Stitch believes strongly in sustainability, slow fashion, and making informed choices that filter into all aspects of our life, whether it be clothes, food, something to read, or even something as overlooked as a spoon: choose well, make it with meaning and make it last. Or as Sarah Corbett from the Craftivists says "Use Head, Heart & Hands" A good philosophy at any time, but especially going into a new year.

    We wish you all a fulfilling and happy 2018!


  • Handmade Christmas at Ray Stitch

  • Get Your Christmas Craft On

    It's December and Christmas is approaching fast - exciting but it also means we crafters need to get a move on if we are to finish all those handcrafted gifts we have planned for our nearest and dearest. We have stocked up on everything you might need for a handmade Xmas - from fabric fit for a party outfit, to festive buttons, stocking fillers, Christmas cards and the finishing touches for your wrapping.

    You can buy online (whilst eating mince pies in your pyjamas) or pop into the shop to have a browse (but maybe leave the PJs at home!) Read on to get a small taster of all the goodies we have in store...

    Top Row L-R: Christmas Buttons, Winter Critters Fabric panels, Felt Mittens Decoration Craft Kit

    Bottom Row L-R: Christmas Stamp Set, Christmas Cards for Sewers, Wallace Sewell Ribbon

    Top Row L-R: Cross Stitch Kit, Hessian Sacks, Pom pom edging

    Bottom Row L-R: Ray Stitch Goodie Jar, Metallic Fabric, Scissors

    And if that hasn't given you some inspiration then how about 20% off all online purchases* this weekend? Use the code CRAFT20 at checkout until midnight on Sunday 3 December: it's our little early present to you!

    And if you want even more christmas ideas then have a look online at all our festive products... CHRISTMAS!


    (If you want to know more about upcoming Ray Stitch promotions, events and news then sign up for our newsletter here.)

    *excluding classes and gift vouchers

  • Ray Stitch Focus: Nani Iro

    Nani Iro is the textile label created in 2001 by Japanese artist Naomi Ito for Kokka, fabric manufacturers specialising in printed materials.

    Naomi's collections blur the lines between art and textiles; they are based on her artwork and have a unique and distinctive painterly quality to them. She works closely with the dyers to ensure that the fabrics remain true to the originals and you can often see the brushstrokes in the final designs.

    Despite the huge popularity of Nani Iro fabrics, Naomi remains a reserved artist. In a very rare interview with Miss Matatabi in 2015, she said of her work: "I paint to spin a tale that portrays a kind of comfort, that makes people happy when they feel it on their skin. I paint in the hope that each textile will be like a single poem, a single letter."

    However, Naomi has a fascinating Instagram account (itoitonao) and even if you can't read Japanese, the images she posts of her studio, work in progress and daily inspiration (as well as life as a parent and the rituals of tea!) are wonderful.

    One of the beautiful things about Nani Iro fabrics is the originality of the actual fabric designs. The repeats are much greater apart, and her designs take into account the border of the fabric roll, so rather than a regular pattern you get a variety of colour and shapes which can lend itself to really original sewing (& no pattern matching required!) Each item made with Nani Iro fabric will be unique, depending on the pattern placement on the roll. We love to include the selvedges too and the cuffs of this Deer & Doe Meliot shirt were perfect for this.

    Over the years, Nani Iro collections have featured abstract shapes in bright colours, neons and metallics as well as many floral designs. The new collection launched this summer, called Beau Yin Yang features monochrome shades and designs on double gauze, cotton sateen, lawn, and 100% linen. These Kokka fabrics are a dream to work with and feel wonderful against your skin. We made up this New Look dress (6144) in the slinky sateen for a great evening dress. Ideal for the upcoming party season!

    You can view and shop all of our Nani Iro fabric online or pop into the shop in Essex Road, London N1 to have a feel for yourself!

  • Our Favourite Magazines

    Despite the increase of screens, social media and digital publications, there is a new wave of popularity for printed magazines. Call it nostalgia perhaps, but there is something undeniably pleasing about thumbing through a new magazine: enjoying everything from the large size of the images (compared to on a phone or tablet) to the fonts and the tactile quality of the paper. And that's before we've even gone into the wide-variety of fantastic subject matter on offer! Independent publications are able to be really creative and original with the stories they share as well as craft the way they are printed.

    We stock a small range of magazines in our Reading Room but are looking to expand our selection, so thought it would be a great opportunity to share some our personal favourite reads with you. Some you may be familiar with already, and others are a little less well-known but are totally worth hunting down.


    This exquisite quarterly print magazine shares stories of craft, passion, beauty and skill in a stylish but very understated way. Expect interviews with talented artists and creators, long reads delving deeper into subjects and the wonderful 'My Hole & Corner' series looking at the favourite personal spaces and studios of creatives. This season's magazine discusses the creation of a new Craft Makers' Manifesto.


    This bimonthly independent magazine is dedicated to the love of textiles: not only the art of making and the textures of the cloth itself but in a much broader and political sense too. Articles highlight artisans & makers and provide inspiration as well as exploring the history, future, social implications and aesthetics of textiles. The current edition includes an article on the changing face of manufacture and production with a visit to a pin factory in France.


    Broadening our interests to a travel publication, Lodestars pitches itself as 'an independent magazine-meets-journal for the curious travellers who long to be inspired'. Each issue focusses on one country and is a beautiful way to discover the little quirks and get the insiders view of a location. Perfect for armchair wanderlust as well as for actual travellers, the anthology is full of stories from those across the globe, and thankfully is timeless so keeping it on your bookshelf to re-read isn't a problem.


    This biannual journal is a publication of true craftsmanship which celebrates the curious and often eccentric traditions of making, in all its guises. Billing itself as 'slow journalism' with stunning photography alongside, expect a wide range of topics, recipes and highlights of traditional skills. This publication is not just for those "people who like to whittle" but you know what they mean!


    A bi-annual magazine which focusses on those that create and make with both passion and purpose (two qualities that we hold dear at Ray Stitch). The Holborn Magazine is arranged as if it takes place in a fictional townhouse, the coolest members club that anyone can enter and find respite from their busy modern lives. Readers can visit areas such as the Bar, Pantry, Library, Workshop and Wardrobe to read articles and recipes that celebrate quality not luxury. The Social Issue is the current edition.


    A quarterly magazine that presents knitting, crochet, and craft in a modern, beautiful, and meaningful way. As well as patterns, articles and tutorials that all celebrate the craft of making, expect surprises such as cocktail recipes and features on other disciplines in the craft world. The Winter edition promises bright knitted delights for dark nights.


    Billed as the 'platform for critical thinking on fashion' Vestoj is a rare publication: a fashion magazine with no advertising and not concerned with seasonal-trends. Instead, it combines articles, fiction and critical thinking with the glamour you'd expect but all the while celebrating total creative freedom. Vestoj is a breath of fresh air and really impressive for encouraging its readers to think about this industry in a different way.


    A bi-monthly, made in London mag that really surprises with its intimate stories, peculiar anecdotes and exceptionally pleasing creative photography. We particularly appreciate the characteristic quirkiness seemingly not found in other publications that really addresses individuality. While this publication isn't necessarily about making, it comes from those that do, and it delves deep into human narrative presenting you with honest articles to inspire, delight and that make you feel part of a community.


    As well as the physical beauty of an actual magazine all of these publications are firmly rooted in the modern world and have vibrant Instagram accounts so you can get a more regular dose of inspiration. In addition, many of them also run workshops and events so you can get directly involved yourself.

    We would love to hear about what magazines you like to lose yourself in, and if you have any suggestions for magazines you'd like us to stock then please let us know. Contact us by email, Facebook or Instagram :)

  • Fabric Facts: Corduroy

    We are well into in Autumn, even if no one has told the weather, and along with the standard seasonal pleasures of conkers, cosy evenings and casseroles there is also corduroy! This fabric is synonymous with the colder months in Britain, and we can't wait to get our cords on.

    Corduroy refers to fabric with a very distinct raised ribbed pattern. The ribs make this material very durable and warm, and as such became popular for British country clothing in the 18th century, with Manchester claiming the historical birthplace of corduroy. In fact, it has only been a global fabric since the 20th century with peak corduroy domination in the 1970's - think flares and pinafore dresses. (Which, coincidentally, are all over the fashion magazines this season too!)

    Blue dress: The Avid Seamstress Raglan Dress | Orange Pinafore: Minikrea Spencer Dress | Brown Dungarees: Minikrea Unisex Overalls

    It is a versatile fabric too - great for kids clothing and adult casualwear, but can look smart when used for a more tailored garment, and even with creased seams sewn in for a sharp look (see the culottes listed below)

    Corduroy is usually mainly cotton or a cotton/polyester blend and comes in different 'wales'. The wale refers to the number of ridges per inch: standard cord is around 11 wales per inch, baby or needlecord has 16+ wales, whereas jumbo or elephant cord only has 3 or 4 to the inch. The lower the wale, the thicker the fabric - so jumbo cord is usually used in soft furnishings while needlecord is better for garments like shirts or dresses. It is not a drapey fabric and has little give so works best for outerwear or fitted items.

    We have got a great selection of needlecord in stock ranging from muted greys, browns and navy to hot pink, lime green and purples. You can stay classic or go bold!


    Once you've chosen your corduroy, what else do you need to keep in mind when you work with this fabric? Here are our top tips:

    • Prewash and dry your fabric. Corduroy, like most cotton fabrics, can shrink so it is important to wash first.
    • As well as the direction of the ridges, corduroy has a distinct 'nap' (the direction the fabric brushes) You can actually use it in both directions but if the fabric is brushing smooth up your body the fabric will appear darker, while down your body will mean the fabric is lighter and shinier.
    • Be careful when ironing or pressing as you can flatten the ridges. Many recommend using a scrap piece of corduroy as an ironing cloth and always press on the reverse side.
    • Take extra care when cutting your pieces out - line up the edges of patterns with the wales of the fabric. But don't forget you can also cut cross-grain for added interest or even on the bias to create diagonals. As the fabric is thick cut in single layers only.
    • You may need more fabric than the pattern specifies due to the careful cutting required. Treat corduroy like a directional print fabric and line up the ridges where possible.
    • Corduroy can shed fibres a lot while you are working so keeping a lint roller handy is a great way to keep tidy.
    • Seams can get bulky very quickly, especially with the larger wales, so consider overlocking edges and hemming by only turning up once, or using binding or a fell-seam for a smoother finish.
    • Sewing, especially top-stitching will need to be extra accurate as the line of the pattern will highlight any stitching that wanders off.
    • Use Universal sewing needles: 80/12 for big wales and 70/10 for babycord

    Now you are ready to get sewing, here are some of our recommended patterns to try out with corduroy:

    Merchant and Mills: The Dress Shirt

    Burda 6613: Creased Culottes

    Grainline Studio: Moss Skirt

    Named Clothing: Maisa Denim Jacket

    Victory Patterns: Madeleine Pinafore Skirt


    We would love to know what you think about this super seasonal fabric - love it or hate it? Join in the discussion on our Facebook page or show us your corduroy creations by tagging your photos with #raystitch on Instagram.






  • Named Clothing: New Pattern Collection

    This week saw the launch of a new collection of patterns for AW2017 from one of our favourite design teams: Named produce gorgeous and wearable garments but their story is a little different to most pattern houses.Named Clothing was established in 2013 by sisters Saara and Laura Huhta, and describes itself as a Finnish DIY Fashion Label. The siblings admit to a love of clothes and fashion but also on a more practical level, they enjoy good design across the board and DIY making. Their hugely popular Instagram account shows this breadth of interest as well as behind the scenes of the business.

    Their aim with Named is to bring a fresh way of looking at the fashion industry and the clothes we choose to wear; supporting ethical, sustainable and slow fashion in direct contrast to the fast-paced, throw away culture that prevails in high streets around the world. And not only does this refreshing ethos sit well with moral principles, it's a great unique selling point for their business. If the customer is the one making the garment it means there is endless freedom of choice - you can choose the fabric, the colour combinations, include design variations and even make tweaks to the patterns (as guided on the website) to produce a totally unique garment that is fitted for you. What's not to love?

    Named also have a bricks and mortar shop in Helsinki, which is highly unusual for a standard pattern company, but we all know just how useful it is to see and touch a garment that has already been made up before we buy the pattern ourselves. (It's something we like to do at Ray Stitch too, and our window displays and the sample rail are always popular.)

    Named Clothing definitely sits within the fashion world though, and takes itself seriously as a label. Their garments combine the clean-lined simplicity of Scandinavian design with interesting and quirky details, and just like other fashion houses they launch two collections a year (Spring/Summer & Autumn/Winter) But as the duo want to encourage as many people as possible to get making their own clothes, the patterns in each collection span 5 levels of difficulty from beginners to advanced. There really is something for everyone.

    Autumn/Winter 2017 from Named is entitled 'Earth Science' and includes a beautiful cocoon coat, a funky twist on a sweatshirt and a choice of four dresses.

    Ruri Fitted Sweatpants - relaxed and comfortable but tailored with poppers at the ankle. We suggest making these in a stable, heavy knit. Something like a Ponte di Roma or a cosy sweatshirt fleece.

    Gaia Cocoon Coat - a loose fitting, fully lined coat with so many ways to customise to suit your taste. Try it in wool in a funky colour or a luxurious melton.

    Tierra Wrap Skirt - a double-layered asymmetric wrap skirt with a large feature bow, the pattern specifies a jersey for this skirt and we think this heavy grey knit would work a dream. We haven't tried it yet but we suspect the shape could also work well in a woven fabric, maybe a linen or a denim/chambray.

    Stella Raglan Blouse and Dress - vintage-style dress and blouse with pussy-bow collar and elastic waist and cuffs for ease of wear (& making.) This GORGEOUS Leah Duncan cotton lawn springs immediately to mind looking at the pattern, or any of the pretty lightweight lawn and batiste fabrics in this section.

    Gemma Maxi Dress and Sweatshirt - Wow! two great garments in one. Both the dress and sweatshirt have a very cool geometric panel in the front which can be downplayed or really go to town on contrasting colours. You could be really playful with this and mix a couple of things up, contrast prints/plains/textures. Suggestions: Organic printed knit, Fluffy Ivory Knit, Neon Coloured Scuba, Stripey Double Knit, Quirky Print. So many options, it's impossible to choose...

    Agate Pencil Dress - a semi-fitted bat-winged dress with invisible zips and a side vent. Toned down, how about a seasonal linen/wool mix, or washed linen? Or vamped up, go for a luxurious look with Liberty Silk Satin.

    As always, we love to hear from you and would be keen to know what YOU think about these new Named patterns - find us on Facebook and Instagram (we're very sociable!) And don't forget to tag any photos of your creations with #raystitch so we can see them too!






  • Ray Stitch: Focus on Charley Harper

    Birch Fabrics have recently released the fourth collection of Charley Harper prints, entitled 'Western Birds', and we are really excited to be stocking the full collection of these gorgeous fabrics. The range includes woven canvas and quilting cotton so is ideal for soft furnishings as well as garments - we love the bold prints for a simple short sleeved top.


    Ray Stitch Western Birds


    We know how popular Charley Harper's designs are with our customers, and this range has been highly anticipated. But how are these original mid-century designs being turned into new collections today?

    Charley Harper, born in 1922, was a Cincinnati-based Modernist artist, specialising in wildlife and plants; something he attributed to growing up on a farm. His distinctive style is described as Minimal Realism, and he strove to capture the essence of his subject in the most simple way possible. He is quoted as saying "I don't see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, colour combinations, patterns, textures..."


    Biology Book


    During his career, Harper illustrated many publications, including the Ford Times magazines, posters for zoological societies and many biology books which were used in schools - even the text books were super stylish in the 1950s! A young Todd Oldham grew up with these illustrations but it wasn't until he rediscovered a vintage magazine in 2001 that he came to know the artist behind his childhood memories. Oldham contacted Harper and a great friendship and working partnership developed, which lasted until Charley died in 2007.




    Todd Oldham worked with Charley Harper to produce two books of his collected works, 'An Illustrated Life' and 'Animal Kingdom', and in doing so digitised his entire back catalogue. This endeavour was to become a key factor in the production of the fabric ranges. After Charley Harper passed away in 2007, Todd Oldham Studios held the licenses and copyrights, but Oldham said he felt very protective over the work and wanted to ensure the quality of the designs was upheld.

    Illustrated Life

    Other companies had been keen to produce a fabric line, but it wasn't until Birch Organic Fabrics approached Todd Oldham Studios to inquire about working together, that they agreed to collaborate. Oldham felt the organic brand was a natural fit for the ecological ethos of Harper. The designers at Birch work closely with Todd Oldham to respectfully turn the now digital art of Harper into repeated patterns using PhotoShop, with quilters and garment makers in mind. The first range 'Debut' was released in 2013 featuring the now iconic ladybirds, and 'Nurture' and 'Maritime' followed in 2015 and 2016. Birch Fabrics has produced the collections in a range of fabrics including poplins, double gauze, knits, cotton and canvas so there will be the right fabric for your project.


    charley harper collections


    The popularity of Harper's mid-century Modernist style seems to be ever-growing in popularity, and the desire of Todd Oldham Studios to make them into 'heirloom' items fits in perfectly with the Ray Stitch belief of making with meaning and make it last. Luckily, Charley Harper was such a prolific artist we can expect many more collections from Birch Organic Fabrics to come.

    You can find the new Western Birds range at Ray Stitch online, or pop in to see us and the fabric in real life!


    charley_westernbirds_spottedtowhee copy


















  • Sun's Out, Pompoms Out!

    Pompom trim = F U N . Fact!

    We have got these beautiful pompom trims in stock now and whether you are looking to update a garment you have, whip up something new to be adorned with these colourful little balls, or even add a finishing touch to furnishings, shoes, decorations, bags...the possibilities are endless.

    To give you some inspiration for your Pompom customisation project here are our Top Fifteen Pom Pom uses, gathered from all over the web. There's still time to create your perfect summer festival look, or bring some of the sunshine inside your home.

    Above left: Pompom basket by Brighton Babe on Etsy / Right: Felt Gypsy cushions from Graham & Green

    Above left: Off the shoulder blouse by Shein / Middle: Festival Cape by LOM / Right: striped top with trim from asos

    Above left & right: Hide and Seek dress hack by Oliver & S / Middle: glitter and pompom skirt from Nordstrum

    Above left: Pompom scarves found on Pinterest (no credit) / DIY pompom vintage jeans by Love / Vintage Shirt Jacket with trim from asos

    Above left: roller blind from New House Textiles / Middle: Magical Pom-Fringe Duvet (love the name!) from Urban Outfitters / Right: DIY pompom curtains by Joann Fabrics

    Finally, you can't go wrong with some pompom bunting. Perfect for your boudoir, garden or tent! Above: Bunting by Sis Boom

    Visit the shop or browse our selection of fancy trims online here. And don't forget we  L O V E  to see what you make so please tag us using #raystitchmakes if you post on Instagram :)

  • Ray Stitch Recommended Summer Reading

    It is officially summer holiday season - schools have all broken up, peak-time annual leave has been negotiated with your colleagues, and although this week started off wet, the sun is on it's way. With all this in mind, we thought we would give you our recommendations for great summer reads; they are all related to sewing, crafts, fabric or fashion in someway and are easier to take on your travels than most of your work-in-progress projects. Even if you are only venturing as far as your back garden this summer, you will be able to find something to keep you inspired.

    We hosted a Modern Weaving class recently, which was a huge success. Wall hangings can be very expressive, creative and satisfying to make. This book by Laura Strutt explains how to start with the basics and progresses through to more difficult wall hangings via grid patterns. Laura's weave's are funky, and the wall hangings are very quick to achieve once you know the basics.

    'POMPOMANIA' by Christine Leech
    Pompoms are everywhere these days, and they are also really easy portable craft activities. This book has got loads of ideas for super cool pompoms, like the cacti seen above. This is a grown up book for those wanting to add some quirky pieces to their home or festival outfits, and it elevates what is usually a simple craft to precise and skilful with great results.

    Perfect for festival season, jazzing up your home or for things to do with the kids over summer. Lizzie King uses traditional shibori tying techniques, but shows you how to do them on items like baseball caps, shoe laces and even baby grows!

    Gloriously presented and illustrated book for projects with and for kids. It is divided into five categories: Playful Dress Up, Playful Toys, Playful Paper Crafts, Playful Repurposing and Playful Art. Despite being super stylish, these projects are actually great for beginners (or kids) and are low-cost too. Projects include fair maiden and knight dress-up smocks, a tiger pinata, a parade of paper puppets, a convoy of trucks, a dollhouse made out of cardboard and bright duct tape...

    Personalising items is a lovely way to make something even more special. Christine Schmidt shares her ideas using bold straightforward stamps, hand printing and stencils that are easy to cut out and make for hassle-free projects. Aimed at design-savvy parents but kids will love these stylish designs too.

    Another book displaying Jane's eclectic style of patchwork and stitching. Taking inspiration from vintage textiles and prints, she gives you 40 projects that either replicate nostalgic style or add to an existing antique piece.

    This book features traditional style embroidery for use with crewel wools and stitching but presented in a very modern way. Despite the complexities of some of the techniques the guides are easy-to-follow with beautiful images.

    The magical storyland of Delilah features cross stitch patterns for woodland creatures and beasts. Starting with a basic guide to counted cross stitch, projects are divided into three chapters: Projects for Beginners, Practice Makes Perfect and Projects for the Brave and Determined. Detailed projects are suggested, including book covers, lavender sachets and miniature motifs. Delilah's style is dreamy and cute, for both the beginner cross-stitcher or those with more experience.

    While this book is presented in it's native Japanese language, it is beautifully illustrated and presented with photographs so that the templates towards the back don't seem daunting at all. The book inspires you to have fun with embroidering on paper, and to think outside of the box with your stitching.

    This fascinating book explores the cross-over between stitching and drawing, and offers a combination of the theory of mark-making as well as technical advice on how to go about developing your own style. The book is divided into the types of marks that can be made on fabric, varying in complexity, arrangement and 'feel' as well as covering both hand and machine stitches. Helen Parrott inspires you to record ideas from life and use the sketches to experiment with stitching - a perfect summer activity!

    We were lucky enough to have Lynne talk about this fascinating book in store earlier this year. The humble button is used as a way of telling the story of three generations of women; part social history, part chronicle of changing fashions, and a thoroughly engaging read.


    We are all aware of the resurgence of handmade items, and enjoy the process ourselves, but does it have a wider social importance? Folk Fashion investigates the complex relationship between making, well-being and sustainability. Looking to the future, Amy also considers the radical and political potential of sewing and knitting, and how that could be maximised. A deep and thought-provoking read.

    You may just want to look at the immensely bold and intricate quilts highlighted here, but do not miss out the accompanying stories too. They tell the tale of 150 anonymously-made quilts in the US at the end of the 20th century, as well as looking at the social effects and benefits that quilt-making has had through time.

    All of these books (and many, many more) are available from Ray Stitch, plus we have a most welcoming reading room so please stop by and have a browse yourselves! Here's to a wonderful and creative summer.

  • The Stitch Sisters visit Ray Stitch!

    The Sodbury Sewing School in Bristol is run by neighbours Nikki and Rachel, 'The Stitch Sisters', who share a love of sewing and want to help others to get inspired. Nikki is a talented and creative crafter who specialises in homewares, handmade gifts and quilting, while Rachel is a self-taught dressmaker with a passion for vintage fabrics, patterns and up cycling.

    This weekend they took a trip to London to visit some of the great fabric shops we have in this city...and Ray Stitch was one of them! Rachel and Nikki have put together this fab video to share their purchases and experiences of where to head if you are in London (fabric shopping in the middle of Gay Pride is a highlight!)

    We are so thrilled that they enjoyed visiting our shop. We take great pride in choosing our stock of fabrics, patterns and notions and truly believe in great quality, so it is wonderful to see that comes across to our customers and makes them happy too.

    Thank you so much Rachel and Nikki - we hope to see you both again soon.

    Find the Stitch Sisters on Facebook, Instagram and You Tube

  • Fabric Facts: DENIM


    Good news denim lovers, we've recently increased our (already substantial!) stock of denim and chambray. As you can see from the pics above, we love working with denim and we've been busy making up some great wardrobe staples -  dress it up or down, wear in rain or shine, denim will see you through summer and well into autumn too. So, there's TONS of things you can make with denim, but how can you choose which type of denim from all it's many and various guises? To help you with that, for the next two weeks we're offering you our chunky denim and chambray swatch packs FREE! No postage fee, just send your name and address to and we'll send them straight out.

    Read on for some interesting facts about this omnipresent fabric, and don't forget to show us what you make via social media!

    Denim is a timeless classic wardrobe staple; there can't be many people who haven't got a single denim garment! From James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn to Taylor Swift, Helen Mirren, David Beckham and Prince Harry...everybody wears denim. Part of it's fashion appeal is that it is so versatile and can be dressed up or down, and a smart garment made from denim can give it an edgy, everyday look.

    Denim was invented in the 18th century, when fabric makers in Nimes, France attempted to replicate a sturdy Italian fabric called serge. What they created was called "serge de Nimes" or shortened to "denim." Serge is a type of twill fabric which is woven with the weft (horizontal threads) passing under two or more warp (vertical) threads. The off-setting of this weaving process creates the distinctive diagonal pattern to the fabric and makes it very hard-wearing. With indigo denim the warp is dyed blue while the weft is left white, meaning that the inside of the fabric is much paler than the show-face.

    Close-up of the serge weaving process which produces the distinctive twill diagonal pattern.


    Like denim, chambray is made with a coloured warp and a white weft, but it is woven with a plain weave (1 over, 1 under) As such it has a smooth surface and is the same colour on both sides of the fabric. Chambray also comes in different weights according to the thread count and can be woven with a tight weave for a crisp finish, or a looser weave for a more gauzy and casual feel.

    Blue jeans as we know them today were invented by a tailor in Nevada, USA in response to a need for strong and durable work-trousers for labourers and miners in the gold rush. He asked Levi Strauss & Co who had been supplying his denim to help with the manufacture of these original rivet-reinforced jeans as demand was so high. The rest is fashion history!

    The selvedge is the edge of a fabric as it comes from the loom. Selvedges are either woven or knit so that they will not fray, ravel, or curl. Usually the edge of the fabric is cut off when making up garments but with denim the edges are often expressed. Selvedge denim refers to a unique type of selvedge that is made by passing one continuous cross-yarn (the weft) back and forth through the vertical warp. This is traditionally finished at both edges with a contrasting warp, usually red; that is why this type of denim is sometimes referred to as "red selvedge." This method of weaving the selvage is possible only when using a shuttle loom. But shuttle looms weave a narrower fabric, which means that more yardage is needed to produce a garment from selvedge denim. That is why it has become a premium quality fabric and the red edges are on display.

    Denim is strong and durable so it's actually easy to cut and work with, if you have the right equipment. It doesn't roll and is stable to sew but it will fray when cut.

    Tips for sewing with denim:

    • Use a denim needle. These are stronger needles so they will be able to go through multiple layers of strong fabric. 100/16 or 100/18 is recommended for heavy denim.
    • Use a longer stitch length. This will make it easy to sew and help you to get an even finish. We'd recommend 3mm+ for jean-weight denim.
    • Press and steam all seams. Using a high heat and lots of steam will make your seams neat and professional-looking.
    • Reinforce seams with top-stitching. Because of it's stiffness, denim can come under stress at the seams. Top stitch using upholstery thread (often in a mustard colour on jeans) in the top feed and your normal thread in the bobbin.
    • Use appropriate zips, snaps and buttons. Heavy denim will need sturdy fixings to ensure these do not come apart. Chambray will not need anything heavy duty though.
    • Finish your seams. Denim frays a lot over time (which can be a feature of your garment). But if that's not the look you want then you will need to hem the seams, taking care not to add to the bulk. You can use an overlocker, or you could try Flat Felled Seams or even Mock-Flat Felled Seams.
    • Finally, always match the fabric weight to the right pattern. Chambray can be great for dresses, shirts and tops which have a good amount of drape and flow, whereas heavier denim is good for more structured garments such as jackets, trousers and shorts.




  • Happy Sewing Machine Day!


    Did you know that June 13th is the day that celebrates the invention of the sewing machine?

    Several men have been credited with this creation; Walter Hunt invented the first lockstitch machine in 1832, and John Greenough patented the first sewing machine in the States in 1842, this day relates to cabinet-maker and English inventor, Thomas Saint, who received the first patent for a design of a sewing machine in 1790.  Unfortunately, it was never realised and no evidence of it other than his drawings could be found, so it wasn't until 1874, when William Newton Wilson found Saint’s drawings in the London Patent Office, made some adjustments and built a working model that it really took off. This model is currently owned by the London Science Museum!

    Our sewing school just wouldn't be the same without the not-so-humble sewing machine, so we thought it would be a great time to tell you a little bit more about the ones we use and to do that we will introduce one of our very experienced sewing teachers - Penny...

    "I was lucky enough to grow up at a time when sewing was a normal domestic accomplishment and consequently there was lots of sewing going on!  My Mother made all of her clothes and mine to a very high standard, having been taught by her mother who had worked as a seamstress.  My paternal grandmother was a tailoress so sewing was a normal way of life.  Add to that a wonderful needlework teacher at secondary school and I couldn’t avoid sewing. In recent years I have started to earn my living by sewing.  I am a seamstress and have a small business, ‘The Village Seamstress’, in the village where I live, making bespoke garments and carrying out alterations.  I also worked part time as  sewing consultant for Janome at John Lewis for over three years.  My role meant that I had to have working knowledge of the range of Janome machines that John Lewis sold and also give lessons to those people that bought sewing machines.  It was here that I discovered a passion for teaching.

    "I make as many of my clothes as I am able.  I just love the fact that I can put a pattern and fabric together to make a unique garment that nobody else will have.  I have noticed that I get lots of compliments when I wear clothes that I’ve made and this spurs me on to make more!

    "I joined Ray Stitch in January this year and I teach mainly the Introduction to Machine Sewing and Introduction to Dressmaking courses.  I love teaching and find passing on my knowledge very exciting.  I really enjoy watching a beginner gain confidence in their abilities over the six weeks that I teach them and their amazement when they complete their first garment.

    "The sewing machines at the Ray Stitch Sewing school need to cope with a lot - we teach absolute beginners so the machines need to be simple enough for them to get started, but have enough features for our more proficient sewers and their advanced projects. They also get a lot of use through our classes and are available to hire by the hour, so a good solid machine is needed.

    "We use the Janome 5018*.  This Janome machine was chosen for its strength and reliability.  It has a metal body and a solid cover for when the machine is not in use.  It’s ideal for use in the Sewing School because it is simple to use but has good features for more advanced projects.  The machine comes with a good selection of feet which are stored neatly under the lid.  It has a larger than normal throat space (the distance on the right hand side of the needle) making it useful for bulky projects such as coats or patchwork quilts.  It has a ‘one step’ buttonhole system that makes buttonhole sewing simple.  In addition the feed dogs lower at the flick of a switch for free machine embroidery. Beginners find its clear stitch selection, stitch length and width sliders easy to use and master, whilst more advanced students find it perfect to work with fine fabrics and heavy weight coatings and denims.

    "As you can imagine our sewing machines at Ray Stitch work really hard so we keep them regularly cleaned and serviced.  Generally speaking a domestic machine should be cleaned at the beginning of every project and a new, appropriate needle inserted.  Depending on the amount that a machine is used, once its guarantee period is over, it should be serviced every couple of years.  The better that a machine is looked after the longer it will work for you!"

    *This is not a sponsored post, we do not work on behalf of Janome, all views and opinions are our own.

  • Me Made Ray - our talented customers!

    The month of May is THE highlight of the year for everyone who makes their own clothes. Now in it's eighth year and going from strength to strength, the idea of 'Me Made May' is very simple: to wear garments that you have made yourself...and celebrate that! There is no pressure to wear a new outfit every day (and many of us don't have that large a handmade wardrobe anyway) but it is a great way to get inspired and inspire others. There really is no better feeling than wearing something you have made yourself - and after all that time and effort they deserve to be shown off.

    To celebrate Me Made May 2017, we invited our customers to come in to the shop and show us what they had made using Ray Stitch fabric (there was also a 20% discount on offer to say thank you!) All we can say is what a talented bunch you are! It has been a joy to see how the fabric bought in store has been transformed into such original and fabulous garments. Take a look...

    Clockwise from top left:

    Rachel: Merchant & Mills Strand coat in Japanese painted canvas

    Suzy: Merchant & Mills Fielder in 'Manning' Liberty Tana Lawn and Ray Stitch cotton ribbing.

    @margaretstitches: Heron Wrap top from Merchant & Mills Workbook made in Ray Stitch Haberdashery cotton lawn with New Look 6217 trousers in black washed linen.

    @margymeg: customised Simplicity 1328 made in Heather Panama Wool

    Customer: New Look 6217 made in Observer cotton poplin by Art Gallery Fabrics

    @maruzza_s: customised top by Burda Style made in Ros Cherry Liberty Tana Lawn


    Clockwise from top left:

    Sumita: Named Clothing Kielo Dress made in Robert Kaufman Chambray

    Claudia: Deer & Doe Veste Pavot in organic cotton Dunweave canvas

    Jessamy: Grainline Scout Tee in 'Birdseye News' by Nani Iro

    Customer: models own waistcoat pattern made in organic dunweave and a Japanese print.

    James @jimknitsandpurls: Merchant & Mills Tee shirt in Indikon Cotton Shirting

    @brunography: Fielder top in Lustre by Zen Chic Moda


    Clockwise from top left:

    @missria: Papercut Patterns Rigel Bomber made in 'Manning' Liberty Silk Satin

    Vicky: customised Vogue tunic made in Crosses double gauze by Nani Iro

    Janet: Merchant & Milks Camber top in Nani Iro Seersucker, with Merchant & Mills Saltmarsh skirt in Ray Stitch Linen mix Twill

    Pearl: Simplicity girls dress in yarn-dyed Japanese cotton

    Judith: Merchant & Mills Strand coat in Ray Stitch denim

    Caoimhe: Tilly & the Buttons dress made in Firefly Dots by Birch Fabrics


    Clockwise from top left:

    Zoe: Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress made in organic bamboo silk.

    Lizzie: Merchant & Mills Fielder top in grey laundered linen with Ray Stitch cotton ribbing

    @mythimbleandthreads: Deer & Doe Trenchcoat in Sevenberry Coffee cotton twill

    Antonia: New Look 6217

    Lucy: Colette Patterns Myrtle dress in woven cotton

    Suzi: Simplicity 1369 skirt, and New Look 6217 in Liberty Tana Lawn 'Rachel de Thame'

  • The Art of Craft - Women's Hour Craft Prize 2017


    To mark the 70th anniversary of Woman's Hour, the BBC have created the Women's Hour Craft Prize 2017 in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Craft Council. The £10,000 prize will award "originality and excellence in concept, design and process and will seek to recognise a craft practitioner or designer-maker who is an outstanding artist and who has significantly contributed to craft practice in the last five years." Like the Turner Prize but for Craft!

    This new Prize confirms that the traditional distinction between craft and 'high art' has become unclear and less defined. Traditionally, female practices such as sewing, knitting and crocheting had been thought of as unskilled, homespun and practical where as fine art was dominated by men who had studied their practice at scholarly colleges.

    This year has already seen exhibitions which feature craft as art: Unravelled at the Turner Contemporary in Margate, Between Things at Colchester School of Art (featuring Celia Pym) as well as the upcoming exhibition featuring all the shortlisted makers of the Women's Hour Craft Prize at the V&A (which excitingly, will also be touring the country next year)

    Crafting is also big business - it is estimated that the UK economy is boosted by £3.4 billion due to people honing their skills, learning something new at a making class, purchasing materials and supplies and selling their handmade creations. Craft fairs such as Renegade, The Crafty Fox and the Bust Craftacular attract loyal followers and huge crowds. Online sites like Etsy, Folksy, Big Cartel and Not on the High Street make it possible to turn one's hobby into a viable, and successful business.

    But the benefits of crafting are not just financial. It has been proved that the activity of making with your hands also engages your brain, and as well as de-stressing participants, it helps to develop problem solving skills and encourage a different way of thinking about the world.

    A recent article in the Observer newspaper, featuring our very own Rachel Hart, discusses the link between making and the mind and concludes "The rhythmic, repetitive moments necessary to knit, sew or crochet are proven to... increase serotonin production and inducing a natural state of mindfulness.”

    All of this confirms something that we see everyday in our shop, and online...craft in all of its glorious forms is something to enjoy, celebrate and to shout about! Come to Ray Stitch hand stitching workshops and meet some of the most highly regarded craft practitioners in the business - Celia Pym, Richard McVetis, and Forest and Found.

    We would love to hear about your future projects and see your finished creations so please find us on Facebook or Instagram and use #raystitch to share with our community.


    Hooray! It's May! (Although in London it's been more like winter coat weather this week but the sun can't be that far away now, surely?!) so we can really turn our thoughts to sewing spring/summer garments...

    We're very much enjoying our recent acquisition of beautiful Japanese cotton seersucker, which is an ideal fabric for warmer weather. Genuine seersucker is woven in such a way that some of the threads are more bunched together, which gives the fabric distinctive puckered stripes with alternating smooth ones. These wrinkles allow it to circulate more air when worn, and also mean it doesn't need to be ironed which is a real bonus for summer garments :-)

    Genuine seersucker takes longer to weave than normal cotton because of the slack-tension process, so can be a high-cost item. There are some fabrics which are not 'true' seersuckers and have been artificially puckered but these can lose their texture when pressed, so beware!

    Seersucker gets its name from the Persian words 'sheer' and 'shakar', meaning milk and sugar. It is believed the smooth stripes are the milk, and the bumpy stripes the sugar!

    Seersucker was popular in India during the British colonial period, and was introduced to the United States where it was used in a range of clothing items, including uniforms, in the hot South. There is even a Seersucker day in June, where members of the US Congress all wear suits made from this fabric!

    This firmly woven material is often made in striped patterns - blue and white being a classic - but can also be checked, patterned or even plain colours, like our current stock.

    Seersucker looks the same on both sides, doesn't crease easily, doesn't need to be pressed, is difficult to tear and washes really well. It is more often than not made from cotton, but can also be made of rayon or silk.

    Some things to remember:

    • We would recommend prewashing your cotton seersucker as it does have a tendency to shrink.
    • Use sew-in interfacing if required, rather than iron-on, to preserve the characteristic wrinkles.
    • Cotton Seersucker is ideal for summer suits, shirts, trousers, shorts, blouses and these gorgeous kimonos pictured above. And it can even be used to make cool bedding, pillowcases and quilts.

    Take a look at our collection and plan your project now...