Monthly Archives: May 2017

  • 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...