Friday, 30 January 2015

Meet Our Talented Tutors - Deborah Simms - Hand Embroidery

**We originally posted this in June 2014 but it seemed appropriate to re-post in the light of the new series of Great British Sewing Bee! GO DEBORAH!**


Deborah Simms is our hand embroidery specialist. She's a keen crafter of many disciplines, but sewing just floats her boat. She even made her own wedding dress! Which is testament to her skill and creativity. You can learn the peaceful art of hand embroidery with Deborah at Ministry of Craft, and it's completely suitable for beginners. Read on to find out more about Deborah's crafty habits... 

What first drew you to your craft? 
I really enjoy hand sewing as it’s such a calm break from day to day life. My mum always embroidered when we were young so I must have picked up my enjoyment of it from her. 

What’s your crafting background?
I have been sewing in one way or another since I was very young, and have dipped into all sorts of things from knitting and crochet to clothes sewing.

Did you train professionally as an embroiderer or are you self taught?

I have never trained professionally, but love to learn so have picked up stitches and techniques as I’ve gone along. I take inspiration from following blogs but much of what I know has been handed down to me from my mum. 

What are your main sources of inspiration?
I love to make brightly coloured embroideries, to make art for my home which reflects what I love. For example, I stitched an umbrella design, (as I love the rain) lucky I live in Manchester! And a garden design on a cushion, as I love to get out in the garden when I can.  

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career so far?
My family, everyone is creative in their own way, and I love to chat with all of them about their different interests and crafts. 

What’s the best thing about being a crafter?
The opportunity to meet other people who enjoy being creative, and but to also have such a contemplative craft which I can use as a quiet time to be calm, it’s like my meditation. 

Do you do any other crafts in your spare time, apart from what you specialise in?
I love any and all crafts, so I knit and crochet, as well as sewing my own clothes and bits and pieces around the home. Anything to have a creative outlet!

What’s the best thing you’ve ever made?

The thing that I am most proud of is my wedding dress, it took months to complete but was definitely worth it. I love looking at it now as it reminds me of such a brilliant day, and of all the little finishing details which made it special

Have you ever made a creative mistake?
I make minor mistakes all the time! Strangely it’s one of the things that I enjoy most about being creative, making mistakes which you can work into your sewing. Making something entirely unique and working around any problems.

And your favourite tool or material?

Probably a piece of craft cotton, as it’s so brilliantly versatile. I can use it for clothes, embroidery, and around the house. And you can get such a brilliant variety of patterns, from lobsters to galaxies

What’s your favourite crafty anecdote / story?

Probably when I learnt how to French knit, it was one of the only things I could get my head round doing when I was young, so I used to just make miles and miles of it without stitching it together. I once measured it, hung it off the top of my stairs in the house… we made it out of the front door and round to the back of the house before we ran out of French knitting. I never did do anything with it, its sat somewhere in my sewing room waiting to be made into something spectacular.

Where can we see / buy your work?

Everything I do I blog at, unfortunately you can’t buy my items, but you can read all about my sewing and crafting exploits from extreme knitting to tackling the French knot

What have you got coming up in the future?

I’m hoping to set up some social sewing and crafting events in the future, to get out there and meet some of the super talented (and novice) sewers and crafters in Manchester! Watch my blog for further developments.

**If you'd like to come and craft with Deborah then sign up for one of our Sew Simple: Introduction to Hand Embroidery courses (next one is Saturday 15 March 2015). It's a great way to enter the world of sewing! You can also follow Deborah's exploits on Twitter @dfabricate, or on her blog at**

Monday, 12 January 2015

Projects Incomplete - what projects will you start or restart in 2015?

At the end of last year we were thrilled to add a new member of staff to the Ministry of Craft team. The lovely Jennifer Stevens joined us at Ministry HQ as our new Operations Supervisor. Obviously Jennifer is super organised and efficent, BUT, like most of us, she's also super crafty too! 

Our Jen!
I enjoyed reading her personal craft blog last week, Humilde Folk Art & Craft, (definitely worth a follow) about a new challenge she has set herself for 2015: Projects Incomplete. Could you finish off all of your half completed or unfinished projects in one year? Jennifer intends to do just that:

"It’s the time of year when we’re all trying to get back to being the best versions of our selves. I love the New Year, for me it’s a chance to really think about what I’m doing and how I can push myself to do better in the coming year.

Paper cut house using scraps of paper
2014 was a year of change for me. I quit my awful office job and started working part time for a company I love. And with my new found freedom and extra time I’ve been able to pursue my creative endeavours, which I’ve been trying to do for years but was always too beaten down by working in an environment that didn’t suit me.

This all brings me to my own 2015 ‘project’, one you can join in with too. I have met many creative people and it seems to me that one of the bad habits of being creative is hoarding! Hoarding materials and ideas and letting them waste away in corners. This year I’m going to clean out those corners, I’m going to attempt to finish every little project I have started or planned instead of letting it go to waste.

It’s an experiment of sorts, how will it feel if I really complete every project? What new skills will I learn by pushing myself to act on my ideas? I will share my journey from start to finish, however bad or good the outcome.

So here’s my first one: a paper cut I planned to do before Christmas but ran out of time. It hasn’t turned out as well as I would like and has made me think the design might work better as a print (another one for the list!) but I’m pleased I got it done and I have plenty more to get on with tomorrow!"

Jen's latest papercut
So which crafty challenges will you be joining in with or setting up for 2015? Will you join Jennifer with your Projects Incomplete? How about a making it a Make Do & Mend Year like Jen Gale? Keep us in the loop, join in the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram, and keep up the good work!


Monday, 5 January 2015

Top 10 Ministry courses to put a Spring in your step in 2015

This is your year: 2015 is going to be great! Disposable fashion and mass produced homewares be gone: this year why not make your own clothes or furnishings, save money in the process and learn a host of new creative skills into the bargain?

The trend for Make Do and Mending continues to grow and at Ministry of Craft we are proud to help our customers take their first steps into the Craftiverse. As well as learning useful and practical skills, social crafting makes you happier! Whether it’s joining a local knit and natter group, or taking part in the virtual shared hug that is #MeMadeMay (a social media celebration of DIY dressmaking), getting together for a spot of making en masse is proven to be relaxing, therapeutic and it’s a whole lot of fun too!

So this January why not dust off your knitting needles, seek out your old sewing machine and make a New Years resolution to join the crafting masses?

We’ve got courses galore on our website, something for everyone no matter what your level of ability or crafty preference: sewing, knitting, printing, jewellery making and much, much more. Our most popular course has always been ‘Conquer Your Sewing Machine’, the perfect way to get started with sewing or to rekindle your love of stitchery (which may have lain dormant since your school days), but we’ve upped the ante in response to our dedicated customers’ calls to offer bolder and more challenging courses (Fair Isle knitting anyone?!).

We’ve got super cool classrooms at FredAldous (a brilliant art and craft supplies store, recently voted one of the top 5 indie shops in Manchester) which is located in the heart of the Northern Quarter. So after a morning of crafting with our expert tutors you’re perfectly placed for a bite to eat or even a fancy cocktail if you’re so inclined.

Here’s my top 10 pick of the courses we’ve got coming up in 2015 (between now and April), these are courses I have either been on myself or would like to try this year. For the full complement of all courses go to We look forward to welcoming you into the fold!

1. Sew your own tunic dress or top
Saturday 24 January

Wardrobe staples have a special place in every girl’s heart, and you NEED to make this one! Trust me, I have made two and I'm about to start my third.

2. Tailormade fabric lampshade
Saturday 24 January

If you want a bespoke look when it comes to lighting up your room, but can’t find the right lampshade, why not make it yourself? I made a shade for my baby daughter's nursery and I bodged it. I should've come on this course first!

3. Beginners Quilting: Snuggle or baby quilt
Sunday 25 January, 22 February, 29 March

I REALLY want to do this course in 2015. They say everyone has a ‘book in them’ - well we think every stitcher has ‘a quilt in them’ - and this gorgeous patchwork quilt is the ideal way to get started. Check out photos of our recent graduates here.

4. Knitting skills - How to knit Fair Isle
Sunday 1 February

What’s a winter without a bright Fair Isle knit? Come down to Ministry and learn the decorative techniques of Fair Isle Knitting for yourself. I'd love to knit myself a Christmassy jumper this year. FIRMLY on my list!

5. Beginners sewing: Classy clutch bag
Saturday 7 February

Perfect with any outfit, a clutch bag is an essential item of every girl’s wardrobe and now you can sew your own to match every outfit you own! I routinely borrow a bright orange clutch from a friend for all the weddings and parties I attend. It's time to make my own.

6. Introduction to curtain and blind making

Sunday 15 February

You can put up wallpaper and paint but can you suss out curtains and blinds?  Nope, me neither. This is the course that saves people HUGE SUMS OF MONEY because bespoke curtains and blinds don't come cheap. I'll be making myself a lovely long pair of yellow curtains this year, after I've attended this course!

7. Sew a gorgeous girls dress
Saturday 28 February

Make a little girl’s day with a gorgeous A-line dress! Perfect for the princess in your life. I've made a Red Riding Hood cape for my little girl, Sylvie, and I'd like to make a dress like this to go with it.


8. Beginners sewing: Patchwork Pouf
Saturday 14 March

At the end of a busy day there is nothing better than putting your feet up and relaxing, with this perfect handmade pouf. Mine is adored by the whole family. I LOVE this course.

9. Paperperfect: Decoupage jewellery

Saturday 14 March

Loved sticking and gluing as a child? Well now you can try the more sophisticated version as a grown up! Create your own ‘paper perfect’ jewellery and master the Fren
ch art of decoupage! My next target is a battered old sewing table - I'm going to decoupage it with vintage comics to hide the coffee rings!

10. Sew your own knickers!

Saturday 21 March

Don’t let your underwear let you down – simply sew your own knickers! Bring your knicker drawer to life with these fantastic briefs in our bright flowery fabric and stretchy scarlet lace. I can thing of nothing better for 2015 than sewing smalls with a group of strangers. Bring it on!

Friday, 2 January 2015

January Sales - top 5 sales in the craftiverse

The sales are ON! I'm not one for fast fashion, I like the treasure hunt of the charity shop and the jousting of a jumble sale. But what I like even more is making the things that I need by my very own hand. Here's our top 5 sales to scour for your crafting essentials, fabric and trimmings...

1. Abakhan. 
Obvs. I'll be buying heavyweight tartan to make another of my staple Ministry of Craft tunics.

2. John Lewis.
Very good quality but normally kinda pricey so go nuts in their clearance. I'll be buying this geo design oil cloth (even though it's NOT in the clearance, dammit!) to cover my lovely pine dining table which has been desecrated by my kids and their chunky felt tips.

3. Elephant in My Handbag.
They've got lots of deliciously festive tidbits in their sale. Stock up for next Christmas!

4. Laura Ashley. We are smitten with their wall papers since running a bloggers workshop last month. I'll be buying a roll in their sale and making origami gift boxes and bows all year for birthdays and festivities.

5. Fred Aldous.
You can shop online but really you've got to go in to Fred's to understand why it's so darn cool. Peruse the sale, get yourself some sparkly bling or chunky yarn, peep into our classrooms while you're there and then retire to Fig + Sparrow for a coffee, or maybe Ginger's Comfort Emporium (upstairs in Afflecks Palace) for an ice cream. That's pretty much my perfect day right there. *Grabs keys, heads into town*