Jessie Chorley at the Guild

My place had been booked for months for this ‘Embroidered Handkerchief’ workshop. I was so excited. I love Jessie’s style of work. She incorporates found objects, re-purposed and vintage textiles, story telling, printing, and plenty of hand stitching.

By Jessie Chorley
Jessie Chorley
By Jessie Chorley
By Jessie Chorley
I have been following Jessie Chorley’s work for a number of years now and have been lucky to attend many of her weekend classes at Hope and Elvis – all truly wonderful.  This workshop was nearer my home and with my girlfriends at the Hertfordshire Embroiderers’ Guild.
I had offered to be hostess for the day (involves keeping the tea flowing throughout the day and providing lunch for the tutor) which kept me rather busy, so I spent more time thinking about my sewing than actually doing much of it. Which was quite nice.  I hadn’t really spent a day like this before. It offered me the opportunity to revisit the same piece of work throughout the day, audition threads, fabrics and ideas, until I was very content with my choices and started sewing (quite late in the day). I also stitched a pin onto the back of one of Jessie’s heart buttons and adding it to my apron. I love it!
Work By Jessie Chorley
Having met Jessie before, I knew that she loved vintage everything. A perfect excuse to raid my vintage linens and vintage china to make her lunch special.
By the end of the day, many of the faster stitchers had completed a tremendous amount of work. I am always stunned at the Show and Tell. Each person has been given the same guidance from Jessie and yet each has created such different pieces.
Our Show and Tell
It was a wonderful day. I haven’t been on any form of workshop for quite a few months and I really have missed doing them.
As a quilter in my previous life, I used to attend and teach a great deal of patchwork and quilting workshops. Each class (or rather the quilters) were rather driven to achieve something substantial or an objective – like a quilt top – by the end of the day (quite a lot of sewing). Since I have moved into hand embroidery, I am more content with the design elements of carefully positioned coloured threads and fabric scraps – ‘slow-stitching’ – and have enjoyed my workshops more as a result. Just giving myself ‘permission’, the time to think, has made a huge difference to my work. I now go home with my mind buzzing and several more projects developing.
I forgot to mention, Jessie gave us each a gift at the start of the day – some pieces of her new printed fabrics. They are so yummy.
Goody bag
She had also brought some goodies for sale. Some of her printed tea towels gave home with me.
Jessie’s new book is out 15th August 2015. More photos of it to follow in a later post. I have had a sneak preview and it’s a purchase I would definitely recommend.
The brand new book By Jessie Chorley

Now where are my paintbrushes! The Bohemian art of the Bloomsbury Group.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel after visiting the homes of the Bloomsbury Group – Inspired? overwhelmed? or maybe even discover that it’s really not my kind of thing. I have been to East Sussex quite a few times this year visiting the stomping ground of this Bohemian circle and have found the experience, artistically, quite liberating.

Virginia Woolf’s Bedroom at Monk’s House; Hand decorated paper covered books,; Hand painted furniture.

My first visit was to Charleston Farmhouse was the home of Vanessa Bell and frequented by artists including Duncan Grant. The interiors are oozing with deign and liberating freedom of expression, found in a multitude of mediums from mosaic, paint, pen and ink and clay. It is a bit of an assault on the senses – anything goes. It is the kind of house we would all like to live in. Just take a paint brush to the walls and furniture and doodle designs to make the house your own. Each and every surface is your canvas. Their creativity spilles over into the garden too. Photography is not allowed in the house (but you can check out this website) so I took lots of photos in the gardens – I must try mosaics.

A curved mosaic fountain in the garden with raised seating area
Mosaic patio area
Broken plates from the house soon found a new use in the garden decoration

On my next trip I visited Sissinghurst Castle, the home of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. Although Vita’s love was poetry and gardening, you can see some of the artistic influences in the interiors of the writing tower.

Tiling on a windowsill in the Writing Tower


Vita’s monogram on her garden tools

Later on in the day, we arrived at Monk’s House, the home of Leonard & Virginia Woolf (the sister of Vanessa Bell). This was also a poet’s home and, I thought, a ‘calmer’ version of Charleston Farmhouse. The rooms are painted with a plain colour and are filled full of heavenly furniture and art. The paintings were gifts from fellow artists of the Bloomsbury group, and the painted furniture was bought up by Virginia at one of Vanessa Bell’s exhibitions. Painted tiles tables by Duncan Grant, and paper lampshades, lovingly recreated by Quentin Bell, are in each room. The house has a real feeling of being a lived in home.

Tiled, hand painted table top by Duncan Grant.
Hand painted furniture by Vanessa Bell and detailed with Virginia’s initials.
Embroidered chair backs; Hand painted paper lamp shade by Quentin Bell.
Painting of Virginia above a hand painted piece of furniture.
Needlework mirror frame.
Hand painted kitchen cabinet – LSW (Leonard Sidney Woolf)


Hand painted tea trays
In Virginia’s bedroom; hand painted tiled fireplace;
hand painted paper lampshade and handmade ceramic lampbase.
In Virginia’s bedroom – detail from the painted fireplace
VW (Virginia Woolf), VB (Vanessa Bell).
Handmade shell frame
By Vanessa Bell

If you get a chance to see these properties, please do. The whole liberal lifestyle of the Bloomsbury group was not only expressed in their interwoven relationships but in their art. I have fallen in love with their various forms of expression and have a burning urge to create some mosaics and maybe paint up the dining table!
Now where are my paintbrushes?
…..I hope you have managed to see the BBC series Life in Squares.