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Lettering workshop with Martina Flor

A few weeks ago I spent a sunny Saturday taking a hand-lettering workshop with Berlin-based letterer Martina Flor of goodtype.co. It was held in a fab artists’ supply shop called Jackson’s which is about a ten minute walk from my home here in Stoke Newington. The class, generally aimed at creative types, was all about creating and sketching our own lettering piece while getting advice from Martina on how to improve our process.

First, Martina talked us through some of her work, including for commissions for clients including Etsy, Esquire, Penguin books and Harrods, as well as self-initiated pieces for exhibitions.

She then explained her process for creating a new type piece and gave us a demo. Basically she starts with a loose composition sketch and lays tracing paper over the top, adding more details and making revisions where needed.

While we had a go, Martina walked around giving tips and advice.

It was a bit difficult for me to separate lettering from calligraphy. Martina explained that while calligraphy can be useful in learning about pressure, line weights and character consistency, hand-lettering is a much more free process so you shouldn’t feel bound by any ‘rules’. However it’s still important to ensure there’s a rhythm through the piece and shared characteristics between the letters so they create a cohesive whole.

I did about a million versions, ran out of time, and my piece is still not finished! I came away with a better understanding of how to improve my process, composition and letter-making though. Next time I would like to push myself and try something completely different away from the calligraphic style.

Find out more about Martina’s workshops here, and visit goodtype.co to see upcoming dates.

Disclosure: I received a discount on my ticket from Martina.

Pottery class with The Amazings

amazings

I might be biased because I share a studio with them, but The Amazings is a fantastic startup with a creative and socially-aware bent. They offer classes, courses and workshops on subjects as diverse as woodworking, philosophy and bike maintenance, and all the teachers are 50-plus elders with amazing life experience.

Pottery class

Last month I went along to one of their classes – a hand-built clay pot taught by Amazing Lesley, held in her workshop right here in Stoke Newington.

Pottery class
Pottery class
Pottery class

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Tea dress class at Ray Stitch

Sewing class at Ray Stitch

I was VERY excited to get an email from darling Islington sew shop Ray Stitch, asking if I’d like to try out one of their new sewing classes. Ray Stitch is the loveliest little shop: a cave of beautiful fabrics, notions and supplies alongside a little cafe with excellent coffee and cakes. They now offer evening classes which cover the whole gamut of sewing, from beginners’ machine skills to pattern cutting, quilting and soft furnishings.

Sewing class at Ray Stitch

I took the Tea Dress class as I already know my way around a machine but wanted to learn how to cut and follow a pattern having never done it before. The dress also has some little details like bias binding, an elastic-channel waist and peter pan collar which I thought would be great techniques to learn and apply to other projects.

Sewing class at Ray Stitch

The course was spread over two Friday evenings, in a small class of 5-6. Last Friday we did a lot of prep to get started: measuring each other to ensure we picked the right size, learning about ease, and figuring the best way to cut our pieces to avoid too much fabric wastage. I love the Liberty Lawn fabric I picked (on sale at sewbox.co.uk), and I even have a bit left over for another small project.

Sewing class at Ray Stitch

We tackled some of the trickier parts of the construction first, like sewing the bias binding to the keyhole neckline, under the watch of instructor Gen. I loved how the class was informal without any demos, yet Gen was on hand to answer any questions and keep an eye on everything. There was a bit of homework between the two sessions on the easier sewing tasks like the sash and shoulder seams. In the second session we finished the details: sewing the puffed sleeves on and creating the elasticated waist, then finally sewed the whole dress together.

To be honest, one of the most exciting parts was being let loose in Ray Stitch after hours, breathing in all the heavenly sewing goodness..

Sewing class at Ray Stitch
Sewing class at Ray Stitch
Sewing class at Ray Stitch
Sewing class at Ray Stitch
Sewing class at Ray Stitch
Sewing class at Ray Stitch

I spent this morning doing a bit of handsewing final touches – and here’s my finished dress!

Miss Mozelle dress
Miss Mozelle dress
Miss Mozelle dress
Miss Mozelle dress
Miss Mozelle dress
Miss Mozelle dress

OK, it’s not 100 per cent finished as I still need a button for the keyhole neckline, but I am impatient. My very first from-pattern dress is a billion miles from perfect, but still so pretty, totally wearable and fits well – and it’s really comfy. Plus I’ve leant so many new skills that I can put to use on my next sewing project. I’ve already eyeing up what I want to make next… a Peony dress perhaps.

Sewing class at Ray Stitch

Thanks so much to Ray Stitch for the fantastic class! You can find out about all their upcoming events here.

South Indian cooking at Food at 52

I bought Josh a South Indian cookery course day at Food at 52 for his birthday last month. It sounded so good that I bought myself a ticket too! South Indian food is one of my favourites – and it happens to be largely vegetarian – but I’ve never been able to master a good curry at home, so I was desperate to pick up some tips.

The class’s menu did include one prawn dish but was otherwise veggie and I recognised a few of the dishes from my favourite Keralan restaurant Rasa. The day class covers a mighty ten dishes, including chutney, snacks, sides and a mix of dry and saucy curries.

We began by splitting into two groups – the class is a snug 8 people – and preparing the spice blends for the various curries. This stage involved lots of measuring and frying off the base spices, which usually include some combination of cumin seeds, mustard seeds, asafoetida (an orangey powder with a leek-type flavour), and curry leaves.

As a warm-up we made the prawn and paneer curry first, by simply adding coconut milk to the fried spices for a subtly-spiced, warming curry dish. We then got to work on the other dishes, which included a beetroot pachadi with grated coconut and a green bean thoran, a dry curry flavoured with cumin seeds, tamarind paste and chilli. We even prepped some vadai, a doughnut-shaped snack made with lentils and spinach.


After all our hard work we were led upstairs to relax with a glass of wine for a bit, while the table was prepared for us to try our dishes out. The space, situated on Central St about halfway between Old Street and Angel, has fun eclectic decor with the cosy, welcoming feel of someone’s home.



The final feast was a colourful spread and everyone agreed all the dishes were delicious. My favourites were the paneer curry and heavenly lemon rice, given substance by the addition of cashews, crunchy dal and tindori, an Indian vegetable a bit like a gherkin. In fact I’ve already re-made them both at home, for my parents no less, which went down extremely well.

The day classes at Food at 52 are quite pricey, but it was a brilliant fun day and we feel equipped with lots more skills and knowledge to carry on making curries at home. They also offer shorter, cheaper evening classes across cuisines including Vietnamese, Thai and Italian.

Screenprinted cushions

Screenprinting

It’s been far too long since I crafted anything – I miss it. So this morning I literally dusted down my sewing machine and whipped up these little cushions.

Screenprinting

I printed the designs on Wednesday night at The Make Lounge‘s superb beginners’ screen printing class taught by Helen Rawlinson, whose studio happens to be very near to me in Stokey. We used the paper stencil method: basically instead of faffing around with exposing your design onto a screen, you just cut the design from paper and lay it under the screen to act as a stencil. It also means you can re-use the blank screen for short runs of lots of different designs. I was really impressed that you could get such flawless results from this method so will definitely be trying some more printing at home.

The envelope backs use fabrics from my stash. A nice gentle project to ease me back into sewing… I want to tackle a patchwork quilt next.

Screenprinting

I made these bags in the class, too. Fun!

Screenprinting