Alternative Christmas Wishes!


I’ve been neglecting my blog again and just logged in and ashamed to see it’s been about another 2 years since my last post!

It’s true, life and time waits for no one and I have had a busy couple of years. I’m still enjoying my part time work in Brighton Uni as a Weave Technical Demonstrator and doing my Little Swift Handmade creations the rest of the time. It’s a good balance.

This year I wanted to reduce plastic from my life and I’ve made a conscious effort to stop buying convenience foods wrapped in plastic, I use a flask to take tea/coffee on my train journeys up and down to Brighton, I carry a metal fork in my bag so I don’t use plastic forks, I always have cotton tote bags for shopping, refuse plastic straws in drinks, buy loose foods as much as possible and we are looking at joining a local food Cooperative in Bury St Edmunds.

This time of year always makes me struggle with the fast consumer society we live in in the U.K. Constant advertising of what to buy for Christmas. In 2016 we did a Handmade Christmas and made gifts for friends and family, we ditched the real tree in favour of an alternative Xmas Tree made from a recycled hinged frame which I strung Baubles and decorations from in a rainbow colour scheme.

For 2017, we are keeping to my ideals of Handmade and recycled gifts, so I have made some gifts, bought second hand gifts and also some handmade gifts from fellow makers and creatives that I know through Instagram or Etsy. Our Alternative Christmas Tree this year is my yarn wrapped branch (I use for my stall display) in a flask, decorated with charity shop vintage Baubles and my collection of Bird decorations, a few fairy lights and tinsel we already had. It’s cosy, festive and recycled 🎄

I wish you all a warm, happy and festive Christmas, and hope to be back in 2018 to continue my story ………


Buttons are a girls best friend!

At a market I did a few weeks ago in Norwich, a lovely lady approached my stall and commented on the use of vintage buttons in my work. We had a lovely chat and during which she mentioned that her husband had a real phobia of buttons!

A phobia of buttons! I said, how can that be? I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like buttons, only those who had fond memories, like me, of tipping out my grandmas button tin on a rug and sorting through them, putting them into piles of matching colours and shapes. Many happy hours were spent with this childhood pastime 🙂 It turns out he was made to wear hand knitted jumpers and cardigans as a child and they were buttoned up quite tightly around his neck, so he felt claustrophobic and ever since has a fear of buttons.

Some of my latest haul of vintage buttons!
Some of my latest haul of vintage buttons!

I’m completely the opposite! If anything I could be described as a button obsessive! I love collecting vintage buttons, and source a lot of my buttons from eBay where job lots are like a lucky dip! You can’t always see everything, so when they arrive in the post it’s great fun sorting and picking out the gems, and seeing what you can do with them. Recycling and up cycling them into useful, pretty and decorative accessories is a lot if fun and I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of buttons!

It’s been a while!

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>>> I have seriously neglected my blog for quite some time, erm about 3 years!

The time has flown and in those few years I’ve moved house once, had a variety of jobs, have 2 amazing twin nieces, bought a beautiful hand loom called Martha, and am really enjoying my new home in Suffolk 🙂

I have been really lucky to have met a wonderful group of creative makers, artists and handmade craft enthusiasts since moving to Suffolk and have been taking part in lots of indie markets and pop up events. I also have managed to get an amazing job back in Textiles, working with students at Brighton University on the Textile Design with Business Studies degree, as a Technical Demonstrator. The role involves running 2 workshops filled with Harris Handlooms and Georgewood Dobby Floorlooms, also a TC1 Jaquard loom and an industrial Dornier Powerloom. I’m loving it!! It means I split my week as its a part time job, so I spend a couple of days by the seaside in Brighton, perfect!

Now feeling like I’d like to explore writing again and sharing some of Little Swifts creative journey in this blog. I’ve given it a facelift with a new theme and intend to try to write a short piece every week.

Wanted to share a few recent photos with you in the meantime, so you can get a feel of where Little Swift is in 2015, enjoy 🙂

CraftNet (Part 3)

>>> This is the final part of the CraftNet posts, if you’ve been following them, thanks I hope you’ve found them an interesting read : ) The last talk was by Richard Humphries who was from the Humphries Weaving Company Ltd in Sudbury, Suffolk, England. His talk was about the history and tradition of silk weaving in the south east of England and how their company has managed to survive the competition from Asian manufacturers to develop and increase their business today within the luxury and contemporary fashion and interior worlds.

>>> The story starts in France, in Lyon where silk weaving was being done by a group of French people called Huguenot’s. All of the silk was at that time imported to England, where our Norwich weavers were only able to produce woollen cloths as we had not yet discovered the secrets of silk production.>>> In the late 17th Century the Catholic French King Louis IX revoked the Edict of Nantes which had granted Protestants the right to worship in specified areas. The Huguenots were Protestants and being so faced severe persecution, many had no other choice than to flee from France. In 1681 Charles II of England offered the Huguenots sanctuary in England and it is estimated between 40,000 to 50,000 Huguenots sought refuge in England.

>>> Many of them settled in Spitalfields, London where they had a huge impact on the area and the economy. The Huguenots brought with them all of their skills and knowledge of silk weaving and Spitalfields soon became known as ‘Weaver Town’. They produced beautiful silk damasks and jacquard designs which became a thriving industry for the area.

James Leman, Silk Design 1711 Watercolour on Paper
Anna Maria Garthwaite,1742 Silk brocade The Fashion Museum, Bath











>>> Early wallpapers imitated Jacquard silk damasks and the width of the design was set at ‘3 spans of a mans hand’, it’s still of a similar width for todays wallpaper. However all the sucess of the Huguenot’s silk weaving was beginning to upset the English weavers and in the south east of the country the Norwich weavers could not compete. They tried to imitate the silk woven in Spitalfields by glazing their wool cloth and then invented the broad loom which could weave 4 spans of a mans hand wide, enabling them to produce much bigger designs.

>>> In the early 19th century some of the Huguenot weavers moved out of London to avoid taxation imposed on the London weavers by the various Spitalfields Acts of parliament. They relocated to towns such as Braintree, Halstead and Sudbury on the Essex and Suffolk border and is where Richard Humphries silk weaving business now stands.

>>> Richard started an apprenticeship in 1966 at Warners in Braintree when he was 15 years old. Warners was the leading silk weaving company in Britain at that time. The company believed that synthetic fibres would soon replace silk they only had 3 handweavers in the company, for 85 handlooms. Five years later the entire weaving department closed down altogether, threatening the future of 300 years of silk weaving tradition in Britain. RIchard seeing an opportunity to try and save some of the handlooms and weaving machinery, he raised finance to buy some of the handlooms, jacquard cards and jacquard card punching machine to create new designs. He set up a small business in premises in Sudbury where he created custom window blinds and interior fabrics.

>>> Over the following years Richard moved his business back to Essex and for a time was relocated in the newly restored Warner Mills in Braintree, operating from his old employers premises. This enabled him to expand the business and modernising the manufacture of the silk fabrics utilising modern looms. He returned to Sudbury in 2004 to Sudbury SIlk Mills where they are today. He has worked with a wide range of clients from Marian Stroud (1960’s – 70’s) on the Festival of Britain designs, fashion designers such as Matthew Williamson and Alexander McQueen and an infinite number of projects for stately homes, hotels, film productions, transportation and ceremonials. They offer a bespoke service which is what is giving them the edge in todays tough textile industry and the quality and heritage of their designs and fabrics hold them in good stead for the future.

>>> Below is a few photos showing the beautiful silk fabrics they make and if you are interested in finding out more please visit their website


CraftNet (Part 2)

>>> Following on from my first post for CraftNet (The Crafts Council and Smiths Row presentation) the second speaker who talked to us that afternoon was Freddie Robins.

>>> Her talk focussed on textile design education and some of her 2011 RCA (Royal College of Art) textile design students. She wanted to give us a sample of graduates across the Textile Design to show the diversity of work that students are now producing under the umbrella of Textiles.

>>> Freddie talked about Interdisciplinary education in textiles – crossing areas and projects, has become much more popular. In the RCA History of Design students are networking together with the Textile Design students and can collaborate on projects.

>>> The first student mentioned was Marie Parsons, graduate of the RCA 2011. Her work made use of plastics, alongside traditional embroidery and quilting techniques.>>> Marie describes her work as “Pushing the boundaries of design and textiles, I create distinctive pieces by combining unexpected materials and technological processes in innovative ways.
I aspire to challenge the conventional perception of textiles and their application, creating unique, bespoke fabrics and surfaces suitable for high-end fashion accessories and interiors.
With stitch as a principal inspiration, I have reinter-preted traditional quilting and reverse appliquĂ© techniques in a super-modern way by juxtaposing hard and soft surfaces, using digital embroidery and laser cutting.”>>> Marie was nominated for the Texprint 2011 Awards and accepted a job with Jaguar and is now designing car interiors.

>>> Freddie noted also that students are looking more and more at becoming named designer/makers, not hidden and just part of the process. They want to be involved from the start through to finished product and credited for that.

>>> Jungeun Lee was the next student to be shown. Jungeun creates textiles by wrapping synthetic fibre and yarns around forms and heating them to create plyable fabrics and garments.>>> Jungeun specialised in Mixed Media Textiles “I have been experimenting and researching unconventional methods of creating garments. The technique I have developed can also be applied to creating products. Wrapping synthetic fibre around a desired form or chosen objects fascinates me. Through a heating process, wound fibre transforms itself into a 3D-moulded garment, bringing expected and unexpected sculptural silhouettes.”
You can see more of Jungeun’s work and collaborations at

>>> Andrew Kenny is concerned with creating textiles which the users will want to keep for longer. Bespoke designs that will build an emotional connection to the wearer. His experimental RCA Masters work explored digital embroidery and drawing using a pen which has replaced the needle in the embroidery machine.>>> “In the surface design of these textiles, I aim to build an emotional relationship with the end user. Analysing information publicly available on a person’s Facebook page enables me to build up a visual impression of that person. Through drawing, print and embroidery this can be interpreted into textiles that contain emotional connections.” You can find out more about Andrews work at

>>> Eva Malschaert comes from a furniture design background. She specialised in Mixed Media Textiles and creates interactive textiles and products. She likes the tactile experiences and wants to engage with the user through touch and feel.

>>> In her words “With my work I want to open eyes to the material world. I want to touch people, awaken the senses and encourage others not only to see but also to feel; to create moments of real physical contact. For me, textiles provide the natural materials to create moments that generate an inquisitive response and encourage engagement and joy. It is a broad-ranging discipline based on material exploration, colour and tactile experience. By using these tangible qualities, I aim to make work that triggers an emotional response, work that can be touched and that touches you back!
” For more info on Eva please visit her website

>>> I’ll be back with Part 3 of CraftNet very soon, featuring the third speaker on the day – Richard Humphries and his interesting and enlightening story through the history of silk weaving in the South of England. Something as a weaver myself I am ashamed to say I knew very little about!

CraftNet (Part 1)

>>> Yesterday I spent the afternoon attending CraftNet at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds. It was an event hosted by The Crafts Council and Smiths Row Gallery with guest speakers – Sally Black (Professor of Fashion and Textile Design and Technlogy at London College of Fashion) Freddie Robins (Artist and Senior Tutor Mixed Media Textiles at Royal College of Art, London) and Richard Humphries ( Humphries Weaving Co Ltd, Sudbury). There was also a discussion panel and opportunities to meet other designer/makers, craft professionals, students and education based people who share real enthusiasm for UK Crafts.

>>> I thought it would be nice to share with you some of what happened at CraftNet and if you like what you see and read I’ll post up some links at the end of these pieces for more info.

>>> Sandy Black – her talk focussed mostly on fashion and what her PHD students at the LCF are looking at for their research and design. More and more it seems in todays world we are becoming interested and aware of the processes behind fashion/garments – focus on patterns/making. Students and designers are interdisciplanary and have a design and art approach. Sustainability is very important, public awareness & transparency of the fashion business makes this increasingly important. Particularly with globalisation, fast fashion and cheap fashion means a very short lifespan for clothes.

>>> ‘Design as a catalyst for Change’ – this was the ethos Sandy was championing, where old disciplines are redefined, new collaborations made, technology used for sustainable and eco design, new dialogues, reinventing and new paradigms. Re-use and re-design which eliminates waste. Digital fashion – body scanning/3D printing/ digital printing. Health and wellbeing, creating better lives.

>>> Sandy talked about some collaborative projects and showed us some examples of fashion and textile design work which encompasses these ideas and addresses them.

>>> Shared Talent Africa and Shared Talent India – a unique initiative from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion (LCF), encourages fashion designers to exchange expertise with other protagonists across the supply chain, transcending traditional divisions, be they linguistic, geographic, or discipline based. The initiative aims to innovate towards improved ecological, ethical and cultural criteria in selecting and creating collections and to connect designers and buyers to more sustainable textiles in India and Africa.

>>> Fashioning the Future Competition – Fashioning the Future Awards is the leading international cross-disciplinary platform for celebrating innovative initiatives towards fashion design for sustainability, its development and communication. By engaging the participation of students and graduates from across the world from a variety of disciplines relating to the design, development and communication of fashion, we increase the possibilities of finding innovation that can benefit us all. There is no limit to human ingenuity and creative thought.

>>> The photo above shows one of 2011’s award winners Sara Emilie Terp Hansen with her garments made from cork.


>>> Digital Fashion? From Craft to Mass ProductionSandy Black researches into innovative fashion products (including clothing and accessories), materials, and manufacturing processes, and interfaces between traditional craftsmanship and emerging technologies, 3D design for fashion, and haptic technologies research . The design process is a key focus: Can the human/computer interface provide a new design environment which will create and develop a new aesthetic and design culture which respects and embraces craftsmanship, authorship and location? Can the design process and production processes develop a common communication language, to enable designers to access underlying technologies?

>>> Photo image is the cover of Crafts magazine featuring Dai Rees leather marketry.

>>> SizeUK – Between July 2001 and February 2002 over 1.5 million measurements were taken from more than 11,000 people across the UK using [TC]2 bodyscanners, a revolutionary 3D body scanning system. The survey has since been used as a basis for other sizing surveys, including SizeUSA.

>>> Selfridges store in London has a body scanner to fit jeans in store.

>>> 3D PrintingFreedom of Creation (FOC) rapid manufacturing using 3D printing technology.

 >>> Fashion and Science CollaborationWonderland – a collaboration between Prof. Helen Storey (artist, designer and scientist) and Prof. Tony Ryan (Sheffield University) exploring how new materials can make consumer products less damaging to the planet.

>>> The disappearing dress – made from dissolvable polymers which degrade in water over a period of time. Addresses the issues surrounding plastics and disposable fashion.

>>> The Helen Storey Foundation (HSF) is a not-for-profit arts organization promoting creativity and innovation. It intentionally spreads a global net to collaborate with diverse practitioners – both new and established. The team, led by Helen Storey and Caroline Coates, is agile and open, able to bring together ideas and minds to create truly innovative artworks and more recently, new ways of learning.

 >>> Catalytic Clothing – This is a recent collaboration of Helen Storey and Prof. Tony Ryan. Clothes that purify the air whilst you wear them. Jeans coated with nano particles which use sunlight to purify the air. Catalytic Clothing seeks to explore how clothing and textiles can be used as a catalytic surface to purify air, employing existing technology in a new way.

B is for Birds

>>> I’ve been meaning to sit down and do a little piece about Birds!

>>> They are a constant fascination for me and I think they are really inspiring and incredibly beautiful. I’ve always watched birds and we had birds as part of our family as pets, parrots, canaries, finches and budgies. Being able to travel abroad and see so many unique and different types of birds has been a real joy and their colours, patterns, shapes and textures will always be a huge influence on my design work.

>>> I wanted to share some artwork from one of my favourite bird and nature illustrators – Charley Harper. His work encompasses an amazing sense of colour, form and texture and he focuses on the unique characteristics of each bird and their individual personalities. They are often in unexpected poses and this is what I really love about his work, it is quirky, amusing and vibrant. Everything I think that a bird is!