I didn’t have anything particularly creative planned for this week, besides my usual hobbies, but earlier in the week as I browsed Instagram, Tea and Crafting (https://www.teaandcrafting.co.uk/) were promoting spaces on their biscuit decorating class on Sunday morning and on the spur of the moment I thought ‘why not’ and booked it there and then!
The class was run by a lovely lady called Bhavi who introduced herself as a henna artist who had branched out not only to food but also applying her designs to gifts, home ware and wedding favours (https://www.bhavismehndi.co.uk/). For biscuit decorating she used henna piping bags fill with icing to create intricate patterns. We started the class working our way through several worksheets she had designed to get us used to using the piping bag and controlling the pressure to create thick and thin lines, dots and other various shapes. We practiced several designs such as flowers and mandalas using a piping bag filled with acrylic paint before moving on to icing our biscuits.
Bhavi allowed us free reign to choose whichever designs we liked but kept a frequent eye on us, giving us advice on using the piping bags and tips on how to get the best out of them. We had six biscuits each which had already been covered in a layer of plain icing and three bags filled with different coloured icing; blue, pink and yellow.
The class was two and a half hours and cost £55. There were only three of us in the class, which in some ways was good because it meant we were sure to receive individual attention, but in other ways was a shame as I think that kind of class would have been better with a larger number of people. I can see why the free spaces were being promoted on social media, but I suppose Sunday morning is a bit of a strange time for a craft class; most people want a lie in at the weekend!
Despite this I had a nice time. It was a very peaceful class and it was nice to spend the morning doing something so calm and quite therapeutic. It was also quite amusing to see how terrible my skills were during the practice phase, however I definitely improved during the course of the morning and was amazed by how intricate you can be with such a small piping bag and nozzle. My family certainly admired my designs before demolishing all the biscuits!
Last week I attended a workshop at Cockpit Arts (http://www.cockpitarts.com) called Make a Hand Embroidered Map of London. The class was hosted by textile artist Ekta Kaul (http://www.ektakaul.com). Ekta was a fantastic teacher. She was very knowledgeable about her subject and had many years experience working in her field. She was clearly very passionate about her subject area and shared lots of her experiences and previous work with us.
We started the class by completing a sampler of various stitches including running stitch, back stitch, stem stitch, french knots, couching and satin stitch. Ekta gave very clear instructions on how to do each stitch and demonstrated them slowly enough for us to be able to follow along. I was unfamiliar with a couple of these and it was good to have a refresher on the others. It was also good to have a practice and get into the rhythm of it before starting on the proper piece.
The map of London that we had to embroider was hand drawn by Ekta and printed onto fabric. The idea was to use the stitches you had just practiced to highlight areas of the map, such as parks, the river and the various landmarks such as St Paul’s cathedral, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. There was a large selection of coloured thread to choose from, however I only got to choose one as we spent such a long time on the sampler that in the end we only had about 45 minutes to work on the main project. Embroidery is quite a slow process which requires precision and patience. I started with the parks but I only managed to complete one and a half before it was time to pack up. It would have been nice if the class had been a bit longer, or less time was spent on the sampler, as it was a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon and I think I would have felt a greater sense of achievement if I had completed more of the map.
It would also have been nice to have been able to take the embroidery hoop home. The hoop stretches out the bit of fabric you are working on, keeping to taut to make it easier to sew. I’ve continued working on my map, but I had to go and buy myself a hoop. They don’t cost very much, mine was £3.90 from my local haberdashery. I have seen them cheaper on Amazon (although they would probably end up being a similar price by the time you add postage), but I think it would have been a nice touch to send students home with the equipment they need to carry on.
Having said that, it was good to have a project to take home and continue working on. Often during craft workshops you finish the piece and then don’t practice the skill you learnt again. I spent all my spare time this week working on my map as I wanted to get it finished, however I think if you were short on time but wanted to carry on with embroidery each section of the map would make a nice mini project to work on if you had a spare hour or two on a Sunday or in the evening watching TV. Ekta suggested that once it’s finished it could either be framed to hang on the wall or made into a cushion.
Cockpit Arts Holborn was really easy to get to. It’s really close to both Holborn and Chancery Lane tube stations. I got the train into Farringdon and walked from there which took about 15 minutes. I booked the class through Obby (http://www.obby.co.uk). They have hundreds of classes available on there, not just for craft but for all kinds of things. I thought the booking system was really easy to use and they provided good information about the class and also sent a reminder email as well. The class cost £69 and lasted two hours.