Friday, 28 March 2014


Through the day they hung in corners, like so many dark and quivering threads. Spindly legs peeked out from beneath the flaking paintwork of the window frame. The colony had grown so large of late that their webs formed a fine grey curtain over the glass. Sat on a tabletop, one foot tucked tight under each knee, I waited for my friends to emerge. In the lowlight of evening I was rewarded as they unfurled from their hiding places and teetered out to greet me. They walked along my hands, picked their way between the downy hairs on my arms and spun between my fingers before I fed them carefully back into their lacework. With feverish obsession I observed how they communicated with each other: tapping out a series of complex vibrations along a network of silver vines.

The spiders had at their disposal an entire Morse code that I long to interpret. For years I studied them in the very same manner that I later came to study people, yet still I came no closer to cracking their secrets.

A small money spider casts its line expertly over to the top of my desk lamp. With my nose level to its web, I wonder how anyone could be afraid of such brilliant creatures.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Bristol School of Sewing & Textiles

A self-taught seamstress from the age of seven Emma, owner of the Bristol School of Sewing & Textiles, began her life's endeavour carving up her mother's wedding dress to clothe her Sindy doll. Fortunately sewing has, as an adult, led Emma on a more prodigious path and she is long since forgiven. 

At eighteen Emma was taken under the wing of Teresa Gale, purveyor of costumes for the Bristol Hippodrome and the opera amongst others. Under Teresa's tutelage she learnt all there is to know about structuring a garment and, lately, how to fashion twenty intricate Venetian headdresses for a thirty-second scene without entirely despairing. 

From there, Emma has created Couture from her own back bedroom in the form of hundreds of ball gowns and wedding dresses and gone on to complete a teaching degree at the local university. Stepping through the unassuming front door of the Bristol sewing school you therefore find yourself in the most capable pair of hands, even if you've never so much as experienced the exciting electrical whir of a sewing machine before.

The courses are always sold out or on the verge of being so, what used to be a life skill has dwindled through the generations and Emma is putting this right, one room of keen amateur sewers at a time. You need only take a glance at the week's television schedule to see that sewing, and indeed craft in general, is experiencing something of a renaissance. With a growing backlash against fast fashion and all that entails and implies, people want to do things differently and instead own items into which they invest both thought and their own creativity. Today is the first of a series of beginners courses and they are starting out with a simple bag, yet Emma begins as she means to go on: twenty minutes in and everyone is cutting and constructing their own patterns and learning to line up fabric, they do things properly here.

For the more advanced there is plenty on offer too including courses from dress or curtain making to corsets and knickers. Emma also has many gentleman recruits who spend their time constructing scatter cushions in manly Harris Tweed. Parties for little ones, hen dos, willow weaving and tailoring to boot; no matter your ability, or lack thereof, it's easy to see the appeal. Today, tote bags, tomorrow the world.

If you'd like to get back behind a sewing machine the school is located just behind Staple Hill high Street and all their contact details and information on future courses are available on their website.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


The New Year has come, slipped in whilst the door stood ajar,
Trailing bells and cracked glass baubles in her wake,
A string of threadbare tinsel caught in her knickers.
She discards her clothes, tosses them in wheelie bins as she passes,
One shoe, then the other, a skirt wriggled out of, coat dropped in a puddle.

Bare and pink she moves through the empty street,
To sleep in a corner, a heap of legs and arms,
The crack of a white-blaze  firework ripples over the city sky, explodes it all,
Greet it in the morning, a slight rearrangement of numbers, one ticked over,
And yet it’s trickling in, new promises, a chance to do it better this time,
And not begin the year with tinsel in your knickers.