It's a rare thing to be able to actually visit the needlework stores and destinations you hear about in other countries. It's almost like seeing a famous person in the street, you get slightly tingly. This is how I felt when I walked into three needlework destinations in San Francisco that I'd heard much about from Mum but never visited myself - Needle in a Haystack - a brick and mortar and online needlework store who have been loyally stocking our kits for years and have an active following in the California area; Britex Fabrics - a full-fat haberdashery which supplied fabrics and trimmings for the fabulous costumes in Outlander; and The San Francisco School of Needlework & Design - the brain child of Lucy Barter and Ellice Sperber who are succeeding in making their young school a hub for the needle arts.
We wanted to take the opportunity over a series of posts to talk about these great textile destinations in a young and vibrant city and to encourage you to visit them if you are in the area or indeed to drop in to their online shops to see what you can pick up for your next project. You can read about Britex and Needle in a Haystack in future posts. But I couldn't resist talking first about the San Francisco School of Needlework & Design founded in 2015 by Lucy Barter and Ellice Sperber.
Phillipa first met Lucy when Lucy was a student at the Royal School of Needlework just before she graduated from their Apprenticeship Programme. They then reunited many years later when Phillipa was teaching at the EGA National in San Francisco. At the time Lucy was in the early stages of setting up the school, which I remember Mum telling me about. So I had to take the chance to visit and see what the duo had created.
Both highly experienced and qualified needleworkers, Lucy and Ellice met during US-based Royal School of Needlework courses, which were being run by Lucy at the time. They began envisioning a school of needlework that was not only based across the pond but that would bring fresh and modern creativity to the art form. You can hear Ellice and Lucy talk about the school on Fiber Talk.
During my impromptu visit I met Laura Maloney, the Executive Director, who took time out of her day to chat and show me around the small but perfectly formed school, which consists of one central area with a library and gallery and several smaller workshop rooms. The space is warm, tranquil, light, and above all welcoming - the perfect place for any workshop.
It was wonderful to see the wide range of technique classes taught by experienced and dedicated masters of the art and to see how committed the School is to sharing the pleasures of this slow and infinitely rewarding art form.
The School recognises people who come to needlework for both art and fashion, and they provide first-class instruction and support for the needleworker with a wide portfolio of classes from in-house and visiting instructors. They also have a number of community projects on the go, supporting those who benefit physically and mentally from needlework. It is such an inspiring and inclusive place to grow your skills.
They now have their own range of needlework kits, one of which I picked up for my daughter Ophelia for when she starts 'needling' properly.
We have no doubt that the San Francisco School of Needlework & Design, which is a non-profit organisation, will go from strength to strength with continued support from the whole needlework community. Lucy and Ellice have been so very supportive to us in the past and we send our very best wishes to them and their team. We encourage you to learn about the School and to visit if you can. They welcome visitors during office hours. We certainly hope to visit again very soon!
The School is currently running their Stitch-at-Home Challenge: Talismans exhibition and artists. Submissions are accepted until 15 August so do join in if you feel like a stitching challenge! Or if you are in the area check out their next open house event when embroideries from the Challenge will be exhibited and a silent auction will take place when you can get your hands on one of our intermediate kits.