Goldhawk Road

I know this blog is supposed to be about beadwork, but at the moment I also have the dressmaking bug.  This year’s Great British Sewing Bee inspired me to lug out the machine for me, rather than curtains, cushions or children’s fancy dress.  I bought a copy of the lovely Japanese book (Yoshiko Tskiori’s Stylish Dress Book) a while back and have made a couple of tunics already, which I’ll tell you about at some point, but I needed some fabric which I can’t source locally, and as I’ve not yet settled into ordering dress fabric online I popped up to Goldhawk Road for the first time ever this week to seek some out.

Despite having been a Dress Fabrics and Haberdashery Department Manager in my early career I’ve never been to Goldhawk Road before – I used to visit Berwick Street regularly to check out the competition, but never ventured to west London.  So I girded my sewist loins and boarded the tube for Shepherd’s Bush, trotted across the green and arrived in a strange fabric shoppers nivarna.  In between the takeaways, Tesco Metros, betting shops and vape shops, for the 200 yards between the corner of Shepherd’s Bush Green and Goldhawk Road tube there are just fabric shops.  That’s it.  Each one different but the same – the same Aladdin’s caves of fabrics, spilling out onto the floor, rolls stacked every which way, but with a huge variety of fabrics in each individual shop.  And no two ranges the same in any two shops – always different colours, textures, prices, qualities.  Mind boggling.

In the end I spent about 2 hours there, going from shop to shop, trying to remember what was where, and work out what I actually wanted to buy.  Going with a plan of some kind would definitely have been a good idea – my vague ‘stuff for a tunic or dress but not summer fabrics’ was helpful, but as you will see from my purchases, hard to stick to – everyone else seemed to have something specific in mind.  I missed out on a couple of fabrics because I clean forgot which shop they were in (I can still visualise the stack of rolls of Liberty cord, but couldn’t find the right shop when I had decided to buy), and found the whole experience slightly overwhelming, with rolls everywhere, patchy pricing meaning you had to actually talk to people (not my favourite thing in shops), and just the sheer variety on offer was extraordinary, and much better than expected.  I loved it, got some fantastic bargains (and some marvellous not so bargains), and will be going back (but not until I’ve made up everything I bought – I do have some self control you know).

Anyway, to give you some idea of the kind of things that are available, here are my somewhat random purchases.  I’d love to tell you which shops they came from, but I really can’t be sure!


Lovely rough woven silk, medium weight.  Not on my list, but it spoke to me while I was buying the muslin, screaming ‘ask him how much I am, I am so lush’.  £12 pm – this was intended for a winter weight tunic dress, but may be too nice (and probably dry clean only, I forgot to check), so may be a collarless coat instead when I get a bit better/more confident.


Suiting weight polyester blend, this one will be a tunic dress for work.  I’m thinking slightly A line (Stylish Dress Book F) but with fancy sleeves (SDB top B but without the wrist elastic so kind of bell shaped). £12 pm.


Muslin in vivid magenta (what else) – very narrow, but only £2 pm so I bought lots!  Tunic shirty thing – SDB G, J or W depending on how clever/stylish I feel.  But not until the spring since this is definitely summer wearing stuff.  Will be quite exciting to make a garment for under £10!


Cheapo giant check gingham.  I’ve wanted some of this for ages, it’s a bit stiff but hopefully will wash to soft.  Probably a simple square tunic (would look nice as a SBD E but I don’t have the courage to try and sort out patterns and pleats with a cheap, probably slightly warped fabric).  £2.50 pm!


Lovely Italian viscose jersey – not the cheapest on offer, but definitely the best quality.  This is going to be a SDB tunic Q, but longer.  It may have to wait until I can get some fusible seam binding though as I am still a bit scared of knits and this will help.  I wouldn’t want any bagging around my bust after all. £12pm.


And then this was the really naughty one.  The one that broke all the rules (price and season).  But I don’t care because it is completely and utterly gorgeous, even the smallest snotty boy is fascinated by it.  It’s a German digitally printed cotton voile (but quite a heavy one, just one step off a lawn really).  It will need lining, and careful thought about use of pattern (the repeat is about a metre), and will be completely outrageous and totally, totally lush.  A very brightly coloured, parrot like, Hiawathaesque delight.   A dress I think, but only once I’m really, really competent!  £20 pm.  Oops.

So there you have it – a fun, overwhelming afternoon adding to my dressmaking stash.  And not a dinosaur costume in sight.




Fantasy Workshop shopping

Last week the Stitch and Craft workshop schedule for next year came out, and it got me really salivating.  Utter lushness, in the lovely Dorset countryside.  Bookings open on Thursday, and some workshops will go incredibly quickly because they are incredible designs from internationally renowned beaders.  Plus they are at the SnC Studio which in itself is a beader’s paradise, and frankly worth coming up with any excuse to visit (including ‘but I really need to learn how to make this so I have to go there’).  I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to any classes, family and work being what they are, but I’ve indulged myself with a little fantasy workshop selecting – perhaps one of you could go instead?

So, first to some of my beady friends, starting with the fabulous Jean Power.  I think I’d go for her ‘Iskra Box’, or possibly the ‘Tetra Star’, as I’ve seen elements of these in development and thought they were amazing.  Jean’s a great teacher, and really fun to bead with – we’d have a ball.

My new beady friend, Shona Bevan is teaching a few pieces – I loved her ‘CRAW Donut’ when I saw her wearing it a couple of months ago – it’s put together with such confidence and elegance, and yet it’s so daringly simple in terms of colour.  Then again, she was wearing one of her ‘Borgia Pendants’ last week and that was completely lovely.  Plus she is a scream in person so again we’d have a fab day.

When I met Sian Nolan for the first time on the Stitch and Craft stand at the Big Bead Show, she was I think wearing her ‘Flowers in the Snow’ – I couldn’t stop staring at it so I’d love to learn how to make one.  The use of I’m guessing lentils round the edges is inspired, and I have just the ones in my stash already…….

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Sabine Lippert – from her I’d go for either ‘Night and Day’ or ‘Charming’.  Laura McCabe is coming over, and although she’s not teaching her more avant garde pieces, I think her ‘Modern Medieval Bracelet’ would give a good insight into some of her techniques.

I’ve made a few of Heather Kingsley Heath’s designs, and really enjoyed them – her ‘Samarkand’ includes fabric which really intrigues me, but then again her ‘Bumble Bee’ is adorable.  And ‘Serpentine’ looks lovely……

I’ve been trying to up skill my bead embroidery lately, and luckily my newest obsession (kicked off by the arrival of this very brochure) is the bead embroidery of Kinga Nichols.  I’ve just splashed out on her Interweave video featuring a fantastic fish (and started beading it), so I wouldn’t pick that class even though it really appeals – instead I think I’d love to learn how she achieves such lovely textures and shapes in her abstract pieces, so would go for the ‘Bees Knees’ pendant – very wearable as well.

Looking at some of the other classes, ‘Nuts & Bolts’ by Heather Collin (taught by Lynn Firth) caught my eye.  It looks like an intriguing construction with an opportunity to play with colour, which is obviously a plus for me, and very wearable.  Then the lovely Lynn is also teaching some of her own pieces as well…….  There’s a bead crochet class with Gillian Lamb which might be a good idea (I really cannot get the hang of it on my own), and then there are classes from the incredibly elegant Maggie Meister, and exploration class using Hubble Stitch with Melanie de Miguel, and oh the list goes on, so it’s just as well I don’t have to choose.  If you can though, do, and you will definitely have a lovely time.

Perl Art

I’ve been playing recently with a new App for iPad called Perl Art. I prefer diagrams to photos in my tutorials, and up until now I’ve been using some free software called Inkscape. It’s a generic vector diagramming program, and although I’ve got the hang of it now, after a bit of reading around I thought it might be worth giving Perl Art a try. I loved the idea of something formulated specifically for beaders, and of working on the iPad so I don’t have to fight for access to our home laptop. Well, after some initial hiccups I’ve been really pleased with it – I would say at the moment it won’t replace Inkscape for me, but I will be using it for simple designs, and enjoying it.

I thought some of you might be interested in how I’ve got on and why I’m saying that I like it, but can’t use it for everything, so I’ve jotted down some pros & cons:


  • Available on the iPad.  I love my iPad a lot.
  • Optimised for touch, and I believe you can use a mouse with an iPad if you find touch tricky.  If I had an iPad Pro with a stylus it would be extra brill, but let’s face it they are horribly expensive.
  • Perl Art is a specialist application just for beaders – nothing else cluttering things up, and a lot less to learn than Inkscape or similar.
  • Nice simple user interface.
  • Key bead types available ready rendered, accurately sized/shaped.  I have to build each bead myself in Inkscape, guessing at the rough size in comparison to other beads, select a rough colour and then add a custom colour gradation to make them look 3D.  This takes a while, and there is no way my Inkscape rivolis, bicones and fire polished beads look like these Perl Art ones:


  • There are a good range of bead sizes and types – add on packs (some free, some pay) available.  More about this in the Cons though.
  • The developers use manufacturer’s colours, sizes and other specifications, so you’re getting an accurate digital rendering of real beads – realistic enough to look good, but not so realistic that they clutter up the diagrams.
  • Lovely responsive development team – always respond to queries and comments quickly and seem very keen to collect and act on feedback.  Lysann Lamontagne, the creator is a beader herself, and her tech team seem very good (Alexandre has been very helpful!).
  • Fantastic grid function – click on a bead and select a couple of settings and Perl Art will draw you a grid of beads in Peyote (1 or 2 drop), RAW, This is really, really useful – one comment would be that they haven’t counted the rows out quite right on Peyote – I would say that a row is one way either right to left or left to right, they say a row is both ways – right to left and then back to right again, so you can effectively only add what I would call 2 rows at a time. But it is super easy to delete the unwanted beads so it’s not really a problem, just slightly confusing initially.   In the example below I was able to very quickly make the peyote sections, and then simply delete the beads either end of the shorter rows to get the required shape.  Much, much quicker than manually creating a grid. So if you’re doing flat peyote or flat RAW pieces this will beat Inkscape hands down, and I’m looking forward to using it for that!



  • Only available on iPad – not iPhone (although this would be fiddly on the small screen), and not as far as I know on other platforms.
  • You can’t build your own beads – so if the bead type you want isn’t on there, or in one of the extension packs, and you can’t use a similar bead type instead, then you are stuck. That said, I’ve asked for 8mm Swarovski chatons via the feedback function and they’ve said they’re all coded up ready now and will be in the next pack, which is super service.
  • I’m still struggling slightly with getting a thread path that I’m happy with – in Inkscape I can adjust quite carefully, so it’s easy to show complex thread paths which go back on themselves, or round and round, and I can also add arrows intermittently along the thread, rather than just at the end.
  • I also can’t quite seem to get the thread to hug the centres of the beads in the way I’d like, but to some extent I think I can live with this if I stick to simple designs.
  • I like to highlight the beads being added in that step – in Inkscape I do this by increasing the width of their outline (see Inkscape example below), and I’ve seen other beaders use coloured outlines. There is no option to do this in Perl Art at the moment (as far as I can see), this would be top of my list for enhancement requests.step12
  • And finally, and my second enhancement request, there is no option to fade out layers of beads – in Inkscape I can use the layers function to make previous layers of beads more transparent so that they fade on the page, and allow the beader to gauge the location of the old layers but focus on the current one (see above). Additionally I can fade individual beads at say the edge of an area to give a 3D impression, although this is less important.  For single or maybe two layered pieces this lack of control won’t be a problem, but for complex multilayered pieces, and anything truly 3D I will need to stick to Inkscape.

In the end I think Perl Art is largely aimed at amateur beaders looking to share their designs, rather than pros, which makes sense in terms of the functionality they’ve included.  I’d obviously be very pleased if they are able to build more functionality in over time, particularly adding the option to highlight beads added in a step, and to fade out previous layers, but even without it for now I still think this is a splendid effort and I would definitely recommend it for simpler designs.   I used it to chart my Hollow Dodecahedron, and it only took a couple of hours – for a first attempt that’s pretty good, and probably much faster than Inkscape.


I bought it using an offer from Beads Direct, making it £17.99, which although it feels expensive for an app compares very well with some of the bead charting software currently available (which is no use to me anyway since I don’t really go for charted work) – I’m not sure if the offer is still on, but just in case the link is here.  When I clicked through the link from the Perl Art website  to the App Store it showed as £17.99 anyway.

So if you fancy having a go at drawing up your designs, or already do and want to try a new way, I’d recommend giving Perl Art a try.