Category Archives for "Activity Holidays"

Everything you need to know about embroidery course tutor, Susie Finlayson

An example of what a student could learn during an embroidery course. It features a rectangular canvas on a blue background and the canvas had a purple Paisley pear with purple and turquoise flowers.
An example of what you could learn during an embroidery course

From the very start, people wanted to see an embroidery course here at Gartmore House. From 2022, we’re delighted to include it on our course programme and to get people stitching! Susie Finlayson is an experienced embroidery tutor and has been teaching her craft for many years. We had the chance for a catch up with recently to pick her brains about her crafting experience.

1. How did you get first get into embroidery?

My granny taught me to knit before I went to school and she helped me with some needlepoint kits. She was a real sticker for the back being as neat as the front! When I was around ten, I took up cross stitch. It became my go-to craft to relax when I was a student and throughout my working life. Giving up full-time work and having the opportunity to get involved with the Great Tapestry of Scotland in 2012 introduced me to what I thought of as ‘proper’ embroidery. It was absolutely incredible. I never thought I’d be able to do it but a lot of encouragement from Dorie Wilkie got me started and I’ve never looked back! A whole new world opened up to me and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

2. Has there been a particular project that taught you something unexpected?

I feel like I am constantly learning, especially when groups of people get together to stitch. There’s something about the rhythm of stitching that seems to relax people and often inhibitions go by the wayside. While running my embroidery course, I’ve learned everything from how to remove blood from fabric, to which particular participant had a crush on the local GP!

3. What project are you most proud of and why?

I suppose most people expect me to say that I’m most proud of my work on The Great Tapestry of Scotland and the new Welcome Panel. In fact, I’m prouder of the crewelwork piece I completed for my first module for the RSN Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery. It was such an intense process from design, drawing, stitching and mounting that I didn’t think I would ever finish it but Helen McCook and everyone at RSN Glasgow was so encouraging and supportive. I look at the finished piece and I know how much blood, sweat and tears went into it (real blood on one occasion) and even though it may not be perfect it means a huge amount to me.

4. Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

I can’t think that there is any one thing that inspires me – I don’t think of myself as being particularly artistic (I was pretty much told never to darken the door of the Art department at school after it was no longer compulsory!) – but I do take a lot of photos on my phone of random things that catch my eye. Perhaps a shape, colour or texture. Maybe a pattern on wallpaper or cloud formations. My phone is full of seemingly random images which i go back to and often use as the basis for designs. I find myself more of then not looking at something and almost

5. Do you have any favourite techniques that crop up again and again in your work?

Embroidery is such a huge area that there always seem to be new techniques to try but I often return to crewelwork. I find the wool very forgiving when it comes to shading and blending and I love the feel of drum tight linen twill in a hoop or on a frame.

6. What are the common misconceptions about embroidery?

Many people have the impression that embroidery is a past-time for genteel older ladies but there are amazing textile artists out there using embroidery in some brilliant, innovative ways. From creative darning to political statements, beautifully intricate gold work, to cross stitch on industrial fencing, it’s a fabulous craft that can be adapted to many different situations.

7. What would you say drew you to teaching embroidery courses?

I have absolutely no idea! I can’t actually remember how my first embroidery course came about but I do know that I now get so much enjoyment from being with people, helping beginners overcome any initial nervousness and proving to people that they can create something beautiful that I can’t imagine doing anything else. During lockdown, I missed teaching the most. So many people come along doubting their own abilities and there is real satisfaction when someone masters a stitch they’ve struggled with or heads home at the end of the day having actually finished something they are proud of (lets face it, we’ve all got one of those drawers at home full of UFOs from craft classes!).

8. What would you say to someone curious about trying your craft for the first time? What should they know before they start?

Embroidery doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – it can be what you want it to be. And just because you couldn’t do it at school, please don’t think that it means you’ll never be able to master it! There are so many different techniques, just come along with an open mind and give them a go! There’s bound to be something that you like!


And there you have it! Thank you to Susie for taking the time to talk to us and giving us such a lovely look into the world of embroidery. We can’t wait to see what kind of magic comes out of her next embroidery course.


For more information on Gartmore House’s embroidery course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

Get to know corsetry course tutor, Alison Campbell

Alison Campbell spills the beans on all things corsetry!

Back in 2019 we were delighted to add a corsetry course to our ever growing roster of craft holidays and we recently took the chance to sit down with tutor Alison Campbell of Glasgow’s Crikey Aphrodite, to talk all things corsetry. Read on to find out a little bit about Alison and her love of this incredible art form!

How did you get first get into corsetry? 

I always liked the look of corsets. I think it was Saturday night westerns and Sunday musicals that did it from my youngest. So I love that mix of 19th century with 1950s. I always drew costumes and dresses when I was little and it grew from there into a love of costume and history topped up with a bit of Rocky Horror and general fashion likes. After many years in graphic design stuck at a computer I desperately wanted to do something hands on. My mum spotted an ad for a corsetry course in the newspaper, I booked it to try it out and was hooked.  

Has there been a particular project that taught you something unexpected? 

Nearly every one. A standout though are a corset for a client with a stoma that really pushed my problem solving and pushed me into looking at how nursing and maternity corsets were made a century ago to get ideas for a practical solution. 

What project are you most proud of and why? 

A wonderful bridal outfit for a client getting married at Edinburgh castle. Sometimes client vision and your own really get in sync and if they have the budget and the willingness to work with you then it’s good. This one was a huge silk skirt, full bust corset and veil. It was great fun to make. 

Who or what are your biggest inspirations? 

Undoubtedly Mr Pearl, whom I’ve been lucky enough to have spent some time with. His creations for the most well known names in fashion are just astounding. Are as his pieces for clients such as Dita Von Teese. 

Do you have any favourite techniques that crop up again and again in your work? 

I work a lot with full busted women as I work as a bra fitter too. This means some specific techniques to get the shape, support and comfort right. I use gores a lot, additional stiffening and extra boning.  

What would you say are some common misconceptions surrounding corsetry? 

There are so, so many. That they’re uncomfortable, that Victorians had ribs removed, that everyone in the past tightlaced, that you can’t move/breath/work in one. All utter nonsense, which I’ll be delighted to explain to anyone who will listen in more detail of course! 

What would you say drew you to teaching corsetry courses? 

I taught a corsetry course at a friend’s studio in the south of England. I discovered I enjoyed it more than I anticipated (never being one for standing up in front of groups) and that it’s incredibly rewarding passing on skills and seeing students develop. 

What would you say to someone curious about trying corsetry for the first time? What should they know before getting started? 

To be aware of accuracy, as tiny increases or decreases make big fit differences. And patience, as there are a lot of steps to making a corset. However that appealed to me as I have a short attention span and with a corset you’re always moving on to a different step/task. Also use quality materials. There’s no point spending hours making something if the materials won’t hold up past one wear. Other than that, if you can sew a line and follow a pattern you’re all set.  


And there you have it! Thank you again to Alison for talking to us and we can’t wait to see what kind of magic comes out of her next corsetry course.


For more information on Gartmore House’s corsetry course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

A chat with knitting course tutor, Samira Hill

An example of guests’ knitting from a Knitting & Crochet Holiday

The crochet and knitting course here at Gartmore House has been a firm favourite for many years. It’s fair to say that tutor Samira is a familiar face around the house these days! Since we love talking all things crafty, we caught up with her for a wee chat about life as a maker.

How did you first get into knitting?

I learned to knit when I was seven or eight years old. My mum worked in a sewing factory and made most of our clothes. She didn’t have much time for a “slow” craft like knitting! I used to sit down with her sometimes and watch her sew. So, one day she dug up some wool and needles to occupy me (probably so I would leave her in peace!) and taught me the knit stitch. She used to cast on for me, then I would knit a few rows, then she would cast off and turn my rectangles into miniskirts for my dolls.

Although I liked it, I didn’t knit at all as a teenager. I picked it up again when sharing a flat with a Swedish flatmate who knitted regularly. It was only then that I got the bug again and restarted. She showed me how to cast on and a friend taught me to purl, and I was off!

After that I’m completely self-taught. I borrowed books from the library or bought them at charity shops, then “freestyled” to make accessories and presents. I taught myself how to crochet the same way a few years later. At first, I only crocheted borders and embellishments for my knitting, then for the love of crochet on its own. I was hooked!

Has there been one particular project that taught you something unexpected?

It’s very hard to narrow it down, I think somehow you learn with every project! I am quite good at twisting, changing, and turning one thing into something else halfway through if I am not happy with it or have changed my mind! Knitting and crochet are very personal craft, and no one knits or crochet to the same tension as each other, and the individuality it highlights is something that I really like in these crafts.

I always knew that I had a pretty loose tension when I knit or crochet, but once I made a very cute crochet dinosaur for my few months old nephew, made up of lots of small pieces, and it’s only when I put them all together and filled the toy with stuffing that I realised how “off” my tension had been. The dinosaur was huge! And way bigger than my nephew!! I still gave it to him though, he will play with it for longer!

What project are you most proud of and why?

Generally, I’m pretty satisfied with everything I make. However, I recently came across a Christmas present I made years ago for my mother-in-law, and rediscovering it, I was amazed by what I’d achieved! I’d made her a “cozy” for her big coffee pot, as she already had tea cosy, and I knitted one side showing a Christmas tree and snow that I had drawn on a piece of paper, then made a “non- Christmas” matching reverse side in crochet, so that she could use it all year long. I completed it with a round crochet placemat with Christmas colours on one side, and regular colours on the other, joined with crochet ruffles.

Back then I was just learning to crochet and had to figure out how to shape things and to make ruffles. I didn’t follow any pattern or photo for this cosy. I had the design in my head and I winged it all the way through! When I found it again recently, I was really proud of what I had managed to make – and with so little experience! It turned out well and she loved it and used it, so that’s a something I am really proud of! Shows sometimes it’s not the longest or hardest or most complicated project you can be the most proud of!

Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

There are some famous knitting and crochet designers who simply blow my mind with their ingenuity at manipulating the stitches to create unbelievable designs. As a designer myself, I know it is one thing to come up with the ideas, another to render them possible in knitting or crochet! Stephen West probably stands out in my mind. His designs aren’t always your typical everyday wear. They’re quite eccentric, but how they’re achieved is truly remarkable. Some people like Heidi Bear, Dedri Uys or Janie Crow can visualise crochet designs in 3D or in rounds on a large scale with intricate elements that completely work and are absolutely beautiful.

Other people like Elizabeth Zimmerman, or Nancy Marchant (again just to name a few), come up with completely “outside the box” thinking and create new stitches, new knitting methods even!

The designs, stitches and methods these designers create are a true inspiration, providing everyone with new and better skills to learn and use in a creative way.

Do you have any favourite techniques that crop up again and again in your work?

I love learning and using new techniques, but I guess Brioche Knitting still remains a strong favourite. I go through phases (socks, crochet blankets, garments, shawls, colourwork, lace etc.) but Brioche always seems to be a constant one. There is so much to this technique, it is infinite!

What are the common misconceptions about knitting and crochet?

There are many, but I guess the 2 that stand out the most are:
1. Knitting and crochet is for “grannies”
2. You can make a jumper in one day

Suffice to say none of the above is true. That said, misconceptions take a very long time to change. Slowly but surely I believe we are educating the world, either by knitting or crochet in public places (not just in front of the fire in our rocking chairs – although I do that too!), and as people watch us, let it be for a few hours on a train, they hopefully realise that it takes a lot of time, effort and skills to make something out of needles, hooks and yarn!

What would you say drew you to teaching a knitting course?

I love combining my jobs and my passion. As an archaeologist by trade originally, I got to explore my passion for heritage through my work. When it was time to change, I decided to use my other passion, crafts, in my job. I think it’s very important to pass these skills on, just as they’ve been passed down to us from generations for centuries. Then, since I worked on and off in teaching positions while I was at university, it felt very natural to put all these skills together! And I absolutely love it!

There are so many dimensions to knitting and crochet, from the simple notion of taking the time to make something from start to finish and the rewarding satisfaction of completing something whole, the relaxation and therapeutic elements of movement and repetition, the notions of commitment, dedication and focus, to the incredibly social, fun and creative aspects of these crafts, the list of benefits is endless! Teaching these just adds an extra enriching layer to all these elements.

What would you say to someone curious about trying your craft for the first time? What should they know before getting started?

I’m a firm believer that “there is nothing you cannot do, you just need to be shown how to do it”. So I put my words into action when teaching my knitting course. If you are interested, then do give it a go!

Knitting and crochet are not difficult, you just need to learn what to do, and improve your skills through practice. Just like everything else in life! In that respect, these crafts are suitable for everyone, regardless of age, gender, ability or financial means. Both materials and learning content come in a broad range nowadays. You can learn from a relative, from free online tutorials or paid knitting courses and workshops to getting yarns and equipment in charity shops and wool shops. The one thing I am very strict about in my teaching though, is that people MUST HAVE FUN.

These crafts need to be enjoyable and providing a pleasant experience, and absolutely not a source of worry or stress. When people start out, I tell them not to worry about mistakes. They’ll happen. They’re part of the learning process. Progression always comes before perfection, not the other way around. I try to encourage my students to not become impatient or frustrated because everything can be fixed. Ultimately I teach them that they are in control of their skills, they choose how it goes!

I believe crafts are empowering aspect, and confidence helps a lot when learning something new. I don’t just teach the crafts during my crochet and knitting course, I teach people how to understand how everything works. That way, they’re the ones in charge. They grow in confidence and can enjoy all the other great benefits that come with knitting and crochet.


And there you have it! Thank you to Samira for talking to us and for giving us such a wonderful insight into her crafty world. We can’t wait to see what kind of magic comes out of her next crochet and knitting course.


For more information on Gartmore House’s knitting course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

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