Stitchtopia News

  • Crafty New Year Resolutions

    With the New Year approaching here at Stitchtopia HQ we have decided to make a resolution that is easy to keep; to be more ‘crafty’!

    Our experts have had the same idea and between them plan to learn new techniques, knit more and use their stash of supplies on making fun projects. Read on to see what other crafty New Year resolutions our experts are promising to keep!

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  • Mandy Shaw Q&A

    This week we have been speaking to the fantastic UK textile designer and quilting tutor, Mandy Shaw on how she fell head over heels in love with quilting, her plans for Christmas and she spills the beans on her crafting plans for 2017.

    Mandy, you are a well know personality in the world of crafting and are the owner of an internet based company Dandelion Designs. Tell us how you discovered quilting and how you first became passionate about it.

    I have always made things since a little girl. My dolls and teddy bears were very important to me and I would make their clothes and bedding. I made my first patchwork quilt in the early eighties, while my friends were out dancing I was sewing! And then as soon as I started my family I adorned my home and children with homemade crafts of all varieties.
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  • Get Hooked in Florence - report by Carol Meldrum

    What more could you ask for, a trip to Florence with like minded folk, dedicated to crochet and knitting, chatting and swapping stories, passing on skills and generally having a good time!

    We flew into Pisa from London, then a short coach trip on towards our luxury hotel in the heart of the city where we would be based for the next 5 days. Not wanting to waste any time we ventured out to explore our surroundings, track down a few yarn stores and grab a bite to eat.

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  • Quilters Retreat to Portugal September 2016

    Report by Karin Hellaby

    On a Sunday 18th September, 19 of us flew from London to Lisbon for the start of our 8 day quilting retreat.

    The first couple of nights were spent in a luxurious 5* hotel in Lisbon's historic area, perfect for exploring on foot or catching a nearby tram. Arena had sight-seeing tours arranged for us and the most memorable included a tour of the famous tile museum and afterwards, the costume museum. Both were filled with beautiful displays and gave us an enormous amount of inspiration.

    From Lisbon it was an hour's drive to a Marriott Resort Hotel situated on the Atlantic coast. We had a large sunny conference room overlooking the pool and beach, set up with 12 Bernina sewing machines, ready for four days of sewing.

    What a perfect venue for a retreat! After classes we took the opportunity to swim in the pool and walk along the beach. The exercise was needed as we ate breakfast and dinner from the most fabulous buffets, with good wine included.

    Obidos, a quaint walled medieval town was close by, so one morning Helen our tour manager arranged for four taxis to take us there. We browsed the shops with frequent stops to admire the views and taste the local cherry liqueur served in small chocolate cups. At only one euro each many of us indulged more than once!

    Our evening flight from Lisbon meant that we could take in the lovely town of Sintra on the way to the airport. We visited the colourful Palacio National del Pena, atop the hill and shopped for last minute souvenirs in the pretty town.

    This was a really fabulous relaxing week with a marvellous mixture of sights, culture, sewing and excellent food in super hotels. Thank you Arena Travel for the excellent itinerary, Bernina for providing machines and Helen for her good tour managing skills.

    More photos and a daily blog can be viewed on

    I hope one day to return to Portugal with Arena as the quilters on this tour are keen to explore Porto next. In the meantime, why not join me and escape from the cold and miserable UK next February and join me for a sewing retreat in Madeira.

    Karin Hellaby

    Karin Hellaby is an internationally known quilt teacher and author of 10 quilting books and numerous patterns. She is a regular teacher at the Houston International Quilt Show and has also been invited to teach at quilting symposiums in New Zealand, Dubai and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon.

    Read more about Karin
  • Report from our textiles trip to India in March

    By Karin Hellaby description would ever be adequate! You really do need to see this continent for yourself. This was Arena's first tour to India and my third.

    We started off in Delhi, staying at their top 5* hotel which had been built for King George V's stay in 1911. We were immediately transported to life in luxurious colonial India. From there, we travelled to Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Ahmedbad and Mumbai, taking in forts, history, museums, culture, shopping, scenery, life on the streets and of course the most amazing textiles we have ever seen. We had a fantastic guide, whose family were noblemen of the Maharajahs and who asked to guide our tour as he had been collecting and documenting his centuries old family textiles. On coach journeys we could ask him anything about India and on each topic we got a lecture. His knowledge helped make this tour outstanding. Continue reading

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