Essex Handicrafts Association (EHA)

I joined EHA in 2013 after seeing a poster in my home town advertising a meeting so I went along to see whether it was something I wanted to be involved in.  I am now part of the committee something I have never done before so it shows that I enjoy being part of the group.

EHA was founded in 1909 and has several branches throughout the county, each run independently but there is a County Executive Committee administering the organisation.

EHA is open to anyone of any age interested in crafts but in my group we are all female and mostly over 50’s in age, there are a few younger members some of which are on the committee and we have around 40 members.  We meet in the evening on the third Thursday in the month and meetings consist of either a speaker on a relevant subject or a  practical evening finishing with a tea or coffee.

2016 so far

In January we had a talk from members of the Brightlingsea U3A (University of the Third Age) about The Pioneer Project in Brightlingsea.  The Pioneer Trust was set up to restore the last East Coast 1st Class Essex Skillinger Smack originally built in 1864 in Rowhedge, Essex and the U3A undertook to research and produce as closely and as traditionally as possible the clothes worn by the sailors of the Smacks before all the heritage was lost forever.  They produced a full range of clothing including underwear, gansies (hand knitted woollen jumpers), shirts, boots, socks and trousers all made as closely as possible to the original. A lot of research and trial & error had been undertaken to produce the clothing.

In February we had a ‘Show and Tell’ by a local lady Mary McCarthy who is a rag rug textile artist.  She talked about how she creates her textile art and she had lots of examples for us to see along with a few pieces where we could try out the techniques she uses.

March saw a practical evening with one of the members showing us felt quilling.  We had a small kit containing all the wool felted fabric cut into strips which we coiled into rounds resembling mini Swiss rolls and endeavoured to sew them together using the correct technique.


April was another practical evening ‘The return of the Inchies’.  This had been one of the practical sessions in 2015 but I had been working that evening so I missed it.  An ‘inchie’ is a square inch of fabric which you treat anyway you want, in our context that is embroidery, beading or fabric collage – basically anything you like.  A square inch of fabric is quite a small area to work with and I only made one during the evening!

May brought us a ‘Show and Tell’ by textile artist Sara Impey from Coggeshall, entitled ‘Writing with a needle’.  Sara is a leading quilt artist who uses text in her beautiful work. She brought along a selection of her quilts which were very inspiring. You can find out more about Sara on her website –

In June we had ‘Rescue, Revive and Recycle’.  This is an opportunity for any unfinished projects (UFO’s) to be shared with the group either for advice, to swap or give away to be finished.  I didn’t have anything to take with me but rescued a piece of 1950/60’s linen embroidery to finish in my spare time. This was followed by locally picked strawberries and cream.

July brought us together for another local textile artist Sue Rhodes from Wivenhoe, her talk was called ‘Stitches with Stories’ in which she talked about two different traditional embroidery techniques – Sorbello from Sorbello in Italy and Glazig from the Breton Region of France.  I had the opportunity to try some Glazig embroidery which I would like to explore more in the future.

We don’t meet in August and September is our AGM and Members Evening which includes the Branch competitions where we can enter work completed either from the workshops, practical evenings or anything you have done during the year.  Work entered is judged by the members by anonymous ballot and the winners receive a cup for the year.  We also have an annual ‘Challenge’ set by the Committee and whatever is made for the Challenge is displayed and we have the opportunity to talk about what we have made.  It’s not obligatory to enter but it does usually generate a lot if interesting pieces and people enjoy taking part.

October has us thinking about Christmas and the annual Christmas Tree Festival held in our local church.  We have made ‘Penny Garlands’ to decorate our tree for the festival.  Penny garlands are made from felt circles sewn together with blanket stitch.


Penny Garlads made by Brightlingsea members of EHA 2016

In December we don’t have a meeting but those who wish enjoy going out for a Christmas meal together.

We are now starting 2017 and have had a ‘social stitching day’ at the beginning of January where people brought anything they wanted to work on.  I took a piece of stump work that I started at a workshop in 2015 and hadn’t picked up for a while.  I needed some help as I couldn’t remember how to complete some of the pieces.  I will put a photo on here when it’s nearer to completion!

We have a varied programme for 2017 and I will add details of each months meeting as we progress through the year.