GRR

Learn the ultimate upcycling technique at Revival

02nd August 2022
Jennifer Barton

Revive & Thrive maker Nerrisa Pratt shares her passion for the vintage craft of Bargello and tells us why it could be the ‘crafty white noise’ you need to get involved in at this year’s Revival.

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Crafter and author of Bargello, Nerrisa Pratt is the ultimate authority on the centuries-old tapestry technique. If you’re yet to hear of Bargello, then allow us to do some unraveling. It’s a technique where you layer up straight stitches to create colourful, geometric patterns, which can be used on everything from bold wall hangings and one-of-a-kind shoes, to vibrant home furnishings.

Nerrisa runs The Bargello Edit and is a passionate advocate for making craft more sustainable through upcycling and reusing materials, and this September she will be one of the many inspiring makers you can expect to be wowed by at the Revival’s revamped Revive & Thrive Village.

In her mission to spread the message that with Bargello “the world will be your canvas,” Nerrisa will be teaching a Bargello wall-hanging workshop, hosting demonstrations in her ‘60s and ‘70s-inspired crafting cabin and hosting a community project encouraging everyone to put their stitches on a giant Bargello wall hanging.

Here, she shares the joy of Bargello and tells us about her passion for making craft more sustainable.

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Tell us how you discovered Bargello?

It was a few years ago in a bid to take up a more mindful craft – I kind of fell out of love with sewing, and I was looking for something more relaxing to do. I love collecting vintage craft books and I found some that featured Bargello. Bargello is unapologetically colourful and bold – the colours clash and that’s very much my brand of crafting, so I was immediately hooked. Fast forward and it’s basically become my life!

I have a very busy mind and the thing I love about Bargello is when your two hands are involved in whatever you’re doing, you can’t be scrolling through Instagram, you can’t be replying to 50 WhatsApp messages. You are fully immersed. That, for me, is my happy place. It’s where I go to switch off, almost like “crafty white noise.”

Can anyone get into Bargello?

I call it the “lazy person’s craft,” because it needs so few materials and once you know the basics, the world will be your canvas.

Everybody who does it becomes obsessed – in fact, I accidentally became cool with kids. It wasn’t something I set out to do, but whenever I do markets or pop-ups, teenagers seem to radiate towards my work and now lots of young people have been teaching themselves how to do my kits on their own. Recently, I turned a pair of Chelsea boots into a pair of sandals. It had over 900,000 views on TikTok, so I guess I’m cool now! If a child can do it, then anyone can do it – the youngest I’ve taught is eight or nine.

While it’s a heritage craft that’s hundreds of years old, it had a massive resurgence in the ‘60s, so it’s a perfect fit for the Revival crowd.

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What do people need to get started?

Not much! Sometimes you go to a craft workshop and then you have to spend £500 on materials just to keep it going. Bargello is very much not that craft – all you need is a needle, your chosen yarn and your chosen canvas.

For my beginner market, I personally focus on plastic canvas, which is perfect for products with rigidity or structure. Then there’s canvas, which is similar to cross-stitch canvas (interlock, duo or tapestry canvas), for soft furnishings such as cushions. It’s also great if you already love crafting and have a stash of yarns or tapestry walls already, and I can show you how to repurpose those at the Revival.

I’m on a mission to make Bargello as accessible and as well-known as possible because it's the perfect Netflix craft – you can sit in front of the TV, and you only need to be able to count to five or six to make it work.

How does the make-do and mend spirit tie in with your personal style?

I make a lot of my own clothes because I’m really tall, so jumpsuits and pieces like that. I studied fashion at university so I’m very much into understanding the history of fashion. I love the classic 1920s silhouette of the New Woman, British fashion in the 1950s and the ‘60s as well. I probably pull those influences together to create my own personal style.

Why do you think – along with Bargello – guests should embrace the Revive & Thrive ethos that’s being harnessed at this year’s Revival?

Sustainability is really important to me. I think craft is amazing, but it can sometimes be quite wasteful because we often want to buy new materials or collect things for our craft stashes.

A lot of people assume that when you make something, it’s better for the planet, but that’s not always the case, so it is important to know where your craft materials come from and use them responsibly. It’s also important to remember that rather than buying new, there are some really interesting, innovative ways you can use up things you have. I really love the whole make-do and mend ethos and I love that it’s coming back into fashion.

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What are some of your favourite things to make with Bargello?

Currently, my favourite thing is upcycling. I’m really into visible mending and I’ve found a way that I can do that with Bargello. Probably my favourite thing is being able to experiment with different materials. I’m just about to launch a collection that uses raffia yarn, so I made all my own beach bags for my holiday.

Using everything as a canvas really holds true. I have some bedside tables which ended up in my book. They were really battered and they didn’t look great but they had rattan fronts and I ended up stitching them and making some cute Bargello flowers for them.

That’s the thing I love. You can be as inventive as you want – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Even if it doesn’t quite turn out right, I can always unpick it and reuse it. Sometimes as crafters we take craft a little too seriously and it is nice every now and then to give something a go.

What will we be seeing from you at the Revival?

I’m going to be focusing on upcycling and recycling the stuff we already have, because that’s really important – I want people to just come and have a go. I’m hoping to have a huge wall hanging that I can put together with everybody’s communal stitches on it by the end of the weekend, which I’m really excited about.

For those who are under 16 and can't join a workshop, I'll be working on this communal wall hanging in my own cabin near the sewing tent, so they can still have a go on a bigger scale. I will also be selling kits and supplies if anybody falls in love with it and wants to give it a go at home. I often ask people to tag me in their photos on social on the way home if they’re stitching in the car or on the train because it’s quite addictive once you get started!

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What are you most excited about at this year’s Revival?

I’m excited about the range of makers that are coming to the Revive & Thrive Village. [Many of them] are female business owners and crafters that I admire. I’m really looking forward to catching up with them and learning something – that’s what really inspires me. I’m going into the weekend with an open mind.

Aside from that, strolling around the grounds. There are so many hidden gems, so it’s an absolute must if you appreciate anything about times gone by. When I went last year, I’m surprised I got anything done with the amount of people-watching what I was doing. I love figuring out what period someone’s chosen to dress in. I have a real appreciation and love for the history of fashion and craft that you see at the Revival.

Find Nerrisa at the Revive & Thrive Village where she’ll be selling kits, supplies and exclusive designs at the Revival, as well as signing copies of her book in The Writer’s Shed.

This year at Revival, the Revive & Thrive Village will be packed to the rafters with artisans, experts and influencers sharing their wisdom around both thrifting and how to then repair, repurpose and restyle your haul. Learn how to transform old clothes into new looks, scrap metal into works of art and unloved furniture into stylish statement pieces. Book your tickets now to join the second-hand revolution.

Photography: Quadrille, Sarah Hogan Photography and Charlotte Love styling

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