Saturday, 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas!

Another year of crafting!  Here are my final two projects:  machine embroidered robin cards for my sewing group and no-sew patchwork Christmas trees with a group of friends. A lovely end to the year.

Wishing you a very happy Christmas and a creative New Year!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Doodle flowers

Looking rather pale in the Northern winter sunshine, this is a quilt that I've just completed for my daughter.  She wanted blue but it had to fit with other soft furnishings in her room and so we arrived at a compromise of this blue/green.

I based the design on a doodle.  Large flowers with loose curly tendrils have been appliqued onto a background and then top-stitched to give the effect of illustration.  The border is strip pieced in a random fashion.

Slightly too late for her first term at Uni but I'm hoping it will be a nice surprise when she comes home today.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Winter Workshop

What a fabuluous weekend!  Three days of making Christmas stars and two of the workshops at my new studio. 

We had a lovely time stitching and sharing, helped by copious amounts of tea and cake.  Thank you to everyone who came along.  Look out for more workshops in the New Year!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Christmas is coming..

With Christmas only 6 weeks away (oh no it isn't, oh yes it is!) my attention has turned to making a few cards for friends and family.

These simple designs use shapes cut from silk and Bondawebbed onto linen.  The Christmas tree design uses open Cretan stitch on the body and a 'closed' version of the same on the base.  The snowflakes use a mixture of fly stitch, lazy daisy and French knots.  The star is simply running stitch.  Easy peasy.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Ring O' Roses

Learning new skills is so enjoyable and none so much as ribbon work embroidery.  I took a class last month with the lovely Nicola Hulme organised by Skipton Embroiderers' Guild.  Not really knowing what to expect, I thought the workshop might broaden my horizons but would be altogether too fiddly for my liking. 

Like the worst kind of convert, I cannot stop talking about ribbon work and have been feverishly practicing ever since!  Here is a little (think button sized) brooch made with a simple woven rose, some buds and loopy flowers (who knows what they really are but they look good!).  Its finished with some fly-stitch leaves and a smattering of glittery thread.  A perfect pick-me-up for any outfit.

Nicola teaches classes in ribbon work and other types of traditional embroidery at her studio at East Keswick.  She is a fantastic teacher and her relaxed approach means that you get great results with your first attempts.  Her website is

Monday, 31 October 2016

Twinkle, twinkle

This fabulously-glittery star is another exploration of gold-work techniques.  I've adapted it to make it quicker and more accessible for general stitchers and I'll be teaching it at workshops during November.

The project can be completed in two evening workshops or one full-day and will be taught at my new studio in Keighley Business Centre.  The dates are Wednesday 23rd and 30th November, 6:30-9:00pm or Saturday 26th November 10:00-3:00.  The cost is £45 which includes all materials.

Contact me on 07904 010430 or to book a place.

Friday, 21 October 2016

All that glitters

I've ventured into the realms of traditional embroidery over last few weeks and have surprised myself with the results.  Yes, there are elements that are a bit too precise or fiddly for my liking but on the whole I've loved the challenge.

The two brooches shown are adapted from a design by Rachel Reynolds that first appeared in Hoop-La magazine in Spring 2015.  The original design was for 'gold-work' which involves the use of precious metal threads and wires that are couched onto the surface of a fabric.  But I wanted to explore how I might use fancy yarns and general haberdashery items to create a similar effect using the same basic techniques.   The results are rather stunning and certainly got the seal of approval from my friends at Skipton Embroiderers' Guild.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Yorkshire buttons

A Yorkshire button made in salmon pink embroidery thread is the perfect finishing touch for my little felted jewellery purse.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Taking a slow stitch to organisation

Slow stitching has taken over! I've collected some fragments of fabric: linen table cloth, scraps of lace, fine silk; and stitched them onto a piece of wool blanket.  The rhythm of the stitches changes as I move across the different textures.  I work in straight lines but curves in the damask pattern encourage me to stitch a circle.  Neutral colours soothe jangling nerves. 

The piece is finished as a haushuf: a place to keep needles and threads neat and tidy on my travels.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Remembering 1976

1976 will be remembered for its long hot summer and as a teenager I made the most of it: playing outdoors, riding my bike and going on my first Guide camp.

It also happens to be the year that Skipton Embroiderers' Guild was founded and by way of celebration they are holding an exhibition of work spanning the last 40 years.  There will be historical work and items with a "Ruby" theme but also new pieces that have been inspired by the 1970's.

I chose a piece of work by Audrey Walker, an artist I have admired for some time.  I chose this picture because I fell in love with the colours and the contemporary feel of the piece.   I love the way she uses layers of stitch to 'paint colours'.  I usually prefer to make my own design but copying someone else's work can give you an insight into their practice as well as broadening your own.  

I started by laying down a patchwork of small silk squares and secured them in place with herringbone stitch - a strong feature of this piece. Then I introduced the key elements - tree, clouds, water using shapes of semi-transparent fabrics (habotai silk, georgette and organdie).  The rows of squares are softened by long stitches.  Again I chose to use an elongated herringbone stitch worked in several overlapping rows to create depth.  Finally, small circular shapes are worked in French knots.  

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Snip snip

Why do we keep useless junk?  A big question for me at the moment but clearly a family trait!  Here is an iron chicken made out of scissors found in my Auntie Jean's stash.  Why did she need so many? Who knows! 

The scissors have been securely stitched onto a velvet shape mounted on deep red hessian, with comb and wattle made out of safety pins (also in the stash).  The tail feathers are loops of measuring tape.

It is a gift for my cousin Sarah for her birthday.  Like Auntie Jean, she keeps a menagerie of poultry and I think she'll like the recycling theme.  A nice way to remember our much loved aunt.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Idle hands

Oh dear - so much for stitching every day!  My house has turned into a B&B for teenagers and there seems to be little time for myself.

I received a bunch of heather from one of the many visitors.  It was gathered from the moors on a walk to Top Withens.  Little fly stitches worked in columns seemed to be the right kind of stitch for the purple flower spikes.

I have not been entirely idle over the last couple of weeks - I have rented a studio space in a nearby mill.  It is a white box that I'm quickly filling with my stash, but it has provided an opportunity to display my work and surprise, surprise, it actually forms a cohesive body! 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A week in the life of....

Although I don't think I have much time to stitch, this week has produced some interesting results:  

Clockwise from top left there is some tile patterns inspired by the walls of Iberica restaurant in Leeds where I met a couple of friends for lunch.  Harebells from my morning walk and translated into stitch (bottom right).  Tear drop shapes with close dark stitches to mimic the black and white feathers of Guinea Fowl that roam around my cousin's farm (a weekend visit).   Finally the grey clouds that dominated last week's weather in Yorkshire, created by overlapping circles with a single border to unify the shape.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

All work

My stitch diary has been pushed out by more pressing matters since I returned home.  The usual back to work blues, a mountain of washing (and ironing) and a glut of fruit in the garden have all taken their toll on my time.

The stitch stories this week are green circles and deep red French knots for the gooseberries and black currants that I have turned into jam. Some lovely loopy green lines to represent the bag of courgettes grown by my friend Nicky.  And a square white box, celebrating my move into a studio space in a nearby mill.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Pueblos blancos

Here are the last three entries in my stitch diary.  Two, more abstract versions of the pueblos blancos (white villages) here in the Andalusian hills and one inspired by an excellent plate of grilled prawns eaten last night. 

This is our last day in Andalusia - back to our normal routines next week but I'll continue the stitch diary as I'm enjoying the quiet thoughtfulness that it encourages. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Andalusian story

I'm staying near Gaucin, a small town of whitewashed houses clinging to the side of a hill in the Andalusian mountains.  I think I've found some kindred spirits here because the place is festooned with yarn-bombing and a multicoloured banner proclaims URBAN KNITTING GAUCIN.

My stitch diary continues to be influenced by things that catch my eye:  bright blue Morning Glory flowers woven into a hedge; undulating hills leading down to the coast and the little box houses of the town glimpsed out of the car window as we make our way up the steep dirt track for daily provisions.

The choice of thread and colour is somewhat limited. I chose to bring a bag of scraps leftover from previous projects. A fellow member of Grassington Embroiderers' Guild swears by this approach. She says that when she attends a workshop she never seems to have what she needs, but if she brings her rag-bag of threads there is always something suitable. I have to agree with her!   It also makes you quite inventive.  The Morning Glory stars are stitched with two stands of cotton, one a Royal blue, the other a deep purple.  I generally continue stitching until I've run out of thread.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Stitch life

Inspired by Claire Wellesley-Smith, I'm keeping a stitch diary of my holiday.  Too much you think?  Actually it's quite nice to creep into a shady spot or the seek the comfort of air conditioning after a hot day of sight seeing and contemplate.  It's been a complete sensory overload in Seville! I can't get enough of the fabulous tiles everywhere I turn.

My first day in Lisbon is reflected by small blocks of yellow, the predominant colour of the city.  The towering Giralda in Seville provided the source for my next stitch entry.  The lattice pattern is stitched in two shades of terracotta as the shifting sun transforms the colours of the bricks. The Alcazar palace blew me away but I took refuge in stitching simple lines of green to represent the beautiful gardens fragranced by myrtle, orange trees and jasmine.  My final day in the city is captured in the simple geometry of Islamic art.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Emotional Repair

This week I attended a masterclass with Claire Wellesley-Smith.  It has been a crazy few weeks of family, work and social commitments and I feel exhausted but a few hours of stitching in the library at Gawthorpe Hall has refreshed me.

Claire's practice focuses on slow stitching as a means of achieving a more mindful approach to work.  The gentle and contemplative way in which she uses and repairs treasured textiles resonates with me.  Finding my own rhythm with a simple running stitch seemed to let me breathe and be myself. 

I started my own slow stitched collage, taking some old ribbons, lace and fragments of embroidery transfers that I found when clearing out Auntie Jean's house.  I've included scraps from my last batch of Devore and a piece of yellow wool from Claire.  It is tacked together with alarmingly-fluorescent green thread, to be replaced with hand-dyed silks and linen over the course of the next few weeks.

The afternoon disappeared in a flash as we lost ourselves to stitching and as we reluctantly packed up our work, Claire offered us a quote from Louise Bourgeois

"Sewing is an act of emotional repair" - how very true! 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The new darning

Life's too short to darn socks but good old-fashioned darning stitch can be put to great use as a filler stitch. 

This folk art peacock was inspired by a worshop taught by Patricia Barratt at Skipton Embroiderers' Guild.  The shape is filled with small blocks of darning stitch - laying down the warp threads with quite a bit of space and then weaving 3 or 4 strands of embroidery thread.  Changing the colour of the warp threads whilst keeping the weft the same will give subtle variations in colour. Changing the thickness of the thread adds texture. 

At around 10 cm square this is a quick and easy project that could be used as an embellishment.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Can you Kantha?

I will hold my hand up now and tell you this is not my own work but that of the fabulously talented Clare Hutchinson, a fellow member of Skipton Embroiderers' Guild.  Clare has good days and bad days, but stitching is her salvation.  

These two examples of her work demonstrate the application of Katha stitching to strips of torn fabric that have been woven together.  One is shibori dyed cloth, the other is conventional patchwork cotton.  

Kantha stitching is a traditional quilting technique which originates from Bengal.  Small running stitches in tightly packed rows create ripples in the fabric.  When the stitches are aligned the ripples are straight, but when off-set or worked in concentric circles the fabric becomes contorted in waves and cones.  

In Clare's samples, she has used a different style of stitch on each square.  With so many squares in her red OTT Bag, she diversified with buttons and scraps of trimmings to create a visual feast!  A truly inspirational piece of work.  You can see it at the Skipton Embroiderers' Guild XL Exhibition which takes place from 7-8th October 2016

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Comfort blanket

My stash is getting a little out of hand!  In an attempt to reduce, reuse and recycle I have been dying old blankets.  This was my first attempt at French lavender - which came out more grey than lilac!  When I re-read the instructions I realised that the commercial product was described as unsuitable for wool.  Undefeated, I put my chemistry hat on and decided to adjust the conditions slightly to simulate an acid dye process (about 150ml lemon juice and 60C wash cycle).  It worked like magic and I know have Flamingo pink, tropical green and powder blue in my collection!

I made this lap-top case in a simple envelope shape.  By pairing the pale wool with bright purple thread and fabric it seems to have enhanced the background colour which now appears almost lavender.  More magic!

Friday, 10 June 2016

Just like your mother

I've just finished an apron for Grassington Festival's Array of Aprons which runs from 28th June - 6th July.

The theme is "convergence" which stumped me at first.  As I was sorting through some old photos for a family gathering I realised how much I look like my mother and my three daughters all look like me.   Just like your mother explores how we all resemble our parents in looks, mannerisms or speech.  The line drawings of my Mum, my daughters and me have all been carefully hand stitched using different coloured threads.  The images converge and the edges blur but we retain our individuality. 

The apron has been made from an old tablecloth which seems fitting because some of my happiest memories are of shared family meals.

This is definitely an art apron but if you're looking for something more practical then take a look at The Stitch Society* Yorkshire.  There is a fabulous selection of aprons or you could choose to make your own using the Linda pattern. I made it a couple of weeks ago for my friend Clare.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Richmond Exhibition

My new wall hanging - in situ at the Station Gallery, Richmond.  It's a beautiful light and airy space in a converted railway station. If you get a chance to drop in you'll find a fantastic cafe, cinema, artisan bakery and ice cream parlour all under the same roof.

The Textila 3 exhibition runs until 2nd June.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Sashiko Stitching

Trying my hand at the Japanese technique of sashiko stitching has been, in equal parts, thoroughly frustrating and very rewarding!

Sashiko means little stabbings and was originally developed as a means of mending and reinforcing clothes.  Like many similar quilting techniques, it has become an art form in its own right with a range of traditional patterns as well as contemporary adaptations.  It looks very simple but getting perfectly even stitches that obey the rules of sashiko is not easy!  The reward comes in the rhythmic pattern of the work that takes on an almost meditative quality.  It is very satisfying. 

My Thursday morning stitch group at Cobbles and Clay cafe in Haworth, will be using this technique to embellish some fabric and then we will make it into small purses.  If you would like to join the group, we meet from 10-12:30 in the upper room at the cafe.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Tile Fragments

Two more pieces for the Textilia 3 exhibition which opens at the Station Gallery, Richmond on 21st May 2016.

These are individual tile fragments that I've mounted on fine net and suspended over a print on calico.  The print is a dictionary definition of the word READ, which describes its etymology from the old English raeden meaning to counsel or advise. 

They are deceptively simple, but each piece took several hours to assemble - about half the time was spent removing bits from the glass covering the box frame! 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Small Wonders

I've just completed two miniature works of art.  They will be mounted in a compositors box - a storage device used by printers in the days when individual letters were assembled to create a book or newspaper.  They will be joined by 90 more little pieces which have been created by the members of Skipton Embroiderers' Guild for their XL exhibition later this year.

It seemed fitting to use some of the devore fabric that I printed a couple of weeks ago which was based on the decoration found in the tiled hall at Leeds Art Gallery.  I layered the fabric over printed text which describes the old English origin of the word to read.  I then stitched the words reading room over the 3 individual squares - each one measures 1"x2".

My other miniature masterpiece is a slightly larger version of the snowdrop brooch that I made in March. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Charlotte Bronte

In tribute to the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte's birth the Contemporary Stitch Group made a Victorian inspired sampler using a quote from Jane Eyre:

I am no bird; and no net ensares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Kitchen chemistry

I've been indulging in a bit of kitchen chemistry over the last week or so.  Devore printing and dyeing to be precise.  

I'm working on a piece for an exhibition by Textilia III - a group of Northern based artists that I joined earlier this year. The theme for the show is TEXTiles and I've taken my inspiration from the Tiled Hall at Leeds Art Gallery which was originally built as the reading room for the city library.  The room is covered from floor to ceiling in the most beautiful tiles, in fact when it was first opened in 1884, the roof was considered so magnificent that it was feared that "people would be continually gazing up at it instead of quietly reading magazines and newspapers".

I have chosen to work in silk-viscose velvet, satin and georgette fabrics which I have printed with Devore paste using a hand cut stencil. I acid dyed the silk and then Procion dyed the viscose using muted colours of rust, grey, green and dark turquoise.

Each square has been hand pieced together. I chose to leave the raw edges facing out to soften the appearance and allow the silk to fray slightly.  

Here is the result! 

Monday, 21 March 2016

Indigo Blues

I love dying fabric! Contrary to my scientific training of precision and reproducibility, I love the serendipitous nature of hand-dying: the lucky chances that place colour on cloth.

Last week I learned how to use indigo - a very different beast from the Procion dyes I had worked with on previously.  Indigo doesn't react with fibres, it is insoluble. It has to be altered, chemically, to a soluble (yellow) form which allows it to adsorb onto the surface of the fibres. When it is removed from the dye-bath and exposed to oxygen in the air it converts back to its insoluble blue form. 

It's perfect for shibori techniques - once exposed to air, the intense blue dye will not migrate onto other parts of the cloth.

I spent a lot of time tying and stitching cloth to create these lovely patterns, but I think my favourite piece was one that was simply folded, concertina fashion. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Spring chickens

I wanted to keep a simple drawing-like approach to this work so I used small back stitch in a single strand of cotton. The lines at a little wobbly - just like my original drawing and I've highlighted small areas with patches of fabric appliqu├ęd with Bondaweb and running stitch.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Snowdrop brooch

Hurrah!  The Contemporary Stitch group has resumed and I'm very glad to be teaching again.

This week's project was inspired by a single snowdrop in a teeny-tiny vase which was given to me by my next-door neighbour.  The brooch is worked on silk with layers of hand-dyed cotton organdie, vintage lace and ecru silk organdie.  It's just a few simple stitches but the effect is stunning and almost as lovely as the pots of snowdrops outside my house.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Finishing touches

My contemporary stitch group has had a little break during February whilst I had other work commitments.  Thankfully they are still keen to keep going.  

The small samples, demonstrating different styles of stitching, have been pieced together to make a Turkish-style cushion.  This is Joanne's. She finished it off with a profusion of French knots.  Fabulous!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Pet hates

If I had to list my pet hates, cross stitch would be up there very close to the top!  I'm not sure what it is that I dislike so much: the counted squares, the discipline, maybe rows of stitches or perhaps it just reminds me of primary school.

This little sample has been stitched into pre-punched card (Rico Design, Paper Poetry®). When it's folded round a glass jar it will make a perfect tea-light holder. I've made it for a taster workshop that will be run by Skipton Embroiderers' Guild on Saturday 2nd April at Christ Church Hall, Skipton.

I think I might just give it to someone else to demonstrate on the day!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Quick fix

There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to all the things I want to do.  Preparing for last week's business trip took up most of my time but I suddenly realised that I didn't have a case for my lap-top.

I quick rummage through my stash revealed a thickly felted poncho that was perfect for the body. I added some scraps of felted blanket dyed in delicate shades of peach and yellow (not too girlie).  I used thick cotton pearle yarn and some very large stitches to piece the whole thing together.  I think that it has a naive charm without being too clumsy. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Pink hearts

This week's project for the Contemporary Stitch group is a heart stitched in Appletons crewel wool. The outline is worked in split stitch and then square filling stitch for the centre.  A nice little piece for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, 16 January 2016


Happy New Year!  My Contemporary Stitch course resumed this week with a small project of monograms.  These are a hot topic in fashion wear and companies like Hand and Lock have been busy stitching monograms for Burberry and other high end designers.

I chose lazy daisy and French knots because these were the stitches that had caused most confusion on previous workshops. I varied the weight of thread to demonstrate the relationship between stitch size and thread.  I also sampled two different colour ways for the infill pattern.