Sunday, 25 November 2018


In September, I set the Haworth Stitch Group a challenge to make a scarf using fine cotton cheesecloth and appliqued shapes.  This group of talented and creative ladies have surpassed my expectations to produce the most wonderful work.  Here is Liz's scarf.  She used a series of interconnecting circles to create a pattern and then stitched over them with split stitch and chain stitch.  The effect is stunning!


A lovely workshop with Textilia 3 group and led by guest tutor Hannah Lamb, brought a sense of order to my Auntie Jean's sewing box.  Disparate objects found at the bottom of the box have been attached to dark linen with various decorative stitches. 

Sleepy Reindeer

The latest addition to this year's Christmas decorations:  a sleepy reindeer embellished with folk art stitches.  My new go-to stitch is whipped chain.  You can see it here looking like a green and white candy cane.  Lay the chain stitch down in green and then whip each stitch with white.  Simple!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Angel face

Working up some new ideas for forthcoming workshops.  Here is a little angel decoration, a cross between Folk Art and Opus Anglicanum (a bit of a strange mix).  The face is stitched with fine split stitch to create a raised and contoured surface.

Peace and piece

Patching and Place workshop with Hannah Lamb at Salts Mill
Prepared for another busy weekend, I suddenly found myself with a free morning!  All chores done I skipped off to Salts Mill to spend a wonderful, peaceful hour in the company of Hannah Lamb and fellow stitchers.  Hannah worked in conjunction with the Campaign for Wool to celebrate the manufacture of merino wool cloth in Yorkshire.  Using off-cuts of suiting we made a patchwork using the English paper piecing method.  Hannah was keen to show the beautiful woven selvedges and the paper pieces, which goes someway to explain my unconventional assembly.

Stolen Sunshine

Making the most of the last few days of October sunshine, sitting on my back steps with a mug of tea and a handful of threads, sampling for some new workshops.

King Harold's Dog

Bayeux stitch - The Battle of Stamford Bridge Project
Somewhere in the East Riding of Yorkshire you will find a dedicated group of stitchers who are creating their own prequel to the Bayeux Tapestry.  The good citizens of Stamford Bridge want the world to know that it was the battle fought in their little village that was the turning point for English history, not the later Battle of Hastings.  You can read all about it on their website The Tapestry Project.  

I picked up one of their little kits in order to learn more about Bayeux stitch.  It was great fun but I'm not sure I'll pass their rigorous standards.  Here is King Harold's Dog.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Beyond the sea

Oh, I know I said I wasn't going to do any more raised embroidery this year but my summer school group suggested an aquarium when they saw the cactus garden. 

So here goes:  a wire-work goldfish, needle woven picot seaweed or anemone (take your pick) and a needle lace coral.

Autumn Madness

Autumn is a really busy time for me:  preparing for a new batch of workshops, a new season of Embroiderers' Guild work and trying to finish projects started over the summer.

I started sampling ideas  for a new workshop.  I wanted to make an embroidered scarf and found some fine cotton cheesecloth in the wonderful emporium that is Bombay Stores.  I hand-dyed the cloth, before cutting bold flower shapes to applique to the main fabric. I soon learned that I needed some light-weight fusible fabric to help control the shapes and make it easier to embellish.

I'm quite pleased with the result but it has meant spending several days in my kitchen toiling over dye baths.
Other work included a day installing the Textilia 3 Dissolving Margins exhibition at Skipton Town Hall.  Exhibition closes on October 18th 2018.
New venue for Textilia 3 'Dissolving Margins'

Finally, I managed a couple of quite days away in North Yorkshire where I was blown away by the medieval tiles at Bylands Abbey
Medieval tiles at Bylands Abbey

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Skipton calling

Skipton Town Hall, stitched on pale grey silk using stranded embroidery thread.  The newly refurbished building includes the wonderful HUB, which as been a popular venue for Embroiderers' Guild community workshops.

On a street where you live

Oakworth is famous for its little station on the Keighley Worth Valley Railway line which featured in the Railway Children film. Throughout the Summer months, we are serenaded with toots and whistles from the steam trains and occasionally a long wait at the old-fashioned gated crossing.  Its a lovely nostalgic little building full of quirky fixtures and fittings.

Here my station house is stitched on evenweave linen and mounted on a background of painted fabric and Bondaweb applique.

The square will form part of a border for Skipton Embroiderers' Guild Where's My Home community project which will be displayed for the first time at Yarndale.

She sells sea shells

Here is the last in my series of raised embroidery samples.  I've chosen a seasonal theme of sea shells which demonstrates two different styles of padding, a wired shape and some shisha work to incorporate a piece of sea glass.  Worked in soft browns, pinks and cream and a mixture of stranded thread and super-shiny cotton perle.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Nature Table

More raised embroidery!  Another sample for my forthcoming workshops.  This one has an Autumnal theme inspired by my walks around the footpaths and fields at home.  Lots of different techniques but all very achievable.

Everlasting greens

Cacti are the hipster plant of the moment.  We have a few of them scattered around the house, but sadly my girls believe that these desert dwellers need no water or attention.  We have had a few casualties (especially the ones that were left in a dark box for 3 months over the summer holidays!)

Here is my answer to the problem.  Three little stitched cacti in a water-glass terrarium.  No care required.

If you want to know how to make it, I'll be running a workshop in August and October.

Stitched Together

This is a map of Syria, stitched with a group of women refugees now living in Skipton.  It has been made for the Skipton Embroiderers' Guild 'Where's My Home' project and is a collaboration between some of the ladies in the group and EG members.  We have added stars to show where the ladies have come from (Damascus, Homs, and Allepo), 'Syria' written in Arabic script, and a representation of homes destroyed in the conflict.

Although our lives have taken very different paths, we have found each other in the place we now call home and shared a common interest in stitching.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Stitch diary 2018

Holiday stitching 2018.  A quick study of what was happening during my week in Pollenca.  Noisy swifts every morning and evening, juicy figs for lunch, starry halos for Santa Maria, rainbows of colours through stained glass windows and bougainvillea flowers falling on the patio.  All this interspersed with some fantastic reading, wonderful food and great company.  What more could I want?

And if you are interested, my basic stitch kit of 2 needles, 1 pair of scissors and a rats-nest of threads contained in the most perfect bag made for me by my friend Clare.

All packed and ready to go

As a child, I would practice a new technique by making something for one of my dolls or teddies.  I learned how to piece together a pattern, set sleeves, make buttonholes and worked out why trousers needed to be shaped and cut correctly.  Working on a small scale means that you need less material and it's generally a lot quicker, if a little fiddly.

One of my favourite artists and teachers is Serena Partridge, who also lives a life in miniature.  I've long admired her perfect shoes and gloves but did you know that she also started on her particular artistic path by making a set of miniature luggage?

Well as I was about to go on holiday, it seemed appropriate to make this little suitcase using faux leather but proper saddle-stitching to finish the exterior.  It's my first time using this two-needle, one-thread technique but it was remarkably satisfying.  Next time I think I would pierce the stitch holes before sewing to ensure that the line and stitches were even, but after all, that is the point of a practice piece isn't it?

Thank you to Serena for her inspiration!

Monday, 9 July 2018

Emotional Repair

My favourite mug, broken because I had too many things in the cupboard (and perhaps because I am a bit clumsy).  Repaired, not with vinegar and brown paper, but some plastic and stitch and a whole lot of love. 

It was a bit of an experiment and in my first trials, the plastic melted and curved naturally but it was a little more difficult to heat successfully.  I will have to continue my investigations.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Beach combing treasure

A family day out to the beach always results in some kind of found treasure!  Last week it was a small piece of drift wood, the spaces in between the annual rings, worn away by the action of the sea.  It reminded me of an Indian block print and so this is what I did with it.  Perhaps it needs some Kantha stitching......

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Mapping Skipton

Skipton Embroiderers' Guild are mapping Skipton, one building at a time.  Our latest community art project called, Where's My Home? aims to make a large textile map of the town featuring key buildings and places where people meet or work.

Here's my version of the station buildings, Bondaweb applique and hand stitch measuring just 10x7cm.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Swan Song

Swan song: the final performance or act of someone's career.

For me, this refers to the latest community art project for Skipton Embroiderers' Guild.  It's a collaborative work to create a map of Skipton Town Centre showing some of it's wonderful buildings and most importantly, where people meet and work.  We've called it Where's My Home? because that's what everyone looks for when they see a map.  It has been generously funded by Craven Ward Member Budget and Craven Trust.

We will be working with different groups and some businesses to make representations of the place that they call home.  We've also asked our members to make a 4x4" square depicting their home or home town.  I was born in Buckinghamshire and most of my extended family still live there.  When I visited recently I noticed the fabulous golden swan on the top of town hall in Buckingham.  The swan is the emblem of the county which was famous for breeding these birds for the king, hence the crown around it's neck.  It has another meaning for my family because they lived at Swan Farm.

We hope the project will be completed in time to display it at Yarndale, 29-30th September 2018 and we are looking forward to a Summer of creativity.

I'm just about to enter my third and final year as Chairman of Skipton branch, so yes, this will probably be my swan song.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Heartfelt praise

This little heart (only 15cms) has been made for the Embroiderers' Guild 100 Hearts Project celebrating lives, lived and lost during the First World War.  My maternal family, the Leonards, were farmers in Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire and so I have chosen to reflect their contribution to the war effort. 

My design is based on corn dollies that were made as favours and talismans of good fortune.  Corn dollies are more usually woven from stalks of wheat, but this Oxfordshire Sweetheart is plaited.  I made mine from some gold braid, echoing the braid used on military uniforms.  I fashioned the ears of wheat using bullion knots in cotton perle yarn.  The poppies and cornflowers were common to both the fields of England and France and symbolise the loss for each country.

It will be donated to the Guild exhibition that will run later this year and will ultimately be sold to raise money for the Armed Forces charity SSAFA.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Tea party

It's always time for tea in my house but this little tea pot was inspired by a trip to the wonderful Rusty Shears Cafe in Whitby.  Not only do they serve excellent tea and cake on vintage china, but they have a dazzling selection of gins!  Just the ticket after a damp walk along the cliffs from Robin Hood's Bay last weekend.

This is a trial piece that I'm thinking of making for my craft stall at  Manorlands' Garden Party which takes place on Sunday 8th July 2018.  It would look nice on a little cushion or perhaps some cards.  It's machine embroidered using a reverse applique technique.  Two or more layers of fabric are stitched onto a background and then cut back to reveal the different colours.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Into the woods

A woodland walk on Tuesday has inspired this collection of stumpwork motifs.  Worked on fine crystal organza, the wired frames are filled with different plants:  white ransoms (wild garlic) in lazy daisy stitch; bluebells in bullion knots and delicate fern fronds in French knots.  The trick is to chose stitches that either look the same on the front and back or that the linking stitches on the reverse side add to the overall design.

Mounted on a log, the little frames make a lovely version of an old-fashioned nature table.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Royal Weekend

Oh what a lovely weekend!  I've spent 3 days at Grassington on their annual Stitching in the Dales course with the super-talented Nicola Jarvis.  Although not a novice to crewel work, I have learned so much in the last few days and I've had a wonderfully sociable and creative time with good friends.  If that was not enough, the royal wedding was the icing on the cake!

My green woodpecker is not quite finished but blog deadlines dictate that I must post before the end of the day.  I have some more seed stitches, sequins and a couched outline to add before he is finally complete.  I'm really pleased with my shading technique and satin stitch (always a bete noir) has improved enormously.

Thank you to Nicola for her supportive teaching and to the Grassington Embroiderers' Guild for arranging such a great week.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Testing, testing, 1,2,3

I've been working on my technique for making Dorset buttons, practising for a demonstration and workshop at Craven Museum, Museum at Night - From Sheep to Cloth which will take place on Saturday 19th May 2-5pm.

These little buttons were commonplace on waistcoats and jackets and I'm hoping that the museum will have some of their wonderful textiles on display to show how they were used on garments.  As you can see, working from top to bottom, my buttons have gradually improved.  Would I make a good tailor's apprentice?  Who knows!

Monday, 7 May 2018

An impatient gardener

The sunny bank holiday weather has seen me tending to my garden rather than my stitching but I have managed to complete a strawberry for my William Morris bird.

This has been made with needle lace (a stitched form of fabric) around a stuffed shape.  It seemed like a good idea when I started but it has taken hours of stitching to complete, hence the tardiness of this post.

I found this little strawberry plant clinging to the side of an old soft fruit bed.  I will nurture it and hopefully I will have some real strawberries later in the month. Unless the birds get them of course.....!

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ready to fly

Inspired by William Morris' iconic print, The Strawberry Thief, here is my version of the naughty song thrush.

Stitched onto vintage linen, red woven picots form basis of the design creating the spotty breast.  Following Morris' colour way, I've embroidered wings using satin, seed and buttonhole stitch in dark blue on a pale blue linen background. 

Now for the strawberries......

Monday, 23 April 2018

Flights of fancy

In my quest to stay one step ahead of my stitch groups (and also to try to make multi-use pieces), I have started making a sculptured bird using raised embroidery. 

I've long been an admirer of Abigail Brown's beautiful birds with their subtle evocation of feathers made in scraps of fabric.  I've also been ruminating on this year's Embroiderers' Guild Regional competition title Inspired by William Morris.  In one of those light-bulb moments, the two ideas fused:  a 3D bird based on Morris' iconic print, The Strawberry Thief.

Using stranded cotton in brick red, I have worked small woven picots to give the illusion of feathers.  These are interspersed with French knots to create the wonderful speckled breast of the song thrush.

This is all work in progress, to which I had better return if I am to finish it by Thursday!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Almost done

I promised a big reveal and this is almost it! My new work for Textila 3 exhibition, Dissolving Margins, 4th - 8th July 2018, The Manor House, Ilkley.

As many of you will know, its actually very difficult to take good pictures of large pieces of work - far better to take close-ups.  So here they are.

The work was inspired by my Auntie Jean, her love of gardening and in particular, growing dahlias.  As dementia took hold of her brain she forgot the names for so many familiar objects and her lovely dahlias became 'those yellow flowers'.  The first piece is a richly three-dimensional work with raised embroidery and devore; the second reduces to one-dimension whilst the third just carries a shadowy image, obliterated by seed stitch.  Both the images and the fabrics on which they are printed are dissolving, representing the ravages of dementia.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Sewing the seeds of love

A deadline looms.....I am frantically stitching.....will I finish in time?

I am working on a triptych for a forthcoming Textila 3 exhibition (The Manor House, Ilkley 4-7th July 2018).  My work is coming together slowly but something was missing.  Luckily my friend Claire popped over for a play day and we had our own group crit.  With the benefit of distance, Claire instantly identified what was missing from my third piece:  a little bit of grey was needed to harmonise the work. 

With a flower theme, the only possible stitch to use was seed stitch and so I have spent many hours over the last week trying to create perfectly random stitches.  It has left me a little crazy, but I think it will be worth it!

The big reveal will be next week........

Saturday, 31 March 2018


The quest for new techniques has taken me along an unexpected path.  This week I have tried my hand at blackwork.  This form of embroidery dates back to Tudor times but was popularised by Catherine of Aragon hence its name, Spanish blackwork.  I can admire it's pared-down elegance, but I've concluded that counted thread work is not my forte!

The reason for this challenge is that Skipton Embroiderers' Guild are making a 36 square sampler showing different black work patterns ranging from traditional to contemporary.  I've chosen to start with a traditional back stitch rose pattern for the centre of my dandelion clock and then use a more free-form fly stitch to make the seed heads.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Signs of spring

The first proper signs of spring are here: some green shoots, daffodils in sheltered spots and the first lambs appearing in the fields.  It's also time for Easter Crafts at Christ Church so I had to get thinking of some new ideas. 

I was inspired by an old latch-hook tool that I found in my Grandma's sewing box and I remember making rugs with her when I was a child, surrounded by bundles of brightly coloured Readicut wool that were so inviting!  I'm sure she had to re-work most of my efforts but it's a fond memory.  So here, in homage to Grandma Davies, is a very small latch-hook rug sheep made using chunky hand-knitting yarn and hessian. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018


I love printing and, because I don't get too hung up on the precise accuracy of it (shock horror!), the best bit is not quite knowing what will happen.

Last week, Annie Smith from Textilia 3 showed me how to print with nothing more sophisticated that a handful of bramble leaves and a solution of rust and vinegar.  A little concertina book of paper was first soaked in the rust and vinegar solution, then leaves were placed in the folds of the pages.  It was firmly clamped together and placed in a steamer for 15 minutes.  The result is a fantastic tracery of veins and outlines, some like delicate butterfly wings, others were ghostly shadows.

True alchemy and a little bit of serendipity!

Monday, 12 March 2018

Coptic Binding

In my quest to try new techniques, I was lucky to find that a 'skills sharing day' had been programmed into Textilia 3's season of meetings.  Jo Valentine showed us how to make little fabric books using the coptic binding method.  It's a bit fiddly to start with but once you get the idea it's very satisfying and an interesting variation on chain stitch.

This simple book has just five signatures with single pages.  I've finished it off by joining the pages together to strengthen them and I've made it into a needle case with all my needles carefully arranged and labelled.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Cabin Fever

My house has been snow-bound for 3 days this week and so with no classes to teach, I have had plenty of time to learn some new skills.  I've been working my way through my latest purchase, Raised Embroidery by RSN tutor, Kelley Aldridge.  It's full of fabulous inspirational contemporary pieces, with clear photos illustrating all the key techniques and three projects with step-by-step instructions.

Interspersed with historical and technical information are top tips and advice but my favourite one is found on page 87 entitled 'More haste, less speed' which cautions against rushing to get going on a project before fully committing to a design.  Her final word is '.. don't be tempted by that awful phrase that will do!'

I am always ambitious and perhaps that last piece of advice should apply to learning the basics before you tackle a project.  This example, designed by Jacqui McDonald, appears in the book as an example, but you have to work out how to do it yourself.  It was a steep learning curve, tackling woven picots, cast-on stitch and covered beads, but I think my favourite element is the little needle lace cauliflower.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Loose ends

Aside from primary school crafts, I don't think I've really tried weaving before, so in the interests of completing my textile education, I have tried my hand at tapestry weaving.  Thankfully I was taught by the very talented Gail Marsh, who is not only a skilled embroiderer, but just to keep herself busy, is now undertaking a diploma in weaving.

We started in a simple, low-tech way, with warps wrapped around an old picture frame and a heap of assorted threads.  I soon learned that some threads work better than others:  my lovely linen thread had just too much texture for the scale of work and a knobbly, white knitting yarn that had much promise proved to be a devil to weave.

My first attempt comprised a series of rather static horizontal lines but here is my second attempt.  I chose a more balanced selection of yarns: neutral cotton with a mercerised twist, soft angora, lustrous silk and wispy mohair.  My inspiration was the ripples left in the sand when the tide went out.  For good measure I included a small piece of sea glass found by my friend Marjorie, an avid beach-comber and collector of all things shiny.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Sum of the parts

When it come to applique, I usually reach for a roll of Bondaweb, but in my quest to learn new techniques, I have been trying the traditional stitched form of the art.  It was a bit of a fiddle to create a cuddly koala using a bold grey and purple Liberty print but I think the gently-turned edges give a softer, slightly padded look that I couldn't have achieved with glued fabrics.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Alpine Inspiration

An unexpected ski trip to the lovely resort of Madonna di Campiglio in Italy has provided the inspiration for this week's stitch story.  Our favourite apres ski venue was Bar Suisse in the centre of the town.  A cool glass of Trentino wine and some excellent nibbles was just the thing after a day on the slopes.

The motif on the coasters used in the bar caught my eye and with a bit of manipulation I have transferred it to some beautiful purple boiled-wool cloth.  Stitched in cream cotton perle it gives a rich, shiny contrast to the matt fabric. 

Thursday, 25 January 2018


This little study in pearl has been made for Grassington Embroiderers' Guild pearl anniversary exhibition. which takes place later this year.  The idea is to make a pearl necklace from embroidery hoops.  Mine has been a bit of a doodle with no fixed plan or design.  I've used some of the stash supplied by Grassington branch but have added bits of lace, buttons, beads and part of an old pearl necklace that I found in Grandma's button tin (where else?).

I have to confess that it looked a bit of a mash-up but what saved the day was some ivory-coloured cotton perle thread which I back-stitched in cornelli pattern to fill-in all the gaps.  Perfect!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Picture perfect

My goal is to do something new each week and whilst this might not be something new, it is on a different scale to my previous work.

I'm doing another stitched portrait based on a photo of my lovely girls taken at Christmas. They are all laughing and the picture just captures their vitality.  I found an old handkerchief that I've had since I was a child.  I don't know where it came from, probably my Grandma or maybe my mother.  It has a hand made 'lace' edge but it is a form of stitching or weaving rather than traditional knotted lace.  It's small and delicate and so my stitched portraits are too. 

I've started with Frances.  She's far away on an extended holiday and I'm missing her.  The difference in time zones mean that it is difficult to talk to her but we did manage to catch up earlier this week.  Long distance love.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Sheer magic

This week's challenge is to create a picture using sheer fabrics.  I've got a bit of a thing for these lovely diaphanous materials and they crop up in a lot of my work.  My stash includes several two-tone organzas which shimmer and change colour as they move. 

Here I've used a two-tone red and black mixed with a rich brown to build up my flowers (dahlias, in case you're wondering).  The areas of overlap provide extra depth and texture.  I've used a two-tone green and black for the leaves because it offers a more natural colour to the alternative, monochrome organza.  The picture is built up, one piece at a time and with hind-sight I might have started with a more organic background before stitching the features.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Happy New Year!

I'm kick starting the new year with another challenge to try 50 new techniques - well perhaps not all new ones but 50 nevertheless.

My Glusburn stitching group had asked me about negative space stitching which was something I'd not tried before.  I found some lovely examples and I particularly liked this random 'splash' effect which I created with a series of interlocking ellipses, doodled over the numbers.  The negative space is filled with satin stitch - not one of my favourites but I got plenty of practice with this piece.

Happy New Year!