Thursday, 28 April 2022

New project. Stitched textile artists. Collections.

 The proposed topic for this next project is collections.

My immediate reaction was to consider the collection of antique  lace bobbins which belonged to my aunt with which she worked beautiful pieces of handmade lace.A small selections of my lace bobbins:

I really loved the above and playing around with the bobbins to find pleasing patterns but then came to realise that these are beautifully worked in fine crochet! I needed to think again!

I still had plenty to chose from and kept coming back to this piece, given to me by my aunt:

It originally came to me in a frame with a tiny photo in the centre of my aunt with her sister [my mum] and her brother. Delightful.

How would I use this? So delicate and beautiful. 

I considered interpreting the lace through cut work, I needed to transfer the design onto a suitable fabric perhaps cotton organdie [ as it doesn't fray]. Unfortunately the transfer pen did not give a clear enough outline from which to work. I persevered with the cotton organdie and decided to trace the motif onto tissue paper and machine stitch through to the fabric. Having removed the tissue paper I worked a running stitch around the edge of the motif. When I reached the bars I took the thread across the space 3 times without catching the base fabric and then adding a buttonhole stitch to cover the bars. 
A further 2 rows of running stitch were added to the interior of the design before I added further buttonhole stitch closely over the outlines working the stitches to fit the shape of the motif. 
I love the raised effect achieved by working in this way and the twisting of the buttonhole across the bars.

Very pleased with this but worked earlier in the project. The photographic image of this image will be included as part of the altered photo concept but I will need to consider how to incorporate this into the  finished piece at a later stage.

Moving on I felt I'd like to include a vintage but altered photo relevant to the children but in keeping with the history of the lace. The photo below seemed perfect, my aunt and mother playing as children in the farmyard where they were born and raised. I wonder who took this photo to capture this precious moment in time, it would date at around 1932 or thereabouts. I found it in the memoirs written by my Aunt. What a wonderful legacy she has left and such a gift for me as love to use these in my artwork in the form of story telling.

I decided to experiment with printing the photo onto a piece of cotton organdie. I needed to prepare the fabric with a colour fixative to prevent fading for which 
used Rit ColourStay fixative. I have an Ink jet printer and used the freezer paper method to print the 
image onto the cotton organdie - with a good result. I also wanted to capture the image of the girls in 
stitch by working with free machine embroidery on a sheer fabric. To achieve this I traced the image 
  onto tissue paper and using a hoop to secure a piece of silk crepeline (which is a very fine pure silk
 fabric with a stiffness to it which I liked for ease of working on this occasion). I was able to stitch 
   through the tissue paper which was then gently torn away to reveal the stitched outline.                                                     

I stitched over the image a second time to strengthen the line and have left some of the trailing threads in situ as they give a wonderful sense of movement. I'm pleased with the effect of the images of the girls and the lace showing through the layers facilitated by the sheer quality of the cotton organdie and suggesting the passage of time:

Image printed onto cotton organdie:

Traced image on tissue paper:

Free machine stitched image through tracing paper :

Cut out girls:

Layered composition:

                                              And with the photos of the two girls laid on top:

At this stage I discussed my ideas with Sian Martin and members of The Stitch Textile Artists Group
via a zoom meeting. Sian suggested I incorporate the layered elements into a girl's dress. 
This immediately resonated with me given the beautiful dresses worn by the girls which held opportunities for hand stitched detail. I decided to develop the above piece into a dress bodice and then consider ideas for embroidered detail on the back of the bodice and on the skirt. Ideas started to flow through our conversation - text along the hem of the skirt to reflect the poetry composed by my aunt and perhaps eyelet embroidery to adorn  the back of the bodice and a sash. 

I researched and found an ideal dress pattern via Etsy from The Freckled Pear Vintage Kate dress:


This pattern and instructions came as an instant pdf downloaded online. Perfect!

Given that my printed image had been developed from an A4 image I needed to adjust the pattern accordingly to accommodate it into the dress bodice.

Very excited now! Final layered composition:
I decided to place the cut out photos of the girls onto the base fabric rather than on the top as previously shown.

I used a cotton lawn as a base fabric for the bodice front and set about putting together the layers:
  • paper girl cutouts and lace fragments were applied to the background using Bondaweb followed by
  • the machine stitched outline of the girls
  • and finally the printed image laid over the top.

I was then able to use my modified pattern piece for the front bodice to cut out my completed design.
I then applied the bodice lining ( white cotton lawn). With right sides together I aligned the bodice front to the lining and stitched the seam. All that remained was to clip the seam and understitch the seam allowance to stop the lining from rolling towards the right side of the garment. 

Now the bodice back, skirt and sleeves. I plan to use the base cotton lawn as before but overlaid with silk crepeline for it's softening effect but also for it's transparent but matte finish which will compliment the bodice front.

I considered using elements of the lace doilly motif to form a collar but decided that it was too fussy and detracted from the layered effects I'd already put in place.

My attention then turned to the bodice back. It occurred  to me that the hand stitched motif might work very well placed centrally on the back, couched in place onto the base cotton fabric with a layer of silk crepeline to soften it (represented by tracing paper here):

Eyelet hand embroidery:
I made up some mock up dresses to help me visualise and therefore balance my hand stitching along the hems of the sleeves and lower front bodice with more eyelet embroidery cascading down and across the dress front. I'd like to add hand embroidered text ( my Aunt's poetry) along the dress hem with the addition of a sash embroidered in the same way:

Experiments with eyelet embroidery and various threads as below:

Research into which hand embroidered stitch I'd use for the text was my next task.
Stem stitch was my favourite as it offered both a softness and fullness of line; I looked at ways of
applying the stitching to the dress hems and the sash. I tried a layer of sheer ribbon with the base cotton and  then the ribbon plus crepeline but both finished with an untidy back of work. The winner was water soluble fabric with a strip of ribbon fed through and supported with a small embroidery hoop. 

I'm also playing with ideas of how to incorporate the lace bobbins:


My reference:
Teach Yourself Embroidery 1938

And Embroidery by Good Housekeeping 1981:


Friday, 19 November 2021

The Society for Embroidered Work, Surface and Depth. Exhibition in Rome, 2021

 I was proud to become a member of SEW in 2019 and delighted to be selected for their exhibition, Surface and Depth in Rome, October, 2021,

The exhibition was held in the Palazzo Velli Expo, in the Trastavere region of Rome as part of Rome Art Week. The aim of SEW is to promote and support stitched art as an artform by breaking down misconceptions, especially in Italy where contemporary embroidery is little known or recognised,

The response was amazing and the exhibition was really well received thanks to the organisers Olga   Teksheva, Felicity Griffin Clark and Cat Frampton. A major Italian newspaper, La Repubblica featured a double page spread about the show and publications in many other magazines thanks to the press officer, Stefania Vaghi. The show became one of the most visited in Rome Art Week.

I was fortunate enough to travel to Rome with my artwork.

                                               Patterns in Nature:



                                              The gallery:

Thanks to Olga:

And Felicity:

Please see the S.E.W. instagram page for lots of beautiful images and information:


Stitched Textile Artists Masterclass weekend August 2021

 This was a residential weekend led by textile artist Sian Martin in the beautiful surroundings of the Ammerdown Centre in Somerset.

Sian had suggested we look at the use of colour and mood, to consider what we are trying to evoke and how.

We were advised to take with us fabrics (preferably sheer) and threads in a colour range of our choice, plus some cheap nylon netting. Sian provided some CMC, a non toxic modelling paste.

I decided to continue with the same colour scheme as our previous (zoom) session as I still had enough space dyed silks to work with.  

Of course roses were still very much in my mind especially as they evoke so much emotion and so decided to explore their potential further.

During the first session Sian asked us to cut our fabrics up and sandwich between 2 layers of netting brushing with the CMC. These were left to dry overnight and in the morning we peeled the netting away to reveal a brand new surface on which to work! 

I was delighted to see that it looked like a sheet of rose petals!

Sian asked us to divide our new piece of fabric into 4 pieces

We were to produce 4 pieces evoking 4 different moods.

I considered the rose, noting the thoughts and words which came up as I worked. The rose as a bud and flower - full of promise followed by the inevitable decay, full of promise until changes take place; although decay may also be perceived as beautiful. The rose as part of a bouquet which may be celebratory ( think bright colours) or sent in sympathy (muted colours).

I chose to explore how a rose garden may change over the 4 seasons and the moods this may evoke.

I looked at the nature of my rose petal fabric, the reverse, the holey nature, the exquisite edges. 


Soft colours, gentle stitching to evoke emergence, hope, growth, activity and renewal

I gently gathered and manipulated the fabric to suggest the idea of growth and activity going on below the surface 


Bold colours, abundance, opulence. In order to evoke a feeling of abundance I used strips of fabric for stitching in bright colours weaving in and out of the holes in the surface with french knots and running stitch


Summer's opulence has given way to a more subdued feel, This is work in progress and yet to be stitched. I love the edging achieved in this sample and the 'petals' which are falling away


A sense of winter closing in, darker colours and a feeling of heaviness. Work in progress and stitching yet to be worked to evoke the mood.

Four seasons:

I'm planning to develop this in the near future with another larger piece in the offing. Lots of opportunity to experiment with stitch to build on and evoke feeling.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Hand made book to celebrate my Grandmother's life as a child, young woman, nurse, mother and farmer's wife and in later life.

 I wanted to make a book to accompany the embroidered panel to celebrate my Grandmother's life.

I made lots of hand made paper of varying thicknesses, including thicker weights for the cover. I added a strong tea solution to the paper pulp to give an aged appearance.

A piece of embroidery which I've stitched based on a piece originally worked by my Grandmother is sandwiched between two layers of paper and 'framed' by an oak leaf shaped surround.


The frontispiece in my Grandmother's autograph book is decorated with a beautiful oak leaf design, I've copied this onto some tissue paper and glued it to the inside cover. I added a sample of her handwriting which appeared in the original book giving her signature and address, it's wonderful to have this.

 More hand made paper which has been embossed with a real oak leaf. I'm thrilled with the result!

Here she is probably in her mid twenties:

Her initials embossed in hand made paper:

As a child playing on a swing! Probably a common style of photo at the time. I've added a ribbon sash to embellish the photo a little:

Her wedding day! May 1922. I have embellished her bouquet with some hand stitching [bullion and French knot with detached chain]; I think my Grandfather looks very dapper and proud in his top hat!

Here they are as a family! My mother is in the centre front and she says Grandpa had probably just fed the pigs given the bucket in his hand. I love this relaxed family portrait and would love to know who the photographer was! I sourced the newspaper page from Google images, it was dated 1931 which would have been around the correct date.

Farmer's wife and busy feeding the ducks:

Children playing and running through the farmyard:

Nursing years. I don't have a photo of my Grandmother in her nurse's uniform and this image was sourced from The Red Cross website. The background photo is of the clinic in Exeter hospital  which I've printed onto calico and then added the free machine stitched image of the nurses.

The autograph book has many sincere messages of thanks, poems, drawings,and anecdotes:

These are oak leaf collages made up of monoprinted papers to symbolise the autumn as my Grandmother registered with the Red Cross in October, 1915:

A double page spread clearly showing the soldiers waiting to be seen and the nurses in their splendid uniforms waiting to start work, I've added some monoprinted and text within poppies to add to the atmosphere in the photo:

The later years. My Grandparents as I remember them. I love this photo:

My Grandmother was a very practical and accomplished needlewoman. I love these beautiful calico covered buttons and I'm lucky enough to have a full set! 

I've added text from an embroidery book dated 1939, I've actually got 2 copies so felt ok about using these pieces of text from the pages of the tattiest one! And they're very apt!!

A piece of my Grandmother's embroidery:

And this entry was made by my 11 year old self in her autograph book after she died, I remember feeling very sad. She taught me many proverbs and this is one of them:

And at the back of the book.............. I always like to have a pocket or envelope for odd snippets left from a project and I found this little envelope with a memo to remember inside and that seemed very apt:

A fitting end to the celebration of a wonderful lady and a life well lived..........