Meetings 2013/14 Account and Pictures

July 2014

This was a members meeting busy with fund raising via a raffle and sales table full of donated items, time to socialise, notices, updates on The Embroiderer's Guild from speeches by CEO Terry Murphy, and a DVD presentation featuring Robina Porter speaking about her work including embroidery  and weaving in Bangladesh.

Sales table








Additional Sales table













Raffle Prizes



And the winners with their selected prizes















June 2014

‘Inspiration from Africa’ by Mary Sleigh

Mary originally trained as a teacher and has combined that experience with her passion for fabric, thread and collecting. She enjoyed her years of teaching creative textile courses as well as acting as an External Verifier for City & Guilds qualifications. 
Now, she is enjoying the freedom of spending more time developing her own personal work. For many years Mary has collected and kept such items and her current work is an extension of that process: finding, sorting, remembering, ordering and presenting. The collections mark moments in her life, map where she has been, and continue to fire her imagination.
She enjoys the industrious process of creating work and investigating materials and processes. Much of the joy in what she creates is in the actual making; allowing work to change through construction, finding visual, inventive and expressive ways of capturing fleeting moments; the essence of a place or people that have had an impact on my life. Combining fabric and paper, stitched surfaces and unexpected materials and found objects is exciting and allows connections to emerge. 

The display that Mary created consisted of a selection of items of interest that she has collected which provide her with ideas and inspiration. 
Some of these pieces were woven textiles from West Africa or The Democratic Republic of Congo obtained many (30+) years ago – it is difficult to tell the exact age as they would be woven and kept to sell at a later date providing ongoing income. 

From the Congo cloths woven from Raffia and also sewn with raffia which have a tufted pile like cut velvet, some feature patchwork and appliqué or just appliqué designs with all the hems on the front of the pieces. Many of these would be worn round the body for festivals. 

Applique and patchwork


Raffia cloth

Edging - hem on front

Hauser Robe from Ghana which would be worn by someone of great status– beige with circles and patterns which show an Islamic influence – this is 70 -90 years old with the fabric being strip woven from raw silk, then pieced together, embroidered by hand and lined with indigo dyed fabric.

Detail on robe

Eastern Cape the Causa people consisted of many tribal groups including the Temba (Nelson Mandela belonged to this group) and were united by the language. The skirt which would be worn at a festival/ rite of passage is 60 -70 years old and is made from peasant cotton featuring a striped design at the bottom which are hand stitched appliqué.

Bead work items – these are worked on wires and used to form arm decoration, neck collars etc (now plastic beads are used rather than the traditional glass beads) examples include:

Neck collars – the dark blue one is typical of those found, every village would have its own combination of colours to identify them and their origin. The smaller collar would probably have been worn by a woman.

Tobacco bag
Bags used 
for items like tobacco as well as denoting gender with the female bag having short tassels whilst that for the male would have longer tassels.

Beaded ‘Apron’ – this has a fastening strap made from solid brass washers which the men brought back from the factories or mines in the industrial areas, other ‘found’ objects would be incorporated into the bead work.

Gourds are used to drink from and are decorated with beadwork.

Worn by women on special occasions
Beads and found items

Mfengu ‘Love letter necklace’ consists of mother of pearl buttons which were originally from the missionaries. Due to the African peoples love of beads Mary includes beads in her pieces of work.

Maasai  people – the beads in costumes or as neck cascade/collars reflect the light so on special occasions when they are worn to dance illuminated by the flickering light of the fire the result is fantastic.

Ear rings – these go through the ear – the metal arrows are symbolic of cow’s horns and are made by beating out metal from old saucepans.

Zulu – spoon holders are for special ‘symbolic’ spoons and are made from raffia covered with beads.

Mary’s journey as a maker, embroiderer, ‘stitcher’ is not a straight line but is about revisiting and reflecting. The African landscape and light is very different to that in Northern Europe – clear blue skies, semi arid desert, dried, desiccated, distorted plants, different vegetation like the whistling thorn tree in which ants nest and protect the tree, markets crowded with people wearing brilliant colours and patterns all these are recorded in neo colour crayons in sketch books.

Other influences:
She worked with the Himba people all the men are covered with Ochre (ground stone) which is mixed with fat, they wear hats and jewellery made from leather and metal.
Mary became fascinated by lizards and has created many hangings featuring them.

Itosha in Namibia is a salt pan which glistens and glitters in the sun, this is very similar to the deserts where the sand crystals sparkle. 

Mary uses painted backgrounds and seeding stitches, combining them with thorns from trees etc, she also works in strips which she pieces together. Her work has been influenced by recycling and sustainability of people she has met.

The Masai women and their jewellery, the men who decorate themselves with body paint, those peoples who wear anklets to denote the group they belong to have led to pieces where she attaches found and recycled objects to her work.

Leather is used by many people to hang things hence her work in leather – dyed, painted and stitched.

In the Cameroon – stitch resist fabric tie dye (fabric is stitched, dyed and the stitches removed) is practiced and used.

The people she has met on the journey have taught Mary a lot, changing her way of thinking and working as well as provoking her to capture the work in books before it disappeared.

She believes that our own craft and textile heritage, as well as those of other cultures, should be celebrated and passed on to future generations. Marys work is enriched by study of her own collection of Southern African and Indian textiles and artifacts. Going back to the familiar and seeing again with new eyes, the innovation, use of materials and construction skills refresh her own way of working.


 May 2014 

Creative Icebreaking by Angie Hughes

Angie is a textile artist and tutor, who lives and works in Ledbury, Herefordshire. She has been interested in textiles since she left school although only discovered creative embroidery in 1994 when she began studying City & Guilds at Malvern Hills College.
While a student she won the prestigious Charles Henry Foyle Trust Award for Stitched Textiles with her piece 'Unfolding Word' and had 'Shroud' accepted for Art of the Stitch. 
Angie studied for her HNC (hand stitch, felting, machine embroidery etc) at Gloucester with Liz Harding and whilst struggling for a theme for her work was inspired by poetry. In particular that of Mark Stephenson – a poem about Ledbury telling a story about going to a pub down a cobbled street. 

She used the cobbles as a background eventually using a grid format created by weaving used bits of fabric together and then to create soft edges stitching as circles onto which she applied the letters and words of the poem. 

This inspired new ideas and ways of working including a workshop on textural book wraps where letter blocks were used to stamp on the surface and then were machine embroidered over.

Another workshop – Buds and Blooms revealed a change to her colour palette to bright colours and pinks. 


Her artwork is inspired by many themes but particularly poetry or text and the natural world, particularly plant forms.  From drawings and photography Angie has developed her visual ideas through embroidery inventing simplified botanical forms. 

Angie identified groups of ‘things’ which inspire her as follows:

Artists like Hilary Blower – a visual artist working in cloth, paper, metal and wood who makes you think what you are doing. Make marks on white paper, turn it over so you cannot see and rip it up, turn it over and look at the piece– serves as inspiration.

 Angie made the pieces up into books and used them to record her travels in Australia and New Zealand.

Stitching hero’s (books and work) e.g.

Alice Kettle a contemporary textile/fibre artist who has established a unique area of practice. The scale of her work belies their component parts: individual tiny stitches, which combine to form great swathes of colour, painterly backgrounds incorporating rich hues and metallic sheen. Angie discovered her work particularly a self portrait and tries to work out how to achieve different elements of the work perhaps through loosening machine tension (top or lower)to produce looping.

Tilleke Schwarz uses mixed media with a focus on hand embroidery on linen and on drawings and paintings and tells a story through stitch (a kind of visual poetry). It is a mixture of contemporary influences, graffiti, icons, texts and traditional images from samplers. The embroidery contains narrative elements-not complete stories, which are used as a form of communication with the viewer. The viewer is invited to decipher connections or may assemble the stories and to produce chronological and causal structures. The work also relates to the history of humanity that is determined through stories.

Nicola Henley whose textile pieces are made by a combination of dying, painting, and screen-printing cotton calico and texturing the surface with various materials stitched into the cloth. The change of scale from bold printing and painting to the intimacy of close stitching helps to convey the concept of near detail with open space of a landscape or seascape.

Gwen Hedley who works in mixed media, Kaffe Fassett has inspired through his use of different fabrics, sense of colour and triggers to interest in terms of what he puts together e.g. pile of fruit/vegetables. 

Gustav Klimt whose painting of Adele Bloch – Bauer is used by Angie( particularly the section by her head on the left hand side) to create bags featuring velvet, metallic threads, sweet wrappers etc in various shapes – squares, ovals, spirals and squiggles.


Work by Kandinsky (one of the pioneers of abstract painting  who championed a mystical approach to art) has led to peacock feather designs on black ground used as Kindle cases.

Angie Lewin is a printmaker working in linocut, wood engraving, lithography and screen printing her work has inspired painted flowers on pelmet Vilene and paper.

Books e.g. The Night Circus which Angie was listening to provided inspiration and subliminal thoughts in her work in terms of leaves and feathers in rectangles and features from moths in one of the stories.(Prodigal Summer)

Stories – tales of mystery for example A Humument: A treated Victorian novel is an altered book by British artist Tom Phillips It is a piece of art created over W H Mallock's 1892 novel A Human Document whose title results from the partial deletion of the original title: A Human document.' Phillips drew, painted, and collaged over the pages, while leaving some of the original text to show through. The final product was a new story with a new protagonist named Bill Toge, whose name appears only when the word "together" or "altogether" appears in Mallock's original text. 

This is inventive and like Picasso not being discouraged by materials which links into sketch books particularly making them from paper which has been used previously so that a blank new page does not put you off.
Angie likes being surprised and a round robin sketchbook from many artists produces lots of different ideas.

Friends – especially likeminded people e.g. illustrators, ceramicists, textile artists, art historians talking/discussing/working together produces ideas. 
Angie tries to keep one day a week for sewing with friends and has made animals/creatures like glove ears the hare(using gloves) she has also made felted ‘Russian dolls’ one featuring the ‘apron of disappointment’ and Suffolk puffs to make the cuffs.

Things - Houses and gardens - especially gardens that were once tamed but struggle and often succeed in becoming wild. She enjoys the juxtaposition of randomly ‘placed’ plants alongside the order the gardener tries to contain.

 Imagining these gardens in shadowy moonlit illumination, her colours have become almost monochromatic, silvers and blacks and those hard to name colours when light has faded. 


This has led to Verdant Spaces a piece with leaves/flowers /alliums/birds all fitting together and worked on velvet (in purples).

Also Night Garden reflecting a dark mysterious place these pieces of work have seen her explore discharged and painted velvets, the use of heat transferred foils and layered organza which becomes intensely machine embroidered. 

From drawings and photography Angie has developed her visual ideas through embroidery inventing simplified botanical forms.

Balloon Ride – higher than birds shows the use of her own stamps and more regular shapes this reflects elements of Hundertwasser who observes landscapes from above. 

These cushions have a repeat pattern of circles featuring reverse applique

17th April 

Maryke Phillips – My Quilting Obsession

Discussing one of her books
This ‘Journey’ started approx 45 to 50 years ago when she was ‘dragged’ by a colleague to a fabric shop in order to help to select a pattern and fabric - Maryke went along but under protest!
She had never thought about fabric until she saw the dress (60’s style) being worn but this inspired her to go and buy fabric to make a mini dress – The first seed of the obsession was planted.

The second seed was that having made dresses Maryke’s shoes did not match and so she dyed her shoes to coordinate.
Dressmaking continued including making her wedding dress and four bridesmaids outfits – the finishing touches being applied on day of the wedding as deadlines always encourage completion! 
Following the arrival of her family there was a break until one day her daughter showed an interest in changing her bedroom leading to a visit to Laura Ashley to buy fabric to make curtains, soon the house had new curtains. 
The problem was what to do with the leftover pieces of fabric; Maryke’s solution was to cut them into 4” squares (in the days before rotary cutters and cutting mats) and sew them together. Once sewn together she made them up into a throw (not quilted) so when washed the inner filling moved from the edges to the centre the solution was to sew the corners (the start of quilting?)
A move away from London to live in Clun provided the next seed as Maryke visited an Art and craft exhibition in the village hall and saw a large quilt which inspired her (The maker was in fact a neighbour). 
Following this she then went to West Hope College to attend a patchwork and quilting course which was a City and Guilds part 1 and included preparing working designs – this changed her perspective on fabric /quilts etc.

A visit to Stokesay Castle (English Heritage) revealed old tiles which Maryke wanted to use as a basis for a quilt featuring them as they would have appeared when new, when older and then when very old. She used the Fibonacci sequence for this with the 2 small squares being painted and the flying geese round the edge also being applied with acrylic paint, the appliqué shapes are bonded onto the other fabric.
In mathematics, the Fibonacci numbers or Fibonacci sequence are the numbers in the following integer sequence:                  1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55,89,...

By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 1 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two.

A  6 month period of travelling round Britain in a motor home provided the opportunity for many photographs, including sunsets and as Maryke needed something to stitch which was small she made hexagons using ‘free spirit’ fabric to represent the colours in the sunsets ranging from yellow through reds to blues and violet. When forming into a quilt the thread used changes colour with the hexagons as do the beads.

In January each year there is an exhibition in Ludlow entitled ‘Hidden Talents’ – Maryke had 2 quilts with flying geese edging embellished with stipple stitch and beads.

At the Minerva Art Centre the quilt made featured Batik inspired fabric in Double running log cabin patchwork, with the spare fabric pieced to make the back of the work. She then quilted using free machine stitch and blue thread on the front of the work this was ideal and by a happy accident the colour also enhanced the back.
Featuring folded patchwork on top

Comments about the quilts featuring a lot of black fabric led to Maryke creating a series of 6 long wall hangings – all worked in log cabin featuring leaf shapes, writing, beads, embroidery stitches, felted flowers, mirrors and batik flowers – but in different colours. When displayed the work did not show up particularly well until a black under layer was added, this had the leaf used on the front stenciled on and quilted and the colours featuring on the front repeated in the binding for the edges.

Marykes Dutch background inspired a ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’ quilt featuring pockets, tulips, embroidery and lettering.

Drunkard's path patchwork is 4 blocks where one is turned to make another circle (no black involved!)

Batiks n beads started six  years ago quite by accident when a person at a meeting approached Maryke to ask if it was possible to purchase one of the ‘fat quarters’ ,that she had on display as part of her talk, in order to finish her quilt. By the end of the session all of Marykes’ personal collection of fabrics had disappeared having been bought indicating a need for a supplier of batik fabric fat quarters. She approached her supplier and bought fabric and has continued to sell however to keep a record of the first fabrics sold a quilt was born! (

Courthouse steps (type of log cabin )patchwork
Batiksnbeads threads
Batiksnbeads fabric selection


Four and a half years ago Maryke was invited to a workshop at Busy Bees and found a change in direction from quilts to books. 

The first ‘Stitch’ book on embroidery took 8 months to complete, using Stef Francis variegated threads and featuring Lazy Daisy, Blanket, Chain , Line, Cross, Couching, Feather and Detached Stitches. Other items and ideas used were buttons, straws, washers, train tickets, bags, pouches, lace, bells and also included labels – Journey, Stitches, and Embroidery.

Book 2 was ‘A Walk in the Wild’ about the Montgomery shire Canal featuring its wild flowers, fungi and leaves.

Book 3 – Ash

Book 4 – Oak including beaded acorns, leaves, patchwork, embroidery, bags and verses and completed with acorn tassels


Book 5- Holly with a silk velvet cover

Book 6 – Apple

Maryke has completed a full circle returning to 4” squares with a Trip round the world designed to provide ideas for beginners. As with most of her work the back of the quilt is pieced as well.

Other ideas are 

Batiks n Beads bags to an authentic Indian design which in India are worn attached to the belt.

Embroidered bags for embroidery groups again using Indian embroidery and ideas.

Felt bags featuring Shisha mirrors, lazy daisy stitch and french knots.

She continues to work because she loves it and her advice is ‘Enjoy your work’.



















20th March 2014


A Continuous Thread presentation by Isabel Dibden Wright

“Life may be compared to an embroidered cloth, having both a face side and a reverse side. In the first half of his life a man sees only the face side, in the second half he beholds the reverse, which – though less attractive – is more instructive, for it reveals how the threads intertwine and join together.”  (Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher)

A journey always begins with the first step and for more than thirty years Isabel has made stitched textiles, being embroidery trained and having a love of patchwork. She has been a lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University teaching on the BA (Hons) Embroidery course and taught summer schools and short courses as well as undertaking many commissions for both public spaces and private collectors. Her work has been exhibited in this country, Europe, Japan and the USA.

She grew up in Newport Monmouthshire and every day on her route to and from school passed the Art College, her dream was to go there. This eventually happened and led to a Foundation course at Manchester followed by a degree at Loughborough.

The 1970’s were a time for learning the tools of her trade including colour, various techniques, drawing and design.

Quilts from North America featuring different quilting patterns and embroidery started to be exhibited at this time and inspired Isabel to experiment further.

 During this period she was teaching in Manchester and also undertook commissions including panels for Saddleworth to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, and several for Lord Hervey Rhodes of Saddleworth. These were more traditional in style and colour featuring log cabin type of patchwork enhanced with embroidery.

Colour was one of her interests and she learned how to use colour, including how different fabrics reacted to dyes and the use of colour in designs. Isabel was also encouraging her students to experiment and learn through colour and material workshops.


During the 1980’s travel influenced her work as she returned to live in Singapore and also visited Japan.

In the 1990’s a book - Making your own Patchwork and Quilting 1994 involved a lot of time making the many patchwork and quilted items together with the detailed instructions for creating them. At this time Commissions included a collection of pieces for the waiting areas of an oncology unit one which featured ‘objects of delight’ found in nature like feathers, unusual leaves, shells, stones etc whilst the other one was a series of six panels each of which focused on two months of the year e.g. January and February depicting them through colours and related images. Isabel used Log Cabin techniques and also embroidered onto Organdie by machine and/ or hand which she then applied on to the quilts.

The next period was Isabel’s ‘return home’ this saw her using the pieces of organdie with the holes in them (saved from the previous commissions) by patching them together, bonding onto a background ( e.g. Stayflex this is cotton with a heat fusible surface which is more flexible than Vilene) and sewing into them. This work unusually just ‘happened’ it was not as previously designed and planned. 

Isabel’s work is inspired by her garden as her studio overlooks the garden, and every day she observes its changes. The passing show with fleeting moments, reflections on ponds, sunshine through flowers and leaves, and insubstantial shadows are all aspects that Isabel aims to convey in her work.

Isabel was also involved in Art in Action(Inspired by the simple principle that people are fascinated when artists and craftsmen openly demonstrate their skills and discuss their work, Art in Action was born.) where many artists set up mini studios to demonstrate techniques, showcase their work and communicate with visitors, explanations, questions and answer etc.  

At Sheffield Children's Hospital she undertook a ‘Helping Hands’ panel where patients, parents, staff and Michael Palin drew round their hands. These were sent to her and Isabel cut round these in fabric, positioned them so they touched each other, showing the connection,  and then sewed the on.

Since her retirement from teaching three years ago Isabel is now doing what she wants to do colour mixing, dying her own fabrics and sheers, colour studies, drawings, using organdie, making use of existing items ( she does not throw anything away). 

A current project is using a collection of postage stamps left to her by her father, Isabel saw an old quilt which had been made using paper templates and on investigation of the worn areas found that the paper used was in fact stamps. She is using these to create a patchwork, but they are difficult to work with as they vary in size, shape, are not very thick, lose detail when covered and because of their size are difficult to piece together.
Stamps prepared for use
Enlarged view of stamps in folder

Stamps pieced together by hand

 Isabel’s aim is for her work to reflect her love of and delight in the beauty that she finds in the natural world. The colour and the qualities of the textiles she uses are of great importance and she is also inspired by the working methods that embroiderers and quiltmakers use, and have used in the past, and is proud to be a part of this long tradition.


Look to the stars, not your feet, be curious. (Stephen Hawking)

The fabrics that Isabel uses are mostly Cotton Organdie and Silk Organza which she dyes herself using reactive and acid dyes. For suppliers of fabric and dyes see information below



20th February 2014

Maralyn Hepworth -  From Flax to Fabric 

Maralyn is a textile artist who lives and works in Shropshire. She dabbled for many years in a variety of crafts, was trained in Art and Design, focused on natural dying and spinning and eventually specialised in tapestry weaving (City and Guilds) at West Hope College Shropshire and West Dean College Sussex.

She uses tapestry weaving and other textile techniques to explore themes around sustainability in its widest sense. Maralyn often uses local fleece and natural dyestuffs, or recycled materials and her work varies from the functional to wallhangings, from traditional to wacky.

Tapestry weaving provides me with the opportunity to expand my interest in sustainability through artistic endeavour. Weaving from yarn that has often been grown locally, spun and dyed in Shropshire, then developing this into a tapestry weaving often inspired by Shropshire’s country and urban environment, allows me to ponder the source of our textiles, wonder at the diversity of colour and texture and experiment with new skills.

Shropshire’s heritage is linked to the textile industry, from the wool trade of medieval times, which resulted in many of Shrewsbury’s finest buildings, to Shrewsbury’s Flaxmill Maltings. The Flaxmill dates from 1797 and was one of the first iron framed buildings in the world. It was used for weaving for a brief time but its main function was that of spinning due to the damp conditions.Following the decline in the flax trade it was used for malting although since the malting business left in 1986 and the mill has become increasingly derelict despite being a grade 1 listed building.

English Heritage bought the mill in 2005 and after some work started to put on tours/ exhibitions and it was to one of these that Maralyn went. The tour guide however tended to focus on the building and the malting period of its history and it was Maralyn that answered questions about the flax era. 

Following this she became a ‘Friend of the Flax mill’ and as she is a spinner and weaver, proposed a project about flax. 

The “Flax to Fabric” project was born but required money so Maralyn applied for  Arts Council funding however in order to meet the growing season for flax ‘The Shropshire Organic Gardeners’ gave £50 for the purchase of Flax seeds -60 people took the seeds and growing instructions and  grew their own flax and after 90 days harvested it and 50 growers returned the flax to her to use to produce fabric.

It was whilst the flax was growing that Maralyn went to ‘Flax land’ in Gloucestershire to learn about the tools required and the stages in the processing of the flax in order to be able to create the fibre to spin and make the tapestry hanging featuring the Flax mill, flowers etc. to hang in the regenerated Flaxmill Maltings.   (A DVD was also produced as part of the project)

Tapestry made with using the flax showing the mill

The flax plant grown for its fibres to create the fabric is taller than the one you see grown for oil although it has similar blue flowers. The species of flax grown for fibre and seed production is an annual called Linum usitatissimum; that’s Latin for “the most useful kind of flax.” The seeds are planted close together in rows to get tall straight stems. Each individual plant makes one or more slender, erect stems about 3 feet tall, scattered with narrow, pale green leaves about 1 inch long. The stems branch near the top to bear blue or white round, 1/2-inch-wide flowers with five petals. Each flower lasts less than one day but each plant makes dozens of flowers for three to four weeks. Then seedpods swell to the size of a pea and turn from green to gold as the seeds inside ripen, and the plants dry out and die.

The fibres in the stem of the flax plant form a thin layer between the woody core and the outer skin or epidermis that runs all the way from the roots to the tips. The fibres have already reached their full length when the flax begins to flower, about two months after planting, but they are still thin, delicate and weak. From flowering until the death of the plant, the fibres become increasingly thicker and stronger, but also more stiff and brittle. Unfortunately, fibre quality peaks before the seeds have fully ripened. If you harvest the plants early enough (usually about three months after planting) to get top-quality fibre, you sacrifice most of the seed crop. If you wait until the seeds are ripe (about four months after planting), the fibre has become coarse.

The quality of the flax is affected greatly by its growing conditions – so growing in different places by different growers does not lead to a consistent fibre.

After flowering and before the seeds are ready the flax is harvested by pulling it up (do not cut the stems as this reduces the length of the fibres), forming into bundles and then either retting it or leave to dry ready to process later. 

Retted and dried flax stems

Rippling or winnowing is the process which removes the seeds.

Processing the bundles of stems to extract the fibres for spinning is a complex task that requires simple but special tools, a lot of hard physical work. The first step, called retting, involves soaking or wetting the stems for a period of days or weeks to promote bacterial action, which separates the different layers of stem tissues and loosens the fibres.

There are two ways of retting one in which the flax bundles are kept submerged in water for approx 1 week, whilst the other – dew retting sees the bundles laid on grass, being regularly turned to keep them warm and damp this takes approx 2 weeks. The retting causes the breakdown of the pectin which holds the inner and outer cores of the flax stem together and releases the fibres. Dew-retted fibre is generally darker in colour and of poorer quality than water-retted fibre.

After retting, the stems are dried again either in the sun or in barns over fires (prior to the dressing process), then crushed between the wooden blades of a tool called a break or brake, which breaks the woody core into short bits that fall away from the mass of fibres. Finally, the bundles are combed through metal-tined combs called hackles. The result: a smooth bundle of long, straight fibres called line flax and a pile of fluffy, tangled, shorter fibres called tow- hence the term ‘tow rag’ a rough rag or cloth.

The line flax is used to make crisp, glossy fabrics, and the tow is used for everyday goods including rope. From flax 2% is line and 5% is tow hence the expense of linen.


Dressing the flax is the term given to removing the straw from the fibres. Dressing consists of three steps: breaking, scutching, and heckling. The breaking breaks up the straw, then some of the straw is scraped from the fibres in the scutching process, then the fibre is pulled through heckles to remove the last bits of straw.

The dressing is done as follows:

Breaking: The process of breaking breaks up the straw into short segments. To do it, take the bundles of flax and untie them. Next, in small handfuls, put it between the beater of the breaking machine (a set of wooden blades that mesh together when the upper jaw is lowered, which look like a paper cutter but instead of having a big knife it has a blunt arm), and beat it till the three or four inches that have been beaten appear to be soft. Move the flax a little higher and continue to beat it till all is soft, and the wood is separated from the fibre. When half of the flax is broken, hold the beaten end and beat the rest in the same way as the other end was beaten, till the wood is separated.

Breaking equipment

Scutching: In order to remove some of the straw from the fibre, it helps to swing a wooden scutching knife down the fibres while they hang vertically, thus scraping the edge of the knife along the fibres and pull away pieces of the stalk. Some of the fibre will also be scutched away; this cannot be helped and is a normal part of the process.
Scutching device

Heckling: In this process the fibre is pulled through various different sized heckling combs or heckles. A heckle is a bed of "nails"—sharp, long-tapered, tempered, polished steel pins driven into wooden blocks at regular spacing. A good progression is from 4 pins per square inch, to 12, to 25 to 48 to 80. The first three will remove the straw, and the last two will split and polish the fibres. Some of the finer stuff that comes off in the last hackles is called "tow" and can be carded like wool and spun. It will produce a coarser yarn than the fibres pulled through the heckles because it will still have some straw in it.
Heckling device with Scutching process in the background

The flax is then spun into yarns and woven or knitted into linen textiles. These textiles can then be bleached, dyed, printed on, or finished with a number of treatments or coatings. The woven the fabric is beaten to soften it and can be bleached naturally by laying it out in the sun. 

Maralyn spinning the flax
The 'home' grown flax


Examples of spun flax

Flax ready to use




























16th January 2014

Demonstrations by members

Printing with Marianne Grime – using shaving foam and liquid silk dyes.

“Get Knotted” with Val Mackin


 Beading with Carrie Evans

Travelling Books

12th December 2013

Christmas Lunch 

Arrival at Brookfield Golf Club was 10 to 10.30 am for coffee and chat prior to the ‘Surprise speaker’ and lunch. On arrival members we welcomed by Chris and Judith, who informed them as to the table they would be seated at for the meal. 
Meeting and greeting
Coffee and chat

The tables this year were designated by different fabrics (Bombazine, Chiffon, Damask, Georgette, Organza and Taffeta to give a flavour) with each having a card with information about the origins and uses of the particular fabric (Bombazine – made with a silk warp and worsted weft, twilled or corded used for dress material and in the past for mourning wear), showing it is possible to learn something new every day. 

The ‘Christmas swap’ this year was a bookmark which proved very popular with members (despite the availability of e books) as there were approximately 40. These showcased a variety of techniques as well as making a wonderful display and talking point.



Pete Turner (a professional close up magician) was our ‘speaker’ and his Journey into Magic demonstrated his skills.  His range of magic tricks was closely observed by selected assistants as well as the members, particularly those on the front rows.
Pete the Magician setting up
Members finding seats

Maggi holding the chain
His starting point was the Chain and Ring trick; Maggii held the chain, the ring was checked (by another member)to see that it was closed and then Pete moved ring upwards from the bottom of the chain and then Maggii was left holding the chain with the ring attached to it – Magic!

The next a trick performed by ‘Dynamo’ this required a purse from one of members which was held in the palm of an assistant and covered over, Pete then took a length of green silk which he pushed into his clenched hand and the magic was the silk disappeared only to be found in the purse this despite very close observation by Carrie throughout the time.

Rope trick
Other tricks involving selection of playing cards, drawing out ‘named’( one from Pat and the other with Carrie on) two pence coins in a bag of unnamed ones, making 3 pieces of rope of different lengths into pieces of the same length (scrutinized by Sylvia),replication of an animal drawn by a member and sealed into an envelope, guessing suits and numbers of 4 cards selected at random and held by the members involved in their choice and finally ESP using 5 cards featuring a circle, star, wavy line, square and plus where members of the audience were’ influenced ‘to replicate the order in which Pete had placed the first 5 cards in the frame.
Identification of the random cards held by members

Trisha thanked Pete for his magical performance and very entertaining session.

Then to lunch with a felt flower serviette holder for everyone, an enjoyable meal, opportunity for getting to know other members, good conversation and a cyclamen (the table decoration) for one of the table with the lucky number 2 on their name card.


 21st November 

Edwina Mackinnon:  The Story So Far - this is an illustrated talk about my development as a quiltmaker and the various influences along the way.

Edwina loves dying and printing, experimenting and using ideas from different countries – currently all things Italian having just returned from Italy.

It is 40 years since the start of Edwina getting involved in Textiles, which began in Abingdon, Oxford at the Embroiderers Guild where she became involved with embroidery techniques and workshops.

This was followed by a City and Guilds course on embroidery (when in Droitwich) which led to the teaching of City and Guild course on embroidery and patchwork. Whilst in Hereford another City and Guilds course introduced the art of Indigo dying and this features in her work on a regular basis.

The indigo quilt ‘Memories’ features aspects of Vancouver and Seatle, the fabric is dyed and the pictures taken whilst on the holiday visit are used as inspiration and the basis of the design, the buttons used are made from Abalone shells from the Pacific north west.

Following embroidery she was introduced to patchwork when asked to create a patchwork block during a design and make workshop in Oxford. This first experience was a printed, curved patchwork in silk! Edwina loves the idea of patchwork and returns to it frequently in her work.

Kaleidoscope 8”block  - ‘Ashes of Roses’(2003)   titled due to the colour of dusky pink roses. It is made with two sets of four triangles with triangles on the corners and alternates straight and diagonal pieces to create the swirling design. 

The idea started with a piece of fabric bought for the colours which Edwina then matched/dyed a varied range of other fabrics (not necessarily cotton). Stitching the circles to quilt was a challenge and she was fortunate enough to be able to use a long arm quilting machine. The gaps in between the circles are ‘seeded’ with large stitches using hand dyed threads.

The exciting aspect of patchwork is taking one block (6”) and experimenting to get different effects and use dyed fabrics to achieve varied colours. Squares are easier to work with than circles and once finished can be applied as a panel to dyed fabric.

A group project (rather like the travelling books) involves 14 members of the C and G course; each comes up with a theme for the quilt and puts together fabrics in the desired colours. Each person makes three 6” blocks and after a period of time each member ends up with a pile of blocks to piece together and then quilt. Edwina selected ‘trellis and trailing plants’ for her theme and started with 3 leaves making use of techniques like reverse appliqué and it was this leaf design that she then used to print on the reverse of the fabric to achieve an even quilting effect on the finished item. 


The latest project of this group involves a photo of a sunset cut into 14 slivers so everyone has a coloured piece to work from, uses blocks (10” x 7”) with fabrics selected and the first block completed with the person who made the block quilting it.


Edwina also has story quilts one based on shoes, inspired by her father who worked with shoes, which is indigo dyed calico with shoes printed using a stencil and then quilted with a twin needle to create the effect of shelves.

 An exhibition at the Weavers gallery in Ledbury featured ‘Sea Fever’ created using lots of different fabrics, printing, (using a thermofax screen from a photo of sand) beading etc to produce the sea and sand.

 The theme of ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ by Elgar was interpreted into colour and featured the first few bars of Land of Hope and Glory. Edwina quilted this using a profile of the Malvern Hills which is where Elgar drew inspiration from as he walked.

Iris by Moonlight – is discharge printed and features the moon and leaves.

Edwina uses indigo and potassium permanganate which produces a chocolate colour on silk and a sandy colour on cotton. She starts by putting fabric into the potassium permanganate and then into the indigo dye. 

The use of colour is also shown when using strawberries as appliqué and complementary colours to quilt the berries, with the colours used for binding the edges. (monofilament is used on the bobbin)

For the Festival of Quilts the theme was ‘Summer in the City’  (Birmingham) – this demonstrated different techniques in printing and dying including the use of black, batik using soy wax, variegated thread and protein dyes fixed with soda ash. The pavement was created by using string for the divisions and was then overlaid with screen printing.

The theme of ‘Midland Architecture’ was used for the Contemporary Quilt group with the piece being based on a derelict canal warehouse which was red brick with broken glass in the windows. 

A picture of one of the broken windows provided the starting point and Edwina used a silk screen covered with a flour and water batter into which she scratched the design and then screen printed the fabric using colours ranging from grey via green to red. Then at the side of the printing is the written history of the building which enhances the finished piece.

Pojagi - Korean Patchwork (Bojagi or bo for short,also pojagi or bojaki is a traditional Korean wrapping cloth. Bojagi are square and can be made from a variety of materials, though silk is common.)

To use this technique she used Indigo dyed cotton organdie, and created the design based on the idea of a tea house using the seams which were hand stitched run and fell flat seams.

Edwina also worked to a theme of ‘Orientation’ which sparked the idea of ‘The Orient’ with the tea house and Sushi links. The Sushi led to a series on the theme with a quilt featuring plates which were cut up into segments then bonded onto linen with the marks being made free hand with dye pens and the background seeded to give texture. The Bento box which the Sushi comes in together with the chopsticks was created using the discharge technique.

Cut and come again is a quick patchwork technique for those who do not like to measure. ( indigo)

The ‘Four Seasons’ quilts were for the Festival of Quilts with the circular mat being foundation pieced onto paper which was then removed, whilst the squares had words on and featured appropriate colours to provide the seasonal feel. Mettler threads, Batik using soy wax, printed grasses and appliqué were used in the creation of the pieces.


Edwina is currently working on a piece for the Festival of Quilts based on ‘Identity ‘

This was a very interesting journey with an excellent visual background which provoked in many members the idea for us to try the travelling quilt idea after our next travelling books.


















17th October 2013

Annette Emms  - Gargoyles, Ghosts and Gravestones

Annette is a Textile Artist (originally from Herefordshire),who  lives and works in the beautiful Vale of Evesham, where Shakespeares’ Avon flows through fruit orchards, against a backdrop of the Cotswold Hills.
Since she was a child, she has played with fabric, thread and stories. Her work combines this and a fascination with the natural world, old churches, history and local legends.

As she explores the countryside around her she loves to weave a story around her work. This land teems with legends which are waiting to be re- discovered and secret places, full of magic and mystery.



Annette aims to build layers of fabric and stitch, which form interesting textures. These are then used to create dimensional pieces through which she hopes the observer can glimpse a little ‘Magic’.

She said that she believes that, as Roal Dahl says: 'if you watch the world with glittering eyes, secrets are found in the most unexpected places'.   In her work she tries to express that which enchants.    She has a huge interest in ancient myths, legends, history and delights in the study of places, buildings and parish churches.   She said that her husband now stops the car automatically as it passes any interesting old church without being asked, so that she can make rubbings of tiles and brasses, do sketches and take photographs, how well trained is he!    In her wanderings around the country's ancient and sacred places she has met many really interesting people and some that have been rather strange too!

She took the Guild Meeting on a tour, via her work, of Hereford and Cornwall in particular, with detours to Durham and Pembrokeshire.   She creates beautiful pieces which tell the stories of fairies, dragons, princesses, pilgrims and ancient people, weaving the tales of magic, mystery and enchantment into her work.   Her textural pieces are built up of layers of fabric, felt and stitch which have a wonderful ethereal atmosphere about them.

As you can see from the photographs, she displayed a wide variety of fabric books and three dimensional pieces.   It was obvious the members found her talk enthralling and were keen that she might return at some future date.

Annette ran a mini-workshop in the afternoon during which we were able to learn about needle felting and created a brooch.    Everybody lucky enough to be at the workshop thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

To find out more about Annette Emms go to






19th September 2013



Meeting and greeting

Decisions decisions - members challenge

Terry talking with members



Present:                    Trisha James (Chair)
                                    Pat Parry (Treasurer)
                                    Rita Duncan (Secretary)
                                    Jean Marshall
                                    Ruth Colley
                                    Janet Clarke
                                    Glenys Jenkins
                                    Judith Booth
                                    Hazel Cable

In Attendance:       Terry Murphy (EG Chief Executive)
                                    Judith Lawton (EG NW Region, Area Representative)

                                    General Membership

Apologies:                 Jackie Woolsey (President)
                                    Chris Smith
                                    Judy Fairless
                                    Gillian Milner
                                    Margaret Jefferson
                                    Sylvia Stead
                                    Agnes Monaghan
                                    Rosemary Capper
                                    Jan Aldersay
                                    Alisa McGregor

1.            Welcome and Introductions

Trish warmly welcomed all those present and introduced Terry Murphy and Judith Lawton and thanked them for their attendance, which was much appreciated.   She said that Terry Murphy would speak after the formal AGM.

2.            Minutes of Previous AGM

The minutes of the previous AGM were read by Anne Watson, who was Secretary at the time, they were signed and approved by Trisha James and seconded by Rita Duncan.

3.            Treasurer's Report

Pat Parry then presented the audited accounts (copy attached) which show an overall loss for the year of £1,546.52.    However, the Branch Assets were £4,789.93.   The reason for the loss, Pat pointed out, was that it had been agreed that Branch funds would subsidize the 2012 Christmas Lunch and also the Annual Guild Fees of £2 for year 2012/13, together with a supporting subsidy for the Young Embroiderers Group which came to £184.32.  

During the year it had been found that coach trips to Harrogate and Oxford, together with workshops had run at a loss.    It was, therefore, suggested that, in future, the expenditure for this type of event should be covered by those taking part, wherever possible.   The subsidy to the Young Embroiderers Group would be £150 for the forthcoming year.   Pat asked the membership to try to pay amounts of £10 and over by cheque to simplify paying-in to the bank.

Proposed:        Carrie Evans
Seconded:       Sheila Jones

4.            Young Embroiderers Report

Ruth Dalby said that the group was now named Fabric Art Creative Textiles (FACTS), although the link with the Embroiderers Guild would be maintained in all publicity and that they were grateful for the financial support, which had enabled them to plan ahead.    The group currently meets on the last Saturday afternoon of most months at Nantwich Museum.   Membership included the three original members, with six girls who will hopefully become full members and any additional visitors.   She said that the group were very grateful to all those who helped at meetings.   The YE Committee would report back to EG after their meeting in October.   There are plans for several exciting meetings for the forthcoming YE programme.

5.         Chair's Report

Trisha thanked all the members of the Committee for their support and work during the year and said that the Committee was now a full and active one.    She also thanked all those who had managed the tea rota and those that had been on the rota.    This had worked very well throughout the whole year.

She praised the strong and active membership and said that it was wonderful to have such large attendances.   She also praised the Membership for their exciting collection of work, both Members' Challenge (Water Pieces) and Travelling Books.   She thanked all those involved and  hoped that this sharing of work and knowledge would continue into the forthcoming year.

The range of speakers throughout the year had been inspirational and varied, Trisha thanked the previous Committee for arranging these.   

Workshops, both full day and mini, had been well supported,  both traditional and contemporary.  

The Travelling Books had been a huge success and motivation, they had created a buzz at the Branch Meetings and had meant that Members met up in their various groups to exchange books and get to know each other.   There would be a new sign-up for Travelling Books in October/November and these would start in January.

The South Cheshire EG had changed Regions during the year and is now in the West Midlands Region.   Members had attended a Regional Day and had be made to feel most welcome and nine members were intending to attend the WM Regional AGM.

Regarding outings, Trisha said that the coach that went to Harrogate had not been full and had run at a loss and, as this year's show fell on a Branch Meeting Thursday, it had been decided not to run a coach for the show in November 2013.

The trip to Ashmolean Museum in Oxford had been inspirational and all those attending had thoroughly enjoyed the trip.    However, this was under-subscribed, despite several places having been taken by non-members.

The visit to Gawthorpe Hall had likewise been most informative and enjoyable, but had only just broken even.

It was agreed that outings and trips would be discussed at the next Branch Members Meeting in January 2014.

Trisha said that the Committee proposed to charge £3.50 for mini-workshops in future to cover the cost of the hall, tea and coffee.   Full day workshops would be £25.   She said that as there was so much talent and skill within the Branch, anybody volunteers willing to run a mini-workshop and share techniques would be welcomed.

6.         Election of Officers

            Trish James (Chair)
            Pat Parry (Treasurer)
            Rita Duncan (Secretary)
            Hazel Cable (Assistant Treasurer)
            Glenys Jenkins (Membership Secretary)
            Proposed:        Pam Jones
            Seconded:       Sylvia Renn

7.         Continuing Committee Membership

           Jean Marshall
            Janet Clarke
            Ruth Colley

            Proposed:        Sue Jones
            Seconded:       Becky Evans

8.         New Committee Members

            Chris Smith
            Judith Booth

            Proposed:        Val Mackin
            Seconded:       Maggie Phillips

9.            Any Other Business

The next AGM will be on Thursday, 18 September 2014.

There being no other business the formal part of the meeting closed.







20th June 2013

Jean Littlejohn  -  Pathways to Stitch

Jean teaches lectures and exhibits her work in the UK and overseas. She writes and publishes books with colleague Jan Beaney with their company Double Trouble. They are both involved in the Embroiderers Guild as they believe in its aims and like the community feel, the vast variety of interests demonstrated by members and  the fact that it joins us all together.
Jean talking to members

Jean stressed that she and Jan work separately to stitch and create but join together in order to exhibit. 

This results in two issues that require consideration
 What am I going to do?
How am I going to achieve this?

Unfortunately the ‘What’ is slightly more difficult and as with many of us can result in unfinished items/pieces which are not quite right, or the technique selected does not suit us and so the enthusiasm is lost.

Drawing and designing are an important element in the process of thinking about what to do and it is important to have a small notebook (with non removable pages) to carry with you so that you can sketch ideas and keep records. This can often guide you to a theme for example ‘the sea’, a ‘field’ which you can record at various times of the day or through different seasons in this way you have different light, colours, textures etc. 


Indeed Jean had kept a record when she accompanied her husband on the Titanic 2012 anniversary cruise, this included sketches, photos, and notes which could inform future work.

Once you are ‘enthused’ by a subject or idea you need to work round it, sampling through the use of different stitches, various techniques (lace, layering, knitting, felting, use of embellisher machine), use of different fabrics for texture, different colours etc then you will be more ready to start your project.

Knitted sample

Jeans’ work reflect a continuing fascination with pathways and journeys, routines and rhythms and traditional patterns of worn carpets. Her surfaces describe echoes from the past, layers of life and experience and aspects of decay. Some pieces look close to home for their inspiration and celebrate the beauty in humble things, an everyday journey to the shops, a walk across the park or a pathway to the station. Each day there will be small differences that hint at the lives of the people who use them. The worn surfaces of a zebra crossing have inspired a series of open lace-like pieces.














The most recent pieces refer to a part of the Dorset coast that is slowly and surely eroding into the sea. As it does it reveals fossil forms that acknowledge ancient times. This has lead to the exploration of notions concerning revealing and concealing. The techniques and materials vary depending on the inspiration for the work but they always involve stitch by hand and or machine and often the use of the needle punch machine to combine and integrate surfaces.


Lace collar made with hooks, eyes, nails pretty from a distance although it has a harshness - appearances are deceptive

Showing detail of the lace collar


  A series of cuffs - multitask, ties that bind, golden hand cuff, for hands that do dishes.

Stones - covered with felt which has been made and stitched into









16th May 2013


The Blackwork Journey New Beginnings         by Elizabeth Almond‎     Web site which was founded in 2008 to sell embroidery patterns in PDF format.

Elizabeth used to live in Cheshire and said how lovely it was for her and her husband George (who is assisting Liz since the accident) to return for the visit.

She worked on her City and Guilds course in Manchester and experienced many different techniques and processes, some of which she decided were not for her whilst others she has employed throughout her career. For many years Liz was involved in embroidering white on white and became fed up with this, so after her family she took up ‘Blackwork’ . 

Hugh Starkey
Her first piece was large and very complex (exactly the opposite of what it should have been) and was of a Knight Hugh Starkey (Gentleman Usher to Henry VIII)   taken from a brass rubbing of his tomb. Liz used blue linen and traced the brass rubbing from the tomb on to it, then decided which areas were to be light or dark and started on the face, based on the idea that the face needed to be right for the whole piece to work, she then continued to complete the piece.

She loves the connection that Blackwork has with history the fact that it was in the country before Chaucer, having arrived with Catherine of Aragon who brought Moorish Blackwork featuring geometric patterns etc. with her. The only evidence we have of the stitches and designs used in Blackwork comes from the paintings of the time in which many of the women were portrayed working embroidery.

Portrait showing Blackwork
The Elizabethans tended to use freestyle embroidery where they would draw a shape – flower, leaf, bird etc then outline the shape and fill with Blackwork. The stitch used was Holbein Stitch which gives the same line to front and back meaning that you can view the work from both sides. 

Holbein stitch is a simple, reversible line embroidery stitch most commonly used in Blackwork embroidery. The stitch is named after Hans Holbein (1497-1543), a 16th-century portrait painter best known for his paintings of Henry VIII and his children, almost all of whom are depicted wearing clothing decorated with blackwork embroidery.

Although similar to Back stitch the Holbein stitch produces a smoother line and a pattern that is identical on both sides of the fabric. It can be worked in straight lines, diagonally, or in a stepped fashion to make a zigzag line and is well suited to creating outlines or intricate filling patterns.

Holbein stitch is also known as double running stitch, line stitch, Spanish stitch, Chiara stitch and two-sided line stitch.)

Description of the technique
Holbein stitch is usually worked on an Evenweave fabric where the threads can be counted to ensure perfect regularity and is worked in two stages. Firstly, a row of evenly spaced running stitches is worked along the line to be covered. Then the return journey is completed, filling in the spaces between stitches made on the first journey and sharing the same holes:

Blackwork does not have to be black thread on a white ground indeed historically blues, greens, reds etc were used.
The use of blackwork seemed to disappear until the 1920’s when it returned featuring the flower motifs typical of the period.

As Blackwork is geometric it means that it is very easy to see and consequently correct any mistakes. In order to make Blackwork more accessible, rather than using the more complicated Holbein Stitch, an easy to do backstitch is used.

Fabrics – historically these were linen although now many fabrics are used including evenweave (28 count is ideal to work on) and  Aida ( 14,16 or 18 count Aida although 18 count is very fine and really you need to see the stitches). It is easier on the eyes to carry out Blackwork on cream, ivory or ecru coloured fabrics rather than on white.


Gutterman Sulky 30 is ideal for Blackwork and also comes in variegated colours.

Silks – Anchor or DMC stranded although the Anchor Black is better than the DMC black as it is not as ‘fluffy’.   The blackwork only requires the use of 1 strand of the silk at a time and is therefore not too expensive.

Cotton Perle No 12 – ideal for achieving curved shapes/outline like a dome as you backstitch the outline and then whip it to pull the stitches into the shape required.

Metallic thread – difficult to work with so only use in small amounts /areas and then sew with small lengths. It is however very effective in Blackwork. 
NB A good substitute for metallic threads is DMC 680 Old Gold.

Reminder – some dyed threads are not colour fast therefore always test for colourfastness prior to use as black, red etc can run when washed.

Needles – select a size that you are able to thread easily rather than struggling and giving up the piece of work.

Hoops, rings, frames – these can be difficult to use in terms of getting the tightness/tension required and in terms of accessibility for example bending over frame, struggling to hold frame and reach the area of work required. Much better are the circular picture frame rings with the ‘plastic’ frames which fit over the inner and hold the fabric tight as well as being easy to use.
NB do not use the brown coloured frames as these leave a mark on the fabric.

Beads – use a good quality e.g. Millhill as many others can lose their colour over time or the pearls can shed their outer layer. Take care when ironing as the beads, being plastic, can melt!

Pens/ pencils – trace outline using a HB pencil of a Blue water soluble pen (sometimes several washes are required to remove the blue colour from the design.)

Ability to see the work – ensure that you have a good source of light and if required a magnifying lens. 

In Blackwork the density is due to the stitches being closer together and possibly smaller and not the thickness of the thread. Stitches which are far apart give a light, delicate effect whilst stitches which are closer together give a darker, heavier, textured effect. 

Sources of inspiration -  Elizabeth has used her travels to help in this, she identified China was a wonderful source of inspiration with an endless supply of fascinating buildings such as the Temple of Heaven with its ornate wall paintings and lattice screens in Beijing and the abandoned city of Fengdu which was soon to be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangzi River. 

Every corner seemed to hold a different challenge for the designer and the images give a very small insight into an ever changing country.

The dome is probably the most prominent feature of Mughal, Islamic and Indian architecture. It is a symbolic representation of the vault of heaven.The dome’s silhouette may vary from hemispherical, pointed, shallow or onion shaped and may be constructed in a variety of ways. They are often decorated externally as well as internally providing an impressive architectural feature wherever they are found. According to Islam, God’s throne in paradise is a gigantic pearl on four pillars through which the rivers of grace run through.

In Abu Dhabi,a new white marble mosque with 83 domes, countless columns and surrounded by reflecting pools, with rich internal decoration of geometric decoration and Islamic patterns has proved a wonderful stimulus for future work.

She has been very privileged to be allowed to share in some of their activities and her design "Woman in Black" came as a response to a photograph taken in Delhi of a woman hurrying past a mosque which was covered in ornate geometric tile designs.

Islamic architecture and geometric patterns are major influences on her designs and she has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East and Asia finding inspiration for her work. 

Ideas for projects – once you have the idea for the design, the colours that are suitable, beads and the threads then what will your finished item be?

If you have too many pieces of work that end up as pictures then consider making cushions (cover the base piece of fabric in Blackwork and work your design on to this), boxes, book covers, placemats (sew on blackwork panel), towel edgings, pincushions, hand bag mirror (cover and case). 

Many of these can also be used as presents, all items can be future heirlooms so ensure you include your initials/name and date on all work.

Helpful reminders

If using metal threads in your work then incorporate these in to your planned design towards the end.

If using beads in your work then incorporate these in to your planned design towards the end.

The back of your work should be as good as the front so always hold work up to the light and snip off any ends of thread.

To start stitches do not use a knot but work the first stitch leaving a 4-5inch end of thread, work your stitches and then work in the tail of thread to your stitches and trim off remainder.

Crochet cotton can be used to work the Blackwork panels to be sewn on to towels etc.

To store your Blackwork embroidery roll it up so that it does not crack/mark at the folds.

Elizabeth lives in Bolton, Lancashire which was once the heart of the cotton industry she has worked as an embroiderer, lecturer and tutor throughout her career. She is especially fascinated with blackwork, whitework, counted thread techniques, quilting and crochet.

She has taught classes in community education, given talks and day schools to groups throughout England, exhibited, worked to commission and created charts and custom-made kits of her designs. Elizabeth has also embroidered for a number of London businesses during her career.

Working with the problems of aging and embroidery, selecting suitable equipment and materials is an integral part of my work. I ran an “agony aunt” column for needleworkers for some time and found that there are ways round most problems if you know who to ask.

She publishes on a regular basis in magazines such as “The World of Cross Stitch”, “Just Cross Stitch”, “Cross Stitch and Embroidery” and “The Gift of Stitching” where she writes a monthly column..

Elizabeth’s recent interests have been in developing alternative approaches to blackwork away from the historical concepts, hence her logo: BLACKWORK JOURNEY. 

Her designs are original and move away from the traditional approach to blackwork making use simple stitches and a variety of threads and colours to encourage the beginner and challenge the experienced embroiderer.



18th  April 2013

'Contemporary Embroidery using Nostalgic Themes' - Priscilla Jones

Priscilla has been producing contemporary, stitched, mixed media pieces in 2D and 3D since completing her degree in Embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan University in 1997. 

Tape measure, buttons and stitch all add to the finished card
She draws her inspiration from a variety of sources exploring the concept of identity, memory and nostalgia. These themes underpin a range of areas within her work including freelance designs for greeting cards wallpaper, fashion and interior fabrics.

Priscilla works in higher education as well as for herself where she creates pieces of work that are stitched or sculptural or a combination of both techniques.

An example of one of her sketch books
She undertook her degree at MMU where all her work was underpinned by extensive drawings which she then translated into print and stitched into using hand stitches, edge stitch and also machine embroidery.

Cotton reel flowers and birds

Priscilla also explored the manipulation of fabric as well as the use of recycled fabrics and haberdashery. Many of her pieces make use of small scraps of fabric which she joins together, layers and embellishes.

For the exhibition, as part of her course, she created a range of pieces based around the theme of undergarments which could be worn for example 1 stocking, 1 bloomer leg etc.

Panel featuring undergarments
Section of previous panel


In many cases she uses a heat transfer press to incorporate drawings that have been photocopied onto fabric into the fabric being used in the piece of work.

All the materials used in Priscilla’s work are recycled or re found with corset stays, leather gloves, buttons etc featuring and provoking ideas for pieces of work.
3D Cup, saucer and spoon

3D Teapot

Other sources of inspiration were a show in the Gallery based on jugs as a 3D item which led into the theme of tea related objects a cup, saucer and spoons. All of these required wire to make the structure with layers of organza, lace and batik wax to join together. Other additions to this series were a coffee jug and teapot and then tiny (12cm) pots which used pelmet Vilene for handles and spout.

This also led to pictures and cards with the 'tea time' theme.

Enhanced with stitch and buttons

Teaspoons enhanced with buttons


In commissions Priscilla has used various objects as starting points like a shoe as an image, a 2D bodice on canvas using paint and gloves, collars made using gloves which are folded, stitched, have an edge treatment applied, wax silk can also be used to create the structure for collars. A bustle made using gloves and lilies( actual flowers which changed as they wilted and died altering the visual impact of the piece of work) – this theme was linked to remembrance in death where research showed a pair of white leather gloves were left as a mark of respect.


3D shoe, cake and jug

'A loom with a view' was exhibited at Gawthorpe  this did not involve stitch but focused on the working conditions in the cotton mills with these images applied to cones which hold the cotton thread. 

For work around WW2 Aprons featured as another starting point again making use of recycled materials like silk, with drawings applied to the fabric. The aprons had separate pockets attached to contain a range of related items but as the pockets were heavily starched they were difficult to stitch into. The three aprons focused on different aspects of the period like wartime cooking where a recipe was stitched round the edge and paper arm sleeves were added.

Detail of kitchen implements from the apron



 21st March 2013

"The Fabric of the Universe"   -  Anne Menary

'The Fabric of the Universe' -based on the inspiration behind the ‘Planets and Galaxies’ picture series. 

Anne is a textile artist based in North Derbyshire. She has a degree in embroidery and an art teaching qualification from Goldsmiths and splits her time between teaching (embroidery and creative design) and her own work.
She works by hand creating textile collage hangings, pictures and fabric postcards which illustrate an 'other worldly' take on life. Each individually made piece is stitched using her collection of recycled fabrics, handmade felt, lace and trimmings.

Her inspiration comes from everywhere and Anne keeps sketchbooks full of observations about art, science, cave paintings as well as her travels. She is also influenced by words, quotes, cave paintings and the work of other artists e.g. Miero who uses symbolic figures


From these musings she concludes the cosmos is full of little people with similar preoccupations as us, such as:

What on Earth is String Theory?
Can it be stitched into the Fabric of the Universe?
Can I use my old curtains?

The Fabric of the Universe – this series of pictures is based on the 9 planets which draw inspiration from news headlines, quotes, cave painting style figures and animals,text, a range of recycled fabrics, handmade felt, silk, chiffon all  incorporated into the final form using various techniques - layering, appliqué, reverse appliqué, embroidery like spiders web, couching, sorbelolo stitch(figures), French knots(heads) etc. The important thing is to have a theme or links between the pictures e.g. the spaceman to create the series.

Flight Tasting based on a quote by Leonardo da Vinci “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” 




Living on the edge of the Milky Way – this is where the sun is situated and pictures from the Hubble space telescope inspired the content in this.

Icarus – Flying too close to the sun will burn your wings. The link from the last work being the sun and incorporating the idea of falling angels.

Mercury – ‘Mercurys winged wellingtons’ were the alterative words that provoked this with buttons applied using stitches looking like wings.

Mercurys Mariner – in search of fallen wings which links to Icarus falling from the sun, here Anne uses Shiska glass mirrors for the craters and incorporates the spaceman visiting all the planets.

A view from Venus – Earths toxic twin ‘from the frying pan into the fire’ (what we might do to our planet if we do not care for the environment/atmosphere). Research gave ideas for the colours and buttons were used to represent the earth and moon.

Watching earth rise - view from the moon- taken from the Apollo missions when the astronauts looked at the earth from the moon. Anne used crimplene for the moon’s surface and included the Lunar module.

Mars roving – the search for chocolate intensifies(many chocolate bars have names connected with space) Red fabrics used for the planet Mars and planet Earth features in the background.

Galileo gazing on Jupiter – the 4 moons of Jupiter with Saturn in the distance.

Welcome to Titan – looks like a nice place to stay! It is one of the moons of Saturn and the idea of a nice place to go camping produced the caravan images.

Counting moons on Uranus – marbled fabric and many moons.

Voyage to Neptune( God of the sea) – Hence images of swimmer, fish, planet, spaceship, spaceman traveller. This piece used felt made between two pieces of net to which CMC paste was applied, once the glue is dry the net is removed and felt can be cut up easily.

Where is Pluto? – incorporates a small spaceman toy and ‘clanger’ type images as well as stitches, figures and techniques used previously to give continuity and enhance the theme.

Postcards From A Time Traveller

Provoked by a great interest in the big questions of life:
Where are we going?
Can we travel back in time?
What will we wear? 

This has inspired a series of 12 hand stitched pictures entitled: 'Postcards from a Time Traveller' providing timely information for the would-be time tourist. These have stamps printed onto the fabric using the computer (permission required to use image of stamp)

Gathering moon dust, Fly me to the moon, Let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars (red planet with little green men – transfer print used), moon bathing(used patterns /shapes visible on moon e.g. sea of tranquillity),Travelling light ( Cubist in form with angels and people based on work of artist Shegal), Fly me to the Moon(needle lace stitch represents ‘String Theory’), Heaven is all around, Const