How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question I was asked on Facebook…

“Do I need to coat or condition my embroidery thread?”

The short answer to this question is no, it isn’t a necessary product for embroidery. There are some benefits to using these products which I will try to cover in this post. You can also find videos on YouTube that show you how to use these products. I particularly enjoyed this video by Thimble and Plume.

There are a few different products on the market that you can use to coat your embroidery thread. This was something that I hadn’t used myself until last year when I went on a contemporary couture embroidery course with Hand & Lock. Our kit contained a small block of beeswax to coat the thread we used to work with the different goldwork techniques.

You can buy blocks of beeswax or find it in the haberdashery shop in a special holder that you can pull threads through.

Since going vegan in 2019, I haven’t used any products containing beeswax so I looked for an alternative product to use. I came across Thread Magic which is a silicone based thread conditioner. There are other brands that do the same thing, just see what you can find online in your price range.

How to use…

Simply pull your thread gently across the surface of the wax or silicone conditioner. It can take a bit of practice to get the right amount of pressure. You can try it with different scraps of thread to see how they behave.

The picture on the left shows DMC cotton purl without Thread Magic, the picture on the right has been conditioned. As you can see, the different is minimal but it did reduce the fluffiness of the thread.

I use my silicone thread conditioner when I’m doing the following…

Working with beads and goldwork purl, it helps the thread pass easily through that glass, plastic or metal beads.

To change the look of your thread, it makes the thread I use, particularly DMC cotton perle or six stranded embroidery thread look smoother. It can reduce the fluffiness of thread but use it sparingly.

When working with metallic threads, these threads are notoriously hard to embroider with. I use a small amount to help keep the thread smooth as it passes through my fabric. I helps to prevent the fraying process. PLEASE NOTE this doesn’t work on real metal threads as it will tarnish the thread. You can check the packaging to see what your thread is made of.

If you are repairing a vintage piece of embroidery or creating a museum exhibit, silicone thread conditioner might affect the work. As silicone is a relatively new product, the long term conservation effects are unknown.

Beeswax has been around for centuries but was commonly used to wax threads for buttons and other items of clothing. This means that it would be washed and worn which would wear away and not be part of an artwork that never gets washed.

Festive Workshops in Leeds

I’m excited to work with Leeds Libraries to bring you some festive themed hand embroidery workshops this autumn. Join me in the Drawing Room at Leeds Central Library and learn how to use embroidery to create unique gifts for friends and family.

Hand Embroidered Mini Wreath

Saturday 26 November 10.30am to 12.30pm

Join me for this fun, festive, festive hand embroidered wreath workshop. I will guide you through the basics of working with hand embroidery to create your own unique decoration. All materials and equipment will be provided and the class is suitable for beginners and people with some sewing experience who would like to try something new.

You can book your tickets here

Festive LED Decorations

Wednesday 30 November 5.30pm to 7.30pm

Join me for this fun, festive, festive LED decoration workshop. I will guide you through the basics of working with soft circuits and hand embroidery to create your own unique decoration. All materials and equipment will be provided and the class is suitable for beginners and people with some sewing experience who would like to try something new.

You can book your tickets here

Happy Catmus Pencil Case

Wednesday 7 December 5.30pm to 7.30pm

Join me for this fun, festive, festive hand embroidered pencil case workshop. I will guide you through the basics of working with hand embroidery to create your own unique gift. All materials and equipment will be provided and the class is suitable for beginners and people with some sewing experience who would like to try something new.

You can book your tickets here

Stitchscapes

One of my favourite things to work on in the studio is a stitchscape, they are really easy to pick up and put down. Because I almost exclusively use hand stitching, they are portable too which is great when I have time between meetings and workshops.

My style has evolved over the years but I still use the same principles in each piece that I create. I love to use different colours, patterns and textures of fabric in my work. It also allows me to use scraps of fabric and offcuts given to me by friends who make their own clothes. I wrote an article for Green Heart Collective about visible mending and how I use preloved textiles in my work. You can read the article here.

A stitchscape starts with a photograph, this could be one I’ve taken on a walk or a painting by my friend Miriam Laville. I select fabrics that work with the colour palette of the image, sometimes I exaggerate these colours like bold pinks and turquoises that hide in shrubs and trees.

I love to use DMC Cotton Perle threads in my work, the colours and different weights of thread really stand out and work well with my style of embroidery.

I’ll be running a stitchscapes class in my Scarborough studio on Sunday 9 October from 10am to 2pm. In this four hour workshop you will learn how to create your own stitchscape using a variety of fabrics. All materials and equipment are included and you can book your ticket here.

Harbouring

It’s been a busy summer break, I spent lots of time in the studio planning and making new work for Fancy Goods and the Prism Textiles 2023 Warped exhibition. Working to a theme or title can sometimes be tricky, you can struggle to find inspiration in a single word. My first action was to make notes about the exhibition title in my journal. Online dictionaries are a great way to find lots of definitions for a word.

Warp

verb

with reference to a ship: move or be moved along by hauling on a rope attached to a stationary object ashore… “crew and passengers helped warp the vessels through the shallow section”

Google Search

Since moving to Scarborough in 2020, I’ve been taking lots of photographs of the harbour and collecting different pieces of rope and metal. I’ve done work inspired by beach combing before, Ferrous Metals is inspired by rusted metal found along the Yorkshire Coast.

Harbouring takes more inspiration from ropes and knots and is much more sculptural, with my new work being 3D and will be hung in the exhibition space rather than wall mounted. I’ve been using my Pfaff Creative 3.0 embroidery machine and working with Aquasol wash away fabric. I love the way you can cut into and manipulate the layers of stitching that make up a design. I’ve also been using my model making skills, turning plastic curtain rings into rusted metal features.

I’m looking forward to sharing my work in progress on Instagram and in my monthly newsletter.

Notes from the studio

I’ve been so busy working recently that my studio days have been a real luxury. Saturday 30 July was World Embroidery Day and I started work on a new Converse selfie using the same working methods as my hand embroidered portraits. I recorded my hands working on this new piece which you can see online on YouTube.

My studio notice board is all about Fancy Goods, the work and samples I’ve been creating and some objects that are inspiring the pieces I’m making. Opposite, the picture shelves are all about stitchscapes something I like to have on the go at all times.

I’ll be spending more time in the studio during my summer break, no emails, no meetings, just time to drink tea, plan and make new work. I might have a walk on the beach too.

My latest idea for a stitchscape is from last year and our trip to Hayburn Wyke. The waterfall and the rocks will make a great stitchscape, reminiscent of my May Beck piece from 2021. I love being able to create texture with different fabrics, building up the layers of stitching. I’ve been hesitant to start the piece, a blank piece of fabric can be very daunting but I’m going to start with background fabrics and build the design from there. No drawing and planning out is done when I create this type of work.

If you would like to create your own stitchscape, I’m running a workshop in my Scarborough studio on Sunday 9 October, you can book your tickets here.

For regular updates about my practice you can follow me on Instagram or sign up to my monthly newsletter.

How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question about my recent video stitching a Converse selfie from Instagram. You can view the video on YouTube.

“How do you transfer your design onto fabric?”

There are a few different answers to this question as it depends on the fabric I’m using for a project. Today, I’ll be sharing the most common way to transfer a design when I’m stitching. You can take a look at my blog post from a few years ago on marking tools to find out more.

I like to create my design on paper first, this might be drawing a completely new design or printing a photograph out. I find this helps me to get the design right before I start adding it to fabric.

Once I’m happy with my design, I place my fabric in the embroidery hoop to keep it nice and flat. I then place the paper underneath the fabric and trace the lines using a Pilot Frixion Pen. If my design uses straight lines, I always use a ruler to keep them straight.

If you want a design to grow organically, you can draw straight onto the fabric with the pen too, I often do this when I’m working on a stitchscape and want a guideline to stitch to. The design you create on paper doesn’t have to be followed exactly either, it can change as you start to stitch and want to make changes.

Pilot Frixion Pens are heat erasable, this means when you have completed the embroidery you can remove them with the heat from a dry iron or a hairdryer. Make sure that you test the pen on the edge of the fabric first, it doesn’t always fully disappear on vintage fabrics and can come back if the fabric gets very cold.

You can find out more about other ways to transfer your design in a previous blog post where I cover a few different methods.

If you would like to create your own embroidered portrait, I’m running a workshop at Leeds Central Library in September. You can book your ticket here

Autumn Workshops

As my summer break approaches I wanted to tell you about my autumn workshops in Leeds and Scarborough. I will be offering some beginner classes and some longer workshops that are suitable for more experienced stitchers who want to try something new. Tickets for my Scarborough workshops are available from my Eventbrite page and tickets for my Leeds workshops are available through Ticketsource.

Hand Embroidered Portraits, Saturday 3 September, Leeds Central Library 1pm to 4pm

Learn how to create your own textile portrait using fabric and thread in this applique and embroidery class. In this fabric collage workshop I will guide you through creating a hand embroidered portrait using different fabrics and threads. You will learn how to transfer the design on to fabric, adding different fabrics and creating your portrait with a variety of embroidery stitches including stem stitch, back stitch and French knots.

You can book your ticket here

Hand Embroidery & Applique, Sunday 18 September, Scarborough Studio 10am to 12.30pm

Learn the basics of hand embroidery and applique from using fusible webbing to getting to grips with some simple embroidery stitches. In this beginners class I will guide you through all the basics of fusible web applique and some simple embroidery stitches. You will learn how to use an embroidery hoop, how to create a fabric picture and what type of threads to use for your project. You will also learn a range of hand embroidery stitches like blanket stitch, French knots and stem stitch.

You can book your ticket here

Introduction to Hand Embroidery, Sunday 25 September, Scarborough Studio 10am to 12.30pm

Learn the basics of hand embroidery from putting your fabric into a hoop to learning a range of different embroidery stitches. In this beginners class I will guide you through all the basics of hand embroidery including how to use an embroidery hoop, transferring a design onto fabric and what type of threads to use for your project. You will also learn a range of hand embroidery stitches like chain stitch, blanket stitch and French knots.

You can book your ticket here

Visible Mending, Tuesday 27 September, Scarborough Studio 6pm to 8.30pm

Learn how to use fabric and thread to repair your clothes and accessories in this visible mending workshop. In this visible mending workshop I will guide you through the basics of repairing clothes and fabric accessories including how to create a patch using Bondaweb and the Boro technique of embroidery. You will also learn a range of hand embroidery stitches like blanket stitch, straight stitch and satin stitch.

You can book your ticket here

Hand Embroidery & Applique, Sunday 9 October, Scarborough Studio 10am to 2pm

Learn how to create your own textile landscape using fabric and thread in this fabric collage and embroidery class. In this fabric collage workshop I will guide you through creating a stitched landscape using different fabrics and threads. You will learn how to build up the different layers of your picture, adding different textures of fabric and enhancing them with a variety of embroidery stitches including stem stitch and lazy daisy stitch.

You can book your ticket here

Look out for more autumn workshops with Leeds Libraries including hand embroidered pencil cases, hand embroidered wreaths and festive LED decorations.

Follow the Thread Exhibition

I’m excited to be exhibiting some of my digitally embroidered pieces from Deconstruct/Reconstruct as part of Follow the Thread in Wakefield. I will be exhibiting alongside alabamathirteen, Amelia Baron, Carrie Scott-Huby and Judit Wilson. The exhibition is curated by Gill Crawshaw.

There are many artists in this region who work with textiles. What connects this group is that they are all disabled artists. Some of them are members of DISrupt, an artists’ collective working to challenge disabling barriers and to make sure that disabled artists are taken seriously.

https://artwalk.org.uk/event/follow-the-thread/

The exhibition is open on the following days at 65B Bishopgate walk, The Ridings Shopping Centre, Wakefield, WF1 1YB

Weds 27 July – 5pm to 8pm

Thurs 28 July to Sat 30 July 10:30am to 4pm

Mon 1 August to Sat 6 Aug by appointment

For more information and to make an appointment you can contact gill.crawshaw@gmail.com 

Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters

I finally made it to Harewood to see the Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters exhibition which runs until 29 August. The exhibition is cleverly integrated into the house’s permanent exhibits which I found really beautiful. If you get the chance to visit I can highly recommend it although tickets aren’t the cheapest. I got free entry with my National Art Pass which gives you free or cheaper entry to lots of museums and galleries across the UK.

The Harewood Biennial returns in 2022 with Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters. Following 2019’s Useful/Beautiful, curator Hugo Macdonald and the Harewood team have once again set to create a ground-breaking exhibition routed in craft and craftsmanship.

The 2022 Biennial explores why craft is a ‘radical act’, helping us to address urgent crises in life and society today, and looking to a future where we might live in a more environmentally and socially-responsible way.

https://harewood.org/whats-on/event/radical-acts-why-craft-matters/

There are lots of interesting pieces inside the house, my favourite being Celia Pym’s Mending Library (centre image). Celia’s work is so delicate and in her words “Mending is not just about fixing something in need of repair, it is also an act of care.” The pieces of clothing belong to staff members from Harewood and are exquisitely repaired.

Community Clothing (left image) founded by Patrick Grant is a Blackburn-based business launched with a simple goal – to sell great quality, affordable clothing and sustain and create great jobs in the UK’s textile making regions. The video talks about how the business began and showcases employees.

Metalsmith Francisca Onumah (right image) has created sculptures from sheet metal that are deliberately ambiguous. They encourage the viewer to find character and human like semblance in inanimate objects.

I don’t want to share too much about the exhibition but if you want to find out more you can visit the exhibitors website page.