Notes from the studio

After taking some time away from the studio to relax and regroup, I’ve spent a couple of days in the studio this week. Last week, I experimented with different layouts for the cigarette box piece. It was great to get a better idea of how the work will look for an exhibition.

I’ve been exploring ideas for work inspired by my grandad’s dress shirt for a few months now. I’ve made replica collars and looked at how the shirt was made but nothing really stood out to me. In a bit of a panic last week, I drew the outline of the shirt onto tracing paper and started stitching the lines with vintage grey thread. I needed a hand stitching project to work on at MCR Sew Social, a group I run with my friend Louisa and this seemed like an easy piece to work on.

It’s great when a piece of work sneaks up on you, something that was throw away can become a beautiful textile object or drawing. The tracing paper transfer method wasn’t right for this image so I went back to tissue paper. It’s harder to stick down but much easier to tear away after stitching.

The lid of a jewellery box has been sitting in my studio for a couple of months now, it’s one of the boxes I started taking apart at the start of this project. The shirt embroidery is a really great fit for the piece so I started lining the lid, wrapping the fabric around cardboard sections.

I’m really happy with the box lid, especially as the work was wholly improvised! Next week I’ll be working on the collars which will sit inside the box and creating a fabric lining for the base of the box.

For regular updates about my practice you can follow me on social media, just click the links in the sidebar.

Beyond the Studio

I’ve shared my studio practice with you for the last few weeks, it’s been great having time to focus on my new pieces of work but the studio is just a small part of my working week. Here are a few of the things I get up to each week.

Project Research

I’m always looking for new ideas and inspiration and Leeds has a wealth of exhibitions and resources. I’m currently developing some new ideas with visual art Louise Atkinson and we’ve been researching textile history and migration in Leeds.

Our research led us to Leeds City Museum’s current exhibition A City & Its Welcome. The exhibition was the subject of this month’s Sociable History Club, led by the curatorial team.

‘A city and its welcome’ tells the stories and experiences of those who have made a home in Leeds over the past three centuries, and how they have helped shape the city that we recognise today. Come on a journey with us  to see the differences between their hopes and expectations and the realities of life in a new place, plus treasured objects brought from afar.

Creative Workshops

Teaching is an integral part of my business and I work with a variety of ages and abilities who want to learn a new skill. I’m excited to be working with my good friend Leigh Bowser at the Stitch Up Summer School throughout August.

We’ve been working with children aged 8+ on a series of textile based workshops and this week they created some felt food. We used felt, hand stitch and fabric pens to create fun food and I love what the children have created.

Socially Engaged Practice

Storytelling forms a huge part of my own practice, using fabric and thread to share my own life with audiences. I’ve worked on several socially engaged projects in 2019 including It’s For You with Leeds Playhouse.

Working with Flamingos Coffee House and Richmond Hill Community Centre, I’m delivering a series of creative drop-in workshops celebrating Pride and beyond. We’ve been exploring Craftivism and how we can use stitch to share our stories and send a positive message. I love working on projects like this, meeting new people and sharing my skills to help people tell their story.

For regular updates about my practice you can follow me on social media, just click the links in the sidebar.

Festival of Quilts 2019

The Festival of Quilts is Europe’s leading patchwork and quilting show and this year was my fourth visit to this event. Quilts are something I’ve tackled as part of community projects but never for my own practice. This is partly due to space restrictions in my studio and partly because I’m not good at multiples and structured pieces.

I’ve always loved seeing how people work with different patterns, fabrics and colours and the festival is a great place to get inspired. With so many galleries and stalls it can be an overwhelming experience but I found some amazing pieces that I wanted to share with you.

Karina Thompson

I was first introduced to Karina’s work at Salts Mill as part of Cloth & Memory {2} in 2013. Her use of digital embroidery and woollen fabrics was a refreshing change to other machine embroidered pieces I had seen.

My work is often a response to medical data. This might be x-rays of archaeological bones, historical clinical archives or the biometrics of my own body. I use digital embroidery to make my work; sometimes it’s combined with digital print; sometimes I use free-motion quilting.

Alongside her piece from Cloth & Memory {2}, Karina exhibited her digitally stitched quilts. Her muted colour palette and use of anatomical imagery made this show a breath of fresh air.

India Flint

India’s work uses natural materials and found textiles to create beautiful hangings. I was drawn to her muted colour palette and fabric combinations. I haven’t come across her work before and it was really inspiring to walk around her gallery.

India Flint’s work conflates the visual and written poetics of place and memory, using walking, drawing, assemblage, mending, stitch, image-making and text as a means of mapping country, recoding and recording responses to landscape – working with cloth, paper, stone, windfall leaf matter, water, minerals, bones, the discarded artefacts and hard detritus of human habitation, the local weed burden. ‘incomplete journeys’ is a collection of pieced, layered and printed textiles that might be considered maps or soft paintings, pieces of place or a series of laments for places of peace; landscapes written into cloth using leaves, water and time.

Galina Krasnikova

I was drawn to the beautiful textures of Galina’s work, they are a riot of pattern and colour. Each piece includes a myriad of techniques that compliment each other and make the eye dance around the piece.

Galina’s quilts are art quilts, and she has mastered scores of textile techniques puffs, boutis, boro, lyapachikha, chenille, pizza, origami, various kinds of applique, felting, beading, embroidery, and many more. Everything Galina does, relates to her childhood. Before she was 13, the only kind of books she read were fairy tales. She especially loved wonder stories, where there were miracles and magic transformations.

Modern Quilts

For quilts that are minimalist with clean, modern design and a strong visual impact. They often use asymmetry, improvisational piecing, a reinterpretation of traditional blocks or the lack of a visible block structure. A feeling of space is often achieved by the use of negative space. They are machine or hand quilted in a way that is sympathetic to the design.

The modern quilt gallery is a Festival of Quilts staple but I find that some of the pieces aren’t particularly modern! It is a chance to see some beautifully made quilts that showcase colour and pattern. There’s always some amazing hexagons in display in the gallery.


My friends often tease me about the lack of colour in my work but red is the one bright colour that features in my pieces. I’m instinctively drawn to red and I found a few pieces that use my favourite colour beautifully.

My red gallery features pieces from Quilt Art Traces and Aina Muse.

‘Traces’ is an exhibition of new work by Quilt Art on the broad themes of memory and the power of stitch. It was inspired by the life and textile art of Mary Fogg, a founder member of the group and influential quilt artist, who died in 2016 at the age of 95.
Quilt Art was founded in Britain in 1985 to develop the quilt as an artistic medium and promote its recognition as an art form. Its 19 members are all leading practitioners who exhibit nationally and internationally.

In honour of the celebrated textile artist and professor Aina Muze (1943-2017). Aina Muze developed her work to embrace quality and excellence. She broadened out her work to explore new materials and invention. The artist was interested in the potentialities of modern technologies and the ways how they could be applied together with traditional patchwork technique.



Notes from the Studio

Creativity has been an elusive commodity this week! I’ve been busy prepping for workshops and community projects so I’m feeling pretty uninspired. This is nothing new, a project always begins with lots of energy and ideas but can feel like a struggle after a few weeks. I’m continuing to work on the piece inspired by Olly’s letters from the trenches and I’ve now finished the hand embroidered text fragments.

I’ve used a vintage cotton fabric from a pillowcase to stitch the text, this is them backed with Filmoplast. This medium weight self adhesive backing gives stability to the fabric, allowing it to be rolled and stitched into 3D forms. These rolled text fragments will form part of a small installation inside a display case.

I’m now planning the next few pieces as well as working on new workshops and talks which will be launching soon. For regular updates about my practice you can follow me on social media, just click the links in the sidebar.


Leeds Discovery Centre

For the last few months I’ve been researching costume and textiles as part of a new collaborative project called Flock North. Working alongside visual artist Louise Atkinson, I’ve been exploring textile production at Leeds Industrial Museum and Sunny Bank Mills Archive.

Last week, we went on a store tour at Leeds Discovery Centre which houses 95% of the collections belonging to Leeds Museums & Galleries. Previously, I’ve only been to the Discovery Centre to deliver work so I was excited to see the store.

One of the best ways to access and see our collections is to enjoy our free store tours held every Thursday. These unique tours highlight fascinating objects and delve into the stories behind some of our most unusual items.

This unique centre helps us preserve and protect over one million intriguing objects and treasures from our dress and textile, social history, natural science, geology, archaeology and world cultures collections. From toucans to telephones, meteorites and masks, there is something for everyone to enjoy!

The store has a huge collection of costume and textile items, from social history to military uniforms, tailoring to trade union banners. The hour long tour was really interesting but we didn’t have time to get a closer look at the textile items. Our guide was really helpful and told us to contact them and make an appointment to view items with the costume and textiles curator.

I highly recommend a store tour, they are really fun and last for about an hour. They run throughout the summer at 11am on Thursdays.

Notes from the Studio

Unusually, my teaching hasn’t slowed down over summer this year. I’m working on a new project with Leeds Playhouse and teaching at a children’s summer school with Stitch Up. I’m used to much more free time in the studio between July and September so moments when I get to sit and embroider have been few and far between.

When I’m feeling uninspired or run down, I like to take time away from the studio to clear my head. Quiet time this week was a trip to the brilliant Bygone Times near Preston. I’m always inspired by the objects each stall has to offer, looking for pieces to use in my work or around the home. On this trip I was on the lookout for boxes to use in my work and I wasn’t disappointed!

I like to have a connection with any vintage pieces that I buy and I was drawn to the Tupperware, I have a large collection that I still use in the kitchen which came from my grandparents house. My grandma had a box for everything including different types of biscuits. I’ve always wanted a sewing box although I have an entire studio so this little gem was my favourite find. The clock case is really unusual compared to my other pieces and I have to admit, I have no idea what it will become!

I’ve been focusing on hand embroidery this year, working with vintage fabric and thread to create more illustrative pieces. I’m exploring work that talks about my struggle with OCD, a condition which is often portrayed in a comedic way in film and television. There are obvious triggers when exploring my struggles with intrusive thoughts so the work is challenging. I also want to make sure that the piece is about my experiences as each person with this condition experiences different things.

I’m using a vintage cotton sheet and grey thread to create the first part of the piece. It’s challenging to use a large embroidery frame where the fabric is stitched to a cotton tape before rotating the ends to tighten. I’ve been using tracing paper to stitch my design onto fabric, tearing away the paper when the design is finished. It’s tricky process but easier than using a magic pen which fades very quickly on vintage cotton.

If you would like further information about OCD you can visit the Mind website.

For regular updates about my work you can follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, just click the links in the sidebar.

Notes From the Studio

After a busy few days of teaching, it’s been great to spend some time in the studio working on some new pieces for my collection of boxes/vessels. I had underestimated how much I would struggle to create some more pieces about my childhood. Spending time with items that belonged to my grandparents was really difficult and brought my emotions to the surface.

This week I’ve been working on a new idea, inspired by a cigarette box belonging to my husband. The silver plated box was presented to Olly (a distant relative of my husband’s) in 1941 by the No. 26 (Northampton) Technical Training Group. We also have transcripts of his letters from the trenches in WW1 to his sister Bee. When I started reading the letters, there were lines that stood out and I started to highlight them.

It wasn’t until I started to create some hand embroidered text samples that I realised how much my writing didn’t suit the words. I was focusing so much on making my writing look the part (which I was failing miserably at) when the perfect solution popped into my head. Because of the family connection, my husband has written all the sentences for me in his fine handwritten style.

I’ve begun to stitch each line using tiny back stitches, transferring the letters on to fabric using the tissue paper method. An important part of my personal work is the use of vintage fabric and thread. Each line is stitched with a slate grey cotton thread onto a deconstructed bolster case.

I love working with these delicate fabrics and threads to create my work. Each piece has a story behind them which I’m not always aware of, my work is the next part of their story which I’m really proud of. Speaking of behind, the back of stitched lettering is always amazing, it looks like a mysterious language from another world.

The next stage for the pieces of embroidered fabric is to roll each piece by hand to represent a cigarette. I’m hoping to make twenty pieces to fill a replica of the box, I don’t want to loose somebody else’s family heirloom in an exhibition setting!

To find out more about my practice you can follow me on social media, just click the links in the sidebar.




Classes at Workshop

I’ve teamed up with the amazing Workshop in Headingley to offer a range of hand stitching classes in 2019. There are classes to suit beginners and more experienced stitchers who want to try something different.

Hand Embroidered Pendant 17 August 10am to 12pm and 1 December 11am to 3pm

Learn the traditional craft of hand embroidery, I will guide you through the basics of hand embroidery stitches including blanket stitch, feather stitch and stem stitch. Using these decorative stitches, you will create a unique design inside a mini embroidery hoop pendant.

This workshop is suitable for beginners and all materials and equipment are provided. Click here to book your tickets through the Workshop website.

Conductive Thread Embroidery 26 September 11am to 1pm

Learn the traditional craft of hand embroidery, I will guide you through the basics of hand embroidery where you will learn how to create your own geometric stitched image using a variety of embroidery stitches including back stitch, chain stitch and blanket stitch. Once you have completed your embroidered design onto calico fabric, you will learn how to create your own soft circuit using conductive thread to light up an LED in your design.

This workshop is suitable for beginners to embroidery and all materials and equipment will be provided. Click here to book your tickets through the Workshop website.

Visible Mending 13 October 11am to 1pm

Learn the traditional crafts of hand embroidery and applique. I will guide you through the basics of some hand embroidery stitches and turned edge applique which can be used to repair a garment or accessory with holes or ripped seams. Inspired by the Japanese technique of Boro, the practice of reworking and repairing textiles through piecing, patching and stitching.

All materials and equipment will be provided but you will need to bring an item of clothing or an accessory that you would like to mend. Click here to book your tickets through the Workshop website.

This class will also run as part of the After Hours Craft Club on 27 September from 6.30pm to 8.30pm, a monthly workshop event where you can learn a new craft and bring your own drinks. Click here to book your tickets through the Workshop website.

Notes from the Studio

I’m a creature of habit, partly because of my mental health and partly because I’ve found ways of working that suit my practice and working methods. This week I’ve been looking at my previous pieces from the studio project board and discovering something I already knew, my research and sampling has links with the new pieces I want to create. If this is a formula for my practice, why do I forget this and try to start from zero each time? It will take more than a blog post to work that out so I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on instead.

Lines and maps have been a part of my work since 2013 when I collaborated with Matthew Bellwood and Alison Andrews on 365 Leeds Stories. I also have memories of travelling with my grandparents in a T reg Ford Granada L around the UK for holidays. I would sit in the back behind my grandma, looking through the pages of the atlas, tracing the route we were taking with my fingers and looking at fun place names.

I started to create a map using hand embroidery last week, focusing on the street where I grew up. All my routes are stitched in a vintage red thread purchased from Sue Ryder Vintage in Headingley. I’m not known for using bright colours so this thread really stands out. As I looked through my work from the last six months, I pulled out a pin cushion with the same map stitched onto vintage linen. The pins represent my grandparents and me, our little family living together on Low Street.

My practice has turned back towards hand embroidery this year, something which I have lost since buying my embroidery machine. I’m finding pleasure in using a needle and thread, sitting quietly in my studio with a crappy horror film or murder mystery. The embroidery machine has great qualities but it can be noisy and create a stressful working environment. The great thing about hand stitching is that it’s portable and a much more social activity. I’d forgotten how great it is to stitch with people at a crafty social, eating cake and chatting as we work.

For regular updates about my work you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just click the links in the sidebar.