Positive Patches workshops

I’m excited to be offering some cross stitch workshops with Leeds Libraries in March. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed or anxious by everyday life. Take some time out to relax and stitch your own positive message, inspirational quote, or feminist phrase. I will guide you through the basics of cross stitch to create your own personal piece of embroidery. All materials and equipment will be provided, and the workshop is suitable for beginners or those with some embroidery experience. 

Thursday 9 March 2pm to 4pm

Otley Community Hub and Library, Otley, LS21 1EZ

You can book your ticket here

Saturday 18 March 1:30pm to 3.30pm

Moor Allerton Community Hub & Library, Leeds, LS17 5NY

You can book your ticket here

Thursday 30 March 1pm to 3pm

Morley Community Hub and Library, Leeds, LS27 8HZ

You can book your ticket here

How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question I get asked at workshops…

“Do you have any tips for threading my needle and tying a knot?”

My first tip is to buy a good quality needle, I always say that you can buy inexpensive threads and fabric but don’t skimp on your needles. A good quality needle from companies like John James or Prym have an eye that is cleanly punched out of the metal which makes threading your needle so much easier.

Threading the Needle…

People often ask if they should lick the end of the their thread too. The scientific answer is no, as eventually the moisture in saliva will actually make the thread plump up and get thicker. I always lick the end of my thread, even when working with fishing wire that doesn’t get fluffy. If the end of your thread becomes too fluffy and thick, simply snip away the end of the thread.

I always find it easier to thread my needle with a pale background behind my hands. I have a white desk in the studio but you can use a piece of white paper or pale fabric. This makes it easier to see the eye of the needle and the end of the thread. If you would like to try a needle threader, I don’t recommend the cheap sliver ones as they break easily. I use a vintage needle threader from my collection but you can buy some better quality threaders from companies like Clover.

Remember…

Be mindful of buying gadgets that cost lots of money to help you thread a needle. The more you practice threading a needle the easier it will become. I like to give my workshop participants a size 20 chenille needle that has a large eye for thicker threads and a sharp point. You can find out more about needles in a previous Tools of the Trade blog post.

Tying a Knot…

Once you have threaded your needle you can tie a knot in the end of your thread. Some techniques like couture embroidery doesn’t use a knot on the thread but for most home sewing projects a small knot will be the best way to secure the thread.

Step One: Start by threading your needle and place the end of your thread over the needle

Step Two: Wind the end of the thread around the needle three times

Step Three: Gently pull the needle through the knot and pull it down to the end of the thread

I hope this helps you when starting a new embroidery project and remember the more you practice the better you will get

Notes From The Studio

I’ve been busy in the studio creating new exhibition pieces inspired by Scarborough Harbour. Piece Harbouring will be exhibited in London this April as part of the Prism Textiles exhibition Warped. I’m also exhibiting in Danby for the North Yorkshire Open Studios preview exhibition in the heart of the North York Moors. The exhibition runs from 11 February to 21 May – North Yorkshire Open Studios Exhibition, Inspired By…Gallery. You can find out more on the gallery’s website.

I’m working with digital embroidery, stitching into wool fabric and on Aquasol wash away fabric. This creates a series of elements that can be sculpted and appliqued to the wool fabric. I like to use found objects in my work, adding fishing floats and weights with rope from my beach combing walks.

The circular work is mounted on metal rings, stretching the wool into a perfect circle. I’ve been experimenting with the layouts, using my phone bracket to photograph ideas. I’ve also been sketching out ideas in my journal, my working sketches have been really helpful when I’m talking through ideas. I’m actually enjoying creating work again and getting back to regular studio days. I’d been feeling uninspired for a while from all the teaching and travelling.

My next piece flotsam and jetsam needs to be finished with machine wrapped cords and a few more digitally embroidered elements. Fingers crossed it gets selected for the Prism Textile exhibition alongside my early bird submission piece.

You can find out more about what I’m working on in the studio by following me on Instagram or signing up to my monthly newsletter.

The Unravelling Fantasia of Miss H.

I had lots of interest in Mary Frances Heaton after my Instagram post last week so I wanted to share some more information about Mary and her life. I’m currently working with Stitched-up-theatre on their project The Unravelling Fantasia of Miss H. During January and February I will be running a series of embroidery workshops with women’s groups in Leeds, Wakefield, Halifax and Doncaster. The embroideries will then be display in the venue where the opera is being performed.

If you are based in Halifax you can attend my workshop at Artworks, more details can be found on their website.

Mary Frances Heaton was a 19th century piano mistress who worked in Doncaster and London. Following an altercation in the street about late payment from one of her clients, she was held in Doncaster Gaol overnight, deemed a dangerous idiot and admitted the next day by the local magistrates to Wakefield’s Pauper Lunatic Asylum without trial or conviction. She remained incarcerated for 41 years.​

During this time with no means of defence or advocacy her creative resolve led her to embroider messages in fellow patients’ clothes and document her experiences and injustices through embroidery by creating beautiful and ornate stitched samplers (on exhibition in the Mental Health Museum, Wakefield). One sampler was addressed to Queen Victoria, another suggested an affair with Lord Seymour to whose children she had been Governess.

As an textile artist specialising in embroidery and living with OCD I am drawn to Mary’s work, finding parallels with the work of Lorina Bulwer. Using fabric an thread to tell stories and share our inner thoughts is a powerful tool. Think about protest banners and craftivism projects around the world that use these techniques to convey and important message.

I’m looking forward to sharing some of the work we make for the project and you can find out more about the performance dates and see the trailer on the project website. There is also more information about Mary on the Forgotten Women of Wakefield website.

Hello 2023

A new year is here and I’m looking forward to the exciting things 2023 has in store. Last year was a very busy year for me, lots of teaching and exhibitions. In December, I turned 43 and celebrated 10 years of freelance life. Things have changed since those early days as an artist and tutor and I’ve worked with some incredible people and organisations. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring.

As well as reflecting on the last year I’ve been busy organising new projects and creating new work for exhibitions and events. Here are a few of the things I’m working on in 2023…

I’m working with Stitched-up-theatre on their exciting project The Unravelling Fantasia of Miss H. Throughout January and February I will be running a series of textile workshops with women’s groups across Yorkshire. I will be running open sessions with Leftbank in Leeds on Saturday 4 February and The Artworks in Halifax on Tuesday 7 February.

In 2022, I took part in North Yorkshire Open Studios for the first time. I’m looking forward to this year’s event and the preview exhibition in the heart of the North York Moors. The exhibition runs from 11 February to 21 May – North Yorkshire Open Studios Exhibition, Inspired By…Gallery. You can find out more on the gallery’s website.

If you’re visiting London in April you can see my work Harbouring as part of Warped, an exhibition by Prism Textiles members. The exhibition runs from 20 April to 1 May at The Art Pavilion, Mile End and is supported by Tower Hamlets.

In June I will be taking part in North Yorkshire Open Studios, on Saturday 3, Sunday 4, Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 my studio doors will be open to the public. Come along and find out more about my work and techniques, you might even get to see Dolly!

You can find out more about what I’m working on in the studio by following me on Instagram or signing up to my monthly newsletter.

Notes From The Studio

This edition of Notes from the Studio is a little bit different. I wanted to share my favourites things from 2022 that I’ve been working on in the studio. My winter break is approaching and I’m excited to have more time to spend making new pieces of work for exhibition.

The Prism Textiles annual exhibition will be opening in London in April 2023, I’ve already had my piece Harbouring accepted for the show. The work is a response to my walks around Scarborough Harbour. I loved working with found ropes and using digital embroidery to create this 3D piece of work. I will be creating some more pieces inspired by this piece and my new research.

Fancy Goods has been a project idea floating around in my brain for about 10 years. This year I started to create pieces inspired by my research of collectables and seafront shops in Scarborough. These magazine collages helped me to open up my creativity when I had been stuck for ideas. I’ve been in talks about an exhibition for this work in 2023 which is very exciting.

Stitchscapes have been something that I’ve enjoyed working on in recent years, they are great to pick up and put down and are portable too. I love using up scraps of fabric from my own stash and from dressmaker friends. I’m inspired by the landscapes in an around Scarborough, creating more abstract images in the last year.

For regular updates about my work and workshops you can sign up to my monthly newsletter or follow me on Instagram

Celebrating Freelance Life

I’ve been lucky to work as a freelance artist for the last ten years, working in Yorkshire and beyond on community projects, exhibitions and collaborations. I want to day a huge thank you to all the organisations I’ve worked with and anyone who has come along to a workshop, participated in a project and bought a piece of artwork. I’ve met the most amazing people and done things I never thought I would achieve. I thought I would share a few of my highlights from the last ten years. You can find out more about my work in my Portfolio.

365 Leeds Stories

This was my first community project as a lead artist, working with Matthew and Alison from A Quiet Word in 2013. 365 Leeds Stories brought together stories from older Leeds residents and embroidery by a dedicated group of embroiderers. We worked from transcripts of interviews about their lives in Leeds, stitching their stories on maps of Leeds from the 1930s. I’d never coordinated such a big project before and I loved working with everyone collaboratively.

Archive & Other Stories

This was my first big solo exhibition back in 2018 in the amazing Whitby Museum. My work respond to the museum collection through storytelling, using my personal narrative to bring the objects to life. It was an honour to exhibit in a venue I’ve been visiting since childhood, working with a great team. The mayor of Whitby also came to the exhibition launch.

Heydays

Since May 2013, I’ve been teaching on the Heydays programme at Leeds Playhouse. Heydays is an amazing project to work on, I’ve met wonderful people and helped them to create some fantastic artwork every term. It’s such a fun atmosphere and I’ve also worked alongside brilliant people and made new friends. I love coming up with new themes each term and seeing how people interpret this using fabric and thread.

For regular updates about my work and workshops you can sign up to my monthly newsletter or follow me on Instagram. I can’t wait to see what the next ten years will bring.

Fairy tales in Bramley

I’ve been working with Artlink West Yorkshire since 2018, Artlink is an innovative arts and health charity specialising in working with those who have the least access to the arts.  They work with adults with learning disabilities, adults living with dementia, adults with long term mental health issues, women who are part of the criminal justice system and young people.

I’ve worked with groups in Wetherby, online during the pandemic and this term I’ve been working with a group in Bramley. Artlink are a fantastic organisation and they pair you with other practitioners to run the sessions. This time I’m working with a drama practitioner and an illustrator. We’ve been working on a fairy tale themed project, looking at Hansel and Gretel, Jack and the beanstalk and Goldilocks and the three bears.

We started our sessions with movement, gathering in a circle and sharing a story and a laugh. We danced, practiced our catwalk for the celebration event and even pretended to be spies in a laser maze. As an introvert, the start of the sessions is great for me too, bringing me out of my shell. Some of the participants we’re cheeky and aid my dance moves weren’t the best they’ve seen!

Our creative time was quieter, some participants choosing to work collaboratively and others taking time to sit and work on their own pieces. We’ve made masks, t-shirts, a tree and even decorated gingerbread. The creativity has been great to watch, seeing how everyone interprets the theme and uses the materials. We’re celebrating our work with a catwalk show and exhibition in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see it all come together.

Artlink West Yorkshire is a wonderful organisation to work with, they value artists and the work we do. Supporting us when we need it and allowing us to let our creativity flourish. I’ve worked with great practitioners and met participants who i’ll never forget. I can’t wait for the next project to start

How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question I get asked at workshops…

“Do I need to buy expensive materials and equipment for embroidery?”

Starting a new hobby can be expensive, especially when you have lots of ideas but don’t know where to start. In this post I will talk about the areas where you can save money and what you need to spend a bit more money on. There are lots of ways to save money and if you have any top tips I’d love to hear them.

Embroidery Threads

Embroidery threads vary quite dramatically in price. In my stash I have DMC threads like Cotton Perle and stranded cotton that are great to stitch with but prices start at £1.20 for a skein of stranded cotton and up to £2.55 for a ball of perle thread. My stranded cotton boxes of thread also contain bargains from the pound shop that cost £1.00 for 20 skeins. I’ve used these threads on commission pieces and for workshops and I’m happy with the results.

Your local charity shop, vintage shop or car boot sale is a great place to find good quality second hand threads. I’ve picked up expensive brands like Coats and Gutermann for less than £1.00 for a reel. I usually wind off a bit of the outside layer as it can be faded, although the colour faded reels create an interesting variegated thread to work with.

Needles

Needles are one of the areas I don’t like to skimp on, I’ve had frustrating experiences with cheap needles. They are made of poor quality metal and can easily break, they eye is also badly punched out. A poorly punched out eye can damage your threads and be hard to get threaded in the first place.

I like to use needles by John James or Prym, they can be picked up online and in haberdashery shops. Prices start at £2.75 for an assorted pack of needles. You don’t have to buy the specialist embroidery needles either, an assorted pack will have something that works for embroidery. Once you’ve decided that embroidery is the craft for you, pick up a pack of the type of needle you find best to use.

Scissors

Because of the amount of embroidery I do, I have an expensive pair of curved tip scissors that retail for about £15.00. For years and all through my degree I used nail scissors from Home Bargains that cost around £3.00 a pair. If you do a lot of stitching, I would use small scissors as cutting thread with a larger pair can damage the blades.

For larger scissors, you can pick up a pair from shops like Wilko and IKEA. Make sure you keep them for fabric only, they will stay sharp enough to use for ages. Prices start from as little as £1.00 a pair.

Remember…

You can use calico tote bag freebies to embroiderer onto, I know you have a stash of them in the bottom of the wardrobe. I’ve also picked up fabric from charity shops and used worn clothes and bedding for fabric. The charity shop is your friend for bargains like threads and embroidery hoops too. You can get embroidery kits from shops like Aldi and The Works that have good quality bamboo embroidery hoops in them. An embroidery hoop will last a lifetime if you take good care of it. You can sand away rough edges of a hoop using a emery board, this will prevent it from snagging your fabric.