Notes From The Studio

It’s been a busy few weeks in the studio, welcoming people during North Yorkshire Open Studios and working on some new pieces for Fancy Goods. I’ve also been teaching in Leeds on my creative embroidery course at the Central Library and continuing my Heydays embroidered rockpools class.

During NYOS, I worked on my beaded spade which looks so good. I’ve discovered that it’s very hard to photograph well which is a shame. I’ve also started to create my collectors plate series of beaded circles. I’m looking at a new way of creating the circular shape as the metal rings aren’t working how I expected.

My stitchscape is growing as I add more fabric to enhance the details, I also tried some free motion embroidery to blend the layers together. I love having a piece of work that I can pick up and put down easily. I’m looking forward to adding more layers of hand embroidery with cotton perle.

The digitally embroidered portraits are part of the research for Warped, the 2023 exhibition theme for Prism Textiles. They are just the starting point for how I want to build an exhibition piece of selfies exploring the warped perception of identity.

I’ve also started making more collages, something that I’ve found helps me free up my thinking and allows me to play with imagery without worry about the finished piece. I’m thinking about adding some stitch to the pieces too but my terminally minimal nature can often take over.

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Prism Virtual Collaboration

I’ve been a member of Prism Textiles since 2020 and it’s been great to take part in the annual exhibitions. I’ve also joined the committee taking on roles in marketing so I can share the work of our members. Last year, one of our members created a virtual collaboration project. It gave me the chance to meet members and try some new techniques so I’m excited to take part again this year.

Our first set of instructions are to get a piece of fabric measuring 40cm by 20cm and choose words from the following lists…

Choose one word from…

Calm, absence, glow/reflect

Choose one colour…

Yellow, grey, red

Choose two techniques…

Paint, pistil stitch, fold, running stitch

We hold regular meet ups online where we choose the next list, I like the challenge of how I will interpret the words and techniques. It’s also teaching me some different stitches, I know I’m not the only one who had to ask Professor Google for help!

For me, the sample I create isn’t meant to be a finished piece of work. I like to use this to explore new techniques and free up my thinking in the same way that I do when creating paper and fabric collages.

You can see more about the challenge and the work of our members on the Prism Textiles website or follow us on Instagram. You can also use the words as a prompt for your own piece of stitching.


How To…

In this edition of How To… I’m responding to a question from one of my recent workshops. A student from my creative embroidery course at Leeds Central Library asked the question during our first session and I thought it would be a great topic to cover.

“How can I find out more about colour?”

Like most of the of the questions I get asked, there are lots of different answers so I will share my thoughts and ideas with you.

Colour Theory…

Many years ago when the year was 1990 something, I had to do several exercises as part of my A Level in textiles that explored colour theory using paint. I found it incredibly frustrating and I haven’t used it since!

The first colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton around the start of the 17th century. The three primary colours are red, blue and yellow. The three secondary colours are green, orange and purple. These are made by mixing two of the primary colours. There are six other tertiary colours.

You can pick up an artist’s colour wheel and colour mixing guides in art shops and online that can help you explore the relationship between colours. The above quote is from and has lots more information about colour theory. There is a lot of information online about colour theory so I would recommend reading more to see if this works for you.

Using your materials…

As a process led artist I love to go to my stash of materials to help me decide on the colours I will use for a particular project. Sometimes I like to use colours that colour theory wouldn’t necessarily match up but they work for my project.

When I’m looking for threads that match, this means that I’m happy with the colour. It might be a contrasting thread, this means that I could select a red thread for a green background fabric. I can also select a complimentary colour like a yellow thread on an orange fabric. If i’m not sure about a colour, I take a break for a few minutes and come back to it. If I like it when I look again then I go for it.

Colour matching…

And lastly a tip when colour matching thread to fabric, never lay a skein or reel of thread on the fabric to match the colour. This doesn’t give you the full picture when you’re trying to find the right one to buy. Instead unravel a little bit of thread and lay that on the fabric, this gives you an accurate impression of how the stitched line will look.

You can get colour charts for your favourite threads too, this will help you if you’re buying them online and can’t do a colour match.

New Workshops in The Studio

I’m running a series of textile workshops in my Scarborough studio. These workshops range from beginner to more advance embroidery techniques. Tickets are sold through Eventbrite and if you have any questions please get in touch using the contact form.

Introduction to Hand Embroidery Sunday 26 June or Sunday 4 September 10am

Time: 2.5 hours

What You’ll Learn: Everything you need to get started with hand embroidery including using an embroidery hoop and a variety of stitches

What’s Included: All materials including an embroidery hoop

What You’ll Make: A simple hand embroidered design

Skill Level: Beginner

Price: £25.00

Hand Stitched Houseplants Sunday 3 July 10am

Time: 4 hours

What You’ll Learn: How to transfer a design onto fabric and a variety of embroidery stitches

What’s Included: All materials including an embroidery hoop

What You’ll Make: An embroidered picture

Skill Level: Intermediate

Price: £35.00

Hand Embroidery & Appliqué Saturday 9 July 10am or Sunday 18 September 10am

Time: 2.5 hours

What You’ll Learn: Everything you need to get started with appliqué and hand embroidery including using Bondaweb® and a variety of stitches

What’s Included: All materials including an embroidery hoop

What You’ll Make: A simple appliqué and embroidery design

Skill Level: Beginner

Price: £25.00

Hand Embroidered Portraits Sunday 17 July 10am

Time: 4 hours

What You’ll Learn: How to trace and transfer a design onto fabric, simple hand stitches and raw edge appliqué

What’s Included: All sewing materials including an embroidery hoop

What You’ll Need to Bring: A photograph to work from

What You’ll Make: An embroidered and appliquéd portrait

Skill Level: Intermediate

Price: £35.00

Visible Mending Wednesday 27 July 6pm

Time: 2.5 hours 

What’s Included: All sewing materials will be provided for this workshop

What You’ll Need to Bring: A piece of clothing to mend

What You’ll Make: A repaired piece of clothing

Skill Level: Beginner and intermediate

Price: £20.00

Stitchscapes Saturday 6 August 12pm

Time: 4 Hours

What’s Included: All materials will be provided for this workshop

What You’ll Need to Bring: Inspiration images will be provided but you can also bring your own

What You’ll Make: A fabric collage picture

Skill Level: Beginner & intermediate

Price: £40.00

Fancy Goods

Noun 1. Items for sale that are purely or chiefly ornamental

I’ve been having a really productive couple months with the project my business coach, the brilliant Eleanor Snare set me a few months ago. I’ve been working on some quick research projects, spending a couple of weeks on each theme. I randomly picked the topics from things I saw online and I added all the dates to my calendar to keep track.

I’m now spending time developing new work based on the themes and my early research ideas. I’m starting with Fancy Goods, a project I’ve had in mind for many years but never brought to life. My research had taken me down a path of using bright colours taken from images in Scarborough’s South Bay.

My talented friend Louise Atkinson has also been inspired by my early collages and created these amazing patterns from the images I shared online. I’m hoping to get them printed onto fabric so I can stitch into them and make myself some cushions.

I’ve treated myself to some new sequins from Josy Rose including these tusk shapes. I’ll be working on some new pieces that use beads and sequins to create layers of colour and textures. It’s a tough challenge as I love space around my pieces of work and I definitely have a less is more attitude. I have done a heavily beaded piece before inspired by the couture embroidery course I took last year.

I’m excited to see where these new pieces of work take me and how I can incorporate my original inspiration form the seaside souvenir shops.

Notes From The Studio

I’ve been taking some more time for myself recently, learning how to say no when it’s appropriate. This means I have more time to dedicate to my work and get back to doing what I love which is embroidery. It’s tough to admit that I needed a break from some of the volunteer roles but I’m glad that I spoke up.

I finally got a new studio notice board, something I’ve been delaying as my buyer’s remorse is real. This means I can finally stop moving a box file of research and partly finished work around the studio from surface to surface.

I’ve decided to rework an old stitchscape, it was my first experiment with free motion embroidery as part of the process and I’ve never been happy with the results. I took the plunge and cut into the piece, adding new fabrics and more sky. I’ll be sharing my progress on Instagram.

My first project from the UFO box was one I’d been excited to get finished, a new pincushion and needle roll. I started this project in 2021 and got fed up of trying to get it right, hello perfectionism. I finished the English patchwork pincushion, adding a ribbon to store my quilting clips. The needle roll is cotton fabrics with a layer of wadding in between. The fabric is Famous Monsters by Robert Kaufman, I bought it about twelve years ago at The Knitting & Stitching Show.

I’m excited to be working on new pieces to share with you online and at North Yorkshire Open Studios in June. You can also find out more about my upcoming workshops and events in my monthly Newsletter.

How To…

This edition of How To… is a little bit different. The question comes from my recent workshop with Leeds Libraries and Leeds Playhouse. I was asked the question a few times during the day I thought it would be a great topic to cover.

“Do I need to use an embroidery hoop?”

Like most of the of the questions I get asked, there’s no right or wrong answer but I will share my preferences and experience with you.

Using a Hoop…

Embroidery hoops are used to keep tension in your fabric while you work. The aim of the hoop is to avoid puckering the fabric which can make your work uneven. Remember to take your work out the hoop when you have finished stitching for the day. Leaving you fabric in the hoop can make marks on the fabric which won’t come out. You can also get a line of oils/dirt from your hands so make sure your hands are clean before you start stitching.

My preference is to use an embroidery for my work because I spend hours embroidering. I also invested in an Elbesee table clamp which is like a holiday for your shoulders. The clamp attaches to the edge of my desk and means you have both hands free to work. You can get a clamp that comes with a 10 inch hoop or a universal holder for your existing hoops.

I also have a seat frame that I use in the car and sitting on the sofa. Like the table clamp, you can get special hoops for the seat frame or a universal holder for your existing hoops.

I wrote a post called Tools of the Trade about using different types of embroidery hoops which you can read here.

Not Using a Hoop..

There are times when I don’t use a embroidery hoop, this is when I’m working on a thick fabric like denim for visible mending or a small piece of aida for cross stitch. If the fabric is stable enough to be held in my hands or too awkward to get in the hoop I choose not to use one. I’ve also stitched into paper which didn’t require a hoop.

Remember, what works for me might not be right for you. I recommend practicing your embroidery with and without a hoop to see what works best for you.

Creative Embroidery Course

I’ve teamed up with Leeds Libraries to offer a six week creative embroidery course in the wonderful Drawing Room at the Central Library. Starting on Wednesday 8th June, join me and learn how to research, develop samples and create your own piece of textile art. I’ll be bringing along some of my moodboards, sample books and finished pieces to show you how I work through my initial inspiration to a finished piece of work.

In week one you will find inspiration in the Art Library, browsing the book shelves, the Sanderson Collection and the beautiful building. You will start creating your journal with images to inspire your work.

In weeks two and three you will start creating samples inspired by your research from week one. I will demonstrate some embroidery techniques and talk through your ideas to help your select materials and processes to create your final piece.

In week four you will start to build ideas for your finished piece of work using the ideas, notes and samples in your journal. I will work with you to develop ideas based on your inspiration and favourite techniques.

In weeks five and six you will work on your final piece, creating your own unique piece of textile art. This will bring together your ideas and make a unique piece of work.

The course is suitable for beginners and people with some embroidery experience who want to try something new. All materials and equipment will be provided for the course but you can bring along anything from your craft stash that you would like to use.

The course will be structured over six, two hour sessions in the Drawing Room at Leeds Central Library starting on Wednesday 8th June at 5.30pm. You can book your ticket through Ticketsource.

North Yorkshire Open Studios

Our move to Scarborough has opened up new opportunities for my work and I’m excited to be taking part in my first North Yorkshire Open Studios in June. I’ve been visiting this brilliant event for many years and I’m looking forward to opening my studio doors on the 4th, 5th, 11th and 12th June from 10am to 5pm. You can find out more about my studio including access information here.

During the event you will be able to see my work up close and browse my sketchbooks. I will also be demonstrating how my Pfaff Creative 3.0 embroidery machine works and doing some hand stitching. For people who want to get hands on, there will be some hand stitching to take part in too.

I will also be offering a discount on my studio based workshops if you book during the NYOS event. I teach a variety of workshops to suit absolute beginners and the more experienced stitchers. Join me in my studio by the sea and get creative. You can read more about my approach to creativity and wellbeing in the Yorkshire Post article from March.

I look forward to seeing you in June