Notes from the Studio

It’s been a busy few weeks in the studio, I start teaching again in March so there’s been lots of workshop preparation happening. I’ve also been putting together the bunting for my project with Craven District Council and Skipton Town Hall which is very exciting. The joy of working on community projects is seeing what people can create with fabric and thread.

The bunting doesn’t disappoint and is full of inspiring embroidery, hand painting and appliqued designs inspired by the theme of celebration. The finished piece will be on display in the museum when the building reopens. You can find out more about the museum and it’s redevelopment here.

Our daily walks have been providing lots of inspiration and I have a huge collection of lichen pictures. I love the colour and texture that lichen creates plus it’s a sign of good air quality. My miniature worlds pieces have been inspired by these photographs and found objects like shells and pebbles. The finished pieces measure just a few inches across and are made from materials like Tyvek, wool felt and beadwork.

For regular updates about my practice and upcoming classes you can follow me on social media or sign up to my monthly newsletter.

Tools of the Trade

I’m often asked about the best type of fabric to use for embroidery and craft projects so I thought I’d share my most commonly used fabrics and how I work with them. There are so many suppliers locally and online that offer a brilliant range of fabrics. As an artist, I don’t always need to know what type of fabric I’m using unlike a dressmaker but I try to make a note or keep a swatch so that I can get the same type again for a different piece of work.

Good to Know… You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fabric, especially when you’re starting out. You can find fabrics in charity shops when they are allowed to reopen and lots of people have de-stash sales via Instagram or their website.

Cotton

I use cotton fabrics for my English Patchwork pincushions and fusible web applique, prices usually start at £2.00 per metre. Quilting cotton comes in a huge variety of colours and patterns, perfect for fussy cutting designs and creating geometric patterns. I like to keep a range of colours and patterns in my stash that will work together for a project. Cotton is easy to cut and sew which makes it a great fabric to work with for embroidery and patchwork.

Calico

Calico is a type of cotton fabric, it comes in different weights and qualities and you can usually pick some up for around £3.00 a metre. I buy mine by the roll for all my classes and community projects which works out cheaper overall. You can also get calico that has been prepared for dyeing and printing, this has a much smoother surface and will absorb the pigment easily. Like other cotton fabrics, calico is easy to cut and sew making it great to embroider onto.

Wool

Since choosing a vegan lifestyle a few years ago, I haven’t bought any more wool fabrics but I am working with the fabrics from my stash rather than selling them on. Wool can be expensive, depending on the quality. The cream wool in my stash is £65.00 per metre but you can pick up cheaper fabrics online or from your local fabric shop. I use wool for my digitally embroidered drawings as the dense stitching sinks into the surface of the fabric. Heavyweight or boiled wool doesn’t fray which is a great bonus.

Vintage Fabrics

My favourite type of fabric has to be vintage, in particular vintage cotton like tray cloths and bed sheets. The smooth worn surface makes it perfect for hand embroidery, dyeing and printing. I like to make use of the features on the fabric too, like printed designs for embroidery or labels and laundry marks. You can pick up some great vintage pieces with prices starting at around £1.00 per item in charity shops. It’s great to think about reusing rather than buying new for every project. You can freeze vintage fabrics for a couple of weeks to get rid of anything like clothes moths and gently hand wash them to remove any strange smells!

***Please note that this is just my personal observation on the products I use regularly, everyone has their favourites and I recommend trying lots of different types to find the best one for you.***

Stitchsperiments

The best part about my job is that I get to play with fabric and thread every week, finding new ways to combine different colours and textures of thread and use vintage fabrics to tell stories. I also love just picking some threads, embellishments and fabrics from my stash and just seeing what I can create. I call this technique Stitchsperiments and I thought I’d share some ideas with you. I’m also running a class on 21 March in collaboration with Workshop, you can book your place here.

I love to work with different threads when I’m hand stitching, you can find out more about my favourite threads in Tools of the Trade. I’ve built a collection of different embroidery, vintage and hand quilting threads over the last few years. You can often find job lots of threads on eBay, local stuff for sale groups on Facebook or charity shops when they are allowed to reopen. I like to pop a scrap of fabric in a hoop and just start stitching with the different threads, looking at the lines it can make and how it reflects the light.

I chose a DMC Cotton Perle, a Gutermann Hand Quilting thread and a vintage silk thread to stitch a line of chain stitch and some overlaid straight stitches. Each thread gives a different effect to the same stitch, you can even add some writing to the fabric to say which threads you used or stick samples in a notebook to create a stitch journal with techniques and ideas.

To find out more about creating texture in your work you can read my post on Texture with Textiles where I use different threads to create a moss inspired piece of work.

Why not experiment with different fabrics too, you can cut, stitch and create texture with small scraps of fabrics from your stash. I’m lucky to have friends who make their own clothes and save me their offcuts. You can also pick up fabric remnant bags online from Etsy and your local fabric shop.

I’ve used a very thick felt offcut, some thin voile and a cotton quilting fabric, cutting different shapes in a very haphazard manner and stitching them to the surface with the same threads. For the felt circle I stitched from the centre out, going off the edges of the fabric.. For the voile, I gathered it with a simple running stitch and then onto the surface of the fabric and finally, I cut little scraps of the cotton fabric and layered them up.

These are just a few ways you can experiment with fabric and thread to create your own Stitchsperiments. Keep exploring new techniques and materials to see what you can create.

Prism Textiles

I’m excited to announce that I have been accepted for membership of Prism Textiles, I’m excited to be part of such an amazing group of artists working with textiles. Our next exhibition, In Search of Possibilities is scheduled for October 2021 and I’m busy putting the finishing touches to my submission.

Prism are an international exhibiting group of Textile artists, working together to dispel the common preconceptions surrounding Textiles, and embracing both the contemporary approach and the rich traditions of cloth and stitch.

The Prism Group of Textile Artists was established in 1998 by the late Julia Caprara, as an important focus for the work of the students and tutors of Opus School of Textile Arts. Opus was initially founded in 1983 as Stitch Design, by Barbara Marriott and Julia and Alex Caprara. Later, under the direction of Alex and Julia, the school grew in reputation as one of the UK’s leading Textile Art Schools, specialising in teaching stitched textiles and art and design by distance learning to a world wide student group.

prismtextiles.co.uk/about

To find out more about Prism and the other members you can visit the website and take a look at the members page.

New Classes with Workshop

I’ve teamed up with Workshop in Leeds to offer some more Zoom workshops. I’ll be offering a series of embroidery classes that teach some traditional embroidery techniques with a twist. Prior to the session you will receive a kit in the post, the kit will also contain the Meeting ID and Password for Zoom. Using these details, you can log in to the class at the start time.

Applique and Embroidery Sunday 7 March 10am

In this two hour workshop I will guide you through the basics of applique using fusible webbing to create a personalised embroidery hoop. This class is perfect for beginners or more experienced crafters who would like to learn a new skill.

You can book your place here

Stitchscapes Fabric Collage Sunday 7 March 2pm

In this two hour workshop I will guide you through the basics of fabric collage and hand embroidery to create your own fabric stitchscape hoop. This class is perfect for beginners or more experienced crafters who would like to learn a new skill.

You can book your place here

Stitchsperiments Hand Embroidery and Embellishments Sunday 21 March 10am

In this two hour workshop I will guide you through some hand embroidery stitches including French Knots, seed stitch and lazy daisy stitch. You will also learn how to create texture using beads, sequins and fabric scraps to create your own decorative embroidery hoop. This class is perfect for beginners.

You can book your place here

Stitch Succulents Hand Embroidery Sunday 28 March 10am

In this two hour workshop I will guide you through some hand embroidery stitches including stem stitch, chain stitch and satin stitch. You will combine these traditional stitches to create your own succulent embroidery design. This class is perfect for beginners.

You can book your place here

Introduction to Hand Embroidery Sunday 28 March 2pm

In this two hour workshop I will guide you through some hand embroidery stitches including blanket stitch, chain stitch and stem stitch. Using these decorative stitches, you will create your own unique design. This class is perfect for beginners.

You can book your place here

For regular updates about textile workshops you can follow me on social media or sign up to my monthly newsletter.

Notes from the Studio

I’ve been settling into a new work/life routine in my Scarborough home studio, creating work inspired by the shells and pebbles I’ve picked up on our daily walks. The move gave me a chance to look through all my materials and equipment from teaching and past projects. I have lots of Merino wool tops from felt making workshops over the last few years and I wanted to experiment with felting around objects, a technique I haven’t tried for years.

I love working with the fibres, wrapping them around pebbles from the beach and seeing how the mix of colours blends together. I decided to cut into the pieces I made and started felting them again, seeing the colours that had blended together in new ways and making smaller pieces to stitch into.

If you follow my work, you will know that circles are one of my favourite ways to display work. I stitched the felt pieces onto some grey boiled wool and started stitching beads around them using colours from the fragments of shell, ceramic and pebbles from North Bay Beach.

I’ve had so much fun making these pieces, they only measure three inches across so they don’t take hours to make. I’m looking forward to starting some new ones next week, inspired by some shells from South Bay Beach.

For regular updates about my practice you can follow me on social media @hmillsstyles or sign up to my monthly newsletter.

Hello 2021

So 2020 was one hell of a year! Living through a global pandemic has definitely been one of the biggest challenges of my life and 2021 is starting under the shadow of COVID-19. I wanted to start the new year with some reflection, looking back at the positives that happened to me last year and talking about what I would like to do as we move forward.

In early December, we achieved a dream we never thought would happen, we moved to our forever house by the sea. Moving to Scarborough was a huge change for both of us, leaving a city that we have lived in for many years. It’s been just over a month and we don’t have any regrets, I can see the sea from my bedroom and there are so many new places to explore.

I was lucky to be involved in some fantastic projects in 2020, this included a few firsts and some new ways of working on the more traditional community projects I’m so familiar with. I was commissioned by Woven in Kirklees to create a film about embroidery in lockdown, you can view the film here on my about page. Making the film was a challenge and an opportunity to share my inspirations and techniques with a new audience.

My first lockdown collaborative project was created with Arts and Minds Network, a Leeds based organisation I work with on a regular basis. I made 100 packs to post out to people within the local NHS trust. They included fabric and thread and some simple guidelines to help people create a quilt square around the idea of hope. You can find out more about the project here.

I was also accepted to Prism Textiles, a group of artists working with textiles who exhibit annually in the UK. I’m excited to be working on my first piece for this years exhibition, the theme is in search of possibilities. I’ve been researching some new pieces around the move and exploring the history of our house.

The next few months are going to be busy as I settle into my new studio and start planning my classes with Workshop and the next project for Artlink West Yorkshire. Zoom has been a wonderful tool that allows me to connect with people through creativity and share my passion for visual art. I’m looking forward to delivering my new sessions.

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

Arts and Minds Hope Quilt

During the first few months of lock down, I was asked by Arts and Minds network to lead a collaborative project. Participants from within the trust were asked to create a square for a group quilt, the theme for the project was hope.

During COVID-19 we have all been hoping and dreaming about different things, like seeing our friends or family or visiting the seaside. Your quilt square can be anything you want it be when you think about hope.

Arts and Minds Network

I’ve worked on similar projects in collaboration with creatives like arthur+martha and A Quiet Word, bringing together people’s work to tell a story. Over a couple of month, I received squares from across Yorkshire that came together to make the Hope Quilt.

People created squares using hand embroidery, applique and fabric dyeing, each sharing how they felt about the COVID-19 pandemic, what they miss and sharing a message of hope and optimism. Lots of the squares were returned with notes about the work and feedback on the project.

Thank you so much for letting me be part of this uplifting project – I’ve really enjoyed it!

JW, Project Participant

Thank you for inviting me to join your project, I loved stitching this piece. During lock down I have missed being outdoors and in particular being beside the sea.

SH, Project Participant

We’re hoping to exhibit the quilt in 2021, where participants and the public can see the wonderful work that has gone into each square.

Notes from the Studio

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the studio, not that I’m complaining! I’m lucky to have lots of teaching and community projects to work on at a time when the UK government is stupidly advising people in creative industries to retrain.

My biggest project has been the Arts and Minds Hope Quilt, a project which brings together embroidered squares created by people from around the NHS Trust. We chose the theme of hope, looking to the future and thinking about our ideas for change and positivity. It’s great to see all the square together, something I can’t share yet but watch this space.

Arts and Minds members have also contributed to a fantastic online exhibition called Change is Gonna Come which you can see here.

I’ve also been working on some new collaborations with Workshop in Headingley. I’ll be offering some instant access workshops in the coming weeks that cover how to do basic embroidery techniques and create some designs. I can’t wait to share them with you.

For regular updates about my practice you can find me on social media @hmillsstyles and subscribe to my monthly newsletter