Monday 4 February 2019

Writing a book on thread painting and silk shading.

So, I have published a book.

It has been a long time in the making. In fact nearly two years of ' In the making'. This is not down to me being slow at writing or making, it is just how long it took me to plan, design, stitch, photograph, describe and edit the intricacies of thread painting and silk shading and as I am a perfectionist it took as long as it took!!!

Luckily I was asked to write a book by Crowood Press on my favourite embroidery subject, I am not sure I would have accepted or enjoyed 65,000 words on the history of English Smocking for example. That sounds a lot of words, when said out loud, BUT I could have written double that. I found there was so much to say and explain and point out, I wanted people to be totally sure on how to apply the principles of thread painting to their own projects.

I have to say I loved every minute of writing it, I am not saying it did not have it stresses. It did. One project which was to recreate an eighteenth century dandelion motif from a mans waistcoat took three attempts before I was happy with the result. I am glad I took the time to get the technique perfect so it is easy for the reader to replicate. 

The front cover of the book featuring the Japanese style project  describes a padding technique on the outer edges and uses flat silk floss. The background fabric is an antique kimono silk which added great texture to the cover.
The book covers everything you could possibly need to know about thread painting; inspiration, colour theory, setting up frames, what threads to use and then twenty step by step projects.
The projects are very varied, you can work a simple feather, stitch a London sky line or learn how to use real peacock feathers in a seventeenth century style project. 

The motif on this project is from an antique Chinese panel, it sits on a paper envelope of silk threads and uses french knots for texture. Although it is a very simple idea the motif is striking when contrasting colours are used for the petals. Again this project uses silk floss.

Throughout the book are photographs of historical and differing cultural examples of silk shading which I have sourced from The Royal School of Needlework and other private collections, the motif above is seen many times in antique Chinese embroidery to create a simple but effective flower shapes.  
A more advanced project, this sprig of hydrangea flowers is stitched over wire and then cut out. It uses DMC variations threads to create all those wonderful shades. 

This is the London Gherkin being worked in tapestry shading. It shows the lines of split stitch that are embroidered first before being covered in long and short stitch. This ensures a smooth edge.

The book is for beginners and advanced stitchers alike. Beginners will find every stage of long and short stitch and the projects fully explained and illustrated with step by steps. Experienced embroiderers will find lots of little tips scattered throughout to help them improve their thread painting and general embroidery and ways to use my designs to adapt to their own ideas.

 Please get in touch using the contact section on the side of this page with any questions or to let me know what you think of the book if you have bought it. At the moment it is available in the UK and USA on Amazon and later this year the rest of Europe, Far East and beyond. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to see and buy the book on Amazon.

Monday 9 July 2018

Orla Kiely- A Life in Pattern

'' I wouldn't wear that it looks like my Grandma's curtains! '' was the first of many comments I overheard at the Orla Kiely Exhibition currently on at The Fashion and Textile Museum in London.
    Well quite, I had to agree, the dress in question did look like it could have come from a kitchen window circa 1965. I on the other hand would quite happily wear it.
         Orla Kiely designs are very much Marmite; you either love them or hate them. They are however all around us. A hugely successful brand that is very much inspired by the 60's and 70's with it's over sized graphic prints. Orla's patterns now cover everything from the aforementioned dresses to home wares, cycle helmets and suitcases.
       The exhibition is a joy to wander around and fills the exhibition space perfectly. From an Alice in Wonderland moment to a wall of bags to an army of mannequins that seem to advance on you, the breadth of pattern and colour is fantastic. It shows off twenty years of her design studio which produces the simple but eye catching graphics.
       The exhibition is on until 23rd of September 2018 . Click this link here to find out about opening times . Beware the museum is shut on Mondays.

Stem pattern on back wall. 
 This back wall photo shows off Orla's now iconic pattern 'Stem' as well as some variations on it.
    I am sure many people would look at these patterns and wrongly murmur, 'I could do that, it's so simple'. Yes, it is simple but the skill comes in reinventing this pattern season after season in differing scales and colours with various tweaks on the original design.

Giant dress installation. 

                            This dress section on the right does not show it's full scale at all. This was taken in the Wonderland room where nine of her garments have been scaled up and remade into huge hanging installations. This one looks very much like it is made from a flocked wallpaper.

The embroidery on this beautiful bag is machine made but shows perfect design details; an over sized floral pattern in the background, a collection of insects lined up with a limited colour palette and a bright yellow bee flying in at a totally different angle. 

The embroidery on this bag, is worked by hand. The backing is a perforated leather with the cross stitches embroidered in wool. It is reminiscent of Victorian perforated paper cards. 

The wall of bags, an amazing array of colour, materials and textures. Changing year after year, making them the ultimate collectable for Orla fans.  

The advancing army of mannequins, with Grandma's curtains front and centre!

The giant dress installation, very hard to capture the scale but my friend Masako Newton is just wandering through to give you an idea. 

A bold mix of patterns, used to great dramatic effect. 

From a distance this just looks like an abstract pattern, it is only on close inspection that you see it a a repeat design of a swimmer. Deceptively clever designing. 


Sunday 21 May 2017

Antique Bible Conservation.

Working in the Royal School of Needlework studio means that I get to see, handle and work on some fantastic antique textiles. This year I was lucky enough to conserve an ancient bible which was fully bound in embroidery. The embroidery was metal thread work , both flat and padded. The embroidery dates to first half of the seventeenth century.

There was only one piece missing which was a small leaf . The client decided that they wanted to replace the missing leaf for aesthetic reasons. This can be subjective. Should the embroidery be left as it is?  However in this case the bible was for retail and therefore not in a museum and the leaf can be removed if any future buyer decides they prefer all the parts should be original.

Read all about the project and see some photographs on the Royal School website 

A corner of the bible showing the fully embroidered background with couched metal threads and a wonderful rose in pink and yellow. This rose was stitched in a metal thread which was then wrapped with coloured silk.

A close up of the new leaf, it was a challenge to make a leaf that was going to fit in with all the antique stitching. I used Jacqui Careys book, Elizabethan Stitches to work out the correct buttonhole stitch to embroider. The picture shows me stitching a pulled piece of metal purl around the outside to try and replicate the original. Very delicate work!

Attaching the new leaf to the binding.

Monday 6 June 2016

Freemason Cufflinks.

An unusual commission to show you here. A pair of hand embroidered cuff links showing the Freemasons symbol.They were tiny and very fiddly to make. I used a thin machine thread for the embroidery  which is about 1cm in size. The challenge here was getting them to look identical.

Close up of the embroidery , approx 1cm in size. The backing was a navy/black flat silk.

Compass and set square symbol of the Freemasons. mounted in silver plate settings.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Custom requests.

I love it when people have their own ideas for pieces of jewellery. Some can be a challenge, but who doesn't love a challenge? Here are some I have done in the last few months.
     The peacock range was made for the Royal School of Needlework shop to coincide with their Peacocks and Pomegranates exhibition. Details of that on their website. I have not made any pomegranate pieces yet but I'm working on it. I think I am much more drawn to the peacock colours , so they got first look in.

A lily of the valley silk ribbon and silk appliqué necklace. I really wanted to get the effect of the little flowers being like little round bells and quite three dimensional. I think I have achieved it.  

This large silk shaded brooch was done for a lovely mum on Mothers day. Her name ? Iris. Stranded cottons on a white silk backing. 5cms diam.
Close up of the colours, as the flower was so small I had to use stronger colours than I would use on a large project to enable me to get enough shading into a small amount of space.
Three necklaces with the letter G and two silk ribbon roses. Silver rococo thread and sequins make up the letter. 


The backing of this brooch is a silver lurex/silk mix which does not really show up in the photo, it really shimmers! Some fabric painting, sequins, beads and freestyle stitching finish it off.

Close up of a silk appliqué necklace with space dyed threads. 

Three peacock silk appliqué necklaces.

Silk appliqué and metallic threads bangle. 

Another initial , this one with three roses and a contrast colour on the sequins.

Close up of the silk roses and silver rococo threads

A freesia and buds in silk ribbon on a wonderful blue silk. 

A large brooch of two ginger toms. A little amount of fabric painting then alot of stripes. I had to do some editing to make the embroidery design simpler than the photographs I was given, but I think it has made the image more striking and therefore a better piece of jewellery.

Monday 4 January 2016

Bits and blanks.

Some more jewellery pieces. Some new ones for me ; bangles and cufflinks .
        I buy my blanks in bulk from China. This is always a risk as it can be very hard to see the quality, some are great like the blossom bangle below. Others not so much, such as the atomic bangle I made for myself.

A thistle commissioned brooch, I would have probably put a leaf or third bud on this one but the brief was VERY specific. Long and short stitch thistles.I have added some purple metallic thread on the very top of the flower to catch the light. The backing is Campbell tartan silk from James Hare Silks. 

 A snowflake inspired small brooch. Stitched in silver machine thread with a Swarovski crystal centre.  

A cherry blossom bangle, now for sale in my shop. I will be making lots more bangles as I think they are a lovely way to wear embroidery as the person wearing it can also enjoy the embroidery. 

This metal blank was not good value for money, it is really lightweight and the corners are so sharp they catch on your clothes. I cannot use these in my shop so they will all be made up for me like this one. My favourite colour in a space dyed thread , satin stitch circles with antique Italian beads. 


Tiny cuff-link snowflakes commission. Machine thread with mini 2mm sequins and glass beads from Prague. The backing is a navy and black shot silk. 

Monday 9 November 2015

Latest bits.

A few pieces of my latest jewellery. Oak leaves and acorns heavily appear as usual.

An allium necklace made for a colleague at The Royal School. Space dyed threads, french knots and antique glass beads on a silk backing.

Oak and acorn necklace, crewel wools on silk. Long and short in the leaf french knots and satin stitch in the acorns. 

I love this one as it is in my colours. Long and short thread painted leaf using stranded cottons with a metallic thread vein on a cream silk. 
A thread painted poppy brooch that I made for my lovely mum. Stranded cottons on silk. 

Crewelwork using wool from the Handweavers Studio on a silk backing. 

Beetle on silk , stitched with space dyed perle. 

Toadstool stitched in viscose knitting ribbon and stranded cotton on a silk / silver lurex mix.

Thursday 27 August 2015

Wedding sampler.

I thought I would share a wedding sampler that I stitched recently. The wedding took place in Greece and I was asked to use a sea theme for the embroidery design.
       The font I used was the same as on the invitation , this was traced through on to the white silk with a fine 0.5 blue pencil. At the bottom of the wording I stitched the wedding bouquet; rosemary, olive branches and white roses.
        To keep with the sea theme I added a shell and seahorse. These were kept very simple in style to fit in with the lightness of the overall sampler. The words on the sampler are personal to the family so I am only showing the embroidery in parts.

The font was embroidered in a space dyed stranded cotton using stem stitch . This blended from turquoise through to sea blue and a bottle green. Stem stitch is perfect for embroidering writing as you can get lovely curves.

The bouquet was embroidered in stranded cottons and white and green silk ribbon.

The shell was embroidered in stem stitch using DMC colour variations stranded cotton.

The seahorse was stitched in stem and coral (how appropriate!) stitches and french knots again using DMC colour variations thread. A couple of sequins and an antique glass bead finished it off. 

Thursday 30 July 2015

Flowery work.

I have got to 'meet' such wonderful people through the power of the Internet. On my blog here and through instagram and facebook etc. One lovely lady bought one of my necklaces and then got in touch to suggest a custom order. The results of this are shown below and I enjoyed it so much that I offer this as a custom request in my shop. The pendants suggested were a violet and a couple of roses in some oval settings. They are quite large at 3x4 cm but at the same time seemed quite small when I wanted to put lots of detail in. The roses needed lots of petals to look realistic, but my original design had too many so I had to simplify it to enable enough shading. The mounting of them was actually the hardest part, hand cut ovals are not easy! The flowers are all worked in stranded cotton on various flat silks.  A link to the ordering details is here .

Close up of the sepals.

A silver rococo thread has been added to the frame of this necklace.

This particular rose is called 'Marilyn Monroe'

This rose is called 'double delight'.