My work has appeared in…

Friday, 24 February 2017


A few years ago I made this boro inspired cushion.

As it has worn, instead of offloading to a charity shop, or worse, simply binning, I've patched and re-patched my cushion cover whenever new holes appeared. Each time I've mended my cushion, I've become fonder of, and more attached to it.

I've used mainly running stitch with just the tiniest amount of needle weaving but the resulting texture is pleasingly intricate and hopefully belies the simplicity of the techniques used. In some places the cushion is three or four layers thick. Although I haven't been completely true to boro aesthetics—I've used scraps of silk, as well as the traditional cotton—the act of preserving rather than discarding has been well and truly embraced. My cushion also includes fabrics that have history or sentiment for me, such as a vintage silk scarf from Patrick that, although it could no longer be worn because it was shredded at one end was still too lovely to throw away.

The change in my cushion just crept up on me. It never occurred to me how different the cushion cover might look now from when it was first made. But while going through some old photos and blog posts, I saw the picture at the top of this post and was amazed at how basic the original cover looks. At the time I thought it was so detailed. No doubt, in a few years I'll think this current reincarnation looks plain.

It just goes to show how textiles develop and take on a life of their own, if we let them.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

My book…

Crikey, I've only gone and written a book. One with properly photographed images, professionally illustrated artworks, a whole editorial and design team behind it, and, a bona fide publisher to take care of stuff like production, packaging, sales, marketing and distribution—phew!

My book is called Stitch, Fabric & Threadit's published by Search Press and as advertisers like to say, 'is in all good bookshops now'. In a nutshell, the book is about play and experimentation—a kind of foundation course for would be creative stitchers that they can do at home. It's about as far away as can be from the type of book that promises the reader 30 exact replicas of projects contained herein if they follow instructions to the letter. Rather, the book is a starting point, and hopefully (if I've done my job right) a springboard for the reader's own ideas.

For anyone who knows me, or has read this blog in the past, you can expect to see features on Dorset Buttons…

An example of a Behind the Stitches feature spread.

Penny mats…

A typical chapter opener

The first of a two spread techniques article on layering fabrics

The book also looks at other ways to approach sewing, for example, how to work with, and think about negative space…

A typical techniques spread

As well as looking beyond shop bought patterns and kits to everyday inspiration such as graphic posters, and then incorporating unusual materials like brightly coloured, elasticated yachting cord to realise your ideas…

Another techniques spread

It was a lot of work, but then I knew it would be and fully embraced that (as I kept telling myself when my fingertips developed callouses from endless days, and late nights of hand stitching). What was surprising, considering I have worked on illustrated books for the last twenty years, is that I couldn't go with my usual approach to design and preference for an economy of material on the page. If I had, it would have made life easier, and lessened my workload but felt it would have short changed the reader if I'd stuck to my long held motto of less is more. Instead each spread became a 'mind-dump' of ideas, tips and snippets that simply had to be shared. Hopefully, this has made for a richer book even if does mean any reader with even the weakest detective powers (weaker than say Inspector Couseau's) can easily build a comprehensive identikit of my entire life. I stop short of giving my national insurance number, blood group, and there's no author photo (cripes, no!) but there's a lot of personal stuff in there—all relevant to sewing of course. Speaking of which, it does feel rather strange to have my surname so clearly visible at the top of this post and sidebar, when for the last five years I've just been 'Elizabeth'.

It's been over two years since I first signed the contract, and writing it fulfils a long held ambition, although greedy creature that I am, I now want to do another. I guess I'm just a glutton for punishment and sore fingers!



Thursday, 19 January 2017

A blue and white quilt…

A new house calls for a new quilt, and for a long time I've hankered after a blue and white one. The one I have in mind will reflect the style of house we live in, an open plan, square, 60s style building with a flat roof. There will be 25 (highly convenient from a quilting point of view) patches to represent the number of flats and houses on the estate and I'll add the occasional strip of red to suggest the paths that divide us into small blocks. I've cut my fabrics, most of which came from stash including the red one which is a piece of 'nui' style shibori that I stitched and dyed for my book* some time ago. I've been saving this scrap for something special as I love the spine-like effect the stitches created, and was delighted the end result turned out as I'd hoped—it's not often that happens! This fabric will be used sparingly as there isn't much of it, so a little will have to go a long way.

Now all I need is to set my sewing machine up, which is easier said than done. While most of the boxes are finally unpacked and I have a brand new sewing table, the machines themselves are still in storage. This has at least meant that I've been able to continue with my needleweaving, which has grown quite a bit since you last saw it although I'd like the stitching to eventually extend to the fabric's edge. But for now, it's time to set the hand needle to one side and dig out the sewing machine.

* After months of waiting my book is almost ready for release. As soon as I receive copies from the publisher I'll give you a tour of the insides.


Monday, 5 December 2016

Stitch inspiration…

I can't remember where I first saw these images but as soon as I did, I thought, wouldn't they make a great bit of stitching? Both remind me of the sort of machine Willy Wonka would have in his factory, with cogs and wheels made from Whirly Pops & and brightly coloured Gobstoppers. I love how the aerial photography flattens the perspective and turns fairground rides and vehicles, beach umbrellas and sunbathers into what look like randomly scattered sweets.

My interpretation is monochrome rather than brightly coloured, but I'm still aiming for it to look like a plan for a piece of machinery that wouldn't look out of place in either Mr Wonka's factory, Professor Wolff's (of The Great Egg Race) laboratory, or a Heath Robinson sketch. Basically a visual contradiction of something that is both overly complicated and terribly simple at the same time.

I'm using three different weights of cream thread and have drawn some strands from the edge of the fabric to use in the piece. My stitches consist of buttonhole and blanket stitch and lots of needleweaving. I've also added a trio of Dorset buttons. I'll keep working on it until there is no distinction between fabric and stitch, or I run out of thread, whichever comes first.


PS: For some reason Blogger has changed the way it is used. It's supposed to be an improvement but I prefer the old interface.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Sewing spaces: the view from Holmenkollen…

Stitched sample of an impression
of the view from Holmenkollen

Way back at the end of May (three months after we accepted an offer on our flat, and, had an offer accepted on a house) Patrick and I went to Oslo to visit my half-sister. It was a full on, and hugely enjoyable few days that culminated in a trip to the Holmenkollen ski jump. It's a strange thing, having Norwegian relatives who like strapping planks of wood to their feet in order race down mountains (one is a competitive speed skier), or hurl themselves into the air for the sheer thrill of it. By contrast, I am a complete wuss who gets dizzy if I wear high heels, and avoid physical danger at all costs. So, although I found the jump impressive from a distance, there was no way I was going to set foot on it. Oh no! fate would surely decide that that would be the precise moment the steel structure should collapse and my destiny was to plummet, along with it, to an agonising and terrifying death.

So I did some doodling from the safety of a reassuringly solid rock. And afterwards, when we went to the nearby restaurant (fabulous meatballs!) I doodled some more. The view of Oslo fjord is staggeringly beautiful from that vantage point. Beyond a banner of conifer trees all I could see was an uninterrupted blend of water, islands, soft curves of the fjord, and the sky. Add to that that everything was in tones of blue, grey and mauve and my eye was tricked into thinking the islands resembled clouds floating above the trees.

Details and doodles

Back in England, convinced we were about to move 'any day now' we packed up our belongings and waited for contracts to exchange. And waited. For a very long time. My sewing machines, and most of my sewing equipment were put into boxes, the same went for Patrick's painting materials. Eventually we moved but most of our stuff is still in boxes as we have taken on a bit of a project (also known as a money pit) which was part of the reason it took us so long to move. Other factors included a slippery estate agent and a seller who was so economical with the truth we nearly pulled out of the move. Absorption with the move is also my pathetic excuse for leaving it so long between posts!

While we are still knee high in power tools, dust sheets and paint tins there is light at the end of the tunnel. My office is almost ready to move into, which means my temporary office will become my new sewing space, and at long last, I'll be able to unpack my sewing machine!

Ribbon roses

However, although I've spent more time with a sander/paintbrush/drill in my hands over the last few months than needle, fabric and thread, I have made time for some sewing. My Holmenkollen doodles have been turned into a stitched sample. I also had fun preparing samples for some workshops on ribbon roses, Dorset buttons and needle weaving I taught at the Knit and Stitch show.

Dorset buttons

Needle weaving

But I'm itching to get stitching in my new sewing space, with it's ceiling to floor windows that look out onto a wood. It's a great view, admittedly not as great as the one from Holmenkollen, but it's my view, and will make a wonderful sewing space.