The Joy of Stitch

Walking the Talk

In the Canteen

Sometimes it is good to “walk the talk”!

After traveling from Penzance to Univesity Falmouth, dealing with Reprograhics, a tutorial with Gillian Wylde and lunch, it just flet the right thing to do, just to sit for an hour and stitch, while listing to some music! (The Bookshop Band, my current favorite!). When I look back at my documentation of my journey in Stitch, I realize, that it took me a bit of time to really take the Stitch piece on as my ‘companions! At the beginning I stitch only in ‘special moments’, at home and while filming. Only when I started the ‘Small One’ and the ‘Middle one’, I really started to carry them around with me, stitching on the train on every journey, they went to Germany, to London, to Totnes, several times to Truro.

three pieces
The Three Pieces (detail)

Over the weekend I was thinking, that the Graduation show is really not the end of this work! The three pieces will have a break, I will continue working with them, when they come home! Before they go into the show next week Friday, I will take a final photo, which will be only a recording of that moment! This is a good feeling, a feeling of continuity! 

Stitching in public is a really different ball game compared with other activities such as Knitting, or Crochet. It draws more attention to it, the is not a day or an outing without someone coming up to me, complimenting, commenting and inquiring, sometimes I tell people of the context, sometimes I keep it vague, saying I just enjoy doing it! 

Here is another bit about “Walking the Talk” from last week:

Today I have locked myself out of my work, by leaving my laptop charger at the college last night! 

So I decide to take some time out and went to the Poolside Cafe in Penzance and I here I am sitting right now and stitching! And breathing through the disappointment, the frustration and the upset. Better to accept the situation as it is and make the most of it.

Enjoying a coffee, watching the sea, breathing and stitching!

By the Jubilee Pool
By the Jubilee Pool
The Joy of Stitch

The Coffee, Cake and Stitch Event

The Event  "Coffee, Cake and Stitch
The Event
“Coffee, Cake and Stitch

On Saturday, 11 May 2013 the Event ” Coffee, Cake and Stitch happened!

From 15.00 till 17.00 pm 14 people came to the cafe of the Exchange Gallery Cafe and joined me for some time of stitching and sharing stories.

People came and stayed, they got o know the other people and sat down and stitched! It required in the end three pieces of fabric to accomedate everyone! Which was wonderful! It really was what I had hoped and wished for! Some asked my on arrival” What do you want us/me to do?” and I answered ” Just stitch, what ever comes to mind!”

Bill, who very brilliantly documented the event with photography and film, observed, that there was an ebb and flow of phases of chatting and concentrated stitching. People looked very closely at “washing line” of the Stitch Samplers, which were on display. And were quite fascinated by the amount of writing in the comments. It was observed that there had appeared a common thread in the comments about, moments of stillness, relaxation and enjoyment.

Teresa said: ” I like to do more stitching and just sitting with it, doing what appears.”

contact sheet 2 event

Coffee, Cake and Stitch
Coffee, Cake and Stitch


The Joy of Stitch

Mindfulness and Stitching

Thich Nhath Hanh
Thich Nhath Hanh

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”

― Thich Nhat HanhBeing Peace

Being mindful, while stitching, brings the dimension to it, I am looking for.

The book “Happiness” by Thich Nhath Hanh is a great inspiration on this way.


It makes a great difference when I stitch and calm my mind. I love the term “Monkey Mind”, it feels friendly, just something that is and sometimes it needs very gentle calming down, a chance to be grounded and relax. I can be kind to my own Monkey Mind and Stitching help’s me to find these moments when breathe and stitch and breathe and smile and with every Stitch come back to breathing in and out.

The Small One
The Small One

Stitching brings me into the present when I take care of my mind.

Mindfulness, Slowness, Environmental Responsibility and Connetedness with other people are foundation aspects in my work.





Mending at the Museum

This is from Janet Haigh”s blog:

Janet Haigh and Dawn Mason, both from the Univeristy of the West of England Bristol, found the research group “Stitch and Think”. Their work let to an Exhibition at the Bristol Museum and Arts Gallery

They picked up on the notion that “Make do and Mend” has changed from its stigma of poverty to being worthwhile.

Making a Mending Exhibition

December 14, 2012 in Make – Do and Mendmake it through the nightStitching | 6 comments


my sentiments about the Mending at the Museum exhibition

The exhibition ‘Mending at the Museum’ has finally been launched at The Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery – and it runs until April 2013….which sounds simple enough but it is the culmination of at least 3 years collaborative practice based research between academics and professional makers and artists. The ‘Stitching and Thinking’ research group, which I facilitated in my post as a senior research fellow, evolved the exhibition via a series of  mixed media workshops, visits to the museum’s mended collections, many meetings, discussions, conference papers and a small sample-stage exhibition; and it also caps off my academic career which started in 1973  and finished last year in 2011….. So no pressure then.


mending Sampler from the Bristol Museum collection

I co-curated the exhibition with Dawn Mason, currently the award leader of Drawing and Applied Arts at U.W.E. Bristol, and my long-term academic colleague and collaborator in all things stitched. In the museum we worked with Karin Walton, the Curator of Applied Arts at Bristol  Museum, and who holds the secrets and the keys to the museum’s sampler collection, the mending samplers were the main inspiration for the work that has finally been exhibited.


school’s sampler from the museum’s collection


table of samples and exhibits


Steph Wooster’s wrapped work


When I arrived on the first morning to hang the work, Dawn and Karin had already placed the exhibits, still in their wrappings, on the floor below the wall space allotted to them, but there were piles of extraneous pieces, scattered over tables and chairs, it became my task to sort these out.

The idea of the exhibition is partly to show how ideas evolve during the making process – Dawn and I have written and spoken many times of the necessity of makers to have time for reflection; making work worthy of contemplation requires as much time for the thinking as it does for the making process. It is a constant making and thinking about what you made, re-making, re-thinking until somehow the pieces resolve themselves and you wonder how they could ever have become anything other than what they are.

Each exhibitor was responsible for physically putting their own work on the wall, this saves so much argument later….but with only 7 exhibitors who know one another well we each respected one another’s’ space – well most of the time. So during the next 2 days each member of the group came and sorted their own work out meanwhile just looking at all the unwrapped pieces was really fascinating as work seen only at the sample stage 4 weeks before, now appeared ready for the wall. Work can made or marred by the way it is hung and also what it  is hung next to. We were all acutely aware of how the whole exhibition must work together. It comprises 3 different elements; some of the museum’s mending samplers, our own samplers of work made throughout the research period, and the pieces made specially for exhibition.


Steph Wooster draping her knitted shawl

Steph Wooster’s knitted and pieced work looked different when it was stretched over some embroidery hoops that acted almost as magnifying mirrors – drawing the eye to the details of her messages. She writes of museums being ‘houses of high culture; they show the best of us’. Finding evidence of mending within the museum’s exhibits she delights in glimpses of ‘everyday life’ . Her work, influenced by the written messages on samplers, ‘celebrates the ordinary’ by using simple fabrics with ubiquitous machine knitting.


one of Steph Wooster’s knitted and stitched wraps “you are my rock and my hard place”

Jilly Morris‘ children’s aprons came neatly laid one on top of the other with a Fragile label printed on the cardboard wrapper – a comment, I felt, not about the fact that the contents could  be damaged but of the fragility of what was inside and already ‘ damaged’ .


Jilly Morris’ stack of children’s aprons

The title of the work produced is ‘Mending Takes Time’ and refers to the functional stitching that was traditionally taught as part of their general education to girls, as transferable skills in an era when fabrics were ‘treated with regard’ and material was frequently mended to preserve a precious commodity – so at odds with our easy access to all types of fabric from all over the world.


Mending Takes Time – Jilly Morris

The cross shape made by various commercial medical dressings recall the basic shape of most darns seen on the samplers; when executed in ready-made modern plasters she references the ‘quick fix mentality and disposable culture’ of the present day.


Jillt Morris, child’s apron with first aid pocket – paper


Jilly Morris, Child’s apron pocket with commercial first aid plasters and staples

Jess Turrell came in with a box of assorted table-wear cups, saucers and a range of metal components such as spoon bowls, fork tines, knife blades and their specially made handles – which she made up before she placed them in a large vitrine.


Jess Turrell making her Fork Handles


Jess Turrell first aid plaster wrapped ceramics

Her work is called “Inappropriate Mendings” and she is having some fun at the idea of making aesthetically elegant mending that is really useless for any practical purposes, fork handles are whittled from wax candles (gedditt?) cups are mended with calico, and spoon handles wrapped in plasters from the first aid tin.


Jess Turrell, Fork Handles


Jess Turrell – vitrine of inappropriate mendings


Dail Behennah brought in a fragile darned wire piece, mercifully it was framed and so this was the easiest to hang…the piece is simple and refined and references a particular black darning  sampler in the collection, which is placed in a vitrine opposite her work.


Dail Behennah – Holding it Together, copper wire and thread.

Dail reflects that the darning in an old garment are often stronger than the fabric that they hold together, she has taken this to ‘absurd lengths’ by making  a piece of metal fabric entirely compose of darns. The shimmering quality of the image is created by the shadows set up by the work being suspended in a box frame, below is the darning fabric in the making

dail behennah darn

Dail Behennah, darned fabric detail.

Dawn Mason exhibited a series of different responses to the mending samples, called Face to Face her work reflects the reverse side of the samplers, some how when we look at the ‘wrong’ side of a piece f stitched work it seems much more immediate, the involvement of the maker is more apparent because here we see the comings and goings or the threads and  often the struggle the maker has had is left as evidence where on the front of the work all is perfectly presented and correct. (I know that given the opportunity people usually will look at the back of any stitched work – maybe searching for signs of the maker’s involvement )


Dawn Mason, hanging her newest pieces – cotton organdie

The work she showed was made over the entire duration of the project and shows the progression of her own personal work…


Dawn Mason – early stitched and darned work – printed polished paper and thread


Dawn Mason, stitched texts on printed polished paper and thread

Like Dawn’s exhibited pieces, my own work forms part of an ongoing series of stitched work, that has been a direct consequence of our involvement in this project. “Make it through the Night” includes many references to mending as mending broken hearts has been the major inspiration to my personal work for several years now – as this blog illustrates – there are many postings around the ideas and practice of mending, and the first ever post was about my mended clothes………


a rare photograph of me in action – here pressing ‘Counterpane – Counterpain” on the museum’s walls

I  have made a whole series of embroidered handkerchiefs, let’s face it some nights we have all needed a handkerchief if only to hold on to.  So I have embroidered them with positive mending mottoes and other words of wisdom –  the set is called ‘ Patch Grief with Proverbs’ a sentiment that rings true to me. How often we just find ourselves reciting platitudes in response to grief?


Janet Haigh embroidered linen handkerchief with linen voile patch.


Greek proverb, cotton handkerchief and thread

I made 21 embroideries all with their own distinctive darns and patches to reflect the written proverb, they took quite a time to get onto the wall…..I had to search many different sources to find enough texts to make a wall full – but one lovely Greek proverb was given to me by Basil Kardasis  and this was the last piece I embroidered – an a very large-scale cotton handkerchief I had to purchase new – the rest were all on vintage linen.

Which brings me neatly to the last exhibitor, Basil Kardasis, his exhibit is called ‘The Buttonhole’, and he collected from his family and friends ( we all had to contribute) ” treasured, revered materials…that may represent them ” and also a button;  then , with the help of his sister Ella, spent may months button-holing all the pieces together so that they made a “protective cloak”  for his son.



Many different materials and articles appear in the cloak, which has a very colourful interior as well, the range of fabrics perfectly reflect his wide-ranging experiencing as a designer and educator world-wide, students and colleagues and friends from practically every aspect of his life gave him wonderful and rare pieces of cloth for this coat, my favourite is a piece of lasered leather in a lace pattern – now this I could really get working on – it only I had much more of it…..


lasered lace calf skin

Looking at the image now of this lasered work I am reminded of the joint piece of work that had to be abandoned for inclusion in this exhibition, due to personal reasons by my making partner Hanne Rysgaard. We were making a porcelain hanging from impressed lace fragments but sadly this was shelved until we can both find the space in our very busy lives to get together again and make it. Now I am thinking that these 2 disparate materials may somehow work together…leather and porcelain – Basil where did that lasered skin come from and is there any more?

black lace press

paper porcelain impressed with Guipure Lace

lace impressed porcelain

I have been working with Hanne Rysgaard sampling new work for an exhibition of the Stitch and Think research group, called Mending at the Museum which starts in November this year and runs for 6 months at Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery. Hanne does not like mended things, in fact she is fundamentally opposed to the idea of mending or using anything cracked or broken BUT she does  like transformation – well as a ceramicist she would wouldn’t she ? transformation by fire is fundamental to her practice.

my pieces of damaged vintage guipure lace and drawn thread work

We have been trying to get together to work since our visit to the Lost in Laceexhibition in Birmingham early this year, where we determined to develop some porcelain lace work – possibly a curtain. The idea is that Hanne will transform my tattered bits of lace into porcelain and I will stitch or embroider the patches together to make fabric.

So Hanne prepared some sheets of paper porcelain for us to work on and we set to work rolling several types of lace and drawn thread work into the surface of the clay.

Hanne rolling black guipure lace into sheet of paper porcelain

She was much the stronger roller – my first attempts were really puny. We had placed the larger sheets of lace under the clay as we thought we may want the resulting ‘fabric’ to be seen from both sides. I prefer the stricter linear drawn thread work impressions but Hanne just loved the rich and romantic guipures..

guipure lace and drawn thread squares impressed into the fresh porcelain

We used all types of patterns to give ourselves a good range to sample with. We needed to ascertain how big the individual pieces could be as this would give an indication of the size of finished piece…I had envisaged a huge floor to ceiling drop of larger sheets of porcelain but Hanne explained that making hand  -sized pieces of porcelain was more viable; first the pieces need to be fired without cracking and then be strong enough to be handled later when being stitched together+all my scraps of vintage lace are damaged and small sized, but  how else could I have afforded to collect such lovely pieces?

impression in damp porcelain of the black lace above

As you can see the first impression in the damp clay is stunning, so crisp and clear, we were whooping with delight at the fine detail, every stitch can be seen and this is machine made lace. We now had  to cut the lace into shapes and I was amused to see Hanne pick up a pair of scissors to cut it; but first I handed her an old fashioned tailor’s tracing wheel to impress regular holes in the surface where I have to stitch. We placed the holes anywhere we thought useful – we will have to regulate these more carefully on the finished work.

fettling the edges of the cut porcelain motif

Now to the kiln…Hanne packed it….

kiln packed ready to be fired

and 2 days later I returned to collect the finished motifs…

fired porcelain motifs

The pieces are slightly smaller but the holes are fine for stitching, the quality of the unglazed porcelain is so like a starchy linen fabric that the transformation is uncanny – they look like material but are brittle and now all uniformly white….ethereal.

fine linen drawn thread work square

and like similar transformations in vitreous enamel, plastic lace often makes crisps and clear impressions.

plastic lace impression

So now it is over to me to develop the new fabric, I start by placing the different pieces in formal patterns – I originally intended to use wire to stitch between the gaps using decorative lace like stitches to fill in any spaces….now I realised this was not going to be at all easy, even at this moderate scale. The wire won’t behave well – it needs careful and regular stitches to develop the rhythm required to give embroidery its formal beauty.

motifs arranged formally as a lace curtain design.

I started to draw between the pieces to try to find decorative stitches that could be used between the motifs,

drawing stitches between motifs

but it became obvious that I will need to use a backing fabric and applique the motifs onto it, this will act as some protection but it has to take the weight of the porcelain, so now I am researching silk organzas, cotton organdies and maybe netting…as we are both designers and therefor pragmatists we are liking the transparent quality of the organza first sampled – and applying lace motifs on a pre-made net ground is used as a lace making technique.

first sample of applique on organza, seen against a black background

I have a long way to go before this fabric begins to do  justice to the quality of the impressed porcelain motifs…..

Darned Heart Sampler – vintage linen, vellum,vitreous enamel, silk mirror

This is a first for me and I want to share it with you – I am, from today, exhibiting in America. I have 2 pieces of work in an exhibition called Mending = Art showing at the  Gershman Gallery in Philadelphia and this evening I should be at the private view, but instead I have just returned from Heart Space Studios having run a birthday party, making beaded brooches with ten 9 years olds – and very enjoyable it was too. But how I would love to be seeing my work in an international exhibition at such an amazing event as the  Philadelphia  biennial textile art festivalFiberPhiladelphia 2012.

the inspirational wood cut from the Berlin Museum-  Frau Minne’s way with Mens’ hearts

The call out came early last year, from American textile artist( she of the wonderful brilliant red website)    Diane Savona,  for textiles made around the theme of Mending…this must have been the universe answering my call. I had several things on offer, as looking at the ‘ Ongoing Work” section of  this blog will show you. But unusually she also asked me to send her an image of the inspirational early woodcut that has inspired at least 10 years of textile and enamel work, and mending was the subject of my first post in this blog.

counterpane/counter-pain – vintage cotton and cotton thread

and above is the other work that Diane chose to represent my mending embroideries, a real heart-felt cry now that I look back on it, I can remember every stab that contributed to this image but then yoga certainly reaches the parts the needle can’t.

So this is the shorted post I have ever written, but now I am off to celebrate with a glass of something chilled and pink and fizzy……

OK so it’s the day after the night before day and here are the pictures from the exhibition sent today from Diane Savona.

from left: Amy Orr (organizer of FiberPhiladelphia) Miriam Shapiro (curator at the Gershman) Dorothy Caldwell and Libbie Soffer, as Amy says a few words in front of the Japanese boro from the Liao Collection.

and very glad to see a video work from one of my colleagues Amy Houghton,

then there is my work hung together with Frau Minne keeping count in the middle of it all….

mine all mine!

something tells me that that red and white is the new black, white and grey of studio art textiles…..

Ilaria Margutti in front of her work

and again….

Wolfie Rawk in front of her work

and yet again…..well mending seems to = blood red for a whole lot of women.

Erin Endicott in front of her work……ooooh!!!!!!

2 Commemorative Crazy cushions

The most hits my blog has ever received in its entire life span of 18 months, was shortly after the Commemorative Crazy post, and many people contacted me saying how much they liked the content and story. So I was delighted when Jane called in to Heart Space Studios to show me the finished cushions that she had made in time for Christmas for her 2 children.

cushions showing tartan fabric backing

They were so beautifully made, using fabrics from her late husband’s sports jackets and ties, and Jane had been able to use the small piece of  tartan fabric, that was her husband’s clan tartan as the backings to the cushions. (did I say that I have a tartan as well – the Hay tartan – all brilliant  red and greens overlaid with a very noisy white check –  nowhere near as tasteful as this one)

close up of the lively wool plain and tied herringbone stitches

She had embroidered “DAD” on one, at her daughter’s request, it is in whipped running stitch, very subtle and almost merges with the tweed background.

whip stitched commemoration

And amongst some other memorabilia, Jane found her husband’s  ‘pips’, these are badges usually in the shape of  a star or a crown and worn by army officers on the epaulettes of their uniforms.  These particular ‘pips’ are actually stitched onto fabric in  gilded thread so two of them they were put to good use at the seam joins of the crazy stitches. Usually a star is stitched  at such points by the embroiderers of the  traditional crazy patchworks.

gilded ‘pip’ used as a foil for the collision of several rows of embroidery

Jane has enough fabric to make another cushion for herself and even some smaller gifts for other members of the family…. and then she may decide to design and make the large throw from the remaining tweeds. I will keep a record of this progress.

bunting wall at Heart Space

I am not a big fan of Christmas, I prefer New Year with its promise of a fresh start and better times ahead…but here at Heart Space Studios everyone expects us to do a Christmas window at least. But with a refurbished shop to launch, the powers behind my shaky throne decided to put out all the flags – well bunting to be precise – and go for it….hot mulled wine, mince pies and a late night opening party. Added to this was an idea for an exhibition of bunting.

animal mask by Jenni Joule

But, first things first – find the inspirational object – I always do this when starting something new, search for an image or a piece of fabric – anything that gives me lots of ideas or gives a very strong atmosphere…Sophie found it on Facebook in the guise of a head – an animal’s head, 3 animals in fact, by artist Jenni Joule, who brought wonderful things in to a meeting about a month ago – we were away, a spooky-wooky frozen forest

Debbie Bird being very precise and technical

rejected heart bunting

Meanwhile all the tutors set about producing bunting…Debbie Bird held a class on making it and so Heart Space admin, ( Sophie Bristol and I) turned up to find out how to do it.I made several attempts at heart shaped bunting in very tasteful fabrics…they were soon abandoned.  What I needed was a contrast to the white spooky windows..I realised I was trying to reconcile 2 different atmospheres in one space – so the only way to go is complete contrast, the more extreme the better. We would have one red window and one white. So I found an old and very crude Russian shawl in my stash, I hand painted the mustard coloured roses with some pink and purple dyes and then cut it up; next I went for glitz – why stop now? then I added tartan, I do love tartan and paisley – I couldn’t bring myself to cut up any of my old woven paisley samples – far too precious, but I had at last found a use for this old neglected shawl.

tartan and Russian Shawl bunting

I didn’t bag-out the pieces  but just cut them and left them, as they are cut diagonally to the straight grain they shouldn’t fray too much, and hey it’s only bunting…..I set about making 5 lines to sell.

But then we had to start stocking the shop. The first thing was to get one area working properly to set the tone for the whole place. An old and true saying is ” you can’t sell from an empty shop”;  so we piled it all in, colour co-ordinated of course.

Teresa Searle’s felted and embroidered bags, mittens and cases look wonderfully colourful, setting the standard for the rest of the shop, my hand embroidered felt letters look strong and clash nicely with the work beneath.

the first stand of textiles sets the tone

And the pile of scarves hand knitted by Sarah Thorpe go happily with Janet Clarke’s beautiful soft coloured felts. For real winter warmth, the  knitted and felted Hot Water Bottle Covers and neck warmers made by Steph Wooster all mingle together.

felted hot water bottle covers and knitted scarves

The shop starts to look like it is in business.

shop taking shape

the shop takes shape

But what about those windows? The winter white one came together very quickly, it is now stocked with cream and white  woollen goods for sale, with the 3 headed animal standing sentinel.

spooky white window

But the other window was more of a problem, the costumes that had been brought didn’t fit our stands and there weren’t enough animal masks to make an impression, beautiful though the horned mask is, by Jenni Joule.

jacket and mask by Jenni Houle hung with my silver heart

I needed more red stuff to link with the bunting on the wall behind…so I asked Lisa Keating who was running a corset making workshop for us, if she had anything suitable to contrast with the white and silver and she lent us this wonderful glitzy black and gold number – now that’s what I call a contrast.

Lisa Keating’s black and gold lacedcorset

Then I took every red or silvered glass heart from home and hung them in the window – my house now looks bare – but the Christmas windows are paramount.

red and silver window with my glass hearts from home – note the corset bunting by Lisa

Eventually everything was finished and looked totally intentional; always the way when a design works out well, you can’t imagine that you ever had any other ideas than the finished piece.

Jane’s finished cushion from the original workshop

It is the 11th of the 11th 2011 and I am in commemorative spirit; yesterday atHeart Space Studios we made the beginnings of a series of commemorative crazy patchwork pieces. After the last Crazy Patchwork workshop one of the participants Jane, asked me if I could help her make some more patchworks using the beautiful tweed jackets that had belonged to her husband, she could not bring herself to throw them away after his death, but now saw a way that she might be able to use them to make gifts for their children.

silk ties and heathery tweed unpicked jackets

I was very pleased to be asked to conduct a one-to one session with her to help cut into the jackets and organise the patchworks. I knew it would be really difficult so I volunteered to cut into them for her , suggesting that she make a start by unpicking and when she arrived she had carefully unpicked and pressed them all; 3 beautiful tweeds in soft shades of beige, grey and brown and she also brought some club and military ties that she had been unable to part with, and a piece of her husband’s Scottish clan tartan.

silk ties woven with memories

This is what I find so compelling about many old and used fabrics, the story behind each piece; “Make, Do and Mend” is not such a simple statement when applied to projects like this. The first thing to do was to cut the cloths to make a sample piece of patchwork. I wasn’t taking any chances with such valuable fabrics.

starting to cut up the tweeds

The little sample would tell us what size patches would work best, which fabrics worked well together and what the ratio of ties to tweeds was best. The clan tartan turned out to be the right size to make backings for 3 cushions….so only the ties and tweeds to be organised

sample patches bonded on a backing cloth

But the most important thing of all for the success of the project was selecting the colours of the embroidery yarns, they had to be chosen and tested. I had brought several types of woolen yarns for Jane to sample, the usual tapestry 4 ply and some crewel wools that can be used singly or in multiples, very useful for developing colour combinations. Looking at the colours embedded in the tweeds it was a real pleasure to try to match them ..and at first the pale turquoise crewel yarn seemed the best choice

selecting colours to complement the tweeds – check out that pink

But the colour that really delighted and just kept calling to her, was a zingy hot pink – not what you would imagine for this soft and hazy set of fabrics, but it demanded to be used, Jane kept laughing every time she picked it up.

the pink thread that just had to be used.

We also discussed putting a message or an initial onto the piece, and I explained how in the Crazy tradition there are lots of written she is writing her husband’s initials on a corner piece of each cushion, but has just emailed me to say that her daughter wants her to just write ‘Dad’ on hers.

platyng with the colour combinations

The use of the crewel yarns in the different tied herringbone stitches makes it easy to combine colours to soften and blend the brightest yarns.

Now Jane had to get brave and cut up enough to make a whole cushion square to take home with her – we distributed the tie fabrics between the tweeds…quite a bit of work ahead …

laying out the first cushion square

the last task before she left the studios was to machine stitch everything into place ready for the decorative stitches that are the true embroiderer’s delight in making Crazies.

matching the patches ready for decorative stitching.

During the workshop Jane explained that she had taken tailoring lessons to make her husband a coat from some tweed he had bought from Scotland, she now wondered what she should do with it – my suggestion is to combine the left over tweeds from the jackets and use them to make a huge throw or blanket using a strippy quilt design….so she is now happy that she does not have to throw it out but most importantly, when I wrote to ask her permission to use her ‘story’ she replied that she now felt that the jackets had “still got a life”. That is why I really appreciate using old and loved textiles to remake and recycle.

sample of 1st embroidered card

Recently I was advised  to watch Kirsty Allsop’s TV programme, Hand Made Britain, in order to immediately offer a special class in whatever she had made that week in textiles; a new idea for attracting new students toHeart Space Studios. So this week I did just that – watched the programme that is all about making things for competition at County Shows, which I was delighted by having spent many happy days in marquees up and down the country gazing in amazement at the things that people produce for competition.

Portishead produce show

The local Portishead flower and produce show, even inspired an entire body of hand embroidered work, The Flora Embroideries.

my embroidery of Flora, the goddess of flowers

I watched with growing fascination as Kirsty, aided by textile designer Claire Coles, made a pretty paper collage that was then machine stitched to produce a greetings card with a bird and flower design. She was obviously enjoying every minute of it .

OK, I thought – I can do that – and then I will make another version of the idea adding textiles to the papers to run as a short workshop, easy – peasy……

presentation board for an earlier work

That’s what I thought until I started to make my sample. Looking in my plan chest I found some old presentation boards from my book, Crazy Patchwork, lots of lovely images and scraps of fabrics all ready to be re-cycled into new and glamorous greetings cards.

selecting and arranging the papers

It was when I was trying to make a loose and airy design from my tiny scraps of fabrics and old flower pictures that it all seemed to go a bit wonky – but not wonky in the right way or enough to be quirky – which was the look I was aiming at.  I eventually found that working on a coloured background was easier than all that white space glaring out between the collage ( I had been so busy writing my ideas down when watching the TV that I really hadn’t paid that much attention to the actual nitty-gritty of the proceedings) now I was paying the price of over confidence.

stitching the collage with copper coloured thread

I am not a great machine stitcher so even with the embroidery foot in place, the card was quite difficult to stitch in a fluid line; using metallic thread didn’t help either but I often use metallic thread as a neutral tone for busy designs, plus the scale was very small for my level of skill.

stitching on the back of the card

For once I actually think that I preferred the back of the card as even though the stitching is really bad – it is a quirky drawing – I may work with this idea a bit more in future. I was beginning to admire Kirsty’s effort more by the minute. It took me about 2 hours to get to this stage, but it did look a bit sad – beads will cover a multitude of sins – like the holes in the middle of the flowers….

finished sample card

Eventually I got something I thought I could develop – I really liked the addition of lace to the paper and had to resist use all fabric instead and I like the odd combination of different materials so the next day quickly made another card to photograph for the Heart Space website to advertise the class. From these 2 samples I now need to develop a system to enable people  to make their own versions simply and easily. So now I am off to source and organise papers, pictures, fabrics, glues, beads, threads and cards so that the students who come here can have a relaxed and enjoyable time creating something new from something old.

second sample

Back to Kirsty and the programme; she entered the card into an embroidery/hand craft competition at a show in Wales but won no prize with it – fair enough, it was her first attempt. What did win was a traditional embroidery made into a card, it was very precisely stitched – in fact the prizewinner carried off the ‘best in show’ award for what looked like a large – scale cross stitched alphabet; I suspect it was made from a commercial kit or someone else’s design.

For this reason, I generally find the craft displayed at most county shows dispiriting (unlike the produce which I love) all that seems to be rewarded is careful craftsmanship, but I suppose that is what the shows were originatedto promote. But I prefer to see things that people have had tried to fashion for themselves – some personal quirky things made up out of what is available which is why I always prefer seeing the  children’s competitions that are often much freer in spirit, and originality is always rewarded, now what does that tell us?

recreated soldier’s pinned heart

This wonderful pinned heart, so bright and fresh but curiously authentic was made yesterday during a workshop at Heart Space Studios. The maker, Libby, had received the original some 25 years ago from her grandmother, to whom it had been given as a token of love by her husband, a soldier, probably during the first world war.

box of rusted and stained remnants with scribbled design for reconstructing the heart.

When she first received the heart, Libby tried to restore it…..with disastrous consequences; the whole thing disintegrated because the silk that the heart had been made in had rotted. She thoughtfully put  all the pieces  in a small box, with a scribbled note of the design – and yesterday it arrived to be mended. The first thing to do was to see what we had got and to clean it as best we could….

all the beads were separated and washed as was the fine cotton velvet centre cross and the remaining shoulder applique.

The pins were steel with several rusted, but we decided we wanted to use as much as possible of the original materials and also bright stainless steel pins would have detracted from the overall quality of the reconstruction.

rusted pins with some beads still attached

I then had to draft a pattern to fit the purple velvet cross, luckily one of my old pinned hearts was the perfect size so I used this.

original heart used for pattern.

Libby decided that she wanted to use strong colours that complemented the original velvets, but disliking yellow she chose some of my own hand dyed green silk velvet to replace the shoulder appliques.

drawing round the new paper pattern for the back of the heart

Next came the heart reconstruction, this time stitching by machine, it is stronger and quicker…..

machine stitching the heart shape for filling with sawdust

leaving lots more time for time for the really fascinating business of pinning the beaded design back into its original position.

the first central cross is held in position

The washed velvet was still a bit dull and faded but little is seen when all the rest of the beads and the ribbon are in place.

pinning the regimental ribbon in place

I was pleased to see that the original  woven silk regimental ribbon was still very bright after I had carefully washed it in several rinses of warm water. These ribbons with badges and coats of arms feature in many of the hearts I have collected, but none are as bright as this.

the simple beaded lettering being formed

Libby re-wrote the message “FOND LOVE” onto paper and the pricked through it with a pin straight onto the silk. We had found some evidence of sequins in the remnants and they are useful to hide the raw edges of the applied fabrics; in my stash of beads I found some dull gold metal ones salvaged from a 1920′s dress, the same period as the original heart.

the almost finished heart

By the end of the day the heart was almost complete, except that there were a lot of the original beads left over…Libby said that she would keep pinning them  into patterns as more is more in this type of thing. So that evening she brought back the finished heart which you can see at the head of this post.

The best thing of all though was how the remaking of this family heirloom originally made by Libby’s hardly remembered grandfather, resulted in her reflecting on her family and its history, the ties to the present formed by using the remnants of a family wedding dress;  she was moved by  the idea of actually touching the same beads and placing them in the same patterns as her grandfather had  – I have seldom worked with such an enthralled and ultimately contented and student.

Heart Space logo

Things are really moving on now at Heart Space Studios. This month we have split the whole of the front studio into an exhibition and retail space and above is the new logo I have designed for printing on the gift bags. I have adapted a small rubber stamp that Teresa Searle, one of the Studios’ tutors brought for me to play with – I added the eye.

lanterns made for sale in the new gift shop

I have been helping to set up the retail space, which will sell all things textile; to begin with we will sell stuff made by the makers who work with the studios and other things that feature textile or hands, hearts and eyes imagery. I made more of the paper lanterns to sell as lots of people had asked the price when they saw the original over the dining table. I had left the exhibition space entirely to Jan Connett and Lisa Keating to place their corsets in; each makes corsets for completely different reasons so I had imagined a compare and contrast effect.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I walked in on Friday morning and this whole space was now filled with an amazing array of corsets.

exhibition side first thing Friday Morning

I had not thought that the individual pieces would work so well together. They had made a show from mounting the individual corsets onto quirky stands and the major colours were cream and black and red. Lisa’s traditional corsets made with silk and lace and net were the perfect partner for Jan’s barbed wire and metal and leathers.

Jan connett’s wired sculptures

Lisa Keating’s lace and chiffon and fur confections.

the whole exhibition though small was very inspiring, it really was put together to show the ways oin which the different tutors’ translated similar ideas, and to advertise the courses that both women are hold later in the Month

Front of the exhibition space Liza’s ruched bra in chiffon at the front and Jan’s barbed wired at the back

Meanwhile on the other side of the room the retail space was taking shape….

Heart themed jewellry by Hazel Sutton

a selection of my enamel heart stone badges and brooches all together in the large show case….

my heart stone badges

Patricia Brownen’s fabric necklaces

and then in the dresser  there is a blue and white theme….

blue and white in the dresser

this features lace impressed cups by Hanne Rysgaard

Hanne Rysgaard’s lace impressed and rosebud cups with my small ribbon flowered boxes

and on the old round table more and more hearts…..

A tin heart full of badges

Teresa Searle’s buttoned felts and Debbie Bird’s beaded badges

cards, scarves, badges and picture frames

I know that many people feel that all these textile pieces won’t work together – you can’t mix art with craft, gallery with shop, colour with monotone.. I have always thought this a nonsense when it comes to the wealth of textile treatments and qualities, let’s embrace the difference, the vitality and the fact that the same person who makes a silk embroidery of a mended and broken heart can delight in making a ribbon flowered box and  woman who makes a barbed wire corset to set out her arguments about control and pain can put together charming cards featuring stitched fruit and flowers – all to be seen and Sold at Heart Space Studios.

The Joy of Stitch

Time and Stitch – Thoughts

Time and Stitch Thoughts

Time and Stitch
Time and Stitch

..,, The project ‘Time and Stitch’ is an exploration about how we perceive time when we create something with out hands, on the example of stitch / embroidery.

The purpose of My embroidery in this work is to experience the effect of a very slow and time consuming activity. The objects, the embroidered cloth are a physical documentation of time spend, mostly alone and some times in company.

The videos and photos are the documentation of the journey, of the process.

Why Stitch and Music?

My personal experience come into play; as I enjoy the activity of needlecraft, and knitting and crocheting, I tend to take it with me to most place I know. In    Penzance I am known as “the woman who knits”. I love live music; a wide range from my local Folk group, the blues my man played, to orchestral concerts and chamber music and the knitting comes along. While the hands are engaged I listen with greater intend.
This bore the idea to explore the interaction between a musician and a stitcher.
In my experience the dialog is tangible , a gentle much more internal communication .



The book “New Standard Craft” about Japanese contemporary craft, embedded in a specific ethic and aesthetic context (simplicity as a value in time were “less” is “more”‘) was and is still my major inspiration behind my work. At the beginning it was the simplicity of the image and the paired down aesthetic of the objects. To me it has a link to William Morris quotation:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to useful, or believe to be beautiful ” William Morris

Also the essays in this book give an insight into the thinking of the designers involved (more reading and extracting of content to follow)

New Standard Crafts – Seikatsu Kogei Kazumi Tsuji

The following images are from the book “NEW STANDARD CRAFTNEW STANARD CRAFT  LADLENEW STANDARD CRAFT Seikatsu Kogei


Today in the library I “found” the book about Wabi-Sabi. I remember someone talking about it and it is just what I have been looking for! To me it appears to be the aesthetic philosophy linked to Buddhism  and Japanese Crafts aesthetic.


Zen garden of Ryōan-ji. It was built during the Higashiyama period

A Japanese tea house which reflects the wabi-sabi aesthetic in Kenroku-en (兼六園) Garden

Wabi-sabi tea bowl, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century

Wabi-sabi () represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence (三法印 sanbōin), specifically impermanence (無常 mujō), the other two being suffering (苦 ku) and emptiness or absence of self-nature (空 ).

Characteristics of the wabi-sabi aesthetic include asymmetry,asperity (roughness or irregularity), simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.


“Wabi-sabi is the most conspicuous and characteristic feature of traditional Japanese beauty and it occupies roughly the same position in the Japanese pantheon of aesthetic values as do theGreek ideals of beauty and perfection in the West.” “if an object or expression can bring about, within us, a sense of serene melancholy and a spiritual longing, then that object could be said to be wabi-sabi.” “[Wabi-sabi] nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.”


A New Beginning


Today I had my first tutorial with Gillian Wylde, there is so much information to share and getting to know each other.It felt good, because I felt understood

This is the transfer from my mind map, unfortunatly I haven’t found out yet how to copy and past the grapphic as well, oh well, on step at a time!!!

The Beauty ot the Act of Hand Making

I.      The way is the goal, not the destination

A.   Documenting through Still Photography

II.     Zen as a stepping point towards a visual sensibility

A.   The Stillness and Beauty in Japanese Craft

III.    Multi-sensory experience 

A.   Touch of wool, fabric and yarn

B.   Sound> interplay and response in dialogue

C.   Visual

in real time and documentation (Film, Photography)

IV.    sharing of the experience > collaborative and participation

Gillian seemed to understand my multi layered approach:

– working on a real-time piece of embroidery,which will become a “companion” through out the process,

– my wish for collaboration with others through working together with photography and video,

– incorporating interdisciplinary collaboration with musicians

– and a parallel approach which shows solitude and being with other people as in :

> being myself  the antagonist, the person who creates through the retreat in to embroidery a reflective space in a fast, hectic world

> and creating situation in which I wish to share this with other, stitching in a public space and inviting other to share to work and my space for a short moment in time.

Gillian will email me links to artists and events for my conceptual research, she suggestes Ann Hamilton, Tom van Holland, Roni Lee and the “Mending Conference”


Becoming friends with me


Stitching with Others

My practice is changing

I am moving away from a studio based practise like painting or printing towards a practise where I can work with people.

In the past I have been the most content when I was working in the print studio, which meant working with other people around me,

but since I have started to research for my dissertation about participation and textile, it has become more clear for me, that I see myself rather in taking part in collaborative projects or initiating my own projects.

Mark Leahy introduced me to the Even Feed project, which was curated by Gareth Ballyn.

Even Feed commemorated Issac Singer’s ( as in Singer, the sewing machine) 200 year birthday.

individual people and to groups took part: the brief was to create a piece of clothing from simple nature cotton fabric.

the art work was the whole project, the time they spend together sewing and sharing their stories, not the exhibition at the end of it.

this is a kind of work I feel at home with.

Sewing the wedding dress

Mark , who took part in this project, sewed a jacket his mother had sewn for his father 50 years ago.

he still had the original pattern and the recite for the material.

Image from the pattern used by Mark Leahy

Mark Leahy | writer – artist – project manager

MARK LEAHY is a writer, artist, teacher, and project manager operating among textual practices, performance, and live and installed arts.


New and Old Technology

Both the old and the new technology takes time. while stitching is relaxing and even unpicking is not the end of the world, editing pages and post is a rather steep learning curve. It feels at times like reinventing the wheel! and then other blogs look so beautiful and easy!!! But I will persevere! I will take time to understand the technology, but I am really adement to write my blog as my on-line journal, documenting  the progress of my embroideries and how they will evolve from first drawings, sketches, undergoing changes through Photoshop and then being either printed onto canvas or woven on the Jacquard loom at the Design centre at UCF College Falmouth.

Hopefully today I came a bit closer to understand how to edit photos on this blog.


A Journey in Stitch

this is my decision to work with my blog as an alternative way to a sketch book. Instead of cut and past literally with scissors and prit stich I prefer the version of using an on line blog.
I will gather my conceptual research, upload images from my work inprogress and add my thoughts and ramblings.