Workshops & Talks 2012

 November 2012 WORKSHOP “Textile Techniques” led by Elsie Watkins (3 pages of photos) Report by Sheila Morris

Workshop with Elsie Watkins. We had a wonderful day which was led by  Elsie Watkins on “Textile Techniques.”  The day was in two parts.The first session involved screen printing. This is a printing technique that uses a frame with a woven mesh and a stencil.We first created a stencil out of paper and laid it on a piece of cotton. Then we laid the screen on top of the fabric and stencil.Next we mixed ink which was spooned along the frame. A squeegee was pulled across the frame to produce the screen print.It was a very straight forward method to use and it had instant results.

In the second session Elsie showed us her amazing  samples which she had made using machine embroidery from silks, cottons and velvets. She demonstrated how to make decorations from wrapping strips of materials around wire, wood and string which she used in a variety of ways. Then we created our own sample using silks which Elsie kindly provided. We also wrapped silk strips around wire to produce individual decorations.

We all agreed that the day was very enjoyable, creative and worthwhile.We all had a sense of achievement and left with a screen print, a silk sample and a woven decoration!

October 2012 TALK “Approaches to Design” by Norma Hopkins and Teresa Jones Report by Gill Roberts

Our TALK this month was by Norma Hopkins and Teresa Jones on ‘Approaches to Design’, which was keenly anticipated as it was to be an interactive lecture.  They came to discuss the means by which fabric could be decorated prior to embroidery, using materials such as Markel paintsticks, painted Bondaweb, transfer printing mediums and computer-aided design.  Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we were unable to get the full benefit of the ladies experience as their slideshow was not working; however, they had brought many samples of their work with them and these they handed round whilst talking so that we could handle the fabrics and understand the techniques used.  We then explored as a ‘mini-workshop’ techniques of decorating fabric using felt-tip pens and gel markers to give a starting point for development of embroidery.

August 2012 WORKSHOP “Miniature Windows – Ideas for Card-making” to be led by Pauline Coddington has been cancelled due to illness of the Tutor. We wish Pauline a speedy recovery

July 2012 TALK “Bags for Shakespeare’s Heroines” by Ann Rogers (don’t forget to look at the second page of photos) Report by Chris Bennett

This TALK was a delight to the ears and a feast for the eyes. With over 50 “Handbags”on show, Ann began by giving a brief background to her own love of Shakespeare and the study courses she had attended.

Most of the bags are quite small in size and vary from being relatively plain to those which are luxuriously embroidered. A larger bag worked in the manner of a shepherd’s smock on woven wool represents Imogen in “Cymbeline”, and Ann says this is the only one on show worked entirely by hand.

By contrast the bags representing the fairies from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are constructed in delicate chiffon in pale shades with the ties emphasised by wings in the same colours. An embroidered Burse worked in medieval style represents Queen Elizabeth 1’s handbag.

Ann uses a wide range of fabrics, from delicate antique French lace, rich velvetand linen through tp recycled “rubbish”. Add to these all bags are decorated with exquisite embroidery of flowers, and on some this could only be seen when a bag was opened.

I, for one, am pleased I was able to attend this TALK. More please Ann – Wow! Many thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and expertise with us.

June 2012 WORKSHOP “Soluble & Stretchy”  was led by Rachel Davies   Report by Jen Kay

Reading the course description and requirements, I was intrigued – soluble paper and old tights!

We started by making shell threads by using strips of  tights with an assortment of wool or strips of fabric, stretching the tights as we machine stitched them together.  The result was an effective twisted cord which could be used to embellish pieces of work.  This technique was extended to stretchy fabric to create lettuce edges and ruffles. We then moved on to making fake fur using wools, threads and twines.

We were introduced to soluble paper and Rachel demonstrated how it could be used to create different effects; stitching with sheer fabric, lace, ribbon and even a 3D example which she had molded round a teacup.

The final technique to be demonstrated was not for the faint hearted as it entailed altering the tension of the spool case, which was not recommended on our sometimes temperamental machines, but the result was attractive, giving a lumpy raised effect. A bonus for many of the members was the opportunity to peruse Rachel’s work books which were truly works of art, illustrating how the process of design develops from the initial idea through to the final stages.

Throughout the session Rachel demonstrated the different techniques and her enthusiasm was infectious.

May 2012 TALK “The Embroideries of Bangladesh” by Rubina Porter MBE (don’t forget to look at the second page of photos) Report by Kim Parkman

It started with seven suitcases of sewing equipment and a lot of hope… In 1990 Rubina Porter, a long-term member of our Guild, set off for Sreepur Village in rural Bangladesh to pass on her embroidery skills to the women and children at the local orphanage. Little did she think that she would be returning for her 32nd visit in 2012.

She told us about the beauty of the landscape but the hard life of the destitute women. The orphanage offers a safe home with education and training in embroidery, tailoring and other skills. Women leave with some savings and are able to support their children. Now there are even two outreach facilities for urban street children, who are given a chance of family life, food and an education.

The ethos of Sreepur is to support local skills and customs, not to impose Western ideas. Natural dyes are made from native plants and foodstuffs; cards decorated with straw on handmade paper; scarves woven in silk and cotton and goods decorated with traditional embroidery skills. All are sold at Ruby’s stalls to raise funds for the project.

Sabita, the new embroidery teacher, is a member of the Merseyside Branch. She was abandoned as a toddler and raised at Sreepur. Training enabled her to lead an independent life but she has now returned to pass on her skills to the next generations. As Ruby commented, she is ‘a real success story’.


April 2012 WORKSHOP “Colour Fantasies with Felt” was led by Cathy Turner. Report by Sarah Lowes

Our own Cathy Turner initiated us into the mysterious art of felt-making. The array of colours available in wool roving was like being let loose in a sweetshop!

Cathy showed us how to gently pull the roving apart and lay it down horizontally in an A4 shape. Then we laid it down vertically, creating both warp and weft. After having laid down 4 – 6 layers, we sprinkled it with soapy water and began to agitate the fibres.

This method produced a thick or gossamer fine piece of felt, depending on the delicacy of the pieces of roving and the amount of layers. Mixing different colours meant that every piece was unique and we didn’t know how they would look until we unrolled them at the end ~ magical!

In the afternoon, we rolled up our sleeves for the hard physical work of nuno felting, where we laid the fibres down onto a muslin or silk background. Much more elbow grease was needed for this process in order to persuade the roving to adhere to the fabric background.

At the end of the workshop, we all had three pieces to take home: pure felt, nuno felt on silk and nuno felt on muslin. The colours had moved and changed to suggest various shapes/images and we will have plenty to stitch into or cut up for collage. Everyone decided that it had been an enjoyable and worthwhile day, and also great value for money. Thanks Cathy!

March 2012 TALK “Brides Room Revisited”  was given by Margaret Forster who has spent a lifetime making special dresses. Report by Kim Parkman

On 17th March, 2012 a packed house gathered to hear Margaret Forster’s tales of a career spent making dresses for ‘The Big Day’. We heard about the problems and challenges of meeting deadlines and saw how dress styles have changed over the years. Margaret brought samples of beautiful beading (nowadays only available from the Far East) and examples of past work. She never missed a deadline and often worked through the night to make sure that each bride had the dress of her dreams.

One unexpected surprise was being able to see the original plans for the lacework on Queen Victoria’s wedding dress. They were drawn by Margaret’s French forebear, Mr. Conduit, and an accompanying model showed just what a complicated task he faced when making up the final piece.

The talk was brought right up to date with a copy of the dress from the latest Royal wedding, with another beautifully embroidered lace top. This dress, along with others in different styles and sizes, was brought along by Margaret Camp, who runs a wedding shop in Birkdale and drew on Margaret Forster’s experience when she started out in the business. Many of us preferred a simpler style with beaded trims and, apparently, many modern brides are choosing more adaptable styles than the full-skirted examples with long trains.

To add to the occasion, several members brought along pictures of their own wedding outfit for the members to look at during the post-talk tea taking. The final example was from Joan Wilson, who showed us the beautiful dress and coat that she wore on her wedding day, made from a heavyweight pale blue Chinese silk brought back by her father. The coat was also worn at her son’s wedding, updated with some stylish new accessories.

Thank you to The Brides Room of Birkdale, 15 Liverpool Rd, Birkdale, PR8 4AR for supplying the wedding dresses on display today.


Feb 2012 WORKSHOP “Darn It” was led by Hilary Hollingsworth Report by Vicky Williams

A day spent darning?! Memories of Mum repairing Dad’s socks surfaced, from many years back. She also instructed me in this skill so I wasn’t particularly keen to revisit those make and mend days.


Our day was very enjoyable. The 3 stages of work were-

1 Collage  2 Design   3 Embroidery

so we all worked at our personal pace. The first hour was spent looking through magazines for inspirational pictures. We built a collection of colour-linked images to arrange into a collage. These we manipulated until something appealed, a scene or pattern.

The design came from the collage, again giving an opportunity for a simple outline or giving more detail. The idea was to develop a colourful decorative artwork, precise or as free as we wished.

The sewing technique can be rather slow if  using fine threads, so a small panel was suggested. The design was translated to cotton background fabric, other fabrics can be incorporated and the decorative darning stitch worked in a wide variety of threads. Fabric strips, lace lengths and ribbons can be woven into the threads. Using contrasting threads builds in interesting texture, as does using a smooth warp and rough weft. Needle weaving can add extra interest to the surface.

There is much scope for individual design using this technique, even including it with other techniques and different material. A jolly time was spent with an encouraging tutor: another plus was the husband who generously made tea all day!

Jan 2012 TALK  was given by Sarah Thursfield, who is also known as “The Medieval Tailor”. Report by Hilary McCormack

This was an interesting talk about the beginnings of clothing during the Iron Age, Bronze Age and Saxon times. Sarah Thursfield, who makes clothes for Re-enactmant Societies and is the author of “the Medieval Tailor’s Assistant, enlightened us about the techniques early man (and woman) used to make cloth and clothing before woven cloth came to be used. Threads were spun from plants fibres such as hops, flax, nettles & hemp,  and fashioned into clothing using a bone needle and buttonhole stitch. Weaving came with the Saxons and cloth was woven in the size needed, as shears were not invented for many more years. A fascinating insight into the past.