Workshops & Talks 2015

NOVEMBER 2015 WORKSHOP with Karen Scott and Hilary McCormack “Two Tutors- Two Ways of Making Books” (photographs by Sarah Lowes and report by Olive Halsall))

This was a wonderful fun filled day whilst learning many new skills. The day started promptly at 10am,Hilary had her stop watch at the ready and soon had our group engrossed, busy and under control! Groups were divided into two and with two lots of tables each with their own set of equipment in place settings (very well organised). Karen commenced with her group at the same time.

We were asked to bring items relating to the projects but we were kindly supplied with all we needed. My first piece of work was a well bound decorated book. Hilary had on display many books for ideas to inspire the groups. Her guidance and patience meant that we all had a thoroughly enjoyable morning and all produced a MASTER PEICE!  On Time.

Karen’s workshop again started promptly after lunch. This was both fun and frustrating but again I had an amazing time. I never knew there was so much to folding paper. There were even Christmas Decorations made. Karen supplied an amazing array of papers, and the end product of note booklets and note pads produced by the ladies was astounding!


Lots of ideas for those special Christmas Gifts.

OCTOBER 2015 TALK by David & Sue Richardson “Pierced Fingers- The Art of Qaraqalpaq Embroidery” (report by Joan Wilson)

Sue & David Richardson shared this excellent presentation of their travels and researches into Qaraqalpaq history and culture which they have accumulated over the last thirty years or so. This mixed semi-nomadic ethnic group originated from Siberia but now live in southern Uzbekistan. Russian conquest in 1873, followed by C20th Soviet domination, caused major suppression of their culture. Consequently their traditional activities including hand-embroidery of clothes and yurts etc, has almost died out. Unusually, men and women wore the same style of embroidered, heavy, full-length, hooded outer garments. Beneath these, women’s clothes tended to be more ornate, especially their head gear. Bridal wear was particularly densely and richly worked so often passed down through families. We were shown many photos of their very colourful clothes and actual examples of textiles from the Richardson’s collection. Cross stitch, chain stitch & reverse satin stitch worked in traditional raspberry, golden and blue colours in dense geometric, non- geometric formed the basis of their designs. Motives representing horns, fenced flowers, scorpions etc. were incorporated while new materials and dyes augmented the local traditional ones as they became available.

In the 1950’s, a Russian painter, Ivor Savitsky, settled in the remote Uzbekistan town of Nukus. He began collecting C20th Russian Art and Qarapalpaq popular local art & artefacts . This collection became the Uzbekestan State Museum (also known as the Savitsky Museum), purpose – built in Nukus. Since the artist’s death in 1984, Marinicka Babanazaron has been its dedicated Director. Following extraordinary accusations of her stealing and selling from the collection, Marinicka disappeared completely last August. Friends fear for her safety and for the future of the collection.

The Richardson’s beautifully illustrated book ‘’ Qaralpaqs of the Aral Delta by Sue Richardson & David Richardson ‘’ has been bought for our M.E.G. Library.

SEPTEMBER 2015 TALK by 3 members of Altrincham EG (report by Helen Patrick)

Three members of Altrincham Embroidery Guild visited us to share their journeys and interests in embroidery.

Diane Shone, who is a founder of the 10 Plus Textile Group, learnt embroidery from her grandmother and mother before she could read or write. During her City & Guilds she developed an interest in making practical objects; beautiful evening bags and scarves were just some of the work on show. Exhibiting with the 10 Plus Textile Group was when  Diane realised she needed to make more things that could be hung on walls. From the window of a tram into Manchester Diane saw a clump of rose bay willow herb and this started her interest in wild flowers and “weeds”. Taking these as inspiration we saw some fine work from Diane. Inspiration also came from, butterflies and vegetables from her allotment.  Diane was an advocate for drawing “Drawing makes you look”.

Sandra McFarlane took us on a journey inspired by all things Japanese. We heard the 1000 year old history of Japanese costume leading up to what we are familiar with, the kimono. Who can forget the very elegant Sarah in her Kimono on our own Japanese Day? Sandra was inspired by work that was exhibited in the early 1980’s at the Great Japan exhibition. Using luscious silk, silver and gold thread Sandra produced luscious colourful embroidery in the Japanese style for us all to admire.

Beryl Waterfield used the theme of “my life in stitches” to show us her multiple and varied work. Beryl said she was a late starter to textile crafts and had no early training. This did not hold her back at all, using kits and attending many courses since starting her journey Beryl showed us her varied work. She had many UFO’s (don’t we all?) but preferred to call them “unfinished objects”. Using such inspiration as wrapping paper, Moorish architecture we saw some fabulous completed work. My favourites were her Peacock fans, one in traditional colours and the other based on a white peacock seen at a NT property.

We were told at the introduction that gardening and reading links these three inspirational women. Let’s hope that like them we can be inspired from the world around us.


AUGUST 2015 WORKSHOP with Janet Vance “Four Seasons à la Angie Lewin” (photographs by Mal Ralston and report by Wendy Neale)

Our latest workshop was based on the work of Angie Lewin, a printmaker and designer of botanical work, and was taught by Janet Vance. Janet supplied lots of examples of Angie Lewin’s work, paper copies of her designs plus her own beautiful framed embroideries influenced by Angie Lewin, so that we had a lot of suggestions and inspiration to start us off. Once we had decided on our chosen season we started tinting our fabric with water-based colour, crayons, Inktense etc. We drew a smallish design on paper, transferred it to Lutradur and cut out the main shapes, flowers and tree trunks, which were then also painted. Lutradur takes most colouring media very well. When the shapes were dry they were gummed lightly onto our prepared fabric and we were ready to stitch. We spent a nice relaxed afternoon producing, as usual, very varied results, all interesting and imaginative. Janet Vance lived up to the glowing introduction given by Marie Stacey at the start of the day, an excellent, informative and supportive tutor.A very good day.


JULY 2015 TALK by Liz and Alun Evans of Retropattern “Fab Fabrics” (report by Helen Patrick

This was a very interesting talk by Liz Evans of Retropattern ably assisted by her husband Alun. Both are practising artists who met at art school and have a shared love of Fabric design. Liz set the scene by showing Humphrey Spenders photographs taken as part of the Mass Observation Project before World War II. The photos showed grim streets and hard times.

In 1951 the Festival of Britain had a huge influence on science, art and design. It was intended to give Britain a sense of fun and help to regenerate Britain at the end of the war and rationing. It led to the swinging sixties. At the forefront of the Festival of Britain were modern designers such as Terence Conan, Marion Mahler and Lucienne Day. Lucienne Day was inspired by abstract art, and used bright optimistic patterns. Her Calyx print manufactured by Heals was one of her most famous designs. Prominent manufacturers at the time like David Whitehead produced many of the fabrics in good quality, and above all affordable materials. So these cutting edge designs were to be found in houses, hospitals and colleges. As the textiles and ceramics from this period were seem to be useful they were acceptable to the general British public, more so than “Art” which had been perceived at elitist.

Liz and Alun had a very wide ranging collection of fabrics collected since their student days. Some of the fabrics were wonderful and they are sought after from far and wide.

There was also a chance to purchase a few very affordable gifts and cards made from little bits of original fabrics and a chance to own a piece of history from John Piper, Lucienne Day etc. Search out your fabric stash and attic and see if you have any yourselves.


JUNE 2015 WORKSHOP with Norma Heron “Machine Embroidery Techniques” (report by Chris Bennett)

Nine ladies, with their sewing machines and lots of enthusiasm met at All Hallows Church hall. Our Tutor, Norma Heron, showed us the techniques which we would use during the day.

The first involved the use of pastry cutters and Bondaweb and stitching, using only straight stitch on the machine. The second laying five layers of fabric, each 8ins x 12 ins, then stitching through all the layers in rows. The next step involved cutting through four of the five layers of fabric, between the rows of stitching. This piece would then need to be put in the washing machine at home to achieve a chenille effect.

Throughout Norma emphasised how we could be thrifty with fabrics from charity shops, such as using old shirts fronts as cushion backs –no need for zips or other fastenings here.

Norma, your enthusiasm and knowledge knows no bounds. The day was really enjoyable. Do hope you will return to give us another workshop for us to build on what we all achieved today. Many, many  thanks.

JUNE 2015 Three members from MEG went to TALK at Altrinchingham E.G.(report by Kim Parkman)

Three Merseyside EG members went to Altrincham EG to talk about their work.

Our first speaker was Gill Roberts, who has been a member of the Merseyside Guild for twenty seven years. She has been stitching since she was four and a half and surprised everybody by producing her first piece of work: a hanky bag. Gill’s mother had embroidered the top half and Gill had stitched the decoration on the bottom half. Her second exhibit was a gingham apron, which brought back memories to a number of people.

Gill developed her love of embroidery in classes run by our own Ruby Porter and joined the Guild. Eventually she became Chairman of our branch and was in this position when Liverpool held the City of Culture celebrations in 2008. She told the story of how the idea of the Liverpool ’08 Tapestry was hatched in a pub by Joe Morris of Home Bargains. It was supposed to be only about seven feet square (the size of the pub window) but grew to be seven feet by twenty three feet, taking five years and five million stitches to complete. Even Joe Morris learned to sew and was found to have perfect tension on his stitches.

Gill has since developed her own business, making bespoke bridal and special occasion wear and corsets. We saw some beautiful examples and pictures of her work. The final unveiling of the corset and dress that won this year’s Rose Bowl prize brought gasps of surprise. The piece was inspired by the Amber Room, built for the Empress Elizabeth in St Petersburg. Gill chose a costume from 1760 for her base design and modified a friend’s wedding dress to create what was to become a real labour of love.

Our second speaker was Vicky Williams, who showed two contrasting styles of work. She began to sew at school and continued throughout her working life. On retirement she decided take her love of sewing further and enrolled in Ann McTavish’s classes. Ann had a distinctive style and showed Vicky how to embroider with texture and use new techniques in her work. Although she said that she was happier when using a planned design, Vicky showed us two examples that were inspired by her travels abroad. One piece, embroidered in wool, was based on a calendar picture of the Lofoten Islands in Norway, with a striking sky and textures, and the second piece was a triptych of a very different landscape. It showed animals at the Ngaruroro Crater in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, where she went on safari.

For the past ten years Vicky has been studying and developing goldwork embroidery. Many of these embroideries have an Eastern theme. One of them, which she felt was fun, turned out to be a Tibetan symbol for happiness. Over the years the work has become more complex and some pictures had lots of chipping (not her favourite!) and new techniques, such as the use of a soldering iron to create different effects. All of the pieces showed a love of rich colours and detail.

Colour was also an inspiration for our third speaker, Elsie Watkins, who brought a huge selection of her work. Some of her earliest memories were of sewing crinoline ladies for a school project and making jumpers for people in the back room of her mother’s wool shop. She learned to sew on a treadle sewing machine.

Elsie’s path in life changed when she encountered an inspirational teacher, Molly Garland, at secondary school. She learned to paint on fabric and experiment. She went to art college, but there was no stitch, only printing. The audience loved an early sample of this work: a printed shirt that was definitely from the Sixties!

Elsie loves to use a machine for her embroidery and showed us some beautiful examples of work based on colour, including a hot water bottle cover that was the winner of that year’s Colour Competition. Many pieces showed how just simple stitches could be made into interesting pieces by the use of bright colours and added texture. A series of sketches of an Indian lady dancing developed into a piece that now hangs in her bedroom, this time using softer colours.

Like Vicky, Elsie uses events in her life to develop pieces of work. A giggly school reunion trip to Limoges was used for a wall hanging in print, cloth and net of buildings in the area; a trip to Paris for a series of stitched works on windows in different colours. Two pieces showed aerial views of fields, to remind Elsie of a hot air balloon trip that she took to celebrate her sixtieth birthday. The fields are closely stitched and given depth by the use of scraps of material or oversewn threads. A final piece was inspired by a poem that Elsie wrote for her daughter, which was marked ‘v good’ with a big red tick!

The members of the Altrincham branch appreciated our visit and said that it had been both enjoyable and inspirational. We will be welcoming three members of their branch back in September to hear their stories of sewing and inspiration.


APRIL 2015 half-day WORKSHOP with Phillipa Turnbull “Classic Crewel- long & short stitch” (report by Mal Ralston)

Phillipa is an enthusiast, expert, researcher and passionate about crewel, and founded the Crewel Work company about 25 years ago. Her passion started at age 6 when she was often left in the care of her Great Aunts who had been at the Royal College of Needlework when crewel work was in its heyday. During her long career she has also taken crewel to USA and Australia where there is a receptive audience. She emphasised her preference for top of the range materials and made the point that good quality linen and wools could transform the finished piece and allow it to last much longer. Probably the hardest part of the workshop was the assembly of the hands free frame, which took us far longer than it should have and somehow mine ended up back to front! During the workshop, we were given a choice of Jacobean sampler kit or The Lady Anne Jacket detail kit, or for the braver amongst us it was possible to make up another kit from the printed linens and wools available. I chose the leaf depicted on the Lady Anne jacket as I wanted the opportunity to recreate the historic textile. We drew pencil stitching lines on the linen to show stitch direction, then used cling film to cover the linen (nifty tip to keep it clean and stop it slipping) before mounting it into the frame and we were away, working from the outside in and lighter to darker colours. Phillipa showed us how start the work with a loop and demonstrated how much bounce there was in the wool, before encouraging us to get going so she could hear the rhythm of our stitching. Another couple of tips included keeping the angle of the needle at 90 degrees to cloth, using mistakes as padding and not undoing them and the importance of good posture, keeping a straight line from ear-shoulder-floor. The time flew by, and by the end of the morning session, while we were far from finished, we had all made a good start and could appreciate the quality of the materials used and the enthusiasm of the teacher.


APRIL 2015 afternoon TALK by Phillipa Turnbull “What Textiles you Might Expect to Visit in a Castle” (report by Mal Ralston)

The afternoon talk on embroidery in British castles illustrated the benefit of seeing embroidery in the context it was made for. We learned that as many old houses are dark it is always useful to take a torch for better scrutiny and also to contact the house before a visit so any stored textiles may be made available. Slides were shown from many historic homes including Muncaster castle, Glamis castle, Bolton Abbey, Levens Hall and Allenby castle .The latter had a Norman tower, moat and fish pond and was inherited by Lady Anne. Phillipa has recreated textiles from Lady Anne’s time, hence the kit used in the workshop. We discovered the origin of the saying” on tenterhooks” as wall hangings and pelmets were hung on hooks called tenters. Many symbols such as carnations, borage, rose and lions are used repeatedly and when William and Mary came from Holland, their pamphlets were used as patterns. Charles I appears repeatedly on alter frontals as the face of a lion! Heirloom textiles are better valued in USA, where crewel work is popular. It can be difficult to interpret the symbolism in the textiles as there is no uniform meaning and it can vary between cultures. Phillipa clearly demonstrated her enthusiasm for all types of historic needlework and her work in recreating them ensures that the original can be preserved. By the end of the day we had all learned a lot about crewel work and perhaps our workshop efforts will survive for many years!


MARCH 2015 TALK by 3 members from Parbold EG (report by Marie Stacey and photographs by Mal Ralston)

‘Working with a Textile Group: timelines, trials and triumphs’

Sandra Kedzlie, who has belonged to a range of EG groups (and founded Daventry branch), spoke first. Sandra now exhibits with  Preston Threads, with an annual exhibition theme connected to threads in some form. She talked us though the process. This group works with a different mentor each year, someone who provides feedback rather than tuition. Each year Sandra produces a working book for the exhibition;  we were shown the one she produced for the exhibition ‘Blue Threads’. These impressive working records of ideas, inspirations and possibilities demonstrated the depth of her thinking as she researched the theme. Sandra has a particular interest in old books, and this is evident in their use as backgrounds to stitching in some of her samples, and the finished work. Texture is important too, and she makes and dyes paper. It was a truly impressive bank of work, from an experienced and talented stitcher.

‘The Most expensive Glove in the World’

Kay Kelloway used to teach textiles at Alsop High School, her students gaining the best results at GCSE and A level in the city. She gave us an illuminating and entertaining talk based on her long-term fascination with the knitting designer Patricia Roberts, and her own experiences at Patricia’s (very expensive) workshop in France. Kay was somewhat disillusioned to discover Patricia was a designer who didn’t knit herself, and consequently she wasn’t a good teacher. Kay told us of her first day’s repeated and frustrating attempts to get the tension squares right, and then showed us a wonderful collection of complex patterns, frequently knitted in angora and cashmere. She finished her excellent talk by saying she felt that Patricia Roberts remained stuck in a groove, she hadn’t progressed and there was nothing new in her patterns: so Kay has left her behind.

’12 Months in the Life of a New Guild Member’

Deborah  McLennon-Riches started her career as a biochemist, then married and moved around with her husband’s job. She has only recently come back to exploring her artistic and creative side. Deborah is a bundle of energy and enthusiasm! She showed us the stunning results of a year’s worth of workshops at Parbold – she is the kind of person who completes the sample and then goes on to develop it further in her own inimitable style. She was frank about some of her ‘mistakes’, and spoke warmly of the support and advice she received from other group members. The quality of work following a Maggie Smith dolls’ workshop and a 3 day course with Louise Gardner, was amazing:  impossible to believe she was a newbie to stitching!

February 2015 WORKSHOP with Richard Box “Poppies” (report by Elsie Watkins)

The Workshop with Richard Box was fun from start to finish. We were all aiming to get a design underway, which Richard had given us on paper as a starting point.

He supplied the backing fabric and some interesting snippets of various coloured fabrics, and demonstrated how to cut out the appliqué shapes from the sheet of paper so that we ended up with a stencil. We then cut some tiny pieces of fabric and applied them to the background fabric with tiny dots of PVA glue, soon filling the empty spaces with strong colours as focal points. He made sure that we were all paying attention, but some of us should have been in the naughty corner!

Over lunch Richard was kind enough to give extra instruction on Fibonacci and talk about colour and tonal values. The next stage was to use our sewing machines with a wide zig-zag and a darning foot to hold the appliqué in place. He demonstrated the technique and gave advice about threading (use spit on the needle, not the thread) and it works!

We all set about machine sewing and exploiting colour contrasts and tonal changes. Then we used some hand stitching, with thread supplied, to link up tonal areas and create links between the separate areas of blues/greens. The day was not long enough to complete the final section, which was using the machine with straight stitch to enrich the surface. I took mine home and worked on it with hand stitching on Saturday night and moved on to the machine on Sunday because I could not wait to see it develop.

We had a very enjoyable day. Richard was an excellent tutor. He was helpful, encouraging and funny. To quote his own words. 19/10…..superb! Thank you Richard for a great day.

January 2015 TALK by Marie Stacey and Terri Holmes (Wirral Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted) “Stitching Wider Horizons- embroidery with sight problems”   (report by Norma Heron)  

Looking around the average group of embroiderers, it’s obvious that (a) the majority of members are wearing glasses and (b) the majority of members are in the 60+ age group. At one time, in our “youth”, we were taught fine stitchery, using fine threads and needles. As we age we no longer have the skills we once had and are happy to work on a larger scale with more innovative materials.

In her Talk, Marie spoke of her experiences prior to having treatment for her eye condition. She relates how frequently she was obliged to pick and unpick work over and over again – very frustrating! As one ages, macular degeneration can happen to anyone, especially to the over 50’s. New treatment is available with much ongoing research – many embroiderers can feel a real sense of loss as sight deteriorates. Marie’s work was shown and much enjoyed by members.

Teri Holmes, from the Wirral Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted, gave a most encouraging Talk on her student’s working out of Birkenhead Park. Naturally her students were working on a fairly large scale using felt (from a herd of alpacas!) which was rich in colour and texture and wonderfully soft and tactile. In addition to the textiles, a resource centre, social club, hospitality, courses and classes are held. They also hold fundraising events. Teri has much experience, encouraging students to use innovative equipment such as embellishing machines (no needles to be threaded!) She agrees that nobody is too old to try: one student is 84 years old.

We felt the topic was wide ranging, non-exclusive and open to all. A very different afternoon with food for thought.


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