Category Archives: embroidery

The Creative Industries

I embroidered some leaves.

It’s Autumn, after all. I know that because I’ve got an Arran sweater on and tights and my fingers are slightly cold even though I’m indoors and the air smells of damp and fungus and sweet marshmallow woodsmoke and there are elderberries in a pot in the kitchen waiting to be cooked into jelly. I left them overnight so that any livestock could escape: a very small snail with a shell as pink and as delicate as a baby’s fingernail and a spider abseiling off the work top.

embroidery: leafembroidery: leaf

I was in Manchester recently, sitting nursing a coffee in the Craft and Design Centre, scribbling a few things including snatches of conversations. Four women with presence: neat, A-line skirted, girdled, hair done, nail polished in a pale pink way, big semi-detached, plenty of spare cash for jollies, forthright. A priceless snippet…..

Coiffed No. 1: “She’s got the biggest wardrobe ever: it’s called the floor and the

things she wears. I wouldn’t go out with her it was that bad.”

Coiffed No. 2: “But she still has to get to work, I mean, get from the station or

bus or whatever dressed like that. In public.”

Coiffed No.1: “It’s the Creative Industries she’s in. They’re all like it.”

A pause for cake.

Coiffed No.1: “Why do you wear beige? It’s old. It makes your skin look beige.”

Coiffed No. 3: “It is! And it’s not beige…it’s fawn!”


I had another coffee just so I could stay and listen….and then this which just made me roar inwardly:


Coiffed No. 1: “His wife died.”

Coiffed No. 2: “Oh!”

A mouthful of coffee.

Coiffed No. 1: “His THIRD wife.”

Coiffed No. 2: “Oh! Really! Three?”

Coiffed No. 3: “He’s a multi-faceted chap is Don. Solicitor. Takes his dog to work with him.”


I’ll leave it there…..




Filed under embroidery, sewing, writing

Silver Thread

I’ve had it up to the back teeth with metallic thread. It’s a pain: it splits like giraffe legs on a frozen pond, it won’t go through the eye of a needle and it tangles without so much as a ‘sorry’.

Trouble is, it looks good….

I’m using split stitch which is a labour of love but the finished piece is tactile and smile-inducing, even if I have a punctured finger. I hate wearing a thimble, it makes me feel like Mrs Tiggywinkle….102 and spherical. 

Will this be another one for the wall? Suggestions as to what to do with it please!



Filed under embroidery, fashion, sewing


Coral dress Valentino


…..exhibition at Somerset House

What can I say? It’s couture. It’s glorious. It’s (mostly) not me.

I’ve never been a Valentino sort of girl: his clothes are just not austere enough for me – a bit too heavy handed in the ornate beading department. They’ve always reminded me of the opening credits to Dallas – couture blouses and miniscule chiffoned pleating, all terribly matching. Indeed, the clothes on show from that era are overly worked, encrusted and pleated within an inch of their lives and I gave the embroiderers and beaders a nod of appreciation and moved on. Nor did I think that lace was really up my street but the incrostazioni (applique of cut lace onto tulle) incorporated into 1970s bell sleeved long georgette dresses, the colour of Jersey milk, were exquisitely judged – slender restrained whisps of frocks perfect in their execution. And extremely wearable nearly 40 years on. They were my favourites. They remind me of candles and dinner parties and Californian beaches and long easy hair (a bit Charlie’s Angels).

I was surprised at how many of his clothes are sculpted and restrained (as well as the extravagantly fluted and pleated) particularly in the 1960s: a high collared black silk satin evening jacket heavy with jet fringing and a neatly pocketed green silk trapeze dress. His use of kimono sleeves rather than set in sleeves (sleeves which are a continuation of the bodice with a seam along the length of the arm, often with a triangular gusset set in under the arms which allow a garment to be snug but retain its fluidity) make his early clothes look immensely tactile and very comfortable. Such a different feel to the pinched in, tight jacket sleeves of the 2000s which just look mean, for women who don’t really eat.

There is such joy in this exhibition: Valentino has clearly made a lot of (very wealthy) women very happy. Happy because they can afford couture (I expect for some) or happy because these clothes are a joy to wear, because someone has carefully stitched and beaded and embroidered and created something of immense quality. And I take a lesson from it: be bold, wear colour, puff up those skirts and twirl a bit. Stick your chin out and be a woman.

This is a rich, important and exciting exhibition. It reaffirms the importance of fashion as an industry and doesn’t apologise for fashion’s frivolity. It’s a joy. Go and see it.

(Oh…and there’s always room in your summer wardrobe for a short cream heavy silk jacket in an easy shape with 3/4 sleeves…and a few beads…).


Filed under dressmaking, embroidery, fashion, sewing

Little Black Dress #2

It’s not that little really, in fact, its pretty long.

Party, especially ‘party’ so close to Christmas says ‘long’ to me. I like a bit of a sweep and there are far too few occasions on which sweep is acceptable, so I grab sweep when it’s offered…I think I’ll be the only one again. I can’t help my head being stuck in an MGM extravaganza and firmly attached to Fred Astaire…a dissolute childhood: sunny day, curtains closed against the glare, long frocks and dancing…

I’ve also been having a couture moment. Heaven only knows why when I’ve got Christmas looming and I’m sleep-talking lists and having night panics about stuffing and whether half a bottle of cognac is enough to see us through….Anyhow, I decided that hand stitching the facings and belt would be a good thing, a nod to the tiny, and not always regular, elf-stitched underpinnings of couture. I do like the insides of garments, they tell a story of pricked fingers and relentless unpicking and swearing at the illogical skew-whiffedness and sheer bloody-mindedness of some fabrics….

So here it is. The frock for the sparkly party….all neat and carefree on the outside and stitched into submission on the inside. I put green glass beads on the edges of the belt…my nod to sparkle (and there was plenty of the real stuff there…). It’s made of heavy silk crepe and the braid for the belt came from India via the lovely Cloth House in Soho.

Still feeling a little fragile….


Filed under dressmaking, embroidery, sewing

Knots and More Knots

I think I’ve conquered the French knot.

Enforced relaxation by an Italian pool and courtesy of a five hour train trip to Penzance (and five hours back) produced these……




Filed under embroidery, sewing


I’m having trouble accessing technology. The children hog it: one designing tree houses and the other blasting his way out of Afghanistan. They’ve disappeared into the garden and I’m tempted to lock the door ’til I’ve finished. It’s hard to work while the children are on holiday. Their stuff breeds like triffids: there’s no floor space left thanks to lego and the table’s full of airfix and oil paints.

I’ve just finished an embroidery……I’m quite pleased with it….

Thought I’d post the old ones while I’m at it…….

This one’s a bit scruffy round the edges but I think it’s my favourite. Just need to get it framed.

I just need to get on with some proper work too….I’ve two bridesmaids’ dresses to make, a client waiting for the outrageous pink feathers and I quite fancy a new frock myself….

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Filed under embroidery, oddbods

Being Technologically Challenged

I have figured out how to upload photographs. I am a proud lady this afternoon. I have not resorted to asking The Hub or a child. They’re not perfect…yet. But there is progress. It has only taken me two hours to get this far and I have not resorted to throwing things or tearing anything into small pieces…..

So here it is. A piece of embroidery that I did a month or so ago. Don’t quite know what to do with it apart form stroke it. Will figure that one out when I’ve got over the shock of technological literacy.

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Filed under embroidery, oddbods