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A Busy Busy January - but a good one too

Hello 😊 – and I’m glowing with pride that at least for January, I’ve kept to doing us a monthly update. So month 1 – tick. Its another long one I think - so grab yourself and cuppa and then we can chat

The daffs have got their noses well and truly through ... must be nearly Spring


So January has been a very busy month, and I think February will be even busier. It’s the run up to the Fashion. Embroidery and Stich show at the NEC, where I have both a gallery and my stand. Lovely Jane from ICHF shows, has given me quite a bit more gallery space than I was expecting – thank you Jane 😊 The only slight glitch in that, is that I need to make more artwork than I was expecting. Luckily, I find tight deadlines very motivating, so I’ve been printing up a storm, stencilling my heart out and firing up my lovely Janome into action. I’ll give you a few updates on work in progress in a moment. But first let me tell you a bit more about the show.

from Embroidery magazine - I'm in some very esteemed company !!


Firstly, as I won’t be at Festival of Quilts in August, this is the only show I will be attending this year.  I’ve got a wonderful space for both exhibiting work, and demonstrating ideas and techniques, and as always, I will demonstrate throughout the show.  It will be fantastic having lots of my work in the gallery right by the stand, as I can both talk to you about the work and show you many of the techniques I’ve used to produce it. I know visitors are always interested in how the work is made, and I am showing a real variety of textiles and mixed media work. So lots to share and talk about

The gallery  number is H32, and the stand H33  and we are on the right-hand side of Hall 20, together with some other brilliant galleries for you to view.

Super talented Laura Kemshall is just a couple of doors down, with her ‘All That We Are' exhibition. ‘The stories we tell, and we hear, the thought and the memory. Everything that you made and gave to me, everything I make and give to you. These small things, this tangle of threads that make us everything we are’. 

The Royal School of Needlework are next to Laura ‘and then comes wonderful artist Aran Illingworth with her exhibition ‘I’m not Invisible’ In this exhibition, Aran Illingworth uses her distinctive ‘painting with thread’ techniques to tell the stories of individuals whose voices would otherwise go unheard: refugees from deprivation and war, and homeless people struggling for survival on the streets. 

Then it s me with Tulip Mania and on my other side is David Morrish – Kingfly, who creates contemporary digital embroidered art for fashion and interiors, using a feast of colours, textures and detailing. I've not seen his work before, so I'm really looking forward to viewing this gallery

Lovely Kim Thittachai will be over from Ireland, demonstrating and no doubt weaving her own special brand of magic. And talented Kathleen Laurel Sage will have some of her beautiful work to share.

There are also some excellent textile groups showing work: Tangent Textile, Traverse, Meniscus, Eclectica, and Eau Brink Studio to name but a few. If you want to read more about the features at the show, this link will take you where you need to be



Plenty of traders, workshops, demonstrators and galleries, plus access into Sewing for Pleasure as well as the Creative Craft show. What’s not to like? I do hope you will come and visit – I so enjoy meeting my customers, students and followers, as well as meeting and making new friends. And as I say, this will be my only show this year. And Tulip Mania will be twice the size it was at its first outing. That’s lot of new work to share 

On which:

I’ve been making a pair of pieces, using stencilled and dyed fabric – a sort of modern wholecloth – which I’m then stitching to add texture and detail. Followers on social media have loved these, so I thought you might enjoy a quick run through of them in progress:

planning out a composition before starting to add paint


I love starting with plain white cloth and then creating from scratch. Often, I make materials, and then collage them to create pieces which I then stitch. But this time, I fancied playing with some of my new stencil designs, and creating a piece for stitching that way.

considering paint options


So I’ve started (image above) by stencilling a background, using my own fabric paints, and some stencils (calligraphy weave and willow),  and some of my rubber stamps (calligraphy weave and leaves pattern, plus one of the seaweed stamps to add a bit of pattern into the ‘window’ area. I like to create a rough interior feeling background, and a ‘window’ area adds a good light point in the composition.  

seaweed rubber stamp used in the window - it almost looks like frost I think


Pale to mid blues were all I used for the background, as I wanted my tulips and pots to stand out. And that’s what came next. Lovely big pots ( I used the A4 tulip pots stencils) in a mixture of jade and peacock paints

Next up, some leafy sprays were added to all the pots. I used 3 sizes of the mid-century leaves (cutting on the A4 pair in half to use) .

Then it was in with beautiful tulips. I cut apart the each of the tulip head stencils to make 4 smaller ones (that’s sort of how I envision them being used) and happily added masses of colour, using fig, sweet pea, lilac and fig paints, plus white. Stems were added using a small paintbrush after the flowers were positioned


At this point, I need to be really brave, because I really love this as it is. But I want more colour, so I like to add procion dye over the paint. As long as you let it cure for a day or two, and then heat fix it with an iron - this works beautifully. My paints are very opaque and will pop up from the dye background. I've done it hundreds of times, and I know they will ... nonetheless - it still feels a bit scary. So its big girls pants on!! and out with the dye

Starting off with gentle Robin eggs blue ...

then adding raspberry ripple and mic century blue at the bottom - yummy

Off to the sewing machine next – and I fully intended to stitch all over the cloth background, and then overstitch on the pots and tulips. There were so many crossing stems and flowers, I had no intention of stitching round them all. Then my inner Virgo (she doesn’t often get a look in but she definitely exists) pipes up that it would look better if I made the effort (and time .. time) to stitch the background around the features. And of course, she was right – I just didn’t want to hear it - especially not when I'd just found out I had double the space for my gallery.  But once she had pointed it out, I couldn’t get past it (if you have an inner Virgo you will understand) – so the fiddly background had to be done as she wanted. The plus side of that is that I just love how the back of the work looks when you do this. It emphasises all the lovely negative shapes.

the back

It also shows all my dodgy tension and the threads I don’t bother cutting. But so what? I truly do think the back is irrelevant in art textiles, so I never bother about it. I can recommend this approach – its much less tense!!

Background of number 1 done, and at last – the fun bits

I loved stitching the tulips and pots, and I love how it all looks. I think I will add some stamens to the blown open tulips, and probably a few more tweaks., but I'm basically happy, and am now onto number 2. Both are A1 sized and will be mounted on canvas


And this technique for preparing a whole cloth to stitch, is one I will be demonstrating at the March show. A bit smaller (so I can fit it on my table) – but equally good fun.


Workshops wise, Breaking the Boundaries with Breakdown printing had its final sessions in January. It’s a five month course, and in the final month I like to work freely and mix all the techniques we have learnt together. I set up some screens with stencilled bowls and tulips, plus some hand drawn versions, a rubbing of a vase with tulips (inspired by Paul Cezanne’s painting), a variety of tulips heads  and some background screens. Several hours of fun later I’ve got a wonderful collection of tulippy breakdown prints, some of which I will be working further with for the NEC exhibition in March. Here's a few of them:


Completely different aren't they? I'm so looking forward to stitching them. All A3 size

The Healing Garden themed sketchbook course had its 5th month in January, and we were looking at Ivy. It has anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as acting as an air purifier. In the language of flowers, it means fidelity or endurance. This month we were looking at suing gelli prints to add imagery to our sketchbooks, and ivy produced some beauties. Here are a few pages

February is a working back and catch up month, and then in March we are looking at wonderful Narcissus – can’t wait

The Machine Artistry group got started on some serious sampling in our January sessions. Our aim is to view our sewing machines as another art making tool. And it’s a fantastic one. We started by dyeing our own fabrics ready for sampling, and then had a  look at the many possibilities with simple straight stitch,  with feed dogs both up and down. Here’s a few:

Then we went on to explore ways of shading using straight stitch. More wonderful samples and some simple shaded drawings.  Isn’t it amazing what can be achieved with just one stitch? We are off exploring zig zag next.


The latest gelli printing course is not in month 5 and looking at using masks on the gelli plate. I love doing this, and you end up with piles of collage materials like this

Yes mine were tulips again!! I will of course be demonstrating gelli printing at the March show.

I’ve also been making lots of samples and materials using the new rubber stamps. These are using the beach ones and some foam stamps (I am currently designing some start fish and beach pebble rubber stamps to take to the march show)

And I’ve made these hangings with the prints – ready to stitch now

Then in the Christmas day stream I made this yummy  lot using the leaf stamps

If you missed that, it’s a free video and is on YouTube – link here

It was great fun, and I will do a follow up video when I have time, to show you what I create with these.

I’ll be doing more of these materials during my demos at the NEC in March


Its another long one isn’t it!? Time just races past and so much seems to be going on. I’m planning a couple of new classes for 2024 – Photo Collage and a new Screen Printing workshop. But I’ll tell you more about those next time.

It's back to stitching like a demon for me now!! Thank you so much for joining me – see you 1st March - Hilary xx



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Excellent, I love the explanation on how you built up the whole cloth ready for stitching. Looking forward to seeing all your work in March, not long now ❤️


Thank you ❤️ - and it's scarily not long at all Lesley!! But all will be done and we are going to have a great show - again xxx


Lynda Herd
Lynda Herd

Great to see all you have been working on! I can't wait to see it at the show 🥳


I cant wait either Lynda - its going to be a very busy few weeks !! xxx



Wow, Hilary, what at lot to achieve! Do you have more than 24 hours a day??? Always a joy to watch your makings, and I am very much enjoying our Machine Artistry course. Happy time at NEC!! 😀 cheers Karen Hvid


Oh how I would like a few extra hours Karen!! I've got so much to do in the next 6 weeks. I'm so pleased you are enjoying machine artistry - so am I!! 😀😀

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