Books: Inspired to Stitch

In a bid to expand my awareness of textile artists I borrowed Diana Springalls’ Inspired to Stitch: 21 Textile Artists from the library.

Margaret Nicholson – created sumptuous embroideries using a technique called Or nué (gold thread is laid on the surface of the cloth and couched down with floss or cotton. The colour and spacing of the stitches creates the design) Examples of her work can be found in Polly Kenny’s paper here. What is nice about this book (and Kenny’s paper) is that you can see examples of Nicholson’s sketches beside the finished work.

Eirian Short – I admire the amount of work that goes into the detailed hand embroidery of Eirian Short but I am not sure I would be able to do that much sewing by hand. In her work Garn Merino Owen (The Rock of the Sons of Owen) she uses different stitch lengths and directions to create a variety of textures. This is something I could could use in my work.

Audrey Walker – Walker combines hand and machine embroidery in her work. She also uses mixed fabrics or even old quilts as a base for her embroidery. This is the first time that I have seen someone who combines machine and hand embroidery and this is a technique that I am keen to try as it will probably give me the best of both worlds – the ability to work on a larger scale and/or more densely as well as being able to include the detail and individuality of hand stitching without aggravating the joints in my hands.

Jan Beaney – I adore Beaney’s work and her work Passages of Time I Israel series (1998) constructed from appliqué, hand and machine stitching is exactly the kind of result that I would love to try and achieve for this photograph that I took this morning:

The moss and lichen on these logs was stunningly vibrant and textured. I would have loved to have gotten closer for a better picture but there was a lot of muddy grass between my wheels and this log pile! Beaney’s work Out of the Mist has beautiful colour gradations and even in the photographs there appears to be a depth and richness to the the works. She also uses dense stitching on soluble cloth to create new fabrics from the stitches. This book has sample pages from her sketchbook which she creates in gouache and Aquarelle crayons and as Part 3 is on colour I will try to remember to look at her work again.

Judy Barry & Beryl Patten – create vestments, altar frontals etc for places of worship. Their style is highly graphic and again their use of colour is stunning.

Jean Littlejohn – hand stitches on painted ground and applied fabrics. In some of Littlejohn’s work she machine embroiders over hand stitching. This is the opposite order to what I would have thought so I will have to experiment with the order that stitching is applied to see how the resulting work changes.

Diane Bates – describes her work as ‘sculpted body pieces’. I really like the fact that she incorporates free machine embroidery into clothing to create wearable art (admittedly probably not to the shops!)

Helen Banzhaf – Banzhaf’s work is created using machine embroidery and is extremely vibrant. Many of the vases she depicts are reminiscent of Clarice Cliff in colour and the graphic shapes. She uses a tailors ham to iron her work and encourage the distortion of shape rather than trying to force the work flat. My favourite quote from Banzhaf is that “what I find most exciting is that my initial design bears little resemblance to the finished embroidery. The patterns, shapes and colours change and evolve as I work the piece.” This is something that I have been trying to embrace as my tutor’s feedback from part one picked out some of my more random experiments which I found strangely liberating in that I didn’t need to restrict myself to the obvious answers.

Janet Haigh – is incredibly prolific and inventive. She has embroidered unusual materials such as enamel. She also seems to have a variety of styles from more simple heart mending mottoes to three dimensional works like Parrots (2004) which are free-standing silk embroideries on foam bodies and hand painted faces. It is inspiring that she does not confine herself to one medium and reminds me that it is fine to experiment.

Sue Rangeley – creates beautiful fashion, accessories and interiors. The influence from the Arts and Crafts movement can be seen in her silk cushion design which is very reminiscent of William Morris.

Paddy Killer – Killer’s work Watch the Tiger (1983) appears to be growing out of its own “frame”. I am really entranced by the organic way that the leaves are placed and this work (Is it really winter outside? 1984) is very similar.

Jeanette Appleton – uses a vast array of techniques including felting and heat transfer printing in addition to stitching.

Pauline Burbidge – a quilt maker who uses patchwork and appliqué techniques. Her landscape studies such as Causeway III are intriguing as they are series of interpretations.

Karen Nicol – Nicol has created work by such as Branded Sheepskin (2003) by free hand drawing on skins. I have tried small versions of this in my sketchbooks from my previous module and after trying this in Part One on cardboard I may apply the technique to textiles later in this part. Nicol also creates fashion and lace.

Jane Poulton – creates miniature embroideries.

Claire Johnson Knight – detailed hand embroiderer for haute couture. This piece of devore lace with three dimensional hand-cut flowers that are surprisingly realistic is highly inspiring.

Nicola Henley – Henley’s work is very moody and atmospheric and is created by painting and silk-screen printing onto cotton calico with pigments and dyes before collaging with japanese paper and stitch. I have attempted a combination of fabric and paper to be stitched in the past but Henley’s work definitely inspires me to push this technique further as her works such as Evening Gulls look as though they are oil paintings.

Alice Kettle – There is something unsettling about Kettle’s work and I have yet to put my finger on what it is. I am not sure whether it is the slightly knotted appearance of her stitching or something else…

Rachel Quarmby – makes costumes today but I am intrigued by her work Junk Sail Mobile (1991) which is very reminiscent of Leonardo daVinci’s sketches. These large scale textiles that can move provide an additional challenge of engineering that would be interesting to explore.

Louise Gardiner – has a very illustrative style which has suddenly made me think of the possibility of reproducing my pointillist sketches as embroideries.

[All links accessed on 22/12/18]


Springall, D. (2005) Inspired to Stitch: 21 Textile Artists London: A&C Black Publishers Limited

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