The Stitchbook Issue 16

Page 1

The Issue No 16

This month we are looking at sewing with wool threads, (crewel work) and how you can blend colours and tones using the simplest of stitches … THIS ISN’T going to be an embroidery lesson! You know me well enough now to know that I don’t have the patience

Page WORKSHOP 4 Stitched Samplers 8 Hearts & MIND update 9 Featured Artist 10 Food for Thought 12
Contemporary Stitched Sampler on wool felt

PROGRESS and update on The Butterfly Effect Project pages 14 & 15

3 WORKSHOP presented by Helen Birmingham Issue No 16: first published April 2024 a stitch sampler: do it your own way!

Issue No 16: first published April 2024


I have to admit to having been pretty focussed (some would use the word obsessed!) on The Butterfly Effect Project this month, but it has really paid off! I have now formulated a cohesive plan to take us forwards, (See pages 14 & 15.) It’s ambitious and I will really need your help and commitment to see it through!

Because of the project, I’ve been seeing colour everywhere, and I am really appreciating the fact that Spring is just around the corner.

I have been following an Australian artist called Elizabeth Armstrong for many years now, (particularly her felt work), and the sheer indulgence of stitching into felt is one of my greatest pleasures. Elizabeth is our featured artist this month, and her current project on facebook is particularly relevant to our group project, since she is creating designs which use up ‘scraps’. (See pages10 & 11.)

There are two main books which I looked at this month, ’The New Crewel’ by Katherine Shaughnessy and ’The Intentional Thread’, both of which I would recommend. The cover price of The Intentional Thread might make it a special purchase, but for inspiration I use it over and over

SCHIFFER Publishing Ltd

ISBN: 978-0-7643-5743-5


I’ve written a very short piece about samplers on page 8. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Stitched Samplers, I automatically think about the early 18th century examples. Repeating patterns and alphabets often appearing alongside decorative borders, pictoral designs and moral or religious verse. A squarish shape which combines different needlework skills. The result was something that could be displayed on the wall in the style of a painting or a print, rather than kept rolled up as a long, narrow reference piece.

But actually there are many different types of samplers.

There is an extensive history on the V&A website if you are interested in finding out more: embroidery-a-history-ofneedlework-samplers

and of course there is the amazing resource which is the Royal School of Needlework’s Stitch Bank

BUT, for this month’s workshop you might also like to revisit my 2022 workshop 2/12 Textural Stitching, which you can find in The Stitchbook Collective Archive. I’d like you to think about creating a ‘sampler page’’ for your stitchbook, which is personal to you.

Below there is a link to a great blog called which includes an article on a contemporary, mindful, way of making a stitched sampler, which you might find inspirational.

This is my own ‘sampler’ design, where I have used the different stitches to hold some of the narrative of the piece. ve put a little more explanation about this piece, which is called ’When We Dream’ on page 9.


You can obviously divide your page up in any way you like, but I suggest that you might first like to use back stitch or running stitch to make some intentional sections to stitch into. What stitches you use is up to you too, but my suggestion is to discover what effects you can create with VERY SIMPLE repeated stitches, rather than trying to use complicated embroidery stitches. So, for example, you might use one section of your sampler to show the different results from using varying numbers or

thicknesses of threads, or the closeness of the stitches. This workshop is a chance to see ‘what would it look like if I …’

I have stitched my examples on a cream felt background which I then attached to a page in my stitchbook.

Example 1

Running Stitch Sampler by Susan Brandies

If you are interested in learning more about thread painting, there are some great examples online, and with time and patience who knows .. you might be able to create something like these images taken from Pinterest ….! I do know from experience that this is not for me, but I can marvel at the skill.

Example 2

As we saw in Example 1, to blend colours, the order in which you stitch them has a great impact on the outcome. In this example, I have used different tones of the same colour and I


I think that one of the most effective stitches for blending colours and tones is a French Knot. It’s also remarkably forgiving if your stitching ve mastered a French Knot there is no looking back. Just in case you ve put an example of how to work this stitch as a BONUS video on the website

As an art student, I learnt about the painting style called Pointillism and you can see how easily this can be translated into a series of French

It is amazing how one simple stitch can be used to represent so much. One knot in the right place can stand for a single flower or a whole tree! It is a particularly good stitch to add texture, and perfect as a ‘filling’ stitch. I particularly love the use of French Knots to create ’negative letters - such a simple but effective technique to master. Why not use one or more of the areas on your sampler to experiment.?



The English word 'sampler' derives from the Latin 'exemplum' meaning 'an example'. Before the introduction of printed designs, embroiderers and lacemakers needed a way to record and reference different designs, stitches and effects. The answer was to create a sampler – a personal reference work featuring patterns and elements that the owner may have learned or copied from others, to recreate again in new pieces.

The style of samplers may have changed dramatically over the years, but one thing that remains constant however is that hand embroidery samplers have always been a record of stitches. Cross stitch samplers are popular nowadays, but of course they aren’t real samplers since they only contain one stitch!

Spot Samplers

The earliest examples of stitched samplers (15thC) were called random or spot samplers, and patterns were placed in a haphazard way over the cloth. New patterns and stitches were avidly collected and exchanged. Spot samplers were often absolutely full of examples, looking rather cluttered maybe,

but the trend today seems to be heading back to these spot samplers rather than the more formal designs which followed.

Band Samplers

From about 16thC stitched samplers were called Band Samplers. Worked in a long narrow ribbons, they measured about 6-9in (being determined by the loom width of the woven linen cloth) .

Picture Samplers

With the popularity and availability of printed images, samplers of the 18th and 19th centuries were in complete contrast to the random spot and band samplers of earlier times. It was during the 18thC that samplers took on the proportions of a picture. Symmetrically placed motifs of birds, small animals, flowers and trees were arranged to produce a balanced picture. Having lost much of their utilitarian function, samplers became ornamental, and were displayed as a record of achievement. By the 19thC samplers were well established

as vehicles for religious instruction, geography, English and mathematics. School girls produced needlework exercises of almanacs, mathematical tables and maps, as well as numbers and letters.

Contemporary Samplers

Today of course, the internet has influenced the development of samplers, but even though we may interpret the stitches and designs in modern manner, samplers are still, in fact, very much working in the historic tradition.



‘When We Dream’

100cm x 70cm (private collection)

Inspiration for this piece came not only from the idea of a stitched sampler, but also from a quote by Friedensreich Hundertwasser:

‘When we dream alone it is only a dream, but when we dream together it is the beginning of a new reality .. ‘

Each of the 9 larger black squares represents a dream. The first column represents one person and the middle column another. Both have a separate, distinct lifeline running through them with a fixed beginning and end.

The whole piece represents a bed, which is tethered to an earthly reality: sheets, pillows, bedspread etc. If you follow the lines from the pillows of each sleeper you can see that they combine, play and twist together when they meet. The lines have no fixed beginning or end, and they eventually unite, finding a new freedom, as one line, out of the bottom left corner of the picture.

Dorothea and I had a meeting at Cross Lane Hospital in Scarborough on 26th March 2024. We have given the wall hanging to their Activities Coordinator Karen Wheelhouse and have seen where it will be hung. As I think I said, the hanging will have to be displayed in a sealed and cleanable display unit, so Karen will now arrange for the display case to be made to measure. Once this has been established, I may ask for donations towards the cost, although the hospital are happy to cover this if necessary.

There will be an official presentation ceremony (probably in the summer) and the press will be asked to cover the event. As soon as I hear any dates or further information etc, I will let you know.

I will be putting together some publicity and information about The Stitchbook Collective to display with the hanging. The Hospital staff were absolutely delighted with our gift. It was actually a very emotional meeting, and Dorothea and I were moved by the appreciation we received on your behalf, so THANK YOU AGAIN. x x x


I have followed Elizabeth Armstrong on facebook for several years now, having been absolutely mesmerised by her use of colours and textures, particularly in her felted pieces. You can no doubt see that her work feeds right in to my Hundertwasser obsession, but somehow, for me, adds a more intimate and personal feel. You can also see that I was heavily influenced by her work, and that of Jolande Van Luijk who we looked at in Issue 14, when I was working on ideas for our 2024/25 Group Project, The Butterfly Effect.

Elizabeth has a way of combining colours and shapes which I am really drawn to, and I am a huge fan of stitching onto a felted surface. So what’s not to like?

At the beginning of this year Elizabeth announced that she was going to take part in the hundred day project and that her challenge was going to be posting onto facebook every day, showing us how she uses scraps and offcuts of felt in combination with hand stitching.

I have been blown away by the images she has shared.

I really hope that you will take a look at Elizabeth’s facebook page, her website and if you don’t know about the 100 day project, have a look at that too:

“I am a full time feltmaker and mixed media artist. I teach workshops from my studio and work as an Artist in Residence. I also travel to teach both in Australia and internationally.

For the longest time I have collected odds and ends of felt scraps, the off cuts from projects and installations. I've been a felt maker for 28 years and I have always been keen on making samples to check out new supplies and shades and how well they marry.

Well after all this time I have several box loads of treasures I've never been able to throw out - and so I found my challenge for the hundred day project. Posting on Facebook every day to utilise these pieces into a range of new wall hangings. There won't be 100 new wall hangings but I'll get as many done as I possibly can!

If you'd like to come along for the journey you can see the posts each day on my Facebook page.’

Taken from Elizabeth’s BLOG:

Colour is my driving force

There is an interview with Elizabeth from 2010 on

If you haven’t come across Running With Scissors before it is well worth a look. There are loads of really great ‘interviews with ..’ it doesn’t seem to have been updated (since 2013) but the resource is still there online.


with thanks to Robyn Gordon’s Art Propelled

"It is important to me to see myself in a tapestry, and that comes from the trace of my hand. It comes from solutions in colours. The yarns are important. I build my own yarn from many thin threads because I want to make the surface vibrate in some way.”

"I am a sensualist. I love tuning in to all of my senses. Process, the imperfect, the impermanent and the unfinished sing to me. I am a wabi-sabi wannabe. I see Madonna’s in mud-puddles. At dusk, when the sky turns a raspberry cream, the crows call my name. I wander, gather, collect, arrange and put small treasures in tiny boxes. I make gypsy tents in which to drink tea and write poems. I collaborate with nature to make marks. Tea, leaves, blossoms, berries, paper, fabric and thread are primary in my artist's tool kit. I wrap, bundle and make magic almost everyday. My life and my art are always in a state of transformation."

Helen Birmingham

“Once, Picasso was asked what his paintings meant. He said, “Do you ever know what the birds are singing? You don’t. But you listen to them anyway.” So, sometimes with art, it is important just to look.”

Your feelings may not always be logical, but they are always valid. Because if you feel something, then you feel it and it’s real to you.

It’s not something you can ignore or wish away. It’s there, gnawing at you, tugging at your core, and in order to find peace, you have to give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you feel.

You have to let go of what you’ve been told you “should” or “shouldn’t” feel. You have to drown out the voices of people who try to shame you into silence. You have to listen to the sound of your own breathing and honour the truth inside you. Because despite what you may believe, you don’t need anyone’s validation or approval to feel what you feel.

Your feelings are inherently right and true. They’re important and they matter you matter and it is more than okay to feel what you feel. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, convince you otherwise.

“I believe that in art, as in life, what is important is the path we follow in the learning process through effort, the accumulation of experience and the enthusiasm that we invest in what we do, always keeping in mind that sometimes it can take many years to get anywhere and that sometimes, perhaps, if life is generous, we can get where we could never have imagined.”


Bill Gingles Penny Hallas

I think it’s fair to say that ‘coming on in leaps and bounds’ describes the progress I’ve made with The Butterfly Effect Project this month.

All the different elements have come together into a cohesive design, and I am absolutely thrilled at the enthusiasm and excitement that you have shown for the project so far. I really hope that you are going to approve of the direction I’ve taken with it and the decisions I have made.

A ’lightbulb moment’ for me was remembering the scene in ’The Wizard of Oz’ when Dorothy first arrives, and the black and white footage turns into full technicolour.

So, the installation will be in sections:

• Dress and cloak made from members’ felted squares together with wave of butterflies on netting .

• The entangled bank, made from a chain of slow stitched tubes. Decorated with flowers, butterflies and leaves on lapel pins.

• Section with monochrome tubes and kunin felt flowers.

The Entangled Bank will be made up of stitched beads (like the DNA spiral sections) but this time using pages from fabric sample books, chindi and slow stitching. The design on each ‘bead’ will create a ‘line’ which leads up to the base of the dress.

It will be possible to attach the flowers, butterflies and leaves from the fundraising kits directly, but temporarily, onto the beads, using the lapel pins which are part of their design. This will mean that they can be detached and sold individually to raise more funds (rather like in the Hearts & MIND project).

The flowers will be pinned close to the bead, whereas the butterflies will appear to be floating from the surface, because they are created using a short length of curly wire.

The section of the installation which surrounds the base, and feeds into the entangled bank will be constructed from fixed straight structural tubes, covered with monochrome fabric swatches and grey twisted flowers made from heated kunin felt. This will act as the contrast I described in the Wizard of Oz example.

So in summary, Members and exmembers will be asked to make the squares for the dress, the slow -stitched pieces for the beads (kits will be available later in the year), kunin felt flowers and any loose butterflies for the netting.

The fundraising kits for butterflies, flowers and leaves will be available to EVERYONE from 15th May 2024 on the website or at group workshops (still to be arranged).

I am really proud of this concept and hope you will be just as excited to get involved.


Glenda Roberts

These are pages from my stitch book. The butterfly page is the first one I did and I just like experimenting with stitches, colour and texture. The seascape started off as inspiration from 'journeys' as I live by the sea but I was inspired by the stitches in issue 6 of the Bayeux Stitch and incorporated that. Thank you for the inspiration.

Colleen Nichol

I've nearly finished my Mandala but have to admit I'm still stuck on doing HEARTS and try to use bits of stitchery from my past then make a finger cord around the edge. I have used a TURKS HEAD KNOT in the centre of my Mandala and remember how complex they were to make !


Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in Art

Textiles are vital to our lives. We are swaddled in them when we’re born, we wrap our bodies in them every day, and we’re shrouded in them when we die.

After seeing the promotion for ‘Unravel’ and reading the background info, I asked my 15 yr old granddaughter if we should go. She has my creative gene and is about to embark on ‘A’ level textiles, so for her to be able to see the variety of ideas, techniques and thinking on show was quite an experience.

The exhibition proved thought provoking and awe-inspiring with some incredible art works on display. We marvelled at the various techniques employed from running stitch using human hair to depict an anatomical drawing of a human eye-ball to two emotive collaborative works made from the blood stained clothing of victims made by their close family and friends.

One of the ‘wow’ moments for Sophie was Tracy Emin’s work ‘1977’ made from her childhood blanket. Sophie and I ended our London trip with a wander round Camden Market, where Sophie got several ideas for rejuvenating old jeans with stitched on patches - a technique I think we all know well!

‘Unravel’ runs until 26th May, and in our view is well worth a visit.

YouTube: Textiles at the Barbican. A Comprehensive Look at the Unravel Exhibition event/unravel-the-power-and-politics-oftextiles-in-art

Textiles cover and protect us, engage our senses, trigger our memories, represent our beliefs, hold our stories. We are wrapped in cloth when we’re born and enshrouded in it when we die.

As an artistic medium, textiles can speak to the joys and pains of being human, as well as the larger structures and systems that shape our world. In this major group exhibition, 50 international, intergenerational artists use textiles to communicate vital ideas about power, resistance and survival. From intimate hand-crafted pieces to monumental sculptural installations, these works offer narratives of violence, Imperialism and exclusion alongside stories of resilience, love and hope.

Textiles have been considered ‘craft’ in opposition to definitions of ‘fine art’, gendered as feminine and marginalised by scholars and the art market. The 50 international artists in this show challenge these classifications, harnessing the medium to speak powerfully about intimate, everyday stories as well as wider socio-political narratives, teasing out these entangled concerns through a stitch, a knot, a braid, through the warp and the weft. These artists defy traditional expectations of textiles, embracing abstraction or figuration to push the boundaries of the medium.

Spanning intimate hand-crafted pieces to largescale sculptural installations, these artworks communicate multi-layered stories about lived experience, invoking the vital issues embedded in fibre and thread


Just finished my Mandala piece this afternoon. Decided to use some metallic gold thread to brighten it up. Nice to see the Sun has got its hat on today the poor weather has held me back this year.


Here are some examples of SQUARES for the Butterfly Project which have already been posted onto the members Facebook Page THANK YOU! I can’t wait for them to start arriving back with me. KITS ARE STILL AVAILABLE via the online shop You can make as many as you would like! They must be returned to me COMPLETED by 18th July 2023. See page 15 for information about the other kits which will also be available later in the year.


Image from ‘Poetic Cloth’ by Hannah Lamb


ISBN 978-1-84994-536-3

DELIVERY ADDRESS: Issue 17: Water Soluble Stabilizer LACE PATCHWORK

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