Sunday, 22 November 2009

Newcastle upon Tyne Embroiderers' Guild open day

I didn't sew a stitch this Saturday, but I had a very good reason: I spent a very happy day at the Embroiderers' Guild Newcastle upon Tyne branch open day. I was a member of the Newcastle branch for many years (I'm in the Sunderland branch now), so it was a lovely opportunity to catch up with friends from the Guild I haven't seen in a while. It felt like I'd never left!

The open day was a day-long event featuring top-of-the-range speakers and vendors.

This is just one of the sales tables, and they all seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Embroiderers are magpies at heart - we can't resist shiny new threads or fabrics or beads, and will buy them whether we need them or not. I was very good and hardly bought anything - only a medium sized embroidery frame (I have a terrible weakness for frames - I just can't go past one without buying it, even though I really don't need any more), and a range of beautiful silk threads in red, dusty pink and gold (ditto).

The morning's speaker was Josie Storey, on the theme "Ideas and Inspirations". Josie is a member of the Ebor Textile Group, and spoke about some of her work with the group for exhibition.

Josie is mostly known for colourful textiles, but in these pieces has chosen to explore whites and soft, muted shades, as a challenge. They're all loosely connected by the theme "Secrets", with hidden pockets and openings.

The effect of the work collected together was both calming and intriguing - the subtle colours were restful and meditative, while the secrets within each piece excited the imagination.

The photos don't do them justice, but seen up close, the detail on each one is exquisite, with far more work on each than may be apparent at first glance. They're also more colourful than a casual look might lead you to think, with tiny flashes of reds, greens and blues.

Lunchtime gave an opportunity to head back to the sales tables, in case I'd missed something the first time round, and to have a good look at the exhibition of members' work.

This is only a small part of the work on display, and shows a few of the rainbow squares that all the branches in the Region are working on. The Newcastle branch has around 50 members, who work in a wide range of styles, but who are all clearly very productive! There was a lot to see, and hardly time to give everything the close attention it deserved.

In the afternoon, Fay Maxwell spoke on "A Happy Accident". Fay is a highly amusing and entertaining speaker, who had brought along an enormous amount of her work, which she passed out for a close look as she spoke, until the entire audience was buried under a pile of beautiful, brightly coloured cushions and bags!

Fay specialises in using traditional crewel work stitches and skills on her own fabulous contemporary designs. The cushions are hand dyed wool blanket felt appliquéd onto silk, and embroidered with tapestry (not crewel) wool and perlé. My favourite were the fruit and vegetable designs - the apples and pears cushion (half concealed here) and the beetroot cushion next to it, though they were all very striking. Fay deliberately limits herself to no more than five colours in both fabrics and threads for any one piece, and shows what marvellous effects can be reached using a limited palette.

Fay also showed us a stunning series of bags made from layered, slashed and burned fabrics, and samples of her new work, her own interpretation of cross stitch.

This close-up shows a large panel heavily worked in free cross stitch, with some stitches a couple of inches across. Fay applies different weight canvas to a background, overlays that with layers of sheer fabric, and then stitches into them, beginning with large stitches in thick threads and strips of fabric, then getting smaller and smaller with finer and finer threads. The finished pieces are very effective, but incredibly, Fay herself isn't happy with some of them, and wants to do them again!

The day ended with a raffle, and tea and refreshments provided by the committee. It was all thoroughly enjoyable, chatting to friends, listening to the speakers and seeing their work, and spending too much money on the stalls! A big thank-you to the Newcastle branch ladies, who worked so hard to make the day such a success.


  1. What a lovely day Ruth,wonderful work.
    I have only just joined the guild,Leamington Spa branch.
    I'm going along to their xmas lunch and they will have a sale table.
    It will be difficult to resist the thread!

  2. That's great! I'm sure I would never have done as much with embroidery without the inspiration of the speakers and the support of other members in my time in the Guild. I've been a member for about 15 years, and always found it well worth while. Good luck resisting temptation at the sales table!