Penny Widdison

Textile Artist

~ creativity and discovery through stitch ~


Traditional Hand Embroidery

Growing up I had always been interested in embroidery and during the 1970s stitched at home mainly from prepared designs in books such as the 'Coats Sewing Group Embroidered Panels'. I was drawn to this book because most of the the designs were modern and used interesting fabrics and threads, not like the practical tray cloths and table linen from school embroidery classes.

Marriage, child rearing and a very busy career made stitching difficult for the next 30+ years...

On retirement I decided to take up the needle again to begin designing and stitching my own work. However, I made a mistake by jumping in with the traditional hand embroidery course provided by the RSN.

The next couple of years were a very steep learning curve! I don't have an arty background so was niaive about all the elements that go to make up a good design. Quality of stitch was fine, but composition definitely had room for improvement.

 

Since completing the RSN certificate I have mostly been developing my contemporary textiles portfolio. Two notable exceptions are the Leaves Project, stitched with Tracy at her studio in Durham and work from a North East Region Embroiderers' Guild course tutored by Jenny Adin-Christie where I started her stumpwork kit the Owl and the Pussycat.

Close up detail of these work can be seen in the gallery from here.

 

The first piece for RSN was Jacobean crewel work, completed in 2014. Although the overall mark of 82% was good (high marks for quality of stitching), I hate the design of this piece of work for so many reasons and only keep it because it reminds of the learning points I can take from it....

I felt so rushed with the design elements as there were only eight teaching days available; I didn't spend enough time researching and really looking at crewel work embroidery before coming up with the design. On reflection the design is top heavy and the middle is too busy, and as for those snails, aren't they the worst thing ever seen....

Close up detail of this piece of work can be seen in the gallery from here.

 

 

The second RSN piece, silk shading was inspired by the front cover photograph of a poppy on a gardening magazine. It was awarded a mark of 75%. I found this module very difficult for colour matching the subtle shades of red to represent the papery texture and shading of the petals and to achieve the correct direction of stitching with the pale pink representing a glossy shine on the petal. The leaves were stitched as a last minute addition to cover blood drops which would not come out of the silk.

I originally wanted to stitch a bearded iris with a greater range of colours, but thought achieving the furls in the petals would be way beyond my level of skill. With hindsight the poppy was a bit easier and overall a fair mark for the work submitted.

Close up detail of this piece of work can be seen in the gallery from here.

 

Inspired by a gold brooch/decorative pin from the Staffordshire Hoard (http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/explore-the-hoard/stylised-horse#1). I chose the stylised horse for the third piece using goldwork techniques. Completed in 2016 it achieved a mark of 70%.

The coils on my interpretation were particulary difficult as each piece of pearl purl had to be stretched the same amount and coiled on very tight circles. Couching all the sharp bends on the Japanese threads section meant there was a lot of plunging.

I can see room for improvement in parts of this work but I was very disappointed with the mark and felt that the marking and comments were unduly harsh compared to the previous two marks.

Close up detail of this piece of work can be seen in the gallery from here.

 

I chose a favourite print for the fourth piece. Inspired by Hokusai's the Great Wave for the canvas work. Completed 2016 with a mark of 89%. I was astonished at the mark, as I can see so many mistakes in the stitching, especially at the joins between sky and wave. But I enjoyed working on this piece very much. I managed to created so much texture with different stitching and thread textures.

I thought canvas work was going to be boring, but the techniques learned in this section changed my mind.

Close up detail of this piece of work can be seen in the gallery from here.

Overall the marks enabled me to pass the certificate course with merit. I decided not to do the Diploma with the RSN for various reasons, but have continued to stitch my own designs and ideas for traditional hand embroidery with Tracy at her studio in Durham.

Further examples of tradtional embroidery will be added in due course.