Monday 23 December 2019

December meeting - 40th Anniversary Christmas meeting

This month was a rather special meeting. It was the 40th anniversary of the branch, and we celebrated it with a three course Christmas lunch before the meeting proper.


After lunch we created little wreaths embellished with ribbons, beads, embroidery and in one inventive case, the greetings from the Christmas Cracker at lunch!

Christmas wreaths

After such strenuous efforts, and much chatting and reminiscing, we needed some more food, and instead of a Christmas cake, we had these gorgeous individual iced buns.

Celebratory buns

Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without a competition. This year the theme was 'A Christmas Card'

Sue announcing the winner

Members voted for their favourite card, and the winner was Nicky, with her very festive Christmas tree.

Nicky's winning card

There was also a raffle, and thanks were given by the members to the committee for organising such a lovely, celebratory day.

In other things. . .
Stitch club will resume in January. It will take the form of a 'Demo and Dabble'. Requirements are an old magazine which will be used as table protection from all the glue, metallic seed beads, thin metal (the inside of tomato puree tubes would be suitable) and a stitch kit including a pair of 'not best' scissors.
From February, Shirley will lead three months of Stumpwork demo and dabbling. Future sessions are being planned to cover goldwork and shadowwork. So if you've ever wondered, now is the time to come and learn - and be part of the branch as it goes forwards - perhaps for the next forty years!

Saturday 23 November 2019

November meeting - Heather Cawte

Our speaker this month was Heather Cawte. Heather has been a member of this branch for several years, and is heavily involved in the Stamford Bridge Tapestry Project.

Heather's talk took us on the journey of her life, and the influences that shaped her creativity. Her involvement with the Tapestry project led ultimately to her studying for City and Guilds qualifications with Tracy Franklin and Julia Tristron at Stitchbusiness.

Heather's final project was inspired by hallucinations when she was seriously ill. I'm sure not everyone would hallucinate neon doughnuts - but this was the start of the design process which, she says, has transformed how she approaches her work. Samples, experimentation, analysis, evaluation and design development have now become the way forward. Heather explained how she used these tools (and the pitfalls she encountered along the way) to create her final piece for City and Guilds.

Heather Cawte Doughnut samples

Heather Cawte Doughnuts - only the box is 'real'
This was a very interesting talk, hearing how other people approach the design process.

In other things . . . 

Next month is the Christmas meeting - and 40th Anniversary meal.
Stitch club will be running in the morning from 10:00. The meal (which must be pre-booked) is at 12:00 for 12:30. The afternoon talk will include making a Christmas wreath. Please bring some Christmassy ribbon to wrap the basic wreath. Also bring a small sewing kit, and whatever glittery sparkly things you might have!

There will be a raffle. The theme of the Competition (there are prizes) is 'A Christmas Card'

Monday 7 October 2019

October meeting - AGM and members' talks

The first part of our meeting today was the AGM. Sue and Shirley are standing down as joint chairs after many years of service. Currently there have been no nominations for their successor. If as a branch member you are in a position to consider taking on this vital role, please speak to any committee member.

Shirley and Sue have presented to the branch a banner and stand to advertise our presence at the external events we visit.

Shirley and Maria with the new publicity banners

The new programme for 2019/2020 was unveiled with many interesting speakers. See the Programme page for details of what is to come.

After the AGM, we had a series of talks from our members.
First up was our secretary Ingrid. She was a previous recipient of our bursary, and has just completed her MA, and is working towards a PhD.

Ingrid's visual diary
As part of her MA she spent this summer in Italy and kept a stitched visual diary of her time there.

Maria then talked about her time on the committee building a social media presence. She has also started up a Monthly stitch club at The Trafalgar Bay pub on Nunnery Lane in York. They meet on the second Monday of the month from 7:00pm onwards and all are welcome (not just branch members). Maria has also created our facebook presence, including making this visible to those not on Facebook. Click here to see it. The facebook page shows all upcoming events relating to the branch, and other related events and notices.

Moira talked about her development as a textile artist over the years; she studied Fashion and Embroidery in Edinburgh, and then became a teacher. In later years she became a founder member of the Ebor Group.

A detail from one of Moira's folding books

Moira particularly likes creating folding books where the whole image is only revealed slowly by the turning of the pages.

Celia rounded off the afternoon with a show and tell of her extensive collection of fans, explaining not just the materials used, but also the purposes of the fans - many were made as a vehicle for advertisements.

Some of Celia's fans
An interesting afternoon, and a change to our usual routine of having just one speaker.

In other things . . .

Do consider coming on to the committee. This is our 40th Anniversary year and it would be nice to see the branch go from strength to strength.

The Bowes museum trip has had to be postponed. Further details at a later date.

The Christmas meeting will begin with a lunch (which needs to be ordered in advance), followed by an afternoon making a Christmas wreath. Everything will be provided except the ribbon to wrap the wreath - please bring something along with you! The Christmas competition is for a Christmas card.

Several members have visited the Ropewalk Gallery in Barton on Humber to see the exhibition by Sue Stone. This is apparently well worth a visit. The exhibition continues until 20th October 2019.

York Textile Artists have an exhibition at the Marriott hotel on Tadcaster Road York, until the 21st October.

Sunday 22 September 2019

September Meeting - Joanna O'Neill

Joanna has visited us before, with her small journal quilts, but she kindly agreed to step in at the last minute this month to talk about her larger quilts. Justine Warner, our original speaker, is currently in hospital, and we wish her all the best for a swift recovery.

We also had to cancel the workshop which Justine was going to run for us on Sunday, September 8. If you have not yet received your refund for this workshop, please see Lilian.

Joanna O'Neill (picture credit L Muir)
Joanna gave us a highly entertaining talk, explaining how she first got into creating wall hangings and bags because of Kaffe Fassett, whose knitting and needlepoint designs she enjoyed making. She was fortunate enough to study City and Guilds Stitched Textiles, up to Diploma level, under the direction of Jean Littlejohn and Jan Beaney. 

Joanna O'Neill (picture credit L Muir)
The phrase she uses to describe her work is “shabby riches”. She uses bleach, layers of net, painted Bondaweb, fabric paints, silk paints and stencils to create highly textured surfaces, drawing inspiration from the shapes she finds, for example, in memorial brasses or collections of keys.

Joanna O'Neill (picture credit L Muir)
A friend suggested a trip to the Festival of Quilts one year, and Joanna came home with lots of fat quarters, full of enthusiasm to try quilting for herself. Armed with a library book on quilting, she set out to make lap quilts, gradually improving until she could start exhibiting at quilt shows.

She was interested by the kind of comments the judges made on her pieces, and trained to become a quilt judge herself. She showed us a number of large quilted wallhangings from different shows and exhibitions, encouraging us to come and handle all but one (it was created initially with ink on white high-count cotton, which would quickly start to show marks from fingers). 

During this period she developed a technique of using Markal sticks with intricate, hand-cut stencils, and began to use free-motion machine embroidery alongside hand stitching. Her newest discovery has been InkTense pencils and blocks, which are made from inks.

Joanna O'Neill (picture credit L Muir)
Joanna is such an entertaining speaker, and very generous with her details of how she achieved particular effects. Everyone enjoyed looking at the quilts afterwards, and in particular, being able to handle them.

In other news . . .

The winner of the Ida Barber competition for best original design was Anthea Pawley.

Anthea Pawley's winning entry
Next meeting is our AGM with an earlier start time of 1:30pm, followed by short talks from members. Membership fees are due at this meeting. You may already have received an email from Lilian about this. The total payable this year is £54. This works out at £4.50 per month, which is very good value.

Please give your name to Ingrid if you would like to join the outing to Bowes Museum on Monday, October 21. The cost, including travel, is £35. We will be in The Cube, seeing pieces not generally available to the public.

Tickets are now available for the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show (November 28 to December 1), at a cost of £11.50. Please see Lilian.

Our December meeting will include a celebration meal for our 40th anniversary as a branch. The Folk Hall is catering this at a cost of £14.90 per person, but this will be paid for out of branch funds. Please let Ingrid know if you will be attending.

The afternoon activity will be making a Christmas wreath. Everything will be provided except for the ribbon to wrap around the wreath base, which you will need to bring along yourself.

Sunday 14 July 2019

July Meeting - Gina Smith

Our speaker this month was our own branch member Gina Smith. She stepped in at the last minute, and treated us to an illustrated talk about her textile work.

Gina Smith - Wensleydale
It was very interesting to hear how Gina builds up her pieces using stitch and transparent fabrics on a background of silk noil. Despite the painterly appearance, all the colour is achieved with expertly placed pieces of fabric.

Inspiration comes from photographs taken on her travels, either close to home in Yorkshire, or further afield in places as far flung as Namibia, India and the Amazon. To this she adds her own artistic interpretation to create unique pieces of work. A very inspiring and entertaining talk.

In other things . . .

New committee members are being sought.

Coach trip to the Bowes museum will be on Monday 21st October.

There is a members' day August meeting. At the Folk Hall, Saturday 3rd August. We will be working on the Hedgerow Project.

Pauline won the Chairman's Award for Mixed Media

Saturday 11 May 2019

May meeting - Jan Dowson

Our speaker this month was Jan Dowson. Before retiring she taught, amongst other things, C&G embroidery in Lincolnshire, and was the teacher of Lynn Haith, who came to talk to us a year ago.

Jan told of her early artistic endeavours, drawing patterns on the insides of old envelopes, when she was a small child. A habit which hasn't left her, albeit now she has moved on to proper sketch books.

Jan Dowson - Sketchbook

After her children were born, Jan worked her way through City and Guilds parts I & II and then took a Foundation Art course which eventually led to a teaching career. She mostly works with hand embroidery, a decision made initially because she had very few resources, and lets the 'stitching do the talking'.

Jan Dowson - Hand Embroidery

Jan was awarded the Gold Medal for teaching by City and Guilds, the Worshipful Broderers award, and the Beryl Dean award. One of the OFSTED reports for her workplace said her course was 'A pocket of gold in a field of dried grass'. These words resonated with her, and with her many past and present students, who created a magnificent embroidered book filled with pockets of gold and reminiscences as a gift on her retirement.

Jan Dowson - Pockets of Gold book

Jan then talked us through her method of working, and had brought many wonderful examples (including a hysterectomy doll!) for us to have a look at. Jan continues to teach and gives talks and will have a book 'Expressive Stitches' coming out with Search Press at the end of this year.
This was a very interesting talk, and easy to see why Jan has received so many awards.

In other things . . .

We have two Facebook pages.
A main one (click here) and a Group one (click here). Although many posts are on both pages, you need to 'like' both of them to see everything. There are also links to the pages in the sidebar at the right of this blog (if you're reading this on a phone or tablet, you'll need to scroll down and select Web View in order to see the sidebars).

There is no branch meeting at the start of June, but there is Regional Day on June 8th, and National Day of Stitch on June 22nd.

The July branch meeting will be a talk on 'Designer Cabochons' (a change to the printed programme) and the Chairman's competition will be judged. The theme is Mixed Media.

There will be a coach trip to the Bowes museum at the end of October. Details to follow.

April Meeting - Heather Ritchie

At April's meeting we had Heather Ritchie talking to us about her story.

Heather's talk was a step away from a traditional chronological story of a person's life!
She brought with her a wonderful array of her work, from some of her earliest pieces to her most recent explorations.

Image taken from
Each one really did tell a story, and Heather is a natural story teller and keen observer of what other people would walk straight past and not think twice about.
Her talent is evident, when you can feel like your were there in her tale.

Her work in Africa,  born from a personal perspective of sight loss and the effect this can have on a person, is inspirational. 

This short blog does not do justice to Heather's engaging and hilarious talk, you must hear her and see the rugs she produces for yourself.

Wednesday 6 March 2019

March Meeting - Joanne Frankel

Our speaker this month was Joanne Frankel. Joanne is originally from the Forest of Dean, a place which still inspires her work, although now she is based in Cheshire and she exhibits regularly with several groups of artists in the North West.

Joanne Frankel - detail

Her current work is very distinctive and colourful, and her talk led us through her journey from starting out as a mature student and the (in her words) navel gazing of some of her degree pieces, via her stitched canvases, to her newest work being explored as part of a return to study to gain a Masters in Fine Art.

Joanne Frankel - detail

Joanne brought many of her pieces for us to see close up and admire the detailed stitching, both hand and machine embroidery. It was a very interesting talk and was followed on Sunday by a workshop where we were shown some of the techniques she uses, and we were able to create our own stitched work.

Workshop pieces

Starting with a design created by Joanne, we painted, appliqued and stitched to create some very individual pieces of work.

Workshop pieces
A very enjoyable weekend.

In other things . . .

There will be a meeting of Young Embroiderers on 17th and 18th April, where the theme will be 'Man in Space' See the Young Embroiderers page for more details.

Pauline will be running an Artists' Trading Card day school on Sunday 7th July. Bookings will open at the April meeting.

We are not having a branch meeting in June (the hall was double booked). However, 8th June is Regional Day. Speakers will be announced shortly. Tickets (which includes lunch) will be £25 and Ingrid will be taking bookings next month. The competition themes at Regional Day are

  • A Flower beginning with the letter I (in memory of past Regional Chair Maggie Judges)
  • Re-imagined for the members' competition
  • 'Man in Space' for the Aurifil competition (previously the Coats Anchor award)
It will be the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the York branch in September. Suggestions for how to celebrate this are welcome.

The April meeting will include the judging of the competition for 'best commercial design'. (Perhaps we might see some finished Joanne Frankel pieces . . . )

Friday 22 February 2019

February meeting - Members' Day - using equipment!

For our February meeting we decided to utilise the equipment that our guild owns. We felt that not all members were aware of what we have, and also how some of the bits of kit work, and what you could use them for.

We had several stations, each manned by a volunteer (our thanks to these wonderful people); free motion embroidery being demonstrated on a sewing machine, embellishing machine, die cutter, smocking machine, and the marudai.

The smocking machine, is so clever, and doesn't need to be used only for garments. It could be used to create texture for all sorts of projects! We put some fabrics through it that it probably had not been intended for (such as some shiny blue spandex type), but which resulted in some fantastic bits that could "definitely be used somewhere". We've all said that in our times...

The marudai is a beautifully crafted piece of work in its own right, which would look lovely in anyone's living room! Should you wish to use it, we all found it very therapeutic, how you move the strands in different orders to create the cord. The natural stones providing the tension for an even pattern only added to the fascination.
Please see our facebook page for further pictures and videos.

The die cutter and dies were popular as ever, with lots of people having a go with paper, card and fabric.

It was great to have the free motion embroidery and embellishing machine demonstrated in such a way that I actually understood how to do it, and feel confident to have a go at home.

In other things . . . 

Our next meeting is on the 2nd March, with Joanne Frankel giving a talk on her journey from Design-2-Stitch. This is followed by a workshop on Sunday.

The stitch club will also take place as normal on Saturday morning.

Thursday 24 January 2019

January Meeting - Alison Larkin

Our January speaker was Alison Larkin, telling us about Opus Anglicanum (literally 'English Embroidery').

Before the talk I looked up the term, and the ever helpful wikipedia came up with this definition:

'Opus Anglicanum or English work is fine needlework of Medieval England done for ecclesiastical or secular use on clothing, hangings or other textiles, often using gold and silver threads on rich velvet or linen grounds'.

Alison of course explained in much greater detail!

An example of Alison's work
Using many pictures, with fantastic close-ups, Alison took us through the history of this style of embroidery, and how it was regarded during its lifetime and beyond.


Miniature embroidery

More exquisite miniature embroidery

From approximately 1200-1350AD this highly skilled style of embroidery was produced in England. A typical feature is the 'underside couching' of usually metal threads, resulting in a much stronger and harder-wearing embroidery.

Much was exported to Europe- with a large number (at one time 150+!!) reported in the Vatican's collection at the time, which gives an idea of how highly valued the pieces were.

Unfortunately due to the reformation in England, and the destruction of much of church property, not many examples exist in the UK itself any more, and to see the best examples we must travel abroad!

Alison also mentioned the exhibition at the V & A museum in London, which some of our members had also visited.

A link to the exhibition details is supplied here:

V&A · Introducing Opus Anglicanum

The earliest work on display was a seal-bag dated to 1100 – 1140, made to contain the seal from a foundation document of Westminster Abbey. Art produced at Westminster and the Royal Court between 1250 and 1325 was incredibly influential.

In later years, similar, but cheaper and quicker methods of embroidery were developed on mainland Europe, which resulted in the decline of this highly skilled and labour intensive art.

The talk was very interesting, and Alison led a thought-provoking Q & A session at the end, as well as showing us examples of her own work in this style, which is very impressive.

In other things...

The Young Embroiderers will have their next workshops in February.

February's branch meeting will be an open meeting where we will be showing off our equipment, with members on hand to give demonstrations, and help others to have a go!

Refreshments will be provided as usual!