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Raising the Surface

"Texture is the most enduring and ubiquitous underpinning of form... Certainly a calming, meditative and appealing world for both the eye and mind.” - Linda Lehman

My latest sampler course has only recently begun, and it’s a complete change of pace for those students who have done goldwork and/or freestyle stitching with me in the past. Now we’re in the land of needlelace, wrapped beads and incorporating wires wrapped in coloured threads as well as surrounding tiny pieces of fabric - it really is a feast of techniques!

The term ‘Stumpwork’ is younger than the technique itself; it was originally referred to as ‘Raised Work’ or ‘Embossed Work’, which gives you an idea how important texture and form is to it.

I had never heard of Stumpwork until I became an apprentice at the Royal School of Needlework, and when I first saw some examples I just could NOT get my head around its existence! Add to that the fact that much of what I was looking at was over 400 years old, and I was an instant fan. Historically, this over-the-top form of hand embroidery represented the pinnacle of a wealthy young lady’s stitch training because it basically incorporated every other form of embroidery she’d already learned, and then added wires, gems, tiny costumed figures and three-dimensional objects in a visual feast of texture and form.

Enter the 2023 Stumpwork Sampler online course - secretly this is the one I’ve been really itching to get my hands on although I do love my Goldwork and Freestyle Samplers very much. Many of my students are tackling this project as their 3rd sampler with me, and as my ‘test pilots’ they already know they’re in for an exciting ride. Apart from the techniques being so different, the whole sampler is much more personalised than previously - there is definitely a stitch plan, but only for parts of the piece. Many of the motifs have different options for stitches and for threads, including some threads many of them have not seen or worked with before, including silk-wrapped gimp, chenille thread, silks, wools and ribbons. It’s a big piece too, measuring 44cm long by 30cm wide so they’re having fun framing up the linen! As the year progresses we’ll be looking at associated techniques too, including fabric painting with watercolours and wet felting with wool roving. It’s proving to be a bit of a monster to keep organised, but of course I’m having a whale of a time with all the sampling and scheming - my central panel, which must contain a figure, is definitely going to be a self-portrait of me in my garden - what hairstyle will I end up using I wonder? I’ve had them all over the years! :) :) :)

I’m sharing some pictures from my original sampler which I taught a group in Bristol, England many years ago; I look forward to sharing some more up-to-date images of the new one soon!


In my workbox...

I first started using a thimble when I was learning to quilt back in my teens - I bought one from my local shop that was metal and had a tiny ‘ridge’ surrounding a slightly indented surface at the tip - now I know that there are many kinds of thimbles, but I’ve stuck with this style (sometimes called a ‘Dressmaker’s Thimble’ because it suits the way I hold my needle. And I put mine on my ring finger rather than the middle one - again, blame the quilting teacher of many years ago! The brand I know best is Prym, and most of my thimbles (I seem to have a large number of them) are the standard ‘small’ size, which is 15mm. There is one size smaller, at 14mm, which I have a few of as when my hands are very cold, the 15mm thimble tends to fall off! You can get Prym thimbles from most quilting and haberdashery shops, or from amazon, here:,aps,95&sr=8-2


A View from The Glass Tent

Finishing off a Japan-couched heart (4 hours in total) and a close up of some stem stitches on the Hearts & Flowers project for a promo video...

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I always use a thimble for any kind of hand work; own and use many types. Here is something to trywith an inexpensive metal one. A soft hammer tap on the side creates more of an oval shape which is tighter but still comfortable on my finger.

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What a fabulous idea! I've noticed that my silver rings gradually go oval over time, so your suggestion makes a lot of sense, thanks for sharing! 😊

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