Ritual Burials: Bear

Ritual Burials: Bear


Using a print out of an old anatomical drawing I sketched out the design for this one. A slightly different composition as there weren’t really that many plants associated with bears or their symbolism. But Oaks are perfect so given the overall themes a wreath suited it well.




I bought some fabulous spaced dyed cotton velvet to create the detached slips on this one and it saved me a lot of embroidery plus gave that gorgeous autumnal hue I couldn’t have really replicated with embroidery.




I made the stems with stem stitch (you guessed it), then embellished them with little french-knot lichen.


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The crown was really cobbled together with goldwork remnants from my mum’s box of bits but I’m pretty pleased with it. Topped with vintage Swarovski crystals from a broken necklace



The Great Bear // Ursa Major.

The Bear was the first animal to be honoured and revered as Master of all Animals as far back as 70,000 years ago, and lived in Scotland until the 11th century.
The Bear represents primal power and intuition, and his ghost is shown here surrounded by a wreath of oak leaves, the king of trees. A golden crown represents sovereignty, and his significance in British folklore as King Arthur (Art = Bear). Above is the constellation of the Great Bear, and the symbol for Earth as a reminder that the Bear is both star and animal.

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Ritual Burials: Bat

Ritual Burials: Bat



Second in this series, the bat started out in the very same way, with the white on white skeleton and glow-in-the-dark outline.


To make the stumpwork Deadly Nightshade I first took some wooden beads and enlarged the hole a little before wrapping it with single strand black cotton and securing with a little glass bead. For the sepals I couched down the wire in a star shape before covering the whole thing in embroidery then drawing up the sides to make a little cup for the berry.




The super shiny leaves were made in the same way, the sheen achieved simply through directional stitching. The stem is just some couched down string.



The opium poppy leaf was made in exactly the same way.



Guess what…so were the petals.


The seed head was just a piece of felt drawn through then embroidered.





I broke out the ol’ goldwork skills for this All Seeing Eye, first embroidering the eye, then edging in overstretched pearl purl, and filled with bright check.


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// B A T / N I G H T //
Once thought to be physical manifestations of the souls of the dead, and messengers between witches and the Devil, this ritual burial shows the Bat with the rune Eihwaz representing death, and magical communication through dreaming. It is shown with Deadly Nightshade representing far sight, and Opium Poppy for vision in dreams to other worlds. The trio are linked by the full moon and the All Seeing Eye.

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Ritual Burials: Arctic Hare

Ritual Burials: Arctic Hare

Around Christmas I had just gotten Marc Bolan finished and as usual had been hatching plans for a new series of ten embroideries for a few months.


In my usual style it’s now July and I’m half way through the series, which, if you follow me on Instagram you’ll know! But I decided as I’m halfway through I better start blogging again and share my progress on these.

The concept for the series explores the way we as humans share an ancient history of honouring animals in life and death, and invites the viewer to consider how the sacred place those animals once held, has now changed. In the transient nature of life and death, there are clues all around us of the importance and significance certain animals have – in the names of plants, in the folklore and mythology of global cultures. This series specifically looks at ten animals, all native to the British Isles at some point and all with special cultural or religious significance to pagan communities. Inspired by ancient Celtic burial rites, the composition of each piece suggests a burial ground where the spirit of each animal is ritually honoured.

The first of this series is the Hare.





Using anatomical reference I began by transferring the simple skeletal design onto my fabric and used a combination of split stitch, back stitch and french knots to embroider it. Finally the outline of the animal’s body is laid down in glow-in-the-dark thread; I like the idea that the ‘ghost’ of the animal has a second life at night.

Once this was done I used my favourite air-erasable pen to freehand sketch in the other elements.




Using simple paper patterns I created detached slips of the Harebell flowers and leaves then laid them out on my fabric.



I then embroidered the plant’s stem in stem stitch.




The opposing element in this piece was the Hare’s Foot Inkcap, which I created with simple felt applique oversewn with embroidered detail.


I wish I’d cut the mushroom cap instead of overlaying it and causing that lump.


Next I created the sun and moon by first padding the circles with felt then attaching rough silver purl and smooth gold purl.



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Finally I added two Norse runes in iridescent filament:



// H A R E//

The Arctic Hare was the original Hare of Britain. For the druids the Hare represents rebirth, initiation and balance. This ritual burial shows the Arctic Hare surrounded by Harebells representing Spring, Hare’s Foot Inkcap representing Autumn, and the full sun and moon representing the two equinoxes. The rune Berkana further signifies balance and Jera for abundance and fertility.

1st in a series of 10

The God of Glam Rock

The God of Glam Rock


This is the final piece of the 5 Ugly Gods series. I was using a few techniques in this one I hadn’t really used before. It was difficult and annoying. Here’s how I did it.


So when I was on holiday in September, sunning myself on the beach, I read some books, which I don’t normally do. I mean, I do read, but it’s pretty much always books about embroidery or folklore or witches or whatever. On holiday, I read stuff I don’t usually give myself the time for. Like The Mammoth Book of Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll.


In this book, which is a collection of stories and accounts of various musicians and their exploits, there was a story about Marc Bolan. I’m afraid I can’t remember the author and I’m really sorry about that. Anyway, in it this journalist talks about meeting Marc Bolan and describes him as being like ‘a little jewelled snake’.


I just loved this. And it provided me with the inspiration I was waiting for for my next piece. I was still working on the Raven at the time, and actually this little excerpt inspired me so much I kind of lost interest in the raven a bit.


So! A snake it shall be. A two-headed snake of such fabulousness Marc himself would probably wear it as a hat. Obviously snakes are pretty high on a lot of people’s lists of animals they hate and/or are frightened of, so it fit right in with my little pantheon of ugly gods.


As you can see I made my drawing and made my plan. This was a very tricky thing to draw because I really wanted the 3-dimensional quality of the snake to be correct, the loops and turns being in perspective etc. He also needed to be jewelled of course, and following my course at the Royal School of Needlework, I really wanted to incorporate a lot of metal thread work. So first I padded with felt to give different heights depending on the body position.


Then sequins!

I have never embroidered with sequins before, and after doing my little scales experiment (above) I bought some special sequins in an oily, iridescent black, ‘hologram’ red, and glow in the dark!



It was quite tricky keeping the scales curving and the stripes helped to suggest the form and size and curve of the body as I went.


His head/s were actually the only bit of traditional embroidery in this piece. I used glow in the dark thread and cotton and filled the shape with split stitch, over sewing with rainbow madeira thread for the scale shapes and tongue, and then attaching smaller sequins over the top.

I like his face. He looks a bit naughty.



After all the sequins were done I had a few experiments with the silver metal thread I wanted to make up his belly. Realising I needed to couch down Pearl Purl for a smooth line, I unpicked what I’d done and did this first. Then I just repeated alternating lines of 3 in rough purl and smooth purl with a middle line of wire check all the way down.







This was a horrible idea and I hated doing it.



You don’t often see goldwork/metal thread work being used in large areas or with long lengths, and I now know why. It is very hard to manipulate, cracks easily, is very expensive and shows up every mistake. These shorter lengths on his tail and underbelly were a bit easier to do.


The finished little shit.

I felt like he needed to be ‘somewhere’ so, a cliché I know, but here he is in the grass.



Some very long detached woven picots and french knots.


Glow in the dark!

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Well I gotta say, this is my least fave one of the series. Not really sure why. He certainly is a little jewelled snake though.

The Queen of Snails

The Queen of Snails


Hello, here’s a great big blog post for you all about how I made the Queen of Snails. 

Unlike the God of Adversity this piece was pretty much fully realised from sketch through to completion. In actual fact, the snail has been one of the first things I drew in my sketchbook and wanted to create large scale. I was really influenced by an illustration by Alan Aldridge in possible the most loved and influential book I have, The Butterfly Ball (which I wrote about here). I had done a few sketches of a snail and developed from there.


It took me ages to get the shell spiral right. 

In line with the ‘God’ series I’ve been working on, I love the snail because it’s unloved. It’s not high on most people’s love lists. But I love snails and find them to have so much character and beauty, and not just the big impressive ones, but the common little brown garden ones too.

In creating this piece I realised about my process that the inspiration behind them comes in stages; I know the subject initially and this is what pulls me in. Then actually figuring out the composition and how to execute it comes next, and this is the stage that causes me the most problems. Often I’ll have an idea rolling around in my head for a while but it’s far less of a concious decision and truly an unconcious inspired one that makes me go ‘yes! that’s how it is!’. Which is maybe why I drew the snail before the Crab and the Toad and everything and only just did her now.


I knew it would be crowned. I always knew that. She started as a he, too. I don’t know why. Snails seem male – why is that? And the sceptre, that was early as well. When I started researching snails and imagery of snails I was thinking along the lines of the crab, with very strong colours and spiral, stripey stitching. It was also JUST a snail too. None of this clicked. I was visualising the crown in gold, a king…But then I looked into Snail symbolism and suddenly it all arrived to me, fully formed.

From this incredibly interesting website I learned that Aboriginal cultures observed thesnails ability to hide itself within its shell, or reveal itself. This behaviour is likened to the waxing and waning of the moon (revealing, and concealing). Also that snails represent awareness, and an ability to effectively interpret dreams and unorthodox realities. This is because of the snails antennae which are hugely exploratory. Further, the entire body of the snail is a sensory tool.

The snail is a she. She’s LUNAR, she’s SILVER, she’s a queen Goddess from Mother Eagle land.


So, inspiration strikes but also a problem in that I don’t want her, or any of these pieces, to be cute. I don’t intend cute. Turns out this is quite hard to avoid in a snail of all things and I don’t know whether to the casual observer I have achieved this. But drawing as I do from folklore and symbolism and mythology the whole composition revealed itself as having to have another element – my beloved toadstool.

I’ve wanted to embroider a white-on-white Destroying Angel for so long. The most deadly of mushrooms, but so beautiful and delicate and pure looking. The perfect murderess. The perfect companion to my queen. In this way I feel I am accomplishing a degree of subversion with this piece; The Queen is undoubtedly beautiful, she shimmers, she is magical. But she is powerful, she commands, she controls death and other worlds.


Perhaps for the first time ever, I actually framed up properly and seemed to have mastered this most essential of skills. Thank you Royal School of Needlework tutors on YouTube. That shit is tight. And I got to christen my new light box by transferring my drawing on to the fabric which gave me no end of pleasure. Sigh the right tools.


I rummaged through my not inconsiderable palette of threads and then I plundered my mum’s stores and then I needed to buy more things:


Actually my first time using Kreinik threads and I can tell I’m going to have to buy them all before too long. Holographic! Iridescent!


So we begin. A weird thing happened with this one in that I think because I was using such a subtle pallet my camera(phone) took even worse photos than usual and so nothing looks that great and it’s all a bit dark or weird. Sorry about that.

Not a lot of stumpwork elements in this one, but quite a bit of couching and satin stitch. Started off by blending a lovely neutral toned iridescent Madeira thread with single DMC cotton strand for her underbelly, and then started couching down ordinary household cotton string for the staff.




Then I couched down 4 or 5 strands of variegated cotton perle with a similarly coloured variegated DMC strand. Her head is worked in split stitch in the same stuff.


One side down.


Turns out I’m really not that fond of couching.


I tried hard to come up with ways to show the wet, scaly texture of snail skin. On the head this was very tiny glass beads.


Body in split stitch using the same variegated DMC thread. Then I over-sewed it with silver metallic thread;



Body complete. Next I started on the toadstool;


Using all the shades of white cotton I simply satin stitched in one direction in one strand.


To create the bulb at the base I wanted to do some sort of appliqué but I’m also trying to represent the flaky, soft folds of the mushroom so I wanted this bit to have 3 dimensions.


I’m using a bit of cotton pillowcase and stitching and folding as I go.



Then I added 2 sizes of french knots over it in a DMC silver blue filament.


You can also see I’ve attached the orb to the sceptre here which is a drilled faceted carnelian.

Now to the shell:


I’m using a blue toned DMC variegated cotton with Kreinik blending filament as highlights



Nope. Hate it. Rip it out!


I basically got enthusiastic about all the pretty colours and actually the more I looked at it the more it all just jarred. So out it came and after a couple of experiments in a separate hoop I used the exact same shade I’d used for everything else.


Which just goes to show how different stitch techniques can give such different results.



I was alternating ‘stripes’ here by blending a green toned Madeira filament. Getting the angles of the stitches right was important to making sure the spiral didn’t look off.




Next on to finishing the mushroom;


Everyone that’s seen it goes crazy for the veil but it’s a total cheat. You can spot this weird fused ribbon thing that I got from my mum’s stash in the picture above of my pallet, and that’s all it is, appliqué.




With the gills I was basically just couching over single strand of perle cotton, the same one I used on the body. And I’m using just the same coloured off white single strand cotton to wrap them with, but in a very happy accident, the colour underneath is bleeding through, and gives it a lovely subtle variegation.



The cap of the mushroom was simply split stitch.

Finishing touches. The crown. I’ve never done goldwork before. All those threads and techniques, I’ve never attempted it*.

So, I borrowed some silver metal threads and just had a go really;


Couched down some pearl purl and attempted some passing in the middle.


Vintage swarovski crystals from a broken necklace on top.



Finally I added some grey details to the shell, and couldn’t leave it without a shimmery iridescent slime trail.



I really love how limited the pallet is in this piece. It’s very shell-like, mother of pearl. Subtle. Totally different to the other Gods. And she was quick! I was very surprised to have her completed within 6 weeks. Satin stitch. So speedy.

All cotton and man-made fibres.

Approx 70 hours work

Size is approx 25cm x 30cm ish

And she and the Toad are off to the framers today.

*I will blog again soon about what I’ve been up to other than stitching, included a 2 day course at the Royal School of Needlework in coloured metal thread work :)