The God of Adversity


Hi everyone *waves*

Just finished this big piece, my second one arguably fully realising my creative expression as an artist in large format. So here’s a nice juicey long blog post with lost of photos telling you how I did it.


Just before I finished the God of Crabs back in September I began feeling around for the inspiration on the next piece. I just read back over my post describing the process for the Crab and see that I didn’t explain any of the inspiration behind that one either. Sorry about that. I think it’s because it didn’t really start from ‘that place’, as I did mention though, it was more for me to freely explore texture and embellishment.

True as well for this one, but one of the thoughts I kept having while working on Crab was about ‘ugly’ animals, ‘unpopular’ ones. God knows there are a lot of sweet little foxes and rabbits and deer in embroidery (in my own too, not hating), but more and more I find such interesting colours, textures, stories, symbols, mythology in the less fashionable creatures out there. I’ve been vegan for about 2 years, and thought a lot about speciesism, how in our culture we hold up some animals over others, how some animals are seen as ‘cute’, some ‘disgusting’. Some are even feared. So inspired by my own love and fascination for all animals, I wanted to explore ‘unlikely’ candidates for elevation to godhood; creation of my own mythological pantheon. Embroidery has been long used throughout history to embellish in the name of worship, often the finest work reserved for ecclesastical settings. My work has always been narrative, the Mother Eagle muse being central to everything. The evocation of Godliness to the crab translates through the rich colour and jewelled embellishment, but this concept developed through the process.

This toad piece began with the intention to call him a God, but despite this he still evolved conceptually into something quite different to what I envisaged.






Originally I was inspired by the cordyceps mushroom (mushrooms also being a recurring motif for me), and wanted to have three-dimensional mushrooms and plants growing out the toad’s back.



So I transferred the very intricate pattern on to my ground fabric in ordinary pen. GASP. Then I realised I’d probably put him a bit too far up the fabric to have too much coming out the top of him…Hmm. Well, here follows a lot of step by step pics:


Every little wart was embroidered individually. I wanted to achieve a warty texture, so each one was padded satin stitch. I padded with two strands, satin stitched with one.





Each wart was then surrounded with variegated perle cotton in my beloved split stitch.








That belly took a long time. 2 weeks off at Christmas.







Then I added some more texture with french knots on his chinny chin chin.





It was around this point after Christmas that a friend of mine sent we a quote from Shakespeare’s As You Like It she was reminded of after she saw my work in progress:

“Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad ugly and venomous, wears yet a precious jewel in its head”

Increasingly I had been feeling like I couldn’t conceive of a good enough method to attach stumpwork plants and mushrooms growing from his back, and as soon as I heard this line, inspiration struck and i knew I wanted to ‘crown’ him in some way. Steering clear from the cliched frog prince, I decided on a magical jewelled necklace, which started off as needlelace covered wooden beads:




Each bead was embellished in various sequins and beads.


At this point I was not entirely convinced I’d made the right choice as this was the only 3D element in the piece so was a bit incongruous at this point, but I knew there was more to come to balance it (hopefully) plus I just loved the image of this great magical toad in his bejewelled necklace :)


Planning out his nest.



Detached padded slips.




Buttonhole bars.


Detached woven picots.


Nearly there:



That’s a biro for scale.


The God of Adversity.



I am very happy with him. Next piece already in conception. Here’s some stats!:

Approx 350 hours of embroidery, over 27 weeks.

17 needles were used in the completion of this project.

Numerous beads.

Measures 40cm x 20cm stitched area.

The God of Adversity will now be professionally stretched, blocked and framed.

If you follow me on Facebook then you will have already seen this project develop over the last 7 months – please like (if you do) and share my work.

P.S I love your comments.

The God of Crabs*

God of Crabs hand embroidered art

Hello! Well, settle in, this is an EPIC  post – nearly 60 photos! All about the new piece I’ve just completed, The God of Crabs, or maybe, The Crab God. Not sure yet.

So it all started back in June. I’d kinda had enough of doing the mini things and felt like striking out in a new direction. I also wanted to stretch my designer legs and make something come alive from a drawing.

crab drawing

Although I have no particular fondness for crabs in particular, I was totally into creating one in embroidery. This actually came after some musings as to what subject matter would best be a foil for textural experimentation. Long time readers (and if you identify as one then, wow, thanks for sticking with me through my erratic postings!) might remember that all of my branchings out into new directions with my embroidery have started with an ‘experimentation piece’ as a way for me to practice new techniques. So, after cross stitch came the Fly Agaric piece to learn free embroidery, after that came the Death Cap to learn stumpwork, and so on. So I had been itching to repeat this in something bold and highly textured. It all focused too on incorporating shisha embroidery and I guess a crab seemed to be the perfect gnarly knobbly guy.

crab drawing

This is the final colour pencil sketch that I based the embroidery on.

crab pattern

To begin with, I messed about on a scrap bit of cotton after raiding my stores of beads and semi precious stones, so I could see what it would be like to attach big round chunks of things with shisha embroidery. It didn’t work the same way as with traditional flat mirrors as these are very polished and thick, so the cotton slipped about a bit. The fact that they were drilled helped anchor them to the fabric, and I could quickly see it was going to look great and exactly like the barnacles I had in mind.

shisha embroidery with gemstones

Ground fabric: I gave a lot of thought to every stage of this piece, starting with the ground fabric. Up to now as you know I haven’t needed anything more substantial than the old soft cotton pillowcases I’ve used for all the miniatures. But I knew this really needed to be stable enough to take the heavy stitching I was planning, so with my mum’s advice I bought a few metres of heavy-duty cotton curtain lining fabric, and some plain bleached calico, so I could double them up. The curtain lining has a lovely diagonal weave and slight sheen and doesn’t snag the needle or anything. Nice.

Picking my colours was fun because I HAVE ALL THE COLOURS. Yep, I splashed out and invested in every single DMC stranded cotton AND variegated too. Sigh. Look:



So, I transferred my design to the fabric with air erasable pen then went over in pencil, then began the legs. My overall plan for construction of the piece was to do the shell and large claws as separate pieces and the pad and attach them to the main piece as slips.  I am using my largest tambour frame.

pattern transfer

embroidered crab legs

embroidered crab legs



The legs are done in my old fave split stitch with 2 strands of cotton. I then embellished them with iridescent pearl Madeira, and green metallic thread.


Got boring by the end. The big arms I also introduced a chartreuse variegated thread and some glass beads too.



Here you can see I have used the felt method to pad out the body and claws.

felt padding


Then I started on the shell. This was the fun bit!

shisha embroidery

This was in a separate hoop and on my usual cotton pillowcase ground fabric. Despite the heavy stitches this fabric was adequate as it would be ultimately supported by the padding and stronger main fabric. I started with the ‘barnacles’. Here you can see the different stages of this technique – I have attached the African turquoise cabochons to the fabric and then worked the lattice of holding stitches in contrasting thread which will become the base for the button-hole stitch around it.


Once they were all down I started building up the design around them. I added some silver jumprings and attached them with button-hole stitch.



I then surrounded each barnacle with chain stitch and filled the jumprings with tight French knots. Then I went to town a bit, laying down the bones of the design, with colours and threads. I started blocking in the edge of the shell in split stitch and couched down some sparkly gold and green thread.






I then filled in that shape with the variegated green thread, then began to surround the barnacles with French knots, filling half the shell.



I struggled a bit to figure out how to finish the bottom third and how to knit the two together, but the answer ended up being in heavy beading at the base and…more French knots!



Finished! Now I started the job of attaching the shell over the padding to the legs.



After trimming the shell from the fabric, I pinned it all around the shape, turning the excess under. I then used stabbing stitches in a strong machine thread to sew it down all the way round.



A bit fiddley. When it was stitched down it was clear it needed more stuffing so I filled it with cotton wadding then stitched up the gap.



A nice and unforeseen outcome was the little impression at the base of the shell which was actually quite realistic. I think the shape of the shell with lots of points is actually one of the worst for doing padded slips but once I had it down I went round the outline again in matching thread and finally outlined the whole thing, making a seamless join.


And he has eyes!



 So next it was back to a separate hoop and embroidering the 2 big claws. Very similar method to the legs really:



The spots are silver jumprings again, buttonhole stitched down with glass beads in the centre.






Claw number one done, rinse and repeat:




Now it’s just a case of attaching the claws in exactly the same way as the shell:



Oh, and here’s my hand for scale (I know you love that).



And here it is finished.





I couldn’t resist putting the photo through a sepia filter. It looks like an old botanical illustration! This pleases me.


I am really proud of this. Although not necessarily the largest piece I have done (Moths) it is the most artistically creative and intensely heavy piece of work I have done, and unique also that it represents my vision as an artist and not a client’s (as  a commission).

Some stats:

Approx 200 hours of embroidery.

12 needles were used in the completion of this project.

Around 140 metres of thread.

I didn’t count the beads.

The God of Crabs will now be professionally stretched, blocked and framed and will be available for sale. Contact me for info.

This is definitely a new direction for me as an artist, and the start of what will be a series of large, animal themed pieces.

If you follow me on Facebook then you will have already seen this project develop over the last 4 months – please like (if you do!) and share my work.

P.S I love your comments.

New Collection Afoot!

2013 banner shopify

I’ve finally got a group of work to show you, hurrahs!

Yes, as you can see, I have a new collection (just the one, haha) of ten pieces, including 8 completely new designs, and 4 brooches. It’s been really nice to look back on this collection and take the photos and do all those old sort-of-familiar things that I have much less time for these days. I feel really good about adding to my website and having more work out there.

This collection was inspired by magical and poisonous plants and I developed my Stumpwork techniques a lot as well as freshening up and upgrading a couple of classic designs. Here are some nice preview pictures of each piece for you:

The All Hallow's Acorn Pendant

The All Hallow's Birch Pin

The All Hallow's Crabapple Pendant

The All Hallow's Ghost Hare Pendant

The All Hallow's Hawthorn Pin

The All Hallow's Henbane Pin

The All Hallow's Mandrake Pendant

The All Hallow's Ribcage Pendant

The All Hallow's Red Stag Pendant

The All Hallow's Willow Pin

The Collection will be available to buy exclusively  from my website and goes on sale on 31st October. Make sure you Like my Facebook page to get more preview pics and info.

Deadly Black Henbane…Part II

hand embroidered stumpwork henbane flower

I have been a bit quiet this week, as far as blogging goes anyway. But the needle has been stitching away as ever, and I just finished the Black Henbane flower yesterday, so here is part 2!


When I left you last week I had completed the 3 petals using detached wire slips techniques. So here is number 4;


And here is the fifth and final one. In some ways this was the easy bit over, now plunging the wires into the black ground fabric one by one, to construct the flower head.




As each petal is pushed through the fabric, I bend the silver wire back against the fabric and couch them down to  secure, then trim. It’s quite tricky making sure the petals lie in the positions you want them to.

detached wired slips stumpwork

stumpwork flower

All petals in place. Now I just filled in any gaps with purple silk french knots, and finished off with white glass beads to represent the stamen heads.

poisonous black henbane hand embroidery


stumpwork flower

All the way up until the end I wasn’t sure how this would turn out in terms of how like the Henbane it would look, but I have to say I am pleased and think it will make a really stunning brooch, the poisonous petals spilling out of the frame.

What do you think?

P.S If you haven’t heard, you can now buy postcard prints of my work from the Mother Eagle website. There are 4 themed packs of 3 to choose from – check them out here!

Procrastination, Distraction, and Getting On With It.

stumpwork Crab apple hand embroidery

Procrastination is the art-killer.

Who said that? I did, just then. I would believe it too, up until about 4pm yesterday I was having a very unfocused day, distracted, starting things, stopping, forgetting what I was doing. All quite annoying and not very me. But then I obviously got my shit together and did most of the Crab apple you see above. Other things I did/was distracted by:


Moving house chaos in the spare room.


More tidy and lovely light-filled lounge. So much floor space!


Fox in the garden! I never seen one before. We call him Oscar.



Having a little wood burning/staining session in the kitchen.

All varying degrees of usefulness. I think really I was putting off doing the Crabapple because initially I thought I would get a bead and wrap it in silk to make a completely detached 3D apple. But then I couldn’t find the right bead and had a little fret about the composition. As you  know I don’t do sketchbooks, and I barely ‘design’ anything; I have an idea and I make a rough shape or transfer pic and then I stitch it freehand. But because I wanted this to be a pendant, I didn’t want to have too many elements in it and also, having an apple-type element is a bit of a gift – easily recognisable, able to construct simply, nice colours etc. I scratched my head. I puzzled.

Here’s what I came up with:

Leaf embroidery

Decided to do a detached slip for the leaf, in lovely variegated silk on to some calico. I did these before on the Hawthorn Blossom, and nice to see that I could actually remember how to do it without looking at my own instructions.

silk embroidered leaf stumpwork

detached slip

Put that to one side, now do the fruit (the POME if you’ve been paying attention)

padded slip

Picked some nice hand dyed wool viscose felt in a rosy colour and stitched it down in a nice little puff, stuffing it with cotton batting. Then I started satin stitching over it in silk a bit like I did with the Acorn Pendant.



It’s slightly haphazard because of the puffiness of it, so the long stitches don’t want to lie regimentally flat. All the while I’m pondering on the nature of a crab apple that they’re not all uniform red, and I want to get some more russet type colours in. So I got some orange silk and started randomly weaving over the top of the red silk. This is what happened:

apple stumpwork

Photo doesn’t do it justice (when does it ever?) but it actually is very pretty. Then I sewed a little brown root out the bottom. Then I cut out and couched down the leaf to the top:

hand embroidered stumpwork apple

Not bad really! I need to get a felt tip and colour the edge of the leaf where the white calico is showing, and it’s not finished yet because I want to put a little stalk on there too.


Migo deciding if she likes it. She started trying to eat it after this so not sure if that’s good or bad.