Harriet Riddell – December 2017

What a great treat to welcome our surprise speaker Harriet Riddell to our Christmas meeting this week.  I first saw Harriet at Art in Action when she had just left University so it was interesting for me to hear what she had been up to during the past five years.
After our “bring and share” lunch the raffle was drawn and the winner Margaret Gow, had her portrait drawn by Harriet on her sewing machine. It was interesting to see how, starting with the left eye and continuous free machine embroidery, Margaret’s face was created on the canvas.  

Harriet explained that she followed a course in Contemporary Applied Arts at the University of Hertfordshire. At a life drawing evening class her tutor suggested she bring in her sewing machine to draw with instead of the conventional materials and she has not looked back since. At the age of 10 her grandmother had taught her to do free machine embroidery and this has become her chosen technique ever since. As long as she had a plug, a table and chair she could head off to various locations to find subjects – the launderette, the greasy spoon cafe, a nursing home where she was working part time and Greenwich market.  
After graduating Harriet worked for a shoe company and was sent to their factory in China to record the process in stitch. Harriet has now travelled extensively on her bicycle in India with her sewing machine, table and a motor cycle battery to power her machine and has published a book of her experiences. She went on to become an artist in residence in Kenya and, as she could not work in Nairobi, she found herself in the countryside and in the slums. 


In addition to portraits, Harriet has drawn the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Albert Hall and various other locations around London and told us how she invites people to ride her bicycle to power her machine. These works have been exhibited at several galleries in London.

I am sure I speak for everybody when I say we wish Harriet well with her wonderful creations and her travels and we will enjoy following her career.

So inspired by Harriet’s talk our member, Nikki VW decided to have a go at her own self portrait and the result is below.  

Report by Ros
Photos taken by Ros and some taken from Harriet’s presentation
Thanks to Lindsay and Nikki for their photos

​Sewing Stories below is a Youtube video of Harriet time in India.

Jacqui Melhuish – November 2017


Our planned speaker had to cancel her visit but a local illustrator and ceramicist kindly agreed to step in and talk to us at our November meeting.

Jacqui Melhuish has her own workshop and gallery with other artists in Wagon’s Yard, Marlborough. Jacqui started by explaining that drawing had been her favourite subject at school and she subsequently went on to become an illustrator. With a young family she enrolled on a foundation course at Swindon College and subsequently took a BA Hon in Illustration. Jacqui started incorporating illustrations in her ceramics and went on to teach pottery at Swindon and Marlborough Colleges.  


Inspiration for her work comes from a happy family upbringing and Jacqui uses childhood memories and sayings of relations, holidays and books to illustrate her work. There is no doubt Jacqui is a very talented lady being accomplished as an illustrator and ceramicist but she told us she prefers to work with clay now and her favourite piece is what she calls an ancestry totem.


It was interesting for us as textile artists to hear how Jacqui collects her clay direct from the supplier and loves to make large scale upright vessels. She explained how she constructs a frame out of cardboard tubes and the like, onto which she can rest the slabs of clay and allow them to dry rather than using the coil pot method.  Just look at the pieces of old lace which Jacqui has pressed into the clay before firing.

Jacqui’s enthusiasm for her subject became apparent when she explained that every new idea had to be practised and she really enjoyed the challenges of working with clay and the surprise results when doing raku firing. Exhibiting at Open Studios she was fortunate to sell a lot of her work but with her teaching commitments she finds time for her own creations limited. Hopefully in the new year after her Christmas Exhibition she will be able to restock her cupboards.
Report and some photos by Ros.  
Some photos thanks to Jacqui
Jacqui’s website is: https://jacquimelhuish.co.uk/
Gallery website: https://www.wagonyardartists.co.uk/

Alexandra Waylett’s Embroidered Clutch Bag Workshop – October 2017


A group of MDEG members recently spent a most enjoyable two days taking part in Alexandra’s workshop.

She introduced the workshop by showing us some of her own stunning bags and cushions. Day one involved creating a multilayered piece of fabric which we then machine embroidered with up to three different thread colours. Alexandra demonstrated each stage, then allowed us time to complete it before showing us the next stage of construction.

Many of us choose to buy a bag making kit containing fabric layers, template and bag clasp. Other students chose to make a fabric sample for a cushion, or to embellish a project of their own. Alex brought along a dazzling array of decorative fabrics for us to dip into. The hard art was deciding which to choose!
We appreciated that Alex spent time with each of us, advising on fabrics and colour combinations, plus offering ample help for those new to machine embroidery. We all progressed well on the day one and by the end of the day, most students were well on their way to completing a decorated fabric square.
With many workshops, embroidery techniques are tried out, yet the samples can end up confined in a drawer once they are taken home. However on day two, Alex carefully guided us through the stages of cutting, sewing and constructing a bag. By the end of the day we had all completed a beautiful bag, or a stunning panel of our own. The bags were each unique, colourful and stunning. Thank you Alex for such an enjoyable workshop. I’m sure that we will all have a go at making more bags in the future.
Report and photos by Jackie Bagg.

Thank you so much Jackie – your help is much appreciated and your photos were great!  Ros


Twenty five year pins and certificates were presented to Margaret Gow and Rosemary Hawes by Ann Smith at the AGM meeting in October.

Rosemary and Margaret joined the Guild in 1991 after visiting an exhibition of embroidery together in the Marlborough library.  Mary Greening was Chairman at the time and the subscription was £12.50. They recall enjoyable meetings in the Scouts Hut in Marlborough and workshops in the pleasant surroundings of Urchfornt College.  However, soon after their joining, meetings moved to the Bowls Club, and before long, as numbers grew, transferred to the current location in Lockeridge with better facilities for both meetings and workshops and delightful views. Over the years they have both been involved with the branch’s various workshops and exhibitions, and have worked on several projects including the Marlborough Surgery hanging in 1997 and the Kennet Valley Embroidery which hangs in the hall. The embroidery now used as the reception desk tablecloth was renovated by Margaret and Rosemary from an earlier project made in the 1980s. One particular highlight they both recollect was spending days at Avebury Manor in 2011 helping to complete the embroidered bed hangings.


Rosemary has always enjoyed needlework from an early age. Her mother taught her to knit at age three, and a nun at her convent school taught her to sew and make Brussels lace. She now enjoys making quilts and all types of embroidery, and has been involved with the stitching of the Turkey work chairs at the Merchant House from its inception. She has also run an Embroidery Group for the U3A for the past 25 years. 


Margaret learnt to sew with her grandmother and still has a handkerchief case embroidered in cross stitch, made in school. She taught herself crewel work and other forms of embroidery, mostly from books of which she now has a large collection; but has also learnt many skills from the various workshops she has attended over the years. She has also spent time on the Turkey work project, and is now happily involved in embroidering flowers for the Guild’s latest project – the Prospect Triptych.

Thank you Margaret & Rosemary for giving us these details.

​Photos by Ros

Meike Laurenson – October 2017


Meike Laurenson was born in Germany and had a Danish father who died before she was born. She had a challenging upbringing, came to lived in England at 18 and has always loved art. She told us her complex story and how, as a mature student with a young family, she did her teacher training.

After her divorce she moved from London to live in Reigate and had a small holding where she kept sheep and started spinning. Taking early retirement she enrolled on a foundation course at the Reigate School of Art. While at a workshop in Dorking a dress designer showed her how to block a hat and this started her love of millinery. Constance Howard was invited to look at her hats and said all hats need a crown, a rim and a rose and commented that Meike’s creations were not really hats so it was suggested she enrol at the London College of Fashion which she did between 1993 and 1996.


Over the years Meike has had various exhibitions and undertakes private commissions which she does not love as much as the freedom of being able to create herself.

​She went on to show us a wonderful selection of hats which she had designed from her original creation (see above), a summer and winter collection and a collection based on a visit to Nepal. Two of my favourites were the Boy George hat and a blue, red and white one which she created for a workshop in France which had to include five sides. Meike concluded her talk by showing us a design entitled “it’s not a hat” which was created by felting a number of golf practice balls and attaching them to a crown. The final hat was entitled “dare to wear” which was an interesting fun construction.

I wonder how many other members in the room were wanting to try the hats on!

Report and photos by Ros

Indigo workshop – Vivienne Prideaux – September 2017

Vivienne Prideaux organised an indigo dyeing workshop earlier this year and kindly agreed to return to help us again.  We now have our own indigo vat which Ann S is keeping at her house so watch this space, lots of hours of fun ahead. 

We dyed a variety of fabrics and threads using samples created in March with resist.  During the morning Vivienne suggested we prepare some shibori samples and Maria made an interesting resist using screws – I wonder how it will turn out?  We returned home with our samples and told to wait as long as possible before washing out.  Below are some photos taken during the day including one of Tiger who was very interested in what was going on.  Good job he did not go too near the vat!  Thank you Ann for a super day.

Report and photos by Ros (and Vernice!)

National Stitch Day – 2017

The following members of Marlborough and District Embroiderers’ Guild Branch met up in Calne Library to celebrate National Stitch Day. Linda Wells, Lindsay Sherwood, Diana King, Ann Kingdon and Chris Cook. We were treated to coffee and biscuits and made very welcome by the library. We put up a small display of our work,  stitched and had great fun.
Report and photo by Chris C
Thank you Chris.  Ros
On Saturday, 29th July, a group of EG members who also do Turkey work in The Merchant’s House in Marlborough had agreed to work outside for National Stitch Day.

We took our frames down from the beautiful Panelled Chamber where we usually work and set ourselves up in front of The Merchant’s House, a 17th century restored silk merchant’s property in Marlborough’s High Street.

A rota of volunteers are making seats and backs for a set of 12 dining chairs. The striking design, which looks like a Turkish carpet, attracted lots of attention from shoppers and visitors. Many stopped to talk and were told about the EG and The Merchant’s House.

It soon began to rain but we were dry under the colonnaded cover which runs along much of the High Street, which was busy with the market in front of us and the shops behind.

We didn’t get much Turkey work done but it was a good chance to show people how one simple stitch gives such gorgeous results and working in public is a good showcase for a traditional craft.
Thank you Rosemary, Audrey and Ann for your report and photos.

Amanda Clayton – September 2017


Mandy started her talk by explaining that she came from a large family and her Aunt Kate taught her to crochet. At secondary school her needlework teacher set high standards and visits to London galleries were obviously exciting with Anwar Shemza, another teacher and an artist in his own right, influencing and encouraging Mandy greatly. He told her “you are only as good as your next piece of work” and she treasures the hand made Christmas cards which he sent each year. Using the Encyclopedia of Needlework written by Teresa Dilmont she taught herself tatting, how to make bobbin lace and various other stitches and techniques.


Mandy was a member of the 62 Group of textile artists and the Textile Study group and retired from lecturing on the foundation course at the Art College in Stafford four years ago. In 2015 she had a joint exhibition with Vivienne Prideaux, is involved with various NHS projects and is currently a volunteer at the National Trust property, Sunnycroft near Wellington where she has been learning to archive.

​Mandy draws and paints in colour but her actual work is hand stitching using neutral threads on transparent fabrics. We were shown a variety of her work some of which is shown below.


My memory of Mandy will be someone who rarely had a needle out of her hand and even chatting to members before and after her talk she was busy stitching.

​Report and photos by Ros

Royal School of Needlework – visit to Hampton Court Palace – August 2017

On Tuesday we spent a truly memorable day visiting the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace.  I was not surprised to learn cameras were not allowed so I am afraid below you only have a few photos taken outside.

We congregated outside the main entrance and each person was issued with their own named identity tag.   We were greeted by two delightful ladies from the School who guided us along dark corridors and up narrow stairs deep in the bowels of the Palace.  On entering we passed through a room with embroidery books from floor to ceiling and into one of their studio rooms which had a truly fantastic view over the gardens.   The first hour of our visit was a presentation given by Dr Susan Kay-Williams who has been the Chief Executive for the past ten years. 
Dr Kay-Williams started her talk by explaining that the Royal School of Needlework was founded in 1872 by Lady Victoria Welby to encourage the learning of hand embroidery techniques (which were starting to disappear) and to establish embroidery so it would be seen along-side fine arts.  It was an occupation for the educated woman who perhaps had found herself on hard times and needed to support herself and Princess Helena, Queen Victoria’s 3rd daughter became a fund raiser for the School.

Originally the Royal School of Needlework was located in Kensington but 30 years ago, thanks to the Queen Mother, they moved to Hampton Court Palace.   Today they have a variety of courses on offer: the Certificate and Diploma courses which include Black work, Silk Shading and Gold work, degree courses and the Future Tutors’ course.  In addition they undertake bespoke work, ecclesiastical assignments, christening robes, veils and of course the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress.  Many people will have seen the Game of Thrones embroidery which has been exhibited at the NEC and Alexander Palace. 

Dr Kay-Williams then went on to talk about various items from their collection and explained that everything had been donated.  She showed us a beautiful 17thC purse with stitched flowers at the back and front on a metal background and several banners.  In 2009 they received a legacy from Jean Panter and this turned out to be 300 boxes of embroidery and 27 sewing machines.  The Royal School of Needlework have published their own books on embroidery techniques and we were shown work by Roy and Barbara Hirst who had written instructions for making stumpwork hands and faces.

In 2011 three pieces of 17thC embroidery were auctioned by the Royal School of Needlework and we were shown an image of a mirror surround showing Charles II and his wife Catherine Braganza, a decorative tray and a stumpwork panel on silk.  I need to explore further, but I am almost certain the decorative tray was bought by the Holbourne Museum in Bath.  On their website they call it a basket but it looks amazingly similar to the image we were shown and anyway, I doubt there are many Charles II pieces of stumpwork about!!!

The second part of our visit to the Royal School of Needlework was a tour of their studios where we were shown examples of work in progress (mainly ecclesiastical) and past students work.  We saw the design drawing for the Overlord Embroidery and an amazing floor to ceiling example of Japanese gold work.  Topics for student embroidery included Toad of Toad Hall, Barbar the elephant, the Princess and the Pea, Freddie Mercury, Johnny Depp  and various animals and birds.

As a memento of the day many of the members treated themselves to books, cards and mugs from the shop on the way out.  Arriving back at Lockeridge we were allowed to peep into a box which Sarah W had collected from the Royal School of Needlework.  She had just completed a course and we saw her gold work and silk shading.  Clever girl!

On behalf of everybody who went to Hampton Court I would like to thank Dr Kay-Williams and her colleagues who made us so welcome and to Ann Kingdon for organising the day which went like clockwork!

​Report by Ros