Poo, Poisons, Science & Serendipity – Dr Susan Kay Williams

Our February speaker was Dr Susan Kay Williams, Chief Executive of the Royal School of Needlework, who kindly returned to Lockeridge to give the second part of a talk about colour which she started in July 2018.

This talk Susan entitled Poo, Poison, Science and Serendipity and I am sure I was not the only one to be intrigued by what was to come.   She is a great collector of fabric and thread sample books and we found it fascinating to see how her research over the years has shown the development of both natural and synthetic dyes.  I never realised that guano was collected and used to make a yellow dye and that green, which was made with arsenic, became very popular in the early 1800s.  This material put the weaver, the maker and the wearer at risk and we were shown a sketch published in 1861 by Punch which was entitled the Arsenic Waltz.    

Credit – A skeleton gentleman at a ball asks a skeleton lady to dance; representing the effect of arsenical dyes and pigments in clothing and accessories. Wood engraving, 1862. Credit: Wellcome CollectionCC BY 

In the early 19C Michel Chevreul, a French Scientist, did research into colour. Initially his colour wheel showed 72 colours but he went on to explore an even wider range of hues ranging from loud to soft. A chemist, William Perkin, was attempting to find synthetics quinine. He did not find that but discover the first synthetic colour, later named mauve. This colour became a favourite of both Queen Victoria and Empress Eugene.
​Credit: Image below taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Eug%C3%A8ne_Chevreul
​​Susan concluded her talk by bringing us up to date by talking about the invention of procion dyes and the production of synthetic indigo for making denim. She showed us colourful images of dresses from the catwalks of Mary Quant to those worn by Diana Ross and interior designers like Sonia Delaunay.
​Credit: Image below taken from Dr Susan Kay Williams’ presentation
Dr Susan Kay Williams has written a book entitled “Colour in Textiles” which is available on Amazon

​Report by Ros

Christmas Lunch with Lt Col Neil Stace

Our Christmas “bring and share” lunch is always an enjoyable event and this year joint chair Clare Russell and Ann Smith started by presenting Kay Francis with some flowers as a thank you for her many years of service on the committee.  



​After lunch our surprise speaker was Lt Col Neil Stace who was a runner up in the 2015 series of the BBC Great British Sewing Bee.

As a bit of fun, Neil and a friend joined the sewing group at Primary School and his interest in stitch developed from there.  He talked about various tours of duty in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Northern Ireland and explained that there was always down time which had to be filled which is why he included a sewing machine along with his kit.  Neil sees himself as a soldier who sews and an engineer who does not need a pattern which is why he designed and made a wedding dress for his female driver in Bosnia. Another story that I particularly found interesting was during his second round of duty in Afghanistan in 2010 he had the challenge of re-introducing cottage industries to the local ladies which had to be done discretely through an interpreter.  It was so successful that after a couple of months the ladies had set up stalls in the market selling their crafts.

It was Neil’s wife who completed the application form for the Great British Sewing Bee and he had to go through a number of interviews and challenges before being accepted onto the reality TV programme. He showed us a little girl’s smocked dress, a boys waistcoat (made during children’s week), a ladies corset and a wonderful kilt which he often wears.  
Several of our members contributed to the Flags of Thanks challenge which Neil organised recently.  People were asked to make a 12 inch square of gratitude to the Armed Force Community.  About 1000 flags were made and displayed St Thomas Church in Salisbury in June 2019.  Eventually Neil wants to stitch these squares together to make in quilts, sleeping bags and ponchos for war veterans and he had a number of the squares and quilts on display.
Whether it be modifying backpacks in Afghanistan, repairing cuddly animals during tours of duty, making costumes for musicals, modifying clothes for Skiing for the Disabled or making bags with local primary school children, Neil’s sewing skills were there for all to see.  All through his talk Neil emphasised the importance he finds in relaxing and de-stressing through stitching and knitting and he talked about sharing his skills with others both in the military and on civvy-street.  He reminded us that soldiers during the Crimea, the First and Second Wars had done the same.

Thank you Neil for sharing these amazing stories and opening our eyes to a side of our craft  that most of us knew nothing about.

Thank you to Vernice for sharing the photo she took of Neil in Salisbury earlier this year and to Lindsay for her “Salvador Dali” photo of our Christmas lunch table!
Report and photos by Ros

Nikki Vesey Williams – October 2019

Nikki is a talented artist in so many disciplines and the Guild is fortunate to have her as a member.  We could not be anything but inspired by the breadth of her passions and skills, she in turn is inspired by artists such as Van Gogh, Klimt, Monet, Gaudi, Lautrec, the pre Raphaelites, and nature, history, birds and colour.  Nikki showed us an amazing array of her work of embroidery, enamelling, silver-smithing, stained glass, furniture painting, upholstery and needle felting. 

​In amongst all this Nikki’s uses recycled materials to dazzling effect in her multi media works such as her crown made for this year’s entry to the Madeira Competition.  Last year she was competition winner with her beautifully imagined ‘Mary Poppins’ carpet bag.  She is rightly proud of her ability to recycle and reuse.
​Nikki seems to be able to turn her artistic talent to almost anything as well as doing her bit to save the planet.  Thank you from the members of the Guild for giving us a glimpse into the amazing world of Nikki Vesey Williams.
Thank you Amanda R for your report and the photos. 

​I was so very sorry to have missed your talk Nikki, another time!  Ros

Jennifer Hughes – September 2019


After what seems a very long break Jennifer Hughes got our programme under way again with a very interesting talk entitled “Hats and bound feet”.

​Jennifer brought with her a wonderful personal collection of costumes, hats and shoes which she displayed for members to enjoy.  She explained that in the past Han Chinese women would stay at home and were respected for their embroidery.  To start with it was the upper classes who stitched but in time the craft filtered down and women would buy silks and threads from pedlars.
​Chinese girls had their feet bound from the age of 5 as women were not expected to do anything. The big toe was left and the remaining four were taped back.  Nobody saw the foot bare and a sleeping sock would be worn at night times.  It was considered a status symbol as well as a mark of beauty.
Jennifer then went on to show a variety of hats which were embroidered with a variety of animals, symbols and flowers.  She explained that pom poms and tassels were added to children’s hats to keep spirits away and a tail at the back of a hat identified that the wearer wanted to be a scholar.

Report and photos by Ros

Circles – August 2019

You may remember last year Lindsay S kindly organised a display of members work to exhibit at the West of England Quilt and Textile Show which takes place annually at the end of August at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol.  “Take a line” was so successful that members were keen to take part in the 2019 show.

This year Lindsay asked members to create a piece of work using a canvas 20 cms x 50 cms and include a circle/s somewhere in the design.  The technique, topic and colours was completely up to the individual.  

Thirty two canvases were submitted and just look at the wonderful variety of techniques, themes and colours.

Left to right:     
Image 1                                        
Chris C – Paper Circles, Fiona H – Hurricane Irma, Clare R – On Another Planet, Sally J – My Garden 
Image 2
Jackie B – Sepia Seeds, Tase W – Freshwater East, Linda W – Crop Circle, Judy J – Have you got any “O”s? 
Image 3
Dawn V – Pewsey Vale Circles, Annie F – Mid Summer, Nikki VW – Dandelions at Sunset, Jean F – Maytime       
Left to right:
Image 4
Julie B – Hubble Bubble, Sue F – The Windmills of your Mind, Kathy P – Five a day!, Diana K – Raggy Orange
Image 5
Maria F – Triffids and Roses, Robina O – Circles in Nature, Ros L – Kaffe Galaxy, Hazel P – Patchwork Orange
Image 6
Stephanie N – Eddies, Lindsay S – Diesel, Lexie Bray – Champagne Fizz, Christine H – Blue Planets
Left to right:
Image 7
Yvonne M – Emeralds & Amethysts, Lindsay S – Paua, Ann K – Rhapsody in Blue, Rosemary C – Circles Sampler
Image 8
Marion R – Solar System, Ann K – The Hare and the Moon, Ann S – Rusty Boats, Susan V – The Eyes Have It!

Some of the comments from the visitors!
Image 1 – Diana & Stephanie, Image 2 – Jackie & Nikki, Image 3 – Ros, Lindsay & Rosemary

​A very big thank you to Lindsay for organising everything, for designing the stand and for co-ordinating the project.  You are a star Lindsay!

Also a big thank you to members who went over to Bristol to talk to exhibition visitors about our wonderful work.  

Report by Ros
Photos by Ros and Lindsay


​These individually designed flags are the branch’s contribution to the Exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral which is due to finish on Sunday. They were made by Ann Smith, Celia Bell, Vernice Church (who made three), Christine Hill, Maria Fraser (who made one in support of the Ukrainian soldiers fighting in East Ukraine) and Eva and Barney Fraser, both members of the Young Embroiderers’. They are being displayed along with almost 1000 other flags of thanks created by groups and individuals throughout the country. As well as the flags of thanks a magnificent quilt known as the Armistice quilt is also on display.

National Stitch Day – Saturday 22 June 2019

On Saturday 22 June our branch celebrated National Stitch Day in St Peter’s Church, Marlborough and in the Library at Calne.  The four photos below are taken in Marlborough – Clare R, Ann S, Maria F & Vernice C.
The photo below is taken in the Library at Calne.  Clockwise: Chris C, Linda W, Christine H, Lindsay S & Ann K
Thank you to Christine H and Vernice C for the photos.

Jenny Adin-Christie – Workshop June 2019


Our day started with a demonstration from Jenny on how working herringbone stitch on the back of white organza could produce some wonderful effects. The group had a choice of three designs which had been drawn on the organza by Jenny prior to the workshop. The choices were a rose, a violet or a monogram. 

Once everyone was happy with their Shadow Work technique on flowers and monograms Jenny showed the group the first embellishment to their work. This was how to create and sew eyelets. Every design had possibilities for eyelets. Then some people started to do the stems of their flowers. 
The group then learnt how to attach a wide ribbon with a feather design. They were reminded by Jenny’s demonstrations how to attach using feather stitch, pin stitch and thorn stitch. Then it was time for lunch.

In the afternoon Jenny demonstrated further embellishments like how to attach a bobbin paper, sequins and stamps. The group were shown every process that they would need and the beautifully illustrated instruction books will be very useful. It was a wonderful day! 

Here is the link to Jenny’s website:  www.jennyadin-christieembroidery.co.uk

Report and photos Jane S
​Thank you Jane, Ros

Flags of Thanks

Flags of Thanks is a project to reflect gratitude and support for the Armed Forces Community and is open to all members of the Embroiderers’ Guild. Neil Stace the “Sewing Soldier” from the BBC TV programme “The Sewing Bee”, is spearheading the project. He is asking the nation to create customised quilted flags that reflect their gratitude and support for the Armed Forces Community, for those currently serving and for veterans. All the flags will be displayed in a public exhibition in St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury from 24 – 30th June as part of the Armed Forces Day celebrations. 
After the display, his plan is to join the flags together to make something useful like quilts. As a gesture of support these will be gifted to veterans who are or have previously been homeless. The quilt is symbolic of having a home and the making of quilts has been a part of the Armed forces, dating back to the Crimean War. Neil believes that receiving such gifts that have been personally made will have a considerable positive impact on the individuals. His target is a 1000 flags! The design can be patchwork, applique, embroidered, drawn or painted with washable fabric ink and should have a military theme or a message of thanks. 

The following members of Marlborough and District Embroiderers Guild made flags for this event:  Vernice C, Ann S, Christine H,  Celia B, Maria F and two of her grandchildren.

Report:  Maria F and photos: Vernice C
Thank you Maria & Vernice, Ros