Amanda Cook – “From fiddle fingers to artist in residence”

Amanda Cook – from fiddle fingers to artist in residence

Before starting her talk Amanda changed into a beautifully embroidered dress and full length velvet cloak which we later found out to be her wedding outfit. 

Amanda Cook in her wedding outfit

 As a child Amanda loved to fiddle with things.  She told us she has always been addicted to fabrics and threads and above all, she loved stories.  Amanda saw an end of year diploma show and decided she wanted to follow an art foundation course and introduced her love of textiles into her work.  After a life changing event, Amanda’s love of stitch helped through difficult times and enabled her to gain understanding by weaving stories into their creation.

Amanda brought along a wonderful selection of quilts and clothes which she had made over the years and during lockdown.  She held each up in turn telling us the story behind its creation.  Her wedding dress had been made from some old curtains and the lining of the cloak was a patchwork of silk which Amanda had bought during a visit to India.  I was particularly amused by the story behind an apron and Amanda read the text which she had embroidered onto the ties.  Always searching for unusual items to include in her work, Amanda appliqued lost property onto a skirt and decorated another with labels inferring, “don’t label me”.   As time went by Amanda created many items of interest and in 2021 she was asked if she would like to display them in an exhibition.

Prior to leaving her job, Amanda was asked if she would like to become an artist in residence.  Jumping at the opportunity to spend a year researching and creating, she decided her theme would be based on trees.  Amanda showed us her sketchbook and a beautifully embroidered dress and  jacket.  This jacket had been made from two school coats and it was embroidered with flowers and insects.  The cuffs on each sleeve had been embroidered and the embroidery on a cumber bund represented the forest floor.

In addition to her textile creations, Amanda also runs the Overton Framing Studio.

Amanda, thank you so much for sharing your stories with us.  Many of them are very personal so I have not included them but we were truly inspired by all your creations and are grateful for having the opportunity of seeing them.

Amanda’s 2021 exhibition:

Amanda’s 2022 artist in residence write up:

Overton Framing Studio:


Report by Ros

Photos by Ros

Michele Carragher – Game of Thrones embroidery

Michele Carragher – Game of Thrones embroidery

I have to start by saying that Michele was such an interesting speaker; obviously enthusiastic about her craft, I think it’s safe to say she captivated us all with the descriptions of the productions she has worked on and the processes followed.  She began with an overview of her background; she has been sewing since childhood, designing outfits for her dolls and went on to study Fashion & Design where nature, fantasy and literature influenced her designs.

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After the course, Michele moved into textile conservation, where she developed a comprehensive skill set in stitches, mounting and embroidering on to a foundation; all without stretching the base fabric on to a frame as the textiles probably were often too fragile to do so. This has made her practice more efficient and skilful.

After making short films with friends, Michele moved into costume assisting. Her first professional foray was an unpaid experience with Mike O’Neil, who became her mentor. After working as a costume assistant on ‘Our Mutual Friend’, Michele became the principal costume embroiderer on ‘Elizabeth I’ (starring Helen Mirren) where she had more creative control.

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To create her designs, Michele ideally gets to read the script first and then meets with the costume designer to discuss approaches to various characters she will be creating embroidery for. Then comes the research; using paintings and other visual references from the correct period to springboard her designs, all of which must be understandable to the audience.

Rough sketches are made (they didn’t look very rough!) along with samples to enable Michele to assess the time it might take to create the embroidery; the time given to create the costume varies between productions! Sometimes embroidered fabric is purchased and extra elements embroidered to reduce the production time. Fabric may also be painted during the process. Michele has found it advantageous to create the designs on organza as the design can be created whilst the costume is being made.

Michele worked with Michele Clapton on Game of Thrones, and she shared some very interesting insights into the costumes and their developments across the series. As an avid fan, I found this all very interesting and now I’m going to have to watch the series for the 4th time just so I see how the costumes developed with the characters! Michele said that this was creatively rewarding, as it was interesting, allowed her to use her imagination and the final outcomes were often exquisite.

For some scenes (particularly death scenes where costumes may become covered in blood!) it is necessary to make multiple copies of the same costume. Photographs are taken at each stage of the initial development so these can be accurately made.

Other productions Michele has worked on include Peaky Blinders, Virtuoso, The Crown, The Nevers and the 2020 film The Secret Garden.

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There are a few videos of her designs on You Tube and I thoroughly recommend looking her up; she has her own channel MCE Channel, or search Michelle Carragher Embroidery (you will find the clip she played for us in her presentation)

Michelle’s website:

Prior to Michele’s talk members enjoy a delicious lunch organised by the Committee.

My grateful thanks go to Tase W who kindly wrote this post and to Christine H and Lindsay S for taking the photos.

Christmas Mug Rugs with Tase!

Christmas Mug Rugs with Tase!

Tase’s passion for all things Christmas is certainly contagious and I think we’ll all be making more mug rugs for our own Christmas or as gifts!

Tase at her Xmas workshop

She had a great selection of seasonal  printed cottons that we could use, as well as festive related templates for our applique.

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Christmas images
She explained clearly what we needed to do and helped us individually with placement, stitch choice, and pattern choice.   And even a couple of machine cleaning demos. So much fluff!
She demonstrated mitred corners although I personally feel that a lot of practice will be required.
Tase’s enthusiasm for teaching applique and quilting is obvious. 
Her final words to me were:
They came, they saw, and they conquered!!
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Photographs and report thanks to Lindsay S.


Sarah Maddison – Stitching my way through life

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Sarah Maddison – Stitching my way through life

To our amusement, Sarah started her talk by explaining how she chose the unusual name for her website and facebook page, “SixtyFourpackingcases”.   She then showed us photos of her two aunts and her mum all of whom taught and encouraged her to learn to stitch from an early age.  She made her first dress at the age of 11 and delighted us all by showing a Style pattern which several of us recognised.  Living in East Anglia at the time, Sarah enrolled on a City & Guild course at Suffolk College in Ipswich and her unfulfilled dream was to create theatrical costumes.

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As an Army wife, she travelled to various countries and a lot of the inspiration for her work came from her surroundings at the time.  Sarah was unable to work when she moved to Brunei, so for a year she decided to stitch and often her creations were inspired by the jungle.  Returning to Suffolk she got together with a group of friends and organised an exhibition.  The inspiration for Sarah’s work came from the legend of St Edmund and a sculpture by Elizabeth Frink. 

Military inspired work

Another piece that we were shown was based on a great uncle who died at the Battle of the Somme aged 20 and in researching this topic she discovered 35 soldiers who were killed more recently in Afghanistan at the age of 23.  The work is entitled 35@23.

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Sarah then went on to talk about the general things that inspire her work and included ancient landscapes like Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury and the iron age fort at Danebury in Hampshire.  The moon, hares, crows and poppies also featured  in her work along with supporting text or poems.  In 2022 Sarah worked with a group to create an exhibition about Danebury Iron Age Fort Past and Present and this was displayed in the museum at Andover.

In talking about how to start a project, Sarah mentioned how she chooses between 2D and 3D and in planning a work about different Borneo tribes, she researched the wildlife, jewellery, tattoos and clothes worn by the people.  She made us laugh when she said, if it doesn’t go to plan – chop it up.  Great advice!

Bringing her talk to a close Sarah mentioned she now stitches with a group of seven other artists and they call themselves The Alchemist’s Needle. Researching their website I found a couple of names that I recognised – Alison Hulme  and Anne Hellyer who have both visited our group in the past.

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In addition to the presentation Sarah brought along a wonderful selection of her work together with samples of purses and bags which she offers as workshops.  There were also a number of beautiful pieces of jewellery based on Sarah’s work and cards for members to buy.  A lot of her work is done as commissions and you can find her website details below.

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Report by Ros

Photos by Ros with permission from Sarah

Sarah’s website:

Sarah’s Facebook page:

Sarah’s Etsy page:

The Alchemist’s Needle:

Lizzie Godden workshop – An Introduction to Natural Dyeing & Eco printing

Lizzie Godden workshop – An Introduction to Natural Dyeing & Eco printing

Having seen Lizzie’s work the day before, I was very exited to be in the workshop with her! The room layout was a little different to our normal workshops and we were told to work in pairs (sorry, Clare!). The centre table was a mass of lots of types of leaves; oak, sumac, blackberry to name a few, all ready for the day.


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First Lizzie decanted iron water into washing up bowls and warned us to make sure we wore gloves unless we wanted black fingers for a few weeks! We picked off the leaves we wanted to use and placed them in the iron water as this is what helps the leaves to give a good print. Once covered, the leaves were placed on the strips of silk in a pattern we wanted, rolled around a dowel and boiled in a huge pan.

Whilst that was cooking, we printed leaves on watercolour and khadi paper using the same principle. Pressure is important to get a good print, so the layers of leaves and paper were pressed together between tiles and again boiled. This is a much quicker process, and we were able to see our results relatively quickly which just made us more curious about the bundles that were still boiling away!

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Lunch in the sunshine was a lovely treat! After lunch Lizzie gave us all a piece of buddleia dyed fabric which surprisingly was a beautiful soft butter yellow. After seeing some of Lizzie’s samples, we had a go at shibori, the art of stitching and pulling fabric tight to create a resist before dyeing fabric in another dye bath. Lizzie used onion skins to overdye the stitched pieces, resulting in a rich amber colour.

We were handed our dowels but told not to open them for 24 hours! Torture! (I didn’t manage 24 hours; I think I got to 20…just 😊) And I think we all abided by the gloves rule; not a black finger in sight!

Report  thanks to Tase

Photos thanks to Judy J

Lizzie’s website:


Lizzie Godden – Natural dyeing, eco printing and hand embroidery

Lizzie Godden – Natural dyeing, eco printing and hand embroidery

dyed fabric & dyed threads

We started year three of the Textile & Stitch Around Marlborough with a fantastic talk by Lizzie Godden.  Travelling from the Forest of Dean Lizzie spent two days with us, the first talking about her work and showing us beautiful examples and the second was spent with a very privileged group of members showing them her techniques for natural dyeing and eco printing. 

In the hall Lizzie displayed her dyed fabrics, dyed threads, beautiful hand embroidery, her very precious folders containing formula and recipes for her dye baths and books showing natural dyeing, eco printing and hand embroidery stitches.  To support the talk, Lizzie had two buckets of leaves which she planned to use for the workshop the following day.

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Lizzie started by explaining that she first starting experimenting with plant dyeing in the 1990’s and recommended Jenny Dean’s book, Wild Colours.  She explained that almost all of her plants came from the garden apart from madder which she bought and she showed us examples of over dyeing where the fabric is dyed, tied and dyed for a second time using another plant.  Buddleia and golden rod were important garden plants together with the skins from onions, plants from the hedgerows and leaves from trees.  Lizzie’s folders contained samples to show the shade and colour obtained using various plants.  I was particularly interested when she brought out a knife and sliced the bark off a mahonia stem.  As you can see from the photo, the colour is a deep yellow. 

Everything has been a matter of experimenting over the years and in talking about the materials used, Lizzie said she mainly uses silk material and thread, and woollen blanket as cotton tends to produce less vibrant colours.  Members were particularly interested in the cord which Lizzie had made using dyed thread and lengths of cut dyed stockinette.  In addition she had experimented making cords from plants and mentioned dandelion and bindweed.

Lizzie then went on to talk about eco-printing or printing with leaves.  The leaves are positioned topside up and the natural inks are extracted when the fabric is rolled up and left in position for several days.  You can find out more by reading the details of Lizzie’s workshop but she mentioned the best plants for eco-printing were currant leaves, brambles and her favourite was the smoke bush leaf. 

Another process that Lizzie shared was the preserving of leaves using vegetable glycerine.  Once this is done the leaf is protected, can be displayed and stitched into.

Last but not least having dyed her own fabrics and threads and eco-printed some, Lizzie hand stitches her own designs some reflecting the prints and some using stitch patterns.  She loves using unusual stitches and had several interesting books on display.  Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn’s book, Stitch Magic and the Batsford Encyclopaedia of Embroidery Stitches by Anne Butler.  Another book that Lizzie recommended was Alice Fox’s Natural Processes in Textile Art: From rust dyeing to found objects.

The final pieces of work we were shown was Lizzie’s lockdown project which has certainly turned out to be a family heirloom displaying a wonderful selection of designs and stitches all using natural dyed threads.

Report and photos:  Ros

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For further information and research –


Lizzie Godden:

Alice Fox:

Jenny Dean:

Jan Beaney & Jean Littlejohn:

Wendy Hermelin – Fabulous Fish workshop

Wendy Hermelin – Fabulous Fish workshop

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Jenny Clay's fantastic mackerel
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The day after her talk, Wendy led a workshop entitled, Fabulous Fish.  This is a lovely selection of members’ work.  Free machining on water soluble paper.   

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What a great workshop and thank you to everyone who brought their work in for us to see.

Photos by Ros


Wendy’s website:

Wendy Hermelin – textile artist & dance teacher

Wendy Hermelin – textile artist & dance teacher

Wendy’s talk this week entitled “Dancing into Textiles” was very different to ones we have had in the past as there was a lot of audience participation.

Wendy started by explaining that, as a child she loved to play her mother’s Russian ballet LPs, and music and movement on the radio became very important to her at Primary School.  Later a PE teacher had introduced her to Rudolf Laban and this master of movement became an important part of her life.  In addition to her love of dance Wendy was taught many skills by her mother and enjoyed embroidery, knitting, crochet and dress making and she went on to follow a City & Guilds course in Creative Embroidery.

Wendy was fortunate enough to get funding from the South West Arts Council for a year’s project entitled Threads of Memory, Footprints of Time.  Children and adults were invited to dance and react to their surroundings and interpret their findings in stitch.  For example a gorse bush was spiky and sea was calm and sparkly.  Wendy showed us a finished piece which showed the interpretation.

Wendy Hermelin

Much to our surprise we were then asked to pair up with our neighbour and get involved with movement.  We had to make hand movements to show the petals of a flower and then move as if we were running stitches and twist like we were forming a French knot.  This caused a lot of laughter and many of us were out of our comfort zone!

During the Covid lockdown Wendy made a wonderful variety of cloth books which she had on display.  One was called “Seasons” and another had weather isobars stitched on it using twin needles.   Each book had a piece of drift wood attached. 

In addition to nature, Wendy gets inspiration from text and she read an extract from “The God Beneath the Sea” which is a children’s novel based on Greek mythology.  

I particularly enjoyed seeing Wendy’s collage pictures which she had turned into stitch.

In conclusion Wendy showed us four embroideries which had all been inspired by the full moon.  She has also experimented with tryptic landscapes and these have been very successful and sold well at exhibitions. 

Tomorrow Wendy is going to lead a workshop entitled “Fabulous Fish”.

Thank you Wendy for a fun afternoon.

Report & photos by Ros


Wendy Hermelin:

Rudolph Laban: –

Michala Gyetvai’s exciting workshop – “Enchanting Landscapes”

Michala Gyetvai’s exciting workshop – “Enchanting Landscapes”

The day after her talk, Michala organised an  exciting  and  enjoyable workshop entitled “Enchanting Landscapes”.  

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What a talented members we have and I hope Michala is pleased with the results of her workshop!

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Jenny C decided to do her own thing and just look what she created.  I think it is fabulous!!  

Thanks to Vernice C for all the photos.


Michala’s website:

Warwickshire Open Studios:



Michala Gyetvai – “The Poetry of Materiality”

Michala Gyetvai – artist and textile artist

I first discovered Michala’s work in a Stitch magazine in 2009.  There was something about it which just lifted my spirits and said something to me so I was excited to see her name on our programme.

Michala arrived with a wonderful selection of her work.  Examples of all dimensions – wall hangings, smaller pieces, brooches, cards and of course her amazing sketchbooks.  So much to see that her visual presentation was not really necessary.  Michala started by telling us about her happy childhood when she played outside with her sister and how she would often pick wool off fences to use in her projects .  At school her A level course was a combination of fine arts and embroidery and after leaving school Michala worked for Laura Ashley for 16 years. 

Michala Gyetvai

The inspiration for Michala’s work comes from landscapes and she left several of her sketchbooks out for us to look through.  The paintings are then translated into textiles.  Poetry and music are also important to her and Michala read a poem  entitled, “thank you” and another which was about the felling of Dutch Elms and the emotional effect it had on her.


Michala won a competition in Coventry and  the prize was to put on her own exhibition in 18 months’ time.  This was a wonderful opportunity but quite a challenge as she had to design much larger creations.

The practical side of  Michala’s work was of great interest to us and she explained how she gets into the zone when stitching and the large hangings can take 2 or 3 years to complete.  She has a wonderful selection of machine and hand threads and talked about using shiny and matt threads to get the desired effects.  She uses different weights of woollen blankets as backing and therefore they move and distort with increased stitching.  Michala held up a number of her wall hangings and talked us through the story behind several of them.  A trip to India to visit her sister completely changed her colour palette on one of the hangings.

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During lockdown Michala drew her garden each day and ended up with a visual diary of drawings which she shared with friends and family.  She is giving a digital copy of the diary to Coventry University for their archive as a record of the time when people could not venture out.

Over the years Michala has displayed her work at a number of exhibitions and has exhibited alongside the sculpturer George Wagstaffe.  Under the art exchange scheme, Michala has worked in Dresden in Germany which is linked with Coventry, close to her home town of Kenilworth and in August she plans to return.

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Thank you Michala for a fantastic afternoon and I know a group of our members will have a wonderful time at your workshop tomorrow.  I am so pleased I treated myself to one of your brooches as a happy reminder of your visit!

Report and photos:  Ros L

Michala’s website:

Warwickshire Open Studios: