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