The Personal is Political Potion

As you can tell from these photographs, the garden has been utterly scorched recently. The past couple of days, however, have brought some very welcome rain. This hasn't aided my mood, though; the gloom has impacted on me whilst, like the grass, I'm feeling a little burnt out.

On a happier note, on Saturday I was invited to give a drop in workshop and talk on craftivism/making for change with Craftspace in Birmingham. And so the publicity materials diaristic element of this week's potion, and its title, "The Personal Is Political Potion" came from this event. Soon I will blog all about the day as well.

The words I stitched for the potion address those feelings of gloom, or, more appropriately, dread; they say, simply "It's almost never as bad as you think". I think I will be referring to this potion often; believing these words is something I struggle with daily. Only by starting with small acts of kindness towards myself, such as thoughts like these, can I make change for others.

Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Move On Up Potion

This week brought some bad news. But if there's one thing I've learned, it's to bounce back from disappointments. 

So this week's #secretsofselfpreservation potion reads "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start again"; which is exactly what I've done, although I haven't had to start from the very beginning, just to think a bit more creatively. 

On the plus side (hopefully), this week I have also been applying for this year's William Morris Gallery artist's residency. Thus, to accompany the text in the potion is a snippet of possibly Morris's most famous print, "Strawberry Thief".

In the words of Fred and Ginger:

Yes Please Potion

 The stagnation in my creative career that I was feeling a couple of weeks ago and was trying to combat when I stitched my Pulled Out A Plum Potion has given way to a resolution to get my work out there, and talk to as many other creatives and likeminded people as possible about it, and about potential ways we could work together.

This is why this week's #secretsofselfpreservation stitching is entitled "Yes Please Potion"; I intend to say yes to suitable opportunities which come my way, and seek out even more.

I've stitched the words "Be bold. Be brazen. Be obnoxious." I'm slightly concerned that this reads like a parody of a Rimmel London mascara advert, but it's actually advice to my shy and retiring self to be more assertive. I believe in my work, and it's my job, if you like, to get others to believe in it too.

Lots of question marks accompany the embroidered velvet ribbon, reminding me that if you don't ask, you don't get.

Remember you can get involved too, via the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation, by writing about a simple way you plan to, or already do, take care of yourself. Alternatively, you can create your own embroidered (or written on paper) potion - just remember to include the hashtag #secretsofselfpreservation along with your snaps of it.

Commission Me

I am now accepting embroidery commissions! Please send your ideas for your commission to and I will get back to you with a quote and time frame. Above are examples of commissions, Royal School of Needlework assignments, and personal embroidery projects I have completed previously. I look forward to hearing from you!

The Soft Corner Shop

This month, my Instagram has been awash with images of a brilliant, seemingly simple idea; Lucy Sparrow's soft sculpture corner shop.

Deceptively simple though Lucy's concept may be - to fill a disused corner shop with hand stitched produce - don't be fooled. That hand stitching took eight months of fourteen hour shifts; as I well know, hand sewing is a very labour intensive process, particularly when, as in this case, one is attempting to faithfully replicate, in fabric, items which existed first in an entirely different medium.

When we arrived at the Corner Shop, in spite of today's dreadful wet weather, the place was buzzing. The other visitors had clearly made the same pilgrimage through the rain we had, and there were squeals of delight as they recognised much loved family favourites.

This nostalgia is partially engendered by the era that the Corner Shop is set in. Lucy has chosen to create products from the mid 90s, when she had her first job in, you guessed it, a corner shop. I barely remember Funny Feet, for example, though they were more familiar to Pip, who is a couple of years older.

Therefore this is a true labour of love on Lucy's part, and an affectionate look back at her coming of age. Over four thousand hand stitched items is no mean feat, and I take my hat off to Lucy for her sheer perseverance and vision. I can't wait for my stitched Chipsticks (how's that for 90s nostalgia?!) to arrive in the post.

Coral garden in bloom

Over the weeks, working on my Canvas Stitches piece has transformed from a love hate relationship to a real labour of love. It's not perfect, but all things considered I'm very proud of it.

Today I put the finishing touches to the tapestry, with a few beads and sequins (or, to use the RSN term, spangles) and a little weaving of sparkly thread to cover up tiny areas where a few threads of the canvas below the stitching peeked through (a not inconsiderable amount of embroidery is subterfuge...)

Perhaps it's all the sparkly thread and shiny beads that have made this piece so enjoyable to stitch; I've always been a magpie, and when I started to add the first sparkly thread in the classroom, I did a little dance in my seat.

I particularly enjoyed adding the little flower-shaped spangles to my pink sea anemones in a random pattern; perhaps they're open ready to catch passing fish? They add a nice bit of dimension and variety to this area.

I've spent many hours blending threads in the needle to create what is hopefully a subtle gradation throughout the piece.

Try as I might to stretch the canvas as taught as possible, when I added the underwater jewels-toned border it didn't turn out quite straight; I suppose I will see if my tutors have any suggestions on Monday... 

I'm going to spend tomorrow sampling a few different blackwork stitches ready for my next RSN project; I will share my design and beginnings of blackwork here soon. Now that I've had a good day's stitching, however, I'm going to try turning my hand to a different craft; lino printing on to denim. Wish me luck!

The quick brown fox

These crafty little fellas have been stitched up ready to go in the Poesie Grenadine Etsy shop when I reopen it in January.

The foxy fellas had been tucked away in a sparkly box for many a month, but they were just crying out to be made up into cute little brooches. And doing so afforded me the perfect opportunity to practise my blanket/buttonhole stitch and couching. I think they're rather fetching, don't you? Their leaping stance puts me in mind of the old pangram "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" More brooch designs are brewing and will be shared here shortly...


I’m so inspired to complete the remaining patches of The Constellation Quilt that I’ve even been dreaming about them! The next patch will be a playful look at the stars as they apply to fortune telling (appropriate for a quilt based on my character Polly Kettle, a fortune telling siren).
I’ve just finished reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and amongst the reams of gorgeous imagery is quite a bit of writing about the chaos and majesty of the stars, including the below:
 Yes, it’s a little melodramatic, but so is Polly Kettle, so it seems appropriate! I enjoyed adding all the tiny gold stars (or should I say stardust?) The background fabric of the patch has the slightest gold sheen; I will be interspersing the Polly Kettle letter patches with these, and with patches of a warm yellow-gold colour. I think this “stardust” patch may be the “cornerstone” patch which ends the first “Polly” line of the quilt.

Stylin' Stitch Witch

Jen of hoodratroughdiamond wrote the sweetest little blog post about the swap we did. I love the way she styled the rosette; she’s definitely a new fashion icon of mine.
Stitch Witches Collective on Facebook is going from strength to strength, with crafty swaps being discussed and plans for meet-ups afoot. Plus we now have 146 members! Fellow founding member Hannah and I are meeting up the week after next to initiate the next stage of making the Stitch Witches zine a reality.
PS You can get your hands on your own Stitch Witches rosette here.

The Knitter, the Stitcher, and the Quilter.

No, this is not a "walked into a bar" joke, or a Perraultian fairy tale.

It's all just in a day's work.

Today, a knitter (Debs), a quilter (Catherine), and a stitcher (me!), gathered to (hand)stitch together Walthamstow's Neighbourly Quilt.

Back in May I was just finishing off my first internship with Catherine at her Walthamstow-based Social Enterprise Significant Seams (I've just begun my second internship there).

My first jaunt at the Significant Seams Hub was based around a community arts project: the Neighbourly Quilt project featured here.

Significant Seams asked residents of E17 to hand in fabric squares decorated using various textile techniques, or attend a workshop to learn a technique with which to decorate their square. The theme of the square was to be either "something which makes good neighbours", or "something which I love about Walthamstow".

We received 68 patches in all; more than we expected, and more than our target!

Catherine and Debs had already spent a couple of sessions hand-stitching the quilt together, and now that I'm back from Scotland, I'm joining in too. Here's our handiwork:

Here's (rather) a few of my favourites:

One of Debs' beautiful pieces

Bramble Snagged Heart

This is my penultimate collaboration with composer Joe Donohoe. This one, Bramble Snagged Heart, strikes a middle ground between Kiss the Book and The Alchemist; the text has some of the cynicism of the former combined with the earnest love poetry of the latter. With the sound of the piece, I was aiming for a recreation of the atmosphere of Walthamstow Village at night; therefore Joe used the sound of wind running through trees, traffic passing, and a church or clock bell. He also used the sound of cars beeping in traffic to highlight the phrases "terrified in headlights" and "roadkill on the motorway" We were also aiming for a "wintry" effect, which I think Joe has achieved through the guitar in the piece. He also created a "jarring" effect with the guitar which is played during the phrase "wolf bites down my neck", and then repeated for the line "I deep plum bruised".

I really enjoy the contrast of the three pieces; the first, with minimal music, used chord harps, the second, simulated tuned percussion, and this, the third, guitar.

Here's the text of Bramble Snagged Heart:

Bramble Snagged Heart

Love is no mythical creature my dearest darling, but just before I stumbled into you I would stumble into blind backstreet alleys for the piss-promise of male, malingering company, for the price of cheap white rum, baptised, doused in the stuff, yet all doe-eyes and fuzzy-kneed, fuzzy knees, knees a-trembling, brand spanking newborn and just mewling out for love, terrified-in-headlights. Roadkill. O don’t you know that is how love feels now? Awake from shrieking sunbleached streaky sleep and roadkill on the motorway is more, more than beautiful. Life is more than bearable.
So, sweetheart:
Invent me, mark out my borders with your fingertips, write me into the periodic table. Name me after yourself.
 All I ever used to want was his, oh hell, anyone’s wolf bites down my neck, inky keepsake emblems, and a spring in my step. Because I was brand-new, white and slippery as bathtubs and as yet unblemished... but... I bit off more than I could chew, I deep plum bruised. A bathtub heart covered in hairline cracks. So I prayed to no one in particular;

(Lord) give me a hundred denier heart
To keep the cold out
To keep lost souls out
And never let it ladder on no fences
(And when it’s held up to the light
Let it show no ladders)

You snagged on my thighs and tugged me to attention,
Into my heart,
My opaque winter heart, suddenly
To my surprise
What a gentleman you proved
I am no lady but
I only want a gentleman
And a gentleman
Is what I’ve found.

For the accompanying embroidery, I illustrated one of the opening lines of the piece, "Love is no mythical creature". I chose to illustrate this phrase with a narwhal, as in the Middle Ages narwhal tusks were believed to be unicorn horns. Unicorns are mythical creatures; narwhals, however, are not, and neither is love (despite what the cynical amongst us might have you believe).

This phrase is also a reference to Tao Lin's short story Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than There Exists, which contains the following quote: "Though if love was an animal, Garret knew, it would probably be the Loch Ness Monster. If it didn’t exist, that didn’t matter. People made models of it, put it in the water, and took photos. The hoax of it was good enough. The idea of it. Though some people feared it, wished it would just go away, had their lives insured against being eaten alive by it."

I used French knots to create dense texture and the spotted pattern of the narwhal's back.

Fortunate Cookie Predicts Pavement Proposal

Sorry about the long hiatus. I spent the weekend visiting the V&A and throwing a Halloween dinner party, and aside from that have been working on this monster of an embroidery:

It's an imagined letter from a Mystic Meg-type to a jaded cynic, informing them that "love lurks for you behind the bushes". Illustrated with a broken fortune cookie and "fortune" as the title of the piece. Like The Beast and Me, the letter mentions Walthamstow in the line "waiting to pounce as you take your beagle for a walk through Walthamstow marshes". The text reads:

Fortunate Cookie Predicts Pavement Proposal

Dearest Realist,

So, you think you have it sussed. Little do you know that love lurks for you behind the bushes, waiting to pounce as you take your beagle for a walk through Walthamstow marshes.

Like a child abductor. Like the lottery roll-over.

Tomorrow a man will propose to you on the highstreet. A down-on-one-knee ambush interceptng your meander to Asdaf or four pints of milk. Will you step over him like dog shit? Or not? (Four pints of milk and a bottle of Brut in your shopping basket.)

The Beast & Me

The Beast and Me

It’s grey here I’d say 95% of the year, except from the odd stretch of summer when that cruelest London sun beats the tarmac bleached, a slightly lighter shade of grey on the Dulux scale. You can walk the long mecca of the market and hear a different tongue at every turn. You’re the only white girl on the bus. You’re the only one in colour who isn’t a construction worker. People work hard here. Hard. Know the meaning of money and you’re just a monied interloper choking on fishbones and white guilt in a Turkish restaurant.
Better watch out ‘cos here be dragons. Peeling off the bridge but beasts all the same.You’re comforted by hooded figures and their choke-chained hideous dogs as you walk the pigeon grey streets after hours. You ashamedly lick the slithery chicken off your fingers, not quite another tourist sent astray by Dickens. Sometimes you’re naked in your shiny doll clothes, all-too-often checking out, on the way to Hampstead Soho Greenwich Camden the South Bank Spitalfields. A  tourist in your own town, but The Stow’s home. It’ll grow on you, wait and see, it’ll absorb the you into me, become a simmering lazy primordial molasses ooze of far-flung spices and words words words. Sticky sticky sticky it’ll stick to your shoes and you won’t ever stamp it out.
Victoria Line, that’s my name, I write it down for you straight on the jerky trains of my name-sake in tiny cursive or tiny print, neat black always. I’m an auditor, an observationalist. I’m invisible and omnipresent, and I know what’s in your heart. It beats for this place, for “Perfect” Fried Chicken and all the 99p shops, for gum-spattered streets and the ancient house in the Village. You were born of the beast of east, spat out like gum on the pavement.

This is the first piece of writing/embroidery specifically about Walthamstow; the "loveletter" to "The Stow" which I promised.
And what better to illustrate a piece on Walthamstow with than a pigeon, "the rat of the sky"? Huge flocks gather around the market every day in the hope of some left-over produce; in my mind they really seem to symbolise The Stow.
More on Walthamstow's arts and crafts scene, past and present, to come!


A bit of a deviation from  The Cure for Love tonight; today I completed my first commission for one of the visitors to my exhibition in the E17 Art Trail.

The piece is for a French friend of the client, hence the French national motto of "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" and the colours of the French flag.

It's incredibly exciting to be sewing for someone, let alone getting paid for it. I just hope she's happy with the outcome, I'm not sure about the black outline on the red and blue... what do you think?

(Have just realised there should be an extra accent on the first "e" on égalité... will have to add that in the morning!)

"I Have A Smut In My Eye"

As promised, one of the Brief Encounter-inspired pieces. For this embroidery I departed from my usual translating-poetry-into-a-snippet-of-text set-up and instead illustrated a quotation from the film itself.

The text reads: "I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people". This quotation is taken from a voice-over/monologue spoken by Brief Encounter's protagonist, Laura. The full quotation is "I've fallen in love. I'm an ordinary woman. I didn't think such violent things could happen to ordinary people". I illustrated the quotation with embroidery of a steam train disappearing into a tunnel, as Laura's illicit affair with Alec begins at a train station, and this setting provides the visual drama of the film.

Tomorrow I will post on Brief Encounter in more depth, but right now it's past my bedtime and I must sleep!