City and Guilds diary

Audrey Hughes wrote this monthly diary during her first year on a City and Guilds embroidery course from September 2001 - May 2002. She shared her experiments and experiences with us throughout the year, offering a fascinating and detailed insight into her approach to the challenges and pleasures of the course.

8th April 2002

This morning during art session we created some paper sculpture shapes with cutting and folding methods and Heather gave a paper sculpture handout to everyone for further experimenting at home. Later in the day with Pat we got started with tassel making. I used a large wooden bead to place inside the tassel head, then I stitched over the head using button hole stitch. The tassel I made with a chunky wool. During the first WW when bombs were dropped over the cities of London and Paris children were given good luck dolls made from tassels, some were attached to horse shoes.

I also found out how to make frog fasteners. The toggle I made from fabric as in the technique for making fabric and paper beads.

15th April 2002

Well today with our tutor Pat we worked with beads and sequins. I completed two samples; the first showed how to apply beads and sequins, my second sample I experimented with beads large and small, working on a hand felted Merino base. I had a piece of hand dyed lace which I cut up and stitched to areas of the felt, then used seeding stitch and fly stitch over felt surface. The beads I applied to areas of the lace. I quite liked the textured effect, could possibly extend this technique further.

During the afternoon Pat gave us all a demo using discharge paste - which is a fairly thick paste making it easier to handle than bleach. You can paint with the paste more so than with bleach. Health tips- avoid contact with skin and eyes, wear gloves. Wash skin thoroughly with soap and water if contact is made, and have well open aired room to work in. Using discharge paste you never know quite how things will turn out, depends on the type of fabric you work with and type of dye in the fabric for the effects you get when using either discharge paste or bleach.

First item of the day with Heather was a little colour theory which included basic overview of colours, primary, secondary, tertiary and cool/warm. A few colour exercises, an orange square with pink in the centre, blue square with pink in the centre, showing colour characteristics. We also used a black square with red centre, then a white square with red in the centre. Then of course you can't forget the grey scale, colours from black to white.

22nd April 2002

Pat gave handouts for class containing info regarding fabric and fabric weaves. We have to create three weaves, satin, twill, and plain using either paper strips or ribbon. These samples will go into our Needle, Fabric and Threads File. Sorting out our fabric samples today and information about needles and fabrics.

Heather introduced us to fabric painting. We also experimented with waxed fabric, then when wax was cool I folded lines in the fabric then lightly scrunched up fabric to create further cracks in the wax, also placed areas of the fabric over top opening of a bottle to create a circle mark, got a bit carried away and applied too much pressure, slight tear in fabric, then applied dye with a paint brush. When I had got rid of the wax I was quite pleased with the textured pattern on the fabric, oh yeah, so as not to waste the area of fabric which was slightly torn, I decided to use this piece, I worked some more on it to distress fabric, using a small wire brush and further fraying of edges and a little burning, end result was a sample for my portfolio.

29th April 2002

Further experiments with plexiglue this morning using fabric glitter and fabric felt tip markers to create a texture and pattern on a piece of plain fabric. When using the plexiglue it may be best to until the glue is at the tacky dry stage, then apply glitter, I used a brush to apply the plexiglue. We all had a chat to Pat this afternoon, she was letting us know that we are finishing up in the next few weeks, and it's time to catch up with any samples left undone. Find myself spending a lot of time sorting out samples and mounting, then checking my list to make sure I have all required samples finished.

13th May 2002

Had fun knitting torn strips of fabric to achieve various textures. When I had completed one sample of knitting, to experiment further with texture I used a wire brush over the surface, then frayed the tied on ends left from joining the strips together to knit. Just have fun experimenting and see what evolves! Next week we have to bring along to art session class some tin drink cans and gardening gloves, for further learning with our art tutor Heather.

Today with Pat we shared with each other our individual updates on our sample portfolios we are putting together. Although we all work the same stitches and techniques, everyone's work is totally different and each individual's personality shows through their work. Our class tends to be full of chat and laughter, ups and downs and lots of support for one another. We also mix a lot more with the other students who are on Part One Year Two and Part Two Years One and Two, who hang out on the opposite side of the class room. Next month the Part One second year and Part Two students set up an exhibition of their work. We as Part One Year One students are invited to display our sample portfolios as part of the show.

So this is my experience, shared with you, as a Year One Part One City & Guilds creative embroidery student.

Audrey Hughes

City and Guilds Embroidery courses are held at many colleges and centres around the UK; and a number of distance learning courses exist too. Some are listed in the directory under City and Guilds courses and Distance Learning. The City and Guilds web site is at