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.

7th January 2002

Well, first day back to college after the Christmas/New Year break, and I am feeling not at all like working on any stitch samples or my source themes. Have to ditch this lazy holiday mood and get myself organized as to what has to be done and what's next on the list for my C&G course.

Today Pat our tutor spent some time talking to us about our design sheets and full working designs: we were reminded that there need not be any stitch used in our design sheets, we can work on shape, texture of our source using techniques we have gleaned from both Heather and Pat to interpret source as colour, texture, shape, form, atmosphere; also reminded to present design sheets in different forms, one of which is 3-D.

Pat introduced the class members to appliqué and we have to produce four for our sample portfolio, machine appliqué, hand appliqué, reverse appliqué and template appliqué. This afternoon we started working with little round mirrors and sequins, using the Indian technique of stitching the mirror shapes to apply these to fabric, Shisha Mirrors. I started using a square cut mirror, but found the round shape was less of a problem to anchor in the grid.

14th January 2002

The insertion stitch is the sample for today. Pat also issued each first year Part One student with a supply of cards for our small swatches of fabric, this to be presented as our fabric file, a collection of samples of all fabrics used in our work, both man-made and natural.

Last week in our Art session with Heather we made felt beads and had a demo on techniques of paper making. This morning Heather was working with foil and how to apply this to fabric using plexiglue. Later this morning Heather was having an evaluation chat with a few students individually, myself being one of the students. Next week our Art session time will be spent down in the college Resource Room and we get the grand tour of the facilities available for our use, printers, computers, e-mail and the web.

21st January 2002

In our class period with Pat we have started work on our crewel samples. I enjoy working with the crewel wool and I have chosen from the little Anchor book of Crewel Stitches and Patterns the Thorn Flower pattern to work on. Decided to use chain, thorn, french knots, seeding, satin and stem stitch for my rendering of the Thorn Flower. The fabric used to stitch upon is linen in a natural colour which adds contrast to the earthy coloured tones of the crewel wool.

This afternoon we had a demo from Pat involving the use of fabric Tyvek. I have used the Tyvek spun fibre film before, which comes in A4 sheets of either fine, medium or thick, but I have not worked with the fabric Tyvek yet. The fabric type is soft, I find the film has more structure and the texture can be manipulated further. Pat also showed how bondaweb can be used to apply flower petals, for example, onto fabric.

28th January 2002

Manipulating fabric - this is our next challenge. Pat will continue with this theme for the next few weeks, covering pin tucks, pleats, gathers, smocking, patchwork and quilting. Our tutor introduced the class to a few books on the subject, The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff, and Tucks and Textures Two by Jenny Rayment.

We have started with pin tucks and have to complete at least two samples, one by hand, one by machine stitch.

Our demo technique this afternoon was how to create marbling effects on fabric. Pat used a ground in the water, which I felt was very messy and the marbling effects were not the best, I'll have to experiment with marbling effects on fabric at home, see what happens. I have in the past been successful working with marbling effects using paper.

This morning during the Art session with Heather we were printing on fabric using the humble spud. This can be an effective form of printing for small areas, the old spud would eventually start to fall apart and is good for only the one day use.

4th February 2002

Art session this morning and we continue with the theme of printing techniques cutting our own stencil design and printing these onto fabric. Heather reminded the class that when designing the stencil remember to leave bridges, so as to hold together the design stencil. Heather gave each student a handout with ideas for printing and we will continue next week with further printing techniques.

Later today with Pat we set about cutting fabric squares to create interlocking squares, our fabric manipulation. This is a bit like paper folding only we use the iron, with fabric and stitch. We also had a go at paper bag printing with Pat. This is magic and so easy, you could create an interesting background to work upon using this technique. The printed bags have to be the very fine paper type, these work best. Your fabric has to be polyester cotton, the polyester to be at least 60%. Place printed bag pattern face down upon the fabric, then move a hot iron over the surface and when you remove the paper from off the fabric you have a print; if you have moved the paper slightly when ironing the print on the fabric, a double vision type effect is revealed, which can create interest as a background for work.

Well it is half term break next week, but I intend to spend the time working at home -want to experiment with some techniques and I also have my Hardanger sample to complete, this is my third attempt! wish me success, bye for now!

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