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.

18th February 2002

Today in Pat's class we got involved with English quilting with three layers. Mind you I am a bit behind with some samples - my to do list consists of: Italian quilting, Cathedral Windows, Suffolk Puffs, edgings, insertion stitch, and still not completed the Hardanger, failed this sample first and second attempt.

Pat showed us a technique using tin foil which you scrunch up then unwrap, open out and with PVA glue attach tin foil to the surface of a piece of thin card. Then on the reverse side of thin card iron on a Vilene fabric stabilizer. Return to tin foil surface and with a piece of rag fabric apply a coat of either French polish/shellac or button polish by Rustins. Make sure there is a good air flow in the room where you are working. The shellac gives a gold type effect on the tin foil. Next you can apply colour areas to the foil using neo crayons or acrylic inks. Use machine stitch to achieve your desired effects for the design, beads can be added or even make little tassels and attach these to each corner, decide on whatever shape you want.

Art session this morning we used transfer inks on paper and spread the ink by blowing down a straw, which creates fine lines in various directions. This is left to dry overnight, then place design face down on the fabric and apply a hot iron, results in having the ink design transfer from the paper onto the fabric.

25th February 2002

Heather had us experimenting with powder inks, which are easy brush water colour dyes, these are very strong powder pigment. The powder dissolves in water, one small container makes up to 1/2 a litre. We first took a plastic pocket, then spread some PVA glue onto the surface; when the PVA dries it will be clear and can be peeled from off the plastic resist surface. When you have spread out the PVA you can then choose your colours and sprinkle a small amount on top of PVA. As soon as the powder makes contact with the PVA it starts to spread, you can try creating a marble effect by dragging a pointed stick, e.g. cocktail stick, through the PVA and powder colours.

Pat gave a demo on how to create flowers using ribbons on fabric best to use a hoop with this work. Pat had lots of samples of her work to show us using this ribbon technique. This type of textured ribbon work is best done using satin edged ribbon which can be washed and will not fray. I found this effective looking and really easy to work, for my ribbon sample I used transfer inks, blowing through a straw, to create a more interesting background fabric for the ribbons I used. We also experimented with various types of plastic bags and how they melted under the iron, creating a possible texture base to work with.

4th March 2002

In class, a Part Two student introduced me to the book by Jessica Wrobel, The Crafter's Recipe Book, and everyone in our first year Part One group is ordering a copy! Pat got us all started on our reverse appliqué which we completed in class, using felt squares for the layers. Pat also had us experiment with the wax and ink resist technique on paper. While this morning in Art session we worked with tissue paper shapes in various colours, applying them to paper which was already sponge wiped with water on both sides, when you lay down the colour tissue shapes on the wet paper further texture/creasing occurs in areas. Leave this for a few minutes, then you can lift and peel off the coloured tissue shapes and you are left with the print colour image from the tissue.

11th March 2002

Art session with Heather this fine morning involved us using various bits and pieces of stuff to create a texture shape on paper. Firstly we applied a mixture of water/PVA glue coating to the paper surface, then we placed our design parts on top of this. I used torn fine paper packaging and nylon net pieces. Over this base you start to apply one sheet at a time of toilet tissue: using a piece of sponge with the water/PVA glue, go over each layer of the toilet tissue pressing out air bubbles and making sure that your design pattern made up of your bits and pieces is standing out from the surface. When you have completed three layers, leave to dry and apply colour or apply colour before drying. I'll see my results at our next art session which will be after Easter break.

Later today we got to grips with smocking and made a start on creating our individual button collection samples. We have 12 styles of buttons to make. Pat displayed some of her button samples for us to view and handle, one of which was a small Blackwork design button, this has inspired me to create at least one blackwork button of my own. Ollie, another student in our group, was creating some buttons using hand dyed fabric and beads which looked very impressive.

Well the good news is I am up-to-date with my samples! I have found it very important not to fall behind, it can be hard to get back on track, now to get going with mounting the samples. Next week is a Bank holiday over here in Belfast so no class until the following week and this is all day with Pat then we are off again for Easter Break!

So long 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