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.

I first heard about the C&G embroidery course five years ago, but did not actually go to a C&G exhibition until summer 2000. Kept the idea of maybe signing up for the course at the back of my mind.

Thursday 28th June 2001

Attended the summer C&G exhibition, venue Belfast Institute's College Square building. Met and chatted with Pat Isaacs the tutor, but still had not committed myself to enrol.

Then came the end of August, I decided I was not going to miss the opportunity, I obtained a copy of the Adult Education News to find out when, where and cost of course! Decisions, decisions! Should I or will I leave it till next year? Had a chat to some other C&G students via email from yahoogroups cityandguilds list. Everything was sounding very positive.

Thursday 6th Sept 2001

Arrived at College 1.30pm - found lots of info posted on boards in the ground floor entrance hall, but nothing with reference to C&G embroidery. Walked up to the fourth floor, where the exhibitions were held, found an office and asked for help. Eventually got the correct door and person, and filled out enrolment form. Funny thing, my next stop was to pay my fee for the course, the route to the hall where payment was received I found to be very well signposted. My fee was £185.00 for Part One Year One.

Monday 10th Sept 2001

First day at class, arrived at college 9.00am, decided to walk up to the fourth floor, gasping for air (think I'll use the lift for future journeys). I met Heather our art session tutor. Class began at 9.30am, all first year students were together in a room with both Pat and Heather as they explained a little about the course and our class. We each received a lot of handout sheets from the college and two sheets from the tutors: one dealt with a list of six themes for preparing working designs, the other a list of sample stitches. I am sure this will all make more sense to me as the weeks pass.

Anyhow about the class, we have an art session with Heather every Monday morning from 9.30am-11.30am for the first year. From 11.30am-4.30pm we join with Pat and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th year students. In this room you will find a table to one side stacked with cups, kettle, tea, coffee, milk, sugar and biscuits for whenever you feel the need. The atmosphere I find is friendly and relaxed. We get down to work straight away with Pat, but I don't have any materials with me? no problem - Pat had embroidery hoops, needles and thread on hand, to see everyone started on their sample stitches. Come lunch time the first years could be found buying supplies from the Craftworld shop not far from the college.

Monday 17th Sept 2001

I have decided upon a theme for my Living Forms, a colour picture of a group of giraffe, as my source of inspiration. In the art session we looked at textures and colours from our individual source pictures, then we placed blocks of our colours onto a sheet of paper using coloured pencils. This helped to give a better view of our colour schemes. Heather also showed us a technique to emboss paper, simple and very effective.

We also got to view a video film featuring five textile artist/designers and they shared where they get their inspiration from. Julia Caprara, Jan Beaney, Jean Littlejohn, Michael Brennand-Wood and Liza Vaughan. Took notes, tried to glean as much as possible from information given on film. I always take notes, especially on techniques shown, else the info would be lost to me. Got more involved with my stitch samples, working with my own tools and colour scheme relating to my Living Forms source picture. Decided for the straight stitch samples to use seeding, running and herringbone, why? because I like working with these marks.

embroidery stitch
herringbone on dyed fabric

Monday 24th Sept 2001

Brought with me, wool, fabric, papers, nylon net, cord. Heather showed us how to weave these together on a piece of cardboard with tooth edges top and bottom. All the colours I used related to my source picture, looked good with colour and textures combined in the weave. We next did a paper weave using two contrasting colours, again relating to everyones' own colour scheme. We are a mixed group, meeting together with Heather, some students from fashion, some from embroidery, I see this as a bonus.

Today Pat showed us how to make print blocks. Then we took some time to design our image for our print blocks by experimenting with pencil on paper, getting ideas from our source pictures. When at home I decided to prepare and make four small print blocks using fibre board, everything was okay until I added the paint to the blocks, I used acrylic metallic bronze. Results, blotches of paint on paper where my design block prints should have shown up. But I did find that although my fibre board print blocks had not worked, the blocks themselves look interesting, think I might use this technique and have the blocks feature in a piece of work destined for a future date! But to get back to the print block making, well, think I'll have a go with cutting into a piece of lino next, let you know my outcome next diary date.

Cheers for now from Audrey Hughes, at home here in Belfast.

P.S. Here are some of my stitch samples, so you have an idea what I am talking about:

closed buttonhole on felted Merino

bullion on commercial felt

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