The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 1
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 2
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 3
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 4
The Unbroken Thread: slideshow photograph 5


Lady Anne’s Leaf

Our Lady Anne’s Retreat wasn’t only travelling and seeing beautiful textiles and lovely places in England: we also embroidered! The pattern we used for both of our projects was based on the leaf design in Lady Anne’s dress in her portrait. At the top of her right sleeve (on the left in the painting) you can see a leaf with a curled stem. This design was printed onto two pieces of lovely linen twill Phillipa provided: one for a crewelwork piece and the other for piece worked in Elizabethan stitches (more about that in a future post).

 Lady Annes Leaf

Phillipa began her lessons with us by teaching us long and short shading. Although I’ve done this before, it was good to have a refresher lesson. There are two things I do that prevent my shading from looking the way I want it to look: firstly I pull the threads too tightly, especially on the first, underlying layer. This means there isn’t a good cushion of threads for the upper layers (and the shading layers) to sink into. The effect, when the tension is too tight, is more like stripes of color than shading. You can see it clearly in the photo below on the top leaf.

DSCF5651 Lady Annes Leaf

Secondly, my stitch direction can be wonky. It sometimes isn’t very uniform and changes direction too suddenly and in too short a space. You can see this in that same leaf above. On the top leaf the stitches are going more towards the center vein so they change direction very often and especially at the bottom where the stitches become very short and almost at 90 degrees to the center vein. Compare that to the stitches in the lower leaf in the photos above: they tend to be more in line with the sides of the leaves, so the angle is less sharp.

DSCF56542 Lady Annes Leaf

In the photo above I’ve taken out the stitches on the top leaf and completely reworked it. I can definitely tell the difference between the first attempt and the final stitching!

One of the things we learned concerned color and color placement in embroidery. When we first received our Appleton’s wool I was surprised to see three shades of gold, three shades of green and a very dark navy blue color! However, blues sometimes are bluish and leaves often have a blue tint to them. Lo and behold, when I stitched the larger leaf using the dark blue for the center color it looked fabulous!

DSCF56542 Lady Annes Leaf

You’ll no doubt have noticed we’re working this piece in a hoop frame – a lap hoop frame to be specific. It’s the best and easiest way to work a small piece. One of the things I like the most is that no place on the design is far from your body so correct posture is much easier to maintain.

So that’s the progress on the stitching front on my fabulous trip! Next time I’ll be taking you farther north into the Lake District. Get ready to see some stunning scenery!



Lady Anne’s: Day 3

Monday morning I came into the Tufton Arms Hotel and got good news – my luggage was on the way! It wouldn’t be at the hotel until later that day but it would reach me before I got on the bus and moved on to Ravenglass.

We had class with Phillipa on Monday morning in a small shop behind the hotel that sold wine. (I’m sure you can see it in the photo below). It was a charming little shop, the lighting was very good and there was room for all of us.

IMG 3186 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

We were given another piece of linen twill with the same design as the piece we got in Meredith’s class. I think this was a brilliant idea – to work the same design twice so we could all see how one design could be embroidered differently. The piece we worked on with Phillipa was, of course, crewel work. We had  a morning learning and practicing long and short shading. Phillipa first taught me long and short shading and it was a joy to see how the other students, who hadn’t done it before, we able to be so successful due to her teaching.

We began by mounting our fabric in our hoop frames, using plastic wrap to secure it rather than wrapping the hoop with binding tape. (Saran wrap apparently works best and Meredith had brought some from the USA since that particular brand isn’t sold in the UK.) We cut the plastic wrap larger than the hoop so we had a piece to lay over the fabric when we weren’t stitching, thereby keeping it clean. It works a treat!

IMG 3184 0011 Lady Annes: Day 3

Phillipa then passed out the wools – what gorgeous colors! Phillipa has such a fine eye for color which is why I just love her designs!

IMG 3185 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

We stitched away, talking sometimes and concentrating other times as Phillipa kept a close watch on our progress, correcting and helping as we needed it. Everyone left the class feeling positive about their work thanks to Phillipa’s encouragement and praise – the sign of a good teacher!

DSCF5651 Lady Annes: Day 3

I really enjoyed this morning since I just love doing crewel work. I also learned to watch out for a funny little scoop I do with my needle – bad habits do sneak up on you – which I need to stop doing!

We then had lunch together at a local restaurant called Bojangles followed by another wonderful talk by Jacqui Carey on Sweet Bags. Once again, her passion for her subject, her photographs and her interest in the human side of the embroideries made for fascinating listening.

Some of us had decided to use the free time we had in the afternoon to go on a tour of Appleby Castle, the home of Lady Anne Clifford.

IMG 3181 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

The castle is at the top of the main street in Appleby and we simply had to walk about 500 metres and we arrived. The photo above is looking through the gates down the main street in Appleby. As we walked further into the castle grounds, the modern world slipped away and we were surrounded by the history of the place. Our tour guide, a young man relatively new to the job, was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.

IMG 3370 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

After a tour of the outside of the castle during which he explained the defences, we went inside to see a small collection or helmets and weapons which we could try on. I tried on a helmet but will NOT be sharing a photo with you. However, here is a photo of our guide partially equipped for battle.

IMG 3352 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

The castle has been added to over the centuries and there is an ancient keep that is currently being renovated. It is one of the few Norman Keeps in Great Britain and has changed little in the 900 years it has stood. We were asked not to photograph the Keep as it doesn’t look it’s best covered in scaffolding. The photo above is part of the castle and below is of the courtyard, which Lady Anne certainly would have known during the time she lived here.

IMG 3353 001 Lady Annes: Day 3

Lady Anne gave a large, intricate lock to many of the families nearby who lived in the great houses as a gift when she visited. According to the guides at both Hutton in the Forest and Appleby Castle, when she presented them with the lock and key, she always kept a spare key for herself!

We finished the tour in time to get back to our hotels to prepare for a private viewing of Phillipa’s textile collection followed by supper at her home, Pembroke House. It was wonderful and Phillipa was so generous to share her beautiful home with us all!

We fell into bed when we got home so we could get up early to visit Holker Hall and travel to Ravenglass where we would visit Muncaster Castle.


Lady Anne’s: Day 2

Sunday morning I was up and ready to go in plenty of time. In fact, I was so excited I woke up without the alarm and had time to have a cup of tea in bed while watching the BBC morning news. After I got dressed in one of my new sweaters, I went down for breakfast. We’d been divided into three groups the day before for our classes and our group was only 5 people; Page and Pat, from the USA, Sheelagh (I hope I’ve spelled that correctly!) from Dundee in Scotland, Moja, from The Netherlands and myself.

Our first class was with Jacqui Carey and it was in the Appleby Manor Country House Hotel where we were staying so we didn’t have to take the shuttle bus into town until after lunch.

IMG 3308 Lady Annes: Day 2

Jacqui had brought with her from Devon a beautiful display of photos and information abut her work. She had set them up in the room we used as our classroom, which was great ,since we had time to look and learn from them. The hotel had placed flowers and bottles of water on the table and everything looked just beautiful.

IMG 3188 Lady Annes: Day 2

Our lesson was learning to work Elizabethan Plaited Braid Stitch. Jacqui had prepared handouts with instructions and small pieces of canvas on which to work the different variations of the stitch. At the end of the class we each left with the instructions and samples of the stitches we’d learned. Her instructions were clear and she had the patience of a saint while helping us all to learn this somewhat complex stitch.

IMG 2983 Lady Annes: Day 2

We all had different moments of confusion followed by moments of clarity, with everyone finally understand and learning the stitch. Jacqui explained that we needed to learn the rhythm of the stitch in order to master the stitch. My stitching was a bit rubato and accelerando but I finally got it!

In addition to her display of photos, she had all her books and her very own, reproduction sweet bag from her book Elizabethan Sweet Bags. It is even more beautiful than the photos show. The detail in the work and fineness of the stitching is extraordinary.

DSCF5645 Lady Annes: Day 2

After our morning classes and lunch, each group moved onto their next class. I walked down into Appleby to the Tufton Arms Hotel where the other two classrooms were and met up with my group for our first class with Meredith Willett.

IMG 3326 JPG Lady Annes: Day 2

I’d never worked with Meredith before and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. She has the most charming accent – coming from Kentucky what would you expect! – and a great sense of humour. She drew very clear diagrams as she explained what we should do and was willing to repeat the instructions enough times that all of us were able to work the stitch relatively quickly. I would love to take a class from her again.

IMG 3193 Lady Annes: Day 2

During this class we learned detached buttonhole stitch and did both a sample piece and began to work on the design from Lady Anne’s dress. We were given two pieces of linen twill; one to work in silk and gold and one to work in wools (more about that in the next post).

DSCF5649 Lady Annes: Day 2

I found the afternoon stitching much easier than the morning, but I had done this stitch once before so that helped! The silk is so pretty and we’ll be using that for all the leaves on this piece along with gold thread. I can’t wait!

Then we went back to the hotel to get ready for our dinner at Hutton in the Forest. I called the airline and the news on my luggage was that it had been sent back to Berlin and would probably not arrive until Tuesday, the day we were to leave for Ravenglass. Grrrr. I had only my brown trousers to wear, but I put on a different sweater and my new scarf and hoped that my smile would distract from my attire!

IMG 3190 Lady Annes: Day 2

We arrived at dusk and had a tour of the castle. The castle is beautiful and seeing it at dusk was quite romantic.

IMG 3189 Lady Annes: Day 2

We had a delicious meal of Shepherds pie, veg and the very best apple crumble I have ever tasted! We rode home of the bus in the dark, all chattering away about our day and looking forward to a good night’s sleep.