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


Phillipa Turnbull’s Private Collection

On Monday evening Phillipa generously invited all of us to her home for an evening of delicious food and wonderful textiles. During the evening, small groups got to see and learn about the textiles Phillipa has collected.  She is, as you know, an expert in crewelwork so it was not a surprise that we saw fabulous examples of historic crewelwork..

DSCF5596 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

The piece above has been used as the basis for the design of one of Phillipa’s pretty porcelain mugs. You may not be able to see the details clearly in the photo, but there is a lion and a large red flower stitched on the pillow cover. The mugs are available in her shop in Appleby and perhaps at shows where she exhibits around the UK. When you look at the pillow and then at the mug, I know it’s difficult to see the designs are similar but they are, I promise! That’s the genius of Phillipa – she can see and translate these beautiful old designs into a pattern and stitches for us to recreate.

DSCF5695 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

There are also plans in the works for the design to be used as the basis for a new crewelwork piece.  You can be sure my name is on the list for this kit!

DSCF5553 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

Above are two piece of work, the one on the left of the photo with the more traditional flower motifs we associate with crewelwork. The other one – stitched in two shades of red – is a reproduction Altar Frontal. The original is part of the Embroidery Guild UK collection. Phillipa was asked to replicate the original by Charles Gotto, a past President of the Guild. Three other embroiderers assisted with the stitching; Val Osborn,  Lesley Atkinson and Melanie Vincent.

The wool was specially spun and dyed for the replica using Cochineal red dyes. The background linen is the same linen Phillipa uses for all of her kits. The scenes are mostly German woodcuts but subtly altered to include King Charles 1st (who was beheaded in 1650) and his Queen.

DSCF5560 Phillipa Turnbulls Private Collection

The detail work on it is truly amazing. My favourite bits are the small seeding stitches used to shade the clothing of all the people depicted. It reminds me a bit – a tiny bit! – of pointillism. The faces of all the people in the scene are just wonderful, each one looking distinctively individual.

The combination of beautiful textiles, delicious food and drink made an evening I won’t ever forget!

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.