New Trevelyon Project

As you know, I love the drawings/designs of Thomas Trevelyon. They take me back to the Elizabethan era where I feel right at home. If I could time travel (and choose to be wealthy and healthy!) I’d go back and live in the past for a week.

One way for me to stay connected with the past is through historically inspired embroidery. My next project is a large pin cushion using four small motifs of Thomas Trevelyon.

The idea for a pin cushion comes from this portrait of the Duchess of Southhampton, which shows a large pin cushion on her dressing table. (She had an interesting life! More about that another time…)

While researching this project, I came across a wonderful web site entitled “Extreme Costuming”. The author, L. Mellin, wrote a wonderful article about the use of pins in dressing an Elizabethan woman. Here is an excerpt from that article.

“I was not aware of how common these simple items were to the wardrobes of the Elizabethans.  Pins were made in many sizes, from the “great verthingale pynnes” used to hold heavy skirts, to the smallest pins used to hold veils and delicate fabrics.  Janet Arnold documents the pin purchases for Queen Elizabeth in a six-month period:

“Item to Roberts Careles our Pynner for xviij [18] thousand great verthingale Pynnes xx [20] thowsand great Velvet Pynnes and nyne thowsande smale hed Pynnes and xix [19] thowsand Small hed Pynnes all of our great warderobe” (Warrant dated 20 Oct, 1565)

While the number of pins for the Royal household seems extraordinary, considering the elaborate clothing effects required by the Queen and her attendants, one wonders that she didn’t need more.

Pins were used to hold skirt flounces, farthingale boning, ruffs, cuffs, partlets, veils, jewels, and generally everything that needed to stay in place.  They were carefully kept, and straightened and sharpened periodically.  Pins were not left in clothing (oxidation of the metal will stain the fabric, and if moved carelessly, the pins could also rip the fabric), but stored in pincushions.

The well-known portrait of the Countess of Southampton shows her at her dressing table, upon which sits a large pin cushion stuffed with round-headed pins.  The bag and pincushion sets in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London suggest that pins were also carried on the person to effect emergency alterations, and given as gifts.

The four small motifs I chose from Trevelyon’s Commonplace Book are below.

From these four images, with editing, I created a pattern. Now I’m choosing threads, fabric and stitches.

The corners of the pin cushion will have ribbon tassels just like this one from the V&A Museum in London.

Click here to go to the V&A website

I’m planning to use Au ver a Soie d’Alger threads on linen. At first I thought I’d use silk, but then it occurred to me that perhaps a pin cushion wouldn’t have been made of silk, but of linen. Then it occurred to me that it could have been made of silk – a left over piece of silk, for example. After doing more online research I decided to try stitching on both kinds of fabric to see which worked better. 

Here are the colors I’m considering. Pinks and blues for peas and blueberries and golds, browns and rusty reds for strawberries and acorns.

It’s so good to be back in my studio again!

City and Guilds Completed!

Last week I received in the mail my City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Design and Stitched Textiles. It was a long journey from the beginning in 2016. It was an amazing, enriching, challenging course that I throughly enjoyed! I learned so much about stitching and textile design. I learned to push the boundaries of my creative work and express myself through my work.

There are two pieces that I produced for my final project that I haven’t shared with you, my readers. These are not my usual embroideries of pretty flowers worked in silk and gold or Bayeux Tapestry scenes or Crewelwork pieces with many different stitches. These are pieces about my experience with breast cancer.

These are pieces from my heart, from my soul. If you choose not to look at them because you may find them upsetting, unsettling or difficult to see, I understand. However, if you want to see how deeply this course changed what I’m able to do with thread and fabric, then you may want to take a few minutes to look. If you had asked me even 16 months ago if I thought I would ever produce something like these pieces I would have said absolutely not. Never.

For the first time, stitching became more than a peaceful place to reflect or withdraw from the world for a while: it became a place where I could confront fear and uncertainty, where I could rage and recover.

I want to thank my tutors Tracy A. Franklin and Julia Triston, for guiding me through the process that helped me find another way to make textile art.

The felt book, below, contains pieces I embroidered by hand during the time I was diagnosed, making decisions about treatment and undergoing surgery and recovery. Each piece was embroidered in hand (not in a hoop) and the soft, felted wool and wool threads felt comforting in my hands.


The videos, below, are the front and the back of the second part of the project, an accordion book. During the entire time of diagnosis and treatment my daughters were texting (and calling and visiting) every day. Their love, support and ability to listen to their mother talk about things that were frightening was amazing. I printed some the the texts and fused them to the back of each page.


Here is part of what I wrote in my evaluation;

“When I step back and look at the two pieces I made for this project, I am proud of both. The hand embroidered pages that make the first book are reminders of a very difficult (but mercifully brief) time. The machine embroidered accordion book is far more powerful and I feel speaks to a larger audience. It isn’t as personal. It expressed uncertainty, fear, rage, sadness, healing and recovery.

I wouldn’t change the act of hand stitching as therapy. It is, and always has been, a place of quiet for me. However, the machine embroidery on a larger scale is a first for me and allowed me to approach my experience and put it into art. This process was painful. It was the most “honest” piece I’ve ever done and the most personal.

There isn’t anything I would go back and do over – except never get cancer.

Most of my work is inspired by history and I’m very comfortable there. This work was inspired (or propelled) by my experience and the process and outcome are very different from what I’ve always done. I liked it, even though it was difficult. And I am proud of, and like, the work I’ve done.”

Unbelievably busy!

It just can’t possibly be September yet! The summer has flown by and I’ve gotten some, but not a lot, of embroidery time.

We had family for just under a month staying with us from all over and loved every minute! I got some stitching done and finished a project I’m teaching to the lovely members of the Quinsippi EGA in Quincy, Illinois at the end of September.

This is a new crewelwork piece I designed just for them called “The Queen’s Pomegranate”. It was inspired by the emblem of Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s first wife.

The design changed some as I worked up the model. I was really unhappy with how the lower leaves looked when I stitched them as illustrated in the drawing, above. My initial idea was to have satin stitch on the bottom half and seeding on the top half but that was a non-starter right away. Not enough color or texture in relation to the rest of the piece.

The next rendition of the lower leaves was to use the same techniques I’d used in the crown – namely stem stitch and French knots. That REALLY didn’t look good – too busy!

I let the first stem stitch/French knot sit while I worked on the turned over leaf which I decided to work in long and short shading. When it was finished, I was very happy!

As it turned out, shading was the perfect answer. Everyone who’s seen the pomegranate comments first on the shading – ‘Ooohhh, I love those leaves!”. Obviously it works!

Along with embroidering the model, I’ve been working hard with my graphic designer on upgrading my kits. I am so excited to show you what the completed kits will look like! However, I’m going to let the members of the Quinsippi EGA Chapter see them first. The one thing I’m most proud of is that the kits will not contain disposable plastic.

If you belong to a group who would be interested in having me come to teach, just let me know via email at kathy “at” I’d love to hear from you!