Aspiring freelance embroiderer. First Class Honours Degree in Textile/Surface Design, specialism hand embroidery. P.G.C.E. Work exhibited widely. City & Guilds Creative Studies Embroidery Part 1 & 11. Foundation Diploma Art & Design (Distinction). B. A. Hons Textile/Surface Design (First Class). Post Graduate Certificate in Education. If you have any queries about my work, any questions regarding commissions or just to comment generally on my blog, please contact me on, contemporaryembroidery @hotmail.com Karen.
What is the inspiration behind your work?
The answer to this is best summed up by this paragraph,
For centuries women have used cloth as a tool of comfort and as an expression of beauty within their homes. Creating cloth for warmth, cloth for shelter, our female predecessors embellished these linens with hand stitch using laborious and time consuming techniques thereby enhancing the functional beauty of objects which enveloped and protected their families. Inspired by these women I hope my creations pay tribute to and recognise the devotion expressed in cloth by our female ancestors .
''the use of traditional often time consuming process alludes to the devotion of a mother''.
c K. A. Ruane 2007
Do you always design in the form of drawing or similar before starting a piece?
These days I very rarely draw as a starting point to my embroidery. I work to instinct and how the piece feels to me as I embellish. Whilst I was studying however I carried out a huge amount of research that informs what I do to this day. I always feel that is where my ''instinct'' begins, with past research.
What camera do you use?
I have a very basic Olympus VG120. Once my pictures are taken and downloaded I edit them with Photoshop.
Can I link to your blog?
Yes, please do
Can I use your images?
My images can be used as long as they are credited to me. My images may not be used for financial or commercial gain. I like to hope that my copyright will be respected as I respect the copyright of others.
Do you keep a record of time spent on projects both for sale and those that are personal?
I do take note of time spent on work that I sell but not on work that is for myself.
I am still trying to work out how many hours I have spent on my ''toe wrap''!!!
Do you read all comments that you get?
In short...YES. I love getting commments, feedback and input from other like minded people. It makes it all worthwhile and brightens my day.
I also try to reply to EVERY comment and e-mail that I receive. This is not always possible however, especially for those who do not have an e-mail address enabled on their profile.
Where do you get your fabrics?
I buy staple fabrics such as silk and cotton from a local shop where I have been going for years. The service is excellent and I trust their quality completely. Vintage fabrics, trims and other pieces I source where I can, charity shops, online, markets etc.
Where do you buy your threads?
I purchase most of my threads online and occasionally buy more specialist threads at embroidery shows.
Q. I know that you do not wash your pieces during or after making them.
How do you handle a stain or spot that develops in the making or with use? That's really the only thing that bothers me about these beautiful creations--that I can't throw it in the washing machine. A wall hanging not so much a problem, but, for example, those toe wraps you're making...do they not get dirty with use?
Basically I don't get them dirty. I am quite OCD in the house, tidy, clean. Also I don't have small children or pets and my family never touch my work. I wash my hands obsessively, every hour or so. I would say that hands, even hands which appear to be clean, carry lots of ''dirt'' in the form of natural oils etc so regular hand washing is a must especially when working with white.
If I were to get a mark on anything then I would take a corner of a clean, damp cloth and dab until the mark was removed. My toe wrap is remarkably clean considering the use it gets. I think it's really just about being careful.
Q. Can you tell us where you began your research for the role of cloth in the life of women etc…
I was at University researching as a resource for inspiration into practical work. I began by looking at Contemporary Artists who use cloth as a means of recognising women throughout history and the role of cloth in the lives of females throughout time. This led onto research concerning normal women such as early settlers in the U.S., my own female ancestors during the First and Second World Wars, tribeswomen from far northern regions of Russia through to the Inuit Women of the Arctic Regions.
Q. I would like to know more about your university studies and what prompted you to pursue your Degree? What was involved? etc? I would also like to know did you do embroidery prior to your degree and what type did you do?
To answer this question I should really do the second part first. I was a stay at home mum. When my children were little I was more of a knitter, making clothes for them. One Christmas somebody bought me a cross stitch kit and I was hooked. I then went to college part time, sort of an evening class to learn ''creative embroidery''. That also involved a lot of painting, drawing etc. which I really didn't like and I almost gave up the course. I had an inspirational tutor however and she first mentioned a Degree Course as the way forward for me. Before I could go to University I had to complete a years full time study on something called a Foundation Degree which basically brings you up to standard on the dreaded drawing and painting. This is (or used to be) a requirement for a place on a creative Degree Course in England. By completing the foundation Degree I had a portfolio of art work with which to apply to study at University. As I was married with a family and my travel options were limited there was only one place to which I could apply. Thankfully I was accepted to study there...phew!! The course lasted three years and was Full Time. I attended every day and the workload was unbelievable. People think you ''just sew'', don't believe it. I wrote so many essays, undertook so much research, the sewing was an ''extra''. We had lectures and tasks regarding computers etc and final exams on those which had to be passed. I have to say though that I loved every minute and also did feel and still feel so very fortunate and privileged to have been able to spend those three years in that way.
Q. How many hours do you spend a day stitching?
I spend most evenings sewing between 7 and midnight. If I am ahead on computer stuff I may also get a couple of hours sewing done in an afternoon.
Q. How many hours does it take you to complete a wrapping cloth?
I'm not sure about hours but roughly six weeks....
Q. Do you have a stash of fabrics or do you get what you need for the
project you are working on?
In short...both. I have a large stash of vintage and a large stash of new cloth. I source vintage all the time and get given a lot of things too. I also buy cloth every year when I go to the Knitting and Stitching Show.
Q. What does your family think of your work?
Well my daughter loves owning it!!! She has most of my work. In terms of creating though my daughter is NOT INTERESTED, She is a high powered executive female, more interested in shoes!! My son is very interested in the process, he is creative, a musician. I think other people such as my parents and my husband admire what I do and appreciate the time it takes and it's importance to me.
Q. Other than white, do you have a favourite colour to work with-either in threads or cloth?
PINK!!!! I love pink yet most of my clothes are black. Figure that one out????
Q. What moved you to stitch on paper?
I first stitched on paper as a means of making my sketchbooks more interesting for my coursework. As is worked on this I realised the possibilities and went on to create a whole body of work created in this way which got me top marks in a Degree module.
Q. Do you find it difficult to sell something you have worked so hard on?
No, because If I make something that will go in the shop then that is it's purpose before I even start. I would never sell anything that I had consciously made for a loved one.
Q. How do people at shows react to your work? Do they find each piece to be different or similar?
I have yet to encounter a visitor to a show who doesn't appear to love my work. My work is cohesive and I think that shows in an exhibition setting. I do think people are a little afraid of my work if that makes sense? This is, I think, because it is white....
Q. Do you get bored working in the same format?
Q. How many pieces do you have in progress at one time?
Usually not more than two or three. Last year however I made fifty wedding favours....so it can occasionally change.
Q. Do you have a special room you work in? How do you organise your work table?
I don't have a special room to work in and don't have a work table as such. My ''stuff'' is spread through the whole house and I am very DISORGANISED. Although I am obsessively clean and tidy at home I can't seem to tidy in an organised manner and can never find what I need. I live in a tiny house with my husband and my son. We now only have two bedrooms as when my daughter left I decided I wanted a HUGE bedroom and had two of the three knocked into one...now I don't have a spare room to take over...until my son leaves that is!
I work on my dining table mostly...and we eat off that daily so I shuffle my stuff around some more
at meal times!
Q. How does your husband feel about all this sewing??
My husband is very placid, if I am happy then he is happy.
Q. Do you do other sewing like clothes sewing as well or just embroidery?
I have no dressmaking skills whatsoever. It is something I would love to learn but never seem to have the time. It is a completely different skill and even taking up a hem is a challenge for me.
Q. What is the best way to store your cloth when finished
I don't generally store my personal pieces. I have them laying over chairs or at the foot of my bed.
If I were to store them I would wrap them in acid free white tissue paper and take them out to ''air'' them every couple of months or so, give them a shake and refold them in a different direction. This ensures that folds don't become ''set'' along the same lines of the cloth.
Q. When you do your silk pieces, do you still use your cotton for the embroidery, or do you use silk?
Do you have a preference for which type of silk you use?
I very rarely use silk threads, cotton being my favourite regardless of the base fabric. Silk Dupion is my silk of choice but I occasionally buy tiny amounts of silk velvet and silk tissue for embellishments.