Creative Embroidery


Embroidery, patchwork and quilting

A Journey through World Embroidery: Some Northern Perspectives

We will look at the historical and contemporary textiles of three regions in the northern hemisphere with strong embroidery traditions: Sweden, North America and Japan.  Topics in the first term will include Swedish counted and free embroidery using wool and linen threads, wool appliqué and inlaid appliqué, weaving including rya rug making, and patchwork and quilting techniques.  In the second term will we look at the textiles of North America including beadwork, surface embroidery with wool and silk threads, bed rugs and pile embroidery, needlepoint, quilting and appliqué, and rug-making.  The third term will focus on producing a project inspired by the boro and sashiko textiles of Japan.  Students will sample the techniques studied and then be encouraged to experiment with them in innovative and adventurous ways to produce their own individual textile pieces.  All levels of experience are welcome, from beginners to the more experienced.

Tutor:               Yana Krizka

Time:                Fridays 10.30am – 1pm

Dates:              Autumn term 2018: Sept 21 – Dec 14 (half term w/c Oct 22)
                          Spring term 2019: Jan 11 – April 5 (half term w/c Feb 18)
                          Summer term 2019: May 3 – May 24

Venue:              Gosling Room

Fees:                  £155 for a 12-week term

                            £51 for a 4-week summer term


Term One: Sweden

Embroidery worked on counted threads:  Looking at cross stitch, long-legged cross stitch, blackwork, geometrical satin stitch, drawn thread work and Halland work.  Sampling contemporary Halland work.  Experimenting with Swedish blackwork designs to create freeform stitch samples.

Free Embroidery: Studying the distinctive types of free embroidery produced in different regions of Sweden: Blekinge work, Delsbo work, Järvsö work, På embroidery, the Anundsjö stitch and Scanian woollen embroidery.  Working a traditional sample of Blekinge embroidery.  Creating a contemporary sample using free embroidery in wool inspired by the designs of Ingrid Eggimann-Jonsson.

Patchwork, Quilting and Appliquė:  Looking at patchwork quilts, intarsia quilting, wool appliquéd wedding cushions and the work of contemporary Swedish quilters. Creating a panel with wool appliqué embellished with embroidery stitches.

Weaving: Exploring the different weaving techniques used in Sweden, with a special focus on tapestry weaving and rya rug weaving.  Making a cardboard loom and creating an experimental woven sample using unusual yarns, different textures and found objects.

Swedish Textile Designers: Exploring the work of the Swedish textile artists Josef Frank, Lilli Zickerman, Märta Måås-Fjetterström, Karin Larsson, Gudrun Sjödén and Karin Holmberg to find inspiration for a stitch project to be worked in class.

Term Two: North America

 Counted and Free Embroidery:  Studying American crewel work, silk embroidery, canvas work and samplers.  Working a Deerfield embroidery sample.  Exploring Pennsylvania Dutch fraktur designs to inspire a sample worked in free embroidery.

 Patchwork, Quilting and Appliqué:  Looking at the different types of quilts made in North America: appliqué, album, friendship, sampler, Amish, African-American, Hawaiian, and block patchwork.  Sampling appliqué quilting.  Experimental piecing based on the work of the Gee’s Bend quilters.

 Rugs for Bed and Floor:  Embroidered and woven bed rugs.  Hooked and braided floor rugs.  Making a candle wicking embroidery sample.  Experimenting with rug making techniques using recycled fabric.

Native American Textiles:  Looking at beadwork, quillwork and basketry.  Sampling lazy and overlay beading stitches.  Making a contemporary beading sample.  Constructing a simple textile basket.

 North American Textile Artists: Exploring the work of the artists Louise Bourgeois, Judy Chicago, Harriet Powers, Mariska Karasz, Tom Lundberg and Salley Mavor to find inspiration for a project to be worked in class.

Term Three: Japan

 During this four-week term we will study the boro and sashiko textiles of Japan.  Both techniques will be sampled, and students will work on a project of their choice using new or recycled fabrics embellished with sashiko style hand stitching. 

Materials List:

Variety of needles to accommodate different thicknesses of thread.

Embroidery threads of different colours and weights.


Embroidery hoop: 6” is a good size for samples.

Variety of fabrics: calico is especially useful for samples.

A4 ring binder with plastic pockets for handouts and samples.

Paper for note taking and designing.

Pen, pencil, black felt tip, fabric marker of your preference.

Students will be advised on a weekly basis of any materials needed to work on a specific technique.

Suggested Reading List:

 None of the following is essential to the course:

A good overview of world embroidery is provided in Mary Gostelow’s Embroidery: Traditional designs, techniques and patterns from all over the world (1977), which can be obtained cheaply second hand.  Quilting, Patchwork and Appliqué: A World Guide by Caroline Crabtree and Christine Shaw (2007) is more recent and has some stunning images.

There are few books on Swedish textiles in English.  Swedish Embroidery by Eivor Fisher (1953) is good but difficult to find.  Stitched in Scandinavia by Karin Holmberg (2013) is less comprehensive but readily available.

The following provide a comprehensive history of American needlework: Labors of Love: America’s Textiles and Needlework, 1650-1930 by Judith Reiter Weissman and Wendy Lavitt (1987).

Needlework in America: History, Designs and Techniques by Virginia Churchill Bath (1979).

Celebrating the Stitch: Contemporary Embroidery of North America by Barbara Lee Smith (1991) looks at the work of some more recent textile artists.

Books on Japanese boro textiles are rare and expensive, but there is some information on them in Susan Briscoe’s Japanese Sashiko Inspirations (2008) which covers the technique of sashiko quilting well.

It would be helpful to bring a dictionary of embroidery stitches to the class if you have one.

Lists for further reading will also be provided for each textile technique studied.