Archive | June 2015

Red Campion

Red Campion inspired Embroidery

Red Campion inspired Embroidery

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Last weekend my husband and I took our little dog Mini for a walk in Plessey Woods , this is a country park close to our home in Northumberland.

Red Campion Flowers at Plessey Woods, Northumberland

Red Campion Flowers at Plessey Woods, Northumberland

It was a beautiful afternoon and as we walked through the woods down to the river we found the riverbank filled with Red Campion flowers.

I love these with their brightly coloured flowers and delicate centres.  These photographs have been the inspiration for this embroidery.  I decided that I would create a layered background for this embroidery.  Many years ago I used to teach this workshop and I called it ‘Encrusted Surfaces’, this is a technique that I frequently use as it is simple yet produces a highly textured background.  Many people can find it a bit daunting when faced with starting a piece of textile art, I have been asked many questions regarding this concern for example, where do I start? or  how am I going to fill this fabric with stitches?  This technique allows you to create a background that is not too restrained by your inspiration material and will enable you to be influenced by the colours and patterns of your chosen subject.  I am going to show you how I have used these photographs as inspiration for a hand embroidery.

Stage one – Preparation of background materials:

Top left - Background materials. Top right - Cutting hand dyed vilene into leaves. Middle left - Cutting the paper flowers. Middle right - Scrunching the paper flowers. Bottom left - the textured paper flower unscrunched. Bottom right - background materials prepared.

Top left – Background materials.
Top right – Cutting hand dyed vilene (lightweight interfacing) into leaves.
Middle left – Cutting the paper flowers.
Middle right – Scrunching the paper flowers.
Bottom left – the textured paper flower unscrunched.
Bottom right – background materials prepared.

The first step is to investigate your stash of threads and fabrics and select shades and textures that will complement your inspiration pictures.  I have found a range of green fabrics in varying textures and shades, some hand dyed lightweight interfacing, pink/red paper flowers, hand dyed silk tops and some hand dyed threads in shades of green.

The first preparation stage was to cut up the hand dyed interfacing into leaf shapes – I simply cut out a pointed oval and then snipped the edges with my scissors.  The next stage was to prepare the flowers – I found these paper flowers in the card making section at a local craft store, these were the perfect colours but they were the wrong shape therefore I began by cutting into each petal so that they closely resembled the Red Campion flower shape.  The paper flowers were also quite uniform and rigid so I scrunched them up and rolled them between my fingers and then gently unfolded them to produce a textured flower that could be used on the background.

I do not throw anything away – all of the cuttings from the above were kept and I also added a few more snippets from the other green fabrics and mixed all of the green snippets together – I found some tiny storage containers, you can see one of these in the photograph above, these are ideal for keeping scraps, you must not mix your colours, you must keep the same colours in different shades together to produce a palette of different colours.

Stage two – Creating your background

Top left - remove bondaweb from backing paper. Top right - tear bondaweb into small pieces and sprinkle onto the backing fabric. Middle left - pull out some hand dyed silk tops and add a thin layer. Middle right - Add fabric snippets, thread and paper flowers and then cover with bonding powder.  Bottom left - cover the whole design with fine organza. Bottom right - cover with baking paper and press.

Top left – remove bondaweb from backing paper.
Top right – tear bondaweb into small pieces and sprinkle onto the backing fabric.
Middle left – pull out some hand dyed silk tops and add a thin layer.
Middle right – Add fabric snippets, thread and paper flowers and then cover with bonding powder.
Bottom left – cover the whole design with fine organza.
Bottom right – cover with baking paper and press.

The background is produced by layering, bonding and trapping fabric snippets and fibres.

First select a piece of fabric for the back, this must be large enough for your embroidery and strong enough to support all of the layers that are going to be applied.  Cotton calico is a good choice of fabric for a light background but for this project I wanted a darker background and therefore I have chosen a dark green cotton fabric.  The first layer is bondaweb – this is essential to bond all of the layers together.  I find that is you apply a sheet of bondaweb onto the background fabric the completed work is stiff and more difficult to embellish with embroidery.  I overcome this by peeling the bondaweb off the baking paper, tearing into small pieces and sprinkling onto the background fabric  – this produces a more pliable background.  An alternative to using bondaweb could be hemming web.

The next layer provides texture for the background foliage – add small slivers of silk top fibres.  To do this you must gently pull some fibres out of the silk tops and place on top of the bondaweb – this layer must not be too thick as it only needs to produce a wispy appearance and if it is too thick the layers do not sandwich together very well.

The fun starts here – You must now create your design.  Add the paper flowers, leaves, small lengths of thread and sprinkle with the snippets – I have added the red paper snippets in two areas to represent the buds and flowers in the distance.  The green snippets represent the background leaves and foliage.

Once you are happy with your design stop adding stuff!  There is a saying ‘less is more’  which refers to the notion of  simplicity and clarity leading to good design.  Less is more in this case refers to the fact that your layers will not bond together if they are too thick 🙂

The next layer is an adhesive layer – I find that bonding powder is the best product for this – just add a light sprinkling over the entire design and right to the corners of your backing fabric.  If you cannot find any bonding powder then you must remove some bondaweb from the backing paper and tear into small pieces, these are sprinkled over the design.  Make sure your bondaweb is in small pieces as it can often be seen in the final design.

The final layer will trap all of this work together and therefore must be a very fine organza.  I have used a green organza on this design – you must make sure that the organza you choose is translucent enough to show your design and the colour must not dominate your work or mask the design colours.  Layer the organza onto the top of your design, cover with baking parchment and press to ‘stick’ all of the layers together.  Please please remember to use the baking parchment or your iron will be a mess; also the iron must not be too hot or it will melt the organza.

Step three – Have fun!

using embroidery to add detail to the layered background

using embroidery to add detail to the layered background

I use many different types and thicknesses of embroidery threads in my work to add dimension and texture to my  finished pieces.  My threads are all hand painted to add variegated colours throughout.

In my Red Campion embroidery I have used the following threads: fine cotton, stranded cotton, fine silk, cotton perle no 8 and mercerised cotton.

I began by securing the large flowers with five long stitches from the centre to the side of each petal.  I added detail to the leaves with fly stitches and used stem stitch for the stems.

To create the texture of the flower centres I used a small piece of pale pink purl, this is a very tight spring coil of fine wire, which I pulled to expand the coil.  I then twisted this into a small ball and attached it to the flower centres using french knots sewn using a pale pink stranded cotton.

The next stage was to add some detail around the flowers using fly stitch, lazy daisy, straight stitch and french knots however I did not plan the next step that would add some further shading…..

The fatal cuppa

The fatal cuppa

Remorseful Adam with his cup of tea

Remorseful Adam with his cup of tea

I had been working on this embroidery when my son arrived for a visit.  I put my work onto the table next to us and made a cup of tea. Aunty came in to see us and as Adam stood up to give her a hug, with tea in hand, he spilled some of it onto my embroidery –  The fabric dried well however there is a bit of staining on my paper flowers.  This just goes to show that nothing in life is predictable and this shading has added some depth to my work – can you spot it?


Adding embroidery to the background.

Adding embroidery to the background.

Final touches

Close up of flower centre to show detail of uncoiled pink purl and pale pink french knots.

Close up of flower centre to show detail of uncoiled pink purl and pale pink french knots.

To finish this and add further dimension I prepared some more paper flowers in the same way as I had for the background.  These were added to the foreground using straight stitches, uncoiled purl and french knots.

This kind of embroidery is perfect for hoop art.

Here are some photographs of the final piece.  I hope you have a play with this technique.

Close up view of final Red Campion embroidery

Close up view of final Red Campion embroidery

Completed embroidery photographed among the Red Campion

Completed embroidery photographed among the Red Campion

Miniature Flower Bunting

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The other day I found this tiny fabric bunting kit that was so adorable I could not resist.

The jute bunting triangles  are only 2 x 1½ inches with tiny eyelets in the corners.

I love wild flowers, they are the inspiration for most of my textile work and therefore when my mam found these tiny flower buttons in a small needlework shop  I immediately knew that they would be perfect for my miniature bunting project.  I do most of my textile work in the conservatory and there is a small window from my sewing table into my kitchen – this bunting is to go across this window and therefore must be pretty from both sides as I will be able to see it from my sewing table and when I am making coffee in the kitchen.

In my pack there were 11 bunting triangles.  I began this project using 6 triangles, I  firstly sewed on the small flower buttons and then added green foliage using a fine cotton thread.

Once these were completed I decorated the other 5 triangles with pink ric rac and more buttons

As I needed these to be pretty on the back I found a piece of hand dyed silk dupion which was a perfect blend of pinks.  I attached some bondaweb onto the back of this silk, I peeled back the backing paper and then carefully arranged the decorated triangles onto the exposed bondaweb.  I then covered this with baking paper and pressed with a hot iron.  The baking paper is essential to prevent the exposed bondaweb from sticking to your iron. Bondaweb caked onto the bottom of your iron may cause you several problems including the inability to press mens shirts and therefore I do recommend a slight mishap to prevent you from having to do such menial tasks.

Once the triangles were attached onto the silk they were finished with a small running stitch around the edges before cutting out and leaving a small pink border of fabric.  The bunting was strung together with a length of hand dyed viscose ribbon.

I finished this bunting this morning and this afternoon I went for a walk to my favourite secret place.  This is a wood that is filled with wild flowers that I love to photograph, these photographs are often the inspiration for my textile work and therefore this afternoon Mini and I thought we would introduce you to our special walk by taking the bunting along to photograph with some flowers.







Bunting on the wall

Bunting on the wall


Bunting in the forget-me-nots

Bunting in the forget-me-nots


Close up of bunting by the river.

Close up of bunting by the river.


Bunting in clover

Bunting in clover





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Remember ……..

Poppies GardenI walked into my garden this morning and looked at these beautiful poppies.  Sadly they are a little bit past their best but I still admire them every day. These poppies were taken out of my Grandmothers garden when she moved out of her home to live in a care home several years ago.  My Grandparents had lived in that house all of their married lives and it was the only home that I had ever visited them in.

I can remember all of the fun times we had in that house.  It was filled with love and laughter.  I love these poppies and the memories they bring.

This afternoon I called into a local shopping centre, the Metrocentre in Gateshead. I do not particularly enjoy shopping and therefore visiting such places is a rare occurrence which is only compensated with a shoe purchase. However getting back to my visit … I came across a spectacular poppy art installation in the middle of the mall, this was a really pleasant surprise (it was actually installed last August which shows you how often I visit shopping centres).  This poppy installation is a commemorative piece of art that really struck a chord with me this afternoon and I would like to share these thoughts with you.Poppies Metrocentre

My grandfather fought in WW2 and he rarely spoke about his experiences until the last few years of his life.  He was a brave man and will always be my hero but most importantly he was a loving grandfather whose words of wisdom will remain with me forever.  Some of these do include, pull your shoulders back, stand tall and be proud – I can always here this when I begin to slouch or loose my confidence another one is bulls**t baffles brains – my sons love this one.

My grandmother was a creative person who always supported my decisions and I dearly miss her.  She was an inspiration to me with her kind words, patience and  she had the ability to make anything out of nothing – she could feed a family of four out of her and grandads dinner rations and still have enough for the two of them; she could entertain all of the grandchildren for hours with a comb and a piece of tissue paper and she could make the best dress up outfits from random things lying around the house.

Remembrance – these poppies have brought fond memories flooding back and got me to thinking about the creative textiles that I have produced using poppies as my inspiration. I would like to share four of these with you today.

Poppy 1 – My Stenciled Poppy:

Stenciled Poppy

Using a stencil is a brilliant way of adding colour quickly to a background fabric.  You can use commercial stencils and fabric paint if you wish however I have made this stencil out of firm card and cut the design using a craft knife.  I have used a textured unbleached cotton fabric for the background and stenciled by using a small sponge and applying acrylic paint.  These paints are thick enough to transfer the image without smudging under the stencil, it is not necessary to use fabric paint if you are not going to launder your textiles and as this is decorative the acrylic paints work brilliantly. I have further embellished the poppy by embroidering long straight stitches using a rayon thread, this adds some detail and shine onto the petals and leaves.  I have attached small black beads for the flower centre and stamens. I love the texture of the fabric in this poppy.

Poppy 2 – Appliquéd Poppy

This poppy has been appliquéd onto a cotton calico fabric which has been hand dyed to produce different shades of black and grey. The poppy petals and leaved have been appliquéd onto the black cotton, I have used red hand painted silk habotai for the petals and  green hand dyed cotton muslin for the leaves.  To appliqué the petals and leaves I used the following technique:  the desired shape is drawn or traced onto the paper of the bondaweb.  This is ironed onto the reverse of the fabric and the shape is cut out.  The fabric shape is then laid onto the backing fabric, glue side down, and ironed into place.  The fabric is stiffened slightly with the use of bondaweb.  When applying sheer fabrics it is important to protect the iron with a sheet of baking parchment. The outline and detail have been free machined onto the leaves and petals.  Black beads have been attached to the flower centre.  This is such a simple technique that can be used on many different projects.

Poppy 3 – Free Machine Embroidered Poppies

Free Machine Embroidered Poppies

This is actually a small piece of work that has been free machine embroidered onto silk and again I have attached a few small beads for the flower centres.  I would like to further develop this site to include step by step tutorials so watch this space!!!

Poppy 4 – Poppy Play Time

This is my favourite poppy because it is the most creative and was a lot more fun to create.

I started out by sponging some acrylic paints onto a piece of cotton calico – no particular pattern was used and I roughly sponged a darker green where the stem and leaves were going to be and sponged some red paint where the petals would be.   I then had a bit of a ‘play’ with different fabrics, these included organza, net and hand painted lightweight interfacing. I created the different leaf and petal shapes by using a soldering iron to melt away the edges of the fabric producing a texture around the edges.  These were sewn onto the background fabric using simple embroidery stitches. Again i have used black beads and french knots in the flower centre.

Any textile work should be fun and you should not be afraid of experimenting.  As a child you have no fear of doing something wrong and therefore play and explore to create art.  As an adult you should remember how to play with materials to create textile art – within art there are no mistakes.  There is a saying that I strongly believe and use it with my students:

‘Creativity is about allowing yourself to make mistakes, Art is about knowing which ones to keep.’


My Creative Journey

IMG_4762Hello 🙂  My name is Kate Slaughter, I have decided to create this webpage to share my knowledge and love of creative textiles with you.  Over the last few years I have moved in many different directions however textiles has always been my foundation.  I would like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about how I have got here  and why I am now writing a blog.

Kates Kloths was established many years ago in my kitchen, here is a little insight how this journey in the life of creative textiles began.

My love for textiles began at a very early age when I could occupy myself for hours with some scrap fabrics creating outfits and accessories for my dolls.   I developed my skills as a teenager and made the majority of my clothes through a process of trial and error.  I can specifically remember one of my favourite outfits was a bright pink jumpsuit, I would like to point out that this was the height of fashion in the eighties. I knew exactly what I wanted this jumpsuit to look like however I was unable to find the colour I wanted however I was determined not to give up. I found one of my mams white cotton sheets in the airing cupboard, this was the perfect fabric, I used this to make the jumpsuit.  The only dilemma I had then was the colour so I dyed the finished garment; dyeing was to become another one of my passions later in life.


I went on to study a degree with Textiles and whilst I was at polytechnic my now mother in law bought me a Kate Greenaway cross stitch book – everyone in my family received gifts embroidered with old fashioned girls and boys. After graduating I became a dressmaker for a few years – this has only intensified my hatred for altering garments, I would rather start from scratch.  After my children were born I went to a ‘sewing’ night class and this rekindled my enthusiasm so much so that I began teaching my own night class.  I loved teaching these adult recreational classes and I began experimenting with many different textiles.  Whilst at a craft fair I purchased a dye kit as I wanted to use a wide range of different yarns and fabrics within my work and I could not find the colours I had in mind therefore, as I had when I was a teenager. I decided that I was going to dye my own.

The Kates Kloths journey began one afternoon in my kitchen.  I have always loved wild flowers and therefore this was the starting point for my colours.


I am not the tidiest person in the world but creative minds are rarely tidy and therefore that afternoon I had dye and yarn everywhere as I played and experimented.  I wanted to create fabrics and threads that were shaded, I also wanted to work with a range of textures that would make my embroidery more interesting.  The results were fabulous and I used these in my classes and my students loved them.  With their enthusiasm over the product and my supportive family I began dyeing yarns and fabrics to sell.

In autumn 1999 I worked my first exhibition. I had a stand at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate.  This was terrifying as it was a costly way to determine if people liked my products enough to buy them.

My philosophy when I started this business was to enable people to use beautiful products at an affordable price – why do people feel that you have to spend a lot of money for something to be good?  That is just a question that I have asked myself over and over again – If I have over priced my products would people have thought they were better?   I did not want people to buy my threads and fabrics and to feel that they were too expensive to use and then they end up in the bottom of a sewing basket for many many years as they are too precious to use.  I wanted people to buy my threads and use them and enjoy them.  Sorry I went off on a tangent a little bit there, as Alison Moyet once said ‘when you have a creative mind it doesn’t stop going’.

Anyway back to Harrogate – It was fantastic, my products were successful and all of this from a kitchen sink! My family were getting a bit fed up though – apparently having to wait for your dinner because the sink is being used for rinsing thread or the benches are piled high with dye baths is not acceptable by most families.  I was starting to get fed up of having to disinfect every surface and clean up after each dyeing session and there were some dye products that I wanted to experiment with but these were not really suitable for the kitchen.  In the beginning of 2000 my family and I were visiting a childrens farm which had a number of craft units, one workshop unit was available for lease.  It was perfect, a small shop area and workshop facilities that would enable me to dye my threads and fabrics and also teach workshops.

Kates Kloths flourished from the farm and I attended exhibitions in England, Scotland and Ireland (here is a photograph of me and my mother taken at one of my first exhibitions). scan0001

My husbands aunt had taken early retirement and she happily accompanied me on these trips.  I delivered many talks and workshops from the farm unit and at different Embroiderers Guilds and Womens Institute meetings.

In 2002 I moved Kates Kloths to a shop unit in a town centre, this made my business more accessible by bus route
and the premises enabled me to expand the retail side of my business into other crafts and it had a room for classes scan0002and plenty of space for the dyeing. The creative element of Kates Kloths continued to flourish in new premises and I
wrote a couple of  projects for magazines, continued to attend exhibitions around the country and workshops were extremely popular.  The bigger the business became the more I realised that my passion lay with the creative embroidery and teaching,  I made the decision to change my direction in life and in 2006 I returned to university to complete my teacher training for secondary schools – in my madness I continued to run my business just in case things didn’t work out! I must take this opportunity to thank three women in my life who have supported me throughout this journey, my mam Dorothy, Aunty Jean and my mother in law Sandra – they are all creative women and will continue to inspire and support me.  Within my blog I would love to continue my creative textiles teaching and share with you ideas, projects and, with a bit of luck, some inspiration.

Encrusted Surface

In September 2007 I made a career change, I became a Textiles Technology teacher working in the largest secondary school in my area.  Eight years later I am now Head of Technology department and teach children aged 11-18. My favourite part of this job is when you teach a child a new technique or concept, they may take time to learn and fully understand the process however the second they achieve an end result they realise that they are capable of designing and creating new artefacts and are keen to learn more.  This feeling of pride is irreplaceable.  If children are not taught the creative process then they will never experience the ability to imagine, explore, experiment, reflect and create.  Within my blog I would like to share with you some of my pupils creative moments like this one here.


Well thank you if you are still reading.  I have played with textiles all of my life and I am still playing, experimenting and learning from my mistakes.  I would love you to join me on this exciting new journey I am about to take in the world of blogging.