Dionne Swift

We welcomed Dionne as our guest speaker last night. Dionne is a textile artist exploring drawing and mark making through her observations of the world. She uses energetic free machine embroidery to realise many of her creative intentions – she enjoys painting and drawing with thread and stitch.

Sketchbook pages

Dionne started by telling us about her family history in textiles. Her grandma smocked dresses and her practical approach to dressmaking meant that a dress that fitted Dionne at aged 4 could be fitted at aged 16 with the letting down of a pleated seam and some extra material around the waist. Unfortunately her grandma was less interested in aesthetics so the colours of these additions often played no part in how something looked!

At aged 11, she was allowed to use a treadle machine, which she believes was the start of her interest in sewing and the nature of stitch. This was eventually donated abroad to support women in areas without electricity.

Dionne graduated from Goldsmiths college. Her final piece was a large paper-based panel inspired by buildings. Her tutor’s instructions were nothing more than ‘find a desk and get on with it’. Whilst somewhat bewildering at the time, Dionne believes this has formed the core of her creative approach ever since.

Following this, she completed an MA and moved to West Yorkshire where she found herself captured (sometimes literally) by the weather! The change in geography and weather patterns was a stark contrast to the midlands. Dionne says that even when working in other countries, her interest in the landscape lessens when the geography is flat, as the hills and geological nature of the land is so central to providing the life, movement and energy of stitch across a design. I think our Yorkshire landscape isn’t very far away from much of the group’s own work and inspiration. Living here, you can see a hill or view from even the most built-up places which is a constant delight.

Work based on Holme Moss

Dionne, then told us of her work with Devore and the scarves and later wall-hangings which formed the core of her international business at the time, winning several awards.

An Arts Council grant allowed her to reassess her work as an artist versus business-woman. ‘New Grounds’ explored small defects and faults around her which she describes as ‘lost areas’. These observations were taken into collography, and the cracks became a visual metaphor for a situation she found herself in.

Dionne described wonderfully the difference between working with larger, harder, almost ‘cutting’ organdie and smaller softer, protecting felt pieces.

A move to her own studio space found her back with that one instruction ’find a desk and get on with it’. Faced with a literally empty studio, she sat down and drew. Hills… moors…stone walls…

Dry stone wall sketch
Stitched wall

Dionne became supported by Janome and uses a fast machine to produce her pieces containing different types and blocks of stitch, and her irregular built surfaces. The uneven edges of her recent work are formed by changes in tension and the push and pull of machining.

Dionne works and teaches in Italy as well as here, and in the Janome centre in Stockport. Whilst in Italy, she has been making 50 pieces of work to celebrate turning 50, and in Morocco she has found a new, vibrant colour palette; her pieces once again returning to buildings.

Finally, we were treated to a few close-ups of her newest work exploring light on thread, but that’s our little secret!


Sad news

It is with great sadness that we would like to let you that Catherine Davies passed away last Sunday morning. She had been battling illness for some time and had been admitted to hospice on New Years Eve. Her funeral is on 21st January at 3.15pm at the Huddersfield Crematorium. then afterwards at the Roundhill Inn in Rastrick.

Catherine a talented stitcher and a brave and lovely lady.

And it is also with a very sad heart that we report to you of the passing of our much loved friend and former Chairperson Linda Saltmarshe. Linda was an inspiration to us all. Despite suffering for years with a thoroughly debilitating illness. She was a gifted artist and embroiderer who produced inspirational work. Whilst she was Chairperson at Halifax branch she led us on our textile journeys by encouraging us to take part in “in house” and branch challenges. A lovely kind lady who will be missed by us all in Halifax and throughout the textile world”.

New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year to everyone! And just wondering if you made a promise to yourself this year?…

Last night, we stitched some resolutions and mottos to mark the beginning of the year.

Perhaps the act of stitching will cement intentions -they are hard to keep, aren’t they? Let’s hope no unpicking happens! 😀. Some examples were given to the group and folk chose background fabrics to draw a phrase on before stitching in different styles. Some of the works in progress…

Maybe you have a new intention for 2020 that needs to be stitched? See you next month!

Emily Notman

A few weeks ago, we welcomed Emily to Halifax for a workshop.

All equipment including dyes/inks/bleaches/materials were provided by Emily. We started off with dyeing strips of material and making marks using inks/bleaches/paints.

Everyone enjoyed making marks – I think it took us back to our schooldays! We had to ensure these were dry before we could work on them so we worked on a small practice piece suggested by Emily’s loopy stitches, french knots and layered style.

In the afternoon the now dried pieces were given a backing, stitched together to make a wall hanging and then hand embellished using a variety of methods including hand stitching theads, beads, sequins. Emily was a very giving tutor and took time with all of us to make very helpful suggestions throughout the day.


Anyone with small children in their life won’t have missed the new film of the season, Watching someone who is two dance around the living room to the songs brings the magic in itself.

Well last night a bit of Christmas magic was cast as Halifax became frozen for a short while.

Pages from a book by K Libbrecht.

Jane and Abigail produced small snowflake kits for us all to create decorations. These were all made on grey felt and most stitched in white using various snowflake patterns which were traced onto ‘Stitch and Tear’ paper.

Beautiful samples from Jane

Some of the work in progress from the evening:

And what would a Christmas meeting be without a few festive adornments? So in no particular order….

Award for biggest ear rings
Award for sparkliest bracelet, and for being able to sew in it
Award for classiest animal jumper
Award for most smiley Christmas duo

We have a raffle every meeting, but at the Christmas meeting we have a free ticket each and THIS is what we were all hoping for. I can’t tell you who won in case she gets mugged! 😁

Last but not least, the Christmas gift swap was a small notebook which was to be covered. Just look at all these beauties! I had to beat the members back to get photos as they were all so excited and couldn’t stop picking them all up to look at.

So with that, may we wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year and see you in 2020 Xx

Photo, Rachael

Helaina Sharpley

This week we welcomed Helaina to talk to us.

Helaina is a local girl (based in Mirfield) and has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally with a studio based at the West Yorkshire Print Workshop in Mirfield.  She started her journey studying for a BA in Design Crafts at Hereford College of Art & Design.  Her illustrations turned into wireworks after a college lecturer placed some wire into her hands because he wanted Helaina to make something in 3D and she just kept drawing!

Helaina has a particular interest in all things tea-time and Edwardian. You will find beautiful teacups and saucers with intricate detail, ‘twiddly’ lampposts and detailed architecture amongst her pieces.

Helena started drawing with sepia ink, reminiscent of the history she is interested in. As a consequence, she chose iron wire to work with. Iron is basically black, but comes with patches of patina and colour which she finds more in tune with the sepia ink her drawings are made with.

Helaina is a girl who loves to wear colour, but her pieces a devoid of colour. She discussed the distraction colour brings to form, and that in removing colour from an artwork, your eye can delight in the form, shape and design. Her pieces are mounted onto wood blocks, with holes drilled for the risers. In strong light, the pieces create shadows which can be exploited. Helaina’s dad makes her blocks, and her mum sands them down for her.

Helaina talked to us of her smaller pieces, such as those with bicycles, stamps and flowers, and the larger commissions up to a metre across. The larger pieces are often architectural commissions for galleries and homes.

Faces have proved a challenge to translate into wire line but Helena has found a balance in her smaller pieces of folk on bicycles where a simple outline works very well.

Helaina would be grateful for any photos of particularly twiddly lampposts from your travels.

Helaina is three times winner of ‘The Wow Factor’ at the British Craft Trade Fair.  Hockney owns two pieces of Helaina’s collection.  

You can check out her fabulous work at her website: www.helainasharpley-wirework-artist.co.uk.  Or on Instagram at #helainasharpley

On Sunday, we enjoyed a workshop together. Here are some of the images from the day:

Work was mounted using wire into foam-board,

And a couple of us realised how delicious shadows could be when we got home!

Thank you, Helaina, for a great day!

Challenging times

Last night’s meeting was our AGM and the start of a new guild year. Aside from the usual business, it’s also the long anticipated announcement of the challenges for the year which sees us scuttling home to have a delicious think about what to make.

It’s also the time to show this year’s challenges from the Chair and to vote for favourites. For 2019 we had a small silicone cupcake case to turn into a pincushion and for the on-going monthly challenge, it was to make ‘twinchies’ (2 inch squared tiny textiles).


There was a tempting selection on offer:

And the winner was a cupcake beehive with paper bead bee pins from Rachael.

Why not have a go, these would make attractive gifts and as many of us found, it is easy to stitch into the silicone case to secure your work or to embellish further?

Here are a few of the twinchies produced over the months:

And the winner was Janice with her book containing twinchies, well done!

Sue Lawrence also brought in her twinchies to show the group, completed on cruise but previous to our challenge:

Margaret, Janet B and Sharon we’re stitching into their sashiko projects, with a couple of small cases already completed…

Janet Hook’s embroidery of her own home is looking wonderful. Expand the photo to see details of the fine stitching.

So for this year, challenge one is to take a Gutterman’s cotton reel which is to be a needlecase as you can undo them and find a secret needle store inside, and to embroider a length of material to wrap around the reel and unscroll. Alternatively you can embroidery straight onto it.

Challenge two is to stitch different canvas-work stitches onto something canvas-like but not canvas. For example, a fruit net, wire mesh or plastic material. This month’s stitch is cushion stitch.

So to finish, overheard tonight:

‘I’ve just spent a whole week tidying up my workroom because I couldn’t find something I needed. Now I can’t find anything at all!’

Familiar? 😀

Meet our member, Sue

Hi my name is Sue Bellamy and I am currently chairman of Halifax Embroiderers Guild. I am now 62 and I started stitching, knitting and crocheting when I was 5 at school and I have loved them ever since. My paternal grandad Edward (Ted) Greenwood was chief designer at Salts Mill in the late 30s/early 40s, and my dad, Ken, had a lifetime working in textiles so my life has been held together by thread and colour.

I first joined the guild at 21 – the Yorkshire branch, and I was a regular at the Leeds meetings winning the Challenge Cup in 1985 with an embroidered picture frame.

My Challenge Cup winning entry 1985 “A Picture Frame” canvas work and wrapping subject husband Andrew and dog Sally.

At the time I lived in Keighley and went to Yorkshire’s “working groups”“in Skipton and Bradford moving from the former to the Halifax group after I married and moved to Calderdale. I can vividly recall my first meeting at Calderdale group it was December and my dear friend Jill and I both turned up on the first Friday evening of the month at the then Halifax Parish Church (now Minster) church rooms basement. A superb supper greeted us – they were having the annual “fuddle” (sound familiar?!). We were mortified as we had only brought our stitching! They were delighted when we rocked up to the January meeting with home made biscuits. Not long after this we moved to Maurice Jagger Centre and 20+years ago devolved into a separate branch and have never looked back.

A stumpwork box top from a Raggidy Annie course 2018

I am now in the hot seat after so many years of great work from the glorious Wyn Ingham and I am proud to follow her and to now head up a group that has meant so much in my life and given me so many friends over the years. I am no great stitcher these days finding knitting better suited to my deteriorating eyesight and arthriticky fingers and but I look forward to,and love the first Friday of the month and still stitch when the spirit moves me. I am never disappointed by the fabulous work produced by our members and the way they always rise to a challenge.

At a Raggidy Annie course in 2018 making an indian fabric book cover.

Naseem Darbey’s Hollow Drawing Workshop

A few of us were a bit terrified of the ‘drawing’ aspect of Naseem’s workshop, but Naseem made it fun and we did some interesting exercises.

There was a collection of objects to select from, feathers, butterflies, skulls. We started by looking carefully at our chosen object and not at the paper; we’d all chosen a pencil at the start but Naseem encouraged us to go bold with a brighter thicker drawing implement.

We were all quite amused by our drawings. The next exercise was to draw our object with continuous line in preparation for machine stitching later.

Naseem had an interesting idea for a background which was quick and fun to make and we machine-stitched our drawing several times onto the background . We also made a free standing version of our object using a vanishing film which stabilised the piece whilst we stitched it, then it was washed away.

We were sworn to secrecy as Naseem showed some ideas for how she would be developing her own work in the future.

Naseem’s work can be seen at www.naseemdarbey.com

Here are a few comments by the other workshop attendees:

Halifax Embroiderers Guild is my happy place. A workshop makes me super happy. One as good as Naseem’s, full of good teaching, new skills and fun is just magic, thank you.

Naseem started off the day with drawing (which usually throws me into a panic as drawing of any kind is definitely not my forte!). She had brought various mediums for us to try out and the exercises were designed to loosen us all up, stress the importance of looking all the time and get us into the spirit of continuous line drawing which is really what machine embroidery is. And then it was on to the real thing – creating base fabrics with organza, snippets of fabric, threads, ready for machine embroidery using our drawing as a guide – what a great day.

Naseem was brilliant at bringing out the artist in even the most reluctant of “non drawers”. It was great to see the pride as people created both a range of stylised drawings and new textiles techniques and processes. She really was right when she said you would go home with a portfolio of work. A really productive day, exploring samples we can develop and play around with after the day.