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!


4 thoughts on “Dionne Swift

  1. Dionne is an excellent speaker and her work is inspiring. Her remarks about coming to Yorkshire and the impact of the landscapes have had on her work struck a chord with me, too, as I also come from the flatness of the Midlands and I immediately loved and felt at home in the rugged beauty of Yorkshire-God’s country!


  2. Good evening ladies Could you give me some advice please. My daughter has lots of embroidery threads for her cross stitch. She needs some sort of organisation so she can choose and pick colours easily. These threads are of the ‘Hank’ type and not on reels. What would you recommend please?

    Regards Liz Fidler

    Sent from my iPad



    • Hi Liz, most of us using the small plastic thread storage boxes where you can add little cards of threads. You buy a winder which pegs the hole in the card and you unwind the hank carefully and rewind onto the little cards by winding the handle. They are then really easy to use. Ask at any sewing shop, they will be able to show you or point you where to buy. Of course there is Amazon as well!

      FEPITO 120 Pcs White Plastic Floss Bobbins Set Embroidery Thread Bobbins with Storage Box and 260 Pcs Blank Stickers https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FKB7X1N/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_1vurEbF6PTXFF


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