Monday, 21 December 2009

Introducing....................Puffin Patchwork

I have been making wallhangings for about ten years, after originally being inspired by the work of Janet Bolton. I began with very simple lighthouses and birds then , after moving to Ireland and starting to sell my work locally, I specialised in depicting the distinctive buildings, particularly the brightly coloured pubs with their decorative signs and flowering window-boxes. I often took commissions, and was always happy when the owner of the building bought my version of it!

Foxy John's, Dingle, Co Kerry

Old Head Lighthouse, Kinsale, Co Cork

As my embroidery improved I turned to more natural subjects and landscapes, and the sea and coast became my dominant theme. I began a series of wallhangings of scenes on The Isles of Scilly, the group of islands off southwest England where I was born and grew up, and I sell these in a gallery there. A few years ago I realised my dream of giving up my day job – a soft-furnishings and clothes alteration business, to do my craftwork full time. Now I am a full-time mum, and stitching part-time again. Etsy is perfect for those of us in this situation as the overheads are minimal and we can work at our own pace.

I use patchwork fabrics, but my technique is really embroidery over appliqué, and the only patchwork involved is in the border. A border for a new design can take longer than the main picture, as I spend ages cutting different fabrics to get just the right balance of colours and patterns, attempting to complement the central picture rather than dominating it. It’s always good to look at the piece from a distance before finalising the border – otherwise you can finish and bind the piece and hang it on a wall, only to step back and see one patch that stands out too much, or two together which are too similar and blend into each other.

Designing new patterns is the hardest part for me; I know the effect I want, and I usually have a good idea of the fabrics and colours I will use, but actually creating a composition is something that rarely comes easily. Something I need to study! Choosing the colours is the part I enjoy most – like most quiltmakers I am addicted to fabric, and many of mine are old friends which I have used for years, together with regular additions of new ones which I have bought more from greed than necessity!

"Daffodills" Tresco Gallery, Isles of Scilly, Daffodils Exhibition, September 2009

Having drawn the design and made paper templates for all the pieces, I cut the various shapes from fabric scraps. These are laid onto a piece of lining fabric with the design drawn onto it.. Usually the raw edges are pressed under with the iron first, and they are stitched down with an invisible slip-stitch. After this I hand embroider the details such as flowers, seaspray, windows, and the eyes, beaks and feathers of birds. Next the embroidered piece is stitched onto the white backing, which is then quilted with white thread, the patchwork border is pieced together and sewn on, then the edges finished with a narrow fabric binding.

Commission for a seaside house in Norway, 2008

Future plans include adding some different styles of work to my shop, such as larger machine-embroidered art quilts, and personalised baby wallhangings. I’m also going to add a supplies section and list some of the fabrics of which I bought too much! Thanks for reading this and please contact me with any questions or comments at

**** Best Wishes to everyone for a very Happy Christmas and New Year ****


  1. Amazing work! I can't believe all the detail you get in your pieces. Outstanding!

  2. Wow Sylvia - now that I've seen them I want to touch them!!! the kites piece is my favourite of the bunch!! ;)* Merry Christmas and thanks for sharing! ♥ T

  3. Oh your pieces are stunning - beautifully detailed. Thank you for showing us!

  4. These are really lovely, your choice of colour and pattern is wonderful. It's so good to see beautiful patchwork again.

  5. Thankyou so much for the lovely comments!They are really appreciated. Merry Christmas to you all xx

  6. wow, they're all beautiful! i love the colors and embroidered details!

  7. they are really something, i love them . best of luck

  8. The Norway commission is incredible Sylvia!Looks like hours of work. Well done girl, you are a craftswoman of the highest order :)looking forward to seeing what comes next.