• The Disruptive Designer

Dilemma & Compromise

9th October 2018 // Today I viewed a small exhibition of work by Jenny Robson a member of the Sheffield branch of Embroiderers' Guild. In homage to William Morris who himself was inspired by the craft of needlework, I want to find a Yorkshire embroider who is practising today. Given Edward Carpenters connection with Sheffield and Millthorpe, Jenny could not have been more perfect.

The exhibition itself is in Denby Dale (Huddersfield) on the top floor of wool /craft shop. The shop is split over 4 levels, with the ground floor selling wool, buttons and sewing equipment, the lower level floor rented out to craft persons to carry out workshops. The second floor was split into three rooms, one selling pattern fabric and wadding, another Indian shawls and crafts from the owners travels and the third room selling needle craft canvas', patterns and threads. The top (attic) floor is a small gallery for which artists and craft persons can hire out and sell or display pieces.

Jenny Robsons work is hand embroidered and display a vast aray of stitch techniques, layering and clever use fabric manipulation methods for backgrounds. The hand work adds to the value of the work and the desirability, there certainly is value in the imperfection of hand craft. The owner of the shop is an embroider herself and introduced me to the Huddersfield branch of embroiders guild, of which in has invited me attend.

My current train of thought is that the inner canvas of the suit jacket, is similar to the canvas used in needlecraft, and this could open personalised opportunities for enhancing the visual appearance of the jackets canvas. It could help to establish my businesses USP.

The problem is that I am competent with digital machine embroidery, but have no experience with hand embroidery. The socialist League of Carpenter and Morris believed in the use of craft skills and even the revival of died out crafts, it was a reaction to the mass production of the industrialised revolution. For my masters I do not have time nor the desire to learn handcraft needlework. I appreciate it, but it is not something I want to invest time in.

I do however have interest in machine embroidery, creating the graphics and "painting" with thread. Is this not a craft in its own right? It still requires skill and creativity throughout the design and production stages. I could look at working some hand work into the outcome, either through additional hand sewing, beading and sequencing?

I would be interested to attend an embroidery gild meeting to gauge the members views on machine embroidery V hand embroidery. Given the age (Google search) of Jenny Robson and the shop owner, I envisage (and I could be wrong) that the guild meeting will consist of approximately x50 (55yr+) ladies and therefore there could be a preference for hand embroidery. In the shop they did sell machine embroidery thread and accessories, so I am remaining optimistic that some may have gone down the digital route. It would be interesting to see the difference in outcomes and hear the views of the members. The question on my mind is: Is there a correlation between the value of a luxury garment that has digital embellishment compared to hand worked embellishment?


1 - Explore the potential of digital embroidery on tailored inner canvas's

2 - Explore a hybrid option (digital and hand stitching)

3 - Collaborate with a hand embroider and out source my design work (this could have business and cooperative potential)

A good starting point is by attending either the Huddersfield or Sheffield

guild meeting and use as research and networking. It would be good to try to arrange a meeting with Jenny and possibly be used as a case study?