I've spent a lot of time making various things in my lifetime and as I've grown up and my interests have become more specialised, my need for harder to source materials has increased. In my own embroidery work I am specialsing in goldwork and tambour beading and both techniques require materials which are not readily available from a haberdashery. I have spent a lot of time trawling the internet to find items such as pre strung beads and sequins and goldwork threads so I thought I would share my recommended list of suppliers with you.
First I'll start with tambour supplies, it is necessary to buy pre strung beads and sequins unless you are prepared to string them yourself, which I personally do not have the patience for! All of the sites that I have found selling tambour supplies are French, so you have to be prepared to pay a little more postage. The absolute best place I have found is Paillettes et Broderie, they have every type of sequin you can imagine in every finish and colour and an equally great selection of beads. The only downside is it can become quite expensive especially with the sequins. Another supplier is Brodely, there's not as much choice here and the sequin and bead bundles are not quite as big but it's a good alternative. I have also recently discovered Fried Frères, they have a shop in Paris (which looks amazing) and you can request a catalogue to order from. I haven't bought anything from them yet but they sell pre strung beads and sequins as well as hot fix stones, buttons, more unusual embroidery supplies and general haberdashery items.
If you want to use beads that are not strung for tambour then you can buy a bead spinner, available from GJ Beads. This works best if you have a fairly large amount of beads, you use a needle and as it spins it threads the beads.
There are a lot of different websites selling goldwork supplies but I like London Embroidery School best. They sell all the different types of gold, silver and bronze threads and a couple of coloured threads as well as various other golwork supplies. They are sold in 5g or 10g packets and are reasonably priced, I don't think they are genuine gold and silver except from the gold spangles which contain a small percentage of gold. Also they dispatch orders really quickly, normally a couple of hours after it has been placed; so (depending on the speed of the post) you will normally receive your order the day after ordering it. Brodely sell a good range of coloured threads as well as the traditional colours. They also sell a lot of gold and silver beads and other goldwork materials.
When it comes to fabric I mainly use organza which usually comes from John Lewis, Beckford Silk or Whaleys Bradford. Pongees are silk specialists and have amazing fabrics, they are a little more expensive but the quality is great. At the moment you have to contact them for a price list and order over the phone. But I have just seen that they are updating their website so that you will soon be able to order online. Beckford Silk are also silk specialists and have a wide range of silk fabric in beautiful colours. However some colours are dyed to order so they have a minimum order usually of 10 metres. Whaleys sell a lot of undyed fabrics of various compositions so you can dye or print the fabrics yourself. If you want to tambour bead onto tulle it's best to get cotton tulle, this is very hard to find but I recently discovered some on Brodely.
So that concludes my list of embroidery supplies stockists, I hope you find this useful and if you have any recommendations of your own please do leave them in the comments.
Now for a little update on what I am doing at the moment as I am aware I haven't posted many new embroidery pieces in a long time. This is because I am still working on my entry to the Hand and Lock Prize so I am keeping it all secret at the moment, I'm so excited to show all the new pieces I've been working on. Now that I am no longer working under the time constraints of university projects I have really been able to concentrate on hand embroidery as I have always wanted to do. I've really advanced my goldwork skills during the course of this project and the subject matter is different from anything I have previously done.
I'll be starting on more work for Joe Richards again soon (the last post I wrote shows my work on his newest collection). I'm also collaborating with another of Joe's interns, who is a graphic design masters student. We are working on a small project together, which is very different from my own work but really exciting.
Since I graduated last summer I have been interning for Bath based designer Joe Richards. I have been working with Joe on hand embroidery for his Pre + Autumn/Winter collections. This has included embroidering many samples to develop the embroidery ideas for the collection and embroidering the final garments. This season Joe has also been doing a collaboration with John Smedley so all of the knit pieces in the collection are from the collaboration. The pieces that I have hand embroidered polo necks, jumpers, cardigans and a coat, as well as socks in three different colours. They are all embroidered with extra long glass and metallic bugle beads in a variety of colours and patterns. Below I have included photos of these garments and some images of the garments in the process of being embroidered.
The collection has already been shown in a press preview and will also be shown at London fashion week later this month.
Go to http://www.byjoerichards.com/ to see the full collection.
I embroidered this bee for a Christmas card but as a change to just showing the finished piece, I photographed each stage of the embroidery. Goldwork embroidery is quite a fascinating process especially if you are not familiar with the technique. There are a lot of hidden parts such as the padding which can take just as long as the visible embroidery especially in larger goldwork pieces. The goldwork threads used are interesting as well and quite different to threads used in other embroidery techniques, often they do not contain a very high percentage of gold or silver but they create a brilliant effect.
The first step is padding which is what allows you to achieve the raised effect often seen in goldwork. For this bee I used four layers of felt for the bottom segment and three layers for the top segment. The bottom layer of felt is the smallest and gradually gets larger to form the shape of the padded area. There is a piece of pearle purl being added here because I forgot to photograph this stage before starting the next.
The next step is adding outlines. These are created with pearle purl in silver and gold.
Once all the outlines are complete goldwork threads are added to cover the padding. These include rough purl, smooth purl and check purl. They are hollow so the length of thread required is measured and cut and then strung onto thread and stitched on.
Next the remaining areas are filled in with chipping which is created from small pieces of cut up check purl in silver and gold sewn on individually.
For the final stage the copper pearl purl is used for the legs and antennae...and the embroidery is complete!
I was interviewed by Vichy Ly from Sincerely last week about my work, traditional hand embroidery techniques and new technologies. Vichy is a fashion graduate from Berlin, her own work is very beautiful and includes a lot of hand embroidery. She is also a talented photographer and the Sincerely website is beautifully designed, I highly recommend that you take a look. If you are interested in reading the interview, click here.
On Monday I finished the whitework Hydrangea I have been working on recently. This piece was designed so that I could learn most of the vital techniques of whitework. Apart from drawn thread work which I didn't feel would work with this design all of the techniques are covered. These include pulled thread work, outline techniques and decorative stitches. The embroidery is worked on evenweave linen as the pulled thread work and many of the decorative stitches are counted stitches, which means you count the threads of the fabric to create a pattern. The Hydrangea was drawn from a photo I took whilst at Dutch Design week last year, one of the exhibitors had beautiful floral displays in her handmade glass vases.
I recently registered for the annual Hand and Lock prize, and as I am currently on a short break from interning with Joe Richards, I have been working on drawings and embroidery samples for this project.
I recently acquired a box of beads and sequins which included some unusual sequin shapes, these inspired me to create a series of embroidered insects. Many of the sequins were perfect shapes to become wings or beetle bodies. In addition to the sequins I used small pieces of goldwork threads for the legs. These embroideries may eventually become part of a larger project which I am currently working on.
Currently, I am interning for Joe Richards, I worked with Joe throughout my final university project, first on beading for his Autumn/Winter 2016 collection and then sample pieces such as the t-shirt below, which is printed with an original William Morris design, which I then embroidered with shell beads. Now I am working on embroidery for Joe's Spring/Summer 2017 collection, this involves working with Joe to develop embroidery samples and eventually embroider the final garments. It is great to be so involved with this current collection. Alongside this I am working on a few embroidery samples of my own, but more on those another time.