Work done for City and Guilds Level 3 Certificate in Embroidery with Distant Stitch.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Certificate Module 4 Chapter 11 Finally

4.11.C1  Finished book

Here is the finished book.  I took as my theme the now-vanished herring industry of the North East of Scotland, an industry that played a large part in my husband's family history.  He is the last in a long line of fishermen and herring curers and has a wealth of old photos of the industry.  Since herring was caught all round the coast of the UK at different times of year, fishermen, coopers, gutters and packers travelled all around the country following "the silver darlings".

I tried to find one symbol which, for me, encapsulated the romance and fascination of that vanished world and at length found it in the circle - the shape of the tops of the barrels in which the fish were packed, the shape of the scales on the herring and the portholes in the boats.

I worked nine samples of drawn thread work on hessian, using the natural colour of the fabric, white for the spray on the waves and the salt used in the curing, grey and blue for the skies and seas and silver for the flash of sparkle from the fish.  I chose my favourite nine photographs, all taken from my husband's grandfather's herring curing yard in Great Yarmouth around the turn of the 19th/20th century.  I cropped and resized them using Photoshop before printing them out on acetate.  I experimented with which sample to place on which background and it was quite fun deciding which tantalising glimpses of the photos were visible through the stitching.

Finally I attached each stitch sample to its acetate backing, using a hot glue gun to attach them invisibly.  I punched holes in the edges of each page and used insertion stitches using silver thread to join them together to make a concertina book.

Here following are the individual pages of the book.

4.11.C2  page 1 of the book

 I like how in page 1 the pulled thread work focuses in on the hard-working hands of the herring gutters.  They had to wrap their fingers in strips of cloth to protect their skin from the wet and salty conditions and to give them a firmer grip on the slippery fish.  A line of "The Herring Gutters Song" is "Yer han's are sair and chappit and they look an unco sicht"  (Your hands are sore and chapped and they look an ugly sight).

4.11.C3  page 2 of the book

 In page 2 I have three circles.  On the top threads are withdrawn leaving horizontal bars over which herringbone stitch is worked.  The centre circle is worked in Hedebo style with lines of concentric chain stitch worked before the entire circle is cut out, revealing the arms of two herring girls.  In the bottom circle, I cut a circle from an extra photo and attached it using Indian shisha stitch.  It shows the head and shoulders of a herring girl.

4.11.C4  page 3 of the book

 In page three, I used a Dorset button technique, wrapping a charity shop bangle in silver buttonhole stitch before throwing stitches across the circle to make a grid.  I then wove some ribbon through the grid.

4.11.C5   page 4 of the book

In page 4, I used pulled thread work to pull the threads back to make a circular space.  To keep the space from closing up, I painted on a thin coat of acrylic matt medium before leaving it overnight with a small bottle inside the hole.   The next day, keeping with the Dorset button them, I stitched across the diameter of the hole using mohair yarn and then worked spider's web filling.  The misty effect of the yarn represents to me the misty weather and the sea spray.

4.11.C6   page 5 of the book

In page 5, I couched a group of stiffish dark blue linen thread in a circle.  I then withdrew threads horizontally and vertically to make a grid.  I worked Russian Drawn Thread ground in a matching thread and then wove strips of shot sheer polyester and glittery blue thread through the resulting grid.

4.11.C7   page 6 of the book
In page 6, I outlined the circle in dark blue, removed four thread and left four vertically and horizontally and then worked  spider's web stitch in a glittery blue thread.

4.11.C8   page 7 of the book
In page 7, I worked concentric circles of chain stitch with various threads, then withdrew two threads and left two both horizontally and vertically before working a diagonal filling stitch in a thread which closely matched the colour of the fabric.

4.11.C9  page 8 of the book
In page 8 I formed a pulled thread circle in the same manner as in page 1.  I then outlined it in buttonhole stitch using a silver thread and worked a technique I found in a lucky charity shop book: "The New Lace Embroidery (Punto Tagliato)" by L.A.Tebbs, published by Chapman and Hall, Ltd, of London in 1905.  I found it particularly satisfactory that the book was published only a few years before these photographs were taken.

4.11.C10  page 9 of the book
In page 9 I tried something different.  I cut a circle from a spare printed acetate and cut out a grid from it.I threaded pieces of fabric (a strip of hessian, strips of recycled sari fabric and a narrow piece of worked drawn thread work) through the grid.  I then attached that circle onto a page of printed acetate.

To join the pages together, I punched holes in the edges of the printed acetate and then worked a simple insertion stitch to join them.  I was intrigued to find that the resulting stitches looked somewhat like fish bones!

The transparency of the acetate with the openness of the drawn thread work made some interesting layering effects when the book was folded in certain ways.  Here are some examples below.



Finally, here are some different views of the book.




This chapter has filled me with mixed emotions, with several  false starts, stress, frustration and many sleepless nights.  However, I am pleased with the results, which expresses in my own way what I want to say about a now-vanished industry.  There are only a few people left now who remember the days of the herring boom, when processing ships were known as "klondikers" because of the fortunes to be made.  The fact that only tantalising glimpses of the photos can be seen represents to me the fact that only a little information is now available about what was a whole way of life for so many people in my part of the world.  Soon those memories too will fade and be forgotten.

My heart and soul is in this humble piece of work.

Catherine Slater
14th June 2017.


  1. My congratulations Catherine for this beautiful aerial work. It really is worth the sleepless nights

  2. You must be over the moon with your final book. I have really enjoyed it's development and I am so pleased Siân had put it on Distant Stitch as the header - well done.

    1. Thanks Ros. Sian rightly gave me a nudge in the right direction when I was trying to just get this chapter out of the way as quickly and easily as possible. She encouraged me to do the best I could and I'm pleased with the result.

  3. So pleased to see your lovely book. Working towards a finished piece can become very intense and poignant leaving it behind. It's anything but humble.

  4. Thank you Lesley. I've been enjoying looking at how your work is progressing. I think you have so many exciting ideas.