5th Dec | Textiles and Embroidery – a talk & display by Mandy Bouttell


After a super Saturday night out in the Vine Lounge at our Capel Ladies fund-raiser, “An Evening with Gordon Blackwood”, we were back in the Library for our meeting on December 5th with Mandy Bouttell, who told us all about her fascination with textiles and embroidery, and showed us a fine collection of samples of her work.

Mandy has been interested and involved with sewing and embroidery since she was a child, when she played with an old treadle sewing machine found in the attic of her childhood home. At first she made dolls’ clothes from old dress-making scraps given to her by her aunt, and as a poorly child often ill in bed she spent hours using buttons and threads from an old button box to keep herself  amused.

As a “Saturday girl” working in Boots in Sheffield she spent her £1 wages on fabric to make shift dresses each week to wear to the local disco, and she was very involved with making costumes for school plays at Sixth Form, dying sheets to obtain a variety of colours. She specialised in needlework at Teacher Training College, making her own clothes and even her wedding dress. Then she made and embroidered pram and cot covers, and children’s clothes for her own family, including dungarees and dresses involving smocking and extra detail. When Bermuda shorts came in she even made Bermudas for all the lads in her neighbourhood!

She moved on to take her City and Guilds Embroidery course which she worked on 1 night a week and achieved after 7 years! She says it was the hardest work she has ever done, involving hours of research plus a huge variety of practical skills!

Mandy’s work is inspired by nature and architecture. She carries a camera everywhere she goes to photograph whatever catches her eye, whether it be a carving on the ancient wooden door of a church, seed heads on a plant or images outdoors on a frosty morning. The items she has made vary from wall-hangings, bags and framed pictures made from embroidered pieces, to book covers and a beautiful jacket embellished with appliquéd fabric shapes. After a recent residential course in France her latest acquired skill is making silk paper. Wherever possible she uses natural fabrics and threads, many of which she dyes to get the exact colours she wants.

She now belongs to a craft group of seven members who between them have a wide diversity of skills and interests, and at the moment they are all working on pieces for an exhibition next June in the Cathedral Gallery at Bury St Edmunds, which I’m sure will be well worth seeing – put it in your diaries now!

Another thing to put in your diaries is the date of our first meeting in 2014 – our AGM in the library on January 16th!

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