An Interview with Heather Lewis, Author of Embroidered Boxes

An Interview with Heather Lewis, Author of Embroidered Boxes

My good friend and colleague Heather Lewis has just had her first book published on embroidered boxes.

Heather Lewis, author of the book Embroidered boxes

The book takes you through a wide variety of embroidery techniques you can use to embellish your box, along with detailed and clear instructions on a variety of different box construction techniques.

1. When did you start your career in hand embroidery?

I have always enjoyed stitching. When I was a young girl I used to visit my grandmother regularly and we often used to spend time together stitching. As I grew older it was something I knew I wanted to do more of, so after some research I found out about the Royal School of Needlework. I applied for a place on the Royal School of Needlework apprenticeship scheme and started my three years of training in 1999.

2. What made you choose embroidery as a career?

I just love the wide variety of techniques and the different effects that can be achieved with just a needle, a thread and some fabric. I enjoy creating new designs and sharing my knowledge with people from all over the world.

3. What is your favourite embroidery you have ever created?

I particularly enjoy goldwork. I love the different threads and different ways in applying them to your fabric, which can be combined well with other techniques. One of my favourite embroideries is a piece I created about 10 years ago for a class I taught in Durham. It started with an idea of creating a little golden tree, but instead of working straight onto a fabric background, I decided to stitch the background using a single strand of stranded cotton using a long and short stitch in a technique known as ‘tapestry shading’.  The embroidery is completed with the addition of a golden arch worked around the shaded background.

Goldwork tree with tapestry shaded background and couched goldwork border.

4. You’ve just written a book on embroidered box making (buy it here), what was your favourite part of the process in writing the book and what didn’t you enjoy so much?

I find the design process a little challenging, sometimes I have so many ideas that I just can’t decide which one to choose! Generally, I enjoyed the whole process from planning out the book, to stitching the boxes and working with the team at Search Press. 

5. What is your favourite project in the book and why?

My favourite project definitely has to be the Stumpwork Casket. I took my inspiration from several seventeenth century embroidered caskets. I loved the challenge of designing and stitching it with its many compartments, lids, drawers and a secret drawer. The casket also includes a working lock. The casket is featured in the book as one of the extended projects. I had always wanted to make one but somehow never found the time. Writing the book gave me the perfect excuse. 

Stumpwork casket in cream silk, embroidered with leaves, berries and goldwork tendrils.

6. What can readers expect from the book?

This book is aimed at those new to box making along with those with some experience. There is a simple box project I suggest readers start with and progress from there. The book includes lots of ideas for different boxes and different lids and includes inspiration for your own embroidered box.

7. Embroidered box making has become your speciality, why do you love it so much?

I have always loved boxes of any shape and size. I love how handmade boxes can showcase any piece of embroidery and can be used to store various items. I enjoy the precision and accuracy required to make a hand made box.

Pink dragonfly treasure chest embroidered with crystals

8. Box making obviously requires a lot of accuracy and skill, what are your top three tips to help people create the perfect box?

a) Accuracy is key to the success of any hand made box so take care to cut the cardboard to the exact measurements: measure twice and cut once!

b) Press all the fabrics first to remove any creases.

c) While stitching the box pieces together, take care to use a matching thread and keep the stitches small and tight so that they do not show.

9. Have you got any upcoming classes in box making?

I will be teaching an introduction to box making class at The Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace on 6 and 7 June 2020. I also hope to run a follow on class to box making in the future.

Small square box - basic box construction.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about and getting to know Heather, if you want to see what else she gets up to you can find her on facebook and instagram: @heatherlewisembroidery



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