Author: Sara Rickards

Dior – Designer Of Dreams

Dior – Designer Of Dreams

  It all began on a cold winter’s morning. As my alarm went off at 6.30, I rubbed my bleary eyes and realised the day was finally here. The day I get to go to the Dior exhibition at the V&A museum. I jumped out […]

A Brief History of Pulled Thread Work + Stitch Tutorial

A Brief History of Pulled Thread Work + Stitch Tutorial

Hello, So today I wanted to look at a brief history of Pulled Thread work and also include a free stitch tutorial that has been taken from my Whitework Brooch kit (as seen below) so you can have a go yourself. Early examples of Pulled Thread […]

A brief History of Drawn Thread Work

A brief History of Drawn Thread Work

Hello and welcome to another post, today we are looking at the history of Drawn Thread work, a whitework technique. By definition, Drawn thread is where the weave and or weft threads have been withdrawn from the linen fabric. Patterns and designs are then woven into the threads that have been left to create rich and intricate borders.

Drawn thread work borders are extremely varied and the earliest come from countries bordering the Mediterranean, later spreading to the rest of Europe. The earliest examples of needleweaving can be seen in fragments of linen from the Egyptian period. Arabic borders on fine linen also include needleweaving but these were worked in silk, as well as elaborate borders of Spanish and Italian embroidery of the sixteenth century.

Delicate and fine Drawn thread work decorated the elaborate ruffs shown in the Elizabethan portraits that were reserved for the wealthy.

unknown artist; Queen Elizabeth I; National Portrait Gallery, London;
unknown artist; Queen Elizabeth I; National Portrait Gallery, London;


Linen Vestments from the Elizabethan period also displayed Drawn thread work. The samplers of the same period record variations of stitches, patterns and designs. These samplers would be made up of a collection of the workers’ personal favourite patterns which had been passed from one embroidery to another. There were few pattern books or prints and a sampler was the best method for learning the intricacies of the stitches and counted patterns.

Sampler with drawn thread work embroidery, unknown, 1800, Germany. Museum no. 194-1885. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sampler with drawn thread work embroidery, unknown, 1800, Germany. Museum no. 194-1885. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Linen cushions which also displayed Drawn thread borders and were a new luxury that carried a status of wealth. These cushions were not made for sitting on though and instead were used to present small gifts of books, gloves and other precious articles. They showed involved borders and insets of Drawn thread work, leaving the centre of the cushion in plain linen.

Drawn thread examples from around 1200 AD from Germany and Switzerland incorporate and open mesh background with figures of plain ground material which have details such as faces, drapery and surrounding patterns in stitches such as stem and chain. The work has an intricacy and craftsmanship which surpasses all linen work of the time and it illustrates stories of saints, birds and animals.

It was once thought that, during the centuries leading up to the fifteenth, Drawn thread work embroidery was worked in the seclusion of convents, acquiring a mystique as there was no other embroidery of such intricacy. In the fourteenth century noble ladies wished to learn the embroidery techniques so they were taught by the nun’s, which led to the use of this fine embroidery for secular and domestic purposes.

In the later and nineteenth and early twentieth Centuries an enormous quantity of Drawn thread work was produced on linen and cotton to decorate bed linen. Trailing designs of stem stitch, satin stitch and crochet borders added to the richness of the designs.

Below you can see my first attempt at a Drawn thread border.

Drawn thread border worked on my apprenticeship
Drawn thread border worked on my apprenticeship

I hope you enjoyed this post.


Happy Stitching 


How To Do Trailing

How To Do Trailing

Hello and welcome to another How To post, Today we are looking at how to work trailing. In the image above it is the thick, heavy, vertical lines behind the leaf.Trailing is traditionally a whitework stitch that is often used for outlines worked as a […]

The A-Z Of Embroidery Techniques, Terms And Tools

The A-Z Of Embroidery Techniques, Terms And Tools

Hello, So I wanted to write this post to help those of you that are new to embroidery get a brief overview of some of the techniques, tools or terms that you may hear in your quest to learn more about embroidery. What I’ve come up […]

A little bit about me

A little bit about me


So I thought with the new Year and so many new followers and subscribers it seems like the perfect time to introduce myself in a bit more detail.

My name is Sara Rickards (Meanwell) and I have been working in the embroidery world since I graduated from the Royal School of Needlework‘s apprenticeship in 2006 at just 20 years old.

profile pic

When did I know I wanted to be an embroiderer?

Coming from a crafty family (my mum and dad, yes dad were always knitting or doing some patchwork) my mum started teaching me how to make my own clothes at 8 years old. The first piece I made was a waistcoat out of my old lilac, floral curtains.

I remember flicking through the OK catwalk magazine when I was 12 years old and a stunning but simple white Valentino dress jumped out of the page at me and that is the exact moment I knew I wanted to be part of that world. I didn’t know I wanted to do embroidery specifically, in fact like all little girls I wanted to be a fashion designer, but either way I just knew I had to be involved with the making of such beautiful art.

It wasn’t until my mum found an article in The Lady magazine about the Royal School of Needlework that I really considered embroidery as a career. At 15 years old I applied for the apprenticeship and got in, although I had to finish school first.


What is my favourite embroidery technique?

It’s so difficult to just pick one. I think my favourite to sit down and do is tambour beading. It was one of those techniques that didn’t come easy to me, in fact it took me 30 minutes to work a 5cm length when I first tried it. However the patience paid off. It’s very rhythmic and now I find, very therapeutic technique. I can just switch off and work away.

I also really enjoy goldwork, whitework and stumpwork and combining these techniques. They are all quite precise techniques and I very much enjoy the attention to detail and different textures that each one creates.

Lotus flower
My second year apprenticeship Coronation Goldwork


What is my favourite embroidery technique to teach and why?

I teach every Tuesday on the Royal School of Needlework’s Certificate and Diploma course. The first module the students take is Jacobean Crewelwork. Often students come in with very little embroidery experience and a little nervous and I love to be in the position of teaching them their first few stitches. Seeing their designs come to life and a completed piece at the end of 8 lessons really makes me feel proud of what they have achieved and they never thought possible in the first lesson.

IMG_4075Jacobean Crewelwork

I believe embroidery should be fun and creative which is what I try to bring to each class. While I personally like being technically accurate and neat with my embroidery, life is too short not to be enjoying what you are doing in that moment.


Any embroidery techniques I don’t like?

Yes of course. Sadly, silk shading. It is a technique that doesn’t come naturally to me. Although I love how it looks, it is quite a creative technique and requires that bit of flare that I am not sure I possess. This is why I have the lovely Margaret Dier’s book on silk shading. I am hoping I can sit down and get some more practice in soon. I am much more of a technical, this stitch has to go there type of embroiderer (those that stitch, will know what I mean).


What is my favourite piece of embroidery I have ever done?

I actually have two. The first is a dress I did for Kate Moss. It was inspired by a 1920’s dress she wore when she first meet Johnny Depp. The dress was for Swarovski Fashion Rocks and covered in over 80,000 Swarovski crystals. It took 3 of us, 6 weeks to make if I remember correctly.

Kate Moss dress for Swarovski Fashion Rocks
Kate Moss dress for Swarovski Fashion Rocks

The second would have to be my wedding dress. In September 2017, I married the most wonderful man in the stunning town of Positano. I had the dress custom made by Shimmering Ivory and I designed and made the embroidery. The embroidery was inspired by the Art Deco period and I wanted to keep it very simple and elegant.


Work in progress
Work in progress


Where does my inspiration come from?

All over the place. A lot of my designs are very floral based so I take my inspiration from the natural world, bright, tropical flowers and animals. I also love the glitz and glamour of the Art Deco period and most of the pieces I work, have been influenced by one of these themes.


From the idea of a kit design to finished product, how long does that process take?

Most of my ideas will run around in my head for a while, sometimes years until I find the time or right project for that piece.

Once the design is sketched out it can take between 10 hours (for a simple design) to 50 hours (for a more complex design) to be stitched. This includes changes to the design, sampling and sourcing fabrics.

Then from there I have to write all the instructions and draw the diagrams in illustrator. This can take again another 40-50 hours or so for the more complicated kits. Having said that I am building up a small catalogue of stitches so this process is speeding up a little bit now.

The next step is to source and order all the materials and prepare them for the kits. Cutting, ironing and transferring the design onto the fabric, cutting lengths of gold or making beeswax blocks, threading beads. Each kit is different but on average it takes about an hour to put together each kit. I always do everything in batches to keep this time as quick as possible.

The final step is to put everything together and tie a big bow around the box that each kit comes in. You can have a look at my designs here.

Jacobean crewelwork kit

Each individual kit is lovingly put together. When someone sees the box I want them to feel excited, like it’s Christmas and they are getting a special gift. My heart and soul goes into each one and as my husband always says it’s been “Made with love”.


What are my plans for the future?

Well I have a lot of ideas running around my head currently.

I would like to set up a regular embroidery workshop local to me in St.Albans, Hertfordshire, where people can bring any embroidery design or technique and get the tuition they need specific to them.

I also want to set up some distance learning videos so people can get the classroom feel without the travel.

I am also a big lover of travel and would love to combine teaching embroidery with travelling the world (if anyone is interested, drop me an email).

And of course I am writing a book on Fashion Embroidery.

So quite a lot to keep me busy over the coming years.


I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better, any questions then I would be happy to answer, just drop them in the comments below.

Happy Stitching!





Interview with Margaret Dier

Interview with Margaret Dier

Hello and welcome to another post. This one is a little bit unusual and special as I have managed to get an interview with the super talented Margaret Dier all before her fabulous new book is released, Thread painting and silk shading techniques. Released on the […]

How to attach your stumpwork wired shape

How to attach your stumpwork wired shape

So in my last post I talked about how to work a stumpwork wired shape. This post is all about how to apply your 3D element to your actual design. It depends on your design but usually you will have two layers of fabric to take your […]

How to work a Stumpwork wired shape.

How to work a Stumpwork wired shape.


I’m back after what seems like quite a while a way (unfortunately not on holiday) but it has been a very busy summer of teaching so far.

Welcome to another How to….. post. This week we are looking at how to work a stumpwork wired shape.

What is a wired shape in the first place I hear you ask? Well, a wired shape is a wonderful stumpwork technique which is used to add a real 3D perspective to your embroidery. It is usually a petal of a flower or a leaf and worked on a seperate piece of fabric. It can be filled with long and short, French knots, open Fly stitch and any number of other fillings. A piece of paper covered wire is then stitched down around the shape of the leaf/petal. Once all the stitching is complete it is then cut out and applied to your main piece of embroidery.

I use this technique frequently and it is one of my favourite stumpwork techniques.

What you will need;

  • Paper covered wire. This is available in a variety of different sizes and in white and green. Click here to buy.
  • Gutermann’s sew all thread to match the colour of your sewing thread.
  • Embroidery scissors (sharp)
  • No.10 needle embroidery needle
  • Stranded cotton
  • Embroidery hoop

Before you can work the wired edge around the shape you intend to cut out make sure you have worked the filling stitch you have chosen, if any. For the images shown I have not worked any filling inside the shape, however my finished piece has chipping worked inside.

1.) With the shape you wish to create drawn onto the fabric and the fabric taut in the embroidery hoop, thread a single strand of Gutermann’s in the colour the finished edge is worked in. This can be matched to the fabric or a contrasting colour, depending on your design. Secure it close to the end of the shape that you are creating, with a knot on the top of the fabric and three small stitches. The knot can then be cut away.

2.) Lay the wire onto the design line, making sure you leave a tail of wire 3-4cm beyond the end of the design line. With your needle at the start of the shape bring it up outside of the wire and take your needle back down on the inside of the wire so that you are couching it down. When you bring your needle up and take it down make sure you do so straight.

stitching down the wire


4.) Come back to the outside edge of the wire 3-4mm away from your last stitch.

5.) Take your needle back down on the inside of the wire to create your second stitch.

stitching down the wire

6.) Continue to work along the length of the wire in the same way. These stitches should sit at 90 degrees to the wire and hold it down securely. When you reach the end, finish off the thread and leave another tail of wire about 3-4cm long.

wire stitched down


7.) Secure the thread you wish to create the buttonhole stitch with at the start of the wire. I’ve used one strand of stranded cotton.

8.) This time we will be creating exactly the same stitch but there will be no gaps.

Oversewing wire

9.) The thread should totally cover the wire and there should also be no overlapping threads which can make the finished edge lumpy. Remember to bring your needle up on the outside, straight and down on the inside, straight.

oversewing the thread


10.) Now for the final part. Thread your needle up with the same thread and secure it at the start of the shape. For this you can use one or two strands, depending on how delicate you would like it to look. i have used a single strand.

11.) Bring your needle up on the outside. Then take the needle down on the inside parallel with the first stitch. Do not pull the thread all the way through, leave a loop.



12.) Bring your needle up on the outside edge next to (but not using the same hole) the first stitch and take the needle through the loop.



13.) Pull the loop from underneath then the needle up from the top to create your first buttonhole stitch. Doing it in two stages like this helps to prevent wear on the thread.

14.) Take your needle down on the inside, again next to the first stitch and make sure you leave a loop.



15.) Bring your needle up on the outside edge of the wire and through the loop. You now have created your second stitch.

16.) Continue around the whole of the shape in this same way, making sure you keep the stitches neat. You will end up with a ridge along the outside of the shape where you have been bringing the needle up through the loop.



17.) This technique can put a lot of wear on the thread so make sure you keep the thread lengths short and change it frequently. Finishing off the thread needs to be done after it has been pulled through the loop, take the needle down on the outside to hold the loop in place. Finish the thread off. Then when you have started the new thread bring this back through the last loop so that it looks like one stitch.

18.) When all the buttonhole stitch is complete it can then be cut out. Using a sharp pair of scissors cut as close to the buttonhole edge but with out cutting the stitches. Once you have done that use a needle and run it along the edge of the shape, this will lift up any extra fibres that you will have missed the first time. You can then trim these off. Do not cut the wire, this is used to secure your shape to the base fabric.

buttonhole wired shape


There you have a lovely wired shape that can then be applied to your main embroidery or as I quite often do, use these shapes to make brooches.

The next post will be on how to apply your wired shape to your main embroidery.

As always I hope you have enjoyed this post and feel free to leave any comments or questions below.

Happy stitching


The History of Stumpwork

The History of Stumpwork

Stumpwork became popular in the 17th century, with it peaking between 1650 and 1690, although the term stumpwork was only used from the end of the 19th century. Before that time however, it was known as raised work or embossed work, which dates back to the […]