Emily Rose Spreadborough, The Woman, Hand & Lock 2105 Prize for Embroidery Winner

Emily Rose Spreadborough | Goldwork Embroidery

The Funk Files: Embroidery Frontiers

Every year, Hand & Lock organizes a competition for the prestigious Prize for Embroidery to promote the use of hand embroidery in fashion and to discover emerging embroidery talent. The 2015 brief was about the individual design identities of Countries.

On Thursday, the 5th of November, London’s Bishopsgate Institute hosted the final of the 2015 Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery.

Today we’ll meet the first place winner in the Student Category.

Emily Rose Spreadborough
Meet Emily Rose Spreadborough

Name: Emily Rose Spreadborough

Location: Manchester, Yorkshire, London; Here there and everywhere

School: Huddersfield University

Describe your Hand & Lock entry:

“The woman” was one of a collection of costume designs for Edwin A. Abbotts satirical novella, “Flatland”. Written in 1884, Flatland follows the narration of a “humble square” observing the Euclidian geography, ideologies and inhabitants of his unusual two-dimensional civilization. The costumes provide a satirical reflection of Britain’s past identity, picking up on the irrationality of Victorian Britain’s misogynistic and classist hive-mind. Consequently, the women of Flatland are described as embodiments of fragility, restriction and emotional instability. Precarious, needle-sharp temptresses. Her costume focuses on these elements, extending the traditional line of a 19th century corset, and using contemporary techniques and materials to imagine what “The woman” would look like to a 21st century audience. Her corset is made up of 76 laser-cut Perspex panels. Each individually laser etched, hand stitched together and embellished with 2-inch glass bugle beads, goldwork and silk & wire shading. A series of LEDs are rigged down the center front of the corset to form a florescent edging round the Perspex form in darkness.


Emily Rose Spreadborough, The Woman, Hand & Lock 2105 Prize for Embroidery Winner
Emily Rose Spreadborough, The Woman, Hand & Lock 2105 Prize for Embroidery Winner


What made you want to enter this competition?

It was an absolute coincidence to be honest. I had always wanted to enter and followed Hand & Lock after doing a three-month placement for them in my 3rd year of uni. But being totally consumed by my final year project I didn’t realize until about a week before their deadline that my current project fitted the brief, so I entered and here we are.

Who was your mentor, and how did s/he help with your project?

Polly Leonard, unfortunately I was working up north during the run-up to the hand in so couldn’t bring my piece to Polly for her to advise me on. However I took into Selvedge the morning before handing it in to Hand & Lock and had a great chat with her about the piece and her work at Selvedge.


The Woman illustration, Emily Rose Spreadborough
The Woman illustration, Emily Rose Spreadborough


Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?

It’s probably not really a surprise, but getting her to where she is today was no easy task! The nature of her design meant trial and error was my best friend. To name a few examples there were four “final” set’s of Perspex panels, I gave up counting my hours on the laser cutter at 110, and I was still re-soldering the LED circuit 2 hours before the prize giving.


Woman board, by Emily Rose Spreadborough
Woman board, by Emily Rose Spreadborough


When and how did you learn embroidery, sewing, etc., and what impression did it make on you?

My mum and gran were both seamstresses in their own right so naturally I’ve always sewn and played with fabric. Though I’d say comprehensively from about 11 when I started pattern cutting and making things for more than my teddy bear. I’ve always seemed to have a connection with art and fabric as an expression, especially as a young child.

What made you want to pursue costumes and textiles in school?

A childhood of sewing and a love of film and theatre. I think the two sit hand-in-hand to make a girl want to make costumes.


Sketchbook Scan, Emily Rose Spreadborough
Sketchbook Scan, Emily Rose Spreadborough


What was your first embroidery, costume, or textile project?

My first proper designed costume I made was in year 9 of secondary school. It was a corseted ballet leotard and tutu inspired by an ‘artsy’ photo I took of a rusty metal door. Terrible on reflection, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

To date, what’s been your favorite course of study?

Definitely the Costume and Textiles degree I did at Huddersfield, the facilities were second to none. In my final year I had the freedom to design whatever I wanted and a vast selection of new tech, machinery and facilities at hand to create those designs. It really meant the possibilities were only limited by your imagination.


Thread and Seam Samples, Emily Rose Spreadborough
Thread and Seam Samples, Emily Rose Spreadborough


Your Pinterest profiles says “Spat out by the 50’s a halfndecade odd later.” What’s up with that?

Well it’s a jovial phrase a friend once used to describe me that I was taken with. I spent a lot of my childhood at my grandparents house surrounded by mid century paraphernalia and dressing-up boxes so this set me up to appreciate these eras of design and consequently dress myself a little old fashioned.

What non-embroidery skills do you bring to the table that you might like to combine with embroidery?

I’m all about structural costume props, hard materials and playing with CAD programs & machinery, so anything from welding, woodwork or playing with Illustrator and laser cutters.


Corset closeup, Emily Rose Spreadborough
Corset closeup, Emily Rose Spreadborough


Describe your ideal career.

Any job that I can really delve into both design and creation in tandem. Preferably providing me with a wonderful chaotic studio that I can weld, laser and embroider in. I suppose I don’t really care for the actual career itself, as long as its circumstances mean I can create.

What projects are on the horizon for you?

I’m currently working in film, both making and working in costume departments on set. It’s taking up all of my time at the moment so my personal work has been put on the back burner. But I want to take some time off over summer to get back in my studio; I’m hoping to make the time to start a 3D printing based collaboration with my boyfriend.

Where else can we see your work?

My second Flatland costume “The Priest” was part of Huddersfield Sci-fi convention, but I believe that’s now been taken down. So I’d visit my website that I try to keep up to date with my design and making work when time allows!


Wiring up The Woman, Emily Rose Spreadborough
Wiring up The Woman, Emily Rose Spreadborough


Rapid-fire Round: (Don’t think too hard about these.)


Favorite embroidery or textile medium : Probably just a classic needle and thread, but I also really enjoy experimenting with gold work, especially its use with non-traditional backing materials.

If you could embroider with just one color thread for the next three years, what would it be? Probably white, I think you could really master white work if you practiced consistently for three years.

What stitchable motif would you choose to represent you and your life? I wouldn’t say there is one that really represents my life, but maybe a bit of the yin-yang in relation to my mind set and design ethic.

Favorite dessert: Pecan Pie, no doubt.

A studio is remaking a movie, and they want you to design the costumes. What is the movie, and what is your favorite costume in it? I wouldn’t want to bastardize a lot of the best ones, as they’re perfect as they are. So lets say The Time Machine. A Warlock might be fun.


The Woman, by Emily Rose Spreadborough, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery Winner
The Woman, by Emily Rose Spreadborough, Hand & Lock Prize for Embroidery Winner


You must include something edible in your next project. What do you use, and how do you incorporate it? Maybe sugar, it could be spun, set and drilled, coloured, sprinkled Tibetan monk style. Certainly has some potential.

If you were not a costume/textile designer, what would you be? Hmm, something technical, maybe a mechanic. Or a florist, that’s in the blood so I’m sure I could have a lovely life flower arranging.

You must turn a song into a costume. What’s the song, and what’s the costume? Far too many options. Let’s go with a future Bjork song, that way I might get to work with Iris Van Herpen, (and Bjork!)

You’re the costume designer for a play that takes you all over the world. Where do you most want to go? Absolutely anywhere. As I stare out of the window to a dull and sodden North Yorkshire, anywhere would be more exotic than this!

A celebrity wears something you’ve made to an awards show, and you receive fame, fortune, good health, fitness, and cake for life. Who is the celebrity and what does s/he wear? I think that set of circumstances would be a miracle so I’ll say David Bowie, back with us from heaven, wearing whatever he damn well pleased.


Performance still, Emily Rose Spreadborough
Performance still, Emily Rose Spreadborough


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