Say the word Stumpwork to the average (non-embroidering) person and you will probably see a small frown appear on their forehead. When asked to guess the word’s meaning, many might think you are talking about some medical amputee procedure. Visions in the mind’s eye of skilled doctors and surgeons are conjured, working away on some distant, Game of Thrones style, war-torn horizon. Although the real meaning of Stumpwork is far less gruesome, the skills involved in executing it precisely and with desirable results certainly require an almost doctor-like knowledge in the field of embroidery. The magical results a stumpwork master can produce beat any GoT style fantasy to date.
“So, what does Stumpwork actually mean?”, I hear you ask. Well, let me explain.
Stumpwork is used to describe many forms of raised, 3D embroidery. Typically these forms will be wired or have a range of felt paddings underneath the stitches to help produce the three-dimensional effect. Traditionally stumpwork scenes focus on garden scenes, insects and some fruits. Goldwork embroidery along with stitch work may be used, particularly metal threads like Jap that can be plunged either end on a felt structure. Sounds complicated? That’s because it most certainly is!
This is where our first featured artist for this blog comes in, the very lovely Hattie McGill. Trawling Instagram for the best embroidery artists to follow, I came across Hattie’s work early on. Being a raised embroiderer myself, I adore anything 3D and quirky so following Hattie was a no-brainer. I absolutely fell in love with her silk-shaded butterflies and her perfectly executed miniature Stumpwork flowers. I was blown away by the level of detail she was able to attain in something so small. Each stitch had a meaning and purpose in the whole design and the painstaking necessity she had taken to ensure each stitch was placed correctly due to its small scale, told me a lot about her diligent and creative character.
Upon asking Hattie about her embroidery background, it comes as little surprise to find out she is a graduate of the world-renowned Royal School of Needlework, or that she has been embroidering since the age of 3 (which beats my humble age of 8 by some whopping five years, proving to me, yet again, this girl is serious about her craft)!
Hattie now works in TV and film, having produced embroideries for Marvel’s Dr Strange and the recent ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ film by Kenneth Branagh. She also humbly informs me she is working on the new ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ film, which filled me with excitement and hope that our shared passion for Stumpwork might make it onto the big screen!
When I ask Hattie about her work and inspirations she tells me of her fascination with 3D, silk shading and goldwork. I am surprised and a little in awe when I find out she used to work in upholstery and studied it for quite some time. Perhaps it is this experience with furniture that made her such an excellent 3D worker? I cannot help but hope we will see a range of Stumpwork embroidered chairs in her collection at some point!
Hattie also uses her embroidery expertise working for British fashion house Alexander Mcqueen and for her own label ‘Hattie McGill Embroidery’, which is where you can see her amazing skills on display. I am told she can also be commissioned for a piece on a rare occasion and my mind is boggled as to where she finds the time. “Embroidery is my passion” she informs me, and the embroiderer in me instantly understands. Embroidery can become a lifestyle for some, and Hattie makes that lifestyle look so, so good!
Find Hattie on Instagram for more amazing work and be sure to check out her delicious embroideries in her Etsy shop. You should also visit her website hattiemcgillembroidery.com for more information. That’s all until next month folks!