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Everything you need to know about embroidery course tutor, Susie Finlayson

An example of what a student could learn during an embroidery course. It features a rectangular canvas on a blue background and the canvas had a purple Paisley pear with purple and turquoise flowers.
An example of what you could learn during an embroidery course

From the very start, people wanted to see an embroidery course here at Gartmore House. From 2022, we’re delighted to include it on our course programme and to get people stitching! Susie Finlayson is an experienced embroidery tutor and has been teaching her craft for many years. We had the chance for a catch up with recently to pick her brains about her crafting experience.

1. How did you get first get into embroidery?

My granny taught me to knit before I went to school and she helped me with some needlepoint kits. She was a real sticker for the back being as neat as the front! When I was around ten, I took up cross stitch. It became my go-to craft to relax when I was a student and throughout my working life. Giving up full-time work and having the opportunity to get involved with the Great Tapestry of Scotland in 2012 introduced me to what I thought of as ‘proper’ embroidery. It was absolutely incredible. I never thought I’d be able to do it but a lot of encouragement from Dorie Wilkie got me started and I’ve never looked back! A whole new world opened up to me and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.

2. Has there been a particular project that taught you something unexpected?

I feel like I am constantly learning, especially when groups of people get together to stitch. There’s something about the rhythm of stitching that seems to relax people and often inhibitions go by the wayside. While running my embroidery course, I’ve learned everything from how to remove blood from fabric, to which particular participant had a crush on the local GP!

3. What project are you most proud of and why?

I suppose most people expect me to say that I’m most proud of my work on The Great Tapestry of Scotland and the new Welcome Panel. In fact, I’m prouder of the crewelwork piece I completed for my first module for the RSN Certificate in Technical Hand Embroidery. It was such an intense process from design, drawing, stitching and mounting that I didn’t think I would ever finish it but Helen McCook and everyone at RSN Glasgow was so encouraging and supportive. I look at the finished piece and I know how much blood, sweat and tears went into it (real blood on one occasion) and even though it may not be perfect it means a huge amount to me.

4. Who or what are your biggest inspirations?

I can’t think that there is any one thing that inspires me – I don’t think of myself as being particularly artistic (I was pretty much told never to darken the door of the Art department at school after it was no longer compulsory!) – but I do take a lot of photos on my phone of random things that catch my eye. Perhaps a shape, colour or texture. Maybe a pattern on wallpaper or cloud formations. My phone is full of seemingly random images which i go back to and often use as the basis for designs. I find myself more of then not looking at something and almost

5. Do you have any favourite techniques that crop up again and again in your work?

Embroidery is such a huge area that there always seem to be new techniques to try but I often return to crewelwork. I find the wool very forgiving when it comes to shading and blending and I love the feel of drum tight linen twill in a hoop or on a frame.

6. What are the common misconceptions about embroidery?

Many people have the impression that embroidery is a past-time for genteel older ladies but there are amazing textile artists out there using embroidery in some brilliant, innovative ways. From creative darning to political statements, beautifully intricate gold work, to cross stitch on industrial fencing, it’s a fabulous craft that can be adapted to many different situations.

7. What would you say drew you to teaching embroidery courses?

I have absolutely no idea! I can’t actually remember how my first embroidery course came about but I do know that I now get so much enjoyment from being with people, helping beginners overcome any initial nervousness and proving to people that they can create something beautiful that I can’t imagine doing anything else. During lockdown, I missed teaching the most. So many people come along doubting their own abilities and there is real satisfaction when someone masters a stitch they’ve struggled with or heads home at the end of the day having actually finished something they are proud of (lets face it, we’ve all got one of those drawers at home full of UFOs from craft classes!).

8. What would you say to someone curious about trying your craft for the first time? What should they know before they start?

Embroidery doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – it can be what you want it to be. And just because you couldn’t do it at school, please don’t think that it means you’ll never be able to master it! There are so many different techniques, just come along with an open mind and give them a go! There’s bound to be something that you like!


And there you have it! Thank you to Susie for taking the time to talk to us and giving us such a lovely look into the world of embroidery. We can’t wait to see what kind of magic comes out of her next embroidery course.


For more information on Gartmore House’s embroidery course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

Get to know corsetry course tutor, Alison Campbell

Alison Campbell spills the beans on all things corsetry!

Back in 2019 we were delighted to add a corsetry course to our ever growing roster of craft holidays and we recently took the chance to sit down with tutor Alison Campbell of Glasgow’s Crikey Aphrodite, to talk all things corsetry. Read on to find out a little bit about Alison and her love of this incredible art form!

How did you get first get into corsetry? 

I always liked the look of corsets. I think it was Saturday night westerns and Sunday musicals that did it from my youngest. So I love that mix of 19th century with 1950s. I always drew costumes and dresses when I was little and it grew from there into a love of costume and history topped up with a bit of Rocky Horror and general fashion likes. After many years in graphic design stuck at a computer I desperately wanted to do something hands on. My mum spotted an ad for a corsetry course in the newspaper, I booked it to try it out and was hooked.  

Has there been a particular project that taught you something unexpected? 

Nearly every one. A standout though are a corset for a client with a stoma that really pushed my problem solving and pushed me into looking at how nursing and maternity corsets were made a century ago to get ideas for a practical solution. 

What project are you most proud of and why? 

A wonderful bridal outfit for a client getting married at Edinburgh castle. Sometimes client vision and your own really get in sync and if they have the budget and the willingness to work with you then it’s good. This one was a huge silk skirt, full bust corset and veil. It was great fun to make. 

Who or what are your biggest inspirations? 

Undoubtedly Mr Pearl, whom I’ve been lucky enough to have spent some time with. His creations for the most well known names in fashion are just astounding. Are as his pieces for clients such as Dita Von Teese. 

Do you have any favourite techniques that crop up again and again in your work? 

I work a lot with full busted women as I work as a bra fitter too. This means some specific techniques to get the shape, support and comfort right. I use gores a lot, additional stiffening and extra boning.  

What would you say are some common misconceptions surrounding corsetry? 

There are so, so many. That they’re uncomfortable, that Victorians had ribs removed, that everyone in the past tightlaced, that you can’t move/breath/work in one. All utter nonsense, which I’ll be delighted to explain to anyone who will listen in more detail of course! 

What would you say drew you to teaching corsetry courses? 

I taught a corsetry course at a friend’s studio in the south of England. I discovered I enjoyed it more than I anticipated (never being one for standing up in front of groups) and that it’s incredibly rewarding passing on skills and seeing students develop. 

What would you say to someone curious about trying corsetry for the first time? What should they know before getting started? 

To be aware of accuracy, as tiny increases or decreases make big fit differences. And patience, as there are a lot of steps to making a corset. However that appealed to me as I have a short attention span and with a corset you’re always moving on to a different step/task. Also use quality materials. There’s no point spending hours making something if the materials won’t hold up past one wear. Other than that, if you can sew a line and follow a pattern you’re all set.  


And there you have it! Thank you again to Alison for talking to us and we can’t wait to see what kind of magic comes out of her next corsetry course.


For more information on Gartmore House’s corsetry course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

Great Tapestry of Scotland welcomes you!

Embroidery tutor Susie Finlayson shares her experience of working on the Great Tapestry of Scotland welcome panel. You can see the welcome panel at the brand new visitor centre in Galashiels.

In June 2018 I visited the headquarters of the Scottish Borders Council to join Tapestry artist Andrew Crummy and historian Alastair Moffat to judge the designs created by local schools for a new panel for the Great Tapestry of Scotland. This new panel was to be displayed in the reception of the purpose-built Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre in Galashiels. It was a fabulous afternoon. The kids were enthusiastic and engaging, their designs were bright, bold, and well thought out. When Alastair and Andrew asked me to be involved in stitching these panels, I couldn’t refuse.

This is how I ended up with the challenge of co-ordinating the stitching of the new centre’s five panels! Each panel is 1.5m x 0.5 and has a main figure representing a different aspect of borders life; a shepherd, a mill lass, a monk, a reiver and a fisher lass. The borders’ rivers also meander through the panels. This was not going to be a small under-taking!

How it started

2019 got off to a great start. Andrew Crummy transferred the designs onto the linens. I persuaded several groups of stitchers to take a panel and make a start. Some were veterans of The Great Tapestry of Scotland. Some were very accomplished embroiderers who had been disappointed not to be a part of the original project. Others were complete beginners. This is part of the beauty of the Tapestry. It’s one of the world’s largest community artworks, created by over a thousand people of differing ability coming together to create a unique work of art.

As well as getting the stitching underway, I committed to taking the panels to the schools who had entered the design competition and teaching some of the students how to embroider. This was a daunting prospect but I needn’t have feared. It was brilliant fun. I went to 6 schools over 4 days with around 30 students each producing a piece which they had designed and stitched themselves. We enjoyed it so much that we thought we could take the panels to other places and invite people to ‘add a stitch’ and they did in their droves. Rainbows, Brownies and Guides, Beavers, Cubs and Scouts, the Boy’s and Girl’s Brigades, members of the SWI, friends and family, members of the public.

Our plans for 2020 were even bigger. We planned a Scotland-wide tour which included everything from an international tourism convention to local coffee mornings, stately homes to care homes. Over 1,000 people had stitched on the tapestry. Could we get over 1,000 people to add a stitch to the Welcome Panels?

And then COVID-19 hit.

How did we cope with Covid?

The country went into lockdown. Everything was cancelled. We didn’t know if it would even be safe to pass panels between stitchers. But our stitchers were nothing if not inventive! Panels were delivered with contactless drop-offs and 72-hour quarantines imposed before any more stitching could take place. We took to zoom to start swapping ideas and while a pandemic took over the world, we just kept stitching.

As well as the five main figures in the panel, there are 76 boxes around the edge containing images relating to a person, place or event connected with the Scottish Borders. Some are very obvious, some are a little more obscure but all of them tell a story.

Three years on from the schools design competition, we have five completed panels. They’re all joined together (with more than a few signs of relief when all of the relevant lines matched up!) and ready to hang in the new visitor centre. While the Great Tapestry of Scotland tells the story or Scotland her people, the Welcome Panel gives an insight into the Scottish Borders. When the centre opens later this year, you will be able to come along and see our stories for yourself.

For more information and the latest news from The Great Tapestry of Scotland visitor centre, visit their website.

Want to learn embroidery for yourself? Join us at Gartmore House for an embroidery holiday! For more information on Gartmore House’s course visit the course page or contact the team directly.
m: mail@gartmorehouse.com
t: 01877382991

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