From Rachel's Blog

The devil is in the detail


At the end of the summer holidays, I had to begin work on a commissioned piece which had been sitting in my virtual ‘in tray’ since the beginning of the year. Luckily my client is patient and was happy to wait.

So with the help of some photographs, I set about the task of sketching an image out onto my calico canvas. It became immediately obvious that this piece was going to be an incredible challenge. After some time, my arm was aching and I began to realise that the success of this piece would be ‘all in the detail’. There were so many windows, doorways and characterful details in the buildings and then, there were the reflections in the water…..this was going to be a small embroidery which would take an awfully long time to do.


As I started stitching I became quickly immersed in the piece, concentrating my efforts on small areas at a time, sewing for hours and then pausing to sit back and assess my progress only to find that the piece had hardly grown at all. Although a little disheartened by the painfully slow progress, I did at least feel happy with how it was going. I don’t think I have ever changed my top thread or my spool thread quite as much as I did on this piece. People often ask me if there is some trick to getting so many colours in each piece. There is no magical answer….it is simply being prepared to change those threads as often as it takes. I’m actually pretty sure that I could thread my machine up with my eyes closed. On this particular embroidery it was vital to capture the many pastel colours of the buildings and the endless reflections in the canal.


After many hours of head ache inducing concentration I finally finished and gratefully collapsed into the nearest armchair. There is no doubt that this piece was incredibly challenging and also in many ways a lot of fun. Above all though I came to truly appreciate and understand that old expression we all use ‘the devil is in the detail’.



  1. Rachel, this is amazing. Really beautiful. More my preferred subject matter than animals! One of these days we will pop up at one of your exhibitions. Love Sx

  2. Very talented lady, people think they are so clever when they take a photo, they should try recreating it in thread!.

  3. This is inspirational work, thank you so much for sharing it. I can imagine how slowly it took shape and I think you have captured the scene beautifully.

  4. Joyce Capey says

    I just found your website, this is such beautiful work…..hope to come and see your Claydon exibition later in the year

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