Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Instant Heirloom: Embroidery by Karen Ruane

For those of you who came to know me while I was at the Hallmark magazine, it won't surprise you to learn that one of the best things that happened to me there was a renewed interest in "traditional" crafts. By that I mean all of the things that my grandmothers did—sewing, embroidery, knitting— but that I didn't know I was very interested in until relatively recently (besides quilting, which I've been doing for 8 years now). I love that when I go home to visit my parents, I can go through bins of sewing notions from my Dad's mother that are currently in our garage. I've taken ownership of many of her spools of thread, bags of buttons and rick rack and a few rolls of lace that I've started using in my own projects. And I now realize that it's important that I ask my mom to tell me stories of the needle work that her mother used to do when she worked at a bridal shop. Plus, as I continue to find comfort and great rewards from my quilting, I love knowing that it's all connected to many of the women in my family.

This brings me to today's post, which is the first in a regular series called "Instant Heirloom". (Yes, I stole that name from a page we used to have in the magazine!) In each post that falls under this heading, you'll find the work of an artist or crafter who's interpreting a traditional craft in their own way. Today, I'm so excited to share the delightful embroidery by British artist Karen Ruane. She calls herself "an obessional embroider with a passion for hand stitch" and I'm going to step aside for a moment and let you see some more of her work.

This image is from Karen's blog. As a quilter who is used to making tiny stitches, this detail and precision blows me away. The controlled movement of the stitches is seriously impressive.

Below is a hand-embroidered cotton square that you could secure in a small embroidery hoop to hang as artwork, or to work into one of your own projects. I just love the teensy flowers!

This is a hand-embroidered cotton cushion that Karen designed and executed in the style of vintage domestic linens. I love how she combined the running stitch with little loops and the larger flowers.

This is a small brooch (1.5 inches x 4.75 inches) with hand-embroidered silk and paper. Oh those flowers!!

Hand-embroidered silk beads with hand-stitched beads that would be perfect to add something special to a plain purse or sweater.

And for a bit of background on Karen, here's an excerpt of an interview she did for A Makey do:
"As a child people were always making things, my mum, my grandmothers. I began to knit and crochet aged about 12 but was put off sewing for years by my experience of needlework classes at Grammar School where the only thing we were allowed to make was a navy blue gingham pinny for domestic science. How I hated that pinny. In fact I am suprised it never gave me a life long aversion to gingham! When I had my own children I constantly made things for them and it all progressed from there I suppose."

Many of these images are from Karen's Etsy shop Contemporary Stitches, which is a great source for visual inspiration and for gift ideas. Definitely add it to your favorites!


  1. Karen's works are so beautiful. What detail! I'll check out her ETSY store...thanks!

  2. Hi. For some reason I have only just stumbled upon this piece. Thanks so much for this, I appreciate your opinion of my work, it means a lot! Karen