Story Telling Through Stitch (Freestyle Stitching) with Harriet Riddell, 3/4 October

Story Telling Through Stitch (Freestyle Stitching) with Harriet Riddell, 3/4 October

Harriet delightfully combines portraiture & drawing with the sewing machine to create unique pieces of art. They lovingly capture the essence and soul of their subjects.

The continuous flow of the sewing machine’s motion and stitch echo that of the hand when writing which in turn brings a lovely intimate narrative to her pieces.

With this notion in mind, Harriet invites you to come tell a story in stitch – a story that means something to you!

Normally found stitching her way around the world on a peddle-powered sewing machine, we have persuaded Harriet to return to the studio to teach a few more lucky students how to stitch this curious world onto canvas. On this course Harriet invites you to tell a story onto canvas pages – it could be from your life, a feeling or imaginary.

This course is for the experimental, adventurous and brave!


DAY 1: 

Learn to Dance with your sewing machine, becoming confident with using your sewing machine like your pen or pencil.

We will focus on composition on a page and explore ways of keeping a narrative through imagery. We will do a series of exercises which encourages a free and playful way of working.

DAY 2:

We will use appliqué techniques to add colours to our works.

By stitching words, portraiture and landscapes, we will create an interesting, lively and unique way of telling our story.

This course will inspire creative and independent thinking, and you will leave with a personal and unique stitched book.

This weekend course includes:

  • A series of structured demonstrations and exercises
  • Learning a range of techniques to help you dance with your sewing machine!
  • Relaxed & attentive one-to-one guidance for every student

Suitable for?

Anyone who knows how to work a sewing machine. This course is not suitable for students with very little or no sewing machine experience.

We generally advise that students be 14 years old+ though exceptions can be made where appropriate.

What is included in the price?

  • Two full days’ teaching (10am-4pm)
  • Tea, coffee, biscuits/cake
  • Material to create onto and fabrics to use to build up your portrait
  • Use of a beautiful purpose-built art studio with all the equipment & materials you will need
  • Beautiful countryside setting

This course is for you if:

  • You want to use your sewing skills in a more creative, fun way
  • You want to learn new skills
  • You love telling stories
  • You want to get away from it all and immerse yourself in a fun, creative environment
  • You love creativity, especially on fabric

Need accommodation?

If you are travelling from further afield and would like to stay in the area for your visit then have a look at our recommended list of local B&Bs and hotels.

You will need to bring:

  • A working sewing machine that you are familiar with and know how to operate*
    • It must have a ‘free-motion embroidery foot
    • and have feed dogs that can be dropped (‘dropping the feed dogs’ lowers the teeth which usually push the fabric back, normally with a switch. This lets the fabric be free and pushed in any direction)
    • If you have an extension table for it too then bring that as well
  • A pair of sharp embroidery scissors.
  • Any different thread colours you may want to use
  • Any of your own fabrics that you may want to incorporate into your creations – they may have sentimental value or be special to you!

*If someone wants to come to the workshop, but doesn’t have their own sewing machine or they don’t think their sewing machine has a free motion embroidery option, please get in touch and we can try to find you a machine for the weekend. 

Pre course prep

You will be sent an automated email on booking which prompts you towards documents that help you prepare for your time here. If this does not happen then please email James before the course.

For this course think about the story you would like to tell. Perhaps it is a real story of something that happened to you? Or maybe you have imagined your own story? Keep the story or feeling you wish to convey as simple as you can. Please bring imagery to work from, photographs, sketches, magazine cut outs and picture books for inspiration. Think about how you can break down elements of the story into symbols. e.g. I went to Canada could be a little plane an arrow and a Canadian maple leaf.

£180 for the whole weekend, including tuition, materials, tea, coffee, cake and biscuits


Complete the booking form (top right of your screen, or scroll down if you’re on a mobile).


Harriet Riddell

Harriet is a textile performance artist who travels around the world with her sewing machine stitching portraits and landscapes from life.

Harriet’s love of interacting with people and going on adventures inspires her to create her artwork. Her stitched drawings appear from a single line of thread and using applique techniques she adds colour and words to a story. She has taught in India, Taiwan, Kenya, South Africa and Sweden in addition to here in the UK.

I love to see other people fall in love with free-style stitching, it is infectious and totally addictive!

Harriet Riddel – InStitchYou

Harriet has had great feedback from her courses.  Here are just a couple of testimonials:

Thank you for such an informative, hands-on free motion sewing course in the beautiful serene setting of Phoenix Studios in Oxfordshire. I was a complete novice and was made to feel relaxed and welcome, in spite of a personal lack of confidence.
The course emphasised some drawing techniques to apply to your stitched piece. I liked the chance to experiment to music, to learn from each other and to have some individual help when needed. I learnt so much and was amazed at what could be done in such a short time.
Harriet is a warm, kind teacher with a natural passion for her unique work which enthuses out of her. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and for me an extra treat to be a part of the whole Phoenix Studios experience. James Ort himself sat down and tried his hand at the stitching course which was a compliment in itself. Thank you for a wonderful weekend. It was a real privilege to attend.
Katie Smith
‘I loved the workshop with Harriet! I enjoyed every part of the day and was really pleased with the stitch pictures I went home with. She was very kind and patient with me….a beginner in stitch! Thank you!’
Jan Long
Harriet is a lovely person and a good teacher. She provides guidance but ensures participants develop their own ideas. And her technique is fascinating and highly original. I loved the whole weekend. Phoenix Studios is a great learning space in a serene and rural location. James Ort (and his Mum) have created a wonderful learning space and having him participate in the class was a pleasure as well. I highly recommend both this venue and Harriet as a teacher. What a wonderful weekend it was!
Julie Mills

£180 for the whole weekend, including tuition, materials, tea, coffee, cake and biscuits


Complete the booking form (top right of your screen, or scroll down if you’re on a mobile).

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