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Trish Burr is a renowned embroiderer, and the author of several highly-successful books. We caught up with Trish to find out more about her latest book, Trish Burr's Embroidery Transfers, and about her embroidery journey!

How are you Trish and how are you coping with everything that’s happening?

This could take all day so I will try to keep it brief! Although 2020 has been a challenging year for us all, it has also been a period of reflection, sharing and progress. In South Africa we had a complete lockdown and to be honest I found the period of isolation quite therapeutic as it gave me time to work on my own designs, try out new ideas and spend quality time with my family. I even did an online course on Adobe InDesign which is something I have been wanting to do but never had the time.

Like many embroidery designers I was forced to close shop as there were no postal/courier services. Prior to January 2020 I had been working on distance learning, classes so it was fortuitous that I was able to release these at the beginning of the lockdown in April 2020. The classes were timely as they were available as a digital download, so did not require shipping and provided a much, needed activity for those in isolation. 

The only problem we faced was sourcing materials for the class, as deliveries were limited or unavailable. Having grown up in Zimbabwe where we faced constant shortages, I am very familiar with having to make a plan, so I encouraged students to use whatever they had in the house, such as:

  • Look in your linen cupboard and find an old sheet or pillowcase which can be cut up for embroidery fabric.
  • If you don’t have the thread colours – use substitutes, even sewing cotton or knitting wool can be used.

Class project

At about the same time I had the idea to introduce a mini journal with a free project for every page which was posted on my blog every week. The idea was that the projects were small enough to engross one without being overwhelmed by a large project and you could use any materials you had to hand. We are just about to put the finishing touches to our completed journal and it seems timely that it comes to a conclusion at the end of 2020 – perhaps it may serve as a reminder of a more positive aspect of an otherwise daunting year?

Mini journal

For those that don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself, and how you got into embroidery?

I have been doing embroidery since 1995 so about 25 years. I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe and was always doing some form of art and crafts. I had tried unsuccessfully to make a business out of many of them, but then I saw my cousin doing cross stitch and was hooked. Always the burgeoning business woman I took orders from (long suffering) friends and relatives for cross stitch commissions but eventually decided to move on to surface embroidery. It was virtually impossible to find books on the subject in Zimbabwe and there was no Google/internet in those days so I sort of made up my own style of needlepainting, copying what I saw from a picture in thread – so yes I am very much self-taught, with no formal training.   

Iris from The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers

Iris project from The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers

When I finally did find a book on embroidery I realised that although they gave basic instructions they always seemed to leave out those important little details which left me feeling frustrated, so I resolved I would share my methods every step of the way. A bit like making sure no ingredient is left out of a good recipe! 

In 2003 my husband, myself and three daughters moved to Cape Town, South Africa. South Africa is like the “first world of Africa” so new doors opened up and opportunities presented themselves to start an online business selling kits and materials. I was invited to teach at workshops around the country and ultimately extended overseas to Australia, Europe and the UK including the Royal School of Needlework (RSN). It is always surprising to me how my embroidery career has blossomed, and I am grateful to continue to grow in my craft and be able to share my knowledge with others.

RSN Workshop Workshop at the RSN
Trish at an RSN workshop

You’ve published many books and already a well-established author but you’re a new author for Search Press. How did you come to publish with us? 

My first book was commissioned by DMC France in 1998, but when the contract came through I discovered it was to be published in French, and obviously I wanted it in English, so I sent the synopsis out to various other craft publishers. Sally Milner in Australia offered me a contract and since then I have published seven titles with them between the years of 1999 – 2017, including one book on Cross Stitch which is no longer in print.

Colour Confidence  African Cross Stitch
Covers of two of Tish's books

To start with I had little or no knowledge of the book publishing process – if I remember correctly we had only recently started working with Microsoft Word, and I thought I had to present the full book layout, text and pictures to the publishers. They had a hard time deciphering my manuscript, but this has evolved over time and I hope my more recent books are an improvement on my earlier ones?

In 2018 Sally Milner made the decision to retire from craft book publishing and asked if I would like to move over to Search Press. I was of course delighted to have the opportunity to publish with the leading art and craft publisher. My first introduction was with Katie French, the Editorial Director who phoned to introduce herself and tell me a bit about the company. Contracts were formalised and shortly thereafter I was offered a commission to publish a book on the botanical paintings of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This was a dream come true for me and I accepted the assignment with alacrity and enthusiasm. I was introduced to the senior editor Becky Robbins, who worked closely with me on The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers which was released this year.  

The Kew Book of Embroidered Flowers

In 2019 I travelled to the UK and had the opportunity to meet Becky and all the staff at Search Press, and have to say they are awesome, it has been a great experience working with them. Just saying...!!

Your new book Trish Burr’s Embroidery Transfers is quite different to all your other embroidery. Can you tell us a bit about it and the whole concept?

This is a book of iron-on transfers, no projects. The projects can be found in my four most recent books: Whitework with Colour, Colour Confidence in Embroidery, Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery and Needle Painting Embroidery, so if you own any of these books you will find the iron on transfers for them included in this book. I also provided some extra bonus transfers with colour prints so you can create your own designs.   

Trish Burr's Embroidery Transfers 
Trish Burr's Embroidery Transfers

Previously I offered these iron-on transfers in packs for sale in my online shop, but as they were printed overseas it seemed counter-intuitive to import them into South Africa and then ship them back overseas,  so we decided as a convenience to customers we would compile them into one book. This way they could be purchased direct from overseas book distributors/shops without having to wait for shipping from South Africa.

Tell us a bit about the transfers

They are really easy to use as all you need to do is cut out the transfer for your project and iron it on to your fabric. The outline is then traced and ready to stitch which saves you having to trace the outline by hand and all those wobbly lines! There is a slight difference between the transfer packs that I sold in my shop and the transfers in my book as of necessity they come from different sources.

For the best results, learn how to use the iron-on transfers here.

Are the projects suitable for beginners?

Absolutely, there are projects for all levels from complete beginner to advanced.

Do you have any tips for beginners?

Practise the stitches on a piece of scrap fabric first till you feel confident. You can draw little shapes on to your fabric, like leaves and fill them in with thread - this is what I used to do when I first started out, and it helps to familiarise yourself with the stitches before you begin working on a project. Take your time and don’t worry if it does't look perfect first time, it will come with a bit of practise. There is no wrong way to do it, as long as it is pleasing to you it will be successful.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs?

All over the place; gardens, landscapes, artists, fashion, books, TV shows, movies, the internet or stock photo sites – I am one of those nutty people who runs off in the middle of dinner to jot down an idea, or I send myself emails in the middle of the night! Pinterest is a huge source of inspiration and enables me to see what is trending in the world each year, which helps when choosing colours and compositions.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am about to start work on another exciting book commission with Search Press but I can’t say any more right now!

I have been trying out some monochrome designs – I love pencil work so wanted to see what it would look like in thread, everything in my life gets translated in thread. 

Monochrome rose Monochrome moth

Do you have any exciting plans for the rest of 2020 or 2021?

I am looking closely at pen and ink illustrations and considering how I can reproduce these in thread – one never knows if it will work out, but its fun exploring new ideas. Embroidery is forever evolving, and there is a big storehouse of ideas and inspiration out there, so yes I always have plans in store, there is never a dull moment!

One day I hope to work on my own collection of miniature designs in embroidery. I love small, detailed compositions where I can split sewing thread to add fine, realistic details. I have a desire to challenge myself and see where it takes me – perhaps a coffee table book or a miniature painting exhibition, who knows but we can dream can’t we?

I will be teaching at the Lady Anne’s Needlework Festival in Appleby, Cumbria from 4 – 17 July 2021. Appleby borders the Lake District, home of Beatrix Potter.

Bunny miniature

Trish Burr's Embroidery Transfers is available from Search Press, RRP £9.99.

 Trish Burr's Embroidery Transfers
To see more books by Trish Burr click here.


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