Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Trish Burr on Embroidery Books & More, Part 1


Amazon Books

If you like needle painting, surface embroider, crewel work, and any shading techniques used in surface embroidery, you’re bound to admire Trish Burr’s needlework. Even if you don’t like any of the above (?!?!), you will still be astounded by Trish’s artistry. I’ve admired Trish’s books since they first came out, and have learned heaps from them. Her work is stunning. She’s published a total of four books so far on embroidery, and she’s also been featured in Inspirations Magazine. So I’m very, very happy to be able to share her insights with you and to show you some of her pieces – some, even, that you won’t necessarily see in her books!

First, let me explain how this came about:

I reviewed Redoute’s Finest Flowers in Embroidery here on Needle’nThread, and Trish kindly e-mailed and thanked me for the review. We exchanged a couple e-mails about her upcoming book, Crewel and Surface Embroidery: Inspirational Designs, and I asked if I could interview her for my readers. Well, she went beyond that, and sent me photos of her work and a list of notes she was using for a class, which includes her background, commentary on her different books, and her story of “getting published.”

This is interesting stuff! It’s a lot of information, so I’m splitting it into two parts.

I hope you enjoy it!

From Trish:

It all started in about 1990 when I was living in Zimbabwe. My introduction to embroidery came from humble beginnings….. I did not learn at my grandmother’s knee, I did not learn from my Mother (she is here today and will confirm), I did not do domestic science at school; in fact, everything I learnt was from a book – however, I did enjoy art, so perhaps the creative leanings were there. It was not until I got married that I tried my hand at various crafts including sewing – this began a series of home industries where I sold my wares at craft fairs hoping to get rich quick from the proceeds. Then I learnt to do cross stitch and was hooked.

In 1993, an opportunity arose to take on the DMC agency in Zimbabwe which would prove to change the course of my life. This little agency was a great success and eventually we were providing every needlework shop in Zimbabwe plus some of the neighboring countries.

We imported the threads direct from France and then distributed them to the shops. There was a chronic shortage of foreign currency in Zimbabwe so I had to borrow from my Dad’s currency allocation for the farm. If I remember correctly, we had to put the threads down as tractor spares or tobacco twines or something like that!

Birds, Thread Painted by Trish Burr, worked in one strand of DMC / Anchor

At this time, I became interested in thread painting and spent many hours pondering the techniques in books and trying them out on little pieces of scrap fabric. I would copy little pictures from cards, books, or wrapping paper in an effort to reproduce the original as closely as possible. I was not aware of any embroidery guild in Zimbabwe and certainly did not know of anyone who did this type of embroidery who could help me, so I just developed my own style of thread painting.

In 1999, we went on a trip to the DMC factory in France. They saw some of my work and asked me if I would like to publish a book for them, but when the contract came through, I noticed it was to be published in French.

So I sent the synopsis out to some English speaking publishers and in 2000 I was offered a contract by Sally Milner Publishing in Australia. Their contract stated that I had to give them first offer of any new book titles and so I have continued to publish with them to this day.

Flower design by Trish Burr, featured in her new book, Crewel and Surface Embroidery, worked in a combination of wool, silk, and cotton

Since then, I have published four books, approximately one every two years – three on thread painting and one on cross stitch. The cross stitch book was compiled from a number of kits I had done previously and was published in 2003.

The first [thread painting] book was Redoute’s Finest Flowers in Embroidery, published in 2001 – I had bought a book in the London art gallery on Redoute’s flower paintings and felt compelled to stitch them. I thought it was my job to send them a complete layout of the book, page for page. Computers didn’t do what you wanted them to do in those days and I spent many frustrated hours trying to get pictures in the right place on the page, only to be told that was the designer’s job!

I found out I was pregnant at the age of 43 (I have two grown up daughters) and… moved out of our house into a small cottage while they were doing major alterations to our house – didn’t think I would finish the book. My family pushed me to get it finished and about four months before Katie was born, the book went off to Australia.

I remember well the arrival of this first book. Katie was about 2 months old and I had tears in my eyes. When I saw the book in print, it was an amazing feeling.

This little book exceeded all my expectations, going into a reprint within the first three months – I didn’t even know what a reprint was… since then, it’s been reprinted four times. The whole thing was a bit overwhelming: not only was I trying to get to grips with motherhood in my latter years, but the publishers were already asking for a second title.

Elise by Trish Burr - a work in progress, worked in one strand of DMC / Anchor cottons

Wow! What a journey, and what an achievement. The second part of Trish’s article concentrates on her other two thread painting books, the nitty-gritty on publishing (editing, sales, royalties), and some very inspiring concluding remarks. I’ll have that, and a couple more gorgeous photos, up for you tomorrow.

Thanks so much, Trish, for “talking” to us so candidly. I can’t really speak for everyone reading this, but I’ve read your notes several times over, and I find them fascinating! So a Great Big Thank You!

If you want to pre-order a copy of Trish’s new book, Crewel and Surface Embroidery Inspirational Designs, you can do so through Amazon. I’ve contacted the publishing company here in the US to get an accurate date on release of the book, but I haven’t heard back. I’ll let you know when I find out!

Read on to Part II of Trish Burr’s Needlework Adventures


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(11) Comments

  1. Amazing work and that too self-taught. I have her other two books on thread painting and I’m definitely going to buy her new book. I have one request for Trish Burr that her next book should contain birds and butterflies. The piece on those two birds are so life like. Great work!

  2. Thank you, Mary and thank you, Trish! Trish’s ‘Long and Short Stitch Embroidery’ is my absolute favourite shading book. I will pre-order the crewel book just as soon as I finish this comment! 🙂

    Looking forward to part two.

  3. Im a big fan of Trish Burr. I am planning to buy her new book for my birthday. thanks for the story

  4. Dear Mary:
    Truly is magnificent, your article on Trish (I have “Long and Short Stitch Embroidery” by Trish Burr). I will continue step by step this article that I liked as much as all the topics on which you write Thank you very much, for sharing, also thank you Trish!
    I am truly inspired!
    Maria del Valle

  5. Her work is truly inspiring. I check on her new book and Amazon and Barnes and Noble both show it will be released in August.

    I have been doing needlework since I was 7. I have been very interested in Needlepainting are there any books that you would recommend?

  6. I’m glad you all like the article so far! Her work is incredible, isn’t it?

    Smoose, I recommend the long-and-short stitch book mentioned above (by Trish Burr) and also her new book. Both of those are good for learning how to do shading well. You can also check my book review list (link in the list at the top right of the page) for other books on crewel work and shading techniques.

  7. Contratulations Trish on your achievements. As a ex-Zimbabwean myself I also enjoy being creative and when I moved to S.A. I gave up floral art and started painting. Also needlepainting. I have completed a leopard and am now working on a leopard cub but will be attempting flowers and birds, thanks to be inspired by your work.

  8. Well done Trish for your achievements. As an ex-Zimbabwean myself who enjoys being creative I am also doing needlepainting. Your books look excellent.
    Moira b

  9. Hi I want to embroider the flower in this page. Where I can find it . I already rite to you but I never receive an answer. I buy one of your book, really very appreciate, I embroider the callas was hard some time but I did it.
    Thanks for your answer
    Margarita from Canadá Quebec

    1. You can find Trish Burr’s embroidery website here. She has a shop with kits and design transfers. You’ll probably find it in there somewhere. Hope that helps!

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