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Introducing our 2021 Festival Tutors: Deborah Wilding

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Deborah Wilding is an English based embroiderer, specialising in a wide range of historically accurate needlework techniques.

An alumnus of the Royal School of Needlework, where she graduated with distinction, Deborah designs her own needlework projects as well as teaches embroidery skills on behalf of the Royal School of Needlework,  for other organisations and in private settings.

From working on large studio projects to small scale items for customers, Deborah uses techniques including Goldwork, Silk Shading, Whitework, Canvas techniques, Stumpwork, Appliqué, Blackwork, Crewelwork among others.

Deborah works with an inspirational view of the coastline from her saffron studio.

Now living in England’s West Country in North Somerset, Deborah will be ‘coming home’ to Cumbria for the Festival, as she is originally from Carlisle our nearest city to our hometown of Appleby-in-Westmorland where the Festival will be held. Ahead of our inaugural Lady Anne’s Needlework Festival, we have caught up with Deborah to find out a little more about her passion for needlework.

Why and how did you become a needlework tutor? Did anyone or thing, in particular, inspire you? 

This was an art technique which always caught my attention from a young age. I’ve always found sewing and having my hands busy very therapeutic.

Being an embroidery tutor is a second career for me, for ten years I worked in the field of cartography and digital mapping for private companies and local government. I grabbed the opportunity to retrain when my children were small and the Royal School of Needlework started their Future Tutor Programme in 2012.  I was the on the first intake on this course and it was a steep learning curve for both them and me but its an opportunity I’m very grateful for and feel very blessed that I work in a field which  love so much.

What is your main needlework interest? 

That’s a really hard question, I really do love all of the techniques. The great thing about the training I’ve had means you’re taught to a high standard in just about every technique you can imagine. It’s great that it’s so wide ranging…..It means you can turn your hand to anything.

Because I teach for the Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma and Future Tutors course you’re always being challenged and pushed to keep your own skill set as high as you can. 

Over the past few years I’ve been working in partnership between with the Fashion Museum in Bath and the Royal School of Needlework. This has been an amazing project and really inspiring for both me as a teacher and the students as the pieces from the museum are inspirational from both a technique and a historical point of view. 

Do you have a favourite stitch? 

My favourite stitch is Fly Stitch and all the variations of the Fly Stitch family. It’s really versatile and interesting and when worked correctly gives a really great finish to the shape.

If you had to choose one needlework possession to save in a fire, what would it be?  

My Future Tutor embroidery pieces. I’d get the family to grab a couple each. My heart and soul went into these pieces and I would be devastated to lose them. 

When developing your designs, which activity takes the most time? 

Definitely the instruction writing. It’s the hardest piece of the project.

Stitching the design is the easy part, It’s a slower processes when you’re stopping at all the stages to take pictures but important to not get too carried away and move on before the pictures of stages are done.

The written instructions are so important as you need to make these easy to follow and comprehensive so your words are there when you are not. 

How much time do you spend stitching each day?  

On average a stitching day can vary. If I can just crack on with a project I try to keep it below seven hours with breaks in between to straighten my back and walk around. Regular breaks are vital if you don’t want to spend your life at the chiropractor. 

What is the best piece of advice about needlework you have been given and can share with our students?  

Take up Pilates….. it’s so important to keep your core body muscles strong and the movement on your limbs and back in good order. I’ve had real problems with my back over the years and teaching embroidery really can be problematic. You spend your day at the tricky 30’ angel not stood up straight but slightly bent over students work. It’s been so beneficial for me….give it a go.

What advice would you give to students to get the most out of their workshop experience?  

Enjoy the process and the learning environment, for most students it’s the first time they have worked a piece like the one in the workshop and students feel under such pressure to create a masterpiece. You will always get better results the more relaxed you are. 

Have you taught at Phillipa and Laura’s retreats before? 

I have not taught for Phillipa and Laura’s retreats before which makes it even more special to be invited to teach now, at such a prestigious event with a selection of tutors, many I know well and work with currently and others I have worked with in the past. 


Thank you Deborah for your time and energy, we look forward to many more teaching opportunities with you in the future!

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