WINNER ‘Progress toward circularity’ Marie Claire Sustainability Awards 2023

Interview with Amanda Carter of Quilt Dragon Kits

Amanda Carter of Quilt Dragon Kits has been creating beautiful things with textiles since an early age. She tells us about how she started pursuing embroidery professionally and her everyday inspirations. 

Embroidery of mask in embroidery hoop with thread and pattern

How did you get into your craft?

I learned to sew from a very young age. My Mum was a great influence; she was always sewing and knitting and I just wanted to do it too. I learned to make dolls clothes, I learned to knit, to crochet, to do tapestry and embroidery, and I also tried my hand at tatting which can be quite tricky! I remember my mum going on a lace making weekend when I was 10. As soon as she came home I got her to show me how to make lace too – I got quite good at it!

My Nan used to make soft toys to sell. She encouraged me to do this too so when I was still at school I would make soft toys and sell them to my friends and the teachers. I used to make my own clothes too whilst still at school.

I always had some form of needlework project on the go!

Can you tell us a little bit about the process behind your practice?

I usually start with photographs and sketches. In the past, I taught workshops at various national trust properties. I’ll visit the property and take lots of photographs as inspiration. From these, I’ll do some sketches, trying out various arrangements of the different elements. It’s at this stage I’ll try out ideas for the technique – crewel work, goldwork etc, sampling the possible colours, materials and stitches. Once I’ve finalised the design, I’ll transfer it to the fabric and stitch it, taking photographs at every step ready for when I write the instructions. Sometimes it works out straight away as I want and sometimes I need to revise my ideas, stitches or colour choices as I go along.

Blue jacobean leaf embroidery

What are your inspirations?

I’m inspired by historic embroideries. I’m always on the look-out for places that have old textiles on display as I love to see how the embroideries of the past are worked. With my work, I aim to be inspired by the traditions and techniques of the past but hopefully with my own more modern twist rather than just copying.

What inspired you to pursue embroidery in a professional manner?

I have always sewn and made things, but for many years my work has been making and altering wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses and embroidery was just a hobby. I used to work embroidery on some of the dresses I made, elements such as ivy leaves, celtic knots or the couple’s initials or other items that were more personal to the couple in question. But I still enjoyed working embroidery for pleasure. I wanted to improve my skills as an embroiderer and I needed to move on from just reworking other people’s kits so I decided to enrol on the certificate course with the Royal School of Needlework. And I loved this! It focused on the tradition of embroidery and I was taught the correct way that embroidery should be worked. I love the exactness and the high level of attention to detail of practising this age old skill. This led to my passion of passing what I have learned to others. I believe that these techniques should be passed on to the next generation and through my kits that is what I hope to do – bringing these traditional techniques to a wider audience. The workshops came first but as not everyone can attend a workshop I created the kits.

Goldwork owl embroidery on blue fabric

What are your favourite materials to work with?

One of my favourite techniques is goldwork and I am particularly pleased with the piece I worked on as part of my certificate with the Royal School of Needlework. The piece is called ‘Grumpy Owl’ and you can see why – he certainly has a lot of character, Goldwork uses lots of different unusual threads, such as twist, pearl purl and Japanese thread. A lot of threads in goldwork are applied to the surface of the fabric by couching them down or cutting into small pieces and then sewn on like beads.