Jackie Cardy Textile Artist - Lancashire, United Kingdom

Do you get your inspiration from your garden, Elizabethan flowers, or from further a field?

I think I get inspiration from everywhere, my garden and the wider environment. When I walk in the woods near my home I see at a particular time of year, willow leaves criss-crossing the paths in all shades: lime, jade, yellow, brown and its stays with me.

I love the colours of the skies especially in winter. I remember in spring, seeing a leaden grey sky and the sun behind me shining on a sycamore tree in bud, grey trunk, ochre leaves. I suddenly realised I’d made a brooch in these exact colours. I think I absorb all these images and they come out in my work. I have been particularly inspired by places I travel too and last year a lot of my work was based on the colours and textures of the Burren in the west of Ireland. My first pieces after that trip were strange little stitchings on felt I had made in the colours that stayed with me.

I just love looking and then making.

I’m also a big fan of mid 20th Century design and recently made a number of wall pieces inspired by the style. It came easily because it’s the era I grew up in so the designs just fell out of my head!

These were made on silk paper, which is made in a similar way to making felt but with adhesive to hold the fibres together.

A lot of my work is spontaneous and intuitive which is why it varies and sometimes I am ‘in the zone’.

Do you make your own felt?

Yes, I make my own felt. I have been making felt for some years and more recently I became a founder member of a group of felters who meet once a month. This has led me to use felt in different ways and I am very comfortable with it. I love to mix the colours and come upon what I like to think of as little episodes of surprise and delight where two colours meet and blend in an unexpected way.

Do you dye your fabrics?

I dye the velvet I use. I only do it once in a blue moon and it lasts me for years as I use tiny pieces. I HATE the process of dyeing fabric but I love the effect that I get. Again delicious surprises where colours merge.

Tell us about your time at City and Guilds and the input that has had on your work?

Well! Where do I begin? City and Guilds, which I finished in 1997, was the very best thing I ever did in my creative life. It taught me lots of new techniques, and ways of designing and above all it gave me the tools to explore my own ideas. I loved it but when it was finished I felt ‘unleashed’ and ready to start my textile journey with confidence. I must admit that now I hardly ever sit down and design but I think I am designing in my head all the time.

Do you take classes?

Occasionally, maybe three or four a year. (see entry under Purses)

What classes do you do and where?

I usually wait for requests from embroiderer’s guild branches, textile groups and so on. I don’t run my own classes speculatively.

I can do technique-based classes such as free motion embroidery, or feltmaking, as well as playdays with transfer paints creating backgrounds.

I have a few ‘project’ classes where students make an item I’ve designed but with their own variations. For example the ‘High Profile Faces’ based on a piece I did for my city and guilds. These are faces in profile embroidered by machine on Hand made felt and finished by hand.

The profiles I did all came from Ancient Greek vases but it can be adapted to make profiles of friends or family.

I don’t teach my current technique though.

Are you open to doing international classes?

It’s not something I’ve thought of. But I’m willing.

Tell us about your leaf and flower brooches and how important colour is?

Well I think you can see how much I love colour! My ‘studio’ aka the ‘spare room’ is very small and as a result its can get quite untidy. This can be a good thing! When a bit of velvet falls onto a bit of felt a new colour combination is born!

I rarely plan the colour combination for the brooches. I make the felt at the felt group and then I stitch it at home. I rummage in my velvet pile and might find a bit I haven’t seen for a while and try it.

However, when I made my pieces inspired by the ‘Lake Isle of Innisfree’ by WB Yeats I was using specific colours I had seen in County Clare. These were the colours of the water, rocks and seashore. So they were planned.

The felt bowl I made was the embodiment of the feeling of being in West Clare. I love it.

I was going to add stitched motifs but it looked so serene and peaceful with a smooth surface that I left it unadorned. I call it my ‘Peace’ bowl. All this works relates to the poem “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by WB Yeats.

I had been very stressed when I went to County Clare and I remember standing on the edge of the sea feeling ‘peace come dropping slow’ as in the poem. I made a whole series of related pieces for an exhibition.

The one below is a series of motifs to illustrate the line ‘Noon a purple glow’.

When Yeats wrote the line he referred to the heather reflecting in the water, I made my pieces seaweed shaped to reflect the coastal element.

I love making the brooches and the fact that people want to buy them gives me a good reason to do it. I have recently offered them as unfinished ‘patches’ or ‘motifs’, which could be used as starting points for your own pieces. They are opportunities to experiment with colour and stitch.

Can you explain about the size of the brooches?

The brooches are usually about 3 inches long. Sometime they are a bit smaller. The large corsages are over 4 inches and are on a big pin for use on knitted or felt garments.

How important is fabric to the finished piece?

The fabric is what it’s made of! And stitch. I even have them backed with liberty fabric or similar. The textures of the fabrics give the brooches a unique look, the velvet is so sumptuous and rich and in very small pieces it looks wonderful against the felt.

Can you tell me about the importance of “a splash of colour” – black with olive?

That particular piece was quite a surprise. I had an uninspiring bit of darkest green and black felt and I just thought I might try it, (someone might like it) matched it with limey ochre and fell in love with the combination. Now I need to make some more of that ‘horrible’ felt! (Which I now love)

Larger work

Can you tell me about your larger work inspired by the interior of Charleston Farmhouse, Sussex?

The Process

This started as a piece of felt made at the felt group. Because I make the brooches to sell I have to make them appeal to different tastes so I strive to make felt in colours I wouldn’t ordinarily choose. I made this piece and as soon as I saw it I realised it was the palette of the décor of Charleston Farmhouse. (This was the home in the early 20th century of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and some of their ‘Bloomsbury’ group. They decorated almost all surfaces of the interior-from cupboard doors to the side of the bath- with what was then very Avant-Garde style. )

I looked at this piece of felt for ages not wanting to do ‘the usual’ with it and when I needed to make a piece for an exhibition I decided to use it to make a garden inspired piece.

The Composition

I made a number of small pieces in the same way as I make the brooches but allowed myself to wander around the shapes with my sewing machine almost doodling patterns and shapes using velvets and threads of matching shades.

When I had enough pieces I played about with the composition and decided I liked it in a circular format on a background of felt. I made a piece and attached them and didn’t like it so nothing daunted I unpicked it all and made a more neutral piece, which I like.

The Fine Detail

Once I’d attached the pieces I felt they needed something to connect them visually with the background so I used a selected few hand stitches. I love running stitch and made lines to make the motifs flow on the background, and finally used the sewing machine to create texture in the background.


Talk about the purses you make.

I don’t make purses so much now. Perhaps if I have a stall at a Craft event, but I don’t do that often. I love embroidery and purses are all about construction, but I love to combine velvet with Harris Tweed and as a result have made Harris Tweed bags, very simple, with velvet embroidery, and some smaller purses. The velvet goes so well on the tweed.

I made some small ‘Petal Purses’ some years ago and now sell a pattern on my Etsy site for people to make their own. I also offer this as a workshop.


Contact details.



Galleries and web places where your work is available


Lazyhill Gallery, Abbotsbury, Dorset, UK

The Platform Gallery, Clitheroe, Lancashire. UK

The Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK


Jackie Cardy, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Interview by Deborah Blakeley, August, 2012