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Norma Cuddihy researcher, reviver of OLD stitching techniques

Norma’s dining room table is clean, cleared and polished – but it quickly becomes cluttered, loaded with a plethora of projects in varying degrees of completion that she has busily retrieved from her craft room to show you. Her enthusiasm is infectious. She runs back to her craft room, then her muffled voice from deep inside a cupboard declares that she has found even more.

In her studio can be found many wooden and vintage cutlery boxes, now used to store her incredible collections of threads, her assortment of more than 100 scissors, an abundance of specialist needles, sheaves of hanging art silks, half cone sticks/ embroidery shoes/ needle lace shoes – not to mention the many bagged UFOs, ready to come out of hibernation at any stage. “They’ll all get finished at some point” she says, “it’s about the journey, not the finishing”.

Norma began this part of her journey into stitching in 2003. She was “hooked”, and since then, she has achieved great things, driven by her passion: winning awards; mastering many techniques; guiding, tutoring and mentoring others. 

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Q: A quote from INSPIRATIONS magazine: The rhythm of the stitch soothes your senses, lifts your spirit, nourishes your soul and ignites your passion. Is this you?

A: Words cannot describe what happens. A piece of fabric, needles, thread. You feel you can’t, but then you make a start and realise that you can. You look back at what you have achieved, and your heart swells. Each time you look at your work, you remember. You don’t have to finish a piece to finish the journey. It’s about the memories you make along the way.

Q: Are new stitches ever created? Do you experiment with and trial new stitches for a different “look”? Or using traditional stitches in different ways? Are different styles ever combined? 

A: I collect (as well as scissors!), old stitching books from the 50’s. I love to find the old stitches and finding different ways of doing the same stitch. Simply putting the thread around the needle in a different way or changing its’ direction creates a whole new stitch. I research these old styles to learn them, learn from them and to discover different ways.

Q: How would you describe your “signature” style?

A: I love stumpwork and have just recently become impassioned by counted work such as hardanger.  I love researching and experimenting with old stitching styles.

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Q: The piece that you would never part with?

A: “My Diva”- took well in excess of 150 hours to complete. She is based on an original design by Catherine Howell which she has called “Diva”. I made changes – “Rings on her fingers, bells on her toes”.  She became “My Diva” and she brought me and will continue to bring me great joy. 

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Q: What can we look forward to seeing in “The Gentle Arts” exhibit at this year’s Quilt & Craft Spectacular? What type/style of embroidery will you be displaying?

A: As well as Stumpwork and Ribbon Embroidery, I’ll be bringing along examples of:

– Sollerosom (or Soleron), a Swedish counting technique seen on aprons in the 1600’s and an integral part of the folk costume. It’s all but forgotten today.

– Hardanger – a form of embroidery traditionally worked with white thread on white even-weave linen or cloth, using counted thread and drawn thread work techniques. It is sometimes called whitework embroidery, though colours can be used. I’ll be displaying my biscornu pincushions.

– Temari – an old Japanese art form, originally this technique was used to make toys. They are thread covered balls – I use scrunched paper to start the balls, then wind wool and cotton over and over the ball to make a good, round surface and then stitch on the surface with colorful threads. The designs can be intricate or simple. 

– Chicken Scratch – also known as Broderie Suisse, Australian Cross Stitch, and Depression Lace Embroidery, is a variation of cross stitch that is traditionally stitched on gingham fabric using perle mercerized cotton thread or stranded embroidery thread.

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