The Artistry of Sheena Norquay, Part 3 — Scottish Highlands Collection

Sheena Norquay’s Scottish Highlands Collections were inspired by the colours of mountains, forests, moorlands, and lochs of the Scottish Highlands as well as native animals such as Highland cows, Red squirrels and Red deer.

The colors are rich and vibrant and well represented in 2 small boxes — 1 in 50wt and 1 in Aurifloss.

The colours are:
2309 (cream), 2612 (pale blue/grey), 2566 (light mauve), 6735 (dark mauve), 2885 (dark green), 1246 (grey), 2775 (dark blue), 2155 (rust brown), 2975 (ochre), & 1147 (light green).

Please visit The Artistry of Sheena Norquay, Part 1 for more details + the full interview with Sheena.

To enter-to-win the two Scottish Highlands collections by Sheena Norquay, please leave us a comment on this post letting us know which of Sheena’s pieces below is your favorite and why. Entry will close at 11:59pm on Friday, August 18 and a winner will be announced here on Saturday, August 19. This giveaway is open to all of our International friends!

Your Scottish Highlands Collection is available in both 50wt and Aurifloss — what are your favorite ways to combine the two thread weights into one piece of art?
I like using the Aurifloss first to hand embroider shapes, animals or sections of landscapes. Colours can be blended together as already explained using 2 – 6 strands of 2 or more colours. The more colours you use, the more subtle and “muddy” the colours become and this is useful when stitching something pictorial. It is a bit like painting with the threads.  If I am stitching a grid or line of shapes I usually take the more orderly, rigid, mathematical approach. Whatever I am embroidering, I usually do it on to a layer of wadding, either wool or polyester.

Once the hand embroidery is completed, I trim away excess wadding around shapes close to the stitching before tacking ( basting)  this to a layer of 80/20 cotton/polyester wadding (batting). The free motion quilting is then done with the no. 50 threads and the embroidered shapes pop up – for example the triangle shaped pieces or “Red Squirrel.” It is useful to have the same colour of threads as I used for the embroidery.  Sometimes I add more hand stitched details with the floss such as on the foreground of “Sheep at Loch Ness.”

Sheena made a series of samples to showcase the threads in her Scottish Highlands Collections — 50wt & Floss.

Finished at 20 x 21cm
Created between December 21, 2015 & February 2, 2016
Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

by Sheena Norquay

Four strands of 9 single colours were embroidered using a detached chain stitch on a pieced 9-patch block and Thermore wadding to create nine triangles which represent mountains. The border was embroidered in zig zags with the 10th colour before a second layer of 80/20 cotton/polyester wadding was added. It was free motion quilted using 50wt thread.

Finished at 22.5 x 50.5cm
Created between December 29, 2015 & January 26, 2016
Total time: 23 hours 20 minutes

Each row of triangles is a 4 step blend from one colour to another using 4 strands of floss. (4a, 3a + 1b, 2a + 2b, 1a + 3b) All 10 colours in the Scottish Highlands collection were used.

Finished at 37 X 37cm
Created between January 3, 2016 & February 18, 2016
Total time: 13 hours 40 minutes

Five small pieces of tweed were pieced together — each piece has 3 triangle shapes  embroidered with 4 strands of Aurifloss using a 2 step colour blend ( 2a, 1a+1b 2b).  Grey/black herringbone tweed was stitched around the embroidered rectangles to form a cushion cover. The outline of a large triangle was embroidered with slanting stitches to match the weave of the tweed. Each row of stitches has 2 strands of cotton floss and forms a 2 step colour blend.

The cushion cover was quilted with straight lines following the weave of the fabric using Aurifil 50wt and the walking foot. There is an extra layer of wadding behind the large triangle (wool) with the main layer being 80/20 cotton/ polyester.



These samples are painted, pieced, hand appliqued, and embroidered with colours from the Scottish Highlands collection of cotton floss and free motion quilted using Aurifil 50wt threads in the same colours.

Finished at 30 x 25cm
Created between January 4, 2016 & February 9, 2016
Total time: 14 hours 30 minutes

Detail of Highland Cows by Sheena Norquay

Inspired by a photo Sheena took of 2 Highland cows near Inverness, this piece was made with fabric painting and hand embroidery using cotton floss threads from the Scottish Highlands collection. It was free motion quilted using Aurifil 50wt.

Finished at 29 x 25cm
Created between January 15, 2016 & February 11, 2016
Total time: 12 hours 40 minutes

Lone Stag by Sheena Norquay

The mountain was inspired by a photo Sheena took from the train south of Aviemore. She loved the patterns on the mountain and it is an area where one can often see red deer. The piece was created using fabric painting and hand embroidery with 2 colours of cotton floss from the Scottish Highlands collection. It was then free motion quilted using Aurifil 50wt.

Finished at 31.5 x 32cm
Created between January 18, 2016 & February 4, 2016
Total time: 17 hours 30 minutes

Green Treelines and Tartan Tweed by Sheena Norquay

This piece was inspired by a photo taken from the train between Inverness and Perth. The wind was whipping the snow up into the sky, a sight Sheena had not seen before and she was attracted to the contrast between the trees and the lines on the mountain. It was fabric painted and hand embroidered using cotton floss from the Scottish Highlands collection. The border is wool tartan. Couched threads are 3 strands of Aurifil Wool twisted together and hand stitched.


Sheena Norquay was born on the Orkney Islands, just off the Northern tip of Scotland. Though she began sewing as a child, it wasn’t until attending University in Aberdeen to gain a B.Ed degree that she truly dove into the world of sewing, quilting, and textiles. The degree included 2-dimensional design in textiles which inspired her interest in exploring the artistic potential of threads and fabrics.

Having been a Primary School teacher in Inverness for 30 years, Sheena is now a freelance quilting teacher and teaches workshops locally, all over the UK, and sometimes abroad. She also writes articles for magazines and her quilts have been featured in several books.

Sheena’s work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally since 1981 and she has won many awards in competitive quilt shows. She sells her work, cards and postcards of her work, and also accept commissions.

Text and images courtesy of Sheena Norquay.


  1. they are all wonderful. I really like the Flying Triangles. I love the colors and the movement.
    I also like Highland Cows. On the farm we had a Scottish Highland Bull and he was a teddy bear. We loved him. He was a friend. We just stayed out of his way when he smelled a female in heat. Oh yeah.

  2. How does one choose just one favorite out of such an impressive collection. I love the lone red deer and the Green Treelines and Tartan. Thank you for introducing me to Sheena.

  3. Oh! My favorites here are the flying triangles, and the highland 🐮 cows! Who can choose just one? Beautiful work, Sheena!

  4. What inspiration ~ Sheena’s work makes me want to grab my camera and put my personal landscape on a thread painting. My favorite is the Highland Cows. Beautiful work.

  5. Beautiful colors! Love Sample #3. The texture made with the chain stitch, the simple design, and the harmonious colors! Together it makes your eyes travel over the quilt, looking at each block.

  6. The highland cows is my favorite. I like the look of it and could see myself doing something like that because I love animals.

  7. Sample Three is my favorite, although it’s hard to verbalize why. There is something about the interplay of the colors and the stitching that just draws me to it. I could look at that every single day, and learn from it. I also love both the Lone Stag and the Highland Deer. Lone Stag reminds me of the deer and elk we see here on our Oregon farm–as someone raised in the Southern Cal suburbs, I’m still amazed by that. And the Highland Deer quilt makes me think of the trip I took to Ireland. I know the Highlands and Ireland aren’t interchangeable, but the fields and fencing laid out were so beautiful, and reminded me that farmers still worked in ways that resembled the small farms that used to make up American farming when my grandpa was a farmer.

  8. Each work is fabulous and my favorite in it’s own right. However, if I have to choose just one it’s HIGHLAND COWS . I love the texture she created in thread for the coats of the cows and how they fit so nicely into the stitched background.

  9. I am in love with both the long stag & flying triangles!! You are so very creative, and offer so much inspiration!

  10. Highland Cows is my favorite, although it was certainly difficult to narrow down my choice. I chose this sample because it drew me into the scene and has a real feeling for the environment and animal. I hope I can stitch something an iota as nice as Sheena’s work. Thank you for introducing her to us.

  11. One of my favorites is green tree lines and tartan tweed. The piece reminds me of a trip to Scotland we made a few years ago. The Scottish highlands were so unique and Sheena’s work is so beautiful and catches the flavor of the area. Very inspirational.

  12. I love them all! I love the different textures making up the background especially the contrast of the grass against the cliffs and sea around the puffins. The highland cows have been portrayed very realistically, the depth of the shaggy coats is obvious. I also love the way the colours flow from the flying triangles.
    Maybe I can time my next holiday to fit in a workshop?!!

  13. These are all so beautiful and the creativity is beyond limits! Love them all. If I have to pick one it is the Highland Cows. They are just gorgeous and the background and rocks so real looking. My granddaughter has longhorn cattle and she would love this piece. Thanks for the giveaway.

  14. I love the Highland Cows piece. We vacationed in Scotland last summer and thought those cows were so unique! Her depiction is spot on.

  15. The Highland Cows is my favorite of the pieces shown. I’ve never thought of using thick thread to paint animals on a quilt. I love all animals in quilting projects, but making them this real with thread is gorgeous. I wanted to put my hand in the bushes with the sheep.

  16. The highland cows remind me of my island home, Islay. My elder brother named one of his highland cows after me. I didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted. I love Sheena Norquay’s work and now the threads she uses absolutely capture the Scottish landscape.

  17. Wow. I love all of her work. i will go with Highland Cows and a very close 2nd is Sample 5. She makes you just want to get started on hand embroidery. Very inspirational posts these last 3 days great job!

    1. They are all so good but my favourite is Highland Cows, I like the colours and the combination of machine and handstitching.

  18. My favorite are the Highland Cows. We live in Terrebonne, OR close to Smith Rock and there are some Highland Cows on a small farm close to us and they are so amazing! I love how Sheena has depicted them and used the Aurifil Floss threads. It would be so amazing to capture them myself using the threads she has used. I’ve not used Aurifil Floss threads and this would be so fun to use them. Thanks for the indepth interview and bringing to my attention an interesting quilter!
    Laura T

  19. Fabulous work! I love
    as it reminds me of the
    longhorn steers from
    my home town in New
    Carla from Utah

  20. I like Sample 5 and the blending of colours. Plus, it seems actually achievable to us novices!

  21. so hard to choose! Love the “Flying Triangles” and the wonderful “Tweed Cushion” but my heart just melts for the “Highland Cows”. The embroidery makes them so incredibly real. Someone who had never seen one would know exactly what a beautiful animal they are.

  22. Flying Triangles reminds me of a kite. Highland Cows is my next favorite, realistic scene.

  23. All of her projects are just wonderful. I love the stitching she’s added. Flying Triangles and the animals are gorgeous. Thanks for the inspiration.

  24. The flying triangles is definitely my favorite I’m really into paper piecing and flying geese so of course this one caught my eye at once .

  25. I am drawn to the triangle pieces. Triangles are so balanced and peaceful in Sheena’s works. And the colors are so beautiful and soothing. Lovely!

  26. Beautiful work. I love the flying triangles. The modern colours combined with nonangular quilting. Beautiful!

  27. I really like both of those beauties. If I have to pick, the COOS ARE my favorite. I even got to feed carrots to them last year on our Rabbies trip there. Will be at the big quilt show in Scotland in September in a few weeks. Will Sheena and Aruifil be there? Maybe I can meet you and see your beautiful works then.

  28. I like the one way at the top of the article with the sheep and the mountains (the one with the thread on the top of it).

  29. Lone Stag is beautiful. The lines draw you to a magical place. So serene. Highland Cows. Well it shouts Scotland to me. Those are my favs. All your work is amazing. Each piece giving a new perspective and story.

  30. I love them all. I was going to choose the trees as my favorite until I saw the Highland Cows – it has them too. The Heeland Coos so remind me of a trip to the Scottish Highlands many moons ago when the roads were so narrow and as we drove round a corner there was one of these magnificent beasties in the middle of the road. The thread work is magnificent and so much like the wonderful detail in the inspiration photo.
    The deer reminded me of words from a poem – My hearts in the Highlands my heart is not here, my Hearts in the Highlands a-chasing the deer…

  31. I love the highland cows, or Heel and coos as they call them. The art work looks just like the shaggy cows that you see in Scotland. So realistic.

  32. They are all amazing but I really like the one with the sheep on it. It is full of beautiful colors, texture, and those little sheep are darn cute!

  33. All are terrific but my favorite is the flying triangles. I like the variation of the texture that the quilting creates. I guess it’s also a piece I could see hanging in my home!

  34. This is a tough one, but Highland Cows is so captivating with the coloration she has achieved with the embroidery and the fabulous dimension with the coloration and free motion quilting. Perfectly stunning.

  35. I love Sample 3 because I can never resist colorplay, but Highland Cows just WOWed me! I really love the combination of color and texture to not just represent the image but to also give you the feeling of being there and seeing it. I really like Sheila’s work! Thanks to Aurifil for showing it to me!

  36. GREEN TREELINES & TARTAN TWEED is my favorite, love the varying textures of the fabric and stitching. Thanks for the gieaway! Hugs! 😘💐

  37. The samples are all so beautiful! I especially like the Highland cows because the scene reminds me of a trip I took to Scotland. I love these Aurifil collections!

  38. The Lone Stag is my favorite! This piece has touched me as I believe art should. It reminds me of a cold winter’s morn just outside St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I am looking out my dining room French door watching a deer stroll through my back yard. I am still in my jammies, drinking hot coffee, and smiling. The free motion quilting is especially relaxing for me.

  39. I love the lone stag. He’s got such character and makes me think of my son and his obsession with the stag patronus in Harry Potter! (I know that might seem quite random but that’s what having an 8 year old fantasist in the house does to your lines of thinking!)

  40. Sheena’s work is amazing! My favorite is the flying triangles, but it was very hard to pick. Something about it made me say oooooohhhhhhh I love that!

  41. I like the Highland Cows because of all the detail and the colors are really nice together. Especially like how the cows are stitched. Beautiful work!

  42. I love the Green Treelines and Tartan Tweed so much! I am a huge fan of hand embroidery, and the wool tartan adds a wonderful extra dimension to the design.

  43. I think the textures on the stag and green tree line show how simple thread patterns can create drama. What I also find fascinating is the continuation of the patterns onto adjacent blocks.

  44. All of them are inspiring. Makes me want to get my needle and thread! My favorite is the Highland Cows. So detailed and colorful and i love cows.

  45. Highland Cows is stunning. I can just see the scenery (even before I saw the photo). There is such depth to the piece.

  46. The way the colors are blended together gradually in Sample 5 is lovely and artistic. To me, it reminds me of the changing seasons, beginning with winter, moving into spring and summer, and then ending with autumn back to winter. I like the piece very much.

  47. The Highland Cow is beautiful! It just screams Scotland. The techniques and colours give you a sense of heather and hide in the air. Lovely work. 😉

  48. Wow! I love them all, but if I have to pick one it would be Sample 5. The geometry of it and the blending of the colors really speaks to me.

  49. I love the Highland cows. It brings back such wonderful memories for me. My husband had dairy cows and ran range cattle up in the hills. He had quite a variety of cattle/cows, Highlanders among them.

  50. The Flying Triangles and The Lone Stag are impressive. Both show skill to me. The color and simplicity is beautiful.

  51. Oh Sheena your work is breathtaking! I love your Hairy Coo. They’re adorable beasts. I especially like the way you’ve used the tartan trim on snow/tree line piece. The embroidery flowing down onto it is just lovely. Very inspiring!!

  52. These colors are gorgeous! For me it’s a toss-up between the clutch and Flying Triangles. The clutch because i am obsessed with these little bags and think this one is fantastic, I love the texture of the pebbles on the fold-over and the triangles on the body of the bag. Flying triangles because of the use of negative space and the overall movement of the piece. Stunning work all around. Thank you for introduce me to this fabulous new-to-me artist!

  53. These pieces of art are beautiful! Sheena is a very talented woman. It is hard to choose a favorite, but Flying Triangles catches my eye. It is cheerful and uplifting. I smile everytime I look at it. Thanks!

  54. Highland Vows, because I have a red cow that I raised from an orphan on a bottle, then a bucket. Now she has calves of her own and is a good mother. She comes to me for treats of apples. All of the pieces are beautiful and each speaks to me in some way. Lovely!

  55. FLYING TRIANGLES is my favorite piece in Part 3. I love the asymmetry of the design, as well as how the Quilting emphasizes the sense of movement. There appears to be a lovely sheen or slight texture to the fabrics. All make it my favorite!

  56. They are all beautiful. Flying triangles is my favorite, I love the color and the movement showcased by the quilting. Green Treelines and Tartan Tweed is a close second, I love the color blends.

  57. Thanks for a great interview and blog series! I have re-blogged it on my blog (
    I love the flying triangles piece!

  58. While looking for Aurifil thread I was delighted to discover Sheena’s breathtaking art! If I had to choose a favorite I’d say it was the Highland Cows. As a child I grew up in a rural area with plenty of farms nearby but I always wanted a farm for my own family. Sheena’s Aurifill collection is a stunning pallette as well.

  59. Love sample 5 for it’s simplicity of form but which seems to represent the Scottish Mtns through the seasons and in different lights. The repetition of the shape is very satisfying.

  60. They are all absolutely breathtaking! If I had to choose just one, it would probably be Highland Cows. The stitching is so intricate and makes the whole quilt seem so life like.

  61. All of Sheena’s work is absolutely stunning. My favorite from her Highlands collection is the Highland Cows. Having grown up on a farm with lots of cows they have a special spot in my heart.

  62. I love the Flying Triangles – her colorful satin stitching makes the triangles look curved – I love the illusion. I also love the postcard of the highland coo – I was lucky enough to spend some time in the highlands last year, and I am planning to return!

  63. I love the highland cows. I love all of Sheena’s work she is a very talented artist and great tutor.

  64. Love the Tweed Cushion with Triangles. The beautiful earthy thread colours and the stitching on the tweed complement each other perfectly.

  65. I loved the way the Highland Cows were embroidered, the different textures made it something very different and interesting, I can see that a lot of thought and lovely threads went into this piece. Just loved it.

  66. My favorite is the Flying Triangles. There is such a feeling of lightness and breeziness and movement that reminds me of flying a kite on a sunny afternoon. Looking at it makes me feel happy!

  67. I am laughing to myself as I look at these entries, I am always a bit late to the party. BUt, boy am I glad I found this party. Sheena’s work is a call to my heart. The colours, the movement, the quilting, and the images of Scotland are great reminders of home. I like all of them, but the trees and tartan show the connections between nature and Scottish culture. Wonderful work Sheena. Thank you for sharing with us.

  68. I love the Flying Triangles – they look as if they’re about to take off and I’d love to go with them.

  69. I love the artistry in these pieces. The colors are gorgeous and very evocative . I really like the flying Geese, and the Triangles. I wish I had her artistry and her skill.

  70. LONE STAG is my favorite because I love the lone stag against the large background with great mountain and cloud textures. Awesome!

  71. Flying Triangles is my favourite although all are lovely. The Flying Triangles is so whimsical it reminds da me of children flying kites and running across a big field. So simple and fresh. Thanks for sharing your work with us.

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