The Artistry of Sheena Norquay || The Cottage Garden

I first met Sheena Norquay shortly after I started working with Aurifil, about 5 years ago. Up until then, I’d never seen anything quite like her work and was immediately taken with her artistry, her vision, and her undeniable quilting genius. I’m still wowed every single time she sends a new project or new collection idea.

The Three Norns by Sheena Norquay

She is adventurous in her work, always up for trying something new, while remaining meticulous and measured in her experimentation. Every time she creates something, she sends along thoughts on that piece… what she tried and why, which threads were used, and what she thought about the process. I always love reading about her process and have a sneaking suspicion that you might feel the same way.

I’m thrilled to have a new collection and series of artworks to share with you today. In case this is your first time meeting Sheena, I’d encourage you to check out her original 2017 interview HERE and scroll through some of our previous posts to really experience the range of her work.

Sheena’s latest Aurifil collection is The Cottage Garden. Her late mother loved her garden and knew the names of all the flowers in it. She gave Sheena many cuttings to plant in her own garden and the colors for this collection were inspired by those flowers. 

The collection features 10 spools of Aurifloss — head HERE for all the details. In addition to sharing her art, she has also created a free stitch project. Make sure to read through until the end for all the details!


SAMPLE 1 – 105 FLOWERS
Finished at 19 x 53cm (7.5 x 20.75 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 16.10.19 – 26.10.19 

This sample illustrates 105 different hand embroidered flower designs using simple stitches and Aurifil floss threads from The Cottage Garden Collection. The stitches used for stems were whipped running, backstitch, and chain stitch. The leaves were stitched with straight stitches, detached chain, detached fly, backstitch, whipped running and French knots. The stitches used for the flowers were straight, satin, detached chain, fly, detached fly, cross stitch, back stitch and French knots.

There are 15 rows of flowers. Rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 15 are stitched using either 2, 3 or 4 strands of single colours. The even numbered rows have blends of the two colours above and below the row. I used either one strand of each colour or two strands of each colour.

The embroidery was done on green cotton fabric backed with polyester wadding after which I added a layer of cotton wadding and backing. The straight horizontal and vertical quilting lines were quilted with the walking foot.

Sample 3 – COTTAGE GARDEN BORDER  2
Finished at 30 x 18cm  (12 x 7 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 27.1.20 – 6.2.20    
Total time: 15 hours 55 minutes

In this sample the flowers were embroidered onto pieced fabrics and 80/20 cotton/polyester wadding. I used 2 strands of single colours for the two groups of tall flowers on the left and for most of the small flowers on the brown fabric. For the other three groups of tall flowers I blended 2 colours, 2 strands of each colour and this gave them a more 3D effect. It also helps if you stitch more densely– for instance, stitching one smaller detached chain stitch inside another. Stitches used were detached fly, straight, detached chain, and French knots.

The stems of the pink daisies have 6 strands couched with 1 strand, the stems of the dark purple/blue flowers have 2 green +2 yellow strands but all other stems have 2 strands. The stitches used for the stems and leaves were fly, chain couching, feather, straight, detached chain, and detached fly.

After completing the embroidery, I added a fine polyester thermore wadding and hand quilted with 28wt thread for the seeding on the wall and with 12wt thread in running stitch for the lawn.

SAMPLE 4 – TERRACOTTA POTS OF FLOWERS
Finished at 30.5 X 21.5cm  (12 x 8.5 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 3.1.20 – 26.1.20   
Total time: 17 hours 30 minutes

The pots and bridge were hand appliquéd. The flowers and stems were hand embroidered with 2 strands of floss using the 10 Cottage Garden colours. Stitches used were couching, straight, detached fly, detached chain, and French knots. The embroidery was stitched through the fabric onto polyester wadding. Calico backing was added and the bridge and water were free motion quilted using Aurifil cotton 50wt threads in grey and turquoise. The finished piece was bound with Rose and Hubble floral cotton lawn fabric. This piece makes me think of a sunny day somewhere on the Mediterranean!

SAMPLE 5 – FLORAL CLUTCH BAG
Finished at 27 x 18cm  (10.5 x 7 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 1.1.20 – 27.1 20  
Total time: 33 hours 20 minutes

The S curves and parts of the flowers were marked on to cream silk dupion and stabilised with cream calico under the silk and Hobbs Tuscany wool wadding under the calico, before hand embroidering the S curves, stems, leaves, and flowers. I used 2 strands of floss, sometimes 2 strands of the same colour, sometimes 1 strand each of 2 colours. I used all the colours in the The Cottage Garden collection.

The hand quilting was done with 28wt thread (2026) before constructing the bag. The lining is a fine cotton lawn by Rose and Hubble. I covered a metal button with wadding and silk which I embroidered in a flower shape, again using 2 strands of floss. The silk tab is attached to the bottom fold of the bag, the join hidden by embroidering a flower on top of it.

SAMPLE 7 -FLORAL WHIRL CUSHION
Finished at 30 X 30cm (12 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 1.2.20 – 10.2.20  
Total time: 8 hours 35 minutes

The design was printed with Dylon fabric paints on to calico with the flowers and leaves being placed “nose to tail” around each circle. After drying and ironing, polyester wadding was tacked under the printed fabric. The flowers were hand embroidered using 7 colours of floss from The Cottage Garden collection. The quilted lines inside the floral circle were stitched using 50wt threads before adding a second layer of fine polyester wadding and a calico backing. Further free motion quilting was then added inside and outside the floral circle to create movement around the circle before constructing it  into a cushion cover.

SAMPLE 12 – POSY 1
Finished at 25.5 x 30.5cm (10 x 12 inches)
Sheena J Norquay, copyright 16.2.20 – 25.2.20  
Total time: 19 hours 35 minutes

This piece was hand embroidered through cotton fabric on to Vilene S13 using Aurifil floss threads from The Cottage Garden Collection. The posy is composed of 45 circles which have 45 blends of the 10 colours in the collection. The circles are all stitched with 2 strands, 1 each of 2 colours. The flowers are stitched with either 2 or 3 strands of single colours but some have blends of 2 colours. Longer stems have 4 strands, either 4 strands of a single colour or 2 each of 2 colours. A layer of 80/20 cotton/polyester wadding was added then free motion quilted with c curve and wiggly lines using 50wt thread.

SAMPLE 13 – DETACHED CHAIN FLOWERS SAMPLE
Finished at 20.5 x 30.5cm (8 x 12 inches)  
Sheena Norquay, copyright 24.2.20 – 26.2.20
Total time: 7 hours 10 minutes

This is a sample showing how detached chain stitch can be used for creating flower shapes. Most flowers are stitched with 3 strands, some 4. The stems are laced running stitch, with 1 strand for the running stitch and 2 strands for the lacing. I used the mid green and dark pink floss threads from The Cottage Garden Collection.

Ultra light, polyester thermore was used for stabilising the hand embroidery before adding a layer of 80/20 cotton/polyester wadding and quilting horizontal pink lines with the walking foot. The backgrounds of the flowers were free motion quilted with cream 50wt thread in a variety of c and s curve lines to add movement and texture.


Inspired by Sheena’s work and eager to try a bit of your own hand embroidery? Grab her free tutorial for Detached Chain Stitch Flowers and consider making this simple brooch. 

+++ Click here to grab the FREE PDF +++


ABOUT SHEENA
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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 immersed herself 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. In 2019, Sheena self published her first book with the help of Philippa Adams from Crafty Retreats which explains how to use Aurifil’s stranded cotton floss. “Colour Blending – Embroidery using Stranded Cotton Floss.” (available from The Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles on line bookshop)

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3 comments

  1. So amazing. And such detail. And absolutely beautiful colors. Wow! I’d love to try some of those pretties. Have a good day. 🌻

  2. Wow! I am stunned by the talent needed and the beauty of the final pieces. I have always loved embroidery, which I learned from my grandmother, but this is just beyond anything I have seen before. Thank you for sharing.

  3. One of Sheena’s earlier collections was the first Aurifil box that I got. It was full with fabulous autumn colours and a particular blue thread which was just out of this world. Her eye for colour is just astounding and her art work just beautiful.

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