‘Sensations’ – A Child’s Joy: The Merry-Go-Round

Last year I decided it was high time I join my local Embroiderer’s Guild. My timing of this decision also coincided with their bi-annual exhibition. I have never entered an exhibition before, and with not having completed a ‘major project‘ in the past year, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to stretch myself again. With a theme of ‘Sensations‘, I had lots of ideas running around my head before settling on a merry-go-round.

'Sensations' - what to design and stitch?!

The definition of ‘Sensations’ encompasses a few different ‘feelings’ (courtesy of the Cambridge dictionary):

  • the ability to feel something physically, especially by touching, or a physical feeling that results from this ability
  • a general feeling caused by something that happens to you, especially a feeling that you cannot describe exactly
  • something very exciting or interesting, or something that causes great excitement or interest

So, it encompasses a lot of different feelings if you look at the meaning of the word! But, what to stitch?

Do I do something that you can ‘touch and feel’? – Possibly, but my ability to create a 3-D piece was somewhat limiting.

Do I do something celebrity based? – Maybe, but that would involve a face, which I want to avoid…

The one idea I kept coming back to though was ‘something’ around a circus. My initial idea was to do a circus tent, and try and have it look like you were peaking in and could see the animals and jugglers. However, this again had the problem of a face (or two), and I wasn’t sure how ‘well received’ animals in a circus would be. 

So a bit more thinking and doodling, and I settled on the idea of a merry-go-round, with some hot air balloons, to give the impression of an early morning scene. Combined with a lovely blue silk, I thought this could perhaps work!


Creating the design

Next up, was to decide on the stitches and techniques to use to get this stitched up. I didn’t have a lot of time either, so I was focusing on ways of doing this quickly.

At first, I thought I would combine applique with long and short stitch, with a bit of added bling. However I’ve never actually done any applique, and I didn’t have time for things to ‘go wrong’ as I worked it out. As it was, there were enough things to ‘go wrong’ throughout, so I’m glad I didn’t over complicate them more than absolutely necessary!

My stitch ideas changed as I progressed through the design. Mainly due to time restraints. There are a few things I would do differently, but on the whole, I’m actually quite happy with how the piece finished up. I learnt a few things about what works where and when it doesn’t. So all in all, a good piece to do for my first ‘major project’ in a while! And if this weren’t completed for a particular reason, I’m not sure it ever would have been finished, as there were several points in which something ‘hadn’t worked’, and I was ready to start again! There’s nothing quite like a deadline to just keep moving along regardless with a piece is there?

The Merry-Go-Round roof

I started with the section I was originally going to applique – the roof of the merry-go-round. I’m actually quite pleased with how this worked out. It wasn’t until I had stitched a couple of sections that I realised I was using beach flag colours! I actually chose them as they were the colours I had on hand when I was toying with the applique idea. Despite the potential ‘beach theme’, I’m quite pleased with this section! The roof was all stitched in long and short stitch, and as there was no blending of colour, it was nice and easy to stitch up.

The roof of a merry-go-round stitched using long and short stitch in bright colours

Just how long is too long for laid work?

Originally the idea was to stem stitch the colourful area behind the horses and the wooden structure. But after stitching the roof, I decided I needed a ‘quicker’ option.

So then the question was – just how long can laid work be and work successfully? 

I couldn’t answer my question, nor could I find any answers online or in any of my books. So I decided the only way I was going to find out was to just stitch it and find out if it would work! 

And what did I discover?

Lengths of up to about five centimetres seemed to work well. Anything longer and any number of things can go wrong. These really long sections also need to be ‘secured’ in some form. If you do that, the issues seem to be minimised or eliminated entirely. There are a couple of sections where I only couched down a couching thread around the outside – this just isn’t enough and I really should have put in more trellis work throughout. 

After my recent studies I now realise what the answer to the ‘how long’ question is, and how I should have approached all my laid work areas in this piece. Live and learn as they say! You can have very long laid work – it just all has to be ‘anchored’ down with a trellis!

The real 'sensation' - the horses!

So far, all I had done was the ‘ground work’. Now it was time to add the element at the heart of my ‘sensations’ interpreation – the horses!

And I’m afraid I’m not particularly happy with them. They did improve, and had time not been quite so tight, I would have re-stitched the first two. But, when one has to move on, that is precisely what one does! 

I also ran out of thread for the second brown horse. And despite ordering the same thread, it is clearly a very different die lot (hardly surprising given how long I’ve probably had the first one for!). So that left me with needing to then try and ‘blend’ this dark thread in too!

To finish the horses, I originally thought I would use some ribbons. But that just didn’t seem to ‘work’. So a hunt through my metalwork supplies saw a few different options appear. And whilst the purple couching thread is a little too thick, I’m reasonably happy with the end result.

A stitched horse on a merry-go-round as part of the interpretation of the theme 'sensations'
A stitched horse on a merry-go-round as part of the interpretation of the theme 'sensations'. Designed and stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery. Find out more at
A stitched horse on a merry-go-round as part of the interpretation of the theme 'sensations'. Designed and stitched by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery. Find out more at

Another 'sensation' - hot air balloons!

Now, I’ve never actually been in a hot air balloon, but I imagine there are any number of feelings rushing through your body that could encompass the word ‘sensation’. The three balloons also helped to balance the design a little, and also give a bit of validity to the whole ‘early morning scene’ (more on why this came about in a minute!).

Adding the 'bling'

Quite a large part of my original idea was to use the ‘luxury’ of some gold bling to add to that special joy a child feels when riding a merry-go-round. 

I also luckily had enough copper, and other colours for the horses, to add in just enough ‘bling’.

The finished piece! Titled 'A Child's Joy - The Merry-Go-Round

And here it is all finished! 

Mounting (as always!), created it’s own set of problems, but eventually I had to go with ‘it will do’!

Naming, and an 'artist's statement'!

Yikes, when I discovered I not only had to name the piece, but I also had to complete an artist statement, I really thought I was in over my head! I don’t know how people do this on a regular basis! Most definately out of my comfort zone.

The name was the easy part, despite it still taking quite some time and playing with words!

An artist statement? I had absolutely no idea where to even start with this. I read every one of the previous exhibition’s (they have them all on their website). And so decided upon this for mine. It will hopefully help to pull together how I came up with this scene for this theme. And you can see how awkardly I write ‘artist statements’!

‘A show provides so much stimulation for all your senses. And what is more exciting than your first ride on a merry-go-round? The joys of a child experiencing their first ride at a show is the inspiration for this piece. The deep blue silk fabric creates the sense of an early morning scene, with the hot air balloons circling above the merry-go-round which will soon see the excited cries of joy of children. The use of silk threads using traditional surface-work stitches, combined with goldwork threads, help to give the piece the precious feeling felt by a child enjoying a show.’

Is this the beginning of a series?

Whilst I was still stitching this piece, I decided that it would actually be a really lovely idea to create a ‘series’ of pieces. I’ve decided a maypole is definitely something I can make work. Then the only question is – for the final piece, should it be a ‘wheel’ like the London Eye, or will it be a roller coaster?

An interpretation of the word 'sensations' into stitch using hand embroidery. The created scene is a merry-go-round in the early morning. Find out more and how the piece developed by visiting Catherine at Designed and stitched by Catherine

18 thoughts on “‘Sensations’ – A Child’s Joy: The Merry-Go-Round”

  1. Beautifully done Catherine! It will be a lovely addition to the exhibition. I know you can see the things you aren’t happy with, but they don’t show up in the finished piece.
    Writing artist statements is difficult, because you don’t want to sound too arty-farty, nor too boring. Yours expresses your creative thoughts well, and gives a good feel for who you are.

    1. Thanks so much, Anne! I should have thought to ask you about the artist statement – I’m not sure that is something I will ever be comfortable doing. Though it is a good experience to actually write it up!

  2. I think this is wonderful – and there is a sense of joy when you first see it.
    The artist statement probably equates to standing up in front of people and actually speaking – nerves!!!!
    Well done – cannot wait to see if you progress to the maypole idea.

    1. Thank you, Kathy! Unfortunately, I missed the exhibition itself. I was in the States when it opened and was busy for the two weekends after I was back and it was on. I have to make do with pictures.

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