Wednesday 11 May 2011

Spotlight on Ruth O'Leary - Stitcher and Banner Maker to Durham Cathedral

It is always a pleasure to meet stitchers through this blog and it was my particular delight to meet Ruth O'Leary this week. Ruth is an embroiderer and textile artist based in Sunderland, North East England. She uses traditional techniques, and particularly loves goldwork, appliqué, and split stitch. The work you can see above is a slip case cover for Kit William's book Masquerade - one of mine and my children's favourite books - also a favourite with Micheál and Elizabeth Feller. It is a small world, isn't it!
At present Ruth is commissioned to work on St Cuthbert's Banner for the magnificent cathedral in Durham - and if you have never visited Durham Cathedral, then you must put your hat and coat on now! For centuries the men of the North East rallied and fought under St Cuthbert’s banner, which hung in Durham Cathedral where the saint is buried. The banner was destroyed in the late 16th Century, following the Reformation. Hopefully the banner will be completed in time for the expected return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the region on a three-month loan in 2013.
Although no pictures of the original survive, there is a detailed description of it, and the team's artist, Fiona Raeside, has drawn the beautiful design above from it. While Ruth embroiders and makes up the banner itself, other team members including a silversmith, wood-turner and leather-workerwill also be involved in its completion.
The image above gives you an idea of progress so far and how the banner will come together.
Ruth says that she works horizontally the panels which will be displayed vertically much like the long sampler makers of the 17th century. Here you can see work in progress laced to her frame.
Primroses are cowslips are amongst my favourite wild flowers so I had to show you some detailed images of work in progress on them.

To see more work in progress on the banner, click here to follow Ruth's blog and do click here to see her other beautiful works on her web-site.


  1. What beautiful work, love the designs and the rich colors.


  2. I've been following Ruth's work for some time, and it is indeed delightful.

    I'm looking forward to an excuse to visit Durham when the banner is completed!