A brief biography



Rachel Sumner creates her textile artworks working between her studio on the north Devon coast and a hideaway in rural France. Having originally studied fine art followed by many years as a hand painter of bespoke textiles Rachel felt a pull towards more creative work and started to make pictures from fabrics, vintage haberdashery and dyeing samples hoarded over many years. It was like a homecoming finding that at last she had happened across a way of working that suited her personality and creative process. Over time and much experimentation she has refined her technique with every new piece of work throwing up new challenges. Learning by each piece seems to generate new ideas and avenues to explore creating a virtuous circle. Combined with her love of colour and a passion for fabrics this makes embarking on every new project a joyful adventure. 


Much inspiration for her work comes from recording and responding to daily life and experiencing the landscape, other pieces are about collecting and creating a narrative evoked by the objects or fabrics themselves. Once in the studio, current imaginings, observations and preoccupations are translated into collage and stitch.


Over the years Rachel has exhibited widely and taken part in events such as Art in Action. Her work has been featured in publications such as Embroidery Magazine and Stitch. She has run courses for the Burton Art gallery and the National Trust.

Her recent book Stitched Textiles: Birds is published by Search Press.


Bird Art Quilts

with Rachel Sumner - Full


Friday October 5th to Friday October 12th 2018    

During this course we will draw inspiration from the birds in the forest and gardens around us. We will make use of stitches as ‘lines’ or marks, study textures and look at different approaches to assembling textile collages.


We will explore variations of straight stitch and machine fancy stitches to add a diverse range of textures, layers and structure to the work as you progress in the development of your own art quilt mentored by the experienced artist and tutor, Rachel Sumner.

Materials are supplied for this course but please bring along any small pieces or scraps of favourite fabrics that you may wish to use.


​Day 1

Arrive today. Meet and greet supper with wine to get your creative juices flowing! Rachel will introduce her work and some of the techniques involved.


Day 2

We will have a creative ‘warm up session’ working on some fabric samplers which will go on to form the backdrop to some small bird embroideries. The emphasis will be on experiment and play giving an opportunity to try different approaches e.g. combining fabrics and found objects, using dissolvable fabric and overstitching, piecing together favourite fabric scraps and using appliqué over the top, or creating an abstract background with interesting pattern and colour combinations. Once satisfied with the results we will see how simple bird templates can be used to maximum effect and the importance of small finishing touches!


Day 3

The morning will be spent seeking some local inspiration for our bird textiles: observing foraging chickens or wild birds in a landscape or garden scene, and recording our impressions using a combination of sketch books, words and photographs.

In the afternoon back in the studio we will work on the layout of your designs, with reference to colour, movement and narrative. Further experimentation on the samplers may help to clarify ideas.


Day 4

This morning is an outing to bargain hunt for fabulous French finds at the monthly antiques market in Limoges!

After returning from the Limoges antiques market and having lunch we will lay down the background to our textile artwork; gathering up our fabrics, piecing them together and overworking with stitch.

Day 5

Continue stitching your art textile, appliquéing elements of the landscape and over working it with stitch. Once done we can start cutting and shaping the birds and foreground foliage and trying them out against our backgrounds.


Day 6

Today is an outing day to Aubusson, the famous tapestry making town. Whilst there we will also sketch and take photographs. The studo will be open after your return for you to continue your projects.


Day 7

Bringing it all the elements together: getting the birds and foreground in place, working on feathers, foliage and those all important finishing touches!

Day 8 Today we will say our goodbyes and 'tie up any loose ends'. Most flights are later in the afternoon so the studio will be open for you to use all morning followed by lunch before you leave.

We only have 1 place left on this course! Click here to book.



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