My completed work

First stage

Detail of poppies

I tried several different thread types but due to size of the piece and no anchorage points on which to attach the hand worked net, the extremely long length of very fine thread would continually twist back on itself into infuriating tight little knots!

The only solution was to reduce the area to be worked in the fine net background.

Outline drawn for the reduced area of fine net to be worked.

A grid had to be drawn on graph paper, which would then be transferred to the pattern.

Grid pattern traced off and ready to transfer onto background

Grid pattern transferred onto background (being very wary to avoid getting ink on the work already completed) then covered with sticky-backed plastic.

Commencement of net background

Almost halfway with the net ground

Almost completed

Finally completed the fine background net!

First batch of grid threads laid in and filling commenced.

Detail of grid filling

Partially worked grid filling

First half of grid filling completed

Start of foundation threads laid ready for second half. Also a few couronnes worked to be sure balance/weight is correct.

Second side partly worked.

Completed work before being removed from backing fabric.

Catherine barley - Point de Gaze - ENGLAND 2010


The International Poppy project began with an idle conversation between Ulrike Voelcker (Lohr) and Susie Johnson during the 2008 Convention in Rockford, Illinois, US.  The seed was sown when a group of teachers sat down together and agreed that making the same original design using different techniques would be a challenging study.  Yvonne Scheele-Kerkhof suggested the Californian poppy as the convention the following year was to take place in California and Ulrike drew the final design.


Each participant could choose their own particular type of lace but the design was not to be altered, enlarged/reduced and all frames had to have the same exterior measurements so that viewers would not be distracted by the framing when comparing the laces. Each of the workers worked in isolation and therefore were not influenced by other members of the group and with no pre-conceived ideas as to how they would interpret the design.  Needless to say there are a number of techniques which include Chantilly, Withof, Stumpwork, Needlelace, Torchon, Floral Bedfordshire, Polychrome Blonde, Mechlin, Paris, Liers Kant, Rib & Roll, Binche, Carrickmacross,Valenciennes, Milanese, Honiton, Idrija, Crochet, Binche, Point de Lille, Tatting and Tonder etc.  Each of the exhibits are worked by an expert in her particular field and there are approximately 47 (with one more in progress) different exhibits by 36 of today's finest workers from 14 different countries, namely England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy, USA, Austria, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Idrija, Russia and Slovenia.

Each participant has written a paragraph describing her trials/tribulations and thoughts encountered whilst working her piece and these have been translated into English, German and Dutch, accompanying each of the works, which makes fascinating reading for the viewer.


2009  - IOLI Convention LOS ANGELES July/Aug

           Wavre - BELGIUM

           Bourbonn-les-Bains - FRANCE

           Zonhoven - BELGIUM - November

2010 -  SWITZERLAND - May

           Sansepolcro - ITALY - Sept/Nov

2011 -  New Greenham Arts Centre - UK - April

           IDRIJA - SLOVENIA and Purgstall - AUSTRIA - Sept/Oct

2012 -  OIDFA Conference Caen - FRANCE - July

           IOLI CONVENTION St Paul, Minnesota - USA - August

           Bochum - GERMANY - November

2013 -  Deventer - NETHERLANDS - April

           Rendsburg - GERMANY - September



The Poppies were exhibited at the prestigious Sansepolcro Biennale, Italy in 2010 where they were presented with a special award for "International Recognition of Hard Work and Collaboration".
Word has it that bus tours came with the express intention of seeing the poppies which then travelled on to the OIDFA Convention hosted by France in Caen 2012.


I had originally intended to maintain the elegant lines of the beautiful Art Nouveau style poppies by working a simple hand worked net background, scattered with randomly worked couronnes (buttonholed rings).  However, this proved to be impossible as the exceptionally long length of very fine thread required to work from one side of the work to the other, either twisted up on itself into tight infuriating little knots, or snapped with the constant friction of the twisted buttonhole stitches.  The other major problem was that there was very little by way of anchorage points on which to attach the net background for stability.   The sheer size of the project, made it extremely difficult to hold in my hand.  The only way I could access each area to be worked, was to roll the work from either end, enabling me to work each area in turn.  I decided the only way round this problem, was to work a smaller area of net background and complete the remainder with a Point de Gaze grid filling.  I have used a variety of threads in an attempt to keep the ‘balance’ correct i.e. Egyptian Cotton No 60/2 for the fillings, Brok Cotton No 100/3 for the Grid Filling and a No 175 thread for the background net, with all top stitching on the cordonette using Egyptian Cotton No. 140.  This has been a challenging but most enjoyable piece to work but there is always room for improvement!

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION -  Transferring the traced grid filling on to the partially worked piece proved to be a major problem! I carefully taped the tracing in position over the partially worked piece, then removed the masking tape from the bottom edge, enabling me to insert white dressmaker's carbon on top of the blue sticky-backed plastic and under the tracing paper, before sticking the bottom edge down again with the masking tape.  So far so good!

I then found an empty biro pen (no ink left) and proceeded to place my ruler over the lines on the tracing paper, transferring the grid filling on to the blue sticky backed plastic.  The next step was to carefully remove the tracing paper and dressmaker's carbon without smudging/removing the white carbon so carefully drawn!  Mission accomplished but now to draw over the white carbon lines with a pen and without removing the carbon.

First of all I had to place a piece of tissue paper over the white carbon lines, so that I did not rub them off with my hand whilst drawing over them in ink. The pen I used was one I had in the drawer from way back and was giving me considerable trouble, so decided to get the car out and go to the stationary shop and buy a new one.  I drew a couple of lines with the new pen but the ink was still not flowing!  Back I went to the shop and told them that this pen they had sold me must be old stock, and that it had dried out!  They accepted this and gave me a replacement, so home I went and tried again.  Same problem, but then of course I realised that the white carbon was blocking up the ink flow and I had to continually wipe the tip of the pen, sometimes having only managed to draw half of one line!  I was ready to abandon it and call it a day!  However, once I had regained my composure and had a cup of tea, I decided I had already put too much into this project to give up now.

I had to be extremely careful not to get black ink onto the white lace that I had already worked and then of course I had to cover the carefully drawn black ink lines with sticky backed plastic.  I found a small piece (not quite big enough) that was thinner, through which I was able to see the carefully drawn lines, but I then had to cut this to fit round the outline of the grid shape, before somehow managing to peel off the backing and stick it in position around the already worked poppies!

If you have used this sticky backed plastic you will appreciate how difficult an operation this proved to be, as it does tend to make the paper pattern beneath it, sometimes 'jump up' or create 'air bubbles', and once it was down I wouldn't be able to move it for fear of removing the ink lines.  I needed at least four hands for this operation and I dared hardly breath whilst giving strict instructions to my bewildered husband, as what to do and what not to do!  It wasn't perfect and I had to 'patch' small pieces of sticky backed plastic to the background, as the small piece I had was not quite big enough and 'off cuts' had to be used.

I heaved a sigh of relief, made us both a coffee and sat down to regain my composure before starting to lay in the grid threads, all the time hoping that the completed work would come up to my expectations and that it would all have been worth while.