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Designing for Whitework

An Interview with Artist Jill Buckley

Jill Buckley shares how she and Trish Burr collaborate to design and create exemplary whitework patterns and tutorials.


"As you might imagine, when designing for someone else, you don’t always hit the mark first time out. There are often subtle, or at times, big changes that need to be made to accommodate the client’s vision. Working in Concepts is ideal for this sort of work."

Jill Buckely - Sometimes simple strokes of a pen, pencil or stylus can become so much more. While I am not a professional artist, I do at times find myself being offered wonderful opportunities to design for others, and Concepts makes that incredibly easy for me.

Over the last couple of years, I have had the distinct pleasure of designing for the incredibly talented embroidery artist, designer, author and instructor, Trish Burr. I live in Canada and Trish is in South Africa, but thanks to technology, the distance is no barrier for us to work together.

It all started in late 2014 when I received an email from Trish introducing herself to me. Trish is well known for her phenomenal needle-painting works, but a few years ago was looking to create a new twist on what is known as traditional Whitework. She happened upon several of my doodles, and contacted me seeking permission to use one of my drawings. She explained that the flowing lines and composition of my work captured her attention and worked with her vision. Since that time, I’ve had the privilege of not only providing existing designs for her, but to also design exclusively for her.

Our process is really quite simple. Trish provides me with information on what sort of subject matter she has in mind, and I am pretty much given freedom to just create. Sometimes she may wish to have a particular “pose” and will send me some of her ideas. Trish is very good at providing direction, and is gentle in any constructive criticism she may have, even though many changes to the original design will be made by Trish to transform the drawn line work into stitch form. Having me provide an illustration allows her to spend less time looking for inspiration and developing an initial image, and more time focusing on developing the embroidery itself, as well as patterns, instructions and everything that goes into her works.

As you will see, the doodle I provide her is really just a starting point for Trish as she makes the changes necessary to translate the design into stitch.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The partridge on the left is my design created in Concepts, drawn on my iPad Mini 2. The partridge on the right is the finished, embroidered interpretation by Trish Burr. This lovely embroidery is a featured design in the current issue of Inspirations Magazine (#96).

As you might imagine, when designing for someone else, you don’t always hit the mark first time out. There are often subtle, or at times, big changes that need to be made to accommodate the client’s vision. Working in Concepts is ideal for this sort of work. I can easily change one or more elements — things can be moved slightly, elements added, removed, re-sized and/or transformed. I can tweak several parts of my drawing or choose a single line.

Below is an image of the drawing I sent to Trish for approval.

While Trish was pleased with it as presented, what if she wanted a few changes? What if she decided she would like the tail feathers a little more pronounced, or the beak redirected, perhaps a few other small things? Let’s take a look at how easily those issues could be managed.

If you choose to edit a grouping, you can round up the elements using the lasso to select them.

Now that the group of elements are selected, they can be moved, resized, flipped or removed altogether.

Or, you can select an item and skew it by using the control points.

You can use the item picker to choose a single line, or tap the screen to add more items to your selection.

Here is the finished drawing. Can you find all the changes that were made without having to re-draw or erase a thing?

Once I send the digital drawing to Trish, her process of translating the design into a stitch-able project begins.

Trish will take the image into Corel and draw on top of it with either a freehand or curve tool, and then fiddle with it making changes until it is the way she wants. Trish tells me it has taken her years to get this right, as she is not trained in Corel. She feels that perhaps it’s a rather laborious way, but it works out in the end.

Since each stitch area for elements such as dots, lines, checkerboard and so on needs to be a certain size to be suitable for hand stitching, there is a great deal of “tweaking” to be done. Once she is confident that the design is workable, she will either trace it onto fabric, or send the file and fabric to the screen printer who does it for her, so that the design is now ready for the stitching process.

When it comes to the stitch patterns within the design, Trish says that she will often sort of “make it up” as she goes along, and sometimes is inspired by images online for the color schemes.

Image courtesy of Inspirations Magazine

At this point, the drawing has come to life as beautifully hand-stitched artwork, but she is not done yet. Trish then begins the long process of creating the instructions for each design. There are many hours of stitching, photographing, writing and editing involved in each and every design she does.

Image courtesy of Inspirations Magazine


Drawn in Concepts, Chloe was created exclusively for Trish and is available as a pattern in her digital shop. The request for Chloe came about from the popularity of an existing design that Trish had transformed from my earlier design, one she named Katarina. It was well received by customers, and they were now requesting a “sister.”

With each doodle I draw, whether for something specific or just because I feel like drawing, I almost always begin by creating an outline, then split it into sections where I can add interesting pattern.

I tend to start out with a “recognizable” subject but then create unrealistic elements in many of my drawings, adding a little whimsy and attitude if possible. In the case of the little “bracelets” on Chloe’s tail, in Concepts it is super easy to add an element such as this at any point in the drawing, but when working on paper, I would need to plan these things out well in advance.

Don’t these two appear to be deep in conversation? What exactly might they be discussing?

This is Trish’s adaptation of the line drawing, which she then turned into the magnificent embroidery. Remember, it is every bit hand stitched, one threaded needle at a time.



Here is a peek at the very first doodle of mine Trish chose to transform into stitch, named Katarina. She was really just a doodle, done on paper with sharpie marker. As you can see, making any changes to this would have meant a complete start-over, whereas if it had been created in Concepts, changes large and small could be done in a few simple steps.

The image on the left below shows how Trish revised the above design to create something more stitch friendly, and on the right, the finished embroidered piece.

And here is a look at the detailed, step-by-step pattern instructions for this design.



Prancer also started as an ink design, and became Reindeer of the Year through Trish’s beautiful transformation.

Image from Inspirations Magazine

As it was drawn with pen, I could not make changes, and was never really happy with the antlers. But when I found Concepts, I re-drew it digitally very easily, and created Christmas cards to send to family and friends.

To date, Trish has used several of my designs as inspiration for her spectacular work. They can be found in her most recent book Whitework with Colour, a couple issues of Inspirations magazine, as well as in her digital shop, and I am completely thrilled to play a small part in the process.

I talk about these and other drawings in several blog posts here. If you’d like to have a look at the sort of doodles I’ve done over the past few years, both digitally in Concepts as well as with old fashioned pen and paper, a collection of them can be found here. You can also find me on Instagram, and follow Trish Burr’s embroidery on Instagram here.


Jill Buckley is a self-taught artist living in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Her working years involved garment design and construction, but her fascination with line, pattern and form continued into retirement. Doodling, a regular process in her textile art pieces, eventually evolved into the intricate drawings she is recognized for today. Her work can be seen in books, magazines, logos and most notably as embroidery designs available on several top of the line Janome sewing machines, and as patterns offered by internationally renowned embroidery artist/author Trish Burr.

Interview by Erica Christensen


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