History of SCS

Southdowns Creative Stitchers was formed as an independent stitch group in 2021. Although we are technically a ‘new’ group, our foundations are based on a long history that started back in 1976. SCS was created by the committee of the former Worthing Tuesday Embroiderers Guild branch, when the Embroiderers Guild ended its association with local branches. There was strong support for the group to carry on under a new banner. We have lots of photo albums and paperwork from the early days; these are kept carefully but they are not easily accessible to members, so we decided to put some of the information and photos here so they are accessible to everyone. Thank you to Eileen Blaney, who was our Chairperson for three years in the late 1990’s and who provided very helpful notes on our history, and thank you to Cobi Erskine who let me loose on her amazing collection of photos and written memories of the group, whilst keeping me plied with coffee and anecdotes. Thanks also to successive chairs and secretaries who have kept albums and information over the years.

1976 Beginnings.Founder members Thea Neild, Asa Allen and Marjorie Halligan cut the celebration cake 25 years after founding the group in 1976

Three founder members started the West Sussex branch of the Embroiderers Guild 14th September 1976. Our first Chairperson was Mrs Thea Nield who had previously been the Training Officer for the Royal School of Needlework (she had been involved in embroidering the coronation robes for Queen Elizabeth). The first Secretary was Mrs Marjorie Halligan, and the first Treasurer was Mrs Isa Allen. Later on, other branches were formed across West Sussex so our branch became the ‘Worthing ’ branch of the Embroiderers Guild (later becoming ‘Worthing Tuesday’ to differentiate us from our sister-group, ‘Worthing Saturday’ which was formed later on.

Eileen described the early days of the branch as rather formal, with members addressing each other by their titles, Mrs X or Miss Y (first names were considered inappropriate). This gradually relaxed over the next few decades. In the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, monthly branch meetings would usually have an invited speaker, and the group would also take part in other projects.

1996: 20th Anniversary Exhibition at Worthing Town Hall

1997 The Worthing Embroidery

In 1997, the group undertook an enormous project called ‘The Worthing Embroidery’. This was a 10ft x 4ft6″ framed wall hanging for Worthing Hospital. It was part of an ‘Art in Hospitals’ project and was commissioned jointly by Worthing Hospital, Worthing Arts Council and by the Women’s Institute who helped to raised the funds. The idea was to make a detailed embroidery that represented diverse aspects of Worthing, including townscapes, sea, beach, local countryside, flora and fauna, landmark buildings etc.

The project was planned and designed by Viviane Proyer who coordinated the many contributions by members and welded them together into an overall design, together with Kay Ball and Thea Neild. Viviane wrote: ‘A lot of hours involved, ideas put together, designs changed, amended, scrapped. A lot of laughter, bonding, exchange of ideas and a heap of learning went into this piece of work…It was not all plain sailing, there were some days when we thought we would not see the end…some sleepless nights…But the members involved were fantastic, right to the end they all helped and contributed to the happy finish of the work’.

Reflections from the glass detract from the photos, and it is difficult to stand far enough away from it to show the whole piece in a photo, so to admire the design and workmanship it is well worth a visit to look at it in person, near the main entrance to the hospital.

Cobi Erskine described how the group decided which buildings and landmarks to include, and then drew up designs which were given to individual members to stitch before being incorporated into Viviane’s overall design. There were three panels: one that showed the surrounding countryside, one that showed landmarks of Worthing, and one that showed the sea and the beach.

Panel 1: Sussex surroundings

Panel 2: Worthing town landmarks

Panel 3: Sea and beach

Each motif was stitched by an individual member as a ‘slip’, which was then stitched onto the bigger piece. Cobi describes the group crawling around on Viviane’s living room floor, arranging and re-arranging the pieces until the design worked. The following pages from Cobi’s sketchbook show the detail and planning that went into just one individual motif of the panel (the hospital building) and it’s worth bearing in mind that each individual ‘slip’ would have had a similar level of thought. Firstly, a photo of the old hospital building that was demolished for the new one; then the architects designs for the new hospital; then sketches of the two buildings, superimposed over each other; then a detailed ‘chart’ for a stitch sample, followed by a stitch sample. Finally, the finished slip as it appears on the panel.

The old hospital building
From the architects drawing of the new hospital




Designs for the hospital panel, from Cobi’s sketchbook; the old and the new.
Outline drawing to make a stitch sample from









Initial stitch sample
The finished ‘slip’ which was stitched onto the panel.

Each embroiderer chose which motif they wanted to stitch, and chose which techniques to use. Here are some of the other individual slips that went into the panel. (The gallery below may take a few moments to open. The ‘thumbnail’ images should enlarge when you click on them). I wonder how many woman-hours the embroidery represents in total?

Thursday Workshop Group

To complete the Hospital Project, the group got together to work on it outside the regular monthly meetings. This was so enjoyable that once the project was completed, members decided to carry on getting together to work on different projects, and the group evolved into what is now known as the ‘Thursday Workshop Group’. The group is still going strong to this day, and is very popular. Perhaps influenced by how the group started, the group often works on joint projects, sometimes for charity. Examples of projects the group has worked on include making pretty syringe-driver bags for the hospital, heart cushions for the breast clinic, sanitary items for girls in Africa, quilts for the children’s hospice and other similar projects.

At Viviane’s house
An early ‘Thursday Workshop’ day


200 hearts made for the Worthing Hospital Breast ClinicDignity quilts made for Worthing hospital.

1998-9 Other projects

As the group became more known, there were requests for other projects, for example Viviane Proyer is seen here handing over a new pennant for the Worthing Mayoral car.

1990’s onwards: Stitching at Parham House

We have had a special link with Parham House, a wonderful Elizabethan house near Storrington, since the 1990’s. Instigated by Eileen Blaney, the group is invited to sit and stitch in the house in the summer months. The house has a well-known collection of historic embroideries, so many visitors are particularly interested in embroidery. This has continued since the 1990’s, only pausing for a while due to Covid.

2000 The New Millennium

This was celebrated with a two-day visit by Jan Messent, who had undertaken a detailed study of the Bayeaux Tapestry and had embroidered her own version of the ‘lost’ last panel. Jan gave two lectures and a workshop: one lecture covered ‘the men’s experience’ and the other covered ‘the women’s experience’, putting the tapestry in its’ social / historical context.Newspaper article about the visit by Jan Messent

2001 The 25th Anniversary

The 25th anniversary was celebrated with an exhibition and a social gathering. Thea Nield funded and provided 80 buttonholes for members to wear during the celebrations.





















Linda Hoddy and Jean Robinson
















This sampler was made by Isabel Costello for the 25th anniversary


Eileen Blaney still has the icing ‘cake topper’ from the celebration as it seemed a shame for it to be eaten! Perhaps it will still be intact for our 50th anniversary in 2026?
Cake by Maureen Tewkesbury















Founder members Thea, Isa and Marjorie cut the cake 25 years later.



2006 30th Anniversary

A different kind of celebration was held for the 30th anniversary, when members held a 1970’s fashion show, showing clothing they had made in the decade when the group had been formed 30 years earlier.











A booklet was also produced for the 30th anniversary, called ‘A Tapestry of Memories’ in which individual members contributed their reflections on their own stitch journey. An example of this is Viviane Proyers’ account of her journey in stitch in this link below. If you follow the link, then click the ‘back’ arrow on your browser to come back here. https://www.southdownscreativestitchers.org.uk/grandmothers-kitchen/

Warwick Street Hanging, and Town Twinning

Several banners were made by the group. One was the Warwick Street hanging, which was originally hung in Worthing museum

The Warwick Street Hanging

Twinning banners

Banners were created for twinning ceremonies, one with the town of Sable de L’Onnes and one for an area in the Black Forest in Germany.

Eileen Blaney and Liz Hollingswood present the banners to the Mayor of Worthing

The French banner

The German banner

2008 DIDDI, TRADS (Traditional Embroidery Group)

A group ‘sampler’ created in 2008

Alongside the Thursday Workshop Group, another sub-group was formed in 2008. This was originally named DIDDI, which was short for ‘Discover It Isn’t Difficult’. This was formed to share the pleasure of traditional hand-stitch, and to help new members to learn new skills from more experienced members. Later on it changed its’ name to the Traditional Embroidery Group. It is sometimes referred to by members as DIDDI or sometimes TRADS.

If someone can tell me who stitched this, I will add their name here.
An early Diddi meeting: Julia, Vi, Trudi, Hilary, Maureen and Gill












Vi and Julia

Textile Arts Forum

When the group took part in the Worthing Arts Trail, this turned into an opportunity to create a local forum with the focus on textile arts. This was an umbrella group that many of our members took part in, and led to an annual exhibition named ‘Kaleidoscope’ at the Heene Community Centre. Later on it led to a Facebook group called Textile Arts Forum which ran for a number of years, which was a vehicle to share all sorts of stitch and textile-related images and ideas.

Kaleidoscope exhibition 2009: ‘Stitched tea-party’










‘Stitched tea-party’

















Heene Gallery exhibition 2010











2010 Heene Gallery
















Heene Gallery, Opening party










Regional and national Embroiderers Guild projects

Over the years, the group took part in most of the Embroiderers Guild regional and national projects: here are some examples below. Each project relied on someone designing and coordinating it, and many members contributing.

Rainbow Squares

2011: Flight of the bumblebee

Embroidered Book 2013

This embroidered book was a celebration of the ‘stitch journey’ of individual members and of the group. The front cover was designed and stitched by Cobi Erskine. Individual pages were stitched by members (the gallery may take a few moments to open, then the thumbnail photos should enlarge if you click on them).

Purple Cubes 2014.



















Alice in Wonderland 2015

Capability Brown Festival 2016.

Tatter Jacket 2017

Faberge Eggs, 2018

2018. A Hundred Hearts: Commemorating the 100th year anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Medusa, for the ‘Fantasy-wear’ theme in 2019

2016, 40th Anniversary Celebrations

To celebrate our 40th birthday in 2016, we held a big exhibition at Worthing Museum and Art Gallery, organised by Chairman Viv Scrase and opened by Kim Thittichai. A celebration cake was shared, and we also held a celebration lunch.


Viv Scrase and Viviane Proyer, with Kim Thittichai who opened our exhibition

Some of our former Chairs gathered at the 40th celebration: Anne Turner, Viv Scrase, Linda Hoddy, Eileen Blaney and Viviane Proyer.

The opening party for our exhibition

Trips and outings

We have always enjoyed trips and outings, for example this one to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace in 2018 (why do Carol and Gay have a life-sized flamingo at Hampton Court Palace? Answers on a postcard!)

2019 Take Two Colours

Members were challenged to make a piece using only two colours (the ‘gallery’ below may take a few moments to open. The thumbnail images should enlarge if you click on them).

2020: The end of the association with the Embroiderers Guild

In 2020, the Embroiderers Guild announced that it was no longer going to be associated with local branches. Like all other local EG branches, Worthing Tuesday Embroiderers Guild was faced with the decision to either start afresh as an independent stitch group (having had all our funds removed) or abandon all our history and traditions and disappear. Sadly, many local groups were unable to survive this and some had to close, but we are thankful that we were able to start again as a new group. These events coincided with the height of the Covid 19 epidemic and successive lockdowns, so the committee of the suddenly defunct Worthing Tuesday Embroiderers Guild were faced with starting a completely new group from scratch, whilst not being able to meet in person and having to conduct everything in Zoom calls. We established that former members were keen to form a new group, and then the committee set about making new plans: a name, a constitution, a logo, a projected budget based on an estimate of new member numbers, a membership application process, a bank account, insurance, a committee, a new website, a new Facebook page, and a new programme initially tailored to lockdown restrictions.

Lockdown projects

The transition from Embroiderers Guild branch to independent stitch group coincided with the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. We held some of our Tuesday meetings via Zoom, but many members did not find this easy or relaxing, so some projects were devised to help to keep a sense of connection between the group while we couldn’t meet in person.

‘Stitched Postcards’: Members sent in a stitched postcard which was sent out to another member, and they then received a surprise postcard in return (the gallery may take a few moments to open. Images should enlarge when you click on them).

‘Travelling Sketchbooks’: Each participant started a sketchbook on a chosen theme; the books were passed round the group, and each member added however many pages they wished to, based on that theme.  This led to some interesting email exchanges, such as: ‘I’ve finished with Rust, who’s got Elephants? There are far too many to include them all here.

2021 Southdowns Creative Stitchers

Southdowns Creative Stitchers formally came into effect on 1 April 2021. At an inaugural meeting, the previous committee became the first members, and then became the first committee members and officers of Southdowns Creative Stitchers. They were then able to invite other former members and new members to join. Since then, the group has gone from strength to strength, and at the time of writing (2024) we have 70 members.

2021 The Mixed Media Group

The Mixed Media Group was set up by Jane Baskerville in 2021. This is an opportunity for members to try out different approaches to textile art, and to experiment with a range of techniques and media. The group is experimental in nature, focussing on techniques and backgrounds which can be used in stitched work. It is a chance to do things that many people don’t have space to do at home (between members, the mixed media group is sometimes referred to informally as ‘Playgroup’). Members of the group share the role of doing demonstrations for the group.

Embroidery on silk fibres, by Sue Parkinson, after a silk paper making demo by Gay Hibbs and Jan Angove
Pheasant by Gay Hibbs, after a demo by Caroline Griggs and Jane Baskerville
Silk painting, after a demo by Julia Brown

2022 onwards

Once lockdown restrictions were lifted, we started to meet in person again. We started outdoors for a socially distanced summer picnic, and then our monthly Tuesday afternoon meetings became a regular feature once again. Thanks to growing membership, we were quite quickly able to start funding a good range of speakers and workshops again. Usually eight of our monthly meetings per year have an invited speaker.

2022 ‘Stitch Corner’

‘Stitch Corner’ was introduced to sit-and-sew afternoons in 2022. We have some machine-embroiderers who weren’t familiar with hand-stitch, and some new members who are new to embroidery altogether, so we introduced the ‘Stitch Corner’ at the meetings, where a member shows the group a particular technique or project. ‘Stitch Corner’ has become much bigger than a corner, but it has retained the name.

Daphne Dedman demonstrating stump-work strawberries
Jan Angove demonstrating silk ribbon embroidery

2023: Our entry for the Findon Christmas Tree Festival

2023: ‘Visions of Switzerland’. A pop-up exhibition of embroidery inspired by a Swiss theme, in honour of Vivane Proyer.

Let me know if this your work and I’ll add your name

Trips and outings

Once lockdowns ended, we continued the tradition of trips and outings, for example this one to the Hand and Lock studio in London in 2023.

We needed wine and food to recover from fabric shopping in Liberty’s

2023 Showcase of members work

In 2023, we started to offer the opportunity to members to have a ‘pop-up’ exhibition of their work during a sit-and-sew afternoon. Anyone who wants to can show their work without the stress of giving a more formal presentation. This gives us the chance to see some of the lovely work that members do, and to see how their work has changed and developed, sometimes over many years.

Mavis showing her work

Blending our traditions with new developments

From the very first days of the new Southdowns Creative Stitchers, the committee tried to find a balance between honouring and enjoying the history and traditions that have been carried forwards from Worthing Tuesday Embroiderers Guild, and at the same time incorporating new ideas and creating new traditions. We believe that the success of the group is partly due to having the sub-groups, where members can explore their specialist interests. The origins of sub-groups goes right back to the day of the Hospital Project. We come together as a bigger group at our monthly Tuesday meetings to celebrate all things stitch-related. Another tradition that has been passed down from year to year, and decade to decade, is members sharing their skills and interests, so we all learn from each other.

Julia Brown demonstrating painted and machine-stitched landscapes

2024 onwards. Plans for the future

The committee are pleased that so many people volunteer to help out; whether that is fulfilling a committee role, running a group, doing a demo for ‘Stitch Corner’, helping set out the room for our Tuesday meetings, serving teas and coffees and generally being enthusiastic and taking part. We now hold more than 50 activities each year in total, which is only feasible because the responsibilities are shared.

We plan to hold an exhibition in 2026 to celebrate 50 years of our group. We hope it will represent the very wide range of skills and interests within our group, from traditional hand-stitch, to machine embroidery, to mixed media. Wouldn’t it be nice to think that in another 50 years, new people will be holding another exhibition to celebrate what has happened between now and then? In the meantime, happy stitching!