Trish In Studio

Interview with Trish Burr (for an overseas publication).


Tell us briefly about yourself and personal life?

I am third generation, born and raised on a farm in Zimbabwe.  I am married with 3 girls aged 26, 21 and 9 years.  My youngest still keeps me very busy and involved with homework!  We moved to Cape Town, South Africa  in 2005 after our family farm was taken over by the government and it became difficult to stay in the country.

When did you start embroidery and how?

I started embroidery later in life about 1990 when I saw my cousin doing cross stitch and became interested.  Before that time I had done a lot of sewing, knitting and painting but then became addicted to embroidery!  I obtained the franchise for DMC threads in about 1995 and was supplying the whole country as the sole agent.  I did a lot of cross stitch at first but then became more interested in long and short stitch.

Where did you train?

I had no formal training I taught myself from a book and then just practised a lot on little pieces of fabric till I got it right.

Did you learn from your family?

I did not learn from my mother or my grandmother – they were not very interested in embroidery.  I did not learn at school because I was an academic student and we did not have access to domestic science, although I always envied the children that did do cooking and sewing!

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I get a lot of my inspiration from artist’s paintings especially Botanical paintings.  I approach the artist and ask for permission to use their work to reproduce in embroidery and most of the time they will allow me to use it although sometimes they are not so accommodating.  I found the portrait of Elise on Deviant art on the internet – this Lebanese man had painted a picture of his sister, I thought it was perfect for embroidery.  The birds I get from professional photographs and again I get permission from the photographer.  Sometimes I have to pay a fee to use them.

Do you have any interests in other embroidery techniques?

I am interested in all form of embroidery and have many books on the subject. I love white work embroidery especially the French white work done in satin stitch.  I find that the precision of satin stitch is good for my long and short stitch.  I also have done a lot of crewel embroidery in the past but now I mainly specialise in needle painting.  I think it is good to concentrate on one style of embroidery and do it well.  I tell my students that they are too easily tempted by all the different types of embroidery available and will never master one style!

How did you become passionate about long-short stitch embroidery?

I used to paint and draw pictures before embroidery and I think that is why I was attracted to long and short stitch because it is more like painting. The thing I love most about long and short stitch is the shading.  I want my embroidery to look alive and by using contrasting shades of colour we are able to give our work a three dimensional appearance.  If we are only using one colour it can look flat.  I think that we should use shading in all our embroidery even if it is cross stitch or some other work.

As we see from your designs and books, you prefer flowers and birds mostly as themes for your embroidery. Where does this come?

Yes I do love flowers – I think everyone does, they are so beautiful and diverse in their colour and structure – perfect symbols of our creator.  But flowers are not necessarily an easy subject to translate in embroidery it is quite difficult to get the lightness in the petals without it looking too stiff.    I love stitching birds but it is a challenge to make them look alive,   I think it is in the eye of the bird, if the eye looks life like than the rest of the bird will normally follow.

I enjoyed stitching the portrait of Elise but am not sure how to give instructions to others for stitching portraits as it is just something that unfolds while you are stitching – like a painting.  I would like to try and do more animals and wildlife when time allows.

I like to share my projects with others but sometimes it is a challenge to give directions like what thread colours to use and where to put each stitch, it just gets too complicated, so I use simpler subjects such as flowers for projects with instructions.

How do you feel when you see your designs are stitched by people from foreign countries?

Wonderful and very humbled that they would want to stitch them!  One day I hope to visit a lot of these countries and do workshops with the people themselves but right now I have commitments as a mother as well as a designer.

Long & short stitch embroidery is painting with threads, therefore some people call it needle painting.  It is an International embroidery but your style and artistic use of colour is unique. What is your secret?

I have spent many years practising long and short stitch and creating my own unique style.  It is probably not the formal method but it works for me and I am able to show others how to do it also.  I think my secret is to use a lot of different shades to create interest in the picture and also to place a contrast of shades from light to dark so that it looks as though it has light and shadow in it.

How many published books do you have and do you offer kits or other materials?

I have 4 books on the market and another 2 due for release soon.  I have been with Sally Milner Publishing for many years now, since they were willing to publish my first book when I was in Zimbabwe.  They took a chance on me even though I was not a well know embroiderer or author at the time and I have continued to publish books with them since that time, even though they are in Australia and I am in South Africa I believe they produce some of the finest craft books in the world.

I have a DVD called The Long & The Short Of It.   I produced this with a media company to demonstrate the actual stitching of the technique.  It is my most comprehensive work to date and has helped many people to understand the technique better, because they can see for themselves how it is done.  Yes I do offer a small range of kits for sale.

Do you think to stitch scenes or panoramas as a theme?

No, this is not something I would like to do, I would find it boring!   I like subjects that have life in them such as people, birds, animals, flowers, plants etc – adding small details such as hair on a stem or tiny little bird feathers gives me a lot of pleasure.

Which thread do you mostly use in your designs and why?

I use DMC/Anchor stranded cotton.  I have tried a lot of other threads such as silk and wool but now I only use stranded cotton.  It is fine enough to achieve the right effect and also I need a lot of colours so use shades from each range to find the colour I need.  I sometimes use Chinese silk which I separate down to one hair’s width to add in my fine details.

Do you have your own embroidery courses?  Is there interest in long & short stitch embroidery in your home city and overseas?

Yes I do run embroidery courses.  I do a few live workshops every year when I get time from my books and other works, but I also run online classes to help those in other countries who are unable to attend my workshops in South Africa.  There is a great demand for online classes but they are very different from live classes because I have to use visual techniques and computer diagrams to explain.

I also give talks and lectures at the embroidery guilds in South Africa and have a blog where people from other countries can ask questions and interact.

What is your advice for people who are willing to start embroidery?

Start with either the DVD or the beginner projects that are available in books or kits and once you have a good idea of the technique you can move onto more advanced projects.  Use the best materials that you can afford, using inferior materials will show in the finished result.

Don’t be in a rush, take your time and be prepared to practice, practice and practice some more.  Any craftsman/ artist must first practise the fundamentals of his craft before he can create a masterpiece!

With modern technology we are used to getting instant gratification, but this is one area of your life where you can sit quietly, relax and enjoy the journey away from all the problems of everyday life!

Thank you for inviting me to do this interview I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with you.


  1. Maryanne Bezyack says:

    Hello Trish. I read your article about Mical Aloni. Perhaps u can help me. I have been trying to get in touch with her. We have been old friends since she owned a restaurant and lived in Stony Brook N Y. I sent mail to her at the Aloni/Reznik Gallery, which was returned. If you are able to contact her could you please tell her we’d like to say hello?
    Maryanne and Bart Bezyack. 631 862 7248. Thanks so much.

  2. Nerys Simpson says:

    Does anyone have trouble stretching their work ready for framing? I have completed two of the projects out of the book “colour confidence in embroidery” and both times I have had puckering occurring when they come off the embroidery frame (which I had attached very tightly).

    • Hi Nerys make sure the fabric you are using has enough weight to support the embroidery – if it is light use a backing fabric. Ensure it is cut on the straight grain before you mount it into the hoop – make sure the backing fabric this is lined up with the main fabric on the straight grain. These are common cause of puckering. Another tip is to use a lightweight woven interfacing – you can iron this onto the back of your fabric for stability before you start stitching. This is used for machine embroidery and does the trick. Hope this helps. Trish

  3. Hi

    I wonder if you can help me find stitchers in South Africa who might like to take part in the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry? It involves crewelwork on linen and all materials are supplied. Please have a look at

    Yvonne Murphy

  4. Sheelah Anderson says:

    Hi Trish, I live in the United States, but will be in Cape Town later this month. I am hoping to find some regional embroidery, fabric and/or yarns while there. Are your kits available at shops in Cape Town? Your work is exquisite and I am inspired looking at your designs. Thank you.

    • Hi Sheelah Unfortunately I don’t supply the retail trade so the kits and materials are only available from my online shop. I am sure you will love Cape town it is a special place, enjoy your trip. Trish

  5. oh trish you are a inspiration for me after sufering 3 strokes all i want to do is try out new things i wish i could do bunka embroidery it will be so easy for me using my one hand
    but cant afford overseas products too exspensive and the rayon thread i cant find in cape town

  6. Megan Hodges says:

    Thankyou! I didn’t want to be presumptuous and just send it. Also – I don’t have an email for you – I’ve looked here on the website but perhaps I’m blind.

  7. Megan Hodges says:

    Hey Tricia,
    I’ve just done a design transfer onto (“Cadi” Italian silk) using the carbon paper method you recommended instead of the chalk paper I was using.* Very * nice! I’m sold!
    The project is a circle of acanthus leaves. I’m going to do all the leaves the same, then experiment with different colour outlines, part of the 17thC stumpwork I’m doing that I want to investigate further. I’ve got 7 possibilities to try.
    Given the acanthus are all twisty and circled, I’m having a bit of trouble making sure that my stitch direction is absolutely correct ven using a cut out shape of an acanthus leaf. Would it be rude to ask if you could cast your eye over the diagram?My email is if you care to contact me that way,
    best regards,

  8. Trish, I’m a VERY happy camper! In today’s post I received your “The African Cross Stitch Collection.” This is wonderful and my face hasn’t stopped smiling as I look at all the adorable animals and patterns to do them via counted cross stitch.

    Supposedly ‘First Edition’ – but just delighted to have this book of yours in my growing collection.

    • That’s wonderful Marny am so glad you like the designs I had the most fun designing them and they bring back many happy memories of my life in Zimbabwe. Have fun. Trish

  9. hi, do you sell your kits any where in the uk.

  10. Hi Trish, My name is Cindy from Singapore. I am a fan of your beautiful embroidery work and even bought your DVD. Regretted to say that we don’t have any shop here that are able to invite you here to conduct workshop.Neverthe less I still love to browse through your kits.


    • Cindy, back in May-July 1995, we were in Singapore. While my husband worked, I went to all the usual tourist places, ate in as many hawker stalls as possible, and went looking for cross stitch shops. I know how tough it was back then – which is why I left my neck magnifier with a resident. She was absoluted delighted.

      Here in the USA not all areas have shops – so many of us still shop online and most of us never get to meet the designers who could be here but not in our state or within easy driving distance.

    • Thanks Marny – unfortunately I think the subject of high street embroidery shops is a global one – they are few and far between so most of us have to shop online. Fortunately for us there are numerous online shops and with advancements in technology it is easier than ever to shop:) Trish

  11. María Cristina Fernández says:

    me gusta bordar , de hecho hago ajuares para bebés bordados a mano. Me encantó su trabajo , qué debo hacer para acceder a las clases, que valor tienen. gracias

  12. Alet Myburgh says:

    Hi Trish,

    I received the booklet “African Bird Portraits”, Thank you for the beautiful booklet.

    I want to put my hand on the Somali Bee Eater, but I can not make out the thread needed for this project. As I have to buy every single one to start.

    1) Did you use DMC plus Anchor threads, in combination.
    2) The “D” behind a nr, stands for DMC?
    3) On the booklet, I will just need 14, different shades/color? But there are 34 Anchor nrs.?
    4) I am so new to this, can you perhaps provide me with DMC nrs to start my “kit”. The shading is what I want to do!!

    Thank you so much!

    • Hello Alet If you look on page 4 of the African Bird booklet you will see that the thread numbers are listed for both DMC and Anchor, you can use either. Yes the numbers for the Somali Bird that are marked with a (D) after are DMC – this is because some of the numbers are the same in both DMC and Anchor. Can I make a suggestion – if you are new to this type of embroidery you should probably start with an easier project than the Somali Bee Eater – it is aimed at embroiderers who have some previous experience and you may not find it very easy. There are 2 bird projects in the Needle Painting Embroidery: Fresh Ideas for beginners book that would be good if you are a beginner. Best wishes Trish

  13. Lorna jackson says:

    dear Trish ,I have your book long and short stitch embroidery and I am trying to do the flame lily on page 90 for a friend in Tanzania BUT the first DMC colour is 259 pale green . This is not available in Aust. and as I havent seen the colour I dont know what it looks like can you suggest another colour please.

    Many thanks Lorna

    • Dear Lorna 259 is actually an Anchor colour not sure how that snuck in there!! Anyway the equivalent in DMC is 772. Apologies for the error. Enjoy your stitching the flame lily is one of my favourites lucky friend in Tanzania! Kind regards Trish

  14. This tells me that I will better enjoy learning this method of embroidery if I get the DVD. That is what I will do. Thank you for taking so much time to answer my questions. Sandra

  15. Thank you for the encouragement. I want to become proficient in this. I will one day use some silks to make the special parts really stand out. But for now I have a lot of DMC thread to use. And I have a good supply of cloth since I sew some. Sandra

  16. I have an urgent request. As I read in the new book I received today, it said to come up through the thread but never down through the thread. I am confused by this. Can you tell me what this means, or is it in the DVD? Sandra

    • Hi Sandra This is clearly outlined on the DVD under row one and two of the long and short stitch. If you go down into your thread it causes little holes but if you come up through the thread and down into the fabric it anchors the threads down creating smoother shading. Hope this helps. Trish

  17. I just today received your book, Needle Painting Embroidery Fresh Ideas For beginners. I am thinking I need a pre-beginner book. I am going to just practice this technique with the great amount of DMC thread I have on hand and some good cloth that will let me do this. I know this might not be the best way, but it will let me practice. I have a lot of thread and many sizes of hoops. I have the good light that you mentioned – a floor lamp. So it gives me great light. I also have a magnifiying glass that I hand around by neck. I plan to get one like in the book. But I want to get the kind of roll holder for the cloth because I plan to do a bell pull.

    • Hi Sandy – your method of practicing on a piece of scrap cloth is the very best way to approach needle painting. I spent many many hours practicing – You can draw little shapes and practice straight shading and curved shading – you will soon get the hang of it. Your light and magnifier sound fine. Best wishes for your stitching I know you will love it. Trish

  18. Trish my postal address is
    c/o Grey High School
    Private Bag X0002

  19. Hallo Trish
    I emailed you on 23 abd 26 November requesting a signed copy of Colour Confidence but have not had a reply. Please let me know if you are able to supply me with a copy of your book. I will eft payment to you on receipt of your confirmation and banking details. Thank you. Meg Longe

    • Hi Meg So sorry I don’t seem to have received your email – of course you can have a signed copy!

      I am doing the last posting before Christmas tomorrow so you have got me just in time. The book is R475 and there is a special on speed services for R55 at the moment so total R530. Let me know your postal address.

      Kind regards Trish

  20. Hi Trish!
    I love your work! Your birds are a favorite of mine. I was wondering if you have a hummingbird available in a kit? Preferrably a Anna’s or Rufus as they are the jewels of my garden that bring me hours of joy and entertainment!

    I look forward to receiving your emails! I’ve also Liked you on facebook!

  21. Megan Longe says:

    Hi Trish
    I have enrolled to attend your Azure Kingfisher course in Port Elizabeth in November this year. What size hoop will be using as I would like to purchase one before then.
    I am so looking forward to learning from you.
    Megan Longe

    • Hello Megan You will need a size 7inch susan bates super grip hoop. If you find it difficult to get a 7″ then an 8″ will do. You can get from Daaft Designs in Pietermartizburg. (Hazel Bloomkampf).

      Look forward to seeing you on the course. Kind regards Trish

  22. I absolutely love your work. Like you, I am a somewhat painter and have done embroidery for most of my life. I have done crewel, which is nice. But now I want to learn the painting technique because it is so life like. I have done some shading embroidery, but I need to get your dvd to see how you do the fur and feathers. I will be ordering your book also. I hope I know the right one to order. I live in Tennessee, USA. I hope the mail will get to me ok. Thanks for all you give us.

  23. Hi Trish, I just ordered your new book and can’t wait till I get it in Oct. I am getting ready to do a white and brown bunny and woundered if you have any sugestions on how to make it look fluffy

    • Hi Judy Do you have a copy of the DVD, The Long & The Short OF It. It has good demonstrations on how to do fluffy feathers and fur. The new book has the same instructions but I understand you will not receive your copy until October. Best of luck. Trish

  24. Jocelyne Garneau-Saucier says:

    I would like to know if your Blue & White Jacobean is available as a pattern, a course or a kit? If yes, can you E-mail me details.
    Thank you in advance for your reply.
    Jocelyne Garneau-Saucier

  25. Hi Trish.I would love to purchase your Needlepaiting workshop book when it is released.Can you please advise me when it is available,how much it is,and where I can purchase it in Australia.

  26. Hi Trish. I have order a DVD and have not received it and I am sure you posted it last week Tuesday.Do you have a tracking number or a way that I can try and trace the parcel. I would appreciate your help.

    Kind regards

  27. Hi Trish – Please may you advise me on how to purchase your DVD as I have not noticed any order forms on your website. PS Your work is inspirational and absolutely beautiful.

  28. Leonie Fourie says:

    Hi There,

    Are you in SA? Who are your stockists in SA?
    I love your work it is STUNNING, I normally buy from Colleen Goy as i like the “pure” embrodery without the coloured pictures.

    Please write to me uf you can i am in Gauteng.


    • Hi Leonie yes am in Cape town. I sell online from my website – you can email your order and will send you bank details to do an eft. Thanks for getting in touch.

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