our tribute to UK Designers we present...
Carol Tinson, of
Carol Tinson Designs
Carol's designs are distributed through the Caron Collection click here for Carol's
By Rita Vainius
Tinson may not have acquired her design talents from her ancestors,
aborigines from Tasmania, rumored to be singers and circus performers,
but she most definitely inherited an eccentric and theatrical
Born and raised in Birmingham, England accounts for Carol's distinctive
"Brummie" accent. Her mother Pauline (age unknown and
best not to ask) worked in a bakery and still uses her unique
talents to decorate Wedding cakes. Her father John (age - ancient,
but reputed to resemble Frankie Vaughan and be obsessed with
music) was a toolmaker. Carol was the beneficiary of her mother's
artistic flair coupled with her father's logical, methodical
mind. She has a brother Neil who, though 4 years younger, she
admits, with feigned chagrin and sarcasm, earns more money than
she does, globe trotting to exotic locales, as a hairstylist
on fashion magazine and pop video assignments.
school, Carol confesses that her report cards always ended with
the admonishment, "could do better." The obligatory
needlework classes did not make a good impression. Her memories
are of tediously working stitches on gingham and making, what
she refers to as, "a complete bodge," of an apron.
Her strongest commitment was to a youth club where art related
projects became her forte. Her first sewing attempt was making
cuddly toys to sell at craft fairs. At one event, she met her
husband Matt, a Yorkshire man, who was the Youth Club leader's
brother-in-law. Six months later, Carol gave up her job at a
telecommunications company to move to York. In a simple twist
of fate, the Club Leader became Carol's brother-in law, soon
in their marriage, Carol would accompany Matt on business trips.
The weekend socials were eagerly attended, but Carol did not
cotton to joining the other wives touring stately homes and dusty
old museums. Eschewing this itinerary, Carol browsed through
the craft magazine, "Anna," featuring a floral embroidery.
By her own testimony: "I decided to have a go at it. That
was the start. I was hooked."
the time Carol's children, Gemma (now 13) and Sam ( now 12) were
toddlers, she was transformed into a craft enthusiast. She took
the leap of turning her hobby into a shop named "In Stitches."
In due course, customers began requesting classes. Having no
formal certification, Carol felt ill equipped to teach others.
She enrolled in the nationally recognized City and Guilds. All
new students were assumed to be well versed in stitching techniques
and their historical origins and being familiar with basic art
and design principles. Each was expected to work with different
mediums, in combination with embroidery techniques, to create
an expressionistic, free- form piece of artistic virtuosity.
Carol progressed to the point of even tutoring some of her fellow
students, before she realized that the scope of the program was
beyond the call of duty, reassured that her initial qualms were
unfounded. Because of the huge gap that exists between the quality
of work the City and Guilds require and the level of proficiency
and creativity of her own students, it is one of Carol's abiding
ambitions to develop a national course in needlework which bridges
the gap between these two very disparate teaching approaches.
Carol's students were often intimidated by patterns which appeared
more complex than they really were. By applying her methodical
thinking, she found that by presenting each element of the design
separately in a clear, unhurried and straightforward manner, students
were soon mastering their initial insecurity and clamoring for
new challenges. She encouraged mixing techniques, which is an
integral element of her band samplers which can accommodate a
bounty of design variations in the same piece. Freestyle embroidery
is popular and Carol's philosophy is explicit: "To be able
to do this style of embroidery confidently, you have to let go
of the words `absolute precision.' To use an arty-farty saying,
you have learn to express what is within onto your fabric...The
most important goal is the overall beauty of the composition
and not the perfection of each individual stitch." She insists
that only a really "clever beggar" could notice those
minute errors which seem so glaring to the stitcher working up
Carol reaps copious gratification watching her students progress
and carry a newfound confidence over into other parts of their
lives. Especially satisfying is the camaraderie of other stitchers:
"The classes are just like a group of friends who have gathered
for coffee and a `natter' and sometimes we do a `bit of sewing.'"
her shop lease expired, Carol focused exclusively on teaching,
offering instruction in: cross stitch, Assisi, blackwork, beadwork,
freestyle embroidery, silk and satin ribbon, patchwork, applique,
quilting, hardanger, fabric painting, space dyed threads, parchment
craft, paper bag printing, stiffy bows and frilly baskets, pulled
and drawn threadwork, candlewicking, Mountmellick, etui boxes,
plastic canvas and more! All this from someone whose teachers'
assessments read "could do better!"
In an impetuous move, Carol took a booth at the first northern
needlecraft fair even though she was a novice and had no substantial
work to show. Proving that necessity is the mother of invention,
she worked like a fiend for the 6 months preceding it. Come showtime,
she was ready with 17 new designs. Her official debut was a phenomenal
success leading to unforeseen possibilities: she was interviewed
by a local radio station, commissioned to design for magazines
and guilds, started a monthly subscription sampler, lectured
and demonstrated at exhibitions, traveled to the U.S. and arranged
for an American distributor (The Caron Collection), added 13
new designs, sold her designs to retailers, organized workshops,
created teaching projects and last, but but no means least, hired
someone to do the housework. "The really big deal!"insists
the Drama Queen herself.
subscription sampler is one of Carol's most popular design concepts.
Her first was an Heirloom Sampler. In 1998, her Alphabet Sampler
featured every letter of the alphabet with its own stitch for
each row in sequence, ie. A for Algerian eye, B for button hole
wheel, C for chevron, etc. The Millennium sampler, currently
in progress, will rely on contributions. Carol explains: "The
idea is to create our own piece of history by you, the subscriber,
offering suggestions of your favorite stitch or technique and
the reason why you have chosen it. I will then choose my favorite
stories out of those I receive and incorporate both the stitch
and the story in the design."
In contrast to her ebullient and outspoken persona, Carol's designs
are mostly romantic in content and sentiment, harmonious in texture
and composition and subtle in tone, employing primarily pastel
colors. It can only be surmised that her outer demeanor masks
a font of inner sensitivity and tranquility which finds it's
best expression in her art. Her Libran nature is very much evidenced
by the balance and symmetry in her work. Most of her designs
are executed with the Caron threads which are just her "cup
When confronted with how or where her inspiration stems from,
Carol draws a blank. Upon taking up needle and thread, the right
side of her brain simply kicks-in. What does stump her, is giving
each piece a name. For this, she looks to literature for inspiration,
spends hours pondering the possibilities and enlists the help
of family and friends when all else fails. When the right title
does emerge, it is eminently obvious and expresses perfectly
the sentiment Carol intended to communicate in visual form.
Many of Carol's designs using the Caron threads have been featured
in "Classic Stitches" magazine. The Nov., 98 issue
showed a Satin Stitch Sampler done in Waterlilies, the Feb./Mar.,
99 issue will include a Pulled and Withdrawn Sampler completed
with Impressions, an upcoming issue will contain the Hardanger
Sampler executed with Watercolours and another future issue will
feature a Band Sampler employing Wildflowers.
Carol has adjusted to her profession as "celebrity"
designer in stride.To ensure that her head does not swell too
much, her family cautions her not to get any ideas above her
station, as they can "dish out the dirt" on her! Heeding
this threat, Carol figures: "I had better remain level-headed
at the end of the day to remind myself that I am still only me
doing `a bit of sewing' for a living."
Visitors can go to Classic Stitches web site ( http://www.classicstitches.com ) for a profile on Carol and and where her hardanger project
will appear at a later date.
Carol Tinson Designs are available at most needlework shops in
the UK. For a list of retailers, please send a SASE to her at
11 Longridge Lane, Nether Poppleton, York YO26 6LX, U.K.
Phone and Fax: 1904 796 097
Carol Tinson Designs are available in the U.S. from The Caron
Orders elsewhere are available directly from Carol at the above
All customers interested in her subscription sampler, should
contact Carol directly.