Manchester Embroidery - Finding Inspiration on My Doorstep

February 23, 2024


Manchester is a city known and loved for so many things.

It's music, it's people, Emily Pankhurst and it's excellent, excellent selection of coffee shops (ok, it might not be internationally known for its coffee - but it should be).

But if 'What is Manchester famous for?' came up as a category on Family Fortunes, I don't think Architecture would make the top five.

And up until four years ago, Manchester's architecture wasn't something I'd have thought much about either. Obviously, I had admired the Town Hall and the Library, and I thought certain spots had their charm, but it wasn't a place I would wander around and just take in the buildings.

Maybe you don't wander around anywhere and just take in the buildings (I know, it sounds a little pretentious), but if I go on a city break, that's my favourite thing to do. Wander around, get a little lost, and take endless numbers of photos. 

And along with a camera roll full of photos of buildings, we always come home with a print, or a piece of art of wherever we've been, and 9 times out of 10, that piece of art is also of... yup, you guessed it... a building.

Of course, now I feel very differently about Manchester and its buildings... and it only took a global pandemic to change my mind.

A set of three images, each of an embroidery hoop with a Manchester design on it. In order Tib Street, Exchange Square and the back of Anita Street

If you've followed me since the beginning (or read anything about me on this website), you'll know I fell in love with embroidery in the first lockdown. I had plenty of time and a new obsession, and I was finishing hoops at a rate I will never be able to do so again (of varying quality of course). You know how it is at the beginning of a new love affair - you just can't stop doing it.

In those initial throes of passion (ok, this metaphor is getting weird now), I tried out every style I could (yup, definitely regretting the metaphor). Abstract, floral, cutesy, before realising, that if I was going to fill our home with embroidery, then I should be making things that I would be happy to buy myself. And so I decided to have a go at architectural designs. Never having been someone to want to follow someone else's pattern, I decided, rather ambitiously, to create my own.

At the time, I was living in Anocats, which, even pre-pandemic, I had admired. And so, as I couldn't really adventure much further than my own front door, I thought, why not start there.

And so I did, with the wobbly 6 inch hoop of Murray Street in the photo above. I was so proud of that hoop. It was the first piece I did that had involved any truly complicated drawing from me, and even though I look at it now and can see just how much of a beginner I was, it will always be one of my favourite hoops.  Crooked back stitch and poor fabric tension included.

And luckily, I wasn't the only one who liked it. Without that hoop and that photo, I wouldn't have my own Embroidery Business. I wouldn't have started selling commissions. I wouldn't have created DIY Embroidery Kits. And I certainly wouldn't be running Embroidery workshops across Manchester.

A white womans hand holding up an embroidery hoop of St Peters Ancoats, in front of the building itself

I went on to stitch so many more Ancoats-based embroidery hoops, Anita Street, St Peter's, and New Islington Marina. I remember one day I was stood in the middle of Ancoats Square trying to get a hoop photo and someone asked why I was holding up a dinner plate and taking photos. 

A white womans hand holding up an embroidery hoop of the mills in Ancoats infront of them.

And, of course, it's not just in Ancoats where I've looked slightly odd while taking photos. My embroidery has taken me all over the city. discovering some beautiful buildings that I had never truly appreciated before despite living in or around Manchester for about 10 years of my life.

A white womans hand, holding up an embroidery hoop of the Sackville Building, Manchester, in front of the building itself.

I talk a lot about how taking things one stitch at a time helps my brain to slow down, but embroidery has taught me to slow down in other ways, too. It's taught me to stop and take in my surroundings at home, as much as when I'm on holiday. Through working on commissions and listening to people's reasons for wanting a hoop of that particular place, I've learned that it isn't always the architecture that makes a building beautiful and that sometimes even the most mundane of streets deserves a spot on someone's wall.

There are still so many places in Manchester I want to stitch, and I'm still finding inspiration everywhere. From Oxford Road to the Craft Centre, I took a little bit of a break from architectural embroidery last year, but I want to prioritise it again this year. So the big question is - where do you want to see 'hooped' next?

Want to stitch your own Manchester Hoop?

Then my Ancoats-inspired DIY Embroidery Kit is available on my Etsy here, or why not join me at one of my Manchester Beginner Embroidery Classes to begin your own stitching journey!