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CETG Online Talk on Monday 12th July 2021
Effie Jessop - A Picture and a Thousand Words

Effie Jessop produces ‘Calligrams’ - images created from text in such a way that they form a related image.  Effie works mostly in embroidery although sometimes the piece will remain as a drawing and she likes to use words from personal communications and text messages in particular.  These are often throw away comments and few people re-read texts but the memory triggers from them can be powerful.  She likes the juxtaposition of the text message being digital, in the ether and fast with embroidery which is tactile, real and time consuming.  The words can tell one story while the picture is telling a completely different one.  

A lot of Effie’s work is autobiographical.  Her Mother, Lou Jessop, always embroidered and Effie dabbled with stitching as a child.  She planned to do English and Drama Studies at university but for a laugh looked for Embroidery courses and one at Manchester came up.  She went to the degree show and that was enough to completely change her mind and to sign up for a BA in Embroidery.

In her second year the students had to pick a theme and Effie chose Collections.  She also enjoyed life drawing and kept an art journal.  She had a photograph of a life model and drew over it using the density of the letters to create the image.  She then copied this text onto graph paper which seemed to work well.  She did some hand embroidered samples but also tried doing letters in machine embroidery which meant cutting out each letter separately and she also used a Multi Head machine to produce text but although it was very slow, she felt the hand embroidered letters were superior.


She saw the pieces as a visual love letters and was exploring her relationship with her ex-boyfriend at the time by combining an image of him kissing his new girlfriend but the the words were made up of the text messages he was sending to Effie at the same time which was rather ironic!  What you see on the surface isn’t necessarily what is going on underneath!

She then started online dating which provided her with a fascinating style of communication.  She produced another image of a couple kissing this time made up of words from the dating website.  

After an abortion she produced a piece of work titled ‘Holding myself together so far and no significant bleeding’.  This was made up of messages from everyone who had been involved with her decision and was a very cathartic project for Effie.  The piece was accepted for the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy and sold but the owner never enquired as to the exact meaning behind it.

As a result of that sale Effie got a commission to produce a memorial heirloom for someone which was a portrait of their late father made up from the words from his eulogy.  Since then Effie has had various commissions for both drawings and embroideries composed with text.  

The pieces are made using counted thread technique.  So, for example a block of 4x4 threads is used for each letter.  She only uses capital letters as this gives a more uniform appearance and there is no punctuation.  She used to draw her patterns out on paper first and then print the photo onto graph paper and transfer the piece with letters to a new sheet of graph paper using Tippex and pen.  However, now she finds it quicker to do the design on an iPad using Procreate.

She marks the fabric with pins every 5 threads and usually works across the piece one row at a time from left to right.  However, where the letters are more spread out she works in groups to cut down on trailing threads on the back.

She has been trying out different fabrics but uses either Zweigart 32 or 40 count in cotton viscose or Verdal in 46 or 56 count which is linen.  The Zweigart fabrics are better as they don't distort the image as much.  She has tried various different threads but generally uses Gutterman Polyester sewing cotton.  She is currently experimenting with different fabrics and different ways to create tone by using a different thickness of thread.  

Effie’s talk was absolutely fascinating and everyone was amazed at her patience and skill in producing such detailed pieces.



  • Eye - one of Effie's earliest pieces

  • Andrew, Soulmates

  • Holding myself together so far and no significant bleeding

  • Memorial piece

  • Close up of the actual letters


Text @Michaela Matza
Photos @Effie Jessop


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