Happy Holidays – The Sea Tractor at Burgh Island (part one)

The Sea Tractor At Burgh Island

The Sea Tractor At Burgh Island

This piece was intended as an entry in a competition run by “Needlecraft” Magazine about 25 years ago. The brief was to recreate “A Holiday Memory”, and as it happened, that year we had had a great adventure – a ride on the Sea Tractor at Burgh Island in Devon.

“Needlecraft” had also run an article shortly before, describing and teaching Dorset Buttons, and they seemed perfect for the Sea Tractor’s wheels. Since time was short and the complexity of the Sea Tractor likely to be time-consuming, I also experimented with a painted background on my cotton fabric.

The Cloud Stitch Cloud

The Cloud Stitch Cloud

In retrospect, the painted background isn’t hugely successful, and it doesn’t have enough stitchery to qualify for high marks in an embroidery competition, but I enjoyed adding those details I did create, and so often in these early pieces, you can see “Rachel-Now” and her ideas prefigured in the stitch choices of “Rachel-Then”.

Looking at it now,  I might have done better to work the cloud filling smaller, in white rather than pastels, over a painted base, and without outlining it. Still when you consider that the whole thing was an experiment….!

Hillside Stitch Details

Hillside Stitch Details

The hillside details involved a lot of different stitches in lots of different greens. There are straight stitches, French Knots, chain stitches, and arrowhead stitches (upside down to look like shrubs). Again, if I were to work this now, there would be a great deal more stitchery in it, but I suspect that the combination of lack of time, and a disinclination to work areas of repetitive stitching led me to stop before I should have done.

What I can’t, now, recall, is whether I was pleased with it at the time. I’ve had it propped up in my living room since I rediscovered it, and I’m very tempted to crop it to show just the Sea Tractor itself – which would at least afford me the opportunity to re-block the piece and get rid of the ripples!


  1. coral-seas says:

    I think that it is really sweet. You certainly can detect the Rachel-new in the stitch choices 🙂

  2. ladyfi says:

    Such a pretty scene! That cloud stitch is so charming!

  3. Penny says:

    Its fun to go back in time and look at what we were working on at that time — sort of a time capsule. I love the wagon.

  4. Sue Jones says:

    It’s very effective and very evocative. It brings back memories for me, too. I am sure I went to Burgh Island on that tractor (or a predecessor) when I was a very little girl, over 50 years ago. I was thining of it just a day or two ago but I’d forgotten where it was – I remembered it as ‘Big Island’ – but as soon as I saw your embroidery, I said: Hey, that’s my island! Thanks so much for posting the picture and solving that little mystery for me.

  5. Terrie says:

    Very very pretty scenery with painting and stitches. LOVE the hillside so much, the color shades are beautiful. Such a pleasing picture of arts.

  6. As this is part one, I hope part two is going to show us the details of the tractor. I love the way you worked the cloud. I think you should come and stay with me, and stitch some of the dozens of flowers I still have to embroider!

  7. Carolyn says:

    That is a charming piece. It holds so much more than just the stitches. Thoses memories are special. Hold them tight. (Hope to see a close up of that tractor.)

  8. Alex says:

    It’s really interesting to see the development from the previous embroideries to something that holds echoes of the way you work now. I think the perspective of the island is excellent – and so hard to get right. The filling stitch on the cloud is lovely and I’d love a close up of the Dorset button tractor wheels.

  9. Anita says:

    Such a sweet memory and pretty scene! To look back is always interesting. Hope you show us a close-up of the tractor…

  10. karen says:

    I love that you have these pieces with memories attached….

  11. Janice says:

    I’m pretty sure this is the place we went to view the eclipse in August 1999. Is it near Kingswood, and the island has an art deco hotel and nothing else apart from grass, sand, etc? I don’t recognise the name of the island but we saw the tractors like the one you depicted here. We didn’t use a tractor to get out to the island because the tide was out and we could walk across both ways. Lovely colours and obviously an accurate depiction of the tractor, since I can vouch for its location on the basis only of seeing that in your piece!