Ruth O’Leary – Profile

Ruth O'Leary - Textile ArtistRuth O’Leary is an experienced embroiderer with many years experience in designing and creating embroidered artworks, including bespoke pieces on commission.

Ruth has exhibited in a range of forums, including private displays, public spaces and galleries.

Ruth uses a variety of embroidery techniques in her work, depending on the requirements of the piece, but specialises in needle painting in long and short stitch or split stitch and goldwork, often using appliqué in fabric or fine leather.

She enjoys the demands of working to commission. Although Ruth works to her own original designs, and develops each unique project from start to finish, she enjoys discovering the client’s requirements, and the fresh ideas that develop from them.



Ruth has been a member of the Embroiderers’ Guild for over 20 years, and is a past Chair of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne branch.

Commissioning work

If you’re interested in finding out more about Ruth’s work or would like to discuss commissioning a piece of unique textile art, please get in touch.

Press articles

Ruth recreates a bit of history, Sunderland Echo, 3 February 2012

My life in stitches… Ruth O’Leary, CrossStitcher, no. 213 June 2009. p. 98
An illustrated interview with Ruth on her work as an embroiderer. A PDF of the interview is available to read.

Needle in the Cathedral, Workbox, no. 114 December 2008/January 2009. p. 20-21
This article describes the successful exhibition held in May 2008, and includes photographs of Ruth’s work.

St Cuthbert’s Banner

A selection of articles on the making and dedication of St Cuthbert’s Banner:

St Cuthbert’s Banner, Embroidery, July/August 2012, p. 9

Sunderland textile artist recreates medieval embroidery, R&R, May 2012, p. 13

Banner in honour of St Cuthbert placed at his Durham Cathedral tomb, BBC News, 21 March 2012
Includes a video, with an interview with Ruth 

Saint’s banner returns, The Journal, 21 March 2012. p. 3

New banner celebrates the life of St Cuthbert, Northern Echo, 21 March 2012. p. 16

Saint’s banner brought back to life, Sunderland Echo, 19 March 2012. p. 6

Saintly banner brings history to life, The Journal, 20 January 2012

Ancient banner is reborn, Northern Echo, 20 January 2012

‘My life in stitches’

One of the UK’s leading embroidery magazines, CrossStitcher, contained an exclusive interview with Ruth.

The June 2009 issue featured My life in stitches, asking Ruth about her designs and the techniques she uses, and her attitude to her life and work. A PDF of the interview is available to read.


Pyramid Gallery, York, 2018

Pyramid Gallery, York, 2017

Faith, Inspiration and Stitch
Durham Cathedral, Durham, 2013

Show Your Hand
Part of the Banff and Macduff COAST festival, 2012

North East Art Collective gallery opening exhibition, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2010

Needle in the Cathedral
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2008

Textile Collection
Eye to Eye Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2008

Moving On
Hartlepool Art Gallery, 2006

Artist’s Statement

I am a self-taught hand embroiderer and textile artist based in the North East of England, and have been sewing since I was a child. I have always loved fabrics and threads, and the way these simple materials can form beautiful objects.

I am interested in both the formal organisation of space and in natural forms, and much of my work uses geometry as a basis, either in a pure form or as a way of structuring natural elements. I’m also inspired by history and the heritage of the British Isles, and the use of Celtic motifs devised by unknown artists centuries ago. To me, these all represent the underlying harmony of nature, and the order in seeming chaos.

I am particularly interested in the ways in which centuries-old hand embroidery skills can be used in the modern day, especially the subtle use of colour in needle painting or thread shading techniques, and the use of medieval Opus Anglicanum techniques – goldwork and split stitch – in my own contemporary designs. This requires considerable craft skill, an eye for detail, and a good deal of patience.

My embroidery is central to my life, and I constantly notice surfaces, textures and forms that inspire me. The finished pieces are part of an ongoing development, with themes and messages joining and reappearing within my work, always moving towards something new.