Sarah King - Textile Designer RDI
Drawers of embroidery threads in the studio.
Sarah King in her London studio.

25 years of design and craft.
Royal Designer for Industry awarded by the Royal Society of Arts.

Design, colour and textiles have always been my passion.
A fascination for texture, pattern, weave and stitch began when I was a young girl. There was an eclectic mix of influences: the Graham Sutherland print curtains hanging in our sitting room, the William Morris furnishings and wallpapers in my grandparent’s house and the exotic textiles my aunts and uncles brought back from their travels. I started playing with fabrics and making clothes in childhood and from then on always had a project on the go.

My career in textiles began with a BA Fine Art Embroidery at London’s Goldsmiths College, before progressing to an MA at Manchester School of Art focusing on commercial embroidery and print design. Since then I’ve created couture textiles for interiors and costume, commercial designs for the furnishing fabric industry, exhibited with the Crafts Council UK, worked on Oscar-winning period gowns and in 2008 was honoured to be named Royal Designer for Industry, the award for excellence given by the Royal Society for the Arts.

My real loves are dyeing, appliqué and embroidery and I feel very fortunate to earn my living with cloth and threads in my London studio, overlooking the garden. I believe that good design should be underpinned by technical expertise and I love collaborating with innovators from other fields, combining our complimentary approach and skills to create something exciting and original.

There are three main strings to my professional bow…

I create bespoke pieces for residential and hotel interiors and costume clients who want something entirely unique. I’m thrilled that craftsmanship and individuality is back at the heart of modern luxury and that the international designers I work with pay attention to every detail – from the couture embroidery on a set of curtains, to the precise hues of a one-off cushion. These projects involve bespoke dyed fabrics, machine and hand-embroidery, appliqué in original design work, all integral to the finished piece. The same elements go into my costume commissions for the stage and screen. Highlights in this area so far include the design and embroidery for Cate Blanchett’s coronation dress in the film, ‘Elizabeth I’ and work on the costumes for the follow up, ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’.

A bespoke project begins by getting to grips with a client’s inspiration and requirements. From there I go on to create initial drawings and layouts for review and refinement, then develop colour and technical samples for approval, before moving onto producing the finished piece. Each stage of the project happens in my London studio, which contains everything – including the kitchen sink: from industrial hobs for dyeing, to stitching machines, CAD desk, cutting and printing tables and drying areas. I have a long-term partnership with a small, top-end workshop in India for those occasions when we need to scale things up a little. Ultimately each project is unique and reflects a shared passion for high-quality fabrics and craftsmanship.

Bespoke clients include Sybil Colefax and John Fowler, Jonathan Reed, Alberto Pinto, Rocco Forte Hotels and Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne for Universal Pictures.

Another side to my creative life is designing fabrics for the furnishing industry as part of English collective, First Eleven Studio. For this kind of large-scale manufacturing, I continue to focus on craftsmanship. I compose my design documents using elements I have individually dyed, printed and embroidered to show textures and techniques. I can collaborate with mill production teams to transform handmade pieces into commercial production.

Commercial clients include Donghia, Odegard, Colefax and Fowler, Larsen, Jane Churchill, Sanderson, William Yeoward, Rubelli, Zimmer and Rhode, Dedar, Jim Thompson.

The exciting challenges of consultancy work draw on my extensive knowledge and experience of textiles, combining many different aspects – design, colour, fabrication, technique and practicality.

Projects to date include research, design and development of commercial furnishing fabric collections and soft-furnishing accessories for a number of internationally recognized designers.

I work in close collaboration with innovators in other disciplines where specialist textile knowledge is key to the success of a venture. e.g. interior and product or theatre, film and costume designers.

I host bespoke sessions with students and fellow textile enthusiasts working on special projects. I can give individual tutoring, allowing them access to my studio facilities and the extensive personal library of textiles, embroideries, threads, dyes, paints and books I have collected over the years.