Purple Glossy Starling by textile artist Nicky Perryman

Purple Glossy Starling

My latest project is a Purple Glossy Starling inspired by seeing one at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham. I love the way the tail is so long and seems to flow behind the bird like a ribbon as it flies. They certainly are very exotic looking and their feathers change colour as they catch the light. Just the most perfect subject for a glittery embroidery.


(Click on the images for a larger view). I painted the background silk with acrylic inks including delicious copper ink. It’s the first time I’ve tried that particular ink and it’s totally gorgeous. It looks so good against the purples and rusts of the other inks.

Purple Glossy Starling detail by textile artist Nicky Perryman
Leaves in progress detail

I created leaves by cutting out shapes in two different shades of purple silk dupion and with purple and copper foil bonded on in a random pattern. I drew the leaves on the back of the bondaweb paper and cut them out without looking at the front so that I wouldn’t be influenced by where the foil pattern fell within the shape of the leaf. This has given them a pleasing mottled effect. I then stitched the leaves down onto the background silk with a double running stitch in a contrasting orange or rust thread. I tried a few sample experiments with the leaves – applique with a satin stitch border and some hand and free machine stitching but nothing looked right. Sometimes keeping it simple is the best. I didn’t want the leaves to look too overworked. But at the same time I didn’t want them to be boring either. I might outline some of them to make them stand out a little more. I’m not sure yet.

The stalks of the berries are fly stitch using a dip dyed purple thread and another rusty orange thread in stranded cotton. I’m using a variety of sequins for the berries as I don’t want them to be all the same tone. One of the sequins is a turquoise/pink depending on the angle it is viewed at which should be interesting. I’m layering the turquoise/pink sequins with orange, bronze and red ones of various sizes.

Sequins layered to create different shades.
Sequins layered to create different shades.

The body of the starling is different shades of silk and metallic lamé. The tail is also shades of different silks overstitched to create texture. I’ve also added a lot of layered sequins. On the wing area, the sequins I wanted were the right shape but I only had them in bright pink, so to change the colour, I bonded a layer of purple foil on top. I also added foil to some of the other areas of sequins.

The tail of the starling has proved a little problematic, trying to get enough richness and intensity into it. I might do something else to it. I want it to look iridescent and it doesn’t feel quite there yet. I bumped the colours up a lot on the tail photo and it still doesn’t do it justice. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for the right sequins especially for the tail. So far I’ve used mainly floral and leafy shaped sequins. I feel a bit frustrated with this and I would like to explore and the extend the range of sequins and stitches that I’m using with them. It’s rare to feel like I have the perfect sequin for the job, but I guess that’s good for stretching improvisation. I do like the purple flowery sequins on so far though

Purple Glossy Starling by Textile Artist Nicky Perryman
Tail detail with sequins and fly and feather stitch.
Purple Glossy Starling by textile artist Nicky Perryman
Purple Glossy Starling in progress, showing sequin detail.
Avatar photo

Nicky Perryman

Hey, I'm a textile artist based in the UK. I like playing around with fabric paint, stitching both hand and machine embroidery and I have far too many sequins. I'm inspired by nature, its mysteries, subtleties, delights and complexities. The outer natural world has its counterpart in the inner spiritual world and I am also inspired by folklore, poetry, fairytales, stories of long ago when the spirits of nature seemed less shy than they do today, as well as my own shamanic journeys into the dreamland.


  1. Marianne Kiss says:

    Dear Nicky, your works are fantastics and I’m an admire of you.
    Only one question, please.
    How do you fix all the little pearls on the basic material? With some glue?
    Write it for me, please!
    With love

    1. Avatar photo

      Hi Marianne, I never use glue for them, I always sew them on individually by hand using monofil thread.

  2. It’s absolutely stunning! Where will you sell it when it’s finished?

    1. Avatar photo

      Thank you Helen. I’m not sure yet.

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