Elements - machine embroidery bowls by Tamara Russell - Karhina.com

Hi, my name is Tamara Russell – a Textile Artist specialising in free machine embroidery, hand stitching and mending based in Melbourne, Australia.

In my textile art practice I explore my surroundings and interpret what I see through the medium of embroidery. In my works composition, I combine light, colour, shape and texture to recreate images that inspire me. I consider myself a painter using thread, an artist painting with a needle. My work has been exhibited and is in private collections in the United Kingdom and Australia. 

My practice engages with the natural environment recreating the images and shapes in my embroidered works in both 2D and 3D form. My photos are invaluable to me as a record of composition, colour and detail, supported by my sketches. These are my starting point as I explore my subject matter directly onto fabric, painting with thread. I use photography, watercolour painting, beading, fabric, soluble backing, machine stitch and/or hand stitch, either alone or in combination. This creates depth, perspective and richness to the work and combines effectively to give detail and texture. I manipulate and transform the meaning of everyday objects, to explore issues including the Australian environment, climate change and the treatment of asylum seekers.

The joy of working with found materials is the unexpected uses that can be found for them. I love this unpredictability and enjoy the inventiveness necessary to transform them. The choice of materials can also be a key part of the story of a piece. The materials not only highlight a need to address the amount of waste we produce, but also contributes to the story.   I try to always use materials that are reclaimed, things with a history that have been discarded and might otherwise end up in landfill.


I have been making, altering and mending my clothes since a teenager.  I love to personalise my wardrobe through embellishment and visible mending.  We all know that fast fashion is not sustainable so we need to love the clothes we already own and work harder to make them last. By mending our clothes we create a bond with them ensuring we wear them longer.  I am happy to accept commissions to mend your favourites.  Feel free to get in touch with me to discuss your individual piece.

I enjoy teaching various forms of mending and embroidery. It is a core part of my practice along with my work promoting and facilitating community arts projects and sustainable practices. I hold workshops in Melbourne and sometimes further afield. See my workshops page for the latest dates and locations.


In 2017 I facilitated the Moreland Quilt – a community engagement project to create a quilt representing City of Moreland resident’s cultural diversity, whilst recording the history of participants. To see the project go to the Moreland Quilt page.

I am a member of the Society of Embroidered Work (S.E.W.), Craft Victoria, Women’s Art Register, Victorian Embroiderers Guild and NAVA. I am the founder of the Naarm Textile Collective, a collective for Melbourne artists using textiles in their practice.  I also curate Creatives and Makers a resource designed to promote, support and inform creatives living and/or working in Melbourne, Australia.

I am happy to accept commissions for my work. Feel free to get in touch. All items are handmade in Melbourne using sustainable methods, ethically sourced materials and designed to be kind to the earth.

Or if you are looking for handmade greeting cards, browse my collection at Puddleduck Cards.

And to hear more about my work you can visit kaizntree.com/podcast and on the Arts Muster’s podcast series


Up-cycled brooch by Karhina.com
Up-cycled brooch

Why do I use upcycled, reclaimed or recycled fabric ? 

I have been creating clothing and other textile pieces for over 40 years. Generally using reclaimed or recycled fabrics as I was taught by my mother to sew and create using what was at hand wherever possible.

I am passionate about ensuring that my lifestyle is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. For over 20 years I worked for Government in the UK and Australia in the sustainability field. I worked in areas creating capacity building and educational programs to assist business and households lower their energy, water, waste and transport footprints. I continue to enjoy sharing my knowledge, skills and ideas with people through my workshops and practice.

The majority of my products are made incorporating upcycled or reclaimed materials. Wherever possible additional production materials are 100 percent natural, produced sustainably and sourced locally. Every year tons and tons of perfectly good fabric ends up in landfill. A huge amount of precious water and energy goes into growing and manufacturing fabric – so lets make sure we get the most out of it before it ends up in landfill!

Each time you purchase an item made from recycled fabric, rather than buying one made from new fabric, you reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save water, reduce pollution, decrease land clearing, and keep fabric out of landfill.  So by ‘closing the loop’ through purchasing products made partially or wholly from reclaimed materials, we can ensure that the market for these materials remains strong and recycling schemes flourish.

Watch this video to see where some of your discarded clothes go –  ‘This is the final resting place for your cast off clothing’

Saves energy  

A simple cotton bag made from new fabric generates greenhouse gas emissions from the energy needed to grow and fertilise the cotton crop, to turn the raw product into fibre, the fibre into fabric. All this energy is saved when buying something made from recycled fabric.

Saves water   

Likewise by buying items made from recycled fabric rather than new you save considerable amounts of water. For example one cotton T-shirt requires 2000 -10000 litres of water to produce. For that cotton t-shirt, water is used during the agricultural and industrial stages of production: in farming the cotton, diluting the pesticides, diluting the fabric manufacturing waste products, bleaching and dying the fabric. Buying a product made from recycled fabric therefore saves 1000’s of litres of water.

Reduces negative social and environmental impacts  

Buying products made from recycled fabric also reduces other negative social and environmental impacts. Manufacturing of fabric impacts negatively on people and the planet via toxic pollution (Every new cotton t-shirt requires about 1.5kg of pesticide and fertiliser chemicals to produce), dangerous working conditions for labourers, and loss of natural biodiversity as land is cleared and used to grow crops for fibre.

Seasons - Freehand machine embroidery by Tamara Russell -  Karhina.com