Busy Bees by Susan O’Connor

20th October 2023

It makes for impressive reading. A designer with well over 50 projects published in Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazine, over 60 projects (and counting) published in Inspirations magazine, and numerous projects published across over a dozen different smocking and embroidery books.

Author of two internationally acclaimed books, Flowers for Elizabeth and Monograms, a tutor who has travelled extensively teaching students across the globe, and a tenure championing all things needle and thread in a professional capacity extending well beyond 30 years.

Not to mention holding the position as Editor-in-Chief of not one, but two of the world’s most beautiful needlework magazines (AS&E & Inspirations).

We are of-course talking about our very own incredibly talented, designer and publishing extraordinaire, Susan O’Connor.

With an introduction like that, you might expect someone to feel a degree of trepidation of living up to the fanfare. Or perhaps the weight of expectation when it came to designing a project for the highly anticipated 30th birthday issue of Inspirations magazine.

Embroidered Slippers by Susan O’Connor from Inspirations issue #1

However, for those familiar with Susan’s work, it’s abundantly clear she needn’t trouble herself with any performance anxiety. Her exhaustive portfolio is more than capable of speaking for itself.

For Inspirations #120, Susan tapped into her seemingly never-ending effervescent fountain of ideas to create what has become the signature project for this issue. Busy Bees is not one, but two standalone projects, each sharing Susan’s remarkably detailed bee motifs.

The Busy Bees Etui features three hungry honeybees venturing out to collect pollen, zeroing in on a pair of striking red gerbera flowers. The etui itself opens to include a scissor sheath, wool flannel needlepages and elastic holders for four marking pens or pencils.

The pincushion is a master class in geometry. Susan initially set out to create a three-dimensional shape using hexagons to mirror a honeycomb structure, however as the mathematicians among us will point out, it’s not possible to create a 3D hexagon. Instead, you combine eight hexagons with six squares to form a truncated octahedron.

Now, don’t worry… you don’t need to work any of this out, Susan has done all the hard work for you!

‘I started my day intending to do some embroidery, only to end up in a geometry tutorial!’

Put simply, the Busy Bees Pincushion is a similar shape to a soccer ball, only much smaller, which you create by making two halves that are joined together around the centre.

The wonderful thing about this unique shape is that it provides 13 different sides to embroider on, which Susan uses to great effect by strategically placing her seven stitched bees and French knot pollen grains throughout.

Once completed, the pincushion is hard to put down, whether it be to admire the spectacular detail captured in each bee, or to get a tactile fix by cradling this wonderful shape in your hands as it is so satisfying to hold.  

As with every Susan O’Connor design, there are lots of little twists and turns throughout the stitching journey. In this case you can expect to get very good at padding, as each bee sits remarkably high off the ground fabric thanks to 10 to 12 layers of statin stitch – but the end result is unquestionably worth it!

Whether you create the etui, the pincushion, or both, the projects are so stunning that they become an instant talking point as soon as anyone sees them.

The other talking point for today is to pay tribute to Susan for her highly valued contribution to both Inspirations Studios and the global needlework community at large.

Thank you, Susan for helping shape the world of needlework and for blazing a trail with your needle and thread for us all to follow.

Make Your Own Busy Bees

Step 1 – Purchase Project Instructions

Busy Bees by Susan O’Connor is two delightful accessories with hungry honeybees gathering around pollen grains and gerbera flowers.

Printed Magazines

Inspirations Issue 120

Digital Patterns

Busy Bees – i120 Digital

Step 2 – Purchase Ready-To-Stitch Kits

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kits for Busy Bees | Pincushion includes everything* you need to re-create this delightful hexagonal work: Fabric (unprinted), fibre-fill, interlining, firm card, metal washer, embroidery threads and needles.


Busy Bees: Pincushion – i120 Kit

The Inspirations Ready-To-Stitch kits for Busy Bees | Etui includes everything* you need to re-create this pretty etui: Fabric (unprinted), interlining, elastic, button, embroidery threads and needles.


Busy Bees: Etui – i120 Kit

*Please Note: To cater for flexibility of purchase, instructions are not included with our kits. For step-by-step directions on how to create this project, please refer to the magazine/digital pattern.

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