Game of Thrones embroiderer Michele Carragher talks costumes, characters and her craft


Septa Mordane would have been proud of Sansa’s handiwork in creating the direwolf sigil gown that debuted in Season 6. The ferocious symbol of House Stark was the centerpiece of a luxurious tapestry that symbolized Sansa’s reclamation of her birthright. Who was responsible for distilling Sansa’s journey into the stunning piece of needlework that telegraphed the past, present and future of the character?

Game of Thrones’ chief embroiderer, Michele Carragher, sat down with The New Yorker’s Jessamyn Conrad, who described how the garment incorporated elements of Sansa’s past:

"The direwolf is the Stark sigil, but Carragher’s design also refers to Sansa’s mother, a Tully of Riverrun. The tufts of the wolf’s fur fall in a scale-like pattern that is outlined in silver thread, evoking House Tully’s fish sigil; its neck terminates in a mass of dark-gray mother-of-pearl beads."

“We always try to use shells and pearls within her embroidery, because it references the water,” Carragher said. In short, Sansa’s direwolf sigil represents her feeling of, “I’m a Stark. I’m taking control.”

In addition to Sansa, Carragher has created patterns for several of Game of Thrones‘ other principal characters, including Cersei, Daenerys, Margaery Tyrell, Tywin Lannister, Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes. Each of her designs reflects a particular character’s position and personality. For instance, Daenerys’ costumes feature a smocking pattern Carragher refers to as “dragonscale,” Cersei’s clothing is adorned with embroidered lions, and the Sand Snakes’ deadly capabilities are represented by poisonous plants like hemlock woven into their attire.

Carragher takes direction from the scripts and inspiration from her native Isle of Wight. Of the Stark women’s collars in season 1, Carragher said, “[t]hey had to reflect their personalities and abilities, because in the script they made the collars themselves.” But Carragher is also able to weave her own experiences into her designs: “Growing up on the Isle of Wight, I was always collecting dead butterflies and things off the ground…[w]ith Cersei over the years, with her various lion embroideries, I’ve thought, Right, I’m going to pick a sculpture and copy it exactly—but when I start to stitch it winds up drifting back into my world.”

Carragher’s months-long process begins by consulting with the show’s costume designer, Michele Clapton, to ascertain the direction of the characters and view Clapton’s designs for them. She then conducts historical research in museums near her London home and, after lengthy contemplation of the designs she’ll create, sends the materials she has selected to the Game of Thrones production studios in Belfast. Once there, Carragher maintains a grueling schedule, working “six days a week, twelve hours a day, [to embellish] a season’s worth of costumes.”

Photo Credit: HBO

Game of Thrones is often lauded for the quality of its production, and Carragher’s exquisite embroidery is an integral component of the show’s excellence.

Next: “Beyond the Wall” pulls in second-highest ratings for a Game of Thrones episode ever

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