In 1999, when I was eight months pregnant, I spotted the embroidery magazine Inspirations, with a cover featuring a hand-embroidered herbaceous garden. It reminded me of the tablecloths and linens of my grandmother’s generation which I loved.
Despite anticipating little opportunity to produce needlework once my baby was born, I still bought the magazine and stored it away thinking that one day I would make something along those lines. Sadly, one year later I had all the time in the world. Our daughter Emily was diagnosed with a genetic condition and died at ten months old.
It was obviously a very traumatic time. I had empty arms and needed a therapy. As a distraction I turned to the embroidery magazine. The need to keep both head and hands busy was met perfectly with embroidery and I discovered the way I could express myself creatively using a traditional craft.
I have always loved to sew. Creating clothes was my first sewing love when I was a teenager. Encouraged by my enthusiastic sewing teacher at school, who now can’t believe my stitches are so small and neat, I then went on to study fashion at college. Then worked as a successful Ladies wear Designer/Pattern cutter based in London, serving the high street multiples.
So, from the magazine and remembering the basic embroidery stitches taught to me at school, I began to create my own style. Stitching intricate flowers from foxgloves and daisies to meadow grasses and cow parsley onto linens and my hand painted cotton backgrounds.
Taking inspiration from the countryside and gardens, I fill my scrapbooks with sketches and pictures for reference and colour combinations. I paint the cotton background fabric, select my thread colours and start building the background layers. Introducing the flowers and details in the foreground, adding subtle effects such as combining two threads of different colours in the same needle. It can take days to complete a picture as I find that I need to stand back and assess the composition.
I don’t use hundreds of different stitches, I have a limited selection that I like to use as I know they keep the attention on the effect I’m trying to achieve, rather than the stitch itself. My favourite is the French knot, but others I use are straight stitch, detached chain, fly stitch and bullion knots.
My husband and I were fortunate to have another baby and relocated with her from suburban London to a village in Somerset in 2006. In 2011 I entered a competition in Country Living magazine and won ‘Best Craftsperson’, this gave me confidence in my hobby and the following year I began working full time at my craft. Selling at the magazine’s Fairs, Somerset Arts Weeks, exhibiting in galleries and via my website.
I have since been asked to contribute projects to Inspirations magazine, an amazing honour, and lovely to be able to give back to where it all started from. I also teach at their needlework conventions in Australia.
Who knew a needle and thread can take you around the world!