I love everything about stitchery. It’s easily portable and can add so much charm to an item with just a few simple stitches and not a great deal of cost. I like to think I follow a long line of women who have done the same, creating beauty where there wasn’t any and a bit of fun to brighten up the daily work around the home.
From my earliest memories of making the compulsory stitched huckaback placemat at school, there’s been a lot of years to try many things, from paper folding to knitting and crochet, patchwork to leadlighting, woodwork to folk art, beading, cross stitch, dressmaking etc . The results of some brighten up my home and have been presented as gifts, while others are best hidden away and forgotten. Still, you can’t find your niche if you don’t try things!
Any funny stories along from your crafting?
I donated a box of projects I was never going to finish to our church ‘white elephant’ stall one year. While sorting, the organiser looked at them and commented ‘a poor soul has died, leaving this work unfinished’. There was a general respectful silence, which I, blushing like crazy and not brave enough to confess, joined.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would occupy your time?
I might be gardening or working on my 1/12 scale doll’s house or starting a new crochet blanket or making the leadlight windows my husband has been waiting patiently for for a few years or…
Who taught you your crafting skills?
Being a female child in the ’60s, my formal sewing education began at school and continued until my frustrated sewing teachers suggested I take up maths as an elective instead. However, the main influences on my crafting life were my mother and nana, both creative women, who encouraged my creativity, were lovingly proud of the results and even closed their eyes to the terrible messes made along the way.
Any good stories from those lessons?
Maybe morals rather than stories: (1) Anything made with love and care will be beautiful. (2) If you want to pass formal sewing don’t knock up the entire assignment piece a couple of hours before it’s due in.
What does this craft mean to you?
Craft is a big part of my social life as well as my home. I’m lucky to be surrounded by amazing, talented friends who inspire, swap ideas and give constructive opinions. Somehow, my sewing is always better when done over shared chat and a cup of tea.
Is it hard to find time to do your stitching?
The only part that’s hard to find time to do is tracing the pattern onto the fabric. I hate that bit! For the rest, finding time is a must to refuel the soul. Do you think of your craft as passion or a spare-time-filler? It must be a passion because it cuts into time that should be given over to other activities, such as dusting under the beds and on top of the bookshelves and the fridge. Spare time doesn’t exist when you are a crafter!
From where do you draw inspiration?
I’m inspired by the wonderful vintage household items from the ’30s to the ’50s worked by women with little free time but still wanting to add a bit of ‘pretty’ to mundane things.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Floral cottons and vintage-styled bits like ricrac and moulded buttons. I love op-shopping and finding bits there to repurpose or give new life to, but no matter how much I try I can never bring myself to cut into an item that is in perfect condition or can still be worn. It’s a pity, because I really want to make a denim picnic blanket from old jeans and pretty doilies.
Where do you live and work?
Home is a small 1930s weatherboard cottage filled with too many books and teacups and clutter. While I have a sewing room in one of the closed-in verandah sleepouts, my craft spills into the rest of the house with most of my hand sewing being done while ‘watching’ TV in the lounge room.
What’s your family structure?
My children have all flown the coop and are now spread on three continents, leaving my husband and me with a cat who rules the household and a 15-year-old bantam hen who thinks she’s a person.
Do you teach your skills to others?
I’m not teaching at the moment but have done in the past. I love helping people achieve a new skill.
How would you describe your style? What makes it unique?
I think I have a happy style that makes people smile. If I had to describe it in five words it would be: homely, practical, nostalgic, pretty and happy.
What is your advice for beginners?
Choose a pattern you absolutely love, never be afraid to ask for advice and know that you are creating a unique piece of art with every stitch you put in, even the quirky ones.