This week’s Meet the Maker meets 3 specialist embroiderers; Leah Halliday, Sew Made by Jess & It Started With A Stitch. Embroidery is a centuries-old technique and has become a lockdown hobby for many. However, these three stallholders each sell wonderfully detailed homeware pieces and more, so we thought it was time to get to know them each better.
Pedddle: Tell us a little more about your business…
Leah Halliday: I design a jolly mix of colourful stitched and illustrated gifts, paper goods and homewares from my studio at home in a tiny hamlet on the coast of South West Scotland. I have been teaching my popular sewing and creative classes for over 10 years. I really hope that my range of hand embroidery kits and patterns inspires others to pick up a needle and thread so you too can enjoy the joy of slow stitch too.
Sew Made by Jess: I’m based in Bristol, and I have a passion for creating anything involving a needle and thread! I design and make embroidery and textile art from a variety of materials and love designing personalised artwork and creating custom commissions. I’m always happy to create bespoke hoop art, wall hangings or gift cards for any occasion.
My embroidery hoops are available in a variety of designs, colours and sizes. All designs can be customised and I have a standard range of embroidered hoops and cards to suit a variety of occasions.
I also create hand embroidery kits, which give step by step instructions are are a great way to let your creative juices flow.
It Started With A Stitch: I create embroidery hoops inspired by a range of topics, and offer commissions of dates, kid’s drawings, song lyrics and special words. I also make pompoms and crochet crafts, various craft kits and sell craft supplies too.
Pedddle: How did you first become interested in embroidery?
Leah Halliday: I trained as a fashion designer but have sewn from a young age, so I have always loved embroidery. I previously designed wedding dresses so lots of my designs featured embroidered details and hand beading. But it was when I was struggling with my mental health a couple of years ago and that I rediscovered my love of embroidery. It really helped me through the grey days and I could just sit and stitch and focus my thoughts.
Sew Made by Jess: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating something sewing related! I think I was born knowing back stitch ha! I learnt the basics from my Grandma & Mum then I studied textiles for a time and went on to qualify as a commercial Interior Designer. Whilst moving through my career I lived in London for a number of years and studied various types of embroidery part time. My particular interest is embroidery from different nationalities and I was fortunate to be able to learn Sashiko, Hatha, Scandinavian Folk & many other types of embroidery first hand from some amazing teachers! My embroidery art & kits take elements from each of the hand embroidery skills I have learnt, with the intention being to share these wonderful techniques with others.
It Started With A Stitch: As a child I used to watch my mum cross stitch, sew clothes for us and so there’s always been an interest in sewing. I studied textiles through school and college and then went to Manchester Met to study Embroidery at degree level. I made a range of handbags for a project there and would hand embroider text onto them, then years later I started to embroider pieces as hoops instead! I’m quite stubborn about not using a machine and all my embroidery is worked by hand.
Pedddle: What advice would you give to anyone wishing to pick up embroidery as a hobby?
Leah Halliday: Embroidery is a really easy mindful craft to enjoy. You don’t need much specialist equipment, just thread, fabric, scissors and a hoop. Plus its great to pick up and put down too. With just a couple of stitches under your belt you really can start your sewing adventure, and so many people are surprised at how therapeutic slow stitch can be.
I have quite a few stitch tutorial videos on my Instagram highlights that people can watch if they’d love to give it a go. I designed my embroidery kits with the complete beginner in mind and they include everything you need to get you started apart from a pair of scissors.
Sew Made by Jess: I think the reason my love for hand embroidery grew as I got older is because it is so relaxing, almost meditative. You can become completely absorbed by the stitches and this helps to clear your mind from other thoughts. Some stitches are simple and repetitive – having something to busy your hands, that is familiar and routine is reassuring.
Embroidery is a brilliant way to pass time in the comfort of your home, get cosy with a cuppa and nestle into creating something beautiful. Seeing your creation evolve in front of your eyes gives a feeling of purpose and achievement, which is so positive when things around us may feel chaotic and uncertain.
It Started With A Stitch: I’d say to just go for it! Embroidery is one of the easiest crafts to start as a beginner. Everyone can thread a needle and has a basic idea of how to sew. You can trace out designs or freehand some text and just stitch over the lines to start with. You can embroider on to most fabrics but start with something non stretchy and just give it a whirl. Old bedding is a great supply! There’s loads of tutorials online to get started and I have some beginners embroidery videos in my Facebook group, The Craft Hub. I’ve had some lovely feedback from people who have taken up new hobbies thanks to my videos and they’ve said how much it’s helped them mentally during the lockdowns!
Pedddle: What has changed for you and your business during the pandemic?
Leah Halliday: Sadly I have had to cancel all my workshops and retreats this year. I teach locally but at events and other venues across the UK too. I really do miss passing on my expertise and inspiring others to pick up a needle and thread and learning the joy of sewing and making things. I hope to launch the Happy Stitch Club early next year and will be taking my classes online with all the materials being delivered directly to your door.
I am always happy to send a little handwritten note when people order online, to add the personal touch, as and can post directly to gift recipients which is ideal during lockdown.
I’m based in Scotland and run the Dumfries Market Festival markets, which luckily are still going ahead under Scottish lockdown rules. We are also opening a pop up shop in Dumfries, which will combine both a in-store and online shop. We have over 70 makers and producers taking part in the 4 weeks which we are open and its a great way for The Guild to support small businesses in such a strange year.
Sew Made by Jess: Originally I was only creating finished embroidery art, however during lockdown the popularity of my kits has grown massively, so this is the area I am really focussing on now. I also run hand embroidery workshops – in between lockdowns these have been physical events, however I have now created a series of virtual workshops (starting in the new year) for those who are not able to (or feel uncomfortable) accessing physical sessions. I am really excited for this new chapter and love seeing others catch the embroidery bug!
It Started With A Stitch: I decided to open a shop, and we opened on the Saturday that Boris told us we’d have to close, so everything really has changed! During the first lockdown I moved to more online options. I’ve got more postable items and I launched my digital download embroidery patterns and Pick ‘n’ Mix sheets to help crafters get together their own designs. I’ve also launched subscription options via Patreon!
Pedddle: We’ve been hosting lots of online markets this year with in-person markets being shut, as we want to help people shop small and local. Why would you recommend shopping from online markets?
Leah Halliday: I’ve taken part in Pedddle’s online markets, I am joining the Indie Roller Festive Showcase this weekend and also the Folksy Christmas Market on 5th & 6th December. It’s a wonderful way for people to discover makers from across the UK and support independent businesses. Online market days always have such a great atmosphere, with IG Live chats running, makers posting lots of behind-the-scenes videos and cheering each other on, and I’ve loved teaching during these events and setting up stalls in my living room!
Sew Made by Jess: I have joined a number of Pedddle markets and I absolutely love them! I have also taken part in some local online markets which have been really successful events.
A lot of my embroidery art is personalised, so the online markets work really well for me as people can browse lots of ideas and then create their own – this can be harder to get across in a physical market setting. I do demos from time to time on my IG page and I love seeing how others create their live tutorials on market day.
The communities created through the online markets are wonderful. The items for sale are unique and hearing / seeing makers tell the story behind their pieces make them all the more interesting.
For me, the best part of shopping through an online market is being able to find gifts that are unique and are of high quality, whilst knowing that the person you are buying from is genuinely passionate about what they do and really will value the purchase you make from them. It’s a wonderful way to make a difference to small businesses and discover some amazing products & crafts too.
It Started With A Stitch: I’ve also taken part in some of the Pedddle markets and am signed up to some of the Indie Roller Festive Showcase ones too. At the very least they’re a brilliant way to gain additional exposure and to meet other makers and new friends. Every maker creates a fantastic atmosphere on the day via social media so they are brilliant to shop from too. Definitely worth getting involved with!
Pedddle: We’re so excited for Christmas! What’s new for you this festive season?
Leah Halliday: I have just launched my ‘Merry and Bright’ Christmas cards, sadly still waiting for the mugs and coasters to arrive though! So watch this space.
Sew Made by Jess: I have a Christmas themed embroidery kit, which includes 3 festive designs & 3 small hoops. They are small enough to hang on the tree when you’re finished, or would look equally lovely clustered together on a mantel piece.
It Started With A Stitch: I wish I’d had more time to create more Christmas products, but this year I’ve opened a bricks and mortar shop and then lockdown happened, so it’s taken away the time I thought I had! I am hoping to get some festive hoops listed ASAP so watch this space.