Meet the maker: Jenny Blair
Welcome to the Cosy Craft Club's embroidery month! We really want to encourage you to have a go at embroidery yourself, and we'll be sharing the key things you need to know to get started. You can find all our embroidery posts in one place here.
Please can you introduce yourself?
Hello! My name is Jenny and I am a designer, stitcher and embroidery kit maker.
How did you get into embroidery?
I was first introduced to embroidery at the ripe old age of 9 by my primary school teacher. I can remember it vividly as she held up a pegbag decorated in these intricate and colourful stitches and told us we were going to make one too. I was filled with absolute dread at the seemingly impossible task but as soon as we were shown what to do I realised I could do it and the feeling of pride and delight that followed was HUGE! It was love at first stitch and I've never stopped since!
What do you enjoy about it?
Embroidery really satisfies my need to create in a 'hands on' way. It is so fulfilling to see something that I have drawn on paper come to life in colour and texture and become something that I can hold and run my hands over. I also love the therapeutic qualities of embroidery....the repetitive movement of the needle through the fabric is so relaxing and soothing. Another thing I love is the portability of embroidery, a hoop and stash of thread comes with me wherever I go!
What is your favourite thing that you have made?
I made a 'stitch book' over one winter as a little personal project. It was my take on a sketch book where I used fabric instead of paper and stitches and fabric to 'draw' with. I finished with a little fabric book which was a bit wonky but full of happy messes and playful experiments. I also really enjoyed my recent collaboration with Mollie Makes magazine where I designed the front cover free gift. It's always great to be given a brief that I wouldn't necessarily have thought of myself. The aim for the kit was to be simple, colourful and all about the pot plant. What's not to love?!
What kind of things can you use embroidery for?
So many things! I see embroidery as an art medium and it can be used in so many ways to express your creativity. It can be decorative (embellish clothes), it can be used to make things (jewellery, toys, patches), it can be practical and used to mend and upcycle clothing, linen. I have seen embroidered illustrations by illustrators, surface designs, 3D sculptures, incredible fine art embroidered portraits, and so much more...
Where do you like to go for inspiration?
Nature is my biggest inspiration and luckily I don't have to go far to find it as I live in a small rural Scottish town which sits at the foot of a National Park. There is an abundance of wildlife and beauty sitting on my doorstep just waiting to find its way into my stitching somehow!
What resources would you recommend to someone starting out in embroidery?
I don't want to sound like I am simply touting my own wares....but a kit is a really great and easy way to start any new craft. It gives you the exact amount of materials you need , comes with instructions and is at an affordable price.
There are so many resources available online which also are great for someone starting out. Just by simply doing an online search you can find free patterns to practise and YouTube has thousands of embroidery stitch video tutorials to watch and learn from. If it all feels a bit overwhelming you can visit the 'Beginners Guide' in my Embroidery classroom on my website which walks you through everything step by step.
What are your top tips for someone who is starting to learn embroidery?
Make embroidery about having fun and not being perfect!
What is the most common mistake you see people who are starting out with embroidery?
There seems to be this lingering idea of perfectionism toward embroidery that I know my Granny and her generation used to have. It makes it really hard for those starting out as a they can feel this unnecessary pressure and expectation….which puts a lot of people off before they even try! This is why my emphasis is on having fun and embracing the imperfections. Handmade is be not meant to be perfect and never will!
If someone tried embroidery and quite enjoyed it, what would you recommend as the next steps for them?
The next step will vary for each person.....if it was the design side of things that was enjoyed the most then that person might like to try creating their own designs and stitching them up. If it was learning the stitches that was enjoyed then that person may like to try out some different stitches (there are so many more to get your teeth into).
Usually if embroidery has been enjoyed it sparks an idea of some kind or another....such as an item that they would like to embroider on next, or a particular design they would like to try, or a gift they want to make and so on...my advice would be to just follow that spark.
Why do you love to craft?
For me crafting is a way of life...it is how I express myself and my creativity. I've done it for as long as I can remember and I can't imagine my world without it!
Thanks Jenny! I definitely felt the same way about embroidery needing to be perfect - but now I’ve tried one of Jenny’s kits, I really enjoyed doing embroidery much more than I expected and embraced the wonky stitches!
All photos are from Jenny Blair, used with permission