(originally published 19th September 2015)
Not precisely the question I get asked, but a version of ‘don’t you ever get bored with all this stitching?’ Of course, WE all know that it's an addiction, a form of meditation, a tactile pleasure, a way to express ourselves, a lovely way to make special gifts for special friends, an excuse to BUY NEW STUFF to feed our habit, a never-ending learning curve, and of course, we do it because it's FUN FUN FUN! Even when it's stressing us out! :)
Am-dram Wardrobe Mistress in Training...
I started by making clothes, and came to what I call 'freestyle embroidery' (anything that's kit-less and count-less) relatively late in life. I remember being the only kid in class in my first year in high-school who was already miles ahead of the teaching in 'home-ec' (domestic sciences to you Brits). I grew up in clothes made by mum, so it was a natural thing to have a go myself. Back then, there were large fabric shops where you could get any manner of textile, from shirting and denim to suiting and brocades. One in particular that I used to go to a lot was called Lizanne's, and they had four-sided mirrored columns throughout the shop for you to try a bolt of fabric up against yourself to see if the colour suited! Happy days...
Sandwiching the very first quilt.
I started having a go at cross stitch (I actually think I was working on hardanger fabric now I look back) when my auntie gave me some threads and fabric and a wee design. I was hooked! That little sample piece became the label for the first quilt I ever stitched. The quilt took me a year to piece and a year to quilt (I wasn't in a rush). I used to travel up and down on the Toronto underground to work with a ziplock bag in my handbag, with enough piecing to keep me busy for the return journey. My love affair with fabrics continues to the present day.
This will be the Jolly Rancher quilt one day!
My first quilt show in this country was the early summer Malvern Quilt Show, back in the late 1990's, and I was going through a COLOUR RULES phase - I had a gorgeous time buying fat quarters (what the heck is that anyway?!?) in every bright colour I could see, and eventually the Jolly Roger quilt was stitched. It was named after my favourite sweets back in Canada, and I'm afraid to say the house I had at the time ended up being in all these same colours! (Oh, and a 'fat quarter' is a term for a piece of fabric which measures roughly 50cm square...)
An apprentice and a farthingale...
Stitching was well and truly part of life, and it was how I switched off from 'out there' every day. I would come home from work most evenings and work on something stitchy. It was only when, as happens to many of us, I reached a point in my 'career' where I couldn't go any further, didn't really enjoy what I was doing any more, that I decided to switch direction. Stitch was the one constant in a life that had changed and changed again, and eventually (FAR too long a story for here!) I found myself training as an apprentice at the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace on the outskirts of London. I remember thinking as I walked up the main drive on my first day "I'm Harry Potter and this is Hogwarts - what house will I be sorted into?" I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have spent three years stitching my fingers off, surrounded by other professionals-in-training and even more general enthusiasts. Many of the tutors have since become friends, and my links to that amazing institution remain strong.
Working on a commission
It's hard to believe that this dramatic leap happened over a decade ago, and that for the past 10 years I've been working as a professional creative - even more amazing is that there's still so much to learn and do and design and stitch (and buy, but we won't talk about that). I remember a conversation I had with my lovely mum just before Christmas during my first year at the RSN - we'd just handed in our first term's assignments, and were spending a couple of weeks jobbing in the studio. I clearly remember saying to her that I'd never been so exhausted AND excited at the same time. Things haven't changed much!
Working on the Sherborne Missal design
I stitch because I have to - I don't know what I'd do otherwise. The feel of the materials, the act of putting thread to needle to fabric, the joy of seeing a design worked through, AND seeing students reach the same point, is what life's all about for me. And don't even get me on the topic of knitting and crochet... or art dolls... or corset making... :) :) :) Why do you stitch? Love 'n Stitches, Kelley p.s... if you liked this post, you might like this!