We In­ter­view Jenny Blair

Jenny Blair’s gor­geous hoop sam­plers are in­spired by Scot­land’s nat­u­ral splen­dour. Ideal if you’re seek­ing an au­tum­nal kit to stitch!

Cross Stitcher - - Contents - In­ter­view by Judy Dar­ley

Jenny Blair fell for stitch­ing as a child help­ing out in a craft shop her mum co-owned. Af­ter work­ing as a mid­wife for many years, Jenny de­cided to re­fo­cus on her love of em­broi­dery and es­tab­lished a thriv­ing Etsy shop sell­ing vi­brant kits and pat­terns. Cross-Stitcher caught up with Jenny to find out just how she makes it all work.

How did you first dis­cover stitch­ing?

I grew up sur­rounded by crafti­ness. My mum is a keen stitcher and both grand­moth­ers were great seam­stresses. My pri­mary teacher taught me to sew and em­broi­der a peg bag when I was nine. I can clearly re­mem­ber my terror at the seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble task, and then the ut­ter de­light at find­ing out I could do it! I won the school sewing prize that year and ev­ery year af­ter. It was a case of love at first stitch.

How did this lead you to de­vel­op­ing your beau­ti­ful stitched art?

I’ve al­ways loved that sewing and em­broi­dery opens up the po­ten­tial of ev­ery­day items, the things we wear and ob­jects we use – to be­come pieces of art. Over the years I’ve fol­lowed my cu­rios­ity to ex­plore the many sur­faces avail­able and find ways to trans­fer my de­signs onto them.

What prompted you to start cre­at­ing your own pat­terns and kits?

I’d de­signed some wood­land-themed cush­ions and had them dig­i­tally printed onto fabric. I thought how great the cush­ion would look with some em­broi­dery added. This led to me think­ing how fun it would be to of­fer crafty peo­ple the chance to stitch it them­selves. I de­cided to of­fer a small hoop-sized ver­sion of the de­sign and see what the feed­back was. The rest, as they say, is his­tory!

When did you launch your Etsy shop?

I launched my Etsy shop in 2010 when I was still work­ing as a mid­wife. I was treat­ing stitch­ing as a hobby, but the dream was al­ways to one day make a liv­ing from be­ing cre­ative.

To­day Etsy and my web­site shop are the big­gest parts of my busi­ness. I love that each week my kits find them­selves wing­ing their way to

des­ti­na­tions half way around the world. It’s in­cred­i­ble!

What kinds of things in­spire you to em­bark on a new de­sign?

Na­ture is my big­gest source of in­spi­ra­tion and here in ru­ral Scot­land I don’t have to go far to be sur­rounded by it. I love my Au­tumn Leaves Be­gin­ner Em­broi­dery Sam­pler, as it of­fers a great chance for be­gin­ners to prac­tise some ba­sic stitches, and the colours cap­ture the au­tum­nal glow per­fectly.

Tell us, how does your cre­ative process usu­ally work?

I use a real mix­ture of ref­er­ences and re­sources. My sketchbook is full of scrib­bles that I re­turn to and then re­fine. I take pho­tos, and I of­ten re­turn from a walk with a twig or two to sketch.

I also use on­line re­sources such as Pin­ter­est to cre­ate mood­boards. The colours come once I’ve drawn the de­sign, and are in­flu­enced by the most re­cent thread shade that’s lured me in!

Are there any par­tic­u­lar stitches that you en­joy us­ing?

I love satin stitch and the gor­geous ef­fect that it creates in con­trast to the fabric. It can get a bit of bad press about be­ing tricky, but I never aim to do it per­fectly and so the love never ends.

Where do you carry out the ma­jor­ity of your stitch­ing?

I love to stitch on the go. At any kids’ ac­tiv­ity that al­low the adult to sit, you’ll find me with a nee­dle and hoop in hand. Mostly though, it’s evenings on the couch with a film or box set. The stitch­ing sets the mood for me. It doesn’t mat­ter where I stitch – stitch­ing al­ways in­stils calm. It’s such a sooth­ing and sim­ple act, but what won­ders it can wield!

Can you de­scribe a typ­i­cal work­ing day for you?

Work­ing days start at 9.30am, once I’ve walked my youngest up to school. I’ll al­ready have glanced at emails while eat­ing break­fast and re­spond to the most press­ing ones when I get back. I make up kits and pack­age or­ders in the morn­ing and post items by lunch, which frees up the af­ter­noon for work­ing on cur­rent de­signs. Af­ter meet­ing my daugh­ter from school I’ll not fo­cus on work un­til early evening. My work pat­tern is very fluid and changes when my fam­ily needs me, or when things hot up at work... that’s the beauty of work­ing from home and be­ing my own boss!

What projects are you cur­rently work­ing on?

I’m work­ing on an ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion for Christ­mas, and have been cook­ing up some sweet win­ter-in­spired stitch­ery kits to keep you warm and busy on cold dark evenings. I al­ways have a lit­tle per­sonal project on the side too, which lately has been sketch­ing some of my ‘na­ture finds’ in stitch. It’s a great way to doc­u­ment the sea­sons and be freer with my hand stitches.

I love that each week my kits find them­selves wing­ing their way to des­ti­na­tions halfway around the world

Jenny takes great plea­sure in adding a per­sonal mes­sage and wrap­ping each kit so it ar­rives like a special gift.

“I’ve­hadalotof­fun­play­ing with­d­if­fer­ent­waystos­titch, fromhan­dem­broi­deryto free­hand­ma­chineto weav­ing,” saysJenny.

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