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!
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.