From craft to couture, Jayne Emerson spends her days embroidering, needlefelting and sewing in the countryside…
n the heart of Gloucestershire, Jayne Emerson is sitting in her woodenbeamed studio cutting, dyeing and sewing fabrics to create designs that high street stores and couture labels snap up for inspiration.
From staring her own fashion label, Salvage, which featured in to ditching the London life to set up her workshop in a converted barn, Jayne has spent her whole career crafting – and she’s even taught Kirstie Allsopp a thing or two after she appeared on her TV show! Sitting in her cosy kitchen, Jayne, 44, tells us how she juggles running workshops and creating unique designs for fashion labels and high street stores, while also being a busy mum of two…
“When I was at school I had an amazing teacher called Mrs Shekleton who showed me how you could use a sewing machine to draw pictures by using freehand embroidery. My grandmother had always sewn dresses, but as soon as I saw how creatively a sewing machine could be used I was absolutely hooked. My plans took a bit of a knock though when I failed my GCSE art. However, I decided to tag along with some friends who were applying for art school, and when I saw the Multimedia Textiles Department at Loughborough University I knew that was what I wanted to do. Once again, it nearly all went wrong when I failed my first year because
II was rubbish at painting. Luckily, in the second year, they let me use my sewing machine, and suddenly I was winning all the competitions including the British Fabric Award and a medal from the Charted Society of Designers!
After Uni, I moved to London with my boyfriend and decided to start my own fashion label. I’d make dresses in the corner of our tiny flat, then stuff them into a vintage suitcase and walk around all the boutiques to see if they would buy them. They were all one-offs and some of my dresses could be found hanging next to designs by Alexander McQueen - one even appeared in a music video, which seems insane now. After a year, I signed up to do a masters course at Central Saint Martins, and for my final show I created a display chest full of different fabric samples, using all kinds of techniques and a variety of fabrics which I would dye and chop up to create a whole new piece. When the agents came round to look at students’ work I had to beg them to look at mine because they were only interested in taking on print designers, but luckily they saw the potential and agreed to take me on. They took my samples to different designers who bought them, either to use as inspiration for their own patterns, or to use directly in their work. The first people I sold to after I graduated in 1997 were Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Nicole Farhi. It was amazing! I was getting paid to mess around on my sewing machine all day. At the same time I started making embroidered jumpers with a friend of mine, which we sold on a stall in Portobello Market. They proved so popular we soon began to be stocked in shops like Koh Samui, Paul & Joe, and Colette in Paris - they were even featured in
I loved the buzz of London, but in my heart I always knew I wanted to move back to the countryside. When I became very ill with a life-threatening condition in 1998 it gave me the push to move back to Gloucestershire. I packed up my sewing machine and samples, rented a tiny village cottage, and started again.
Luckily, as with most craft businesses, you really can create anywhere and I was able to carry on creating my swatches and selling them to designers all over the world. I also got myself a studio in an old mill. The photographer in the studio next door put me in touch with the publisher he worked with and my series of craft books
“As soon as I saw how
creatively a sewing machine could be used,
I was hooked.”