I’m writing my first blog post on a Sunday evening, after the first week of lockdown 3 and the first 3 days of home schooling (the first day was just panic)! I wanted to use this first post to give you an introduction to my embroidery credentials, a small glimpse into my past and to where my love of needlework started.
EDIT – I may have written this in the first week of lockdown 3 but it is finally being published in week 9. Tells you everything you need to know about my lockdown!
I come from a family of stitchers
I grew up in a small Cotswold town called Burford, in a hotel called the Highway Hotel. My parents owned it with my maternal grandparents which meant that my brother and I were always surrounded by family, an incredibly hard working, 24-7 kind of family.
My Mum would tell you that my swearing began when I got home from primary school one day and ran through the hotel bar shouting ‘I’ve got a fucking hole in my trousers’ at the top of my voice. That story gets told every Christmas… And I could tell you stories about those years until the cows come home.
When I was 12, my grandparents retired. My parents decided to turn the hotel into a B&B and opened the most amazing needlework shop in what was the bar and restaurant. A real treasure trove, containing all of the embroidery, cross-stitch, needlepoint, wool, fabric and haberdashery that you could imagine.
I just remember the colour, the vibrant, in your face, awe-inspiring colour. Everywhere. All of the kits, threads, fabric, everywhere that you looked, and it made me want to try EVERYTHING! So I did. Over those years in the shop my parents taught me all they knew about needlework, and they are still teaching me now. I’m so grateful to them and their love of this wonderful art form.
I’ve (honestly) just been asked on Instagram what my first embroidery was, and I feel like this would be an important part of this introductory blog, but I just can’t remember! There are little cross stich and needlepoint pictures all over my parent’s house that I stitched during those years, but I honestly can’t remember what I did first, and I certainly can’t remember my first piece of proper embroidery. Perhaps I should ask my Mum…
It started with cross stitch… but didn’t stop there.
I do have a rubbish memory though, it’s a standing joke at home that I can never remember any films I’ve seen or books I’ve read. I’m truly terrible at people’s names and I never notice if someone has had their hair cut (perhaps that’s a different thing though?!)
Back to the needlework though. My first love was definitely for cross-stitch. I really enjoyed following a pattern, instructions, a thread chart, all those little symbols that grew into a beautiful picture. Don’t get me wrong, looking back some of the designs were fairly hideous, but I actually think it was more about the process than the finished product and quite often I didn’t even finish!
My parents sold the Highway in 2005 but the shop reopened in different premises in the town and they ran it successfully until they retired in 2015. My parents were then and still are very respected in the needlecraft world, my Dad was even a trustee of the Royal School of Needlework for a time. I like to think that I have absorbed as much of their knowledge as possible! I worked in the shop regularly, I felt qualified to give advice, to help customers with their choices, to expound on the pros and cons of the various needlecrafts and to represent their business.
The business that they had grown from nothing, with blood sweat and tears (and lots of swearing). They had been self employed for most of their working lives and I think that must have sown a seed in me, an idea that perhaps one day I would be able to do the same. Even though right now it seems slightly crazy that I am producing embroidery kits, patterns, running workshops, opening accounts with the same trade suppliers that they once had.
I took a rather large detour… via Civil Engineering!
But I have missed out a massive part of my life out. I spent 20 years working as a Civil Engineer! I left Burford in 1997 to go to university at UMIST in Manchester to study for a Masters in Civil Engineering with Environmental Management (to give it it’s full title!). Growing up in a small country town like Burford was absolutely lovely, but it was also very sheltered, and I was desperate to get out, to live in a big city and experience all that a city had to offer.
So, I moved to Manchester! Talk about a baptism of fire! But it was exactly what I needed. After 4 years I graduated with a 2:1 Masters degree and I moved straight away to Liverpool to start my first job in a civil engineering company. No need to linger on my university days, let’s just say that I definitely made the most of my time there!
I just kept stitching…
But, I did keep up my stitching, the odd little piece of cross stitch, the occasional needlepoint cushion, lots of started knitting projects, a couple of crocheted blankets (that I’m very proud of). Over the twenty years that have passed since I moved to Liverpool (whaaaat?), I have always turned to some kind of textile craft/art as an escape, as something mindful and relaxing, even if at the time I probably didn’t realise the mental and physical health benefits.
Much more recently, say in the last 4 years, I have been experimenting with embroidery. This was a form of needlecraft that I had never really tried with great enthusiasm and I’m not really sure why to be honest!? Perhaps because I have always liked following a pattern or a design, counting stitches, following colour charts. Embroidery is much more relaxed, more free.
There seems to be more scope for the abstract and experimentation, or at least that is what I have found. And do you what? It is quicker!! I am a big advocate of the quick project and I find cross stich and needlepoint take too long (as evidenced by a big pile of unfinished projects). If I can finish a hoop in an evening, or at worst, a couple of evenings, I am very happy! I really like quick results.
I’m going to write another blog about why I decided to start my own business, so I won’t go into that now, other to say that in 2018, the time was right to leave my engineering career and set up Little Light Stitchery.
I’ve finished writing this blog during my attempts at home schooling and right now I’m cooking spag bol and typing at the same time. I think it is fair to say that the school stuff is stressful but I have enjoyed writing this! Watch this space for the next chapter…