This interview is part of series to mark that the Take a Stitch Tuesday Challenge has been running for a decade.
Nell runs a facebook page called Artisanloops and I first noticed her interesting samples when she shared them on facebook in the TAST group. Nell also is a designer on Ravelry and I often see interesting freeform crochet and knitting on her Artisanloops page. So with further fuss I would like to introduce Nell Loops.
Why do you like hand embroidery and hand work? How has it influenced your life? Why do you like hand embroidery and hand work? How has it influenced your life?
I love the rhythm and meditative quality of hand embroidery. When life becomes hectic, handwork can ground me and caIm my mind, whilst providing a wonderful creative outlet. And the pieces we produce with needle and thread are amazing!
How did you start? Were you taught by your mother, school or taught yourself online? If you taught yourself what attracted you to embroidery?
I think the first embroidery I did was in first grade at school when I was about six years old. We did Huckaback embroidery, and I remember loving it, catching on really quickly, and my teacher being very encouraging – that positive feedback was very special to me, and probably inspired my love of embroidery. I used to make all my own (interesting!) clothes as a teen, and I explored embroidery to embellish these…this was the time when we had floral embroidered jeans.
I did lots of longstitch kits, then moved on to other styles too, and learnt a huge amount from these. And I borrowed library books, and studied others’ work. I especially loved the more ‘out there’ embroidery and textile work, especially combining painting and freeform embroidery.
(One of my first kits, still not made into a pillow yet, and over 25years old!)
Do you use TAST to make samplers or incorporate the stitches into projects as you go. Or what sort of projects most attract you ?
I started a stitch sampler book a few weeks ago, and I’ve also gone back to the beginning of the TAST stitches to catch up with everyone else. I started TAST this year to refresh my skills, and have found myself incorporating the stitches into my other work also. Freeform work most attracts me, and textural work. Blackwork and stumpwork are two of my favourite styles, but really I love all handwork.
Can you talk about your last project and/or your current project? (Can be any textile project)
My last finished project which included embroidery was a shawl I knitted, then embroidered some song lyrics upon. This is something I want to explore more – combining embroidery/knitting/crochet/calligraphy/painting together.
The other recent project was my Rose, which I adore.
What is the project you are most proud of?
Hmmm…this is too hard. I have a blackwork piece which I’m proud of, but it’s still a wip. There was a blackwork glasses case I made as a gift which I really love, and also a cutwork piece.
Do you have any UFO’s ? If so, fess up to how many?
2, 3, 7, 12 ….. too many to count! But I don’t mind, sometimes I feel like doing freeform stitching, other times I’m able to concentrate on a more tricky piece, so it’s good to have different wips to choose from…a bit like having a closet full of clothes for different occasions.
Do you work purchased designs or do you design your own projects? Or do you do both?
Now, I only ever work my own designs, unless I’m learning a new technique. However, kits are a fabulous way to learn, and use until you feel more confident, or simply to relax and enjoy the stitching.
Do you have a creative design process? If so what is it? Or do you work intuitively?
Both. I usually make sketches, which include notes about size, threads and stitches. And I also try to label and date these, as I may want to use a design again.
What stimulates your creative process? What inspires and sparks ideas for you?
Definitely other people’s beautiful work inspires me, and that’s why groups like TAST are great. Other inspiration comes from historical embroidery and artworks, fabrics, threads, textures, colour, nature, and more recently, my own life.
Lots of people have trouble starting a project. What makes you start a project? Do you have any tips to get you from blank fabric to stitching?
My trouble is starting too many projects! If I am stuck, I find a doodle cloth valuable – try some of the stitches on some spare fabric, and this usually fires up your creative self (a bit like having a nibble of chocolate, who can stop at one bite?!).
Do you have stall points? If so how do you get past them? Do you have any tips to share about this.
Yes. Sometimes life gets in the way, or sometimes there’s some really repetitive and boring sections. When this happens I try to remind myself that these sections are an important element to juxtapose against the more creative areas. On the rose, there were so many tiny french knots, and the fine stitching was affecting my hands, so I remember doing lots of positive self-talk, and also deciding to do a manageable area each day, and intersperse this with other projects. Having my sketch of the rose pinned in front of my work area also inspired me to continue. It’s also worth checking your technique (perhaps on YouTube), as sometimes there’s a different way to do a stitch that makes a world of difference.
Do you have ‘go to’ stitches. In other words stitches you use frequently that you return to using over and over. If so what are they and why do you think they are so successful for you.
I often use French knot, split st, blanket, and satin stitches, and get infatuated with other stitches for a few months too, till another one comes along.
Do you have a favourite embroidery thread, or something you use all the time? If so what is it?
DMC cotton, usually two strands, or Perlé 8, but I love exploring different threads and fabrics.
Embroidery on gum leaves
Embroidery on balsa wood
What advice would you give to new hands?
Do TAST! It’s great for newbies or old stitchers to practice their stitches, and a great place to ask for help. Take photos – I did lots of work before easy digital photography was invented, gave most of it away, and now I have no record. Don’t be daunted by stitching and styles, give it a go, you will surprise yourself – just take your time. Packaged kits are a great way to learn, as are books, blogs and videos. And use colours, threads and fabrics that really appeal to you, spoil yourself, you deserve it.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for the interview Sharon, TAST has really reinvigorated my hand embroidery.
I hope you have enjoyed this interview with with Nell Loops. Don’t forget to visit Artisanloops to see more of her work
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