Bloom and Sew’s Jenny Blair on how she creates her modern stitching kits and finds inspiration in nature…
From her cosy home in a small town at the foot of the stunning Cairngorm National Park, Jenny Blair is stitching up a storm. Creating gorgeous embroidery kits, plushie patterns (including Mollie Makes’ fox cover star) and textile art for her business Bloom and Sew.
We grab a cuppa with the avid embroiderer to find out how the breathtaking Scottish scenery inspires her work, why she first started stitching and her top tip for turning your hobby into a business…
When did you learn to sew?
My mum is super creative and has always sewn. While she never sat me down to teach me, she would nudge me with an idea and show me how to work things out. I learned how to embroider from a teacher when I was nine. I remember it vividly – something that looked so complicated turned out to be completely do-able and most enjoyable! It was pretty much love at first stitch – probably helped by the fact I won the sewing prize that year!
How did your embroidery kits first come about?
I’ve had an obsession with craft kits since my mum and her friend opened a craft shop when I was eight-years-old. I used to devise all kinds of money-making schemes so I could buy as many kits as possible. I also have an urge to sew, which borders on the obsessive. When I started looking for new kits a few years ago I wasn’t impressed with how many modern kits were available so I decided to make some of my own.
How do you store your supplies so you don’t drown in a pile of tangled threads?
The supplies for my kits are all kept in boxes and baskets in cupboards, but when it comes to my own, I’ve just learned to swim amidst the tangle! My husband Stu once commented that there was no chance of losing me as you all you’d need to do was follow the trail of threads, which I find that quite heartwarming! I work from home in the eaves of the house, which I love because it makes everything so much more flexible and easier to fit around my family. I can work away in the evenings and not disturb anyone.
You live in a national park, how does that inspire your work?
In every way. We live where the rolling hills and farmlands merge into the heathery rugged mountains as far as you can see. I grew up here and admittedly while I couldn’t get away fast enough as a teenager, I now love what I now see everyday. There’s such an abundance of wildlife here too, red squirrels, deer and kestrel to name a few. It is bountiful and beautiful, the colours, the textures, the contrasting elements. They have all worked their way into my designs and provide continual inspiration.
Who are your favourite makers at the moment?
I’m currently coveting the embroidery of Miga De Pan. Her designs and use of stitches are so unique an endearing. Anouk Groot of Pantovola.art makes the most incredible textile sculptures and folk dolls. I’ve long been a fan of Hensteeth with her colourful quirky textiles, and I love Sweet Bestiary’s gorgeous hand sculpted beauties.
What’s your favourite thing to make and why?
I love making books. I’m a complete stationery geek and have way more journals and notebooks than necessary. In my defence the cover and the pages are an amazing blank canvas for stitching/mixed media and it’s so satisfying to turn random scraps of paper or fabric into something functional and pretty.
What are your top tips anyone wanting to turn their hobby into a business?
Find something that you will still love even when you’ve made 1,000 of them! I learned this the hard way. I went to a trade fair with some free motion and hand embroidered textile pieces at the start of my creative business and was inundated with orders, which should have been the dream. I was stitching every minute I could, the orders were still coming in, I was trying to look after my family and I was absolutely miserable. I realised then that I needed to offer something that I not only loved and satisfied my creativity, but that would also be sustainable for my and me family.
Name three things you can’t live without?
My family, a horizon and Toblerone.