There are so many places where I find my inspiration and ideas. I began to create machine embroidery because I was finding it difficult to find the right elegant heirloom designs for the dresses I was commissioned to make as a bridal dressmaker. I would find one design that was suitable but hardly ever found matching designs in similar shapes for all the necklines, bodices and skirt trains I was required to embroider. The brides would ask me to move that flower over there and basically rearrange the design in another shape which I couldn’t do, as that would infringe the license and copyright. So the 4″ by 4″ set in my very first collection, Dainty Vines, had forty small designs for combining into the required shape. The medium, large and extra large design sets, followed the same pattern in the subsequent sets, offering lots of versatility. This has become the pattern for most of my collections. Although the hoop sizes have changed a little in those eight years and will do in the coming years, as manufacturers delight us with bigger better top of the line machines, I expect to introduce designs for some of these larger hoops but see no reason to withdraw the 4″ by 4″ designs which are the elements of all of my collections and offer so many options.
As well as filling the gaps that had become apparent in the market I find my inspiration in many places, some obvious and some surprising. I have heard digitisers say that they look at signs, objects and images and immediately begin to work out how to digitise them. I have never done that but tend to see something that begins an idea or theme which I know I must develop and digitise. It may be an unusual or startling colour scheme that I see when I am shopping, as the blending of colours fascinates me. While I am out I am looking to see what colours and shades blend and work well together. Mostly I take three colours and then find various hues that compliment each other within those colours. Apart from my Christmas designs where reds are predominant you will not find many primary colours in my designs. The orange, white, emerald and bright blue threads which came with my first machine have been sadly neglected in my studio. Those who are familiar with Graceful Embroidery will know that I use creams, neutrals, dusty and pastel shades with a splash of colour.
Most of the time it is not a colour scheme which inspires me. My other love is my garden where I grow my favourite flowers and place the tender plants like my many many fuchsias in my greenhouse over the winter months. The orchids grow safely indoors throughout the year! (“Fuchsias and orchids you ask? You have not digitised either of those flowers, so we are surprised you grow many varieties of fuchsias.” “That’s because I don’t feel my attempts so far have perfectly captured their beauty and individuality so maybe next year.”) My garden has flowers that need to be digitised and caring for them throughout the year is the best way to study their habits and growth so they can come alive in stitches one day. There are usually flowers in my studio too, as I cannot resist the gorgeous flowers at my local supermarket. Here we are in December and I already have bought two bunches of tiny narcissus which smell divine. My studio is quite small so I have to have a few single flowers to feast my eyes upon. Several years ago I was given an Ikebana container (a simple Japanese flower arrangement which celebrates the nature of the flowers, allowing them to be displayed so they are viewed closely) which is perfect for spring bulbs, small roses, anemones, pinhead scabious and freesias!
My inspiration can be found in shop windows and displays. A bit of retail therapy always fills me with ideas and themes. Wandering around clothes shops is always exciting and I am drawn to embroidered garments as well as household linens although the quality of the embroidery leaves a lot to be desired most of the time. I know the shops where I will find what I call prettily embellished clothing rather than a more classical look. A quick visit to the bedding department is always of interest as I love to view the latest quilts, pillows, cushions and throws that are embroidered! I love to look at greeting cards and wrapping paper too. Hanging around garden centres and nurseries is another inspirational occupation as they always have so much more than just garden equipment and plants, although I usually find at least one plant that needs a “new home”. Stately homes and gardens are another great source of inspiration for me as well as documentaries on the television, and of course I love to visit flower festivals and embroidery exhibitions. Next year I am looking forward to returning to the Royal School of Needlework for their exhibition on peacocks and pomegranates!
I used to have a terrible weakness for magazines but I have discovered the world of Pinterest which doesn’t cost me a penny and my studio doesn’t have piles of magazines any more, although I do subscribe to a few digital magazines! Browsing the Internet for inspiring images that others have pinned in their nicely sorted albums, can be very exciting. Visit my albums and see what sort of images I love to collect. There are wonderful gardens to look at, floral arrangements, vintage dresses, antique dolls, mountain vistas, shells, cameos and exquisite embroidery to name a few. You will even find one of my albums catalogues all my freebies just so you check you have them all!
If you are looking for inspiration on how to use the embroidery designs you have bought, you will find it in many of the same places. Joining a few groups online where fellow embroiderers share their work is a great source too! Equally it is vital that you share photos of your work so that others can see how you have used the embroidery designs. Sharing your dreams and plans too is vital to others and to the digitisers. I love to receive emails from customers but those with photo attachments are like Christmas presents which I excitedly open. It is a great thrill to see how my designs have been used! My customers are my best source of inspiration through their photos and the encouraging emails they send me. Keep those emails and photos coming as they are very special.
For those who are interested my Celtic Angel, she is nearly ready for release! She has been flying nicely in my studio this week and will be ready in a few days time.
Happy embroidering and remember to keep inspiring me. All the best from Hazel