When it came to cover inspiration for The Little Book of Sewing, my editor asked me to send over a few visuals that I liked. Amongst them was a link to Stitched Up Sam’s Instagram feed. I really like the way she combines the traditional technique of free motion embroidery with some edgy images. She chooses to work with lovely fabrics and her embroidery is always so neat!
Having shared my mood board with the publisher, I continued to admire Sam’s work from afar as the book was brought together and was going to print. By this stage, I’d seen the cover, of course, but had no idea who had embroidered it – until Sam got in touch to thank me. SHE HAD DESIGNED THE COVER!
I was thrilled that a fellow creative had been part of the journey and couldn’t resist asking Sam about the process. Read on to find out how you embroider a book cover!
Welcome, Sam! First, can you tell us a little about your journey in free machine embroidery?
Certainly. I first discovered free machine embroidery almost seven years ago when I saw a local textile artist demonstrating at a craft fair. She was offering one-to-one workshops, so I treated myself as a birthday present and was instantly hooked. Since then I’ve stitched all sorts of different items and images but I think my favourites are some of the portraits I’ve done. Of course, your book cover is also a favourite as it’s the first time a complete stranger has approached me to do a commissioned piece.
What did it feel like when Head of Zeus first contacted you?
If I’m honest when I first opened the email I thought it was a scam of some sort! But after a bit of Googling I realised it was genuine. I was really excited but also quite apprehensive as I’d never done anything remotely like this before. I wondered if I’d be up to the task but my lovely husband convinced me to go for it.
How did you begin to sketch out cover design ideas?
I spent a weekend doodling first of all, coming up with a number of different designs of varying degrees of complexity. The final design is actually one of the simplest and I think it works brilliantly on the small size of the book. I also had a good rummage through my fabric scraps and embroidery threads for some colour ideas. I wanted a range of fabrics that went well together but didn’t have overwhelming patterns and luckily I had scraps of the same fabric in quite a few different colours. Finally I stitched up a couple of samples as my sewing is much neater than my drawing!
Would you share the process of embroidering the cover?
Funnily enough, the majority of the cover design is one of the original stitched samples I sent to Head of Zeus. The samples took a few hours each. I started by sketching out my design on paper, then once I was happy with it I transferred the elements onto fabric which I then cut to shape and appliquéd to the background with free machine embroidery. The initial drawing and cutting out stage took as long, if not longer than the actual sewing. The publisher loved the main elements of the design but wanted a different coloured background (I’d stitched the sample on a dark background) so I recreated it on the light background and added some hand embroidered stars and lightning bolts.
What is your favourite detail in the cover?
I think that has to be the tiny reel of thread sitting on top of the machine. It was probably the most fiddly part of the design, but anyone who knows me will tell you I love working with tiny fiddly design elements. The reel of thread was conquered with a steady hand, a good pair of glasses and the smallest, sharpest scissors I could find! A pair of craft tweezers comes in very handy for positioning tiny pieces of fabric in the correct place.
Any exciting plans for the future?
I absolutely loved my first experience designing and illustrating a book cover. It’s not something I’d ever thought of doing previously but this experience has definitely lit a fire in my belly. I’m bursting with ideas and would love to find an illustrator agent to help me think more about how I build my fledgling business. In the meantime, I am working on producing a range of kits for my embroidered portrait designs, which I’m hoping to make available within the next few months. Watch this space for more news!
Thank you so much, Sam. Readers, I hope you are as inspired as I am – not only to buy a copy of The Little Book of Sewing, but maybe to dabble in free motion embroidery. I can’t wait to see Sam’s kits!