Thursday, 31 March 2016

Under the Spotlight: Stitches & Lace

Stitches & Lace was my first baby, and I'm very fortunate in that it grows and changes with every year that passes. Read on to find out more!

Stitches & Lace was your first baby? How was the idea 'conceived'?
Well, I'd had some ideas floating around my head about wearing flat shoes on my wedding day back in 2010 (I cannot walk in heels to save my life!), and as we were planning to head to NYC for our honeymoon, I also liked the idea that I could wear them there too! Something pretty and a bit special, and yet practical enough to withstand a bit of pavement-bashing. I started researching, and whilst I found some gorgeous images on Pinterest of personalised Converse, I couldn't find any UK sellers. So obvs - I made my own! They went down an absolute storm and I got so many questions about them that I decided to test the water and see if there was a market for selling them to other brides.

What has been the most surprising thing you have found?
Initially, I thought that personalised baby shoes would be a big thing, but whilst they have held their own, the vast majority of clients have been brides.

Also - this year so far, my main clients have been men, buying gifts for their brides-to-be! They've been so sweet and thoughtful too, often working closely with me on special touches to be added to their designs. One asked for a matching pair for his bride and their baby daughter, with little guitars stitched in orange thread! Another, I've worked with tirelessly, going backward and forward with emails and photos until between us, we've got them just so.

How have you continued to evolve with current trends and stay inspired?
Social media plays a big part in this, with regards to trends, and especially with trying out new font styles. I'm addicted to Instagram and Pinterest! Although looking at my orders so far, apparently purple is a big thing this year, which I wouldn't necessarily have predicted!

My clients are continually my main source of inspiration though... one of them has an idea; I love it and use it again, and then someone else builds on it with another idea, and so on. For example in previous years, my embroidery has mainly been set right in the centre of the outer sides of each shoe. This year a lady wanted her name running alongside the laces. It was such a simple adaptation, yet it looked so discreet and classy that I've continued to use this style. Smaller text looks neater, I've found, and less is definitely more. That said, I absolutely love the diamante heel strips that I've started offering... just the smallest hint of bling!

And finally - what have been your absolute number one favourite pair of shoes so far?
Aaaagh this is such a difficult question! There've been Mickey Mouse shoes for Florida weddings, the pair I embroidered for One Direction's Louis Tomlinson (no lie - they were a commission for his birthday by Yorkshire Tea!). The pair I stitched ever-so-simply for my daughter when she was born though are very special... they now hang in her nursery where I see them every day.

Stitches & Lace shoes can now be purchased through Fickle Craftroom: we offer an all-in service, or you can send in your own shoes to be embroidered. Extras such as diamante heels and shoelace plates can be added separately if desired.

I'd love to hear what personalised touches you added - or would add - to your big day? xxx

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Under the Spotlight: Hallam Roses WI President

The Women's Institute first formed in Britain way back in 1915, and was originally intended for women to simply get together to help the war effort with food provisions. Since then it's come a long way, with several high-profile members including the Queen (and even Kate fancies a go at jam-making, apparently).
Photo credit:
The WI, whilst it still largely retains its old-fashioned 'jam and Jerusalem' image, is about way more than the perfect Victoria sponge (FYI no cream in the middle- jam only. Caster sugar on top, NEVER icing sugar). Charity work is high on the list, as is pushing women's rights... for example the recognition of rape within marriage, STI awareness, to name but a couple.

But enough of the history lesson. As it happens, one of my oldest friends, Emma, is President of her local WI, the Hallam Roses, in Sheffield. Here's a snapshot of one of our chats. Over cocktails. Obvs.

Isn't it just for old ladies who knit?
You joke but one of my previous WI's had people sitting in the corner knitting. I did wonder what I'd joined. But no. It's most certainly not just ladies who knit. Our group is a 'new wave' WI, and our members ages range from about 20-50ish (although don't hold me to that). Our meeting topics this year range from the crafty - we just did a macrame meeting - to wine tasting to belly dancing. We ask our members what they'd like to do and then try to plan our meetings around that. The WI is, as a whole, becoming more modern too. There is a festival that runs every year called 'Tea and Tents', and the WI had a stall at last years' Glastonbury (which we helped at!) And in Sheffield we've had about 6 groups open in the city centre in the last 3 years! It's a popular thing to do. But some of the 'older' ladies I have met through the WI with are pretty amazing. They are some of the most spirited and passionate people I've had the joy of interacting with. And I certainly wouldn't like to get on their bad side.

What happens at your meetings?
We start at 7.30 but people drift in earlier to chat with friends, and have a drink and some cake. Meetings proper start with a bit of an intro from the President (me), where I run through anything that might be happening in the WI in South Yorkshire or the country as a whole. We talk about any decisions that need to be made for the group, and then we move into our meeting activity. Activities usually last just over an hour,  and then we wrap up for the night. As we meet in a bar people do stay and grab a drink afterwards if they fancy it too. And no, we don't sing Jerusalem, but there are some events where they do sing it... Honestly? I don't know the words so I stand there like one of those footballers at the world cup not singing the national anthem, being glared at by the old school members.

What has been your biggest project?
I'd have to say our biggest project was a craft fair we organised for charity. We had 30 stalls, loads of people through the door and about £500 raised for charity. It took a lot of work from everyone, so it was a big commitment, but so so worth it. One of the events we're running this year (and which we did last year) is a swishing event. That was really popular and a really fun evening too. 

How do I join? 
The WI website has a list of all the local WI's in existence and details on how to create a new group in your area too. I'd also search Facebook for groups. You can find a lot out about a group that way as I think it's important to find one that works for you. 

Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
This is a difficult question to answer. I've never classed myself as a feminist as I have this vision of feminists as aggressively fighting for women's rights and hating men. I know it's not like that, but that's where my brain goes.But I do believe that women should have equal opportunities. I've always been told that I can do anything I want. That I'm just as able as anyone else. And this is true of all women. Work hard and you'll get what you want. I don't think our WI is a feminist group, but it does build friendships and it does provide a great support group for our members.

Thanks Em! It was really good to get an insight into what goes on within a modern WI. Girl Power!!


Saturday, 5 March 2016

My Tattoos - the good, the bad, and the ugly

My first foray into the world of body art was a teeny tiny depiction of a forget-me-not on my right shoulder blade. I got it when I was 17, shortly before I went to uni - you can probably guess why, but out of respect to my husband, I won't divulge all the details here.

The pictures speak for themselves I think. Not so much the delicate little flower it's meant to depict - more of a cross between a spider and a pineapple...


It was another 15 years before I ventured back into the parlour for more ink. But this time around it was more considered, more meaningful, and certainly (to my eyes) more aesthetically pleasing!

The background: every time I reach a pivotal point in my life, or am struggling with something and losing perspective - a white feather will often appear, usually in the last place I'd expect the find one. For example, when we came home from the hospital with our very first one-day-old baby son, there was a tiny one poking out from underneath our doormat. Same thing happened upon arriving home a couple of months later with a diamond ring and a brand-spanking-new fiance. I also spotted a white feather trapped down the side of the glass on the tube, on my very last journey home from working at my old hedge fund (I quit in order to work on Stitches & Lace full time). These are just a couple of the times, but the thought that I'm being watched over / guided / protected brings me comfort and confidence.
On my wrist I now proudly sport a hand-drawn grey and white feather. I often forget it's there, but when I catch a glimpse of it I smile. I like my permanent reminder that I'm doing ok. That I'm on the right path.

Feather tattoo

I'd love to know what body art you have, and why?