Hand & Lock Interview

I caught up with Ella from Hand and Lock for a Lock-Down Catch-Up!

When did your love for embroidery begin? 

I have always been a creative person, I studied Creative Arts at University but I actually didn’t pick up a hoop until March last year! I needed to find a creative outlet after I gave birth to my daughter that didn’t involve anything messy or toxic - embroidery was the perfect solution. I immediately fell in love with it and have sewn every single day since.

 I was very conscious when I started that I didn’t want to be too regimented with it, I wanted to experiment and play because I’m a strong believer that mistakes are where magic can happen.I then came across the Society for Embroidered Work and their ethos of ‘Stitched Art is Art’ struck such a passionate chord with me! I was lucky enough to be accepted as a member last year which I was beyond thrilled about, they really fly the flag for all types of embroidered work and I am so proud to be included amongst such amazing artists.

Has your passion for embroidery increased whilst in lockdown?

Lockdown has presented its own challenges and made me think about materials in a different way - the upsurge in people staying home and crafting has meant that it has been a bit more difficult to source supplies. Now I look closer to home and am always considering what I can embroider with, from food packaging or objects found in nature through to dismantling clothing, jewellery or soft furnishings. It’s been brilliant for me to really push at those boundaries of traditional stitching. I have also found that I view my environment differently - the limitation of being outside for only an hour per day really honed my vision, I now seem to ‘see in stitch’!

What creations or projects have you been working on whilst in lockdown?

I was so fortunate recently to gain a bursary with the School of Stitched Textiles to study Hand Embroidery so I have been busy getting the first two modules completed. I’m currently working on two new collections for my Etsy shop - one is called ‘Funky Junk’ and is a bright, colourful explosion of recycled objects, the other is an amalgamation of painting & stitch based on my local River Valley. I am also creating three pieces to enter into the Broadway Gallery Open Event in Hertfordshire at the end of the summer as well as a piece for The Embroiderers Guild ‘Reasons To Be Thankful’ project for the NHS.

How has embroidery helped you adjust to the current situation, if in any way?

There is a lot of emphasis at the moment on the Slow Stitch Movement and Mindful Stitching which I think is great - however I am the total opposite of that!! I stitch very quickly and totally intuitively, usually to music and I think this is why I receive so many comments on the ‘movement’ within my pieces. I totally believe embroidery can serve as a sense of calm in a storm, for me it’s the methodical rhythm and occasional pop of fabric as the needle passes through, I love to see the hoops spring to life! When I sew it feels to me as if I am uncovering something that was already there, it’s very peaceful and can give you an anchor when everything else is somewhat chaotic. It seems a very human thing to me that when things seem out of your hands it’s comforting and grounding to hold and create something within them.

If you were to share any advice for people trying to stay busy and creative in lockdown, what would that be?

I tend to loosely follow three rules - Fill your Diary, Go Outdoors and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!

More practically, there is a plethora of free and paid for online content as well as groups and communities that you can get involved with to as much or little degree as you would like. I started embroidering by following Youtube tutorials -  on basic stitching if you’ve never picked up a needle through to more advanced techniques.There are also plenty of textile facebook groups that you can join for inspiration and support. There’s podcasts about sewing, my favourite being Stitchery Stories with Susan Weeks.You could also google ‘Open Events’ to find local art trails to get involved with in your area. 

Many artists are also making short free online tutorials available and Skillshare has a great range of classes available. Instagram challenges are happening constantly such as the 100 Day Project and Junebroidery which are fun to follow and join in. There are also a few Embroidery Competitions throughout the year if you really get the embroidery bug!