Stitcher Profile: Helen Stubbings of Hugs 'n Kisses and Pattern Press
Celebrated stitcher, Helen Stubbings, has been teaching quilting and embroidery since completing a Certificate in Needlecraft in 1995. Her design business, Hugs 'n Kisses began in 2001. Her second business, Pattern Press (which publishes and distributes for other talented designers) began in 2008. Helen's work has appeared in publications including American Quilter, Australian Patchwork and Quilting, Quilters Companion and many others. Her work has won over 30 awards.
Today Helen shares her story with us as well as a gorgeous free pattern for We Love French Knots readers. Please stop by her blog and give her lots of 'Hugs n Kisses'.
Bari: Can you tell us how you got started stitching and designing patterns?
Helen: I have always stitched and embroidered – since I can remember in some small way, learning from a Grandmother who was just as addicted as I until the day she passed. After school I joined the Australian Army as a musician and my job gave me a lot of spare time – which I spent wisely doing many sewing and embroidery classes (being fortunate to live in the same city as Country Bumpkin!) with lots of time to practise and perfect them. The Designing came much later when I started teaching others and realised I wanted to teach them my own original designs.
Bari: How do you like to incorporate your embroidery into your projects?
Helen: I was first a ‘fine’ embroiderer but soon realised that this frightened many potential stitchers if I wasn’t there with them, so I simplified my designs to basic stitches and redworked styles of stitcheries. Right now, with a surge in interest in embroidery I am happily incorporating more challenging stitches into my designs. I have over 200 patterns available - many are simply just the drawing/design to be used as the stitcher wishes, others are incorporated into quilts, bags, little projects, cushions, sewing helpers and anything else you can think of. I also love appliqué and Colourqué® so love to include all of these techniques into my designs.
Helen: I do all of my stitching at night when I go upstairs with the family. I have my ‘place’ on the lounge, with a good light over my shoulder – the kids know not to sit there – for fear of having a needle in their arm (or butt) that was hiding in the lounge chair arm!
Bari: Who are your favorite designers or mentors?
Helen: We have so many designers in Australia, we are all friends and help each other when we can. We have worked on projects together in our magazines and our Quiltaid™ program and each have our own space. My first Mentor was Roz of the original Chookshed label – you maybe wont know of her over there but they were one of the first successful pattern companies in Australia, I lived in the same town at the time and she was very sharing with advice and information on the business side of things. I love everything by Tone Finnanger of Tilda – her soft colours and style, and many others, too numerous to mention.
Bari: Do you have any suggestions for new stitchers?
Helen: I always say one stitch at a time, everything is possible. I haven’t had a student yet who couldn’t achieve a finished product to make them proud if they just made an attempt, read the instructions, practised and persisted.
Bari: What are your "can't do without" tools or materials?
Helen: My embroidery hoop – I cannot stitch successfully without one… I also swear by my Sewline ceramic pencil (of course if I don’t have one of my iron on transfers and need to trace), a good needle and a needlebook to keep them in… Im not really into gimmicky tools and things – I have many of them but can’t find them when I need them anyway. I don’t use a needlethreader, nor a thimble but a good sharp pair of embroidery scissors is a must. I also always attach a stabiliser of some type onto the back of my embroidery fabric before stitching.
Bari: It seems there are a lot of Australian stitchers… is it something you grow up with there?
Helen: I am not sure why there are so many of us in this area of embroidery and stitching? We have very good magazines and quality Editors to spread the word, the wonderful world leader Country Bumpkin publications to educate and inspire and perhaps a ‘smell the roses’ mentality of taking it easy and doing things that feel good for us and others. I think we are also very generous and caring in Australia and perhaps the therapy of making something with our own hands and gifting it comes from this upbringing. I know I grew up with it and had no choice but to be exposed to it. My grandmother, my mother, my sister and my brother are all very clever with their hands and we all spent a lot of time stitching, sewing, crafting etc in our childhood. My current challenge and passion is to introduce stitching to many of today’s kids who probably won’t be exposed now that it is not introduced or taught at our mainstream schools at all. If their grandmothers or mothers didn’t stitch – they will have no opportunity to learn and the skills will be lost.
Bari: What inspires your projects/how do you come up with fresh new ideas?
Helen: I have plenty of ideas, just not the time to design and complete them all. I have three beautiful daughters of varying ages who are my market research team, a small but lovely garden to inspire, a beautiful state I live in with constant eye candy and I am fortunate to be healthy with a nice roof over my head. My mind does not stop designing – ever! A year or so ago I discovered Zentangling - wow where had I been? I was also given a bundle of very old books on Hungarian embroidery from a friend when her mother passed – these two areas are possibly my strongest influences right now.
Bari: What are your favorite stitches?
Helen: Not sure that I have a favourite – there would be some I don’t prefer to stitch – but love the look of them so force myself to – but if the stitch fits the purpose then that’s my favourite at the time.
Bari: Are there any books that are must haves for an embroiderer's shelves that you can suggest?
Helen: I have many, both instructional and inspirational but if I had to recommend two to new stitchers it would be:
The first one I ever purchased:100 embroidery stitches –Anchor embroidery stitches published by Coats publications.
And Country Bumpkins’ A-Z of embroidery stitches – great step by step photos of each stitch.
Bari: Where can we purchase your patterns outside of Australia?
Helen: My patterns are sold world wide – I have a list of suppliers on my website or you can always order direct from www.hugsnkisses.net and we happily post worldwide for the best postage price we can do. Wholesale orders can be placed at www.patternpress.com.au
Bari: Do you have any upcoming events/are you teaching anywhere?
Helen: I am currently working on the third year of Quiltaid programs – this is now a worldwide charity event with programs being run in Australia, the USA and Europe – this is very exciting – and stressful trying to organise across three continents; and is due to launch 1st November – lots of stitching designs there from 12 of our Wonderful Australian designers for people to do whilst making a difference to the women of Ethiopia – all details can be found at www.quiltaid.com.au, www.quiltaidusa.com and www.quiltaideurope.com – of course we also have a Facebook page www.facebook.com/quiltaid.
I will be back in the USA for Spring market next May and would love to teach anywhere suitable whilst I am there but haven’t yet started making plans as yet – so feel free to ask me over J
Bari: Please tell us a bit about Stitching Sundays.
Helen: ‘Stitching Sundays’ is a program of blog posts that I put up every Sunday. We are leading up to making a little sample stitch book and have been learning a new stitch each week with a free downloadable design for a page every week to perfect it. I include step by step photos of how to do the stitch for visual learners, lots of examples and inspiration on how to use them and the little practise design. We have nearly finished our stitches/pages for now and next week will be starting on making the book cover. But of course the blog posts and patterns will stay there on the blog for eternity – so anyone can join in at anytime.
Why? I have a lot of loyal blog friends and stitchers who have been happily stitching away with backstitch but are now ready to challenge themselves and change it up a bit. I would love to include more stitches in to my designs but many are scared by this so I thought if I taught them the stitches first they would happily try a more difficult design. I am always happy to share to make someone else’s stitching life more pleasant – and the many blog comments I have had have been testament to this – the pleasure they get from stitching, the satisfaction from finally perfecting a new stitch – or one they have tried and failed at before, and the joy of just sharing with me and the many who are stitching on Sundays – it’s a whole little community stitching every Sunday around the world.
Thank you so very much, Helen.
Readers, please enjoy this wonderful free pattern from Helen! And again, be sure to stop by Hugs 'n kisses.
Click here to download the pattern: Download Whimsydesignsheet