Stitch, Please! Dabbling With Embroidery and Creative Connections

Sewcial needlework and inspiring yarns – embroidery is more than just embellishments on cloth and clothing. Our Sewing Coordinator Laura Jackson tells us about a thrifty find, learns new stitching skills and attends a crafting circle, taking home more than a few threads for change.

words and photos LAURA JACKSON

For months, I’ve been inspired by embroidery and stitching, particularly the ways in which they can refresh, mend and customise garments. I’ve thrifted a black denim skirt to adorn and I have at the ready a bundle of cottons, beads, thread snips and suitable needles, which I inherited from the grand-women in my life. I’ve got all the gear and a mind brimming with ideas, but there is one important piece missing… I don’t know how to embroider.

Now, I do know that with the internet I have the access and freedom to learn almost anything on a whim (shout out to my browser history, ever ready to remind me how many times I’ve re-watched various cast-on knitting methods). Its content is abundant, efficient and close at hand, but if you ask me, it’s a little lacking in heart. I value face-to-face instruction because, for me, the value is not just in learning the skill itself: I prize the gift of someone sharing their ability with me. It feels like a precious trade.  

I can’t tell you the names of the online accounts whose videos have taught me new skills, but I do remember the people (women, mostly) who sat with me and showed me some key skills. Nanna Peg taught me to cross-stitch and long-stitch when I was a child – with an important reminder that “the back should be as neat as the front”. My mum showed me how to use a pressing ham and preached that a good sewist presses after each step (and a “slapdash” one doesn’t #judgement). My sewing bestie, Katie, insists that I should always complete my work with either understitching or topstitching, and that I must sew through the centre of an elastic waistband lest my work come off as “Becky, Home Eccy”. 

See what I mean? The online videos and tutorials generally don’t come with these swatches of personality. They’re often a bit cold, a bit impersonal.

Enter ShayeKet Productions.

I was quick to act when I came across a promo for Resist & Stitch, an event hosted by Sunshine Coast creative treasures Shaye Hardisty and Ketakii Jewson-Brown at the beautiful Appetite for Decoration showroom in Noosaville. It was a one-off women’s circle dedicated to gentle learning, connection and the exploration of handicrafts, all in the name of building community and skill-sharing. With my ticket in hand (well, in my inbox), I dreamed of all the things I’d learn in my three hours with this inspiring pair. My thrifted denim skirt was going to be a work of art!

Flashforward a month and it was finally time to get my stitch on. Crossing the threshold from carpark to creative space, I was instantly surrounded by women who spoke my language. Whilst our mediums and experience varied – I was among sewists, crocheters, passionate knitters, artists and designers – there was an undeniable connection, forged through our passion for craft. 

As I settled into my seat with an embroidery hoop in front of me, I’m sure my eyes sparkled at the sight of the rainbow of coloured cottons available to work with. Seed, satin, herringbone, chain, feather and blanket are just some of the stitches I learned on this uplifting Sunday morning. Platters of fruit, dark chocolate and coconut macaroons appeared alongside lemon-balm iced tea served in stunning handmade ceramic cups. Together, we stitched, sipped and snacked while chatting, sharing our work and learning together, making the phrase “busy hands, calm mind” ring true. 

There’s a wonderful openness that comes from sharing space with other creative women. Not everyone wanted to chat – some were quiet and still – and every part of the workshop was a delicate reminder that creativity takes many forms.

There’s a wonderful openness that comes from sharing space with other creative women. Not everyone wanted to chat – some were quiet and still – and every part of the workshop was a delicate reminder that creativity takes many forms. At times the conversation was light and bright, other times it was deeply personal – a testament to the environment created when women come together and generously hold space for one another.

All too soon our time was up. I stepped away with a full heart and a gorgeous little stitch sampler canvas, featuring sweet, colourful threads with happy patterns and a reminder of the value of attempting new things. Some stitches I mastered quickly, however one that I thought I knew turned out to be my least impressive effort. But you know what? That’s OK. No-one was there to criticise or belittle – in fact, it was the complete opposite. Hearing this eclectic group of women celebrate each other’s work truly made my heart swell. These were my people.

So now I’ve got the basic skills to get stuck into this denim skirt makeover. I’ve started small by stitching some long flower stems onto the belt loops whilst I plan what’s coming next. Ket mentioned that the beauty of embellishing clothing with embroidery is that you don’t have to complete the piece before you wear it. I can sew little bits as inspiration strikes and I may just end up with a wearable canvas that changes over time. Now, I just have to decide what colour I’m going to use for the flowers at the top of all those belt loops…

photo above right KETAKII, LAURA AND SHAYE

ShayeKet Productions is hosting Slow Fashion Conversations on Thursday, 18 April, from 6.30-9pm at 2nd Space Studio in Nambour, Qld. It’s part of Fashion Revolution Week, which marks its 10th anniversary this year (the event started in response to 2013’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh). The theme for 2024 is “How to be a Fashion Revolutionary”, and this year also marks the first Global Mend In Public Day.  

Join ShayeKet Productions for an evening of informative and fun conversation, featuring Kat Walsh from Practice Studio (Meanjin) and Clare Wright from House of Clare (Kabi Kabi), facilitated by Deborah Fisher from the University of the Sunshine Coast. Guests are encouraged to bring along hand-mending/stitching/unfinished objects to work on throughout the evening. See you there!