Featured Designer - iHeartStitchArt March 27 2023

This month's featured designer is Sarah Milligan from iHeartStitchArt

One Sunday, I was looking for modern embroidery designs on Etsy, and my Red Threads led me to Sarah.  I was instantly drawn to her fresh take on embroidery and knew I wanted to carry her kits in my shop.

Now, let's get to know Sarah!

Jen:  Where were you born and raised?

Sarah:  I was born in a tiny town in the heart of British Columbia, Canada surrounded by forests and lakes.

Jen:  How did you learn to hand embroider? Did you stitch as a girl?

Sarah:  My mother taught me hand stitching at an early age and used to do wonderful crafts with me. I still have the felt ornaments she stitched and embellished one Christmas. She always had a cross stitch project on the go. As I grew up, I forgot about hand stitching for a long, long time. Eventually I was blessed to become a mother to three very creative children, and they were really the force that brought handwork back into my days.  One afternoon about a year and a half ago, I was sitting with my young son and showing him how to pass a thick strand of yarn through a piece of burlap I had placed in an old embroidery hoop. As I drew the yarn through, I felt my heart beat a little faster and I thought, “Oh. Right. THIS is what’s been missing from my hand all these years.” Although I was holding the most humble and rustic of materials, the activity felt magical - in a meditative, centering way. And after that I started to stitch again, re-learning from books and online tutorials for the most part - since all I could remember was backstitch.

Jen:  Complete this sentence. When I am not stitching, I am…

Sarah:  Cooking something healthy, sweeping up Lego pieces and/or Cheerios, taking care of my kids… and dreaming up what I want to be stitching next.

Jen:  So, how did I Heart Stitch Art come to be?

Sarah:  That is a long story. I have always wanted to do something artistic and creative but could never decide just what. When I fell back in love with embroidery, I was surprised to find that modern hand embroidery kits and patterns were few and far between - and that good quality supplies were very hard to come by.  Since I couldn’t find what I wanted, I started to dream up all the images I wanted to stitch and the materials I wanted to use. And I thought that it would be really fun to help would-be stitchers learn by providing an easy-to-do kit, with luxuriously rustic fabric and fresh images based on inspiration from vintage, antique and natural sources. And so with the help of my amazing husband, I jumped in and haven’t looked back since.

Jen:  How would you describe your embroidery style?

Sarah:  Hmm… I guess I’d have to say clean, simple, and feminine.

Jen:  Tell us about the process for designing your patterns. What are your inspirations?

Sarah:  I am primarily inspired by the natural world and by antique illustrations. I love old botanical drawings, especially of flowers and insects. When I decide to design a particular pattern, it usually pops into my head how I want it to look - and then I have to figure out how to make it happen. Usually I begin by searching for antique images to get ideas. After looking at dozens of old images, I then combine my favorite elements into my own sketches. From there I work over a light table and draw, re-draw and re-draw the image until I am happy with it. There was definitely a learning curve for me in terms of how much detail is workable, what sizes work best and so on... but it gets easier the more I do it. When I’m happy with my design, I transfer it to linen and do some test-stitching. This is when I decide on colors and stitches to use. In the end, it almost always looks exactly how I pictured it in the first place - but it is always quite a journey to get from vision to finished product.

Jen:  Any plans for the year ahead?

Sarah:  Oh yes! I will be releasing several new patterns, with more to follow throughout the year. I will be offering kits on white and cream fabric this spring, and I think those will appeal to a lot of people. I want to expand into an Etsy Wholesale shop and build on my blog to include more tutorials and tips on working with my patterns. And, I have a stack of patterns (both in my head and on paper) that I would love to get out there! When I think about it all, I get butterflies of excitement - but I do have a young family to take care of and that always comes first… all in good time!

Having talked to Sarah on several occasions and having had the opportunity to interview her, I can't help but feel a connection with her.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying stitching her designs!

You can check out more of the I Heart Stitch Art Collection at Red Thread Studio.

Happy Stitching!