Featured Designer - Helen Stubbings of Hugs'n Kisses August 01 2016 2 Comments
This month's Featured Designer aims to bring simple techniques to every stitcher and believes that every project is achievable by anyone. Her motto in life is just one stitch at a time.
This belief has led Helen Stubbings of Hugs'n Kisses to create lovely, yet achievable embroidery, appliqué and English paper piecing designs using her easy methods.
Please welcome Helen, another wonder from down under, who lives in Hobart, Tasmania!
Jen: Where were you born and raised?
Helen: I was born in the tiny country town (population ~1800) of Penola, South Australia – at the centre bottom of Australia. I grew up on a small sheep farm about 20 miles from town. We caught a bus to school for about an hour each way every day and went to town for shopping and sport on weekends.
Jen: How did you learn to embroider? To quilt? Did you stitch as a young girl?
Helen: My grandmother taught me to embroider – she had a fancywork box full of printed panels and a mix of threads. We started on gingham and progressed to her precious doily panels. She also taught us (my sister and brother also) to crochet, knit and sew – she was a dressmaker and did alterations for most of her life. Growing up, I learnt and tried all manner of crafts from macramé, Hobbytex, painted pots, tissue box covers and more. I was a Hobbytex ‘master artist’ at age 11 and won the country show aggregate craft award that year also.
Quilting came much later in life. As a full-time musician in the Australian Army, I took two years maternity leave with my first child and began a certificate course in textile skills. Our last major elective was patchwork and quilting – so I got a great 6 month basics course in everything quilting. My grandmother (in her 70's) actually started to quilt while my sister and I were also learning.
Jen: Complete this sentence. When I am not stitching I am...
Helen: ...thinking about stitching! – well designing in my head always… I do also like to spend time with my girls, enjoy an occasional wine and love good food – who doesn’t!
Jen: So, how did Hugs'n Kisses come to be?
Helen: As mentioned before I was in the regular army as was my husband, and we moved around a lot. With two small children and no family support, I chose to discharge and needed something to fill my day and provide a little more income, so a home based business doing something I loved was the next step. It has since supported a third unexpected child and is now a full time multi-faceted business taking up most of my every day.
Jen: Can you describe your style? How has it evolved?
Helen: I started as a true embroiderer (did I mention that when we had to vote for that last major elective – I voted for Elizabethan blackwork!), but when I made the decision to turn my hobby into a business, I knew that I had to evolve into styles and techniques that were suitable to a larger audience. I began with just simple backstitch stitchery designs – which are still very popular now. Not being satisfied or challenged, soon after I began to develop techniques that I both liked and could share beginning with colourque© - coloring with pencils on fabric to get an appliqué effect. Then I moved onto perfecting a new needle turn appliqué method, a technique I loved doing but people were terrified of. That then evolved into my latest passion – using the same product and principles – to develop the easiest and most addictive method of English paper piecing. Now I like to combine everything into one project!
So, that wasn’t really about style though was it? I'm not good at defining my style – I might leave that up to you...But anything I make has to be enjoyable, pleasing to the eye, and easy to get a great finish – it’s all about the therapy. People need to enjoy doing it and enjoy getting great results that people heap praise on them for – that’s what’s makes you feel good – take the praise- you made it, you deserve it!
Jen: Tell us about the process for designing your stitcheries and quilt patterns. What are your inspirations?
Helen: I am never short on ideas and inspiration – just the time to make them all or so many ideas I can’t settle on just one and make a start. I get a lot of design ideas from architecture, design in the environment and other cultures. When I travel, I always take photos of buildings, doors, entrances, carpets, old wallpapers, anything with design ideas and elements within them that I can pick apart and use or be inspired by. I collect books and ideas from old or traditional cultures such as Hungarian or Scandinavian embroidery and modernize them to suit my style. Then there’s flowers – I love my garden and anything floral… color palettes are perfect from nature..
Jen: With a new fabric line already out (Basically Hugs/Low) and a new Block of the Month (Razz A Dazzle), any new big plans for the rest of the year?
Helen: Well, lots actually, too many… a café to open, a learning centre to complete building and to start classes, a new book to release at Houston along with a new fabric range – just to keep me busy… and in there somewhere, I have another quilt along to design and get organized.. and somewhere in there, I need to get in a couple of those occasional wines and smell the roses.
I look forward to catching up again with Helen in October in Houston. In the meantime, I am pleased to announce that Red Thread Studio is offering Razz A Dazzle as a Block of the Month program!
You can also learn even more about Helen including her worst sewing habit in a video interview with Helen and seven other Featured Designers at Spring Quilt Market in Salt Lake City this past May or check out the Hugs'n Kisses collection at Red Thread Studio.