Backside of the Hoop with Mollie Johanson

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I feel truly lucky to have the opportunity to meet so many people through blogging and social media! I love doing the Backside of the Hoop interviews each month because it allows me to get to know artists on a different level. I have admired Mollie Johanson since I started my modern-day embroidery journey in 2009. I’ve been an avid reader of her blog, and some of my favorite patterns to embroider are ones I’ve found there. In particular are her, “The lovers, the dreamers, and me” and “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow” patterns.

What I like about Mollie, besides her stitching, is that she seems to be a genuinely nice person. She’s also real – she blogs about how sometimes things don’t work out – she’s not perfect, and doesn’t try to come across that way. So many people only show the perfect and beautiful moments in their lives on social media, but Mollie invites us to see that she’s a regular person, and sometimes things aren’t perfect, and that’s okay! We live close-ish to each other, although have never met. I’ve always (regrettably) had other commitments when she’s had some of her coffee shop meet ups. I hope we can change that soon!

I’m so pleased to be able to feature Mollie on Backside of the Hoop this month!!

Tell us about yourself
I’m Mollie, or Wild Olive, and I happily answer to either of those. I’m a single gal who lives with her family and spends most of her days stitching or creating in one way or another. I especially love sharing ideas to help others embroider or make things with their embroidery.

Folks can usually spot something I’ve made because I love adding little faces to my creations. My Wild Olive shop is filled with patterns that feature friendly faces because they just make me happy!

You can find Mollie at a variety of places online:

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When did you start doing embroidery?
My first embroidery experience came as a young child, but it was about ten years ago that I really got back to it. I had started doing some illustration for my own enjoyment, and thought it might be fun to stitch the designs. It was a perfect fit for me!

Was there anyone who taught you, or are you self-taught?
Back when I first started, my grandma (Nanny) taught me. She showed me a few things, let me stitch on her kitchen towels, and always pointed out what a tidy backside should look like. My book, Stitch Love is dedicated to her because of this.

When I came back to embroidery, I was more self-taught. Because embroidery has so many techniques and styles, I’m still learning.

Do you still have the first piece you created?
I like to think of Nanny’s towels as my first “piece”, but they are long gone. After that, I don’t remember would it would have been. When you create a lot throughout your life, it’s easy to lose track of these things. But I enjoy the process as much as the final embroidery, so it’s okay.

Where is your favorite place to embroider?

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I’m quite happy to stitch anywhere, and have been known to embroider as I’m walking through the house. Yes, that’s a little weird, but it’s true! However, you’re most likely to find me in Nanny’s old chair. It’s by a bright window and it’s nice to be close to someone so dear and much missed.

Show us your backside…of your hoop!
Am I the only one who feels like showing the backside is super personal? Like, I’m exposing my deep dark secrets? Promise not to judge!

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Have you always finished off your pieces this way?
Often the items I’m embroidering end up becoming something other than a hoop. And I don’t always know what it will become as I stitch it. So, I usually start and finish my stitching with a long-tailed knot so the ends can be woven in. Security + tidiness.

When I am finishing a hoop, I will sometimes cover the back of the stitching, but not always. Even though I joked about being exposed, I rather like that people can see the work. Plus, that’s inspiration to have a nice-looking backside.

Have you tried other ways?
I’ve finished off hoops probably half a dozen ways, and I’m always looking for new things to try. It’s not that I don’t like what I’ve done, but experimenting is fun too.

The most common way I finish the back is just by stitching around the edge and gathering the fabric into the center.

What are the advantages in how you finish your pieces?
Can I say fast and easy? Because this method is just that. And sometimes that counts for a whole lot.

What is your favorite part of the embroidery process? Least favorite part?
My favorite part is a tie between choosing colors and the actual stitching. I love playing with embroidery floss and exploring color, so selecting the threads is really appealing, but so is stitching. It’s like watching artwork appear as you go!

My least favorite part is the finishing, which in my case often involved preparing patterns and shop listings too. It’s easy for me to get to that part and then let it sit for weeks or more!

What are your top three favorite stitches?
The three stitches I absolutely could not live without are back stitch, french knot, and scallop stitch (like a soft curve fly stitch). They basically make up the outlines and faces for everything I make!

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What is your favorite brand of floss, and how do you organize it?
I’m a DMC girl through and through. I do use others sometimes, but DMC is my favorite. I wish I had some beautiful, thoughtful storage solution, but it’s just bags grouped by color. And then a few other bags and baskets that keep the overflow.

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Do you create your own patterns, or purchase patterns from other artists? If you create your own, how do you go about creating them? Where do you find inspiration?
Although I do occasionally buy patterns and pattern books, at least 95% of my stitching is with my own patterns. They usually start with a pencil sketch and then I trace them in Adobe Illustrator. Because I like making things with faces, I find it fun to think of what would look cute with a face on it. I also love working within themes, so I try to think of what might work for a set of motifs. Having that kind of framework inspires me.

What’s up next for you?
This isn’t a very exciting answer, but I’m in maintenance mode right now. Which actually means quite a lot of creating for blogs and other writing and pattern-making. In the midst of my “normal” I’m hoping to release new patterns to my shop, as well as crafting a new Wild Olive Stitching Club. It’s all sort of up in the air for the time being, but that’s okay with me. Some of the most exciting things have come along after these unknown life seasons.


Thank you so much, Mollie! I smiled at your insight into showing off the backside of your hoop as being personal 🙂 Maybe that’s why I’m so intrigued by others’ backsides of their hoops – I like to discover why it is people do the things they do. And almost everyone I’ve interviewed for Backside has said that finishing off their pieces is their least favorite part, too!

Next month on Backside of the Hoop I interview Jacqueline of Wee Little Stitches!

Friday Instagram Finds

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Did you know that in addition to blogging here I blog weekly over at Feeling Stitchy? I write a post that publishes every Friday called Friday Instagram Finds. FIF is a weekly curated post of embroidery and stitch-related artists on Instagram. Tomorrow edition #51 will be published.

On April 29, 2016 Friday Instagram Finds was featured on the Mollie Makes blog! I was contacted by Editor Karen Dunn about #feelingstitchyig that we use on Instagram. She was writing an article on the hashtags stitchers used on social media and saw that ours was quite popular. I was pretty excited since Mollie Makes is one of the premier crafting magazines out there.

#feelingstitchyig is the first hashtag mentioned, and you can read the post here.

Backside of the Hoop with Bridget Prater

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Oh my goodness! I am so excited about this month’s Backside of the Hoop! This month I had the honor of interviewing Bridget Prater. I met Bridget on Instagram, and quickly fell in love with her embroidered dreamcatchers, her gorgeous photos, and her style. So without further ado…

Tell Us about Yourself

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I have a degree in Fine Art and currently live in south Mississippi with my husband and bulldog. I am a freelance graphic designer working with everything from fortune 500 businesses to small handmade businesses. I’ve always embraced art as a way of expressing myself, especially as a well-known introvert. I find it hard sometimes to convey something by word of mouth but put a pen or paintbrush and it just flows right there on the paper. I am currently working on a rebrand to express myself more as an artist and working towards moving everything over from madebybettyb to blendingbybetty.

You can find me on:

When Did You Start Embroidering?

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I started embroidering December of 2013, I was broke and wanted to make something unique and special for my family for Christmas and decided to get some cute blankets from target off the clearance aisle and embroider their names and the year onto them. They were a big hit. During that time I was really going through a lot in my life and just kind of needed the outlet of something I could learn and express myself easily that wasn’t relatively expensive. So I taught myself. I knew my grandmothers and great aunts all were into crocheting, quilting, and embroidering so I took on the task to learn. I had previously made a few doily dreamcatchers to send to the family that included a lot of the jewelry from my late grandmothers and great aunts, they were also a huge hit in the family. Kind of a new way to honor the people that meant so much to us and instead of keeping all this vintage jewelry tucked away, I strung it to hang from the dreamcatchers. Then friends wanted me to create the same things from their family heirlooms and that is where the shop came from.

I knew that I wanted to stand out in the embroidery world and somehow combine the two things that really meant so much to me and got me through the toughest times, growing my business just a little bit more, and creating these embroidered dreamcatchers. I seriously scoured the internet and no one else was doing it. Coming up with an idea no one else is doing is invigorating but also daunting, going through my mind and thinking maybe there is a reason no one is doing it? What if no one really understands the idea, but I went with it. It surprisingly took off, and I just kept pushing myself and working on finding out what works and what doesn’t.

When weaving kind of became popular about a year ago I wanted to really try it, and I have all of these amazing dreamcatcher and Native American books that I reference a lot. It had woven dreamcatchers in them which were a big thing in the 70s. I went to the internet again and no one was making those either. It was like this completely lost art form, and I knew it was something I wanted to bring back to life. So I did. I love that weaving has kind of taken off and the round weavings are starting to pop up everywhere! So now I am creating these one of a kind embroidered and hand woven dreamcatchers.

Where Is Your Favorite Place to Embroider?

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I am very lucky in the sense that we have a duplex to ourselves. When our neighbors moved out we took on the other half as ours and turned it into what my husband calls my Babe Cave. It’s not very big but it’s perfect to have a space for my graphic design, my embroidery and my weaving. It’s my favorite place to be. If I am not there, I am outside. There is nothing better than good sunlight and the smell of all the flowers.

Show Us Your Backside…Of Your Hoop!

So my hoops aren’t usually backed in the sense of your typical hoop art. I sometimes will sew or glue a felt or cloth backing, but I don’t mind leaving the backs open. Sometimes I enjoy the back art just as much as I enjoy the front. There is something vulnerable from leaving the back open. You can see all the details and if I made a mess up and fixed it. It’s an ongoing battle with myself on if I should cover each piece or not.

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What are Your Favorite and Least Favorite Parts of the Embroidery Process?

My favorite part is designing the art to embroider. I really enjoy pushing myself with how I embroider which also pushes myself when I am drawing out the designs. I mostly freehand everything on the hoop using disappearing ink pen and just go from there. I don’t have patterns made up or a lightbox to trace things, but I do plan on adding both things to my life in the near future!! My least favorite part of embroidery is having to tie every loose thread on the back when I finished with that color, it’s the most annoying. 

What are Your Top Three Favorite Stitches?

I love a good group of French knots, a good tight split stitch, and my favorite is the stem stitch.

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What Is Your Favorite Brand of Floss, and How Do You Store It?

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I use DMC, it’s definitely the smoothest of the types of threads out there. I wrap mine on clothespins and hang them above my desk. 

What’s Up Next for You?

Everything is moving at an alarming rate, I am working on the rebrand to include more options and limiting custom orders to only 3-4 a month. With the rebrand I will be including DIY dreamcatchers and patterns for embroidery but also for crocheting your own center. I will be creating my own round weaving looms, hoping to set up classes for either form of dreamcatchers. I will be selling more accessories, lapel pins, embroidered patches, screen printed, and embroidered tote bags.

I have always been an overly positive person, dream seeker, goal accomplisher, and overly motivational to others. I feel like it’s something so many people lack in themselves that I want people to know you can do anything you set your mind to.

Everything I bring to the shop will include something along those lines, a brand for all the dream seekers!


Thank you so much for sharing your embroidery story and process with us, Bridget! It’s great to learn more about you. I particularly enjoyed learning how you started your embroidery journey, and how you used family jewelry in your pieces. I received all of my Great Grandma Rosie’s costume jewelry, and now I’m inspired to somehow add some of those pieces to embroidery.

Stay tuned next month when I interview Mollie of Wild Olive!