Backside of the Hoop with Carina Envoldsen-Harris

Carina Backside rowI am excited to feature an embroidery artist who I’m sure so many of you have heard of! Today I introduce to you Carina Envoldsen-Harris of Polka & Bloom. Carina has done so much for the online stitching community from hosting stitch picnics at a park in England to writing books about embroidery. Her work is so colorful and beautiful! I love to follow her on Instagram, too, to see what she and the “neighbor’s” cat are up to (I think Carina and her husband should just claim the cat as their own 🙂 )


Tell us about yourself

Ahoy-hoy! Nice to meet you. 🙂

My name is Carina, and I am obsessed with hand stitching. I live in Essex in England, although I am Danish. I met an English guy and, long story short, that’s how I ended up here in 2005. We live in a small house with a blossom tree and sometimes a cute neighbour cat comes to visit.

I design happy colourful embroidery patterns under the name Polka & Bloom. I am very inspired by nature and folk art. Sometimes I contrinute stitchy stuff to books and magazines. In 2013 my (first, but hopefully not last) book was published. It’s called Stitched Blooms, and is full of, well, flowers and things like that! 🙂

I blog at Carina’s Craftblog where I share the crafty projects I work on: embroidery, quilting, drawing, the occasional crochet and knitting project. I also share tutorials and vegan recipes. I am mad about colour, and I love stitching things by hand.



When did you start creating embroidery?

My grandmother showed me how to do cross stitch when I was 8 or 9, but I guess I found it quite boring because I never picked up a needle or floss again until I was around 30. And that wasn’t for cross stitch. I’m pretty much self-taught, with the help of books and tutorials on the internet.

Where is your favorite place to embroider?

I usually get comfy on the sofa in our living room. I put a cushion against the arm rest so I don’t sit with my back to the window. The sofa is right next to the window so it’s great for natural light. If I want, I can also watch a film or something on the TV, but usually I just listen to music or podcasts. 

Where I stitch


Show us your backside…of you hoop!

I don’t really worry too much about the back of my embroidery. As long as there are no traveling stitches (i.e. long stretches of floss between stitches) and no unintended knots, I’m happy. There are intentional knots – I know you *shouldn’t* use knots, but it just makes it quicker for me. And since most of my embroideries are for my patterns, the back isn’t important, I’m the only one who will ever see it! Although, I do make sure that there are no long tails on the back because they can show through the fabric when I take pictures of embroidery.



What is your favorite part of the embroidery process? Your least favorite part?

I love everything about embroidery…I guess I wouldn’t keep doing it if I didn’t. I love sketching and designing patterns. Picking out the colours and the stitching itself. Oh, the stitching. I love it when you get in the zone and the stitching just flows. I don’t even mind when I need to unpick something. It’s a reminder to listen to my gut and not keep doing something that doesn’t feel quite right.

What are your top three favorite stitches?

1. Back stitch. I love back stitch. If I had to chose just on stitch to use, that would be it. It is so simple, but you can create so much with it.

2. Star stitch (a flattened cross stitch with a third vertical stitch to make the star). Often when I stitch a pattern, this stitch will sneak in. I just find it really cheerful. It’s a bit like adding glitter to a project.

3. French knot. I know a lot of people struggle with French knots, but I love them. So what if they are not 100% neat 100% of the time? Just keep doing them, practice makes 85%-ish perfect 😉

Favorite stitches

What is your favorite brand of floss? How do you organize your floss?

DMC is my favourite. I love the variety of colours. But maybe the real reason I use it is that my grandmother used it, so that’s the brand I was familiar with. My grandparents owned a needlework shop when I was little, and I vividly remember the little drawers with floss in them.

My goal is to one day have most of my floss in little acrylic drawers. At the moment, I only have the stash of most often used colours in those, and the rest are in Ziploc bags sorted by colour. It’s not the prettiest organisation method, but it wokrs pretty well.

Floss Storage
Floss Organization

Do you create your own patterns, or purchase patterns from other artists? If you purchase patterns, what are your favorite places to get them?

I make my own patterns, mostly to sell but on occasion for personal projects. I don’t really buy embroidery patterns because sadly I don’t have time to stitch them. 

What’s up next for you?

To be honest, as I am writing this, the thing I am most focused on is re-opening my shop. Some new EU VAT rules have come into effect at the start of this year and it has meant I’ve had to close my shop while I figure out how to comply with those rules. This legislation has affected a lot of my fellow embroidery pattern makers too. Not terribly exciting, I’m afraid!

Although most of my time and energy is going into the EU law funtimes at the moment, I am thinking about things I want to do in 2015. I will definitely have a new club a bit later in the year. Kinda like the Maybroidery 2014 Stitching Along, but different. 

Maybroidery 2014 Stitching Along

For a little while I have been kind of obsessed with giant blackwork, so there may be some of that. I am also excited about experimenting with screen printing and embroidery, I just need to carve out some time to do it! 

Log Cabin
Giant Blackwork on Log Cabin Block
Stitching on Screen Print
Stitching on a Screen Print

In March 2015 I will feature Sarah Roberts of In the Quiet Hours! Tune in Monday, March 9, 2015!

Are you interested in being interviewed for a future issue of Backside of the Hoop? Fill out the contact form below. I look forward to hearing from you!

  1. Robin Brown

    February 13, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I follow Carina and have purchased some of her patterns. I too, love the bright colors she uses. Regarding the “back of the hoop”… I purchased two embroidered framed pictures at a gallery in Hawaii over Christmas. I have 2 sisters who have lived there for several decades so I get to visit for just the plane fare (no hotel or rental car). The embroideries are done by Vietnamese Masters, (usually a family) very skilled, brilliant workers that are devoted artists. One picture has bamboo in the foreground, water with small boat, moon in the sky (but not dark). Sort of a mystical look to the picture. You cannot tell the front from the back on these works of art! They also have 3 panel frames with embroideries on silk and you cannot tell the difference from front and back – no knots, strings, anything! Just the reverse of the picture. I truthfully do not know how they do it. My second picture is of flowers done on black silk, wonderful needle painting (shading) in both embroideries.
    The colorful shading of the flowers, some distinct, some wispy. Can you tell I’m so excited about my two works of art. The gallery owner is so detailed in his talks about these artists in Vietnam, explaining that a large landscape picture can take as long as a year for the artists to complete. This is the only place that I’ve seen this type of work and cannot find anything on internet about purchasing these anyplace else. Wonderful to find people who love and share their passion of embroidery. From one who does this as a hobby at home to the other end of the spectrum – the maestro who does this as his life long source of income and way of life. Stitch on

    1. Amy Byrne-Henderson

      February 19, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Hi Robin,

      WOW! Those sound like amazing pieces!

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