Backside of the Hoop with Ashley Lawson

Ashley Lawson

This month’s Backside of the Hoop feature is Ashley Lawson of Words & Scribbles! We found each other on Instagram, and I love the children’s artwork that Ashely recreates in hand embroidery. Ashley doesn’t know it, but we have a couple of things in common! I, too, kept string as a pet (it was yarn that I chain stitched) in a shoe box because I wanted an aquarium pet soooo badly! I am also a Cubs fan! Did you know they’re going to win the World Series this season? True story.


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Hello, internet embroidery fans! I’m Ashley, and my shop is Words & Scribbles Hand Embroidery. I embroider meaningful, inspiring, or funny words and quotes (everything from Maya Angelou to Ron Swanson), and custom kids’ artwork. I love working with kiddy art! Each piece presents a new challenge, but I have so much fun trying to capture the carefree scribbles and imaginative creations of little ones. I also do custom quotes and phrases – whatever you can dream up!

(Last Christmas, my cousin Sarah asked me to embroider a pillow for our Grandmother. It said “Sarah is my favorite grandchild. (Made by Ashley)” She loved it!)

I’ve loved fabric since I was a little girl. I stitched my first project when I was 4 or 5 (see below for that story!) and I quite literally kept a piece of string as a pet when I was a kid. (My parents would have gotten me a dog or a cat, or at least a hamster. I just never asked.)

Some other things about me: I’m a not-currently-practicing lawyer based in my wonderful and weird hometown of Richmond, Virginia. I’m impulsive about cutting my hair. I feel strongly that all dresses should have pockets. I love cats. I have tattoos. I hate eggs (unless they’re baked in cakes and cookies). I use parentheses too much. And I truly believe in coloring, living, and stitching outside the lines.


Email: ashley {at} wordsandscribbles {dot} com

Instagram: words_and_scribbles




I started doing hand embroidery around Christmas of 2013. I had asked for a Sublime Stitching starter kit, and I fell in love right away. I loved trying my hand at patterns that didn’t seem outdated, but were exciting and showcased things I enjoyed and would want to hang on my wall.

I was also going through a pretty dark and difficult time in my life when I first started embroidering, and the rhythm, texture, and focus of creating an embroidery project became a huge source of comfort for me. The mindfulness required to plan and execute a project – sketching a design, picking colors and stitches, pulling through stitch after stitch until it’s finished – became a meditation to me and helped me to heal. And it’s still like that. If I find myself stressed, moody, or anxious, time with my needles and floss calms my mind and spirit.

Was there anyone who taught you, or are you self-taught?

My grandma taught me to sew a long time ago on a fantastic Singer machine from the 80s. And my mom taught me to cross stitch in high school (never could get the hang of so much counting!). But I mostly taught myself to embroider using the Sublime Stitching tutorials and books. They were a great introduction and taught me the basics, and I ran with it from there!

Do you still have the first piece you created?

I do! The first piece I ever embroidered was a Sublime Stitches sampler (she really did teach me everything!) that I made into a pillow that goes with me whenever I travel. I love keeping it around as a reminder of how far I’ve come!

But my first ever sewing project was a fabric “necklace” I made for my mom when I was 4 or 5 years old. I’m so glad she saved it. I thought it was the prettiest thing ever and was thrilled to give it to her, but I remember wondering why she didn’t ever wear it outside the house. I assumed it was just too fancy for every day. That was definitely it.

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What’s your embroidery story?

I travel quite a bit and one of the things I love about embroidery is that I can take it with me wherever I go. I always carry my TSA-friendly scissors for snipping thread, and I’ve started up several interesting conversations with strangers who have asked about what I’m doing. Embroidery is such a big part of my life that I really love taking it with me and sneaking in stitches whenever I can. The best place I’ve stitched was a major league baseball game! Last year, my whole family went to Chicago and saw a Cubs game. My soon-to-be-Sister-In-Law (a very talented knitter), and I both brought our projects and stitched away from the bleacher seats! We didn’t miss a moment of the game (the Cubs won!) and we managed to get some good work done. The people around us had a good laugh, but I suspect they were jealous they hadn’t thought of it themselves. 🙂



My favorite place to embroider is my big comfy leather chair in my craft room. It has plenty of room for me to curl up and get cozy, and it sits right next to my sewing table and embroidery pegboard, so everything I need is always handy. Every few weeks, I clean out behind my chair and find all the needles that have disappeared recently… along with piles of scrap floss, some popcorn kernels, and the occasional sock.



When I’m stitching other people’s artwork, my stitches move from place to place as I shade and fill in the picture, more like a paintbrush than regular stitches, so my backs can get VERY messy!

This is a praying mantis drawn by my boyfriend’s incredibly talented aunt. She was born with a mental disability but has a passion and a gift for working with insects. She drew this and gave it to me, and I stitched it as a necklace for her. I haven’t given it to her yet, but I can’t wait to see the look on her face!


How I finish my pieces really depends on what I’m making, but I make mostly pillows so I don’t have to worry about people seeing the backside. I have tried several methods for finishing the pillows, but the one I’ve found works best involves making the pillow with a boarder around the edge so that it can be closed without having to hand stitch the opening. For those of you who make pillows, I think Morning Glory Cluster Stuff is the best filler I’ve ever used! Just be sure to over-stuff it a little, because it will flatten out over time.


This piece is in a Dandelyne mini-hoop, so I close the back with wood glue and hold it firm with a clamp while it dries. (Mini-hoops are SO FUN! If you haven’t gotten your hands on a Dandelyne mini-hoop kit, you should absolutely get one today!)

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My favorite part of the embroidery process is the stitching. Ok maybe that sounds like a cop out, but I just love the rhythm and feel of it. And I frequently start out with one idea of how it will look in the end, then make changes as I go along, and end up with something even better. I love watching the stitches come to life as the piece comes together!

I hate tracing. My medium is needle and fabric, not pen and fabric (even though Frixon pens are a magical miracle lifesaver!).



  1. The Scribble Stitch: Ok this isn’t actually a thing, but it’s what I call the satin stitch/backstitch gone wild that I use for making kid’s artwork
  2. The Split Stitch: I think it’s great for making letters look fancy and for hair, flowers, cats, and anything that needs to look fluffy and soft.
  3. The Twisty Stem Stitch: Ok there is probably an actual (much better) name for this stitch, but it’s a slightly modified stem stitch that looks like a rope that I use for letters that I want to look fancy and flowy. I’d claim I invented it, but I don’t want to put myself in a Ted Cruz’s dad/green eggs and ham or Al Gore/The Internet situation by claiming to have invented something that somebody else clearly came up with first. Anyway, it looks like this. Feel free to tell me if you know what’s its actually called!




I’m generally a DMC girl. I find it easier to work with than some other brands I’ve tried, and I love the numbering system and range of colors that they offer. Sometimes I actually find myself thinking of colors in terms of their DMC number. Recently, I was driving through the mountains on a particularly beautiful day, and I thought to myself, “WOW! How gorgeous! That grass is like a 909 right now!”

I organize my floss on a pegboard with each skein of floss in a binder clip with the number taped to it. Sometimes I’m great about keeping my floss in numerical order. More often, that’s way too much for me so I keep them organized by the Roy G. Biv colors of the rainbow. It makes me feel like I’m being organized, while not requiring too counting.



I create my own patterns. When I’m embroidering words, I either use my own handwriting or open sourced fonts for the basic design. When I’m doing kid’s art, I start with a scan or photograph of the piece, then I use the computer to get it the right size and contrast so that it’s traceable. I’ll also piece different pictures together if a parent wants to add a child’s name to a picture or use two different pictures in the same piece.



I hope to put out some embroidery kits this year, including some designed for kids! I was always crafty growing up, and I would have loved to learn embroidery. I know I can’t be the only one who would have preferred a needle and thread to a soccer ball or hula hoop, so I’d like to start marketing some kits designed for elementary-aged kids. I’m just in the initial planning phases of this project, and I’d love some help with testing it out, so shoot me an email if you and your little one might be interested in trying it out!