Backside of the Hoop with Amy Byrne
On this month’s Backside of the Hoop feature, I’ve interviewed myself! July 2015 marked one year and 12 interviews I had done for Backside of the Hoop, and I realized I had never shared my story. Usually I use this introduction to introduce the person I interviewed, and explain how I met/know her/him. Since I’ve known myself all my life, I’ll jump right in!
Tell Us About Yourself
I am a Library Branch Manager, and I love my job! I work for a progressive and dedicated Library District with a great boss and awesome co-workers. I don’t get to be a Librarian as much as I’d like to since I’m running the Branch, but I find a lot of satisfaction in what I do, and in working with the people I work with, many of whom I consider friends.
I’m Mom to Logan, my nearly 26 year old son (I KNOW! I don’t look nearly old enough to have a nearly 26 year old son, but it’s true!). Logan is an author of YA novels, and you can buy his books here. I am incredibly proud of how independent he is, although I do wish he’d visit more often. I’m wife to the best husband in the world, Todd. We get along so well, and complement each other so much. He’s a pet store manager, and learns a lot of information about pet nutrition and behavior. We were married on 09.10.11, and call ourselves Team T-n-A. We’ve been together for 7.5 years.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know all about Zuzu, my Chihuahua “dog”hter, who is the love of my life. She’s six years old. Rounding out our little family is Mina, Retreiver mix who is 12 years old, Sidney, another Chihuahua who we guess is somewhere between 5-8 years old, and Karma, our beautiful long-haired, black cat who is 13 years old. I also have three fish: Mollie, a Black Mollie, Jesus, a Bleeding Heart Tetra, and Shere Khan, a Tiger Stripe Guppy.
I have a hand embroidery business, Random Acts of Amy, that I work on when I’m not at the Library. My husband and I sell at local markets, I will soon have some necklaces at Culture Shock in Rockford, IL, I sell via an Etsy shop, and I am researching how to get my items in other stores. I recently purchased a Silhouette Cameo, and I’m expanding a bit into vinyl decals and other items along those lines.
I publish Friday Instagram Finds on the Feeling Stitchy blog. It’s a weekly curated post of embroidery and stitch-related artists on Instagram. I have discovered some amazing embroidery artists while doing this feature. Like Backside of the Hoop, I find a great deal of pleasure in lifting up other people, and helping them to feel good about themselves and their artwork. The world is full of plenty of negative, and I think we should all try to do more positive.
I was a guest summer blogger on the &Stitches blog. My first post was about combing watercolor paints and embroidery, and you can read that here. My second, and final, post will publish Monday, August 24, 2015, and you can read that here.
When Did You Start Doing Embroidery?
My first forays into hand embroidery were when I was 11 or 12 years old, which means 1980 or 1981. I have known how to sew since I was a young girl. I received my own sewing machine, a child-sized “Sew Perfect” machine, when I was around 5 years old. Until I was 10 years old, my dad was in the Navy, and we didn’t have a whole lot of money. My mom is an excellent seamstress, and she made many of our clothes. Naturally, I wanted to do whatever mom was doing, and I learned how to sew. I also wanted to learn how to do whatever dad was doing, too, and I’m pretty handy with tools. I still have some of my first pieces, and I even blogged about my “Stitchaversary” here.
Where is Your Favorite Place to Embroider?
My favorite place to embroider is in a chair with ottoman I bought at Ikea especially as a stitchin’ spot. It’s quite comfy, and I can stick needles into the arms since it’s fabric. On one side I have a white, circular side table that I use as my floss holding area for floss that I’m working with, and on the right I have a three-tier rolling cart that holds many of the embroidery supplies I regularly use. My must have accessory is that fabulous Ott lamp. I got it in an amazing sale at Joann’s on Black Friday a couple of years ago. I have to have that natural, yet bright, light shining down to see my stitches.
Show Us Your Backside…of Your Hoop!
I’ve tried various methods of finishing off the backs of my hoops. This first picture shows my favorite method. In it, I use an inexpensive white fabric as the backing, and cut that layer of fabric after it and the piece are in the hoop so it just fits inside. I then cut the fabric that’s embroidered to about 1/2″ – 3/4″ inch, and hot glue it to the inside of the hoop. I believe this is the most secure way of finishing off the piece, and it keeps the fabric more taut than other methods.
I’ve had phases where I glued felt to the back, either flush against the piece or cut to fit the hoop, and glued on so it’s almost like a drum, but it was my experience that the felt would leave bumps on the front of the fabric sometimes. And cutting the circles of felt to fit more like a drum was tedious. I don’t have any pics of that method, but the first one down is the felt laid inside the hoop.
I use the sewing and gathering method for vintage metal hoops because I just can’t bring myself to “wreck” the hoops with hot glue. I should probably just try it once, and once I get a nice stockpile of vintage metal hoops, I’ll experiment.
What Is Your Favorite Part of the Embroidery Process? Least Favorite?
My favorite parts are coming up with the design and embroidering. I love to pick out colors, which was the hardest part for me when I started to embroider in earnest because I had done more cross stitch, and cross stitch tells you what colors to use. I was so afraid I’d pick the “wrong” colors. I soon realized that I could make anything any color I wanted! It was liberating.
My absolutely, positively, without a doubt least favorite part is finishing the pieces off! At any given time I have a stack of many, many pieces that are embroidered, but not finished off. I have tried and tried to find something about the finishing off process to like, but I just cannot.
What Are Your Three Favorite Stitches?
Backstitch: It’s such a clean and classic look.
French Knots: I LOVE French knots! They are so fun to embroider, and I like how they feel when I touch them.
Chain Stitch: Another fun stitch to do!
How Do You Store Your Floss? What’s Your Favorite Brand?
I have a few methods for storing floss. The colors I use most often are on a wooden spool holder alongside my chair. I wind the floss around three of my fingers and loop it here. I also have floss wound around bobbin cards, and arranged by color in plastic containers. I used to arrange them in numerical order by their DMC number, but then I had an epiphany, and decided to arrange them by color instead. I also have a photo box of floss organized by color in Ziplock bags. These are my stock up colors that I get when Joann has big sales. I very rarely use all six strands of floss, so the extra floss lengths get wound up and put in a neat, vintage, metal tray, arranged by color.
My two favorite brands of floss are Presencia from Spain and Cosmo from Japan. They’re hard to come by for me, so I tend to hoard them. Their nap is so smooth and fine, that they’re very easy to work with. The brand I use most often, and that I really like, is DMC. I can buy it at any craft store, and they have an extensive range of colors.
Do You Create Your Own Patterns, or Purchase from Other Artists?
For the most part, I create my own patterns. My embroidery is heavily text driven, but I don’t have very neat handwriting. In order to get a more finished look, I purchase fonts for commercial use and use those. I will also purchase clip art for commercial use and incorporate elements from them to create designs. I create in Photoshop Elements, which I taught myself, print out, and transfer to my fabric via my light box.
I will also sometimes use other artists’ patterns, such as Sublime Stitching, of which I have applied for and been accepted as a licensee.
What’s Up Next for You?
I have a great event coming up that I’m super excited about! On Saturday, September 12th Todd and I will be vendors at Urban Farmgirl’s Main Street Market on the grounds of the historic Midway Village Museum in Rockford, IL. This is Urban Farmgirl’s third market, and it’s our third time being there. You can find out more information on the official website, or on my Facebook event. Todd and I were married at Midway Village, and it is a beautiful location.
In September, I’m teaching an After Hours Embroidery class to several of my coworkers. I think this will be so much fun! I’m always going on and on about how great embroidery is, and now I’ll get to spread the love.
One of my dreams has come true! I am going to be an artist who has her artwork shown during Rockford’s Fall ArtScene!!! I have always wanted to be a part of either the Spring or Fall ArtScene, and this year I am. I will have embroidered hoops of Rockford landmarks at Lucette Salon and Spa in downtown Rockford Friday, October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd (which also happens to be my birthday!).
Todd and I hope to be asked back to the Rockford Handmade Market at the Rockford Brew House on Thursday, December 3rd. The applications haven’t gone out yet, and I’ll let everyone know via social media if we’re accepted.
I’m trying to become better and more intentional in all aspects of my business. I’ll be honest here. I came thisclose to deciding to quit my small business at the end of 2015. I started Random Acts of Amy as a small business at the end of 2013, and I don’t feel as though I’m where I should be for being in business for two years. BUT, I have since changed my mind. I’ve decided to ease up on myself. I am taking steps to being a better and more intentional small business owner. A couple of the steps I’ve taken recently are signing up for Merriweather Council’s Etsy Training Course, and I am signed up for Little Farm Media’s Bossy Biz Ladies Course. I am networking more with other creative makers, and focusing more on being organized.
If you’ve struggled like I have in your small business, PLEASE connect with me! Let’s build each other up and help each other. There’s enough room in the world for artists and makers of every style, and we don’t need to claws out compete with each other.
That’s it! That’s my Backside feature. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my story and process, and seeing my embroidery. I love to connect with other creative makers, so please connect with me and let me know you read this interview.
Next month on Backside of the Hoop I’m featuring Maria Featon of Suosaari! Maria’s interview will publish on Friday, September 25, 2015.
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