I know that every month I say how excited I am to introduce you to this month’s Backside of the Hoop feature, and I am, but this month, I’m REALLY excited to introduce you to this month’s Backside of the Hoop feature: Lady Jane Longstitches!! Jessica and Hannah, the mother-daughter duo behind the name and stitches are just so cool – they’re the kind of people I’d want to hand around with in real life. And, yes, they are mother and daughter, even though Jessica looks like she could be Hannah’s sister. My son and I are often mistaken for brother and sister, so I don’t know why it’s so novel to me that they could be siblings, but it is 🙂 Like pretty much every embroidery relationship I have, I met Jessica and Hannah on Instagram. They are phenomenally talented artists, kind, funny, and supportive women, and I highly encourage you to check them out.
Tell us about yourselves
Lady Jane Longstitches is a joint embroidery venture between myself and my beautiful daughter Hannah. We each stay at home minding our acres of land, darling and spirited children, unruly puppy dogs, and multiple domestic pursuits. We are both introverts and nature lovers, and we find time to stitch in between all of the demands and responsibilities that life requires. Embroidering is actually the very thing that allows us to cope with life’s whims, a day without stitching is like a day without coffee, oxygen, and sunshine…bleak.
I live and play on the rocky coast of Maine with my husband of 12 years and our two wildling boys. I have my degree in Nursing but have been unable to continue working in the field due to being diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis about nine years ago. Stitching is a way for me to be able to work at a pace my body allows, I feel an enormous sense of accomplishment with each piece my hands are able to finish! Hannah just bought a 250 year old stone farmhouse in Pennsylvania where she and her fiancé raise their feisty and adorable one year old daughter. They are in the process of starting their own organic farm, complete with ducklings and chicks and an iconic big red barn! Hannah has the greenest thumb ever seen, she spent years working at a Florist shop and her love for plants and flowers always shines through into her stitching. Having just moved apart recently, we still manage to stay connected with our work and ideas each and every day. We call and text and send pictures back and forth for each others opinions and impressions. It is hard not having her a few miles away to sit together in front of a roaring fire with a cup of tea and our embroidery hoops anymore, but I feel lucky that we have this shop and modern technology to keep us linked!
When did you start embroidering?
I am a lifelong artist and come from an art loving family, when I was a child I remember being in awe while standing next to my father as he would watercolor these intricate and vibrant paintings. When I was a teenager I asked him to teach me to watercolor, painting and drawing soon became my passion. As the years went by and as more kids popped into my life, finding the time and space to dedicate to painting was impossible, so I began to look around for a new portable medium. I hit upon an embroidery pattern that I found on the internet. With the very first stitch I was hooked. I could pick up and put down the work on a whim. I could squeeze in a stitch here or there while kids napped or dinner cooked, or I could leave it for days while busy with mom things and come back to the piece with no harm done. I could take it in the car and wait for the kids at school, or I could sit on a beach with my hoop and thread, embroidery came everywhere with me. The funny thing is I never even finished that original pattern, I was immediately inundated with ideas of patterns of my own and before I knew it all of the walls in my house were covered in hoops of my own creation! I taught myself the stitches from blogs, library books, or from YouTube videos.
One day my oldest daughter Hannah asked me to teach her how to embroider, and just like that the circle of parent teaching an art form to a child came together. It was a natural fit for her as well. We soon recognized that we each possessed different strengths and that we could help each other to improve. Hannah was probably 20 years old when we first started our Etsy shop, it was an amazing way for us to connect and find time to laugh together. We have become the very best of friends as a result!
Where is your favorite place to embroider?
Hannah’s favorite place to embroider is definitely outside, her property is perched at the top of a hill and has expansive mountain and valley views. She will take a hoop with her wherever she goes and can often be found sitting in a patch of sunlight stitching away. These days it is much harder for Hannah to get to sit still in that ray of light as her sweet and impish daughter keeps her moving non stop!
I love to sew sitting on my couch, looking out the tall windows of my new house in Maine! I have only been here since January and the view of the wild land filled with Pine, Spruce, Apple, and Birch trees will never be tiresome. When I am out hiking with the family I too bring along my hoop and when my body gives out, I’ll plop my rear on a rock or at the edge of a lake and happily work on my hoops as they continue scaling mountains without me.
Show us your backside…of your hoop!
We have finished off the backs of our hoops in many different ways. Originally we covered the backs in felt but found that to be too bulky and cumbersome. Then we tried cutting craft paper circles to glue to the wood frames but we never loved the end result. Now we either use a thin scrap of muslin and layer it behind the embroidered piece and hoop it all together, gluing the edges down to the wood hoop or we leave the backside blank, letting the messy stitched underside show. Covering the backs with fabric lends for a more polished or finished look, but we have started to shy away from adding that extra fabric because it feels wasteful. To me, the backs show a beautiful knotty chaos that is a fantastic juxtaposition to the perfect and orderly front.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the embroidery process?
Hannah and I would agree that we both only want to embroider, we loathe finishing the hoops off! I could sit for hours on end stitching and stitching and stitching until my hands fall off. But cut the edges and glue them down? I want to hide in my closet and rock back and forth in the dark. It makes no sense really, but I think it has to do with a fear of messing something up and not being able to salvage it. Sometimes I can spend upwards of 20 hours on a portrait hoop and the thought of getting glue on the face of that hoop terrifies me. When we lived close together, Hannah would bring me her finished embroideries and ask me to hoop them, citing that her lack of a preschool education has left her cutting and gluing skills wanting. We often did rock, paper, scissors as a way of deciding who would frame the hoops!
What are your top three favorite stitches?
Personally I LOVE satin stitch. When I started embroidery I avoided that stitch like the plague, now I look for hoops where I can use it. It is a stitch that I find difficult to explain how to do, it has become something I can do by feel. I just know where to lay the next row, I know how many strands of thread to use to make it lay nicely, and I know which angle to lay them at. It is by far the stitch I am most proud of.
Hannah loves doing the back stitch because even as she says, she is great at it (she is, her back stitch makes mine look like they are done by a drunk toddler.) Her current favorite stitch is the wagon wheel. Since she loves to embroider flowers she uses this woven stitch to create stunning floral hoops.
What is your favorite brand of floss, and how do you store it?
Hannah and I are both devoted and exclusive users of DMC floss. We each use a large plastic craft bin to lay the skeins into, separated into color families. When the skein of thread is almost used up and can’t be held together by the little labels, I throw it into a bin of misfit threads. I do not have the patience or desire to wind each bit of thread onto a paper bobbin or clothespin, I’d rather be stitching than organizing. I do dig into the errant thread bin from time to time, but it’s a tangled mess of threads without their labels and corresponding numbers, it’s like reaching into a bin filled with spiders webs.
Do you create your own patterns? Where do you find your inspiration?
We create all of our own patterns. We do not make any formal paper or computer drawn patterns. When I do portrait or landscape hoops, I either draw directly onto the linen with a sharpie or pencil or I use Sulky Solvy, a dissolvable stabilizer that I can draw my sketch onto with greater precision and detail. Hannah mostly uses pencil to draw directly onto the fabric to create her own patterns as well.
Hannah finds inspiration from nature. She is drawn to stitching ferns, plants and flowers. Her love of gardening really shows in the work she produces. I look to her with pride and awe, her creativity and color choices always wow me. Hannah also has a very sarcastic way of thinking (I swear I don’t know where she gets it from), she stitches the way she (we) talks…so the snarky hoops for sale in the shop mostly come from her (our) everyday utterings!
My inspiration for the landscape portrait hoops came from my boys and the Maine scenery, I was looking at vacation photos and thought that I could possibly stitch it all as a keepsake. I was thrilled with the results! Once I started posting the finished hoops on Instagram I was overwhelmed with orders and it became a full time gig for me. I now receive commissions from people all over the world to recreate their photographs into embroidered art. I feel supremely lucky that this fell into my lap.
What’s up next for you?
What is next for Lady Jane? Who knows! We are very impulsive and run with ideas as they come to us. Neither one of us is business minded enough to come up with a real plan. We stitch how we feel, what we want, when we want to…and that changes quite a lot! I am loving working on the custom landscape and portrait hoops and would be thrilled to find the time to meet up with Hannah to show her how I create them. I think we would each have a very unique take on how these hoops could be completed.
We tried the craft show circuit and it just did not fit us. We were both so shy and introverted that when customers would walk up to talk with us, we’d each try to push the other to the front to handle it. That kind of behavior doesn’t really help us out in any business sense! So for now we love working from our homes, communicating via emails and messages on Instagram or Facebook. We have talked about creating patterns for sale on our shop so that may be something we eventually get around to, but again, the stitching is our favorite part, so we will probably have a needle in our hands for decades to come!
Thank you so much Jessica and Hannah! I loved learning more about you, your story, and process. We three have a lot in common, and it would be fun to have a big stitchy meetup 🙂
Stay tuned next month when I interview Bridget of Made by Betty B! If you or someone you know is a needle artist (hand embroidery, cross stitch, crewel, etc.) fill out the contact form below for the chance to be featured on Backside of the Hoop!