Backside of the Hoop with Mollie Johanson
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:
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?
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!
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!
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.
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!