This month I interviewed an embroidery artist I greatly admire – Liz of cozyblue handmade. I’m a member of Liz’s cozyblue stitch club, and I have also stitched up a couple of kits, including my favorite, the Salty Sea Captain. Read more about Liz’s embroidery story and process below!
Tell us about yourself
I’m Liz, mama of two (12 and 8) and small biz lady boss of cozyblue handmade. We live in Asheville, in the mountains of western North Carolina. Our cozy home is my favorite place in the world – it’s comfortable and colorful, and worn-in in all the best places; it is full of handmade art, photos and books, and my favorite people and pets. And as you may have guessed, it’s blue 🙂
cozyblue is all about modern embroidery designs that feature my line drawings. I love creating new work, sharing it, and encouraging others to take time for themselves to be creative.
When did you start doing embroidery?
I remember playing around with free-hand embroidery when I was in high school, sewing patches onto my backpack, and embroidering flowers on jeans and jackets. My mom is a quilter and sewer, so the materials and techniques have always felt very familiar to me from a young age. About 10 years ago I rediscovered embroidery and it wasn’t long before I was stitching my own designs and experimenting with different stitches, materials, and techniques.
Was there anyone who taught you, or are you self-taught?
I’m totally self taught. I’ve always been a DIY-er and I tend to learn best through trial and error and figuring things out as I go along.
Do you still have the first piece you created?
I don’t remember my very first piece of embroidery, but I do still have a special piece of embroidery that I made about 10 years ago, one of the first pieces that I designed and stitched myself. I made a large patchwork quilt and added an embroidered patch to the corner, of a tree with our names carved into it, and a family of owls sitting together on a branch.
The tree design later became the inspiration for a screenprint, and these personalized tree pillows were born.
Where is your favorite place to embroider?
I love stitching on my screened porch. three seasons of the year the light is great, the big papasan chair is like a soft nest, and I have a view of trees and birds. Inside, I’ve got “my spot” on the living room couch and some comfy couches in my studio. But one of the great things about embroidery is that it’s such a portable craft! I usually keep my current project in a bag or basket, and tote it around with me. Whether it’s baseball practice, coffee dates, craft nights with my girlfriends, or trips to the park, I usually bring my embroidery with me and get a few stitches in wherever I can.
Show us your backside…of you hoop!
To frame my finished pieces, I layer another piece of fabric over the back to enclose the underside of my stitching. Then I hoop the whole thing up, trim it, and use a running stitch to gather the edges together in the back..
Have you always finished off your pieces this way?
I almost always finish mine this way. I’ve used other methods in the past – gluing the fabric to the hoop, stitching a layer of felt over the back, trimming it short and gluing – but I have been using this method for years now and it’s my favorite way to display my projects. Not only is it quick and easy, but if I ever decide to take the piece out of the hoop to reposition it, or to wash or re-use it somehow, it’s simple to do so without disturbing or damaging my work.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the embroidery process, and why?
Well, my least favorite is probably the finishing, but only because I’m always anxious to move on to the next project! So sometimes a finished piece sits around for a while before I take the time to properly frame and finish it up.
My favorite part is the stitching! It’s fun and exciting to see the design come to life, and I really enjoy the slow art of embroidery. My cozyblue motto is “slow down, get cozy, get crafty” because I believe it is so important to take time for ourselves to be creative. In the midst of our busy lives and hectic days, it is more important than ever to slow down and consciously tap into our creativity. I think creative work can be a meditative practice, and I find that it is absolutely essential, not only for stress relief but for self-expression.
“For me, embroidery is a time to focus and calm, and to watch the piece take shape, stitch by stitch by stitch.”
What are your top three favorite stitches?
Ooh, it’s hard to choose only three! There are so many great stitches out there. But you can do a lot with just the simplest of stitches. Back stitch, knots (french or colonial), and satin stitch are the three that show up most often in my work.
What is your favorite brand of floss, and how do you organize it?
DMC cotton floss is my go-to brand, but as for organizing… I really don’t! I have a box of floss with the labels intact, so that I can choose colors and note the numbers when I’m designing patterns. And I keep a large messy bag of scraps and bits of tangled threads, which I pull from when I need just a bit of color for whatever my current project is.
Do you create your own patterns? How do you go about creating them, and where do you find inspiration?
I create my own patterns. I’ve always drawn illustrations, though I usually think of it as sketching and doodling. So embroidery feels like a natural fit – it’s just like drawing with thread – and I really enjoy the hand-stitching process. All of my designs start out as a simple sketch and eventually become a finished embroidery piece and/or pattern. New designs and inspiration come from everywhere, and I feel like my creative wheels are always turning and seeking out ways to connect. Sometimes a design idea comes to me all at once and crystal clear. Other times I’ll just have a loose idea, and I need to be a little more intentional (and a little more patient) about fitting all the bits and pieces together. One way or another, everything eventually snaps into place and new
designs are born.
What’s up next for you?
Up next, I’ve got more new pattern designs and products coming! Most of my new patterns are released each month through my #cozybluestichclub. The club has been going strong for over a year now, and is growing bigger and better each month. I’ll be introducing some brand new products soon too, of the
On the business end, I have some really exciting stuff in the works, and I am looking forward to sharing more about that in the coming months.
Thank you for sharing with us, Liz! It’s interesting to learn a bit more about your process. I am very excited to see what’s up next for you!