Aimee Ray’s embroidery designs are all about finding something that makes you smile and then having fun with it. A busy mom of virtual schoolers by day, she sneaks in creative moments when she can, but becomes super productive when the kids are in bed and she can have quiet conversations with her thoughts and connect with a broad online community.
How did you get started designing embroidery? Were you always an artist, or did you have a “moment”?
I have always been an artist, and into all kinds of crafty things. I started embroidering as an adult when I was working as a graphic designer. And I wanted to do something creative of my own, but not with the computer I used all day. So I started embroidering my own designs. I was in some craft groups online and started sharing photos of my work, and my first book publisher found me and contacted me to see if I wanted to write a book!
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Where do you find your inspiration for your designs? What is it about a subject that inspires you to continue exploring it?
Nature and animals always inspire me – they are a never-ending source of amazement. I’m also really inspired by lots of different artists I follow online. There are so many talented artists and crafters out there! They inspire me to keep growing and doing my best, and try new things I haven’t thought of before.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I don’t think I’m 100% either. My ideas start as vague images in my mind. Then I do sketches, sometimes very simple and fast, sometimes very detailed. I then scan them in and create my designs in Illustrator. They do sometimes turn out completely different than how I envisioned them, so I try to just be flexible and figure some things out as I go.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books, especially your new title, Doodle Stitching Embroidery Art: Move Beyond the Pattern?
I always love when people take my patterns and personalize them to make them unique. In this book I’ve created a lot of starting points, ideas and techniques to use as jumping off points to take and create one of a kind embroidery art pieces. I really want to see people dive in and discover their own creativity!
Which are your favorite embroidery stitches and how do you use them?
I love using a variety of stitches from simple to complex. I think it really adds interest and texture to embroidery. But my favorite stitch is the Split Stitch because it’s so quick, easy and versatile. It’s my favorite stitch to do to relax and not think too much about. I recently did an entire sampler design with just the Split Stitch.
What is your favorite technique for transferring your embroidery designs to fabric?
I often just use a pencil and a light table to trace designs onto fabric, but for more complex images, I love printable adhesive fabric stabilizers. You can print the design right onto it, stick it to your fabric, stitch through the stabilizer and fabric, and then rinse away the stabilizer when you’re done.
What advice would you have for beginner stitchers?
Just try it! Hand embroidery is one of the easiest crafts to learn and there aren’t a lot of rules. Don’t stress, give yourself room to play, explore and find your own favorite stitches and techniques.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
My bedroom is also my studio, office, shipping, packing and crafting space. Even though it’s very utilitarian and has to hold all of my business supplies, I do have lots of art that I love on the walls and shelves for all of my favorite collections: toys, rocks and crystals, handmade dolls, and lots of things that just make me feel happy and cozy. I do my best work in the evening after my kids are in bed, so I also have twinkle lights and a star projector!
What is your favorite storage tip for your creative supplies?
I don’t have really fancy storage, just shelves and boxes, but I have become really good at organization so that I can find everything I need easily and quickly. Anything that helps you do that is worth having!
What are your must-have supplies for your embroidery projects?
I like keeping my embroidery tools and supplies simple and easy to find so that my customers don’t have any trouble finding them for themselves, like wooden/bamboo hoops and DMC floss. I do have some fancy scissors that I love though; they are rainbow unicorn sewing scissors.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?
I have kept a sketchbook since high school. It’s the best way for me to keep all of my ideas in one place. Almost everything I design starts with a sketch. It’s also fun and sometimes inspiring to go back through old ideas when I’m stuck for new ones.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
I’m a big music lover. I have eclectic tastes but I typically listen to low key music while I’m working. Lately I’m loving Sufjan Stevens, First Aid Kit, Suzanne Vega, The Lumineers, Fleet Foxes, Leonard Cohen. I also love the Beatles, America, Fleetwood Mac, Cat Stevens and David Bowie. Silence is also quite appealing sometimes, too. My house is pretty rowdy during the day, especially with my kids at home doing virtual school!
How many projects do you have going at once? Or do you focus on one creative project at a time?
I always work on several things at once, from thinking about or researching ideas for future designs, working on digital artwork to print on fabric for samplers and stitching in between whenever I have a few minutes to sit still!
Do you think that creativity is part of human nature or is it something that must be nurtured and learned?
Both! I think it’s absolutely part of human nature. Kids are SO creative in everything they do, and it’s sad that people tend to lose that type of thinking as they get older. That doesn’t mean it’s not there! I think everyone has creativity inside. It can be expressed in a million different ways but it’s important to put it to good use. Time spent nurturing creativity is never wasted.
How can people overcome the challenges they feel to their creative ability?
Give yourself space, don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn and practice as much as you can! When you feel frustrated, try a different creative outlet for a while and come back. Always have fun!
Tell us about your blog and website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My blog is at littledeartracks.blogspot.com and my website is at little- dear.com (I’m actually planning on combining them this year!) I have lots of hand embroidery and felt sewing tutorials as well as fun craft projects to explore. I hope people will use them to become more familiar with the crafts I do, then try them for themselves.
Catching Up with Aimee
What have you been working on since we last visited with you?
I am constantly working on new embroidery samplers and felt patterns for my Patreon subscribers (Patreon.com/littledear) I really enjoy creating new designs each month. I’ve also just finished another book of iron on transfers that will be out in February, Embroidered Mythical Creatures! I loved drawing these designs; fantasy has always been my favorite subject and I can’t wait to share this book.
What has been your best-selling design during the past year or so? Why do you think it has such a strong appeal?
My best selling design has been my rainbow colored Stitch Sampler with all the stitches labeled. It also comes in a kit with all supplies needed to complete it. I think it appeals to beginners in particular. It is a fun way to learn embroidery and also gives you a handy stitch reference when you’re done.
How do you keep track of all the ideas you have spinning in your head? How do you keep all of the balls in the air?
I’m a big list-maker, I sketch and write everything down, things I need to do and things I want to do. Eventually I’ll get to it all!
Are your kids interested in creating with their hands? How old are they now, and what are some of their favorite projects?
My kids are 9 and 6, and they are super creative and always drawing. So far they’re not into sewing too much (unless they’re designing something for me to sew for them!) But they love coloring, painting, working with clay and making holiday decorations.
Interview with Aimee Ray posted January 2021, updated October 2021
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