Rosanna Diggs is inspired by the adventures with her family creating unique embroidery designs capturing the beauty of nature. Started by participating in a 100 day project, her embroidery designs have evolved into a business selling kits and teaching workshops.
Did you have a “gateway craft” as a kid? Which creative projects led you to the work you do today?
Some of my first memories are of crafting. It was ubiquitous in our family. I grew up in Appalachia and almost everyone worked with their hands. Everyone quilted. Most of them crocheted. One of my great grandmothers did the finest embroidery. One of my grandmothers was a master seamstress.
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But it was my mother who kept me in supply of crafts from an early age — a sewing box full of pretty threads and fabrics at six. And at about 12, she sat me down and taught me embroidery. We worked stamped embroidery, which was very popular in the 90’s. It was a Bucilla or Dimensions table runner kit with roses and leaves made of stamped Xs and lazy daisies. (It still sits somewhere in my pile of UnFinished Objects.)
From there she handed me her thwarted attempt at cross stich and said “maybe you can figure it out”. And boy did I! I cross stitched for a good 20 years. I cross stitched all kinds of little magnets and from that point declared I wanted to have a craft store someday.
I painted through high school, mostly with acrylics. There’s still a mural in our high school I painted my Senior year. People send me photos of it from time to time.
I quilted through college. My scholarship required volunteer hours so I organized quilting bees to make lap quilts for Victoria’s Quilts.
How did you get started designing hand embroidery patterns? Always a designer, or was there a “moment”?
In 2017 I participated in a 100 day project. My goal was to simply work on something creative each day. One of those projects was this huge cross stitch for my mom, which led me to find Indie cross stitch designers on Instagram. That opened a whole rabbit hole.
Pretty soon I was looking at Indie embroidery designs by Hatchling Makes, Lark Rising, and Shelly Sells Lemonade. When I realized I could design literally ANYTHING and stitch whatever I wanted – that was my light bulb moment. I remember that Christmas I drove the kids to visit my mom and on the way took photos of some Joshua Trees. While at mom’s I stitched one of the trees and then photographed it on the drive back through.
Spring of 2018 I decided to participate in my second round of the 100 Day Project. For 100 days, I embroidered, mostly florals- we lived in California at the time and there were always flowers to photograph when we went for a run. Most days I tried to finish an entire piece but some got so involved I counted them for multiple days. By the end I think I had about 75 pieces stitched.
Pretty soon I was doing markets. It didn’t take me long to see that a) finished embroidery wasn’t a scalable business model for me and b) folks were more interested in doing it than buying it – and I couldn’t blame them. So with my history teaching degree and fiber arts experience, I began thinking about writing patterns. I released my first one in January 2019, and by May 2019, we debuted our kits at a Mother’s Day market at Needles Studio in Palo Alto. Erika, the owner, is an incredible woman who encouraged me. She became my first wholesale stockist.
What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
The majority of our embroidery designs are based on real family adventures and photos that I’ve taken. I think there’s so many good memories behind the inspiration that a lot of love makes it into our finished designs.
Also, our packaging sets us apart. There’s no waste. We strive to be as eco friendly and sensible as we can with our product line, packaging them in reusable muslin bags and printing on 100% recycled paper.
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
If I’m feeling fancy, I refer to it as “the studio” but really it’s a bedroom. We’ve been very blessed to have the ability to keep our business at home and not have to invest in additional space. That being said, it’s very full and messy just now. While I’d like to say it’s full of rainbows of inspiring colors, when you look at the whole it’s mostly boxes! Of course this bothers me so I recently created an “Inspiration Station” which contains various crafting supplies and art that bring me joy.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
If I’m feeling super productive, I listen to the podcast or coaching calls for the product based business group I’m in. If I’m a little stressy and need something different, it’s usually Pandora, with a rotation of Alabama Shakes, Tyler Childers, Southern Gospel, and Audioslave.
Can you share a bit of your process of bringing a new idea from glimmer to reality? / Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
It starts with an adventure. I’ll take lots of photos as we explore. Then when I’m ready to design I’ll trace that photo to create guidelines The guidelines then get traced onto fabric.
My favorite part of the whole process is taking my thread bins to the sunniest part of the house and comparing colors to find just the right ones to match the photo. And then I stitch.
Every piece gets stitched 3 times, and some as much as 8, until I get it just the way I want it. It’s one thing to stitch a landscape. It’s another thing to stitch a landscape in such a way that a beginner can recreate it. That’s the challenge, and because it can be draining, I might sit a piece down for a year before picking it up again. I always want good energy going into my work- it’s worth the wait.
Once I have the design just how I want it, I stitch, photograph, film, and write for a step by step tutorial. Then I take a few uninterrupted hours to write up the pattern. All the assets then go to my VA who works her magic and returns a beautiful, ready to print booklet. Once all the supplies are ordered and arrived, my husband and I do the production. We assemble our embroidery kits 12 at a time in our studio.
How have your work and designs evolved? How is it the same?
On the design side, I haven’t veered from simple realism and my focus on nature. I might make imaginary imagery in the future – I certainly have ideas along those lines. For now I keep coming back to what I love most – being outdoors with incredible views, adventuring with my family.
As a business, I feel like we’ve evolved tremendously – and will continue to do so. We went from finished pieces to patterns and kits, dabbled in cards awhile, and offered custom house portraits for a long time. They were amazingly fun but something had to give.
That’s the beauty of a creative business. We can shape it into whatever we need it to be at the time. We’ve grown from primarily retail to having over 160 stockists across North America.
How do you make time for creating? Do you try to create daily? How do you balance your personal life, work and creative endeavors?
I have really struggled with creative block the past year. We were incredibly busy through the pandemic, and then we had a farm for a bit (that’s a lengthy tale), then I traveled for shows for the better part of a year. The burnout was real, and my mental health took a hit. I just now feel like I’m taking my foot off the gas.
My word for the year is Balance. I’m looking forward to spending days outside with the kids, allowing myself to be bored and relaxed, to soak up the sun and play by the water. That always gets my creativity flowing.
Also, this year I am participating in my third 100 day project but changing the rules to suit me. I plan to work on 100 projects throughout the year. Ideally, I’ll finish most of them (I’d like to not add 100 UFOs to the pile). My main project is a hexie quilt which won’t be finished this year.
Each Sunday my kids tell me what to stitch to represent the previous week. The process is definitely helping me lighten up about creating. I’m reminding myself to just do it. Stitches are easy to fix if you don’t like them.
I will also say the folks I’ve interfaced with at shows these past several months have also been so inspiring. I have so many ideas I want to implement. I’d love to hand the business over to someone else and just stitch the months away for awhile. There’s at least thirty designs I’d love to release RIGHT NOW if I had the time. Each one takes me 30-60 hours to develop, so choosing can be difficult.
What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as compared to people who are not creative?
I think everyone is creative. I just don’t think every adult remembers they are.
Every single child I speak to knows they are an artist. No one has told them no. No one has told them the rules. I think adults need to hear they have permission to do it ugly. To not post it to Instagram. To not monetize it. To put the paint on the paper just to see what it does. To mix colors until you get brown, so you can see what happens along the way. Enjoy the journey without caring about the end product.
Tell us about your blog and/or website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Our website got a major overhaul last year. My VA did a phenomenal job and we are delighted with the result. Our goal with it is to develop a community hub for folks interested in our embroidery. You can learn to stitch, find out about events, read the inspiration behind our designs, learn how to wholesale with us, and more. Above all, I hope that people get inspired to stitch their next adventure. After all, that is our tag line!
Do you lecture or teach workshops? How can students/organizers get in touch with you to schedule an event?
I love teaching others how to stitch! I do a mix of virtual and in person events. You can find a list of my upcoming workshops on this page. We are working on our video tutorial library right now, too. We absolutely love connecting with our community so don’t hesitate to drop us an email.
Interview posted April 2023
Browse through more hand embroidery inspiration and projects on Create Whimsy.