Is there a person, place or thing that can’t inspire a cross stitch design? Cross stitch designer and artist Sally Wilson hasn’t found one. Whatever your interest and ability level, Sally can probably find a cross stitch project for you along with clear instructions and lots of video support to get you started or perfect your technique. Her fresh, modern colors and her sense of fun inspire smiles. As beautiful as your grandmother’s dining room chair cushions are, they can’t match the happy factor of Sally’s cross stitch designs.
How did you get started designing cross stitch patterns? Always an artist, or was there a “moment”?
I’ve always loved arts and crafts, sewing, drawing and painting from a young age. I first tried cross stitch when I was around 8 years old. I picked it back up again when I was around 13, designing and stitching 3 poems for my sisters. Later I studied law and became a solicitor. But after a few years I left law for good and returned to my creative roots! I started Caterpillar Cross Stitch in 2015 and it’s been the most fulfilling rollercoaster ever since!
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What inspires you to create? Is there an overarching theme that connects all of your work?
I love colour! The way shades work together and a slight change in brightness or intensity can completely alter a design.
Cross stitch is completely different from any other medium. You’re not only considering the design, but the backing fabric, the pixels, the curves and how you can fit detail into a gridded formation! I find myself drawn to the tiny details in flowers, animals and architecture. I also love creating a piece with a message behind it like the Planet B design.
What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your new book, Jump Into Cross Stitch: For Beginners; 6 Happy Projects; From First Stitch to Finishing?
I’d love for readers of the book to learn a new hobby and discover the satisfaction, joy, and peace that cross stitch can bring. These 6 fun and modern designs are perfect for complete beginners and will help readers be creative, relax and join our stitching family! There’s something for everyone – nature lovers, musicians and those dreaming of outer space!
What is the biggest challenge that beginner cross stitchers face?
I think sometimes it can feel intimidating, what with this unusual terminology and it can look complicated. In reality, it’s the complete opposite! We have a really helpful blog post on our website about acronyms and terms you might see, as well as over 100 video tutorials. We stitch with a blunt needle, cotton thread and on gridded fabric. If you can create a cross, you’ve got this! The patterns are super simple to follow and there’s a ton of support available in our 14,000 strong Facebook group so there’s always someone there to hold your hand and answer any questions.
What do you look for when you evaluate a pattern?
I think for me, a great cross stitch design isn’t too complicated. It inspires the stitcher to complete it and is a work of art that’s colourful, uplifting and something you’d be proud to display!
Can you share a bit of your process of bringing a new idea from glimmer to reality?
I might start a Pinterest board, sketch book or scrap book filled with inspiration. I think a lot about the seasons and that it takes on average around 2-3 months to complete a larger design so people generally start Christmas stitching in September, and I have to think even farther ahead. Then I go to my rainbow DMC cone wall and hand pick palettes. (I often spend hours changing my mind mixing and matching shades). I draw designs by hand or create them in Photoshop. Our brand new cross stitch design software www.loveitstitchit.com is also really helpful and easy to use!
Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?
In 2021 we moved into new 2,800 square foot offices where we have a warehouse, studio, storage and my office. It is lovely to sit quietly and design from. Our unit is based on a peaceful rural farm in Warwickshire surrounded by fields and sheep!
What is your favorite storage tip for your threads and creative supplies?
As a designer, I keep threads on bobbins and in colour order but as a stitcher, I’d say keep them in number order in bags within a folder or on bobbins in a plastic box. We also sell a set of pastel shade bobbins and rings which are great to get started with!
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Fiskars fabric scissors are a must as they just glide through masses of fabric. We use a custom-built machine to wind our Carlos the caterpillar thread holders that go into every kit we sell. E6000 glue is amazingly strong and used on all of our needle minders.
What plays in the background while you work?
When I’m stitching myself, I generally sit in front of the TV and have some sort of Netflix documentary or cheesy rom com on! When I’m designing, I’ll have Harry Styles, Billie Eilish or Taylor Swift on quietly in the background. We’re also big fans of musicals so the soundtracks often play in the warehouse! I do also love podcasts and listen to Holly Tucker, Steve Chou, Steven Bartlett and How I Built This weekly.
What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?
From the feedback I’ve received, what people notice the most is the colour, the modern designs and the detail. There’s no back stitch in any Caterpillar Cross Stitch design so they’re stress-free and calming. We don’t always go with traditional colour palettes and we avoid full coverage. The designs are straightforward but the perfect mix of interest and detail without being overwhelming. The supplies that come within our kits are also tested thoroughly to ensure we’re only using the best quality there is.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I tend to work well under pressure and often the best ideas come at the last minute! I plan each year out in January but then leave enough room for improvisation in each month! For example, later this week (in July 2022) we are hosting the first ever Cross Stitch Picnic! We have a special cross stitch kit and have invited all of our wonderful community.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I think some people are naturally creative. My eldest sister can make just about anything – costumes for a school play, a large scale oil painting or huge banner for a race. For others, creativity can definitely be taught and learnt if that person finds it fulfilling. Creativity can show up in all sorts of ways, not necessarily drawing or stitching. It can be in the way a business is run, the way a sport is played or the way a presentation is delivered.
If you could interview a creative person (past or present), who would that person be? What is it about that person that intrigues you?
Ooh, great question! I’d love to speak 1:1 with Sara Davies of Crafters Companion (because I’ve followed her for some time and I think she’s an absolute inspiration), Gary Vaynerchuck (for his no-nonsense, direct approach to business and creativity) and Melanie Perkins (who founded Canva because she disrupted an entire industry and made design accessible for all).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Make sure your back is well supported when sitting while stitching, use natural light where possible, try the loop method with threads, don’t cut your thread too long… and always use a needle minder!
Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
Our site is www.caterpillarcrossstitch.com and we are @caterpillarcrossstitch on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. We’d love to have you hop over and take a look! We have a ton of beginner friendly kits, more advanced options, stitch-a-longs and a whole host of essential accessories like our award-winning needle minders available in 30 designs! We have a free eBook of 8 digital patterns to download instantly to get you started on your journey and 10% off your first order when you join the free VIP Stitch Club here.
Interview posted July 2022
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