Spotlight: Shirley Hudson, Designer

Hoop art embroidery

Spotlight: Shirley Hudson, Designer

While her first embroidery project at age 10 presented challenges, Shirley Hudson is glad she persisted. She has made a career out of stitch, and her work designing patterns doesn’t feel like work at all – she gets to play with thread every day and wouldn’t change a thing!

Shirley Hudson portrait

Why embroidery? How did you get started?

I love embroidery; it is so relaxing and very much like coloring with stitches. Embroidery projects can be made quickly and make great gifts. My very first embroidery project was a kit when I was about 10 and it was a sweet kitty. It was a disaster. My muslin got dirty and wrinkly, the stitches were crazy and the back looked like a horrible scar. I threw it in my treasure chest, never to be seen again. Many, many years later I tried again and I was hooked.

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What inspires you? Are there recurring themes in your work?

Holidays definitely inspire me. I love the feeling of celebrating a holiday. When we were children, looking forward to the next one was really special and helped us get through any tough time.

I like to decorate for each holiday, pulling out hand made projects, placing them around the house and getting to feel the spirit of this time of year.

Below are some designs from my 400-plus pattern line.

Embroidery patterns in Shirley's book

What do you do differently? What is your signature that makes your work stand out as yours?

My drawings and artwork make my designs different. I love drawing little girls, holiday themes, cute cheerful creatures and most have a vintage feel. I also like to make things simple, with simple supplies that you can find anywhere.

Halloween witch sketch
Lovely Little Hand Embroidery book cover

What is the most important takeaway you want readers to gain from your books and patterns, especially your new title, Lovely Little Hand Embroidery?

I want evoke happiness: cheerful sweet projects to make a home where you want to be. I also want readers to be able to make the projects easily and be happy with their results. Also my projects do not take a long time. Time is so precious.

Below are just some of the 30 projects that are in my book!

Patterns designed by Shirley

When you begin to create, do you visualize the finished piece? Or does the work evolve?

When I sew, I have ideas and I know basically how it will look. I have ideas in my dreams, so I sketch sometimes when I wake up. When I paint, anything can happen….lol.

Do you have a dedicated space for creating? If so, what does it look like?

Next to my house is a big studio which I share with my daughter who also has a handmade business. The studio used to be a paint and body shop! The front end is the fun creating area. The back end is pure storage. There are areas in my studio for sewing, paper projects, laser cutting, photography with props, my library of books and lots of supplies. I embroider in my living room though, while watching TV or movies.

Shirley's studio

What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?

I have lots of hoops and fabric. Two of my favorite tools for embroidery are a disappearing marker and a light box for tracing designs. 

What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade? Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?

I have taken a door and turned it into a sewing table, which worked out well. I took a baker’s rack for the kitchen and made it into great storage for my fabric.  

Do you use a sketchbook or journal? How does that help your work develop?

I have many sketchbooks – all over the house. I often refer to them when creating a new design. Then I redraw everything on the computer and enlarge or decrease as needed.

What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?

I love to play renaissance music, 80’s music, Ink Spots, Josephine Baker – holiday music, too. I sometimes watch my favorite movies like La La Land, Midnight in Paris, old Joan Crawford movies….lol.

When you travel, do you stitch on planes and in waiting areas? What is in your creative travel kit?

I am not much of a traveler, but a sketch book is really easy to bring anywhere.

How often do you start a new project? Do you work actively on more than one project at a time?

I am constantly working on several projects at a time, and when one is done I start a new one. I also guide and mentor my daughter for her business.

How has your creativity evolved over the years? What triggered the evolution to new media/kinds of work/ways of working?

My love of learning new things is a big motivator. I love to think of new ways to make something old new again. I generally believe if I would be attracted to it then someone else will be too. Embroidery is a very old craft, and I try to make it more whimsical and fun.

Hoop art embroidery

When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?

I finally learned how to crochet. It is my favorite way to make special blankets for myself and others. I am not a pro, but I am growing.

I also love to paint with watercolors and draw with pastels, mainly for fun!

Sketch of a pilgrim

Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn? 

Both! It seems like my daughter and myself have lots of creativity in us, but we both learn, practice and try. Then we just get better. My husband can draw a stick figure and that’s it, but he has other talents like cooking that make him shine!

What is the biggest challenge to being successful in a creative field?

Not getting distracted. Use time wisely.

Was there a turning point when the business side of your art really took off, or was the process more gradual?

I think it was gradual mainly. Learning more about business, computers with programs like Adobe Illustrator, photography, asking questions, reading, keeping up with current trends and colors, gaining skills over time. At some point it all comes together and then things really change.

An example of growing my business is that I learned how to make repeating surface pattern designs for fabric, like my designs below.

Fabric pattern designs by Shirley
Shirley Hudson Quote

Tell us about your website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?

My blog is like the center of my creative universe; you can find freebies, info about new products, links to distributors, fabric collections, my etsy shops, fun finds, my Instagram, Pinterest boards, and more. 

My website has all my pattern designs that are printed and mailed to you. It is little less distracting, cleaner.

Interview posted March 2020


Browse through more hand embroidery projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.


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