DEAR EMMAby Niamh McCooey
When did you first discover textiles?
I started off studying Product Designs & Engineering at university, and then moved into finance to earn some cash, travel and to get onto the housing ladder. I spent many years not being particularly creative but admiring those who seemed to scratch a living from making. Having had my second child, I was desperate not to go back to the finance sector, so over a year, I re-taught myself to draw, sew and design textiles. I now have a busy website, teach workshops, exhibit at events throughout the year and take on commission work which is a great way to stay creatively motivated. My daughter’s first day at primary school was in essence the first day of my new business, and that was 12 years ago. Since then my business has grown very organically. My mindset was always: family first, making second.
Who influences you?
There are so many people who I admire creatively, and not only in the textile sector. I love the traditional hand-stitching involved in mending an item and I recently visited The Foundling Museum in London which exhibits tiny, personalised pieces of fabric from the 1700s. I love Dionne Swift and Cabbages & Nettles – the way these ladies use their sewing machines is magical. I also love Janet Browne and Marna Lunt’s work which stunning. I also love illustration, print makers and ceramists. I also have a special interest in vintage botanical illustration.
How do you work?
I use tiny scraps of old and new fabrics to create a design and use free-motion machine embroidery to draw on the detail. There is a huge amount of snipping and positioning each piece before I can even start to stitch.
How do you source your materials?
Like many makers, I’m always on the look out for fabric, interesting threads and haberdashery. I pick fabric up from flea markets, car boot sales (abroad also) and charity shops. I tend to buy the bulk of my base fabrics from my favourite local shops.
What are you bringing to show at the Selvedge Fair?
I’ll be bringing my personal favourites; wren, blackberry and long-tailed tits with hawthorne blossom lampshades. I’ll also try to bring my botanical range which includes meadow and Spring flowers. My blue tit tea-cosies are featured in this October’s edition of Country Living magazine so I will try and make some of those also. Of course I will also bring a selection of my smaller items, from cowslip lavender bags to wren glasses cases… I have a lot of sewing to do!
To find about more about the Selvedge Fair in Pendle and to book your tickets, click here.