Think embroidery’s something only grandma gets a kick out of? Then you haven’t met Jenny Hart, stitching’s savvy sweetheart. The Austin, Texas-based artist and owner of Sublime Stitching brings a modern, innovative touch to the ancient craft with her witty patterns, which range from ‘Meaty Treats’ to ‘Sexy Librarians’ to ‘Forest Friends.’ Read on to learn more about how she got started, download the ModCloth-exclusive pattern she created just for us, and check out her namesake dress! One look at her darling designs – and we swear, you’ll be hooked!
What made you decide to start your own business, Sublime Stitching?
I wanted to create the kind of embroidery company I wished existed. Learning how to embroider was a huge stumbling block – I felt most instructions were overly difficult, stuffy, and hard to decipher. The patterns for embroidery had become really out-of-date and not at all aimed at a new generation. You couldn’t get anything outside of bunnies, teddy bears, and barnyard animals.
So, I designed the kind of patterns I would want to stitch myself. I also started pre-assembling starter kits and bringing it all together the same way it came together for me. Sublime Stitching represents how I learned to embroider, the tools I use, and the things I like.
How did you get into embroidery in the first place?
I had the idea to experiment with it for my artwork. I wanted to create embroidery images I had never seen before: portraits, nudes, rock stars, pin-ups. Once I did, I became addicted with my first stitches. [Embroidery] was a new discovery for me, and I was so excited about it, I wanted to get other people excited about it, too.
Where do you get the inspiration for your patterns?
Once I released the first series of Sublime Stitching patterns, the response was so enormous, people started writing in with what they’d like to see me do next. This kind of relationship with my stitchers has always been important to me, and I really have fun with it. I’ve always loved to draw, but mixing it with embroidery really changes how I approach it. The embroidery itself can inspire the design, so it’s not always just a drawing, but pattern intended for stitching. So, a particular type of stitch might inspire a design.
Hart sketching embroidery patterns in her studio space.
I also love comic books and wanted to mix comic art and popular fine illustration into craft, so I began collaborating with artists I admire, whose work I wanted to see translated into embroidery and offer their work as patterns for stitchers to work with. I introduced an “Artist Series” of embroidery patterns and have collaborated with artists like Lisa Petrucci, Jim Woodring, Julie West, Michael Sieben, and other artists whose work you might never see as embroidery patterns.
Do you have any advice for ladies who want to make craft their living – any tips for success?
I do! I have a series of columns called “Crafting a Business” that I wrote for Venus. But something I heard the other day, which really resonated with me was, “It’s easy to see an opportunity, but to seize an opportunity takes incredible amounts of hard work.”
You are a member of the Craft Mafia. How has working with a group of fellow craft-loving ladies helped – or hindered – your development as an artist and entrepreneur?
When we started the Austin Craft Mafia, we were overwhelmed by the interest people showed in starting Craft Mafias of their own. That’s why we launched the Craft Mafia network. For me, seeking out other like-minded entrepreneurs was a huge source of help and inspiration. Because it was so beneficial for us to work together in that way, we formed the Austin Craft Mafia. So, I can’t say it was a hindrance at all – it was an explosion of support! The purpose of our group was to provide mutual support in the form of conversation, enthusiasm, organizing, cross-promotion and resource-sharing. It worked!
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Video-store clerk, around 1989. I lasted barely two weeks. But I have shrink-wrapping experience because of it!