Interview: Sarah Etheridge

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Sarah Etheridge is a designer and artist. Sarah runs her own business called Stitch and Press. I was lucky enough to interview Sarah about her sewing, designs and shop. 

Hello! Thank you so much for letting me interview you. How are you?

Hi Rhiannon! I’m well thanks, getting back in the swing of things now that half term is over and we’re back to the usual routine of things.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

in terms of a creative background? My Dad is an artist and made time all the way through my childhood to paint and draw and encourage his kids to do the same. We always had a drawing table set up with paper and pens ready to go and he made space in the cellar of our house for painting and making mess. I felt at ease with drawing and painting because of all this so carried on through school and university to study art and painting. At University I had a housemate with a sewing machine and she showed me the basics. I asked for a sewing machine for my 21st Birthday and it is still the best present I’ve ever had!

I adore your business. What made you decide to set up Stitch and Press?

With a sewing machine in my hands I started trying out lots of little projects for friends and family - all sorts of things like clothes, bags, quilts, toys, baby things - I just thought I’d give everything a go, but over time I found I fell in to a groove of making baby clothes - especially after my own little ones arrive (I have a daughter who is 6 and a 1 year old little boy). 

Why did you call your shop Stitch and Press?

Originally, my husband and I had planned to set up a shop together. He’s a graphic designer and was working on a lot of letterpress stuff - and I was sewing things so ‘Stitch and Press’ made sense - but his graphic design business is going like the clappers and he hasn’t had much time to pursue more letterpress work - so Stitch and Press is just me. But these days it’s a good reminder that everything I make needs a little ‘press’ at the end with the iron to make it nice and crisp. I used to be a bit more slapdash so it’s a good reminder to take things slowly and do the job well. Stitch, Press  and repeat!

How has your creative process changed since the start? 

I’m more organised and less rushed than when I started. I used to be so eager for the finished product that I would rush through, make mistakes, pick them apart and waste loads of time sorting out all my issues! These days things are a bit more considered. 

How did you manage to learn and hone your craft?

When I started sewing it was way before Pinterest but there was still this amazing Crafting Community online - I remember searching for photos of quilts on Flickr and clicking on a link to someone’s ‘blog’ which was a term I was pretty new to. I couldn’t believe that people were posting advice and tutorials online for FREE! I started reading all these amazing craft blogs and watching videos on YouTube and it was just so inspiring that all these creative people were sharing their work and wanting to be so open about their processes and tools. 

Have you always been into sewing and design?

I was always intrigued by my mum sewing and I did art at school and loved it - but combining the two was a fairly recent discovery

If there were no resource restraints, what would be your dream project?

wow! great question! I really love what I’m doing right now - perhaps my dream project might be redecorating my whole house and creating all my own fabrics and wallpapers to do it with!

What equipment do you use for your work?

There are usually lots of scraps of paper all over the place with my first initial thoughts about a design, then I work it out on a computer. The designs get sent to a company called Spoonflower who print small runs of fabric and wallpaper - so I get all my designs printed on 100% Organic Jersey. These are shipped back to me and then I use a regular sewing machine and an Overlocker machine to make up the kids clothing and accessories.

What tools or materials could you not live without? 

My computer and my sewing machine. And a decent pair of fabric scissors.

Why has social media been an important platform for you to use?

I love the way people can connect and share - especially on Instagram. My personal experience is of a lovely, sharing community that’s quick to cheer others on. We need more of that!

Who inspires your work?

I follow hundreds of people on Instagram, all for different reasons. I’m inspired most by people being brave and doing something different - speaking and acting from the heart and making a difference.

Do you have any favourite pieces of work that you adore at the moment from your shop? 

I love the quilts. They’re a bit of a labour of love as they take a while and my day to day sewing is usually the kids clothing but every so often I get a quilt order in and that’s really fun.

What do we hope to see in this up and coming year for your Instagram and your work?

There’ll be a few more fabric designs and some new styles of clothing - perhaps some newborn baby sets or something like that.. we’ll see!

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on unpacking all my boxes of gear from the Christmas Makers Market and then I need to photograph and list all the stock I’ve got left - and hope for a sunny day to do it!

What’s your typical working day?

I usually work between school runs and during nap times so it chops and changes. I work 16 hours a week for my church where I do the kids work and communications, so a lot of my spare time is on that. My Stitch + Press work usually ends up happening in the evenings when the little people are in bed. 

What’s been the biggest struggle in getting your business off the ground?

I think the biggest struggle is self doubt and confidence. Social media is great but you can very easily feel like there are dozens of people doing what you do and doing it far better. Sometimes it’s better to just figure out what you love and try not to look at what other people are doing. Comparison is the thief of joy so they say.

Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

Tidying my studio space would be a win. 

What are your career plans with your online shop? 

I’m happy to just keep pottering along to be honest. 

Do you have any advice for anyone doing craft fairs? 

Craft fairs are a great way to connect with other makers. Make sure to take time to chat with other stand holders and with the organisers - if that means bringing a buddy with you to the fair then do that. Also, don’t expect to sell lots and lots. If you do then that’s great but being visible and getting your brand/business out there and meeting people is just as important. There’s tons of good tips for craft fairs online - Pinterest and Etsy are both great sources of info. Do your research and learn from others.

What advice would you give to people looking to define their own style?

I found it really helpful to create a few Pinterest boards and use them for collecting inspiring images that I felt I connected with. I keep my boards private but they’re in categories like ‘Instagram inspo’ ‘photography ideas’ ‘brand and logos I like’ - after a while of collecting images, you get to see a pattern and style emerging. If you’re really not sure what your style is then this is a fairly good point to start from. Also, look back over things you’ve done in the past - ask friends to help you and ask them if they think you have a ‘style’.

Do you have any advice for anyone starting their own online shop?

Go for it! I faffed around for ages waiting to get the right photos or the right brand - which is all well and good, but if you’re a procrastinator like I am, you can end up doing nothing. Something is always better than nothing, even if it’s not perfect. 

What’s next for Stitch and Press?

A bit of a break over Christmas and then hopefully a few more ideas and designs for 2018

What's the best piece of creative advice you've ever been given?

I mentioned it above but honestly, Comparison really is the thief of joy. Only compare yourself to yourself and what you know you can achieve and stop looking at what other people are doing - or what you perceive them to be doing. 

You can follow Sarah on her Instagram '@stitchpressuk' and her shop 'www.stitchandpress.co.uk'. Sarah has some great stock at the moment, so please take a look at her shop. 

Rhiannon BrittenComment