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It starts with a thread. Meet Steph, our October Fibre Artist Feature

I love hearing how days of forced isolation created something so beautiful. In what were some of our darkest days as a Country it is nice to see that for many there was a silver lining through new found loves and skills.

Steph from Wattle and Mae is another of those stories and our latest fibre artist feature, who found herself falling into the rabbit hole that fibre so easily opens, and with it has produced some of the sweetest things with a beautiful floral and nature inspired theme. Come follow Stephs journey into embroidery and weaving.

Artist holding woven wall hanging

Tell us in a few sentences a little bit about yourself:

First and foremost, I am Mama to Amos (4) and Elsie (2) and wife to Daniel. Secondly, I am a senior high school English and Literature teacher. Thirdly, with all of my spare time, I am a hobby fibre artist, focusing on weaving and embroidery. We live, work and play in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne.

Please share one random/ interesting fact about you.

Aside from weaving, embroidery, and other tangentially-related crafty things, my hobbies include reading detective fiction, playing mystery and fantasy PC games, and yoga. I am also a foodie, coffee-addict and wine-snob. I like to think I don’t quite fit any of the usual stereotypes!

Which fibre art/s has sent you down the rabbit hole?

Embroidery resparked my love for arts and crafts hobbies, but it is definitely weaving that has sent me down the rabbit-hole with all different fibres, techniques, and styles, and the ever-growing collection of yarn!

How long have you been creating?

I’ve always been creative and have been creating in one way or another since I was tiny, but I learned embroidery in June 2021, and started weaving in December that same year.

How/Why did you get into it? What motivates you to create now?

During the Melbourne lock downs in 2020, when everyone else was making sourdough, I ordered a couple of cross-stitch kits online and tried my hand at them. I enjoyed it, but the constant counting and checking the pattern made it hard to relax into it, and I never got past those first kits.

Then during the 2021 lock downs, and pregnant with baby number 2, I found a free, online embroidery workshop run by Julie at Clever Poppy. I fell in love with embroidery; it was everything I’d enjoyed about cross-stitch, minus counting squares and rigid patterns, and I found a natural knack for it. I was lucky enough to be gifted access to her membership later that year, and loved learning more advanced techniques and creating her gorgeous patterns.

A few months later, I ordered Julie’s weaving beginners kit because I just loved the look of the squishy roving and chunky, textured wall hangings. Julie’s tutorials were, as usual, so helpful, and I fell in love with weaving, too.

Creating (embroidery, weaving, playing with watercolours, starting to dabble in spinning and felting) is my ‘me-time’. Both of my jobs (mama and teacher) are so outward focused, but creating allows me to turn inwards, giving me a chance to relax and exercise my creativity.

My first embroidery and my first weave

What are your future fibre goals?

At the moment I am focused on honing my skills and learning new techniques, but I have a tentative goal of selling some pieces before the end of this year, maybe just in time for Christmas! I am also planning to experiment with felting and spinning.

Who do you make your pieces for?

I started out making pieces for our home and family, particularly as I learnt embroidery while pregnant with my daughter, and some of my first ever pieces now hang in her room. I love creating pieces as gifts for friends and family, and still have a soft-spot for making clothes or wall art for new babies.

What is your most challenging piece to date? Pics would be amazing.

This pastel rainbow piece was a huge challenge. It started out as an experiment and opportunity to play - I literally laid all of my yarn and fibre out on the kitchen table, and challenged myself to try materials, colours, techniques and skills that were out of my comfort zone. I also ambitiously (stupidly?) made it my biggest weave yet. It took a long time, because my inner creative and inner perfectionist constantly battled, and my goal of experimenting and playing was challenged by a subconscious preconception about how it should look. I’ve still never been 100% happy with it, but I have learnt to love it as an essential step in my creative process and skill development.

Rainbow woven wall hanging

On the embroidery side, this custom landscape was a classic case of biting off more than I could chew. I underestimated how much floss it would consume, how long it would take, and how bored I would get covering huge spaces with the same stitches. I unpicked a lot of sections as I changed my mind about colours and stitches, but I (and the recipients) love the finished piece!

Landscape embroidery

How have you learnt your craft - self-taught, workshops, books, online tutorials?

I started out with online workshops by Julie at Clever Poppy, and then her online tutorials in The Makers Academy to develop both my embroidery and weaving skills. I have supplemented those with beautiful books and videos by so many talented makers, and plenty of trial and error!

Do you have a favourite book or tutorial you would recommend?

For beginners, I would highly recommend Julie’s (Clever Poppy) Beginner Weaving Course and/or Beginner Embroidery Course, or one of her free online workshops.

I have also loved Rainie Owen’s (LupyLane) book The Woven Home for projects, inspiration and new techniques.

Is there a fibre artist that inspires you the most?

There are so many! I am always blown away by the scale of Maryanne Moodie’s work. I love Rainie Owen’s (LupyLane) quiet and humble approach to her business and social media, and her gorgeous art yarns make me want to try spinning. Special mentions to @hemmmade and @megembroiders for their mind-blowing creativity and ingenuity. I could go on and on, there are so many incredible fibre artists!

What would you say to someone who is thinking about getting into the craft but isn’t sure?

Firstly, buy a kit from a reputable artist. Kits come with everything you need, artists select high quality materials that they have tested themselves, and their instructions and tutorials will be clear and easy to follow. I gave up on my first ever embroidery because I bought a cheap kit online which had terrible materials and instructions, making it much harder than it should have been.

Then, give it a go! Expect to make mistakes, be prepared to undo sections and try again, and remember that any craft is a skill that takes time to learn and master; you wouldn’t expect a brand new driver to execute a perfect parallel park during their first lesson!

What is your favourite knot/technique to do? Why

It changes all the time! I do always love the methodical rhythm of twining, and it’s so satisfying when it creates the perfect little braided effect.

Neutrals or colour?

Muted colours. I love neutrals, and I’m not drawn to overly bright colours, but woodsy greens, burnt oranges, teals or navy blues - those are my jam.

Are you drawn to pattern or texture?

Definitely texture!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Most of my inspiration is from nature. I have always had a keen interest in flowers (Australian natives even inspired my brand name!), and I love being out in nature - in the hills, mountains, forests, and especially the Aussie bush. You might notice a connection between this and my colour preferences!

This piece was inspired by a stay at my in-laws’ farm in the beautiful King Valley:

What is your favourite VADA BLUE fibre to use and why?

I have loved being part of the BeWeave subscription, receiving a mystery combination of materials each month. I’ve been exposed to so many beautiful fibres and colours I’ve never worked with before.

Having said that, I am a sucker for soft, squishy merino roving, and the Vada Blue rovings I’ve used are excellent quality!

Where can you find your work? Ie: online, markets, website, shop?

I have a few pieces almost ready to list for sale, so depending on when you’re reading this you may be able to find them on Instagram or Etsy…

If you have a social media account – let us know.

@wattleandmae on Instagram


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