In 2002 after finishing University, Gemma decided to set up her own hand stitched handbag business called To Have And To Hold. “I sold them originally in Manchester then in Lincoln and was a featured artist in a local gallery in Barton called The Ropewalk. It got to a point where real life got in the way and the internet wasn’t as brilliant & accessible as it is now.
“I ended up working in retail and until this year, that was my day job! I’d always continued to craft in my spare time and I’d make things for friends and family, so when I was made redundant it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally make a proper go of it, and turn my hobby into a viable business!”
If you have ever visited It Started With A Stitch’s social media, you may have noticed that all of the products she posts are colourful and unique. We asked Gemma where she gets her inspiration from and she told us that; “I love colour and sparkle and the word ‘neutral’ isn’t naturally in my vocabulary and this tends to be reflected in my work, unless I’m working on a commission of course. I like to stitch words into my work as much as possible and enjoy working text into pieces of embroidery and gifts.”
“I also love that I live by the sea. I’m constantly inspired by the views along the coast and of other places that I visit. I love to photograph the places that I visit and stitching views is something I love to do when I get chance.
“There’s several textile artists who are total inspirations, they include Lucy of Attic 24 who’s use of colour is just beautiful and Marna Lunt who stitches the most amazing portraits and landscapes are my 2 biggest idols (maybe it’s something to do with them both being Northern too?)”
It is clear from speaking to Gemma, as well as reading through her website, that she is passionate about hand embroidery and even calls it her “true love.” We asked why this is her favourite kind of craft and she said; “As I mentioned before I love colour and sparkle so like to use beads and sequins and buttons to embellish my work. The best way to do this is to stitch them by hand and it irritates me to see them glued onto items as they’ll most likely end up falling off.”
“I love to add hand stitched words into my artier pieces and stick to traditional methods of sewing, so if I make a patchwork I’ll hand piece it rather than using a sewing machine.”
As well as selling her handmade items, Gemma also runs workshops in her local Cleethorpes area and will soon be doing these in Lincoln. “Running these workshops is thanks to my friend Rachel who owns The Paint Box Ceramic Cafe in Cleethorpes, I’ve had the opportunity to use her studio space to host evening workshops.”
“So far, we’ve concentrated on pompom making which can be taught to children as young as 4 or 5. It’s quite an instant process and I think that’s why it appeals to all ages as you can produce good amounts of work quite quickly, and kids can make some pretty sophisticated looking items so you feel really good about it!”
If you aren’t an experienced crafter, there’s no need to worry. Gemma’s workshops “cover a variety of skills and techniques and they really are suitable for all levels of experience. If you already have some knowledge of the techniques then you can obviously progress quicker but I’ve seen amazing creations made by people who profess to not be crafty at all!”
Current workshops that are running include embroidery, pompom making and printing. In these classes, you get the chance to make felt hearts of love, Christmas tree decorations, embroidery hoop art, printed tote bags and pompom wreaths, just to name but a few!
When it comes to the future of It Started With A Stitch, there are lots of exciting things on the horizon. Gemma is looking to expand her craft workshops and already has plans to launch a set of ‘One Night Only Workshops’, which will be held at her usual Cleethorpes spot as well as potentially running them in Lincoln in the near future.
“One day I’d love my own shop but part of me thinks that there’s a lot to be said for working from home and currently that suits my home life more! “
Gemma has a 9-year-old son Robbie, who keeps her busy when she isn’t crafting! “Making sure that he gets to swimming, football, dodgeball etc are obviously high on my list of things I have to do!” But when she does get time, she loves to “socialise with friends and family.”
“Recently, I have been getting together with some other mums and we’ve been trying to get out to more varied places to try new crafts. Our latest make was some silver jewellery at the Coastal workshop, again in Cleethorpes. I enjoy a flutter at the races and it’s something that my partner and I enjoy going to watch; the occasional lucky wins help support my Irregular Choice shoe addiction!”
As the interview came to an end, we wanted to ask Gemma one final question about why insurance is so important for crafters. She said; “Previously when I’ve insured my business it’s been a struggle to make someone understand exactly what it is that I do. Crafting covers so many different techniques that it’s hard to blanket everyone with the same title.”
“I tend not to use machinery whereas other crafters will predominantly use them so it’s important that your insurance suits your needs. Finding a provider that tailors your cover to your craft is a breath of fresh air! Someone finally gets it!”
We want to say thanks to Gemma for taking part in our Crafter in the Spotlight. It was great to find out about you and your business! If you would like to find out more about her products or craft workshops, please visit the It Started With A Stitch Facebook page!