A slightly less cool way of nailing your life long ambition

This week, Paula Perrins of Wychbury Designs takes over the blog to tell us about her textiles business and her passion for stitching.

When I was young I desperately wanted to be like the fashion designer Jean Muir, with red hair, black clothes and designing things for a living, I suppose I sort of nailed it in a much less cool way! I started making things to actually sell when I had my first child in 2004 and decided not to go back to my call centre job. I love to sew but have gradually grown apart from my sewing machine in favour of hand stitch over the years.

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I started my business like many of us, to fit in around my children. I had previously worked in a jewellery factory (literally a factory, nothing creative here!) and in the pattern rooms of a couple of fabric converting companies which I loved. As this work dried up in our region, I’d fallen into working in the collections department in the call centre of a well known utilities company which I decided not to return to after giving birth to my first child in 2004. I got the opportunity to work in collaboration with my close friend and that’s where it all started.

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I am always learning. I mainly teach myself new techniques with books and the internet but have had some wonderful teachers and mentors over the years. I studied a course in Creative Textile Techniques in Saltaire in the two years between my children being born and love to attend workshops and courses when I can. I am also a new member of the Airedale Branch of the Embroider’s Guild where the members are an endless resource of knowledge and skill to learn from.

I have a workspace in the loft of my very small house in Bingley which is accessible only by a ladder. There is very little head room and I’m nearly 5’9″ so its not ideal. It’s freezing in the winter and I tend to work elsewhere in the house where it’s warmer, gradually spreading like a virus until Spring or until we run out of space, whichever comes first. Although where I live is beautiful, I dream about being somewhere warmer pretty much all of the time. I have a wonderful friend who is an artist and designer, living on Kefalonia in Greece where I got married, and I pretty much want to be her. Jealousy is an ugly word but I may be a little guilty of it sometimes if I’m honest.

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My work is all centred around my obsessive love of sewing. I make pincushions, other sewing accessories, jewellery and art work. I stitch by hand and incorporate patchwork and embroidery techniques into many of my pieces. I try to make my work express a feeling of nostalgia for a time before technology in my work, which is how I feel about making it. I use recycled and vintage fabrics as much as possible as well as collected haberdashery and try to incorporate them into my jewellery as well as my stitched work. My branding reflects my love of old things too, with lots of tea staining and hand stamped print.

I absolutely love to work with well washed, recycled fabrics with a bit of a tale to tell. I no longer buy fabric new and most of my materials are left over from other stitchers projects. English paper piecing in miniature is by far my favourite method of using up the tiny scraps of fabric.

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I like making my sewing accessories best because I know they are being bought by people who are as crazy about sewing as I am. I listen to the ladies at the Embroiderer’s Guild talk about the things they love about their sewing, favourite materials, stitches etc and try to work those ideas into my pieces.

Organised and tidy are just words that apply to other people and I struggle endlessly with balancing work and home in terms of both time and space. However, I love the flexibility of being my own boss even if it’s daunting sometimes. I love being able to work in front of my own fire or out in the garden in the Summer. Taking advantage of a sunny day to explore something new is an opportunity I’m always eager to seize! If I stall on a project and need to clear my head, I can get my boots on and go out for an hour with my whippet, Ginny any time I like.

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I really feel that after all of these years I am at a happy place with the work that I’m producing at the moment. I am pleased with the balance of production and creativity that I’ve got going on right now and I feel that the extra curricular stuff I’m doing with the Embroiderers Guild is really feeding my work and driving it forward. I love that I no longer buy fabric and keep all of my outgoings on materials to the bare minimum. Using recycled and donated materials as much as possible is both inspiring and satisfying.

Wychbury Designs will be at Design@HEART on Saturday 9th June at Headingley HEART 10am-4pm.

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