April 10, 2008

Stitchy Woman

Yay! I'm so excited to be posting my very first interview here on Feeling Stitchy! Please grab a cup of tea and sit with me as I share my interview with Heather from Heather Hales Designs.

Heather, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a 30 year old mother of a 6 year old boy and a 3 year old girl living in a suburb of Phoenix, AZ with my handsome husband. The fact that it gets so hot here in the summer (110+ for 30 straight days) really lends itself well to indoor activities…like stitching!

When I am not parenting or crafting I really enjoy reading. My husband and I have enough books to start our own library and the kids are well on their way to their own library too! I love classic literature (Steinbeck, Miller, James) and Spanish literature (Garcia-Marquez, Allende) - even though I don’t speak a lick of Spanish! I also enjoy baking; I make a pretty mean chocolate truffle cake if you are ever in these parts!

Were you interested in arts and crafts as a kid? What’s the first thing you remember creating?
Yes, I was interested in crafts a as child!! While I was really young my mother was working on her BA in textile art so she was always doing fun creative projects with my sister and I.

My very first sewing project (by hand) was a doll quilt I made for a first grade class assignment. I chose my very favorite prints from my mother’s fabric collection and pieced it by hand. Secretly, after I went to bed my mom stitched over my hand stitching on her sewing machine and I think she bound it for me too:
Cross stitching was also big in our house. I was always working on some cross stitch project, but now that I think about it I don’t know that I ever finished anything. I remember first learning about embroidery when we were in the middle of loading the moving truck for a move (one of MANY), I must have been about 8. My mom had put on a cotton blouse that she felt was a little too low, so she disappeared for 15 min and came back out with the same shirt only the front wasn’t so low and it was adorned with beautiful flowers. I was amazed and made her tell me how she did it! I tried for many years to embroider and I just could not get the stitches even and nice so I stopped trying. I took it up again shortly after my son was born and somehow it clicked and my stitches were straight and even.

Do you do other crafty things as well?
Oh I dabble a little in Photography, I’m not very good and I don’t have an SLR so mostly it is just for fun. I also like to pretend that I can design web pages and make graphics.

It takes so much time to complete an embroidery project. How much time do you usually spend on a project, and where do you find the time?
It depends. If it is a project that I am really excited about then I will take it with me everywhere and I usually get it done in a day or two. On the flip side I remember a kitchen towel I made a few months ago that took me a whole week to finish!
I really do take my projects with me everywhere. I’ll stitch in the parking lot of my son’s school while I wait for him to come out. This time of year so I also spend a lot of time stitching at the park while my kids play. Since my youngest is still at home I stitch while she naps or in the evenings after the kids are in bed.

Stitching is very creative, yet also very detail oriented and precise. Does it reflect your personality?
Sadly, no. I am certainly a type A personality but I tend to be lax on details. My mother was always telling me stop rushing through things and pay attention to what I was doing. I have to discipline myself to be detail oriented with the crafts and stitching that I do, but it does not come naturally to me.

Do you ever rip out stitches to re-do them in a different color or type of stitch?
Not very often. I usually think through a project pretty thoroughly before I start. I select colors and lay them all together to make sure the coordinate and balance and then I plan what stitch I will use for each area.

Which stitch do you use most often?

Stem stitch, although, the chain stitch is growing on me.

Where do you find the patterns you use?
I really like vintage patterns, something about the bygone era appeals to me. I wonder about the women who purchased them new- what were they like and what did they make? I find most of my patterns at a local antique mall, the flickr Hoop Love group and some on ebay. I also have started collecting vintage coloring books- they are great for patterns.

Do you have an all-time favorite pattern you’ve used again and again?
After I make something once I am usually bored with it and want to move on to something new. I’ve used the vintage lollipop (from an old coloring book) more than a few times. It was a towel that people really liked and I got a lot of requests for it:

Did you collect anything as a kid? Do you collect anything now as an adult?
As a teenager I collected lip balm, not just any lip balm it either had to do something cool for your lips or come in a cute container. Now I am working on my collection of vintage embroidery patterns! Vogart’s are great, but I really like finding a McCall or Simplicity as they are harder to come by.

What kinds of things do you like to embroider on?
I like to embroider flannel blankets the most, and my second choice would be kitchen towels. I do stitch onesies, but I have yet to find a stabilizer that I like, so it is always a tricky process.

Do you ever make anything for yourself?

Rarely! I love what I make and wish that I had some of the things for myself. I just have such a hard time justifying using the time for myself rather than for a client or my family.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! I love looking at the packaging of things in bath and soap shops (can I just say that Lollia has some of the neatest designs on their packages!). I also love craft and home dec. magazines, they provide tons of eye candy for me. I am also prone to wasting large amounts of time late at night surfing through flickr.

Who encourages you in your artistic pursuits? Are there any blogs or websites you frequent?
My family encourages me, especially my sister-in-law Sarah she is my biggest cheerleader. My step-mother Kathleen is one of my best customers, it means so much to me that she likes my work enough to buy it for her friends! I love reading crafty blogs, I have a whole page (please link to my inspiration page) on my blog devoted to the artists that inspire me. Here is a short version of a really long list!

Jessie, you are one- I remember hunting you down after I found your adorable book plates at Mahar Drygoods. You always use such bold colors and I love the modern feel of your products.

I’m really liking the work of Julia of Symbiosis; her designs are so fresh with such clean lines.

I love the soft color pallet and classic look of everything that Kelly of My Happy Little Life creates.

The Mayfly is another blog I frequent. Her creations are so cute and practical! One day I am going to make her awesome car organizer.

Do you have a special food or drink you like to have while creating?
No, I try really hard to keep food away from the projects, although an occasional peanut M&M might slip in. I do like to watch movies while I stitch though- I love Netflix!

What are the next three movies in your Netflix que?
Cinderella (for my daughter), The Heiress, Howards End

If you could listen to anything while you worked on a project, what would it be?
I’m an ‘80’s junkie. I love the Cure, DepecheMode, Erasure, Yaz etc.

Can you show me a few projects and tell me about them?

1. This is a free hand embroidery I created for a fun small sized tote bag. It was a real stretch for me to not use a pattern; I was really pleased with how it turned out. 2. I first found this pattern in the flickr Hoop Love group and added it to my list of designs I want to stitch. I love bird patterns and this one was so sweet and I really liked that it was a larger pattern. Then I found the Alexander Henry fabric and decided they were meant to be together. 3. I free handed again and created this cute rocket ship for a onesie. It is one of the patterns I am going to offer for custom onesies in my shop soon. 4. This is the first time I have used linen. I love the fabric but hate the wrinkles! I noticed other designers were using linen a lot so I decided to give it a go.

Do you sell the items you make? And if so, do you have any tips for people who want to start selling their work, either online or at craft shows?
Yes, I sell items that I make. Any tips? Hmm, first I guess make sure there is a market for your items- ask friends that will be honest with you about your products. Feedback is hard to take sometimes but it will help you create products that really will sell or be in demand. I’ve only done 1 craft show and the one thing I did learn to make your display as eye catching and cute as you can, it really does increase your traffic. Market yourself and your shop. It is so hard to get noticed at Etsy these days; you have to bring people to your shop if you really want to make sales.

Where can we find more of you?
Frances Vintage in downtown Phoenix, my Etsy shop, heatherhalesDESIGNS the blog, and right here in the land of eternal sun! I love meeting new people; feel free to drop me a note if you’ll be in the area: heather@heatherhalesdesigns.com

Thank you so much, Heather!!!
Thank you Jessie- this was a real treat. I am so excited to keep reading your weekly interviews!


I will be posting interviews every other Thursday with all sorts of stitchy gals. Haven't you always dreamed of seeing your name in stitch? Well, if you'd consider being interviewed, or to recommend someone whom you'd like to hear more about, please drop me a note at sweetjessie@comcast.net. Come on now, don't be shy!


  1. Really nice interview! I liked the suggestion of using Vintage Coloring Books! I love the old graphics in any publication!
    No tearing out of stitches? I like that, too! Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is wonderful! I love learning so much about how people craft and what inspires them! :)

  3. Great interview Jessie - really interesting!! I love hearing (or reading) about how other crafters work and get their inspiration. Heather sounds like such a fun, nice person!!

  4. Thanks so much for this opportunity Jessie! For those interested, I interviewed Jessie today on my blog...

  5. WOW! Really good work, SweetJess...color me impressed: with both your journalista skills and Heather's beautiful embroidery. I'm headed over there to read your responses now. Congrats on the first interview, to both of you.

  6. I've always loved your embroidery Heather, and now I discover you like Depeche Mode too- girl after my own heart! It's great hearing what other people do when crafting, kind of fills in the story behind the object.