The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Everything You Need to Know About The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Clare Albans is a woman of many talents. A mother, a crafter, a teacher and as of recently, an author of The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Caroline Dask

Journalist at Luxe

You may have heard of the website Hello! Hooray! However, if you haven’t, it’s a true ‘feel-good’ content paradise. Crafts, recipes, embroidery stitches and helpful videos, it’s a colourful space full of inspiration and creative spirit.

Browsing through it, one can’t help but feel the positive energy radiating from the creative brains behind the website, Clare Albans. Originally from York, Clare started the website in 2012, and is now the author of her new book ‘The Modern Embroidery Handbook’.

In this book, Clare gives a step-by-step guide into the art of embroidery and the wonderful benefits that come from it, including promoting wellbeing and allowing you to spend some time crafting something joyful.

The book is suitable for beginners and those who are already familiar with the world of embroidery, as it has 72 stitches and 20 projects, all of which will inspire you to try something different, step out of your comfort zone and lose yourself in the world of this wholesome craft.

Talking about all things that led to the creation of her book, her background in music as well as teaching and the scary nature of taking risks is a crafty soul, Clare Albans…

Looking over your website, I can tell you are a very creative. What do you think shaped your creativity?

I have always been creative, but I haven’t always expressed myself through hand embroidery! I initially trained as a musician and I played the violin. I did my degree in music and music was my whole life. It was such a passion of mine. Then I became a teacher and taught music as well. It was really nice to pass this to my children and encourage them to be creative as well.

I think that is how I’ve always expressed myself, through creativity. Being able to express yourself through art is an incredible thing and I think it’s important that everybody has access to art in some way.

I had my daughter in 2016 and after she was born, I really just wanted to get back into doing something creative. As a parent, it’s hard to find that time. I wasn’t teaching music at that point but I just needed something and I came across hand embroidery. It was perfect because I could pick it up, do a little bit, drop it mid-stitch if needed, and come back to it later.

It was such a good way for me to fit in little bits of creativity because I think sometimes we think we have to set aside this massive amount of time to be able to do it properly and that is just not the case at all with embroidery.

The Modern Embroidery Handbook

How did your background in music and teaching influence your decision to start Hello! Hooray!?

It was my friend that suggested I start a blog because at the time I was making lots of different crafts and didn’t really have an outlet to share it. This was back in 2012, blogging was new and I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read it.

But I thought I would give this a go and just write for myself. So, I started sharing pictures and met a lot of people through this. Blogging back then was different compared to what we have now with social media. Back in around 2012, blogging had such a nice community feeling.

I think what differentiated me was the fact that I was also willing to share my mistakes during the creative process. It was important to me to share that part of creativity, where not everything always goes to plan, and not everything is always perfect.

My first blog was called ‘So Many Crafts, So Little Time’ because at the time I still had my day job but wanted to try out so many creative things. So, really, music and teaching kind of pushed me to make time for my website and to plan my time more carefully. Then later on, I did give up my day job to just focus on my website.

In 2014 I rebranded to Hello! Hooray! and the rest is history.

How did you discover embroidery?

Back then I was a multi-crafter. I tried everything because I hadn’t found something that really inspired me. And it was after my daughter was born that I came across the book called Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. I loved that book and I decided to give it a go.

So, I just started stitching and experimenting and I really liked it. I’m not a massive risk taker in life, but creatively I am. I love taking up big projects and seeing the end result, it’s amazing.

The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Transitioning to working on ‘Hello! Hooray!’ full-time is a significant step. Were there any challenges or worries you faced during this transition, and if so, how did you overcome them?

I think the first worry is always the financial one. Going from being employed to being self-employed feels like a really big leap that you are taking. I was used to having a salary, to working with other people and being under somebody else’s decisions a lot of the time, and then I took that leap.

The hardest thing about being self-employed is to make sure you have enough money coming in. Because things do happen, such as a cost of living crisis, COVID-19, etc. So, it has not always been easy.

But I wasn’t particularly happy with my day job and I was at the point where I was thinking I need to give this a go. I had wonderful support from my husband, and he always encouraged me.

I just kept thinking: ‘Well, what’s the worst that could happen?’ and I also thought if a hurdle comes along, I will be flexible and think about what to do next. Along the way there has been times I’ve taken on part time jobs. The key is to be flexible because there will always be challenges along the way and you never really know what’s going to happen.

I also learned that when something is not working, you need to change it up. And sometimes when you have an idea, it’s tempting to want to quit your day job, but I think it’s important to have a plan, to make sure you have something to fall back on. It’s good to be prepared!

How did this idea come about to write The Modern Embroidery Handbook?

So, The Modern Embroidery Handbook is actually my second book and it came out of a little project that I did in 2021. I felt a bit stuck creatively and I was not really sure what to do. And then I decided I was going to learn a new stitch every week for the whole year.

And that’s just what I did! I shared the videos in YouTube and Instagram and people joined in as well. We were all learning together. This is how I came up with the idea for it, I thought it would be great to have lots of stitches in this vintage style sewing book, but also combining that with more modern projects as well.

After my editor pitched the ideas and we got a green light, I worked on it for about 14 months. It took a long time and it was a wonderful process, but really intense as well.

I wanted to make sure that my book was done properly, that it had all the crafting projects, tutorials, facts, everything. I wanted it to be a handy guide for everyone interested in the craft, so it took quite some time to build that.

The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Who are the people that would enjoy your book the most?

I think this book covers a wide range of people. It’s for people who are starting to learn embroidery for the first time. All the stitch guides are in there. I call them ‘first stitches’ because calling them ‘basic stitches’ is unfair. A basic stitch might be a really complicated one for some!

Then there’s other stitches that you can use for borders and edging and textural ones. But I think if you’re intermediate or a more advanced stitcher, it’s got lots of project ideas, some new stitches that you’ve not learned and new techniques.

The book is jam-packed with lots of different ideas and ways to use stitches. So, I think there’s something in it for everybody. If you’re a cross-stitcher and you’ve never done embroidery before, this will be for you. Or even if you’re looking for a new creative skill, you only need a few basic supplies to give it a go.

As someone who teaches embroidery workshops, what are some common challenges or misconceptions beginners often have about embroidery?

I think the hardest thing about starting as a beginner now is that because of social media and everything you’re seeing on there, you start to compare yourself and your work to others, and this can put people off.

There were a few people that contacted me to say they wanted to start a project but were worried about messing it up. And it’s hard. You naturally compare yourself to other people and where you’re at, when some of these people have been perfecting the craft for years.

But what I would say is that is all a part of the creative process. Creating isn’t just about the end product. It’s about what you learn along the way. And it’s important to get our heads around the fact that sometimes we do learn from mistakes and that sometimes it’s quite important to make mistakes.

As a perfectionist, I relate to this need to compare yourself to others, but what helped me is looking at it from a different angle. Take it as inspiration! Even if the project is not going quite right, there’s still a lot of time, care and love that goes into stitches and it’s lovely to see that progress from the projects you’ve created.

The Modern Embroidery Handbook

What do you hope that the readers take away from your book?

I hope it really gives them confidence to try something new. Whether it’s a new stitch, or a different technique, as long as they learn something new. I also want this book to be a starting point in terms of them exploring their own creativity and maybe creative their own designs.

I want it to give people confidence and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone a little bit and see what they can do because it’s such a lovely medium to work with. And it is really accessible and there’s so much potential with it.

There’s a QR code at the back of this book, which takes you to a section on my website where there are links to the tutorial videos for every stitch plus a few extra ones and lots of other things as well. A lot of thought went into this book and I hope people find joy in being creative.

How do you balance your roles as a mother, crafter, teacher, and now author of The Modern Embroidery Handbook? Do you have any strategies for managing your time effectively and staying inspired?

I think sometimes it’s just knowing that you’re not always going to get it right every day. That sounds really defeatist but it’s going back to being flexible!

I think it all comes down to being super organised. It’s not easy but my husband and I are trying to model this for our children. This, as well as that you can turn passion into work, and the importance of creativity. It’s important to us that they prioritise creativity and understand how important it is to follow your passion.

Juggling a lot of roles and jobs is hard but this is also something we want to show our kids. I think working together as a family to have this is what helps me to manage all of this.

How do you make time for yourself and what do you like to do to unwind and relax?

I love getting outside, being in nature, going on walks and just getting out and about seeing friends. And at various points, these kind of things happen less and then work takes over. And then I try and redress the balance.

I think as a parent, you’re pulled in so many different directions. But it’s all about learning to be kind to myself and knowing how to switch off. I try to have some time away from social media and be present, read something or watch something with the family.

I think often small business owners are held to the same standards as a massive company that have thousands of people working for them and carrying out a variety of tasks for them. But small business owners are small! Maybe you have your friends or your family helping out, but mostly you’re the web developer, the picker, the packer, the photographer, and you want to provide good customer service. But you also need to take a break.

Your journey from teaching to blogging and now publishing The Modern Embroidery Handbook is quite inspiring. What have been some of the most rewarding moments or milestones along this path?

Well, The Modern Embroidery Handbook is definitely up there. I don’t think I can really describe the joy of holding it in your hand and seeing it for the first time. And you’re like: ‘Wow, I created that!’ It’s exciting.

I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. Katherine, my editor, she used to work for Mollie Makes magazine. Jesse, the photographer, he’s incredible. He gave me lots of tips and helped me style the book.

The other one is probably getting my new studio. I had a really tough time with the first one and getting out of it, because I had a studio and a shop and it didn’t work out and so now, getting this new place and giving it a go is really special. I feel proud of myself for taking that risk again.

The Modern Embroidery Handbook

Looking back on your journey so far, what advice would you give to your younger self or to creatives who are looking to turn their passion into a sustainable career?

I think advice for people who want to turn it into a career is just to keep focusing, and keep learning. Just keep practising your craft. I think there’s so much to learn about a business and you’ll learn that along the way. But your craft is the thing that’s going to get you there. So make time for that. It’s really hard when you start a business and there’s so much to do and there’s so much to learn.

But don’t be afraid to ask other people. Start up a conversation, get to know the people and then maybe ask them a few questions. Because actually, the thing is we’ve all been there. People who have got a more established business have all set out and have all been at that point.

I think to my younger self I would probably just say that you’re more resilient and stronger than you realise. And it doesn’t matter that you cry about everything!

Finally, looking ahead, what are some of your goals or aspirations for the future of ‘Hello! Hooray!?

I’ve launched my embroidery membership on Substack, which is really exciting. It’s a new platform towards people, but I think the potential with it is huge. So I’ve got my embroidery membership on there.

I’ve moved all of my patterns on there. We’ve got a lovely little community going over there. Everyone’s so supportive and sharing pictures and asking questions. It’s such a lovely space. So my focus at the moment is to grow that.

I want to grow it in a slow and sustainable way, though. Because that feels right to me for where I’m at at the moment. I want to keep designing. I’ve got lots of work with Love Embroidery magazine. I love working with them. So I’ve got a few projects in the pipeline with them.

I feel like now I’m in my studio and I just kind of want to enjoy being here. So, I’m not setting huge goals at the minute. I just want to create and I want to enjoy the process of doing that.

Small businesses can just feel like such a whirlwind. We forget to just stop. It’s been a big push to get The Modern Embroidery Handbook out and now it’s here. I just want to enjoy that for a bit.

You can purchase The Modern Embroidery Handbook by Clare Albans here. Photo credits: Jesse Wild and Clare Albans