When you think of a Jack of all trades, you might think of Jane Stedman going forward. Not only does she excel in embroidery, but she also enjoys learning the ins and outs of a variety of other hobbies, some of which are even represented on her beautiful 2023 Embroidery Journal.
In preparing to launch my new series A Stitch A Day, I was really hoping that I would be able to interview at least a couple of artists with unique embroidery journal layouts. I was in absolute awe when Jane reached out to me with her one of a kind embroidery journal layout. I love the fact that the large lettering of 2023 just barely shows through as you look at her icons.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a military spouse and mother of six (very active) children, ranging in age from 15 to 2 years old. I am very blessed to be able to stay home, manage our household, build our family culture, and create memories. I love to be busy learning and trying new things. Last year, I became a Certified Angling Instructor through Scouts BSA, and this winter I plan to become a Certified Master Gardener through the NC State Extension Office. I love crafting of all kinds (especially sewing), gardening, reading, cooking, baking, antiquing, woodworking, and repairing home appliances to keep them functioning properly. Completing projects on my own, or with instruction, gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. I recently changed the oil and brakes on my vehicle with the help and guidance of a friend, and I felt like Superwoman afterward!
What made you go with your current embroidery journal layout?
I observed Sophie’s embroidery journals for a couple of years and was incredibly inspired by her work. However, I wanted to be able to actually commit to the project and I knew that, with the addition of our baby daughter in 2021, I wouldn’t have time to dedicate to the project. In late November 2022, I decided that 2023 would be my year. I began admiring others’ journals and deciding what I preferred best for my own. The large year numbers really appealed to me because I liked the idea of filling in the year – both literally and figuratively. I’ve elected to stitch the months in my own cursive handwriting, and in rainbow color format, to provide some cohesiveness. I tried sectioning off the hoop to give myself a visual of the space for each month, but I quickly decided that it felt limiting, so I’ve just “eyeballed” my way through.
How did you learn to embroider?
I am incredibly fortunate that I was raised to be expressive and creative in nearly every aspect of my life. My parents showed me that there’s tremendous value in hard work and creative problem-solving. Even school projects that could have been snooze-fests became opportunities for humor and outside-of-the-box thinking; my mom once helped me develop an archaeology assignment featuring “Dr. Can U. DiGit” and the edible fudge-brick basement that he excavated, discovering such artifacts as a rotary phone, scissors, and glass (all Barbie accessories). During the Christmas season, my dad gathered pine boughs and made wreaths to sell. He always brought me along to be his buddy (and occasional flashlight holder) when repairing things around our house. Neither of my parents raised me with any boundaries of “boy activities” versus “girl activities;” I was taught to stack wood just as well as prepare dinner. My parents also supported me in 4-H where I learned to sew and raise hogs. My grandma constructed beautiful, detailed Christmas stockings for our entire family, and always included me in crafting activities. She taught me how to cross-stitch (a bookmark that I still have!). My great aunts were tremendously talented in many areas, including crochet, knitting, and music. I am so proud that I am part of that heritage of ingenuity, one where I’m not afraid to try new creative endeavors, including this embroidery journal. As a mother, that is one of my main goals – to continue to model and foster imagination and creativity in my children.
What supplies do you use for your embroidery journal?
Something I appreciate most about this project is that it’s quite economical; it doesn’t require a large infusion of cash to get started or maintain. I only needed to purchase an embroidery hoop! As my grandma has aged and her ability to craft has declined, I’ve been the benefactor of most of her supplies, including a box with embroidery thread, needles, and a set of blank flour sack tea towels. I decided to stitch my journal on the tea towel so that I can display it in my china hutch. I have gradually added a few things as I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t (for me) – an extra fine tip air erasable marker, sharp, lockable scissors, and a neck reading light. I also have a small collection of needle minders; I love to switch them out every now and then.
What is your favorite icon on your embroidery journal?
I have several favorite icons; the fuzzy chick, the lasagna, the school bus. My absolute favorite is the bicycle. My family recently took a trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan. I grew up in northern Michigan and often took school field trips to the Island, so it was extra special to bring our children. The island is closed to motor vehicles – bicycles and horse carriages only – and we biked 8.2 miles around the entire island. The weather was perfect and my kids were in awe. It’s a bucket-list-fulfilling memory, and I’m tickled that the icon stitched exactly as I’d hoped it would.
How have you managed to stay motivated throughout the year?
I really took my time in considering this project; I knew that I didn’t want to start if I wouldn’t be able to finish. Still, the prospect of stitching 365 icons can be daunting. Early on, I set the habit where I stitched every single day, without fail. As I got more comfortable, I stretched it to every two to three days, but I never like to fall behind more than five days. My main source of motivation is the project itself! I enjoy looking back on my work and noticing the growth of my ability. That alone encourages me to keep going. I’m not sure my family would allow me to quit, anyway – they love to see which daily event will be represented on my hoop!
Do you plan on creating another embroidery journal in 2024?
Yes! Stitching has become part therapy, part memory-keeping, and I can’t imagine not continuing the project next year. I am considering a different style with only words to describe each day, but I haven’t decided just yet.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to start an embroidery journal?
Gather your basic materials and just start! I know that a blank piece of material can be intimidating, but the first stitch is the hardest. Once you complete your first icon, your confidence builds and you’re ready for the next. The beauty of this project (and most any art) is that there are no rules. Or, if you do have rules, they’re ones you’ve set for yourself. Before I began my journal, I decided that it would be a great way for me to practice and build my embroidery skills, but it would also be a vehicle for me to relax some of my perfectionist tendencies. My only rule for myself was that I wouldn’t remove and redo any of my icons. Some of my early icons make me cringe because I would approach them in a completely different way now. I remind myself that that was my best at the time. I love that my journal is tangible evidence of growth.
Where can we find you online?
I started an Instagram account called Everyday In Stitches (@everydayinstitches) to chronicle my project. I post photos of each icon and then a whole-hoop picture at the end of each month.
If you’re interested in being interviewed for my A Stitch A Day series, my slots are currently filled. You can sign up for my newsletter to be notified when I am looking for more artists to speak about their Embroidery Journals and similar projects. If you are interested in creating your own embroidery journal, I have a variety of digital and kit resources available in my Etsy shop.