A Stitch A Day with Jess Blauwkamp

If you’re looking for interesting embroidery journal layouts, then look no further as Jess Blauwkamp is ahead of the curve in creating her unique and creative formats. Over the past two years, she has created some of the most unique designs that I’ve seen online to date. This year, she’s going with a stunning colour coded flowing layout that’s difficult to look away from! Genuinely, I don’t know how Jess has time for it all given the amount of activities she is participating in, whether it be teaching her students, attending robotics competitions, or even entering her work in art fairs!

I’ve known of Jess for quite awhile at this point, just due to the fact that we’re both on TikTok regularly making videos where we breakdown our embroidery journals. She even participated in my Unique Embroidery Journal Post from a few months back. I’m grateful that Jess was willing to be interviewed for this next edition of A Stitch a Day.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a middle school teacher in Michigan. I teach special education, social studies, English language arts, and I also coach our school’s middle and high school F.I.R.S.T. robotics teams! You’ll see a lot of robotics related stitches in my journals from 2022 and 2023 in particular. I have a ridiculous number of hobbies, which I’ll blame on my inability to focus on just one project at any given time. In addition to creating highly detailed embroidered scenes of the Great Lakes and their rocks, I also crochet, grow a veggie garden, collect rocks and fossils from Lake Michigan, run (very slow) 5Ks, and cultivate African violets with my Grandma. Living right next to Lake Michigan gives me plenty of inspiration for my embroidery journal! I also recently entered my Great Lakes Embroidery Series in an international art competition, ArtPrize, where it was chosen as a finalist! 

What made you decide to go with your current embroidery journal layout?

Really I just wanted to make sure that no two months with the same color scheme touched. I don’t usually plan a ton when it comes to the layout of my journal. This project is supposed to be a super quick thing for me to do nightly, and I know that planning it out just wouldn’t be interesting to me. 

How have your embroidery journals changed over the years?

My first embroidery journal was an attempt to teach myself new stitches. I taught myself how to do some basic embroidery things in the fall of 2020, and I wanted to stitch some of the beautiful scenery the Great Lakes had to offer, but I knew I wasn’t skilled enough yet. I started the embroidery journal as a way to learn and grow that also gave me an end product. This helped keep me on task! My second embroidery journal was mostly word stitches because I knew I could stitch words faster than icons. This helped keep the project manageable in a year that was crazy busy with work. By the time my third journal got started, I knew I wanted to keep up the theme of doing something different each year, but I really wanted to go back to stitching icons because they’re much more fun than just words. I settled on the idea of stitching in color themes for each month, and I think it’s turning out beautifully!

How did you learn how to embroider?

It’s a pandemic hobby for me! I taught myself in the fall of 2020 when I was teaching from home for a few days. 

Do you repeat icons? 

Yes! I have a Tiktok video on it here!

What is your favourite icon on your embroidery journal?

I have so many favorites, it’s hard to choose! I think my most unique favorites are the tiny robots I stitched based on the bots my students built for competition! I also really love the sewing machine I stitched in February of 2021! It was the first time I really felt like I was able to convey exactly what was in my head in thread, and It opened up a whole world for me! 

How have you managed to stay motivated throughout the year?

I really thrive when I have deadlines. The end of the year is a hard deadline for me, but I also give myself monthly soft deadlines, too! I like to post my monthly updates on my personal Facebook page so my grandparents can see it. TikTok is also a huge motivator for me! Both my 2021 and 2022 journals went viral on New Year’s Eve, and I would really love for that to happen again! 

What has been your most memorable event represented on your embroidery journal this year? 

This year I entered an international art competition in Grand Rapids, MI, ArtPrize. I entered my Great Lakes Embroidery Series and it was a finalist in the category of 2D art! This was such a huge accomplishment for me, and because the competition took place over the course of 3 weeks, I have many stitches from that represented in September of this year. 

What types of icon do you like to embroider on a monotonous or boring day?

Well, as a middle school teacher, there’s usually something that the kids say or do that will make it into my journal! Sometimes I’ll stitch the weather, an icon representing some rerun of Star Trek or Star Wars, or even just what I had for dinner that night. I will say that it was much easier to stitch a monotonous day on my word journal in 2022 than it is to stitch an icon! 

What have you learned from starting an embroidery journal?

My stitch journal gives me time to be reflective daily, which helps me to be more grateful. I stitch both the good days and the hard days, and when I look back on my journals, it’s mostly good days. It’s a good reminder that my life has become something beautiful and that is reflected in my art. 

What tips do you have for someone wanting to start an embroidery journal?

Keep a notebook with a calendar in it so if you don’t have time to stitch on one particular day, you still have a record of what you want to do! In 2021, I stitched EVERY DAY, which was a huge commitment. In 2022, I kept a notebook with a week’s worth of words at a time, and I would just sit down and stitch them all at once. This year I seem to have found a happy medium where I can stitch daily or every few days without feeling super far behind. 

Also, find yourself a designated stitching time! I found that having one keeps the pressure off and makes it much more fun! 

What supplies do you use for your embroidery journal?

One thing I really love about embroidery is that it’s super accessible. For my fabric, I use a cotton fat quarter I got at Joann’s. When I started, I was using floss from Walmart! Nowadays I use DMC thread. My favorite tool for embroidery, though, are my floss drops! Floss drops allow me to keep all my thread at the precut length that I prefer for my stitching, which helps me to stay organized. I got my floss drops from Atom Heart Cross Stitch. One thing I really like about these specific floss drops is that there’s an extra slot to put thread remnants, which is super useful when I’m stitching something tiny on my embroidery journal and I know I’ll have leftover thread. 

Do you plan on creating another embroidery journal in 2024?

Absolutely yes! I already have some ideas in the works! 

Where can we find you online?

Instagram: jess_makesthings 

TikTok: jess_makesthings 

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.

Enjoyed this post? Then check out some of my other blog posts or purchase the in-depth embroidery journal guide. You can also join the free Embroidery Journaling Facebook group to chat with others working on Embroidery Journals. Follow me on any of the following social media websites:

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