Getting to Know You: Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching

Wouldn't you know it, the same day I posted about Sublime Stitching, I got an email from one of their staffers in response to my request for a Q&A with founder Jenny Hart (that should show you how impatient I am...).  Jenny was on the road, but agreed to answer some questions via email. In another twist of fate, Jenny was on her way to Seattle, where she was signing books at the Urban Craft Uprising craft fair. I made it there and bought THE LAST BOOK. No joke. It was destiny. Everyone was super-nice (and I already have about a million ideas from the book!). So Jenny, I hope you have a safe trip home, and readers, here's the inside scoop from Sublime Stitching: Photo courtesy of Sublime Stitching.

1. How was Sublime Stitching started?

Sublime Stitching was launched in 2001 about a year after I started embroidering for the first time in the summer of 2000. My father loaned me $1000 to get started, and he was very skeptical about me launching an embroidery design company. Every dime had to be accounted for (shipping costs, inventory, print advertising). I built the website myself (this was before etsy), designed all the product, took out advertising and started spreading the word about hand-embroidery to anyone who would listen! The response continues to be joyfully overwhelming. There was such a lack of updated resources for embroidery not just in designs (the bunny-duckie-teddy bear market had been well-served for decades), but entertaining, easy-to-understand instructions and kits that put all the tools together for a beginner were non-existent. All the instructions I found assumed the reader already knew how to sew and didn't cover the basics (how to put fabric on a hoop, where to take up your first stitch, how to read a diagram). Basically, I created the resources I wished existed for me when I became interested in embroidery and couldn't find what I needed and wanted.
2. Is there a philosophy behind the products?
The goal of Sublime Stitching has been to change people's ideas about embroidery (who does it, what you can do with it and how to learn) by offering alternative inspiration and resources. I had the same misconceptions about it for years, and once I tried it, I became obsessed with it. I knew others would benefit from learning it too, but their ideas about it had to be changed first. I felt that the main reason no one (except die-hard stitchers) was doing embroidery as a popular craft was because the designs hadn't really been updated in many, many years. They were only catering to a previous, and well-established market of another generation, not a new one, which was quickly emerging with the resurgence of interest in knitting all "indie" crafting that was exploding online. It wasn't the embroidery itself that was the problem, it was the aesthetic that was so established it became synonymous with the craft. I made it my mission to update the aesthetic and the resources for learning embroidery to show people what else could be done with it so it could change, grown and continue to be a part of our lives.
3. Does everyone on staff embroider? Is there some unexpected hobby you all share?
Hobbies we all share? I don't know if this counts as a 'hobby', but we love to send each other stupid YouTube videos throughout the day. Yesterday it was this and this.
4. What is the public attitude about embroidery? Are there misconceptions?
Everyone here has been known to embroider (though it is not required!). The first time I met Jordan (now our shipping manager) he had learned how to embroider from my Stitch-It Kit, Mary does a lot of stitching on paper (and seems to always wear something she embroidered) and Jessica embroidered this lovely portrait that ended up on Feeling Stitchy!
It's continues to surprise me how ingrained attitudes are about embroidery. Many people seem to  hold the idea that only "little old ladies" do it, and it tends to be disregarded as something of little value or interest. Outdated. Grannyish. Difficult to do. When I used to tell people that I work in embroidery, I could see them immediately gloss over and the next question would be "You mean, like teddy bears and stuff like that?". That's changed quite a lot! Whenever it comes up, people do get very nostalgic and tell me about linens their grandmothers embroidered that they've kept and treasured. I wanted to get people to think they could do it (and enjoy it) themselves.
5. What would you suggest to someone who is new to embroidery? What is a good "beginner" project?

Tea towels are a great starting point. And, my kits are designed for total beginners with everything needed to start (and make hundreds of projects). I put my favorite supplies in them, and they can be custom-built on the website (you choose the patterns and the textile to stitch on). Embroidery doesn't have to be elaborate. Just a few stitches are all it takes and you're on your way.