Mindful stitching: an interview with Oz and Belle

25 March 2020
Image credit: Gina Hellis and Sarah Wheeler
Mindfulness is everywhere at the moment and the company Oz and Belle have been ahead of the curve for years, running crafty wellbeing workshops and creating beautiful embroidery kits. We learn more about mindful stitching and its benefits in an interview with the owners…

Gina Hellis and Sarah Wheeler are the creators behind Oz and Belle (named after their children), a company that caters toward new parents who are learning how to cope with the anxieties and stresses of parenthood…

Gina Hellis and Sarah Wheeler - Oz and Belle owners

What is mindfulness? 

“Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you […] mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.” www.nhs.uk

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Hi Gina, hi Sarah! Can you tell us about yourselves?

Gina: We are good friends from opposite sides of the country! I’m originally from Cumbria and Sarah is from Kent, which is where we both live and work now. We had our first children within weeks of each other and it’s been amazing watching Oz and Belle grow up as best friends!

Sarah: We are good mates… it’s safe to say that we are also quite obsessed with embroidery!

Oz and Belle mindful stitching

What got you both so into embroidery?

Sarah: I’m from a family of strong female crafters; my mum, aunt and grandmother particularly encouraged lots of different skills. I loved cross stitch as a child, however it was only since meeting Gina that I took up embroidery in a contemporary way. I really enjoy sewing onto printed fabric, especially with a cup of coffee and the telly on. It’s a really relaxing way to calm my anxious mind.

Gina: My nana got me into embroidery at a young age; she would buy me cross stitch kits for us to do together at the weekend. My passion grew and I ended up studying textiles at university, but I specialised in screen printing rather than embroidery. It wasn’t until I had my daughter four years ago that I rediscovered my passion for hand embroidery!

How did you start the business?

Sarah: We started the business a bit by accident. We had done some voluntary wellbeing sessions with adults, where we had hand screen printed fabric and sat around chatting and stitching to ‘colour’ the pattern in. From here, an interest in kits became apparent. We both have a background in art, illustration and print making and the rest is history.

Gina: We took influences from adult colouring books and took the idea of colouring in, but using stitch rather than pen or pencil. The sessions Sarah mentioned were really successful and the kits naturally followed on from this. 

Cactus embroidery by Oz and Belle

What challenges have you faced?

Gina: Time has been a big challenge, fitting the business in with our day time jobs and family life is difficult, as well as my own struggles with anxiety and general panic disorder.

Part of the reason for getting into embroidery after my daughter was born was to try and refocus my mind. I had post-natal depression which I didn’t act on and this resulted in the beginning of my journey with anxiety. Sometimes I felt completely out of control of my mind and body and the only thing that could calm me down was losing myself in either colouring or embroidery. 

I’m glad you found a way to refocus your mind. Can you expand on the connection between stitching and mental health?

Gina: Stitching can completely focus the mind. The repetitive movement and concentration somehow calm you down. I don’t know all the science behind it, but from personal experience when I’m stitching, I get lost in it, I forget about what I’m panicking about, my breath will slow down and my heart rate will return to normal.

Sarah: I find that stitching is an amazing way of getting mindful, particularly if you stitch while listening to music or do it with friends.

Embroidered robot by Oz and Belle

What advice can you give to someone struggling with their mental health?

Gina: Don’t keep it bottled up. I genuinely believe if I’d have spoken about how I was feeling after I had my daughter I wouldn’t be battling with panic and anxiety on a daily basis now. You will be surprised to discover how many people are going through similar experiences and there is so much support out there.

Sarah: Talk to someone and remember that you are not alone. 

What do you hope to achieve through Oz and Belle?

Sarah: To spread the word that embroidery is good for the mind.

Gina: We want people to be mindful and to take time for themselves and the kits are a really simple way of doing this. You don’t have to go out of your way to be more mindful by going to a spa or getting a massage, you can do it in the comfort of your own home. You can achieve hours of mindfulness with one of our kits. 

Oz and Belle stitching kit

Thanks for chatting to us – we hope you carry on helping new parents for years to come. 

Find out more about Oz and Belle and see their fabulous stitching kits: www.ozandbelle.co.uk.

Ready for another inspirational read? Check out ‘From industry to embroidery: an interview with Hoffelt & Hooper Co.

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