28 April 2022
Meet hand embroiderer, Jenni Davis who shares how embroidery offered respite from the realities of baby loss, where the idea of embroidery ultrasound baby scans came from and how she translates them into stitch...
Originally your business focussed on hand-made leather goods. How did the shift to embroidery come about?
Early in 2018 I found out I was pregnant. Straight away I knew something was wrong – I was suffering an ectopic pregnancy. My treatment wasn’t straightforward, and recovery took months. This meant mentally I couldn’t work like I did before. Leather is a very unforgiving material – one wrong cut and I would have to start again and I began making a lot of mistakes.
During a six-month break, I came across an embroidered beaded sample made while at university. I thought I'd give it a go again. It was so refreshing – a stitch in the wrong place could be unpicked and started again like nothing had happened. It was the freedom I was craving.
It didn’t take long before I had no interest in making bags. Designing patterns and considering colour combinations sparked the creativeness I had lost. I just wanted to do more of what made me happy. So, I did! I rebranded to HOPE & HART – HOPE for the future and HART for the loss of a heartbeat that will be with me forever. It’s my driving force.
Embroidery wasn’t the only thing that helped. What about your experience with baby loss charities?
I lost my baby the week of my 30th birthday. That same week a very close family member gave birth. Everything changed. My life seemed so different. Honestly, it was the hardest of times. I felt I couldn’t talk about what had happened because there was a new bundle of joy in the family.
Coming across the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website was a breath of fresh air. It gave me the words to describe how I was feeling. It helped me communicate with my fiancé who had no idea how to help me or come to terms with his own loss.
They helped us so much that a small way I can give back is by donating 10% of sales profits to The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust and other UK baby loss charities. Without donations they'd struggle to support other parents in the same situation.
Where did you get the idea to embroider ultrasound baby scans?
I never got a scan with my first pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant on my 31st birthday (yes, to the day!) I knew I wanted to preserve these most valuable images. Ultrasound scans are printed on thermal paper so keeping them on display destroys them. I'd only been sewing seriously again for a few months and really wanted a challenge. This naturally seemed the most perfect option.
How do you translate the scans into stitch?
Transferring an image onto black fabric isn’t easy. I use Clover’s white gel pen. It dries a very bold white and doesn’t fade. I draw the basic outlines freehand and always start with the head – it’s the most complicated part and sets the tone. Each scan is unique, so I reference it constantly to make sure I’m stitching the right shade and area.
How long does an embroidery take?
They take 30-50 hours depending on the size and how detailed the image is. I share the experience with my clients through Instagram. I’m told watching their baby being brought to life in embroidery form is magical.
How vital do you find stitching for your own mindfulness and wellbeing?
For me it’s the one thing I always have control over – to see slow steady progress is so helpful for me mentally when my day-to-day life seems to be very challenging and busy.
Since I started embroidery again back in 2018 there have only been a handful of days where I haven’t picked up a project. Even if it’s just for five minutes a day I'll try and take that time for myself. It's the one thing I know I must take my time with and focus on. Recentring my thoughts with stitching often makes the challenging days feel more manageable.
What are your top tips for beginners to hand embroidery?
- Take your time and practise – it’s a slow mindful craft so take your time and trust the process!
- If you make a mistake just unpick and start again! There's no right way to embroider so do what’s right for you!
Inspired by Jenni? Immerse yourself into the world of embroidery with Stitch magazine, packed with stunning creations, techniques, expert features, step-by-step tutorials and all the latest from the world of stitch! Explore the subscription offers today... Needle and thread at the ready!
Where do you do most of your stitching?
Honestly, on the sofa. I always have a grab-and-go bag nearby so when my daughter is happily playing independently or she’s asleep, I'll add a few stitches when I can. It’s what I love most about this craft – you don’t need a lot of space or equipment.
What one tool wouldn’t you be without?
Thread Gloss – I personally prefer beeswax. It’s often very overlooked but for me it’s an essential tool. I'll never start a project without it! Plus it saves a lot of thread from knotting so the wastage is far less at the end of a project!