Narayan Collection, Aloo Cushions, Stitch by Stitch

Profiles: Stitch by Stitch

Stitch by StitchHomegirl London pays homage to Stitch by Stitch.  Creators of hand-embroidered and hand-woven goods made in India and Nepal; cushion covers, throws, quilts and rugs.  The owners are Graham Hollick, the company founder and Karen Sear Shimali who looks after sales and marketing.  It all started when Graham undertook a project working with embroiderers from the Kutch region in India.  Stitch by Stitch now work with some of the most talented embroiderers and weavers in the world to offer incredible interior textiles with a modern rustic look which pays homage to ancient traditions.  Their ethical brand strives to support workers in India and Nepal through organisations which offer a fair wage.  I caught up with the duo to find out more …

Q: Tell me about your design backgrounds.

A: We met whilst studying for degrees in Textile Design at Winchester School of Art (now part of the University of Southampton) in the 1980s.  Graham’s designs always stood out as highly individual.  After graduating, he worked for many years for internationally renowned trend forecaster Li Edelkoort in Paris.  Karen’s career, for 20 years, was in sales and marketing in the designer interior furnishings industry in London.

Q: Why set up your business?

A: Graham founded Stitch by Stitch in 2010 following an interesting project he undertook in India with embroiderers from the remote Kutch region.  The end result was a collection of interior textiles; cushions, quilts and throws, which Graham designed having been inspired by the traditional stitches of the Kutch embroiderers.  The women are all part of the Self Employed Women’s AssociationSEWA, a non-profit organisation that works to promote the work of local self-employed homeworkers.  Stitch by Stitch was created to market this collection.  In 2011, Karen was looking for a new challenge, and to start a small business.  She was highly impressed with Graham’s first collection and suggested joining the company to develop sales and marketing to grow the business as an ethical textile brand with regular collections.

SEWA women & Kukuben quilt

SEWA Women with the Kukuben Quilt

Q: Describe your design style.

A: An eclectic mix of traditional techniques, pared-down, graphic patterns, natural colours and naive hand-drawn motifs.

Stitch by Stitch Pieces

Stitch by Stitch Pieces

Q: Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?

A: Travels in South Asia, artisan skills and flea market finds.

Q: What’s your fascination with textiles?

A: Graham says “It’s a lifelong obsession.  When I was 8, I made my first applique of the Taj Mahal.  My mother was a couture dressmaker, so textiles were always around and I was always playing with her fabric collection!”  Karen likes the idea of changing the state of something (i.e. yarn) and creating something entirely new from it.

Q: Tell me about your collections.

A: Peacock Sportif Collection – Peacock motifs appear often in the traditional embroidery of Kutch, symbolising beauty, love and compassion.  Naive peacock motifs, drawn by Graham, feature in the Manali cushions and bags.  As a French NGO had initiated the design project in India, Graham gave the company name a French twist.

Peacock Sportif Collection

Peacock Sportif Collection

The Kukuben cushion and quilt designs (named after one of our master-embroiderers) are like a dictionary of the different stitches that are passed down through generations of women.  These stitches have exotic names like Aari, Rabari, Soi and Sadu Bharant.  Graham was interested in the contrast between the intricate stitch work and the naive motifs but wanted to pare down the design so that the eye can focus on the stitch work.

Kukuben Collection, Cushion and Quilt

Peacock Sportif Collection, Kukuben Cushion and Quilt

Narayan Collection – In Nepal, Graham found a community of weavers who spin the wool from their own sheep and weave it into Radhi blankets.  Graham took some of the traditional patterns and reinterpreted them into simpler, modern designs.  These blankets are commonly used in Nepal as blankets, floor coverings and worn as protection against the rain and cold.  They are quite thick and we felt they were best suited as rugs, rather than blankets for the western market!

Narayan Collection, Radhi Rugs

Narayan Collection, Radhi Rugs

Graham was also introduced to villagers who harvest fibre from the abundant giant Himalayan stinging nettle and spin it by hand into a strong, linen-like yarn, called Aloo.  Graham worked with weavers to produce cushion covers and throws using this yarn, natural dyes and a traditional hand-weaving technique called Dhaka.

Narayan Collection, Aloo Cushions

Narayan Collection, Aloo Cushions

Q: Which designer do you admire and why?

A: Piet Hein Eek – Dutch designer working with reclaimed materials producing furniture and other products.  He has the most amazing shop in Eindhoven where he sells his own work and those of other designers and found items.

Q: What’s the best thing about owning your own business?

A: There are many advantages, such as working flexibly, but I think the best thing is making your own success, and of course, your own mistakes!

Q: What one piece of advice would you pass on to someone wanting to set up their own business?

A: Do something you are passionate about because the amount of time and effort involved has to be worth it!

Q: What’s coming up for the rest of 2013?

A: 2013 promises to be busy!  We want to find a select group of international retailers that we can work with regularly – they will understand and value the skill required to produce our textiles and the stories behind them, and will be able to convey this to their customers.

We are currently working on a new collection of blankets which will be embroidered by our friends at SEWA, and we plan to launch this at Maison & Objet in Paris later this year.

To give you an idea on prices; Radhi Rugs are £306-450, Cushions are £35-90, Quilts £600 and Throws are £76-676.  You can buy the lovely pieces from Stitch by Stitch.  Credits: text by Homegirl London, images courtesy of Stich by Stitch, special thanks to Graham Hollick and Karen Sear Shimali.