Interview: Meet Rhona Norrie

When she couldn't find a design that she wanted to stitch for her son, Rhona Norrie took matters into her own hands. 20 years later she's one of the UK's favourite cross stitch designers.

Rhona Norrie Cross Stitch

Did you cross stitch as a child?

As a child I was always drawing and making things…..I’m from the ‘Blue Peter’ generation and loved all their crafts.   I adored getting pads of paper and packets of felt pens at Christmas time and to this day, I still get excited about stationery shops. Luckily I have passed on that love of pens and paper to my daughter, so I have a great excuse to visit anywhere that sells pens.

Advertisement

I learned to cross stitch when my children were very little. I had enrolled in a craft course at the local college and the first class was all about cross stitching. What you have to understand is that I hated sewing….my kids school uniforms were hemmed with wundaweb and brownie badges were glued on, so anything that involved a needle terrified me – in fact, I probably didn’t even own a needle! Strangely enough, cross stitching got to me….I loved it instantly and went out and bought a kit that same week, and the love of cross stitching has continued.

Who taught you?

The tutor on the course showed us the very basics and then everything after that I learned myself… usually the hard way by making mistakes!

Can you remember your first cross stitch project?

So my first introduction was a tiny letter that I stitched in the craft class and then my first kit was a ‘Country companions’ kit which was rather complicated for a beginner but I figured (in my naivete) that it’s all little X’s so how hard can it be? Yes if there’s a hard way to do something, I’ll do it that way!

How long have you been a cross stitch designer?

Oh my goodness I’ll be showing my age with this question! About twenty years or so.

How did you get into designing cross stitch?

I couldn’t find a chart or kit suitable for stitching for my son and since my background was a greeting card artist, I decided to design something myself. My friend Tina encouraged me to send the design off for publication and, lo and behold, it was accepted! I was so excited to see it in print. That was 20 years ago and I still get excited when I see my designs in magazines.

Tell us about your average day

Oh… I’m quite boring really! I get up, have the obligatory cuppa, watch the news then write my to-do list for the day. I try to spend half an hour working on something creative – just now, I’m learning all about hand lettering,  so I try to get some practice in every day.  I like to hit the gym for an early morning Zumba class then it’s home for a quick shower and then on the computer working on designs.

My evenings usually are spent stitching while I watch (or maybe that should be listen?) to the TV. Then it’s off to bed to read a few chapters of a book (usually historial fiction) before nodding off!

How would you describe your design style?

Mmmm, I’m not sure! I don’t know if I have a particular style as I’m asked to work on a whole range of different types of projects.

Favourite subject to design?

My favourite subject is easy – cute animals which probably comes from my time painting cute and cuddly animals for greeting cards.

Worst subject to design?

Worst subjects would probably be realistic humans…….not my forte.

Favourite commissions?

There have been so many lovely commission ideas, but it would have to be the Indian Elephant from The World of Cross Stitching Issue 206 way back in 2013! I used traditional henna motifs as the basis for the background. It was interesting to research the shapes and patterns and then translate them to cross stitch.

Elephant cross stitch pattern
Traditional Henna design inspired Fiona’s elephant pattern

Any stitching disasters?

The time I washed my finished samurai warrior piece that had taken me months (maybe even years!) to finish and then the red dye from the threads ran… I cried! Luckily, I knew to keep the piece under cold running water and eventually the red colour disappeared. I still get nervous about washing any large stitched piece.

What inspires you?

Inspiration can strike at any time. I usually have a notebook in my bag so that I can scribble out ideas that pop into my head – I’ve even been known to draw on napkins in restaurants so that I don’t forget an idea.

What do you enjoy most about being a cross stitch designer?

I like working from home and being able to set my own work day/schedule.  I loved being at home when my children were at school, it made life so much easier. Also being able to wear your PJ’s all day is a bonus!

Any downsides?

Yeah… you can see the housework that hasn’t been done because you’ve been busy designing or stitching.

How do you create your cross stitch designs?

I used to draw everything out on graph paper, but over the years I’ve become more comfortable drawing straight onto the computer. I often draw out a rough thumbnail-type sketch, just to make sure the idea works, then jump right in and draw it with the cross stitch programme.

Do you stitch for pleasure or prefer designing?

I do love designing, but I stitch for pleasure – I’m totally addicted to it!

Project you’re most proud of?

Despite the red dye disaster, the samurai warrior is my favourite project. It was a surprise gift for my hubby. Originally, it was going to be a wedding anniversary gift, but I didn’t get it done in time. I’m the queen of slow stitching and didn’t finish it in time for Christmas either, so it ended up being a birthday gift. It looks wonderful framed and, best of all, my hubby loved it. When people see it, they often assume that it’s a painting and are so surprised to learn that it’s all done by threads!

Samurai warrior cross stitch pattern
Rhona’s proudest piece is this stunning Samurai warrior design.

Do you have any other creative hobbies, or other interesting non-stitching past times?

I love anything creative – everything from photography to crochet to hand lettering (yeah, those pens are still ruling my life!)  Unfortunately for me, I’m beginning to run out of hiding places for all my craft stash so I might have to be more restrained once the hubby finds out.

Other than cross stitch, what are you most passionate about in life? How do you like to relax?

I love to go walking and am lucky enough to live within driving distance of a nature preserve. I often go there with my camera and take pictures. I also love to bake but that doesn’t help my waistline, but luckily I’m also addicted to Zumba so can be found dancing off those extra calories several times a week.

Who or what inspires you creatively?

That’s a tricky question as I think inspiration can strike at any time and from anything. We’;re lucky to live in the times of facebook, Pinterest and Youtube  and can be inspired by so many talented artists.

Advertisement

What are your future plans?

Other than stitching and designing, my hubby and I are hoping to drive across the length of Canada. We’re still in the daydreaming stage, but you can bet there will be lots of Canadian-themed designs after the trip!