My Style: a Q&A with embroidery artist Leigh Jennings
Embroidery artist Leigh tells us which stitch is her go-to, and how social media keeps the crafting industry accessible.
Founder of embroidery business @intwosandthrees Leigh has been stitching and selling embroidered pieces for over a decade – and there’s still nothing she loves more than surprising people with her cheeky (and sometimes explicit) designs…
Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you first discovered your love of embroidery?
I’m Leigh, and I live in Macclesfield with my illustrator partner Dick and our 18-month-old, Eddie. I live with chronic pain and illness and have been selling my embroideries for 12 years. I’d always watched my nanny and mum craft and sew, but really fell in love with it while studying Fine Art at uni many years ago! I loved learning about the history of femininity and female stereotypes, and how embroidered art can be used to explore both topics.
Your designs juxtapose pretty style with punchy, stitched sayings – how do people react to your work?
It varies, often depending on the saying! Many double-take, and then laugh. I love it when people comment on how beautiful the floral details are, which makes them look closer – and then realise what I’ve said. When I sell my pieces at markets, I can see people giggling and whispering, and it really breaks the ice. Of course, some of the pieces aren’t for everyone (I do have a couple that feature more sensitive wording) but I’m aware of this and try to keep those covered. Sometimes people will read my work out loud to their friends while laughing, and that’s usually when I show them the naughty stuff…
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What does your stitching space look like?
Organised chaos! I stitch from my bed most of the time; having chronic pain means trying to find the most comfortable spot to work from, as embroidery can be quite time-consuming – especially my larger, thread painted pieces. I have piles of fabric and thread and hoops at the side of the bed for ease. I’ll also often pack my WIP with me in a tote bag.
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Why did you call your online store ‘intwosandthrees’?
Back in 2012, I helped start up a gifts and homeware shop. By that time, I’d finished uni and missed stitching, so brought something into the shop to keep me busy on quieter days. I was offered some space to sell, but couldn’t ‘mass produce’ my pieces: people were asking for more of what they’d seen. I was literally making designs in numbers of twos and threes, so the name stuck. By the time I considered re-branding properly, my business had taken off.
You’re an advocate for talking about disability and mental health more openly – how inclusive do you feel the craft industry is?
I would certainly say in the 10-plus years that I’ve developed my business, things have changed a great deal. Social media has made everything feel more accessible. We can easily access a video to learn a new technique or find a group of like-minded people online to chat with, all from the comfort of our own safe spaces. Before, ‘crafts’ felt outdated and stereotyped; but now I can find incredible artists who weave with their hair to tell stories about Black History, or who access books online about quilting, rather than struggling to leave the house to visit a shop or library – which I can’t always do. I think the wave of self-care certainly tapped into embroidery and crafting as a way to be mindful and take five minutes out. Stitching really is quite therapeutic; it’s an age-old craft used for calming.
Do you have a fave stitch or embroidery technique?
Back Stitch is my go-to for everything, and thread painting is an absolute favourite for large, more detailed studies.
What’s your current WIP? And are you working on anything special for Christmas?
I’m currently stitching a few extra pieces for my stall at Treacle Market, where I have a stand every month. I’m also hoping to be well enough to host a few workshops over Christmas, and I’m always asked to make something featuring Father Christmas saying something daft! I’ve got some jumper designs drawn up and ready to go, too – I’ve loved stitching on clothing recently.
What plans do you have for @intwosandthrees?
I’ve recently opened a shop with my partner called Dicks General Store. My work has been really well received there, and I’m constantly making pieces to sell. I’d love to continue re-purposing clothing, and it would also be great to teach some workshops on this. My real passion is exhibition work and themed pieces, so it’d be nice to find some time for this too. My health has been up and down, and with the difficult arrival of my little one, my work has started to change again – so who knows where my business will be in the next few years!
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