Melanie Giddings had always had an interest in stitch textiles. As a little girl she would sew, knit and loved needlework at school. Like so many of our students, busy careers, family and friends left little room for her passion. However, as retirement loomed Melanie decided that now was the time to rekindle her love of textile art.
Having recently completed our Hand Embroidery Skill Stage 2 course, Melanie shares her #MyStitchJourney.
“I chose an accredited course so that I could see where my skill levels were. It would also give me the chance to move forwards and develop further in the future. Having a qualification made me feel that I was good enough.” Melanie Giddings
I had a keen interest in sewing and knitting from a really young age. My mum used to sew all my clothes, and I remember sitting on the kitchen table next to her sewing machine watching her sew and being in awe of her. She was a keen knitter, but her patience ran out when trying to teach me, so my dad took over and I learnt to knit. I had an old suitcase full of scraps and learnt how to make dresses for my dolls. I graduated from dolls clothes to simple clothes for myself and was very proud of the jeans my mum helped me make when I was eleven. At secondary school I got into a lot of trouble because I would finish a garment in an evening, which was supposed to take us all term.
It was at secondary school I became interested in different forms of embroidery. My needlework teacher suggested we did some smocking (I think it was to try and slow me down a bit). One of my friends said she liked to have a go too, so we made smocked halter tops and that was my first proper introduction to a form of embroidery.
After leaving school my career path took me elsewhere but my love of sewing and knitting didn’t diminish, enjoying making things for other people, including my three children, family and friends.
At the age of 27 I went to university to train as a primary school teacher and the creative world opened up for me. I majored in art and was introduced to textile art. I learnt a little free machine embroidery and explored sculpturing with fabrics, painting and dying, felt making, batik etc. I felt I had found my place in the world. The only problem was, I was passionate about teaching too so, my own practise as an artist took a bit of a back seat.
In 2004 I moved to France, and I finally had the space and time to reconnect with my love of textiles. I held a weekly craft club and taught people how to do all the things I had learnt. I also joined a patchwork group and learnt how to create different patchworks and quilting. 12 years later I returned to the UK and to teaching and again my own creativity took a back seat.
As retirement is looming, I wanted to rekindle my love of textile art and develop it further, with a dream of exhibiting my work one day. I kept on looking at the website wondering which course to do. Would I fit it in with my full-time work commitments? Would I be good enough? Was it too late?
Eventually I decided to try the beginner’s course in hand embroidery and loved every minute of it. I found it relaxing and I learnt many new stitches that I had not been confident to try on my own. The videos were great and the instructions clear and easy to follow. Then I plucked up the courage to go for it and enrolled in the level 2 hand embroidery course. It gave me a whole new perspective on this art form and showed me so many possibilities.
I chose an accredited craft course so that I could see where my skill levels were. It would also give me the chance to move forwards and develop further in the future. Having a qualification made me feel that I was good enough.
What have you learnt?
It has taught me perseverance! I was very ill with covid right in the middle of my course. I then had a mental breakdown and was off work for several weeks and moved house, but the college was so helpful and granted me an extension which motivated me and made me determined not to give up. I felt I owed it to my lovely tutor and the school. It showed me that I could do it. It showed me I as good enough.
I learnt so many new stitches and techniques and have improved my overall stitching to a level that I am proud of. One of the modules that stands out for me was the designing module. Designing has always been something I have struggled with, but the module showed me step by step. I have so many photos of things that I find interesting or intriguing but didn’t know how to use them. Now I can see that they don’t have to be exact replicas but can be abstracted and still retain the features I was attracted to in the first place.
Advice for new students?
I would certainly recommend this course. The tutors are fantastic. They are patient and their feedback is so helpful. If anyone is looking at starting the course just go for it – you won’t regret it.
To anyone starting out on the course, I would recommend you set yourself a timetabled plan of when you want to complete each module and break it down into stages. Even if you don’t manage to stick to it, it will help you to pace out your time. Most important of all, if you need help – ask for it. The tutors are really supportive and will give you the help you need.