The location of our next Sewing Space Tour, where someone lets us have a nosey around their lovely creative space, used to be a chicken shed – although you’d never know it now! Lexy here, handing over to Emma to find out more…
Hello, I’m Emma and this is my sewing space. I live just north of Bristol, where I run my business – Emma Giacalone Textiles – making freehand machine embroidery artwork. I have always been creative, and enjoy anything crafty, but never really considered myself to be very good at sewing as I’m too impatient to measure, pin or tack things properly (while still wanting the end result to be perfect!)
While on maternity leave with my eldest child, I discovered freehand machine embroidery, which immediately appealed to me as I knew that it would allow me the creativity to do whatever I liked, while being able to incorporate the beautiful textures and colours of fabric that I am so drawn to. I started embellishing baby-grows and tops for my son, and I was immediately hooked! Five years on, I now sew bespoke and personalised pieces, which are all based on my drawings, and inspired by children and family as well as local landscapes and scenery.
My sewing equipment was always kept in a home office in our garage, which is lovely but small. This meant that I could only really do one thing at a time; I couldn’t work on more than one commission or project at once, and as I was limited to one workbench, sketching and cutting out material meant moving my sewing machine out of the way which could be frustrating. Last year when some space became available in my husbands’ business unit – which is on a farm and used to be a chicken shed! – I saw an opportunity and moved myself in.
Because I am now working in quite a large area, I am lucky to be able to have tables dedicated to each stage of the making process and lots of room for storage, so as well as my sewing table and desk for admin, I have a sketching desk, a cutting table and an area where I can frame pictures once they’re finished. I inherited a number of Ikea trestles when I took on the unit, which I really like using because I am able to move everything around easily.
Since I’ve been here, I have rearranged the furniture a few times to find a layout that now really works for me. I have found that I am now able to work on more than one project at a time, that I’m able to work on larger pieces which I physically wouldn’t have had the space to make before, and that I am able to be more creative as I can stop and sketch ideas as they come to me.
Because I use lots of colours and textures of material to make my pictures, I have a lot of small pieces rather than bolts or rolls of fabric. I have found the best way to store all of my scraps is to keep them in clear plastic storage boxes, which usually allows me to locate the material I’d like to use relatively easily. As well as Liberty lawns and linen, I like to use up-cycled fabric in my work, as I feel the wear and use of the materials helps to create more texture. It’s obviously nice to save it from landfill too.
I tend to scour charity shops for clothes made of nice material or interesting patterns and old buttons – shirts and blouses are particularly good – and I love that you never know what you’re going to find. I have to be quite strict with myself about tidying up after I’ve finished a picture, otherwise the temptation can be to move straight on to the next thing and before I know it every available surface is covered in scraps of material and threads!!
I intended to keep the space open and simple, which I thought would help me work, but it has quickly filled up with vintage finds that I’ve picked up while looking for fabric! I have quite a collection of sewing machines ranging from vintage toy machines, a couple of old singers that I use for making paper bags for packaging (which I stitch from brown paper embellished with scraps) but I always use my Janome DM3000 for my embroidery (psst! We’ve done some freestyle machine embroidery with our Janome DKS100 sewing machines, here in the studio).
I like to keep buttons and ribbon out on display as I like how they look and it also makes it quicker to find them. I use old or unusual pots to display them in; right now my buttons are all in old Hovis baking tins and my ribbons are in the drawer of a Singer sewing table that I have attached to the wall. I’ve found that this helps me work though, as it just feels more inspiring having nice things around, so I’d call it organised clutter!
Because it’s usually just me and my dog Molly here, I like listening to podcasts and audio books while I work so that there is a bit of background noise. I always look forward to coming in to work as it feels like a real sanctuary, which has evolved over the last year into a really lovely creative workspace. Looking forwards, I am planning to offer workshops and craft sessions here so that other people can enjoy it as much as I do!
Thank you so much Emma for sharing your incredible space with us! Your style and organisation are a sight to behold.
Caught up with our previous Sewing Space Tours? We’d love to see your sewing space, check out our submission guidelines for info on how to submit your space to us.