There’s Nothing Like a Challenge

22nd July 2022

One thing that gives us enormous pleasure here at Inspirations HQ is when we discover how our community take ideas from us and turn them into something incredible. A short while ago, we received an email from Kilmeny Jones, from the Embroiderers’ Guild of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, who told us about a challenge that she developed for her Guild after she had seen our book, The Design Collective | Pincushions.

In conversation with a friend, Kilmeny discussed how she enjoyed our concept of asking designers to create a pincushion, without giving them any other specifications. Knowing that there were a lot of very talented stitchers within her Guild, many of whom were wonderful designers, Kilmeny pitched the idea of a pincushion challenge to the Guild Executive. The idea was embraced, and the challenge was born!

Kilmeny borrowed our brief to the designers and put it in their own words:

‘Go forth and stitch something. It must hold pins. No other constraints!’

The plan was to bring the entries together at a meeting and have attendees vote on them. There was to be a prize for the overall winner, as well as one for the most votes for an original design and the most votes for a design worked from a pattern. All of the creations would then be displayed at their annual Spring Festival.

The response from Kilmeny’s Guild was overwhelming. They received 38 pincushions! Some members stitched multiple items, but everyone enjoyed the process and loved coming up with ideas.

The overall winner was a stunning little surface embroidery house stitched by Sharon MacDonald. It had lots of French knots because, Sharon said, she just loves stitching French knots! She even created custom pins to go into the pincushion house as an added touch.

The winning original design was a flapper style pincushion doll created by Lois Waters. The winning pattern-based design was a quaker-style mouse design, with a Quaker-style cat on a bag in which the pincushion lives. It was stitched by Karen Carter from the pattern ‘Quaker Cat and Mouse’ by The Workbasket.

What a wonderful collection and a fabulous way to bring the Guild together and see what they could create. It wasn’t about the competition – it was about the fun of coming up with an idea and then working it to completion. And then the added enjoyment of seeing what everyone else had done.

In a similar vein, we were contacted by Nicole Detering who told us about another Guild and another challenge that produced some breathtaking work. The Embroiderers’ Guild of Queensland here in Australia had their recent Biennial Exhibition, entitled ‘The 1920s in the 2020s’. A challenge to members was set for the exhibition that aimed to evoke the spirit of the 1920s, but also to celebrate the use of the raised stem stitch.

The reason for this specific stitch is that the EGQ has adopted that stitch as part of the Royal School of Needlework’s initiative, the RSN Stitch Bank. The aim of this initiative is to preserve all stitches so that students, teachers, historians and researchers alike can use the resource in their work.

The parameters for the EGQ’s challenge included evidence of 1920s inspiration as well as the clear use of the raised stem stitch.

19 entries were received, all of exceptional quality. Three prizes were awarded, but all entries were worthy of merit.

Joanne Jayne was the overall winner with her gorgeous piece based on May Gibbs’s iconic Gumnut Babies. The Acquisition Award, granted to one piece that will then be included in the Guild’s own collection, was given to Jill Gillespie and her Casalguidi Work Bag. Finally, the People’s Choice Award was given to Paula Pugh, although because of the quality of the entries, this was a hard-fought prize!

Challenges or competitions are a fantastic way for stitchers to direct their ideas and come up with exceptional work. We’ve always enjoyed the San Francisco School of Needlework’s Stitch at Home Challenge but we’d love to learn about any others. 

Have any of your Guilds or stitch groups set challenges or created competitions for your members? Do you know of any other challenges or competitions, or have you entered them yourself? Whether you win a prize or not, challenges are another way that we can share our ideas and passion with people who love needlework just as much as we do.

Interested in stitching your own pincushion? Check out our book The Design Collective | Pincushions for inspiration and browse our range of Ready-to-Stitch kits for the projects featured HERE

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