We are excited to introduce our featured designer of the month for June: Karen Bosch! Karen is a talented seamstress and embroiderer whose work has been featured in Sew Beautiful several times over the years. Most recently, her designs can be seen in our newest addition to the Sew Beautiful Collection, Karen Bosch’s Summertime Baby (available at Martha Pullen Company). Additionally, Karen’s handwork designs have been digitized into machine embroidery, such as the companion to Summertime Baby, My Lil’ Friends, as well as the popular Blue Ribbon Baby disc. Karen shares more about herself and her sewing with us in today’s interview. Enjoy!
SB: Karen, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions that we can share with our readers! Let’s start out with an introduction; tell us a little bit about yourself.
Karen: I am from Zimbabwe and had the most wonderful childhood growing up in wildlife parks where my father was a researcher. My lack of human playmates was more than made up with the various wild animals my Mother and Father took care of, my greatest friend being an orphaned baby elephant. After leaving school I went to secretarial college and then worked as a secretary in the Foreign Office. Later on in life I studied to become a Hospice Bereavement Caregiver. I now live in South Africa with my husband, we have two grown-up daughters (both Arts Graduates). Last year I became a grandmother!
SB: Many of us who sew also participate in other crafts and hobbies; do you?
Karen: I am interested in so many things! Apart from heirloom sewing, I enjoy general dressmaking, embroidery, bobbin lacemaking, smocking, knitting, crochet, gardening and baking. I also enjoy going to the occasional antique auction sale in the hopes of being able to buy antique textiles, sewing tools and old needlework books.
SB: How long have you been sewing, and how did you get started?
Karen: I have been sewing since my legs were long enough to reach the treadle on my Mother’s Singer sewing machine – I was about 4 when that happened, what a memorable day it was and the beginning of my passion for all types of needlework. Now I am 50+ – that’s quite a long time I have been sewing, but I never stop learning and being inspired
SB: What is/are your favorite kind(s) of sewing?
Karen: My favourite type of sewing is heirloom sewing by hand – I like the control that one has over each and every stitch. Yes, it takes time, but I always have a “special” feeling when I’m doing handwork. I now include my handmade bobbin lace in my handsewn articles, so it really is 100% handmade. My favourite type of embroidery is shadow-work, I love the simplicity and gentleness of this technique, it works so well with heirloom fabrics.
SB: From where would you say you get your inspiration for your sewing projects and designs?
Karen: I get a lot of inspiration from my collection of old textiles – my favourite gown I made was a copy of a dear little antique gown I found in tatters. It was featured in Sew Beautiful as “Sweet Serenity”, Sew Beautiful issue #74, 2001 (pictured above). It’s so satisfying to know the design lives on. My love for animals and flowers inspires a lot of my shadow-work designs.
SB: Hand-in-hand with inspiration goes motivation. As creative types, sometimes even though we have plenty of inspiration, we can’t seem to motivate ourselves to actually keep creating! How do you combat this struggle?
Karen: Yes, I certainly know about that! Take a break and do something completely different.
SB: We at Martha Pullen Company are thrilled that our newest book featuring your designs, Summertime Baby, is now available. You worked on these designs with your daughter, Tamzin. Tell us a little bit about your collaboration with her on the Summertime Baby designs and how the book came to be!
Karen: Tamzin (Tammy) is an Honours Graduate in Fine Art. She loves to draw, and if there is a piece of paper available, Tammy will draw whimsical animals on it. She started drawing and painting her animals (the ones featured in Summertime Baby) onto cards and selling them for pocket money, they were so successful she couldn’t keep up with orders; I then knew how much people enjoyed her happy little characters – they are especially popular with young people. She was happy for me to use some of her designs on baby linen I was making, and when I showed my sewing friends the designs, they just loved them. I then re-did the designs on wearable articles for Sew Beautiful and they have now turned it into a book! Tammy also does “serious” art, I am so proud of all of her work.
SB: What would your advice be for a true beginner of sewing and embroidery?
Karen: My advice would be try to be as orderly as possible – pre-sewing preparation is good – before you settle down to sew make sure you have all your fabrics prepared (rinsed, and if necessary, starched), threads pulled, pattern pieces traced, a selection of laces to choose from, needles, pins, sewing cottons, etc., readily available. Try and keep your workspace as neat as possible, it is so frustrating to continually look for little items that have a habit of disappearing whilst we sew! I always tidy my sewing room when I have finished for the day, it’s helpful to find everything in order when I get back to my sewing. Also, the ultimate joy of sewing is the successful completion of a article, so try not to accumulate too many unfinished projects. Learning to sew and embroider is not difficult, but it takes time, just enjoy it and if possible go to classes – they are fun and inspirational.
SB: What are some of your favorite go-to sewing tools?
Karen: My favourite sewing tools are my little 4″ embroidery hoop – wonderful for shadow embroidery – a tape measure which I always wear around my neck, my blue dressmaker’s pen and an old silver thimble which belonged to a very special great aunt.
SB: What about some of your favorite sewing resources (publications, websites, individuals, etc.)?
Karen: My favourite sewing publications are Grandmother’s Hope Chest, published by Martha Pullen, Sarah Howard Stone’s Heirloom Sewing by Hand books – I refer to these books constantly. I don’t have a favourite web-site yet, only having just been given my first computer, am still very much a novice and a little intimidated by the workings of my laptop! My favourite heirloom sewer is Margaret Boyles – I was so lucky to have attended her classes on both occasions I went to Martha’s School of Art Fashion – her work is beautifully perfect. I am also a great admirer of the work of Jeannie Downs Baumeister, Wendy Schoen and Debbie Glenn – their designs are truly inspirational.
SB: Any last words of advice for our readers?
Karen: Enjoy your sewing, even if you are occasionally disappointed with a project, the next one will be better