I guess that title sums me up pretty well. My whole life revolves around needlework. Of course I have to fit in the boring stuff like sleeping, eating, looking after the house and family, working - ah well actually I've got that one sussed. After all I love my job!
This page will let you in to my life as a designer and webmaster. But if you prefer to listen rather than read, you may like to play the following audio file of an interview I gave to AnnA Rushton. We chatted about my life, my designing and inspiration, my favourite designs and my passion for this Web site. The file will take a little while to download before playing so you may want to click on the link below and then carry on reading while it loads.Interview with Carol Leather by AnnA Rushton.
Let me start way, way back (yes I'm getting on a bit, I was 52 in July) when I was a youngster and watched my grandmother creating pretty tablecloths with colourful stitching on them which then graced her dinner table. Eventually she uttered those magic words, "Do you want to try?"
My first stitches were awful, truly awful! But did she undo them? No! They stayed in her work, sticking out like a sore thumb, but boy was I proud to see them there amongst her perfect stitches.
She patiently taught me how to make the stitches neater and one day gave me a prettily wrapped parcel containing my very own printed tablecloth to stitch, along with a bundle of coloured embroidery threads. I was off and running and have never looked back.
Fast forward to my school days. My needlework teacher, Miss Abrahams, kept trying to persuade me to make myself some clothes.
But embroidery was my passion.
For nearly three years I won every battle and my mum's collection of embroidered tray-cloths grew and grew. But eventually she got her own way and insisted I make a red poplin skirt. Grudgingly I used the hated sewing machine and put my skirt together.
Did I ever wear it? No, it didn't even make it home!
Then came the point where we had to choose the subjects we would continue with into the fourth year of school. Of course I chose needlework didn't I?
No way! I wanted rid of Miss Abrahams and instead picked cooking.
I didn't give up my embroidery though.
I can still remember seeing my friend, Julie, stitching a blackwork frog with touches of gold thread in amongst the black. It was beautiful and I knew that one day I would do stitching like that! Little did I know then but it would take another 20 years before I actually tried it.
Years passed and I got married and had two children. I even got out the sewing machine and made my daughter some baby clothes! With a toddler around there was little time for embroidery and my passion was put on hold.
Until one day I noticed a craft shop and decided to pop in to see if they had something I could do in the evenings. It was at this point that I was introduced to counted cross stitch.
I went home with my first project in hand and completed it that evening. Rita, the shop owner, was surprised to see me back the next day for more.
It didn't take long before I was addicted!
I stitched pictures, cards, bellpulls, cushions, Christmas decorations and much, much more. Then I decided to stitch my daughter a birth sampler, (yes I know, by this time she was at school!).
I wanted to include all her favourite things which had to, of course, include Danny. No not a boyfriend, but her pet rabbit. But could I find a pattern that looked anything like her Blue Dutch bunny? No.
I decided to try designing it myself.
So enter a new phase in my life. That little rabbit led to many other designs and eventually to becoming a freelance designer for a number of British needlework magazines.
Not long after I was asked to write a monthly article for one of these publications, which was great fun. I hadn't done any writing since I occupied myself with writing stories at school, but I found I really enjoyed it.
It was about this time that I was introduced to computers and cross stitch design software. There was no stopping me now!
I began to design my cross stitch kits and to offer them for sale at local craft events. Then I started advertising in the very same magazines that I used to design for.
Soon I had shops phoning me asking if I sold to the trade. My business had taken off. Imagine my delight when I ended up selling my kits to Rita, for sale in the shop where it had all begun.
People began to ask me if I had a website.
I begged and borrowed the money off my husband to buy web creation software and taught myself to write a website.
Did it make me my fortune? No way. Although it looked pretty, it just sat there in cyberspace not getting any visitors.
I added the web address to my adverts and my kits, and gradually stitchers began to go look at it. What was there for them? My range of designs just waiting to be purchased. But just because they visited didn't mean they bought. We all hate being sold to don't we?
OK we are nearly up to the present time now. So where was I?
In the early autumn of 2006 I had just left my full time employment due to ill health and was sitting at home in our little village wishing that I could make stitching into my full time occupation.
But was I doing anything about achieving that goal? No, like many people I dreamed but didn't believe it could actually happen.
Until I received an email from Ken Evoy.
The name rang a bell. Oh yes, I had bought an ebook from him in the past. I remembered finding it useful so I read his email. It told me about a system called SBI, which promised to help me to build a successful website. Well I already had one of those and I wouldn't call it successful!
For some reason I carried on reading, secretly hoping that perhaps Ken had something to say that would help me turn the tables and make my site work.
Of course he was trying to sell me something. A something that would work, he said. Did he think I was born yesterday?
But I still carried on reading. It began to sound as though it could really work and I got more and more interested. But I wasn't going to make a spur of the moment decision. After all I had tried this before.
For the next two weeks I kept going back to Ken's site and reading the amazing case studies of other, ordinary people that had tried it and succeeded. If they could do it so could I. I already knew what the site would be about, but was learning that just trying to sell my kits wasn't the answer to success.
I watched the video tour that showed how a site should be created and it all made sense.
So I bit the bullet and made the investment in SBI back in October 2006.
Looking back it was the moment when my life changed. I know, you've read THAT before! But seriously, I actually wanted to get up each morning, wanted to get to work on my site, and amazingly it all started to work in the way I had imagined it would.
Having tried and failed before, I was determined to follow the Action Guide to the letter, and with a 30 day money back guarantee sitting there waiting for me to use it if necessary, I started this very site www.needlework-tips-and-techniques.com half expecting to fail yet again.
In fact I had so little confidence in its success that I didn't even tell the family what I was doing.
Not long after I started, Ken announced a competition in the SBI forums. He asked us to create a video called I Love SBI. Well I had a video camera that I had hardly ever used so decided to enter.
Remember, my husband had no idea what I was doing while he was out at work so I couldn't ask for help with holding the camera while I worked on this competition.
There was a steep learning curve when it came to getting the film onto the computer and into a form that eliminated all the umms and ahhhs, but I persevered. I hate to be beaten by anything!
Imagine my surprise and delight when just after Christmas I found out I was one of the lucky winners. I pocketed twice what it had cost me to purchase SBI and at last decided to come clean with the family.
Ever heard the story about the little boy crying wolf?
Well after my last attempt at a website hubby would not believe that I could make it work. He would come home each night and ask"How much have you made today?" Explaining that it took time, sounded like an excuse, even to my ears!
But as the months went by, I began to get encouraging emails from the growing number of visitors to the site. Then I started making sales.
Buoyed by my success I invested in a second SBI site and set to work. Of course I thought I knew it all by now, and neglected to reread the action guide, resulting in a site that didn't have structure and wasn't going anywhere.
Three months later I had a re-think and with the help of an experienced SBI'er from the forums decided to take the new site in a totally new direction. That made the difference between failure and success and site number two started to make money too.
Well I now earn more than I ever did before, back when I was employed by someone else. I am working in my own custom built office (in what was the dining room). In fact my husband is talking about retiring now! I now drive a Mercedes-Benz rather than an old banger. But that isn't the best bit.
I work from home, designing things that other people enjoy stitching, and writing about what I love to share with other stitchers. As well as giving me pleasure when I create my designs I receive wonderful stories telling me I was making a difference to other stitcher's lives.
Take for example the man who rang me to say "Thank you for saving my life!"
On this occasion he really meant it! He went on to explain that his wife had died six months earlier, just after she had started stitching my largest cross stitch design, Mary. Her name was also Mary.
This gentleman was so depressed and lonely at that time that he contemplated ending it all. He had no desire to continue living alone.
However, he made a bargain with himself that he would finish stitching the embroidery his wife had started and then make the decision of whether to carry on. He had done some cross stitch before but not one as large as this.
By the time he had finished the project his outlook on life had changed and by ringing me he had taken the first step on the road to recovery.
"Thank you for saving my life" he told me. Six little words, but they meant the world to me.
To know that I had made a difference to someone's life while doing what I enjoyed was a wonderful feeling. A feeling that is repeated every time someone writes and say's how much my sites have helped them.
Life is good.
I can get up when I like in the morning, work what hours I wish, take holidays or days off whenever I want too, I don't have the hassle of commuting, and I enjoy every minute of it!
Of course I am not unusual, hundreds, if not thousands, of other SBI owners have achieved the same lifestyle. Many of them are earning much more than me.
Time to share your passion, whatever that may be? All it takes is a little determination and some hard work. Then when things are up and running smoothly it could be your turn to enjoy your just rewards.
There are many ways to live your dream, perhaps SBI can help you live yours?
Nov 11, 16 12:46 PM
Wallington Northumberland offers a feast for the eyes of any avid needleworker. Come for a virtual tour with me.
Nov 07, 16 11:17 AM
The history of Embroidery from Anglo Saxon to the 20th Century
Nov 06, 16 05:22 PM
Arlington Court's needlework collection is extensive. Enjoy these photos of my favorite pieces on display.