Valentine’s Day gift ideas in New Westminster, BC
Liz Simpson has earned a following for her little hearts sewn from quilt scraps
This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the crazy little thing called love with little “crazy” quilted hearts.
Also called “scrappy” hearts, they’re made from randomly sewn quilt pieces and filled with lavender, said Liz Simpson, a New West elementary school teacher who made a few as part of her Valentine’s Day collection.
What Simpson loves about making the pocket-sized stuffed animals is that, much like love, there are “no rules,” she said.
“You just sew random pieces of fabric together.”
However, the journey to discovering this technique was far from accidental for Simpson.
It’s the result of a long-standing passion for sewing – one that dates back to the ’90s.
Lockdown unleashes a passion for embroidery
Simpson was introduced to sewing at the age of 12 and worked in embroidery between the ages of 17 and 22 – “It was in the ’90s when cross-stitching was very popular.”
But the world of threads and needles took a backseat when she entered a teacher training program and began working as an elementary school teacher.
Nearly three decades later, as COVID forced the world into isolation, Simpson brought back a lost love from her distant past for companionship: sewing.
“It just snowed from there,” she said.
It was around this time that she noticed an “exploding” interest in embroidery (be it knitting, crocheting, etc.). More and more embroiderers are launching their own YouTube channels, offering online classes on Zoom and sharing their work on social media, she said.
Suddenly, embroidery enthusiasts in North America had access to online courses from around the world, including Europe, where embroidery is far more popular than Canada, Simpson noted.
The Learning Curve
Simpson was hooked; She took online classes, scoured Instagram profiles (like that of UK-based embroiderer Nicki Franklin) for inspiration, built a mini embroidery library and devoted herself to embroidery every day.
She was exposed to hundreds of embroidery styles through books such as Lucinda Ganderton’s Embroidery, Lorna Bateman’s Embroidered Country Gardens, Susan Brandeis’ The Intentional Thread and Mandy Pattullo’s Textiles Transformed.
Simpson learned to make about a dozen of these, including the straight stitch, running stitch, split stitch, open fly stitch, pistol stitch, bullion knot, and her favorite, the French knot.
“You don’t need to know a lot of stitches to create a beautiful piece,” she said.
Every evening, after a hard day’s work, she sewed for about two hours.
“It’s my stress reliever, my meditation and my creative outlet,” Simpson said.
She even kept a linen journal to record patterns of pebbles, weeds, and birds during one of her summer trips to Galiano Island.
Sewing had become part of her routine; and in late 2020, her creations filled her house: “I made and made … I was like, ‘What do I do with all of this?’.”
In response, her online shop Pins and Needles Stitchery was born.
The company garnered interest on Instagram, has been a part of craft sales and pop-ups, and now runs flash sales on its website.
“It was very organic. I never made that choice,” she said.
“I’m still pinching myself… I’m still shocked that people love my pieces and want to buy them. I am very grateful and honored.”
How rowdy the heart became
Over time, scrap pieces left over from their various projects grew into a sizable mound. Instead of discarding them, Simpson decided to find a way to turn them into stuffed hearts.
But instead of going for a regular patchwork of textured and straight lines, she chose to add a little “crazy” and opted for a looser and more organic approach — resulting in discarded quilt hearts, she said.
“It is something special to give something old a new life, a new purpose” – in this case as a small token of love.
“I don’t know… it just feels right.”
The Simpsons Valentine’s Sale on January 28th, starting at 5pm, includes framed embroidery, basket fillers/pincushions, heart garlands and special Valentine’s cards alongside the fancy quilt hearts. Visit the Pins & Needles Stitchery for more information.