I’m frequently on the road for work, and to be honest, I don’t always love it. The glamour of road life has far from vanished, and I usually find myself missing my family and the creative comforts of home. On this trip; however, I was able to connect with a fabulous shop The Paper & Craft Pantry and learn contemporary hand embroidery skills from an amazing artist, Sarah K Benning
The Paper & Craft Pantry is a locally-owned retail paper shop in the heart of Austin, TX. And what’s even better than the shop itself is the owner- Pei. She has masterfully stocked her shop with beautiful stationary, paper, gifts, and everything else you might need to send or make a heartfelt message or craft. And on top of that, she has compiled a calendar full of workshops and community events fulfilling her dream of creating an inclusive and creative space. This is definitely the kind of place that makes you instantly feel creative, welcome, and happy.
The Artist & Workshop
I discovered Sarah K Benning on Instagram where she regularly posts pictures of her completed work and patterns(@sarahkbenning). Her artistic love of plants and handcraft grab my attention, and I’ve been pretty much stalking her ever since. If you haven’t seen her work be forewarned, you will be blown away! Her pattern drawing is simple yet artistic, and her use of needle and thread paints an even more compelling picture. Thankfully Sarah also has a heart for sharing and teaching others which were demonstrated in this workshop. Her contemporary embroidery mantra is simple- no rules- which turns turns out is creatively freeing! The workshop was also the perfect size since we were able to see and hear Sarah, but also connect with each other. I met a few new friends, and as it turns out, I was not the only traveling nomad there.
Each participant was given a complete kit including two patterns, fabric & embroidery hoop, pencil for tracing the pattern, thread snips, information on Sarah’s work and pattern program, a patch with one of her completed designs, and access to a whole lot of thread- courtesy of DMC threads.
Sarah’s teaching style is informal and inclusive. She talked for a few minutes in the beginning about the workshop goals, what was in the kit, and what to expect. Then we dove right into our work! Sarah first demonstrated her method for transferring the pattern and getting our hoops ready for stitching. I had done some embroidery before, but Sarah solidified the concepts of keeping the fabric taut while stitching and shortening up my thread length for more efficient stitching.
Next, Sarah demonstrated the simple stitches she primarily uses in her work- the satin, straight, and couching stitches. We were able to get right up close to watch the demonstration, followed by Sarah walking around the room to make sure everyone got it. Instead of focusing on learning a ton of classic embroidery stitches, Sarah started us out with these basic stitches that everyone, even those who had never stitched before, could master. Sarah helped me realize that with these simple stitches under your belt, you really can create almost anything with a little practice.
More than anything, the few hours I spent at the Paper & Craft Pantry that Tuesday evening was inspiring! Watching both Pei and Sarah chase their creative & entrepreneurial dreams was transformative for me. They are both empowered, bright, and extremely capable and I felt like a few hours in their presence made me a better person- just what this weary traveler needed! And I finished an adorable piece that will serve as a reminder of this great night. Since attending the class, I have completed a few more of Sarah’s patterns and finally started my hand stitched display wall. What about you, have you finished any hand embroidery lately? If so, I would love to hear how you displayed it.