In Bloom: an Interview with Sew & Saunders

The people that work at Jigsaw are pretty exceptional. A retail director doubles as a choir conductor, a web developer has a photographer business. We’re a workforce of hidden talents, big ambitions and creative minds. Take Jo Saunders. Full-time facilities manager at Jigsaw, Jo is also the founder of handmade embroidery business, Sew & Saunders. Jo talks to us about creativity, pursuing a passion, and finding inspiration from nature.

Jo Saunders

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business Sew & Saunders?

I live in north London with my husband and our cat Naavs. I began Sew & Saunders in 2014, a few years after graduating from university with a degree in Fashion Design. Sew & Saunders is a bespoke hand-embroidery company, specialising in botanical and contemporary florals. I also offer beginner kits to encourage people to embrace handcrafted items and stitch their own projects.

How would you describe your work in three words?

Textured, colourful and botanical.

How did you get started with sewing/embroidery?

I have embroidered ever since I can remember, but my final year at university was when my embroidery obsession really came into its own. The thing I love most about embroidery and creating in general is seeing your ideas come to life from a simple sketch or concept. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than that.

What influences your art and makes you feel inspired?

I am inspired by a lot around me, and that can sometimes feel like an eclectic mixture of influences when living in central London. Being from Hampshire, I would say my main inspiration is nature; I use this for colour references and plant inspirations. Luxury fashion brands such as Valentino and Gucci have always inspired me with their use of colour and texture too, and I often feel a surge of creativity when their new collections are released. Travel is another big one. A change of countries and scenery help me create new collections.

Tell us about your creative process.

I carry a small sketchbook with me wherever I go, and if for some reason I can’t take it with me, I have downloaded the Sketches App so I can quickly jot down any ideas that come to mind. Usually at the end of a month I will start to collate drawings, and the design process begins. The most exciting part is choosing thread colours: I have well over 2000 skeins in my home studio. Whilst this can be a time-consuming task, it will always be one of my favourites.

In addition to Sew & Saunders, you also work in the property department at Jigsaw. How do you find this contrast in careers? 

I would describe myself as a creative person, and ideally, I find this element in both my roles at Jigsaw and Sew & Saunders – just in two very different ways! As facilities manager and assisting as project manager, it is my job to support the stores. Because this is such a varied job, no two days are the same and I often have to think creatively to find solutions.

Having my own small business is a wonderful and challenging experience. Having said that, it can be lonely at times. It helps being in a community such as Instagram with like-minded small businesses to talk to. At Jigsaw, there is such a great atmosphere within Head Office and our department that inspires team work and leadership too.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am currently working on more pieces for my Spring Summer 2019 collection. This season I am creating throw cushions and tote bags from jute and brightly coloured tapestry wools. My studio is so full of colour at the moment; it has me dreaming of a holiday. I also have a collaboration with Amanda Gregory Soft Furnishings that is launching soon, so keep an eye out for that!

What materials and textiles do you use?

My favourite fabric to use is hessian or heavy linen. I have always been drawn to more humble, natural materials and never man-made fabrics. I am a huge fan of Cosmo Threads and DMC, both of whom stock an incredible collection of tones.

What are some different styles and designs which you would like to experiment with?

My next challenge is to conquer Mountmellick embroidery - a beautiful style that originated from Mountmellick in Ireland. My main style of embroidery is (and always will be) crewelwork– a surface embroidery that uses a variety of stitches from wool. I like to try varying styles to keep designs fresh and to challenge my own skill set.

Sew & Saunders embroidery ring

What has been your proudest Sew & Saunders moment to date?

Over the last few years, there have definitely been a few breakthrough moments. Receiving an email from a buyer at Liberty asking to stock my product was definitely a proud moment, and I think this was also a pivotal point for me to have belief in my brand. Something I have always struggled with is separating myself personally from my work and understanding its value. During this time, with my first few deliveries arriving at Liberty DC, I had a moment when I realised this was it- I was actually doing it!

Who are some of your favourite embroidery artists?

Since starting my business, I have met some incredible embroidery artists through Instagram. Some of my favourites are Caitlin of Cinder & Honey and Irem of Baobap.

Find Sew & Saunders on Instagram.

Author: Katey Bulner

Curious reader, creative writer, travel expat and gin connoisseur. Forever stuck in the romantic jazz era. Jigsaw’s Content Writer.