Like so many Pinterest users, I collect all kinds of interesting items. Since I started my account of course I collect textile art, handsfree quilting, machine embroidery etc. That’s how I found Betty, and my Pinterestboard on her has over a hundred pictures. Some weeks ago I read an article in which was mentioned that Michelle Holmes, her creator, works on a Bernina. More than enough reasons to contact her for an interview. With warm enthusiasm, she answered my questions.
But who is Michelle Holmes?
Michelle Holmes graduated in Stitched Textiles from Loughborough University and since 1994 has worked as a full-time textile artist. It was during her degree that Michelle started to stitch quirky characters and set them into landscapes.
Find all about her on http://www.archangelstudio.co.uk/index.html
Michelle, can you introduce Betty to us?
Betty is embroidered on an old Bernina sewing machine. She always wears a spotted skirt, plain shirt and sometimes a Duster coat. She is based on several people including my Grandmother Doris, a childhood neighbour named Millicent and a character Lady Isabella Bird from one of my favourite books ‘A ladies life in the Rocky Mountains’. Betty is often to be found pottering around the countryside contemplating the natural world and observing everyday occurrences.
Betty herself measures about 9cm high. The average size of the embroidery is around 15 x 17cm.
And the technical aspect?
I use ‘stitch and tear’ to stabilise the fabric rather than a hoop. I find a hoop stops me from moving the fabric so easily when the design grows.
Sometimes I leave the edges raw and stitch the fabric onto Fabriano hot pressed paper which is a lovely cream colour. I then window mount Betty with a maize coloured board and usually frame her in Oak. On a few of the larger ones, I back the design by placing the design right sides together onto a lining and stitching around the edge and then turning the design through. Hand stitching the hole and then hand stitching the piece onto acid free cream board which I would then frame in a box frame to hold the glass away from the fabric.
I do not use the stitch regulator. I like the irregularity of the stitch, that is why I like to use a Bernina because I have full control and can express my drawings as I wish. I do not want them to look too mechanical. That I think is the beauty of machine embroidery. The human element.
I do not draw the Betty images out first. I just begin with my tea coloured cotton fabric . I do keep sketch books and often have these propped up on my desk to draw inspiration from.
How did you think of starting with Betty?
Betty started off as a character in a larger piece of embroidery which was for a customer based on her family. I developed her from there and have taken inspiration from family, friends and female artists and writers who have influenced me. Below I enclose my statement about Betty. The name seemed to suit her..she was nearly Isabella.
I have been making her mostly since 2013, so over 250. They are all different and I try not to reproduce them though certain themes comes around each year as I am interested in the rhythms of the seasons and nature.
And you like Bernina? Great choice!
Betty is stitched on a Bernina Sport 1015 purchased new.
My other Berninas are:
- 1 x Bernina 830 Record
- 1 x Bernina 830 (vintage)
- 1 x 1005
- 1 x Minimatic 807, a very lovely little travelling machine which I will always hold on to.
I have purchased them second hand or been given them. One belonged to a lady who had purchased it in South Africa. She had passed away and her husband was selling it. The minimatic had belonged to a friends mother who had used it for her City and Guilds in Embroidery. When she passed away her daughter gave it to me. They all seem to have stories.
And Michelle finishes with “Oh, I did not read the Bernina Blog but I will now. I live deep in the countryside and have the most terrible internet connection.”
Thanks a lot, Michelle, for this interview! We look forward to many more Betty’s!
Do you like Betty as much as I do? I really hope so!