Q&A with Louise Kelly

Louise, welcome to the Stitchtopia family! We are very excited to have you on board and to have you leading our Stitch and Quilt holiday to County Donegal in September. What are you most looking forward to about this trip and what can our stitchers expect on this trip?

Thank you, I am so happy to be part of Stitchtopia and really excited to welcome everyone to beautiful Donegal and Northern Ireland. I really love where I am from, so apart from all the stitchy escapades that we will get up to I am most excited for everyone to see and experience what this wonderful part of the world has to offer. You will meet many a friendly face here, lots of hospitality and plenty of good old ‘Craic’.

The trip is based in your home town of Derry, which is home to the only completely walled city in the UK and Ireland and was the first ever UK City of Culture. How excited are you to be showing stitchers your home town and can you sum up the city in just three words?

Derry, or also known as Londonderry has had a long, and sometimes turbulent history, the Derry Walls being a huge part of that, of course, that has all changed and the city is a peaceful one. Achieving the City of Culture was and very much still is a huge source of pride, you can still see and feel the legacy it left. The City Centre is situated on the banks of the River Foyle, which can be crossed by foot over our beloved ‘Peace Bridge’. The people of Derry are friendly and very funny, we have a great sense of humour! Three words? Vibrant, Historic, Proud!

Your signature felt dolls and tiny outfits are simply amazing and are so unique. Where did this passion come from?

I have always been arty or crafty, my whole life really, my Dad is an artist and both my Grannies stitched, knitted, crocheted etc, there were both excellent seamstresses. So, I was always encouraged to be creative, and that really is where is all started, I always knew that some sort of creative endeavour would be my career, nothing else would do. My passion for doll making came from a group of young ladies all aged between 7 and 12, I was running a Kids Sewing Class on Saturday mornings and a simple request for a doll or softie making class had me making samples and that was it, my brain was full of little characters! I had found my thing!

Do you still have the first doll you ever-made?

I do, I have a rabbit and a monkey doll that I made for the class, I love them so.

Do you have a favourite doll and if so, why?

Hmmm, yes, I guess I do, I kind of fall in love with each one, but I have a sweet little dolly called Elodie, I could never part with her. I think she is so important to me because she was the first one that was really my design, my style, everything I make comes from my sketchbook, and Elodie was a big turning point for me, all my dolls have evolved from her.

You will be leading three workshops during this fantastic trip. Can you give travellers a sneak peak of the type of thing you will be teaching?

One of my favourite places on the planet is Glenveagh, I can’t wait for everyone to see it, there is some beautiful gardens there and breath taking views. My brain is percolating a stitchy project that we could hang as a piece of art, inspired by this beautiful place! Watch this space.

Where do you find the inspiration for your designs?

Everywhere, I guess, sometimes it’s just two colours that have caught my eye, or an outfit I saw someone wear, or an outfit that I secretly want! Fabric is also a huge inspiration, I am always squirreling away prints that catch my fancy, I especially love Liberty of London, oftentimes I will pick out one print that I am itching to work with and that alone will dictate the whole character of the doll.

What kind of projects and designs are you most drawn to?

Well, I love hand sewing and almost exclusively hand sew, I’m also drawn to fresh colour schemes, clean lines, a bit of whimsy is also a big draw for me.

What tools and materials could you not live without?

Oh gosh, I could not function without good quality felt and embroidery thread, I gather them like a painter would their paint box, so I always have the right colour to hand. I can’t neglect to mention fabric, needles, scissors. I would happily talk for hours about scissors!

Which of your projects are you most excited about right now?

Oh, well I have a few projects on the go that I just can’t tear myself away from. I made a Gingerbread house at Christmas and I am writing the pattern for it. I am also very honoured to be making wedding outfits for an existing doll couple which will accompany their human counterparts to Las Vegas to get married! There is, as most crafters will know, about a million other bits and pieces on the go.

Your first book ‘Sew Your Own Dolls’ will be published in April. How easy is it to create your own doll and what can stitchers expect from your book?

I say this often, there is something so magical about making miniature things, tiny dresses and little handbags, it is so satisfying. In the book, you will find all the tips and tricks that I have picked up or discovered over the years, lots of instructions and details. Each one of the 25 dolls come from one basic pattern, so once you have mastered that it’s easy. There is huge scope to customise the dolls, and you will find all sorts of garments from dungarees to pyjamas with bunny slippers!

Other than everything crafting, what are your other passions in life?

Without a doubt my beautiful hounds, I have a Greyhound called Rumer and a Lurcher called Rookie, and the world revolves around them and if I could I would have a house full of long legged pointy nosed dogs. I have recently rekindled my love for reading, which I seem to have neglected for a while, I love a good mystery, crime, who-dunnit kind of a book. Also, if you start me on the subject of pens, you may never get me to stop talking!