An Interview with Sarah Watson, Author of Pen to Thread

  • 01 of 03

    Get to Know Sarah Watson's Embroidery Style

    Pen to Thread
    Pen to Thread. Image courtesy of Sarah Watson

    Sarah Watson is an illustrator and textile artist, and she has a fantastic style. Recently she brought her drawings to life in embroidery in the book Pen to Thread. I talked with Sarah about her love of embroidery, the process of creating her book and a few of her favorite stitching things. 

    How long have you been doing embroidery and how did you get started?

    I have been embroidering for about ten years. I’ve had embroidery thread on my hands, for quite a bit longer, though. As a kid I was all...MORE about friendship bracelets, and my chosen thread was always simple embroidery thread. I really started experimenting with embroidery in the Fibers Department at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where I studied textile design. I started out with a bit of hand embroidery, but also learned free motion embroidery on a sewing machine, which I really love.

    What is your favorite part about embroidery?

    Of all my many, many hobbies, I think embroidery is probably the most relaxing. For example, my chickens ate my garden last week, leaving me frustrated and starting from zero. Very rarely do I find myself in a situation where I have to completely start over with embroidery. The rhythm and motion of embroidery is really soothing as well, and it’s so portable. Did you really just want one favorite part? There are so many favorite parts.

    Your patterns and finished embroideries really do look like illustrations. What's your secret for stitching in a hand-drawn style?

    Drawing is the secret! I am a textile designer by trade, so am constantly drawing. A lot of embroidery designs out there are edited in the computer first to make them easier to trace, and, honestly to make them a bit prettier. I just kicked out that step, and went straight from drawing to embroidery. My drawings have a good bit of character, and I think it easily comes through when you transfer the motifs into stitches.

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  • 02 of 03

    A Peek Into Sarah Watson's Process

    Pen to Thread - Craft Room Motifs
    Craft Room Motifs. © Mollie Johanson, Licensed to

    Pen to Thread has hundreds of patterns. What was the biggest challenge in creating all the designs?

    It depends on what stage of design I was in. Half the time I felt a little challenged to come up with motifs that I thought people might actually use (if anyone out there embroiders the ‘tooth warrior’, I’d love to see where you put it!), and the other half of the time I felt like I had to cut out motifs that I really wanted to include. If left to my own devices this could have been a thousand page...MORE novel. In the end, I love every motif that I chose, and really feel like I could use them all. A tooth fairy pouch, that’s where I would put the Tooth Warrior!

    Was there any point in the process when you really just wanted to stop stitching?

    Oh, no, never! There was a point when I had to stop stitching, but never wanted to. Initially I proposed embroidering every single motif. Haha, thank goodness the publisher suggested I only do a selection. My son was born when I was about halfway through the embroideries, so I had to stop for a little while and figure out when and how to squeeze embroidery in. Luckily newborns sleep a lot, so I still got a lot done.

    You have illustrated stationery and children's books, you design beautiful fabric, and now you have an embroidery book. What's next for you?

    Well, more fabric. I think there will always be more fabric. I’m always planning to print my own fabric, I’ve been saying it for years, so maybe it’ll happen this year. Things that are more likely to happen? I’d really love to write another embroidery book. This time I was thinking more of a project based book, as I’m really loving turning all of my embroideries from Pen to Thread into projects. Also, lots of gardening, but that’s probably not what you were asking about.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Rapid Fire with Sarah Watson

    Pen to Thread - In the Kitchen Motifs
    In the Kitchen Motifs. © Mollie Johanson, Licensed to

    Okay, let's do a few rapid fire questions. Ready? Here we go!

    Favorite stitch? 


    Least favorite stitch?

    One that I have to look up every time to remember how it’s done (ie the ones I use super infrequently)

    Favorite floss brand?

    That’s unfair! No comment, it depends on the project!

    Something you've always wanted to stitch?

    House portrait. I love house portraits, and I think an embroidered one would be amazing!

    Weirdest thing you've ever stitched?

    I think the tighty whities from Pen to...MORE Thread. I made it into a zipper pouch and gave it to my nephew. I’m not sure if he saw the humor.

    Thanks, Sarah! We appreciate that you took the time to chat with us, and look forward to seeing your ongoing work. And I can't speak for your nephew, but I see the humor, and hope others do too!

    For more of Sarah's work from Pen to Thread, be sure to check out her posts at Sew Mama Sew and The Daily Stitch.