Art Supply Insiders Podcast

ASI 62 MCreativeJ, Fiber Artist

April 30, 2023 Jeff Morrow
ASI 62 MCreativeJ, Fiber Artist
Art Supply Insiders Podcast
More Info
Art Supply Insiders Podcast
ASI 62 MCreativeJ, Fiber Artist
Apr 30, 2023
Jeff Morrow

Nature inspired embroidery for the modern maker. Melissa Galbraith is the fiber artist behind MCreativeJ. Melissa shares her love of nature through whimsical and modern hand embroidery kits, patterns, workshops, and her book, How to Embroider Texture and Pattern.
Melissa's embroidery kits, patterns, workshops, and book make it easy to learn a new craft for makers of all skill levels. She enjoys seeing makers fall in love with the needle arts, especially that magical ah-ha moment of learning something new.
Click here to go to the MCreativeJ website

Art Supply Insiders
Click here to subscribe & follow (and be notified of every new podcast): Subscribe & Follow
Please leave a comment (we love feedback!): Comments

Support the Show.

Art Supply Insiders Podcast +
Become a supporter of the show and help us continue making great content!
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript

Nature inspired embroidery for the modern maker. Melissa Galbraith is the fiber artist behind MCreativeJ. Melissa shares her love of nature through whimsical and modern hand embroidery kits, patterns, workshops, and her book, How to Embroider Texture and Pattern.
Melissa's embroidery kits, patterns, workshops, and book make it easy to learn a new craft for makers of all skill levels. She enjoys seeing makers fall in love with the needle arts, especially that magical ah-ha moment of learning something new.
Click here to go to the MCreativeJ website

Art Supply Insiders
Click here to subscribe & follow (and be notified of every new podcast): Subscribe & Follow
Please leave a comment (we love feedback!): Comments

Support the Show.

 Jeff: 0:06

Welcome back to our Supply insiders. My name is Jeff Morrow, and today we're talking with Melissa Galbrath. And Melissa is the owner and the creator of M Creative J. Hi Melissa. How you doing?

Melissa: 0:21

I'm great. How are you, Jeff?

Jeff: 0:23

Fine. So first off, now you're a fiber artist, right? I am, yes. Well, what, what exactly is a fiber artist?

Melissa: 0:33

Well, I love to play with textiles, so fabric, thread, anything that really comes from fibers is what I love to play with. I actually specialize in hand embroidery, and so you'll see a lot of different textural pieces that play with fabric and thread that way.

Jeff: 0:49

Yeah. You know, we were just in, um, At nata, and, and, and we did a, uh, many of you may have heard Melissa on a, on a previous podcast very briefly, and her booth was beautiful. But one of the things that I, I, I, how did you come up with M Creative? J? What the heck?

Melissa: 1:10

So, um, I know you probably heard that my last name is Galbrath. Um, but before I was married my last name was actually Johnson. And so it used to be like a play as creative is my middle name. So it had my first and last initial at the end. Um, so I started my company when I was engaged and, um, after getting married I had already had my company for a couple years and just decided to stick with it. Um, So that's good. Ah,

Jeff: 1:37

so how, how long have you had your company going?

Melissa: 1:40

Um, about eight years.

Jeff: 1:44

Wow. So tell me a little bit, what, how did you get into embroidery? What, what's that all about?

Melissa: 1:50

Um, so actually my mom taught me to embroider as a young child. Um, me and my sisters did all sorts of crafts with her. Um, she taught us everything from like paper mache to quilting, to embroidery, to Bob and Lace. We really did it all and it was so much fun. Um, I will say that as a kid though, I actually. Did not really enjoy embroidery. I didn't have a patience for it. Um, but as an adult, when I was kind of working a day job behind a computer, I used to do communications and social media. Um, and I just never made anything tangible and I wanted to play with. Textures and colors and patterns again, um, and work with my hands. And around that time I kind of just fell back into embroidery. And it was great because it's a small portable craft and I was living in a really tiny apartment. Yeah. Um, and it really just exploded from there.

Jeff: 2:40

So how did you, I mean, a lot of people go out there and start companies and how, how did you know? What to do when you got started? How did you know if you would even have an audience?

Melissa: 2:52

Um, I mean, I didn't, honestly. It's uh, like when I started my business, it kind of just happened. I was embroidering so much that I was like, okay, well I either I need to start giving away pieces or selling them and it. I, you know, you only have so many friends that want embroideries, like, alright, I guess we need to start business and figure this out. And I will say, every day is a new learning experience and every year you're in business, you learn something new and figure something else out and pivot and adjust and

Jeff: 3:26

grow each day. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and just find a way to keep going, don't you? Yes. So what inspired you to create embroidery kits and patterns?

Melissa: 3:42

So as you probably heard, um, when I first started embroidering in my business, I actually sold embroidery as finished artwork. And I had a lot of people that would come up to my booth at craft fairs and things like that and say, oh, I really want to learn how to do this. Um, and that kind of inspired me to want to teach people how to do it because I have really fond memories of my mom sharing how to embroider and teach me other crafts as a kid. And I realized that not everybody had that really wonderful experience growing up. So I kind of started teaching embroidery classes and now I actually teach about three to five a week.

Jeff: 4:22

Whoa. There are that many people out there that are fiber artists.

Melissa: 4:26

There are people really want to learn how to embroidery. It's such a mindful meditative craft and it's really easy to get into. So it's just joyful to kind of learn something new and have fun. It's almost like coloring with thread.

Jeff: 4:39

Yeah. I, you know, I have to admit, I, I did try embroidery, I don't know, 20 years ago my wife bought me a little something and. At first, I was frustrated with it, but I, I guess I didn't take the time to learn all the different stitches. I mean, is that what you have to do is learn the different stitches and stuff like

Melissa: 4:59

that? Well, I mean, I think all crafts have a little bit of a learning curve. So it is like, you know, you have to figure some things out, the basics before you feel confident and comfortable working with it. Um, and with embroidery there are honestly like hundreds of different stitches you could do. Um, but you could also embroider by doing just one or two stitches. You don't need to know them all. You just need to find something that works for you and have fun.

Jeff: 5:24

So when you, um, put together a kit, everything is in that kit that you would need to complete that particular picture.

Melissa: 5:35

Yes, I mean, it's pretty much just add scissors in yourself. So all of my kits come with your really great Beachwood hoop. You're going to get fabric, um, full gains of thread because I wanna make sure you'll always have enough for your project. You have a really great needle. Um, and then a lot of them come with a water soluble transfer pattern. So it's a pattern that you peel off the back, stick on your fabric and stitch over it. And then when you're done stitching, it washes away. So it's a really easy way to transfer your design. And then each kit also comes with printed instructions. It has really great step-by-step photos. So you're going to walk through from beginning to end, like how to place your fabric in the hoop, how to split apart your thread, and then I also include how to finish your embroidery in the hoop. So if you wanted to display your piece afterwards. So there are materials and instructions on how to do that.

Jeff: 6:23

One of the things that fascinated me when we were in your booth at NATA were these pictures that from a distance it looked like. Fine finished art that was framed and up on a wall and proudly displayed. I it That's kind of what you're selling, isn't it?

Melissa: 6:45

Absolutely. I want people to feel like they can have fun with their project and also like happily display it afterwards. So that's why I want to, um, include that option. In your kit, you have felt you could hang up your piece just like a framed piece of art on your wall, anywhere.

Jeff: 7:04

Well, you, you said something about you take a piece of paper, peel it off of the back, put it over top of the fabric. I guess I was always seeing where the image was drawn, right on the fabric. So you offer both ways.

Melissa: 7:18

Um, so a couple of the kits do come with the pattern drawn onto the fabric, but a majority of them come with the water soluble transfer option. And that's because, um, personally when you're stitching, sometimes you don't always follow the lines or maybe you want to change up your pattern. And with the pattern washing away, no one's going to know. You'll just see your beautiful piece at the end. When you have something that's drawn directly onto the fabric or printed on there, you have to be really precise and exact, and I want to give people the option and comfort to know that it's okay if you don't follow the lines. Exactly. Yeah.

Jeff: 7:50

When we're in school and when we are kids, they always, you always get yelled at if you color outside the lines, right? Yes. Well, alright, so I'm a guy. You put the paper down, you start doing this. When you pull the paper off, aren't you pulling the stitches up to

Melissa: 8:10

Actually, it washes away with warm water. So after you're done stitching, you just run your piece under the sink, like turn on the faucet to hot, run your fabric under there, and the paper will dissolve,

Jeff: 8:21

but run it under hot water. Won't the colors run?

Melissa: 8:25

Nope. The thread in your kit is color fast, so you don't have to worry about it bleeding.

Jeff: 8:30

Wow, this is just getting too easy. Well, where do you get your ideas for the patterns are are, are you an, uh, an artist before you started doing this? Could you draw just naturally or are you classically trained?

Melissa: 8:48

Not at all. So, um, I would say a lot of my. Designs are nature inspired and I pull from my surroundings and travels. Um, I live in the Pacific Northwest and so we are very lucky to have so much beautiful greenery and mountains and landscapes and just some gorgeous things around us. And I've had the fortune to travel quite a bit in my life so far. Um, oh, I just really have some really great experiences and a lot of my pieces come from. Things like that. And also just like everyday things like taking my dogs on a walk. I saw some really cute mushrooms the other day and, um, they ended up becoming a kit. So just fun things like that. I will also say though, that I am not classically trained. I do not have an art background. Um, I actually went to school for, uh, what's called digital technology and culture, which is kind of about how the web works and why people do things, what they do on the web. So again, very technology based. Um, but I've also always loved like doodling and drawing as a kid. And I think, um, my mom instilling just that love of craft growing up made it feel approachable for me to kind of play around and. Figure things out.

Jeff: 9:56

Well, you certainly make it safe for anyone that's beginning to do, uh, fiber art, but people that have been doing fiber art and embroidery for years, they also buy your products, right.

Melissa: 10:11

They do. So I have a wide range of kits. Um, there's beginner, intermediate, and advanced kits. And all of the kits cover different stitches. So even if you get one beginner kit, you'll find a different one that covers different stitches, different designs. Um, and I like to use stitches in different ways, maybe slightly unexpected from what you would use previously. So even if you've done maybe like the lazy daisy or detached cha chain stitch, um, as flowers, maybe you'll learn to use it as like, Landscape textures in another piece as well too.

Jeff: 10:42

So you just said something, I don't understand. A detached chain stitch. There are so many stitches to all this stuff. Do, do you, do you have videos that show people how to do these stitches? I. So

Melissa: 10:56

I do have some videos on my blog, um, along with the step-by-step tutorials, um, photos that come in your kit. Um, and then coming out this June, I also have a book that we'll have step-by-step photos and walk everybody through all the different stitches as well, too. Well, a good chunk of them. Not all the stitches cuz there's so many.

Jeff: 11:15

I saw your book in the booth and we had a moment to look at it and it's, it's gorgeous. Thank you. It's, it's something that if you have interest in fiber art in an embroidery, this is the book that you need to get this book. Will they be able to purchase it o on your website?

Melissa: 11:38

Yes. So, um, I've placed an order with my publisher and they should be coming, um, hopefully around the end of May, early June. Um, and I'll have, um, my book, how to Embroider Texture and Pattern on there soon.

Jeff: 11:51

So your website is M Creative and that's c r E A T I v e, right? Yes. So when people go to your, to your website, what, what kind of things will they see? Is it just embroidery or, or do you offer tools and, and other sorts of stuff?

Melissa: 12:13

Um, so it's kind of a mix of both. I offer a bunch of, um, Patterns, kits, tutorials, um, there's tons of workshops you can check out. I teach locally and also virtually. Um, and I also have some. Workshops that I'll be traveling to this spring. Um, I'm going to Milwaukee for Stitch Fest, which will be really fun in May. Oh yeah. And then I also have a blog that has a bunch of different tutorials and sometimes it has supply recommendations, um, projects, um, fun things I find that are stitch inspired. So it's kind of a wide range of all sorts of things, embroidery related.

Jeff: 12:53

Tell me what Stitch Fest is. Is that anything like the convention we were just at?

Melissa: 12:59

Um, not quite. So Stitch Fest is for people to come and take classes that are, um, sewing, quilting, garment related. Um, and they'll also have a fun like market for people to come and shop from local, um, small businesses that they have kind of like a craft show as well too. So it should be like a fun, I think it's a three or four day event, um, in mid-May.

Jeff: 13:24

So fiber artists of all tides could come there and take a, what, a three to six hour class and start out and, uh, brand new and, and, and walk away with a finished piece.

Melissa: 13:38

Yeah, I mean, um, some of the classes are different, so I know there's like garment sewing classes and machine quilting classes and things like that. I'll actually be teaching a couple different workshops. So I have a Desert Pin class, which you'll probably be able to finish in our three hour setting. Um, we also have a 3D flower workshop, which covers, um, um, stitches that are very textural and pop away from the fabric. I'm also teaching a garment embroidery class and a fabric landscapes class, which is a little bit of applique and hand embroideries. You get to play with fabrics and layer them, um, to create a fun landscape that way.

Jeff: 14:18

Oh my goodness. I had no idea. I just thought, you know, there was a piece of fabric and you put a needle through it. You pull it through, and I thought it was just really super simple. This sounds very sophisticated.

Melissa: 14:34

Well, there's a lot you can do with embroidery. You can really create some fun textures and it's very versatile. Um, you can put it on, you know, your clothes as a piece of decor, um, you know, as something you use in your everyday life. It's just wonderful that way.

Jeff: 14:47

What's the craziest thing you've ever embroidered?

Melissa: 14:52

Um, I would say I'm not like, Super adventurous when it comes to embroidery. Like I love working on different materials, so I've done like some fun tool and scuba fabric and things like that. Um, but, uh, did

Jeff: 15:05

you say scuba fabric? Yes. People that go scuba diving under the water in the



Melissa: 15:13

Yes. That kind of fabric.

Jeff: 15:15

Wow. And, and did you just put that in a frame and hang it or did somebody wear it when they went scuba diving?

Melissa: 15:24

Um, it was actually a piece that ended up as a display piece, so it was kind of in a hoop.

Jeff: 15:29

Now tell us a little bit more about the, the kits. So the kits come with the hoop and, uh, one needle and thread and tell us everything that's in the kit.

Melissa: 15:42

So each kit comes with a really great beach, wood hoop that's nice and thick. Um, really high quality. You're going to get quilting cotton fabric. So, um, some of them come with like plain cream fabric. Others have fun pattern fabrics. It just depends on the kit. Um, a majority of them do come with the water soluble transfer pattern. And then you'll also get full scans of thread because I wanna make sure you'll always have enough thread for your project. Um, you do get a really great, um, needle that has a large eye. Um, and then you'll also have felt, and a saw tooth hooks, you could finish up your piece in the embroidery hoop. Um, and then you also get your, um, Printed instructions of lots of really good step-by-step photos, um, that walk you through everything from start to finish.

Jeff: 16:29

This is like a one stop shop. It, it, it's, it's something if you are brand new, you can start out, but it also sounds like it would make a terrific gift.

Melissa: 16:40

Absolutely. That's why I like to have my kits in the boxes. And so they're really easy to gift and give. Um, and then they're also easy to store too. So after you've opened up your pr, opened up your project, you can always put it back in the box and save it for later or take it with you.

Jeff: 16:55

Tell me a little bit about how do you, how do you frame embroidery? Um, do you have to put a piece of cardboard behind? I, I, I have the foggiest idea how you would do it.

Melissa: 17:07

Um, for my kits I only use fabric and thread. So after you're all done stitching and you've washed away your pattern, um, you would gather up the fabric on the back. So you'll trim it down so it's, uh, like about an inch away from the outer edge and use the running stitch to gather it up on the back. And once that's alt secured, you would then trace the outer edge of your embroidery hoop onto the felt, trim that down to size. You'll attach your, um, sawtooth hook, and then you would attach the felt to the back of that fabric that's gathered on your embroidery hoop. And then once you're all done, you can just hang it up for display.

Jeff: 17:44

You said it like, it's easy, my head just went spinning. Do you, do you actually have a video? And if you don't, maybe you could make one someday, but do you have a video that shows people how to frame their

Melissa: 17:54

work? I do, yeah. There's a couple on my blog. So, um, every year I host a couple different stitch alongs and I always do videos with those and so they're up on my blog. And so you can go back and watch, um, past videos on how to frame it that way. What is

Jeff: 18:09

a stitch along

Melissa: 18:11

a stitch along is when, um, people come together for a certain period of time and work on the same project. So in February I hosted a stitch along for my 3D woodland kit, where, um, once a week I hosted kind of like a video that went through some of the different stitches and then everybody stitched and worked on their project that week. And then next week we got together and went over some more stitches. Um, and then in May I'll be hosting another one for the 3D lily pad, pond stitch along. And with that one, I'm posting a video every day that has the different stitches that we'll cover. And so you can kind of watch the video and then work on your project and a little bit every day.

Jeff: 18:48

Wow. I, I, I know a lot of people get together in groups to do quilting. Do you do the same thing with embroidery? Do you kind of get together in groups and make it a real social thing?

Melissa: 19:01

Oh, absolutely. My friends and I get together all the time and craft and hang out. We. Try to do like a monthly craft social. I will say at this point, maybe it's like every other month. Um, but we always love to hang out and have snacks and craft and work on projects and everybody always brings something super fun to work

Jeff: 19:18

on. Boy, I'll bet. Now here's a really dumb question. I. And this is a dumb one, but I'm gonna ask it anyway. So in, in, you know, in art you can go out and dolen air painting where you're out in the, out in the great wild, you're looking at the ocean and you paint what you see. Can you do the same sort of thing with embroidery where you don't have a pattern and you just go out and maybe you sketch it on it, or maybe you just start embroidery. Is, is that a thing?

Melissa: 19:50

Yeah, I mean, you totally could. I think it depends on your creative style. So some people can just look at a piece of fabric and start stitching. Some people, it's easier to kind of draw directly onto the fabric and de decide on your design as you go. And some people need to kind of sketch it out and make adjustments as they work. And I've done all three of those options, and it kind of just depends on what the project is and what I want to add to it and how. Um, defined the vision for the project is too. Okay.

Jeff: 20:21

If somebody wanted to, because let's say that they draw really, really well, could they draw their their own pattern and then embroider that?

Melissa: 20:33

Yeah, absolutely. There are so many different really great transfer methods you can use for, um, putting your design onto fabric. And I actually have a couple different blog posts on this, but honestly, you can use like a variety of chalk, pencils, water cell pens, heat erase pens to draw directly onto your fabric if you want. There's like light boxes where you could trace your design onto the fabric. There's carbon paper where you can place that on top of the fabric press down, and it leaves an imprint. You can also print onto your fabric or use like a, um, stabilizer transfer method that you could either pin or stick onto your fabric after you've drawn or printed on that as well too. So there's so many different ways you can get your design onto fabric if you are creating your own.

Jeff: 21:18

And does is embroidery. Can you do mixed media? Can you use other art forms along with embroidery?

Melissa: 21:27

Oh, absolutely. Um, I've done some really fun punch needle landscapes where the bottom was like textural with all sorts of punch needle and then embroidered the top. Um, I've painted canvases and stitched on top of them. Um, I've seen people, um, combined really cool, like found reclaimed objects. Um, honestly, you can mix whatever you want with embroidery, as long as you can stitch whatever you're adding to it. So

Jeff: 21:52

you did it on, on, on just regular canvas too, huh? Oh yeah. Wow. I had no idea this world even existed. You know, I would, I would, I would go through Michael's and I would see a little bit of it, and I would just walk on, but your booth and your finished products actually made me stop. So if people wanna see some of your work, uh, again, where do they go to see your work?

Melissa: 22:19

Um, they can visit my website, which is m creative

Jeff: 22:24

Okay. And social media. Are you on all the different social media

Melissa: 22:27

sites? Oh, yes. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest at M Creative J, and I'm also on TikTok at Melissa m Creative. J.

Jeff: 22:41

Man, this, this, this time has gone by so fast and, and I had no idea I would be this interested in sewing. Is there anything that I've forgotten to ask

Melissa: 22:54

you? I don't think so. I mean, I think this has been really fun and I'm glad we could chat embroidery for a little while.

Jeff: 23:01

Well, we are really, really happy that you've decided to come on, and as you grow and as you get more things done out there, uh, and offer our audience, I would love for you to come back and, and really tell us some of the interesting ways that you can combine it with other mediums.

Melissa: 23:23

I would love that. Thank you so much, Jeff.

Jeff: 23:26

Melissa, thank you. You've been listening to the Art Supply Insiders. Check back with us often as we talk about the world of art and craft supplies. If you'd like to hear more of these podcasts, please hit the subscribe button on your preferred podcast platform, and we'd really appreciate it if you tell a friend. If you'd like to show your support, please consider going to our website and hitting the support button at Now go out and create something.