Fiona Doubleday is the artisan behind The Vintage Bobbin. From her workshop in the beautiful isle of Arran she upcycles vintage linens, buttons, beads and threads in her wonderful creations. We asked her to tell us more …
Please tell us a bit about yourself
Where are you based?
The isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland. A beautiful place to live and inspire my work.
Do you run your business full time?
Beyond my family sewing is my life so I try and do as much as possible. As well as making vintage products to sell at local markets, local shops and online I also run sewing classes from my home. I am also a professional writer and meditation master.
How long have you been a professional artist?
I have been working in the craft industry for over 12 years now. Last year I took part in my first open studio event where I exhibited my fibre bowls made on the sewing machine. This has led to further opportunities to exhibit and a chance to sell in the island art gallery. This is an exciting new aspect of my work. Working with waste threads from my free motion machine embroidery work has to be my ultimate upcycling project.
What first inspired you to upcycle vintage?
It was my Grandmother who taught me to upcycle. She was a professional seamstress but in her own home she never bought anything new. She created the most beautiful and comfortable home using rescued fabrics and she taught me how to sew when I was a child. I love antique lace and vintage fabric which I combine with vintage buttons and trimmings.
Did you attend college/university or are you self taught?
I originally trained as a dancer and professional choreographer. I became a teacher for much of my career but 12 years ago I retrained at night school in textiles. I specialised in silk batik and in 2016 I want to revisit some of this work by designing and making my own fabric to complement my vintage finds.
Please tell us about your work
What do you create?
I work with rescued fabrics and vintage finishing to create unique accessories and gifts. I also work with brides to create bespoke vintage bridal accessories and wedding favours.
What methods do you use?
Sewing is my main method of working combining machine and hand work. I specialise in free motion machine embroidery. I work with the different seasons to create a number of different collections every year. As well as my ‘old favourites’ of dream pillows, cushions and scented hearts I am looking to design and bring on new lines inspired by mother nature. We grow our own lavender on our smallholding on the island which we dry and use in our products.
Which is your most popular creation?
It is difficult to pick one product but, over time, it is probably our dream pillow. Although the fabrics and detailing change the product remains very popular with our customers. You place them under your pillow at night and the lavender scent is released as you move your head in your sleep – making for a restful sleep.
Can you tell us about the first piece you created?
It was a very long time ago when I created my first piece but I suspect it was a lavender heart. I always have baskets full of hearts in the studio ready to send out as they are so useful for using up small pieces of scrap fabric. I am not sure I have ever made two hearts the same!
Do you have a favourite piece?
Just at this time it is my fibre bowls made from waste thread. The process is so difficult and many don’t make the final cut so when one works I do a wee dance around my studio to celebrate. Last Christmas I made some unique vintage stockings and I loved them so much that I wanted to keep them all.
Are you working on any new lines?
I am constantly working on new lines. Just now I am working up a newly designed collection of fabric jewellery with some three dimensional elements. If I am honest this work is really challenging but that just makes it more exciting. I hope to have the entire collection ready for exhibition in the summer.
Do your undertake commissions?
I take commissions all the time and I love each and every one of them. My commissioned work is often for a very special gifts and I make sure they all come with heaps of love from our wee Scottish island.
Do you teach?
I run my very own sewing school from home where I teach sewing machine to beginners and more advanced sewers. I am planning some textile design classes for later in the year. I am excited about this new direction as I love teaching.
Have you won any awards?
No I haven’t won any awards but I think my fibre bowls might do well going forward as there is a lot of interest in them.
Other notable achievements?
I have run my own lifestyle website ( www.scottishislandmum.com ) since the beginning of 2013 and have a very loyal following from all around the world. I have done quite a bit of media work including a panel member of the Morning Call programme on BBC radio Scotland. I also covered the Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes awards in 2014 for STV.
Why do you think there has been an increase in the upcycling & vintage trend?
I think the days of a ‘throw away culture’ are over as people understand the issues raised by waste. I also think that the vintage trend is here to stay as it is such a source of creativity. Upcycling is capturing people’s imagination as it asks new creative questions and stretches our imagination. It is an exciting time to be part of it.
Which artists inspire you?
I have two artists that inspire me all the time. The first is Angie Lewin and her wonderful print making. I love the way her work reflects the natural world with a hint of the abstract. Her wooden printing blocks are a work of art in their own right. The second is a sewer! Amanda Wood is a free motion machine embroiderer with an exquisite eye for detail and colour.
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
Never set yourself any limitations or boundaries and be prepared to play for long hours until you stumble across a design you fall in love with. Leave a wee piece of you with every item you make and it will be well loved by its new owner. Take time out from time to time to collaborate with other artists as it refreshes your thinking pallet.
Where can your work be seen and purchased?
I sell on the island in local shops and markets but beyond that I sell online through my own shop and within several collective shops. My new vintage bobbin shop is at http://the-vintage-bobbin.myshopify.com/ From the summer my fibre bowls will be available through the Arran Art gallery.