Graduate Story by Hayley Semper

Graduate Story: Hayley Semper – Machine Embroidery

Hayley Semper recently completed our Skill Stage 3 Machine Embroidery Course. Hayley has kindly agreed to share her experience of studying with the School of Stitched Textiles, and we’re sure a lot of people can related to her story. She describes choosing a career over her passion but after more than 30 years she finally decided to do something she would enjoy. Hayley embraced every aspect of the course and has since opened her own Etsy store and is embarking on a completely new and creative career.

I have never done machine embroidery before but have enjoyed cross stitch and other forms of hand embroidery, mostly in kit form, from the age of 8. When considering career options at school, art and sewing always figured in some way or another. However, being the 1980s studying via the internet was many years away so formal training or experience in this field would have inevitably meant moving to London (or other big city). Which, at that time I didn’t really want to do.

Instead, I fell into a completely different career as an optician which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, it meant leaving my creative interests in the background until, over 30 years later, I began to get itchy feet alongside some serious “Is this it?” moments. I realised I needed to take some time out and maybe use that time to find a new direction for myself.

Hayley Semper Machine Embroidery skill stage 3 graduate

That decision, along with a surprise Christmas present from my boyfriend of a new sewing machine (sadly my old one had set fire to itself a few years before!) together with a challenge of making him a pair of cargo shorts, piqued my interest in sewing again. I began to revisit the idea of including sewing as a possible step to a new career. I had never been terribly keen on making clothes for myself. My machine sewing experience mainly consisted of curtains and bits of upholstery here and there. So I researched other ways I could use my fabulous new machine.

Machine Embroidery work by Hayley Semper

A lifelong learner

I’ve always enjoyed learning new skills. Since I also wanted the validation of a well-recognised qualification the first thing I considered was a degree in textiles. However, I soon realised that a few syllabuses included modules that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. Continuing with the ‘textiles course’ search  I stumbled across The School of Stitched Textiles website.

After reading about the study method and course modules it was an immediate “Yes!” to Machine Embroidery. After humming and hawing over Skill Stage 2 or 3 I decided to register my interest in Skill Stage 3, mainly because of the business elements included in modules 11 and 12 thinking this could be useful in the future.

Machine Embroidery work by Hayley Semper
Machine Embroidery work by Hayley Semper

Machine Embroidery Course

It is no exaggeration to say I have loved every single moment of this course! I had no idea how versatile a sewing machine could be. It has transformed me into looking at anything and everything from an artistic viewpoint which is helping me develop my own ideas and style. However, I’m sure they will be forever evolving – another aspect that I love in itself!

Whilst it would have been possible to learn the same skills using books and online tutorials, I found the experience similar to exercising. I need to be in a class being told where, when, what, and how rather than just ‘freestyling’ it. Otherwise I find it too easy to leave out the more challenging bits. For me personally, a structure with clear briefs is far more appropriate and I think this is exactly what SoST courses give you.

For example, having to use one piece of chosen art as inspiration for numerous samples initially felt like an impossible task. I wondered how I would be able to keep creating new ideas. But this exercise forced me to delve into my mind and think ‘outside the box’ which resulted in interesting final pieces. Being able to complete the course at home in my own time was also very important to me. The timescales for completion are actually very generous.  Being the ultimate procrastinator, I never felt under too much pressure. I had the time to finalise and present all of my work exactly as I wanted it to look. The IT skills learnt were a bonus too. Putting together presentations wasn’t something I had done before but that also became an extremely enjoyable part of the process.

Machine Embroidery work by Hayley Semper
Machine Embroidery work by Hayley Semper


Future Plans

I have already opened an online shop called FreeMotionMakes on Etsy. It’s only small at the moment due to other current commitments, but I will expand this as time goes on. My own website will follow soon which will hopefully help my dream of securing commissioned work. I would eventually like to study the Master Practitioner course. But for now I’m going to concentrate on developing my small business first.

I would absolutely recommend this course. This is for certain one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. My only regret is that I didn’t find it sooner! My advice? Do not hesitate to enrol! Fantastic help from expert tutors is just a mouse click away when/if needed. Once you start a course, simply enjoy every stitch!

Joan Harrison Bursary

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  1. I loved reading your story Hayley as it resonates with me. Your work is lovely. Enjoy this new chapter of creativity after years of helping people to see more clearly.

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