My name is Janet Sansom. For most of my married years, I have lived in Melbourne’s south east in Victoria, Australia. Up until January 2016, when my husband David suddenly passed away, I shared my life with him and my two gorgeous daughters, Jacqueline and Adelle. Just four short days before David passed away, we welcomed our first grandchild, Amelia, into the world. There are two other men in my life, Bailey and Cosmo, my two handsome dogs.
Family always comes first in one’s life and my passion for them is shared with only a few other things; design, decoration, digitizing and my garden. If I am not in front of my computer digitizing or embroidery machine, you will find me in the garden.
From a very early age I can remember that design and decoration were a part of my life. My grandmother was a tailoress and as a young girl remember sitting at her Singer treadle machine.
Growing up in a big family of 3 brothers and 2 sisters, my grandmother made everything for us, including petticoats, school uniforms, pants for the boys, and of course Sunday best dresses for the girls. I was always at my grandmother’s side when she was making our dresses and was given the task of hand stitching on buttons and hemming, which we can now conveniently do by machine. The sewing skills she taught me as a child stayed with me and I still draw on these traditional techniques in my embroidery projects.
Although I have no formal training in design, it is something that I seem to be drawn to by nature and nurture. During the twenty years I worked in accounting, I always had a creative project on the go, which was my way of relaxing. I would cross stitch, hand embroider, paint, make clothes and decorate items for our home.
When our first daughter, Jacqueline came along, I officially became a stay at home mum. To help fulfill my creative needs, I enrolled in an art course. I took to it like a duck to water and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I was successful enough to sell my art work through local galleries. This also led to becoming an instructor for a weekly class of students who soon became close friends.
While I was painting one of my friends encouraged me to take lessons in patchwork with her. I was the owner of an old Janome My Style machine, which I used to sew my girls clothes. It soon came to my attention that sewing machines had advanced quite dramatically and had many other features than mine offered. They had a quilting stitch and a hand appliqué stitch and with this news, I knew it was time for me to investigate and invest in a new machine.
I was really only in the market for a machine with a triple stitch to quilt, however, I came home with my first embroidery machine. When shopping around for my new machine I remember the sales person asking what I wanted the machine to do and I replied, “Everything.” She looked at me and said, “You’ll never use all the features on this machine.” Well I certainly proved them wrong. I also asked about buying the digitizing software, claiming I wanted to create my own designs. Again, I found the sales person giving me that look as if to say you’ll never learn to use it. Thankfully I proved them wrong again.
At the time, no one was teaching digitizing, so I am self taught. I studied the instruction manual, and I read every bit of information on digitizing I could find. With trial and error, my designs slowly became worthy enough to stitch on home decorator items and put into quilts.
I began teaching digitizing in 2000 and in 2001 undertook teaching classes in utilizing the decorative stitches and machine feet to their full potential. I loved the opportunity to teach. I have taught some wonderful ladies over the years, including one who had her first introduction to computers at the age of 75. You’re never too old to learn something new!
In 2002, both of my two daughters began attending a high school some kilometers away from home, resulting in a 45 minute round trip in peak traffic, twice a day. It was then that I decided to work from home. I started out by digitizing logos and designs for wedding gowns. The work came in slowly and was spasmodic so I started creating my own designs to put into quilts.
I have such a love for my garden that I mainly design and digitize florals. I use techniques in my digitizing that replicate a hand stitched look. The embroidery has the texture and feel of hand embroidery, which is why I feel people respond to it.
A lot of people ask what inspires me and what comes first, the fabric or the design. There isn’t one way of how it all comes together. Other digitizers and designers will know it is easy to come up with one design; however it is a lot harder to come up with a collection of 9 to 18 designs, which are all cohesive to go into a quilt. I have had a lot of people say they have no desire to make a quilt until they see mine, and I put this down to my collections being cohesive and a design style that flows. The things that inspire me to design and digitize are endless. I love ceiling roses and decorative cornices, decoration on fine china tea cups and saucers, chintz fabric, garden flowers and foliage, antique vases, wallpapers and antique lace.
Every time I turn my back, technology has improved or changed and I have to change the way I do things to keep up. I think this keeps me challenged and hopefully it will keep my mind active for years to come. I’m just as passionate and excited about Machine Embroidery now as the day I brought that very first machine home more than 10 years ago.