10 Minutes with Sarah Foot at Thread the Word
We catch up with fellow sustainable fashionista Sarah Foot, founder of Thread the Word, a boutique company creating bespoke embroidery on pre-loved fashion, home decor and as unique art pieces.
Starting her career in the world of interior design, Sarah realised her passion for freehand embroidery and reclaimed textiles, and Thread the Word was born.
We were lucky enough to work with Sarah on a competition to win a personalised pair of our dungarees, and so were keen to catch up with her and find out more about her entrepreneurial journey.
It’s so lovely to meet you Sarah! Thanks for agreeing to catch up with us. It sounds like you’ve always had a passion for embroidery and reclaimed fabrics, when did this all start? Were you interested in textiles and fashion as a child?
I’ve always loved trying things out, little crafts and making things when I had an idea. I liked art at school but I felt a bit stifled by the curriculum so I didn’t pursue it very far. At home my aunt converted an outbuilding that was half a homewares and accessories shop (where local makers would take a corner each and sell their pieces) and half a space for her interior design work and fabric sample books. I LOVED being in there during my school holidays and playing with all the samples - making patchworks, collages and little Christmas decorations from the samples of fabric collections that were being discontinued. Even then I couldn’t bear the idea of waste!
When did you first get the idea to start your own company offering bespoke embroidery design? Was this always a dream of yours, to start your own business?
My whole career I have worked for really small creative businesses (sometimes as the only employee) so I had a good understanding of what it was like running a business like that: very hard work! I had been working for wallpaper and fabric brand Juliet Travers and, again, playing with any extra samples that were heading for the bin. Around the same time my friends started getting married and I quickly discovered I didn’t really have the budget to be buying from wedding lists. So with “it’s the thought that counts” in mind, I copied the wedding invitations of a couple of friends in stitch and framed them as gifts. They were happily received and a few friends of friends saw them and occasionally asked if I could do something similar for them for weddings, godchildren, grandparents etc.
How did you first get started with Thread the Word? What was your first project that made you think, this could really be something!
In January 2020 my job at the time came to an end as my boss was relocating and I wondered if it was sort of a sign to make a bit of a change. I decided I’d try and find a job that was 4 days a week and on the extra day see if I could supplement the income by making things. What those things would be I hadn’t yet worked out but I figured it was only a minor detail. I took February off, went on a big holiday, thought a lot about my next move and was ready to hit the ground running the following month…but we all know what happened in March 2020…
My friend had already helped me come up with the name (I’ve always promised her I wouldn’t take credit for her brilliant idea!) which felt vague enough that it could be lots of things to do with textiles if I decided to change my mind on direction. I had set up an Instagram account sharing a few pictures of old work just so it wasn’t completely empty. But essentially what I found myself with was a lot of time on my hands, a new Instagram account and bills to pay.
The first client who found me on Instagram and wasn’t a friend of a friend was incredibly exciting! I was on one of many long lockdown walks in the countryside when I got her message and did a little dance in the field I was in. I embroidered a cushion cover for her to give to her husband for their wedding anniversary which was inspired by their wedding stationery and venue. Doing that piece was a real moment where I decided to properly have a go at this…and I haven’t stopped!
You offer people bespoke embroidery on preloved fashion and textiles, what’s your favourite part of the process?
I love choosing what fabric I’m going to embroider onto for each piece. It really depends what the design is but I love picking the right shade, weave and weight of a fabric so it’s the perfect base. I always try to use remnants that wouldn’t be able to be used for anything else. Minimising waste has always been central to what I try and do, so whether it’s sourcing and repairing vintage clothes or saving offcuts from the bin - I love it all!
What do you love most about embroidery and working with textiles? Do you prefer interior design, or the world of fashion couture?
As much as I love fashion, I think interiors will always be what I’m most passionate about. I think your home should be a reflection of you. If my things don’t necessarily go together but I love them all then who cares?! I want to be around the things I love always, and if I can contribute something to make other people feel the same in their home then that feels great.
How would you describe your unique fashion style? What are your favourite pieces in your wardrobe?
I think I’d describe it as colourful and comfortable. I think being self employed and/or working from home has really changed the way we all dress but I definitely have some real favourites in my wardrobe that are made to last. A vintage Jaeger gold jacquard evening coat is definitely one - I love it for really dressing up or with a T-shirt and jeans. I think it’s all about quality over quantity so having things that are adaptable is key.
Do you have any tips for creating bespoke pieces? Are there any fabrics which work best for embroidery?
I usually try to use linen or linen/cotton blend because I love natural fibres. More recently I’ve been experimenting with embroidering onto more printed fabrics which has been really fun too. I think it’s all just about having a go and working out what you enjoy, both as a process and as a finished result.
Looking back, is there anything you would like to tell your younger self about your journey with Thread the Word?
I think to not worry if you can’t see anyone doing what you think you want to do. For quite a long time I didn’t know if I would be able to make this my job because everyone else I looked at had a specific product or service they were selling and I felt like I wanted a mix of both, but wasn’t sure how. I liked the idea of never doing exactly the same thing more than once but everyone I talked to about starting their own business was talking about things that didn’t feel relevant to me (stock levels, scaling up, wholesaling etc). I think I would encourage myself to not worry so much about all that stuff and just continue to focus on trying my best at what I want for Thread The Word.
What are your hopes for the future of Thread the Word, do you have any upcoming projects you are excited about?
I am really excited to have an exhibition coming up from 27th September - 1st October at Fishslab Gallery in Whitstable. I love working with my clients on commissions but it’s always a really exciting challenge to create a body of my own work based on ideas that have been floating around for a while. Stay tuned for more info on the pieces I’ll have available!
Lastly, our quick fire questions!
Tea or Coffee? Tea all the way
Movie or Boxset? Boxset
YouTube or Netflix? Netflix
Cosy night in, or Evening with friends? Evening with friends (working alone is cosy enough!)
Beach BBQ or Sunday Roast? Sunday Roast - can’t beat it
Starter or Dessert? Dessert without question
Summer holidays or Christmas? Tough but I think it has to be Summer (I’m an August baby)
Trainers or Heels? Trainers - I’m very fond of a metallic trainer for dressing up too
Want to know more about Sarah, and get your dungarees personalised with her bespoke embroidery? Take a look at her website Thread the Word for more information on how to get in touch with Sarah, and the work she does.
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