Empowering the Freelance Economy

How embroidery saved us in lockdown, business and on the red carpet – should more freelancers get hooked?

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During these extraordinary times, many people have turned to craft to help deal with the anxieties and loneliness produced by the pandemic. One segment that saw a surge in the past year in our homes, startups and even on Hollywood’s red carpet was embroidery.

The Freelance Informer looks at this segment of the crafting sector, a $4.6 billion industry, which is expected to balloon to $6.6 billion over the next five years spurring solo self-employed and small business opportunities across the globe.

American fashion designer Ralph Lauren (pictured) built a multi-million dollar business largely in part to a lifestyle symbol, an embroidered polo player and pony.
Photo Souce: Ralph Lauren Corporate

Embroidery as a business is steeped in history, talent and elegance yet has a vast and diverse customer base from grannies to the Grande Dames of fashion, society and even royalty. British royalty have traditionally had embroidered letters and even sweet messages sewn into their wedding attire and they still do today.

Besides its fashion qualities, the act of embroidery has been known to release neurotransmitters that promote joy and well-being, while also reducing stress hormones and blood pressure. It can also help stroke victims re-establish neural pathways and improve brain plasticity, according to UK embroidery house, Hand and Lock (check out their competition and classes below).


Embroidery kits experienced a boom over the past year’s pandemic to tackle anxiety and boredom. Photo credit: Surrey resident Karen Williams, a newfound fan of embroidery

No place like home: embroidered linens

A stitch in time: embroidered face masks

Face masks and face coverings over the pandemic became as ubiquitous to fashion as a classic pair of jeans. And at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, celebrities took the accessory to an entirely new level, according to Entertainment Online.

ETonline reported that most of the 2021 GRAMMY attendees opted to match their reusable face mask to their eye-catching outfit for the occasion.  

Singer Taylor Swift’s floral-embroidered mask that matched her “whimsical and “dreamy” Oscar de la Renta dress stole the show and exemplified embroidery as one of the biggest lockdown trends and cottage industry industries to reach new heights over the past year.

💡Embroidery: turning a passion into a business?

Embroidery has also become a calming and productive side hustle for the solo self-employed over the past year. Some freelancers are selling their embroidered wares on sites like Etsy, others are going one step further and providing lessons online, such as Nicki Franklin.

If you act fast you might even have time to sign up for one of Nicki Franklin’s online classes that starts this Friday:

The Language of Flowers – The Daisy

Relaxing live online workshop on Friday 26th March at 10am GMT

Sign up here: The Stitchery (Needlework) Ltd (nickifranklin.com)

📣Competition alert

The world’s biggest embroidery competition takes place in a matter of days and is hosted by London embroidery house, Hand & Lock (read more below for competition details).

London embroidery house, Hand & Lock, is at the forefront of the craft and the industry and has seen record interest in their annual embroidery competition, the biggest in the world, which has a prize fund of £35,000.

They are also pleased to announce that their physical Embroidery School classes will start running again in their Central London studio from April 12th.

Following the success of Virtual Prize Week, the 2021 competition is picking up pace, with registrations higher than ever.

How does the competition work?

“Our 2020 judging panel is comprises educators, practitioners and specialists from every sphere of the embroidery universe,” said Hand & Lock.

They consider the work in progress at the first stage to determine finalists, and again at the live prize-giving where they judge the completed embroideries.

At the live final judges also have the opportunity to review supporting research materials to form a comprehensive understanding. Judges might also talk to finalists about their submissions to interrogate techniques, influences and gain a clear understanding of how they arrived at their exhibited work. On the night of the prize-giving, the judge’s vote is combined with the public vote to determine the final winners.

Useful links for embroidery lovers

School – Hand & Lock (handembroideryshop.com)

Hand & Lock – Hand & Lock (handembroideryshop.com)

Embroidered Masks – Hand & Lock (handembroideryshop.com)

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