Patricia Larocque is an embroiderer living in Lyon, France originally from Vancouver. A few Sundays ago we had a nice and easy conversation about her vibrant work, where she shops for materials and her lack of FOMO.
How did you get into embroidery?
I’ve always been into craftwork and used to knit and bead loom, which is a technique kind of similar to weaving. I got into embroidery because I needed to find a present for my boyfriend’s brother so decided to make a portrait of him with some embroidered stitches. I’ve been embroidering for about five years now.
Did you teach yourself how to embroider?
Yeah, I’m really quick at picking up DIY skills and it comes naturally to me. It did take me a while to get to where I am now and develop a personal style in my work.
You have a range of stitches in your work and I’m really impressed by your French knots. How or where did you learn to do those?
They take a lot of time to make! I started making them about two years ago, I randomly saw an old embroidered floral piece somewhere with different stitches on it and the French knot was one of them. I practiced and practiced until it was perfect and now I find them easy to make. The first time I tried there were loads of extra knots that weren’t supposed to be there but I got better with time. It’s a very meticulous type of stitch and even though it’s called a knot it has to look decorative. There are many types of knots to make that I’d like to get into when I have more time.
Are you really familiar with the many names of stitches there are?
Haha no not at all! I know the basic ones like split stitches or the running stitches but I’m not familiar with all the names.
Me neither! Do you have any reference books to help you?
Last year my boyfriend bought me a book for my birthday with around 340 different stitches but it’s all in French. The book is called ‘La Broderie, en 260 points‘.
And how’s your French?
Not good enough that I can read the book! I just look at the pictures and figure out how the stitches are made. To be honest it’s much easier using the internet for references.
Do you have any particular fashion designers that you look at for embroidery inspiration?
I used to but not so much now which is funny because everyone’s doing embroidery. Last year it became really popular and I think it’s cool that textiles is getting more recognition. The good thing too is that a lot of designers are collaborating with smaller embroidery artists.
Would you ever work with any big designers?
Not really… I’m not sure if I’d want to work in the fashion industry. I think working in fashion could take the fun out of it for me but you never know. I guess it all depends on what brands approach me and what kind of audience or following they have. I’d rather work for a brand than them outright copying me as that happens a lot.
Are there any other types of textiles you’d like to get into?
I want to get into tapestries and make massive banners. Embroidery takes up so much time so I would need to figure out how and when I would be able to branch out. I want to work with weaving, I used to macramé and I want to get back into that too. It also depends on where I can buy the resources as it’s hard to find stuff in Lyon. I think working with machine embroidery would be cool and allow me to make more patches while saving time.
Where do you buy your materials from?
I buy most of my fabric and threads from Toto and Mondial Tissus, I don’t get there too often but it’s fun for a change once in a while. I do find it harder to shop here for resources; it’s so much easier to shop in Canada and things are labelled in a more organised way with a lot of variation. The majority of stores here sell a lot of fabric that’s already embellished or worked on which I can’t use. I like plain and natural cottons.
Paris has a really great area for textiles; Marché Saint Pierre’s a massive haberdashery with several floors of fabric and trimmings. Absolute heaven!
I’ll check that out when I’m there again. There aren’t many people I know in Lyon that work with embroidery. Through a friend I found out about this fabric place where you have to make a reservation to shop and when I got there I was met with tonnes of fabric that I had to dig through. It’s called Walder et cie, I’ve only been there once and it was a bit overwhelming and you definitely need a French translator or speak French.
How do you keep your work neat, do you always back your fabric?
I do and last year I discovered interfacing, I love it! Iron on facing is the best because there are different thicknesses to it.
I can’t lie, there are times where I’ve started something and realised when it’s too late to back the fabric!
Oh I’ve done that too. I always say “next time I’ll add backing.” It does make a big difference when there’s facing and it can make the back look at lot tidier.
Have you ever started a project and half way through working on it realised it wasn’t working but still kept going because you’ve already stitched so much?
A lot of times! Sometimes it gets boring looking at the same piece for a long time and you start to dislike your own work. Most artists are like this.
I agree. You always find room for improvement or changes when you’re creating.
It’s always good to have someone else look at your work. I sometimes show my boyfriend work I’ve made and complain about it not looking right but he’s always so positive and complimentary.
What’s the longest amount of time you’ve spent embroidering a piece?
I don’t normally time myself but I recently finished a commission of an embroidered banner for a coffee shop that took over 70 hours to complete. It was about a month of working on and off… it was brutal! As well the embroidery I had to sew the banner and it was hard work. It was over a metre long and worked out well in the end.
Would you work on a commission again?
I would but only if I had more creative input in the design.
I’ve worked on a commission before and found it difficult to price my work. Embroidery is really painstaking and time consuming so you don’t want to price yourself too low or scare people off by pricing it too high. How do you figure out pricing for your online store Famous Friends Embroidery?
I set up my store a few years ago and it’s really hard asking myself how much I deserve to be paid. Sometimes I look at how much other embroiderers charge for their work. I’ve recently increased my prices a bit but I want them to be affordable so they’re financially accessible.
Yeah, you don’t want to be outrageous!
Some embroiderers do charge a lot and I do wonder if people buy their work.
How do you find using Instagram?
To begin with I was laid back about it but found it a good way to document my creations. My boyfriend’s a graphic designer and has helped take good pictures with nice lighting so they look presentable. I really care about how my work looks.
What are some of the most popular pieces on your website?
The pouches and patches are really popular. The felt patches are new creations that I’ve made and are fun to work on. Felt is like butter! It’s a great fabric and doesn’t hurt my fingers like working on canvas does.
What else would you like to make and sell?
I’d like to make badges and stickers. I’ve been thinking about making them for a long time but it’s hard to source the right materials. It’s definitely something I want to do in the near future.
What do you watch or listen to when you’re working?
I mostly watch horror movies and search online for a movie to watch. Horror and Sci-Fi are my favourite genres so it has influenced my work. Sometimes I make cutesy embroidery but I’m much more into zombies and monsters. The uglier the better!
What’s one of your favourite pieces that you’ve made?
Can I say that every piece I finish is my favourite? Recently all I’ve been embroidering are faces that I’ve drawn, (I’ve been making them into patches) these are some of my favorites, but I made a face with a gold tooth and this piece kinda made me change direction a bit. Especially in terms of the colours I use. I love pastels but I recently changed my colour palette a bit, to more vivid primary colours.
How do you go about planning and making your work?
There isn’t that much planning to be honest, a lot of what I make is pretty spur of the moment. I’ll draw something and then I’ll start embroidering it right away. I usually start each day with leaving the house, grabbing a coffee and people watching and I’ll see a colour combo or something interesting and an idea will pop in my head. Choosing the colours is always time consuming for me; I have about 5-8 colours that I like to use a lot. After I decide on what I want to make I’ll usually choose a film or reality show to watch and then start embroidering.
When you’re out and about do you ever think to yourself that you could be sitting at home doing embroidery?
Oh my god, all the time! Sometimes when I’m out with my friends I think about all the stitches I could be making and all the projects that I could be finishing. I can work into the middle of the night but I prefer to work during the day otherwise I go all cross-eyed!
What do you love about textiles?
I like how I can turn one of my drawings into something textural and still use the as many colours as I want. It’s really relaxing and when I’m not embroidering I get anxious.