Stitches Through Time

PUBLISHED: 13:37 18 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013

Stitches Through Time

Stitches Through Time

A business in the heart of the Somerset Levels is creating glorious soft furnishings for the home, with the talented Helen Izzard at the sewing machine...<br/>Photography by Johanna Sheldrake

A love of design, fabrics and sewing prompted Helen Izzard to start her own interior design and soft furnishings business just over two years ago. Based in the heart of the Somerset Levels, Helen Izzard Designs uses beautiful fabrics, traditional sewing skills and a high level of workmanship.

Helen, a member of the Guild of Master Craftsmen, started sewing at an early age, encouraged by both her mother and grandmother who passed on their incredible passion, knowledge and skills. I remember arriving home after school and my mother would be sat at the sewing machine working. She was always sewing and surrounded by fabrics. There were many times when I would wake in the early hours of the morning and hear the sewing machine going downstairs!
Helens mother has and will always remain her biggest source of inspiration. The memories of my mother sat at the sewing machine or hand sewing the finest stitches with the silver thimble on her finger that was a present from my grandmother; the collections of crumpled scraps of fabrics stashed in cupboards, or lengths of fabric folded in drawers that were too precious to throw away; drawers, boxes and tins full of buttons, ribbons and assorted trimmings, used and tattered but even more inviting; reels of thread in every colour imaginable, many of which I
still have!.

I was fascinated by what she was doing and both my mother and grandmother encouraged me and taught me so much. At the age of 10, I became the proud owner of an electric sewing machine for Christmas, much to the horror of my teacher at school, who thought mum was completely irresponsible!

Helens approach to interior design is welcoming, friendly and homely, and her inspiration comes from the beautiful Somerset countryside

As the years passed, Helen has continued to design and sew. I trained as a homeopath and I stopped sewing for a few years while I concentrated on other things. Then mum died unexpectedly. You always assume that you have so much time left in life. It made me realise that I had missed the one thing that I had always loved the most; I had missed the creativity, so I started sewing again and have never looked back.

Helen has not had any formal training. I believe that good old-fashioned hands-on experience and observation is far better training and I was lucky as I had the best teachers: my grandmother and mother, their values and skills passed down through generations from mother to daughter.

As an artist, it is essential to evolve and develop new ideas, so I am always looking for interesting ideas or old fabrics that I can use. I find small pieces of fabric or laces in antiques shops and I just have to buy them as I know I will use them in some way. I still use the traditional methods as much as I can so that I get the finish and drape that I am happy with. All the curtain and blind designs are mainly hand sewn. I am a perfectionist and love using good-quality fabrics, linings and interlinings.
Helens philosophy is not just about creating a new look or a different colour scheme. There are so many beautiful fabrics available to choose from now. But furnishings can also be about using that favourite piece of fabric that may have been passed down from your grandmother or a length of crumpled fabric found in an antiques shop. Many of my clients have something that they wish to keep as the main focus in the room, something they have inherited or purchased many years ago because they love it. Those lengths of fabric can add finishing touches, such as cushions, lampshades, loose covers or tablecloths. It is amazing what you can do and it adds those beautiful personal touches and changes a room into your home.
Helens approach to interior design is welcoming, friendly and homely and her inspiration comes from the beautiful Somerset countryside. Helen designs furnishings using naturally inspired colours and beautiful fabrics: cottons, silks and linens, from vintage inspired florals to classic stripes and checks. We live in such a beautiful part of Somerset and I find such inspiration here. My designs are created using a combination of the clients ideas and inspirations, the atmosphere of the room and the people using it, and of course, traditional skills and workmanship and inspiration from the things we treasure the most.

To find out more about Helen Izzard Designs visit

Helens tips for creating a beautiful room:

  • When making decisions on new furnishings, consider how you will use the room, look at the light and atmosphere as this will help you choose styles and colours

  • Add those personal touches, they will turn a room into a home

  • Know what inspires you and use that inspiration and instinct

  • Never be afraid to experiment!

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