Andrea Mueller, Australian-German textile/graphic designer based in Berlin, Germany, and author of shares her perspective on the European sewing scene today. Chime in with your thoughts about fabric and sewing in Europe in the comments. Perhaps you have a unique perspective from your country to add?!…

Whereas in the Anglo-Saxon world sewing, or at least quilting, looks back on a long tradition and a large community of crafters, in Europe it has only been in the past 5-6 years that sewing has evolved as a trendy leisure activity. A downright sewing frenzy has swept through the continent inspiring creative minds from all walks of life to dust off their sewing machines and start sewing (again).

However, artists, bloggers, stay-at-home-mums and entrepreneurs from all around the continent aren’t leaving it at that, they are redefining the art of needlecraft and implementing it as a stylish way of self expression. It seems as if people are more than happy to embrace this new craft as an alternative to ready-made department store attire as a way of expressing their individuality-– or their children’s-– in their wardrobe and/or their homes.

Numerous designers and illustrators are broadening their portfolios as they discover textile design as a new field for their creative work. Hamburger Liebe, Mymaki, Luzia Pimpinella, Anja Rieger, Susalabim, Paulapue, to name but a few, are among the most popular designers that have helped push European sewing into a whole new direction. Many of these designers work together with Farbenmix, a German based company, and probably the most popular European manufacturer of out-of-the-ordinary sewing patterns (also available in English), fun trims and cool embellishments. More recently Farbenmix has offered fabric choices, catering to the new era of contemporary hobby sewers throughout the continent– and worldwide. The other special thing about Farbenmix, is Sabine and Janina’s philosophy of sharing the company’s success with the crafting community around them by offering talented women the opportunity to publish their designs and make a name for themselves under their patronage.

While Farbenmix focuses on a handful of limited edition designer fabrics, other textile companies such as Stenzo, Polytex, Hilco, etc. produce a wide range of basic and fun fabric in their semi-annual summer and winter collections. Europe is crazy about Japanese designers like Kokka and Echino and the cheerful graphic prints coming from Scandinavian companies like Stoff&Stil, Ikasyr and Sampsukka, as beautifully shown here by Finnish blogger ruttu-nuttu.

It’s all about the mix though, the crazier and cheekier the better, which is why we love to hunt down rare and hard-to-get fabrics from abroad and combine them with other styles. Gratefully many shops are stocking up on US designer fabric too, so you’ll find lots of Amy Butler, Robert Kaufman, Michael Miller, Free Spirit and many more becoming more prominent in a lot of our sewing. Inspired by our traditional heritage, folkloric compilations with lots of red, whimsical embroidery and checkered cotton continues to be very popular and the designers Gretelies and Smila’s portray this beautifully.

Probably one of the most characteristic elements in European sewing is the popular use of machine embroidery. Shops like Huups!, Kunterbunt, Tinimi and many others are signing up with renowned designers to create whimsical themes people love for their storytelling appeal. Very often these are combined with matching ribbons and iron-ons to create stunning and unique little works of art not only for children but also for grown-ups and home-deco. On shop update Thursdays there is usually quite a hype among embroidery enthusiasts who will wait impatiently with their finger poised on the mouse ready to buy the new designs.

On a final note, I think we’ve only just seen the tip of the iceberg of what to expect from European textile design. I can’t wait to see what fellow designers have in store in the future and I can only assume how much creative potential there is slumbering in yet undiscovered talents.

All images used with permission from the artist.