I Want to Open People’s Minds to What Embroidery Can Be

Nahida Mahmood, Senior Embroidery Technician in the School of Fashion and Textiles, was recently announced as the recipient of The Wilcom Associate Award for Digital Embroidery: Fashion 2020. The prize is given as part of the annual awards ceremony hosted by Hand & Lock, London’s premier embroidery house, and celebrates excellence in digital machine embroidery.

Nahida has received a 12 month sponsorship package from Wilcom, including software add ons and access to extensive online training. We caught up with Nahida to find out more about the inspiration behind her winning designs and the important role embroidery plays in her life…

Nahida Mahmood
Senior Embroidery Technician

One of Nahida's colourful designs

Embroidery has always been a part of my life, my mum is an amazing hand embroiderer and tried to teach me but I wasn’t that interested. I loved being creative but I hadn’t found the right channel for me yet. I did a short course that led me to my Foundation at BCU where I fell in love with Textiles. I specialised in embroidery for my degree, during which I discovered the multi needle digital embroidery machines and I couldn’t stop experimenting! Now, I love hand and digital embroidery as well as having an interest in other specialisms within textiles.

For my Final Major Project, all of my embroidery was done using these machines. My work has been featured on the cover of Embroidery magazine and I have an article in Stitch magazine. I got sponsored and received a machine on loan, I was in heaven. I developed my work further and was chosen to be part of Made in Birmingham, where I got the opportunity to showcase and sell my work alongside other designers in the Mailbox.

After graduating, I came back to BCU to help Deb who had been my embroidery technician when I was studying here. Eventually I got a part-time role and worked alongside her until she left. In the school, each technician has their own room and I’m one of the people who take care of the embroidery room. I make sure all of the machines are in good working order, ensure we have the right materials and equipment in stock, and provide demonstrations of different machinery and tools for students.

One of my favourite things about this role is that you can teach the same thing to a group of students and they will all come out with a different outcome. I love pushing them, I love seeing what they come up with and, most of all, I love surprising people with what textiles and embroidery really involves.

I’ve been a fan of Hand & Lock for a very long time and have been promoting their annual competition to students for years but have never entered the competition myself. However, this year, I decided it was time. Work was busy but my embroidery work kept catching my eye so just five minutes before the deadline, I entered and I’m so glad I did!

This year, the competition brief was about colour, so I started playing, mixing different coloured threads and fabrics. I am inspired by Islamic architecture, how the buildings are worn and distressed but how these weathered textures sit next to the richness of the original texture, pattern and colour, I love the contradiction. Although you wouldn’t think it, my work is about worn surfaces. By adding colour and richness it uplifts and gives a feeling of luxury and a feel good factor, which was my aim.

Images from Nahida's competition entry and final design

Since I was a student, I’ve been passionate about digital embroidery and I first came across the Wilcom software at a trade show. After some research, I introduced it to the university. Everyone who knows me knows how much I love this software, I’m even mentioned in their brochure! The extra training I’ve received as part of the prize has been so valuable and already there are things I’ve discovered that I can’t wait to start playing with.

Winning the Wilcom award is an honour and it’s helped me to see where I could take my work. I would like to work on some fashion or art pieces, and I would love to create a series of pieces that I could bring together in an exhibition. Both in my work at BCU and in my own practice, I want to open people’s minds to what textiles and embroidery can be.

Over the last year, people have needed distractions and new hobbies more than ever. For me, my garden and my embroidery have kept me going. In fact, during a lot of difficult times, I’ve found that embroidery helps. What I love about it is that you can do it anywhere and it can just be a simple stitch, you don’t have to be amazingly creative. Everybody needs a bit of creativity and a chance to relax. With embroidery you’re in another place and I think I’m just comfortable in that place. I guess everybody has their thing and this is mine!

Congratulations to Nahida from all at the School of Fashion and Textiles!

Find out more about BA (Hons) Textile Design