A childhood hobby has become a lifetime of work and achievement for Invermay embroidery expert Alison Cole.
Since first having a needle in her hand at age eight, then sewing almost daily since 15, she has become one of the world's foremost experts in the embroidery techniques of goldmark and stumpwork.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic Ms Cole was travelling overseas at least three times a year to teach the techniques and for the past seven years has run fully booked cyber classes with students across the globe for 50 weeks a year, only taking two weeks off each Christmas.
And at the same time she has run an embroidery supplies store that has always been busy but boomed over recent months.
Stumpwork is a form of 3D embroidery while goldmark embroidery uses golden thread to create intricate designs on items such as church vestments, military regalia, haute couture fashion, Masonic Lodge aprons and the hats of police chiefs and Qantas pilots.
"When people see it they assume it's done by machine but it's still done by hand," she said. "I teach it so people can do designs to hang on a wall, or I've had some students learn because they do work for a local church," she said.
Ms Cole has been a teacher for 23 of the 35 years she has been embroidering for, and more recently has become an author.
Her latest book The Goldwork Masterclass - Adventures in Metal Thread Embroidery recently won a bronze medal in the Independent Publisher Awards in New York in the highly competitive category of home and garden.
Ms Cole said embroidery had remained popular over the decades with peaks of popularity more recently when young social media influencers think they've discovered something new and post about it.
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"Embroidery has always been around and has always been consistently popular," Ms Cole said. "I'll get young people who have recently discovered me tell me I need to get out more and advertise more to let people know I exist ... but I've been doing it 23 years and I reckon most of the US knows I exist as I teach over their regularly."
More US embroiderers than ever before have been in touch with Ms Cole recently as the exchange rate works in their favour to buy specialised supplies. "We've got a little shop here in Invermay that's open Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment ... but we actually started as a mail order business.
"Embroiderers in the US have discovered our exchange rate is so bad that they're buying a lot of stuff in Australia and getting more for their money so orders have been coming in thick."
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