Paraffle was founded by Sammy Bishop in 2016 while she was studying for a PhD in Edinburgh. Looking for a creative outlet - and a way to give meaningful gifts that would suit her student budget - Sammy taught herself how to embroider in her spare time.
Although she picked up embroidery in her twenties, Sammy was taught to sew by her mum when she was young - and even told her parents that she was going to start a business called 'Sammy's Sewing' when she was 7 years old! At school, she followed this interest by studying a Textiles GCSE and getting one of the top 5 grades in the country - despite an awful report card!
After moving to Edinburgh to study - and struggling with the pressure of a PhD - Sammy found comfort in the calming benefits of stitching: it gave her some much-needed space to relax and take time away from everyday life.
She began designing her own embroidery patterns, playing around with colours and patterns. Shortly afterwards, Sammy decided that a career in academia was not the place for her - and instead threw her energy behind creating and growing an embroidery business.
Scouting around to name her new venture, Sammy came across 'paraffle': an old Scots word meaning 1) 'embroidery'; and 2) 'an ostentatious display' - and the name stuck.
Sammy finished studying in early 2020 - just in time to respond to the 'craft boom' created by the lockdown of March that year. She moved Paraffle into a studio in Edinburgh, and brought her partner Ali on board to help her grow Paraffle even further. Sammy continues to be inspired by the natural world, flowing patterns, and bright colour combinations.
Making embroidery easy & accessible
Since the earliest days of Paraffle, Sammy wanted to ensure that all of her kits were accessible to beginners. From each kit providing everything that you need to get started on a piece of embroidery; to the carefully planned instructions, with photos for each new stitch used, each element is centred around people who have never picked up a needle before, or consider themselves 'not crafty'.
Sammy continuously works on creating videos and other teaching guides; adding detailed descriptions to the website; and stocking the shop with stitching aids such as needle threaders and hoop stands. If you ever need large-print instructions, help with pattern transfers or any other tricky bits, don't hesitate to get in touch!
Encouragement & Community
A core part of Paraffle is creating a supportive and encouraging community of stitchers. Sammy is always available via email to give help and advice if any questions come up along the way. A huge part of learning a new skill is being able to seek answers and experiment with ideas - so there's no such thing as a stupid question!
Each Paraffle product is designed to develop the skills needed to design and create your own pieces of embroidery - even if this sounds counter-intuitive for a business centred around selling embroidery kits! Some of the most uplifting messages we receive are from Paraffle customers showing us their independently-made embroidery, after starting out as a beginner with one of our kits.
It's easy to find other people stitching Paraffle designs, too - check out our 'Stitch of the Week' section on the website, and even submit your own creations by tagging us on social media or emailing your pictures in! Each 'Stitch of the Week' winner receives a free PDF pattern of their choice - perfect for continuing your stitching journey.
If you're on Instagram, try searching for individual Paraffle designs - like #parafflewhale or #paraffleelephant - for more inspiration.
We're constantly working to make Paraffle products more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
In 2020, Paraffle became a carbon positive business - which means that we neutralise all carbon emissions created from posting out kits; and also cover carbon emissions created when stock and other materials are sent to our studio. This is done in partnership with a charity working to reforest and prevent deforestation in areas of South America and East Africa.
All Paraffle kits are plastic free; the tote bags in our kits are ethically sourced; and the cushion covers are certified Fairtrade and Organic.
We're working to refine each stage of our supply chain - it's a work in progress, and can always be improved!
As Paraffle grew, we became aware of our ability to use the business as a force for good - not only by using and promoting environmentally friendly materials, but by becoming involved with charities.
Sammy created the Rainbow design for local Edinburgh charity Steps to Hope, which works with homeless people and those struggling with addiction by providing food, housing, and recovery support. The Green Sloth design was created for Communidad Inti Wara Yassi, a wildlife sanctuary in Bolivia which cares for animals rescued from illegal trafficking. Instead of having a sale for Black Friday weekend in 2020, we donated 25% of all sales to Link Education International, Scotland's leading international education charity.
Since the start of 2020, Paraffle has donated more than £7,000 to charity and we continue to look for ways to make supporting valuable projects a central part of the business.
Founder & Owner
When she's not working on Paraffle, Sammy will usually be hiking in and around Edinburgh or attempting the technical challenges from the Great British Bake Off - to varying levels of success!
Ali joined Paraffle full time in March 2020, after taking redundancy from his job in Project Management two months earlier. He spends his working days fiddling with the Paraffle website, researching innovative new products and processes, and trying to keep Sammy focused.
In his time off, you'll find him cooking like a mad scientist in the kitchen!
Paraffle is also supported by a team of freelancers and contractors (as well as willing friends and family!).
A special thanks goes to every person who has helped in our development in any way.