Inspired: Tiny stitches with Elk and Tom

“The feelings I get from colour are the same feelings I get from the smells of thunderstorms and the cracking of dry leaves. I lean towards richer colours rather than soft pastels. Hues like rich rusts and reds, lovely full yellows and deep greens. I know that I’m obsessed by the greens I see in the landscapes near home, like the rich blue green haze of the eucalypts in the Blue Mountains”.

Lizi Klavins of Elk and Tom @elkandtom is on the phone from Manly Beach in New South Wales. The chance for a classic Aussie beach holiday for her family and we’re all laughing about the weather. Australia’s summer weather is truly random right now, as those of us living all over this big southern continent can attest.

We ask how humidity, and the attendant sweating, goes down with stitching her tiny jewel-like embroideries and she’s giggling again – “Sweating certainly doesn’t make stitching easy” she says. “I live in Bathurst – the dry inland west – so coming here to the NSW coast, I find myself a little overstimulated by the weather. Although having time by the sea has been lovely”.

One of Lizi's holiday snaps inspired one of her latest pair of earrings. Featuring one of her favourite flowers – the Flannel Flower – stitched in CGT’s Bridal Veil with sprays of yellow Wattle to offset the design.

Flannel flower earrings by Elk and Tom with pictures of Flannel Flowers

2023 was an enormous year for Lizi and we can’t think of many people more deserving of a little time-out by the beach. If you’re one of the thousands of followers of Elk and Tom’s Instagram feed @elkandtom you’ll already be familiar with her stunning micro-artistry in thread. Lizi’s tiny jewellery designs are awe inspiring and we here at Cottage Garden Threads have been a huge fans for almost as long as she’s had a social media presence and Etsy store.

If you’ve paused to read some of Lizi’s social media posts you’ll also have a sense of the sheer guts it takes to nuture her own creativity and drive Elk and Tom as a label in the face of mental health challenges.

With 3 children, her youngest born in August 2023, Lizi is proud to describe herself as a stay at home Mum. “My husband works full time and I stay home with the kids – so I guess I’d describe myself at the moment as a classically time-poor Mum. I just have to look for those little moments here and there every day when I can work on my stitching”.

Image of Lizzi from Elk and Tom surrounded by tiny jewellery

It was the birth of her daughter Olivia four years ago that started Lizi’s journey into embroidery. “When I first started Elk and Tom as a label, I was mainly producing fine work with needle felting – and I loved it. But when Olivia was born, she very quickly turned into a Velcro baby who wouldn’t settle. She needed to be held all the time, so I began spending a lot of time with my baby literally strapped to my body”.

Lizi soon realised that needle felting – or as she laughingly describes it: “stabbing wool with big needles” – wasn’t ideal near a tiny baby. There were long afternoons and even longer nights with a baby who didn’t want to sleep, and Lizi can’t recall exactly when, in that sleep deprived haze, that she thought of trying her hand at embroidery. But it happened, and she flourished and her baby did too.

Embroidery felted magpies on yellow purse

To look back now at the record of her stitchery output over the last four years – the multitude of tiny jewellery pieces, rich in detail of Australia’s native plants and flowers and gorgeously realised, is to be utterly amazed that she’s worked in this medium for such a short time.

Lizi can’t remember a time when she hasn’t looked in wonder at Australian flowers and fauna. Born way out west in Parkes NSW, her family moved to Bathurst when she was a child, but the link with her grandparents’ farm in Parkes remained indelible and every school holiday she was back there. The dry beauty of the big flat landscapes of western NSW were her training ground. She can visualise even now the vast expanses of dried grass running to the horizon, the acid yellow of fields of canola and the purple haze when the weed Patterson’s Curse is in bloom. “To me, these landscapes are still the essence of Australia”.

Lizi thinks of herself as a sensory person. “It’s not just the details of a flower or a leaf that draw me in. It’s the feeling I get when I’m in a landscape where these plants are growing. It’s the feeling I get when I’m walking in the bush of the Blue Mountains and coastal NSW. I love thunderstorms – especially the smell of the ground – that beautiful fragrance of petrichor. These are the kinds of things that I try to translate into my work. It’s my aim to recreate those feelings of connection to landscape when I’m creating my work.”

Native Australian flowers painting and illustration

One look at the Elk and Tom Instagram feed and you can see that colour is also something at the core of what Lizi does. “I’m heavily influenced by colour”, she says. “The feelings I get from colour are the same feelings I get from the smells of thunderstorms and the cracking of dry leaves. I lean towards richer colours rather than soft pastels. Hues like rich rusts and reds, lovely full yellows and deep greens. I know that I’m obsessed by the greens I see in the landscapes near home, like the rich blue green haze of the eucalypts in the Blue Mountains”. Lizi articulates beautifully what we dove into with our last blog post 'CGT School: Psychology of colour'

Image of Blue Mountains NSW
Image of Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia (

The intensity of her creative gaze is striking. Perhaps its why she’s so drawn to tiny things. She’s drawn and painted since she was a child and studied fine art at Orange TAFE where some of her teachers had a huge impact on her art practice. Life drawing opened up a whole new world of seeing objects in 3 dimensions and recreating their forms naturalistically by drawing on a piece of paper. “That experience comes with me in the way I look at flowers and plants and try to reproduce them now.”  

“When I look at something in nature, I guess I really look at it. I’m not sure why I work in such small scale – but I have a fascination with things in a tiny scale. I love being able to cram as much detail as I can into a small area”.

When we ask how her eyesight is holding up that lovely quick laugh comes back: “I don’t use a magnifying aid except spectacles (yet!) because I want to be able to carry my stitchery with me where ever I am. But I didn’t use to need glasses, so never say never…”. Lizi stitches with a single strand of floss and has more recently been experimenting with adding sewing thread to her armoury to create the details she’s looking for in her pieces.

Hand drawn illustration and painting
Little embroidery earrings
Image(s): Duo Set Studs by Elk and Tom (
Little embroidery earrings

She’s never been too interested in following a pattern and instinctively she’s always focussed on creating her own individual designs. “I’ve had quite a few people say they’d love me to sell patterns of my designs – and I’m in awe of pattern designers – but most of the time I wing it with my stitching. I’ve researched classic needlework stitchery, but a lot of the time I find that I’m bending the classic form of stitches in order to create the effect I’m looking for.”

Lizi suspects that her free flowing way of working with thread would quickly turn into a nightmare for someone else to try to reproduce from a pattern.

Behind the scenes of Elk and Tom

Lizi’s Instagram feed includes posts she’s made while deeply unwell with Post Natal Depression (PND). Her bravery in talking about this part of her life is something that we want to pause and acknowledge.  

She’s had admissions to mental health clinics throughout the last few years and experienced significant PND with the birth of each of her 3 children.  The regional NSW town of Bathurst where she lives has an in-patient low security clinic called Panorama which she knows well. “It’s a place you can self-admit, and it’s been wonderful me when I’ve had no other options” she says. “It’s a beautiful community, it gives you respite time and support when you are overwhelmed and there are people I’ve met in there who have shared my journey, as I have theirs. You feel less alone if you can share these things when the world seems to be a very dark place.”

In August 2023 Lizi gave birth to her third child, Isobel. She worked hard through the pregnancy to put supports around herself that she knew she would need following the birth and she powered through lots of incredible stitching while waiting for the big day. She was feeling positive and confident right up until the post partum hormone changes kicked in. Suddenly she was seriously overwhelmed with anxiety and depression in a way she hadn’t anticipated. It was an experience that Lizi is committed to sharing – because of the opportunities it brought her but also the realisation that came with it about how scarce public mental health treatment is in regional Australia for new mothers and babies in crisis.

“I was admitted to the Westmead Mother and Baby Unit a few months ago and I think it probably saved my life.” Lizi shares now. “I know that’s a confronting thing to say but I feel that people need to be more open and honest about this experience”.

“I live in regional NSW where there are no public perinatal mental health units. The one my doctors wanted me to go to was Westmead which is 200 kms away in Sydney. It’s one of 2 public Mother and Baby Units in Sydney that have only just recently opened. There were 8 beds at Westmead and I took one of those beds for a whole month. I was so lucky. It meant that I could have my baby with me instead of suffering the trauma of separation from her which is just so damaging. It was an incredible experience – the nurses were amazing – they could help with my treatment and return to health but they were also there to help me with my baby if I needed it. I met other mums going through the same things and I could bond with them.”

Lizi is incredibly grateful for the experience she had at Westmead and she feels a responsibility to use her socials to add her voice to the chorus of people speaking out in support of new mums especially those living in regional areas of Australia. 

“Socials can often be curated so that everything looks perfect. As a young mum who struggles with mental well being and as a creator, I can sometimes get into a mindset where I look at other people’s accounts and think that I’m failing. After I’ve posted about my experience with PND, I’ve had a lot of followers who are also mums message me to thank me for speaking out about this. I just think that if we speak out more, we feel less alone. And that’s important”.

Mental health a huge part of needlework and is in fact the reason so many people pick up a needle. It's proven by many scientific studies that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression and important for congnitive function. Our mission at Cottage Garden Threads is to spark joy in every stitch, knowing that a simple stitch can mean so much. 

It's also the connection with our stitching communities that do wonders for our mental health. When we can share a love of a craft with another person, we don't feel so alone. No wonder we refer to our stitching as therapy.

Image of Lizi from Elk and Tom holding her baby
Image: Lizi Klavins (

Although stitching is wonderful for our mental health, sometimes we need a little more support. If you would like more information about how to connect with mental health services in Australia head to Health Direct

- a resource where you can find information on community mental health services, telephone and online mental health services and help to answer questions like - Do I need help with my mental health? and How can I connect with mental health services? 

Elk & Tom Giveaway!

In the tiny gaps of time that Lizi can find in her big life she’s designed 2 sets of earrings for Cottage Garden Threads which we’re proud to offer as a give-away to our lucky readers!

When we ask her about these pieces, Lizi says that one features the Waratah flower, stitched using CGT’s floss Red Hot Poker against a rich blue background. “The thread is a deep full bodied red and the variegation gave a beautiful feeling to the flower.” She says that this piece also features pink gum blossom which she’s created by playing with variegated pinks and greens.

Picture of Waratah Flower earrings

Lizi’s second pair of earrings features a wreath design incorporating gum blossom and tea tree stitched in greens, pinks and yellows.

Picture of Wreath design earrings

“I think there’s a lovely depth to the pieces which I’ve been able to capture using the variegated threads – which create shadows and highlights and brings the flowers to life.”

So how do you get your chance to WIN one of these pairs of Earrings?  

The answer lies on our Facebook & Instagram page!  We'll be giving one set away on Facebook and one set away on Instagram, so head to our pages for the details!

and while you're there, make sure you're following our pages so you don't miss out on all the great stitchy stuff! 

Icon for where to shop

How do you find Elk & Tom?

You can follow Elk & Tom on Instagram and find more of Lizi's spectacular earrings in her Etsy Shop.  Links below.


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