Suzanne Simpson opened her business, Nice Threads, after losing everything in a house fire. She speaks with Maxine Harrison about her journey to becoming a business owner and how her faith inspires her in her work


Maxine Harrison (MH): How would you describe Nice Threads?

Suzanne Simpson (SS): It’s an embroidery business. All the embroideries sold are hand-sewn by me; typically, people will get in touch with a photo or maybe a verse or a quote – something that’s important to them – and I’ll sew that for them. It’s quite unique; I don’t think there’s anyone else in Northern Ireland who is doing these portraits. It’s a really lovely way to give somebody a keepsake gift. My nana taught me how to embroider and her embroidery hasn’t lost any of its colour or texture. 

MH: How and why did you set up Nice Threads?

SS: I was made redundant during lockdown but, before that, in September 2019, we had had a house fire. It was caused by our dishwasher, which had been turned on before we left the house for the day, so no one was home when it happened. My husband came home from work and discovered the damage. The fire destroyed the kitchen completely but didn’t spread to the rest of the house because the door had been closed. However, the smoke damage meant we lost a lot of our belongings. The hardest part was having to throw out the kids’ precious teddies – though we did manage to salvage some, thankfully. 

The experience gave me an insight into the lived experience of so many families around the world who have been suddenly displaced either by conflict or natural disasters. I recognise the privilege that we have to be able to access insurance, that family and friends were able to support us, and that our kids could immediately access counselling in their school.

Getting to work with people’s family photos and precious memories is such a privilege

We were out of our home for about eight months with my in-laws, and I had a nervous breakdown. I was still working full-time (my employers weren’t particularly supportive – I don’t think they understood just how bad the fire had been because I was desperately trying to maintain a level of normality in my day-to-day). We had a lot to do with the insurance company, categorising everything that had been destroyed, putting a literal price on objects that represented precious moments in our lives together. I was also trying to keep things settled for my two kids who were four and seven at the time. So, one morning in late October, I woke up unable to breathe. My heart was pounding and I thought I was having a heart attack. I’ve never been more frightened in my life. I called the doctor and described my symptoms. She explained that I was having a panic attack. My mental health declined rapidly after that. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t really eat. My brain was a jumble of dark, painful thoughts and I had no idea how to take back control of myself.


Thankfully, my GP was able to find the right antidepressants for me, which helped to begin my path towards recovering a sense of myself again. Alongside medication, I clung to a daily devotional that I had been given. Every day, the passage and the commentary seemed to speak straight into my circumstances. It was honestly incredible. I was also covered in prayer by the most faithful spiritual mothers and fathers from my church, and supported by my wonderful family and friends. I also began cognitive behavioural therapy, which continued for 18 months and helped to challenge and defeat those thoughts that had taken hold of my mind. 

I was off work and needed something that would occupy my mind in a calming way and I remembered that Nana had taught me how to sew. I pulled together a sewing box, people lent me their threads and needles and then I just started sewing and found it really restful. Obviously, I didn’t know then that we would go into a pandemic, so it was nice to have picked up that hobby. 


During the pandemic, I was home-schooling the kids – Cora who is now 12 and Tom, eight because I had been furloughed. When they went back to school, I was a bit lost because I really like to be productive. I was praying about it and really struggling. 

We went on holiday as a family, and it turned out that everybody there had a side hustle, and I was like: “Oh, can anybody have a side hustle? Maybe I should try this thing.” That was what really fired me to give it a go. Then I did an online course to understand business and started sewing towards the end of 2020. It’s one of those experiences where these little moments of different points in my life all came together for good. It’s been such a lovely experience. Getting to work with people’s family photos and precious memories is such a privilege but I’ve also relished the opportunity to learn a little more about myself and become more aware of the gifts I’ve been given. 


MH: What is the process you go through when creating embroidery?

SS: I like to talk back and forth with the person before we get started because it’s nice to get a feel for their personality. Sometimes, it’s for an anniversary and sometimes for a birthday celebration and it’s great to get a sense of who they are. That influences the colours I choose to use. Sometimes, I try to draw out some bright colours or if there’s a colour that’s really significant to them, I highlight that in the way I sew it. Psalm 139:13 says we are knitted together in our mother’s womb; I almost feel like I’m participating in the understanding of that aspect of creativity. It’s really lovely. 

MH: What kind of struggles have you faced in your business?

SS: I think it has to do with confidence in myself. Sometimes, I can second-guess if what I’m doing is good enough. But what’s so nice about making these embroideries for people is that I will quite often get a visceral response from people whenever they receive them. So, whenever I feel discouraged, I keep returning to, “but look at the impact that had on that person”. That helps to drown out the negative voices, for sure. 


MH: What would you say to another Christian woman thinking of starting her own business? 

SS: Absolutely go for it. Don’t allow yourself to be persuaded that you’re not good enough because that’s not how Father God speaks to you. If there’s a desire, whether it’s creative or another kind of business, he has placed that in you. I’ve always experienced his goodness in this and it’s another opportunity to give yourself to trust in him but in a beautifully productive, constructive way that will bring you to life. I think it’s created an entirely new version of me. I had a prophetic word from a lady at the Alpha conference that said: “You’re sewing into people’s lives.” That came at a time when I thought it may be time to wrap the business up, so it was a clear sign to continue. 


MH: Where do you want to take your business in the future?

SS: I am trying to expand into workshops a little bit more, drawing on my teaching background for that. I did a workshop at my recent work residential with Christian Aid and it was great. The guys were sewing as well and they were loving it. Lots of people said it was so relaxing. It’s brilliant to introduce people and for them to receive the benefit I feel I have, too. 

For more information visit Nice Threads