Featured Seller: Needle & I

A desire to produce timeless, quality children’s products lies behind the work of Lauren Butler of Needle and I. “After the birth of my daughter in late 2011, I became very aware of the throw-away nature of the kids industry, how much pressure there is to buy new things all the time and how much of what is on offer is often cheaply made with questionable origins. When she was around six months old I started to focus in earnest on what I wanted to see in her bedroom and what objects I could dream up to hold her attention. These experimentations were the beginning of Needle & I.”

What do you make?
I design and make a range of soft furnishings for kids rooms including garlands, mobiles, cushions, toys, games, books and the occasional growth chart.

How did you get into your craft?
I struggle to remember a time when I wasn’t a maker of things. It would have been hard to resist my Mum’s influence, given she always had some sort of project on the go, be it dressmaking, embroidery, tapestry, knitting… the list goes on. I guess what I do at Needle & I is a confluence of all the things I’ve learnt along the way. There’s nothing particularly tricky about what I do as I use very basic stitching and construction techniques. I guess I just found a design aesthetic that worked well with my technical skills and I was able to create something cohesive out of it.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Not at all. I’m not even sure such a thing exists for what I do. The best training you could get is to grow up with a very clever and dexterous mother. Actually, my grandmother had a hand in it too. Pedal sewing machines and making pompoms were my formative training.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Most of the Needle & I products are made from boiled wool. It’s a very beautiful textile to work with. It’s soft and luxurious yet very robust. I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with hand-dying small batches of wool – it’s a lengthy, messy process but very satisfying when you make it through enough trial and error to produce the colour you were hoping for. I find the needlework itself is quite meditative which is lucky given much of what’s involved with this craft is detailed, repetitious work.

What inspires you?
I like simplicity and I’m drawn to unconventional use of colour. I like to walk the line with colours which almost clash so I’m always keeping an eye out for interesting colour use in things such as interiors and clothing. Often fabric will inform what I make or combinations of colours I see in my day-to-day travels. It’s a bit of an abstract process really, I’m not always entirely sure where an idea springs from but I will often sit on an idea for weeks before it develops into an actual product. I like to take my time over ideas and edit along the way.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Much of what I had as a child – be it clothes, toys, linen – was handmade. I think this developed an appreciation for goods made with care and a real consideration for what’s being made and who it’s for. It’s very meaningful to receive something that has been made by hand.

I like the idea that less is more where kids are concerned, that it’s not about buying something new every week, but investing where you are able in well-made, considered goods which spark children’s imaginations and will last a long time. Hopefully this is something that translates through what I do at Needle & I.

Why have you chosen to specialise in homewares for children’s rooms?
In some ways it was a case of ‘right place right time’ for developing the range in the direction of furnishings for children’s rooms. Having a child of my own has definitely opened my eyes up to what I want to see in her bedroom. I wanted her space to feel cheerful, cosy and colourful and not so cluttered as to overwhelm her. I wanted a way of making a room feel cohesive by adding a few simple items which both she and I would get pleasure out of.

Describe your workspace:
Workspaces, really. I work from home, between the office and studio in the garage, so my gear is spread in a somewhat dysfunctional way between the two. I have lots of plants, jars filled with thread, reams of fabric and piles of cut wool all over the place. I’m not very good at working in mess so I’m constantly tidying up the trail of destruction I leave behind. I’m sure I’d get through a lot more work if I could just let things get messy now and then!

What else do you do as well as creating the Needle & I products?
The other thing I love to do is write. Well, cook and photograph… then write. It seems I’ve become a professional multi-tasker. I dabble in food blogging via my website and I also run a page on Facebook called Mini-me Meals with a foodie friend of mine which focuses on easy, nutritious meals for littlies.

Recommend an album:
Electrelane – The Power Out. I just keep coming back to it.

Your favourite childhood book?
The one that sticks in my mind is a version of Yertle the Turtle I thrashed when I was about seven years old. The pages were made from heavy card and had a mini record pressed onto each page. There was this little contraption that you pushed on top of the record and it played the story. I was completely obsessed with it. No one I’ve ever mentioned this to says they’ve heard of anything like it. Hopefully it’s not just a figment of my childhood imagination… (It isn’t, you’ll be glad to know! It was one of a series of “Talk to Me” books produced by Fisher Price – Ed.)

What are you reading now?
Reading is sadly a bit of a thing of the past since our daughter came along. I’m well and truly done for by the time we get her into bed. The last book I read, The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, was really great but tragically took me a couple of months to finish. And it’s an easy read.

What was the last handmade item you bought?
I visit the Takapuna Markets most weekends, usually with Thea in tow. I’ve found a sweet little stall there which makes rudimentary and slightly odd soft toys out of old blankets. I recently bought an garish pink and orange owl to keep the Thea’s green and blue dinosaur company.

Lauren has very generously offered us one of her delightful handmade Grey Cloud cushion covers (cover only), to give away to one lucky Felt customer. The Grey Cloud cushion cover is made from high quality 100% boiled wool and cotton and is designed to complement the range of garland wall hangings also listed in her shop.Tell us what you like about Lauren’s work, or how it inspires you, in the comments section below and you’ll be entered into the draw to win this lovely cover. The winner will be drawn on Friday 10 May. The draw is open to New Zealand residents only.

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33 Responses to “Featured Seller: Needle & I”

  1. Sarah says:

    I have been dreaming about owning some of the Needle & I products for ages – everything is just so beautiful! The cloud design is such a fabulous inspiration starting point for an adorable nursery as well.

  2. Emma says:

    Ooooh, I’ve had that cloud cushion cover in my favourites for a while – it’s so neat! I love that your products are beautifully designed, yet simple – perfect for kids and a joy to look at for adults. Going to check out your website now. :D

  3. Gillian says:

    What fabulous things you make! It is very hard to pick out a favourite item when they are all so gorgeous. I particularly love the bunny shape though. It is very sweet.

  4. Jo says:

    Your work is so cute – and you make it look so easy!!! Love, love, Love it

  5. Ali Hughes says:

    Gorgeous!! Love the texture and colours of your work Lauren and that cloud cushion is adorable!

  6. Des says:

    I like my children to have simple well made items & that is exactly what you produce. Beautiful work.

  7. Jenny says:

    I love the simplicity of her work and how it’s so consistent and timeless. I hope I win, am decorating the nursery for baby #3 to be arriving very soon!

  8. Rachel says:

    Lauren’s designs are so clean and fresh and I love her colour combinations. Wool is a great fabric of choice for cushions in my household of little boys too!

  9. Felicia says:

    I love the way that each item compells you to reach out and touch it. The fabrics look so clean and soft, and the designs have such simplistic lines. I am sure little people would love these products as much as big people.

  10. Sam says:

    I love the simplicity of her designs and the beautiful handwork. The colours too are dreamy for any child’s bedroom.

  11. Janine says:

    I love the simple designs. Pleasant to look at, beautiful colours and just easy and uncomplicated for a nursery. Her designs are on my wish list!

  12. Tanya says:

    What draws me to Lauren’s work is that it’s whimsical and makes me remember my childhood. They are crafted in such a way that they will become heirloom pieces for my children’s children. I have had my eye on her work for sometime now.

  13. Sarah Mcleod says:

    Such beautiful work. LOVE.

  14. The little clouds on the wall hanging are utterly adorable! love your work Lauren.

  15. Kelly says:

    Was a newbie to felt this weekend and Laurens designs were the first favourites I clicked.
    I have my first baby due in a week and am excited to add some of Laurens adorbs creations to her new space :)

  16. Nichola says:

    Beautiful intricate stitching. I love the cushions and wall hangings:)

  17. Anna Halliday says:

    Fantastic little fluffy clouds! I love them! I am expecting my first baby in September and one of your cloud cushions would be perfect in his or her nusery. I love the cloud garland too. I already have an all-in-one that has smiling clouds on it in rainbow colours. Pure happiness.

  18. gabrielle connor says:

    such sweetie little treasures that make me feel all squishy and clucky…for number 2! eek!

  19. Sam says:

    I adore the whole idea behind your range and in love with the mobile! I lament at all the throwaway items with having a baby now and am trying to live more simply. My bub is in wool as much as possible and she looks like a gorgeous old school baby but so cozy and warm!

  20. Coralie says:

    I love the cloud design! It makes me super inspired to finally start getting some nice things together for my daughters room, and possibly start sewing for myself!

  21. Lucie says:

    I love the simple classic design aesthetic and beautiful materials of Lauren’s work and would be thrilled to win one of her cushion’s for my second baby who will be arriving in three weeks!

  22. Danielle says:

    I find it incredibly inspiring that Lauren has not have formal training to do what she does. The love for the craft that her family has instilled in her is so evident in these beautiful items. It’s so nice to see someone producing such wonderful things just because they love doing it.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    What beautiful creations. Yet another favourite Felt contributor for my list…

  24. Jocelyn Brodie says:

    Lauren, I love the elegant simplicity of your work – your stitching is so beautiful and carefully done; you can feel the love that you have in what you do. Well done x

  25. Rebeca Hrynkiw says:

    What absolutely gorgeous designs. I am currently pregnant and am so sick of finding bright, over the top designs. I love the neutral colours and simple designs that Lauren offers. They fit well with my philosophy of creating a calming environment for my baby to play and learn at their own pace. Thanks Lauren!!!

  26. Tonya says:

    I love these designs, the colours aren’t too bold and the designs are simple so that they would go well in any childs room right from birth upwards – wouldn’t be too over stimulating for bubs yet fun to look at too!

  27. Charlie says:

    Such a lovely wintery treat! Beautiful design – beautifully made.

  28. Amanda says:

    It was so refreshing to read this blog post as I am too interested in the ideas that you speak of Lauren. I agree that the ‘throw away’ nature of childrens toys et al is all too common these days. I savour any beautifully handmade things from my childhood and cherish anything that has been hand made for me. I also must thank you for bringing back my inspiration for creating my own goods, also having a baby in 2011, I have revisited my grandmothers passion for sewing and creating and hope to get my own little creations up and running – so thanks for a little bit of an inspirational push! Lastly I just have to say I love the little grey cloud cushion – currently pregnant with my second, this would be the perfect little addition to the nursery! Thanks for the read and good on you for creating something beautiful!

  29. Luci says:

    I have fallen in love with you beautiful mobiles in Nature Baby! I have hinted to my friends to get me one for my baby shower in a couple of weeks. I hadn’t seen your cushions though – they are divine, my theme for my baby room is clouds as they are whimsical and dreamy. Your cloud cushion would be perfect!

  30. Vicky Marshall says:

    oooohh, I love Laurens work. Very cute, and those mobiles are just the perfect baby gift. I loved Yertle the Turtle too!

  31. Naomi says:

    I love the simplicity and sweetness of Lauren’s work, I’m sure it inspires those little ones to dream and imagine!

  32. Glenys Key says:

    Gorgeous cushion – love it

  33. Amber says:

    Whenever I see this cushion and other items made by ‘Needle and I’, I can’t help but gaze at it for a while, I find the colours, the fabrics and workmanship to be just amazing top quality stuff – I truly appreciate the effort and philosophy behind the work and agree wholeheartedly about our throw away world.. so sad but true. Nice to see a return to the art of ‘handmade’ here on Felt!

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