Paula Layton is a busy woman. Owner of two businesses on Felt, The Seamstress and Rockit, she lives in Nelson with her husband and two kids. “Life is crazy busy! When I’m not sewing for my two clothing labels or spending time with my family, I love to bake. I do a small amount of work for a café and have a catering job through summer. I’m a bit of a modern day domestic goddess with no time for house work! Throughout the year I’m busy being one of the organisers for The Great Christmas Market. We had our inaugural market last year and it was a huge success.”
What do you make?
In winter I sew women’s hoodies that are screen printed with local and New Zealand artists’ work, and in the warmer months I make womens’ t-shirts and work on my kids’ label Rockit. A lot of what I make are “one offs” or limited. I try to make all the hoodies original by using a variety of fabrics for the contrasting lining. I love going back to kids’ clothing after winter, it’s a nice change. I can get really creative and go crazy with colours and fabrics. I’ve especially enjoyed the range I’ve been working on this year. One day I’d like to branch out of hoodies with a womens’ range but for now I just sew other items of clothing for myself and friends – it’s kinda like my treat.
How did you get into your craft?
I never enjoyed sewing much in school, I think it was because the teacher was too busy with too many students so I found it very frustrating. I wasn’t enjoying my chosen career as a chef and knew I wanted to work independently, being creative. I decided to quit my day job and try a sewing course. I loved creating something from scratch: I started making and selling hoodies in my first year of learning to sew. They sold so well I haven’t stopped and the hoodies keep evolving. The children’s clothing came with having kids, I wanted to sew for Leo as soon as he was born.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I finished a six month sewing course in Tauranga and gained a scholarship to complete the next six month block in Auckland which covered more design and pattern skills. I still find sewing can be very frustrating at times, there are so many techniques and so much to learn but I also love that, it’s always challenging.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I’m always on the hunt for fabric whether it’s vintage or new, the right find can conjure up a whole range. I can be a little impulsive in the fabric store hence the suitcases full of fabric in the other corner of our room. Screen printing is definitely a favourite process, although I make a bit of a mess! You can make something truly original by putting a print on it, and it’s allowed me to collaborate with some talented artists. My favourite tool is the new sewing machine I’m going to buy in the future.
What inspires you?
So many things! I love old mixed with new, colours, patterns and all that. Thank god for Pinterest otherwise I’d have ripped magazine pages all over my wall. I have inspiring people all around me in Nelson, there’s an amazing creative circle here and it’s so good to have them to share ideas with. My kids are also a huge inspiration: I enjoy making them dress-ups and testing outfits out on them before making more – that’s how the super hero kits started. I’m lucky to have a girl and a boy. I used to get Leo to try the dresses on for me much to his Dad’s dislike but now Charli has that job.
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
To make feminine women’s hoodies that are more than a lazy day wardrobe item and act as a showcase for local and New Zealand artists. For Rockit it’s simply to dress kids in cool original clothing you wouldn’t find in the department store, hopefully the kids love it just as much as the person buying it.
What other projects are you working on?
At the moment we are in full swing gearing up for The Great Christmas Market. I am one of 3 organisers. We started it last year, hoping to create a special Christmas market that focussed on quality handmade gifts in a relaxed, beautiful shopping environment. We were absolutely blown away with the turn out last year, we had queues of hundreds out the door so this year we are expanding, utilising more of the park, with over 75 makers joining us. It’s so encouraging to see how supportive the public are towards local businesses and handmade goods.
Describe your workspace:
Ah, a haphazard corner in our bedroom! Lucky our bedroom is rather large. It’s the whole upstairs of our house and is sunny with a nice balcony so I can’t complain. Most of the time there are cotton threads and fabric scraps all over the floor. I like the idea of everything being tidy and in its place but I also like to pull all my fabric out and mix and match to get new colour combos and ideas. I cleaned and tidied for the photo!
Five words that describe your mind:
Creative, optimistic, discombobulated, dreamer, chatty to itself at night when it should be sleeping!
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I love reading all my feedback, it’s a good boost. I think the best is when my customers come back for more. Recently I had a customer message me to share the comments she had on her hoodie, that made my day.
What are you currently listening to?
I’m always listening to a pretty eclectic mix, I especially love my New Zealand music. I’ve been enjoying working to Fat Freddy’s latest and also Swedish group Little Dragon.
A favourite quote:
This one spent a long time on our black board: If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl.
Do you have any pets?
We have a very affectionate cat named Boots, we would really love to get a dog soon but I’m not sure Boots is in agreement.
What was the last handmade item you bought?
I brought a cool hessian chevron table runner and cushion with a chalk board from My Heart Sings.
Don’t miss checking out both Paula’s Felt shops, The Seamstress and Rockit, for her latest ranges, fresh on the site! Paula has generously offered one lucky Felt blog reader (or rather, their favourite young friend!) a prize of one of her fabulous boys‘ or girls‘ superhero outfits. To be in to win, leave a comment below telling us what inspires you about Paula’s story and work. The draw will be made on Friday 11 October and is open to New Zealand residents only.