Christmas decoration aficionado Michelle Beagle of Ms Michelley is happiest when stitching – and every one of her cute creations brings a smile to her face. She says she has been lucky enough to be surrounded by very clever creative people all her life, and what she produces now is the outcome of all they have taught her.
What do you make?
I make individually designed and hand crafted felt Christmas decorations.
How did you get into your craft?
The same way many crafters do… by stumbling across it. I was in a store one day and looking at some mass produced, foreign made decorations and thought “I can make better than that,” went home and set about making it happen.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
None! However, creativity runs in our family. One Nan was a seamstress, the other a dance teacher, one grandfather was an artist (as is my brother when he has the time), Dad is a builder by trade and can turn his hand to all sorts of projects and Mum has been knitting, sewing and embroidering for as long as I can remember and has taught me all the skills for what I create today. As kids my brother and I were taught to be creative from an early age, and those lessons are still with us now.
Your favourite materials and tools?
Felt is my favourite medium to work with as it’s such a versatile fabric. It’s very closely followed by fabric, ribbon and buttons. I also adore using vintage cotton thread and am lucky enough to have quite a collection thanks to online purchases and very generous friends who have donated their collections to me.
My favourite tools are my hands. They protest occasionally from being subjected to hours of drawing, cutting and hand stitching but a good rest brings them back as good as new again. I also couldn’t be without my scissors, sharp needles or my newly acquired specs… alas I have reached the age where my arms are growing shorter and my work is coming closer to my nose!
Tell us about the techniques involved in designing and producing your decorations
It usually starts with a vision that pops into my head at some ridiculous time of the night! I tend to work backwards – I can see in my head exactly how I want the decoration to look, so there begins the process of sketching it up, creating a pattern, then cutting out and stitching until it resembles how it looked in my head. It can take many attempts until I’m completely happy with the end product.
Once my design is up to scratch then I usually mark everything out on the felt and fabric and have a massive cut out session of each pattern piece. I tend to decorate each decoration and then have a big stitch together at the end. My slight (some might say more than slight) OCD tendencies dictate that everything gets done in batches of four or six… I’m just not good with odd numbers!
What inspires you?
I am a December 1st baby and the lead up to Christmas always began on my birthday, when I got to help put up the tree. It’s memories like that, that have inspired me through the years with my decorating so I think for me it’s about creating something that will bring fond memories for other families for years to come.
Describe your workspace
My workspace is supposed to be in my office but the light isn’t suitable for hand stitching so I keep all my materials etc in the office and I work from the couch in our lounge. My side table holds my pin cushion, threads, buttons and bells and I work from three small boxes that contain my felt cut outs, fabrics, ribbons and anything else I need for each decoration. It’s all compact enough to be packed away out of sight at a moment’s notice.
Five words that describe your mind
Imaginative, creative, busy, cluttered, colourful.
Your favourite feedback from a customer
I have been so lucky to have super customers buy from me year after year, they have gone from being customers to being friends so I think when they tell me my decorations “spark joy” or that they “love my decorations as in LOVE LOVE LOVE them” then I know I’m doing something right.
Tell us about your pets
We have two Bichon Terrier crosses called Rosie and Noodle. They are my constant companions and frequently interrupt my creative process in their pursuit of food, pats and entertainment.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
According to Facebook (so it’s got to be legit) my Elf name is Twinkle Pointy Toes which seems appropriate for a Christmas gal like me. My superpower would be to untangle Christmas lights at the snap of a finger, and decorate a Christmas tree with a single twirl!
What advice would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Believe in yourself and in your talent. Only produce and market goods that you are proud to call yours. Don’t take shortcuts, quality is paramount, remember it’s your name that’s going on your product and if it starts to become a chore then stop… crafting should always be enjoyable.
What’s in store for 2017?
Ha! That’s anybody’s guess, but you can pretty much guarantee there will be felt, buttons, ribbons and cotton thread involved.
Michelle has generously offered a lovely Christmassy prize for one lucky Felt reader of a set of four adorable red and white Christmas tree decorations (see above).
To be in to win this sweet handcrafted prize, simply leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about Michelle’s story and her appealing handcrafted MsMichelley Christmas decorations. The draw will be made on Friday 16 December and is open to New Zealand residents only.