Lynda of Little Stella Design works from her home in Newtown, Wellington, creating accessories and homewares from retro and vintage fabrics and buttons.
What do you make?
Vintage and retro men’s and women’s design accessories – fabric scarves, antique button brooches, cufflinks, fabric lingerie bags and retro fabric belts. I also make accessories on a commission basis. Clients either describe what they’re after or come to my home and choose from my (ever-growing) collection of beautiful fabrics, buttons and other design materials.
How did you get into selling your craft?
I’ve always made things for friends and family so decided to experiment and see if my design items would sell. I fell in love with what I was doing so decided to take it seriously and set up a small home-based design business.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Beautiful old fabrics and precious buttons, which I turn into a unique accessory item that will be loved again. I only use top-quality new materials, such as the merino wool and silks for my scarf backings.
One of my favourite scarf designs is an old barkcloth curtain, which was originally made for a caravan in the 1960s. A lot of fabrics I use are easily recognisable from our childhoods – it’s often nostalgic for clients, who will make a connection with a certain time in their lives.
I design and cut on my living room floor, which people find strange, but it’s a great place to spread out and experiment. I have my sewing machines set up in my lounge as well, and I try to keep myself organised as clients often visit me while I’m working. It’s actually a nice way to run a business. In fact, I think being a small business operating out of your lounge appeals to many people.
What inspires you?
I’ve always been a collector. I love anything old and interesting, especially fabrics and décor items from the 1950s, which was such a romantic period for style.
I’ve always liked the retro look, which is obviously very ‘in’ at the moment, and creating accessory items that are just a little bit different.
I especially enjoy designing one-off items for a client and creating gifts on a commission basis. Often my clients will tell me what they want and I have to create exactly what they picture in their heads – it’s a fun thing to do but not always easy!
Does your work have an ethos – is there more to it than fashion?
Definitely. I’m trying really hard to make sure my business is environmentally responsible. A core principle to my business is that I reuse old materials that shouldn’t be lost. I have friends and family who scout around second-hand shops and various other places, always on the lookout for vintage bits and pieces.
Apart from recycling most of my design materials, I don’t do packaging except on request – postage packaging is all clean, used paper and bubble wrap, and I am careful to only use environmentally friendly materials, paints and glues for my work. I think it’s an easy thing to do – it just takes a little thought, and sometimes research before you purchase base products.
I also offer a custom service for clients who might have some precious fabric that was, say, their mother’s, which I then make into a scarf or design cushion. Doing this can be very special for clients. It’s nice to be involved in such small but genuine pleasures.
Where to from here?
Right now, I’m working hard at establishing a name in the local design sector and building up my client base. I have also just set up on Etsy.com (similar to Felt) in the United States as I’m keen to expand my internet sales. My brother lives in San Francisco, which for me is a design mecca, so some of my design materials have been sourced there. After that, I’m not sure really . . . designing in New York would be nice, too!
Visit Little Stella’s Felt shop to check out more handmade retro and vintage accessory items.