Anita Carter’s grandfather began making eiderdowns in Wellington in the 1940s. 70 years later Anita is following in his footsteps with her home business Eiderdowns by Anita. She still uses her grandad’s original “downmachine” patterns and until recently, even one of his sewing machines!
What do you make?
Eiderdowns by Anita is a small home based business where I remake old tired, threadbare eiderdowns into new items to last many more years, or make completely new items.
How did you get into your craft?
I can remember my mum asking when I was about 16: “Would you like me to teach you how to make eiderdowns?” – well that was the last thing I wanted to do at that age! I had been sewing since I was about 10, making my own clothes and selling rag dolls and other crafty bits and pieces before I started high school.
I began to work for NZ Post and with early starts, I had the afternoons free, so yes I did learn the making of eiderdowns. I had been filling eiderdown, duvets, sleeping bags as a teenager, but the making of a complete eiderdown took some time. Making up a small frill for a eiderdown took so long, I would watch my mum making it up so fast, thinking I could never do that – well I can now.
Being able to work from home when my four children were young was great. So each grew up, using my old sewing machines and overlocker, with an endless supply of fabric scraps, and of course feathers.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have no formal training for this, just a passion for fabrics, and a very creative mind I guess.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I enjoy sewing and love some of the amazing fabrics that come to me from customers to make their new eiderdown in. I’ve made so many up, but still have a few of my favourites.
A few years ago I began importing my own feather/down, and getting it at a better price has meant I can get an excellent quality down which makes a lovely light and warm eiderdown. When I remake a customer’s eiderdown, it’s very rarely that I come across a down mix as nice as what I use.
What inspires you?
Knowing that I’m going to make something that the customer will love. So many people come to me with their grandparents’ old eiderdown which of course has very sentimental value, and it’s really great to know that it will be used and treasured again.
Describe your workspace:
I have a awesome sewing room with a full size cutting out table and huge pullout ironing board. Off this room is the “downroom” where I fill the eiderdowns. Over the years my husband has very kindly let me take more than three quarters of our large work shed. It always looks messy, cottons, feathers, fabrics – but I can just close the door at the end of the day.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“My eiderdown arrived yesterday and I just LOVE IT!, it’s everything I have ever wanted and looks beautiful on the bed. Your workmanship is exquisite and words really can’t express just how happy I am, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, I will treasure it forever. You have created not only a beautiful item but a future family heirloom.”
What are you currently listening to?
I’m currently listening the audio book A Game of Thrones. The audio book’s great, as I can sew and listen to a exciting story!
Your favourite childhood book?
As a child The Black Stallion series was read through time and time again!
What are you reading now?
I have not had a lot of time for reading over the past few months, but my favourite books are the Diana Gabaldon Cross Stitch series.
Do you have any pets?
We now have two cats, one very old staffy and my daughter’s Siberian husky. But over the years when everyone was living at home we have had, mice, rats!!!, rabbits, birds, chinchillas, fish, lambs, calves, goats! Quite a menagerie!
A favourite quote: “The best things in life – aren’t things.”
As well as her Felt shop, Eiderdowns, Anita has work displayed in her daughter’s shop, A Little Birdy Told Me… in Woodville. More eiderdowns will be gracing her stall at this year’s second Martinborough fair on May 5, and you’ll also spot her at the Women’s Lifestyle Expo in Palmerston North on May 12 and 13.