Featured Seller: Emma Makes

In a house in Featherston, surrounded by second hand treasures (including a lounge suite originally given to her great-grandparents as a wedding gift), Emma McCleary crafts fabric, paper, ink and words into the unique handmade stylings of Emma Makes.

Yellow floral barkcloth pixie bag by Emma Makes
What do you make?
Mainly bags, purses and pencil cases from vintage and new fabrics as well as notebooks and witty pencils.

I sell on Felt as well as through a range of great stockists in New Zealand and Australia. While I don’t do many craft fairs, I am planning to do Craft 2.0 (Wellington) in October, Alt. Shift. Craft (Palmerston North) in December and Craft Country (Greytown) in December, which is one I also organise.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes and no – I have a degree in Fine Arts (majoring in printmaking) and a post graduate diploma in Museum Studies. Both those were based around creative study, which helped me develop ideas, which helps me run Emma Makes. However, neither gave me the technical skills I use now.

"I taught myself to sew at art school by unpicking op-shopped clothing, seeing how it was made and then re-sewing it into styles that I liked." Emma McCleary, Emma Makes

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Hands down it’s my sewing machine, which I got for my 21st birthday, vintage op-shopped fabrics, and sewing. I taught myself to sew at art school by unpicking op-shopped clothing, seeing how it was made and then re-sewing it into styles that I liked.

Now I draft my own patterns and have a hilarious series of paper squares and rectangles, which look like nothing to outsiders but tell me exactly what I need to sew my products.

Notebooks and pencils by Emma Makes
What was the last handmade item you bought?
I buy handmade all the time because it’s great and because I can’t expect people to buy from me if I’m not supporting handmade and buying local. I’ve most recently bought a teacup print from oyprints to reward myself for meeting a month-long challenge and a crochet coffee cup warmer from Alexandra Mackenzie – I’ve also got a great blue felted bag by Ramari Textiles on layby at Craft Country in Featherston.

Five words that describe your mind: Curious, great memory, optimistic, wilful.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I love hearing from customers because they often tell me really special things. Many of my notebooks and pencils have travelled the world or they’ve recorded notes for expectant mums and have been thank you presents for bridesmaids. I once sent a Plans & Schemes notebook to Parliament, which I thought was appropriate!

I love spotting random strangers wearing my bags – and people make a point of texting me or posting bag sightings on my Facebook page, which I love too.

Pink rose and polka dot cotton pixie bag by Emma Makes
My most intriguing customers – who never give feedback – are the men who join Felt just so they can buy a present for their wife. I always wonder if they’ve chosen it themselves or if their wife has emailed through a shopping list.

Describe your workspace:
I was really lucky a couple of years ago and got the builders in to make part of our garage into my studio. They lined it out and put a little recycled window in the back so that’s my craft space. And there’s always a little pile of stuff at the end of the couch too.

I painted my studio green (Geraldine by Dulux) and used old drawers to make shelves. It’s also pretty heavily laden with treasure from op-shops.

It’s always well packed with stuff – supplies, half-made projects, half-made printmaking works and finished products ready to ship off to Felt buyers and stockists.

Emma at Craft 2.0

What are you reading now?
I work in the book trade (my ‘real job’) as web editor for Booksellers New Zealand. I’m really lucky because I get to see a lot of new books and have the opportunity to review them too. Right now I’m reading Gorse is Not People by Janet Frame and NW by Zadie Smith. I implore mothers reading this profile to let their daughters read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – it’s incredible with a wonderful central girl character.

A favourite quote: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt

What are you currently listening to?
I listen to heaps of podcasts because my studio doesn’t get National Radio. I love: This American Life, All Songs Considered, Selected Shorts, The Slate Culture Gabfest, The Moth, Desert Island Discs, The Friday Night Comedy Podcast, Savage Love and Great Lives among others.

Your hero/heroine:
I don’t really believe in putting people on a pedestal – instead I have a group of well-known people as well as friends who I admire for parts of their character, personality or resolve.
 There’s something for just about everybody in Emma’s Felt shop, Emma Makes. To celebrate her love of floral prints, one lucky person who comments below will win an Emma Makes pixie bag in gorgeous retro fabric…and you might even find a handful of those fab pencils inside. The draw is open to New Zealand residents only until Friday 14 September.

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134 Responses to “Featured Seller: Emma Makes”

  1. Susan says:

    Hi Emma, We share a love of vintage fabrics. Hope I win!

  2. Janet says:

    I would love to win this prize! Keep up your good work!

  3. Ngaire says:

    I’m feeling inspired again after reading your feature! Have always been a recycled creator but been a bit out of mojo for a while… Also I love to hear someone else who knows This American Life. Keep up the great work!

  4. Cathy says:

    Hi Emma,

    I’ve bought lots of your stuff, and think it’s AWESOME! hope I win!
    Great wee article,


  5. Smancy says:

    We are delighted to have Emma as a friend, colleague, and vendor at Alt.Shift.Craft alternative craft markets. Emma is enormously talented, imaginative, and witty, and an accomplished crafter. We hope to see her again at our next market.

  6. Jane says:

    The blankets,
    the flowers,
    the words,
    the hours!

    Lovely pieces, all.


  7. Beth says:

    Hi Emma! I LOVE your stationary, wonderful :) and what stunning use of fabric :)

  8. ginny says:

    EMMA MAKES me want to have that pixie bag in my life. yes, please!

  9. Connor Baker says:

    Hey Emma

    You are such an inspiration.

    I collect handbags.

  10. Lisa Hurst says:

    Wow! Love ur bags, they are so individual and gorgeous

  11. Veronika says:

    ooohhhhhh your bags are gorgeous (one can never have too many bags in my opinion)

  12. Rachael Davis says:

    Absolutely luuuuuurve your bags. What a treat it’d be to win one…..


  13. Amanda says:

    Emma Makes….fantastic crafts!

  14. shannon says:

    <3 – beautiful bagsxx

  15. Sarah says:

    I love your stuff! And you truly are a inspiration!

  16. Donna Ching-tregidga says:

    Beautiful work – the fabrics are gorgeous – thank you

  17. Karina Anderson says:

    I love Emma’s creativity and flair! Would love this prize.

  18. Stacey Donn says:

    I love your bags – the fabrics you use are fantastic.

  19. Natalie Friend says:

    I always need more things that Emma Makes

  20. Eyejs says:

    Wow, Emma the things you make are fabulous, I wish you every success. Nice interview and featured seller. Love your work.

  21. Debbie says:

    I often admire the fantastic range of vintage fabrics you have, love that you are making them into bags, love your work.

  22. Laura says:

    Your work is just devine! LOve love love the use of blankets made into bags!

  23. Rachel says:

    Am off to unpick some clothing. Love all your makings. Would be so proud to be seen with one of your bags. xx

  24. Amy says:

    Love the bag, emma! Count me in for this amazing prize, please!

  25. Angela says:

    Beautiful creations! Love them :-)

  26. Kelly says:

    Love your stuff Emma – thinking of getting one for a baby bag. I always say the bigger the bag the smaller the hips!

    Keep up the gorgeous work

  27. rashmee shrestha-maskey says:

    Your blog is inspiration to me as i too am a craft lover and do little bit of creations myself…..i love your crafty creations….

  28. Katie says:

    I’ve scouted your items previously and was drawn to the simpilcity and girliness of the patterns and the fabric. I was coming back to scout a new handbag!
    I love handmade items, and I love your creativity.
    Keep creating Emma – it’s inspiring to someone like me who is definitely not the worlds best sewwer (sewer?) :)

    Hopefully a little more publicity will do wonders for your page.
    Well done.


  29. Jane says:

    Am definitely looking at your bags for Christmas gifts so being able to trial one would be awesome :-)

  30. I definitely need a new bag. And I love featherston I have some great friends from there. Love the bubble shape of the pixie bag :)

  31. Paula says:

    Wow! I absolutely adore your work, just gorgeous!

  32. Karen says:

    I love your bags and the vintage patterns would fit perfectly into my lifestyle! They look great!

  33. Kelly says:

    awesome work – love the bags especially

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