All about the fibre – the form and fabrication of a Fully Woolly enterprise

Susan Manson of Fully Woolly is a highly skilled maker of fantastic faux taxidermy deer trophies and other woolly goodies – and she reckons fibre runs through her veins. Growing up with a family background in wool and textiles, she describes herself as a multi-crafter, with skills in spinning, dyeing, knitting, crochet, felting and sewing – truly Fully Woolly!


 

 
What do you make?
Fibre crafts – mostly deer head wall hangings – and a variety of toys from repurposed vintage blankets. I started my crafting career as a dyer, spinner and knitter, and now occasionally produce some yarns, kits and knits, as the deer allow!

How did you get into your craft?
I was taught to crochet by my grandmother when I was about seven, and since then I have enjoyed fiddling around with fabrics and yarn. I say fibre is in my blood… one of my ancestors was a paisley weaver from Scotland, and a lot of his descendants have skills in various kinds of crafting. My aunts were amazing at embroidery, knitting and mixed media work.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I am mostly self taught, but have had advice and support along the way. I have done workshops etc but mostly its trial and error.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I really enjoy dyeing, making colours and blending and picturing how it will look worked up. My favourite thing is getting a seed of an idea and working out how to make it reality… what processes and materials to use, making and remaking it until its what I imagined. Product development sounds a bit grand when I’m working out how to make a Bunny Rattle!


 

 
I like using, or reusing, fabrics and materials with a past life, a history, blankets that have been washed and used have a great texture, I like giving them a second life while they hold the memory of what they once were. They are very nostalgic for people, I often hear customers talking about how their mum got that blanket for a wedding present, or they used to have that one in the caravan.

My most useful, and therefore one of my favourite tools, is a surgical clamp! I use it for turning, and stuffing and twisting… I recently broke my first one and it was sorely missed and quickly replaced.

I am also very fond of my very sharp scissors… Everyone knows they will get in trouble if they are used for anything but fabric!

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
If it’s sewing critters for example, then I will spend some time cutting a batch. I don’t make singles, I prefer to make, or part make, a dozen or so at a time. Then I machine stitch what’s needed and stuff them, then finish off with hand sewing and label them.

What inspires you?
The fabrics and fibres I have around me, the colours and patterns… there are too many ideas bouncing around in my head and just not enough time!

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
There isn’t really one. I like making what I think are useful or attractive things… and if I can do it from repurposed materials it’s a bonus.


 

 
Describe your creative process:
I get an idea, I do some research on any different processes I might need and to see if there is anything similar, I try and keep mine original, cut a pattern and sew a sample… tweak it and sew another… until I have something I like.

Describe your workspace:
I work from home, in my dining area. We can’t sit at the table to eat anymore – it has my sewing machine set up there and the boxes of cut parts for deer and critters. I have another small work table where all the cutting and handwork happens. I call the TV my work mate, it keeps me entertained and on task! I watch a lot of trashy daytime TV!

The living room is for order processing and photography. I have gathered several different backgrounds for the deer and critters, to make them look pleasing and to add variety to my Felt shop (and for me). It does mean that there are often random things hanging from the walls! I have blankets, fabrics, yarn and tools stashed in nearly every room in the house.

How does art or craft feature in the rest of your life?
Helping people be creative is something I enjoy, either learning new things, extending themselves or giving them an outlet to sell their work.

I spend half the year co-ordinating the Wanaka Sunday Craft Market, giving creators a place to showcase and sell their work, we are a handmade New Zealand market and all stalls are run by the artists, giving the public a chance to interact and give feedback. I am also on the Upper Clutha Community Arts Council, we support arts projects in the area and provide scholarships. We also organise the Wanaka Autumn Arts School, and I help with the day to day running of that for one very busy week in April.

For several winters I have organised the Wanaka Stitch n Bitch group where we get together to talk crafty things and help people learn to knit or crochet.


 

 
Five words that describe your mind:
Colourful, alternative, quirky, inquisitive, introspective.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I had a customer at the market show one of my monkeys to her toddler and the wee guy wouldn’t let go, so she bought him rather than have the tears! Three days later she sent me a photo of the monkey still being cuddled and said that her son hadn’t put him down. That kind of customer satisfaction is the best feedback.

It’s also great feedback to get returning customers to my Felt shop, it’s great to know they liked the first deer enough to buy another one or two!

What are you currently listening to?
I really only listen to the radio, and trashy TV!

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Amelia Bedelia… I really enjoyed the use of language, I thought it was hilarious!

What are you reading now?
I’m slowly reading Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, I don’t get much time for it during the summer, I hope to finish it once market season is over.

A favourite quote:
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – the Dalai Lama.


 

 
Tell us about your pets:
I am currently petless… we usually have a cat but we are waiting to find our new housemate. Our cats are always named after Ford cars… we have had Cortina, Edsel, Zephyr and Capri. Hope to add a Zodiac or Falcon soon. They are spoiled for choice for napping spots, so many blankets to snuggle into!

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Set good bookwork habits, it’s easier to do it in small bites than remember what that seven-month-old receipt is for.

Be prepared for it to be a wandering path not a straight journey. It’s not all creating, you will have to take side roads to learn additional skills like photographing and editing your work, copywriting and using social media. There are good free tutorials available, find something that feels your level and then practise lots.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
A small hemp bracelet with an amethyst bead from a stallholder at the Wanaka Craft Market. It was pretty and she was new and I wanted to support her.


 

 
What’s in store for the rest of 2018?
I have been asked to send my work to the Vauxhall Exhibition of Fine Art in Devonport in June, and will be at Encraftment Market in Christchurch that month too, everything is focussed on getting things made for those so I haven’t thought much beyond that. Winter will be a time for getting stock prepared for the summer market season, but we always say that and somehow are never as productive as we imagine!

Prize draw!
Susan has offered an awesome prize for one lucky Felt reader of a deer head worth $60.00, in your choice of colour, from her lovely range. These friendly-looking, cute wee creatures are made from recycled blankets, and are great for a child’s bedroom, over your fire place, or in your lounge or hall.

If you would like to be in to win, let us know in the comments section what you enjoyed reading about Susan’s story and her gorgeous Fully Woolly creations. The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 14 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.


 

38 thoughts on “All about the fibre – the form and fabrication of a Fully Woolly enterprise

  1. Ha, I grew up in a similar household! The “white thing” (sewing machine) always had first dibs on the dining room table!
    You’re very talented! I’d love to win a deer head for my little girl 🙂

  2. I enjoyed reading about your background. I was taught to embroider by my mum and to cross stitch by my grandmother. Sadly, I’ve found that these crafts are too hard on my eyesight.

  3. Wow what fantastic work! I love what you said about repurposing things and the memory things hold when they have had more than one life. Your comments about the sharp fabric scissors made me laugh and took me back to my childhood, spending hours searching the house for a pair of scissors that were not in the sewing cupboard! I also loved your comment about product development, beautiful bunny rattles may seem humble but they mean the world to their owners. It is wonderful to hear that the process of learning skills from our elders and passing it down the generations to let them blossom in our comunities is still strong. What an uplifting interview!

  4. As a school librarian, I was interested to read that Susan’s favourite book as a child was ‘Amelia Bedelia’ also her favourite quote, happens to be mine too!

    We have just moved into our new library and I am sure all 550 students would love to see one of Susan’s amazing deer heads up on the wall to brighten the plain walls – it would be awesome to win one 🙂

  5. A house full of yarn and materials sounds like a crafters dream!
    The toddler loving the toy and not letting go sounds just like my 2 year old daughter too.

  6. One of my favourite things to do is create something out of the materials I have around me so I enjoyed reading that Susan does something similar.

  7. Customer feedback is one of the most rewarding things! We have a fully wooly in our baby girls room and we absolutely love it.
    Learning more about you and your creative process is fantastic. I love knowing more about the people behind our goodies.

  8. I loved reading how Susan got into craft as I also come from a family with crafty clever grandmothers and aunties that are amazing at sewing, knitting, crocheting and embroidery. Would love to win a deer head for my nephews room 🙂

  9. I always clutter the dining table with the sewing machine too! Its so easy to spread out an see what needs to be done an have littles piles of cut/pinned/finished items. Love that Susan helps to provide scholarships. Would be awesome to win one of these deer heads for my nephew. My brother is an avid hunter and would find it rather neat! Hope to see your creations in Devonport. Will be looking out for it!!

  10. I liked the bit about the materials being upcycled so they already have a history, a story to tell. I like the thought of that 😊 I was planning on buying a deer head for my girl due in July but if I won, one I could buy the doe instead and have a pair .

  11. Susan, you are so talented. As someone with zero creative ability I find it so incredible that you can just have an idea and then bring it to life., obviously through a lot of hard work and tweaking! Your little deer are so gorgeous,, I absolutely adore them, you must never get lonely at work with your sweet little critters to keep you company! I would love a deer head for my daughters bedroom, she thinks they are just the most lovely little creatures. Keep up the good work Susan.

  12. Haha, I love the description of her workspace. Can fully relate to the kitchen table being used as a ‘craft zone’. I love the deer heads, have bought a few as presents from Susan at the Wanaka market, not yet purchased one for myself.

  13. Great article. I loved reading about all the awesome arts and craft initiatives and projects like the markets and stitch and bitch that Susan enables for her local community. One of Susan’s bunny rattles is a firm favorite of my wee girl and we’d love to win another buck to join our first one!

  14. I think it is wonderful that Susan likes to help people learn to knit or crochet. My 11 year old daughter takes knitting lessons in the school library once a week. She is being taught by some locals who are kindly volunteering their time. It’s a great opportunity for her as nobody in our family has these skills! One of those fabulous deer heads on our wall would keep her inspired.

  15. Just love the deer and the creativity behind all that you make. Truly wonderful. Has given me some inspiration for the winter nights that are soon approaching. Would love to receive one.

  16. I loved reading how Susan works from her dinning table and that it’s no longer able to be sat at for meals – totally relatable for so many crafters I know!

  17. The deer heads are gorgeous.! My grandsons would love them. I love the recycling of those beautiful woollen blankets that everyone got rid of in favor of duvets. Such a clever and creative lady.

  18. I enjoyed reading about Susan’s many talents and love the fact that she reuses fabrics. Repurposed blankets are turned into so many lovely things.

  19. I like that Susan uses materials that hold a memory of what they once were. Genius way of saying recycled. I love her creations!

  20. This has been my fave Felt Maker profile so far! I love the idea of taking fabrics and materials with a history and recreating something new. What GORGEOUS creations you make – that pug is beautiful and I’d love to give your deer a new home in our daughters’ room. (p. S Love your cats’ names too Susan!)

  21. I just enjoyed reading about the person behind these critters I’ve been coveting for aaaaages. It’s interesting to hear the story behind the business and products – the image 😊 thanks for letting us in and fingers crossed I win!

  22. What a cool way to upcycle! Love your work💛 I had to laugh at your cats names as our car growing up was a Ford zodiac keep up the amazing work I love to support any made in nz businesses

  23. Loved the story about the wee boy who found his way to a monkey at a craft market! Super cute creations that are obviously made to be loved by folk of all ages xx Awesome stuff Susan

  24. I loved learning about your favourite book. I’m a librarian so I love hearing about childhood book memories. I am so in love with your creations. They are gorgeous

  25. I really enjoyed reading about how passionate she is towards her sewing and crafts. It really shines through. I love that she is also so involved in the arty community.

  26. I love that Susan’s dining table is no longer for eating at, I thought that was just my house. You can tell that she loves what she does, it’s inspiring.
    I’ve looked at Susan’s taxidermy heads before and it’s amazing that the different fabrics used give them individual personalities.
    Thank you for sharing your talents with us

  27. I love these and love how Susan spends a lot of her time helping others become crafty as well as running a business a very inspirational story to help me get crafty for my first born due in august.

  28. I am so impressed with your re-purposing of materials, my grandson is a zero waste baby, and I learnt so much about re-using items when I was getting things together for his birth, and when someone is successful at doing this on a commercial level it shows so much hope that we can achieve changes to benefit the planet, your work and ethics are admirable

  29. Loved reading about how your crafting has taken over your lounge and dining areas 😂 reminds me of my mum crafting when I was a kid. Love your work 😁

  30. I loved reading about how she first began to like fibre at age 7 when her Grandmother taught her to crochet. Love the idea or crafting skills being passed from generation to generation .

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