Cut from her own cloth: from fabric design to making fabulous products

Talented and busy maker Samantha Jones lives in Wellington with her husband and two boys, and has a third baby boy on the way. Working two part-time jobs as well as raising her youngsters, she sews at night when the world is asleep. “My mum raised six girls on her own and taught us how to be resourceful – that’s for sure! All of my sisters are clever and can make cool things, and I would love to open up a little shop one day full of our family’s creations.”


 

 
What do you make?
For me it is all about the fabric design, that’s my passion and obsession. I have been designing my own fabric since 2011. In my design library, I currently have 59 fabrics published. I use my own fabrics to make clothes and accessories for children and adults which makes what I make unique and fun. I also print my designs on paper as gift cards, these days a beautiful card is as much a gift as the present that accompanies it.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve always been passionate about fabric and sewing, I learnt how to cut patterns and make my own clothes in my early teens from my mother. About ten years ago I discovered I could design my own fabric patterns for my projects, and being involved in the fabric design really enriched the whole process for me. I would stay up late drawing and wake up in the morning with ideas for patterns in my head. Real life got in the way and it wasn’t until I had my first son that I had time to rediscover the process and continue with my ideas. But this time it was more special because I involved him, drawing his favourite animals from the zoo, dinosaurs, sea creatures and anything else he liked.


 

 
Do you have any formal training?
I am self-taught. But in 2016 I returned to study and I completed a diploma in art and creativity from The Learning Connexion, to polish my design skills and learn through a mentor. I found the distance learning a fantastic motivation to practise every week. Now I can only find time to draw after the kids are asleep!

What inspires you?
I am an enthusiastic mum of boys, everything they like I get into. Each fabric design has a story behind it which usually starts with “My son likes…”. Toby and Luke like the Octonauts so I drew their favourite sea creatures and used them on a fabric to make them matching hats. My nephew Gerald loves the trams at Queen Elizabeth park so I sketched his favourite ones and put them on fabric for him. Uncle Chris has a red tractor that the boys like to pretend to drive – you know I’m drawing a little red tractor.


 

 
Your favourite tools, materials and processes?
It’s really all about the fabric for me. I work mostly with custom printed 100% cotton. It is so versatile and easy to care for. I use it for bucket hats, shorts and face masks. My favourite tool is my bias binding maker, it is revolutionary to make my own binding that matches the rest of the fabric. It’s a fiddly job but worth it.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
There are a few things that are important to me when I create. No waste – or as little waste as possible. I use every last fabric scrap and save everything just in case it’s useful one day. A recent example of this are my reusable face masks, these are all made from offcuts I saved from the fabric around shorts and hats. I also want to be different – I achieve this by creating my own patterns for the products I make and using my own fabric designs. I want my products to be bright, happy and unlike everything else.

Describe your workspace:
In the past I have had my sewing machine set up on any flat surface; the kitchen table, the ironing board, the floor and even on moving boxes. Now that my husband and I have our own home, I am enjoying setting up my own permanent studio space in the rumpus room downstairs. I painted a large wall mural on one of the concrete walls based on one of my fabric designs. It is so much fun to create the workspace of my dreams!


 

 
Recommend an album:
“The Golden Hour” by Kasey Musgraves. I listen to it all day at my “day job” and then all night while I sew. It’s so cheery and light and has a great rhythm for hand stitching.

What are you listening to currently?
When I sew at night after the kids are asleep, I put my headphones on and listen to a podcast called “Life is Short”. It’s a light hearted conversation with interesting guests. The co-hosts are brothers with brilliant give and take. And when I’m all caught up on episodes it’s Kasey Musgraves.

What was the last handmade item you bought?
The last handmade item I bought was a pair of stunning hoop earrings off a fellow Felt seller Hanamade. She makes incredible jewellery and I especially love her influences of New Zealand wild life.

Favourite feedback from a customer?
One that stands out is a message I received via Instagram after a Felt purchase. The customer thanked me for the bucket hat and included a picture of his gorgeous baby wearing the hat. It was surreal to see something I made being used by such a tiny person! I was smiling for days.

What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It’s an absolute joy! I work hard in every part of the creative process to produce a finished product. All the fabric test swatches, the late-night sewing and the pin pricks – it’s all worth it when someone chooses something I made.


 

 

 
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
My advice is just to start. Give it a go and try! It will evolve and change as you move through and that’s part of the process. For years, I told myself my designing was just a hobby and not a career. But no matter what ‘real job’ I had I would be dreaming of my next fabric design and what to make next. I’m still a work in progress and fail or not, at least I gave it a good try, had some great experiences and met some lovely people along the way.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade?
I’m sure we’ve all seen that meme online: when you buy from a small business an actual person does a happy dance. I think about this often when I see other people trying to make a splash with their creations online. I am so grateful to Felt for letting me show what I can do. It’s fantastic to connect with a real person over something they’ve made and learn the stories behind the products.


 

 
What’s next for 2021?
I have a stall at The Pop-Up Market in Tawa in October and November and at the Thorndon Fair in December. We are welcoming our third baby earth side in July – another boy! So, the second half of the year will be baby snuggles and frantic sewing.

Special offer for Felt readers – and another offer on Instagram!
Samantha is generously offering a 15% discount on anything in her Felt shop for the duration of her feature month! To secure this great discount, enter the voucher code FELT15 at checkout.

And there’s an extra treat from Samantha on Instagram tonight – tag a friend and you’ll both go in the draw to win a set of four greeting cards each!

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