Frances O’brien, also known as The Stitchy Kiwi, lives on Auckland’s North Shore with her husband and two young children. She makes modern and contemporary embroidered hoops, inspired by the world around her. When she isn’t sewing, she can be found at one of the local beaches.
How did you get into your craft?
My Nan taught me to cross-stitch from the age of six. Some of my earliest memories are sitting up in bed at night (when I should have been asleep), sewing with a torch, and sewing Christmas cards for the family next to an open fire. I continued passionately, right up until around the age of 18 when university, work and life got in the way. About five years ago, my Nan passed away and left me with all her embroidery thread and Aida (cross-stitch material). I wanted to make something in her memory. After completing a few small cross-stitch projects and trawling through social media pages, I taught myself how to embroider. I was attracted to embroidery as it allows me to be more creative and design my own pieces rather then religiously following a chart. I started off with a few gifts for birthdays or new babies, but this developed into individual pieces, gaining inspiration from life around me.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I source all of my wooden hoops in bulk and prepare for the lag in delivery times – the thought of being without a hoop is unimaginable! As I’ve made my way through my Nan’s stash of threads, I now always buy DMC. Once I have a design, I draw a rough outline directly onto the fabric and lay out my threads to decide on a colour scheme. My life has been made so much easier since I discovered Frixon pens – the ink disappears under heat (I use a hairdryer at the end). Once I have stitched, I back with felt and voila, done!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by anything I see or hear around me. Sometimes it may be a plant or a flower. It may be a song lyric which means something to me. It may be a phrase I hear or see online and I think “That would look great embroidered.” I keep photos on my phone and when I am ready to start a new hoop, I scroll through the photos to come up with something.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I appreciate all feedback as it is always great to learn and improve on what I have taught myself so far. My favourite feedback was from a Felt customer: “Love it, love it, love it! It’s going to reside on my large art-room pin-board. Thank you so much!” It’s nice to think that something I have made is giving someone else a tiny bit of joy.
“By buying locally, you know you are supporting someone who will really appreciate the sale, rather than a large corporate company.”
Describe your workspace:
The best thing about embroidery is it can be done anywhere and can be taken in a small bag. Usually, I am curled up on the sofa watching my kids playing – I find it a great way to unwind at the end of a busy day. It’s equally soothing in the garden or on a road-trip.
Five words that describe your mind:
1. Busy – with two young kids, work, and embroidery, there is never a dull moment.
2. Mathematical – I actually have a maths degree. Apparently, maths and art both use the left-side of the brain, so there must be a correlation between that and what I do now.
3. Curious – unfortunately my son takes after me and never stops with the questions!
What are you reading now?
My children and I have been working our way through the David Walliams books, I love them. They are so adventurous and imaginative and provide my children with the concept that anything is possible. Bad Dad is probably my favourite we have read so far and it is so emotional.
A favourite quote:
“Let it be”. It was my Mum’s philosophy in life that if something is meant to be then it will happen. The Beatles’ song was played at my Mum’s funeral and it still comforts me to carry those thoughts and know that everything will be okay.
Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
Buying something homemade locally, you are getting something unique and individual, something to stand-out in your home. So much thought and effort has gone into the piece, I can appreciate the item so much more than a mass-produced item. Finally, by buying locally, you know you are supporting someone who will really appreciate the sale, rather than a large corporate company.
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
It really touches me to know that something I have put so much time and effort into has ended up in someone else’s house and can bring them some joy. I am eternally flattered that I have created something I have made someone else want to pay for!
“It’s nice to think that something I have made is giving someone else a tiny bit of joy.”
What’s in store for the rest of 2019?
I have started getting ready for Christmas already! Last year I made my children’s teachers embroidered hoops, so I am planning on re-creating for their new teachers this year. Otherwise, it will be more of the same. Embroidery is so much more than a crafty business, it is my hobby and passion, so I am looking forward to a great long break over summer for extra time to sew.
Special offer for Felt readers!
Frances has kindly offered her Felt customers 10% off her lovely embroidered art, for the duration of her feature fortnight! Just purchase before 5pm Monday 28 October, and enter the code 10OFF in the voucher code field at step 4 of checkout. Thank you so much Frances!