Maki Lourie of Sew Mama is passionate about making beautiful products from beautiful fabrics, and making people smile! Her work, creating carefully-finished reusable textile products for children, is fuelled by the desire to bring her customers a bit of happiness, as well as reducing single-use plastic waste. Her care and attention to detail in both her design and production processes shines through in the colourful bags and accessories she creates with love, to last.
What do you make?
I make school book bags, reusable sandwich and snack bags, colour-me-in bags, crayon bags, wet bags, swimming bags, owl bags, reversible fabric headbands, origami butterfly hair clips, natural wooden teething rings with fabric replacements, bibs, and nappy bags with gorgeous fabric.
How did you get into your craft?
I am originally from Japan. I lived there with my husband and two children until The Great East Japan Earthquake happened. Our life was totally changed after that. After moving to New Zealand in 2011 I was unable to work because our children were 3 years and 3 months old respectively, and my English skills were still poor.
Then one day I decided to take a look at what truly brings happiness and excitement to my life. I love to sew, and I made my son’s bibs, nappy bag, blanket and changing mat when my son was born.
Suddenly this conversation with my friend crossed my mind: “You can sell your handmade products! They are looking so gorgeous!” Actually I thought “Really???” in my mind, but her words gave me the push I needed.
This process helped me envision a way that my passion for making and creating could transform into something more. For years I had enjoyed sewing and creating things for my kids, friends, and family, and that was where my Felt shop began – to brighten up someone’s day and also put a huge smile on their face with my products.
Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I have been sewing for as long as I can remember. My Mum’s super classic-foot sewing machine was out on the table nearly every day when I was a little girl and she encouraged me to learn and create and play. I still remember when I was struggling with it. She sewed a lot of stuff like an embroidered lunch box bag, dresses, and bags… her handmade-with-love items were everywhere. After that everything else is self-taught!
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I absolutely love fabric, maybe I am a “fabric-holic”, especially quilted fabric! Since I’ve started selling on Felt I also discovered a passion for fabrics that is stronger than it used be, so I’ve been adding other items to my extensive list of handmade products in order to have an excuse to buy more fabrics!
My favourite tools are my sewing machine, which I brought here from Japan, working scissors, and water-erasable fabric markers.
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
I think that ironing is a hugely important for me. I iron, then I start cutting all the pieces out after measuring each product’s size, and then iron again. Next, sewing machine work starts. These products completed, I do ironing again! So the iron is always beside me. If I tried to cut corners in the ironing process, my products would not be finished beautifully.
What inspires you?
I’ve always been very inspired by fabric. I just love it! I can spend hours and hours looking at fabric photos. They inspire me when I create my new collections. Sometimes I do some different things, like I spend time in nature with my family, go on bush walks, to the beach and see the sky full of stars. New Zealand nature gives me some peace of mind and makes me feel inspired.
“I believe it is very important to prepare our children for a lifetime of sustainable living, zero waste, no more plastic bags, and eco-friendly. We can do a tiny thing first, that’s better than doing nothing.”
Is there a philosophy behind your work?
How can I make your day brighter? Customers who value the quality, care, and love sewn into handmade goods. Customers who see my carefully-chosen bright and fantastic fabrics and think of other customers.
I love sewing and I am committed to quality craftsmanship. I just want to make someone HAPPY with my work. I love each and every sale… I love working! If our children’s school life is happy and brightened up with my school book bags or reusable sandwich and snack bags, or I make a huge smile with my fabric headbands etc… that is wonderful!
Describe your creative process:
I listen to myself, like what do I want to make? That is the most important thing, I guess, because I don’t want to make my products with negative feelings. What kind of products do children need? If I use this fabric what does it suit? An idea shows up in my mind and I write it down on my notes quickly! Then take the time for planning.
“…that was where my Felt shop began – to brighten up someone’s day and also put a huge smile on their face with my products.”
The next step is making a prototype, after writing a pattern with small details. Sometimes I fail many times, but no pain, no gain! I keep going until I am satisfied.
New product requests from my customers or friends also helped me to grow Sew Mama into what it is today.
For example, my popular school book bag was born from my friend’s opinion. A couple of years ago, she really wanted to have a school book bag. And she asked me to make it, if it was possible. In response to her request, I made it as she wished. If I could see her big smile, that product would become a main product – and it has.
Describe your workspace:
My workspace is the dining table. I make all items in the dining room, there is lots of natural sunlight through the wooden frame windows and it makes sure that each piece is filled with love and passion. I love planning my new products and fabric patterns, and making fun for a child’s school life. I love being in the dining room, it’s a wonderful space to work in and it’s easy to do many different things there. I can see my children easily or I can get a cup of coffee quickly when I need a break because the dining room is between the living room and the kitchen.
Five words that describe your mind:
Passion, positive, inspired, creative, thankful.
Your favourite feedback from a customer:
It’s hard to say… because I am so lucky to have lots of wonderful customers’ positive feedback! If I have to bring up one: “Awesome product, great quality, gorgeous fabric, prompt delivery, would happily recommend sewmama to anyone else! Many thanks!!” I always try to do my best for making products with beautifully seamed lines, getting gorgeous fabric and customer satisfaction is the most important thing for me. All the words from the customers’ feedback resonate with me.
What are you currently listening to?
“Liability” and “Hard Feelings/Loveless” by Lorde.
Recommend an album:
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
Guri and Gura by Rieko Nakagawa. I have liked this book since I read first when I was in kindergarten. Two mice carry out an egg to a forest and make a yellow cake bigger than them, like going camping. It is always good to know the food you are fed is something you can harvest outside, and that you can make it yourself with friends. I have read this book to my children so many times and they just love it! The book is not really adventurous, rather quiet, but do please try it if you are interested.
What are you reading now?
I love reading books and one of my Japanese books is waiting for me but I am afraid to say I don’t have enough time to read it recently because I am too busy with all this work!
Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
I am ever-grateful to my Mum who taught me so much, especially sewing skills! Whatever she could buy, she could make! When I think about my craft passion, where it is coming from… that’s Mum! So I think my heroine is Mum because she is awesome and I respect her. I have got to say that my husband is my hero too. He is so dedicated, and super hard working, adores our children and is a wonderful Kiwi husband.
A favourite quote:
“A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein.
Tell us about your pets:
I don’t have any pets here at the moment. I used to have a dog when I was a school girl. I loved him very much so I still haven’t been able to get ready to have another dog, BUT I love dogs! I’d like to have a dog again one day.
If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Honestly, I am not sure about superheroes!
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
If you have a strong passion, love for making something and know what you really want to do, don’t think too much, just keep going! That way might be not easy, hard sometimes, but trust yourself and have fun. You will not have regrets, it’s all worth it, enjoy!
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a couple of gorgeous art prints, magnets at the market from Emilie Geant Artwork. She has beautiful art work and makes the most gorgeous bird art! I have hung her art print in the hallway and also I gave a tui art print to my Mum as Mother’s Day gift.
What’s in store for the rest of 2018?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – making a contribution towards a greener environment; that is my next plan. Recently I’ve started making reusable sandwich and snack bags because I have been thinking about environmental problems. I believe it is very important to prepare our children for a lifetime of sustainable living, zero waste, no more plastic bags, and eco-friendly. We can do a tiny thing first, that’s better than doing nothing. As things go, the rest of 2018, my focus has primarily turned into encouraging people to stop using plastic and go with different alternatives.
Craft markets are very important as well. Because I can talk to customers as face-to-face and I can hear their opinions. If in the area, please come and visit me at The Manawatu Craft and Food Fair. I will be there this September and December, as my Christmas Market. I am planning to expand my product range more so I will have to push myself a little bit more!
Thank you to all of you for reading and being interested in my work!
Maki has kindly offered a prize of this awesome Star Wars book bag (see below) for one lucky Felt reader to win this fortnight. Maki loves to make school more fun for kids with her sturdy and colourful book bags – what a great gift for a first day at school!
If you would like to be in to win a Sew Mama Star Wars book bag, let us know in the comments section what you enjoyed reading about her story and her lovely creations. The draw closes at 5pm on Monday 9 July and is open to New Zealand residents only.