A stitch in time: managing parenthood and a home business with flair

Amy Civil of Stitched is a time-management genius, juggling the commitments of being a stay-at-home mum with developing her sewing hobby into a home-based business. From her Rotorua home she produces beautifully constructed and presented textile items, for little ones and their grown-ups.


 

 
What do you make?
Most of what I currently make is for babies and young children – playmats, quilts and toys, although I also make homewares and zip pouches. Oh… and recently face masks!

How did you get into your craft?
A couple of months before we had our first baby, I dusted off my sewing machine and started making a few things for him. Then once I found myself at home with a baby it turned into more of a hobby and I started to make things for friends and family, many of whom encouraged me to sell them.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
No, other than Form 2 Home Economics many years ago!
 
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I primarily use 100% cotton for all items, however for the snuggly factor I find polyester, such as minky fabric, is the best option for baby blankets and quilts. My most used and loved tool is my second hand Bernina sewing machine… she’s an oldie but a goodie! I’m hopeful there are many years left in her yet. I also could not do without a sharp rotary cutter and pair of scissors.


 

 
Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your pieces
There are a few steps involved in making quilts and playmats, and given they take a little while to finish I inevitably have numerous items on the go at different stages, which works well as I can jump in and out depending on how much time I have available.

First thing is to get the fabrics sorted and decide on what to use, and to be honest this is the one area that can sometimes take the most time, I am not great at making decisions! Once that is done, it is a matter of cutting and sewing. Playmat tops are then basted (with pins) to the batting and backing fabrics, and finished with the binding. I hand sew all the binding on my quilts and playmats, which is something I really enjoy, and the soft blocks are finished with some hand stitching also.

What inspires you?
A lot of my inspiration comes from seeing others’ amazing work, and some of the beautiful fabrics available. I could spend hours trawling through Instagram looking at the beautiful pictures! I do like to put my own spin on things though by mixing and matching colours and patterns.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I don’t really have a philosophy, but I am inspired to create items that are practical and made to be used. I love the creative outlet sewing brings, that takes my mind off running around after two little ones, changing nappies and toddler tantrums. Most of my making is done during nap time or late-night sewing session.


 

 

 
Describe your workspace:
We are renovating our house at the moment and a sewing room/laundry is last on the list to be completed. So… I have taken up permanent residence at the dining table. Thankfully we have a breakfast nook in the kitchen that we eat at!

It is good in some ways in that I can keep an eye on the kids while sewing, although fabric storage is becoming a bit of a problem. To be honest it is rather organised chaos!

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
I am fortunate to receive so many lovely comments. A recent one is: “A beautiful quilt, that will make a lovely gift for my friend. Thank you and please keep on making these beautiful, hand made things!”

What are you currently listening to?
I tend to let Spotify decide that. I select a genre and shuffle from there. I have also been listening to a number of podcasts lately as well as Becoming by Michelle Obama as an audio book.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Rhonda and David Armitage. I don’t really know why I liked it so much, but for whatever reason it’s the book I remember the most, and I have now bought it for my own kids and we read it often.
 
What are you reading now?
With two young kids, and sewing, unfortunately reading has taken a back seat – although I do love to read! The last books I read were Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and Educated by Tara Westover.


 

 
A favourite quote:
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” – Mae West. I was given a birthday card once with this on it, and it is still pinned on our pin board.
 
Tell us about your pets:
We have a big dog called Ted, who is a real softy and a ginger cat called Griffin who thinks he is a dog. We found Griffin as a stray when he was a teeny tiny kitten, took him home “just for the night” and six years later he is still with us. Ted and Griffin are best mates, they snuggle up together by the fire in winter, and Griffin follows along when we go for walks.
 
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Back yourself. Just give it a go, do what you enjoy, trust your friends and family – if they like what you make you can probably be sure others will too.

Why do you think it’s important to buy handmade and/or locally made goods?
There is so much more passion and craftsmanship gone into something handmade than mass produced, and in these crazy times it is more important than ever that we support our local businesses particularly those selling handmade items. It is also nice I feel, to have something unique, that has a story, and also to know you have spent your money with someone who will truly appreciate it.


 

 

 
What does it mean to you when someone buys your creations?
I get a buzz every time someone purchases something I make. I feel very fortunate, and I hope they get joy from it.
 
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I recently brought some Beekawa balm from a local lady, which is wonderful, and have also purchased a couple of sewing patterns for kids clothes from local designers Twig & Tale and Below the Kowhai which I love, and will use over and over.
 
What’s in store for the rest of 2020?
Who knows! I think like the rest of New Zealand we are just taking it as it comes. I hope to be able to spend more time sewing and grow this little business further in between family life and renovating. I would also like to experiment more with bag making, and hope to add bags to my Felt shop soon.

Special offer for Felt readers!
Amy has has kindly offered us a great offer for Felt readers, for the duration of her feature fortnight! Just purchase goods to the value of $15 or greater from her Felt shop, and receive a sweet and practical cotton drawstring bag (in a surprise pattern!) as a free bonus with your purchase. Head on over to Amy’s Felt shop now to select your lovely Stitched goods.


 

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