To reach a port we must set sail: a life and craft shaped by the sea

Karli Gould of Gould Marine spent ten years as a sail/cover maker before she and her husband sold up and went to Europe to have their ‘later in life’ adventure. They left New Zealand saying that they would be gone six weeks, six months or six years… and ended up being away for eight years exploring the Mediterranean, sailing on a classic yacht!

When they returned home they built their paradise in the Sounds with an eye to use it as a workplace – and it turned out to be a fantastic place to be inspired.

Karli at work

gouldmarine briefcase

What do you make?
What do I make? That’s a good question… what don’t I make that can be sewn!

Available from my Felt shop are items that can be posted internationally or nationally. Useful items for around the home, workshop, garden and leisure. I also make bigger custom made products for clients in my region of Nelson/Marlborough. These consist of roll up veranda awnings for preschools and homes, shade sails, gym mats, blocks and shapes. It’s always a challenge to work in the marine industry with covers for yachts and pleasure craft. I can undertake any cover replacements for spa pool covers, deck chairs and squabs. You name it and I’ll do my best to create it!

How did you get into your craft?
I have always been creative behind a sewing machine. My Mum taught me to sew from a very early age. When I was at College I won the ‘Make and Model’ contest with a woollen dress I made. When my children were young I made all their clothes and went on to do home sewing for friends and family. Once my children started school I went to work in a local sail loft. I learned to use industrial machines and worked with heavy fabrics. From there I went on to work in our own partnership business manufacturing sails and covers for the marine industry spanning 10 years.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
I had no formal training for domestic sewing; my Mum taught me those skills. My dream was to go to design school as a high school leaver. I had training in industrial work from my business partner, a sail and canvas maker who was a recognised master of the trade, so I consider it was an apprenticeship.

Tools (3)

gouldmarine sail bag

the sounds

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
My most favoured materials are the acrylic canvas used in manufacturing some of my bags and marine covers. I also like using PVC as it’s such a durable product. I love using old sails to make some of the bags. The idea of recycling these fabrics is fun, and they become character pieces with their own personality. My favourite tools are my scissors and fairing battens, which help to create the magic shapes into the difficult compound curves of many of the marine covers I make.

Tell us about some of the techniques involved in producing one of your bags:
To make one of my gear bags from recycled sail cloth, I piece together the used cuts of exotic fabrics, traditional white Dacrons and colourful exotics to make one big sheet. I use a template to create the sizes of bags and mark out where the webbing handles and reinforcing should be placed. Next I sew on the pocket if required, the zip and the ends are the last thing to be fitted. The result is a custom made gear bag with charm and character.

Describe your creative process:
I create my project in my mind first – envisage a plan (design, materials and functionality). I have a workbook in which I put my ideas, shapes, dimensions and options. This sketch is then transformed into a template or directly onto the materials chosen. Many of my covers are fitted on the job before the final stitching is completed. This ensures the perfect fit.


Wood work aprons

What inspires you?
My inspiration comes from ‘creating’, seldom are two products the same. My mind is always searching new things to make and materials to work with. I enjoy the challenge of designing and manufacturing an item that is functional and simple to use.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
To produce an individual product that is serviceable and value for money.

Describe your workspace:
My workshop is to die for… located in the Pelorus Sounds. I have a view that looks out over Crosilles Harbour. Most people that visit my workshop say “How can you get any work done, with a view like that?” Once I am there I am very focused, my work area is the floor or the bench surrounding my machines. The workshop is insulated and double glazed with a wood burner keeping a cosy atmosphere in those stormy Sounds’ winter days. In summer the windows are all open with the fresh sea breeze wafting through. I am surrounded by pictures and post cards that remind me of our travels.

Karli floor work


view  (2)

Five words that describe your mind:
Focused, imaginative, busy, inspired and grateful.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“After first experiencing Karli’s expertise and quality in sail covers, Dodgers and other bits and pieces to do with boats, we graduated to some of her other products. Funnily enough, away from boats, it was her firewood carrier that we found to be amazingly useful, not really realising how this simple looking piece of material could be so good until we tried it out.

The versatility and skill involved in Karli’s work is incredible – check it out!

Recently we asked Karli to do a big job on all of our upstairs rooms’ upholstery. We chose Karli because in all of our dealings with her so far it has been shown that we get totally honest and sound advice, excellent quality, honest pricing and a rock solid guarantee that if anything is wrong it will be immediately fixed. So far we haven’t had to call on that. The job looks amazing and we’re really pleased with it. Many thanks for all – you’ve got a great business, Karli and I’m sure we’ll be back for more.”

– Penny, Atawhai, Nelson.



What are you currently listening to?
I love listening to Tiny Ruins while I’m sewing.

Recommend an album:
Some Were Meant For Sea – it seems so appropriate for me.

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
The Wind in the Willows – my next door neighbour used to read it to me and my brother. I still enjoy imagining Ratty and Moley messing around in boats.

What are you reading now?
I’ve been reading the Jack Reacher series, but I’m ready for a change.

Who is your hero/heroine? Why?
My heroine is my daughter – she skippered a yacht from Norway down to the Antarctic Peninsula and back – a two year programme. She is a super hero. She has two beautiful children and lives out of New Zealand, but faces all challenges with great courage.


A favourite quote
I like this quote from Franklin D Roosevelt: “To reach a port we must set sail – Sail, not tie at anchor – Sail, not drift.” I like to think this describes my life.

Tell us about your pets:
We have wild wekas around our house in the Sounds, we have learned to coexist with them even though they can be rather pesky pulling out seedlings as fast as we plant them!

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Have the courage to use your imagination… give it a go! Stay focused and hang on in there, good things always take time, so don’t lose heart. But you do have to put yourself out there and push.

What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I usually don’t buy gifts; I give handmade gifts to all my friends and family.

What’s in store for 2016?
Go from strength to strength and grow.


Karli has very kindly offered a sweet prize for one lucky Felt reader of two of her cute wee ‘Ditty Bags’ (see above). These gorgeous wee bags are ideal for storing precious items, jewellery, small games or marbles. Measuring 20 x 18cm and fully lined, these ones are a special Christmas version – perfect to fill with goodies!

To be in to win this lovely prize, simply leave a comment telling us what appeals to you about Karli’s story and her products. The draw will be made on Friday 21 October and is open to New Zealand residents only.


7 thoughts on “To reach a port we must set sail: a life and craft shaped by the sea

  1. This will sound odd but I love that Karli reminds me of my Dad! He’s a sailor and I have such great memories of sitting amongst the salt encrusted sails, wind in my hair, spending time with him. Join the sailing with her passion for both form and function – making an item that is functional but still beautiful (my Dad’s most prized possession is an old perfectly shaped and balanced screwdriver that he raves has both “form and function”). Love your work Karli!

  2. Karli is amazing! And I am so fortunate to not only know her, but to be part of her extended family. Her beautiful and equally talented daughter, Amanda is my daughter-in-law. Amanda learned so much from Karli, and I have such admiration for both these energetic, creative and loving women.

  3. Karli sounds like she is living a full life! Following your bliss is always the best option and it sounds like it has resulted in not only gorgeous, well made products but a lifestyle that is just what she wants! Love it!

  4. Her own quote – Have the courage to use your imagination… give it a go! I am an introvert and struggle with being creative, this story has given me a little confidence to try.

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