Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have been sewing and crafting for as long as I can remember, always presenting my family with things I have lovingly made for them!
I decided to set up my own business after a module of my Fashion degree course where we had to buy items from charity shops, upcycle them, and then resell them and try to make a profit.
After experimenting with sewing some dresses, and metres and metres of bunting, I eventually settled on making felt baby mobiles as I was so disappointed with all of the hard, lumpy offerings in shops. I wanted to make a soft, more whimsical alternative. I use scraps of recycled fabrics for details such as the elephant ears and lion manes, and my crazy llama mobiles (pictured above) are brilliant for working through the massive stash of embellishments I seem to collect!
Lots of customers admired my mobiles, but mused that the person they were shopping for already had one . So I started make name banners as an alternative and they’re now my best-selling item. I make paper templates for all my designs, which I pin onto the felt and cut out by hand before sewing. It’s a long, intricate process but I find it very therapeutic
How did you learn to sew?
My Mum was always very creative (think Mum, myself and my sister in matching leggings, which also matched the kitchen curtains). The same goes for both of my Grandma’s, so it’s probably in my genes.
As a very active child, who spent a lot of time trying to convince Granny to bake my mud pies in the oven, or climbing and sometimes falling out of trees, sewing was a brilliant way to make me sit still. To this day, I really struggle to sit down without some sort of sewing or knitting to occupy my hands.
I studied Fashion, Textiles & Business at Portsmouth University. I particularly enjoyed the module where we were taught to knit by older ladies from the local community, who also had such interesting stories to tell us about their lives.
Where do you get inspiration for your work?
I first made an elephant mobile after returning from an amazing trip travelling through Africa. I wanted to try and capture some of the colour and amazing sights I had seen. Dinosaurs came next and I then progressed to woodland creatures, inspired by all I could see closer to home. My range quickly expanded from there.
I have some fabulous customers with great ideas about exactly what they would like. A great example is the chemistry mobile above with the baby’s name in the middle spelled out from chemical element symbols. I constantly think up new ideas myself too for new mobile themes – there really is no limit to the possibilities. As long as I can cut it out and stitch it then it can be a mobile!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love being my own boss, especially when it means I can be flexible about my working hours when the sun is shining. I am very motivated to sew, as I enjoy it o much, but am very easily distracted when it’s a beautiful day outside.
Luckily a lot of what I make is hand sewn, meaning I can work from my hammock on our balcony. But if I have lots of machine sewing to do I will get up at 4am in the summer to get it all finished before the sun is properly up!
What is your favourite item to make?
I love sewing name banners as they are always different. It’s especially fulfilling when I sew one for a child who has never been able to find anything with their particular name on before. That’s the benefit of sewing everything from scratch, it doesn’t matter how any name is spelled.
All my name banners are completely bespoke. So as well as creating absolutely any name at all, I can also add decorative elements that reflect the child’s interests or passions. Requests range from animals to spacecraft, planets to dinosaurs or characters from favourite books. It’s always so wonderful to hear they’re ecstatic to finally have a completely personalised decoration.
Most of my usual markets were cancelled over the last year but I took advantage of the extra time to get myself really organised. I now have a good stash of letters in my most common colours, as well as the popular animals from each end of the names. I love to surprise customers with how quickly I can finish a banner if they’ve chosen options I’ve already sewn.
To me, machine sewing, on my beloved Janome sewing machine, cover stitch machine, overlocker, or hand operated Singer sewing machine, is ‘work’. Hand sewing all of my felt items for my mobiles and name banners is ‘relaxing’, and I am very grateful to be able to make a business out of what I love to do!
What do you do when you’re not sewing?
We live in a lovely, very sociable, block of flats close to the river. I often do workouts in our car park with one group of neighbours, or yoga and Zumba in our shared garden with others. Exploring the Thames path to find new pubs within walking distance is also a favourite pastime!
And in the spring and summer, our small, sunny balcony is where I grow as much fruit and veg I can squeeze in. I love to bake vegetables sneakily into cakes whenever possible.
Images: © Fairly Army. See more of Amy’s work work and shop online at www.etsy.com/shop/fairlyamy.