We took part in March Meet The Maker this year - a 31 day challenge designed by Joanne Hawker (www.marchmeetthemaker.com). These were our posts.
Day 1: Favourite Thing To Make
I love designing and stitching up new pieces, but my favourite thing to make in bulk is little TARDISes. I can stitch rows of them without getting bored. My ultimate handbag project.
Day 2: How You Started:
Stephen: Roslyn has been stitching for as long as I remember, however for me it started in 2015 when Roslyn did her first stall at Brisbane Comic Con where I helped her with the stall. Then in 2017 I started designing and uploading patterns to Etsy in 2018. it’s been a crazy few years.
Ros: A long time ago, in a galaxy (well, small town) far, far away in central Queensland, a 13 year-old girl learnt how to cross-stitch. She quickly became obsessed, "borrowing" her mother's stitching supplies to create gifts for friends and family. A few years later, she started designing her own patterns when she struggled to find sci-fi projects she wanted to stitch: larger designs, kitch designs, designs that came together quickly yet still looked impressive. Then other people started saying they'd like to stich her patterns too, and thus Fangirl Stitches was born. Then her brothers started stitching and designing too...” That was back in 2013, while I was living in England. One of the first patterns I designed was the Discworld alphabet. I donated the finished piece to the Irish Discworld Convention for their charity auction, raising money for one of Terry Pratchett's favourite charities. As Stephen said, it’s been a crazy few years!
Day 3: Flatlay
My current WIP - stitching up one of our new kits (yet to be released). The kit’s going to include a scissors charm!! I normally stitch with a square hoop but a) it’s got another project in it at the moment and b) I thought the hoop looked cuter for the photo
Day 4: The Tools I Use
To be honest, I could probably have just reposted yesterday’s photo. These are some of my favourite cross stitching tools. 1. Square snap frame - the tension on these is amazing! I never (well, hardly ever) stitch without a frame. I love that the snap frames come in different sizes and you can mix and match to create your own custom size. 2. sharp embroidery scissors. Essential. Never, ever used for anything but cutting threads and fabric. Ever. 3. needle storage/pin cushion. How cute is this one?! It’s shaped like a lipstick, has a lid, and winds up and down. It was a Christmas present and I love it. 4. Small pliers for putting together keyrings and earrings. 5. Storage bag to keep all my bits in for projects on the go. This one is from Handmade With Love ORH and is a real throw back to my childhood.
Day 5: Close-up
Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a close up photo of cross stitch on an iPhone camera? Very. It’s very hard. The camera just didn’t want to focus that close to the stitching. I tried so hard, from different angles, in different rooms of the house, best lighting I could get (at 9:15pm, without setting up my lightbox). Nothing worked. It was very frustrating. In the end, I used the zoom function. Duh. Did I mention it’s 9:15pm?
Day 6: Full-time or Partime?
Fangirl Stitches is a part-time/evening/weekend/holiday business, that sometimes feels like a full-time job! My actual full time job is paediatric occupational therapy. I ‘m very fortunate that my employer is flexible and that my award agreement means I can work extra hours in order to have days off through the year - all in the name of work-life balance. Last year I dropped to a nine-day fortnight to have extra time to do conventions and craft shows, and that has been awesome - a bit of extra time to do all the jobs that need to happen on weekdays. Being an OT gives me a great insight into the therapeutic benefits of stitching, and certainly helps with conversations at conventions.
Day 7: Less glam side.
Gavin: I decided to take this entry in a slightly different direction and show you the literal less glam side of one of our cross stitch pieces. Ever since I started stitching about 3 years ago, I’ve found it amusing how the rear side of our designs look like cycloptic nightmare creatures, while the front is quite lovely (if I do say so myself). I’ve heard some people say that the back of your cross stitch should be as neat as the front, and while that may be true if you are selling the finished piece or entering it into a competition, once it’s framed; only you are going to know what the back looks like. So if it’s not bothering you, I wouldn’t worry about it.
Day 8: Full range
Since we’re currently at CraftAlive Wagga Wagga, it was a great opportunity to do a video of our display wall. This isn’t the full range, but it’s a good cross section of it. All our patterns are available as either PDF downloads, or as full kits with the the fabric, thread and needle included. (the video wouldn't upload, so here's a pic of some pieces instead)
Day 9: Story Behind The Name
I am Fangirl Stitches - I am a fangirl who stitches. It was the first name I though of when deciding to open a business, and it took about 0.5 seconds of thought while sitting on my friend’s couch in England. I was just relieved no one else had already taken it!! I am a geek and a nerd and proud of it. I am passionate about the things and people I love, and I love my fandoms. Being Fangirl Stitches has meant I’ve been able to go to pop culture conventions around the country, and even to NZ, and meet so many amazing and passionate people. I love seeing the elaborate costumes, the basic costumes, and getting dressed up myself. I love taking stitched pieces to celebrities for photos, and for them to sign - and I love their reactions to seeing themselves in cross stitch. The only problem with our business name is now that Gavin and Stephen are designing too, and becoming faces of the business as well, it can seem a little bit restrictive (FanBoy doesn’t have the same ring to it, nor does FanPerson). Gavin designs under Hipster Stitch which does help a bit with broadening the name.
Day 10: You. Or in this case, us
Fangirl Stitches started off as just me designing patterns on my friend’s couch. Then two of my brothers decided to get in on the fun. So now it really is a family business, particularly since our sister-in-law designed the logo, Mum stitches carry bags for us, Dad builds display stands, and the third brother (apart from giving us our sister in law) is often on cat-sitting duties when we’re away at a convention! 1️⃣ I know I’ve shared this pic a few times, but it is the only one I have of the three of us at a convention! 2️⃣ I introduced me yesterday in the naming post :) 3️⃣ Gavin, Hipster Stitch, the hairy bearded one and Melbourne-based part of the business. Gavin introduced me to Tripod and several different book series. He was the first one (of us) to discover Harry Potter and Star Wars and Batman. 4️⃣ Stephe️n, the youngest one. For a long time he had a very baby face and looked a lot younger than he is. I have been asked before if I’m his mother. Being the youngest, he didn’t get to discover much on his own, but he’s an avid reader, loves superhero films and board games and Critical Role. His first love was Robin, as in “Batman and” and Power Rangers. He’s never cosplayed as either... yet! 5️⃣ Behind the scenes stitching photo. 6️⃣ the friends who help out at stalls, stall-hold next to us, yes-stitch pieces, make keyrings and earrings, help restock kits, and generally keep me entertained are also important cogs in the Fangirl Stitches wheel!
Day 11: Reducing Waste
As a predominately online pattern business, there’s a limit to how much waste we produce, which is great. My office has a recycling bin, which I fill with misprinted patterns and the boxes our threads come in. The seals from the cello bags go into the soft plastics recycling bin. All the thread off-cuts get collected in these (recycled) jars throughout the year, and then I stuff them into clear baubles and decorate the Christmas tree.
Day 12: Hands At Work
This weekend was CraftAlive in Wagga Wagga and I ran several “Learn to cross stitch" classes. Amongst those who sat down for the classes were 7 children under the age of 12, both boys and girls. I had a lot of fun teaching them, and am pretty sure I’ve got 2 or 3 of them addicted to stitching! These photos are of their busy hands at work stitching up a storm.
Day 13: Photography
This is my photography set up. I love my new light box - so easy to get the right lighting and remove/limit shadows. I used to have a cardboard box and tinfoil and several desk lamps, and then cardboard box with cutout sides. Eventually I decided to invest in a proper light box, and am very glad I did! I alternate between my Canon camera and my iPhone, depending on the setup and the purpose of the photos - listings vs social media.
Day 14: How I Learnt
Stephe️n: Years and years ago when I was still in primary school Roslyn taught me to stitch and I was gonna stitch a present for Mum for her (birthday?) but I did not complete this gift. Fast forward around 10 years to 2016 and Ros and I are at our second Brisbane Oz Comic Con. She re-taught me to stitch, this time it was a X-wing key ring. My first big piece was test stitching my Critical Role design. Ros: Stephen decided to learn to stitch (again) as a way to avoid spending money at Comic Con. When he heard that two of the Critical Role guests were coming to Supanova, he told me I should design a pattern for it. I told him he should. So he did, stitched it, and got it signed
Day 15: Goals and Motivation
My motivation for starting Fangirl Stitches was to sell my patterns and make some extra money on the side. That’s still my main motivation! The money I make pays for someone to mow my lawns (I job I hate), trips to the theatre, my Audible and Netflix subscriptions, and the chance to travel to awesome places and meet amazing people. It pays for my celebrity photos and autographs, and gives me some breathing space with the general day-to-days of life. There are lots of things I want to achieve from a business point of view - things I want to upload to the web, things I want to set up, things I want to create. I’ve made myself a calendar with a space each month to write my goals/focus down - just have to actually do the “writing down” step!
Day 16: My Workspace
I live in a house with a massive downstairs area. This area was one of the selling points for the house - an area that was perfect to turn into the Fangirl Stitches office. It’s usually in a state - half completed kits everywhere, thread boxes, half packed suitcases. Some days it looks a lot worse, very occasionally it looks better! When I’m in kit-assembly mood, boxes of threads cover two folding tables, kits cover the floor, and friends are roped in to assist where possible!
Day 17: What I’m Working On
Gavin: The next event Fangirl Stitches will be appearing at is CraftAlive Ballarat on the 29th-31st of March, which means that I will be supplying the jumbo-sized cross stitch people we usually have on display at the front of our stalls. These eye-catching pieces are stitched with yarn on masonite pegboard and since they are so large, we can only take them to events within driving distance of Brisbane or Melbourne. I have two of them here which our dad helped me put together on my 30th birthday a bit over a year ago. At first I had Link from The Legend of Zelda and D.Va from Overwatch, but I have decided to retire D.Va and am replacing her with Deadpool from Marvel Comics (having also just finished stitching the regular sized Deadpool pattern as well).Day 18: Mistake or Lesson
Gavin: one of the first pieces I designed was a huge list of all the contemporary heroes from the game Overwatch, which I had never played but knew was popular. While I was stitching it, I miscounted and had some of the characters on the top row way too close together. As I was still very new to stitching, I didn’t have the greatest idea of how to go about undoing mistakes, and I just got my Quick Unpick out and started ripping threads. I ended up getting too enthusiastic, and cut through the aida I was stitching on. I was so upset. I didn’t have much aida at the time as I hadn’t yet started ordering in bulk, so I just pressed on and hoped it wouldn’t be too noticeable. But I’ve learnt my lesson and don’t use the Quick Unpick on my cross stitch anymore.
Day 19: Dream Collaboration.
Our mother is the coordinator of Handmade With Love for Our Rainbow House and makes bags and pouches and all sorts of awesome things. At the end of last year, she and I discussed the idea of a joint project - bags for cross stitch projects with geeky/nerdy/stitch sayings on them. I’d sell them and a large percentage of the proceeds would go towards Our Rainbow House. These are the sayings we came up with. Mum put the bags together, and I’ve had them for sale at CraftAlive events this year! Unfortunately the remaining stock is on its way to Ballarat already so I can’t show you a pic of the finished bags. It was fantastic to get to work together with my mum on this project, and to support a fantastic cause.
Day 20: The Design Process
Our designs are all done digitally (which is why my avatar is the girl behind the computer!). When I first started, I would sketch out my designs on grid paper first, or draw and then trace onto the grid paper, but these days I design straight onto the computer. I have 3 computer/TV screens set up on my desk: One screen has the cross stitch design program on it (we use PCStitch). The second has an open Google page with inspiration images, or stills from movies/ TV/ photo shoots - depending on what pattern I’m working on, this is where I look up details and confirm colours etc. The third screen plays a TV show or movie or YouTube clip or something. Sometimes the video playing is related to the pattern I’m designing, sometimes it’s pure entertainment/sensory input! Other times it’s switched off and I have an audiobook going instead.
Day 21: Throwback.
1️⃣ is my first ever photo on Instagram. It’s a piece I designed, stitched and entered into our local show. They were celebrating 100 years of the Australian Red Cross. 2️⃣ Fangirl Stitches started with Harry Potter pixel people. I’d found patterns for some but a) didn’t like what they were wearing and b) there weren’t enough! I wanted patterns for ALL of the characters. So I designed my own. 3️⃣ and 4️⃣ these were the next two patterns I designed - I can’t remember which came first. TARDIS earrings (which I stitched and wore to the 50 year celebrations) and a Discworld alphabet.
Day 22: Proud Of
Stephe️n: I am really proud of Roslyn and how much this business has grown. For her to have started with wanting all of the Harry Potter characters as figures to what Fangirl Stitches is now is amazing. You can see the growth from our first convention to the recent craft show.
Day 23: Top Tip
My top cross stitch tip: always keep you top stitxhes going the same way!! It helps with the overall finish and presentation, and makes your project look so much neater.
Day 24: Customers and Reviews
We have the most amazing customers. You guys support us, get as excited about geeky and crafty stuff as we do, and leave us the most amazing reviews! We love meeting people at craft shows and conventions, seeing familiar faces, meeting new people, and watching people discover nerdy stitching. Thank you to everyone who has supported us and shared the love. Without you al, there would be no Fangirl Stitches. We’re looking forward to seeing as many of you as possible this year.
Day 25: How It’s Made
This video shows how to finish off a plastic canvas cross stitch - be it a badge, keyring or set of earrings. (I had so many issues getting the video to upload, that I turned it into a set of still images instead!)
Day 26: Self Care
At times like this, it can be difficult to remember to stop and take time out - I’m madly prepping and packing for CraftAlive Ballarat (2 days to go!!), with Melbourne Supanova and Gold Coast Supanova the following two weekends. That’s on top of working a full time job, trying to remember to go for a walk or to the gym, cooking/food prepping, keeping the cat alive/healthy, paying the bills, selling my car, singing in church, and occasionally remembering to be a friend/sister/daughter/bridesmaid! My friends have been known to comment that they hardly ever see me, or that the only chance they have to catchup with me is to help out on a stall! It’s important to stop occasionally and remember why I decided to start a business/have a second full-time job: so I could afford to do the fun things in life. It’s important to send time with people, have a break, and look after myself. My dietician (who is amazing, and a bit of a life-coach and general mental health advocate for me) reminded me this week that I can’t do everything. That small goals are important. That stopping and relaxing and taking care of myself is important too. Over the last week, I have taken some time to do the things I enjoy: a trip to the movies (King of Thieves), a trip to the theatre (Book of Morgan), high tea for @philipacore’s birthday, and weddings dress shopping with my future sister-in-law. Lots of laughter, cups
Day 27: Anything Goes
And here I go... again! On board and ready for my flight to Melbourne for CraftAlive Ballarat. See you soon Victoria!
Day 28: Packaged
Check out our cross stitch kits! Both pulled apart and put together. I love the finished look of them - they're so professional (if I do say so myself). I've learnt a lot from buying kits over the years, and I tried to put all my fvourite elements into the kits we've made: detailed front covers that tell you size and stitches used, thread cards with colours PRE-SORTED, the all essential needle, and two copies of the pattern - one colour and one for the backstitch lines. The bags are resealable too - so you can keep everything together. I'm pretty proud of them.
Day 29: Most Difficult Make
These mini dice, designed by Gavin, look great either by themselves or as earrings, but joining the little plastic squares together is a bit tricky! If you're coming along to our CraftAlive classes, we can take you through the steps to make your own.
Day 30: Support
We have an amazing team that support us, both behind the scenes and upfront at conventions. They are all incredible and now is my chance to shout about them (and they can't stop me!!). Mel is Chief Minion. She comes to all our south-east QLD conventions - manning the stall, kepping us fed (mmm brownies) and entertained and sane - sometimes her most important role is to keep my family away from me or to tell me to go for a walk. She's learnt how to stitch and now makes all our ghost earrings. Charlotte has been hanging out with us this weekend at CraftAlive Ballarat. She only got into cross stitch a year ago, but has become a very valued test-stitcher and frequent customer. Look out for her at Melbourne Nova next weekend. Samantha came along to our first ever convention, and helps out at the Brisbane Etsy markets. She also helps make kits and is my constant debriefer/listening ear/sounding board over weekly cofee - and frequent theatre buddy. Eepan and Johnathan came and helped Gavin out at Melbourne Etsy Made Local and Madman Anime Festival espectively. Jude helped out at CraftAlive Penrith. She also represents our extended family - aunts, uncles and cousins who have provided us with a bed and food at events around NSW, visited the stall, bought kits and finished items, and who like and comment on our social media posts. Philipa - mum - who taught us to love craft and who has supported this crazy endeavour. She's helped on the stall a couple of times, and made the craft bags for us to sell. Also our Dad, who built stands and frames for the giant pixel people, and comes up with new ideas to extend what we are doing. And who introduced us to Doctor Who. Amy has helped us at Supanova and the Etsy Made Local events. She consults on patterns, particularly Disney, talks over business plans and strategies, and always asks how events have been. And all the other countless friends and family who have supported us - who comment on social media, who visit stalls, who buy products, who consult, who test-stitch, who chat and debrief and love us. We love you guys and say THANK YOU!
Day 31: Product In The Wild
I love it when people share finished versions of our patterns and kits. I love seeing the work that goes into making something handmade - the joy people find in stitching it, or in giving it away as a present, or in receiving it as a present! I epecially love seeing the different ways people finish off their projects - frames, mat boards, cushions, bags, quilts, beads, stretched over canvas - the possibilities are endless!