Hooraaaay for Easter weekend! How exciting (if you live in England) to have the chance to invite people into our garden, and to visit others’ too – feels like such a treat! (And then there’s the chocolate… could I be any happier?!) We’re starting the bank holiday just right with a lovely Creative Q&A with with The Modern Crafter – a superb collaboration between sisters Rachel and Siobhan, offering contemporary embroidery and punch needle kits.
Punch needle is a beautiful, mediative technique, and once mastered, can be such a calm and peaceful way to pass the time due to its repetitive nature (although I personally have a little bit more practice to do before I reach this level – I am definitely still at the ‘throw it against a wall and sulk for half an hour’ stage…).
If you’re a regular around here, you may recognise their work from our first post of this year – New Year New Skills – where The Modern Crafter featured as number 13 on our list of 15 makers and small businesses offering a range of kits and crafting materials!
So let’s get stuck into finding out some more about the business, and how it all works!
JANEY: Hi guys! Thanks so much for chatting, please start with telling about how this project came about, and a bit about your creative backgrounds…
THE MODERN CRAFTER: We have been keen creatives since we were able to hold a pencil or paint brush! We were always encouraged by our parents to be creative too and art was both our strongest subject at school. Our Dad restores second-hand furniture and ran an antique shop so we were brought up surrounded by art and lots of furniture! Siobhan went on to study Fashion and Textiles at university and has worked for many high street brands as an illustrator. The collaboration came about when Rachel was on maternity leave and started to embroider for relaxation. Rachel asked Siobhan to design her a few patterns to embroider and after trying punch needle, Siobhan designed some punch needle patterns to make too. Rachel enjoyed creating the patterns so much that thought they should be shared with others to enjoy too. We took The Modern Crafter to a Christmas market just over 2 years ago and we’ve been amazed at the reception we have received. It’s been so encouraging and to hear that others enjoy them and that our kits have kept hands busy and minds relaxed through lockdown. We are very grateful to all of our customers who have supported us.
J: That really is such a lovely ‘start-up story’, and the fact that the first kits and patterns were designed for yourselves is probably one of the reasons you have been so successful!
So do you still stick to certain roles within the business, i.e. Siobhan doing the designing?
TMC: Rachel didn’t return to her previous office role and decided to concentrate on being a new mum and working on The Modern Crafter in her spare time. It took over a year to build it up to being a full time job for Rachel. Siobhan looks after everything design related, new design creation, new product ideas, branding, packaging and stationery design. Rachel tests the patterns and writes all the instructions as well as the day-to-day running of the business and speaking to our lovely customers and community on social media. We set up The Modern Crafter from a love of being creative and crafting but never thought it would turn into a full time job! It just so happens that it has and one that we are both very excited about and enjoying having fun along the way!
J: The best kind of job!!
What factors are most important to you when designing a new kit or pattern?
TMC: What’s really important to us, is that we make the kits accessible to all, and that they include the best quality materials. We tend to stick to 3 basic stitches in our embroidery kits and these kits bring out Siobhan excellent pattern experience to come up with a beautiful pattern to create. Siobhan’s screen printing experience lends itself nicely to punch needle which can be better suited to bolder abstract shapes. We also focus on giving the customer the best experience, if we found it magical to create ourselves then we hope the customer feels that too. Punch needle in particular can be daunting at first and where to source the right materials so we do all that for our customer and also provide a modern and fun pattern to create. For us sustainability is a very important factor for our kits too and we include wooden hoops, wooden frames, wool, organic cotton and linen.
J: And what does a typical Modern Crafter kit include?
TMC: Our embroidery kits include 5 or 6 full skeins of DMC stranded cotton, the design screen printed on organic cotton, a wooden hoop, embroidery needle, illustrated instructions and a screen printed project bag.
Our punch needle kits include two pieces of linen cloth so the customer can practice first of all, a re-useable gripper hoop which is the hoop used when punch needling, an embroidery hoop to display, wool for punch needle, yarn needle, design, instructions and a screen printed cotton project bag too.
J: Wow that sounds like an awful lot of treasure, and all good quality materials with the scope to make more and more pieces of art!
Do you have any top tips for the people wanting to try needle punching for the first time?
TMC: Invest in the best tools for the best experience. Ideally bought from a business who is passionate about punch needle and knows what the customer will need, so the customer can really unwind and enjoy punch needle and it’s meditative flow. We hear of a lot of customers who go to Amazon and buy cheaper items only for them to break or they don’t have the right tool matched to the correct fabric.
J: Hey and that’s where you come in! What is one piece of creative equipment you couldn’t live without?
TMC: We couldn’t live without our Oxford size 10 punch needle tool. This tool is by far the best punch needle tool we have ever used. It’s made by artisan Amy Oxford who has spent their life living and breathing all things punch needle. The quality and functionality of this tool is built to last a lifetime.
J: No brainer then!
What do you hope to be on the cards for the future?
TMC: We hope to be able to develop more of our own materials with a focus on sustainability. We also hope to move our business out of our living room into a premises! We are excited to expand our product range and get to hang out with our customers again in the hopefully near future at workshops and events.
J: Some big exciting plans there, and I can’t wait to follow along for the ride!
If you lovely lot reading this would also like to keep up to date with what Rachel and Siobhan are up to, or you have been tempted to give it a go yourself, give them a follow on Instagram @the_modern_crafter and pop over to their website: themoderncrafter.co.uk for more information and to shop!
They have also got some brilliant video tutorials on their site if, like me, you’re a visual learner and need someone in front of you showing you how to do it!
Also, have a read of 91 Magazine’s article on their needle punching workshop with Urban Makers, its a cracker and sounds like so much fun! Oh to be in a world where creative workshops were a thing once more – not too long now, I have everything crossed!
Well I hope you have a wonderful long Easter Weekend, and that it is filled with chocolate and sunshine (unlikely on the weather front, but we can live in hope)!
Thank you so much for joining us, see you next week for another addition to the Creative Q&A series!