For October’s Monthly Maker, we caught up with cross-stitch extraordinaire, Make Hamilton resident, and Founder of Curious Twist, Melody Rule. We chatted about Melody’s craft whilst she worked on some orders in her wonderful studio at Make Hamilton. Melody told us how she got started in cross-stitching and what’s coming up next for Curious Twist.
Hey Melody! Can you tell us about your craft?
I started about four years ago as a hobby doing cross stitches for friends, and after that, I started doing custom orders on Etsy. But there weren’t enough hours in the day because you can only stitch so much. There seemed to be more of a demand than I could keep up with, not just for custom orders, but I also had lots of my own ideas for patterns, so I started selling kits.
I was still in full-time work at the time and was a support worker for Autism Together, which I loved doing. But it got to a point where I wasn’t happy with my job. So one day, I decided I had enough and wanted to do the cross stitch full time. At the time, I had no real plan. I just thought I’ll do this, and if it doesn’t work, I can just get another job.
During the lockdown, I was lucky because people were looking for things to occupy their time with that were beneficial for their mental health. You can also make someone a gift from my kits which is good if you can’t go out shopping. It just took off and went insane, probably the busiest I’ve ever been. I was so busy that I was fortunate enough to be able to give work to someone who wasn’t able to work because of COVID, and I’m never letting her go now! Lots of people who wouldn’t have usually tried hobbies like this have been introduced to it. My customer base has expanded, not just in terms of numbers but also the demographic.
I also took up crafting during lockdown as a way to escape the dreaded “doom scrolling”.
What sparked your passion for cross stitch and crafts?
I tried it when I was a kid. When I was in Girl Guides, I made a bookmark for Mothers Day to get my hobby badge, but I didn’t stick at it. But I’ve always been a creative person and tried my hand at a lot of things. My mum taught me to knit and crochet when I was very young. My dad is artistic and musical too. So I’ve always enjoyed making things, whether I’m recycling furniture or whatever else. When I was pregnant with my daughter, someone bought me a cross-stick kit because I was off work sick. It was a design for the nursery, it wasn’t really my style, but I enjoyed doing it. After that, I bought myself a couple more kits. But when my daughter arrived, I didn’t have time to do it anymore. Years later, my daughter Amber bought me a kit from someone I find really inspiring called Innocent Bones, and it said “Don’t be a dick” on it. I made it, and from there, I started making my own because I thought it was funny to have that contrast of the delicate, traditional craft with the pretty flowers. And then have something that makes you go, oh I wasn’t expecting that! I do enjoy the shock value of it.
Would you combine the knitting or crocheting with the cross stitch?
Yeah, I like adding new things, and I would like to do more mixed media. I loved working with Alex last year to do the embroidery on his painting. I would love to do more projects like that in the future.
What is the process behind creating a new cross stitch design?
I love typography, so I think about the font I want to use because the font itself says something. I draw the designs on graph paper so I can see where the stitches will go. And I will put where I want each colour to go, and then after that, I’ll do it on the computer because I have to be able to print it out.
You were one of our first residents at Make Hamilton! What has it been like having a studio at Make?
I have been at Make Hamilton since day one. I moved in the day Make got the keys. At first I started off in the smaller room, but then I outgrew it after a couple of months and moved into the bigger studio that I’m in now. I love being around other creatives, and I think it’s important to be. You don’t even have to be doing the same thing as them to feel inspired. It’s that energy and bouncing ideas off each other. I just love the atmosphere here. It was nice to hear that Alex was inspired from my growth as a business. It makes you appreciate how far you’ve come. It’s very humbling, and it stops you from losing sight of why you’re doing it.
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Do you have a favourite pattern of yours?
Probably either the ‘if you’re happy and you know it, shake your meds’ one (pictured below) or ‘great tits’ just because I love the pun. It’s a bit naughty where even your nan might love it, but it’s not super rude. That design is super popular too, but a lot of people have copied it. [This one is pictured below sitting proudly in my flat, I bought a kit from Melody during lockdown]
You’ve been doing cross-stitch for a few years; have you noticed a lot more people doing it professionally recently?
Yeah definitely. Especially since lockdown because people needed to get a side hustle. It hasn’t affected me because I’m established already, but some people are coming through who are great. I have had a few instances where people have bought one of my kits and then stitched copies of them and sold them on depop and stuff, but they’re not allowed to do that, and I always let them know!
What advice would you give to anyone who may be thinking of taking the big step to work for themselves?
It is a big step. But when you are doing it full time, you’re able to do so much more. Especially in terms of doing all the research, the background stuff to get set up, looking for suppliers etc. When you’re working full time and doing it as a side hustle, it’s hard to find time to do the admin stuff. By giving up work, you’re gaining 40+ hours of your own time. I think what’s the worst that can happen? You can always get a job again. It might sound simplistic, but I make a decision, and I just go at it. If you’re already doing it as a side hustle and people like what you’re doing, and you feel like there’s so much more you could be doing with it, just do it. It’s the best thing I have ever done. Life is too short.
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Have you got anything exciting coming up soon?
I’m about to put out a new Christmas design that I’ve been working on that I’m really excited about. Horror and witchcraft stuff is popular in cross-stitch. If you get a chance, look up the Witchy Stitcher, she does everything horror, and I’m in awe of her work.
Next year, I will be working with a fellow creative who will help me get really organised. She’s also worked as a buyer for craft companies. I also want to do a small rebrand, so I will be changing some fonts and design stuff, but I have to use up my current stock first. My branding will still be pink but will be a bit funkier!
Do you still get a chance to do much cross stitching yourself?
I do still stitch, but I also have test stitchers. I send them some new designs, and they test them for me and take nice pictures of them. They get to see things before anyone else. They started off as customers, and we have become online friends! It’s good for me to get that feedback from them because when you’ve spent a long time on a design, you miss little things. Sometimes I’ll get so critical of my own work, so it’s good to have that feedback from them. They are really honest with me if something doesn’t work. Because I’m doing it on paper or a computer screen, it doesn’t always translate onto the fabric at first. It’s nice that they started out as customers, and they have grown with me.
Where can people find your cross stitch creations?
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