We are super happy to welcome the lovely Stephanie Carswell to our talented teaching team. Stephanie is an avid crafter who began teaching 8 years ago. In 2013 she launched Hawthorn Handmade and today the brand’s needle felting, weaving and embroidery craft kits are now sold around the world (we stock her weaving supplies!). This year she was shortlisted for the Needlecraft Designer of the Year at the DMC and Sew&So Needlecraft Awards and in 2017 the Hawthorn Handmade Pop Up Loom was shortlisted for the Mollie Makes Product of the Year.
Q: How did you first get into crafting?
A: I used to craft all the time as a kid. I drew constantly, and had kits to make everything from candles and ceramics to pressed flowers and that 90’s favourite, friendship bracelets. I also used to go on crafting holidays with my family where my Mum and I would try our hand at things like enamelling, etching and jewellery making. The first craft I tried to create a business out of was making beaded jewellery and I even took a silversmithing course whilst at University. Textiles came much later, but I still can’t knit or sew very well!
Q: Tell us about your company Hawthorn Handmade. How did it come to be?
After a brief stint working in music and arts festivals I became self-employed and opened my own contemporary craft gallery and haberdashery in Dorset in 2010. I had first come across needle felting online and it was still very niche in the UK so I bought a kit from the US to have a go at. The main aim was to make little bits for the window displays and give me something to do on the quiet days. Fast forward a year and I was selling my own needle felted pieces at shows and galleries around the UK and running workshops. I put together a little starter needle felting kit in 2012 and sold them in the gallery. They did really well, so I began to develop a range of animal kits and launched them officially in May 2013. A year later, the kits were doing so well I chose to go full time and close the gallery. After a few moves via some yellow door storage units and my spare room I moved into our current unit on a beautiful farm in rural Dorset and have been here ever since, growing the business and my team. There are now 4 of us here day to day plus my Mum Mary who helps at shows and with business advice as needed!
Q: What do you consider to be the companies biggest achievement?
It’s not one specific achievement, but the fact that we’re still here after 5 years and that we’re growing every year is what keeps me so excited and energised about the business.
Q: We are really looking forward to your upcoming classes. What can students expect?
I’m going to be covering the basics of weaving including demystifying the jargon; how to warp your loom; how to start and finish a weave and most importantly, lots of fun techniques to create some gorgeous textures and effects using different stitches and materials. By the end, everyone will have created their own beautiful weave ready to hang in their home and will have the skills to carry on weaving themselves.
Q: Do you ever find time to craft for your yourself in your spare time?
Very occasionally! I’m currently working on a set of three handmade yarn lampshades for my house; but I’m over a year in an have only finished two so far! I also love getting out in my garden and though it’s not crafting, the creative part of planning the plants, colours, layout etc is really fulfilling.
Q: What one crafting tool could you not live without?
It would have to be my hands! I need so many tools to create all the different designs for the kits that I couldn’t pick just one, but every craft needs my hands. I’m really careful about them as well, taking care not to do anything that might put me out of action! Coming in close second would be my sofa where the majority of my design work is done… My comfiness has a direct correlation to the success of a creation!