‘It’s the most creative time of year’

Prima (UK) - - Ladies Who Launch -

The kits made by Nancy Ni­chol­son, from Rye, East Sus­sex, are the ideal gift for craft lovers

‘Some­thing about Christ­mas makes peo­ple want to get creative, and that’s good for busi­ness! All au­tumn, I’ve been putting to­gether my fes­tive craft­ing kits, work­ing in a nearby vil­lage barn that I’ve trans­formed into a colour­ful hab­er­dash­ery full of pa­per, thread and fab­ric.

Cus­tomers across the world can then fol­low my in­struc­tions to stitch their own fab­ric baubles, make 3D Christ­mas cards or cre­ate pa­per an­gels for the tree.

I set up in 2012, af­ter years of be­ing a tex­tiles teacher. I’d wanted my own busi­ness for a while, but it wasn’t un­til go­ing through a hard time per­son­ally that I de­cided to do it. First, I lost my mother, Joan, who was a cel­e­brated em­broi­derer and de­signer. Then I was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer. This dark time really put things into per­spec­tive. Af­ter I re­cov­ered, I left teach­ing and got my­self into ac­tion.

From my kitchen ta­ble, I made colour­ful 3D cards. I set up a web­site and an ac­count on Etsy, which is a mar­ket­place where crafters sell their prod­ucts, and the or­ders trick­led in.

I spent many happy hours ex­per­i­ment­ing with ma­te­ri­als, fab­rics, colours and de­signs. But I re­alised the best thing about craft is not just the fin­ished prod­uct but the act of mak­ing it. I de­cided to fo­cus on mak­ing kits, with all the ma­te­ri­als, thread and fab­ric for cus­tomers to make items them­selves. I started with em­broi­dery kits, and it was warm­ing to have a great re­sponse. Bit by bit, I ex­panded the range, adding cush­ions and small fab­ric dec­o­ra­tions.

HIT­TING THE BIG TIME

Three years in, a buyer from John Lewis came across my kits on­line, and asked if they could stock them. I was thrilled. Even to­day, it’s sur­real to walk into a store and see my kits on the shelves! I now rent a unit in a lo­cal con­verted barn, with more space to be creative. My mother’s in­flu­ence is vis­i­ble in all my work – char­ac­ter­ful birds and vi­brant colours are in­spired by her sketch­books. I’ve also writ­ten two books about the craft she loved: Mod­ern Folk Em­broi­dery and Big Em­broi­dery. I know she’d be very proud.

Or­ders for my fes­tive range fly in when win­ter hits so, ev­ery year, from Septem­ber, I’m fran­ti­cally putting to­gether kits for hang­ing baubles and fab­ric rein­deers. The thought of adults and kids spend­ing their Christ­mases stitch­ing my de­signs to­gether makes it all worth­while.’ • nan­cyn­i­chol­son.co.uk

‘It’s sur­real to see my kits on shelves in John Lewis’

Nancy’s fes­tive craft kit busi­ness started life at the kitchen ta­ble

Cus­tomers love craft­ing Nancy’s charm­ing de­signs

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