My interview with Qraftie
I was delighted to speak with Vanessa Wong from Qraftie recently about how I started Chasing Threads, what crafting and making I do outside of work, and what we're working on for the brand next... Read on below or see the full article here.
Em Royston studied Design at University and went on to work for multiple product design brands in London where she designed a number of products for them. After a move to Hong Kong in 2016 and full of inspiration to create new products, Em was motivated to start her own brand building on the idea to 'Stitch your own way'. Em established We are Chasing Threads, a collection of unique, stylish and functional travel accessories that can be stitched and personalised. Born from the idea to 'sew where you go', these beautifully crafted products are designed with the adventurer in mind.
How did you come up with the idea of Chasing Threads?
After a special road trip across the USA, I stitched the road map with coloured thread to show our route and became obsessed with the idea of stitching travels and using thread to show a journey. I thought up our first product - the Stitch Passport Cover - back in 2015, but was making the first prototypes in cross-stitch fabric, and it just wasn’t that nice or luxurious as the idea in my head. It was only when I moved out to Hong Kong that I decided to revisit that, and a few other ideas, and with access to a laser cutting machine I developed a sample made out of perforated leather. It looked amazing and I took it on all my trips! From there I developed a matching Stitch your own Luggage Tag before taking the leap to launch the company.
Joshua Tree Desert, 2015
Are you into embroidery yourself? Do you do any other crafts too?
Yes I have always loved stitching starting right back when I was around 10 and I made clothes for my dolls! My parents got me a sewing machine for my 12th birthday (which I still use now!) and I started to make denim bags out of old jeans and sold them at school. Cross stitch and embroidery came later on, but I remember doing basic embroidery and appliqué in school and loving it. I’ve always absolutely loved making things, and find it so satisfying to create fancy dress costumes or personalised gifts for friends. I’ve done jewellery-making, knitting, macrame, wood work and more– I’m not an expert in any but I enjoy the process of learning new techniques. I also love that the more crafts you do, the more interesting ideas you can get as you merge them – for example, combining leatherwork and cross stitch.
Stitch where you’ve been is one of your signature design. What makes you fall in love with traveling?
Yes I’ve always loved to travel! I was lucky to go on some interesting holidays as a kid and always felt like I wanted to see more of the world. I travelled around Australia and New Zealand for 10 months when I was 18 and loved the freedom of it – working in various jobs as I went (though looking back it was quite a big trip to take alone!). You meet so many interesting people and I’ve made friends for life from various different countries.
I love the variety of staying in a new place each night and following the progress on a map.
Given there are travel limitations, what other things do you do to destress?
Hong Kong is an amazing place to be stuck, and I’ve kept exploring by doing different hikes each weekend. I also love swimming, playing squash, windsurfing or spending the day at the beach with friends.
While we were stuck at home more I also got my sewing machine out again and started making clothes for myself which I find very relaxing. Unlike projects for Chasing Threads, it is a chance to be creative in a different way and not worry too much about the end result.
If you are planning a day trip in Hong Kong, what would it be like?
It would have to involve a dim sum breakfast and then maybe getting on a ferry to another island to explore. I love the hike from Mui Wo on Lantau island to Pui O. It takes about 2-3 hours walking the easy trail around the coast and over the island with great views out to sea, ending with a swim, some frisbee, and a few beers on the beach as the sun sets.
What would you say are some of the benefits of crafting?
Crafting is just really satisfying! The process of making (e.g. cross stitch, knitting, embroidery) is usually very repetitive which means that you can do it on autopilot and give yourself focus and time out from the usual distractions. I find it helps me reduce time scrolling on social media, and I will usually get stuck into a project for hours and hours at a time as I love seeing the end result and get impatient to finish.
What suggestions you would give to people who would like to start crafting?
Find a theme that you are interested in or create something based on what you like. While it’s great making anything for practice, you’ll keep a lot more interested and satisfied with the result if it’s something you actually want to keep for yourself or give as a gift. Like if you’re knitting, take the time to think of the colours that you’d really want in your wardrobe before you launch into hours of making a scarf. I think embroidery and cross stitch can be quite old-fashioned but if you combine it with something modern the results can be exciting and seem like a designer piece. For example, I recently stitched my old pair of Vans with embroidered flowers that might have looked quite twee, but the combination turned out great. If in doubt, get inspiration from Pinterest, buy a ready designed kit or join a class for your first try.
Personal project: Flower embroidered shoes
Is there a time you experience creative blocks? How did you overcome it?
Most definitely. I think this year in particular has been quite difficult for overcoming creative blocks. Having a brand with a strong theme (ie combining stitching and travel!) is great, but it can also feel a bit limiting that every idea or product development has to fit inside the ‘brand ethos’. And of course travel is not the top priority right now so it was hard to find a new focus and keep inspired with new product development.
To overcome this, I like to take the pressure off and just make something for fun and not worry about if it is commercial or good enough for the brand – hence the dressmaking! I always find this sparks another idea when you’re taking the pressure off yourself. I made myself a leather pin cushion, which then turned into a new product!
I’d also advise to make a version or physical prototype of every idea rather than keeping it in your head and overthinking it for years.
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
‘Just start’ is probably advice that keeps helping me everyday! It’s so easy to over-think and be precious about your ideas by making excuses to delay or being too worried about perfection to get your designs out there. It’s always better to do something, just 5 minutes on something everyday will get you started, and often once you begin everything gets easier and clearer. If you have an idea in your head, just take the first step.
What are you currently designing or what would you design next?
For Chasing Threads I am just launching our Stitch Laptop Sleeves which can be stitched with any design – they are a big canvas so I am planning some designs that would work well stitched on them. I am currently stitching ‘Working 9-5’ in a Dolly Parton inspired template design. We are also working on some new designs using Cactus leather, which is sustainable and exciting alternative to leather, which I cant wait to see.
For personal projects I’ve been making myself some bomber jackets in silk brocade – I love the contrast of the traditional Asian fabric with the modern structure of the military-inspired jacket.
In the more distant future I would absolutely love create a line of jewellery, combining precious metals and threads (and ideally travel too!) but I am still waiting for the right time and the right design to come to me before I make a start on that…
Personal projects: Handmade Asian bomber jacket & leather handbag
WORDS FROM QRAFTIE'S FOUNDER
“I was very inspired by Em’s passion when we first talked and I especially love her design concept where she created stylish and functional craft kits to spread the joy and happiness of creativity; both for the maker and the recipients. I got the journal craft kit from Em as I wanted to gift something special to a friend of mine. I stitched some patterns on the journal before gifting. I had an enjoyable time crafting and I am glad to know that recipient is delighted to received the gift. The thoughtfulness of a gift is what matters and everything is more beautiful when it is made with heart. Em’s design helps people to achieve these. Em has a very collaborative and welcoming personality. Her dedication and efficiency also make working with her very pleasant. I am grateful to have Em as part of the Qraftie Community and I am sure there would be more opportunities for us to collaborate.”
Thanks so much for the interview Vanessa!