We spoke to Charlie Mankin, modern cross stitcher and owner of Stitchsperation, all about discovering cross stitch, her business and top tips for beginners. Plus, see her dreamy craft room!
Charlie Mankin is the talented person behind Stitchsperation, a cross stitch designer with a modern take. As you can see, her designs are real mood boosters!
Get comfy and enjoy this interview all about Charlie's route into cross stitching and the evolution of Stitchsperation, along with top tips to help you develop your cross stitching. If you need to see some motivational words today, Charlie has you covered!
How did you get into cross stitching?
I've been sewing since I was young – give me a piece of fabric and a sewing machine and I'd make something with it! From cushions to skirts to wallets, you name it! About eight years ago I wanted something to keep my hands busy whilst watching the tv in the evenings rather than scrolling on my phone – hand sewing was out of the question because I'm too clumsy and would end up bleeding all over whatever I was making (!) so I decided to try something with a blunt needle... cross stitch! I started with a free mini kit from CrossStitcher magazine and then moved on to patterns from people like the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery, Satsuma Street and Stitchrovia.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
In 2015 I went through some big life changes and was short on money. I had a wedding to go to and no money to buy a gift so I decided to stitch something for the happy couple. I couldn't find any designs that were right for them so I decided I should make my own! I designed the whole thing on graph paper and decided to make it a bit different by painting the fabric before I stitched on it. As I was stitching, I realised there was nothing like this out there and decided to see if people would be interested in kits.
I spent the next year designing my first six kits, sourcing materials and perfecting my 'secret sauce' – the paints I use for the bright colour on the fabric to make sure it stays bright and doesn't transfer to anything when stitching. In September 2016 I launched on Etsy and shortly afterwards was accepted as a partner on NotOnTheHighStreet and haven't looked back since!
Where do you get your design inspiration/what inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere! From street art to Instagram, anything bright or sparkly always catches my eye – my husband calls me a magpie. I'm currently really inspired by screen printing – I did it a lot when I was school and have loved revisiting it over the last couple of years. I’ve started offering fabric with screen printed backgrounds on my kits but I'm also enjoying trying to recreate the layered effect with colours in stitches.
What’s your favourite cross stitch creation to-date? Can we see?!
It's so hard to choose but right now I think my recent screen print inspired letter is my favourite today.
Can’t wait to get cross stitching? CrossStitcher magazine has got you covered with all the charts, inspiration and advice you need to develop your stitching skills (just like Charlie!) and make beautiful creations!
Crafts are known to be excellent for wellbeing – how vital do you find crafting for your own mindfulness and wellbeing?
Utterly vital! If I don't craft I go crazy! I've noticed that the days/weeks I don't do anything creative, I really feel it. I find any craft helps my mental health, but particularly the repetition of cross stitch, sitting down and focusing on one thing for a few hours – even a few minutes is amazing to help tune out the crazy world we live in and bring a little calm to your day.
What are your top tips for beginners/those who’d like to start cross stitch? Please share your top five tips…
- No, cross stitching isn't just for old ladies, search #moderncrossstitch on Instagram to find some great inspiration.
- Find a design you want to put up in your home, this will help get you started and into the groove as you'll want to finish! (Warning: once you start you won't want to stop!)
- To begin with, designs with fewer colours, whole stitches and no backstitching are great – keep it simple.
- Kits are a great place to start as they usually have everything you need to get going.
- Invest in a snap frame. Embroidery hoops are great for framing your finished work but snap frames are much easier to hold and don't squash your stitches or damage your fabric.
Are you into any other crafts and if so, what are they?
All the crafts! I love anything textiles. I'm a quilter too, although it’s taken a back seat over the past few years as I've been getting busier with Stitchsperation. You can find my quilting and other crafts at @sydneyrosedesigns on Instagram. As I mentioned before I also love screen printing and have been trying to do more of that recently. I dabble in knitting (I'm not very good) and have a needle punch kit sitting waiting for me to have a go at that. Basically, I'll try anything once!
Tell us about your craft room/work space – we’d love to see pictures, too!
After 3.5 years of living and working in a very small space (with my husband and two cats) I finally have a house with a studio and I love it! It's the top floor of the house so it has plenty of light. I have an office nook and then the main space has a large table where I paint/print/prep kits, etc. – plenty of storage for all my kits and supplies and then a sofa where I stitch. It's a dream come true and most definitely my happy place... it's hard to get me to leave!
Feeling motivated? Us too! Time to meet another talented cross stitcher… say hello to Durene Jones and be sure to check out her garden stitch-a-long! Or go back to basics with our cross stitch guide for beginners.