We talk to Sara Abdelmageed, owner of Little Beach Hut, about how she fell otterly in love with cross stitch, how her business came to be, what inspires her designs and top tips if you’re just starting out...
Sara is a cross stitch designer who creates modern patterns and kits with adorable designs, sure to bring a smile to your face! We particularly love the naming of her products, like 'Puffin Compares to You' and 'Turtley in Love'.
You're in for a treat as we go behind the scenes and get to know Sara and her business. Get comfy with a cuppa for this turtley awesome read!
How did you get into cross stitching?
I started cross stitch when I was about 11. There wasn't a lot of variety back then and people mostly stitched Forever Friends which were designs featuring bears holding flowers and hugging and there were lots of designs featuring cats.
The first big design I completed was a white cat which I then entered into a needlework competition at a horticultural show – I won first prize and got a trophy! From then on I did lots of different crafts and didn't focus on any one in particular. I finished school and did a degree in textile design which focussed quite a lot on the skills needed to run a small business.
New to cross stitching? Don’t miss our handy guide to get you started.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I was working as a visual merchandiser and found out I was going to have twin babies. I wanted to make them a cross stitch for their room they could keep forever as I find it very relaxing and I had to take a couple of months off work before they were born. I looked all over for a design and couldn't find one I liked. In the end I made them an alphabet one by Soda Stitch.
When they were about six months old I realised it wouldn't be possible for me to go back to the same career as there was a lot of travelling and long hours. I started to design my own cross stitch patterns. I slowly put them onto Etsy one by one and much to my surprise people started to buy them! When I had about 10 I started to make them into kits which is now what I mainly do.
I now have my website with a blog and I sell my kits on a few online platforms.
Where do you get your design inspiration/what inspires you?
I just wanted to make sure I enjoyed what I was designing and I really like British wildlife. I'd love to say I carried out market research into trends and needs but I just wanted to design foxes, otters and bees because they are so cute and luckily my customers agreed.
I have a couple of designs where the animals are acting like humans such as Christmas badgers and the sausage dog in a jumper but mostly, they look natural and are surrounded by the leaves and flowers you’d expect in that animal's habitat.
They mostly fit into two hoop sizes (6in and 4in) so they can be made in groups which go together and create a set.
What’s your favourite cross stitch creation to-date? Can we see?!
I love my otter family. It started off as a design with two parents and an otter pup and people started messaging me asking if they could have one with two pups or three pups so I altered the design to accommodate.
Shortly after I added the ‘Otterly in Love’ couple for couples who don't have any pups or their pups have grown up. I think it's been so popular as everyone likes otters, don’t they?! The design can be altered to reflect the family members and it feels more personal and the couples are good for weddings and anniversaries.
Crafts are known to be excellent for wellbeing – how vital do you find crafting for your own mindfulness and wellbeing?
I absolutely love making things. I find I most enjoy making something new for the first time. Most recently I've been making crochet animals, painting pebbles, making macrame bracelets and pressing flowers with my twins. I also find a lot of pleasure in buying craft supplies and putting them in my cupboard for a rainy day.
Cross stitch is good for completely clearing your brain of all thoughts and worries. You have to concentrate on following the pattern and it's very satisfying making all the neat little crosses all in the same direction. I think if anyone’s in need of pressing the reset button they should definitely look into cross stitch.
Looking for cross stitching projects and inspiration? CrossStitcher magazine is for you – packed with a wealth of designs, easy-to-follow tutorials, the latest news from the world of cross stitching, top tips, stitch-a-longs (SAL) and so much more!
What are your top tips for beginners/those who’d like to start cross stitch? Please share your top five tips…
- Do a bit of reading up first on the basics of cross stitch. Watch a couple of YouTube videos on how to get started, how to locate the middle of the fabric and split the threads.
- Start with something small. There are lots of lovely little designs out there that will ease you into it gently and only take an evening or two without being too daunting. Then you can move onto a bigger project when you've had some practice and got the hang of making neat stitches.
- Cross stitch is so much more fun when you are doing it for someone else. For a beginner’s project, take four or five small Christmas designs and give them to friends in a small hoop with a ribbon at the top to hang on their Christmas tree so they can remember how much you mean to them every time they see it.
- Avoid doing cross stitch if you're a bit sleepy or not really feeling into it. It requires focus and you could make little mistakes.
- Wash your hands and don't eat chocolate while stitching!
Are you into any other crafts and if so, what are they?
I love to make amigurumi crochet animals. I recently made a pony with a multicoloured blanket on it for my sister's baby with a pattern I bought from Etsy. I also like to make cards and dye my own cross stitch aida with things I have around the house such as sweets and tea. I really like to make new things from kits in craft shops. I was thinking about trying some macrame and the craft where you tap nails into wood and wrap thread round it to make a design looks interesting.
Tell us about your craft room/work space – we’d love to see pictures, too!
My workspace is a section at the end of my kitchen. I've got my telly so I can keep up to date with the daytime TV and my coffee machine. I also have a big double cupboard behind me with all my cross stitch bits in it. All my stock is kept in my spare room separated up into designs with labels on the drawer and how many there are – they’re laminated and I rub out and change the number each time I sell some. Not much of my process is done digitally – I'll always choose the real life option first rather than doing something on the computer.
Where can people find out more about you?
Meet more inspiring cross stitchers, starting with Nia Cross Stitch!