This interview was conducted by Michelle Genders and originally posted on the Australian Wandarrah team website.
Let’s get to know Rebecca Madigan-Keals from Fluturi. She is a sewing extraordinare who runs a shop stocked with pretty and carefully made items. Rebecca opened up about her home studio and the pieces that she is most proud of making:
Where do you live and how long have you lived there?
I live in Pomona on the Sunshine Coast in the state of Queensland, Australia. The house that we live in was built by my hubby, his dad and I while I was pregnant with our youngest who is now 11. I grew up 10 minutes from where I live now at a place called Black Mountain and my dad still lives in the house we grew up in.
Can you describe the landscape of the place where you live?
Pomona is a lovely green town up in the Noosa hinterland. Pomona’s main visual attraction is Cooroora Mountain. We get a tree filtered view of the mountain from our house and get to watch the amazing sunsets behind it. Pomona and surrounds are lush green rolling hills and very fertile. There are lots of food growers around and a great little country town market every fortnight.
What do you like most about where you live?
We have yarn bombed street posts and Pomona is a quaint little town. We also have the largest functioning Silent Movie Theatre in the southern hemisphere.
Tell me about the hand sewn items that you sell on etsy. How did you come to sewing?
I came to sewing through patchwork. I started having kids early and really wanted something I could do at home while the kids were sleeping or playing. Also once I was pregnant with my first baby I really wanted to create some beautiful pieces for my new arrival. I asked for a sewing machine for my 21st birthday and that let me start playing with fabric.
I was pretty new to sewing as the only other sewing I had ever done was ‘Home Economics’ in high school. My granny used to sew special occasion dresses for us when we were young and until I began sewing I never really appreciated the work that went into the pieces she made for us. I even remember refusing to wear one when I was about 10 as I didn’t want a yellow dress and my cousin had gotten the pink one and that was the one I wanted!
My nan used to make dresses for me when I was a kid too. She used to give me one at Easter instead of chocolates. Like you, I wasn’t heaps impressed. Have you sewn a dress for someone for a special occasion?
I make a lot for special occasions. Below is an image of a flower girl dress I made as a custom order. The customer told me what she wanted and I designed a pattern to suit.
That is so cute! And very beautifully made. I love the volume in the skirt. Sorry for diversion, ok back to your story of how you learnt to sew…
When I was learning to sew, I borrowed all of the sewing books from my local library and learnt from them. I also used to borrow the Burda magazines and make the patterns from them. Looking back my first fabric choices were awful and the sewing wasn’t fantastic but here I am 18 years later and selling my sewing and it is of a very high standard even if I do say so myself.
During that time I also started learning how to patchwork, as I loved the beautiful fabrics, which at that time were in limited supply at Spotlight, which was my only local fabric store. I started on a cushion, with an envelope back, as it was a long time before I was brave enough to delve into the hidden zippers I use in my work today.
Today when I am creating new pieces for my Etsy store or to share at a market, I am driven by the gorgeous prints available and also by textures. Ahhh textures, I am a sucker for them. Often at markets people gravitate to touching my cushions and I welcome it. Being a tactile person myself I totally understand the need to stroke soft and cuddly cushions. Sometimes I buy a fabric with a specific project in mind and other times it just speaks to me and I let it lead me into being.
Out of the varied and colourful items listed in your shop, the one that I’d love to have in my home is this cushion from your ‘Grey and white lace’ cushion. With the texture of the lace as well as the flannel like feel of the grey suiting, I’d love to cuddle up with it at night.
Can you tell me a bit more about this collection? Where did you find the lace used in this item?
I am glad you like the grey and white lace cushion, it is definitely a tactile favourite of mine too. Did you know that I individually sew on and tie off each button. That way if one ever comes loose then you won’t lose the whole lot from the cushion. This adds more time to the creation of the pieces however quality is paramount to me and I want the pieces I make to be passed down and well used.
The lace was given to me in a box of linens and French laces that a non-sewing friend inherited from her mother. She was going to give it to the op shop, then thought of me. It was a huge box and one of the best presents I’d ever been given. Needless to say, she received a special creation as a thank you.
Where do you make the items that you sell?
I have a studio set up just for me to create in. It looks out over my lovely cottage-like front garden.
What do you like most about working with fabric?
Oh the textures, colours, prints. I just love watching it all come to life under the needle of my sewing machine. Sometimes I do hand work on my pieces too, and this is super gratifying for me as it really has a little piece of me stitched in.
What is the hardest part about working with fabric?
Cutting into it for the first time. I am a fabric hoard. This isn’t an exaggeration. We moved to Perth about 6 years ago and I took 15 large tea chests of fabric with me with the promise that if we ever came back to Pomona, that I would have less boxes. Well I’m sorry (not) to say that I came home to Pomona with 24 boxes. I do have a rule though. I have to use something I already have in my “stash” in every new creation that I make.
What is your favourite material to work with?
I love to work with vintage laces and notions. Knowing that they have had a life prior and then that I’m giving them a new one is a special thing for me. I often ponder their previous lives as I recreate them into a new piece.
Out of all the pieces that you have sewn, which one has been your favourite?
My favourite piece, now that’s tricky. I love sewing in general and all of my pieces are a bit special to me. My current favourite is a piece I sold recently. It was made using a vintage doily and then I hand stitched in a font that I drew by hand. I just loved how it turned out and I really enjoyed sewing the embroidery.
Rebecca, that is a lovely piece! I can see why it’s your favourite. I will definitely keeping an eye out for your future cushion designs…