How Repurposing Old Fabrics Became a Design Business Success Story

Kylie Wright, Wattle&Loop
Paper Daisies at the Prom applique by Kylie Wright of Wattle&Loop
Vintage quilts collected for repurposing at Wattle&Loop
Slow stitching applique by Kylie Wright, Wattle&Loop
Wattle applique by Kylie Wright of Wattle&Loop. Repurposed and upcycled fabrics
Slow stitching applique Blue Banksia by Kylie Wright, Wattle&Loop. Repurposed and upcycled fabrics
Applique by Kylie Wright of Wattle&Loop. Repurposed and upcycled fabrics
Wattle&Loop rooster applique slow stitching
Wattle&Loop figs slow stitching applique kit
Recycled Timber Discounters, Timber Auction December 5

Wattle&Loop Founder Kylie Wright, Melbourne

Photos: James Grant Photography

Sometimes on the internet a stunning photograph or creative business idea makes you stop and take notice.

Wattle&Loop, by Melbourne graphic designer Kylie Wright, is one of those small sparks that takes your imagination in a different direction. Not because Kylie’s work is completely new. But because it brings a sense of fun and DIY adventure to simple repurposing.

Millions of sewing kits are bought and sold around the world. They encourage customers to try a new technique with a set of new materials.

Wattle&Loop kits share Kylie’s love of old materials. Customers try collage and embroidery with a carefully curated pack of new, vintage and reclaimed textiles. Kylie deliberately chooses “..fabrics that may not be of much use to other sewers or crafters because of holes, stains, tears, old worn-out embroidery etc. I believe it is these ‘imperfections’ that add the magic, personality and story to each artwork. The more worn, holey and well-loved, the better.”

Wattle&Loop came from your own sewing practice and collage workshops. Tell us a little of your journey to slow-stitching entrepreneur.

My Mum is an amazing maker of all things from pottery to quilts, dolls/teddy clothes and other crafty treasures, so I was inspired from a very young age by her endless creativity and have always loved all things handmade.

After 10 years in graphic design and 2 kids, playing around with fabric scraps and creating little landscapes and flower pictures to sell seemed like a fun alternative to going back to my design job, and so Wattle&Loop was born. At first I was selling the original artworks online, then teaching one day workshops. And then, with interest from overseas but me unable to travel with my young family, the idea of ‘packaging up’ a one day workshop into a Wattle&Loop kit came to be. That was 3 years ago, and since then I have employed 3 fabulous ladies to help me put each kit together.

When I transitioned from creating original artworks and teaching one day workshops into making Wattle&Loop kits there were three very important things I considered: Firstly, the quality of the materials in my kits – from beautiful recycled papers, to including all the fabrics I use in my own art (Liberty of London, vintage and reclaimed). Secondly, the experience the customer would have when they received and opened up the kit, taking time to slowly open and enjoy each envelope of goodies. And thirdly, the pleasure, relaxation and pride the project would bring the maker. All these elements are integral for my customers to really enjoy their ‘workshop in a kit’ experience.

Do you sell your freehand collages?

I sold my original artworks in the early days of Wattle&Loop, and I hope to again one day. But at present there are more people who want to make an artwork themselves, than buy one of mine, so the kits are a better offering at present. It means one kit design can bring pleasure to many people, rather than just the person who buys the original.

Where do you source fabrics and how do you manage your collection?

I’m able to source the bulk of my fabrics around Melbourne, NSW and QLD from various collectors of reclaimed/vintage fabrics. I also have some suppliers of more specialist bits and pieces in the US, France and the UK. I’m always on the look out in thrift stores and at garage sales for fabulous fabrics that I can repurpose. Luckily for me I’m often after the colours that no one else wants like white, browns and dull greens.

In terms of managing the collection, it could be better!! I store everything in large tubs and while it is meant to be sorted by colour so it’s easy to find…it’s often not…. That’s something I could definitely improve. But I roughly know where everything is, and if I’m looking for a particular colour I know approximately where to start looking.

Do customers who buy collage kits go on to create original works?

Yes, I definitely have customers who make the collage in the kit, then use any leftover scraps, along with other bits and pieces that they have, or source, to make more artworks.

I also encourage customers to incorporate any bits and pieces they have at home that might be special to them, such as a piece of old lace or doily from a grandmother. It makes the artwork a lot more meaningful and creates a beautiful and lasting treasure from something they may have been tucked away in a cupboard for 50 years or even thrown away at some point.

What treasures would you like to see people saving for craft?

Old curtains, lace, ribbon, woollen blankets, bed sheets and doona covers, old Sanderson upholstery fabrics from vintage couches. (One of my suppliers picks up old couches from hard rubbish and takes the fabric off them to upcycle.) Old clothing, quilts, buttons…. everything!!!!! It can ALL be used by someone. Luckily there are a lot of people around who seek out these treasures and sell them on to people like me to repurpose.

Wattle&Loop kits are beautifully packaged. How do you do that sustainably?

Wattle&Loop really began the day I turned to a bowl of discarded fabric scraps destined for the bin and started to cut and rip them up and make little collaged artworks. I really liked the idea of ‘making do’ with the scraps to create something beautiful.

Each kit I make now contains some new fabrics, but also a number of vintage, reclaimed and antique fabrics that I have sourced, that may have otherwise been destined for landfill. I have all my printing done on an award winning recycled paper stock. The threads, fabrics and needle are packaged in paper bags that can all be recycled when they’re no longer needed. The envelope that holds each kit is recycled kraft paper and can be used to hold other projects or recycled when no longer of use.

The one thing that I haven’t solved yet, and it annoys me no end, is recycling the backs of the shipping label stickers. I have looked into it, and the technology exists but it’s only being used in Australia at large commercial scale at present because it’s such new technology. So I will have to wait a little longer for that to become available to me. But that’s definitely something that every retail business in Australia would benefit from because we all print shipping labels!

You built a home based business that fits around your family. What advice do you have for someone just starting out?

I have been lucky enough to have the space to run my business from home. I do love having a home based business as it gives me more freedom to manage everything. (It does have its disadvantages too though, like having tubs of fabric and kits all over the place all of the time!!) It can make it hard to switch off from it at times too. But it means I don’t have rent to pay at another premises, I don’t have to get in the car to travel anywhere, I’m at home if I need me to be, I can wander in and out of my studio space as required. It works for me, and especially when starting out, if you have the space at home, you might not want all the overheads of renting a seperate space for your business. It allows you to test the waters first without having to financially commit too heavily. And thanks to the pandemic, everyone has realised, that actually, you can work effectively from home without too much hassle!

Where can people see more of your work:
Facebook:  wattleandloop
Instagram:  wattleandloop

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