Kate Sproston Design

Behind the scenes at Kate Sproston Design, making beautifully embroidered textiles for the home.


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March Meet the Maker – A Little Extra

Throughout the month of march, I have been taking part in the March Meet the Maker Instagram challenge, created by Joanne Hawker. It is a great opportunity to learn a little more about other designers and their businesses, from how they started, to what their biggest learning curve has been. It has been fantastic to share stories, problems and successes, so when Amy from Vintage Child asked if I would like to write a blog post as an added extra to the challenge, I couldn’t resist. Below are five extra questions that we hope will encapsulate both Kate Sproston Design and Vintage Child, providing an overview that the daily prompts may have missed.

Kate from Kate Sproston Design, with her most popular rabbit egg cosy

Kate with her most popular rabbit egg cosy

Can you introduce yourself in 500 characters or less?

Hello, my name is Kate and I am the founder and designer behind Kate Sproston Design. All the embroidery is created by me from my original sketches, and then digitised using a specialist computer program to convert the images to stitch. I love to read, sew (obviously), visit new places, and be outside with my border collie George. I have always been creative and knew I would have a creative job from a young age. I feel incredibly lucky that the plan has come to fruition, and I get to spend my days doing something that I love.

Sketches of border collies from Kate Sproston Design

Rough sketches for our border collie design

How did you start your brand?

When I graduated from Birmingham City University in 2009, my final project was selected by the Embroiderers Guild to be shown as part of their annual Graduate Showcase. I took part in three exhibitions in London, Harrogate and Dublin, whilst at the same time starting work as a pattern cutter in a high-end lingerie company. These two experiences got me thinking of how I could make my passion into a commercial business, and after quite a while (years in fact) I finally created some more commercial designs and applied to sell through notonthehighstreet.com. After working full time, and making and selling in the evenings and weekends, I was finally able to quit my day job and start working on Kate Sproston Design full time.

Embroidered rabbit Easter egg hunting bag by Kate Sproston Design

Our personalised Easter egg hunting bag

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Well now I have a dog I would have to say George, but before he came along it would be the thought of creating something meaningful that others would treasure and enjoy. I try and design products that I would like to gift to my friends and family, and they are a constant source of inspiration, especially my goddaughters, nephew and five nieces! It is a special feeling when a customer tells me who they have brought the item for. I love to hear from couples who are using a set of our Christmas stockings to announce their new addition to the family, or when one of our reusable crackers has been brought to gift something special like an engagement ring. It’s nice to know I have contributed to a memory that will last a lifetime.

Embroidered schnauzer glasses cases by Kate Sproston Design

Adding the finishing touch to our embroidered schnauzer glasses cases

What advice would you give to your past self when you were first starting out?

Everyone was in the same boat as you when they first started out. Don’t worry about being worried, and don’t be afraid to ask for advice even if you feel like you are making a fool of yourself. You will not be fantastic at every aspect of running a business. Small business owners have to be designers, product developers, accountants, technical support, marketers, photographers and social media savvy. Accept that you can’t be everything, but the fact that you are willing to try and ask for help when needed is absolutely fantastic!

Embroidered rabbit collection by Kate Sproston Design

Napkins, Easter egg hunting bag, snap purse and egg cosies make up our embroidered rabbit collection

Whats Next?

Apart from building on my existing design range, I would like to move into a larger studio space and find a few more outworkers. As a long term goal, I would love to be able to grow Kate Sproston Design to create employment opportunities for others. It is very important to me to keep production within the UK, and wherever possible fabric and materials are purchased from UK companies.

Check out Amy’s answers here, and learn a little more about Vintage Child leather goods. (I have not only purchased her beautiful designs for family gifts, but I am the proud owner of one of her leather backpacks!)

To learn more about Joanne Hawker’s March Meet the Maker challenge follow this link. Anyone can join in, whether you are a business owner or have a creative side hustle, it’s a great way to share experiences.

I hope you enjoyed a little extra insight into Kate Sproston Design. I will definitely be looking forward to next year’s challenge!

Kate x

 

Linen Bag by Fir Tree Interiors on Etsy


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Linen Scraps Update

Hello Everyone,

So two blog posts in one month is rare for Kate Sproston Design, but after the fantastic response from our Linen Scraps up for Grabs post a few weeks ago, I wanted to show you what became of some of them. Just WOW! I was not disappointed!

Linen Bag by Fir Tree Interiors on Etsy

The very talented Louise from Fir Tree Interiors, has transformed what would have been considered waste, into a set of handmade tote bags. With a little time and some clever stitching, all the linen strips were sewn together to create functional, and beautiful products. I was especially impressed with the details of the delicate fringed bag, using the selvedge of the fabric to create a feature panel.

Linen Bag by Fir Tree Interiors on Etsy

All the bags have a complimentary cotton lining with an added pocket for keys and a phone. The overall look of the bags is so crisp, with clean lines, I could not help but be truly impressed. The best bit is that all the bags are available for sale through Fir Tree Interiors Etsy shop, so pop on over to take a look.

Linen Bag by Fir Tree Interiors on Etsy

I brought one of Louise’s stunning Christmas pudding wreaths when we met at the Etsy Made Local Fair last December, so can vouch for the quality and skill each of Louise’s products are made with. The wreath enjoyed pride of place over the fireplace throughout Christmas.

Christmas Pudding Wreath by Fir Tree Interiors on Etsy

Even though we do our very best not to waste any fabric whilst making our products, and normally recycle what we can’t use, it is incredibly satisfying to know that a few kilograms of fabric has been given a new lease of life.

Well Done Louise!


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Linen Scraps up for Grabs

Hello and Happy New Year! We have had an amazing Christmas and sold the most linen crackers this year to date. That means that we have lots of strips of linen hanging around that could be the start of a fantastic new craft project for someone.

Woodland Crackers being cut out

We usually take all of our fabric scraps to the local charity shops so they can be recycled, but after a conversation with a friend, who wanted strips of scrap fabric to make a Christmas garland with her daughter, it seemed there was more life in all the left over linen yet.

After a quick look on Pinterest, we found quite a few exciting projects that would make use of the fabric, including fabric wreaths, roses and baubles. Take a look below to see what we found.

Baubles made from linen scraps

There are a few options for Christmas decorations that can be made with the scraps. They can be turned into a pom pom bauble like the ones on the Dear Lillie Blog, wrapped around a foam ball and finished with twine to hang, or cut into squares and stacked to make a mini pine tree as on the Country Living Website.

Linen garlands

Alternatively, create a garland by tying the scraps along a thread, cutting into mini flags and sewing along some twine, or rouching with ribbon to hang along the fireplace like the fantastic example on the Beautiful Nest Blog.

Linen roses

These fabric roses are beautiful with a few extra beads and leaves of lace. They would make a great brooch or add to wedding favours for a shabby chic touch, like these up-cycled tin cans on the Red Chandelier Blog.

Linen Easter Ideas

And if you are a bit fed up of Christmas by now, you could always make an Easter wreath and add some little eggs or flowers for a special touch. Or if you are feeling really creative, get out the embroidery threads and experiment with some mark making.

Linen Scraps Measurements

We have quite a few kilos of scraps, so if anyone would like some it is free to collect or just pay £2.90 for postage of two kilogram (UK only). The measurements above are approximate with some thicker and thinner pieces, but the lengths are all standard. Follow the link to our Etsy shop to purchase, or email us on sales@katesprostondesign.com and we will be happy to help.

Oh, and we would love to see what you come up with so feel free to send us a photo. Enjoy the New Year everyone!


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March Meet the Maker 2019 in Review

As some of you may know, throughout March I have been taking part in March Meet the Maker; a month long challenge made up of daily prompts created by designer Joanne Hawker. Even though I have taken part in previous years, I have especially enjoyed 2019’s challenge and thought I would do a little summery with some of the highlights.

Kate Sproston Design March Meet the Maker Prompt Sheet

My March Meet the Maker prompt sheet complete with scribbles, dog ears and pin holes! I didn’t stick to every note in the end but I did finish the challenge.

It is quite a commitment to keep up with the daily prompts and I take my hat off the all the businesses that managed it. I must admit that there were a few days that I fell behind (normally at the weekend) but each day it was great to see the variety of posts from across the board. It was a brilliant opportunity to share a little of what goes into running Kate Sproston Design, how it all started and a great way of looking back over what has been achieved so far.

University degree show project by Kate Sproston Design

Left: One of the first embroideries I ever completed, a cross stitch mouse kit. My mum then made it into a coaster and it is in my parents house to this day. Centre and Right: An original drawing and the embroidered corset I made for my university final major project.

My favourite prompt had to be ‘Less Glam Side’ especially as it is really easy to forget that the super curated Instagram world is not reality. It is nice to know that I am not the only one that can be found working amongst boxes and paperwork, with a carpet covered in thread! Parts of running a business can be mentally and physically exhausting, that is why it is so important to enjoy the wins.

Kate Sproston Design setting up for Country Living Christmas Fair, London.

Setting up for Country Living Christmas Fair, London. I bit of the less glam side of running a small business. Note the KitKats, coffee and baby wipes on the floor!

Another great outcome of the challenge is how it highlights what goes into designing, creating and finally bringing a product to market. The hours and indeed years it has taken a designer to hone their skills to make a beautiful product look effortlessly made. It helps us appreciate each others talents and it also gives us the opportunity to share some tips and advice with other designers, and maybe help each other avoid some serious pitfalls like impostor syndrome.

Kate Sproston Design French bulldog embroidery from original sketches to digital file.

French bulldog design from original sketches to digital embroidery file.

The customer feedback prompt really made me stop and think over all the lovely comments I have received over the years. It is easy to remember when something has gone wrong, and we always remember the negative comments over the good. This prompt meant I spent some time looking over our website and Etsy reviews to remind myself that there are some truly appreciative customers out there that really get what we do! Thank you to everyone who has sent us a little email with their comments, or shared a lovely story behind a purchase.

Sleeping Otter Mum & Pup Cushion by Kate Sproston Design

One of the reviews for our Sleeping Otter Mum & Pup cushion. “Whilst I know the cushion is a little on the pricey side it is completely worth it. I bought this item for my sister to celebrate the birth of her first baby, and her reaction was absolutely priceless. Beautiful design, lovely quality.”

On a personal note the challenge has made me realise that I can only go at my own pace and that’s okay. There are lots of fantastic businesses out their that seem to be growing at a brilliant rate which is an amazing achievement, but I should celebrate how far Kate Sproston Design has come and know that if I set my mind to it I will grow too in my own time. I am very lucky to be able to do what I do and share it with some very kind customers, and fellow designers along the way.

Kate Sproston Design swing tag.

One of the posts that was all about the business name. It got a lot of lovely comments which got a little lump in my throat!

If you would like to take a look at some of the other businesses that took part in the challenge, simply search #marchmeetthemaker on Instagram. I have added links to a few of my favourite accounts below.

@joannehawker – is an illustrator and the creator of March Meet the Maker. Her feed has a beautiful pastel pallet and is full of her illustrations, paper goods and pins.

@madebylottieday – Lottie produces screen printed textiles from her original drawings. Each product is printed in her studio in Norfolk and has a rustic country feel.

@papiopress – Zanna and Harry are the duo that make up Papio Press. They have the most fantastic products and their IG account is full of their intricate illustrations.

@mendyourhead – Vinegar and Brown Paper is the business behind this IG account, and was founded by Andy Poplar. He creates etched glass products with a vintage feel and inspiring messages.

I hope you enjoyed my little round up/summery and would love to hear any comments you might have below.

Have a lovely weekend,

Kate x


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Spring Fair 2019

Well what an amazing trade show to start the year. It is only our second Spring Fair but with each year it gets a little easier and less daunting. We are able to take things in our stride a bit more, and enjoy meeting lots of new stockists and compare notes with fellow designers and business owners. Therefore I thought it might be fun to do a little round up of this years show, and things that we spotted.

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers by Kate Sproston Design were Highly Commended in GOTY Award 2019

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers with our Highly Commended Trophy.

Our big news is that the Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers won Highly Commended in the Festive & Occasional Gift category in the Gift of the Year Award 2019. We were thrilled to attend the award ceremony and receive a trophy which now has pride of place in the studio.

Gift of the Year 2019 Winners and Runners Up Group Photo

All the winners and runners up having their photo taken on stage at the award ceremony. Spot a smiley Kate at the back!

I also got to have my picture taken on stage with all the winners and runners up. You can just spot me at the back looking pretty pleased with myself!

Kate Sproston Design stand set up before, during and after completion at Spring Fair trade show 2019.

The before, during and after shots of the stand build.

Set up took place over two days, with the stand wallpapering done on Friday evening in the gloom, and the shelving and display finished on Saturday morning. The hall is always freezing during set up with all the doors open for unloading. We work in our coats as fast as possible to keep warm. The change in atmosphere is always amazing, from a dark and echoing hall during set up, to a bright and bustling fair once the doors open to visitors on Sunday morning.

We had fabulous stand neighbors as always. Some we knew from last year and others we got to know over the duration of the show. (You really do get to know each other very well especially when you are stood next to each other for five days straight and there is a lull in foot traffic!)

Ceramics by Tragear Pottery

The beautiful ceramics by our stand neighbors Tregear Pottery.

We met Neil from Tregear Pottery for the first time and fell in love with his work. The creation process for each piece is fascinating, although I won’t give away any trade secrets! In particular the seal designs really caught my eye as the shapes were so simple, yet conveyed so much character in their form.

Botanical trend spotted at Spring Fair 2019

One of the fantastic stands that caught our eye, complete with ceramic animal heads.

As always there are a real mix of companies at the show, from large multi national businesses, to independants like us. Some of the largest strands had huge room set ups with the botanic trend still as popular as ever. I couldn’t help but spot the fantastic animal heads on this company’s stand, the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten!

Needless to say we have returned from the show exhausted but buzzing with ideas. We have lots of leads to follow up, and new designs to start as well as a few orders to fulfill! I hope you enjoyed a little bit of the behind the scenes of our time at Spring Fair, and if you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Kate x


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Woodland Crackers Finalist in Gift of the Year Award 2019

Just before Christmas we entered two of our products into the Giftware Association’s Gift of the Year Award 2019. After being shortlisted last year with our Rabbit Egg Cosy, we were delighted to be shortlisted again this year in two categories. Firstly our Embroidered Dog Christmas Stockings in the Pet Gift category, whilst our Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers were shortlisted in the Festive and Occasional Gift category.

Embroidered Dog Christmas Stockings by Kate Sproston Design

Our Embroidered Dog Christmas Stockings Shortlisted in the Pet Gift category in the Gift of the Year Award 2019.

With over 1,100 entries, it is safe to say we were absolutely delighted to have gotten this far, and after making up product samples, we sent them off for the live judging day to be viewed by a panel of industry experts. Having been judged on several elements including design, innovation, originality, quality of manufacture and WOW factor, it was with much excitement that we read the email a few days later telling us that our crackers had made it through to the final. This means that they have been either highly commended or have won the category.

Woodland Christmas Crackers in Gift Box by Kate Sproston Design

Complete set of six Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers in gift box.

The award ceremony will be held on Sunday 3rd February after the first day of Spring Fair at the NEC, Birmingham. We are over the moon to have been considered for such a prestigious award and will be keeping everything crossed for the final. Now we are off to celebrate with a big cup of tea!

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers by Kate Sproston Design

Our Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers are finalists in the Festive & Occasional Gift category in the Gift of the Year Award 2019.

 


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A Post Christmas Trip to London

So the new year has arrived and after a very busy Christmas (in fact our busiest so far) we headed back to work. Not before I took a little trip to London with my mum to catch the tail end of what the shops had to offer in the way of festive goodies. There never seems to be time to indulge before the big day, as we are so busy making and packing orders. So although I was late to the party, it was a great chance to get some inspiration for next year (nuts I know) and maybe pick up a bargain.

coach windows

Stuffed party animals window display at the Coach store, Regent Street, London, Jan 2019.

Having arrived on Regent Street long before the shops even opened, it gave me a chance to do a bit of window shopping. The display in Coach was absolutely fantastic and comprised of stuffed animals and a huge T-Rex wearing a party hat and ruff! I particularly liked the frogs who had lots of personality.

liberty london

Left: Liberty store front, London. Top Right: Doing Goods wool animal rugs as found in Liberty. Bottom Right: Mice lights as found in Liberty.

We popped into Liberty (I say popped but we actually spent over an hour and a half in there!) and found some fantastic pieces including some little mice figurines holding lights, and faux animal rugs which would look fantastic in a kids room. I also love the haberdashery and the beautiful rug section that always reminds me of the pages of National Geographic magazine.

anthropology windows

Paper sculptures in Anthropology shop window, Regent Street, London, Jan 2019.

Next we visited Anthropologie, who always have something a little different to offer. Their windows were amazing, with a fantastic fox and badger paper collage sculptures on display. By this time I can see a trend emerging with animals constantly drawing my eye.

Mum & I discovered the brand Mackenzie-Child, in Fortnum & Mason, who we had never seen before, and now we both want to buy floral teapots with passementerie tassels. Not too practical but they looked stunning and would certainly brighten up the kitchen.

cheese fondue and teapot

Left: Cheese fondue at Somerset House, London. Right: Enamel Teapot by Mackenzie-Childs as found in Fortnum & Mason.

By this time lunch was definitely called for. We stopped at Somerset House and indulged in cheese fondue, with new potatoes, soda bread, lettuce and cornichons (little gherkins). It is something I had never eaten before, except for a not too tasty homemade attempt a few years ago, and I really wanted to try the real thing. It was fab apart from the little pickled gherkin things!

covent garden & petersham nursery

Left: Mirror balls and giant mistletoe at Covent Garden. Right: Inside Petersham Nurseries, Covent Garden.

Lastly we had a wonder around Covent Garden under the mirror balls and mistletoe, and listened to the opera. Popping into Petersham Nurseries on the way back to the tube. All in all we had a fantastic day and I have returned with lots of inspiration. Now I just need to find time to execute all these new ideas!