|I taught myself dressmaking
when I was 13, decided I wanted to make film costumes so took all the City
and Guilds in Dressmaking, Tailoring and Embroidery. The only exam I
ever failed was the Embroidery one which is quite ironic. I did get as
far as making costumes at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden but Dave
came along, we got married, had two boys and everyone else got priority but
not my career.
We moved to Essex and I got interested in local history. The spark was reading a politicians speech stating that Essex was factories and flat land. I knew we had some lovely churches and cottages, converted photos into cross stitches and the local paper did an article about them. I took the company name of Crafts Unlimited and started producing cross stitch kits. As Crafts Unlimited, I have been designing and manufacturing cross stitch kits since 1993. I design the cross stitches, make up the kits and charts, do the advertising, accounts etc. Dave took early retirement in 1996 and volunteered to design a web site for the company so people could see all my designs, I have been trading on the web since Christmas 1997.
Dave has always been a Mr. Fixit so he started helping me with the Toy's Hospital which I had taken over in 1992. I never advertised the hospital and used to attract about 7 repairs a year. Dave put details of the hospital on the web site and we got up to around 700 repairs a year, forcing us to introduce a waiting list (viewable online). What started as a retirement hobby had mushroomed to the point where we were both working flat out full time to cope with demand - despite trying to encourage customers to use other hospitals we ended up with a waiting list of 2 YEARS! (exacerbated by my having a non-malignant brain tumour successfully removed in 2008). In late 2009 we took the decision to close the waiting list to new patients and worked hard to clear the list (finish all those repairs of customers waiting) with a view to then decide whether we wanted to continue. The work was finished in late 2011 and over Christmas we took the decision to stop the repair service - we wanted our lives back :-).
Crafts Unlimited is still a two people company, although now that the repair service has ended the cross-stitch design and production work is left to me (Dave acting as technical support and post department). At times during the repair work we thought about getting help, but it was supposed to be a "hobby" and I am sure I would have been checking everything done by someone else, and thus not gaining anything. We both set very strict standards of work and could never expect anyone else to keep to them.
Most of my cross-stitch designs (ALL of them are on the website) have been requested or suggested by stitchers. I am always interested to hear what people are searching for but unable to find.