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Editorial blog

A Felt-filled Fairy Tale World

05 Aug 2019

Inspired by her lifelong love of fairy tales, award-winning ‘feltrepreneur’ and author, Lisa Marie Olson, welcomes Angela Sara West into her wonderful felt-tastic world.

Up for a magical adventure? For one independent Midlands-based sewist and designer, life is one big fairy tale craft adventure born out of a lifelong passion for classic fairy tales and stories, including ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, ‘The Hobbit’ and Dickensian novels.

The ‘Feltrepreneur’ and founder and Creative Director of Tigerlily Makes, Lisa Marie Olson, produces beautiful felted work with a fresh, timeless and classic style, enticing us into an enchanting land of make-believe. Her creative workshops are well-known for offering one of the most special creative days you are ever likely to have, taking you on a beguiling journey to a world full of fantastic fairy tale felt makes.

A crafty all-rounder

Lisa Marie’s love affair with creative arts began at a very early age, starting with needlework and textile arts. “I continued into adulthood and was able to make all the soft furnishings for my home and for family and friends, such as roman blinds, customising bags, adding finishing touches to a room or making unique accessories,” she says.

Making and customising not only her wardrobe but her home enabled her to save money. She then turned her hand to other crafts. “Around 15 years ago, I got into card making and papercrafts and, in 2007, became an accredited demonstrator for a well-known craft wholesaler Bramwells Crafts & Yarns. I was trained by Melanie Heaton, one of the best in her field and a regular on Create and Craft TV.”

Travelling around the country, delivering demonstrations, knowledge and workshops on craft supplies, she even educated on manual and electronic cutting machines. “We covered altered art projects, home décor projects, scrapbooking and card making,” she explains. “That led me to start designing and creating wedding invitations, as I had already produced some for my friends and work colleagues. I created Tigerlily Cards to sell them for a while, but my heart was firmly rooted in textiles and I desperately wanted to get back to it. So, I explored felt making at City and Guilds level, and then started to use and mix felt into my other sewing projects and skills.”

Over the past three decades, Lisa Marie has continued to develop skills in all areas of creativity, from creating decorative items for the home and upcycling, to paper crafting and felt-making. She further expanded her skillset by producing her designs on to various fabric and also making baby clothes. Finding herself caught up in the magic of the magnificent material felt, her number one craft sees her inject timeless elements with a modern twist into her favourite storybook characters and adventures. Her natural flair and ability to create wonderful things with threads, fabric, ribbons, buttons and leftover bits and bobs, means the magic and adventures of crafting can be enjoyed by all.

Becoming Tigerlily Makes

How did the name Tigerlily Makes come about? “I helped my mother-in-law on a brownie pack holiday one year and the theme of the weekend was Peter Pan. Each of the leaders and helpers had been given a name badge of a character and I was Tigerlily. In addition, Peter Pan was my son’s favourite movie as a child. He would immerse himself in the magic and watch it repeatedly, never tiring of the storyline or the characters. So, I feel it was meant to be!”

Lisa Marie’s website welcomes crafters to her wonderful world of storyland, where adventures are had and characters emerge from fanciful projects, themes and sewing kits. Her online shop offers doll kits and patterns, embroidery patterns, sewing kits and patterns and instant downloads, while the Tigerlily Makes YouTube Channel sees a selection of videos covering basic techniques, gift guides and more. She also runs courses and provides demo days in the Midlands area and beyond.

Going vegan

Lisa Marie says she recently turned away from wool felt to make all of her products from faux felt and vegan-friendly materials. “Making felt has only been a small part of my love affair with creative textiles, another way to mix my felt, sewing, embroidery and needle felting together to create something bespoke. My husband and I became vegan last summer after being vegetarian for a while, so it was a natural transition from vegan food to a vegan-friendly lifestyle. We started looking at everything from household cleaner to the clothes we wear and it made sense to start looking at vegan-friendly alternatives for my creative adventures, too,” she explains.

“My felt-making journey is not over by any stretch of the imagination, as there are some amazing vegan-friendly fibres and faux felts available, and in such beautiful colours, too.” She believes it’s an area set for continued growth and development as people become ever-more aware of vegan-related matters. “In addition, there are many wool allergy sufferers in the UK and the world, and using faux products enables a community which would otherwise be excluded from such lovely pastimes.”

Crafty collaborations

Lisa Marie has worked closely with The Crafty Beggars, whom she met at the Crafting Live Show at Sandown Park in January 2018. “I’d just launched my first book, ‘Felt Wonderland’, published by Search Press, and three new felt sewing kits. My stand seemed to catch Julie Peasgood’s attention as it was part of Bert & Gert’s Artisan marketplace. We got chatting and was asked if I would be free to film a short segment with them the following month, for series five of Crafty Beggars TV. Julie, who co-founded The Crafty Beggars with her former partner Wendy Turner Webster, then introduced me to Wendy, who was equally enthusiastic. From there, Julie asked me to join her on a crafting cruise and the rest has just naturally followed on from that.”

Lisa Marie and a few fellow creatives also joined Julie and Wendy in the VIP area at The Craft Shows at the NEC later that year, delivering ‘make and takes’ to tired visitors taking a break from shopping. “It was hugely successful and a very welcome addition to the VIP customers. Wendy and Julie have both embraced myself and my fellow team members with their endorsements.” During a sneak preview before the book was launched in June 2017 at a Creative Dragons-style pitch, Create and Craft TV’s Stephanie Weightman described Lisa’s projects as ‘so whimsical, pretty and very different’, which gave Lisa the confidence to continue to develop her fairy tale designs.

Alongside these coveted crafty commendations, her fantastic creations have also been honoured with awards. “I was incredibly overwhelmed to have received the award for innovative design by ‘Insight Magazine’. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that all your hard work, endless days and nights of effort, working weekends and little rest time is recognised by the industry. It makes it all worthwhile to know that you’re doing something right!”

Felt wonderland

From decorative teacups and teapots, to pretty Maisie Daisy handbags and lampshades, step into wonderland with Lisa Marie’s magical book, ‘Felt Wonderland’ (Search Press), which teaches crafters how to transform sumptuous wool fibres into beautiful felt items. The clear, step-by-step photographs and instructions teach the art of wet felting, from basic flat-felting techniques through to using a resist and working around a 3D mould. She also includes other techniques, such as needle felting, hand stitching, embroidery and appliqué to further embellish the projects.

“I’m particularly proud of the projects in my book and my soft doll kits for very different reasons. Both have proved challenging in their own ways. Certain book projects, such as the tea cups and tea pot, were challenging, in a sense that the skill is getting them from what is essentially a flat piece of work to a 3D piece in a way that the reader can truly relate to and understand.” She says the challenge with the doll kits was to create something truly unique, whilst generating a good range of skills to be learnt without putting off anyone just starting out. “So, it’s a balance between the effectiveness of the finished result, the skill set, and trying to provide something that nobody else has.”

Freedom to create

Lisa Marie reveals the thing she enjoys most about sewing is the freedom for creativity. “The possibilities are endless, and I love finding solutions to the challenges you can sometimes face at the sewing room table.” Her favourite stitching style? “I absolutely love decorative and stretch stitches. I love the option to fully customise a project and create something unique. The stretch stitch is a real favourite of mine, fundamentally used for stretch fabrics, such as jersey and lycra. However, it’s extremely useful for adding decorative details on things such as dolls’ clothing - it gives the illusion of a seam. When you sew stretch stitch, it will usually sew three lines of stitching together, which makes it stronger for stretch fabrics, but also gives a stronger-looking stitch detail with more depth.”

Her bestselling products? “My fairy elf kits are incredibly popular at shows, as is my book. People are keen to learn and are happy to invest in a quality kit or tool that provides them with all the know-how they need to create something themselves.” She recently showcased her first embroidered pin cushion, which is also Alice in Wonderland themed. “It’s part of the Storyland Collection of DIY kits using faux felt. I’ve since added another two, the Wonderland Cottage Sewing Case and the Wonderland Crown Egg Cosy kit.”

Hochanda debut & craft show creations

This August, Lisa Marie will make her debut on Hochanda TV, showcasing some brand new Christmas kits, and she has more in store for the end of the month. “Last year’s Creative Craft Show, or The Crafts Shows as they like to be called now, was overwhelmingly positive for me. The new patterns of the dolls were very popular, as was interest in the courses I run, and people just had to stop to admire the finished samples. There’s something very comforting about dolls for a lot of people… something to collect and hand down from generation to generation.”

Supercraft cruising with Julie Peasgood

While Wendy Turner Webster now heads up Team Crafty Beggars, Julie Peasgood has moved on from The Crafty Beggars to focus on her brand new venture, which she talked to us about in last month’s issue.

Last year, Lisa Marie jumped aboard with Julie for a trial of Julie’s Supercraft cruise on Cruise & Maritime Voyage’s ship, MS Magellan, around the Canary Islands. “I offered four workshops, the no-sew rose brooch, which is a take on a project in my book ‘Felt Wonderland’, a pumpkin-themed pin cushion working on traditional techniques of yesteryear, mini washing line bunting and a hat-shaped egg cosy workshop,” Lisa Marie explains.

Julie enjoyed learning how to make no-sew felt rose brooches with Lisa Marie and is also keen to make the tiny slippers from ‘Felt Wonderland’ book for her granddaughter. “I feel very privileged to have been selected as a supercrafter for crafting cruises with Julie.”

Fairy tales still to come

Lisa Marie says she feels the key to her success is sheer hard work, dedication and not being afraid of failure. “Failure is part of the journey and the process of developing yourself and your business. To keep trying and always believe in the essence of what you are trying to achieve. Being kind and showing humility, even when others don’t show it. Thinking before you speak and act, as you just never know how things might turn out. I believe what sets me apart from my competitors is my originality, my life history and my personal heritage, which influences much of what I design.”

What does the next chapter of Tigerlily Makes’ magical journey hold? “I’m currently in the project submission phase with my publishers for a possible second book. At the moment, it’s just in the exploration stage. And I will be creating a new studio space in July and August to accommodate my growing portfolio and product range.”

On top of the expansion plans for Tigerlily Towers, Lisa Marie will also be delivering four days’ of workshops, make and takes at Event City in Manchester with Search Press Books and The Craft Shows. “I will also be attending the NEC in Birmingham from 31st October – 3rd November with Wendy Turner Webster and the Craft Shows for four days, where we will be running workshops, possibly make and takes, and offering advice and support on all crafty matters.”

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