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Bunbury-based ex-bridal gown designer and dressmaker, Shelley, sews scarves, cushion covers and hankies from textiles she designs herself from her watercolour paintings of native Australian birds and flowers

05 July 2019

Designer Spotlight: Silken Twine Australia

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Dress-maker, painter & textile designer, Shelley: ‘Ienjoy every single aspect of making my products and I’d never want that taken away from me. No mass-producing here!’

Hello! My name is Shelley Barton and I run Silken Twine Australia. I have been selling with Madeit for over a year now and am a one-man band so wear many hats within my business. I come from a creative background of dressmakers/artists and have always spent a lot of time either in my sewing room, crafting or painting.

From watercolour painting to finished and packaged scarf: a handmade wattle scarf from Silken Twine

I live on a lovely 1-acre bush block near Bunbury in Western Australia with my handsome husband and two sons.

Bunbury-based ex-bridal gown designer and dressmaker, Shelley, sews scarves, cushion covers and hankies from textiles she designs herself from her watercolour paintings of native Australian birds and flowers

I developed a love of drawing and painting from a very young age and when I was 16, I bough my first sewing machine. Since that day, I think I could honestly say I have made hundreds of pieces of clothing, some for myself but mostly for other people.

Waratah flower watercolour painting in progress by Silken Twine

When I was 17 I began to design ball gowns and started to acquire customers for one off outfits. Eventually I started my own Bridal and Formal wear business which I ran up until 2016. I felt like I needed a change and rediscovered my love of painting; I hadn't picked up a brush in years but was very glad I did as it led me to starting Silken Twine and I haven't looked back.

Watercolour wattle print fabric by Silken Twine on the sewing machine to be turned into a scarf: ‘I have a large window by my machines looking out into my yard where I frequently see many native birds including the Splendid Blue Wrens’

I am located in the South West of Western Australia and work from my spacious home studio fitted out with four sewing machines, art supplies, laptop and graphics design tablet. I have a large window by my machines looking out into my yard where I frequently see many native birds including the splendid blue wrens and my happy girls (my four pet chickens) scratching around in the grass. I absolutely love working from home and wouldn't have it any other way.

Shelley at work painting more watercolour designs for her products, with a backdrop of her past fabric range

Silken Twine was born from my three loves combined, painting, sewing and graphic design. Inspired by Australia's unique and fascinating native treasures I love to paint in water colours, Australian flora, fauna and sea life. I am lucky enough to have the skills to turn my paintings into beautiful fabric designs, which I then sew into gorgeous scarves, cushion covers and handkerchiefs.

Australian natives watercolour handkerchiefs being packaged for sale: ‘I do all of the painting, graphic design, sewing, packaging, posting and marketing.’

I do all of the painting, graphic design, sewing, packaging, posting and marketing. Sometimes if I'm lucky, I can convince my husband or one of my kids to give me a hand by folding boxes or putting labels on.

Australian Red Bottlebrush fabric scarf by Silken Twine: ‘I…decided to paint some bottlebrush flowers so I could have it printed on cotton and use it to make skirts’

I initially started Silken Twine as a clothing label and one day decided to paint some Bottlebrush flowers so I could have it printed on cotton and use it to make skirts. They were quite popular when I released them, so I ended up painting more art.

Silken Twine ladies’ skirt in Australian Bottlebrush watercolour design based on Shelley’s original paintings’

I went to a market in Perth that year with the clothing and was approached by a lovely lady who was particularly interested in the Bottlebrush print I had created. She chatted to me for a few minutes and then came back and introduced herself as the buyer for the Perth mint and asked if I was planning to make scarves with my artwork because they were looking for a new scarf supplier.

Silken Twine cushion covers in three Splendid Blue Wren designs based on Shelley’s original paintings’

I couldn't believe my luck as I had been planning to do scarves and was almost ready to order the fabric. That was a very special moment for me when I decided to discontinue the clothing and try the scarves instead. From there it grew into a full-time business!

The silken Twine range of scarves, hankies and cushion covers in watercolour designs inspired by Australian native birds, flowers and sea-life: ‘That was a very special moment for me when I decided to discontinue the clothing and try the scarves instead’

I like Madeit as a selling platform because first and foremost it is Australian owned and operated, and you can't get better than that! But also, I have found it to be a lot more personal. I don't just feel like another number here, I feel like a very valued seller.

A range of Silken Twine scarves born from Shelley’s original water colour paintings of Australian birds, flowers and sea-life’

Another thing I like is because it's an affordable platform, there is a lot more hobby businesses here on Madeit than what you would find any where else so those small handmade items you see when you are walking around your local markets, you can find them here too! And the junior makers section, how cool is that! I have been trying to convince my youngest to open a little shop, he just needs to find his creative "thing" first!

A Silken Twine scarf featuring watercolour blue winged-kookaburras: ‘I love that it’s not all about money, it’s also about encouraging and nurturing another person’s creativeness’

I love to support other makers by buying handmade. I know how it feels when customers purchase from me and I like to give that feeling to other handmade businesses when ever I can. I love that it's not all about money, it's also about encouraging and nurturing another person’s creativeness. I know a lot of people personally who run hand made businesses and hobbies and how inspired they get to create new work when someone purchases from them, it's an awesome feeling.

A Silken Twine scarf featuring watercolour Australian native wildflower motifs

I am running my handmade business because I really do love it and I always want to keep it handmade. I know I could grow it by outsourcing my products to be made overseas, but that is not why I started. I enjoy every single aspect of making my products and I'd never want that taken away from me. No mass producing here!

Three different Silken Twine handmade cushion covers featuring watercolour Australian wattle and willie wagtail motifs

I am also one of those customers who buys a handmade item, goes out of my way to leave a good review often with a styled photo of my totally cool purchase, and personally thanks the maker. That is the BEST part about handmade businesses.



Visit Silken Twine Australia to find more homewares and accessories in original watercolour motifs inspired by Australia’s native wildlife: SilkenTwine

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