When Amy Morgan decided to make stitchery her business, she took her first and middle names – Amy Kallissa – and ran with it or shall we say sailed with it.
When Amy told us that her beloved Dad named her Kallissa after his favourite boat, we couldn’t think of a better way to start her story. She found comfort in stitching as it guided her
“Having a stitching based business feeds my soul every day. Stitchers and quilters create beautiful communities – and they’re nurturing of each other. You may not always have the skills to help someone in a crisis – but you can make a quilt that wraps them up”.
Raised on stitching by her Mum, Amy says that she only began to grasp the true potential of stitching during one of the darkest moments of her life. In her twenties, Amy’s mental health spiralled down and an awful job working in local government left her broken. A diagnosis of severe depression and anti-depressant treatment followed – things that Amy acknowledges as critical for her recovery journey.
But mental well-being isn’t just about diagnosis and pharmaceutical treatment, as she points out. “There’s a mindfulness that comes with being able to sit and just stich something beautiful”.
When Amy turned to her love of stitching for comfort and joy on her road to recovery, she was looking for projects that were small and achievable. “I was needing that sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing something. But when I went looking for small stitching kits all I could find were rubber ducks and teddy bears. Nothing that spoke to me as a person. So, I began designing patterns for myself.” she says. When her friends and colleagues began seeing Amy’s unique designs, they started asking her to stitch pieces for them. Amy Kallissa, the business, was launched. Amy Kallissa is synonymous with a fresh, quirky and modern aesthetic, with a nod to the foundations built by our foremothers.
Amy’s stitchery is grounded in her own recovery journey, one that she wants to share to counteract stigma about mental illness. But the hallmark of Amy Kallissa designs is the fact that they’ve been created with the experience of others just beginning their own stitchery journeys in mind.
Her design ethos focuses on what she calls her “weekend achievable projects” and it’s part of her business model that she creates products in a price bracket that everyone can afford. As she says: “often the people who most want to be able to craft, are the ones who might struggle to afford it”.
In Amy’s world: “Stitchery doesn’t have to be a long labour of love and it doesn’t have to be about the trickiest stitches”. Instead, she deliberately works a range of different techniques into a single project and designs to create more contemporary pieces. The variation in Amy’s technique and process reflects the fact that, in her words: “Sometimes my hands want to stitch – other times my hands want to play with fabric – cutting shapes and creating pattern. There are so many different tactile processes you can go through.”
Amy’s response to the shock of pandemic lockdowns and border closures in 2020 was to design and release a School of Stitch (SOS) Sampler Needlebook Kit. Genius! For every new aspiring stitcher forced to stay at home there was a beautifully presented project offering to teach them the basics of stitchery. SOS went off! “The feedback I got was just incredible” she says now. And not lost on us that SOS is the original Morse Code sequence for ships in distress.
In the first run of SOS, there were 400 participants in 6 countries ranging from 8 to 80 years old of whom 70% were new to needlework. SOS continues to be the maiden voyage of new stitchers and the perfect way for people to re-connect with an old hobby that has been lost to time. School of Stitch has grown to include two more stitching accessories to learn even more stitches, a Sampler Pin Cushion and Thread Ready.
The most recent launch from Amy Kallissa has been quilt designs – Daisy Hexies Quilt, Posys Quilt and Madge’s Garden - all in the last 3 months. It’s clear there’s a little bit of Amy left wondering how she did that, plus everything else at the same time. That’s a lot of stitching!
If she had to name her favourite of the three new quilt designs, Amy says it would be Daisy Hexies. Mainly because the range of stitchery techniques it calls for makes it a perfect quilt for a stitching newbie. “There’s a little bit of everything in it – stitching, English paper piecing, applique…” she says. Daisy Hexies quilt features beautiful Liberty of London fabrics.
Amy loves to name things and believes that threads have their own personalities, just like her other life force – her love of animals. So it was truly fitting that when Amy collaborated with CGT in 2017 to invent a designer thread range, she gave each thread a name that reflects their personality.
“When Katie and Pam at CGT asked me to put together a selection of colours and patterns for a mini- collection, I jumped at the chance to get on board and flung myself into spending the following weeks playing with colour-chips and blending colours to find the right contrasts and sketching images all over important paperwork, napkins, even a menu at a fancy restaurant in town…. whoops!”
Namesake is a collection of 28 threads and is centred around my love for animals, the unique personalities and quirks that each of them have and the stories that I imagine for them and develop as I stitch them and they come to life. The thread range is broken into four groups: the bohemians, the hipsters, the furs & the solids.
She treasures the Namesake thread called Gulliver just a little more because its chartreuse colour sitting somewhere between yellow and green was so hard for CGT’s alchemist Pam to get 100% right. The turquoise variegated Xavier and the sky-blue and soft greys in Prue along with the gorgeous flamingo and coral pinks of Willow were featured in Amy’s School of Stitch and have been the standout favourites of the Namesake Range.
But when we ask her what her favourite colour is, there’s a classic Amy response: “shit!”
As in, shit! how do I choose just one? She pauses in front of her colour wall for a minute before settling on the CGT thread Tulip – because she says: it’s got almost every colour in it and delivers the kind of versatility she’s looking for in stitching her designs.
Amy’s dedication to her business is inspiring. All at once she’s drawing, designing, teaching, blogging, holding open studios and workshops.
And the latest news? Amy Kallissa is setting sail for the International Quilt Market in Houston Texas at the end of October 2023. She is laughing when she tells us that this has been a spur of the moment decision and she doesn’t even have her passport sorted, let alone any decision made about how many suitcases of quilts and stitching patterns she’ll be taking along with her.
Amy Kallissa is a name that is no stranger to the US stitching market because of her successful on-line business, but this is a big foray out into the world for the woman behind the name.
She’s excited about taking her quilt range to Houston, including one of her earlier designs: the Homestead Quilt which she based on a distinctively Australian style of bush quilt called the Wagga, created through the Depression Era using any fabrics available. “It’s a quilt design made out of necessity when there was little time and little fabric and every piece counted” she says. “It’s my nod to our foremothers and a more primitive aesthetic – pieces made by women with a no-frills make-do mentality. The heroes of the quilt are the actual pieces of fabric and the way they’re arranged” she says and reckons that: “the more they clash, the better”.
“Having a stitching based business feeds my soul every day. Stitchers and quilters create beautiful communities – and they’re nurturing of each other. You may not always have the skills to help someone in a crisis – but you can make a quilt that wraps them up” and in turn, heal ourselves one stitch at a time.