Beachwalkmuse meets Fiona Chang, owner of Chang Crafted. She is an ex-police officer. She has a household of 6 children every other weekend (two of her own and four of her husbands) and they are now expecting their third child together. Many would find themselves stuck in their family life, but amidst so much chaos, Fiona Chang has found a way to be independent and creative.
Fiona and I met at Proper Coffee House and had a great time catching up on things.
In conversation with Fiona Chang, owner of Chang Crafted…
How did Chang Crafted come about?
I started Chang Crafted just before Christmas 2013. I have always been doing knitting, crafting and crocheting as a hobby. Staying at home with the children I realised that if I am sat somewhere with the children, if I am sat in the garden while they are playing, I don’t really have anything to do. If you are reading, your attention is taken away. So I started making more and more things, especially blankets and things like that and found that our house was over-run with the things I have made. I gifted most of the things to friends and family. But then thought maybe I will try selling bits and pieces. That’s how Chang Crafted was born.
Is there a good market for what you are making?
I get a lot of demand for blankets and stuff like that. I am not making my millions. But it is a bit of pocket money out of a hobby.
How did you decide on the prices?
I looked at what everyone was charging for handmade products similar to mine. They say what you should do is take into account the material and the time you are putting in and work out how much would you like charge as an hourly fee. But it works out very expensive. I mean a good sized baby blanket can take hours and you could be charging several hundred pounds. So what I tried to do is make it fair. I thought, ‘what would I pay for something like that?’. And that’s how I decided on the prices.
I know that you are working from home at the moment. Do you have any future plans to open a company?
I am not registered yet. At the moment, I am not making a huge profit margin. Also, I will be slowing down because of the new baby’s arrival soon. But should it all be successful, my long term plan is to open a little shop that will not only display some work but also sell some materials to make things with and run a few workshops about using those materials.
So tell me how did you learn knitting? Did you teach yourself or took some lessons?
When I was about 10 years old, my maternal grandmother was a warden at a sheltered accommodation for elderly residence and she referred to the women who lived there as her ladies; so her and her ladies would sit in the common room and knit. What they were doing was knitting little teddies for a charity that would then send them out to countries where there were children who were victims of war. So when the children were put in hospitals or orphanages,they were given these teddies to keep. They were called teddies for tragedies. And it was then that my nan and her ladies taught me how to knit. Over the years I have picked up more and more from books, internet etc.
How would you describe your knitting style? Do you have any particular influences?
I play around a lot. It’s largely based around colours – natural colours. But I have found myself really drawn to very bright colours. It is very adventurous to explore. My personal appearance is very simple and so going for these bright colours for my knitting is really good fun.
What kind of things are you making and selling at Chang Crafted?
I would say clothing accessories and a bit of home decor as well.
I recently brought couple of old chairs, stripped them back, re-painted them and reupholstered them. So that’s really good fun. Just a couple of bits for the home. I am also thinking once the baby is born and that I can bend and stretch more that I might do some more of that in my garage.
Apart from that I knit baby blankets, yoga socks, seasonal accessories like gloves and hats etc.
I am also stitching a few things but my sewing machine needs a bit of work first. Once that is done I might explore a bit more into that as well.
What is that one thing you’ve made that you are very proud of?
I have done a blanket just recently, that I was really pleased with. It was just a kids buggy blanket and that’s up for sale. And I have stitched a quilt as well and that one I will be keeping for myself for when the baby is born. That’s my first successful quilt and I am quite proud of that one.
What do you get from knitting?
It’s extremely therapeutic. I am very fidgety. I need something to do all the time with my hands. I can’t sit still for very long. So sitting there knitting or crocheting keeps me busy, but it doesn’t distract me, I can still hold a conversation or keep an eye on the kids, or watch the television. And then when you get this finished project in the end, it’s just the sense of achievement more than anything. I have made these baby blankets and people have come back to me and said, “oh my friend loved your blankets.” You think that its really good. A bit of recognition!
Can you describe your business in 3 words?
Home crafted creations.
Where can we find you/your products?
Tell me a bit about yourself? Who was Fiona Chang before Chang Crafted and how did she come to be in Thanet?
I am a Suffolk girl. I was a police officer in East Anglia before. I had a very busy and hectic life. My life was pretty much orientated around work. Then I had my first son but carried on working. And then on a trip to London, I met Mike. At that time, I had written off any sort of relationships. I was very busy and was very content with my life. But Mike and I just fitted. We could speak for hours, we liked each others company. So we made a very big decision that I was going to move down to Margate to be with him which meant leaving my job. And at that time, they were not hiring anyone here in the police department. On the other hand, my presence meaning me handling all of Mike’s laundry, cooking, housework freed him up. He could concentrate more on his business which meant I didn’t have to or had the need to get a job right away. So I decided to look after our home until something else came up. And I had the idea of wanting to open my own business eventually, and that was quite appealing.
So when you are not doing your husbands laundry or looking after your children or knitting for others, what do you do for fun?
If I really get some time, I love going to the Turner Contemporary. I love trolling all the vintage shops both in Margate and Birchington. And I love cooking! I know that is part of looking after the family but I really enjoy cooking.
Any word of advice for aspiring business women out there or women looking for inspiration?
You know when my first son was born, I thought to myself,”ok this is it. My life is over.” But over the years, because of my son I have come so close to my mother. I am visiting her more and my relationship with her has improved so much. It has really brought the whole family together. And my job, I loved it a lot but it didn’t define who I am and I though I can always find something else that interests me. Also, nothing lasts forever. Your baby is young, you can’t get enough sleep but you know what nothing lasts forever. So embrace every moment and move on. Think positive!
Lastly, everyone around the world is celebrating International Womens’ Day on the 8th March, but we know we are yet to go a long way. What do you think is the biggest problem faced by women in the UK?
When I look at this country, I think we are so fortunate here. People listen to us. We get the support we want especially from the opposite gender like our brothers, fathers and husbands.
I find it sad that in other parts of the world, they don’t get such support at home, let alone from the society.
And that’s where I feel fortunate that my father, brothers and husband will be there for me when I need them. And lack of that in other countries is what I think is one of biggest problems.