Thursday, 17 December 2015


This is Karyn Fairburn of *AsQ Design*! Based in Masterton, Karyn sews children's and womenswear using retro and new fabrics and up-cycling things such as curtains, sheets, duvets and tablecloths to make into unique, one-of-a-kind fashion pieces. Watch her video interview below:

"I sew mainly for kids because I have a slight fabric addiction. When I go fabric shopping, I like to buy just one metre per fabric. Then I can only get one dress, and maybe a skirt out of that one piece. And that way everything is one-off. I like that. I like to wear clothes that nobody else has."

Finding her fabrics mostly online and in second-hand shops, she is now starting to use new fabrics as well, as she reckons second-hand shops aren't what they used to be. Maybe she's pillaged them all already?

I filmed Karyn making a dress so we could see the process, she finished it in 21 minutes! Talented lady! You can see the video here, and the finished dress at the end, modelled by her cute-as-a-kitten daughter Nina:

"I like to mix fabric patterns. And that's quite hard sometimes, but that's the challenge, and I think it works. My style is bright, bold, and old school. I like 50's and 60's, I like buttons... Colour I think is the main thing. And not too many pinks!"

Pink does sell well, but Karyn likes to stay clear of clichés with girls' clothing.  She finds boys' stuff very tricky:

"Boys' stuff is very tricky, I find. It's very hard to find cool fabrics that are boy-friendly, that are not just trucks, or things with branding. I definitely won't touch branded things.... maybe Star Wars. Star Wars is alright. I love paisley, florals and things on boys. A lot of people don't though! So I don't do many boys' things. I get told that a lot, I need to have more of them."

One of Karyn's reversible waistcoats for boys (or girls!)

She makes all her own garment patterns, having mastered the technique during three years of fashion school. 
Rita Dress
Girls' Skirt
Winter Jacket

She has made over 700 pinafores and over 100 winter jackets. Some of her designs include The Rita Dress: "I call it the 'Rita Dress' because it's the name I wanted for my child but my husband wouldn't let me." The Wendy Dress: "A nice easy pop-over-the-head thing with a knit top and little puff sleeves. I call it the 'Wendy Dress' because it has a peter pan collar". She also does little halter-necks, and skirts for children sizes 1 through to 5. And Bibs! "With flannelette on the front, and micro-fleece on the back which keeps them warm and dry". I liked the one with skulls on it.

She is creating more adult stuff, and has now started making her adults' skirts in two pieces so that she can easily sew them up to a customer's measurements anywhere between size 8 to 18, and then post them out.

Ladies skirt in glorious colours

Karyn works with Connie the Consew, her beloved industrial vintage sewing machine, bought for around $300 over ten years ago on Trademe. "Strong enough to go through your bone", if you should happen to sew your finger. Which Karyn has done. Three times! Which now apparently makes her officially a professional! Like this was the proof we needed...

Karyn's daughter Bonnie wearing a Rita Dress

Working around taking care of her two- and six-year-old daughters, Karyn takes every chance she gets to spend in her 'adult wendy house' a.k.a. sewing room making her fun pieces which she sells online. She also sells at markets: the New Rags Market in Masterton, the Wellington Underground Market on the waterfront and Martinborough Fair to name a few... however she sometimes finds markets challenging, going through moments of insecurity that most artists and creative people experience:

"It's very hard selling yourself. Every time you make something, I feel like it's a piece of yourself. And if you get, even just one person who doesn't like it, it's really hard to experience the rejection. My god! Rejection. On the other hand, another good thing about markets is you meet a lot of nice people, and you get a lot of compliments too. I do get paid in compliments a lot."

Which doesn't pay the bills. That's why Karyn's dream is to have a store stock her items, so that she can stay at home in her little spotty sewing room (her description!) and sew to her heart's content.

The name asQ Design comes from her maiden name Askew, which she was still using when she began her sewing addiction.

Karyn's online store - asQ Design

Karyn has an online store and a Facebook page for her garments. Customers can also email her their requirements at to order a custom-made garment. She likes it when a customer posts an 'action shot' to FB, that is, a photograph of themselves or their children wearing a garment they have bought from her (the adults wearing the adult clothes, not the children's clothes they bought, that would be creepy, and they'd probably rip them). 

"They are specialty dresses really. People wear them for special occasions. And they last!"

Not if mummy tries to get into them.

I hope you've enjoyed meeting Karyn! I think she's wonderful and marvellously talented.
I shall be taking a hiatus over the christmas and new year's break and will be back in early 2016 to share the interviews of more creative geniuses. Genii? Geni?

My pot plant is starting to smell funny so I need to give up plural pondering and go sort it out, here is a song by Leonard Cohen to accompany my departure: 

Adieu! And best wishes for the last few weeks of 2015! 

No comments:

Post a Comment