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This Emerging Textile Designer Creates Handcrafted Homewares That Feel Like Future Heirlooms

Studio Visit

Megan McNeill’s first job out of uni was at a bed linen brand, where she worked 9-5, while also running her own independent fashion label, Rouda. She put out two collections, all whilst still working her full-time job, so it’s safe to say this Melbourne-based creative was born to be in textiles!

After a stint in London working for a print studio, Megan returned to Australia over a year ago and launched her own textile brand – Trinket Solo – all on her own.

Now, she designs and tufts her collection of rich, textural cushions, rugs and blankets from a warehouse space in Brunswick that she shares with a coterie of fab, women-led creative businesses. Living the dream!

18th November, 2021

Megan tufting designs vertically! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Megan in the studio, surrounded by her own works. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Shaving the finished covers. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

To make each piece, Megan traces the design onto the backing cloth which is then stretched over a large frame. She then uses a tufting gun to stitch the yarn into the backing cloth. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Megan started out in a small nook in a shared space in the warehouse, and has now graduated to her own private room! Which is good because the tufting gun is noisy… Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Megan spends half her time on Trinket Solo and the other half on freelance design work for brands like Oroton, Sister Studios and Adairs. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Being a one-woman-show means Megan spends more time on the things that don’t come natural (like marketing!), so the design side of things is almost a breeze! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

A shelf of textures and inspirations. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Megan pulling together the designs for her third and latest collection, Delve. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Hand-sewing some pieces. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The tufted cushions are made to order, and can take around 2-3 weeks to complete. Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

The Trinket Solo offering includes bolsters, cushions, blankets and rugs in all manner of colours! Photo – Amelia Stanwix.

Sasha Gattermayr
Thursday 18th November 2021

‘I like how old things can be seen in a new light, and I hope I can continue to re-interpret old textiles into my collections.’ – Megan McNeill

Ever since Megan McNeill was a child, textiles have the been the central focus of her life. From designing and sewing her own clothes, to experimenting with embellishments and embroidery – fabrics and prints have been her destiny!

After completing a bachelor of Textile Design, she worked in all facets of the industry, from homewares and fashion to print-making. After a few years working in the rag trade, the textile designer decided it was time to get back into homewares, and started envisioning ways the handtufted rugs and wall hangings she had been making could become collections of hand-tufted cushions and printed textiles for the home.

Thus, Trinket Solo was born.

With a collaboration with superstar ceramicist Tantri Mustika on the cards for early next year, and a firm commitment to local manufacturing, handmaking and limiting waste, Trinket Solo is one emerging design brand to watch. This might be the first you’re hearing of Megan, but guaranteed it won’t be the last!

Hey Megan! First things first, tell us about this fab creative space you’re in alongside other women-owned and operated small businesses.

My studio is located in Brunswick in an old warehouse that I’m lucky to share with many other female-led small businesses including Sister Studios, Kannava Jewels, Blazed Wax, Hello Sisi, Katie Maud, Mosey Me, Lois Hazel and Simetrie. We are all really open and transparent with each other about how we operate and the support has been invaluable while starting and growing a small business. It’s been so nice feeling part of a community, and this working environment has really helped me grow professionally and creatively.

I’ve been in there since 2018, when I had a tiny nook behind the stairs in the communal working area, but now I have been able to get my own private room. The only time when I close my door is when I am tufting, which is really loud – I like to feel like I’m always part of the action.

When and why did you start Trinket Solo?

I launched Trinket Solo just over a year ago, but the idea was in the pipeline for a while before that. After enduring the churn and burn lifestyle that was working in fast fashion, I needed to have a creative outlet that allowed me to slow down, and the tufted rugs and wall hangings that I was making were getting a good response.

Is this what you do full-time?

Right now I split my time between Trinket Solo and my freelance textile design work 50/50. I run Trinket Solo on my own, so I assume every role in the business, which means that I can end up spending too much time on things I’m not the strongest at – like marketing. A lot of hours go into making each product, but I am happy that I can still have a strong connection to the pieces. Hopefully one day I can spend more time being a designer, but at the moment, I am loving all the different roles being a business owner means having to take on and am learning so much.

When I am not working on Trinket Solo, I am designing prints for a few Australian fashion and homewares brands such as Sister Studios, Oroton, Variety Hour and Adairs. I can be working on a feminine watercolour floral design that will go on a dress one day, then the next I could be painting a still life arrangement for a wall art print. It’s really exciting working closely with the designers and seeing their collections develop and how the prints I create work back in with everything.

What is the process of actually making one of your pieces? 

I make all of the tufted pieces here in my studio. First, I trace off the design on the backing cloth which I stretch over a large frame and use a tufting gun to essentially stitch the yarn into the backing cloth.

Some of the pieces can take under an hour to tuft, but the larger and more involved ones with multiple colours, techniques and pile heights can take many hours to complete.

The other pieces in the collection that aren’t tufted are cut and sewn up here in Melbourne by an Ethical Clothing Australia accredited manufacturer. It’s really important for me to use local manufacturing where I can.

How do you source and incorporate deadstock into your pieces?

When I was researching where to get my pieces made, I was visiting a lot of furnishing manufacturers and upholsterers. They would often have a lot of excess furnishing fabrics they were selling off, some of them were really old and beautiful. Right now the tufted pieces are the heroes of the collection, and in the new collection the deadstock fabrics coordinate back into it. I like how old things can be seen in a new light, and I hope I can continue to re-interpret these old textiles into my collections.

I have a few pieces in this collection made from deadstock vintage Italian jacquard fabric – the Jean cushion and the Giro bolster which are made here in Melbourne. The fabric is in the perfect shade of peach (probably from the 80’s or 90’s) and the yarns are woven to look like moiré and have a shiny and matte finish.

Your third collection ‘Delve’ involved a deep dive into archives and historical research. Do you have any key references or inspirations for your pieces?

The direction for the collection Delve came from looking through online museum archives and drawing inspiration from anything from a marble pattern painted in gouache for an interior design sketch, the lines and clay colours of ancient ceramic vessels or the geometric shape of art deco furniture and architectural details. I wasn’t inspired by one singular place or era, but modernist design – particularly the work of Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers, influential weavers of the Bauhaus – is always on my radar.

Not being able to go to galleries, museums or look through antique stores was something I really yearned for through lockdown, I was missing that feeling of discovery. So being able to access a lot of these things online was the next best thing to get my fix.

What does art-making mean to you, and what do you hope to communicate?

Making art is a way to share and communicate my world – or where I escape to people. The most exciting art works or design I have ever seen make it seem like time is slowing down and you feel like you are taken somewhere else.

Shop Trinket Solo pieces on the online store here. Tufted pieces are made to order with a 2-3 week turnaround and commissions are available.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net