CNA grad can spin a good yarn!

3/10/2015 3:31:00 PM

Mount Pearl native, Erin Kirby, found her niche through her business FiberLilly in St. John’s. A graduate of College of the North Atlantic’s Textiles: Craft Apparel and Design program, Erin started her company to meet a marketplace demand for a specialty fabric.

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Like any artist, Erin Kirby’s passion started at a very early age. The 31-year-old Mount Pearl native nurtured her crafty inventive side throughout the years and flourished under the influence of her creative parents. That love of crafts has led to two diplomas and satisfying career.
Erin says she has been sewing for approximately 27 years and became an entrepreneur before she could even spell the word.
“When I was little girl I used to make clothes for my Barbies,” said Erin. “My mom and dad both sewed and I would find little scraps of fabrics. I don’t think I couldn’t even write yet but I would take little pieces of fabric, cut them out to make patterns and start sewing, stapling and gluing things together.”
Despite this passion, when it came time to choose a path for her education, Erin was unsure. She took a year off after high school and then tried her hand at Memorial University where she enrolled in general studies. After deciding it wasn’t a good fit, she enrolled in the Interior Decorating program at Lawrence College.
Erin graduated with honours in 2004 and worked in the industry for about a year, however it still wasn’t what she sought as a career.
“I liked interior decorating, and I still like it, but I just wanted to sew. I was more interested in making drapes than decorating,” she said. “The closest thing to sewing in Newfoundland was Textiles Studies (now known as Textiles: Craft Apparel and Design) at College of the North Atlantic (CNA).”
She said there were two factors that helped her choose the program. She lacked the confidence at that time to pursue costuming at larger institutions, and it was financially feasible.
“I felt the program (at CNA) was a good stepping stone for doing costume studies and that maybe it would give me the confidence I needed to decide if I would do costuming or not. I guess I didn’t feel like I was good enough to go to school to focus on just costuming. Textiles had a lot of different things so I thought it could show me what I really enjoy.”
This self-professed “homebody” also didn’t want to move off the Rock.
“I wanted to stay here. I didn’t want to move away to a different province. I love Newfoundland and all of my family is here. Even when I go on vacation I miss home. Every time I go somewhere, I’m like, ‘it’s not as nice as home.’ I’m a true Newfoundlander,” she said with a chuckle.
“Also, the college has a wicked reputation so I knew it would be a good step for me and something good would come from it. The program is good, the institution is good and a lot of people get jobs after going to CNA.”
However, she cautions the program isn’t for everyone.
“It was really, really challenging. I loved all of the stuff I got to do, but it was hard. We did about eight courses a semester. It’s not just studying and having an exam. It is hands-on work and you need to have practical work done almost every week in pretty much every course. It was challenging, but it was fun and we got to do things like doll making and paper making.”
She says the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s, where the program is housed, is a very inspiring space.
“I went to school with a lot of really creative people and the instructors were creative so it kept your mind going and made you want to do better. I think people should really think about if it’s right for them before they do it because it is a lot of work. People think ‘oh, it’s crafts – it’s easy’, but it’s not. To be a crafts person there are a lot of hours and a lot of dedication involved. If you’re into crafts and any type of textile art, definitely do it, but you have to apply yourself.”
Erin graduated with honours in 2008 and had a job lined up before graduation, but something was still missing.
“I was working for other people, managing different places, and I found it frustrating because there were things I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the power to make those types of decisions,” Erin said.
After four years of working in various roles within the industry, occasionally teaching sewing at the Anna Templeton Centre, as well as working under contract as a designer and seamstress for companies such as Lululemon Athletica, Erin identified a need in the province – and the next step in her career path.
“My seamstress friends, along with my students, were always remarking on how someone needed to open a high-end fabric store. It was a mixture of that and wanting to work for myself. I figured if you are going to fail, fail on your own, instead of having someone else holding the reins.”
Through Metro Business Opportunities, Erin was told about a program offered through the YMCA that provides help with business plans. A year later, with a business plan in hand, Erin says it was obvious there was a gap in the marketplace for a speciality fabric store that supplied Minky, knit prints and silk, as well as eco-friendly fabrics.
“I completed my plan and was lucky enough that Futurprenear Canada seemed to believe in my idea! They provided me with not just financial support, but also the help of a mentor.”
That’s when FiberLilly was born.
“Without Futurpreneur Canada, I would not have been able to open FiberLilly. One of the main reasons I wanted to open FiberLilly, besides the fact that I've always wanted to own my own business, is that I have always loved sewing!
“This (Textiles) program changed my life. It opened my eyes to what kinds of arts and crafts were out there and to what I could do. FiberLilly was greatly inspired by what I learned from CNA.”
And through FiberLilly, Erin has finally found her niche. 
“I get to do what I love every day, all day long. I get to sew which is great, but I also get to help other people create things. I get to help customers from start to finish. It’s nice to be able to share crafts with other people. It’s really why I opened FiberLilly – to grow the craft community in St. John’s.”
For more information about the specialty products offered at FiberLilly visit For information about CNA’s Textiles: Craft Apparel and Design program visit
Media Contact:
Glenda McCarthy
Public Relations Specialist
College of the North Atlantic