My latest sewing muse; plus 7 tips for Budding Indie Designers

It’s been quite some time that I could sit down and enjoy sewing again. Being one who spent most of my adult life sewing for a living; I never had time to simply create. Now, with no brides to tend to, I’m having a new burst of sewing enthusiasm!

I’ve decided to revive my ETSY shop, long neglected after leaving California about 3 years ago. So- I’m making aprons! It’s amazing how fun this is! And the possibilities are endless! What started as an attempt to use up stash, and up-cycle where I could, has resulted in several fabric buying trips. (Keep in mind- I’m now in a small town- No more easy-access giant fabric stores.)

The first of these trips was to an enormous indoor flea market near our home. I discovered the place on a bike ride several months ago. I only made it thru half the building on the first trip, purchasing metal containers for my screen porch to use as plant holders. I noticed a stall with a large amount of decorator fabric samples. These were beautiful, and large enough to make 2 placemats apiece. On this second trip I looked at those again, then quickly lost interest when I peered around the next corner!

There was a HUGE booth with 3 walls of fabric!!! Now, these were all decorator cuts, displayed in cubbies by color. Anywhere from 1.5 to 5 yards each, no cutting allowed. One had to purchase the entire piece.

I ended up buying some heavy weight white cotton twill, a white duck, and the same goods again in a natural color. A good start for developing patterns with. THEN, I delve in deeper towards the other booths. In a few minutes; staying focused on my objective: to hunt down fabrics; I struck gold again! I found a booth loaded with all kinds of lace, trims patterns and other notions. And in the back there were sealed plastic bags of vintage fabrics! I bought up everything in cotton, and avoided some impulse purchases. In this score were some children’s prints, as well as a few others. Choosing only the cottons, I finally made it out of the place with minutes to spare by closing time.

So, home I go, and every last yard gets washed and dried, folded and stacked. With the new vintage goods, I started making aprons for young school kids. My first plan was to make art aprons out of the whites- the kind of basic things that are meant to get- Painted on! There’s only one problem with that… Plain is boring! So, I designed a white apron with printed trim, with the facings turned to the outside. A few for boys, a few for girls. 2 sizes. Next up; there was some lightweight denim. I drafted a new pattern with a sandwich board shape, round corners- side ties. Using the same 2 prints for trim as before, but a different result. Then, the upcycle jeans bug bit me!!! Adapting my first basic pattern, with a different trim, I made 3 little girls’ denim aprons with white and blue trim. The big change to the first pattern was the neckline and the width. I made a neck peice that was shaped like a deep back-neck facing, and closed in a snap with a ruffle. Proceed to sew up 3 of those- all that white and blue cotton would allow.

Sew up a few more sandwich style- suddenly I have a closet full! The necessity of a model posed it’s own issue. I have no little kids in my family! And even though there is a school yard 2 blocks away, I wasn’t about to approach a child! Lucky me, I found a pattern on ETSY for young children’s mannequins! (I’ll write a post on making the mannequins and a link to the shop soon!) I printed out the pattern, and found a purpose for that super thick white twill. Now, my plan was to make 2 of these, in fact I did. Only one got stuffed. It took so much stuffing, that I had to use every last bit of stuffing I had; even scraps and overlock trimmings went into this thing!

I’m sitting here feeling quite pleased with myself!

After a month of steady sewing, Here are 7 tips for you Young Indie Designers out there-

  1. When designing new styles; remember that patternmaking and sewing prototypes is not profitable. Don’t be discouraged! I’ve been working on these all month and am just ironing out the details in my processes. Literally! You will make a profit later after you get your methods refined.
  2. In the initial design development phase, use all your trims and goods on hand until they are depeleted. Or until you have a clear sense of where you need to spend your money. Then, plan out your spending! Do not get carried away in the fabric store! If you have a coupon, use it. Remember- those stores (Joanne’s) issue new coupons nearly every other day.
  3. Do not make the mistake of constantly re-inventing your items or your process. It’s O.K. to draft a basic pattern that can be sewn up in several fabrics, but if you are constantly feeling like nothing is good enough, you will never be ready for market.
  4. Try to get into a 6 month-ahead rhythym. Fall is on top of us now. We should have our Holiday merchandise nearly ready to list, if we haven’t done so already. In all truth, I should be thinking about next year’s Bridal accessory market, and working on white goods. The reality is though, I still need to take photos and list the kid’s back to school aprons. If you find yourself like me, always running the machine up to the break of a season, we are never really ready. And another season passes us by. Not unlike the surfer who just can’t catch a wave! But we have to set goals, and work on reaching them. Giving up is not an option! Not if you want to go from hobbyist to Professional with your crafting and sewing biz.
  5. Do the research. What customer base are you trying to reach? Style, fabrics, price, your own skill level. Take a real look at what you can do without getting in over your head. Do you have workspace and equipment to cut and sew a large stack of fabric? Or are you like me- downsized to the dining table, and a smaller than ideal sewing area? Or are you blessed with the finances to pay for help? If so, then stick with designing, and hire out the sewing! (But if you’re on that level, you probably don’t need to read this.)
  6. Whatever you do, strive for the highest and most consistent quality you are able to offer. Your reputation is at stake, and the repeat customer is well worth cultivating.
  7. Enjoy the process! It will take time to learn what works and what doesn’t. The take-away is this: Design development is expensive and time consuming. You may or may not have a line ready one season, but if you stay focused and diligent; it will all come together!

Happy crafting; and an early Happy Holidays! Karen

SewInLabel - Copy

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Karen L. King-Gonzales

Hi! I'm a retired Bridal Designer, and am now spending my time getting back to pleasure crafts! My husband and I are still newlyweds, nearing our 3rd anniversary on October 2. I was single 33 years! We moved across the country from Phoenix Arizona, to Lumberton N. Carolina. The slower lifestyle agrees with us! Both empty-nesters, Jim and I are finishing the work on the 1950's bungalow style cottage. Fortunately, this home has a huge addition.... adding about 40% to the original size. Having to quit the sewing trade due to a disability, I spend my time on projects for home, family, and pleasure- as I feel able. Jim, now a Pastor/Judeo Christian Rabbi; is retired from the tile trade, and currently joins his friend in local ministry. This includes a bible study twice a week at a local prison. Join us as I document the journey in our changing lives!

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