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Make Baby Stuff Newsletter, Issue #002 -- Vintage Baby Patterns
March 18, 2008
This monthly newsletter is brought to you from the Make Baby Stuff website. Each issue brings you up to date with new crafty happenings, contests, instructions, reader questions, more tips and our featured crafty artist of the month! It is your kick in the pants to get crafty!
Plus, a whole new Make Baby Food section is in progress!
Coming Soon! - We will be working on our DIY baby carrier section next and will be having our very first contest! Get pics ready of your DIY or altered baby carriers (wraps, pouches, mei tais, ssc, ring slings) to submit for your chance to win a dyed purple Leo Storchenwiege baby wrap! Stay tuned!
Check our Newest Tutorials Page for More New Articles! Our newest tutorials page lists all the newest projects as soon as they go live on the site! Never miss a new tutorial by simply checking this page.
Who: Jennifer McMullen of Dishy Duds is a crafty mumpreneur who sews hip monster shirts, diaper bags and other one of a kind baby and kids clothing. Dishy Duds has been in business for over 5 years and she manages to juggle it while raising her two sons. As if she isn't busy enough, the family will welcome a baby sister from Ethiopia this May. Congrats!
What led you to starting Dishy Duds? Have you always been crafty?
I can't remember not being crafty. I've always enjoyed making things, my mom is the oldest of 7 children, so she was thrifty by default. Whenever possible, she would make things versus buying. We always made our own playdough and melted old crayons to make new ones, and she sewed quite a few outfits for my brother and I. I remember thinking how cool it was that you could make things from items you already had at home; this was fascinating to me.
My educational background is in engineering. After I graduated college, I worked in factories that manufactured things like seats and construction equipment, so I worked a lot with welding and metal fabrication. I decided to get my masters degree while I was working and I graduated two weeks before my first child was born. Then, we moved across the country from east Tennessee to Portland, Oregon. The factory that I had worked at for 5 years was closing and my husband had an opportunity to come out here and work. The timing seemed perfect so we went for it.
I looked for engineering work in Portland to no avail without any luck. And that's when it struck me: why not try something I've always wanted but never had the opportunity to do so? My mom taught me to sew a little when I was maybe 8 or 9, so I knew a tiny bit from her. So. I went and bought a $100 sewing machine and worked like crazy, everyday, trying to make things I loved. At this time, I had one child and he was in school 2 days/week as I was looking for work, so I used this time to teach myself to sew and build my website. I learned how to do basic website construction while working at my engineering job, after the web designer resigned, so this was very helpful as well as well. And, it all just kinda happened from there!
What inspires you? How or where do you get ideas for your designs?
This is always a tough question for me. I can never actually pinpoint what "it" is that gets the creativity flowing (if I could I would repeat it as much as possible!). Creating is an outlet for me, so I suppose when I'm in a certain "mood" (good or bad), I get down to business and try and lay out what I'm feeling with fabric. For example, I recently designed a tote from things found in my grandma's attic, because she was on my mind and I was feeling sorrowful that she's so far away. Or, I think about clothes construction often and put patterns together in my head, sketch it out on paper, then choose fabrics. The weather inspires also, I suppose. When spring starts to show, I want to make things reminiscent of that, and when it's raining, well, it's raining.
I like contrast so I tend to combine fashion from different periods, cultures, and interesting personalities. I seem to enjoy complexity versus simplicity with design, lines that are uneven but somehow come together, colors that aren't complimentary with one another but work anyway, ruffles and eyelet with pleather. Obscurity seems to make a huge impression with me.
What other baby or kid craft items do you like to make?
I make a lot of stuff for my own kids or friend's kids. Lately, my oldest son has been drawing creature patterns and then he picks out fabric and we cut it out and I sew up the creature. I sometimes make pillows and curtains, and other items for the house. At this moment, I'm making a bunch of large fabric boxes and thinking about a dress I might design for a friend's new clothing line.
When do you find the time to create? What are your tips for balancing business, self and family?
This is always tricky. I started my business when I basically had daycare 2 days/week and was pregnant with our second child. So, I was able to get a lot done at that time. (As a matter of fact, I can't remember having that much time to myself at any other point in my life.) Our second child was a champion napper, so I was still able to get quite a bit done while he napped in the morning and my older son was in pre-K then, 3 mornings a week. For the first couple of years, my business was always in my head (inspiration was easy and natural), I would contemplate and think about new designs or new site additions or e-mails I need to send and then prioritize a list in my head so that as soon as baby was sleeping, I would jump on the list.
Spring is always my refreshment time. I cease placing wholesale orders and take everything down a notch to revive creativity. My husband travels constantly this time of year, so it just works out that way and now I find myself looking forward to it after all the holiday craft show madness. For me, it is completely necessary or I would become very burned out. My younger son is in pre-K two mornings per week now, so this is the time I make orders and work on new items.
During summer months, my boys are outside squirting each other with the water hose or digging in the dirt most days, so I have more time to focus on work. Somedays, I tote my sewing machine outside on the picnic table! This summer, we will have a new baby so I'm not sure how everything will work out with schedule/etc, but that's OK.
Every mom is the ultimate multi-tasker, regardless of whether or not they own a business. I suppose the business just adds another layer of chaos and my best coping strategy has been to try and remain cool in the craziness. If you love what you do, the juggling seems worth it, even if you drop a few balls now and again. And for me, sewing and creating are a passion so I look at it as a privilege most days, instead of yet another thing on my plate.
I guess the answer to this question is : I don't know. I just try to not get in a rut by not being afraid to try new things, take risks, not be afraid of failure, and grow as a woman, mom, wife and business owner.
Do you have any future plans for your business?
This will sound ridiculous, but no. I'm sure any business professional would tell me I'm doomed to failure with no future plan. But everyone has a different definition of success. For the last 2-3 years, I have been working with seamstresses, developing the line and filling wholesale accounts, when I took a giant step back and realized that producing things again and again and again was kind of sucking the joy out of the business for me. But this is how I "thought" I would be successful, turning a larger profit and doing what I love. The only problem was, I didn't really "love" it anymore. So I decided to go back to my "roots" so to speak and only make one-of-a-kind items. Some might refer to this business model as more of a hobby and less of a business but so what, refer away. For me, it's always been about putting clothing together in an unusual and fun way and seeing kids enjoy wearing my clothing, so I'm kinda back to this now. It feels good.
I will say that any business will having growing pains and that's the moment the decision comes down, to move forward or stick to small. I happened to choose the supposed "right" thing to do when I met this crossroad, (to increase profit), but it turned out to be not-so right for me personally. Howeverrrr, I learned a lot from that, so there you go!
If you were a vegetable, which one would it be and why?
A tomato, so I could know what it's like to be both fruit and veggie and not many people would bite into me.
Check out her hip duds at Dishy Duds and buy handmade!
PS - Don't miss this cool Make Your Own Monster Face feature of her site!
Spring is just around the corner and with it brings spring cleaning...which of course supplies the thrift stores, garage sales and flea markets! Yay! I adore this time of year and love to scavenge thrift shops and eBay for vintage goodies to incorporate into my crafting.
Lately, I can't get enough vintage baby patterns, buttons and trims. Rare vintage patterns with designs that stood the test of time and suddenly look modern again? Multi-colored vintage buttons down the back of a girl's sundress? Vintage eyelet trim around the brim of a sunhat? I'm addicted!
You can find bulk lots of vintage buttons on eBay for just a few dollars. Vintage button lots will be dirty and will need to be sorted through, which is actually my favorite part. Broken buttons and other junk need to be carefully picked out and the keepers cleaned. I soak mine in a mixture of 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 water and scrub a little with a kitchen brush if needed. The vinegar eliminates any musty or smokey vintage smells.
Vintage trims (embroidered, lace, eyelet, etc) are lovely for using on baby girl dresses, hats or doll clothes because you don't need very much. A quick 1/2 water and 1/2 vinegar soak will also do the trick if these smell musty, as they often do.
Last but not least, vintage baby sewing patterns are a surefire way to inspire you to use up your vintage buttons and trims. Simple gowns, bonnets and dresses in vintage styles yet done in modern fabrics will have everyone asking, "Where did you get that?"
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As our site and community grows, I hope that you drop me a line and tell me what crafty baby stuff you are up to! Did you make something that was inspired by something on our site? Pretty please play "show and tell" with the rest of us! Often, having an audience for your crafting is just a kick in the pants that you need to get working.
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