Editor’s Note: The feeling of making something with my own two hands is not only one of the most empowering things I do but also fills me with an incredible sense of pride. When I craft with others I get all that goodness plus the feeling of being part of a community and sharing in the creative process. This sense of belonging and creativity is what our conference, Craftcation is all about. At this years Craftcation, we welcomed Heidi and Nancy of Sewing Bird. It was a natural fit since their thoughtfully produced embroidered quilt kits embody that same sense of kinship and artistry that Craftcation strives for. I’m excited to share more about their business and journey with you all. -Nicole S.
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELVES:
We are Heidi and Nancy, Designers and co-owners of Sewing Bird.
What do you make or do?
We design and create beautiful embroidered baby quilt kits.
NANCY: We met on a tv show years ago (Heidi was designing the costumes and I was one of the actors wearing them!) and quickly discovered that we shared a big interest in quilting, embroidery, knitting… and all manner of needle arts. We kept in touch and would share our stories of helping our family, friends, and colleagues make group quilts for baby showers.
We gradually discovered what worked and what didn’t. Soon we found a way to design and facilitate a group quilt so that it would be a fun activity and result in a beautiful keepsake. Since we can’t be multiple places at once, we created a quilt kit so anyone could do it! As we developed the kit there were so many elements to consider…We wanted the images to be fun with a range of options accessible to both beginners and the more experienced crafter. We wanted the fabrics to be special, so went looking for cotton lawns, chambray, linens… fabrics you might not find at a quilt shop. Coordinating the colors and embroidery images is definitely the most fun for us. We knew we would be starting as a boutique offering with smaller runs to insure unique quilts and be able to bring in new fabrics. From the different stitches used, to the placement of colors, every one of these finished quilts tell a unique story.
Where can we find you?
Is there any back story to the name of your company?
Well, a sewing bird is a tool used during the Victorian era. It was a clamp, most often in the shape of a bird, that could be attached to a table. The bird’s beak serves as a “3rd hand” holding your fabric taut so you could sew seams by hand. We thought, let us be your “3rd hand” and help you make a treasure!
Where do you find inspiration?
NANCY: From redwork embroidery (popular in the 1800s to mid century) vintage images found on household linens, and all manner of fashion embellishment informed our choices.
There is a huge interest in embroidery these days. I especially love Jenny Hart’s Sublime Stitching, Yumiko Hamiguchi, Tilleke Schwarz…so much inspiration.
HEIDI: I find inspiration in so many ways from looking at the way nature combines colors and shapes to walking through an art gallery and looking at the masters. But I think what really influences and inspires me when working on our quilt collections are historical costumes. I love looking a the needlework involved in creating the garment, the fabric design, and of course the embroidery, which was a common way to embellish clothes.
Did someone influence you?
NANCY: My mother gave me a sewing machine when I was a teenager. It was a wonderful gift. I am a process person, so I want to figure it out, like a puzzle. Finishing isn’t as much fun for me. And I guess I could say that my Sewing Bird partner, Heidi, influences me as we have spent so much time together working on these kits!
HEIDI: My influence definitely came from my mother. She was born in Switzerland and immigrated to the US in her mid-teens with her family. Like so many different cultures, knitting, sewing, and embroidery were skills passed down from mother to daughter. I learned to knit and embroider around the age of six. I started knitting washcloths and embroidering simple line drawings that I would trace from my coloring books on to pieces of white cotton cloth. Looking back, the most important part about learning these skills was how my mother made them fun. There was no criticizing about my inconsistent stitches; we just kept making things and gradually my abilities became more refined. I have taught my daughter these same skills. She has embroidered some really fun anime quilts!
WHAT OBSTACLES HAVE YOU HAD TO OVERCOME TO LEAD A CREATIVE LIFE?.
HEIDI: Figuring out how to have enough time to be creative. There’s never enough time!
WHEN NOT MAKING THINGS, WHAT DO YOU DO?
HEIDI: My job can be very creative. I’m a Costume Designer for the Television and Film industry. This means I can be called upon to design all types of costumes from fantasy to historical. The downsides of this creative job are the constant time limitations and budget demands, which can be very stressful. So making things for friends and family gives me a chance to be creative – in a different relaxed way.
NANCY: I am almost ALWAYS making things. I am a bit fidgety and am usually accompanied by some knitting or embroidery. I am an actor by trade and there can be a lot of waiting on a set, which is perfect for portable projects. I am currently working on a comedy for TBS called People of Earth (Aliens, anyone?). I requested that the character I am playing would be a knitter, so I am often knitting during scenes. This past season I had some cast and crew members join me in making a “many hands” quilt (each person embroidered a square) using a Sewing Bird embroidery kit. It’s so cute when everyone adds their own stitches and embellishments.
WHAT’S ON THE HORIZON FOR YOU AND WHAT YOU DO?
NANCY: Since we love the design process so much, we are always planning the next kits and imagining other products to add to our line- for example: items that do not need any finishing and that can be quickly made.
HEIDI: We are excited about introducing our product to a wider audience! Watching people make these heirloom quilts for a new child is really a touching experience. There is nothing better than when the child loves and bonds with the quilt.