Friday, November 26, 2010

Blatant Self Promotion

I am not the type of person who is incline to blow my own horn. I am the kind of person who gets on with the job and just assumes that everyone knows that what I do is great quality. But if you haven't seen my work in person, it can be hard to tell from pictures. So I thought I would give a more in depth behind the scenes look at what I do and how I do it. My disclaimer is that this is how I do things. I am in no way criticizing or passing judgment on anyone else. This is totally about me!

For my t-shirts and knit items I mostly use Australian made cotton/spandex knit. It's manufactured here in Sydney. I've been using this fabric for a few years now. Me, Moo and Will all have clothes made out it, so I know it holds up with lots of wearing and washing. I really like the quality of the fabric and the colours available. The organic cotton/spandex knit that I dye also comes from this manufacturer. Most of the printed knits that I use are Hilco or Stenzo.  I do sometime use some knit prints from American sources like the dress I made for Moo the other day.

Wovens are more of a mixed bag. My white poplin comes from a wholesaler, and it is made in China. I sometimes buy wovens from Spotlight and of course, I buy European wovens. I also have some designer quilting cottons that I use. I personally find a decent printed poplin from Spotlight washes and wears better than some quilting cottons. Poplins wrinkle less than quilting fabrics. I love corduroy, and buy and use a variety. If Spotlight has a cute cord, I will buy it. I also really like  Robert Kaufman Cool Cords and the corduroy from Stenzo and Hilco is fantastic.

I prewash and tumble dry my fabrics to ensure that you get minimal shrinkage.
I stabilise the shoulder seams with stay tape. This is probably over engineering for a child's top, but it's the scientist in me coming out.

stay tape in seam

I topstitch seams where appropriate. I do this for stability and sometimes as a design feature.


Because I construct most t-shirts in the flat, it is necessary to tack down the seams

seam tack down

I use quality supplies. Most of the threads are Gutermann or Mettler. I do have a few spools of Rasant around. For machine embroidery I use Isacord threads.


I buy good quality elastic from the wholesaler. Most of my embroidery stabilisers are OESD or Gutermann. My mother always told me to use good quality items because it wasn't worth it to use cheap stuff.  She said,  "why would you invest your time in sewing a garment to then have it not hold up or look nice because of inferior materials?"
When I sew items to sell, they are the same as I would make for me and my family.

I'm sure many home sewists like to ignore the labour. I have always under calculated it. I probably still do.
Many of the items that I make are multi-coloured. This has several implications.
  • I have to pull out and cut the appropriate pieces from each colour of fabric.  For a rainbow long sleeve Antonia I have to cut 15 pieces.  
  • If I cut a bunch of pieces, I have to sew them together. 
  • Each time that I topstitch, I change thread colours to match.  A rainbow Redondo skirt uses 6 different colours of thread.
Many of the machine embroidery designs that I use have a lot of thread changes.  This means that I have to hang about to switch threads.   And if there are appliques, I have to carefully trim the applique fabrics.  Hooray for duckbill scissors!

Peace Imke Love Bus
The large size of the much loved Love Bus embroidery has 21000 stitches and 21 colours.   It also has 4 different fabrics appliqued.  It takes me an hour just to stitch out this design.

Sewing on ribbons, patches and other bits takes time to get the right placement.  

And now as I analyse what I do, I realise that I rarely take into account the design process:  the picking of fabrics, embroideries and trims and the thread colour selection for the embroideries.

Why have I written this essay?  Perhaps it's a bit of a justification of the price and also to give some insight into my process.

All willow & moo items are handmade by me with love and care with the intention of bringing some colour and fun into your home.


sue niven said...

A Fabulous post! Love reading about how they create their beautiful things. I to appreciate quality construction done with love and care.

willow and moo said...

Thanks Sue! Can I just say that I sat on this post all day debating whether to publish it or not. I always worry that it might come across the wrong way.

Kaja said...

Totally agree with you! I don't do stabilizers on shoulder seams, but everything else I do the same!

We had a campaign in my company a while ago. "If you can't do it right the first time, when will you ever have time to redo it!"

I try to live by that!

Tracy aka Mad Quilter said...

excellent post Sara. Lilly just saw the lovebus.."is that my jumper?" :D She loves it. Everything we have of yours has been washed and worn over and over. It's still beautiful and loved. The boys adore their imkes too and the rainbow skirts are a well commented on favorite. I don't mind paying higher prices for quality clothes the kids will grow out of rather than wear out of. I can see all the clothes I have of yours being passed down to Heather and Michael and then being gifted on.

Chantal said...

Great post Sara. It's so easy to forget what goes into the making of products when you're not making them yourself. I think your kids t's always look great anyway but I would never have guessed that you had put so much work into selecting the particular materials required to make such a special garment. Thanks for sharing.

NessaKnits said...

I appeciate your explanation of the time and care taken with each of your finished pieces of art.

NessaKnits said...

appreciate! whoops! It is all these silly word verification words getting to me! LOL

pink and green mama MaryLea said...

Thanks so much for sharing your process and about your materials. Your stuff is beautiful, colorful, and obviously made with great care and attention to detail!!

: )

SpiralStone said...

Two products online can look identical but the construction and materials are often completely different ... the price often reflects how each product is made. Often customers can't recognise the difference (which is understandable because they're buying what they see in the photo), and therefore don't understand the price difference. What I'm trying to say is that I completely understand why you hesitated posting this but I'm so glad you did! Letting people know the quality of the materials and the time taken and your attention to detail when making something is the only way you can let customers know they're buying a quality item made with love and care.
My children LOVE their willow and moo clothes - they're beautiful designs, they're incredibly well made and I appreciate evey bit of your time and love that goes into making them! ... they're worth every cent!

willow and moo said...

Wow, thank you everyone for such kind words!!!

Michele, I'm hanging out to see one of your rings. My friend, Sarah, bought one of your gorgeous new designs.

naomi said...

agreed, a wonderful post Sara!
Handmade is a true luxury. Thanks for sharing this.

Gill - That British Woman said...

I don't think most people realize just how long things take to put together.

A very informative post.

Gill in Canada