Early Bird Stitches

Autumn’s glories dazzle much of the northeastern U.S. this last week of October.  I can only imagine how glorious Cara’s property must look about now, bedecked in crimson, orange and gold.  Cara is the creative force behind Early Bird Stitches, and I’m fortunate enough to have her talent on my pattern testing team.  Come and glimpse her inspiring home and creativity.

house

Cara lives in Eastern Pennsylvania near the Lehigh Valley with her husband of almost 20 years, soon-to-be teenage son and three cats.  Once a schoolhouse, their lovely old home is situated in the country with about 2.5 acres to ramble.

creek in autumn

Before the arrival of her son, Cara worked for years as a Senior Technical Writer for a computer software company.  Besides sewing, Cara enjoys reading, hiking, biking, and weight-lifting/running.  In the past, she’s loved cross-stitching and scrapbooking.  In addition to bags, Cara sews clothing.  In fact, she hasn’t bought clothes for herself, except socks and jeans, in almost 2 years!

What led you to become a bagmaker?

I think my son was older, and I was looking to do something for myself. I’d had a sewing machine, and I had done some random sewing, but mostly just Halloween costumes. I’m not exactly sure what made me start sewing bags, but once I started, I was hooked!

Cara collage - with her logo
Clarendon Crossbody Wallet created by Early Bird Stitches

What do you enjoy most about making bags?

I love the whole creative process – having it all come together and making something that is both art and yet useful is so satisfying. I love learning new techniques and tips as well.

Are there some things you find frustrating about it?

Finding the time! But really, sometimes the “pre-sewing” tasks are not as fun…like picking fabrics (I agonize over my fabric choices!), cutting out the pieces and interfacing, etc. I just want to start sewing!

How did you learn to sew?

My mom taught me some when I was younger, and I remember doing well in Home Ec classes back in middle school, but I am pretty much self-taught. I think now it’s so much easier to learn with so many resources available on the internet.

CARA - CORK - RIFLE PAPER PRINT - Interior - with contents in pockets

Is there a story behind your business name?

I’m definitely an “early bird”, so that’s when I would be up and sewing…when it was quiet and no one else was up and needing my attention.

CARA - Sharks - Outside

How would you describe your style?

A little bit funky. I love custom fabrics and quirky prints. Some of my favorite designers are Tula Pink, Cotton+Steel, and Alexander Henry.

Cara - Cotton and Steel - interior view

What keeps you inspired?

Staying active in groups on Facebook and seeing everyone encourage each other and offer help. Testing new bags for my favorite designers!

Cara - WEATHERLY - Grey and fuchsia floral -FRONT - on mannequin - TEXT

Do you have a must-have bag making tool?

Good shears, frixion pens, and Fabri-tac glue.

Are there any fabrics or textiles you love/hate working with, and why?

I love linen and canvas and also cork fabric, but it’s so expensive! They just give a bag a more professional and classy look. I hate working with “cheap” fabrics, which usually only happens with custom orders…when a customer just absolutely wants a specific fabric/print.

What does your bag making process look like? 

I work whenever I can! In addition to my sewing business, I work part-time as a technical editor for a software company and I also homeschool my son, so we are always on the go for classes and field trips. It’s challenging sometimes!

Describe your most challenging bag order ever.

When I was first getting started, I had someone who wanted me to make a bag to match something from a video game. I did it, but it was very challenging at the time. I think I would probably be able to do it much better now, but I also think I would have the courage to say “no” to a request like that! Some of my favorite bags have been the ones I’ve made for myself or for presents, as I don’t worry about cost/materials, and give myself free reign to create what I want. I’ve found that people aren’t really willing to pay the price for custom made bags, so I tend to stick to smaller items in my shop, which do sell.

What’s your advice to new bag makers?  

Just go for it! Don’t be afraid to try things. Will you make mistakes? Absolutely! But you will learn from them and get better as you go.

 

 

A Day in the Life of a Bag Maker

When I began designing bags, I loved thinking of the unknown places my creations would travel.  From my unremarkable dining room table, the bag I sewed would become part of someone’s daily routine, commuting in far-flung cities, seeing sights I never would, in towns and countries I may never set foot in.  It made me happy to think of all the places my bags would go!

Now, designing sewing patterns for bags, I work with a team of talented pattern testers from all over the world.  This sense of far away brought near continues.  While our time zones vary widely, our passion for making bags unites us.  Each pattern test, bag makers in far off lands are sewing in rooms filled with sunlight while the moon hangs over my sleeping household.  While I begin cooking dinner for my family, testers across the ocean call it a night.  Sometimes I stop and calculate what time it must be for my testers and try to imagine what their day might be like.

While an actual visit may not be possible, I thought a series of interviews could give a glimpse into the days of people like me, dotted all over the globe, who love making bags.

Today, I am delighted to visit with Michelle,  the creative force behind Barabooboo.  Michelle lives in Huntsville, Ontario Canada, a very touristy area of Canada with her husband, three daughters and West Highland White terrier.

Michelle - Front - text - her logo
Michelle’s test version of the Delmar Wristlet

Before your bag making business, what did you do?  I was a floral designer and did some social media management.  I have done flowers for some pretty famous people that I am not able to name.

Outside of sewing, what are some of your other interests?  The outdoors, hiking, painting, drawing, gardening, sewing, I’m also a Girl Guide Leader to a Sparks group (5-6 yr olds)

What led you to become a bagmaker? I used to make quilts but they became too much hassle regarding testing and insurance so I switched to bags.  That was a long time ago! At least 10 years ago.

What do you enjoy most about making bags? Each one is unique.  I never do production bag making because I would get too bored. I love being able to make things nobody else has.

Michelle - Top zipper open with contents peeking out
Michelle is a very talented photographer, too!

What are some things you find frustrating about it? We pay a LOT more in Canada for supplies and our shipping costs are ridiculous.

How did you learn to sew? My mom taught me on her machine at six years old.  I have never stopped.

Is there a story behind your business name, Barabooboo? Long story actually.  My husband used it as his ebay user name, and when I signed up for Etsy I just tossed that name in the Shop name field to fill out the form quickly…. Then later when I tried changing it to a better name,  it was very difficult..so I decided to keep it and live with it…  (I still think it’s a really weird word!)

How would you describe your style? Fun and Fussy Cut

Michelle - view of bottom with iPhone for size reference

Tell us a little about your sewing space.   It’s 8x 10 and holds everything I need.  I love it!

shed
Michelle’s Sewing Shed…how cool is that?!

What keeps you inspired?  Other people’s work, always.

Do you have a must-have bag making tool? A Sewing Machine… I don’t care much for fancy tools. I find them unnecessary and actually (IMO) prevent a lot of the actual “hand work” involved in handmade items. I set rivets manually, I set grommets manually, I iron without a press.  I enjoy those processes.

shed - interior - view of sewing machine
Where the magic happens

Are there any fabrics or textiles you love/hate working with, and why? I hate sewing leather.. I love the look but I don’t enjoy the process.  I’m a fabric lover/collector so cottons will always be my main meat!  My favourite prints are large scale graphics I can fussy cut.  I also LOVE Linen Canvas by Rifle Paper Co.

shed - interior - textile stash2
Future amazing bags

What does you bag making process look like?  I cut bags on Mondays, (usually 2-3) fuse on Tuesdays, and the rest of the week I assemble them.  I watch/listen to movies on Netflix, while I sew.

shed - interior - cutting table
At the cutting table inside Michelle’s Sewing Shed

Describe your most unique, favorite, challenging, or memorable custom bag order ever.  I have had many memorable ones, but I think the one that really stands out is my customer that sent me loads of retired Tula Pink (Parisville, BATB, Prince Charming etc..) and had me make her six custom bags with it. I am a huge Tula fanatic so I was in heaven doing her order, plus she was very open to what I used where.

What’s your advice to new bagmakers?   Keep on going.  If you don’t fail a dozen times, you won’t learn anything.  Unfortunately, In the this current world of immediate gratification we live in, people expect to buy a machine, buy patterns and fabrics, and then just pop out a bag!  It doesn’t work like that, this is a skill that is learned by trial and error.  Instead of looking for a You tube video on how to do something, TRY it, if it doesn’t work, try again, experiment, examine your bag, re-read the pattern, think about it.  This is my mantra of late.

Every test, Michelle teaches me some trick to bag making I never heard of, or thinks of a wonderful improvement to my pattern.   Michelle recently tested the Delmar Wristlet.  Grab your pattern here and try out Michelle’s expert bag making tip for yourself!

Tutorial - Delmar1

Tutorial - Delmar2

Tutorial - Delmar3