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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.