When we're looking for cute and charming sewing projects for children, there's one person we know we can rely on. Hailing from mid-coastal Maine, Heidi Boyd is the author of twelve craft books and got her start in professional crafting as a contributor to Better Homes and Gardens.
Stefanie: Tell us a bit about your sewing life. How did you start sewing, and how did you evolve to where you are now?
Heidi: I loved making things as a child. I drew all the time and picked up both knitting and sewing before I was five. I loved making felt puppets and funny stuffed animals for my younger brothers. I was always looking for supplies and creating amazing messes. After college my husband and I moved to Des Moines, Iowa, where I enjoyed a wonderful position teaching at the Des Moines Art Center. Through the art center I made the connection to Meredith publishing-my very first professional crafting assignment was making a stuffed animal and a doll for a book project. But the real volume of freelance work came from their flagship Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I developed a wonderful relationship with Barb Palar, the BH&G kids section editor, and for years I made projects for almost every issue ranging from simple valentines and Christmas decorations to elaborate painted cardboard forts. I learned a great deal from the partnership with the editors and art directors about what readers were looking for (simplicity!) and what made projects photogenic (color and good design). I gained confidence about my work and a great portfolio of printed designs that helped me land my own book projects.
S: You've published more than a dozen books covering a variety of different craft areas. How do you juggle time and supplies for so many different things?
H: I find that all creative pursuits are related not only by color and design but also by techniques. It's incredibly exciting to see mixed-media sewing and art becoming mainstream. I go in and out of craft interests-last summer I was completely wrapped up in wire for my book Wired Beautiful, to be published this fall; my poor fingers were in shreds. Lately I've been sewing, adding beads, paint, and wire to stuffed creations. I have a felt and fabric book deadline around Christmas so I'll be 'in stitches' for a while. Storage and organization are always a problem. I have an ongoing dispute with my teenagers over the room over our garage. At the moment it houses band instruments, gaming systems, and craft supplies. I store all my supplies in clear bins so I can see what's inside them. I bring bins downstairs to work in the dining and den so that I can be close to my four-year-old daughter.
S: How does sewing fit into your life? Are you able to make a living from sewing?
H: I find sewing from other designer's patterns relaxing and educational. Recently I had a great time making my daughter a dress from a Modkid pattern (images are posted on my blog). What isn't to love about gorgeous fabrics and sewing for a little girl? Professionally I've made a shift in my work from exclusively working on new designs for books and magazines to making multiples of my favorite pieces for sale in craft fairs and select retail stores. I love direct contact with customers (as opposed to mailing work off for photography) and find the entire process very rewarding. The key has to been to select projects such as the birds I designed for CraftCycle and the elephant that I made for Stitch Spring 2010 (shown at right) that lend themselves to being made in multiples and are both portable and affordable. I can squeeze in a little embroidery on my daughter's park playdates, at the beach, or waiting for the carpool. I'm hoping to open an Etsy store in the near future.
S: Walk me through the steps when you're making a project. Where does your inspiration come from, and how do you translate that into a finished piece?
H: I'm constantly on the lookout for design ideas, whether I'm in a store, on the web, or reading a children's book. When I'm working on an assignment I sit down with a list of what the editors are looking for, a cup of tea, and a sketchbook. I start doodling and ideas begin to take shape. Next I re-sketch clean versions of the designs and submit them to the editors. It's almost like catalog shopping--they decide which pieces they're interested in and I begin my search for the right fabric. I sketch out pattern pieces on large pieces of paper and begin cutting, pinning, and stitching. My years of experience keep me from making too many errors. I usually have the pattern nailed on my second try.
S: The items you've made for Stitch have mainly been child-oriented doll sewing patterns and stuffed animals, whimsical bibs, etc. Do you mostly stick to these types of projects?
H: I do love whimsy and color, and I enjoy the sculptural aspect of sewing toys. Even though I'm creating with a child in mind, it's fascinating to watch how strongly adults are drawn and react to my stuffed creations. My most extreme project designs would have to be Halloween costumes for Better Homes and Gardens, especially a series of food costumes that included roast chicken, sundae, s'mores and mac and cheese.
S: What are the pros and cons of sewing projects for children? What factors do you have to take into account when designing a project for a child?
H: The biggest con is they grow up too fast... I wish there was a way to slow it down! The new safety regulations for children's toys are important but are a challenge for the crafter and artist. I avoid any small parts, use washable fabrics, and reinforce my seams!
In addition to her projects in Stitch, you can find out more about Heidi and her crafting adventures on her blog, Crafty Inspiration. Happy sewing!
Images: Top left, Heidi Boyd's Pretty Cat, Baby Bear, and Mini Mouse (in Bear pocket), from Stitch Spring 2009; Top right, Springtime Bibs; lower right, Loopy Elephant, both from Stitch Spring 2010.