In my last editorial, I touched on why the sewing industry needs to reach millennials. The big question is – how?
Two entrepreneurs are creating products to make the process of sewing and quilting easier for beginners. And it’s ingenious!
Eva Bauer and Hetal Jariwala, founders of Itty Bitty Handmade, were not expert quilters when they set out to design an all-inclusive baby quilt kit for someone who’s never tackled one before.
“We really wanted our kits to be an easy way for any crafter who has never made a quilt, or may not even be familiar with quilts, to be able to easily produce an heirloom quality quilt that they’d be proud to gift,” explained Bauer.
“We were new to the quilting world, which was actually a blessing in disguise,” confessed Jariwala. “Since we were so new to the process, we didn’t come into it thinking that this step should be done this way or not that way. Instead, we looked at the end goal of each step, and we were able to think differently about how this might best be achieved. As a result, our kits feature a couple of novel methods that really make quilting a lot easier, especially for the first timer.”
Bauer and Jariwala met while completing their master’s degrees at Stanford University’s Product Design program. Their second year, they created a reusable shopping bag that compacted down into a ball the size of a peach – to help shoppers carry one with them all the time.
The single product turned into a company – flip & tumble. Since then, they’ve come up with several other functional bag designs.
Because the duo also enjoys crafting and sewing, they decided to come up with a product to help others make handmade baby gifts. Once again, they found a problem to solve.
“You had to buy the materials, design the item, figure out the process, and only then could you get to the fun part of actually making the gift,” Bauer emphasized. “We chose to work with baby quilts because we loved the heirloom quality, and felt we could really make this project a lot easier by giving people a head start.”
Bauer and Jariwala tested ideas and sought feedback from a circle of crafters also new to quilting in order to develop a step-by-step process.
For instance, the kits come with pre-cut fabrics so the maker does not have to own or use a cutting mat or rotary cutter.
Here’s what comes in the box:
- detailed instructions
- pre-cut fabric panels
- custom hand stamped label
- itty bitty basting glue
- marking tool
- fusible tape
- foam brush
- parchment strip
- plastic sheet
- marking guides
Aside from a sewing machine, you do need access to an iron, washing machine, scissors, and a large work space – like a table or the floor.
According to the Itty Bitty Handmade website, the quilts only take 4-6 hours of active working time, with another 8 hours of down time to let the quilt dry during the basting step.
It is a good idea to have some basic familiarity with using a sewing machine, and Bauer offers some tips:
“Start with small goals and build up,” she recommends. “Goal one would be to just familiarize yourself with the machine and thread it. Goal two could be to create a short stitch line that sews any two pieces of fabric together. Once you’ve conquered that, you’ll likely be very excited about the world of possibilities that’s now opening up to you. Pick a small scale project to then tackle learning about different stitches and practicing your sewing control. Sewing is also pretty forgiving. You can always stitch rip if you make a mistake. Gotta love that!”
There is even a comprehensive Quilting Tips section on the website, and YouTube tutorial in case you run into any obstacles.
Itty Bitty Handmade has partnered with Quilts for Kids, a non-profit organization focused on providing handmade quilts to children in need.
The company donates $2 to Quilts for Kids for every kit purchased.
Sure you could buy a quilt from a store or an Etsy shop, but the owners want to encourage you to give creating a chance – even if you’re a busy professional.
“There’s a wonderful sense of accomplishment that comes from making something, but we can definitely relate to the struggle of not having enough time to tackle it,” said Jariwala. “My suggestion would be to winnow the project down so that it feels more manageable. Scale down the complexity, purchase a pre-ready design, or go with a project where time consuming elements are already taken care of. I would also suggest starting well in advance to give yourself plenty of time. Nothing can suck the joy out of making more than having to rush through a project.”
“I think the world of quilting is so interesting,” notes Bauer. “It affords the maker a respite from this technological and digital world, and I anticipate that there will continue to be an increase in the number of people who use handcrafts as a place to find calm from the stresses of daily life.”
The partners do hope to add new, similar products to the lineup in the future.
“We want to add some projects that are a little smaller in scope,” shared Jariwala. “We realize that even 4-6 hours can be a big time commitment for a lot of people, and we want to include projects that work even if you only have an hour or two. Stay tuned for those!”