Welcome to a new article series here at Sew4Home, “Creative People We Love.” We’ve been lucky to discover wonderfully clever and inspiring folks on our own journey, and we want you to know about them too. By supporting one another, we keep the handmade banner flying high. Our first profile is Heather Jones of Olive & Ollie, a very charming gal creating custom children’s clothing as well as beautiful blankets and quilts in the heart of Ohio. Her philosophy says it all, “I believe every child deserves something made by hand. ” We do too, Heather!
We were initially drawn to Olive & Ollie because we recognized so many of the fabrics Heather was using as the same ones we love. Great minds think alike, dontcha know. As we investigated further, we came upon design after sweet design… all original, all unique. Heather tells us her site is named for her Great-Grandmother Olive and Great-Great Aunt Ollie, two women who were creatin’ before creatin’ was cool. What a great generational story.
Heather stepped away from her sewing machine long enough to answer our questions about who inspires her, what goes into her designs, and how her work with inner-city children in Cincinnati re-ignited her love of sewing.
S4H: We love the fabrics you select to make your items and recognize several designs we’ve used on Sew4Home. What is it about a fabric that grabs your attention? How do you decide it’s ‘right’ for your pattern?
HBJ: Thank you! I’m a self-described ‘fabriholic,’ so I’m always looking at new patterns and designs. For my children’s clothing and appliqué work, I’m really drawn to bright colors and fun, modern designs.
S4H: Do you have favorite fabric designers or styles? Are you particularly excited about any new fabrics? There’s always a lot of buzz about particular fabric collections debuting at the Houston Quilt Market; what’s coming out that has grabbed your attention?
HBJ: I have a lot of favorites, and it’s so hard to narrow it down, but I love the work of Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, Sandi Henderson, Melissa Averinos, and Tula Pink. I’m really drawn to the use of color in their designs, and their bold graphic style. I am very excited about Amy’s Soul Blossoms, Melissa’s Swoon, and Tula Pink’s Parisville. I can’t wait to see them in person at Fall Quilt Market.
S4H: The right fabric choices are so often the difference between ‘love it’ and ‘hate it.’ Do you have any advice on how to choose and combine fabrics and palettes?
HBJ: That is so true! I really like to use unexpected fabric combinations, and I love to mix patterns from different designers and different fabric lines. Before I get started on a new project, I look at different combinations of fabrics I think might work together well, and really study the relationship between the two (or three or four) patterns, before I ever cut into the fabric. I also choose what I love and what I’m drawn to visually.
S4H: You have such a charming sense of style. What is your background? Did you study fiber arts, learn from your mom, teach yourself, or …? Where/how did you discover your interest in sewing?
HBJ: I’ve always been arty/crafty, and have always loved to make things by hand. My mother is very creative too, and she always encouraged me to express my creativity. We took pottery classes together when I was a child. As I grew older, I began to focus on drawing and painting, which I did for many years and in college, I studied Art History. I’ve always sewn on and off, but I really discovered my love for sewing about 10 or 11 years ago while working for a non-profit group in Cincinnati, where we worked with inner-city children and taught them life and job skills through art. Our group made wearable art, so we sewed a lot together. That’s when I really became focused on sewing. I’m completely self-taught, with the exception of a Home Ec class in junior high.
S4H: Sometimes it’s hard to convince people to take the sewing plunge. Do you have a favorite story of off-the-shelf versus made-it-myself?
HBJ: I’ve made most of the window treatments in our house. It’s often so much cheaper to make curtains yourself than to purchase them, and you’re able to fully customize the design for your space with your favorite patterns and fabric choices, rather than relying on what you can find in a store or catalogue.
S4H: Do you remember your first sewing project?
HBJ: Yes! It was a stuffed Scottish terrier, made out of fake fur, from a kit in my 7th grade Home Ec class. And it was really, really bad.
S4H: At Sew4Home, our goal is to expose people to sewing for the home. Any encouraging words for beginners who feel intimidated? What would you suggest as a first project for a beginner?
HBJ: Just go for it! One of the beautiful things about sewing is that if you make a mistake, you can always rip out your stitches or cut more fabric. You can also use inexpensive fabric, like muslin, to practice on if you’re a beginner. Like anything else, the more you practice and the more you sew, the better you will become. Don’t give up! I think a great first project for a beginner would be a simple throw pillow, made out of two squares of fabric, without any zippers or button holes, which can be a bit tricky for those new to sewing.
S4H: What and/or who inspires your garment designs?
HBJ: I’m really inspired by my two young children. Aidan just turned four and Olivia is two and a half, and they both are a constant source of inspiration for me.
S4H: You create such clever appliqués. Any tips or tricks for building and actually stitching these embellishments?
HBJ: I draw all of my appliqué designs on paper, then transfer the pattern to card stock. I use an iron-on adhesive, in addition to a stabilizer on the inside of the garment, and stitch the design on using a tight zig zag stitch on my machine. Every sewing machine is different, so it’s a good idea to experiment with the settings on yours until you get the tension and stitch how you’d like it. On my machine, I have to loosen the tension and shorten both the stitch length and width to get the result that I’m looking for.
S4H: What tools are sewing “must haves”? And, are there specific things you look for when you’re shopping for machines and tools?
HBJ: A good basic machine, plenty of sharp needles and pins, a good pair of scissors, a rotary cutter, a large ruler with a grid for measuring and cutting, and a cutting mat for large projects.
S4H: You are quite involved in your local chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. Can you tell us a little about this group and how interested people could join or start their own chapters?
HBJ: Yes, I am the founder and current president of the Cincinnati chapter of the Modern Quilt Guild. The Modern Quilt Guild is a fantastic group for people who are interested in a more modern approach to traditional quilting. It was originally started in Los Angeles, but groups are popping up all over the country. You can check out the Modern Quilt Guild’s website to see if there is a group in your area or find out about starting one if there isn’t.
S4H: You have a successful online Etsy shop. What advice would you offer to someone who wanted to start selling handmade goods online?
HBJ: Good photography is very important to online selling, because it’s what captures the potential buyer. On a site like Etsy, I like to use an eye-catching detail of the object as the first photo that the buyers will see to try to peak their interest. Photography in natural light is best; try to avoid using the camera’s flash if at all possible. I also think clear descriptions with as much information about the object as possible is very important.
S4H: You’re a busy mom with two small kids, yet you still sew and run your own business. How do you find the time? We ask, because lack of time is one of the reasons people cite for not learning to sew.
HBJ: It’s a lot of hard work, and I do the vast majority of my sewing when the kids are sleeping. I get up early and work a couple of hours before they wake up, and I also work for at least 3-4 hours after they’re in bed at night. I also work just about every weekend to catch up on orders, so it’s a little hectic at times. I imagine that it will get easier as the kids get older, but for now I’m just fortunate to be at home with my children while doing something I love. I also have a wonderful husband who completely supports my endeavor. He watches the kids as much as he can when he’s not working so I can get things done, and even helps cut out some things for me!