We’re continuing our series of posts highlighting participants in the Boutique Sewer Program by introducing Gail Keyes from Louisville, KY. Gail sells her work through her boutique sewing business, Guurrrl Designs.
Why don’t you start by telling us a bit about yourself.
I am in my mid-thirties, currently residing in Louisville, KY. But I consider the mountains of Asheville, NC home. I work full time as an office manager for a manufacturing company, although I dream of someday being able to work from home, have a family, and move back to the beautiful mountains of Asheville.
When I was growing up my Dad and Step-Dad were in the Air Force. This gave me the opportunity to travel around the country and even abroad for three years in Italy. I have a box of greeting cards and letters that I carried with me from move to move. Even now, as an adult, when I move I will unpack every single thing and put it in its place except for that box. It’s always ready for the next move.
I love the scents of fresh-cut grass, cakes baking, babies’ heads, and driving past a cow pasture. The last one must have something to do with me missing home.
Tell us a little about yourself and your background. When and how did you learn to sew?
I started out sewing puppets when I was in elementary school. Later on my Granny and Aunt taught me how to sew Barbie clothes. Then, in my senior year of high school, I decided that I didn’t want a dress off-the-rack even though I had never made anything larger than a Barbie outfit. My prom date’s mother said that she would teach me to sew it. It was a great experience–from picking out the fabric, to learning to piece three separate patterns together to create a dress that I truly loved. From that point I was hooked.
In my early twenties, I worked on beading several gowns for pageants and made many stage costumes. However, it was when I started making clothing for my niece and other children that I discovered my true passion was sewing children’s clothing.
I had been completing my college degree at night from 2007 through September of 2009. When I graduated, I decided to start a 365-day challenge to create something new every day for the next year. Several of my friends joined me in the challenge. Prior to that, I had a 10 year hiatus from sewing. After I posted a few of my challenge entries, I was encouraged by a friend of mine, Renee of Candy Stick Lane, to open up an online boutique.
How did you first discover Oliver + S patterns?
I first discovered Oliver+S patterns while browsing photos of children’s clothing on Flickr. I came across the Tea Party Playsuit and then visited the Oliver+S Flickr group. I was instantly in love with the classical designs.
How did you come to participate in the boutique sewer program?
I actually decided to participate when I ordered my first Oliver+S pattern–the Sailboat Skirt/Pants and Top in the winter of 2009. I thought that it would be a really great Christmas outfit for my nephew. I opened a boutique on Etsy in September 2009 and had been dying to try the Oliver+S patterns. I figured, why put the boutique program on hold? I ordered a couple of licenses with my first pattern order. I ended up making the Sailboat skirt for my shop, before I completed my nephew’s Christmas outfit. The program has given my shop a lot of exposure.
I love the detail included in the Oliver + S patterns, and I look forward to the day when I have each pattern in my collection.
How do you choose fabrics for the garments that you make?
It depends on the item. If it is a custom item, based on a customer’s specific request, I will fulfill that. However when I am making something as an expression of my creative design, a color (or even the texture of the fabric) will instantly stand out for me. I will then pair other fabrics with the first. I would say that most of the items I sew are made from cotton. I also have an addiction to Japanese prints. I especially love many of their linens and tiny prints.
What other crafts do you pursue?
Other than sewing children’s clothing, I also have an interest in digital photography. I received a digital SLR camera last year, and I am still learning the ins and outs of it.
While opening my shop, I was trying to come up with gifts and small tokens of appreciation to include with my packages. While walking through the craft store, the polymer clay caught my eye. I was instantly hooked. I am drawn to making miniature food jewelry and buttons from polymer clay.
Beading has also been a passion of mine since I was in high school. However, after a few years of making beaded gowns and costumes, I only like to bead small projects now.
What have you done to market your business that has been successful for you?
I am rather new to the business and am still learning on a daily basis. I think what has worked for me so far is using networking to my advantage. I am visible on several social networking sites, and the exposure that I have gotten from the Oliver+S website had definitely increased the visibility of my shop. I launched my blog around the same time that I opened up my Etsy shop. It has allowed to me to share my creativity and keeps me continually inspired by others. I also use my blog to let customers know about specials and giveaways. I also had professional business cards printed that I share with everyone.
What plans do you have for the future?
I try to only look a few months at a time down the road. There are so many things that I want to do, including being able to make more outfits at a time. I plan on adding a line of T-shirts to my shop that display my artwork. They will fit children and adults. I would also love, love, love to take a knitting class. I envision cardigans, leg warmers, and hats to coordinate with the outfits in my shop.