Handmade Conversations: Pattern and Fabric Design with Carrie Bloomston

Posted by on Sep 04, 2012

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The line between art and craft is loaded with hierarchy and superiority, but Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs boldly crumples that divisive difference with her self-proclaimed artful but simple fabric and sewing designs. She shares more about how art drew her away from craft, the inspiration for her designs and even offers heady advice for starting a craft adventure.

finger puppets from Such Design
With an art school background, you started sewing while pregnant with your baby girl. What has sewing provided for you that other creative mediums haven't?

I have been an artist and a painter my whole life. It was never a question for me, or a choice. I pursued art in school and out of school as a young teen. My work has always been abstract and large-scale. Ultimately, I attended art school at the Rhode Island School of Design and studied painting, and it was an enlightening but awfully dislocating experience for me. I chose the heady/theoretical/ego-ridden art-school-girl path for a few years there, and I lost touch with the girl in me that just loved to make stuff and express what lived in my heart. Recovering that joyful girl and learning to listen again to my heart took over a decade of work (not to mention tons of therapy!)

Craft has always represented a place of easiness and playfulness for me. When I was pregnant with my baby girl, my second child, three and a half years ago, I had an urge to sew my very own diaper bag. So I went to my local fabric shop for the very first time and bought Amy Butler's Nappy Bag pattern. And I did it and was so proud! After that I took a Sew Fundamentals class. I would kinda, sorta follow the rules for each project, but my inner artist is a rule-breaker and I had to go off-trail, very often. The teachers liked the stuff I invented, and I kept going and sewing.
quilted pillow from SUCH Designs
Your designs have a whimsical, imaginative quality to them and you say they were inspired by your children. Can you explain a bit about your creative process and how you go about creating new patterns?

My I'll Huff & I'll Puff finger puppet pattern was simply a gift I made for my son's 4th birthday. They were doing a Three Little Pigs study in his preschool, so I made him that set for his birthday. I took those puppets into Bernina Connection, my local shop, and they said, "You have to write the pattern for that … you have to publish it!"

I had no earthly idea what that even meant, but I began to listen after they said the same thing about my Wonky Little Houses pattern, which I made with my baby girl in mind.

Do you have any advice for someone who is looking to sell sewing patterns or pursue a similar creative business path?

I’d tell them, "Dream big, but start small." Assemble a wicked team because it takes a village (photographers, printers, editors, etc.). Manage every penny because of the margins. Let your voice shine — have a clear, unique perspective. Talk to everyone within earshot about your business and ask a lot of questions — then really listen to their advice and do it. And, finally, I’d tell them to start right now, even when they have no idea what they are doing, because if you wait around to know what you are doing, years might pass. It is better to get in the river and swim with the current, fake it 'til you make it, and make some mistakes, than to stand on the shore watching and waiting for who knows what.

Carrie, what's next for you? 

A return to painting. I am designing my first-ever line of fabrics! I have signed with Windham Fabrics and am so very excited about the fabrics I am currently designing. They will be released for Spring 2013. It is coming full circle and I am thrilled about that synergy and harmony. Honestly, I am honored that I have the chance to express my voice in fabric. 

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  • by andrew dewar
    User profile
    andrew dewar

    I'm really glad you did the interview too! I agree completely about not waiting to get started. You might feel like waiting until you know enough, but you'll never know enough if you don't do anything. I used to talk to a friend about what I wanted to do and then listed all the reasons I needed to wait, and his advice was very to the point: "Stop talking and get started."
    I also appreciate your feeling about classes. I love teaching, but I'm a terrible student, because I tend to do my own thing. I used to teach a university course in Japan to early childhood education students on teaching crafts, and I always had them teach each other a project they had prepared. The students tried hard to follow directions exactly, but I could never resist running with the ball and doing something really wild. And that was a stimulation -- I had trouble getting them to leave when the time was up! (An aside: I always ended the course with a puppet theatre assignment -- they were to make the puppets in small groups, make a set, practice, and present their play to everyone, all in the last class -- and there was always a version of the Three Little Pigs. I love yours!)
    Andrew Dewar

  • by carrie.bloomston
    User profile

    Yay! Yay! I am so honored that you interviewed me for CraftFoxes! Thank you. xoxo, cb