While you may be heading to the beach and enjoying some fun in the sun, #spoonflowermakers like Jen Kesler of Pitter Patterned are using the summer season to prep for the busiest time of the year for their business. To help lower the stress level that the holidays can bring, Jen is here to share her insider tips for successfully preparing for your best season yet. Whether it’s making time to brainstorm your marketing plan or using her extra handy Holiday Prep Checklist (you’re going to want a copy!), this Small Business Grant recipient is about to change the way you prepare your business for the holidays.
It’s close to 100º in sunny California but I’m ready to prep for the holidays! That’s right, I’m already prepping for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday and everything in between – and I’m here to tell you why you should be too! I’m Jen from Pitter Patterned, a custom organic baby bedding and toys business, and starting to not only think about the holidays during the summer, but actually doing a good portion of the work now will set your shop up for its best holiday season yet!
Most shops, both large and small, experience a slump in sales over the summer. This makes it the perfect time to dig in and get your shop in shipshape! The ultimate goal in starting early is to not only make the season a financial success, but to make sure you also get to enjoy the holidays and take care of yourself along the way.
How to Get Started
I like to start with a good old brainstorming session. What worked last year? What didn’t work? What are this year’s trends and how can I capitalize on them? Do I have any new products to promote? Being armed with both intuitive information and the hard numbers (like last year’s holiday revenue and your growth rate this year so far), you’ll be able to set a realistic sales goal for the coming holiday season.
Pitter Patterned blankets are ready for the busy season!
Marketing your Business
Next, let’s sit down and create a marketing strategy – this is more than just a sale or promotion. Think about your target customers and what their problems are, how can you solve their problems with your products? What creative ways can you get your message across that resonates with their needs? Where are your customers spending time online (and offline) and what are they doing? This last question will inform where your advertising budget will be best spent. And speaking of budget… it’s time to create a budget! It’s easy to boost every post on Facebook and end up with a much-larger-than-anticipated bill, so create a budget broken down by source, and stick to it. If your sales goal is lofty this year, you may need to increase your advertising budget accordingly. And don’t worry, a big budget isn’t necessary, but being aware of your spending in relation to your budget will set you up to not overspend.
Spruce Up Your Shop
Ok, let’s talk shop! Set aside a week or so to really take a close look at your shop. Start by reviewing your branding: take a look at your packaging from the perspective of a customer. Unboxing is a real thing and for good reason – everyone enjoys opening a package with good presentation and products inside. Ask yourself: Is it a pleasure to open? Does it look professional? Does it make you want to recommend the shop to everyone you know? If not, consider adding a little something extra: ribbon, tissue paper, a thank you note, branded stickers and business cards are a great place to start.
Make your unboxing count! Customers get to know more about the Pitter Patterned brand as soon as they open their order.
Jen includes a 10% off coupon card in packages to her customers.
Next, add any new products to your website or Etsy shop so they can begin to gain traction, revisit your pricing structure and make sure you have products in a variety of price points. Refresh your FAQs with brief and easy to understand answers to common holiday questions such as “When will my order ship?” Also make sure your return and exchange policies are clear, as returns will increase substantially during the holidays. Consider updating photography and descriptions if they are outdated. Then dig into SEO and / or keywords and tags. To boost the status of your pages, reinforce new content by linking in newsletters and pinning to Pinterest, and finally, make sure your website is mobile friendly.
Now that the initial legwork is done, it’s time to talk inventory! Keeping your sales goal in mind, you can estimate the necessary inventory that will get you there. You don’t want to sell out in early November, but you also don’t want every closet in your house to be stuffed with unwanted product. Take into consideration your best sellers, your new products, price points and current trends when deciding on inventory for individual products. Then order supplies to create the inventory you need for your sales goal. I like to keep a spreadsheet of all the big sales my main suppliers have throughout the year, so when I’m ready to place a big order I can check if there might be a sale coming up. Summer sales to watch for: 4th of July, Labor Day and Back to School. If you currently sell on more than one platform (like Etsy and Shopify, for example), consider using a tool like Trunk to automatically sync your inventory across platforms.
Get the Word Out
Start contacting bloggers, influencers and any relevant publications you are interested in being featured in. Magazines and bloggers are also preparing for the holidays during the summer so it’s the perfect time to make contact. Be sure to send a bio of your company and images suited to their needs: square for Instagram, high resolution for print publications, etc. If you make their job easy, you’re that much more likely to be chosen for a feature!
Send out an end of summer email so you stay on people’s minds as they begin to think about holiday shopping. Take advantage of email segmenting to send special messages and new products to your returning customers and show off best-sellers to new subscribers.
Start pinning! It seems way too early, but Pinterest pins have a longer life than most social media posts. You want your holiday-themed pins to be available when your customers start searching for them, and pinning now puts them in prime position to be noticed by editors and bloggers looking for products to feature in their holiday content.
Automation and Streamlining
When it comes to the busy holiday season, automation will be your best friend. Check out services like Tailwind, Hubspot, Hootsuite and Later to schedule social media posts ahead of time. Automate and streamline any aspects of your shipping that you can; set up shipping profiles for common box sizes and weights. Create a shipping station with everything at close reach: tissue paper, business cards, packing tape, boxes, scissors, etc. along with ample counter space for packing up shipments. Take a look at other aspects of your workflow and streamline anywhere you can, every bit of time saved in your process will be awesome to have during the holidays!
Create a Calendar
Create a calendar for the holidays and start filling things in as soon as you schedule them. Your calendar should be in whatever format works best for you; paper, Google Calendar, white board, etc. Set your ordering and shipping deadlines and mark them on your calendar so you’re not caught off guard when customers start asking about them. Schedule family time so it doesn’t get completely squeezed out, and include time for self care. I find if I don’t set aside time for it, it’s the first thing to go when things get busy!
Jen shares her important holiday shipping deadlines on social media to keep her customers informed.
Think up some fun ideas to create a buzz around your business.
Set up a holiday themed photoshoot
Create fun videos to use on YouTube or Instagram and Facebook
Make a stop-motion video of your newest product
Set up a themed giveaway with other makers on Instagram
Encourage donations to a charity you love
Hold a photo contest
The busy season for makers can be stressful, but don’t forget to have a little fun!
Staying on Track
Things are bound to get busy, hectic and feel utterly chaotic when you’re a one (or two or three) (wo)man show during the holidays. It’s inevitable, even with ample planning and preparation, some of the things you’ve planned for will change. When I feel overwhelmed and off-track, I know it’s time to pull back and spend some time recharging: keep customers in the loop when it comes to any changes in ship dates, and spend some time on yourself. Even a quick walk or phone call with a loved one can make all the difference! I also depend on my network of other small shop owners for support and encouragement during the holidays. It’s also of vital importance to have vendors and suppliers that are reliable and trustworthy, I can’t say how thankful I am to have had Spoonflower to work with for the last 7 years, they help me create amazing products and are such a pleasure to work with!
Pitter Patterned is an heirloom line of handmade baby and toddler products aimed at inspiring curiosity. We create imaginative and educational designs for quilts, blankets, cloth books and rattles made with 100% organic cotton materials. See what Jen is up to over at @pitterpatterened.
This month we’re intoducing three designers who share at least one thing in common; all of their names begin with the letter C! First up is Cristina CM otherwise known as sombrasblancas in the Spoonflower Marketplace. Cristina visits us from Spain and says she loves to use as many colors as possible in her playful and surrealistic design work. Next, you’ll meet U.S. designer Caleb Luke Lin of caleb_luke_lin whose design style was heavily influenced by nature and intricate illustrations found in old botanical hardback books. Lastly, we hear from Canadian designer (and July birthday girl!) Cynthia Frenette of cynthiafrenette. Cynthia’s signature style and color choices are truly one of a kind, but it’s her “all-in-good-fun” yet snarky lettering work that really resonates with many of the Spoonflower audience. We hope this month’s feature will inspire you to spend the next 6 months of the year fulfilling all of your creative dreams!
How would you describe your design style?
Cristina: My style is colorful and fun to look at. My aim is to brighten up people’s days and social media feeds.
Cristina: I could live on sushi for the rest of my life, I love pet rats and I spend my weekends playing board games.
Caleb: I’m obsessed with Waffle House, I once got in big trouble at a bar for playing Madonna’s song Holiday too many times, and as a kid, I wanted to become a paleontologist.
Cynthia: I love brussel sprouts. My husband and I got married on Halloween; our wedding march was The Monster Mash. Lastly, I didn’t learn to drive until I was 40!
What’s one design tool you can’t live without?
Cristina: My graphics tablet! It is a Huion KAMVAS GT-221 Pro and I’ve had it for a couple of years now. It makes my design life much easier and fun.
We weren’t sure what a Huion KAMVAS GT-221 Pro was, but now that we’ve seen Cristina’s tablet, we want one too!
Caleb: In a humorous way, I’ve been using an iMac with a broken, half-dim screen for 7 years now. My friends always ask me why I make artwork on a screen that’s darker on the left side and my only excuse is that I’m cheap and I’ve gotten used to it.
Caleb, his cat and his half-dim (but still functioning!) iMac | Design: Prettiest Poisons
Cynthia: My iPad! I seriously wasn’t even really thinking of getting one but I kept hearing about Procreate. I very hesitantly bought my iPad and an Apple Pencil, downloaded the app, and wow. It has changed my work a million times over. I couldn’t live without it now!
Share a defining moment that shaped your creative path:
Cristina: It all started while I was studying my major in Industrial Design. I had always had a very big interest in graphic design and illustration, so I took a course in order to learn the basics and I’ve never stopped since then. My first job came when a friend of mine asked me to create a logo for a fair trade campaign he was preparing for our university and that was a very defining moment.
Caleb: Honestly, learning how to make repeating patterns was a pivotal moment for my development as an artist! I had spent a large portion of college focusing on making editorial illustrations, which can get tiresome for me personally. The process of making a pattern puts me in such a different headspace and it was very freeing for me.
At this same time, I took a screenprinting class and that helped me think about simplifying my visual language. Working digitally we have an entire rainbow of colors available to us and it really helped me to be limited to 3-4 colors and having to make the most out of that.
Cynthia: A turning point for me was when I finally started my own design business after many years of working in agencies and studios. It was really scary but the best thing I ever did. I had a roster of regular clients that I already worked with so it was amazing to take it on my own and do business my way, with kindness and love. It also gave me the freedom and headspace to explore other things I wanted to do, like fabric design. I started on Spoonflower pretty much right at the very beginning and was found on there by a rep from Robert Kaufman Fabrics: what an exciting email to get, I must say! I’ve now had several collections with RK and am now building my licensing work with my agent, creating greeting cards, calendars, homewares, and more!
Cristina: Monstera leaves, witches and the slow life movement.
Cynthia: Animal prints rendered in an unusual style or colour combo, artistic, painterly, or hand-drawn motifs that are almost abstracted and make use of metallics or gold leaf. I’m seeing a lot of 80’s & 90’s surf & skate graphics, too.
What influences or inspires your work?
Cristina: I find inspiration in everyday life, situations and objects: from a YouTube video to a song or a children’s book. Other creators inspire me the most. I love scrolling through my Instagram feed to see what everyone is creating. I also find Instagram stories of fellow artists super motivating; seeing other people’s behind the scenes pics and videos puts me immediately to work.
Caleb: I watch a lot of David Attenborough nature documentaries and enjoy exploring Wikipedia for interesting pages about the natural world. When I learn something new and mind-blowing, I like to incorporate that into my artwork. Sometimes I just draw things because they’re pretty or cute, and sometimes I end up spending hours researching obscure dinosaurs, poisonous plants, or animal migration routes.
Cynthia: I love vintage and retro styles, flowers, bold or unexpected colour combinations, music, tv and movies. I love checking out the set design or backgrounds in tv shows. Every object, colour, and item was placed there purposely to create a mood.
Fashion inspires me, too. The trends, colours, and styles, new and vintage, and magazines of all kinds. I have a collection of French Marie Claire Idées magazines that are a treasure trove of colour, pattern, and inspiration. I always scour the thrift stores for old magazines for fun vintage weirdness!
How Does Your Garden Grow by cynthiafrenette | Order this design on a Fat Quarter of Linen Cotton Canvas to make your own banner (Cynthia included instructions in her design file!)
How do you get out of a design rut?
Cristina: Whenever I’m stuck, I go to Pinterest for fresh ideas and color palettes. If that doesn’t work, I use a random word generator to combine two or three concepts and try to work from there. If none of that brings new designs to my mind, I take a break and come back after a while with renewed energies. I don’t think it is a good idea to force creativity. When I’ve done that, the results have never been that great.
When watercolor artist Juliet Meeks moved into her New Orleans studio this past spring, she knew one thing was for sure: her signature watercolor style had to make an appearance. Looking to Spoonflower for a little help, Juliet transformed her watercolor florals into vibrant wallpaper (now available in her Spoonflower shop!) to instantly elevate the look and feel of the new studio. Whether she’s hosting workshops or painting her next design, Juliet’s studio welcomes guests with a cheerful vibe that is reflective of Juliet’s personality. Keep reading to get to know more about this New Orleans artist.
I fell in love with design when…
I realized how many possibilities design creates in the world! Having a way to express your personal vision is empowering.
Watercolors by Winsor & Newton, gouache, my favorite brushes, cold pressed watercolor paper, my iPad with the Procreate app, and lately, I have been starting acrylic painting.
What is your process when creating a new design?
I usually like to have an inspiration photo, still life or fresh bouquet of flowers to paint from. But lately I have been trying to experiment more just from my imagination. My go-to is watercolor. When I’m painting, I usually don’t plan out a color palette first but just let each color guide the next intuitively. If I am making a repeating pattern, I will paint the elements individually, scan them in and clean them up in Photoshop, and then create the repeat tile there.
I actually have a class on Skillshare that shows this process and another new class on how to make a repeating pattern using the handmade method. I love to draw on my iPad while watching Netflix. I found that using the app Procreate has allowed me to experiment and create a whole new type of illustration style than I’m used to – I think because it helps to have an “undo” button!
When I’m in my studio, I feel…
Like I am knocking out my to do list on the best days. For example, it’s great if I get at least one painting or pattern done that felt inspiring to create. On a more challenging day, when there are so many different types of tasks ahead, it can feel insurmountable! Both inspiring and challenging days are always ahead. Running my art studio full-time for the past three years has taught me to take them both as they come, and that sometimes the quiet, in-between moments spent creating are the best.
Who or what influences or inspires your work and why?
Color is my biggest inspiration – I love finding unexpected palettes that work well with the sense of movement and texture I go for in my watercolors.
The secret to a strong collection is…
A cohesive color palette and elements that play off of each other.
I ordered my very first sample swatch of my own fabric design from Spoonflower back in college! I still have that sample, and it was so exciting to see. When I opened my online shop in 2016, I used fabric from Spoonflower to sew zipper pouches to sell as one of my first products. Spoonflower is an amazing resource for artists, and not just because of the design competitions – it allows you to order small quantities of fabric which I have found is rare in the industry, and samples to test out designs. And now, its enabled me to have wallpaper of my own design in my new studio space. It’s been fun to say, “yes, that’s my design on the walls”!
Want to have Juliet’s designs on your walls too? You can now shop her watercolor designs on removable, renter-friendly wallpaper!
For #spoonflowermaker and Small Business Grant recipient Nicole Brown of Ruth Nathans, the Brooklyn-based bespoke bow tie brand – say that 10 times fast – setting up shop at craft fairs and handmade markets has been the key to showcasing her custom bow ties while connecting with new and returning customers throughout the year. If you’re a creative entrepreneur like Nicole, you may be starting to prep for the upcoming holiday markets in your area, which is why we think you’re going to find today’s Small Business Handbook article extra helpful. Nicole is sharing her tips for successfully preparing for a stress-free market and whether it’s your first or fiftieth market, let her show you how to prep for success!
Prep for Success
So you want to set up shop at a pop-up market? Let’s start with the most important stuff: ensure you have enough product! This includes your handcrafted work as well as postcards, business cards, and packaging. How many visitors are expected at this market? Maybe it’s time to increase your production if this is a larger event. Prepare your items ahead of time so you won’t have to rush shipping if you’re mailing product to the event. If you do happen to run out of actual merchandise at the market, have a system prepared for taking orders to fulfill at another time so you don’t lose customers. Most people understand that you’re a small business and that you may not have a full run of products on hand 100% of the time.
Pro tip: Use a calendar or checklist to help you create a market to-do list and prioritize tasks leading up to the market.
1. Let your table to do the talking.
Before you begin your pop-up, decide what your table should look like. First, you want to find items that show you’re ready for business. Do you have any type of signage: a stand up banner, one that pins to your table or maybe even a projection with your business name and logo included? Will the venue be providing a table and/or chair or do you need to procure those? Will their tablecloth enhance my brand or should you bring my own just in case? Always do your layout before you arrive at the event to minimize set up time. Once you confirm the size of your table, you can decide what to bring (or not) and what will fit in your scheme.
Secondly, is it clear what you have for sale? Although my first pop-up was a memorable experience, most people did not know what I was selling. Make sure your table is aesthetically pleasing and clearly displays what you have to offer.
When it comes to table decor, don’t try to over do it by adding props and items that can detract from the product you’re selling.
2. Shout it from the rooftops.
Let your people know where you will be popping up! Prior to the market, make sure you have been promoting the event on your social channels and email lists. People love to be “insiders” so consider running a promotion; if a person checks-in on social media to the event then they can receive special pricing or a shout out on your social pages.
3. Brand like a boss.
Next order of business is packaging and branding. This is free advertising! If a happy customer is walking around the market with a bag that has your logo, it’s likely that people may ask where it came from, especially if they see it repeatedly.
Additionally, are each of your products also branded? You want customers to remember you after they leave the show as they wear your pieces around town.
Nicole brands all of her packaging with the Ruth Nathan’s logo.
Is your table welcoming? Would a customer want to touch your product or does your table look like it’s more suitable for a museum? Having a welcoming table is especially important for me because I want people to feel the “hand” of the Spoonflower fabrics I use, Poly Crepe de Chine and Organic Cotton Sateen.
You can address this task in terms of table colors, layout and your own presence as the creator. You’re your own best sales asset! Smile and engage with the customers through demonstrations and sharing your story. People love a great story! The fact that we create printed fabric that is made in America is a shocker for a lot of people. Eyes will light up. Ears may lean in. You may even hear an “Oh my!”
Nicole shows a customer how to tie a bow tie during a market.
You should also consider who is attending this event. Will there be more men or women? What are the demographics? I try to ensure that both men and women can see themselves in my product. Also be able to explain the different scenarios in which your product can be worn or used. “Will this look good with denim?” “What color shirt would you suggest with this?”
5. Keep It Simple
Another point to consider when prepping for your next market: How easy is it for visitors to purchase your items? Research which point-of-sale devices work best for you and always remember to make sure you can use it at your specific market – if you’re relying on wifi for your POS, make sure wifi will be accessible! Having cash on hand is also a great idea. This ties back into making it simple for your customers to interact with your brand.
Are there ways you can offer bundles on product as a way to treat your customers? For example, buy one item and get a discount on a complimentary item. Can you suggest how your handcrafted item is giftable? What holidays are approaching that are appropriate? Christmas-time is good for gifting. Or maybe it’s wedding season.
6. Extra, extra, read all about it!
Make it super easy for you to keep in touch with people who were not ready to buy the day of the market by having an email sign-up list ready. This can be done on paper or electronically. Either way, consider giving the visitors an incentive like “10% off your next purchase when you sign-up on our email list”. This is a great value-add because everyone loves special treatment! Another great way to stay in touch is to have visitors follow you on social media. Once they buy one of your products, they can tag you in their posts too.
7. Let Your Light Shine
Consider your “onlyness” factor. What makes your brand special? Use visuals to show these unique qualities. If you’re all about sustainability, let that show with your table. If you’re an Urban Peacock (aka: urban sophisticates with discerning taste) like the Ruth Nathan’s tribe, then make sure your display feels distinguished yet fun & fancy simultaneously. The essence of your table should coincide with the essence of your brand. If you’re featuring unique fabric designs from Spoonflower, make sure you’re talking about your inspirations for the prints as well. This contributes to your “onlyness.” Other brands could be selling similar products but no one will have your story.
Are you prepping for an upcoming holiday market? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below and don’t forget to apply for the next cycle of the Small Business Grant.
About the Guest Author
Nicole is an accessories designer with 4 years of experience creating bow ties, pocket squares and lapel flowers for the Urban Peacock. When she isn’t busy creating whimsical designs she is curing pocket loneliness somewhere in the world at her next pop-up event!
When the sewist behind the blog The Little Pomegranate was tired of only finding modest swimsuits that lacked style and fit, she took matters into her own DIY hands. After extensive testing, it’s safe to say Rumana is making waves with her modern approach to modest swimwear. Keep reading to find out how the process of designing her own suit helped her find the confidence to proudly step onto the sand in style.
Rumana: Lately I’ve noticed a bit of DIY swimwear fever sweeping through Instagram – from gorgeous prints to fabulous sewing patterns it’s not hard to see why people have been jumping at the chance to sew their own swimsuits. Not only do you get to make your dream swimsuit that fits your body, you also get to avoid the dread of having to try on ill-fitting, ready-to-wear swimsuits in a dimly lit cramped changing room. It’s basically a no-brainer! But if I’m 100% honest, I’ve never really thought of making my own swimwear as an option because of my need to cover my arms and legs. But after seeing my feed filled with glorious me-made swimsuits I was inspired to give it a go. So what happens if your swimwear needs are a little different from your average person?
There are so many reasons why someone might want more coverage from their swimsuits – religious reasons (like me), personal comfort (some people just prefer to cover up more) or even sun protection for sensitive skin. There’s been a rise of ready-to-wear versions, from the standard (and in my opinion awfully named) ‘burkini’ made up of trousers and a long top, loose one-piece wet-suit style ones, to more fashionable three piece affairs with detachable wrap-around skirts. While there are some great companies out there, a lot of what’s available is decidedly frumpy and dull. I wanted something lush and tropical, something that screams ‘holiday!’
So off I went searching for the perfect fabric. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed by the gorgeous jungle themed patterns on Spoonflower. I found these beauties really easily by searching for ‘jungle’, ‘monstera’ and ‘banana leaf’.
Four versions of my surf-suit inspired long tunic. Can you figure out which style I chose?
When it came to my design I had so many ideas but managed to narrow it down to a surf-suit inspired long tunic. From past experience I wanted it to be a little longer to cover my thighs, but still give me space to move, which is where the idea for a wrap-front skirt came from. The raglan sleeves would give extra movement in the arms and the high neck would provide an extra bit of coverage, plus I liked the idea of a chunky zip to make it more sporty. I also wanted to create pleats across the tummy area – one thing I hated about my old suits was how they would cling to my body when I got out of the water. I thought a little bit of pleating would be an unusual design detail as well as hide my lower body a bit more when it got wet.
I put my pattern-making skills to the test by heavily hacking a body-suit pattern and creating a higher neckline, collar and the skirt from scratch. But the planning stage (I did a few test versions in scrap jersey) was well worth the effort because when it came to cutting into this beautiful fabric, the construction was actually quite simple and came together quickly.
The Sport Lycra has a lovely weight to it and even though it’s super stretchy, it’s actually quite stable which means it doesn’t stretch out too much as you handle it. Below are my top tips for sewing with Sport Lycra and you can find even more tips in this post.
1. Use a rotary cutter to cut your pieces. This avoids stretching the pieces as you cut them out. Plus it’s super fast! Once you get used to a rotary cutter I promise you won’t go back to cutting out fabric with scissors.
2. I used my overlocker (serger) for the majority of this project which is perfect for stretch fabric, but when I needed to, I switched to my sewing machine. Make sure you use the right needle (stretch or ballpoint) to avoid skipped stitches and a stretchy stitch (e.g. zig zag) to sew seams. A walking foot is perfect to make sure the fabric doesn’t get stretched out as you sew. But also remember – if your pattern piece doesn’t need to stretch (like my curved hem and zip) a straight stitch can work too, and often is a little neater.
3. Steam! I used my iron on the lowest setting and used the steam function to press the seams – after testing the iron on my fabric swatch. It also worked wonders to reshape some pieces which would inevitably get a little stretched out as I sewed. With a quick press (and a pressing cloth) they would magically ping back to shape. I was really impressed with how the fabric recovered.
4. Lastly I used a water-soluble felt tip fabric pen to mark notches/pleats etc. This was really helpful as it was clear to see but also easy to mark. Chalk can be difficult to transfer on and might stretch the fabric. Again, be sure to test it out on a scrap piece of fabric and make sure the pen washes out – you don’t want to have blue pen all over your finished garment!
So here’s my final outfit which I paired with some store-bought swim leggings. I absolutely love it!
It’s already been put to the test in sunny Turkey – dipping in and out of the pool and the sea. The high neck is great for my coverage needs, and the little detail of the zip guard makes it super comfy against my skin. I added a bit of black binding to highlight the curves of the wrap skirt and the skirt itself worked really well. It gave my legs space to move/kick in the water while keeping the slimmer silhouette I wanted. I love the pleats which make it look so much more interesting without being bulky across my tummy.
I even managed to squeeze out a swim turban using this lovely contrast pattern from one fat quarter of Sport Lycra! It worked really well and didn’t slip off once! Plus the pleats gave some extra room for my hair.
I know everyone says this, but being able to sew my own swimwear has been a real game-changer. As a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, I’ve often felt self-conscious and stared at on the beach – even more so in parts of Europe where there is backlash against ‘burkini’-style swimsuits (some cities are even banning them). I’ve tried to not let things like that stop me – I’ve gone swimming in oceans, snorkeling amongst coral reefs and even had kite-surfing lessons in my old swimsuits, but I’m always aware of myself and how I look. But this swimsuit really has changed that. With its unashamedly bright and bold print it has given me the confidence to step out onto the sand with my head held a little bit higher, because everyone deserves to feel fabulous in their swimwear, right?
Are you inspired to sew your own swimsuit? Now’s your chance to create the swimsuit of your DIY dreams – use the code DIYSWIM719 at checkout to save 15% on Sport Lycra through July 31, 2019.
About the Guest Author
Rumana Lasker Dawood is a junior doctor from North London. Alongside her day-job, she enjoys sewing and crafting as a way to unwind after a long day. She’s most well-known for being a quarter-finalist on series 4 of The Great British Sewing Bee and for creating #SewInColour, calling to improve diversity and representation in sewing communities.
Did you know that the word dinosaur means “terrifying lizard”? This week’s challenge theme has us going back in time: 66 million years, to be exact! While dinos may no longer be roaming Earth, we are putting on our adventure gear this week to take a walk through the land of Dinosaurs. Will your design take us to the land before time, or will it celebrate the paleontologists that have taught us about these ancient creatures? No matter which direction you go, we are sure your design this week is going to be dino-mite!
Entries will be previewed at the fat quarter size: 21” x 18”. Submissions close July 23 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Voting begins June 25. Winners will be announced August 1. See official rules.
From the cool cats to the yoga cats, to the big cats and the silly cats, your challenge this week is to create a repeating pattern featuring your favorite feline. The Spoonflower community has proven they’re smitten for kittens and on the prowl for meowvelous designs to use for DIY projects like cat bandanas and beds. No matter what your purr-fect vision will entail, we know it’ll be the cat’s meow!
Entries will be previewed at the fat quarter size: 21” x 18”. Submissions close July 30 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Voting begins August 1. Winners will be announced August 8. See official rules.
Ahoy, landlubbers! From black flags and bright parrots to treasure maps and doubloon-filled chests, we want to see your best swashbuckling design. Whether you create a cute take on seadogs for a kid-themed party or try to “shiver me timbers” with sharks, swords or shipwrecks, we can’t wait to see what you’ll unearth. Maybe you’ll even discover a historical female pirate or two. Heave ho!
Entries will be previewed at the fat quarter size: 21” x 18”. Submissions close August 6 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Voting begins August 8. Winners will be announced August 15. See official rules.
This week’s challenge will have you brushing up on your color theory 101! Inspired by bold, complementary colors and defined shapes, we’re celebrating the retro art style that’s been popping up in fashion and homes. While traditional color-blocking in the modern art movement was most frequently colored squares, we challenge you to think outside the box block by showcasing your unique take on this colorful concept. Whether it’s a design inspired by the wall art down the street or a nod to the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, you’re going to want to block off time for this challenge!
Entries will be previewed at the fat quarter size: 21” x 18”. Submissions close August 13 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Voting begins August 15. Winners will be announced August 22. See official rules.
Like a moth to a flame, this week’s theme will have you rushing to grab your medium of choice and start designing! Did you know that there are over 160,000 species of moths in the world? Whether you decide to feature fuzzy green luna moths, the dramatic gum moth of Australia, or any other moth-tastic species, we can’t wait to see what you come up with!
Entries will be previewed at the fat quarter size: 21” x 18”. Submissions close August 20 at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Voting begins August 22. Winners will be announced August 29. See official rules.
One Grand Prize Winner each week will receive $200 in Spoondollars. The winner will also receive additional exposure in our email newsletters, professional photography of their printed designs, and social media mentions.
The 2nd place winner will receive $100 in Spoondollars.
The 3rd place winner will receive $50 in Spoondollars.
The rest of the top 10
4th through 10th place winners will receive a $20 Spoondollar credit.
All of the top 50
Each of the top 50 entries, determined as set forth above, not receiving one of the foregoing prizes will be automatically proofed for sale in the Spoonflower Marketplace (approximately a $5 value) (the “Runner Up Prize”) if winners are verified sellers.
Katie Kortman, the queen of color, is back! In part one of Katie’s two part swimsuit series, we learned all about her top tips for sewing a swimsuit with Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra and now it’s time for the fun part – choosing your swimsuit pattern and Spoonflower design. So lather on that sunscreen, put on your shades and get ready to dip your toes into the fabulous world of DIY swimsuits.
Katie: It’s July. It’s hot. You just want to stay inside but if you must go out, there needs to be water, am I right? If you like to sew, you may have thought about sewing your own super cute, totally flattering swimsuit in a fabric more exciting than what is offered at the store. But you’re scared. I have heard people tell me this time after time. I get it. Until last summer, I was the same way. I could sew pants, dresses, shirts… anything! But a swimsuit? No, I must not be skilled enough for that. Or the dreaded thought… what if something malfunctioned when I get into the water?
I am here to tell you that all those fears are for nothing!! If you missed my first post on the ins and outs of sewing a swimsuit with Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra, click here to get all the details.
Are you ready to pick the perfect swimsuit pattern?
You’ll feel radiant in your handmade swimsuit!
When picking a swimsuit, you will want to consider the sewing level (usually indicated on the pattern), the style, and what level of support you want. Some patterns have methods for adding additional bust support written into the pattern and some do not. It is easy to add a shelf bra or foam breast cups to a lining or power mesh and this tutorial is a good place to start if the pattern doesn’t explain how to do this.
I’m spotlighting five swimsuit patterns that are available as PDFs so you can instantly buy, print at home and get sewing (and then swimming) but #sewingswimwear on Instagram is another great place to get inspiration.
The pattern instructions are simple and clear with only a few pattern pieces making this a good first swimsuit for an advanced beginner. There are instructions for adding foam cups and a lace-up closure, both options that can add more support and coverage for a larger bust. I did neither on my version but plan to add foam cups or underwire because I needed more support.
This pattern has so many different options and you can mix and match them all! It’s a fun one to mix prints with as it has the different elements made for contrast. It’s not a difficult swimsuit, but there are a lot of pattern pieces, techniques and details making it better suited for someone who has done a bit of sewing already. There are video instructions for the trickier parts and the photos for each step were sufficient. This is a great swimsuit if you have a larger bust and need support – even without foam cups!
The Reno (top) and Dakota (bottom) are sold separately which is great if you just want the top or bottom pattern at an affordable price. The construction is fairly simple but I would put it at an advanced beginner for the top because the bust construction is more complex while the bottoms are pretty straight forward.
There are few pattern pieces and fairly simple construction with easy instructions BUT you do have to do a “V” which can be a little tricky and the reason why I’ve rated it intermediate. This suit doesn’t include instructions for adding cups but you could use the link I shared in the first post to add some to the lining. The friend I made it for had a larger bust and the straps added a lot of support.
I think this is the perfect beginner swimsuit pattern. The instructions are VERY thorough with many tips and general swimsuit “education” at the beginning of the pattern. There are instructions for adding a shelf bra and foam cups and for my own – view B – I did both and it is my most supportive swimsuit yet. The 2 piece can also double as a sports bra so yeah, it supports!
Are you ready to have some fun in the sun? Katie Kortman, the designer, sewist and painter behind all those colorful fabric designs taking over your Instagram feed, is stopping by the blog to tackle one of summer’s most popular DIY projects: handmade swimsuits! With her top tips, you’ll have the confidence to sew a swimsuit using Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra, her go-to fabric for swimsuits. For an added bonus, we’re offering 15% off Sport Lycra for the entire month of July! Read the post to find out how you can save on your next swimsuit.
Katie: It’s July. It’s hot. You just want to stay inside but if you must go out, there needs to be water, am I right? If you like to sew, you may have thought about sewing your own super cute, totally flattering swimsuit in a fabric more exciting than what is offered at the store. But you’re scared. I have heard people tell me this time after time. I get it. Until last summer, I was the same way. I could sew pants, dresses, shirts… anything! But a swimsuit? No, I must not be skilled enough for that. Or the dreaded thought… what if something malfunctions when I get into the water?
I am here to tell you that all those fears are for nothing!! If you can follow a pattern and know how to sew a zig-zag or straight stitch, then you can sew a swimsuit!
Already a pro at sewing swimsuits? Check out this post to see which swimsuit patterns and fabric designs I’m loving this summer.
There are many types of swim fabrics to sew with, but today we are going to talk about Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra. This post has tips that you can apply to sewing anything with Sport Lycra, even athletic wear!
UVA at 99.9% and UVB at 99.6% with a UPF rating of 50+
Made of 88% polyester, 12% Lycra knit fabric
Stretchy, sturdy construction
4-way stretch, 75% in width and 50% in length
Colorfast to chlorinated and salt water
I found this fabric to be the easiest to sew of all the bathing suit fabrics I’ve worked with. It is actually easier than most cotton knits I’ve sewn because it is thick and not slippery as you sew (and swimsuits are more forgiving than say… the hem of a stretchy knit shirt).
Pro tip: Did you know there are no minimums at Spoonflower? This means you can order just one yard of fabric to create a completely one-of-a-kind swimsuit!
Today I’m going to give you tips for sewing swimsuits with Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra but for general tips on sewing with knits, be sure to check out this blog post! I have now sewn 13 swimsuits with the lycra and I can confidently say this fabric holds up to all the elements!
First, let’s talk tools.
Needle: You will want to use a ballpoint/ jersey/ stretch needle in your machine.
Pins vs. clips: Both work, but I found clips quicker and preferred them because it meant less holes in the fabric.
Thread: Polyester – avoid cotton thread! I have used Eco-flex, wooly nylon (in the serger – and you just do the two loopers), Coats and Clark poly (all purpose) and finally Gutterman Poly. I prefer Gutterman thread in my sewing machine because I’ve had the least amount of breakage and skipped stitches when using that thread. I still do like the wooly nylon in my serger but its not totally necessary.
Scissors vs Rotary Cutter: If you have the space, a mat and cutting table, use a rotary cutter on your lycra because it will ensure a more precise cut. You can also just use your sharpest scissors and cut on the floor. Work with what you’ve got!
Pattern weights: Again, you can pin the patterns, but the best way is to use pattern weights and rotary cutter to prevent piercing the fabric and to get a more precise cut. I did use the weights as opposed to the pins in these five swimsuits and I prefer them to pinning the pattern down.
Swim Elastic: Swim elastic is made to withstand chlorine and salt water. You can get it online or in most big-box fabric stores. I ordered a huge roll of it so I didn’t keep running out.
Don’t forget to line your swimsuits!
Because the Sport Lycra is thick and opaque, many prints won’t need any lining, especially if it’s for a child’s swimsuit. I chose to line all of these suits since they were for adults. You will want a nude, white or black swim lining (two fabrics on the left) depending on the designs you’ve chosen on Spoonflower.
You can also get something called Power Mesh which is found near the swim fabrics at big-box stores and online (two fabrics on the right). It is used to hold in the bust and/or tummy and can be sewn to the lining so it acts as one piece of fabric. Many patterns will mention its use in the instructions.
Pro tip: Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra also works great for lining your swimsuit. For an added bonus, choose a coordinating print from your main swimsuit fabric.
Now let’s talk about the stitches.
You want your swimsuit to be able to move and stretch so you can do big jumps and cannonballs right? Read on to learn how to ensure those stitches don’t pop!
When sewing swimwear you are working with negative ease which means the pattern is written slightly smaller than your measurements so that it can be tight and stretch to fit your body. Because of that, you need to use stitches that can stretch and not break. The photo below shows four stitches/methods you can use to sew your swimsuit.
From top to bottom: Lightening/Stretch Stitch, Regular Zig-Zag, 3 Stitch Zig-Zag and Straight Stitch
With normal knits you wouldn’t want to use a straight stitch because you don’t want to stretch the fabric as you sew, but with swimsuits you can! If you stretch the fabric behind and in front of the presser foot AS YOU SEW, you can use a straight stitch! (It works believe me! But you HAVE to stretch the fabric as you’re sewing it or it will just break when you put it on.)
3 Stitch Zig-Zag
This is a zig zag that uses three little stitches on each “leg” which makes it an extra strong stitch that can also stretch!
Most swimsuit patterns just tell you to do a zig-zag for all stitching which works fine. You can adjust the length and width of the stitch to get the look you want.
This is like a tiny zig-zag. Not all machines have it, but it works great if yours does!
Ready to talk about swimsuit construction?
Many parts of the construction can be easily and quickly done on the serger, but you will still need to use your sewing machine for finishings. You can do any of the steps with just a zig-zag or other stretch stitch if you don’t own a serger.
When cutting out your swimsuit pieces, pay attention to where the pattern lies on the body, and how it looks next to the other pattern pieces when you are using prints that are not a basic repeat design.
The photo above shows a method of elastic insertion that I hadn’t seen in other patterns. You simply put the elastic ⅛” in from the edge of the serger so it cuts off the excess fabric but the serging stitches encase the elastic as it sews! Most patterns just have you zig-zag the elastic to the seam allowance and cut off the extra ⅛” which also works great.
Save 15% on Spoonflower’s Sport Lycra now through July 31, 2019 with code DIYSWIM719.
About the Guest Author
Katie Kortman is a sewist, artist, and self-proclaimed dancing queen. Over the years she has sold her artwork in galleries, worked as a display artist for Anthropologie, taught high school art, had a handmade accessories company called Blue-Eyed Freckle, and mothered her four children. She has lived in many places around the globe as the wife of a Navy Doctor, but currently resides in Virginia.
Katie enjoys combining her passions into one by using her artwork to design fabric on Spoonflower, that she can then sew up into clothing (and DANCE). She blogs at katiekortman.com and over on Instagram you can find her @katiekortmanart where she dances around in her handmade wardrobe.