This giveaway is now closed! Thank you everybody!!
We’re delighted to be hosting another giveaway. This time the goodies on offer are from the very talented designer and dressmaker Helen Farden of Hollie-in-Bloom. Helen is offering a voucher for:
****ONE FREE HANDMADE DRESS – ANY SIZE (between newborn & aged 5-6) , ANY FABRIC, ANY PATTERN ****
Brilliant don’t you think! I’ll tell you more about how to enter in a while, but first let’s find out more about Helen, her business, & the lovely clothes she makes.
When did you start the business Helen, and why?
I started Hollie-in-Bloom in April 2010. I studied a fashion course at college and absolutely adored sewing, so when I had my daughter Hollie, and stopped sewing for a few months, I was missing it a lot. So I decided to try my hand at sewing her some pretty dresses. Whilst at college, we learnt to make patterns, so I managed (just) to rustle up some baby patterns, and got sewing!
I enjoyed it so much, I knew it was my calling, and made a business plan to start selling them. It’s the best thing anyone can decide to do with their crafting skills! Even if it is just a part-time thing, or if your feeling is to take a risk, go full steam ahead!
What do you sell and how do you do your selling?
I sell handmade children’s (mainly girls) clothing in sizes newborn to 5-6years – I make skirts, dresses, printed/appliquéd t-shirts and baby vests and have just started shorts too. I intend to start making little shirts and ties for boys in the summer too, when I’ve got a bit of free time on my hands (which will be the sleeping hours of my day!).
I mainly sell at Hollie-in-Bloom on Facebook . I upload photos of my ‘Pre-mades’ (which are items I’ve made up in spare time to sell on straight away), but I also have photos of fabrics, designs and previous custom orders for people to choose their desired outfit from.
What are the successful things you’ve done to grow your business?
I do a lot of advertising on Facebook, and through email too. I feel my business has grown through word of mouth – people can upload their ‘fan photos’ to my page when their dresses arrive, and then their friends can see the photos too. It also gives customers the chance to see the dresses on a body instead of a coat hanger before buying!
Why do you like making children’s clothes so much?
I like it because the clothing is so much easier to make than adult clothing. There is much more choice of fabrics and haberdashery for children, whereas adults are very picky and getting the fit just right is crucial, whereas if something is just a little bit too long/too big for a child, they can ‘grow into it’.
I know how some parents want something for their children for parties or special occasions, and it’s quite hard to find something in a shop without wondering if another child is going to be wearing the same too! I’m also sure it sounds better to say ‘I had this dress handmade just for my daughter’ than ‘I got it from the supermarket’! I enjoy parents coming to me with their exact ideas for the dresses, it’s fun to search and dig around for fabrics, and when you come up trumps, you’re highly praised! (that makes me very big-headed I know!).
What do you find challenging about running your business? Have you made any big mistakes that you’ve learned from?
Getting the right fabrics is a challenge. It is very difficult to match your own tastes against other parents’. I have bought so many fabrics which end up wasted because no-one is interested in them. I find it best to look at stores’ websites and see the new colours and trends for the next season, and try to find something that will work. No-one can judge what others are going to like, but sometimes, guesswork is all you can do!
The biggest mistake I ever made was my first ever order. I had finished it, and it looked great – until I ironed it… There was a ladybird on the iron (which I didn’t see). I turned it on, the ladybird burnt onto the iron, I put it onto the dress, and it squashed into the fabric! R.I.P. ladybird, I am very sorry! I now check the iron ALL the time – it also ruined my iron, but I’ll forget that for taking the ladybird’s life!
How do you manage to fit your work round the hard work of being a mum?
I am not sure myself! I tend to sew while she is napping, in the evenings and at weekends. My partner works in the day but when he is home at the weekends, he enjoys the time with Hollie, so at least I can feel better about leaving them to get on with sewing! Hollie and her dad usually play downstairs while I am upstairs sewing. He is a great help, and knows if I don’t sew, we don’t get the spending money!
I have just also enrolled her into a private nursery for 1 morning a week too, so those extra 5 hours will let me sew more too. Hollie is 21 months old, and at that age where their attention span is non-existent and my attention is needed for her all the time. But soon she’ll play independently and I can then bring the sewing machines downstairs and sew while she plays!
What are your own favourite fabrics?
I would definitely have to say the Michael Miller ‘Fairies’ range – they really inspire me. They remind me of a book I used to have when I was little on Flower Fairies. I also love soft plain cottons, and the colours I love are dusky pinks and mint greens. I mainly use cotton-based fabrics, either 100% or poly-cottons. They are cheaper to buy, so I can keep my prices low! I hate velvet though, it makes my teeth grind when I touch it, like when someone scrapes their knife on a plate and it makes that awful noise.
What are your ambitions for your business?
My ambitions are not very high at the moment. I just want to get onto Etsy and maybe also create a website (with help of course). I am also hoping to get some of my own fabrics made this year, and definitely get more advertising done. I am hoping 2011 is going to be a great year for my business – I have made a total of 338 dresses so far in 9 months, and I am hoping to get that to 1,000 by this time next year!
My ultimate goal would be to have employees, a small warehouse to sew in and my website to be a complete hit! We’ll see on that one!
What a fantastic interview! I’m sure that Helen will have her staff & her warehouse sooner than she thinks – her clothes are so pretty, the designs so attractive, and she’s done so much in such a short time. By the way, some of the fabulous photography used in the article is by the equally talented Gingerlillytea photography.