It feels like a dream when I sit down to design new products for our business. After years of designing for magazines I relish the freedom to develop my own ideas. The trick is narrowing in on an imagery that I love and that will resonate with our customers. The sewing industry has two international trade shows a year, Spring and Fall Quilt Markets. My goal is to have new products ready to release at both shows. This Spring we launched three new kits a Penguin and Cat softie kits and a Chickadee hoop kit. All three were warmly received and have been selling extremely well this summer. Here's a behind the scenes look at how the kits come together.
Who can resist fun and quirky penguins? I've always been entranced by their movements. I always start with pencil sketches, then reach for a roll of trace paper to break the design into pattern pieces. I was thrilled to develop a single pattern piece that formed the entire penguin back, from the tail all up and over to the folded beak. It's a craft miracle when the form is perfect and the construction is simple.
The little fledgling was much trickier to develop than his full sized dad. I stitched a whole flock of misshapen chicks that circled me on the couch until I tweaked the pattern to perfection. The finished duo make irresistible pair, they were by far the most loved at the show.
I've been hoping to add a pair cute cats to our product line. I was a cat crazy girl and still have a soft spot for charming felines. The design process required a special consultation with my cat savvy and artistic neighbor Claudia. It's hard to design in a vacuum and her advice was exactly what I needed. I thinned out the faces that were getting fat and lion-ish. She also encouraged me to stick with the engaging stretched out pose instead of a passive curled up sleeping pose.
I'm really pleased with The Purrfect Pals, they're sweet and playful. Wouldn't it be fun to use these patterns with lots of felt colors and make an assortment of ginger, calico, coon and tuxedo kitties?
It's probably not wise segue into birds after talking cats. My new hoop kit is directly inspired by my Forest Frolic fabric line. Every time I work on Chickadees their repetitive call resonates in my head, chicka dee dee dee. The first step is tracing the inner hoop onto the paper and then I start drawing. I reference photos whenever I can to help get the animal shapes right. Half of drawing is erasing, you have to start with bad lines to find the good ones. Tracing paper helps me convert the drawing into applique pattern pieces.
To cut down on the amount of pattern pieces I combined the wings and lighter tail section into a single grey piece. See the dark felt strips in the upper right corner? They were my first round of branches. The dark color competed with the chickadees black caps, the lighter squash color worked much better. I'm constantly exploring options to achieve the best possible design. I think the two birds along with the bright bittersweet sprays makes this hoop especially engaging.
Here's the finished kit in both the boxed and bagged packaging options. I love the way the Chickadees works with the rest of the series. Now that we're halfway through summer, it's already time to get serious about developing new products for fall.
I just started working on a new set of woodland tea towel kits that also coordinate with my fabric. This time I'm planning on also packaging six transfers in a single package for quilters. It would be wonderful to see them used in tandem with the fabric. I'd love to hear your suggestions for new Softie or Hoop kit ideas!