Indie Stitches Q&A

Caitlan is the sweet creative soul behind the online pattern store and blog Indie Stitches. I first connected with her via instagram...then got to know over all things yarn related at Brewhouse Coffee Roasters after hours. Curious? You can read about my experience learning crochet and hanging out with some serious crafters at Brewhouse in the upcoming winter issue of Bendigo Magazine. Until then, here is the extended version of my Q&A with Caitlan that covers how she weaves her creative business into life as a Mum to Eddie; our shared love of cold rainy days; and her favourite local and online sources for sewing and knitting...

Tell us a little bit about yourself...

I live in Bendigo with my Husband, Wal, our son, Eddie and our giant dog. I would describe myself as a maker. I am always making something, whether it be something sewn or knitted. I spend my time hanging out with my lad, making things, working our home and working on my online sewing pattern boutique, Indie Stitches. I sew and knit most of the clothes I wear and try to wear at least one handmade item each day. It actually feels like something is missing now if on the off chance I find myself in an outfit of all bought clothing.  

When did you come up with the idea of starting an online store and what motivated you to do it?

I came across a book a few years ago called “Down to Earth, a Guide to Simple Living” by Rhonda Hetzel. It totally changed the way I thought about the life that I wanted, or thought that I wanted.  It hadn’t occurred to me, ever that it was actually OK to want to be a homemaker. Don’t get me wrong, I never thought that there was anything wrong with it I just hadn’t thought I could do it. I still wanted to contribute financially to the household and started thinking of ways that I could do that that would fit in with what felt right to me. I was reading lots of great sewing and crafting blogs at the time and really growing my existing skills in the areas of sewing and knitting. I loved how great it made me feel when I made something for myself or a loved one. I wanted to share this feeling with others and the idea of opening a store selling sewing patterns came to me while reading a sewing blog one day. I opened Indie Stitches when I was pregnant and started off very slowly, fitting it in around the new mum routine of nappy changes, wee hours of the morning feeding times, loads and loads of washing and attempted afternoon naps. As Eddie became older I was able to put more time in and it has become a business rather than a hobby which is what I was hoping for when I started out. It’s a business that fits into with what I value family and my home.

What are you currently making?

At the moment I am knitting some mittens for a friends birthday and knitting some socks for Eddie. I have a couple of things on my sewing table too: tracksuit pants and flannel shirts for Eddie in winter, and a vintage inspired gathered skirt for another project I’ve been working on. I am hoping to bring these skirts to the store with ready made and made to order options in the near future.  I enrolled in an online knitwear design class a couple of months ago and have been working on that around all my other projects.

Do you have a favourite form of social media for connecting to others creatives?

Instagram is my favourite form of social media for both connecting with customers and for browsing. It’s a great way to get to know my customers and see what they are making...and also a nice way for me to share a bit about myself with them.

What would you say is the hardest thing about having a creative business vs. the best thing about having a creative business?

I find the hardest thing is not being able to switch off sometimes. I am always thinking of things I’d like to make and planning what I’ll make next. I guess this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a bit tiring sometimes. Best thing is providing a service that helps others be creative.

Where do you do your creating mostly?

I knit all round the house, in the car, at the movies, at the park, in cafes, wherever I find myself just sitting idle - it’s a very portable craft. If I am working on knitting pattern ideas I have been taking my laptop to my favorite café and browsing stitch patterns over a cup of coffee. If I’m sewing on my machine its done in my office/sewing room. If I am doing something like a hand-stitched hem or sewing on buttons I’ll usually do that on the couch while Eddie is playing.

What's a typical day for you?

I get up between 4 and 5am, make a coffee and start packing orders for the store to get them ready to be posted out when I head in to town. I do some selfish sewing before the house wakes if I have time usually, but lately I have been working on my vintage inspired skirt samples. I sew all the postage envelopes Indie Stitches orders are sent out in myself so even if I don’t get a chance to do some selfish sewing during the day I still feel like I’ve had my sewing fix. Once Wal and Eddie are up we have breakfast and get ready for the day. On the days Eddie isn’t at childcare we do our outside chores in the morning then head off to tumble tots to jump around like loons for 45 minutes, then maybe to the library to get some books or have a play date with a friend. I try to be home for lunch each day rather than eat out so Ed can go down for his nap straight after. This is the time also that I can work on the store, ordering stock and updating the website. If I have a blog post scheduled I will (try) write it in this time too. Once the lad is up we do some kind of crafty activity- drawing or paying with some playdough usually. He likes to make things too, and I love that so much. I’ll usually be knitting while he is doing these things.  He has just started to get into watching movies so we usually pop one on in the late afternoon before dinner and I’ll knit or write while he relaxes with his movie. Wal gets home around 5.30 and the boys hang out while I do a bit of housework. Wal cooks most of our meals - he is much better at cooking meals than I am, I am better at the treat type foods. After dinner its bath and bed time for Eddie. Wal does the bathing I do the bottle. When Eddie is asleep we will usually hang out in the lounge together and have a chat about our day. I am usually in bed early so I can get up early. Before bed though I’ll read a bit. Days that Eddie is in childcare look pretty much the same except there is more housework and less play and instead of a social activity in the morning for Eddie, I head to my favorite café for a coffee and do little bit of work there on my laptop. I fit a bit more sewing and some baking in on these days and do more in the garden on these days too. Eddie loves the veggie garden as much as I do but hasn’t quite figured out which are weeds and which plants yet so its sometimes easier to do the majority of the gardening while he is occupied with other things.

Where do you get your crafty ideas and inspiration from?

We are blessed (and cursed) these days with so many places to get inspiration from. Inspiration comes for me from all different places: Blogs, friends, books, TV shows, social media. I love the cold and most happy when it’s raining, I find I am more inspired and creative on days like these. I follow a lot of blogs and Instagram accounts of people from the US and Europe and it's been so nice to see their snowy pictures lately - very inspiring for knitwear designing and winter sewing planning.

How about your favourite place to buy yarn and fabric locally vs. online?

My favourite fabric store in town is House of Cloth in Flora Hill. It's my local and it's nice to be able to pick up some fabric then duck into the butchers and get some meat for dinner while I’m there. Online would have to be Unfortunately there are not many Australian online fabric stores (than I know of) so I have to go to the US usually when buying online. Hands down my favourite local yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills. Online would have to be Cleckheaton.

What's the biggest lesson you've learned since starting your business and blog?

Just have a go. If it doesn't work out then that's ok, but you won't know unless you try it.

Favourite thing about living in Bendigo?

I’ve lived in Bendigo for 25 years and through different ages I’ve always found things I love about my home. For where I am at in my life now I have found the community and social activities for families and new mums to be fantastic in Bendigo. There is tumble tots at Palmers Gym, story sessions at the library; kid friendly cafes like the Corner Store that has a sandpit in the outdoor area, great parks and play grounds. Bendigo really knows how to cater for families. Our local pub, The One Tree Hotel even has play equipment in the beer garden.

Can you share five of your favourite blogs/people to follow?

  1. Down to Earth: Rhonda posts every day. I read this like I would a newspaper over breakfast
  2. Phoebe Wahl: I find inspiration in her illustrations
  3. Cinnamon Girl: I love reading about this family's adventures in homesteading. I also feel I am drawn to other women who are mothers of lads with long hair
  4. Jennifer Lauren Vintage: I've followed Jen's blog fot a long time now. She has great posts on sewing vintage patterns and has also recently released some vintage inspired patterns of her own
  5. Posie Gets Cozy: Lots of lovely pictures and words about home, family and crafting. She also sells softie kits and patterns - I just purchased the Mr Fox softie pattern and am so looking forward to stitching it up for Ed!

Thanks so much for allowing us a peek into your life and business Caitlan! You can find her in a bunch of places... Blog // Store // Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest ...and I recommend following along as she is planning on selling some beautiful hand stitched skirts in the future :)

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