“Everything sweet about childhood can be summed up in a bonnet”
A few months ago I won a giveaway with Mountain Honey Clothier. The prize was an organic, reversible bonnet, with removable ears — one hat, four ways to wear it. I loved the simplicity and versatility of the design, making it fun for a young child and mature for an older one. Not to mention, it was beautiful and the sort of item you knew you’d save for your grandchildren.
After exchanging a few messages with Deidre, the woman behind the brand, I learned about her unconventional path to starting her business and more about all the care, consideration and research she puts into her craft. I was also really impressed with her efforts to source her materials and produce her heirloom clothing line in the most sustainable way. She even uses her scraps to the fullest by making adorable soft toys and treasure bags. I asked her if she’d share her story and she happily obliged. Thank you, Deidre.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your background? How has it influenced your creative pursuits?
I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl. Creative expression has always been a huge part of who I am, as a young teen I actually covered every square inch of my bedroom wall with little doodles, I spray painted my door one day while my mom was at work, I stepped in paint and walked on the wood floors of my room. My mother was ever tolerant of my need to express myself. She was also the one who taught me to sew, starting with Halloween costumes. She supplied me with plenty of fabric scraps and odds and ends and was generous enough to allow me to use her nice sewing machine, even when she wasn’t there to supervise. I made little pillows and stuffed animals.
When I had my own children I began to sew even more. Creating clothing, toys, and blankets for them. I loved seeing them play with or wear something I made with my own two hands, and I loved that the items were quality and would last.
Five years ago I began a degree program in Biology. While in school I participated in some research and I was keenly interested in molecular and cellular biology. I aspired to go on to a PhD program and perhaps become a researcher. While I was in school I had a few odd jobs to help support our household. We are very lucky to have a devoted and hardworking husband/father who supports our family, but I wanted to be contributing to our livelihood as well. However, being a full time mom, and running a household while attending college full time, especially in such a challenging field, required flexible work. Not to mention the fact that I was pregnant and delivered my third precious little boy during this time. So one day I was contemplating odd jobs, I was more in love with sewing than ever before, and I decided I would just google “how to earn money sewing”. That sounds silly, but it’s the truth, good old Google.
Well, little did I know where that would lead. Before long I was doing private label work for a children’s clothing designer. Soon I was doing product photography and taking on clients who needed me to do prototyping work. All along I was amassing a little collection of my own designs and selling them here and there to friends and at small craft shows.
Time flew by and in May of 2014 I graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Biology from Castleton University in Vermont. I absolutely love science, I love research and problem solving. Despite this and all I had invested in my studies I was feeling more and more pulled towards my children’s line. I dreamed of making a go of it, of building something amazing. But Leaving something certain, something everyone expected me to continue in and that I had worked so hard at for something utterly uncertain and completely new was a frightening possibility. I convinced myself it was an amazing daydream but a scary reality. So, I continued to grad-school. I didn’t get far though, halfway through my first semester I took a leave of absence for personal reasons and that was when I finally decided to be brave enough to pursue this dream.
Here I am now, a year later. I have learned so much. I’ve refined my brand, stuck to what matters most to me, and created what I feel are some really special pieces. I am ever inspired by my children, by the natural world, and by a drive to build a company that is different than your average children’s line. I’m very committed to sourcing responsible materials and due to my background in the sciences, I feel I am acutely aware of the environmental, humanitarian,and health impacts of the products we bring into our lives. I’m striving to make sustainable and healthy choices down to each little detail. I am beyond excited to continue this journey and grateful for the ability to be there for my family and to have them be a part of this little company.
What part of the world do you live in?
Vermont, USA. The green mountain state.
How many children do you have and how would you describe them?
3 boys. Maxwell, 16, is an overachiever like his mom but the most gentle soul. He is the principal bassist of the Vermont Youth Orchestra and an extremely talented musician. People are surprised to find out he’s 16, he has the maturity of an adult at times and is over 6 feet tall. Max plays on several school athletic teams, including the Varsity football team. But perhaps the most memorable thing about Max is his laugh, he has the most wonderful infectious laugh.
Jacob, 10, the saying “still waters run deep” well it was written for this kid. My Jake is a bit of an introvert. He is the intelligent, quiet type. Those that know him best get to see his more relaxed side, and wow is it magical. He is passionately loving of his friends and family. He is full of emotion and so good at articulating his feelings. He doesn’t rush nor does he allow others to rush him and sometimes I really need his reminders to stop and smell the roses.
Derek, 3, this kids lights up our lives! He is doted on by the whole family and being the center of attention doesn’t bother him one bit. For his age his vocabulary is impressive, and he cracks us up on a daily basis with the things he comes up with. He has a habit of nicknaming people and the nicknames tend to stick. Derek is obsessed with helping and is so proud when the opportunity arises for him to use a tool or fix something with Daddy. He is my little sidekick and a HUGE part of Mountain Honey, you’ll always find him wearing a pair of ears!
What are your core family values?
I’ve matured a lot over the last 16 years as a mom. The world has become a scary place for parents and I feel this has resulted in a tendency to overprotect a bit, honestly, it’s really hard now to balance keeping kids safe while giving them the space to discover who they are. This is what we are really working on as a family. I feel the best way to show someone you love them, is to do them the honor of trusting their judgement and allowing them to make decisions and to deal with any consequences that come. Our core values are honesty, responsibility, acceptance, and love. I’m working really hard to honor the difference between guidance and direction, to model these values instead of reciting them, and to give my kids opportunities to model those values as well.
How do you spend most of your days?
Hahaha…October-December = wake, sew, wake kids, sew, make breakfast, sew, brush hair, remind boys to change underwear, sew, pack lunches, sew, drive kids to school, sew play play dough with Derek, sew, feed Derek lunch, read with Derek, play with Derek, sew, pick kids up, sew, clean house, sew, cook dinner, sew, eat a family dinner, sew, cuddle kiddos, bedtime routine and kids to bed, sew, sew, sew, sew, sew, pass out, sleep 4 hours while dreaming about sewing. Repeat. Sprinkle in football games, concerts, playing outside, and family outings.
What is your favourite thing to do as a family?
Discover new places.
What are you passionate about?
see novel above 😉
What do you design and how do you source your materials?
Designing is one of my favorite aspects of my job. Drafting patterns allows me to use my brainy side. Pattern drafting is as much engineering as it is creative. I make each and every one of my pieces myself, starting with the pattern design. Often, I am inspired by a fabric to create a new piece.
I have a deep love of fabric. While I buy some materials wholesale I also really enjoy patronizing small, locally owned fabric shops. Everywhere I travel, I find a shop to pop into and buy some treasured fabric. I’m also passionate about sourcing organic fabrics free of synthetic fiber. Not everything I source is organic but a really good percentage of it is. I haven’t done the exact math but I’d estimate at least 80% of the materials I use are organic and sustainably produced. My packing materials are all 100% recycled and I am extremely conscientious about energy use and waste in my studio.
Beyond the material there is the aesthetic piece. I think my aesthetic is best described as nature inspired with a vintage/heirloom charm. I love simple designs, that are timeless and a bit whimsical.
What’s your favourite piece you’ve designed?
My bonnets, by far. They are my baby and are really unique to me. There is just something about putting ears on a baby, then combine that with an heirloom quality and styled piece, and you’ve got magic.
What are your dreams for your business and motherhood?
My biggest dream is to be a strong role model for my kids. It’s hard not to have some guilt about the little sacrifices we all have to make in order for this business to take off but I think the payoff is worth it. I dream that my kids will look back one day and appreciate that I showed them how valuable hard work and creativity are and that these efforts are reflected in the adults they become. My dreams of motherhood have less to do with me and more to do with what my kids experience, I hope that they feel loved and valued.
My dreams for my business are that it will continue to grow and be successful. I wish for it to not only be able to sustain my family but that hopefully it will grow into something that can benefit my community and perhaps one day reach even farther. I don’t want to lose that handmade touch though, mass production will never be for me. I’d would love to be able to provide some flexible well paying jobs to other parents and to pass on my love for sewing.
Thank you, again, Deidre! Readers you can find Mountain Honey Clothier online shop here and on Instagram @mountainhoneyclothier_.
GIVEAWAY: To enter to win 2 bonnets from Mountain Honey Clothier, follow them on Instagram and leave me a comment here. For two extra entries subscribe to my blog by email, WordPress or Bloglovin. Contest closes Sunday November 8, 2015.
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