Friday, July 26, 2013

CANDY KIRBY DESIGNS: a birth story

i've been meaning to write this post for awhile and am happy that i am finally getting around to it.  here is a little story about how candy kirby designs came to be and a little background on me.

i have always been a creative person, it's just how i'm made. i've always loved color, but loved the simplicity of black and white. i remember lying and telling people that my favorite color was pink because i didn't like the weird looks i got when i told them it was white {total truth!}. and i also got many a side eye when the only things in my hand while shopping for the twins at baby gap were black and white items. see exhibits #1, #2 and #3 below.

my sweet mother taught me how to sew when i was 12, perhaps younger. 

her mother taught her how to sew and my great grandmother taught my grandmother. i'm sure the line of sewists continues, but this is what we know for sure. i inherited my great grandmother's sewing machine and as of right now, it's folded up in it's beautiful little table-self, waiting for me to play with it one day.

my mother's father, Popie, was a rancher. he had a big vineyard of acres and acres of wine grapes. he always wore levi 501's and a button-up work shirt when he would work outside. when he passed away, he had a giant stack of old levi's in the hall closet. luckily for me, i was the only grandchild present while we were cleaning out said closet. i asked if i could have them and my mother and my aunt agreed i could.

now what to do with a big stack of denim jeans that don't fit your 14 year-old self? in true 1998-2002 fashion, frayed denim was all the rage. i decided to cut up Popie's jeans and made them into purses. i broke SO many of my mom's sewing machine needles before i realized there were such things as denim needles to make sewing easier. 

i made purses for myself and once my friends saw them, they wanted some too. so i made many for them and added lace, rhinestones and whatever else they desired. these purses were the first thing i ever made and sold.

when i was in high school, i didn't care too much about sewing. i made some aprons, a few skirts and designed my junior prom dress, but that was about it. i was too busy hanging out with my friends {read: chatting online with my friends}, working at cold stone and procrastinating homework to care about sewing. when i was newly married at 20 {i know, i know, so young...but hey, we've been married for 9.5 years now and i'm still madly in love with him.} i learned how to knit. i knit scarf after scarf and was so bored with it. so again, i decided to make purses. i loved chunky yarn and wanted it to look a certain way, so i made a pattern and started selling those. i was working in banks at the time and when i would chat with my clients, we would talk about my purses and they became my best customers.

after purses got old {i'm always moving onto the next thing...}, so i decided to have my hand at cakes. i mean, why not, right?! {i'm totally laughing writing this out. i'm so random!} one of my coworkers had a little boy that was turning one and i volunteered to make his birthday cake.

what one year-old doesn't have a three-tier birthday cake AND a smash cake?! {again, shaking my head...i tend to go big or go home, no?!} it was my first fondant cake, so there were a lot of mistakes, but it was fun. it would've been more fun had my husband not been in the hospital recovering from major knee surgery, but nonetheless it was fun. i opened up an etsy shop around this time and sold custom ordered "mr & mrs" pillowcases and other random sewn things. 

around this time i went back to school and was pulling 18 units, working part-time at the bank and part-time at a law office as a bookkeeper. during that time we were undergoing fertility treatments and got pregnant with the twins. i had severe morning sickness for the first 6 months and all of my energy was focused on trying to keep food down and passing my classes. i got hugely pregnant and massively uncomfortable in any position, so i didn't sew much. my sweet mother made the twins' bedding for me as well as their vintage sheet baby quilts.

once the girls were born, my creativity was waiting to be unleashed. i made blankets, bows, ruffle blankets, ruffle rompers, ruffled diaper covers, dresses, headbands, and the list goes on and on. 

when the twins were about three months old i changed the name of my etsy shop to candy kirby designs. i came across ruffle fabric and was the first one to sew them into rompers and sell them on etsy.

i loved making my girls fun, modern and unique clothing.

i taught myself how to do a lot of sewing things. if i didn't know how to do something, i'd ask my mom or look it up online. i'd sketch things out and got such a sense of accomplishment when the visions in my head would become a reality.

i've also made an unofficial tradition of making the twins' halloween costumes. i try to use things from  my fabric closet and make things that they can wear again and again.

stella the pheasant and olivia the peacock.

stella was little red riding hood...

...and olivia was dorothy from the wizard of oz. {they already had red glitter toms and i chose their costumes around those.}

i sold hundreds of ruffle blankets in every color...

...and started to paint. this was my first real painting. {i feel like i've come so far! but i sure have a long way to go.}

everything i made was bright, colorful and super girly.

i loved the fluffy ruffle bows that were for sale on etsy or in local boutiques {the ones in the picture weren't done yet, i added 11 rhinestones in the center.}, but i couldn't afford to spend $12/bow TIMES TWO. so i taught myself how to make bows. i'd buy a ton of ribbon at a wholesale price, make all the bows i could out of them, pick out what i wanted to keep and sold the rest.

{grow-with-me aprons for one of their monthly photo shoots i did for the first year of their lives.}

once ezra was born i struggled with finding things for him to wear that i liked and that fit our budget. i was absolutely determined to nurse him {since i stopped nursing the twins at 7 weeks, it was just TOO MUCH going on at the time}, so i spent a lot of time alone with my boy in my room. the girls got sick and got ezra sick at 8 days old. ezra and i quarantined ourselves to my room and got to spend a lot of uninterrupted time together while my mother or husband could watch the girls.

i grew tired of web surfing and blog reading and decided i needed to do something useful with my time. ezra got sick again {RSV} and had to be kept away from people again. while we were holed away in my room, i started playing in photoshop {i have yet to get comfortable in Illustrator} and making patterns and designs.

i had posted some of them on instagram and got a lot of positive feedback, so i decided to fork up some cash for a little experiment and order some swatches of my designs.

i did a grand opening giveaway of one pair of leggings on instagram and it got some good attention in the blog world. i sent some leggings over to my girls at small fry blog and did a fun collaboration with them and with casey wiegand.

i networked on instagram, sales kept growing and i started freaking out. more than once i called my girlfriends {or my mom when she was in town} and they would come over and cut waistband elastic or size tags. their support was so helpful.

my husband knows that i'm always going to be one of those people that has to create. he wants me to follow my dreams and shoot for the moon {as long as i don't get us bankrupt ;)}.

leggings have become the new "it" item for babies and tots and for crafty ladies alike. after seeing 20+ legging shops pop up all over instagram and the web, i knew i needed to keep things fresh. i keep designing new fabrics and pushing myself to do something different.

i've been sketching, painting and sewing up a storm.

i'm trying to build candy kirby designs into something that can grow into something huge. i want to have a part-time career when the kids are in school to keep myself busy and have something that's mine. when you become a mother, you give up a lot of yourself. you give up long showers, spotless houses and clean clothes. you give up privacy in the bathroom, the food off your plate and other bits and pieces of yourself. you gain so, SO much in return though. CKD is a piece of me that i'm not giving up. it's crazy, it's inconvenient at times, it's overwhelming, but i absolutely love it. i want to show my kids that their mama wasn't afraid to try something crazy. i want them to grow up and be dreamers and hard workers.

we have a sewing tradition we need to keep going after all.

i've added a lot of new things to the shop {swaddling blankets, fitted sheets, quilts, pillows and SHORTS!}, so check it out! 

and a HUGE thank you to bri from collected blog for making the blog pretty! she's got some mad skills. thanks, bri!


  1. Erin,

    I tried to comment from my phone but I don't think it went through... if you get two from me SORRY!! :) Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story. I have followed you on IG for a few months now and I am always amazed at how you juggle three littles and your business. I have an etsy shop called GreySkiesBlue that has been more successful (read way more work) than I ever imagined. With two babies (2 &4 months) it is at times overwhelming. But i love it. Thank you for being so inspiring. I didn't even know you had a blog until today. I will be reading now for sure!!

    1. thank you so much! it's always a crazy juggle, isn't it?! :)

  2. I love your story! I love your work. I love that you've made CKD your place. I too have crafters ADD, of sorts, and am always trying new crafting things. With a 9-5 job, I NEED that creative outlet. Can't wait to see where you take CKD in the future. Congrats on all your success :)

    1. thanks jessica! creative outlets are cheap therapy!

  3. New blog follower. This is so wonderful! You are a great mom and business women!♥♥♥

  4. Great story, my friend! I love that your doing so well and having so much fun doing it! Your designs are amazing! ps - how do you know Bri? She was in my college ward in Utah for years and took Andrew's newborn photos - I love her!

    1. small world, chels! bri and i met on good ol' instagram. speaking of IG, post some more pics on there!

  5. You didn't even mention your cooking, baking, decorating and photography skills which I have seen firsthand. I've always been amazed at your talent Erin, congrats on your success. I'll be watching for you on the show 'SharkTank' and seeing your business explode.

    1. you're so sweet mary! thank you! and i LOVE shark tank!

  6. Thank you for sharing! You put "the need to create" into words so beautifully :) Love that I found your blog (somehow..? Crazy blog world!) and look forward to seeing all of your cute stuff on candy kirby.. thanks!

  7. I'm just curious if you ever plan on selling those dolls in your shop? They are darling and I would love to purchase one for my little girl!

  8. All the apparels are just so awesome and cute as well.I appreciate your fashion sense.


i love candy, sewing and the power to delete :) have a great day!