There’s no doubt that most of us in the craft world get tons of inspiration through Hillary Lang’s Wee Wonderfuls site. Whether it’s her signature Wee doll, her quilted or sewn toys, or her current obsession with embroidery, Hillary no doubt keeps our hands busy with her overflow of fun projects for us to make. I got a chance to talk to Hillary and find out how she does it all — endless creativity, a thriving craft business, and balancing motherhood.
Nat: Tell me how you got your start in crafting and when did it become more of a business for you? How hard is it to run a craft business?
Hillary: Started in crafting? The usual answer, the Grandmas. They kept me in sewing machines and hook-rugging kits starting in my preteen years. Started in craft blogging? Again, the usual answer, after the birth of my son. Being home with some free time and a very bad conversationalist for company left me vulnerable to the enticing world of craft blogs. They sucked me in and it’s been so much fun. It has become more of a business for me since I did the Put-together book, when I finally decided I could let go and share my patterns and that it would be a lot less painful than trying to sew up an army of stuffed toys to sell. How hard is it? It gets harder every day. It’s an odd situation being a stay at home and working from home mom. Every little success makes things that much harder. So it’s kind of a constant state of stressed happy around here. Lots of “woohoo! Ah crap, when am I going to do that!” I think the most difficult thing is trying to prioritize and decide what’s the best use of my very limited time. I feel like once I make these decisions and get a few things up and running in an orderly fashion than it will all fall into place and become easier. At least this is what I need to tell myself, over and over.
Nat: Your blog, Wee Wonderfuls, has lots of inspiration from sewing, embroidery to thrifting. Where do you find your inspiration?
Hillary: I find inspiration in all things vintage – children’s books illustration, antique toys, thrifted fabric, old decorating magazines and also in all things mid-century modern, 50s color schemes, poster design, architecture and furniture design and then I love all things folky, scandinavian, simple country design. These are the things I always come back to when working on a design.
Nat: How did the Wee Wonderfuls little plush come about?
Hillary: I was trying to make something more abstract, something simple that I could make an army of and the wee is what I came up with. I wanted a sort of blank slate to embellish and play around with and that would work decorated or pared down. Reminds me, I still need to make that army…
Nat: The Wee Wonderfuls Put Together Book #1 sold out the first day it was for sale. Why do you think your pattern booklets have become so popular? Why do people like making toys?
Put Together Book #1: Kitty Bunny, and Bear
Hillary: The put-together book fell into the gap. The gap between the craft book publishers catching up with what people really want to make. There seems to be a slew of new pattern books on the horizon which is exciting because hopefully there will be many more toy patterns for us all to play with. Toys are just cool. Or wait, aren’t we all just kids or something? Maybe that’s why. I just think toys are popular because they are a relatively quick and easy (as opposed to a quilt or something more elaborate) project. The end result has a personality! No matter how shoddy your sewing skills are as soon as you put a face on something it has a great little personality and that’s addictive.
Nat: The Make-A-Long story is such a great idea – downloadable patterns. Tell me the idea behind it.
Hillary: Impatience is what’s behind the make-a-long project. I was thinking of book ideas and this seemed like the perfect blend to me of all the things I’m interested in, photos of staged toys, mixing all different types of crafts, telling a tale, making patterns — a kids book and a craft book combined! So I found an agent and started talking about writing up a proposal and there is so much work you need to do up front and it all has to be behind the scenes which leaves no room for blogging about what I’m working on. And I can’t believe how long the period of time is from idea to final published work. So I decided to just do it online in real time with PDF patterns. It’s a fun process and immediately gratifying which is wonderful but I’ll always want to do print patterns and cards too. I’m way too much of an archivist to go all online.
Nat: What other craft blogs, web sites and books do you enjoy?
Hillary: Well I’d let you peek at my bloglines but you might think I’m insane. It’s overwhelming how many great craft blogs are out there. As I get more and more busy the less able I am to keep up with everyone which is really upsetting to me. I need my daily fix of craft blogs to inspire and delight and of course cause jealousy and feelings of self doubt ;)
Nat: What kinds of craft projects are you working on this fall?
Hillary: Well, more make-a-long projects for sure! They have many adventures planned. For the shop, the new fall designs of the Stitchette embroidery will be available soon and I was hoping to get a robot toy put-together book ready in time for Christmas gift giving. On the personal crafting front I have to figure out how the heck to tastefully decorate for Halloween, do I need one of those black feather trees? Do I artfully arrange gourds? Big decisions. And I have to figure out how to wrangle my toddler into a Halloween costume although, as he will loudly inform anyone who asks, he wants to be NOTHING.
Thank you Hillary for the great interview! We can’t wait to see what you make next, and we can’t wait to make it!
Free Patterns from Wee Wonderfuls