I have made a pledge to support small, mom and pop, businesses whenever I can this Holiday Season. I truly find more value in something handmade or handpicked by someone I trust and respect. I hold strong values and beliefs on consumerism and know that the greatest power I have to enact change is through how I spend my money. I have come to realize that there is a small business option for everything I need.
With this in mind, I am excited to feature Casey’s wonderful small business today – Sesame Seed Designs.
Donni : Welcome, Casey. Please tell us a little about what you do.
Casey : I turn wool and cashmere sweaters into new and beautiful creations! From super soft cashmere, baby hats to pot holders embellished with the under-represented eggplant, I try to offer something for everyone. I live in the crafty, nature-loving city of Portland, OR and when I’m not sewing or hanging out with my two daughters, I work as an environmental educator. My love for nature inspires everything I do and many of my items are embellished with embroidery and appliques inspired by the plants and animals I love.
Donni : Tell us what inspired you to start your business?
Casey : When my first daughter was about 6 months old, I had quit my unfulfilling job and was adjusting to life with a baby when I was invited to participate in a Christmas DIY fair. The idea was to have creative people share ideas and examples of gifts attendees could make, encouraging them to give meaningful and relational presents at Christmas instead of buying things from the nearest big-box store. I decided to share how an old sweater could be shrunk down into a soft, dense fabric and then used to create new things. I typed up an info sheet and quickly sewed things, including a little hat for my baby, very similar to the ones I sell now. I gathered a ton of interest and many people, both at the fair and later out and about in town, inquired about buying my example hat right off my babe’s head. With that, I realized I was on to something. I opened my Etsy shop soon after and have kept it up, even after returning to work part time at a job I truly love.
Donni : What is your inspiration for new designs and ideas?
Casey : My most recent additions to my business were inspired by my desire to reduce waste and use all parts of the wool and cashmere sweaters. I try not to throw anything away! My rabbits are stuffed with small wool scraps and I plan on offering some more plush items in the future to use up even more little bits and pieces.
I started making potholders because sometimes I wash a wool sweater for too long and it becomes too thick and stiff to use for a hat, or a sweater that feels soft before washing turns out a little not-so-soft afterwards. My two daughters are my softness testers and if they say a fabric is too scratchy, it gets turned into an awesome potholder. They’re the only ones I’ve used in my kitchen for over a year now and they work even better than I first imagined them to.
My flower pins use the ribbed cuffs of the sweaters that I used to not have a use for. I love using every part!
Donni : What did the Child-Casey wish to become when you grew up?
Casey : From the time I was really young, I said I wanted to be a “baby doctor.” Apparently I loved babies and, to my young self, that seemed to be the way to get to be around them all the time. By the time I was in high school I realized that being a doctor wasn’t my calling but I still really loved science and never considered any other major in college. I discovered the field of ecology and fell in love with science all over again. I have a Master’s degree in ecology and work as an environmental educator when I’m not sewing or knitting for my business and family. Nature inspires everything I do, from the deer, birds and flowers you can find on my products, to my desire to surround my family (and yours!) in natural fibers and our connection with the rhythms and cycles of the seasons.
Donni : What value does ‘handmade’ have in our society?
Casey : Handmade is essential to our society. With the global marketplace we live in and the ease with which we can obtain information and products, having a personal connection to things has become even more important and special, at least to my family and, I believe, to my customers. It’s the handmade goods that becomes a treasured part of the home. The handmade items have a story to tell. My kids ask for their “Aunt Judy blanket” or “Grandma Diane blanket” at bedtime because those blankets make them feel special and loved. Even if a handmade item comes from a stranger, the fact that it was stitched, built, beaded, woven, with someone’s own two hands and comes with a quickly handwritten ‘thank you!” imparts a value to the item that something mass-produced can’t have. We need to move past the convenience and bargain bin prices of goods that are disposable and not meant to last. I recently saw one of my cashmere hats displayed in a consignment store. It made me so happy and brought back memories of the person I had originally gifted it to. Whether it’s held onto as an heirloom or offered up to another stranger, my handmade goods are being used and loved, and have a value that lasts beyond the initial consumer and I can’t wish for anything better.
Donni : Thank you Casey… your goodies are adorable and I wish you much success.
Please visit Casey in these places too :
Blessings and magic,