Friday, 28 March 2014

Materials and Techniques - 'Swaddle Me Snugly'

I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who was always trying out new ways of creating. From painting and quilting, to raffia hats and fimo, she was always crafting and introducing us to new materials and techniques. As a result, I've been running fortnightly posts on my Blog, interviewing different artists about the materials and techniques that they use to create their works. This week I am talking to Kelli from Seattle, WA in the United States. She is a sewer who has the online store Swaddle Me Snugly.


Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a retired wife, mother of three outstanding grown children, and grandmother of three very wonderful children.

Sewing new swaddle blankets, bibs and burp cloths recently for my new grandson, Petey, gave back to me a long-dormant pleasure in designing and creating sweet and fun things for a newborn. My brain and my hands recalled old skills and design ideas that I’ve had since I learned from my mother and both grandmothers how to make things for babies and children. Marrying these traditional designs and skills with current improvements in functionality was so much fun that I was inspired to open this shop to keep on designing and creating them. Before long, Petey grew out of swaddle cloths and burp cloths and tiny drool bibs, but I can keep on having fun making them for my shop.
It’s been a few decades since Petey’s father was a baby, and 18 years since Petey’s next youngest cousin was born. During that time, a lot of changes have taken place in the types and styles of baby care items! What I noticed first of course was the disposable diapers. They replaced the old flat folded cloth diapers that we used for burp cloths, and that led to a wonderful array of shapes and combinations of materials for burp cloths. What fun! Today drool bibs and burp cloths can be coordinated with swaddling cloths to make a well-dressed, stylish baby!

Swaddling cloths, too, have undergone a revolution of sorts, thanks to Dr. Karp’s book showing us all how to swaddle newborns and why a good swaddle is so important in the first few weeks, especially for little ones who were born early. When Petey was brought home from the hospital, they sent one swaddle cloth with him that was the right size and shape. His parents had difficulty finding more of that size and shape so I made them some them some square ones, 42” x 42”, and – yay – success! Snug swaddle, happy Petey! I figured if his parents had trouble getting the right swaddle wraps, looking everywhere online, then there must be other new parents needing a source to get them. So that’s how Petey’s shop, Swaddle Me Snugly, was conceived.

Ever since, I’ve been having a wonderful time designing and making more and more cute and useful things for parents of newborns. Now a few months since opening this shop, my swaddling cloths are snugly cuddling babies all over the country, and in Canada, allowing them to rest quietly and comfortably.

Now that Petey is a year old, I am making toddler bibs for him, those are fun to make, there are so many cute fabrics to choose from, and so I’m putting some of them in my shop too.

Every morning after breakfast, I walk into my sunny studio overlooking our beautiful gardens, and it’s like entering a candy store: I can pick from my fabric stash whatever I want to work on that day, and spend hours making cute baby things, while keeping an eye on the birds in the garden. What else could anyone want?

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

My favourite material is 100% cotton flannel. It’s so soft and lightweight for swaddle cloths. Another favourite that some families like for swaddle wraps is cotton knit jersey. I use both. It’s lightweight and a little stretchy and so is easier than the flannel to get a good snug swaddle. For burp cloths and bibs I marry the flannel with my other favourite material, 100% terry cloth. I launder all fabrics before I begin cutting and sewing, to reduce shrinkage and make sure the fabric will withstand hot wash water and hot dryers. Now and then I depart from this format and I’ll use polyester chenille which has to be laundered and dried in moderate temps. Sometimes I’ll marry cotton percale with the chenille or with cotton terry. Also sometimes I use diaper cloth that I quilt to cotton batting and marry it with cotton percale or flannel.

The swaddles are always single layer, with turned edges. I like the turned edges better than serged, because the turned edge feels softer to the baby’s tender skin than the serging. The edge of serging can be slightly abrasive. I like to use decorative stitches to stitch down my turned edges – lately I favour a decorative stitch that has a triple design that locks the edges of the flannel to the swaddle wrap more efficiently than other stitches, and looks really nice, too.

I designed my first batch of swaddle wraps with mitered corners, but now I make them with rounded corners; the rounded corners can’t get inadvertently flicked into a baby’s eye like the sharp corners can.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

My biggest challenge is space! After retiring, we downsized substantially and it has been a challenge to make space for fabrics and for finished products. We purchased two sets of cube storage units and have one set in our bedroom and one in our study. I sew in the bedroom because the light is the best in the house; I use the raised bed (that has drawers under it where I keep some of my fabrics) as my cutting and pressing table; it’s just the right height for me, no bending over and causing back pains. My sewing machine is in the sunny window corner of our bedroom. I have two shops, over 100 items in each shop, and aiming at 200 items in each shop, so I will be filling the cube storage to the top when I get there!

I have no problem thinking up things to make, my brain is full of designs and colour combinations that I want to make. As long as my machine works and I have the right knitting needles I’m in good shape. Getting fabrics and yarns is also no problem; I always have to restrain myself when I hit the fabric shop or the yarn shop.

What drives you to create?

What drives me to create is something in my brain that wants to see my ideas turned into finished products. From selecting the material and colours, to the shape and size of the item, to the building of it, to the finished product, is a gratifying adventure all the way from beginning to end. Almost always when it’s finished, I think “hey, that turned out great” and then reach for the next thing that’s on my mind to make. If I can’t say to myself “hey, that turned out great”, then I set it aside, to be taken apart later and the materials reused in some other way. I’m glad to be able to say that doesn’t happen often.
For this shop, for these baby care products, my inspiration was the need to provide the right kind of swaddling cloth to my son, and the fun I had making drool bibs and burp cloths for Petey before he was born. How I get started? Every day I can’t wait to get breakfast over and a little housework done so I can begin making things. It’s my passion.

What is coming up next?

I will soon be rolling out a line of products in 100% certified organic cotton. I think there is a growing market for them. Watch my shop for those.

All images provided by Kelli from Swaddle Me Snugly.

Investigate more materials and techniques, from pottery to upcycling dead insects. I'd love to hear what you do, so do please share with us.


  1. Thank you, Kate, for this feature, it's very flattering :-)

    1. Any time. It was lovely learning about your craft.

  2. I love Kelli's work! She's just an amazing person and a wonderful raw model!

    1. Yes, she's quite an inspiration!

  3. Kelli, looking forward to seeing your new product line in 100% certified organic cotton!
    all the best to you!
    Trish (BlackCrowCurios)