I probably didn't realize it when I first came across @kneesocksandgoldilocks on Instagram last year, but this very special feed - and the very special woman behind it - played a big role in inspiring me to follow my passion, and in motivating me to dedicate myself to building Dreaming with Isa.
If you are someone with colorful, vintage style who likes to sew for your daughter, grand daughter or niece, and you are active in the online community (both are likely the case, considering you are here on my blog), chances are you probably already know about Jill, the force behind @kneesocksandgoldilocks. Jill first decided to start posting about her home sewing projects in early 2015, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I'm sure happy she did!
Each and every one of Jill's posts and projects is tasteful and stylish, embodying a certain warm, modern-yet-vintage feeling that few people can successfully capture, not to mention what adorable little models she has. What's most impressive to me though, is how Jill is a woman who is seemingly able to do it all - and on such a high level.
She seems to have an endless amount of time (even though with four kids and a job, this is probably not the case - more on that later). She has boundless positive energy, excellent taste, and an unquestionable talent for creating the most adorable kids looks... and somehow, she manages to balance everything while making it look effortless. I think you can probably tell by this point that I'm a big fan. I've spent most of the last year constantly at the edge of my seat looking forward to each of her new posts.
So earlier this year, I decided to finally connect with Jill, and she ended up making some of the cutest dresses for her adorable daughter/model, June, using fabrics from Embroidery Night collection and my Enchanted Forest collection . It was a great feeling to see my fabrics turned into something so pretty by someone that I look up to and respect so much.
But I really wanted to share my appreciation for @kneesocksandgoldilocks with all of you, and to explore the magic behind it. That brings us to today - and to this post. I recently interviewed Jill to uncover the story of Kneesocks & Goldilocks, and I think there's no better day to be posting about her than on Mother's Day! So grab a cup of coffee, curl up with a mug of tea, or pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy!
With a popular Instagram presence, and new projects posted almost daily, Kneesocks & Goldilocks has organically - and perhaps unintentionally - become an influential brand in the online kids fashion community.
And aside from being a mom to four happy kids, Jill is also doctor - an OB/GYN to be specific - which means there's a lot going on behind the scenes outside of Kneesocks & Goldilocks. So how does she pull it all off? Let's find out :)
Isa: When did you first get your sewing machine? What prompted the decision? And what inspired you take up sewing in the first place, as opposed to exploring a different hobby?
Jill: I discovered Etsy when my daughter June was a baby, and thats where I started purchasing most of her clothes. When she was about 18 months old, I decided to try to make a couple of the simpler items I had bought for her, so I drove to Walmart on a whim at 10pm one night, and bought a Brother sewing machine for $100 (it is still the machine I use to this day, almost three years later, and I love it!). Before my maternity leaves, I worked full-time as an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, and did a lot of surgery. When I was on maternity leave, the part of my practice I missed the most was using my hands… and sewing gave me the opportunity to do put them to use. I guess you could say that it's just a 'different' kind of stitching ;) My Mom and Grandma had both sewn a lot when I was a child, so it had nostalgic roots for me as well.
Isa: You are a big inspiration for lots of people and brands in the kids fashion community. What about you, where do you get your inspiration from?
Jill: I feel totally flattered, yet undeserving of such a compliment! I get much of my inspiration from vintage patterns. I love classic vintage dresses, and the 60s was probably my favourite decade for children’s clothing. I also love bright colors and prints, and I've always been especially inspired by Kirsty Hartley of @wildthingsdresses, her creations and her pattern books. There are also so many people I have come into contact with through Instagram from around the world, who continue to inspire me on a daily basis.
Isa: How did you learn to sew?
Jill: My Grandma tried to teach me how to sew as a teenager, but I have to say that at the time I was completely uninterested! After I bought my sewing machine, I learned everything I now know through online tutorials. I started off with some really basic patterns with great picture tutorials and instructions, and then just practiced, practiced, practiced! I initially made the same two or three patterns over and over until I had perfected some basic techniques, and then I slowly increased the difficulty level of the patterns I tried. For specific things, such as installing invisible zippers, I watched YouTube videos and read a lot of blog posts to learn how to do them. That being said, I would never claim to be 'professional' in any way, and I’m sure there are many things I do 'incorrectly'. Perhaps one day when my kids are grown up and I have more time, I might just take some actual sewing lessons and learn what I’ve been doing wrong all along!
Isa: Do you have a particular routine when it comes to your Kneesocks & Goldilocks work?
Jill: Because I have four young children, I don’t get the chance to sew until they are all in bed in the evening, which makes for some late nights! I will often have an idea in mind but won’t get a chance to execute it until then. I tend to want to finish projects the same day I start them, so will occasionally stay up until 1am to get them done.
Isa: You are clearly a fan of vintage style. Do you have a favourite place where you like to shop for fabrics? Do you shop online? Do the kids help you choose? Are they part of the creative process?
Jill: I like to pick up beautiful fabrics wherever I see them. I buy some online, some locally, some from thrift shops. There is a giant community fabric sale here every Spring organized by a group of grandmothers, and I have always found lots of amazing fabrics there. I always let my older daughter have a say in the fabrics I sew with for her, because otherwise I know she won’t wear what I make for her! June is a bit more flexible in general, although she definitely will choose pink unicorns if given the option :) I know her favourite style is a twirly circle skirt dress so that also tends to be the style I make most for her.
Isa: Do you still work as a doctor? If so, how do you balance your career with so many amazing sewing projects and collabs, and being a mom?
Jill: I work part time as a Gynaecologist at a Fertility Clinic, and only see fertility patients now. Before June was born, I practiced Obstetrics as well, however the nights, weekends and demanding hours were too much to juggle with four young children. Working only two days a week allows me to still be home most of the time with the kids, but gives me a 'break' too, allowing me to be around other adult colleagues and use my skills that I spent so many years training for. It can be a bit difficult to balance the sewing projects and collaborations on top of everything, so when it gets to be too overwhelming, I do say no to things (even though it pains me to!).
Isa: Tell us about your sewing room or work space. Where do you sew, what things do you need handy, what tools do you love to use, etc.
Jill: My sewing setup was actually our dining room table for the first two years that I sewed! When our oldest son moved his bedroom down to the basement, it freed up our loft space where he had been, and I took it over for my sewing room! I have my Brother sewing machine, my Babylock serger and an ironing board and iron. I have tried to organize most of my patterns into file folders and my fabrics into a wall unit in the basement, but both patterns and fabrics tend to metastasize all over my sewing room! I get panicky if I don’t have my favourite blue seam ripper and thread snips within reach at all times when I’m sewing, but other than that, I consider myself fairly flexible when it comes to my tools! I have to say, I also love my invisible zipper sewing machine foot, and the air threading feature on my serger.
Isa: You make a lot of dresses for June, and undoubtedly she grows out of them fast. What do you do with all the extra pieces?
Jill: Thankfully, June has actually been able to wear the same size for almost two years because although she has gotten taller, the bodices generally still fit! That being said, we do give a lot of her dresses away, either to friends or to my niece who is a couple of years younger. The really special pieces I save in hopes that she will be able to pass them down to her daughters or granddaughters one day!
Isa: Where does your creative process begin? Do you look for a fabric to fit a specific sewing pattern, or do you find a sewing pattern for a fabric you already own?
Jill: I think my creative process flows in both directions. With a new pattern, I usually try to imagine or find the perfect fabric to complement it, but probably more often, I will see a piece of fabric and immediately have a certain pattern come to mind that I want to use for it. My favorite part of creating is definitely seeing an idea in my head come to life in a wearable garment a couple of hours later! Creating garments is definitely a form of stress relief for me, and I really do look forward to the time I get to spend doing it!
Isa: Tell the story of how your collabs with Sewpony and Sweet Jane Studio came to be? What was it like working through the creative process and development process with collaborating partners? What do you feel are the benefits and challenges of collaborating?
Jill: I have known Crystal (Sweet Jane Studio) for several years. It is a funny story because we first 'met' when I ordered some things from her on Etsy, then discovered that our kids attended the same school, and then discovered that we had actually gone to Junior High together! I have always loved her appliqué work and we share a similar love of vintage-inspired children’s clothing. When I made a little “capsule” wardrobe for June in the fall of three little dresses with a bunch of mix and match accessories, I jokingly commented that “if I was ever going to design a children’s line, it would be a capsule like that”. Crystal said she would love to collaborate and help with the sourcing of the fabric, manufacturing sources and distribution - all areas I had no experience in at all. It had been a little dream of mine since I started sewing, so I jumped at the opportunity to work with her! We ran into a few roadblocks along the way with obtaining the wholesale fabric orders we required, and needed to make a few adjustments as we went, but it was a really fun and rewarding experience. We were also able to involve several other local makers in the collaboration (for graphic design, illustrations, marketing and accessories), so the entire project had a really special feel to it by the end. Seeing photos posted of little ones wearing our dresses and capes has been amazing, and we have been able to raise money for a local charity in the process!
As for Suz (Sewpony), I was ecstatic when she contacted me in the fall and asked if I would be interested in a pattern collaboration with her. I have always adored her vintage-inspired style and I've loved every pattern of hers that I have used. She is one of the sweetest and hardest working people I know, and I was so honoured that she would ask me to be a part of one of her projects (that just happened to be another little secret dream of mine)! We bounced a bunch of ideas back and forth over several months and finally decided on a style that became the “Juliette Dress and Top”. It was something I never could have done on my own, as I have no background in fashion design or pattern drafting, but it was so much fun to be involved in bringing an idea to life in a pattern that can be used and interpreted by so many people. It has been so rewarding to see all of the tester and blogger versions of something that was just an ethereal concept a few months ago!
I have learned so much through both collaborations and feel so lucky to have been a part of them. Sometimes it can be challenging to collaborate with others when your ideas and goals don’t completely align, but both Crystal and Suz were dreams to work with and I felt completely honoured just to have my name associated with them!
Isa: And lastly, tell us a bit more about the amazing brand you are building. When did you decide to start Kneesocks & Goldilocks? Tell the story of how you decided on this name. Where do you see your brand a few years from now?
Jill: As for building a brand… I smiled when I heard that because I don’t feel like I really have a 'brand' per se, or even deserve that title! "@kneesocksandgoldilocks” became my Instagram name a couple of years ago when I was posting my vintage-inspired makes. "Kneesocks" because I tended to style them with knee socks, and "Goldilocks" because of June's curly blonde hair. When I did the collab with Sweet Jane Studio, I had a local artist hand letter a logo that we could use, and here we are! I honestly don’t know where I see “Kneesocks & Goldilocks” a few years from now, because if you would have told me a few years ago that I would learn to sew and collaborate on a clothing line and pattern, I wouldn’t have believed you! I am so very thankful for every opportunity that has come my way so far, and really, I just hope to maintain a sustainable balance in my life between my family, my career and my love for creating and designing as I go forward!
Happy Mother's Day, Jill! And to all you mamas out there! :)