Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A beautiful bouquet

Many diaper cakes I've seen contain diaper tiers and are lavishly decorated with silk flowers and ribbons. They are really beautiful all things considered. The thing that keeps me from designing this type of diaper cake is that the decorations add cost to the final product, but don't necessarily add to the value. I prefer to use baby items to decorate and embellish the cakes so the new mom has more items at her disposal.

Recently, however, I decided to see if I could meld the two concepts. In the past, I have made baby bouquets using washcloths and socks to resemble flowers and presenting them in baskets and vases. In one cake, I used some socks in rose form for embellishment. I wanted to take it one step further though and make the flowers more central to the cake decoration.

For this initial experiment, I wanted to see how a flower bouquet would work for a cake topper. I used washcloths to make several roses and some washcloths with baby utensils to make calla lillies and gathered them into a bouquet that then embellished the top of a one tier cake. More washcloths were used for the bouquet base to emulate leaves for the bouquet. I didn't add a ton of other decorations since I was focusing on the bouquet, but the tier was wrapped with prefold cloth diapers/burp cloths and then decorated with simple ribbon.

The cake turned out beautifully. I really am happy with the final look and from this I will probably work on cleaning up the appearance of the flowers and perhaps experimenting with having the flowers cascade down the cake. As excited as I am about these prospects, there is one important factor I need to consider. This uses A LOT of washcloths. It's not bad, per se, just something to think about. I can't wait to experiment some more and see how it all turns out. I'm glad to offer a more "refined" look to the cakes I can make and still keep them functional.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shoes! My First Girl Pair!

After my first sale of baby/toddler shoes, another mom in my mom group showed some interest in shoes for her little girl. There were a few problems though. I didn't have any in stock, nor did I have and "girl" material. I also didn't have a smaller pattern which would be required for said little girl. So, I apparently had some work to do before I could present shoes for a future sale.

A friend and I had seen some adorable material that we had discussed would be perfect if I had a little girl to make shoes for, so we headed to the store and I picked up the precious pink plaid material and some coordinating light pink material for the shoes. That was the easy part. I then had to sit down and work out a pattern. Using the sizes I already had, I created a pattern that should work according to the measurements the mom gave me. I then went to work making the shoes. They turned out adorable and came out to the exact size I planned for that pattern - I'm glad I was so particular when adjusting my pattern!

I love these shoes. The material is just too adorable and I'm glad I was able to pick it up for some girl shoes. I've also been mentally working on some new ideas for some more shoes I'd like to make in the future. For now, I'm trying to master the current design and hopefully pick up more interest. I am also still working on sorting out my sizing. Most of my shoe patterns were separated by half inches, but I've started making them on the quarter inch, so there are more size options and they can have a better fit. These girl shoes are my first of these "in-between" sizes and I still need to make sure they fit the kiddo they were made for. If not, I'll just make the next size up and have these in inventory, otherwise, it's one more pair to a (hopefully) happy customer. =)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Shoes! My First Order!

After I had made a few pairs of shoes for my oldest son, many people in my mom group started to take notice. I got several compliments, which I'll be honest, made me feel a lot better about the quality of the work I had done on them. Even more to my surprise, one of the moms in the group wanted some for her own son. I was excited about the opportunity, but unsure because sizing and sewing for other kiddos was not in my original plan. But, hey, why not?

I lent her the practice pair of shoes to see how they worked for her kiddo just to check sizing. Similar to Noah, they fit, but a bit too closely and the mom wanted some shoes a little bit bigger. The worked out great because I had already made my kiddo's second pair at that time and had the pattern for the next size up. She also loved the material that I had used for the practice shoes so much, that she wanted some with that fabric as well as a pair like my own son's. Two pairs! In the mean time, she wanted to know if she could keep the practice pair of shoes (assuming I wasn't attached to them) because her son loved them so much and didn't want to take them off! I told her yes.

Navy gingham/Navy
Blue & Khaki striped/Tan
Just like my kiddo's shoes
When I went out to find materials for the shoes, I came upon some navy gingham which I just had to get. I almost liked it better than the navy striped material that I had used on the practice shoes so I picked some up. I figured I'd make up a pair and if she still wanted the striped material, I'd give the gingham shoes to my kiddo as his next pair. Turns out, she liked the gingham, so it all worked out (we also discovered that the dye on the striped material used on the practice shoes bled a bit and turned her son's feet blue - hopefully this material wouldn't do the same). I made up the second pair of shoes to match the ones I'd previously made for my son and found that with each pair I made, I could make them faster and better.

I was very happy with how the shoes turned out. I wanted to make sure they had some good packaging too. I placed the shoes in a quart sized resealable freezer bag, but I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled with the printing that was on the bag to write your food contents on it, but it was the best I could find from what I had at home. I also printed out some cards to insert into the bags with the shoes that had a description of the shoes (size and color) as well as "Beth's Baby Boutique" and my contact information and webpage. Oh, and let's not forget the polyester stuffing to keep the shape of the shoes. I love the way the finished packaged product looked - with the exception of the printing on the bag. I'll have to see what else I can find for future use.

Packaged and ready to go

When I delivered the shoes to the mom,  when I next saw her at a mommy meeting, another mom saw them and got excited. She asked me if I was making and selling them now and if I had any girl shoes. My response? "Um, I guess..., I mean, I could. I don't have anything in stock..." Nice, real tactful. The truth was, I hadn't thought about making them beyond that, but in that moment, upon seeing that there was interest, I figured I could. It really was a matter of making sure I had patterns of the appropriate sizes and if I could figure out a sizing system. My next project was set.

Check back for my next update about my first pair of girl shoes!

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I make shoes! And now I can add them to my product line!

Here's a bit of history: My oldest son takes after his dad (who is built like a linebacker) so, needless to say, he's on the large side for kiddos. I've always (ok, "always" being since I've had a kid) been a fan of not putting my kid in shoes until he was walking around. I had read that shoes, especially very structured shoes, can cause restricted movement and therefore stunt growth and development of the foot in babies and toddlers. Barefoot is best, so they say. In any case, with my very tight budget, I went in search of soft soled shoes for my son which are supposed to be the best for budding walkers since they can feel the ground below them and this makes them more sure-footed as walkers. What I found was disheartening. There are several manufacturers of soft soled shoes, though, not a ton and often you have to look in specialty stores or online to find them. Also, they tend to be pricey. You can find them on sale sometimes for $20 but often they cost more and you can spend upwards of $40 on a pair. This upset me since I pay that for MY shoes and they last me a lot longer (because, let's face it, my foot doesn't grow two sizes in 6 or less months). I managed to find some of these shoes at Target in the baby section for about $20 and picked them up - one pair. I'm cheap like that. Before I knew it, my son needed the next size up so I got those. By the time he was 20 mo old, his feet were too big for the 18-24 mo size which was the biggest size available. I started looking in other places and found that even the bigger brands of soft soled shoes typically cut it off at 18-24 mo. I was disheartened. Just because my child was bigger didn't mean his feet were as developed, and I really wanted to keep him in a soft soled shoe. I decided the only thing left to do was make them myself.

The practice shoes
I lucked out and was able to find a pattern. Not one that I could really use though. It was made for very small babies. I had to adapt the pattern and make one the correct size for my kiddo. After measuring his foot and creating the pattern I thought would work, I used some scrap material and made a practice pair of shoes. These shoes were a joke as far as providing traction goes, but I really wanted to see how they would come together and make sure the size fit. A flexible leather sole would be more expensive than using scrap fabric and I didn't want to waste it if the shoes didn't fit. Luckily, they did. They fit perfectly.

I was set to make the real ones then. I gathered up my supplies, making sure I had sturdy fabric, leather for the sole, heavy duty thread, and last but not least - a heavy duty needle for my machine. Let me tell you, that pair of shoes caused me so much anguish! I had major tension issues and apparently, I didn't get a needle that was the degree of heavy duty that I needed. I ripped out so much of the stitching on those shoes, it's not even funny. Eventually though, they came together. My poor kiddo practically had his toe poking through the pair of shoes he had been wearing and they must not have been very comfortable for him so it's a good thing I figured it all out. Now, they weren't perfect, and the elastic around the ankle was a bit loose, but they worked, and he was so happy to be in a pair of shoes that fit him!

The too big shoes on the right and the ones that were just
right on the left. It's like the three bears...
A few months later, he started growing out of those shoes, so it was back to the drawing board. The pattern needed to be adjusted for a larger size. After getting that done, I made up another pair of shoes using the same fabrics as the first. The problem was, I overshot it. A lot. So the shoes I made were too big. So big he would have tripped over the toes. It was back to the drawing board, again. I re-sized the pattern once more and made yet another pair of shoes using the same material again. These shoes worked out well and fit him with room to grow but not so much that he'd trip. I figured with the other, larger pair, he could wear them when he grows out of the new ones that fit. The good news is that it got easier to make the shoes with each subsequent pair. I had gotten the heaviest duty needle I could find, and even though I broke three of them in the process, I still managed to finish the project.

My kiddo's most recent shoes
Because my kiddo only has the one pair of shoes, it didn't take him long to wear out that pair. They are canvas after all, so while sturdy, they aren't bullet proof for a very active toddler with only one pair of shoes. I decided to mix it up a bit and make him a new pair of shoes. These were similar to the first several, but I used a different canvas material on the top of the shoe so he'd have some variety.

My homemade shoes started getting attention in my mom group and this lead to comments that I should sell them and one interested buyer. Check out my next post for the details on the shoes I made for her.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Giving Back

In between orders, I'm constantly looking for new projects to work on and opportunities to fine-tune my skills. When I got wind of a local non-profit seeking items for a silent auction that would be held at the city's annual Independence Day festival, I thought it would be a great opportunity to not only help the group, but to see if I could get my name out a bit more. Of course, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for this non-profit, the Smart Mommies Education Foundation, because it is a new organization that came about from a humble beginning of breastfeeding support meetings that grew into general mom support meetings which I've been attending since my oldest was just under 6 mo old. I jumped at the opportunity to give back.

For this project, I wanted to put together a larger cake. Most of the cakes I've sold have been 2-tier cakes. It's been a while since I built a 3-tier cake and I wanted to go all out for this one. After a poll of my Facebook fans, I chose to create a green and white frog themed cake. I found some adorable frog receiving blankets which gave the foundation of the theme. The structure of the cake was of course diapers; and this cake was my first official spiral style cake. I stacked the tiers, wrapping a receiving blanket around each one. On the bottom tier a constructed a new way to display washcloths and a pair of baby mittens in the front of the cake. A decorative bow was placed in the middle tier and a second pair of mittens on the top tier balanced it out. on the sides of the cake, I positioned three pairs of socks - two on the bottom tier and one on the top tier. The middle tier held two coordinating pacifiers. Since I wanted this cake to have appeal all the way around, I also placed two matching hats on the bottom and middle tier on the back of the cake. Crinkle paper was added to each of the tiers. The crowning glory of this cake? An adorable 10" plush frog that I couldn't resist.

I absolutely love this cake and it's now among my favorites that I've created. It's the biggest cake I've made standing taller and including more diapers than usual. It has more baby items than I traditionally add as well. I don't know at this point how well it did in the silent auction, but I hope it did well and was able to bring in some money for the group. I had so much fun creating this cake and I can't wait until my next opportunity to work on a similar project.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Next "Big" Holiday Cake

Since I set the precedent of making holiday themed cakes, I couldn't very well ignore Independence Day, so I set out to make another of my mini display cakes. This one proved a little more difficult since I use things I have around to create these cakes. They are, after all, intended to inspire ideas and show off the wide variety of things that can be done with diaper cakes.

This holiday cake actually started out with the topper - an American flag pinwheel my father-in-law had gotten for my oldest son. With that inspiration, I set out to make the cake. I had a Red, White, and Blue baby bodysuit in a larger size (18 mo) that actually fit quite well around the top tier of the mini cake. I used two prefold diapers/burp cloths for the bottom tier and added a blue washcloth for a splash of color. Coordinating ribbons decorated the tiers and with a bit of crinkle paper, the cake was complete.

This cake certainly doesn't have the quantity of baby items that I typically add, but I'll be honest, the cake didn't quite get the same attention that I've given some other display cakes since I felt in a bit of a rush for the holiday. I like that the bodysuit fit well around that top tier and it gives me yet another option for future cakes. The only drawback with this is that the bodysuit was a larger size and most diaper cakes focus on very young babies. That's not to say that it's not an option and two smaller bodysuits could certainly be used instead. The "fan" I created with the washcloth is also a new idea and I like the effect, but I may change up a bit how I do it to give it a cleaner look if I incorporate a washcloth in this manner in a future cake.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Independence Day! I'll be sure to keep up with the cakes. The holiday ones provide a challenging springboard for my creativity!