I know... not new. This has been in the works for a while. I've been carrying this design around and using it myself for over a year. Prototype testing! The launch of the iPhone5 proved to be the perfect excuse to put this into proper and consistant production. It's available in grey/brown and graphite/brown (shown below) and also with or without a strap. My personal preference is no strap but I know some of you like the keep things buttoned up tight.
100% wool felt, hand-dyed leather, made here in the studio... same as always. Cost is $44 or $48 and you can find them here. Also, all the other iPhone cases are now available for the iPhone5.
Exciting news for me to share today.... I've moved into my new workshop.
This is the part where you say, "New workshop? I don't remember hearing anything about a new workshop? Did I miss a blog post or tweet that would have prepared me for such exciting news? "
No, you didn't. I kept this one pretty well underwraps. In part because I've never been good at talking about things in progress but also because the domino of things that had to happen to get here was longer than I wanted to explain mid-stream. In a nutshell, byrd & belle out-grew our previous live/work space on Nicollet Island; it was no longer something that could be lived alongside. We needed a new situation and we found what seems to have been the perfect situation a little farther up river in northeast Minneapolis: a house with good bones, a big yard for our big dog and a new (but unfinished) space for byrd & belle.
Construction took 6 months of nights and weekends starting in January which is likely the least fun time to start a project in an unheated space in Minnesota. My brother Scott and my Dad were very generous with their time, their advice and their tools. I got to do things I'd drawn a million times when I used to work in architecture but hadn't actaully done (like electrical wiring... my inspector said I did a very good job for my first time). And there is still more to be done. I have plans to add more storage so I can bring in all my non-essential tools and materials but for now, I'm just happy to be here and I'm grateful to have had the oppurtunity to do this. I feel very connected the space and I suppose it feels appropriate that as a maker, I also made the space I work in.
Ok, I've got to get to work but follow me on twitter if you'd like to see more of the new space.
Here's a little preview for those who have been waiting for a Macbook Air sleeve. These will probably not be posted in my shop until closer to Thanksgiving but if you want one, just drop me a note and you will be first in line.
A few notes:
1. What makes this sleeve perfect for the Air is that it has a super slim profile and a snug fit like my simple sleeve for the ipad but I'm using a new detail that allows for the addition of a leather patch similar to my Macbook sleeves.
2. There is no closure. I tested quite a few ideas and I just kept coming back to... well, no closure. Aesthetically, it completely suits the super thin Air to stay clean and simple. The snug fit allows it to work well with or without a closure. Slips in your bag easily to protect your brand new laptop from everything else floating around in there.
3. The photos below show this sleeve as being side-loaded but it is also available in a top loading version (where the opening will be on the side opposite the leather patch).
4. Cost for the 11" Macbook Air sleeve is $54. Cost for the 11" Macbook Air sleeve is $58. (If you'd like it for your ipad, I can do that too... cost is $48 and I can do them as a custom request. )
5. If you want one for your Macbook Air, you can find them in the shop www.byrdandbelle.com
I made this tiny custom case for a customer today. I took a video for him and figured I'd share. I don't have time to do custom designs very often but this was an interesting little project so I took it as an opportunity to work out a few ideas. He wanted a small wool/leather case that holds 10-15 mini moo cards and attached to a key ring. I'm really liking the tiny seam allowance on this little case. I think I should incorporate it into the simple ipad (and soon macbook air) sleeves. Anyway, thought I'd share.. have a great weekend! (p.s. The wool looks blue but it just the late afternoon Minnesota light through my north-facing studio wall. It's actually the same grey as the laptop sleeves)
1. I am writing far too many blog posts in my head. I mutter to myself while sewing. I tell stories to Gertrude the dog. I seem to have a lot to say but no time to sit and type complete sentences. I've decided to make a list.
2. Macbook Air: I have been getting a ton (a TON) or requests for a macbook air sleeve. Before now, I've always done these as custom orders but now I am working on a new design made specifically for the wonderfully thin 'mba' (that's what the kids are calling it... mba=macbook air). Hopefully in the next week. I'm very excited about a few of the new details and I'm thinking of releasing a similar design for the ipad and the macbook pro.
3. Cargoh is awesome: If you don't know... cargoh.com. It's kind of like an edgier, more independantly-minded version of an online independant designer marketplace. My first introduction with them was watching them fall flat on their face last summer. It was truley spectacular. They had a ton of people migrate very quickly from Etsy but then decided they wanted to have control over who was on their site. People were asked to leave, people were turned down at the door, people threw temper tantrums... it was quite the public relations car-crash. Yeah, it was likely not the best situation but there is something to be said about knowing what you want to be... even if it is a few months late. Being the bad guy is hard to do. SO, the reason I think cargoh is awesome? I mean besides all that bravery crap? They support their artists. They blog, they tweet, they retweet, they send nice emails and on more than one occasion they have sent people to my own website and not just my little spot on cargoh. Which means (or at least it makes me feel like) they are supportive of what I do and not just what I'm doing on cargoh.com. Class act, Cargoh. Class act.
4. Gertrude: There were a pair of squirrels in the back yard today and Gertrude lost her mind. (It's true but mostly inserted for lightness and brevity).
5. Lady Workshop: Someone in my social circle floated the phrase, "Lady Workshop" a few weeks ago. Since then, I'm obsessed with what a "Lady Workshop" would be and how it would work and how can I be a lady in the "Lady Workshop".
6. Dear China: After a vigourous letter and email writing campaign, a company in China that had stolen my photos and was selling knock-offs of my laptop sleeves seems to have gotten the message and taken down the listings. (ps. I wasn't really upset about the knock-offs because well, knock-offs happens but what really got my goat was that they used MY photos to sell it... my photo with their url tattooed across it which made me more than a little sad. It was like someone writing their name on your dog). Unfortunately, they are still using photos from other designers. The only thing I can still find that is mine is an old photo towards the bottom of this listing. When I was in the middle of this mini-nightmare last summer, D and I joked that I should just start buying my sleeve from them as they were only charging $7 for each sleeve. What a deal! Update: The photos have been reposted. *Grrrrr. If interested, you can see them here and here.
7. Mmmmmmm.... chamomile/vanilla tea.
Long awaited, much requested... my design for the iphone wallet launched today. You can find it available in three different wool colors on www.byrdandbelle.com.
This little case has been in the works for quite some time. I had gotten requests for a card slot on my iphone case many times but I held off on adding a pocket to that design as it felt like... well, I'd just be adding a pocket. Instead, I wanted to do something that felt like a complete thought.
From a design perpective, this is about a simple as it gets but it took some time to get here. I started making prototypes early last summer and handed them off to people (mostly men) to test. I went through a few rounds testing different leather, different thread, different sizes and stitching. Here's a small pile of the prototypes...
When I had all the kinks nearly worked out, I made one for myself and took it on our trip to Seattle. Now, I'm not much for wallets and up until this point, I wouldn't have thought that I would choose to carry my phone and my cards together but since that trip, I'm kind of in love with this case for 3 specific reasons.
1. The way it feels in my hand: There is a weight to it that is very pleasing. It is compact and feels put together. The leather pockets on each side are made from a single peice of leather that wraps around the bottom. It does much the same thing the leather patch on the bottom of my laptop sleeve does by giving you a comfortabe place to hold it.
2. The way it works: Everything is open for quick access to my phone and the cards but the fit of the case is so perfect that I can hold the case upside down and my iphone doesn't fall out. I can throw it in my bag and the thick wool felt protects it from everything else floating around in there.
3. The way it looks: One smaller rectangle efficiently stitched on top of one larger rectangle. Contrasting materials of felt and leather. Clean & simple.
Thanks for stopping by. Back to work...
I have wool. Lots of it. After going the whole of June without because it had been back-ordered, it arrived last week. Thank you, thank you to everyone who didn't let a little 4 week wait time scare them away.
The first of the orders went out early last week and I've been slowly whittling away at the list of names on my studio calender. The wait time for items in this wool remains at 3-4 weeks but I should be able to knock another week off that soon.
Hope your summer is going swimmingly. Talk soon.
Green has overtaken my studio window . I can barely see the blue sky anymore (and it has been blue quite often this Spring). All that green and the sun and the warm air on your skin is such a welcoming change after the cold winter and these days, any time not sewing is spent outdoors.
Last month, D and I potted flowers, planted two small raised garden beds for herbs and vegetables and we laid a patio using reclaimed street pavers. Our projects only take up about 25% of the yard as the other 75% belongs to Gertrude who does a great job of ensuring that little grows... ever... by tamping down hopeful sprouts with her huge dog feet or digging up what is left of the grass we naively tried to plant last year. I don't mind though... my outdoor aesthetic is controlled chaos; somewhere between Grey Gardens and native prairie but with a steady hand coaxing the green in certain directions. I live and let live (or die, as the case may be).
The new patio has become the perfect spot to take morning coffee and to sit with friends in the evening. I'm also seriously considering doing a few hand-stitched leather projects as they will allow me to work outdoors without having to bring electricity with me. During my last trip to pick up supplies, I purchased a special wooden lap vice that would allow me to sit in a chair and stitch with two hands. I may have to give it a try this week if the weather holds.
After many months of studying brochures (and changing my mind), I made a decision on which new sewing machine to buy and today, it arrived. (Hooray!)
I spent the first few hours adjusting the table height and moving the foot-feed (Am I the only person that sews with my right foot? They seem to always be on the left.) I also added casters as part of my life-long goal to have every piece of furniture we own on wheels. The rest of the day was spent stitching on random scraps of fabric and getting acquainted with this machine which I predict will be my new best friend.
I settled on this machine mostly for the motor. It is different than other industrial sewing machines in that there isn't a motor that spins/hums constantly under the table. The body is streamlined and it doesn't make a sound until a push the pedal to sew and even then it is surprisingly quiet. Because of this it is much more energy efficient which is a huge plus.
It has hands-free back-tack, thread-cutter and foot-lift and that fancy-pants computer on the top can be programmed to sew specific numbers of stitches in different patterns. And if I really want to open it up, it can do up to 4500 stitches a minute, but seriously that is way too fast for me. I'll probably keep that variable speed slider more towards the Turtle side than the Hare side.
Tomorrow is my first full day of production on it. I'm looking forward to the morning.
Update on June 22nd: I've had my machine for a few months now and it is the best money I ever spent. Ever. I honestly can say it cuts my production time nearly in half. Perfect stitches, perfectly placed, every time (not to mention it has opened up more possibilities for the type of projects I can work on. It is so nice to work on such an well built machine. It has already paid for itself.
I was gently reminded today that it has been a whole week with nary a word from the Byrd & Belle blog. I do apologize but I have a good excuse. I've become obsessed.
A week ago last Wednesday, my sewing machine broke. Not 'catastrophe' broke but broke to the point that new parts were required. A part was found, a part was purchased and installed but it wasn't the same. Things were not going well and me without my sewing machine is like a boat without a rudder.... like a pirate without his non-hook hand.
After 3 hours of fussing about, I gave up and decided I was getting a new machine. I would take this as a sign from the Handmade Gods to step up to a machine so powerful and smooth, those cases and bags would practically sew themselves. I called it a night and headed out to meet D and his creative coherts who had taken over a bar called the 'You Otter Inn' in NE Minneapolis. I sat and drank a Grainbelt and watched some really intense Karoke and breathed the low, shallow breaths of a person preparing to spend a large sum of money in the morning.
I returned to the studio around 1 am and as I was hanging up my coat, I stopped and looked across the studio at my brother (not my actual brother... my sewing machine. It's made by Brother). I thought of all the great times we had... that quilted coffee press cozy in February. The first laptop sleeve in June. That pink bunny costume last month. As Willie Nelson said/sang... Gooood Tiiiiimmes.
I sat down and thought I'd just give this one last shot, you know, for old times sake. And as I lowered the presser foot and gave a bit of gas... IT WORKED. It was as if we had never fought and never a cross word had been uttered. He hummed with the delight of a brand new machine. I still don't understand it. Perhaps we just needed some time apart.
For a moment I breathed a sigh of relief that I no longer had to make a quick decision on a new machine but I had to yet to learn the huge downside of this recovery: I no longer had to make a quick decision on a new machine. The seed had been planted. I wanted needed a new machine. And now, I had all the time in the world to decide which one to get and I did my best to spend every minute of free time thinking, googling and talking about a new machine.
I got out of bed at 3 am more than once this week to look up the benefits of this one over that one. I stood in the shower weighing the short term costs with the long term benefits. I hovered over the espresso machine trying to foresee the future and what the world will be after Christmas. I also went so far as to go somewhere to talk to a salesman and that's when I knew I had a serious obsession on my hands.
So I'm in the thick of it and I am no closer to making a decision than I was a week ago last Wednesday but I will let you know what I decide and I'll try not to be gone for so long again.
It has been a busy week around here with little time left for blog updating but I wanted to take a few minutes to thank everyone who left messages and to answer a few of the questions that were asked last week about my space and my process.
1. Shelves: Those great modular shelves behind me are a vintage Swedish set called the 'Bokhyllan Ladder Shelf'. The set is actually one bay wider and about one foot taller than shown here but we're using the other shelves elsewhere. I was given this set by a client I designed a whole-house remodel for a few years ago... quite a score. They are extremely versatile, really well built with interesting and convenient connection hardware. Its best feature is a box-like console that has a front that folds down into a writing surface and reveals dove-tailed drawers in the inside for keeping papers and small things organized. The front folds back up and gets locked with a sweet little brass skeleton key.
2. What is the bike that is in the photo? It's called the 'Amsterdam'. Made by Electra.
4. Why is your shop called 'Byrd & Belle'. We have had our dog Gertrude for a few years but very soon after we adopted her, we started calling her 'Gertie Byrd', which soon was shortened to just 'Byrd'. Belle is borrowed from Clara Belle who who was the oldest dog I ever knew. A 14 year old beagle that came into my life a few years ago. The two made an interesting pair in our house for about 6 months before Belle died; a 90-pound two year old and 14" tall, deaf 14 year old.
5. A few people wanted to talk more about what I listen to in the studio. I'll hit NPR throughout the day.... news, Morning Edition, Fresh Air. I also listen to The Current which is a great Minneapolis Public Radio station for music which you can listen to online. I will also listen to lectures on TED and listen to episodes of the Daily Show, Jimmy Fallon, Rescue Me, and such on Hulu. If I have a project lasting more than 3 days, I'll start Arrested Development from the pilot and just let it play.
6. When are the new _________ going to be in the shop? Hopefully, I'll have a little extra time in the coming weeks to get my new things completed and photographed. For updates when things happen, check back here, sign-up for my email list, find me on Twitter or Facebook.
7. What about this weeks giveaway? I'll get something up on Tuesday-ish.
We took new photos today in preparation for an upcoming online feature of Byrd & Belle. Other than some picking up, vacuuming and the fact that I'm wearing real shoes, it is pretty representational of a typical day in the studio complete with a napping Gertrude.
I've looked at many photos like this of other people "working" at their desk... a completely clear, clean desk with nothing but a sewing machine and the fabric they happen to be sewing at the moment. When I look at these photos, what I'm really looking for is their 'stuff'... fabric, tools, how they arrange their space... so I included shots that focused more on the studio and the way it's organized.
Thanks to D for shooting the shots of me and my desk and reminding me that trying to make it be perfect is so much less interesting than showing it as it really is.
Over the last week, I've been busy working with a new material that has taken months to get my hands on but it was well worth the wait.
The market for wool felt is an odd one. I've spent months searching industry directories and waiting patiently on the mail man for samples. My head was awhirl with SAE ratings, tensile strengths, and nominal thicknesses and I've learned more about sources, processing and the nature of wool felt than I'd care to admit. In the end, I decided on two materials. The first is a wool blend, 92% wool, 8% post-consumer fiber. It is undyed and cold-pressed which means there are no chemicals due to the dying process and the water used in the cold-press compress can be reused. The second is a 100% wool felt, undyed and needle-punched, a strictly mechanical process of "punching' the felt binds the fibers together. The other big plus is that the main distributor is located here in the Midwest which means that I'm not buying it from someone who bought it from someone else in Germany. This cuts out one of the middlemen and cuts down on transportation fuel and emissions. Ok... that's more than you probably wanted to know too. Scroll down. I'll get on with it.
Here are a few process shots. The wool is a heathered grey and it's 3/16" thick (Thick!) which makes it excellent for protecting gadgets. The nature of the felt also means there is no fraying but I found that a simple stitch 1/16" in from the edge adds a nice detail and adds extra resistance to wear from heavy handling.
I enjoyed working with it because it cut really easily with nice sharp square edges and my sewing machine ripped through it quickly. The only real hiccup is the extreme thickness of the material made it difficult to adapt in my previous designs but in working with it, a lot of the new designs were inspired by the simple modern nature of the material itself.
I went about making several prototypes (and doing a lot of math) over the last few days and have developed 3 different sleeve designs... see images below. The first is a fully-concealed horizontal sleeve with a nylon zipper (with a few options for zipper color when posted... brown, blue/green, red, orange and citron). The second is the open-ended box sleeve that is similar to the design currently in the shop. The third is a brand new design; a simple looking 2-peice sleeve that incorporates a unique flap/snap closure.
All three designs will be available for 13", 15" and 17" mac laptops and as always, custom orders for pc's are possible with a few days turn around and a small custom-size fee. Also, if you're interested in hand-stitched icons, let me know. Cost of custom hand-stitching usually runs between $15-$25 depending on size and intricacy.