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Interview with Kristie from BOO! Designs

Kristie Gilbert BOO!Designs Kristie is the designer behind BOO! Designs. What started as a little hobby in the evenings has now become a thriving full-time business. Kristie designs out of her home studio in Brisbane and has an
online store selling modern sewing products which compliment her patterns. She works alongside Grandpa BOO! to pack and ship orders.

Kristie has been a 3 time contributor to One Thimble! In Issue 4 she brought us the Firefly Dress, in Issue 9 the Cross Bow Dress and in Issue 13 the Ultimate Suit!

How did you start designing/sewing?
My first real sewing project was making cot linen for my son, Jesse.  I saw the price of a lovely set in the shops and decided I would have a crack at making my own!  He was a great baby so I got a bit of time to play around whilst on maternity leave and decided I loved sewing.

I started a Facebook page to sell some of the creations I made.  I purchased several PDF patterns that were badly written and poor fitting. Out of frustration I decided to make my own and enrolled in some one on one lessons with a pattern design teacher.  I wanted to feel confident that if someone bought a size 2 garment from me in one style, a size 2 in another style would fit them as well.  I think that is super important if you want customers to have confidence in your brand and keep coming back.

People would message my page and ask what pattern I used for some of my designs so I released my first pattern.

How did the fabric designing come about?
I liked sewing applique on clothing to make up my own fabric designs but felt the style was a bit old fashioned, not to mention time consuming. Border and picture style prints were what I gravitated towards but I could never quite find what I was looking for.  I wanted to work with a friend who was an amazing artist but she was time poor so I decided to have a go at drawing my own designs. The process of a woven fabric print run was about 6-8 months.  I am not very patient so that was not for me!

After importing spandex fabrics for my first stretch pattern (leggings), it seemed there was a huge demand to make that style of fabric more accessible locally.  Most of the available fabrics were ugly Hawaiian looking prints and the composition, stretch and weight of fabrics varied making it impossible to provide a consistent product.

I still really wanted to have a go at creating my own designs. I introduced some amazingly talented friends to the process (Sarah from Inkling Threads, Steph from Owl & I and Jenna from Apple+Fig) who have incredible skills and different styles thus bringing more variety to my fabric offerings.

We started packing fabrics in Mum and Dad’s lounge room and moved into a granny flat in their back yard, which has now been expanded into the adjoining shed affectionately known as the CHOP SHOP!

Why and when did you decide to make BOO! a fulltime job?

I was working fulltime as an IT Consultant, meaning I never really knew where my next job would be.  It could be a 6 month contract close to home in Brisbane or a 12 month gig in Perth where I would have to commute weekly or fortnightly.  This wasn’t sustainable with young children, so I decided on a locally based support role where I was able to negotiate a 4 day week.  My 5th day was for sewing and designing and that was my favourite day of the week!

I saved 6 months salary, handed in my resignation and decided to have a go at BOO! fulltime.  If the money ran out, I would have to go back to work. That was about 3.5 years ago.

This was not a popular decision with Mum who asked “but can you even sew….?”  She didn’t want me to ‘waste’ the skills I had developed over the previous 15 years. I saw it as just applying my skills in a different way.  I went from writing design documents for modifications to computer programs to writing design documents for making a garment!

I work REALLY LONG hours with BOO!  I am usually packing orders during the day and doing admin and design work at night but at least the hours are flexible allowing me to pick the kids up from school and be there for various activities as required.

BOO! wouldn’t be what it is without my support network.  My Dad (Grandpa BOO!) works for me cutting fabric and doing post runs.  Mum feeds and waters Dad and I throughout the day and helps with homework and baby-sitting after school.  She is also my satchel signer and pattern editor!  My husband works full time, he helps around the house and doesn’t get too upset when I am working a lot (it means more xbox time for him)!

What do you think makes BOO! successful?
The most frustrating thing I have encountered just about every step of the way with BOO! has been getting people to take my business seriously. Once you explain what your business is about you can almost hear them laughing and you want to scream “I AM SERIOUS”!  Eventually I ‘show them’ but it is annoying that I have to!

I knew my fabric supplier was the right fit for me from the beginning.  They took the time to understand my business to determine how we could best help each other succeed.  It was like a breath of fresh air.

I think personal touch and relationships are important… that is the bottom line.  That is the case no matter what job, industry or business you are in.

I spend a lot of time in my pattern group answering questions, admiring creations, inspiring and encouraging people.  Sure, I could be a whole lot more productive if I got off Facebook and got on with new patterns or new fabric designs, but for me this side is equally as enjoyable and as important.

Packing orders is back breaking work a lot of the time and I don’t enjoy it, but I LIKE it!  I LIKE working with my Dad.  I LIKE to see who is buying what and seeing what it becomes when the picture is shared in the pattern group a week or 2 later.  I LIKE that sometimes I can look at the order before I look at the customer name and know who it belongs to. I LIKE to tell Dad stories about my customers, their business name, how many kids they have, that they have a kid with SPD who loves spandex dresses because that is all they can wear to feel comfortable, that last week this person made the most awesome dress or that these guys all live in the same street and get together to decide what they are all going to order from the next release and take turns putting in a combined order.  Dad is all over it too and knows who is making a Wonder Woman or Emma Wiggle dress for their daughter and who is buying a cut of fabric that means they are probably making a pair of leggings for themselves.  He will say things like, “Gee, she ordered 2m of that last week and is back for more.  She’s a bit greedy!” HA!

There is a great sense of community in the BOO! Pattern Club. We have sewn pillowcases for Pillowcases for Oncology Kids.  The sale of the pillowcase pattern allowed us to help other charities (Hampers for 3B and My Premmie Journey).  We have had 4 BOO! Exchanges where participants make an item for another pattern club member and receive one in return. Last year we had over 500 participants.  We are big supporters of the Collaborate for a Cause charity event.

Some members love collecting BOO! limited edition business cards.

What/where/who inspires you?
Ultimately my daughter, Holly does. I design clothing and fabric I know she would like to wear.  She also loves to help in the designing process and regularly asks to pack special ‘Holly Orders’ where she has full reign in the shop and can pack whatever she likes to send out to randomly selected customers.

My pattern group is another major source of inspiration.  I love seeing how people are using my patterns and fabrics.

I have some INCREDIBLE friends who sew and photograph new fabrics and pattern test to help inspire others and showcase different fabric combinations too.  I am very lucky to have them!

What’s your best tip for people getting started with sewing?
Just do it!  It’s not as hard as you think.  What is the worst that can happen?  People are usually terrified of sewing spandex and it is honestly so easy.  It is fast to sew and being 150cm wide, you can get so much out of your piece of fabric.

What’s your favourite pattern?
Tough call!

My favourite woven pattern is my Zip It! dress.  It was the first thing that I hung up in my room so I could see it as soon as I woke up the next morning.  I just love that style.  It also meant that I was able to start manufacturing my own super cute metal zips which are much loved by clothing and bag makers. My zip rep can’t wait to rip into the boxes to admire them when he delivers them.

When it comes to selecting my favourite stretch pattern, I don’t think I could answer!  I love them all.  I also hate to iron, so they are all winners to me!
Rashies are my favourite thing to sew as presents for kid’s parties.
Togs are my favourite when I want to feel clever and satisfied.
Skater Dresses are my favourite because my daughter LOVES to wear them.
Leotards and Ultimate suits are my favourite because I love seeing my daughter not pulling them out of her bottom like most of the other kids at dancing, swimming or gymnastics!
Donut skirt is a FREE pattern and 10mins sew, so that also rates pretty highly for me!

What you are working on now?

I am always working on about 20 things at once.

Fabric of the Month Club is probably getting my most attention right now.  It is a fabric subscription service you can sign up to and receive 1m of mystery (spandex) fabric in the mail each month.  Lots of people select mystery orders on my website because they ‘trust’ me to send them something nice.  I am also jokingly asked on a regular basis to just set up a monthly deduction for fabric.  I figured why not!  I started the process last November of getting fabric samples happening and the app set up on my website. It launched last week and it is exciting to see it come to life.  Sign ups for the first round close 15 March.

A huge time thief for me over the last 6-12 months (and ongoing) is my new website. Changing platform has allowed for stability, improved shipping options, easier navigation, more informative product listings.  I have also been able to introduce new features like loyalty points, Afterpay, credit card payments and the new subscription service.

I have samples of my Dandelion/Easter collection (collaboration with Owl & I) arriving this week with a release planned in time for Easter sewing.  We selected colours suitable for girls and ladies and designed a co-ordinating fabric that will work beautifully for both.

I have been working on a new fabric style for the past year or so and that has been getting some serious traction over the last little while with the first samples in BOO! prints arriving this month.  I can’t say much about it yet, just that it is really exciting!

What’s something people might not know about you?
I am a bit of a reality TV tragic but I can’t sit in front of the TV and do nothing, so I am usually working and/or Facebooking at the same time.

I crush candy to turn my brain off and get to sleep at night.

I love reading chic lit but never find the time to read except when a new Paige Toon book comes out and then everything else gets dumped so I can pretty much read it cover to cover.



8 Comments to “Interview with Kristie from BOO! Designs”

  1. Steph 20/02/2017 at 1:25 am

    I’m a big fan of Kristie and Boo. Great to get an insight into the woman behind the monkey.

  2. Ro Clague 20/02/2017 at 2:01 am

    There is a huge amount of love and energy behind BOO and Kristine and her support team have that in spades

  3. Ro Clague 20/02/2017 at 2:02 am

    Spell check is too independent….. that is Kristie of course!!!!

  4. Tracey 20/02/2017 at 2:13 am

    Kristie is amazing!!! I can’t wait to see what she does next.

  5. Lesley Jarrett 20/02/2017 at 8:34 am

    I have really enjoyed this interview! I learned to see as a nine year old at mr Nan’s treadle and am in awe of the tenacity and creativity of Kristie xxx

  6. Debbie Gluch 20/02/2017 at 9:26 am

    Kristie is such a genuine person. She has time for anyone and everyone. If you have a problem she is there. She has helped me so many times and with so much patience. I can’t thank her enough for what she has done for me.

  7. Robyn Terelinck 20/02/2017 at 9:30 am

    Kristie is amazing! And it shows in everything she does!

  8. Margaret 20/02/2017 at 11:32 pm

    Really enjoyed this article. Love your designs . Your tenacity will always win through I’ve been a “sower” for years and really admire folk who make things out of the ordinary. Lovely


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