It’s been over a year since I last wrote on this blog, but I’m back for a good reason: Windward Made turns 5 on March 18th! It’s been quite the journey these past 5 years and so I wanted to look back to celebrate all I’ve done, see how everything has evolved, and where I am now. Please join me on a trip down memory lane…
I opened my shop on March 18th, 2013 with a small collection of hand-stamped infinity scarves made of 85% hemp and 15% yak hair. They were incredibly soft and I’m still hoarding a piece of that fabric to make into something someday. The whole idea for Windward Wearables, as it was called back then, came from wanting to combine my love for both pattern design and textiles. My only means to get those patterns onto fabric back then, was by carving stamps and stamping everything by hand. So that’s what I did. I researched the most eco friendly fabrics (hence the hemp/yak) and printing inks and the first collection was born.
When I moved to Canada for six months later that year, I had access to a lot more hemp fabrics and there I designed and made my second collection. It was inspired by the seaside of Vancouver Island, where I lived then, with prints of pebbles, waves and stripes in white and blue on 100% hemp linen. I also made matching pouches and tote bags – I have one that I still use a lot today.
For the holidays that year I made a special edition infinity scarf with metallic gold hand painted polka dots on a midnight blue hemp fabric. It’s been my most popular product to date and I spent that season painstakingly painting A LOT of tiny gold dots.
The next year was marked by my wrist woes, but also strangely my most productive year. I had severe pain in my left wrist, and despite a lot of tests and injections, it never became clear what was wrong exactly. I did figure out early on that stamping by hand was not something I could continue doing, as it made the pain worse. And so I had to figure out a way to print my designs onto fabric another way. I taught myself how to screen print and the next collection was made using the two screens I made. Overall, it ended up being my own least favourite collection. I wasn’t happy with the look and it didn’t feel in line with what I’d made up to that point. That was also partly due to the fabrics I’d chosen for the scarves.
At the beginning of that summer I launched my first Windward Home collection, with napkins, tea towels and pillow covers made from a beautiful heavy hemp/organic cotton fabric. Not long after, I got a splint for my wrist, which really helped because it forced me to use my wrist less and better. Even though I wasn’t stamping any more, the pain persisted.
In September I changed the name from Windward Wearables to Windward Made, because with the introduction of the home range, not everything was wearable any more! I introduced the new name, a new website and a new collection all at the same time. It was a big collection, with maybe my favourite scarf ever (which I don’t even have myself!), a boxy top, the return of the starry night scarf (in black this time), tote bags and pouches. Some were stamped, some were screen printed and some were painted by hand. Together with the home range that followed later that year, it’s my favourite collection I’ve made.
The home range included tea towels and pillow covers again, and I added tea cosies and plant cosies, the latest being one of my favourite things to have made up and made. I got a wholesale order for both collections, for two different shops and was really happy with how everything was going.
There was just one problem with those orders: with my wrist doing better and all, I had started stamping some products again. One of the orders included 50 hand-stamped tea towels and that proved to be more than my wrist could handle. Sewing them also caused pain and to top it all off, it ended up not being very profitable either. Once again I had to figure out what to do to be able to keep making my products without overburdening my wrist. I researched having my designs printed onto fabric, but I couldn’t make the initial investment. The answer in that moment was hand-painting my designs. My left wrist was the culprit, but I’m right-handed so I wouldn’t need to use my left hand for painting. Again, I started from scratch, researching fabrics, paints, and how to get the latter neatly onto the former. I switched to Belgian linen and made a huge cutting and painting table with cork on top to pin the fabric onto. I experimented with a lot of designs, since they had to be interesting enough, but not so time consuming that the price of the scarves would end up being too high. In July I launched a collection of 8 different hand painted scarves. In September I added five more.
In October I added five more scarf designs, as well as three pouches and tote bags. This collection was made using gold paints and black, green and pink fabric. In November I also added tea towels, pillow covers and plant cosies. I still love all the work I did in 2015. But my personal situation changed that year, ending a long term relationship, moving back in with my parents for a while, getting a new side job, and finding new love and moving again. My situation was quite different at the start of the next year.
Even though I loved the whole hand-painting process, from the designs, to the mixing of the paints to get that perfect colour, to the painting itself, sewing my products also proved to be too much strain on my wrist. So here I was again, trying to figure out what to do the be able to keep making my products. I was lucky enough to receive a tax refund and decided to invest it into finally having my designs digitally printed onto fabric and sewn into scarves. I found a local printer that printed on the same Belgian linen I had used for my hand-painted designs with a sewing workshop in Germany. I worked hard at 8 new designs and halfway through the year sent them off to the printers. It was such an exciting moment to open the box full of finished scarves. I loved them. I launched the collection in September and did my best to show them to as many people as I could through collaborations and other marketing efforts. It was the only collection of that year, but I had grand plans for many more, designs almost ready to go. Now I only needed to sell enough scarves to fund the next collection.
At the end of 2016, we bought our house, which took a lot of energy from me. Not long after, my boyfriend quit his job to start something new. I started a weekly drawing project, but it didn’t fit me at all to have to draw something specific at a specific time (I’m a rebel like that). In February we got our dog and she was a handful. I had been at the edge of a burnout for a while, and she pushed me over. She was too much for me to handle at that point in time, I simply didn’t have the energy. I had to stop all activities that were not strictly necessary and that meant Windward Made as well. It was hard for me to let go, but ultimately a relief. I didn’t stop thinking about it though and very slowly worked on a new website that launched at the end of September, adding brand and web design to my official offerings. I also did some other creative work that year, including designing the logo for Plants Are Magic magazine, writing an article for it and designing and building a brand and website for a goldsmith friend of mine. After the launch of the new website I finally gave in totally and did nothing much for the rest of the year, except snuggling with the dog (despite it all, we became best pals), learning to knit and painting a holiday card. And secretly thinking about what it was that I wanted to do moving forward.
At the beginning of the year I felt much better than a year ago. I was excited to get back to my creative work, but also a little apprehensive, because I didn’t want to fall into the same traps that put me here in the first place. But I know what those traps are, I had sought out help, read a lot of books (loved this one), identified specific things I needed to do differently going forward and so I slowly began again. First I cleaned out my workspace, put in more plants, made room for my paints. I started sketching out all the ideas that had formed in my head in the past couple of months. Then I made a sort-of-plan (because I need a plan), listing ideas in the order in which I wanted to work on them, but without adding a deadline. I think this will be key for a while: taking it easy, enjoying the process and taking things as they come. I’ve been playing with my paints, getting to know the gouache I’ve gotten for my birthday months last year, as well as getting reacquainted with acrylics. I’m drawing a lot of flowers and not posting them on instagram.
Where is this all going? I’m not entirely sure. I’m very drawn to painting and illustrating. Looking back now, I remember I loved working with paint for that collection in 2015. I also still love designing patterns and am working on a couple. I don’t expect them to come to life as scarves though. As much as I love scarves in general and designing them in particular, my vision for what I’d want them to be has changed and so I’d need to figure that all out again. For now I’d like to offer my patterns as fabric, wallpaper and gift wrap via Spoonflower. I’ll be making a small collection to see how that goes. I’ll also be offering more prints of original artworks to inspire your home. I’m painting on canvas, but for now just for myself and our home. I love our home, the concept of HOME, what makes people feel at home. Flowers, plants, patterns, composition and colours that make my heart flutter still inspire me. I’m just trying to follow my heart, not think too much and hopefully put a smile on peoples’ faces as I do. I missed blogging! I loved writing this. But I think I wrote enough.
Of course I can’t let such a momentous occasion go by without a celebration, so I’m giving a 35% discount on all orders placed through March 18th! It’s the biggest sale ever and probably forever, so grab a scarf (or print) while you still can. They are perfect for Spring chilliness, Summer sunshine and Fall festivities. Use code 5YEARS at checkout to receive the discount.
Thank you for reading, stopping by, following along and sharing in this story. Feel free to leave a comment with your own favourites from the past 5 year, or since when you’ve been following along. Thanks again and see you soon!