Ruby: an imagined name for a daughter and then a name for a new creative business, which started here in London, Ontario. Maple, a beautiful name from a children’s book about a sweet girl involved in nature and play. Together these names have shaped an up-and-coming business started last year by Krista Rathwell: Maple & Ruby, a natural, creative, and life-giving journey.
If you love kids’ clothing, organic locally-made cottons, and love the colours and fashions of this talented sewing artist, then these clothes are for you. Krista, creator and owner, shared with me that as a mom of an active baby and toddler, she makes her clothing to suit her girls’ experiences in areas of playability, comfort, chemical-free fabric, attractiveness, and ease in putting on and taking off. She has a “baby and toddler who play a lot and play hard, and need durable and comfortable and fun clothes. At a time when Canada has few organic cotton fabric stores and distributors, Krista explains that more of a trend is growing, and she is finding some favourite places to buy her fabrics.
Earlier this month, I sat down with Krista over tea, and talked with her about the creative shape her new business was taking. We were in a coffee shop on a rainy Sunday night after her children were in bed–a quieter time when she would normally be at home sewing. As we chatted, I wanted to know everything about how she first began sewing, how her business was born, how she becomes inspired, and how her daughters, family, and new business weave together into a colourful life.
My first question: how did you learn to sew? Krista shares that it was from her mother. “My mom tried to teach me on a piece of paper. I was not very good at it, but she persisted.” By the time Krista was a teenager she had basic sewing machine skills, and then after some years off, she really picked up sewing again when she was pregnant with her first daughter, Lena. Baby clothes, bibs, and other items until, “when Daphne came, I really fell in love with sewing. I felt like every day was a similar routine, so being able to create something meant I was accomplishing something new.”
So where does her creative inspiration come from? Krista’s answer is ‘fabric first!” Once she has the fabric, then the pattern or images follows; she describes herself as “loving the dreaming stage.” She shares that “after Daphne was born, I started reading about organic fabrics and how important it is for babies, because of their skin sensitivities, and then I found there were not very many options for organic cotton fabrics in Canada.” Now she gets all of her fabrics online, and finds herself excited to find a trend shifting towards people sewing more again.
“Life changed after my first baby was born,” Krista shares. The last four years have been “a bit of a blur with two daughters, but I loved the design aspect of sewing and found so many beautiful fabrics out there that I just wanted to buy them all.” She laughs. “Sometimes I see fabric and have an idea and vision as soon as I see it, for what I want to make.” Other inspiration comes from groups on Facebook, online stores, and an online sewing community where she is accompanied, learns, and can ask questions and exchange creative ideas.
Krista’s clothing sewing business began quite naturally after the birth of her two beautiful daughters. She started sewing more when she was pregnant with her first daughter, and then even more when her second daughter was born. Bibs, baby clothes, then little dresses and comfortable play clothes. As someone who had been an artsy student–studying English Literature and playing flute and piano–creating a new clothing line wasn’t far from her creative dreaming: “I love doing colour blocking… and choosing fabrics, trim, ribbons, and other ways to dress up something simplistic and classic.
I asked Krista how her sewing fits into her life as a mom of two beautiful girls four years and under. First, she has an outlet for relaxation and re-energizing: “Sewing is my way to wind down, and is good for reducing tension. When the days are long, especially in the winter, after the kids are in bed, I have a chance to focus my mind on something entirely different. Otherwise evenings can tend to aimlessly drift away.”
As a mom, Krista finds she is offering her girls a sense of creative choice for their clothing, and hopes she is a positive role model as an entrepreneur. They see Krista designing and making new things. They see her having something she loves in addition to parenting. And Krista shares that the girls love the fabric most, particularly ones with animals such as swans, bears, foxes, tigers, dinosaurs, and unicorns. My oldest daughter “requests certain patterns by herself and is part of my dreaming stage… She loves to hide in the clothing racks when we go shopping for fabric, loves the button wall, and tries to convince me to buy pink, purple, gold, sparkle, and more.” And they are learning to shape their own creative styles and find confidence in their own fashion sense for what they want to wear.
Recently Krista and her family took a leap of faith and made a bold step to move their life and her business to Owen Sound. This has required trust, and she is looking forward to getting settled in, living closer to extended family, and working on the colour palette for her Spring/Summer line.
Creativity is key for Krista, and as many of us have experienced in our own lives, she names some of the personal benefits of making children’s clothing. As she is in the busyness of unpacking and settling into Owen Sound, and as she continues to be a mom and wife, Krista shares that creating clothing has shaped something beautiful in her.
While she loves her days, she also looks forward through the day to sewing and enjoys having her sewing machine on her dining room table in the midst of family space and shared activity. Coming out of years of such intense family focus where so much energy was involved in birthing and raising her girls, Krista shares that “sewing and creating is life-giving,” and that she is definitely a “lover of the dreaming stage.” Most of all, “it has felt very natural to fall into sewing at this time” and has been part of Krista and her husband’s overall dream for their lives.
She also aims for clothes that spark the imagination: “childhood is a time for dreaming and imagining… and part of kids’ play and their world of discovery is their love for the freedom to choose.” Children know what they love in clothing, and they enjoy being part of the process.” For Krista, it’s been a very satisfying time: “we have been dreaming about our move, and the sewing has just fallen naturally into place. It’s a really nice balance for myself and my family.” Sewing and creating nurtures and gives life at a time when their baby stage is passing and childhood years are coming.
Most of all, in concluding out interview, she shares: “I love it most because I love the idea of seeing children wearing products that I have created. It’s awesome to see them on my own girls, but especially exciting to see other children loving them. This makes me so happy!” A beautiful win-win situation for Maple and Ruby.
Check out Krista’s beautiful kids’ clothing products, 12M to 5T, all handmade in Canada from organic cotton fabrics, in the links below!
How can you find out more about Maple & Ruby?
Facebook at Maple & Ruby
Instagram at mapleandruby