Monday, August 15, 2016

Sew Nice: Bespoke blankets by KaynZac

Blankets. My kids love them. They drape tables with them and crawl underneath to hide. They slot them through the slats of the upper bunk bed and say they are exploring a forest. They blunder about blind, covered with one, proclaiming they are a monster and sending the rest of their siblings shrieking. And of course, the blankets serve their main purpose too: keeping the kids warm at night, since we don't use quilts at home. They are an essential piece of childhood, being incorporated into playtime and naptime, and providing comfort during sick days. 

Just as how blankets can be incredibly versatile, their quality can vary a fair bit too. We have blankets made from cotton purchased from the market, which can be scratchy. We have some lovely patchwork ones, which were used by hubby and myself when we were younger, and now have been passed to the kids to use. These days, as I declutter and think about the things that spark joy, I realize that I really want to only keep the blankets that were made by loving hands. I love it when I have to cover a sleeping child with a soft blanket that holds a history, one that is pieced together with lots of love. 

Which is why I immediately said yes, when Abigail wrote to me about sewing a blanket for Baby J. Abigail, who is the heart, head and hands behind KaynZac, is a stay-home mum of two. She makes incredibly lovely blankets, which comprise of three layers: The top layer is cotton, of which the design you can choose from her range of fabrics in her shop's FB page (or you can even have her source for something you have in mind), and the bottom layer is made of an organic cotton knit that is incredibly soft. She shares that she only uses more expensive organic cotton for the bottom layer, since it is the layer that is in contact with our children's skin.

I can vouch for the amazing softness of the blanket, because after the blanket arrived, it has been kidnapped by almost every member of the family, the hubby included. (He looked rather ridiculous using it, since it's too small for him, but he declared that the blanket was "so nice and soft!") When I was down with dengue, the rash made me feel like my nerves were on on fire, and every single blanket I tried felt scratchy and made the tingling sensation worse. Baby J's KaynZac blanket was the only one my extremely sensitive skin could tolerate, so I spent all my rest time curled up under it. It IS that soft and comfortable. 

Softness aside, Abigail adds another special touch to each blanket: she embroiders a name on it. Just like the fabric for the top layer, you can choose the colour of the lettering and the borders of the letters. You can also choose between two types of fonts. For Baby J's blanket, she helped me to source for the fabric I wanted, and we went with plain grey lettering with teal borders, and I loved how it turned out! 

The blanket has doubled up as a playmat, when Baby J was starting to do tummy time. It's thick enough for Baby J to be comfortable on the floor, yet thin enough for use in our hot, tropical weather. We love the blanket so much, that I am currently planning to order blankets from KaynZac for the rest of the boys as their birthday presents! These come in various sizes, so we'll probably get bigger ones for them so that they go a longer way. 

During this collaboration, I had such a good time chatting with Abigail, that I thought I should let her tell the story behind her shop instead: 

Me: Hi Abigail! Could you share a little more about how KaynZac was started? 

Abigail: KaynZac was started in 2014 by my mum and I, because we were both at home watching too many Korean dramas at that time (I’m kidding. She was watching too many dramas).  We started off with importing kids’ apparel, and I wanted to see how “easy” it was to start my own line, designing and sewing my own clothes. That was my impetus to learn sewing. 

I started off sewing, and still do sewing in front of my computer, because I needed to google every single thing. I learnt how to sew from YouTube and online tutorials and I’m happy to say, I’m a lot more competent these days! Every year for the last 2 years, I try to sew a birthday dress for my daughter. Her first Elsa dress was just abysmal, but she was three then, and I could force her to wear it. The second Ariel-inspired ball gown is still well-loved and worn today! 

So back to did I ever start a children’s line? Nope! It was too much hard work, and while I can probably copy and make knock-offs, sadly, fashion design isn’t my strength. So now that I know how to sew, this leads us to part II of our story. We were looking for blankets for our kids that were of good quality, safe for my girl’s sensitive skin (100% cotton) and most importantly, of her favourite characters (so she will use it). We were mildly surprised that it was so difficult to find something in the market that fulfills all these criteria! 

Since my husband thinks I’m a domestic goddess because I can sew, he suggested that I sew their blankets, and I remember scoffing at his suggestion. Anyway, I did my first organic cotton blanket for my son, with his name appliquéd on it. It was a runaway hit! I think I overdid myself, because now when the blanket is sent for washing, he will fuss and cry, and insist on hugging a wet blanket to sleep. I did a couple of other iterations of it for my daughter - with minky, and I still offer the option because some like the material and the variety of colours - but my daughter has repeatedly requested for another blanket made in the organic cotton. Unfortunately, I’ve been so busy sewing other people’s blankets, but I’ve promised her I will do it before her 16th birthday! 

Me: I'm so glad you did take up your hubby's suggestion to try sewing blankets! How have your customers taken to your creations?

Abigail: I am very grateful that I have had a lot of support from friends and customers, and many of them become friends! Many come back to us again and again, as they purchase blankets as gifts for their friends who just gave birth, or to their friends’ children on their birthdays.

We’re very thankful for a particular customer whose son has extremely sensitive skin, which would have an allergic reaction when he used fleece blankets. She came to us requesting repeatedly that the blanket had to be made of 100% cotton. After we made one for him, she was happy enough to order another for her daughter, and she has asked us to make other things as well. So it was an assurance that our product is safe enough! 

We have customers who have upgraded and ordered larger blankets, as their kids have outgrown the blanket but are still using it every night. When people tell us their kids really hug their blankets to sleep each night, we know we’ve made a good product!  

Me: Do you find it challenging to juggle sewing and the business, while caring for the kids? How do you manage it all?

Abigail: I think running this business was something that brought me a lot of excitement, joy, and a bit of stress. It provided the mental stimulation that I found a bit lacking as a stay-home mum. There was a steep learning curve with the sewing, setting up a website, putting myself more out there on social media, etc, but I think these are all good experiences for growth. 

I try to be very clear that when my kids are around, I will not be working. Up till last year, that was very tough, because I could only sew late into the night and early mornings, after my kids went to bed. This year, as both are now in school, I try to accomplish a fair bit in the mornings before they come back from school, so my working hours have been more sane. 

However, time is always tight, and I still want to be very hands-on about my kids’ education. I do find myself quite torn, with wanting more time for the business, as well as teaching the kids and spending time with the family. My challenge is that I’m always on the phone! Messaging my clients, editing my photos, answering queries, or just sneaking off to use FB. I’m trying to be more present, and be more disciplined about putting the phone away when the kids and hubby are around. 

I’m still enjoying this journey! I’m secretly happy that my daughter sees me working, and asks to learn how to sew. More than the skills, I hope to show them that they too, can learn and do anything when they set their hearts on it!

I loved so much of what she has shared, don't you? I can identify with the struggle to manage our side-lines and interests as stay-home mums, while being present with the kids during the day. I also really love how her kids have a wonderful example of what life-long learning looks like, and it's amazing that she managed to learn how to sew through watching videos on YouTube! I've been meaning to learn how to sew clothes for the kids, and I think I am inspired to learn after talking to her. Thank you so much for the lovely blanket, and for being an inspiration, Abigail!


I'd love for all of you to be able to enjoy the loveliness of a blanket made by Abigail, so we're sharing a discount code that you can use at her little shop! Key in "makingmum5" at checkout (or quote this to her if you order via FB or IG), to get 5% off your order. Do like the KaynZac FB page to be kept updated on new blanket designs, as well as promotions. Her shop also stocks children apparel as well as toys, so do have a browse!

Finally, KaynZac is also kindly sponsoring a blanket for one reader of this blog. To participate in the giveaway, please follow the instructions given in the Rafflecopter app below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: We were given this lovely blanket for purpose of this review. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions (and chubby baby legs) are our own. 

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