I interviewed Shara Jean from Baresheep, and her responses were so good, I didn’t want to interrupt the flow with my questions. Shara runs her small business in an equally thoughtful way. Here is her story…
Shara: My business is a hobby, sometimes it makes some extra money. I sew custom upcycled wool accessories, clothing and covers for cloth diapered babies and really any babies, cloth diapered or not that can wear wool clothing. I’ve made items from wools such as cashmere and merino, sometimes wool blends. I sew almost anything requested if it is within my capability, things like longies, shorties, skirties, cardigans, vests, booties, blankets etc., and really all kinds of items can be requested and made to order.
I love to upcycle wools but I also purchase new wool and wool interlock for my products. I have a great assortment of other fabrics as well. The best part of my upcycling hobby is when you see something completed and feel a grand sense of pride that you rescued that from ending up in a landfill and you were able to repurpose it for something that will also prevent toxic waste (disposable diapers).
Most of my sewing gets done late night and weekends as I juggle a toddler and house during the work week.
My sewing buddy is “molly” my rescue cat. She typically sits by my feet and occasionally on a pile of wool if it is on the floor. She enjoys her time sitting and mostly sleeping in my finished basement / sewing room, that is – with no toddlers around to pick on her.
I decided to start sewing all these items for my own baby when he was just born, of course it was one thing at a time really, and as I needed them.
I was very disturbed at all the chemicals that are used to manufacture, produce and dispose of disposable diapers and I naturally wanted a healthy way to manage these things. I knew about cloth diapers from a decade ago when my first child was born but I wanted to cloth diaper full time and with wool as it was much better then the plastic pants of the old days or toxic waste caused from the production of the PUL cover alternatives that are available these days.
I wanted to purchase these upcycled things from other WAHM’s and some name brands as well and I did from a few but I quickly realized it was within my ability to make them myself, and it would be better for me to save some $ doing so. Along my journey of almost borderline obsessive researching all these things, I realized how expensive it is getting in general to cloth diaper or even naturally dress your babies with the known brand names available.
Not to mention that some of the clothing comes from slave labor, and is processed in such a way that it is polluting the environment, and it really bothers me ethically, morally to support business that are not up to par with the standards of environmental and ethical treatments that are expected these days.
So my simple goal is that I aim to help others afford to naturally cloth diaper and dress their children and while I do upcycle wool it has its own way of saving the environment, one diaper, one hour of slave labor, and 1 cup of crude chemicals at a time. So, kind of like saving the world one diaper at a time, but I hope its more like 1 woolie at a time. But in general I do realize that some people just cannot afford the expensive stash building and gooberly expensive baby items that come with being more environmentally friendly while having to watch your pocket book… and I hope to try to give them an alternative to cheap outsourced and unethically made clothing with my hand made products and all within a great price range that is affordable and very practical. I want to help them build a stash of wool. I even make payment arrangements with some that need it for their budgeting and have had successful luck with those that do need it. I see it kind of like every mother helping every mother and together we create a village, but on a more board scale and sometimes its way out of our village. Lol
I really was able to get started because I was fortunate enough to already have known how to sew but I haven’t sewn in years. My Aunt passed away and I was given her sewing machine. After shopping around for woolies that were way out of my budget, I kind of just looked at the boxed up machine and said to myself “what am I doing…? I can totally make some myself now.” And so it began, one sweater confiscated from my hubby’s closet and then another, and then he let me go buy some… after that I was sewing every chance I could and building a stash of sweaters up for other moms too. I have a wonderful husband who totally supports this as a hobby and a small business.
We just bought a range of industrial machines to keep sewing on that will require much less maintenance then the others we have.
I am always on the look out for mills to purchase wool from as well as upcycled wool. I try to get a good deals when I find them but I have high standards and I only buy quality wools. We are still building and saving for the next inventory items to keep sewing but it takes time and well, I have the time because it is something I have started to love doing and it kind of keeps me calm and less like the crazy house mom that needs to have a night out.
I started spreading the word of my woolies on facebook, and in wool trading and chatting groups.
I have a facebook page, www.facebook.com/baresheeps and I have an etsy shop as well www.baresheep.etsy.com and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org mostly people message me on facebook or etsy.
I just bought a website and am tinkering around with that http://www.baresheep.com, so stay tuned for that.
Some of my favorite things are baby blankets, cashmere longies and interlock wool, but I think my booties have gotten a lot of love this past winter too.
I think that the most surprising thing that has happened would be that I really enjoy it, enough that if I can keep doing it I will keep building it and it has brought me much joy, but just as much frustration at times with the legal and business aspect of it.
I learned of unicorn products from a brand of wool that always was a lot over my price range, I did order from them but they never had stock of the washes and rinse. I also didn’t like their customer service and finally after 2 months of waiting for my order to ship I just contacted unicorn myself and then also found about being a retailer and I thought it would be great to always have stock so other didn’t have to wait to wash their wool for a very long time either. It just kind of makes sense.
Outside of work I enjoy my toddler playing at the park. I really enjoy coffee, like artesian coffee, and I love to brew it different ways and try new roasts or favorite coffees – I guess this is my favorite craft at heart but I would like to start roasting my own coffee someday and have a small coffee shop possibly with a lending library. I also enjoy running and generally all things outdoors. I am a nerd at heart and I swear when my toddler has a longer attention span I would love to dig into my biology and chemistry roots and start some vegetable garden and soap making.
Typically my work day starts the min I wake up with a toddler poking my face and rubbing my cheek or hair. After I stumble into the kitchen to make a bottle, start coffee, change diaper, make breakfast, make coffee, probably feed the cat put some cartoon on for the lil man and finally get to drink coffee. I start checking messages, any orders and thinking about what and when things need to get done. what do need to order, where is my laundry at and when are my shipments coming in.
I dont typically get to actually do a lot of the “work” until after dinner time or on the weekends, and it usually lasts until the wee hours of the night and occasional morning. It is a lengthy process, but it can be easy and quick too. some people like to be really involved and others just need that easy button but mostly the time consumption is from finding out what they want, how they want it, sizes and then the choices to present them. I help them choose from the best wools from the stash of mine once I have determined their needs and chosen the best, then I need to measure it, make a pattern and wash/ dry it before it is cut and sewn and finally rinsed before being shipped.
It takes a few days and it’s a process, but I aim for the items to be the highest quality and with the best customer service. I am happy to offer a full range of wool care, including not only unicorn products but I have made my own pure lanolin and spray lanolin for the cloth diapering wools and soon I hope to have artesian made baby skin care products for eczema and other sensitive and extremely sensitive skin as well.
Quality over quantity is the one thing would tell myself all over again. Sometimes it takes me a while as every piece of wool is different than the last and I take the time to work with it the way it needs. I feel there is a real skill in working with fibre and especially with wool and felting it as well as sewing.
My favorite quote is “ if you are going to do something, do it perfectly or don’t do it at all” and my favorite saying it “nothing comes easy that doesn’t go easy” or “this wasn’t meant to be easy or everyone would do it” particularly I tell myself this running or during marathon training but it also comes in handy with some sewing too lol
I am hoping to enter the crafting shows this year and have some ready made products available on my website for those that need an easy button with quick shipping.
The picture of the truck blanket was a PAY IT FORWARD item. Sometimes I make things randomly selecting people who are in some groups and are in need of items im comfortable making. I feel its important to give to those who need it, you never know the days ahead when you may need some help too. We havent taken a family pic in a while. Ill get one later today and send it. Use any of these you like and if you need a caption for it just let me know. Im off to sleep a few hours before monster wakes up. P.s. Molly is snoring on her wool blanket.