The handmade craft circuit offers as many price points as expressions, and for buyers who are interested in putting their eco-consciousness where there mouth is, options abound. Elizabeth Winchester, a girls' clothing artisan based in Bloomington, crafts one-of-a-kind designs with sustainable materials such as organically grown cotton. "I work really hard to keep my entire line eco-friendly," she says.
Winchester also tries to ensure that her materials "are either manufactured in the U.S. or in factories that meet standards for fair wages and working conditions."� Such an approach is harder than it may seem, as sweatshops in Third World countries paying substandard wages continue to drive prices down.
As a Certified Public Accountant who worked in San Francisco and Chicago prior to her relocation back home in Indiana with her husband and daughter, Winchester is aware of the challenges of trying to sell items for which most consumers are used to paying much less. But since Winchester's designs are adjustable, there's an added value on top of the feel-good element.
Winchester's clothing line, which she designs and sews herself, is inspired by her own daughter's atypical physique. Winchester's toddler daughter is "really tall and skinny," she says, "and it's been hard to find clothes that fit her properly."
After experimenting for a while sewing clothes for her daughter and relatives, Winchester decided to give the craft circuit a try. Just a year later, she has several craft shows sewn up, and has many more on the horizon.
Winchester's brand, Curly Pigtails, offers a bit of timeless, understated style and whimsy in a crowded marketplace where most girls' clothing styles mimic grown-up fashions trends. "First and foremost it's about picking designs that will be flattering on all shapes and sizes," she says. "My biggest thing is I don't want little girls to look like small versions of women."
While Winchester isn't earning CPA wages -- "my husband is basically financing my whole operation," she says -- she's hopeful that the more craft shows she attends, the more her business, and personal eco-awareness, will grow. "So often when we buy mass-produced items, we have no idea what they're really made of or where or by whom. So that's another nice thing about buying from indie crafters and small businesses."
To learn more about Winchester's clothing line visit www.curlypigtails.com.
(Slideshow) INDIEana: Elizabeth Winchester
Elizabeth Winchester's brand is called Curly Pigtails.