This week, we’re excited to share two makers who have found not only a stylish and functional way to use Spoonflower fabric for their business, but who also go the extra mile to ensure their unique makes are durable and water-resistant, too. Meet Leah Seelye and her husband Cody of Burst Into Bloom, creators of hand-waxed canvas bags based out of Grand Ledge, Michigan. This wife and husband team have truly found their labor of love. “We started creating these clutches and bags for those who love waxed canvas but want a wider variety of prints and styles”, Leah says. “Learning to wax canvas and create our own blend was a huge process and we are so excited to share the product with the Spoonflower community.”
My day starts with…
“A warm cup of coffee, roasted by my husband Cody, and some quiet time reading in my Bible with one of my bunnies snoozing at my side. I often go up to my studio and catch up on emails and such before I start up at the sewing machine.”
I fell in love with making goods when…
“I was still a little girl, homeschooled in the hills of Southwest Wisconsin. My dad is a woodworker and luthier while my mom is creative in many different ways; because of this, they instilled in me the importance of handmade at an early age. My earliest memory of this is a wooden doll my dad made for me and in order to have outfits for the doll, I had to make them with fabric scraps that we had at the house.”
When I’m in my studio, I feel…
“Confidence, inspiration and at peace. I surround myself with things that inspire me and I get that extra bit of juice to keep creating.”
What’s in your toolbox as a maker?
“My iPad Pro with Apple Pencil that allows me to design patterns and draft new product ideas, my notebook where I jot down everything I am thinking of to remember later, beeswax for fabric treatment and so much thread.”
What inspired you to make waxed bags?
“Way back in the early days of sailing, sailors discovered that curing the sail fabric with linseed oil would allow it to catch wind better. They realized that if they applied linseed oil to their capes or jackets as well, it would waterproof the fabric. This came to be known as oilcloth and would often turn yellow with age. (I believe this is why fisherman slickers are traditionally yellow even today.)
Later, in the 1930s, the process was refined to apply paraffin wax to the surface. It was a more breathable and movable result with the same water resistance. Waxed cotton and canvas adapted by the British Armed Forces in World War II was used for clothing, tents and duffle bags because it was durable and water resistant.
To this day, waxed canvas has evolved to become a useful, durable material that has stood the test of time for use by so many. Burst Into Bloom intends to continue the narrative and honor its rich history by creating waxed canvas bags that can be used as a practical accessory and sidekick for our customers.”
How did you establish your own waxing process?
“After almost a year of trial and error, I developed a wax and oil blend that I felt suited the needs of Burst Into Bloom very well. My first attempts at waxing ended in spraying hot wax all over the kitchen, trying to cure waxed canvas in the oven (don’t try this at home, kids) and even throwing waxed canvas in the dryer to cure it.”
What does your technique look like today?
“The waxing process for us is fairly simple. We sew our outer shell panels together after cutting and checking top stitching quality. I will have had the wax and oil blend melting for a couple of hours, so by the time I get there, it’s at the required temperature. I then start brushing the wax blend onto the fabric. After all of the panels are coated in our wax blend, we then heat-set the waxed panels with a heat gun. We finally allow the canvas to cure for 24-48 hours. The waxed canvas panels are then ready to be constructed into the final product.”
Who or what inspires your work and why?
“I find inspiration in foraging small things in nature, the shapes and texture of plants and our bunnies when they are playing. I am in awe of women like Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co who have built creative businesses from the ground up while remaining kind, genuine and true to their own style. Spoonflower artists such as Holli Zollinger and Esther Fallon Lau inspire me through their fabric designs as well.”
My proudest accomplishment over the last year is…
“Learning to take time to do things I enjoy—scheduling in happy moments within all of the rush.”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“One of my many cable knit cardigans hanging in the closet—if it isn’t comfy and warm, it isn’t for me! I always say that my work uniform involves sweaters and bunny slippers.”
Before starting a small business, I wish someone had told me…
“To never feel pressured into working for free. There’s a clear line between giving free products to a charity that you care for—or even a customer whom you believe could use a pick-me-up—and giving away free product to someone who is pressuring you to do so for exposure. It’s not always talked about, but remember that your time is valuable and exposure will come naturally through your own diligence and hard work.”
How does Spoonflower meet your business needs?
“Spoonflower is quick, personal and connects me to endless designs, artists, patterns, fabric choices and inspiration; all things vital to my business.”
What has been an important resource to you as a small business owner and why?
“The maker community as a whole. There are endless groups, forums and opportunities to reach out to others who are in the same boat. I have many strong women that I can lean on when I have questions, doubt myself, or need encouragement to keep pushing.”
My favorite Spoonflower textile to work with is…
“Linen-Cotton Canvas Ultra because it is durable and the wax treatment we apply saturates and cures perfectly on it. It makes my job so much easier.”
What advice do you have for others who may want to try their hand at waxed fabrics?
“Sewing with waxed canvas does require a heavy duty sewing machine. We tell anyone interested in buying and using waxed canvas to be ready to kiss their sewing machines goodbye unless they are regularly, even daily or weekly, maintaining and cleaning all parts that could possibly get wax or even waxy lint on them. It’s such an amazing final product and absolutely worth the extra steps!”
My name is Leah and with my husband Cody, we created Burst Into Bloom. I was raised in Southwest Wisconsin and now live in Michigan. I love to hike, craft, take photos and drink coffee. Growing up, my parents worked very hard to instill an understanding of the value of handmade. They succeeded. In this age of “digital”, I feel that we are craving something to hold, to feel and something to connect with. I am passionate about hand-making things and sharing them with others. I genuinely believe that buying local and buying handmade is vital to building up a community that helps each other.
Keep up with Leah and Cody via their Instagram account, @burstintobloomco.