Meet LiEr of Ikatbag

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Name: Lorraine LiEr Teigland. LiEr is my Chinese name, which I've had since birth. When I started a sewing business in my early twenties, I picked to sign LiEr on my paper labels because it was shorter and faster to handwrite. Since then I've always used it whenever I had to write my name multiple times. I'm lazy that way.
Location: Minnesota, USA
Website: www.ikatbag.com
Kids: Emily (6+), Jenna (4+) and Kate (3)

First there was LiEr's foam and fabric play garden. Then there was the princess pavilion. And the little blue house. And the faraway tree she made from cardboard. Holy craft mania! Before we could even scrape our jaws off the floor, she'd knock our socks off with more of her awesome creativity. Who is this woman?
We had to know more about the genius behind these projects. Is she a machine? A Martha Stewart clone? Does she have 7 nannies and a staff of interns? We were fully prepared to discover any of these scenarios as we dug deeper into her blog, but, alas, not only is she one of the most talented, creative sewing and toy making masters we've ever seen, she's also just a regular mom. And she's hilarious. Her secret for balancing the needs of 3 little girls with whimsical designs that showcase her intense attention to detail? An IV drip of Nutella.

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When did you start blogging and why?
I first started our family blog for family who were overseas. It was mostly to share photos and updates on the kids' escapades so my parents in Singapore, particularly, wouldn't miss out on their growing up. Some of those escapades were crafty things that, over time, became more and more complex. One day I decided to start a separate craft blog so that my family wouldn't have to scroll through endless photos of craft project innards before finally landing on one with their grandchildren in it.

One of the other reasons I decided to start a separate craft blog was to write tutorials. I used to be a teacher before the kids arrived and that part of me has been hard to beat into retirement. Every now and then I get an email or comment from someone who's been helped a bit by one of my tutorials and it makes my day. Someday I hope my girls read my blog and learn to do stuff from all the instructions therein.

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Your sewing skills are really inspiring. When and how did you learn to sew? Are your girls showing any interest in sewing? Thank you for saying that! I grew up in a family of sewing women (and some men - my dad sews, too). Grandma was a tailor whose assignments included custom bridal gowns and uniforms for marching bands. Her daughters and my mother (her daughter-in-law) learnt at least a part of their sewing repertoire from her and handed it down to the girls in our generation. Growing up in Singapore, as in many parts of Asia, commercial patterns were either expensive, hard to come by or both. We all learnt to sew clothes by drafting from body measurements. In middle school, we learnt the same techniques in HomeEc classes. Some of us liked that but some of us drifted through HomeEc in a sort of coma, depending on our more able mothers to uh, shall we say... add the finishing touches to our projects. If I remember right, I began hand-sewing at about 8 or 9, and using the machine at about 13. Excluding the HomeEc fiascos, I sewed my first independent garment - a white miniskirt - at 13, at the behest of my best friend, who thought my wardrobe badly needed help.

Grandma taught me mostly crafts - and we'd often go craft shopping for yarn and felt for little softies. I never had the chance to learn garment sewing from her, because she was too ill by the time I was old enough to be really interested. Fortunately mum and an aunt were always around to answer my questions and tick me off when I was skewing in some pigheaded direction towards certain failure. Even now, I call mum in Singapore fairly often to ask her something or other about a garment I'm making.

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Face-to-face contact aside, I'm also learning a lot from blogs these days. I am constantly amazed at the amount of information and talent that have been made available just through the internet. There is always something new to pick up. Ever so often, I am struck by how the same technique is done quite differently here in the US as was taught back in Asia. We even called them different names. It's like reading a Sewing Babelfish.

Emily, who's six and a half, is probably the most interested in sewing right now. She's made a few projects that she is quite proud of, including a skirt, a snake, a small bear, a little tote, and some hand-embroidery. Jenna (the 4-year old) becomes very excited about sewing a project whenever she sees her elder sister making something and has so far made a small tote, three doll pillows, three doll blankets and some hand-embroidery. I don't want to consciously steer my girls in the direction towards becoming Child Sewing Prodigies largely because there is only one sewing machine in the house and if they are using it, then obviously I can't be, hrmph. However, if they come begging to make something, I'll usually find something simple but fancy that they can sew on the machine so they can feel proud for days after (and let me have the machine back).

What's your favorite project you've ever made?

I have to pick just one? I'd have to generalize and say that all the projects that were challenging, and made me tear my hair, and think, and that took months to complete, were my favorites. That holds true for both my sewing and cardboard projects - if at one point, it teetered on the brink of possible catastrophe and then made a stunning recovery, I probably loved it when it was finally done.

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You make lots of amazing toys, too. Which was your girls' favorite? Based on which toys they most often pick to play with, I'd say it's a tie between the foam dirt and the little blue house. Both of those get used in a lot of pretend play scenarios, probably because they are so open-ended. Our felt food gets a lot of love, too, as do their Owie Dolls. And I was surprised at how much the chicken and pig get dragged into all kinds of animal/farm stories and chosen for show-and-tell days at school. I thought that, being stuffed animals, they'd be too genre-specific for most play days. But I was wrong.

Where do you go on the web for inspiration?
For clothes, I get inspired most by what I see in print clothing catalogs. But for other things, I love what hits me on other people's blogs and pinterest (my new favorite time-waster). There is so much talent out there. And so many cultures and different ways of doing even the same thing, whether it be a specific sewing technique, a simple tote bag or a cardboard car. Just last year I learnt a new way to just unpick stitches! It's also fun to see a craft trend going viral online because different people take it off on a different tangent and everyone has opinions on it. Sometimes I hop on the bandwagon myself and sometimes I just like to watch it unfold. So I've made things like pencil rolls and bucket hats that everyone is is making, but to date, I've not made a single pillowcase dress! I have a soft spot for anything ethnic, which harder to find than, say, a tote bag tutorial, so anytime I come across an article on a saree or qipao or Malaccan beaded slippers, I jump up and down and bookmark it like there's no tomorrow.

I don't have a lot of time to read blogs - I mostly skim posts nowadays, so I love sites that round up the best on the net for me:

Ohdeedoh
One Pretty Thing
Kereei.com
How About Orange

And these are three of my favorite blogs - incredibly talented and classy ladies, masters in their fields, and they make me laugh so hard:
Filth Wizardry
MatsutakeBlog
Ric-Rac

Thank you, LiEr! Be sure to head on over to Ikatbag for sewing lessons, inspiring crafts, gorgeous tutorials, and loads of hilarity.

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