I’m Karen, owner of Zoe Designs Ltd.
Sewing is in my DNA!
My grandparents worked in a sewing factory that made men’s suits just down the block from where we lived in my small home town of Nantwich in Cheshire, England. My mom always sewed when I was a kid, often making my clothes as well as some for herself. We emigrated to Canada when I was 11 and I started making my own clothes when in my early teens.
I met the love of my life, Toby, and joined him in California. I began to hand sew and turned to embroidery, cross stitch and needlepoint.We worked together on embroideries, Toby selecting the colors and me doing the hand work. We also started collaborating on soft sculptures. When we moved to Colorado I had an opportunity to work in a factory that knitted sweaters on giant automated machines.
I become a factory worker just like my grandparents
Another opportunity arose and I got a job at Lowe Alpine, a backpacking equipment manufacturer, and trained to be a piece rate sewer using heavy duty industrial machines. Lowes closed up their U.S. operations and moved overseas. I found another job working for a backpack and bike gear manufacturer called Madden Mountaineering. Later Toby started working there too, so we were truly following in my grandparents footsteps~
At Madden I became skilled in making a variety of bags from start to finish. I moved up to the sewing room supervisor and eventually the production manager.
Later I worked at a company that made ski area supplies and another that made kayaking gear. I worked for one in the summer and the other in the winter.
Time to branch out on my own
I acquired an industrial machine and started my own home based business sewing, and designing, for other companies. One company manufactured pilates equipment and I designed and made covers for them as well as various pillows. Another company, Fastback Designs, was just starting up with ideas to make hydration packs for recumbent bikes. I worked with the owner to design a variety of products and made them all until he sold to a larger company. He even named one of the products after me, called the NorBack.
I needed a new every day wallet and I designed one on a string. This was the first product I designed for myself and it was the beginning of my own line of bags. I started making other bags. I approached a local business called The Craft Gallery and put my bags there on consignment. Another business called Goldies took over the location, I stayed and continued to add new styles including a messenger bag.
Goldies carried a stock of vintage clothes and I began to name my bags using names of famous people from bygone times. Tallullah was the first purse I made, followed by Pickford. I made a men’s dop bag called the Flynn. The messenger bag was named Zelda. The Tallullah and the Zelda are still part of my line today, as is that wallet on a string. The Flynn became the Lily geared to use for toiletries or knitting. I recently added a new version of the Pickford to my line called the Dove. I also dabbled in millinery and began making my own hats which I sold at Goldies.
A new store opened called Bark Ave, selling all kinds of goodies for dogs and cats. I began working with the owner, Sally, and we formed a friendship that continues to this day though it’s been many years since she owned the shop. We designed two different styles of dog booties using her whippets to test drive them. One dog, Riot, was so helpful we called him Bootie Boy and had him run up and down the stairs in the shop to ensure the boots would stay on his feet! We also designed a dog coat. Sally would make a custom pattern for each dog letting the owner pick the color for the coat and add some pretty ribbon on the collar.
Zoe’s Bag Boutique takes flight
I ventured on line to try selling on eBay and found that people did indeed want to buy my bags. This eventually led me to discover a new site for artists and makers called Etsy. I opened a shop there in 2007 and people bought my bags.
In June of 2007 I started a blog. I had no idea what I was doing but I jumped in and have been blogging there, on and off, ever since.
I wanted to have my own site so that I could have more options for photographs and descriptions and I started slowly working on one. There was so much to learn but I opened my shop, Zoe’s Bag Boutique, on January 20th 2009.
More changes in 2018
In mid 2018 I discovered that the software for my website was outdated and did not want to play well with the servers any longer. Gulp, that was scary. I said ok to the update and added a new design for the site as well. It was a good move, it’s now 100% mobile friendly and looks great.
In December of 2018 I looked at the blog I started in 2007. It needed a facelift. As I was looking around I discovered that the photo gallery of customers and their bags, that I had maintained since I opened my shop, was in the same boat as my site was earlier in the year. It was no longer working.
Time for another change. I had a new blog installed on my site and added a very cool new gallery for all those special images my amazing customers have been sharing for years.
So that’s my brief backstory. I hope you will stop by and check out my blog to learn what’s going on at Zoe’s Bag Boutique! You can also sign up for my monthly newsletters which debut new bags, many one of a kind that never make it into the shop.