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{expert interview} On Styling & Photographing Toddler Daughters

I'm so excited to have Crystal with us today from Stitched By Crystal! She has 2(.5!) of the cutest kids in sew-blogging land and she is the best in the biz at styling, and photographing young children. Today, she shares her tips with us! 

Becca: Thanks for joining me at Sewing Stadium! I appreciate you coming by to share your expertise with our readers. You are an undeniable talent on the sewing scene, and your work with your daughter's wardrobe is simply incredible. Where did your sewing story start?

Crystal: I have been sewing really as long as I can remember. My mom sewed when I was little, she used to make me dresses and did a lot of quilting. I got my first sewing machine for Christmas when I was 6, it was just a small kids machine, but I think I wore the motor out on it! I did some garment sewing for myself when I was in high school and I sewed my senior prom dress, but my first sewing love was quilting. When I left for college, I inherited my grandma's sewing machine (which I still sew on now). I didn't sew a whole lot in college, I made a few bags and costumes every Halloween. Years later, when I had my son I found I really enjoy making kids clothes, which is the majority of what I sew now.

Wow! I have and love your bag pattern, but I didn't know you were such a proficient quilter too. What about quilting do you love so much? 

I think the thing the really drew me to quilting was being able to make something practical, something that would get used a lot and stick around for years. Plus, I watched my mom quilt a lot when I was a girl, so I think that nudged me into it a bit too. When I first started sewing garments for my self, they didn't always turn out so well! Quilts worked every time, and they got used...a lot, so it was rewarding. My first quilts were all pieced by machine and I quilted everything by hand, now I do that should read I do most of the quilting on my machine as well because it is so much faster and I have a lot less time with 2 kids. I make baby quilts for all of my close friends and I love being able to make and give something that will be cherished for years (I hope!).

That's incredible! I have only dabbled in quilting myself, but there is serious appeal in sewing projects that get loved-in for years to come. Do you find that your quilting preferences impact your choice of garment sewing? Do you find yourself drawn to styles that will get maximum use?

Yes and no. I do try to make a lot of clothes that my kids will get a lot of wear out of, I like to make them a lot of basics and always hope that my daughter can get an extra year out of a dress by wearing it as a tunic with leggings. But I also like to make them some pieces just for fun too, like the Halloween costumes that I spend hours on smile emoticon Sewing kids clothes takes a lot less time than sewing a quilt, so if I can make a shirt in an hour that makes my son really happy it is worth it, even if it only get worn a few times.

Absolutely! What part of your children 's garment projects are your style, and how much reflects your kids' personal styles? I'm sure this has changed as they've grown.

It is probably at least 90% my style. My kids are so young, only 3 and 4, so they haven't given me much input yet. My son loves anything I make him! He will sometimes put in a special request, like TMNT pajamas, so I will make things like that on occasion for him. My daughter will still wear whatever I put her in at this point. But, she is starting to get a bit more opinionated so I have recently started giving her options, I will pick a few fabrics and let her choose which one she likes. It works well because she thinks she picked it, but I still pre-approved all the choices. If I let her free in the fabric store I would only sew with Minnie Mouse prints and red polka dots!

Hah! I bet! To be fair, Minnie is quite a fashionista herself! Is she a pretty willing model for your blogging projects? You always managed to capture the most effortless looking photos of her, despite being in an age range most people find very challenging to photograph.

I have been photographing her regularly in the things I sew since she was about 10 months, she has me pretty well trained now! I have learned a lot about how to photograph a toddler and have a lot of tricks up my sleeve. We usually have a lot of fun doing photo sessions, but it doesn't always go well. If she is not feeling it one day I don't push it and we try again another time.

I love that! I love the idea that she's trained you. With an age group that doesn't respond to reason I guess it really is their way or no way at all. This week's challengers are photographing their 1-3 year old daughters, and styling them too. Do you have advice for them - how they might make their photo sessions as fun as you girls have?

One thing that really helps is asking her to help me. She doesn't like to do what I ask, but 2-3 years olds love to help! I will tell her "I really need your help getting some pictures of that pretty blue dress" and she gets really excited about doing it for me. I think getting her on board and excited is really half the battle! giving her boundaries. If I tell her to "go stand over there" she is running all over the place! I will usually give her a mark of some kind, a lot of times I use a quarter

A piece of tape "Mark"

A piece of tape "Mark"

A leaf "Mark"

A leaf "Mark"

A Pair of Quarters "Mark"

A Pair of Quarters "Mark"

I also like giving her boundaries. If I tell her to "go stand over there" she is running all over the place! I will usually give her a mark of some kind, a lot of times I use a quarter from my pocket and put it on the ground where I want her to stay. I ask her to stand on the quarter, this trick has been really helpful even from the time she started walking, it keeps her in one place. Sometimes you can see her mark in my photos, if I forget my quarter, I will find a manhole, a stick, a leaf, anything to let her know where I want her.

While I take photos, I try to keep her engaged but not focused on my taking her pictures. We talk a lot, I ask her what she sees, sometimes we play I spy. If I want to get a good laugh out of her I talk about something she thinks really silly like pizza with pickles on it or her brothers stinky feet, it always makes her giggle.

"This post I distracted her with a fountain (and some candy, you can see that in the last pic!"

"This post I distracted her with a fountain (and some candy, you can see that in the last pic!"

These are great tips! Top Stitchers is a challenge best won with details. Sewing them is one challenge - photographing them is another. Any final suggestions for our challengers in snapping these photos?

Details on a toddler can be tricky! You really need them to stand still and that is so hard for little ones. Sometimes I will find a place for my daughter to sit, or a bench for her to stand on for close up shots, she doesn't wiggle quite as much that way. Or I might give her a prop of some kind to distract her a bit, something like a flower or a lollipop. And of course I take a lot of photos! I usually leave a session with no less than 100 photos to sift through, most of them just get tossed!

Thank you so much Crystal! It's been great to pull back the curtain and see how the sewblogging mom-tog works her magic! I look forward to seeing your projects for years to come!

Thanks for having me, this was fun !