After her second child was born, Michigan native Katie Robinson could not find a stylish twist on the classic baby bonnet. “I always really liked bonnets, but I wanted a modern version. I had a hard time finding what I wanted in stores. I wanted something neutral, but not frilly and old-fashioned,” says Robinson.
The search for the perfect bonnet turned into something more for Robinson. “I was at home and looking for a creative outlet as a mother,” she remembers. So in 2016, Robinson hatched Blackbird Bonnets, an Ann Arbor-based company, and it is a runaway success.
She makes beautiful, timeless baby bonnets out of everything from vintage Pendleton fabric found at local garage sales, to specific prints she seeks out on Etsy, to new styles she picks up at her favorite Ann Arbor fabric shop, Pink Castle Fabrics. “They carry all designer fabrics. Really hard to find, really good prints,” Robinson remarks.
Inspiration takes flight
Robinson’s creativity is sparked by new and vintage fabrics alike. “What inspires me is fabric prints. Vintage. New. Different. I see a fabric and think, ‘I have to make a bonnet out of that!”’ she says.
A big appeal of using vintage fabrics is the unique quality these fabrics have for the buyer and maker alike. Robinson’s sewing projects never feel tired when she surrounds herself with gorgeous new prints. “I hate making the same thing twice, so often times I’ll only buy enough fabric to make one.”
The bonnets are perfect for keeping baby cozy on cool winter outings and shaded on sunny days at the park. Robinson’s designs are soft and easy to care for, too. She recommends washing them in cold water and line drying.
A supportive community for a maker mom
Robinson works out of her home in northwest Ann Arbor and cherishes having a creative outlet when her infant daughter is resting. “I did a ton of sewing during nap time. It kept me feeling good because I was productive. Now she’s not sleeping as much. She goes to bed at 7:00, and I sew for a couple hours.”
Robinson credits her supportive husband as having a huge impact on her success. When she was especially busy preparing for the maker fair DIYpsi this past summer, she was grateful to have a spouse who said, ‘“Hey! I’m going to take the kids out today so you can sew.”’
Ann Arbor has also been a great incubator for Robinson’s budding business. She credits the Ann Arbor network of makers with encouraging her along the way. “It’s really nice to see that support. It feels really awesome to see people succeed in this town,” she says. “There is such community. It’s not intimidating. It’s really inspiring.”
Blackbird Bonnets in sizes 0-3 months up through 24 months are available on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/BlackbirdBonnets