Cora Young keeps her mom busy.
The dark-haired 18-month-old is a whirl of activity.
She is also the inspiration for Jessica Young’s etsy business, Cora Baby Wraps, stretchy headbands, turbans and infinity scarves that give the smallest kids a touch of style.
When Jessica couldn’t find a headband that worked for Cora, she created her own.
“It was mostly because she had kind of a larger head,” said Jessica, 28, of Belleville. “When babies are little and bald, you want them to be cute The elastic on baby headbands would dig into her head.”
She began with an online pattern, then altered it to her liking.
“The hardest part is the sizing because not all heads are created equal,” she said of the headbands that range from newborn size to adult. “All will stretch. If you’re not sure what size to order, consider going with the bigger. It will last longer.”
Jessica sews in a bright front room in the family’s two-story near Southwestern Illinois College. As she mentioned different styles, she opened drawers and showed samples. She keeps bins of fabric on hand, some in soft prints with feathery designs; others in solids, rich mustards and seasonal cranberry.
“Mostly, I work with knits,” she said. “Everything is comfortable, stretchy and soft. I order all the fun prints (online) off of Spoonflower. They have fun prints I can’t find anywhere else. My solids that I do for turbans are from Hawthorne Threads. Or I go to Jo Ann (Fabrics) or Hobby Lobby.”
She pulled out samples of Christmas fabrics.
“They are super fun,” she said, showing three red and green prints on white backgrounds. One was a tree atop a red station, one with a little reindeer and a third design of Christmas lights.
Jessica makes three styles of headbands, including one that ties. Her slouch beanie and infinity scarves work for both boys and girls.
“People buy the infinity scarves a lot for photos. This season, I’m really trying to promote mommy-and-me matching sets. We do sibling sets, too.
“The younger they are, the easier it is to keep on,” she said as Cora doffed her slouch beanie.
Turbans, new this year, are the most popular item.
Jessica lives with the unpredictabilty of the market.
“Sometimes, I think they will love something, and I won’t sell any.” Other times, something she’s not sure about just takes off. “I love mustard color. This mustard turban has been my No. 1 seller.”
She settled it on Cora’s head, tucking her bangs neatly into the turban frame.
Her father-in-law Dave Knoebel made the cutting table with shelving beneath. Her mother-in-law Beverly Knoebel gave her the Janome Magnolia-model sewing machine for her birthday a few years ago.
“We lived in Austin for about four years,” she said. “I took a couple basic classes. I just made little things, little bags, purses for friends, mostly because I wanted to know how to do it. Then the sewing machine sat in the closet for quite a long time.”
Until Cora came along.
“Once I started making headbands for her, I would post pictures on Facebook. Friends of friends would want one for their daughter.”
That led to the idea to sell through an online etsy shop where folks sell handmade goods. Jessica also credits Instagram, an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service, with her success. Instagram enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
“I am very big on Instagram,” said Jessica. “That’s where I do most of my business. The Instagram world is fascinating and interesting to see.”
Through Instagram, she acquired brand reps, parents who have their children wear Jessica’s creations, then post photos and tag information.
“I send free products their way and they send me photos back that I can use on etsy. People get tired of seeing my daughter’s face. I have four girls and two boys (who are brand reps). Seventy-five persent of my business is from Instagram. I do shows, too. Grow Fest and Spring Fling in St. Louis and Vintage Market Days in Chesterfield, outside at Chesterfield amphitheater.”
The three-day Chesterfield event was successful enough that Jessica had her mother-in-law sewing to replenish the booth. Prices range from $10 to $15.
That morning, Cora wore a black T-shirt with lettering that read “Mama is my stylist” and a black and white wrap sweater, pieces made by other etsy moms.
“We do a lot of trading,” said Jessica.
Jessica, a 2006 Granite City High School grad, lived in Granite until she was 20, then lived in Austin four years.
“Before I had Cora, I was a nanny for six years,” she said. “Before that, I was a hair stylist.”
Mom Kathy was on hand that day to corral Cora who was especially fond of a free-standing lamp in the corner.
“Jessica has always been very creative,” Kathy said. “I’m so proud of her. She just started to make stuff for her own daughter and it took off. She has 4,000 followers in Instagram, and I barely know 50 people.”
Husband Jonathan, 29, a planning and analysis manager at Lumiere Casino, sometimes doubles as Jessica’s assistant.
“He will help me cut whenever I get busy,” said Jessica. “He can cut the headbands pretty well. His mom is a quilter. He grew up around his mom’s sewing and all that. He knows how it all goes. He thinks it’s really fun. He helps me take pictures of Cora when I need her to model for me.”
Kathy helps too, sometimes attending the markets where Jessica sells her items.
“One lady even bought one for her dog,” she said. “It was the cutest thing.”
Cora Baby Wraps
- What: Stretchable headbands and scarves for infants and older
- Cost: Headbands, $10; infinity scarves, $12; turbans, $15
- Where to buy: online through Etzy or corababywraps.etsy.com. The adjustable style headband is available at Verde Kids, in Webster Groves, Mo.