Kelly Darby is taking an earth-friendly approach to baby fashions.
The 29-year-old Angels Camp resident has recently opened a business, called Grubgear, that makes baby hats and bibs out of recycled fabrics. Armed with a little creativity, a dash of elbow grease and a 30-year-old sewing machine, she is turning old T-shirts into brand new childhood treasures.
“The whole goal is to keep things out of the landfill,” she said.
She began her business in April and has been sewing non-stop to keep up with local orders for her unique brand of sustainable kiddie clothes. Her raw materials are old T-shirts and sweaters obtained from local thrift stores or donated directly to her from friends and family.
She then cuts, shapes and sews the fabrics into baby hats, bibs and “neckins” which she designed to absorb moisture from under a baby’s chin. All of her creations are hand-made, and the only non-recycled materials she uses is thread and Velcro.
She said that most of the inspiration for her designs comes from raising her 6-month-old daughter, Mystery, who was named in honor of Darby’s affinity for Sherlock Holmes novels.
In fact, the prototype for most of her baby hats comes from a funny little topper she made for her daughter on a whim. So many people asked her about the hat that she decided she could start selling similar ones to her friends and the idea began to snowball.
With hair streaked in hot pink and brick-red, it doesn’t take Andy Warhol to notice that Darby has a creative side. But what isn’t so obvious about this stay-at-home-mom is that she has a keen ambition for business.
“I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” she said.
Darby said her goal was to sustain her family while sustaining the world at the same time. She said it is difficult for any family to make a living on just one income, and she wanted to use her seamstress skills while spending quality time raising her daughter.
She began by selling hats and bibs to her friends, but her first foray into selling her works on a broader scale came at the Sierra Green Days market. Darby can churn out 150 hats and bibs per month with nothing more than gumption, a pile of old T-shirts and a sturdy old Singer sewing machine.
Hats sell for $12 to $17, while bibs and neckins are $9. She sells package deal called the “new baby basics bundle,” that contains a variety of clothing items — everything a new mom would need to keep her bundle of joy warm, cozy and dry.
Darby lives in Angels Camp with her daughter and husband, Sean, whom she has known since the two were students at Bret Harte High School together. They have four cats and two dogs, all of which were rescue animals, she said.
Outside of seamstress work, Darby’s interests are wide-ranging. She enjoys wholesome endeavors like gardening and knitting, but also likes to tear up the slopes on her snowboard or fight paintball battles with her friends.
Darby also practices what she preaches when it comes to sustainable living. Her family recycles just about everything, composts organic material in the back yard and uses cloth diapers.
“Each of us can only do so much, but every thing you do helps,” she said.