HOK #116: Meet Stephanie Hylarides

Stephanie Hylarides sits at a table in front of a wall of folded clothing
Stephanie Hylarides. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Hylarides.

“I grew up in London, Ontario, and I moved to Ottawa for school in 2006. It feels like forever ago! And I’ve been here ever since. Now I’m married — for almost nine years — and I have four kids. This summer, they’ll be nine, seven, five and two.

The pandemic hit, and [then] lockdowns — my husband started working from home and the kids were home and my baby was just five months… and things got real, fast. So we found a big, ginormous home for rent that was vacant and we signed the papers and moved in two weeks later. It has a ton of space and one of the extra spaces was a room I wanted to use as a sewing room, and I started sewing using thrifted sheets — you know, like duvet covers, and sheets and pillowcases and stuff — and just making myself and my daughters some dresses and shirts and things like that.

Then in December, I decided to start selling the things that I was making and got into using quilts.

I just saw the quilt-coat trend on Instagram and thought ‘Oh, that seems pretty easy; I could probably do that,’ and then just kind of went for it. My page

(@while.babies.sleep) has grown from like 50 followers that were just my friends and family to… I think I’m at 1,660, or something in just a few months, from word of mouth and the powers that be of Instagram!

I’ve only really been actively, daily sewing just for over a year now…and now I make tops and skirts and dresses and these quilt coats and I’ve done a few kid’s dresses. And I’m dabbling into pants and overalls and all kinds of things.

I would sew while my little ones were sleeping. I sewed mostly at night: I’d give myself two hours and see what I could sew. And then, sometimes, if my bigger kids were in school, like in the fall, I would sew during the day while my youngest babies slept. And I just kind of came up with the name While Babies Sleep because that was when I was sewing.

I feel like [with] so many people, there’s been a real loss of sense of purpose and of pure joy [in] doing things (during the pandemic). Even as a stay-at-home mom, my job has changed so much — and not that my kids don’t bring me joy, [but] it comes with a lot of hardships. And I’ve felt so much joy and pure connection from this business.

It’s just me doing something I love and making other people happy. It’s been really great meeting people and connecting with people and being open and vulnerable on this online platform.

We’ve been in the neighbourhood for almost seven years. And so you get to know moms at the parks and dads at the parks, and the kids get to know different kids at different parks.

I like the sense that everything is close; I like that everything is [with]in a walkable distance [and] all of the parks that we have for the kids; and [there’s] a real sense of community.

I think Westboro and Hintonburg, as a community, [are] doing a really great job with everything with the pandemic [and] being really supportive. I always see — on the “Buy Nothing” groups — moms and dads supporting each other with diapers and formula and food and I think we’ve got to keep up the good work.”

Story collected by Maureen McEwan.

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