My name is Kata, and I’m the owner/ maker at Cotton Caterpillars (AKA Handmade by Kata). I am from Hungary and living in Ireland since 2006.I started my business soon after my first son, Darragh was born in 2013, as I was sick of the poor quality and ill-fitting clothes that were available in high street shops. I
wanted my child to wear funky and comfortable clothes. I loved seeing my little guy wear all the colorful outfits, and it gave me a piece of mind to know he was cozy in his clothes. Realizing that I wasn’t the only one struggling to find vibrant and multicolored clothes that would allow my children to play and explore the world freely, I decided to make outfits for sale. So, Cotton Caterpillars was born. The inspiration behind the brand comes from my two gorgeous kids, Darragh and Oisin. Darragh also suffered from eczema and after 2-3 course of steroid treatments I decided to switch all my materials to organic fabrics. Which are free from harmful chemicals, dyes. It helped him clear the nasty eczema within couple of weeks. With that, this caterpillar started moving and changing shape.
I was also a breastfeeding mom, and used the plastic pink backing disposable nursing pads, I was suffering from mastitis repeatedly. I had 6 rounds of antibiotics treatments, and one night I ran out of the disposable nursing pads, and it was too late to go to the local pharmacy to get more, I ended up folding a towel and placed it in my pj top. I never forget waking up pain free the next morning. Then I turned to my husband and I said “I’m gonna make breast pads!” And here and then that morning I was making washable cotton breast pads. I never looked back. I gave pads to new moms in my local breastfeeding group to try it out. They all loved it. I still have those breast pads I made first and I’M using them now to apply toner to my face, or remove any make-up. Then just throw them in the wash and it is ready to use again and again.
Nursing Mom Gift Set (breast pads, day and night time, headband) – CottonCaterpillars
Designed and made in Ireland, all of Cotton Caterpillar’s products are created using quality organic and sustainable materials, with children who love exploring in mind. The ‘Grow with Baby’ collection has products for mum and baby ranging from comfortable neck warmers to jumpers and dresses.
Organic clothes sustainable fashion organic baby clothes – CottonCaterpillars
“As a small child in Hungary, I often wore handmade clothing sewn by my mother and grandmother,” explains Kata. “I enjoyed wearing clothes made to my measurements. Today I still love picking out patterns and playing around with different type of fabrics.”
My path to my current profession was a winding one. I was unable to fulfill my dream of becoming a hairdresser because of my family finances, I instead enrolled in a special high school program that prepared girls for joining the police academy in Hungary. When this program ended unexpectedly, although I still had my heart set on becoming a hairdresser, I chose instead to go to Budapest where I trained at one of the biggest dental technician schools in the country.
“Suddenly I was a dental technician, making dentures and retainers,” she says pulling a face. “I had a good enough salary but I wasn’t happy. Doing a job that was forced on me was hard to handle…and then I had enough!”
I took a life-changing week’s holiday to visit Ireland. “I had a fantastic time here – the sunshine, the kindness of the people and the view all blew me away. I came back home and started to work on my escape plan!’
I gave up my job making dentures, packed a small bag and left Hungary for Ireland on one sunny September day. “Before I crossed the border to Austria, I called my father,” she says. “He begged me to stay and even offered to drive five hours to bring me back. But I knew I had to go. I had a fire in my belly, I couldn’t turn back.”
The next day I boarded the ferry from France. “As the mainland grew smaller and smaller, and the ferry travelled further and further out to sea, the reality of what she had done started to dawn. “I looked around me and all I could see was water. I asked myself ‘what have I done?’
I then drove from Rosslare to the tiny village of Timoleague in West Cork. On her own, with just enough money to last a month, I immediately began my search for work. Just a few days before my savings ran out, I secured employment in Clonakilty.
“My plan was to work here for a couple of years and go back to Hungary to buy a house and start a family,” she explains. “But it all changed when I met my husband Gerry…
Now happily married and settled in Ireland and mother of two young boys, I still have a fire in my belly and that steely determination and sense of adventure that brought me to Ireland has created a successful and sustainable business model.
“When my children were babies, I worked into the night to get the business off the ground”, explains Kata. Life got easier when my youngest went to Montessori, I had a couple of hours in the morning to do my orders. With both of my boys now in school, I have three full hours to drive the business follow a strict schedule: check and reply emails first thing in a morning before 7am and from 9 am, I am cutting and sewing and sorting orders until it’s time to pick my youngest son up from school.”
Life maybe hectic during the week but after a health scare a few years back, I learned to take time off. “It was an eye opener for me. As the saying goes, I learned that ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’.”
Although I still do some sewing at the weekends, I bring both of my boys, Darragh (9) and Oisin (6) with me, teaching them the skills my grandmother and mother passed on to me.
My grandmother really inspired me,” shares Kata. “She always had a smile on her face no matter how hard she worked, and she loved everyone. She was well-respected and always gave more than she received”.
As times moves on and my business expands, I hope to follow in my grandmother’s generous footsteps and offer support to others starting out in her field. “I’d like to become a mentor to someone starting out, using my own experience and knowledge to help a small business grow,” she explains.
Wherever her business lands, Kata’s dream is to create a happy space, where beautiful clothes will be created for young and beyond….
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