Monday, November 28, 2016

Adding a new hat to the business wardrobe -

I hope all my US readers had a Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a while since I've posted a blog entry and I apologize for the long silence. This year has been one of transition for me, since I've been able to devote my full attention to my business. Now that a year has passed since I stopped working for Sawyer Brook, I can see real growth in my alterations and custom sewing business, and the volume of work that has been flowing through the studio since the late winter/early spring is really astounding - I've barely been able to keep up with all the necessary tasks to keep the business running smoothly, besides the sewing itself. But along the way I've added another facet: I've started teaching!

It began with a request from the board of my ASDP chapter: would I be willing to present a program about pricing and the methods I use for my alterations and custom garment charges? I was flattered and pleased, and developed a program. The February meeting for the chapter was my 2 hour presentation, and it was well-received - which then lead to the more comprehensive 'Pricing for Sewing Professionals' seminar I taught in October, at the annual ASDP conference. And I'll be featured in March at the Rhode Island Sewing Network with yet another presentation on pricing. Along the way, I also began some private sewing classes with a young woman who wanted to learn some tailoring techniques.

Teaching has been in the back of my mind for a while, and I have wanted to add a sewing school to my business for several years. The thing holding me back was the space to hold the classes, and a plan for what to teach to beginners.

This week marked a new milestone in my business - I held my first lesson in the new section of my studio, the children's classroom. The space is in the family room of my home, adjacent to the room that was remodeled as my studio when I opened the business in 1991. In those early years, the family room was the kids' hangout - as entries in both my boys' yearbooks read, our house was the 'second home' for their gangs of friends - and it was pretty much anything goes in the space. Boys would gather to play video games, build legos, draw and paint and write stories, film Bond movies, and kids would put on magic shows. It's the one room in the house that my husband and I have never fixed up, not even painted, in the 30 years we've lived in this house. It's dark, with wood paneling on the walls and no overhead lighting, a basement room with high windows on the foundation ledge along two sides. And we've allowed it to accumulate the stuff left behind by three children as they became adults and moved out to their own homes. To convert it into a real classroom would take a full remodel effort: new flooring, walls, ceiling lighting - which would have to be preceded by a complete purge, and I haven't been able to spare the time from my sewing work to devote to the concentrated effort of that task. So the sewing school has been in the "someday soon" file for a while now.
It's not really as dark as it appears here - with late afternoon sunlight coming in the windows, it's a bit brighter. It will do for now, but we really need to do some serious work here!

But I let it slip that I was considering teaching children. Gotta love social media - about a year ago someone in our town's community group on Facebook asked about sewing classes, and I couldn't help but respond. Because I didn't yet have a plan - no schedule set up or actual dates for classes, no tuition prices to quote - nothing came of that original interest. But during the summer I was approached by a young mother who takes yoga with me, and we set up a session for her daughter to have private lessons. Initially we talked about starting in the mid-summer, but as life gets in the way we ended up setting a mid-October date for the first of 6 lessons. The first session was delayed several times for various reasons, but finally last Wednesday this precocious 7-year-old spent a happy hour and a half in my newly set-up classroom space. The room isn't completed, but having this student registered gave me the final push I needed to clear a lot of junk and create the space I needed for a table, storage cubes, and displays. Holding the first session in the space pointed out some refinements to the setup that will make it operate better, and made me more determined to get the full renovation completed as soon as we're able.

I'm using the Seams Sew Cool® program for teaching children, developed by my colleague Sandi Knutie (see, which I really like for its simple approach allowing the students to learn at their own pace using small projects easily completed in short sessions, along with safely presenting the equipment and machines in ways that develop good sewing habits and techniques. Because these are private lessons my attention isn't divided between students, and we went farther in the first lesson than I expected - she moved pretty quickly through the practice sewing sheets with an unthreaded machine, got her first project  - a square beanbag/bruise cooler - cut out, pinned, and sewn, ready to turn and stuff at our next lesson. The time flew by for me, and she seemed to really enjoy herself as well, and very proudly showed her work when her mother arrived to take her home.

Now I'm thinking ahead to planning a new session, opening the classroom to 3 or 4 students. And just like that, I really feel like a teacher.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A week full of good stuff

My inbox contained some wonderful goodies this week! 

First up, a nice thank you from one of my recent bridal clients. I restyled the gown worn by both her grandmother and mother, removing the high neck, collar and sleeves along with taking out some of the fullness in the skirt (I'm working on a post all about this process, hope to have it ready to publish soon.) The wonderful words of gratitude from this bride filled my heart:

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Bridal specialist or Prom alterationist - this time of year, I'm both!

I often wonder if it’s the universe punishing me for getting too cocky and sure of myself, putting me back in my place with some humbling experience…..

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

An abundance of Lilly Pulitzer!

A new client called me about alterations a few months ago. She interviewed me at length, something that's quite unusual when I'm first contacted to sew for someone, unless the project is a custom garment. I got the impression that she's pretty particular about the sewing that is done on her clothing, and this was solidified by her statement that she had several vintage garments needing work.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

First Garment of the New Year

My chapter of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) had its holiday meeting last Sunday. Most years we plan this as a museum visit followed by lunch at a restaurant, and we schedule it for early January to avoid conflict with everyone's holiday events.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why make a muslin?

This question has been tossed around on several blogs recently, and since I feel the constuction of a fitting muslin is a valuable first step in any sewn garment I was thrilled to come across a post that really resonated with me. I shared this on my business Facebook page today, and reactions have been coming in from all over the place - new people I've never been in contact with have found my page because of it! So, thanks to Claire at Sewing Artistry, I'd like to share her "To Muslin or Not to Muslin"  post with you, too. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Life changes - we adapt


It's been a while, I know. There has been a change in my day-to-day that's affecting the way I approach my sewing and my business, and writing for the blog has taken a way-back seat, as if it were in the back of the old station wagon. This will be a fairly short post for a brief update, and I should be back later with some photos and pattern reviews based on the garments I've sewn recently.

You might remember that I've been working for Sawyer Brook Fabrics the past 12 years.