… her name is Shea. Shea is the kind of girl everyone loves: she’s kind and funny. Smart and uber-talented. She is a wife, a mother of three, a former middle school math teacher, and a business owner; and if that list doesn’t impress you, then what if I told you she’s now a published author? SHE WROTE A BOOK! And it got published! I recently had a chance to chat with Shea regarding her accomplishment …
Because I’m crazy and, selfishly, I just want more friends who sew. Really, though, I did it because I just felt the desire to teach them without any obligation on their part. They are all super busy with jobs and families and I wanted this to be a guilt-free, low-stress thing for them. Originally, I wanted to ask each student to make a quilt block for me so that my “payment” could come in the form of a group quilt. I have enough scraps left over from the book samples that I might still do that! It would be much more meaningful to me than a class payment.
I would tell her that she is most certainly not alone! I hear this from so many people who want to learn but have had a rough experience with a cranky sewing machine or tangled threads. It’s the main reason I made the troubleshooting section in the book so extensive – I want to acknowledge that those problems are completely normal. The vast majority of those problems can be solved by removing all of the thread, including the bobbin, and rethreading the machine. I realize that sounds like a help desk asking “is your computer plugged in?” but it’s true! And that manual that came with the machine? Keep it close by!
When it comes to picking fabrics, I think a lot of beginners end up picking fabrics that are not-so-easy to sew with, which contributes to a bad experience. Sticking with quilting cottons (they’re not just for quilts!) makes sewing infinitely easier. Plus, there is a whole world of designer prints and gorgeous solid colors – all on 100% cotton. Kansas City is home to some fantastic independent fabric shops, like Sarah’s Fabrics in Lawrence! Walk into one of them and you’re bound to find a bolt you love.
If someone wanted to learn to sew, where should they begin?
My best advice is to start small. Quick-finish projects, like the Speedy Pillowcase or Essential Tote Bag from the book, really build confidence and you can see your work being immediately put to use. Sometimes people see a big, complex project on Pinterest or Etsy and get overwhelmed and give up. Also, use fabric you absolutely love and buddy up with a friend! It makes sewing so much fun!
Do you feel like it’s important for moms to have something outside of their family to call their own? A passion, a hobby, a network? If so, why?
I can’t speak for other moms, but I can say that for me, the answer is definitely. My husband and kids mean everything to me. But having something that is mine is just good for all of us. Some people say that they are grouchy if they don’t have their morning run. For me, it’s sewing. And it’s not just moms who need that. My husband and I each have things that are ‘ours’ – he runs, bikes and plays cello in the Northland Symphony. Now that I think about it, maybe I need to find a hobby or passion that takes place away from our house, too! Ha!
Sewing for my family is what keeps me coming back to my machine for more. Making something that they can instantly use is such a great feeling. I love that decades from now, our Christmas photos will show the stockings I made with my Sleigh Bells pattern. My daughter, who is six, gets so excited about new dresses or skirts or doll clothes I make for her. As they have gotten older, seeing them pick out the fabrics is becoming my favorite part. Which reminds me … I owe our middle son a pair of Star Wars PJ pants!
Ha. You mean I can only pick one?! Honestly, like any mom could attest, it all comes down to a lack of time. Squeezing this in wasn’t easy. My husband’s work hours can be long and can involve some travel, on occasion. I also knew I couldn’t write or sew while our kids were needing my time and attention, so the bulk of the work happened on weekends, after they were in bed or on those glorious days when preschool and kindergarten were in session! It meant some long nights and blurry weekends, but all of that was forgotten the moment I attached the manuscript and clicked “send.” It wasn’t easy or bliss-filled or effortless. It was, however, definitely something I enjoyed. I am incredibly blessed to have a support system who wrangled the kids and kept them busy so I could focus and the School of Sewing group kept me going just when I was losing steam. And my husband, who led my cheering section, deserves more credit than I can possibly heap upon him.
What’s funny about this, is that the night of the very first School of Sewing class, my friend Cali arrived, sewing machine in hand, and walked into my kitchen which was buzzing with the excitement of the other students. She stopped in her tracks, turned to me and said, “this needs to be a book!” At the time, I laughed at her and said, “sit down and set up your machine, funny girl.” So three months later, when Susanne Woods, the Publisher at Lucky Spool, asked if I was interested in submitting a book proposal, it took me all of two minutes to decide exactly what book I wanted to write! I wrote it because it is the exact book I wanted to exist when I started our group’s sewing classes, but could not find. I wanted something with small, functional, gift-able projects that weren’t dependent on someone’s clothing size or whether or not they had children or pets. And I wanted everything from machine buying advice and color theory to winding a bobbin and troubleshooting to be included.
Shea’s book is currently available on Amazon, or at Barnes and Noble and ANTHROPOLOGIE! It is also available at your local library. If you’d like to meet Shea in person, feel free to join her for an open house on Sunday, November 16th from 2-4 p.m. at the Woodneath Branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library near Liberty, MO for demonstrations and book chats!