Sew Fitting is located in historic downtown New Albany, Indiana (which is about 5 minutes from Louisville, KY). I worked my first two years out of my apartment and over the last seven years I have grown through a variety of brick and mortar locations. We're now in a 2080 square foot building on a prominent corner downtown. This wonderful building is the oldest commercial building in town and was built in 1834 with the back office extension added in 1840. My landlords provided me with a list of every business that has been in the building for it's life and it's fascinating to see the kinds of businesses that preceded me. A few of my favorites were a sewing machine sales business and then a milliner and drygoods store. There's a strong sewing and clothing history to this building and I love that my landlords added me as the most recent tenant on the list!
I'm a big believer in diversification. In our current business model we are the area's only full-service tailor shop. We offer clothing alterations and repair, including a lot of bridal work, custom clothing including many historical reenactment garments, prototyping for inventors and designers, tuxedo rental, sewing machine repair, embroidery, and simple home decor work. I also teach at a local maker space and am looking forward to expanding that program and hopefully someday using it as a trade school for the sewing and design industry.
I like to describe my shop aesthetic as vintage industrial chic. It's a fancy way of saying that I love my all metal machines, custom wooden work tables, and all the exposed brick and woodwork in my 174 year old building. Our space is wide open with great windows and a prime view of our community. It's a wonderful way to feel connected to our town.
I am very fortunate to surround myself with a really dynamic staff full of absolute characters. Mandi is my part-time administrative assistant and full-time tattooed lady. Allison is my full-time seamstress who never fails to entertain us and puts customers at ease. She's also currently growing our new mascot, Baby Tailor! Brittni is an intern who transitioned into a part-time employee during the spring. We're looking forward to her making the leap to full-time in the spring of 2018 as we ramp up for prom season and Allison takes a step away for maternity leave. Last but not least, we have Bjorn the viking cat and his not-so-little brother Henry to keep us in line. The shopcats earn their keep by tracking down stray bugs that get in when we open the windows, holding down all the comfy chairs so they don't get away, and supervising our work with much enthusiasm. Thankfully they also take their job as official greeters very seriously.
When we moved to the current building it marked seven expansions in six years of business. We went from 850 square feet to just over 2000 so it was a pretty big adjustment. I kept meaning to make a scale sketch of the space with little paper models of all the furniture and equipment. I really did. I even sort of succeeded. The sketch was made. In reality, the space has got some pretty specific architectural features that dictated a lot of the layout for us. I wanted the staff to have a nice view and excellent lighting when they worked, so all the machines line the wall of windows along the western face of the building. We like to watch Fredric and Lorelei, the groundhogs across the street, as we work. There are several support columns that run down the center of the work room that provided great niches for our ironing stations and garment racks. These created a natural divide between the customer area and the work area while still leaving everything out in the open. There's a great little alcove in the back of the workroom behind one of the dressing rooms, so it made perfect sense to put our supply closets there. Most of the walls in the shop are very old, soft masonry and as such, we can't really hang anything from them. Thankfully, we have beautiful exposed rafters throughout the work room and our industrial look means that the chains we hang garment racks, artwork, and thread racks from blend right in. We're constantly reevaluating the shop set up and this winter will include a rather hefty overhaul of the back office to better utilize the space.
Usually the cats. Even if the cats aren't there to greet them, customers have either seen them before or heard that we have them and are on the lookout for our furry mascots. We often joke that having work done is the secondary reason that customers come to see us! The most common comments we hear are about the exposed brick wall, the lovely old rafters in the ceiling, and the wonderful lighting. Our shop is quite a visual experience whether it's your first time in or for those of us who are there day in and day out.
I've already talked about a lot of the individuality of our building, but I think beyond the looks and overall aesthetic, our space is unique within our industry. It's certainly different than any other tailor shop I've ever worked in. One of the things that I've found very typical in the alterations industry (and here I'm talking the typical strip mall shop rather than the beautiful home studios that are so prevalent within the ASDP) is that when a client walks in, they are typically confined to a reception area and fitting room. The workroom where the actual work occurs, and often time the workers who are doing the physical sewing, are hidden behind closed doors. This was especially true in the first shop I worked in when I moved to the Louisville area. There were only a few tailor shop staff who were permitted on the sales floor for fittings and the rest of us were kept in the basement workroom, like some kind of little secret. When I opened my business I knew that I didn't want to hide the work area. I am proud of our craft and I love the reactions from clients when they see us working. I am often told that people love to come in to see where the magic happens. I have nothing to hide from my clients and find that having everything on display can have a hugely positive effect on first time clients who may have had bad experiences with other alterations "professionals."
The ASDP Charitable Foundation is honored to announce a sizable donation from the family of Sharon Zydiak and the New Jersey Chapter in her memory. Here are some of her chapters reminiscences of this longtime member of the NJ chapter:
Sharon Zydiak, a founding member of the New Jersey chapter, passed away in April of lung cancer. She was very dedicated to PACC/ASDP. Even after she retired and became sick she still attended as many meetings as she could. She was an instructor and sales person at Fabricland in North Plainfield, NJ for a number of years and pointed many people towards ASDP from that position. She had her own dressmaking and bridal shop on Main St. in High Bridge for a long time called "Dial-a-Style".
Sharon was a former winner of the Make It With Wool competition. She helped judge the New Jersey chapter’s original jurying program. This program eventually formed the basis for the current MSDP program.
Three binders full of photos of her creations over the years including wonderful suits, jackets, dresses and bridal gowns were found in her studio. Some photos were included alongside a clipping of a garment that was the inspiration. The binders also contained a number of glowing thank-you notes from her customers.
Like so many of us, Sharon had collected several sewing machines, a wonderful resource library of books and Threads magazines, a dress form, yards of fabric, and tons of notions and supplies. Her husband, not knowing what much of it was or what he should do with it, contacted Sharon’s ASDP friends. The chapter organized and facilitated a profitable sale with the last of the items being donated to a non-profit called "So You Can" run by Vivian Burns. This organization runs after school programs, summer camps, and adult ed classes for children and adults to teach them to sew to empower them, give them something to do, etc.
Sharon’s husband, Wayne, wholeheartedly agreed to Lois Anderson’s suggestion that the profits be donated to the ASDP Charitable Foundation. So Wayne got his house cleared out of a lot of stuff he knew nothing about, many people got new supplies and a little bit of Sharon to hang on to, and the New Jersey chapter got to support two charities that encourage sewing in the process.
Sharon was a talented dressmaker, a good friend and mentor, and a knowledgeable teacher who was totally dedicated to her craft. Although she is sorely missed by the New Jersey chapter and all of her ASDP friends, being the kind of person Sharon was, she would be thrilled to know she helped others prosper in a career she was so passionate about.
We thank Lois Anderson, President, ASDP NJ Chapter, for these memories of Sharon and for inspiring this significant donation to the ASDP Charitable Foundation.
Through donations such as this and those from other members the Foundation is picking up momentum. We hope to be assisting future sewists soon. We welcome your support.
“Darlings of Dress: Children’s Costume 1860-1920” by Norma Shephard is a beautifully organized look at sixty years of children’s fashions. The book is nearly two hundred pages of visual joy looking not just at children’s fashions, but the societies that designed them. Ms. Shephard provides a stunning timeline that clearly delineates the change from Victorian children dressed as miniature adults to the 20th century embrace of children as children who need to move and play.
While perusing the chapters, all laid out by decade, I was very impressed not only in the variety of the pictures (almost always more than one image of each style being discussed) but with the depth of knowledge Ms. Shephard provided. In each decade she delved briefly and concisely into the views of the day regarding the purpose of clothing, the prevailing thoughts on health, new technologies that were available, and children’s place within society. The book also does an excellent job of tracking the provenance of garments and the transition from homemade to store-bought as well as what garments were procured where. Even as catalog and store bought clothes gained traction, there were still some garments made at home. As each new style is introduced it is accompanied by a vivid description of shape, fabric options, as well as popular colors and combinations. Often, garments are described that are not actually pictured. While initially frustrating to not see the garments, they are so meticulously described that they come alive in the reader’s mind thanks to the fullness of Ms. Shephard’s writing.
The pages of “Darlings of Dress” are absolutely filled with beautiful black and white photos and illustrations, as well as colorized fashion plates, catalog images, and portraits for every era. It is charming and delightful to see not only how fashions for children were changing, but also how the advertising changed with the decades. This book brings so many clothing styles to life for the reader with a full accompaniment of shoes, and bags, and accessories for the growing little one. A personal favorite is the (slightly terrifying) child’s purse made of some taxidermied critter, complete with teeth and eyes.
The 1860s dressed children as pint-sized adults and ushered in the advent of the sewing machine. The 1870s, with the sewing machine more established, enabled the lower classes the imitate those with more means. Children's clothing became more ornate, providing a perfect introduction to the 1880s when children were dressed to see and be seen, as Ms. Shepard so accurately put it. The 1890s brought dress reform and a new consciousness about health and children’s needs while growing. By 1900, while elegance was still a concern, clothing started to be more about ease. The teens brought with them dropping waists, relaxed lines, and finally a bit more time for children to just be and grow as children. Ms. Shepard brings a wonderful personal history to the book as well, with the final decade of the book featuring several childhood pictures of the author’s father at various ages.
From the nearly 50 page introduction which is informative and fascinating to each well rounded chapter/decade, Norma Shephard has produced yet another beautiful look at a niche in historical fashion. Whether or not you’re specifically interested in children’s clothing, “Darlings of Dress” is a beautiful and insightful look at 60 years of fashion history.
Review by ASDP member Cisa Kubley
This summer I attended a design camp at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I studied fashion construction, one of three different course offerings they had under the fashion design category. My time there was extremely insightful. I learned much about what it’s going to be like going to college in a big city and about the field I want to go into.
It was a two week course going in depth into draping and pattern-making, an area I felt that I needed more knowledge in. The goal of this course was to sketch, drape, and sew together a complete look. During class time we would take trips out into the city to different museums to get inspiration, and to fabrics stores that I spent too much time and money in (I went to Joann’s so many times in one week, the lady knew me and asked where I’d been if I didn’t come in the day before.)
My instructor, Kylee Alexander, was extremely knowledgeable in what she taught. Whenever I had a question or something that I needed more understanding on, she was able to very easily explain to me what was happening and the next steps I needed to take to finish each garment. The teachers assistants, Sun and Sarah, were also super helpful and amazing. They were each more specialized in different areas and were able to help students in areas they were interested in with the TA’s previous knowledge. Sarah in particular was very good at flat patterning, she helped me a lot with the layout and construction of the jacket I made.
Being around so many people that I clicked with was also extremely helpful. It really helped me feel more creative, even though I’d already been thrown off the creative diving board upon arrival. Being so immersed in it was crazy and out of this world for me. It was stressful at times, but I loved every second of it. The deadlines were scary, but manageable. All the people I made friends with were mostly in my class, so we would stay up late together working on our projects and motivating each other to finish them.
On the skirt and top that I made I beaded these child-like stars onto organza. The process took forever! I was beading the skirt until 10 am of install day and the installation had to be up at 1 pm. I still don't know how I was able to finish in time but it all worked out. A really interesting part of the whole process was seeing what other people were making too and what inspired them. My look was more classic Dior inspired while another piece was Comme Des Garçons inspired. Viewing other people's processes is so inspiring to me, working in such close quarters with all of these other people I really got a feel for how their minds work.
Being in this environment really solidified Fashion Design as a career choice for me. It is something that I really love to do, and I am so ready to experience college life in this field. Also, after experiencing life partially in a big city I really felt like it was the right fit for me. I was just extremely happy to be there doing what I love doing, and that's important.
Where is your business located?
Oostburg, Wisconsin. Oostburg is halfway between Milwaukee and Green Bay on the southwestern shore of Lake Michigan. It is 7 miles south of Kohler, home of bathroom fixtures and championship golf courses.
Do you work out of a home studio or do you have a brick and mortar location?
I work from a home studio. Four years ago we put an addition on our home which houses my business and allows a separate entrance.
What kind of work do you specialize in?
Custom bridal gowns, bridal alterations, and cosplay (costumes).
Tell me about your favorite part of your sewing space?
The large storage bookcases which hold a tremendous amount of small things in an organized way. I also love the south and east facing windows- there is good light most of the day.
Do you work alone or do you share the space with others?
How did you develop your layout?
I mapped it out on graph paper first. I started with a carpeted floor, and ended up ripping it up and installing tile instead. Sweeping is faster than vacuuming!
What's the first thing that clients notice about your space?
"Oh! This is a real business!" The work space is integrated into our living space, but still separate from it to allow privacy for fittings.
What makes your sewing space unique?
Although most of the year my fitting area functions as work space, all of the furniture can be collapsed down and moved-allowing the room to transform into entertaining space for holidays and large parties. It can also be reconfigured into extra sewing space when needed for classes or large custom projects.
Virtually every U.S. state & territory offers help and coaching to business owners through Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). While the offerings vary slightly by state, SBDCs are grant-funded organizations that offer no-cost, one-on-one coaching for business owners and potential business owners. The funding for the centers is primarily provided from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the individual state, and local municipalities. SBDCs exist to help small businesses start and grow in a healthy way. When a community is full of thriving businesses, there are more jobs created, more tax revenue generated, and an overall higher quality of life.
Each center typically has a staff of business advisers that have a wide variety of knowledge. Advisers assist clients with a range of topics: writing a business plan, understanding and preparing financials, strategic planning, and on-going accountability, to name a few. Business advisers come from various backgrounds but most have owned their own business at some point and/or have a deep knowledge base in business, accounting, marketing, or commercial banking.
To find your local SBDC, www.americassbdc.org provides a search tool by state and zip code. Canada has a similar program. More information can be found at www.communityfutures.ca Once you’ve found the closest office, give them a call to set-up your first one-on-one appointment. The center will ask you to fill out a form that provides your contact information and a bit about your business. All SBDCs are asked to track information about their clients’ businesses in order to show value to their communities.
Your first meeting will be a “fact finding mission” for your adviser. They will ask a lot of questions about your business or business idea and offer the opportunity for you to ask any pressing questions you may have. Sessions are sometimes very information driven. Other times they will function as a sounding board for brainstorming meetings. Be prepared . . . most of the time, you will leave with homework. Business advisers function as coaches and teachers. They want to see you succeed and thrive, but they won’t (and shouldn’t) do the work for you. However, meetings with your adviser can be catered to the needs of you and your business. While SBDCs typically offer workshops on prominent topics, the one-on-one meetings aren’t usually based on a set curriculum.
Some of the most popular topics are:
Writing a Business Plan—All business owners should write a formal plan for their business prior to starting and review/revise it on a regular basis. Initially the business plan helps the owner to think through and have responses to all aspects of ownership and operations. Once the business is established, the plan functions as a working document that ensures the business stays on track with its goals.
Understanding and Preparing Financials—The majority of business owners enjoy the “widget” of their business and would rather not spend time looking at a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet or report. However, at the end of the day, the point of a business it to make a profit. It’s difficult to know whether or not your business is profitable or running in the red if you don’t have a solid tracking system for your bookkeeping. You need to be able to understand how to read reports like a Profit & Loss Statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.
Preparing for a Commercial Bank Loan—The paperwork required for a commercial loan is more in-depth than applying for a home loan. This can feel overwhelming for a business owner. SBDC advisers are skilled in helping you put together the required documentation to give you the best chance at a loan approval. Many times, the adviser has built relationships with area bankers and can help match you with a lending institution that would be more apt to approve your loan. Also, SBDCs are aware of any type of community or economic development lending programs that might be available in your area.
Strategic Planning—It is normal to experience periods of feeling stuck and not sure where to go next in order to grow your business. A business adviser can lead you through a strategic planning session that will help determine where you want your business to be in three years and then work backwards to determine the tasks you need to start with in order to achieve the ultimate goal.
On-Going Accountability—Sometimes the best thing for a business owner is to have someone holding them to task on areas of their business where they are dragging their feet. A business adviser will be that extra set of eyes and the one asking, “Did you complete your homework?”
The Small Business Development Center can be a wonderful resource to help you further your business at no cost to you. Whether you are new to running a business or you have been an owner for years, the SBDC business advisers would love to help you take your business to the next level, whatever that may be.
Kari McGilvra has been a Business Advisor with the Indiana Small Business Development Center in New Albany, Indiana since August 2015. She has also been a small business owner for over a decade.
Ann Steeves, of Gorgeous Fabrics, gave an outstanding presentation to the New England Chapter on April 22. Her lecture was entitled "Pressing Techniques for Professional Results." With her characteristic thoroughness, clarity, and humor she covered the purposes of pressing, differences between pressing and ironing, and demonstration of a vast array of pressing tools. The meeting, which was open to non-members, drew guests as well as members of the chapter to our frequent meeting location, Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA. In addition to Ann's presentation there was time for visiting, refreshments, and, of course, fabric shopping.
Ann has published multiple articles in Threads magazine, most recently "Pressing Matters," in issue 126. She has also created and produced an informational video on pressing that can be viewed on YouTube.
MSDP/MAS would like to extend congratulations to our 2017 scholarship winner, Linda Miller of Jacksonville, FL. Linda has been awarded a scholarship towards MAS Certification. Here is Linda’s winning essay:
My Goal: Master Alterations Specialist By Linda G. Miller
"Fashion is very important. It is life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure it is worth doing well." --Vivienne Westwood
There is one major thing that my dad taught me. He said, "If you are going to do anything, make sure you do it well." This life statement is the motivation behind my desire to be a Master Alterations Specialist. I want to offer customers the best craftsmanship in Jacksonville, add credibility to my sewing business, and engage in a robust business planning process.
By the time I reached junior high school my home economics teacher had inspired me to sew by saying, "You need to sew because you sew straight." I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas and received a Kenmore Model 1040. I kept that machine through high school and was able to create clothing comparable to ready-to-wear.
I learned to sew by using Simplicity patterns. The instructions were confusing for me at first until my father interpreted them for me. He often said, "If it's in a book, then you can do it too!" He proved it by sewing Vogue Patterns and even sewed for a local celebrity, Pops Staples. With my father's guidance, I was able to make a fashion statement too by making nearly all of my clothes.
A formal sewing education was not something Dad encouraged. Instead, I earned a business degree at DePaul University which did not necessarily prepare me for the rigors of being a soloprenuer. I started Custom Alterations in 2008 as a home-based business. Alterations done from home was the easiest option to begin my business since hemming pants and skirts is very common. Also, this type of business gave me the flexibility needed to bring in extra income while raising our two adopted children (one with special needs). About four years later, with my personal savings, I opened a small shop in Fernandina Beach, Florida. My shop had a decent amount of loyal customers, but it was minimally profitable due to my inexperience in the business planning process. Recently, I closed the shop in Fernandina Beach to move to Jacksonville, Florida.
According to SCORE, a business needs to operate for at least five years before it can be successful, and it takes 10,000 hours of sewing to become an excellent seamstress according to an expert local tailor I interviewed. These facts encouraged my strong desire to begin again in a new location, and to do it RIGHT! I need to follow and understand the business planning process.
I need the scholarship to complete the certification modules for the Master Alterations Specialist program. The program and certification will further develop my business acumen, lend credibility and expertise to my business, and allow me to be a champion of the Association of Sewing & Design Professionals. Becoming a Master in my field is a necessary enhancement that communicates to my future customers that they are hiring a highly-skilled professional and an experienced expert seamstress.
Making garments fit great can enhance individual lives and like Vivienne Westwood said in the above statement, "it is worth doing well." Please give me the opportunity to learn from the best!
April was a very educational month for the Heartland Chapter! Instead of a traditional meeting, we were provided with a business class. Mike Frewer, the husband of one of our chapter members (Dianne Frewer of A Fitting Creation), kindly offered to give a business lecture to our chapter, and we eagerly agreed. Mike has years of business experience as the Senior VP and VP of Emerging Technologies of Thermo King Midwest, as well as helping Diane for years as an advisor to her sewing business. Mike provided a very professional presentation complete with PowerPoint, giant notepad, and a delicious home cooked meal (a man of many talents!).
Our discussion included topics such as why businesses fail, non-disclosure agreements, connecting with millennials, creating a succession plan for your business, and aligning your marketing with your individual marketplace. Each of us in attendance even dug into our own records and contributed to the presentation with our individual statistics on these topics, which made the class even more individualized and instructive. Mike’s presentation was not only extremely informative, but it created a safe space for open discussion between our chapter members about some of the minutia of our businesses. From how many repeat customers we each had to tales of employee troubles, as well as how to keep track of alteration project times on QuickBooks. We all ended the day with plenty to think about, both big business to-dos and the helpful day-to-day hacks.
It may seem surprising, but not all organizations, associations, and businesses have a written code of ethics. If a code of ethics is even considered, it is generally intuited as part of the “culture.” While an organization’s culture can have a highly developed sense of ethics without a formal document, more often than not, an unwritten code is viewed “more like guidelines” (From Pirates of the Caribbean). Sometimes it is even worse: “It’s not wrong if you don’t get caught” or “Easier to seek forgiveness than permission.” Then there are the organizations that have a written code of ethics but it sits on a shelf or on someone’s computer and has very little impact on the organization’s culture.
A while back, to ensure that neither of the above scenarios applied to ASDP, the then-board decided to write various newsletter articles about our code of ethics and what it means. I drew Article 2.6.
2.6 Members shall act with fiscal responsibility in the best interest of their clients and shall maintain sound business relationships with suppliers and contractors to ensure the best possible outcome for the client.
What does this mean? It means that members pay their bills, taxes, insurance, etc. in a timely manner and keep any contractual obligations. In doing this, clients benefit when members are able to receive supplies and subcontract needed work to meet client deadlines and/or project requirements. Imagine not being able to purchase that perfect fabric because of a past due bill or an “Insufficient Funds” reputation! Or you needing to explain your eviction because you didn’t/couldn’t pay the rent? Or there was some disaster and the client’s project was destroyed and you couldn’t financially reimburse them because you didn’t carry sufficient insurance?
Additionally, members keep good financial records and pay all related taxes and fees. While some clients might prefer to work “under the table” this is not in their best interest. Basically, it is stealing from the larger community in which we all live and work. While it is good business practice to pay as little as legally possible in taxes or other fees, it is dishonest and lacking integrity to “work under the table.”
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