Occasionally we like to use this space to help you get to know the ASDP membership a little better. With the speed of business, technology, and life ever increasing, it can leave us feeling a certain disconnect from our communities and our peers. One of the most fantastic benefits of being a member of the ASDP is that it connects sewing professionals to one another when we are often sole-proprietors going it along.
This month, we'd like to introduce you to new member, Abby Stroot. Abby is the superb owner of Pincushion, A Sewing Shop, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My name is Abby Stroot and I grew up in Andover, Kansas where I started sewing in middle school as a part of our local 4-H group. I am a third generation seamstress; both of my grandmothers made beautiful quilts and my mother made every school formal dress and Halloween costume I could come up with. After middle school, I got very involved in my high school theatre program. Throughout my high school years I volunteered with the Music Theatre of Wichita, working in various departments of the theatre. It wasn’t until college that I became more involved in costuming. I graduated from Wichita State University with my Bachelors in Theatre and during my time there I worked as a stitcher for the theatre costume shop. During the summer, I worked as Head of Wardrobe for the same theatre that I had initially volunteered for. As a member of Wardrobe, I spent most of my time working backstage during performances and some of the time working on alterations in the Costume Shop. After college, I worked for a touring production for awhile and eventually landed in Las Vegas.
When I first moved to Las Vegas, I didn’t really know anyone so I got involved in the community theatres as a way to meet people. In my first year in Vegas, I costume designed for over 10 productions across various theatres. Along with my volunteer designing for the theatres, I started working for Cirque du Soleil as a Wardrobe Attendant. I had been working for Cirque for 5 years when I decided to take the huge step of opening my own sewing shop.
The great thing about Vegas is that the artistic energy is everywhere and there are so many work opportunities within the city. I found myself and several of my friends working on various freelance gigs across the city. The only problem was that we were all trying to make masterpieces out of our tiny living spaces. There are so many stories of people turning their kitchen floors into a cutting space or trying to make a costume on their small dining table. This is where the idea for Pincushion sprang from. I felt that the city needed a space for people to make their masterpieces and not feel cramped. Office co-working spaces are such a huge industry right now, so why couldn’t we have an artistic co-working space? I wanted Pincushion to be a comfortable shop where people could come in and have the space to work on their own projects or to learn something new in a casual atmosphere.
Right now, Pincushion offers all things sewing. We do alterations, make custom orders, and offer sewing classes ranging from basics to advanced techniques. We also offer a rentable sewing work space, and we offer consignment retail for local artisans. We are in the heart of the Arts District in Las Vegas and we couldn’t be in a more perfect spot. The local businesses in the Arts District are incredibly supportive and everyone is very excited to help each other out. The Arts District is growing more and more every day and we look forward to what opportunities that means for Pincushion.
I’m really looking forward to the learning opportunities through ASDP, whether it’s at conference or through other member offers. Everyone has different tips and tricks to how they do things and I’m always interested in ways to improve my existing skills.
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 business is located in the historic downtown district of Gresham, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. About 12 years ago on June 30th, my husband, having retired, had his last day at work. On July 1 of that same year, he helped me move the business out of the house. Since then I have been in four locations. This one is the best! It is about 6-8 minutes from home by car or 35-40 minutes walking. I am on the second floor of the building. Consequently, my hours can be very flexible as I am not tied to “retail” hours.
Like the name says, fine dressmaking and bridal couture. I don’t do alterations unless it is bridal or special occasion although that may change. Additionally, I am doing more teaching. Currently, I have a couple of repeat clients keeping me busy with jackets and very nice t-shirts.
I suppose my favorite part is my huge cutting surface, which is 5’ x 8’. The only drawback to this table is for especially large projects I have to climb onto the table to finish cutting a piece. A close second is my fitting room. It is nice having a dedicated area for fittings. When the business was at home, fittings were generally in the working studio area using a mirror hung on the back of a door. It worked but still …..
I work alone although I’ve often considered sharing the space.
In each of my locations, I’ve had to consider what needs to happen and what will be happening where. With the help of my husband, we drew a scale diagram of the space and to scale pieces of machinery and furniture. Once I had everything the way I liked/wanted it, Jim helped me move things into place. The price of my cheap labor was complying with his wishes to “move it only once.”
Good question! I should ask them. Still, from the reactions I occasionally get I suppose it might be “Oh, this is what you do!” meaning “it’s a business.” The other comment I hear is “You have a lot of machines.”
I’m not sure about “unique” but I know many who covet my lighting. First, the artificial lighting is pretty good in itself. Additionally, the sewing area has four west facing windows. In the mid to late afternoon, I have to drop the blinds but that is a minor inconvenience for such great light.
Excelsior Sewing – the parent company of LightHeart Gear is located in the beautiful Southern Appalachian Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. We have a “brick and mortar” factory of 2400 square feet, but we’re searching for a location with two to three times more room that we can purchase. I also have a wonderful sewing room/studio at home, but I almost never go there anymore. After 8 hours in the factory, I don’t want to sew at home. What I like the most about my home studio, is that when I turn off the light switch as I’m leaving the room – it turns off all the machines and the iron, so I never have to worry about having left the iron on.
Excelsior Sewing does small batch contract / production sewing, primarily outdoor gear, as well as all the manufacturing for LightHeart Gear, my own backpacking gear company. I personally do all the design and pattern work. I do all the cutting, and have several employees that do the sewing. We sew things such as ponchos, tarps, chair backs, bicycle bags, tents, and rain gear. Our goal in the contract sewing is to help other small businesses keep their products “Made in the USA”. Small batch production helps small business keep their revenue stream fluid.
The space works. What that means is that the organization and layout provides the right setting for the work that is done. And of course, I love all the different specialized machines. A funny story is that when I was in design school, thinking of going into business doing bridal, I had some of the top of the line home sewing machines (Bernina and Viking). I remember telling my instructor at school that I didn’t want to work on the industrial sewing machines they had – because I had fancy machines that could do everything. Now, I own about 15 or so industrial machines. Each does just one specific thing, but it does it perfectly. I do keep one of my old Berninas at the shop to repair window netting on the tents. I use the 3-step zigzag stitch as I don’t have an industrial zigzag machine.
I have several employees that do most of the sewing. My time is spent designing, cutting, planning, and running a business (QuickBooks is my nemesis) but not in that order. My attitude is that I work for my employees, so anything I can do to facilitate their work is my job. I do the little things to keep them sewing. I do pitch in on sewing when we are in a rush to get an order out, or when I decide to practice avoidance. It’s a real treat for me to get to sit at a sewing machine, but I find that if I’m spending a lot of time sewing, it’s probably time to hire a new employee.
Workflow is very important, and must go in an organized manner. Machines are grouped by task and frequency of use. We also have to have large work space/surface area around all of the machines because we often work on very large pieces of fabric. We have lots of tables between, and around all of the machines that can be shifted as needed for specific jobs. Each machine or station has its own small stack of drawers that contain all the different types and colors of thread, needles in several sizes, different presser feet for the machine, snips, screw drivers, labels, and any other items needed at that location. This duplication allows employees to move from station to station and not worry about bringing items with her/him. Problems with the set up only arise when we get in new equipment. Trying to figure out the best place to put it can entail shifting a bunch of heavy machines around. Most of the machines plug into outlets in the (high) ceiling, so moving machines means getting a big ladder out to unplug machines, hope that the cords reach from the new location, and shift again if they don’t. Floor space has become a premium as the shop gets more and more machines in.
My clients are usually companies looking to have items sewn for them. Often, they are surprised by how much we can produce with such a small staff. They may never have seen a sewing factory before, and are amazed at the different equipment. We occasionally get a customer for LightHeart Gear that comes to visit. They are usually amazed at just being in a sewing factory, the amount of specialized equipment, the piles of partially constructed items that are mounded in buckets and hampers. My space is not “pretty,” it’s industrial.
I don’t know that there is anything truly unique about Excelsior Sewing. We do have places in the shop to set up tents – Occasionally because we have customers interested in seeing and buying tents, but mostly because they have to be inspected, and seam sealed. The fabric we use cannot be ‘taped’ as the fabric has a silicone coating on it to make it waterproof. Seam sealing is done with a liquid silicone mixture. Each tent has to be individually set up to seam seal. Once the items for LightHeart Gear and finished and packed, they leave the shop and go to our distribution center (my basement at home). From there, they are packed and shipped to customers that order on our website www.lightheartgear.com.
My name is Madeline Stage and my business, Goheen Designs is located in Indianapolis, Indiana. I work out of my one bedroom apartment in downtown Indy.
I specialize in digital sewing patterns, as well as creating accessories, home décor and sewing kits from rescued fabrics.
My favorite part of my sewing space is all of the sunlight! I’ve worked in places with no windows before, and I know just how much it can affect my work ethic and general happiness to be without fresh air and sunshine. Plus, the natural light is a big plus for taking photos.
I work alone, but I do share my sewing space with my husband, because my sewing “room” is actually just a part of the living room/dining room. But this is a huge improvement from our last apartment, where I had to keep my sewing desk in the bedroom. As an early riser, I like to be able to sew before my husband wakes up!
My layout is mostly dictated by what fits. I did make sure that I can reach all of my sewing machines by simply turning in a single chair and all of my sewing notions are kept on one shelf, right next to my desk. The patterns, products, and fabrics are more spread out around the apartment. I’ve learned to optimize every little space in our home. Under the bed, under the couch, and most of the walls, are all used as extra storage. I also have a folding table that only comes out when I need it. I try to keep things tidy, and use cute storage solutions, because there is no option to just close the door on my workspace if it looks like a disaster.
I don’t get many clients in my sewing space, but the ones who do see it always notice the wall of fabric. My dad built me a wooden rack that holds several rolls of fabric so that they can be within easy reach without taking up any floor space.
I’ve recently dedicated a section of my sewing space to be my recycling center. I have a series of baskets where I separate out large and small scraps in order to pass them along to other people like teachers and quilters. Whatever is leftover that can’t be used by other people has its own basket. I donate these scraps to Goodwill, who sends them on to a fabric recycler.
2885 Sanford Ave SW #19588, Grandville, MI 49418 ~ Toll-Free (877) 755-0303