We enjoyed bringing you the interview of Zoe for #MMMay18 so much, your Sewcialist Editor Team thought you might enjoy more interviews of leaders in sewing. We will search out pattern makers, fabric designers, teachers, designers, and all-around awesome people that embody the Sewcialist spirit, and bring you the interviews to help inspire your sewing journey.
Today, Becky brings you an in-depth interview of Erin Weisbart, owner of Tuesday Stitches pattern company and co-owner of Maternity Sewing. If Erin, aka SeamstressErin, is a new name for you, get ready for a treat! If you want some background first, here’s a link with quick little background from Erin’s blog from her rebranding to Tuesday Stitches. We also highly recommend the Love To Sew podcast Episode 44 with Erin. Without further ado, let’s dig in.
Becky (B): Good morning, Erin, thank you for your time. I’m going to link some of your background into the notes, but I want to dig down for more details about Tuesday Stitches and ask some personal questions, ask about Maternity Sewing, and your work on the idea of radical inclusivity.
You’ve lived in major cities on the West coast of America such as San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and now live outside of Seattle, Washington on Vashon Island. Major cities, particularly on the West coast, tend to be on the frontier of social causes and inclusivity, and we tend to be in a bubble in a lot of ways. Do you find yourself preaching to the converted? How do you break out of that bubble, and get to the audience that is missing out there?
Erin (E): For me, I try to think of it less like preaching to the choir, and more about leading by example. No matter who you are, you’re welcome. I want everyone to feel welcome and included. We’re all people, and we’re all imperfect. Being human is about being imperfect, and it’s also about learning and growing. I don’t expect perfection from myself, I don’t expect perfection from my friends, customers, or community, but I do expect people to try. I expect people to approach each other with compassion.
B: Do you find any pushback on your approach to inclusivity? You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Do you ever find anyone asking why are YOU doing this?
E: That has not made its way to me. If there are people that feel that way, I would hope they would approach me and we can have a conversation. That is what this is about. This is about having conversations with people. I am not trying to speak for anyone else. I’m sharing my voice, and my slice of life, and I recognize that I come from a place of privilege in so many ways. I’m trying to make a space for people to share where they come from. It’s about making a space for everyone’s story to be shared.
B: I really love the Tuesday Stitches motto of “Every day is a chance to play dress up.” To me it sounds really positive, but that’s me putting my own emotions on it. What do YOU mean when you say, “Every day is a chance to play dress up?” I’d really like for you to unpack that statement.
E: I do believe that clothes are powerful, and how you choose to dress yourself is a statement. Some of it is a statement to the world. People judge on appearance, that’s just human, but sometimes it’s also a statement to yourself. Sometimes you have a job interview, so you put pair of sexy underwear under your suit, so you secretly know you have that bit of sass underneath. Or I have a bunch of clothes that look like an overgrown 4-year-old. My favorite dress ever is covered in giant dinosaurs. That is a statement of fun, and I’m an interesting, fun, silly person. I welcome interactions around it. I get so many compliments and interactions based on that dress. Other days, I don’t want to be heard; I don’t want to be noticed. Maybe that’s the day I’m pulling on jeans and a black t-shirt. That’s ok too.
Every day is another chance to be who you want to be in that moment. Express yourself both to the world, and to yourself, a statement of who you are in that moment. I think it can be what I AM feeling low, my clothes may reflect that. However, on the flip side, if I’m feeling low, I know I can kick myself out of that. I can put on a frilly pink, puffy skirt, a giant floral print shirt, my cat-eye glasses, and put my hair in pigtails. I may look ridiculous, but it makes me happy. That is a statement to me, and how I can affect change in myself. How I dress is an example of how I take care of me.
B: I love this outlook and positivity, and the idea of self-manifesting how your day is going to go with clothing choices. I also love the bright, cheery rebranding of your site, but come on – no one wakes up like this. Why are you, you? What was the journey to becoming Tuesday Stitches and spreading positive inclusivity? Was it a short, clear path? Was this a long, winding path? How did you get here?
E: Some of it is what you believe every day; like what you said, it’s what you manifest. I purposefully project positivity, because that is what I want in life. Sure, I try to strike a balance with what is real; life isn’t all sunshine and roses, but this is a space where I can choose who I am, and what I want more of in the world. It has been a long journey getting here.
I had a child two years ago, which changes everything about life. It was a rough transition for me. I was sick and on bed rest the entire pregnancy, then had post-partum depression afterwards. It was rough. I’m still in the journey and still figuring out who I am, now that I’ve added in being a mother and homemaker to being a pattern designer. So, if I’m spending my time on something, why am I doing it? I took a step back and thought about my baby sewing pattern company. I only have so much mental energy to spend. So if I’m spending that energy in this space, and taking time an energy away from other things, why am I doing it and does it feel worth it? It’s not like I’m raking in millions of dollars or even supporting my family on it. I had to stop and think, and decide this is worth it to me? I decided I do have something to share with the world, and I can help make the world a better place. Every day we can make choices to positively impact the world. I want to add joy and compassion to people’s lives.
B: You’ve consciously set up this place that is worth your energy and effort with a business that also allows you this space to put positive work out into the world; what is it that puts a fire in your belly? What makes you giddy?
E: Seeing people wearing Tuesday Stitches patterns. Seeing that I can help them feel confident and comfortable in their body while expressing who they are, THAT is amazing to me.
B: Speaking of your patterns, you’re doing sizes 0-24 in the Tuesday Stitches line. Are you looking to expand that any higher at any point, and are those based on standardized sizes?
E: It’s a fairly standardized sizing, but I draft my patterns a little differently than most. My approach is I draft anywhere from 3 to 5 completely different sizes from scratch, starting at 0, a 10, and a 24, minimum, then grade in-between them. I do a mix of natural and even grading, in sort of my own system. Instead of having just 2 blocks to start and grading between which is more of a traditional approach, I make more drafts to customize my grading. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and my approach gives me more flexibility over grading for my customers. I take a lot longer releasing patterns because of my approach. I may make 5 blocks, and trash them all to start over. It may not be the most business-savvy approach, but that isn’t why I do this. I run everything through dozens of testers, trying to represent every size, shape, and bust size that I can. I really do make adjustments based on the feedback. For me, it’s not just about fitting a fit model or getting pretty pictures. Most of the time, I don’t even get pretty photos I can share; it’s about criticism of the pattern and how it’s fitting and how clear the instructions are.
B: In addition to all of this, your patterns also have cup size options. How do you work that out? That’s a whole new set of metrics involved.
E: This is part of the reason why getting patterns out is slow for me. I start with a basic B-cup block, and then do an FBA and SBA on every size. I’ll often print them out, and physically do the adjustments to check before sending the pattern to testers.
B: What is your pie-in-the-sky dream for Tuesday Stitches?
E: While I’d like to continue to grow the pattern company, part of this, while I have a small child, is for my own mental health. I needed a break from being a full-time parent. It wasn’t good for my mental health by doing nothing but being a parent all day, every day. Having Tuesday Stitches to work on has been great. I’d certainly like to see my company grow, and while at some point I’d like that to be a viable form of income to help support my family, I’m willing to let that grow organically. I’m very “Type A,” and I try to step away from that tendency. My husband travels a lot for work, so I do run the household. That takes a lot of time and energy. This allows me to have the flexibility of work and still do that, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I was commuting into the city.
B: This brings me Maternity Sewing, which you’ve just launched with Lisa of Paprika Patterns. (We both gush about Lisa for a moment…as you do.) An international company, with a partner in another time zone, and all of the logistics to launch it – that must have been a trial. Tell me about that, and tell me about the drive behind the idea.
E: Haha. Yes, time zones alone are a challenge! We’ve been working on this for over a year, and we’ve learned all sorts of things, and have had many unforeseen challenges. Lisa and I share the business and responsibilities 50/50. We launched with 20 patterns, while still having at least that many still in the paperwork stage.
Maternity Sewing accomplishes some of the same goals as Tuesday Stitches in that it is forming a place for women to feel comfortable in their own bodies. Maternity Sewing isn’t really just about pregnancy. There’s the post-partum, which can take years. The site is set up to sort by what you’re looking for, such as pregnancy trimester, post-partum, and breastfeeding… and for me, I still have a belly after having my daughter that I didn’t have before, so I’m drawn more to clothes with a higher volume through the waist than before having a child.
While the name Maternity Sewing may not convey this, I think we also have a great selection of patterns for an oft-ignored segment of the population, such as women who need medical devices, and need to have loose clothing to cover it, or loose and accessible. Sometimes post-menopausal women are looking for different silhouettes. And then of course we are curating a selection of patterns specifically for pregnancy and breast feeding. It can be really disconcerting how dramatic pregnancy changes the body, and it can be very helpful to be able to sew for your body during that time, especially those later trimesters.
B: That’s really helpful. For my pregnancies and breastfeeding, everything was so garish, I just ended up cutting t-shirts into “muscle-t-shirts” and throwing a cardigan over it. All the options in the stores were yucky polyester flouncy things. I didn’t want that on my body. Adding more flounces does not make a breastfeeding outfit.
E: Exactly. You want breastfeeding clothes that don’t look like BREASTFEEDING CLOTHES. You don’t really want to announce to the world, “HEY EVERYBODY! I’M LACTATING!”
Not only that, but Lisa and I both live rurally, which can be very isolating, as can pregnancy at times. The sewing community is so open and friendly, Lisa and I made Maternity Sewing to help with that, combining the pregnancy challenges, the isolation challenges, with the amazing and welcoming sewing community to help people. We want to harness the love and support of the sewing community for any woman that is pregnant, nursing, post-partum, or needs this as part of her life.
B: With an international company, are you looking to expand pattern language options as well?
E: Absolutely, that is something we’d love to do, and we’re working on options.
B: As an interviewer, I am not without blind-spots. Is there any other message you’d like to leave with the Sewcialist audience?
E: Self-love and self-confidence is a journey. I am preaching things that I’m learning at the same time. I do everything I can to help other people feel confident in their bodies because it is a struggle for me too. And please, reach out and say hi. I started out as a sewing blogger because I wanted to be a part of this community, and it’s still about community.
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Getting close to finished with the cover illustration for our next pattern. Aren't they lovely! Thanks to Carol, @msmanikka, and @pipersprings for being our lovely models/pattern testers this time around. And extra thanks to @msmanikka since I had to ask her to send me another photo so I could splice her into the exact pose I wanted 😂 . The legs are cropped off of the #CitrusLeggings in this screenshot to keep this a bit of a surprise because that's where all the fun happens in this pattern! . #sewing #tuesdaystitches #everydaydressup #wip #indiedesigner
The Sewcialist Interviews are a chance to hear more from some of the leaders in our sewing community. We will search out pattern makers, fabric designers, teachers, designers, and all-around awesome people that embody the Sewcialist spirit, and bring you the interviews to help inspire your sewing journey.
(All images property of Erin Weisbart)