Teacher Gone Sewist
When I was twelve, I picked up my first sewing pattern: an a-line dress, complete with shoulder princess seams and kimono sleeves. . . which I was determined to make out of a knit fabric so slick and silky that it felt like sewing water. Yes, you read all of that correctly, and yes, you're right. . . I was a dodo.
If those terms I just threw at you sound like gibberish (because let's face it, sewing is its own language, and a confusing one at that), essentially what I'm saying is that my ambitious, naive little preteen heart bit off WAY more than it could chew. And even though I stubbornly seam-ripped my way through to something vaguely resembling a dress, this first attempt put me off sewing for years to come.
Fast forward a decade, I had all but forgotten my failed sewing project.
I had just graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Religion and was determined to establish my independence. I found a cheap apartment furnished with gaudy furniture from the 80s and puce-colored walls, a porch freshly refinished with astro turf, and settled in to work out my long-term plans. A friend suggested that I substitute teach, and as I had already worked in a variety of childcare capacities, that seemed like a good fit. I completed the paperwork and got a subbing job right away.
My first day was . . . a whirlwind.
I remember signing in for my subbing badge and meeting the special education supervisor to whom I was assigned as a paraprofessional for the day. I recall the supervisor introducing herself and some of the staff, followed immediately by the question "How do you feel about bathroom duty?" Without time for an answer, my student burst through the door; a second grade boy just a foot shorter than me, nonverbal, a sort of roly poly type. Immediately the boy (Charlie, we'll call him) ran up to us with a PECS book, pointing at a picture of the bathroom. My supervisor introduced the two of us, and with barely enough time to register what was happening, Charlie tugged me toward the hall, catapulting me off my feet into the next five years of my life.
My calendar was quickly flooded with subbing jobs, many of them accompanying Charlie. Over the next five years I got to see him grow, gradually becoming verbal and learning life skills, then moving on to middle school. By the time Charlie left, I had graduated with a Masters in Teaching and was looking for opportunities that would allow me to pursue full time the joy of supporting individuals with special needs. At that time, I simply couldn’t imagine a life outside of teaching.
I got a full time job at a charter school in St. Louis, Missouri, first as a 4th grade teacher, and the following year as a Learning Support Specialist. I LOVED that job and that community with all my heart. I met educators that floored me with their compassion and ability to inspire, and I met students and families alike who I will love and cherish till the day I die. But then the novel coronavirus spread to the United States, forcing my district to go virtual. And, like so many other educators, I discovered that the demands of teaching, case-managing, coordinating, and all the invisible labors that come with being an educator were no longer sustainable. And confronting that, truly, broke my heart.
The "Great" Transition
I began the painful process of transitioning out of the classroom, turning instead to work that let me contribute in a more sustainable way. And oddly, this journey took me back to sewing.
As our nation was largely isolated for the duration of 2020, sewing became (if you’ll pardon the cliche) my saving grace. What once had inspired several choice words with my sewing machine, quickly became a creative outlet that kept me out of my own head and able to focus on the things that really mattered.
I delved into mid-century reproduction sewing, historical sewing, and the evolution of the textile industry. I learned flat pattern drafting and started making my own clothes again. I hand-sewed every night for hours, making anything I could sell to supplement my income or give away to those in need. Sewing, making, being creative, became a life-sustaining practice that kept me connected to my mom, my friends, and my community even from within the confines of my home. The more I sewed, the more I felt like “me” again.
Where I Am Now
The better I felt, the more I wanted to teach again. Eventually I Googled my way to the City Sewing Room where I started volunteering as a sewing instructor and shop assistant. I pitched some course offerings and the director, bless her heart, accepted my ideas with grace and encouragement. So, Textiles 101: From Fiber to Fabric, Fitting & Patterning Basics and, my personal favorite, Sewing for Special Needs were born, and a glimmer of hope was restored.
As I reacquainted myself with teaching, I took on private commissions and sewing lessons. Eventually my workload expanded, and I opened The Sustainable Sewing Shop, inspired by my journey and desire to give back.
These days, that is where you'll find me. As sole proprietor of a humble sewing studio, I continue to teach while providing a variety of sewing services. I am constantly baffled by where life has taken me, and I overwhelmed with gratitude for every step. And though my story is not over, I am grateful that I get to share that story and my passions with you.
Thank you for being here.