52-Week Sewing Challenge: Sewist Spotlight

In 2017, Kelsey Cushing created a beautiful group–and what would become an intentional and incredible meeting space for seamstresses: the 52-Week Sewing Challenge. Each week, Kelsey and her crew posts a new challenge (and all challenges are shared ahead of time within the “files” section of the group). Seamstresses can “accept” the challenge or reject it–sharing the items they’ve sewn throughout the week with the group to serve as inspiration. Each shared creation within the challenge thread also acts as an entry into prize drawings from sponsors. This group offers absolutely wonderful encouragement to try new projects and learn about the variety of items our sewing community makes!

Each Sunday, the group hosts what’s called the Sunday Sewist Spotlight; and I am beyond honored to be the highlighted seamstress today! You can find the write-up here if you’re in the group (or want to join); and I’ll copy the content below for those just passing by. It’s been such a delight to meet so many of you fellow seamstresses and creators online; here’s to continued inspiration in our online community for many years to come!!

What part of the world do you call home?

Williamston, MI

How did you first get into sewing?

I’m pretty sure I bought my sewing machine the day I got a positive pregnancy test! 😀 On my first trip to India, I stood on top of a roof, and an incredible Indian seamstress measured me head to toe. Within a couple of days, I had a perfectly fitting churidar (an Indian dress with a tunic, pants, and dupatta/scarf). I was in awe that this trade existed for “commoners;” I thought only the rich and famous could have custom clothing. Everywhere I turned, I saw custom-fit clothing. Even ready-wear stores that sold jeans had tailors on the way out who would hem them to the correct length as part of the regular buying experience (imagine going to the mall and walking out with every item customized!). I felt like a princess. I felt rich in the most beautiful way. On one of my following trips to India, my (then soon-to-be) father-in-law pulled out his old sewing machine and asked me to hem his dhoti (Indian men’s skirt). It was a straight line, and I’m pretty sure I failed miserably. But he wore it with pride.
That day that I knew I’d have a child coming into the world, I imagined all the things I could sew. I rushed to the store, and my sewing machine came with a DVD. I had several women throughout my life tell me they’d teach me…but that day never seemed to come. That DVD was all I needed in the moment! I ventured online to look up free tutorials and patterns. I began sewing little things my new babe would need—burb cloths, little pants. I began drafting some basics and reading blogs like Dana Made It…and in the midst, I stumbled upon (piece by piece) what would become one of the strongest communities I never knew existed: our beloved sewing community.

What do you enjoy most about sewing?

I truly love the ability to create something that can clothe someone…a necessity in our culture. To be able to produce a functional item that will be used for years is absolutely priceless. I now have three little girls, and I delight in the “fun” of the process as well—having them choose fabrics, learning their styles, having them sew along with me or me sew along with them. I love continuing to learn—to be part of fabric and pattern companies via support and promotion. Every time I sit down at my machine, I learn something…whether that means a new trade, how to speed up my process, how to slow down and really care for each step. I love ironing …. between every.single.step. The little things make such a huge difference in quality. And I also love knowing how my clothing is made (eliminating one commonly unethical step within society) and providing, through my shops, ethically made clothing to others.

What are some of your favorite sewing companies?

There are too many beautiful gems that have been part of my journey, so I’ll just mention a “few” 😉  In the PDF arena, some of my go-to favs are New Horizons Designs, Simple Life Pattern Company, Patterns for Pirates, Sew By Pattern Pieces, George and Ginger, Made for Mermaids, Friday Pattern Company, Style Arc, True Bias patterns, Jalie, Seamingly Smitten, Sew A Little Seam, Sew Like My Mom, Jilly Atlanta, Ellie and Mac, Lowland Kids, Greenstyle Creations, Sofiona Designs, Itch to Stitch, and Peekaboo Pattern Co. There are surely more…but those are a few to get any new seamstress started 😀

What piece of advice would you give someone just starting out?

  1. Sift. Sift through blogs, patterns—familiarize yourself with terminology and patterns—by reading browsing, and taking the first step (stitch!!!).

  2. Integrate. Find as many sewing groups (PDF Pattern Companies, Fabric Companies, etc.) and become part of the family. Try out a few patterns. Apply for your first pattern test. Blog as a way to keep track of what you’ve sewn, or create a catalog within your Facebook albums.

  3. Sew every day…or every day that you can. Get involved in the 52-week sewing challenge to try something new each week. Having a goal (which is why pattern testing can be the biggest blessing!) keeps you going—keeps you learning—keeps you integrated in the trade. You have a HUGE community of seamstresses who will be open to answering your any question. Never heard of the abbreviations CS/CL, DBP, ABP, etc.? Ask. There are likely not only descriptions but also videos with people petting each one; they’d be happy to share different types of fabrics along with ways to use them! Boho Fabrics has a Fabric Fix subscription, which is a wonderful way to learn about new fabrics, uses, pattern suggestions for the fabric, etc.

Who in the sewing community do you look up to or admire?

I admire every single person in the forefront, behind the scenes, and just hanging out. Our community is so incredibly encouraging. I’m constantly inspired by every creation I see. For a season, I designed some sewing patterns, and I became super close with my testers—whom I’m continuously in awe of and inspired by. From the pattern designers who work their tails off to create new styles that fit well and meet an array of styles, to the seamstresses who make the designs come to life, to the fabric companies who store homes and warehouses with pretties so that we can make any-and-all of our dreams a reality—you ALL are who I admire. I cannot write single names because I’m sure I’d miss some of my favorite people and die a little inside when I realized it 😉 Just know that it’s you. If you’re reading this, I admire you.

Where we can find more of your great work (social media tags or groups you sew for):

My sewing blog is https://kutticouture.wordpress.com/, and I’m on Instagram and Facebook via my shops @lifecycleapparel and @theconsciouscloth, both devoted to sustainability and ethical creation (from fiber growth to sewing). My Etsy links are Lifecycle Apparel and The Conscious Cloth. You’ll {hopefully} find me in a lot of groups you’re in! Find your favorite groups, and search my name. If I’m not in a place you love, feel free to invite me! 😀 See you there/everywhere!!

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