A Creator’s Evolution

(Title irony intentional, of course)

This week I’m celebrating (and by “celebrating” I mean I briefly thought about it when it popped into my head at the grocery store while choosing bananas) the twenty year anniversary of the creation of my first skating dress.  This slightly unkind reminder of my own personal aging process brought to mind just how much has changed since those first very stressful days, and I realized that documenting my continuing journey, as well as memories of obstacles past, would be a perfect addition to my company’s website (gratuitous plug: http://www.shopfireflyfabrics.com).  So here we go…

Twenty years ago, my skating dress sewing goal was simple: don’t make my kids look like dorks.  It evolved, as did I, through so many phases: the “make my skaters blend in so no one will know I have no clue what I’m doing” phase, the “make my skaters look better than (fill in the name of some coach who seriously bugged us at the time)’s skaters” phase, the “only have to redo the skirt twice” phase, the “how can I make this dress look like they spent $800 when I only have a $40 budget” phase (which, sadly, still lingers in too many clients’ minds), the “I don’t care if I don’t sleep for six days as long as it’s done on time” phase, the “if it only needs one safety pin it’s a success” phase, the “how can I make you look 50 pounds lighter and three inches taller” phase, the “yes, I’m sure I can finish 18 more dresses in two weeks” phase, and the “if you don’t want to pay this (extremely and ridiculously reasonable) price, then I don’t feel the need to sew for you anyway thank you very much” phase.

Thinking about how much has changed really brought to mind the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” — lots of pricked, bloody fingers (and yes, this one time I did rip the skin off my leg when I tried to peel off some dried E6000, but that’s another story…), sewing in central California July heat so intense that I had to stone over the sweat that dripped onto and stained the fabric, and, of course, many, many tears when what was in my head just didn’t translate into a finished piece (see a future post on the “Las Vegas Underwear” dress).  But since those less than illustrious beginnings, I’ve probably sewn 300 dresses, many of which are still in circulation many years after their creation, and I see them when we travel to meets both in and out of state.  What used to take me several days now takes a couple hours.  What I used to give away because it felt too unprofessional and crappy now is a full-time business.  What used to embarrass me now fills a portfolio.

Aside from sharing lessons learned over the years, I’ll also share tips and tricks I’ve figured out along the way.  I’ll post current projects and share steps of the design and creation process.  As the business grows, I’ll share trends and new fabric finds.  If you’re an old pro we can commiserate; if you’re a novice you can avoid many of the setbacks and sidetracks I encountered.

And just for kicks…this is a photo of that very first dress I made twenty years ago, which took about two weeks:

Tiny Katey, in my very first dress

Tiny Katey, in my very first dress

And a dress I made 19 years later, which, beginning to end, took about six hours:

Emma at the Pan American Championship of Clubs

Emma at the Pan American Championship of Clubs

Let’s continue to evolve together, shall we?

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Guilty Pleasure to CEO

Four months ago, at the constant urging of my husband, I quit a job that was making me angry and resentful and began working instead on trying to dismiss the guilt I’ve always felt for wanting to do something that a) doesn’t require the multiple college degrees I hold, and b) doesn’t feel like a job because of its sheer awesomeness.

For years I’ve designed and sewn skating and dance outfits as a…wait for the dirty word…hobby.  But in September 2013, I realized that working in a place where mediocrity is rewarded and you get paid the same whether you are fabulous or absolutely disgustingly lazy and incompetent, was making me nuts; so I knew something had to change.  My husband was sick of my complaining, my not sleeping because my sewing was relegated to the wee hours of the morning, and stepping on all the straight pins I inevitably dropped on the dining room floor; so he knew something had to change, too.

So we did it.  In one whirlwind month, we turned half of our very large garage into a bona fide shop.  A little creativity and reuse of excess furniture,  a marathon day of filing business and licensing paperwork all over the county, a slightly creepy but nonetheless amusing exploration of a nearby warehouse where old store mannequins and retail accoutrements go to die, and several trips to IKEA later, and this is what I have:

Shopcorner

The back corner of my little shop, complete with crystal chandelier and a place for my daughter to nap…uh…do her homework…

On the left you can see Marie, as in Marie Antoinette, our headless mannequin with magnetic arms that is a perfect Firefly Fabrics stock size Adult Small, and our yet-to-be-named adjustable child size dressform. You can’t see Buttsy, our waist-to-thigh child butt mannequin for skirt adjustments, and Peg, our oldest but dearest ladies’ dressform, so named because of the peg stand that sticks out of her nether regions (yes, I did let the kids name them, obviously).

Behind the camera is the sewing area, with my two machines and my daughter’s Christmas gift (her first sewing machine), my huge cutting table, the shelves that will eventually hold about eighty full bolts of fabric but now just house thirty or so two-yard sample pieces and three circular racks full of dozens of bags of rhinestones, and a seriously sick amount of color coded, separated and organized scraps of spandex and other stretch fabric, for when I only need 1/4 yard or so of “something green but not too green” or “six shades of sparkly blue — you can do that, can’t you?” Someday I’ll post those photos too, but hey, right now it’s all about the crystal chandelier.