Interview #1: Stephanie of Swoodson Says

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Today is the start of my new interview series. I had so much fun doing the Canadian Pattern designer tour back in June that I decided to make it a regular feature. I love learning about where people live and since that was a big focus of the tour back in June I decided to keep that part in these interview series as well. So not only will you learn about the blogger/designer but also a little about where they live. It’s like travelling on the cheap. 😉

I’m excited to be kicking off the series with Stephanie of Swoodson Says today! Stephanie is pretty awesome. She admins an active Facebook group for creative bloggers, manages to keep her social sewing calendar up to date on her blog, is actively involved in blog tours and other sewing fun, writes blog posts for other sewing blogs as well as her own, designs patterns AND most importantly, does this all while being mom to two young children.

I wish I had just half her energy! Once you’re done reading this interview, hop on over and check out Stephanie’s blog, if you love sewing for your kids (or yourself) I’m sure you’ll find something there to inspire you!

Now here’s Stephanie:

Hi! I’m Stephanie, I live in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa gets a bad rap for being boring, or even worse, completely indistinguishable from other Midwestern states but that’s all inaccurate because Iowa is awesome. I stay at home with my two kids – a 3 year old son & 6 month old daughter. We spend as much of the day outside as we can, I sneak in embroidery or sewing when I can, and never ever clean or fold laundry (our current set-up is affectionately known as laundry mountain). Des Moines is full of fun things to explore with little people and I’ve slowly been connecting with other creatives in the area – still waiting for a “fabric district” aka heaven, or so I’ve read online with yards and yards of designer remnant fabric for pennies. 🙂

I love making things & trying new craft techniques or materials! I spend most of my time sewing but dabble in embroidery. I’m passionate about using up scraps and love upcycling and recycling – both the money saving and landfill emptying aspects make me happy!

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Is there one place (landmark, shop, restaurant, etc) or activity in your town/city that you always recommend to new visitors?

There are several Thai restaurants I recommend, depending on where people are in the metro- Thai Flavors on the east side, Cool Basil in the middle, and Zuzap on the west side. I always also recommend people check out one of our many local parks for hiking and general outside goodness – especially Jester Park, Ledges Park, Walnut Woods State Park, and Brenton Arboretum!

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Ack! Those chubby baby legs! Cuteness!

Do you think that being from Des Moines, Iowa has an influence on what or how you create?

Probably! I’ve never thought about it before, but it’s definitely trickier to find cute kids clothes that are outside of the Carters girl = pink & boy = blue bubble, in the Midwest. A lack of modern options led me to start learning how to sew when I was pregnant with my son.

I also think people in the Midwest tend to be connected to someone who does work with their hands –whether it’s farming, sewing, sculpting, etc. It’s common to see “barn quilts” as we drive through town and there are murals, a sculpture garden downtown, etc. Just lots of visual reminders that making things is cool, for lack of a more eloquent way to put it.

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You can find the Little Collector Backpack pattern in her shop!

How did you first become interested in this craft? What sparked your interest?

I grew up watching my Mom make things! She sewed Halloween costumes and clothes, and had a craft room that I loved to dig around in. I usually came up with the plan and she executed when it came to sewing.  Once I was out of college and inherited my Grandma’s machine I eventually started teaching myself with online tutorials – like many, becoming pregnant rekindled an interest in learning! When I was growing up, all the women in my family always had a book in their purse and a creative project in the works – something I am lucky to have been exposed to.

Do you remember the first thing you ever created? Any pictures to share?

The very first thing I created? That would be a makeshift bikini bottom out of a tshirt. I remember telling my Mom “I’d figure it out” and traced an old pair of underwear. Did not go well, I definitely know there are no pictures because I would’ve burned them.

The first thing I created that I was proud of, and have pictures of is this pouf: http://swoodsonsays.com/diy-nursery-ottoman-pouf/ The satisfaction of making something I actually liked, and was proud of, was thrilling! I was hooked.

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Describe your workspace.

My workspace is quite literally a disaster. We have a big basement that is a finished playroom on one side and an unfinished craft dungeon on the other. The builders inexplicably made it difficult to walk between the two, so you feel like you’re entering a bomb shelter upon crossing over. The floors are cement, the walls are covered in white plastic – an Instagram follower commented that it looked like I was in a “kill room” (please google the TV show Dexter if that reference does not connect, it made me laugh!). I have heaps of fabric in messy piles on shelves, and an entire rack of clothes waiting to be upcycled. I make no apologies. Creativity is messy! I’d rather sew than try to make it Pinterest-y and cute.

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What made you decide to start your business? Was there any one pivotal moment that made you finally take that leap? & Why did you decide to start a blog?

[The two questions] kind of connect since I blog as a business (in addition to selling PDF sewing patterns), but I decided to start blogging because I needed a project. After college I worked in event planning & volunteer management for nonprofits and constantly juggled different deadlines, new problems to solve, and I loved it. I had always planned on staying at home, but in some ways I struggled with feeling like every day was the same. When my son was a baby, I decided to stop just browsing on Pinterest and reading sewing blogs and try to make one of my own. The challenge of learning WordPress, monetization, networking, etc. all gave me something to think about while I was rolling a ball for 45 minutes straight or nursing. I specifically started the sewing pattern arm because I wasn’t finding the kind of patterns I wanted to buy – toys that encouraged imaginative play in toddlers! I figured if I couldn’t find what I was looking for, maybe other people would be interested in the same thing.

An unexpected benefit has been the sewing blog community. We’ve moved 4 times in the past 5 years, which makes relationships and friendships difficult to maintain. I love that I have online friends to touch base with throughout the day and see what they’re making, how their kids are, etc. It’s hard to have “co-workers” when you stay at home – but fellow bloggers are as close as I get and Facebook messaging is my water cooler.

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The Little Driver Wheel is another pattern you’ll find in her shop.

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Want to find out more about Stephanie? Check out her blog or find her on TwitterPinterestFacebookInstagram, or G+.

Is there anything else you would have asked? Let me know in the comments below!

Next week I’ll be taking part in her blog tour for her patterns. They are fun, smallish projects that make great gifts for the little kids in your life. You’ll definitely want to follow along with the blog tour and see what everyone has made.

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P.S. Want to read more interviews? Check out this interview with Emilie of Jalie Patterns or maybe this one with Jess of Gracious Threads.

 

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