Thursday, February 18, 2016

New Year, New Adventures

Hello all, it's so nice to be back! I have had a busy couple of months and I'm excited to re-connect with my wonderful community. It took a lot of energy (both physical and mental) to wrap up closing the shop, and there is still a bit of work to do. 

I have also been taking classes at Pasadena City College to finish my degree in fashion, and have been being a teacher's assistant for their intro class (where students first learn how to use industrial machines) and for the first level patternmaking class. It's been amazing, and confirms my decision to work towards being a college level instructor.

Illustration Class

Draping class

Getting my degree will take a few years, and in the interim I'll be working on Sew L.A. patterns, writing, teaching sewing classes locally (Craftcation!) and offering the occasional private lesson.   

Speaking of which... I have some availability for lessons now through mid-March. I'd LOVE to see students again and help out with whatever you are working on! I have listed days and times below, and it looks like I'll be able to list March dates in a week or so. I'm expecting to be full-time busy by mid-March, so now is a great time to take advantage of me ; )

Feel free to email shaeriesews (at) if you have any specific questions before committing to a time. The times listed are pretty solid, but some days might have a little more wiggle room - it doesn't hurt to ask! And if you don't have something specific in mind, I'll be happy to talk to you about projects and supplies - that's included in your lesson.


Friday 2/19 from 7 - 9pm

Saturday 2/20 from 2 - 4pm and from 5 - 7pm

Sunday 2/21 from 7 - 9pm

Monday 2/22 from 3 - 5pm

Tuesday 2/23 from 7 - 9pm

Weds 2/24 from 10 - noon and from 1 - 3pm


- These lessons are $45 per hour, just like before. Since I'll be traveling, there's a 2 hour minimum but if you'd like a longer lesson just let me know via your initial email. 

- To book a time listed above, email me at shaeriesews (at) First come, first served - so you will get a reply from me confirming your date and time before being booked. 

- I'll come to your house with basic tools, an iron and travel board (if needed) and we'll work on whatever project you have in mind. A $5 gas fee will apply if you are located more than 10 miles from my house in Glassell Park (90065). And please do not worry about what your house looks like. As long as there is some table space to sew your dishes will not bother me! 

- Included in your lesson is a conversation about your project, recommendations for projects and where to get supplies.

- If I know you, you can pay me at the lesson with cash, check or credit card, or through Paypal. If you are a new student, I'll bill you in advance through Paypal, and the lesson will be booked after payment.

- Reschedule / refunds: Since I have a kid, a lot of homework, a partner with a crazy schedule and other teaching commitments, PLEASE reschedule with me 24 hours in advance if needed. Rescheduling within 24 hours will incur a one hour charge ($45) unless there's a life-or-death emergency involving hospitals - but if you let me know and I can fill your spot with someone from the wait list there will be no charge.

- I assume you know that you'll be working with sharp tools, hot irons and machinery and that you are doing so at your own risk. By booking a lesson with me, you agree that I am not responsible for your safety. But of course I will do my best to show you the safest way to create beautiful projects!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -  please email me with any questions! shaeriesews (at)

In other news, I have an article in the latest issue of Seamwork Magazine and you can read it here! It's all about how I found my best path with sewing well, and it includes some tips for everyone. I'd love to know what you think!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Our Closing Auction and a Glimpse of the Future

A huge thank you goes out to everyone who attended our last pop-up shop and liquidation sale on Oct. 25th! We had a great day and covered all of our overhead for the last month of being open. Yesterday - October 31st - was our last day of classes and we were lucky enough to have some great students in our final Machine Intro who are now charged with taking up the sewing torch and running with it. And another thank you to Ripley, who took time out of her busy schedule fighting aliens to come teach class. 

On Saturday November 7th, 2015 we will hold a public auction at Sew L.A. to sell off all of our machines, tools, furniture, fixtures and miscellany. I'd love for the people who are interested in something specific to get a good shot at it without waiting around all day, so below I have a schedule for the day of what will be sold and when. There is A LOT of stuff and I'll be wielding the hammer myself, if I don't lose my voice by the end of the day! Here's the deal:

11am - 1pm: 
Remainder of stock, misc. supplies, random made stuff, class and workshop items. This includes our Kids Camp bin with all the patterns, leather tooling stuff, classroom looms, leftover Machine Intro bag fabric, a box of leather bracelets, the framed fabric in the bathroom and a bunch of stuff made by me that I don't have room for.

2pm - 4pm:
Machines and Tools - five Viking Scandinavia 100s, one Viking Classica 105, seven Janome MS5027PRs with walking feet, four Janome MyLock 634Ds, three Rowenta irons, 4 ironing boards, all the pressing equipment, classroom tools including Gingher shears and magnetic pincushions.

5pm - 7pm:
Furniture and Fixtures: sewing related and shop related. Pattern cabinet, giant thread cabinet, custom built wooden cutting tables (two ginormous and one human size), a lot of sturdy IKEA stuff like 8 cube and 4 cube Ektorp shelves with wheels, 3 Billy bookcases modified to fit fabric bolts, lots and lots of chairs. Shop stuff includes two Billy bookcases with glass doors, two giant white slat wall pieces with hooks, various display stuff, display mannequins, a stand whiteboard, a couch with two washable turquoise covers,  a million button tubes, microwave / fridge, a register stand, an industrial dolly and a lot more.

And at 7pm, I'd love to have a glass of champagne with anyone who wants to show up!

Once again, that's Saturday November 7th, from 11 - 7pm at 3153 Glendale Blvd. 90039. We'll accept cash and cards! 

Please don't email or call in advance of the auction to have us hold items (certainly do if you have questions) as we all feel this is the most fair way to get stuff to people. And although we expect there will be tons of great deals, to be honest we need all the money we can get from this to pay all the debt accumulated over the past 9 years.

After the auction, I'll be taking a few weeks to settle into my new routine, and we'll be re-launching the website by the end of November with Sew L.A. patterns (retail and wholesale) and kits and some fun and useful items for your sewing pleasure. We'll be carrying notions required by our patterns (cotton strapping, bodkins etc.) and also some great hard-to-find basics. I have three new patterns in the works (a skirt and two dresses!) and have been more than inspired by my computer drafting class to start in on a bunch more. And I'm excited to see what the next few months and the new year will bring! I love new beginnings...


Friday, September 4, 2015

CreativeLive Classes Are Here!

If you follow Sew L.A. on Instagram, you will have seen some behind-the-scenes pictures of me filming some classes for CreativeLive - and here they are! I'm really thrilled to present them - they were a TON of work and a lot of fun, and I got to collaborate with some incredible people. I can't wait to film more!

Box Zip Bags has been one of our most popular classes since the pattern was released this past March. Now, you can follow along step by step whenever you like! 

Our Easiest Skirt is a beginner staple - learn how to read a pattern and size yourself, and get all the info needed to start sewing garments. Even though I have been sewing for most of my life, this is the skirt I make the most! It's the perfect canvas for amazing fabric.

A little bit more involved - but still beginner friendly - it's the pretty, practical pockets that make our Vintage Pocket Skirt such a huge hit! This skirt has a flat waistband in the front for a more fitted look, but there's elastic in the back for comfort. You'll learn the basics and a bit more!

If any of you existing Sew L.A. peeps decide to take one of these classes, please let me know what you think! I love teaching in person, but for people not in LA and people who want to learn from me after Sew L.A. closes, this is the solution. And since September is National Sewing Month, CreativeLive is offering these classes at 30% off for the whole month! Woo hoo!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Thank You for 8 Awesome Years!

This is the post that no business owner ever wants to write. After a year-long struggle to keep Sew L.A. going, I have decided to close the classroom & shop at the end of October 2015. Our classes are scheduled through October 31, and all of our teachers are staying to see this through. We are all hoping to go out with a bang and a party!

Before getting into the details, let’s talk gift certificates. We have taken them off the site so they are no longer available, but if you have one please use it before the end of October. If you have one and don’t plan to use it, consider donating it back to the shop (so we can track it) - this will help keep our sales up so we can exit gracefully. Reducing our liability will be a great way to do this, and you can also help by attending our Very Loud Auction after our last classes.

At our teacher meeting this past Sunday, I went over some of the key reasons for closing, both business related and personal. On the business side, our market has definitely changed and we found that out a little too late to maneuver the shift effectively. When Sew L.A. started, we were the only classroom on this side of the city that offered quality classes, and this synced up with the market willing to pay for information from professionals. Now, anything you want to search for is available on the internet (regardless of quality) and there are several online learning websites that offer a high quality experience for a fraction of what we charge for in-person classes. I started Sew L.A. in 2007 for a few reasons - one being I believe that in-person is the best way to learn, but I cannot deny that online reaches a huge audience and AS ALWAYS the market follows the demand.

There are a few other reasons I started Sew L.A. - I had been making corsets in my studio for years, and was looking for more of a community instead of working solo every day. I had discovered a love for teaching that needed to be shared. And ultimately, I was looking for work that would allow me to someday afford a family. When I was pregnant for Lux in 2012, all of that seemed possible - the shop was doing well and we were able to cover the costs of moving to our current location, along with stocking it and staffing it.

We had great years in 2012 and 2013. I had a rough time finding care for Lux that we could afford until he was 11 months old - he was my first, and I had NO IDEA what a problem quality care would turn out to be (I’ll save the Saga of the Wait Lists for another time). The shift in the market started at the end of 2013 for us, when I had one day a week of care for Lux and actually needed to be back at the shop full time. The cost of replacing myself had just gone up and no one realized it at the time.

We had to close our retail shop this past April because a fabric inventory is one of the most difficult to support in retail. Our venders know this, and even give us 60 days to pay invoices because the majority of the stock moves SO SLOWLY. I had a large sum of money tied up in the shop that was needed to pay teachers. Our classes have always done well, and our retail shop has never quite paid for itself - so the decision seemed perfect. In reality, the loss of visibility and the lack of funds for re-working the website just hastened the decision to close altogether.

The current truth is that I personally cannot devote the attention to Sew L.A. that I once could because I have a wonderful 2 1/2 year old that I’m taking care of. My passion is teaching, and because of the daycare available to me and my husband’s schedule I cannot teach evenings and weekends - which is when we have our classes. Therefore, I’m still paying people to replace me in my business even now when I have four days a week to be here and working.

This leads directly to what running Sew L.A. has cost me personally. I take great pride in being a person who does what they say they will do, and I certainly don’t use the word ‘humbled’ lightly - these past two years have humbled me on several levels. Learning that sometimes I cannot fix it, no matter how hard I work - learning that sometimes the appearance of expertise is more valued than actual expertise - not being able to honor financial commitments - juggling creditors - feeling envy and jealousy instead of happiness at the success of others - the list goes on. I was becoming a person I did not want to be.

Sew L.A. was started with a loan from the VEDC, and I took out and paid off three other loans during the course of our existence, but since I had no other source of income, much of the shop’s expenses were put on two business credit cards and this is what I’ll be carrying with me after closing (not a small amount). I could file for bankruptcy, but in that event my wonderful staff and amazing landlord (my actual priorities) would be pretty low on the list. So even after the doors close and everyone has been paid I’ll still be in debt, with a toddler, with no degree and outdated bookkeeping skills. Unfortunately, this is a very common situation for people who close businesses to be in - I am far from alone. That doesn’t make it any easier, and it doesn’t make it right. I haven't paid myself in two years, and now I need to take care of my family.

I once made the mistake of telling a friend, while childless, that owning a small business was just like having a kid (I have since apologized profusely). But I can say for sure that it is like having a kid in that no one can tell you what it’s like beforehand, and no on who hasn’t gone through it can really comment on the perks and difficulties. And even then the experience is different for everyone!

I prefer to end on a high note and think about all the lives we have touched, all the people and kids we have inspired, and all the fantastic sewing there is in the world because of our classes. It has been my privilege to work with AMAZING, TALENTED and CREATIVE people over the past 8 years, and if you’d like to continue working with these people after October here is some contact info:

Rebecca Prange, Teacher:

For my own self, I will continue to promote quality learning however I can. I’m all for mad creativity and winging it, but I really do feel that having a solid base of skills can only help you be madly creative and wing it. That’s how we have operated for our whole run, and I don’t intend to stop now. One student recently asked in one of Rebecca’s lessons “How come I learn SO much in my classes here?” and the answer is we know that learning well takes time and we have always tried to give you that time in classes and lessons to absorb the ‘why’ as well as the ‘how’. Which is actually rare in this world that gives results more weight than process.

I will be continuing the Sew L.A. website with our patterns and kits and this here blog, and even though I’ll miss all my peeps and the pretty fabric (oh, the fabric…) I am trying to be ready for the Next Thing.