I’m Deborah, and I sew. I got here sort of by accident, the happiest accident ever in the history of happy accidents. I started out as a schoolteacher, then became an archaeologist, then was a stay-at-home mom, and now I’m here! With four kids, a husband, a (lovely but largely imagined) garden, a house (which is currently under partly-DIY-partly-gum-and-toothpicks renovation) and a dog (plus two fish, if the children get their way), my days are already super, super full. Even with all the craziness, I wouldn’t want to stop sewing even if I had to (so far, no one has asked me to, and I’m playing dumb until I hear different). If you’re just joining us, I’m thrilled you stumbled your way into Whipstitch-land! My story is so much like so many other folks, and that’s what makes it fun: there is a whole community of Our People on the Interwebs today, and I feel grateful and honored being part of it.
I didn’t always sew for a living. I feel humbled and surprised when I think of all the sewing-related things they let me do these days: I blog, write sewing books, own a sewing lounge in Atlanta, publish sewing patterns, teach sewing classes in person and online, including over at Craftsy, and hoard gobs of fabric and innumerable patterns. I went to college and got degrees in Theatre and English Education, and taught middle-and-high-school English and Drama for eight years. As much as I loved the kids I worked with, after nearly a decade was tuckered out and wanted a change. I love gardening and plants and people, and went back to graduate school to pursue a secret dream: a degree in Archaeology, focusing on prehistoric human interactions with food plants. (No, really. Seriously, don’t make fun of the nerd.) It was amazing, and I would never trade my time in graduate school or in archaeology (few things are as much fun as digging in the dirt and getting to talk nerd talk with other folks who like to dig in the dirt). When my husband and I had our second baby, though, there was a single conversation that in a roundabout way has brought me here! For more on how I made the move from amateur stitcher to professional status, read about Sandra, my sewing muse. I might have lost my eligibility for Olympic sewing competition when I went pro, but I gained a whole lot more.
After “meeting” Sandra, I started a children’s clothing company and designed for boys and girls for three years. Along the way, I was asked to teach sewing classes for adults at a local design co-op in Atlanta. I figured it’d be easy, I’d kinda mail it in, and it would give me some extra pocket money to grow my clothing company. What I didn’t expect was how teaching would change the way I saw what I do all day, and how much more I would enjoy and appreciate teaching sewing than I did doing manufacturing. Even though I love design and have a zillion ideas for how I’d like to see things put together, I didn’t feel fulfilled by the sewing I was doing when I manufactured the same thing in the same fabric over and over–teaching gave me a chance to try my hand at new sewing projects and to look at sewing through fresh eyes, and really was the lightning rod for all the other opportunities that have come my way over the years. Read more about Why I Sew, if you’d like deeper details on how sewing has served as my therapy and creative outlet and means of connecting with others, all rolled up into one tidy package.
After three years of manufacturing, I learned that there were supplies sellers on Etsy, and though it would be a great way to sell off some of my leftover fabric inventory from making children’s clothes. I had a dream at that point of opening a sewing lounge in Atlanta, but was scared to take a risk, and didn’t think it would happen for years yet. Little did I know that I’d make my first fabric sale on Etsy within days, that selling fabric would be exciting and very social, and that eventually my fabric shop–which I called Whipstitch–would take over my time to such a degree that I would leave manufacturing altogether and move into teaching sewing and selling fabric full-time. At the same moment, I had the chance to open a mini-lounge inside the design co-op, so I did–and it took off, too! My mom says that when it’s time for things to happen, they just do, which is lucky for me, since I would have been too chicken to go looking for my dream, and too shy to dream as big as Whipstitch has become.
While all this was going on, I got an email from Vanessa over at F + W, asking if I might be interested in writing a book about sewing based on my blog. I jumped at the chance, kicked the manuscript into high gear, and in August 2010 published Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project At A Time. I’ve been so flattered and excited to see so many people love the book, and am excited to see my second book, Stitch Savvy, taking flight in 2013.
As an out-growth of the classes that I teach in Atlanta, as well as the e-courses I teach online, I’ve developed a series of sewing patterns. Most of the styles were refined when I was manufacturing children’s clothes, and all of them are available for instant download. I’ve been wanting to add more titles more quickly, but am working hard to make the blog and this site as clear and usable as I can before I turn my attention to printing and distributing more sewing pattern designs. In the meantime, many of my completed-but-as-yet-unreleased patterns are part of my online classes–including Sewing Clothing for Kids, Everyday Handbags, and Summer Dresses.
Please take a tour and stay a while! Check out some of my favorite posts and readers’ favorite projects to get a better idea of who I am and what I like. I’d really love to get to know you!
- The Story of Sandra
- Emergency Dress
- Today: Honey Did List
- Weekend at Whipstitch Lounge (from Dana of MADE)
Popular Finished Projects
- Nested Fabric Buckets
- Snack Bandolier for Boys
- Kindle Cover
- Holiday ball skirt
- Emergency dress
- Far, Far Away II Storytime Squares quilt
- Charm square soft baby blocks
- Baby Travel Pouch
- Castle Peeps Travel Play Set
- I love putting together tutorials and working on sewing technique. Those items can be found in the tutorials link at the top of the page, or by clicking here. (This page is currently under renovation, with a couple dozen–eek!–new items lurking in corners that I’ve yet to add!)
- The Sewing Buddy Project is an internet-based sewing pen pal arrangement that grew out of the 2010 Sewing Goals survey. To see what this year’s Sewing Buddies have been up to, check out the posts.
- Christmas of 2010, I decided it was time to finally make the Advent calendar I’d been dreaming of ever since I moved out of my mom’s house and first did Christmas on my own. See the final product and the day-by-day shots!
- Neat As Ninepence is all about sewing for every room of the house, organizing your space, and using your machine to bring beauty and happiness to every corner of your home. You know, your basic unambitious blog series.
- Sewing With Kids was originally intended to be a book title that I wanted to pitch to my publisher. I decided instead to make it a blog series and offer it as a weekly series that walks through sewing projects to do WITH our kids, and all the other lessons we can teach them along the way.
- The Art of Manipulating Fabric is one of my favorite eye-candy sewing books, and in 2011 I wanted to challenge myself to work through EVERY technique in the book, one by one, with each technique leading to a finished project–I really hate sewing in the abstract, and pretty much always want to have a Real Thing to show off at the end. See my progress and the good (and bad) projects that come out of it!
- The Charm Pack Patterns Series is a whole mess of free ideas and patterns and links for using the 5″ x 5″ squares that come in a quilter’s charm pack of fabric.
- The Anthropology of Sewing is a (VERY) occasional series where I put that graduate degree to good use and walk through some of why I think sewing has suddenly taken off and found a new niche in America today.