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.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Make Your Summer Crafty!

Summer classes are in full swing here at Sew L.A., and we couldn't be happier with our reorganized classroom space! It's the perfect size for our sewing classes that take a bit more room for projects, and we have had a few creative workshops with 10 - 15 students as well. 

Our website update is taking a bit longer than we anticipated, but we have our Basic Sewing Kit up and are getting ready to post fabric soon. A huge thank you to students who have been in the middle of this change! Of course, we want everyone to have the right tools and supplies for classes and workshops - if you don't see what you need online yet we are ALWAYS open 1/2 hour before classes to allow students to shop for what they need. Please do send us an email if you ever have questions!

You can also plan ahead and get what you need (and anything else) at one of our monthly pop-up shops: the next one will be Saturday June 20th from 10 - 6pm. We have some new fabric from Cloud9 and Cotton + Steel!

There are some great sewing classes coming up in June and July, along with more crafty classes like Embroidery and Sashiko Mending - and here are some pictures from our recent Block Printing workshop, led by Elinor from Krank Press:

photo by Elinor

Elinor will be leading a Stencil Printing on Fabric class soon - it's another fantastic way to create your own custom fabric. We are working on a collaboration for the fall: a weekend workshop where you print your fabric one day then sew it up the second. Here are a few stencil samples - you can see the flexibility!

And I'm hard at work on summer projects and new classes. Here's a preview of what's coming up:

Decades of Style E.S.P. Dress in ah-MAY-zing Alexander Henry fabric

Look for the Aster Blouse class in August!

Working hard on a new beginner class & pattern!

And there are a few more super-secret projects in the works - you'll have to stay tuned till next time! Hope to see you soon -Shaerie @ Sew L.A.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Last Business Post for Awhile (because we have a lot of sewing projects to share)

If you follow us on Instagram, you know that I went to Ventura this past weekend for the Craftcation Business + Makers conference. This event gathers together people who work in the craft industry, people who own craft based businesses, professional makers and people who would like to be professional makers. There are small business classes, panel discussions, round table talks, crafty workshops and of course the beach!

It was a much needed break to refuel and re-connect, and more than anything else I am SO grateful to be in the company of smart and savvy ladies and gents who are passionate about what they do. I shared a lot of my own experiences and learned a ton from others, and I even got to make something! One of the problems with owning a crafty business is that it tends to be more business and less craft, so making is always treasured. 

Cathy Callahan's Ombre Dye Workshop
Sew L.A.'s Quick Market Bag class

Another problem with being a small business owner is that there is no one to tell you what to do - every day you have to kind of make it up as you go along. If you have been with us from the beginning or if you have been in classes that I teach most likely you have gotten an earful about the state of modern small businesses and how weird and difficult it is to navigate the waters. 

The payoffs have always outweighed the perils however, and that's why we are still here! Every time a new sewer looks at me and says 'I can really do it!' or when two of my 9 year old after-school kids make AMAZING LINED COATS I know I would do it all over again. It's truly a blessing to be able to assist in unlocking creativity on a daily basis.

Sew L.A. is eight years old now, and we have been through a lot. Three different locations - doubling our space each time - fantastic people coming and going (most recently our beloved Haley relocated to Portland - sad face emoji!) - great parties & events - fabulous dresses and skirts and pants and pillows and totes and embroidery projects made - and I want to continue to teach until I fall down.

So with that aim in mind, we will be closing the retail portion of Sew L.A. at the end of April. Our classroom will still be located in the back part of our space (with a bit of a makeover) and our select inventory will be organized for only online sales. What does this change mean to you, our student and customer?

- You will be able to sign up for our wonderful classes on our website. We will be offering not only our own well-known sewing classes but workshops and seminars by local teachers and professional makers from across the country.

- You will be able to get all of your class supplies when you sign up (or at any time) in the form of a kit or individual items from our online shop.

- Once a month or so, we will have a pop-up shop (i.e. party) in the classroom where you can stop in and say hi, visit with us and visit the fabric (and also take some home with you if you like). 

- All of your questions regarding classes, policies, purchasing, zipper length and thread color will be answered in a timely manner via email.

- You will still have access to the best and newest fabric being released in our carefully curated online shop.

- You will have the opportunity to take a wide variety of creative classes besides sewing: fiber arts, woodworking, figure drawing, calligraphy, paper arts, bookbinding, basket weaving, soap making, candle making and crafty business management, to name a few.

- You will soon have many more Sew L.A. patterns to choose from as my time can now be spent creating and producing them rather than overseeing the shop. (This is the part I’m really excited about!)

‘But Shaerie’, you might say, ‘What is the reason for taking this step? Doesn’t the retail store make Sew L.A. a ton of money?’ The short answer to this question is that retail is not nearly as easy as it looks. And fabric is hands-down one of the worst inventories a shop can carry: it’s huge, heavy, expensive and slow moving. And then there’s the staffing, upkeep, taxes and merchandising costs to consider. 

Lastly, it takes TIME and that is what I have none of. With my 2 1/2 year old in daycare three days a week, I have about 15 hours a week to run the entire business. This is definitely something they don’t teach you in business school - how to navigate life changes and still run your business effectively. 

getting crafty with washi tape

So, to sum it up, in the cycle of a business it’s just as important to realize when to downsize as it is to know when to expand - and that’s what the idea is with this change. Downsizing to manageable while the baby is home, and ramping it back up again when he gets older. Oh, the visions I have for expanding again! 

April 25th will be the last day the shop is open - and of course there will be a big sale - then we’ll be closed for renovation from April 26 - May 1st. The classroom will reopen on May 2nd for classes! And throughout this next month we’ll be working on reconfiguring the website to reflect these changes. Meanwhile, feel free to email me at classes (at) sew-la (dot) com with any questions, comments or concerns. Now, let’s go make some great stuff! 


P.S. - if you are a maker who would like to teach a workshop with us, let me know! If you've taught before we can get one going pretty quickly - and if you've never taught before but would like to we can help you develop your class. Everybody wins!