By Kirsten Adshead/motherbility
Sarah Wisner’s business is so new that it’s barely begun.
Unless, of course, you consider that it really started 14 years ago — when an invitation to a renaissance fair fed a curiosity about costumes, which sparked an interest in sewing she didn’t know she had, which led … all these years later … to launching a custom made-clothing venture.
“I’m really excited about the possibility of it,” Wisner said.
It’s been a learning process from the get-go.
She laughs now thinking about the renaissance costume she chose as her first project.
“I made a horrible decision about what pattern to do for a beginner because I had to basically give it to (my friend) and say, ‘Help me!'” she laughed. “But I did learn a lot from it, like how to assemble a pattern.”
Her interest piqued, Wisner took possession of her mom’s unused sewing machine.
She made her friend some curtains. She made herself some curtains. Life pushed sewing aside for awhile. She got married, bought a house, made some curtains, and then …
“Lately, I’ve just been getting frustrated with how clothes fit,” Wisner said. “I’m tall, and I’m a curvy gal. So I have trouble finding clothes that are long enough in the sleeves and the length without spending 10 extra bucks (at the store) on something tall, and they don’t always have that available.”
So she bought some fabric, bought some patterns, and made some shirts for her sons. And some for herself. And pajamas for Christmas presents. And shirts for her husband.
All the while, the learning continued.
“It was kind of a trial by error, by fire, about you need different needles, a certain amount of stretch to the fabric for different patterns … a little bit of just seeing what works and a little bit of just asking lots of questions,” Wisner said. “Thank God for Facebook groups and YouTube tutorials and all that.”
As her expertise grew, so did her ambition.
“As (I’ve been) sewing more, I just thought, ‘You know, I kind of like this. I get to be creative and I get to have fun with colors, picking out the fabric, the shapes and stuff and the styles. And after I invested in a serger machine to make assembly a lot easier at Thanksgiving, it just went like this (snaps fingers), and it was a a lot more smoother and it looked a lot more professional,” she said. “And I started to think, “Oh, maybe I should see what it would take to, you know, sell a few things, since I like doing this.’ And then (my husband) Adam got me this ‘How To Do An Etsy Business’ book for Christmas, which I laughed at. I think he saw it before I did, that I was really enjoying it.”
Other people started to take notice, too: Someone at church admired Wisner’s “grandpa cardigan” and requested one. Facebook friends quickly chimed in when she posted her projects.
“That’s cute! Is it for sale?” one asked.
“I’m going to have to commission a shirt from you!” another suggested.
“If I find a perfect penguin fabric, I may buy it and hire you to sew a penguin one too,” a third friend wrote.
And so now there’s a whole new kind of learning: about taxes and flammability standards, inventory and pricing.
Wisner noted that, for a woman’s shirt, fabric and supplies can run $15 to $20.
“Yes, you’re worth a decent wage, but you have to balance it with what people are going to be willing to pay. And I think with experience, after you have a clientele built up, you can maybe raise your prices a little bit because they realize the quality is worth it and your experience and your time and all that. But I think at the beginning, it’s going to be making sure the supplies are all covered.”
Wisner has no immediate plans to “go big.”
“I’m thinking that it’s probably not going to be taking off for a little while, due to life and kids and family stuff,” she said. “I’m going to keep sewing and I’m going to make stuff for people who ask.”
For the last 14 years, life has, essentially, been Wisner’s business degree.
And on she goes.