We’re pleased to continue our series of posts highlighting participants in the Boutique Sewer Program by sharing a recent discussion with Meg Lineberger from Durham, NC. Meg sells her work through her boutique sewing business, Nora’s Room, which is named after her four-year-old daughter, Nora Kate. Meg also has a seven-year-old son. When she’s not sewing, Meg works as a practicing psychologist.
Meg, tell me a little about yourself and your background. When and how did you learn to sew? I can’t remember a time when I didn’t sew. I grew up in a one room farmhouse in Kentucky, where we grew our own food, sewed our own clothes, and even kept bees for honey. My mother sewed out of necessity. I don’t think she’s so much as hemmed a pair of pants in the last 10 years, but she always encouraged my creative efforts. For my fifth birthday she gave me a harvest gold sewing box, fully stocked, which I still use today.
As an adult I’ve been a pretty serious quilter, with occasional ventures into garment sewing.
I always imagined I would sew for my children, but the truth is I did very little sewing of any kind while my children were infants and toddlers. When I dusted off my machines last year, I was stunned to discover that sewing had become hip while I wasn’t looking!
How did you first discover Oliver + S patterns and come to participate in the Boutique Sewer Program?
I came across Oliver + S this spring via a parenting blog and fell completely in love. I purchased a boutique sewing license before my first patterns had even arrived. It was an impulsive decision, but one that has really jump-started my creative energy.
How do you choose fabrics for the garments that you make, and what fabrics are you working with these days?
My fabric choices are strongly influenced by my quilting experience. Color has never come easy to me, so I’ve really worked hard to develop that skill, reading books about color theory and dragging my artist husband to the fabric store. My quilts feature mostly batiks and tonal prints, so my boutique sewing has given me the opportunity to use some of the awesome contemporary prints that hit the market while my back was turned.
What initially attracted me to Oliver + S was the fact that the patterns were designed for quilting cottons, but my boutique sewing has turned out to be a gateway for exploring more apparel fabrics. In the past six months, I’ve sewn Oliver + S designs in tweed, twill, denim, wool gauze, corduroy, laminates, wool coating, silk, even knits. I’m already lusting over fabrics for spring and summer. Oh, the linens and the double gauze!
What other crafts do you pursue that you may not be selling on Etsy?
I do have a crafty little soul. I’ve dabbled in cake decorating, hair bows, and doll-house miniatures. I even had a regrettable rubber-stamping period. I love the smell of hot glue. Last month I built a loft bed for my son with a lot of help from my father-in-law and his woodworking shop. I keep meaning to learn how to knit, but where to find the time?
Children’s birthdays most especially bring out my inner Martha Stewart. I just hosted a paper-doll party featuring the Oliver + S dolls and Pearl dog too!
What have you done to market your business that has been successful for you?
Many of my customers are referred by the Oliver + S website. I also get a fair amount of business from friends, relatives, and coworkers. It helps that my daughter is a walking advertisement for Nora’s Room. When prompted, she’ll tell you she got her clothes from “norasroom-dot-etsy-dot-com.” I recently donated a custom sewn dress for a silent auction to benefit my children’s school, which raised a little money for the school and also increased the visibility of Nora’s Room among the parent community. I’ll definitely do that again next year.
How much of your business is custom work vs. ready-made?
All of my work is custom in the sense of being sewn-to-order; I don’t keep an inventory of ready-made garments in stock. The garments featured in Nora’s Room are samples that I’ve sewn for my own children and will sew-to-order in the customer’s choice of size. About half of my sales come from these “two of a kind” creations. The rest are custom work.
I really love working with a client to choose patterns and shop for fabric, and I specialize in coordinating outfits for siblings. I think that’s because I have a boy and a girl of my own. I try to achieve a complimentary look without being too matchy-matchy, you know?
After that it’s time to get geared up for holiday sewing. In the coming year I want to be more active with social networking on Facebook and Twitter, and I really need a Nora’s Room blog. I’m also learning to take better photos of my work. All of this will help to keep me busy until your new patterns come out in 2010!
What opportunities has the boutique sewer program made available to you that you wouldn’t otherwise have had?
Besides the pleasure of doing something really well and getting recognized for it? Definitely it’s the relationships with other moms who love Oliver +
S. I’ve made some wonderful friends through the Flickr group and the Oliver + S forums, and I’ve worked on custom sewing for some amazing women who don’t have the time or ability to sew for their own children. The income from Nora’s Room goes back into my sewing studio and has enabled me to upgrade my materials, notions, and tools–which in turn improves the quality of my workmanship.