We’re continuing our series of posts highlighting participants in the Boutique Sewer Program by introducing Jeanie Taylor from Cape Cod, MA. Jeanie sells her work through her boutique sewing business, The Pea Green Boat.
Jeanie, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself and your background. When and how did you learn to sew?
I live on Cape Cod in a magical house in the woods. It was created by and for a local potter on the grounds of his pottery, and every time I drive home through my own sculpture garden, I feel very lucky. My home is temporary, but one of the things the last year has reminded me is that everything is temporary.
I grew up on the coast of Texas in Port Arthur, hometown of Janis Joplin and Mary Karr. I climbed trees and hung upside down on the trapeze in my backyard, and I read and read and read. My mom sewed a lot, and my job was hand sewing the hems. The first real garment I made was in junior high in home ec, and I am pretty sure I never wore it. It was turquoise, some kind of tunic, and to my eyes really ugly.
When I graduated from college I worked for a year as a newspaper reporter, and one day I found a Singer treadle machine in the classified ads before they went into the paper. It cost $10, and it served me well for a long time. As a reporter I covered the Miss World USA Pageant, and for the ball (where the winner was escorted by the police chief dressed in a too-short brown suit) I made my escort beautiful wool formal bib overalls with a cummerbund and silver buckles. I also made my wedding dress, a sweet 1970s cotton dress, perfect for a simple wedding in the yard.
Over the years I made all kinds of things for my kids and myself. During a year spent in Scotland I got the chance to use Liberty fabrics, viyella, and other fabrics that weren’t available in my local store. I did smocking and used Folkwear patterns to make clothing for family and friends.
In addition to making clothing I used my imagination and fabric to decorate our world. Our 1920s house had a sleeping porch that we used as a playroom. It had lots of windows and yellow walls, and I made soft, puffy, satin clouds to hang from the ceiling. For Christmas I made smaller versions of the clouds with hanging ribbon rainbows to hang on the tree and puffy satin hearts to add to the evergreen garland that twisted down the banister.
One of my part-time jobs when my kids were small was working in a fancy gift store that carried beautiful yarns. After months of looking at it and touching it, I decided I had to learn to knit, so my co-workers taught me. I loved knitting, and I made lots of sweaters for my kids and myself, doing very little sewing during those years.
Then I went from being a part-time worker with kids to being a full-time worker with kids to being a full-time worker with kids and a full-time graduate student, and all my crafting was put aside.
I took knitting up again a few years ago hoping that the occupation would help me stop smoking. I did stop smoking, but not because of the knitting. What did the trick was my son saying, “We want you to be healthy and well so that you can run around in the yard with your (future) grandchildren.”
How did you first discover Oliver + S patterns?
My first grandchild was born almost two years ago, and when I knew she was coming all my creative juices kicked in. I began searching for patterns for sewing and knitting, looking at fabric and yarn, and planning a lifetime of garments. Early in my search I discovered the Oliver + S patterns online, and I fell in love.
How did you come to participate in the boutique sewer program?
It never occurred to me that I would make clothing for sale, but two things led the way to the opening of my Etsy shop. I lost my job, and I wanted to make more garments than my granddaughter could ever wear.
A few months after my granddaughter’s birth, I got a new job in Boston to be closer to family. After thirty years in the Midwest, very far from the ocean, I moved east and started my job in September 2008. In January 2009, my new job disappeared in the chaos of the economy.
I moved from Boston to Cape Cod where winter rents were manageable and the ocean was almost at my door. It took a while for me to begin to imagine the Etsy shop, because I was sure that a new job was just around the corner. But gradually I got very excited about the idea of offering my clothing (and other things) for sale, and after a few months I got brave enough to call myself a boutique sewer.
How do you choose fabrics for the garments that you make, and what fabrics are you working with these days?
I have always loved fabric and yarn–beautiful colors, textures, and design. The fabric is a key part of everything I create. I prefer natural fibers and high quality fabrics, believing that the effort it takes to make a garment well should be matched by the quality of the fabric.
Right now I am working with some Liberty viscose, cotton laminate, cotton batik, and organic cotton fleece. I have a beautiful mola from South America that I plan to incorporate into a special dress.
What other crafts do you pursue?
I make all sorts of things like garlands and necklaces. I continue to knit, and I am venturing into a bit of quilting. I work part-time in an independent fabric store filled with quilters, and I am currently making an abstract silk quilted table runner.
What have you done to market your business that has been successful for you?
I am still learning how to market my business. The boutique sewer program is a wonde
rful opportunity to reach people who love wonderful design. I have also used the Etsy showcases to call attention to my shop.
What plans do you have for the future?
Given the last year I plan only a few months ahead, but my current plan for my shop is to spend the next few months really building up my stock so that I can place a web ad in a location that will call attention to The Pea Green Boat. I am also considering beginning a blog, perhaps.