Vanessa Wilson will be launching The Sewing Coop, a sewing studio already equipped with materials, where she will teach five to seven classes per week to children and adults. The classes are open to everyone – from novices to the more advanced – and teach sewing, quilting, bag making, crochet and machine embroidery.
She said she’s adamant about bringing advancements the sewing world is making to the Coop – strides ahead of what most people might learn about sewing from their mother or grandmother.
She said it’s especially helpful to have materials ready for novices who are deciding whether it’s something to continue without the pricey investment.
She also said she enjoys teaching kids how to sew because they’re fearless, confident and uninhibited when it comes to patterns and designs.
“They just want to have fun and they never turn down a challenge,” she said.
“For children, it builds so much confidence and self-esteem because they go home with something that they made that their parents can’t even make.”
She even enforces a no-parents-allowed rule to put no barriers on their creativity.
“It’s putting this power in their hands they probably haven’t had before,” she said. “They’re the ones that are on top.”
Creating two- and three-dimensional products develops children’s spatial awareness, as well as motor and entrepreneurial skills, she said.
The advantages of sewing transcend just creating a blanket or pillow. She said her students develop a natural camaraderie that is easier because they understand each other.
“If you sew and you have no friends that sew, it’s really hard to show them a project that you completed,” she said. “If they don’t sew, they don’t get it.”
She said she knew people were longing for that connection after her online community of people who sew became so successful.
“[An active online community] tells me that people are looking for and needing to make this connection with the craft that they love,” she said.
“Being around people who speak your language in that sense, is the most amazing feeling ever.”
She said many who take part in these communities have suffered a loss, and sewing becomes therapeutic for those struggling with depression or other mental health issues.
“They’re just looking to kind of dig themselves out of this super depressing hole,” she said. “And when they make something – especially when they’re going to give it to someone – it’s like this feeling is so rewarding that it just fills you up and you just want more and more and more.”
Wilson’s love of sewing started at an early age. She was raised by a single mom who immigrated to New York’s Garment District of Manhattan in the 1960’s. She said she would watch in admiration as her mom’s nimble fingers sewed fabric.
“That’s what we had growing up, was an industrial sewing machine in my house,” she said. “And those machines go on 2,000 stitches per minute, where the home sewing machines go 800 per minute.”
She begged her mother to teach her the craft. Her mom adamantly refused, however, after badly injuring her finger several times with the needle. Instead, she encouraged her daughter to pursue more practical endeavors and instilled the importance of an education from early on.
But Wilson channeled her crafty nature in every way she could.
“I created board games,” she recalled. “I invented stuff. I did woodworking. I made and decorated cakes. Sewing was just the next thing. If I had sewing early, who knows what I would have done?”
After graduating cum laude from UF with an anthropology degree in 2004, she took her mom’s advice and did something practical with it, going to law school. While she persevered and got her law degree in 2008, she said never really wanted to be a lawyer, and never lost sight of her creative talents.
She began working part-time job at Joann’s Fabrics to help her get through law school, earning $7 an hour just to be around fabrics she could touch and colors she could admire.
“My mind would go all over the place,” she recalled. “Like, ‘Oh, this would make a cute skirt… Being in that creative space in my head took me away from all the stress of law school and bills and money and whatever. That was my happy place.”
She was still in her second year and looking for a coffee shop to study at when she stumbled on a nearby establishment that taught sewing classes – what she dubs her light bulb moment. Her mom finally bought her a 1966 Singer sewing machine for $10 at a garage sale. After her mom left, she tried her hand at it on a pair of old ripped jeans.
And since then, Wilson’s never stopped.
She launched a series of instructional YouTube videos under the username The Crafty Gemini in 2009 that have since garnered millions of viewers and subscribers. It proliferated into an online subscription pay club than ran from 2015 to January 2017.
Her efforts have gotten worldwide praise – she’s appeared on ABC’s 20/20, ABC World News, FOX News Latino as well The New York Times, Parents Latina, and several quilting magazines, according to the Coop’s official release.
The Sewing Coop’s grand opening will be on September 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. at 706 NW 23rd Ave. in Gainesville.
For a complete class schedule and more information about the studio, visit http://thesewingcoop.com.
By Kristina Orrego