Online sewing star Mimi G. pulls up some floor during a session with fabric designer Tula Pink.

I returned from Sew Pro, the convention for sewing-business owners, filled with drive and inspiration! It was a fabulous gathering of fabulous creatives who were generous with their knowledge and enthusiasm.

I feel connected to the sewing community, and I want to keep the good vibes rolling!

A lot of the Sew Pro convention sessions were quite technical on biz stuff, especially social media and blog monetization. So keep things accessible, I framed up some high-level takeaways for all sewists — not just people with a sewing business:

1.) Do the work.

A rep from FreeSpirit Fabrics showed off quilt masterpieces and new fabric collections at Sew Pro.

I chatted Renee Newstrum, who was a seamstress for TV shows. She talked about the insane turnarounds she used to deliver — being given a stack of garments at midnight to be completed for a pre-dawn call. Renee learned how to do EVERYTHING when it came to alterations, and she could do them FAST.

Obviously, I was impressed. I asked her, very seriously, “How do you sew fast? What’s the secret? What tips do you have?”

Her one-word answer: “Practice.” There really aren’t any shortcuts. Doing the same thing over and over, making the same pattern 10 times, is the best education.

This was heartening, because I’ve got all the time in the world to practice. If practice is *all* it takes, even I can practice, just like a pro seamstress! I was proud of myself for my reaction, because I honestly wasn’t disappointed by the lack of a silver bullet. I’m committed to enjoying the process of practice.

(I’m, like, growing as a person, guys!)

2.) Weave a tale.

Gawking over a gorgeous quilt in Tula Pink’s Slow and Steady line.

I didn’t know anything about Tula Pink when I showed up for Sew Pro. I had a vague recognition of her logo, and that’s about it.

In case you don’t know, she’s a quilt fabric designer, and a damn good one. Her large-scale, showcase prints are baroque and meticulous, and her colorways are electric.

In person, she’s bold and wickedly funny — just what you’d expect from someone who hides animals in her prints. So many people wanted a piece of Tula at Sew Pro, we literally sat at her feet on the floor — even “sewlebrity” Mimi G. (see first pic)!

Tula talked about the importance of telling a story in your work. Each Tula collection is filled with a rogue’s gallery of characters with elaborate backstories. For example, her Halloween collection, Nightshade, features three murderous witch sisters. (Click to read the collection concept; it’s a hoot.)

These memorable backstories make the fabric easier to sell. Quilters get emotionally involved with the fabric.

Even if you’re not selling something, telling stories to yourself is powerful. Visualizing where you’d wear your handmade garments, who you’d be with, what your soundtrack would be, etc., make a sewing project more fun (especially if you’re struggling).

3.) Just do it.

Quilter, fabric designer, podcaster, and author Pat Sloan told us not to wait for things to be perfect. Be organized and quick, she said.

Now, this was advice aimed at creative-business folks, but it also works on a personal level. After you’ve got all your important tools in place, jump into a sewing project.

Don’t blunt your creative instincts with excessive research. Too much research is a form of procrastination — which is a form of perfectionism. Fail fast to discover what needs to change for the better.

Tula shared this excellent illustration to make a critical point:

A horse with forks for legs is a bad idea.

Ideas are weird. You can combine ANYTHING to get a new idea — even horses and forks. Now, horses and forks is a BAD idea, but GOOD ideas come from bad ideas.

So, get to that good idea by having a bad, imperfect idea first!

4.) Trust your people.

I hit the road with some new sewing friends! Here I am with (from left) Becca, Christa, and Kristen. If you want 3-ish miles to fly by, run with pals. Photo by Kristen!

Sew Pro convention was an opportunity to gather a bunch of creative-business peeps so they could collaborate and share what’s working for them. And boy, did they ever! Every session I attended featured people exchanging business cards, suggesting awesome vendors, and sharing cool tools — and more.

Sewing celebrity Mimi G. talked about the importance of building a community, and Sew Pro embodied that spirit. Mimi says, to be successful, surround yourself with people who believe in you and who believe in what you’re doing.

If you, sweet reader, don’t have any sewing friends, go get some! I will be your sewing friend! Sewing people are THE NICEST PEOPLE, and they want to help you grow! And they need YOUR help to grow!

Ask and people will help you. Get on Pattern Review, Kollabora, a Facebook group for sewing, Instagram, etc., and find your people. We’re waiting for you!

5.) Pace yourself.

Mimi G. identified moving faster than your knowledge as a mistake to avoid. She emphasized picking one thing to get good at before you add other parts to a creative business.

As a home sewist, pick projects that align with your skills and strengths. For example, if you’re a beginner, it’s probably not a great idea to go from making pillows to making jeans. It’ll get ugly. You’ll get discouraged.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself. It means you should maybe sew a skirt in between a pillow and a pair of jeans.

To me, the bottom line is, keep practicing! Practice those skills on scraps and muslins to avoid mucking up the fancy fabric.

Being kind to yourself in creative pursuits means setting up yourself for success during challenges.

BONUS TAKEAWAY — 6.) Make it yours.

And here’s a bonus nugget of wisdom from Tula’s talk: “It may not be perfect, but it’s totally mine.”

Here’s to owning your work, sewing friends!

Over to you: Have you ever been to a sewing conference? What was your experience like? If you were at Sew Pro, what was your favorite moment? Please sound off in comments!

P.S. In case you missed it, here’s my blog post previewing Sew Pro!