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From Drab to Decorated

Ann Brodsky and her assistant, Shirley Robbins.
Photo: Joanna Strauss

In Threads #167, we featured SewBaby creator Ann Brodsky's two home sewing studios. One, a bedroom studio, serves for her personal sewing, while the other, a large basement studio, is where Ann teaches sewing and designs her patterns for children. Ann recently revamped her business/teaching studio. We thought you'd enjoy seeing more images of the newly redecorated space and reading some other aspects of Ann's story.

In 1994, she started her own business, SewBaby, specializing in fabrics and patterns for children's wear. Ann also teaches sewing at workshops for the community college near her home in Champaign, Illinois. Earlier this year, Ann and her assistant, Shirley Robbins, changed their sewing and shipping area to accommodate a sewing classroom (since many of Ann's community college students didn't have their own sewing machines). The result is an inviting space with lots of color and decorating details to interest sewers.

The studio is a single 700-square-foot room, a section of Ann's basement. The rest of the basement houses the SewBaby inventory. There are several sewing stations around the room's perimeter, with two large cutting tables in the center, a pressing station and shelving units on the side.

Ann has a huge pattern collection, covering five decades. "I wanted to share these wonderful vintage patterns with my students, so I framed the pattern envelopes and hung them around the room." For the studio's palette, Ann used raspberry pink, light aqua blue, black and white, and repeated the colors in the ironing board covers, picture mats, rugs, chairs, and furniture. Vinyl wall decals with sewing sayings are interspersed with the framed pattern envelopes. Since she couldn't do away with the basement sump pump, it's hidden by an office divider with a pretty Marimekko panel print.

"I learned to sew in 4-H with my mother as my teacher," Ann says. "She was amazingly patient, generous and encouraging. I was not always the most cooperative or appreciative student, but she somehow put up with me, and I fell in love with sewing and fashion. However, I didn't think that I could make it my career, so I studied nutrition, worked as a dietitian, then as a book editor."

Ann learned a lot about publishing and marketing from her work, and kept avidly sewing on the side, especially for her two little girls.

When her third child was born, she wanted to make a baby sling, but couldn't find a pattern. She developed her own pattern, and shared it with other sewing friends. That's when Ann realized that her sewing patterns could be marketable. She self-published her first pattern in 1994. It was featured in a magazine, generating enough orders to give her the seed money to start a small catalog with other patterns, notions and fabrics. Her fledgling business was a success.

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Comments (2)

Concordiabelle Concordiabelle writes: Beautiful use of space. Just one question, Ann, how long did it take you to get all the "creative mess" cleaned up for the pictures? My studio is never so neat! If it always looks like this, I'm amazed!
Posted: 9:40 am on May 17th

JaneNZ JaneNZ writes: What a fabulous makeover for your sewing studio. Loving all the space! Inspiring.
Posted: 2:47 pm on May 15th

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