T.E.S.T. Interview: Sew It Was

We hope to introduce you to all the great Etsy sellers to be found right here in Toronto. Here at the T.E.S.T. blog, we plan to interview them all. This is the 63rd in our series with Judy of SewItWasByJudy.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your shop.

I am a mom to 4 adult children, a gramma to 6 kids, and married to a very wonderful guy!
When I was a little girl my grandmother made my dresses. She inspired me to want to learn how to do this, so when I was 13 I took a Singer sewing course. I completed a lovely linen A-line dress with lace sleeves but when ironing it I pressed a full iron imprint into it! Clearly I had a lot to learn!
That was, however, the beginning of my lifelong passion for taking a flat piece of fabric and constructing it into something you could actually wear!
In 2012 I lost my job with TDSB [Toronto District School Board] to budget cutbacks. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the next few months of sewing and selling at craft fairs was the start of what would become my new venture, Sew it Was.

How did you get the idea for your unique creations like turning shirts into pants and shirts into aprons?

With lots of time on my hands I wanted to make some things for my grandkids, but this time I wanted to make something different. I was ready for a new challenge so I searched the Internet and came across the world of upcycling! This really intrigued me and decided to get it a try. My first attempt was to make a pair of toddler pants from the sleeves of a shirt. I thought they looked kind of cute and my husband said “you should call those Shants” so, that’s what I did!! Very quickly I discovered I loved taking something that once was and reconstructing it into something completely new and wearable. I kept searching and found there were lots of ways to refashion a man’s shirt, pillowcases, silk ties, and vintage linens. Friends and family members offered suggestions and some I came up with on my own.

You say many of your creations come from thrift store finds. Are there any “hidden gem” thrift stores in Toronto you’d recommend checking out?

Ha ha, I wish I did have a “hidden gem” but the truth is I do most of my thrifting at the Sally Ann. I can’t look at a man’s shirt now without seeing shants, skirts, aprons, baby shoes and even earrings! Whenever we do travel the first thing I like to do is check out the local thrift shop. I once found a pillowcase with a large Rocking Horse starting on the front and continuing on the back – it made the cutest little dress!

Where do you sell other than Etsy?

A friend suggested I check out the Arts Market. After I was juried and accepted I needed a business name. I sent out an email to my family (I am the oldest of 10) asking for suggestions. After 3 days I had 101 entries, I chose my top 7, sent it out again and Sew it Was came out on top! I loved it from the moment I said it out loud and it totally encompasses what I do. Many thanks goes out to my brother-in-law Gord.
The Arts Market is in Leslieville at 1114 Queen St. E.
I also have some Shants at Kid Culture, 3124 Dundas St. W.

Do you have any advice for fellow Etsy Upcylers out there, or folks looking to take the leap into something new when it comes to sewing/crafting, etc. in their lives like you did?

One tip I can pass on is something that has proved very useful to me. When I deconstruct an item I now cut a scrap and tape it into a notebook and write pertinent info beside it like fabric care and content. Then when I am adding a new item on Etsy a quick look in my book will give me my listing information. This has saved some much time!
For those that are thinking about taking the leap – just do it! You will never know unless you try. It’s a lot of work to get started on Etsy, I almost gave up but someone said just do a bit each day and eventually you will open.
I love the global aspect of Etsy, being part of this and talking to people all over the world is fascinating and “sew” much fun!

Check out the other items available from Judy in her Etsy shop! You can find more of her work on Facebook.

Interviewed by Tanya of TanyaHarrisonPhoto in November 2013 in Toronto.

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