Sew-lebrity Spotlight: Debora Davis Land

Debora Davis LandIn the March issue of the Cutting Edge newsletter, we started a new feature to spotlight ASG Chicago members. We’re a big chapter and cover a large area, so it’s hard to meet every member in person. So, in the newsletter and the blog, we’ll be turning the spotlight on YOU, our members, to get to know you better.

Debora Davis Land is a member of the Sew Chicago Neighborhood Group. Debora splits her time between the U.S. and Germany, shuttling her family and her sewing across the ocean. She keeps in touch with her NG through the blog, Facebook and email, but when she’s in the U.S., she’s easily back in with her ASG Chicago Neighborhood Group.

Debora's skinny jeansDebora sews a variety of things, including a pair of skinny jeans. Debora recently started a new business named Debora’s Custom Stitches.

Congratulations on your new business! Tell us a little about Debora’s Custom Stitches.

Debora’s Custom Stitches is a home-based embroidery business I started in December, 2010. Monograms, names, logos, and designs, stitched on most anything.  Unlike many larger embroidery shops, we have no minimum order – if you want 1 or 2 pieces, no problem!

Debora's Custom Stitches logoHow did you get started in the embroidery business? Was it a natural progression from one of your other interests?

I have been sewing for years. First curtains, then occasionally apparel. Then, when my youngest daughter was born nearly 6 years ago, I started seriously sewing because anything I bought RTW for her had to be altered, so it just became more efficient to sew all her clothes. And then I started sewing for myself, and by this time was seriously addicted! I can sew better fitting clothes than I can buy RTW most anywhere.

I’ve accumulated several machines and quite a large stash, and at some point my husband asked me if I couldn’t earn some money to offset some of my sewing expenses. In the area we live in near Frankfurt, there are lots of alterations and tailor shops and the prices are so low you couldn’t make any money just sewing. So, I pondered and pondered until when we were in Chicago last November for Thanksgiving… then it hit me. The opportunity was Personalization!

Debora's Custom Stitches bagWe’re part of a large expatriot community here, and many of the moms complain about missing Pottery Barn Kids and other similar shops in the US where you can get almost anything with a name or monogram. It simply doesn’t exist here! There are a few large embroidery businesses in the area, but they want to serve the sports teams and work uniforms markets, and probably wouldn’t take on single items. When we returned to Germany in December, I did some “market research” at the American Women’s Club Christmas luncheon, asking if people would be interested in the kinds of products I could customize if I got into the business. They were all thrilled and immediately encouraged me to pursue my ideas further.

I had been following a blogger, Kristine of kbdesigns74.blogspot.com, who runs a similar home embroidery business in the U.S., and so I e-mailed her to tell her of my interest and to ask what type of machine she used. She replied within a few hours, not only telling me what machine she used, but also giving me tips and pointers about what software I should use, where to get good technical support, and which yahoo-groups would be really useful. She was a real treasure trove of information!  I find that other embroiderers are so helpful!

Debora's Custom Stitches Lips bags

What a great network and support! In person and virtual. Tell us a little about your “baby,” your embroidery machine. Was it hard to learn? Your samples were beautiful from the beginning.

I have a Brother PR650 embroidery machine. This is a 6-needle, semi-commercial machine.  I bought it new in Germany from a very large sewing machine dealer.  The deal included the machine, PE Design Version 8, training at their site on my machine before I took it home, and software training. The machine is “portable”, but at 37 kilograms (81 pounds!) it really takes 2 people to safely move it. It just fit in the back of my car to take it home. The prices for the machines are less in the U.S., but I wanted local support and it was clear that this machine was too big to fit in luggage from our next trip home to Chicago.

It was actually quite easy to learn the basics of how to use the machine. I spent about an hour and a half with the instructor, and we covered the basics of machine set-up, stabilizer selection, framing, and design modification. We did many different materials, from knits to terrycloth to vinyl (faux-leather).  In addition to the training, I ordered a few books from Amazon.com about machine embroidery and digitizing, and subscribed to “Designs in Machine Embroidery” and “Flair” magazines. I also joined the yahoo group for the Brother 6-needle machines, and have learned so much reading the posts each day.

Debora's Custom Stitches MonogramIn general, I would have to say that it was surprisingly easy to learn. It gave me great confidence to see that the samples looked good from the beginning.I started with kids t-shirts and branched out to more complicated projects from there.

Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

Sometimes I want to create something for someone specific, and sometimes I’ve been surfing on some of the many machine embroidery websites for ideas and see something that really catches my eye. In addition to the yahoo group for machine owners, I joined the yahoo group of planetembroidery.com, which talks not only about designs from that site but many others as well. It’s great to see what other embroiders are making – the creative community is a great source of inspiration!

I was so thrilled when I heard that your business got to a great start…within hours of creating your Facebook page, wasn’t it? Did you expect to get to such a quick start?

I had read from the yahoo groups that several people were using Facebook to market their businesses. Since it doesn’t cost anything to set one up, I decided to give it a go and set up pictures, both on my personal page as well as a page for Debora’s Custom Stitches.

One of my first projects was a baby blanket and bib set which I donated to the American Women’s Club for their spring charity auction in March. I posted pictures of the bib and blanket, and within a couple hours I received an order for a pair of bibs like the donated one but with different color schemes. She was so happy with the bibs when I delivered them that she sent out a note to the Mother’s Corner group she runs here in the Frankfurt area, which is a group of several hundred moms. From that note, I have already received another order for 3 projects! I have been blessed with many people encouraging me, and the social networking really works!

Debora's Custom Stitches Baby Gifts

Ladies –
I wanted to make you aware that Debra Land (AWCT member and former MC) has started her custom embroidery business. She can basically personalize anything you want from baby things and t-shirts to pillows and towels… and everything in between. She just made me two adorable bibs for my friend who is having twins… “Spit Happens”.

If any of you are looking for a personalized gift…check her out! She is very reasonable and can pretty much personalize anything! She is on Facebook and her email address is above if you want to contact her with questions, etc. Phone is 0173 675 2934 Website will be http://www.deboraland.com (it is under construction).

Enjoy –
Leanne

Your business is based in Germany; as someone who travels between continents, what are some similarities or differences in sewing trends or tastes between the U.S. and Germany?

Most patterns here in Germany have to be traced, and they are quite expensive. There is no Joann’s or Hancock Fabrics who discount the patterns. I think most women who sew here are tracing from Burda magazine or one of the other magazines which comes out less often. It’s probably a little more “fashion forward” than the US Big 4.

Wow, so tracing out of Burda magazine every time you want a pattern? That’s patience. Is the selection of fabrics easily available in Germany? Or how is the fabric shopping experience different than it is in the U.S.?

Debora's Custom Stitches MonstersThe shopping experience here is quite different than in the U.S. Fabric stores here tend to be small, specialty shops. For example, one shop near my home specializes in Italian designer fabrics, while another one only stocks quilting fabrics. Although there are occasionally bargains to be had, in general it is much more expensive to buy fabric here than in the U.S. Since I do a lot of kids sewing, I find it quite difficult to find any cute kids fabrics here which are not quilting fabrics. I do most of my fabric shopping in the U.S., either in person when I’m in Chicago or through the internet, unless something just grabs my attention when I’m browsing here.

Another big difference is that fabric is sold at fabric stores, but notions are sold at notion stores. So, when I want to buy zippers or thread, I have to visit someone who specializes in notions. Luckily I found two really good notions shops in downtown Frankfurt, so I can get most of what I need.

So, if someone, either in North America, Europe or even Asia want to contact you about a project, how can they contact you and what kind of information do they need to send you?

The best way to contact me is probably by e-mail. I can be reached at stitches@deboraland.com.  I’m in the process of building my website, but it’s not published yet. Although I expect most of my business to be local to the Frankfurt region, I would also welcome the opportunity to bring beautiful projects with me on my trips home to Chicago. Custom work has to be paid in advance, but we take Paypal.

So, with the new business and keeping up two homes, do you have time to sew for yourself?

Yes, I still sew for myself because things fit so much better. Since I started embroidering I’m sewing less, but I still managed to get 20 yards sewn for the patternreview.com stash contest this year!  Normal sewing is so relaxing – a great battery charger for me!

Debora's Custom Stitches TowelsYou’ve said that you’re able to keep up with the Sew Chicago group via their blog. How’s the sewing scene in Germany? Anything like the ASG there?

If there is anything like ASG, I haven’t found them here yet. Anyone who is professionally involved in sewing or related crafts has to be a member of the Handwerk Kammer (Guild), but I don’t think that they offer any support and encouragement like the ASG. My sewing colleagues here are generally the people I know who work in the local fabric stores. We always compare notes on projects when I’m in the shop. I learn most of what I know about embroidery from my “colleagues” on the internet…

What’s your favorite sewing tool? Besides your embroidery machine?

I’ve become good friends over the years with my seam ripper….

Last question: Do you listen to music when you sew? If yes, what kind?

I’m thinking about listening to music when I sew ( I moved my ipad dock into my sewing studio), but I’m still sewing in silence…

Debora's Custom Stitches Buttons

Well, I don’t expect things will be quiet long. Thanks for sharing so much with us. Good luck with the business, Debora, and safe travels!

To see more of Debora’s collection, visit Debora’s Custom Stitches’ website or visit Debora’s Custom Stitches’ Facebook page.

Note: By the time this hits press, Debora will be showing her collection and samples at “fashionbreakfast mit Debora´s custom stitches” hosted by fashionbreakfast. Good luck at the show, Debora! We can’t wait to see you when you return to the States.

Images source: Debora’s Custom Stitches


Nominate the next Sew-lebrity!

Every sewist in the American Sewing Guild has a special gift and talent. We’d like to share that person with the rest of the chapter…and the blogsphere. What a great way to get to know the members of the chapter without traveling to each NG! To nominate the next ASG Chicago Sew-lebrity, send an email to either Flo Schneider or Tina Wong and watch for the next Sew-lebrity Spotlight in the blog or the next newsletter!

Not part of a neighborhood group? Toot your own horn and send us an email telling us about yourself! Don’t be shy! We’d love to get to know you.

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One Response

  1. […] In the March issue of the Cutting Edge newsletter, we started a new feature to spotlight ASG Chicago members. We're a big chapter and cover a large area, so it's hard to meet every member in person. So, in the newsletter and the blog, we'll be turning the spotlight on YOU, our members, to get to know you better. Debora Davis Land is a member of the Sew Chicago Neighborhood Group. Debora splits her time between the U.S. and Germany, shuttling her … Read More […]

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