In this edition, Patty Burris is “Behind the Stitches.”
When did you learn how to sew, and then embroider?
I learned to sew pretty late in life compared to most and learned on my own. I have been sewing for about 15 yrs.
That’s very interesting. Many get the sewing and needlework bug as kids. What captured your interest?
It started with wanting to make clothes for myself. I bought a $50 Kenmore sewing machine. The enjoyment of sewing then turned into wanting to quilt. I have been an avid quilter for 10 yrs. I learned to embroider 5 yrs ago.
Is there anyone in your family who enjoyed sewing and/or other needlecrafts?
I never had a strong female role model in my life. The importance of crafting was never emphasized or encouraged. Although my mother sewed for others, she never taught me how to sew.
As you evolved into the embroidery enthusiast and business owner that you are today, what kinds of things did you enjoy?
It wasn't until I was in my early 20's that I discovered crafts. I started with cross stitch, plastic canvas and crochet. I would see projects that I knew a friend or family member would enjoy. I would buy the project supplies and run home to figure it all out. And now, thanks to the internet, I have met so many wonderful people. It is like have 3000 plus adopted moms :)
Did you join any clubs and/or take any classes?
I joined the American Sewing Guild to learn more about sewing in general. I knew there was so much I was missing since I was self taught and had never taken a class. I learned new and better techniques through listening and watching others. It gave me the confidence to try projects that I had previously looked at and thought “I can't do that.”
What was it about sewing and related needlecrafts that resonated with you?
I love seeing a project come together and take shape. Cutting apart perfectly good fabric and making it into a project may be insanity to some. To me, the thought of starting a new project has always been exciting. It is kind of like working a puzzle, but you don't really know what challenges you will have. The sense of accomplishment when a project is done is the best feeling.
What led you to machine embroidery?
I went into a sewing store to look at a new sewing machine and saw an embroidery machine in action. I was fascinated that a machine could stitch so much detail. I just knew I could incorporate the embroidery into my quilts. I have since dabbled in hand embroidery stitches for a crazy quilt, but love the instant results a machine can provide.
When did you start using an embroidery machine?
I started embroidering 5 yrs ago. I had never even seen an embroidery machine other than the one time I was in the sewing store. I went home from the store and started researching. I spent a month narrowing down what I needed and wanted in a machine. I bought a Brother ULT2003D. When it arrived, I opened the box and jumped right in. I never had a lesson on the machine and really had no clue what I was doing. That didn’t stop me. I fired it up and stitched a Minnie Mouse on a tote. I was hooked. I think that first week I stitched on every blank t-shirt and towel in the house.
Oh we can all relate to that – and so can our family and friends! There is so much to like about embroidery machines but what did you find particularly captivating?
I am somewhat of a techno geek. I was amazed at the capabilities of the machine. I wanted to know everything that it could do. That is why I learned to digitize. I wanted to understand how designs were created from start to finish.
Did you get the urge to dabble in free-motion embroidery with your regular machine?
When I discovered embroidery, machines were already pretty sophisticated. Having learned to digitize, I haven't had the push to try free motion. I admire those who have the discipline to sit and learn.
What were, and are your favorite projects?
As you now know, I started with wanting to use embroidery in quilts. Quilting and incorporating embroidery is still my favorite type of project. The challenge of designing a quilt around a set of designs has the biggest appeal.
How did your business get started?
It started as a hobby. I never bought my embroidery machine thinking this would be a launch pad into a new career. As a previous owner of a retail scrapbook store, I enjoyed great success in making a start up business work. When I moved to Arizona, I gave up my business and went back to the corporate world. I didn't last long. I missed being a major decision maker and having influence in how things ran. I decided to stay at home with my small children full time. When I got my first embroidery machine, it quickly progressed from stitching, to digitizing and then a business. I missed the interaction of working with customers on projects. This business has opened a whole new world for me.
You have a busy email list – how did that evolve?
After 6 months of having my website, many customers wanted to know when new designs were coming. I started with an email list, not knowing how fast it would grow. After about 2 months, I realized that an email list that large was unrealistic. I opened my yahoo group to establish a better way to communicate. It became a friendly forum for updates and more. People started sharing projects and ideas and the group quickly became a great resource for embroidery questions and design locating.
What future ideas and activities do you have planned?
I would love to expand my business into retail stores and offer complete projects incorporating my designs. The idea of complete quilt kits is especially appealing and I hope to one day move in that direction.
How did your hobby of embroidery and love of sewing help you get through tough times along the way?
My business has been a huge inspiration. When I started 4 yrs ago, I never would have imagined that so many people would become a part of my life. Crafters in general are some of the most giving and caring people. Like any business it has its ups and downs. It always seems during one of those "downs" that I find an email in my inbox from a customer or group member telling me about a project and how much they loved the design or the reaction from the person they gave it to. What may seem like something so small to someone else is huge to me and these things keep me going.
From my group a couple very worthy causes have been started. There is a spin-off group of embroiderers that send free standing lace angels to those facing hard times. This group showers a recipient with angels for a 30 day period. I never imagined the impact such a small deed could have until I read emails from those who received the angels or had a loved one receive them. Some of these recipients were in the final stages of life. The family members tell of how much the angels meant to their loved ones and what they now mean to them.
Through my business, I also started a yearly fundraiser for Breast Cancer. My very good friend was diagnosed 3 yrs ago. My world turned upside down seeing what she was going through. She was so determined and never let it rule her life. I wanted to do more than just be a supportive friend, so I started the yearly Breast Cancer design to raise money for a breast cancer cure. I had read so many stories about others who have breast cancer and how much this design means to them.
Do you have some sewing/embroidery tips to share that you've picked up along the way?
One tip...never try to get a stray thread with a running machine…lol. Seriously, I can't tell you how many times I hear stories about people getting a needle through the finger.
With my shoulder injury, I have slowed down, but only a bit. [During the interview stage of this article, Patty was preparing for surgery on her shoulder. She is now recovering nicely.] The hardest part about trying to embroider right now is changing threads. I have a 15 needle SWF and the thread holder is above chest level. That means holding your arms up to tie a knot and pull the thread through. I learned to move the spool I wanted to change over to my cutting table (at stomach level) and letting extra thread spool off before cutting it. Placing the new spool on the cutting table and tying it there and then moving it to the thread holder was the solution. Wasted a bunch of thread, but didn't hurt my shoulder.
You just find ways to adjust. I have also spent some of this down time [dealing with severe shoulder pain and waiting for surgery] reorganizing designs and projects.
Patty Burris lives in Queen Creek, Arizona with her husband Brad and 3 boys: Bryce, Reed and Parker. She enjoys riding horses when she is not at her computer designing. Her website is: http://www.sew-n-2-u.com/