A passion for sewing and a determination to find a way to share her love and knowledge of sewing is what inspired Helen Bartley, Certified Sewing Instructor and corporate educator for Palmer/Pletsch, to leave the 9-to-5 world and open her own business in 2008.
A business like no other, Seam Divas Sewing Lounge is a place for learning, inspiration and creativity. A home-based business (literally starting in her garage), Bartley built Seam Divas from the ground up while being a single mom and raising two young daughters. The sewing lounge space has since moved and expanded to the main living and dining area of the main floor of her home.
“It didn’t happen overnight, but I knew I really wanted to do something that I had a passion for,” she said. “I was juggling two jobs and it took over 10 years of planning, a life coach and buying a house large enough to accommodate the space needed to create a business I could run out of my home. Getting to a place where I could quit my job and teach sewing full time was quite the process.”
Bartley recently held an open house to celebrate her 10 years in business.
A variety of small hands-on classes are offered (never more than four students), and all the equipment (sewing machines of course), space and materials are available as part of the class fee. Each student is assured to get plenty of personal one-on-one attention by Bartley throughout the class time.
Bartley learned to sew from her mother who began teaching her at the age of 6. By the time she was in high school she was taking classes in home economics and making her own clothes.
“I really began sewing more because clothes just didn’t fit me,” she said. “I was tall, long waisted and had long arms. I made almost all my own clothes during my teen years and then began college at Eastern Washington University where I studied clothing construction, fashion design and textiles.”
Part of her journey was connecting with sewing expert, author and educator Pati Palmer of Palmer/Pletsch International School of Sewing, who just happened to live and teach across the river in Portland, Ore. Palmer is a pioneer in pattern and tissue fitting, and is perhaps best known for her years as a designer for the McCall Pattern Company. Bartley attended a workshop titled “Fit for Real People” that was taught by Palmer and Marta Alto, and then followed up with the teacher training course and became a Certified Sewing Instructor (CSI).
Eventually, Bartley was hired by her sewing icon to assist and eventually teach some of her two- and four-day sewing workshops. As part of the Palmer/Pletsch teaching team, Bartley, now a corporate educator, also develops classes and workshops and keeps busy teaching year-round, which she really loves.
“The cool thing is that women (and occasionally men) come from all over the world to attend these sewing workshops,” Bartley said. “We have a group of 12 women coming from Australia for a workshop this summer as well as from Japan and Canada. There are only seven people in the country, including myself, who teach these types of classes as Certified Sewing Instructors, which is something I am very proud to be a part of.”
“The best part of the Seam Divas Lounge is that I get to share my knowledge, training and passion while helping people make something with their hands, they are essentially creating and designing something unique,” Bartley continued. “I get to bring out the ‘maker’ in them, which is so inspiring in today’s busy world of fast paced technology.”
For more information, class schedule and Bartley’s sewing blog, visit the website at www.seamdivas.com.