Who: Alicia (Wietholter) Miller *Update: Alicia Wietholter became Alicia Miller in July 2015 when she got married!
Company: Swoon Sewing Patterns
Alicia grew up moving around all over the US but has lived in Harrisburg PA most of her life. She lives with "my 7-going-on-16 daughter Avelyn, my boyfriend, and his 4 year old son Ryder." Alicia and her boyfriend just bought a really cool house and you can see pictures of their home improvements and her furniture refinishing projects if you follow her on Instagram.
Besides designing and creating amazing handbags, totes and wallets, do you have other interests, abilities, super powers?
I enjoy anything DIY. I like restoring antique furniture, doing home improvement projects, etc. I also have a thing for Volkswagens.
How long have you been sewing? What prompted you to sew your first item?
I've been sewing for about 10 years. My mom randomly gave me a sewing machine for Christmas one year and I've been hooked ever since.
Was there a project that specifically “hooked” you? One that when you finished it, you thought, “I love this and I think I love sewing forever?”
Well, when I started sewing, I decided to jump right on in with difficult (for a newbie anyway) bag patterns. Amy Butler patterns hooked me. Love her!
When did you start Swoon Patterns? Did you plan to start a bag design company, or did it evolve into that?
It actually started out about 2.5 years ago as me selling finished bags. Or at least trying to. I'd often see on patterns that I wasn't “allowed” to sell items made with it. So I decided to design my own, I am a graphic designer so it came pretty easily for me. I listed two of them free on Craftsy and 2 years later, here I am. So it was never a plan, it just kind of happened. I had never even downloaded an indie PDF pattern when I began designing them, so I had to learn some tricks through fumbling my way through.
How much time do you spend designing and sewing each week?
I spend 6 hours every weekday at my studio and there is never any downtime there. When I'm not at my studio, I'm on my phone or laptop answering emails and posts in the Swoon Facebook group. So it's pretty much about 12 hours a day.
What is it about designing bags that you enjoy and are passionate about?
It's not so much about what I can do but what I can help other people do. That's what is really awesome. It's amazing that someone can use this template and instructions and create things that are beautiful. I just give them the base and they put in the work, effort, time, and skill to make something marvelous. The self confidence that comes with both helping and that the maker feels when they finish a gorgeous bag is the best part of all of this.
What would you say to someone who has never sewn a bag? How would you encourage them to give it a try?
Any ambitious beginner can sew a bag. And know that they aren't a cake walk for anyone, no matter the skill level. As mentioned above, I learned how to sew by choosing the most difficult patterns because those are the ones I liked. It's a good way to learn. You don't have anything to lose but a little fabric, and some time (possibly a teensy shred of sanity). The knowledge you gain in the process will be worth it.
What do you think is most important to keep in mind when sewing a handbag for the first time (a technique, something to watch for, a mindset)?
Bags are, as a whole, relatively pretty tough. There are a lot of layers usually, but don't be afraid to show that bag who's boss. You may need to smash it, beat it, scrunch it... just remember that you can always reshape a bag when it's finished. Also very important in bag-making, don't skimp on the interfacing! It can make or break your bag.
What are your personal top three favorite patterns and why?
Out of my patterns, I love the Glenda, Vivian, and Betty. Glenda is one of those bags that is relatively quick but always looks fabulous in the end. Vivan is a bit more work with piping but she's so classy looking when she's finished. And Betty is just an older classic. You can use many different fabrics with her. For other patterns, I do love the Emmaline Necessary Clutch Wallet. It's fantastic!
What is your favorite sewing tool you own?
My industrial Juki is pretty amazing. I also use Beacon Fabri-tac fabric glue way more than I should.
What item currently tops your sewing wishlist?
A steam press but I sadly don't have the room for one right now.
Can you think of a memorable project that didn’t go right - something Sew Not Perfect – that you had to abandon or work to correct? Or do you have a pet-peeve sewing mistake that drives you crazy whenever you do it?
I have a lot of things I do accidentally when sewing. I try to make a point of mentioning them in my instructions so others don't make my mistakes. One common mistake would be leaving zippers closed shut on a bag I need to turn later.
What were you most excited about or pleased with for Swoon in 2014?
Growth! Swoon has grown so much in the past year. I hope it continues but if so, I may need to find a hire someone to help me! Also that I was able to quit my corporate job as a Graphic Designer and do this full time. That could have been one of the best days of my life.
What are you most excited about for Swoon Patterns in 2015?
I was under contract to write a sewing pattern book; vintage bags being the theme. But, the publisher and I couldn't agree on the finished book and how to include pattern pieces which was very important to me. I pulled out of the contract and will be instead releasing those patterns in a “Vintage Collection” later this year. I'm really excited about it!
Thank you, Alicia! And thanks to you, for stopping by to read. Be sure to visit the Swoon Website, Pattern Shop, and Facebook Page and group. Also, Alicia generously offered her three favorite Swoon patterns as giveaway prizes. Enter below! (and you can earn more entries by participating in our February Link Party)
Don't Miss These Free Swoon Patterns: