Neci Love Harmon, What’s She Creating?

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Episode Summary

Neci Love Harmon is creator, host, designer of accessories, sewing teacher, and founder of What’s She Creating. Neci joins the Stitch Please podcast to share her origin story of how she got her start with sewing and how she uses both her brand and online platform to invite people to get curious and consider creativity so they can beautify the world by creating things themselves. Neci shares her experience moving from domestic sewing machines to industrial and computerized machines, why she made the switch, and her approach to acquiring her machine. Neci also shares how her brand, What’s She Creating, combines her teaching, creativity, sewing, and hosting skills. This opened up our conversation as we talked about her philosophy on creating content for her YouTube channel, why she shares her creativity and art with a broader community, and the opportunity she’s been given to teach others how to create something for themselves.

Episode Notes

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Lisa Woolfork  0:13  

Hello Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together. Hello everybody and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host Lisa Woolfork. And I am so delighted to welcome to the program Neci Love Harmon, What's She Creating? I really appreciate this project so much because I'm nosy. And when she said what she created, I'm like, I want to know what, what she created. I want to know, I like to know things. And so I really love the way that your brand is an invitation to consider creativity. And as people like, figure out what you're creating, they feel inspired to create things themselves and you help with that, too. So thank you so much Neci for being here. So glad to have you. Welcome.

Neci Love Harmon  1:25  

Yes, yes. Thank you. Hi, everyone.

Lisa Woolfork  1:28  

Alrighty, so let's get started with your sewing story. How did Neci come to sewing or how did sewing come to Neci?

Neci Love Harmon  1:36  

Okay, so my story is not traditional at all. Sewing actually came to me through sports. When I was younger, I used to play basketball. And I stayed in my grandmother's house for like a weekend while my parents went out of town. And she would not let me go to the park. I was bad, like “Grandma, please, let me go to the park, please, please, please let me go to the park. She wouldn't. The only way I could go is if I went with my granddad and you know, that spoils all the fun as a teenager

Lisa Woolfork  2:08  

I just woke up, “Go with granddaddy!” Well, then no, nevermind.

Unknown Speaker  2:11  

Yeah, I was like, "Nevermind." I was already heated, because she wouldn't let me do anything really. So I went in her back room because I was like, I don't wanna say nothing crazy to my grandmama. I'm going to just go in her back room, in her sewing room, and just start playing with stuff. And so who would have thought that that encounter, like started everything. Because from that point on, I think I got a pattern. And I read the pattern because I'm like one of those really, I got to read everything. I got to see everything. So I started there. And then, rest is history, right?

Lisa Woolfork  2:47  

I'm so excited that you were not the kind of surly teenager that I was, right? Or could try to be within the limits of my family style. Because if I had been told I couldn't go to the park, and I had to go sit down somewhere, I would not be, like, very cheerfully going back to my Nana’s sewing room and being like, “Well, my plans for the park had been canceled. And now I will develop a new hobby.” What was your mindset sitting back there saying like, well, I'm bored. I might as well try to sew something? 

Unknown Speaker  3:19  

No, no, my mindset was not that. My mindset was like, “I'm frustrated, I'm to the highest level of pissivity that I can be. And if I don't do something, like we already know, it's gonna be crazy.” So I won't disrespect my grandma. So because she, you know, provided food and clothes, you know, all that stuff.

Lisa Woolfork  3:38  

I’m honoring my elders, I'm honoring my elders. I don't want no bad report, because that's worse than disobeying the grandma, getting a bad report that you disobeyed grandma when the parents find out. So like you were doing this as a matter of survival.

Unknown Speaker  3:53  

Right, right. Yeah, it was straight survival in that in that situation.

Lisa Woolfork  3:57  

What was the first thing you made when you went back there and you were like, did you just sit down and just grab a piece of paper and just start stitching bad words, “Grumble grumble, grumble. I love basketball, I hate sewing.” Like, what were the things that you, to end up coming into sewing as an alternative to sports.

Unknown Speaker  4:18  

I don't know, I sat back there for a while. I sat back there for a while, and just was like, after a while I got bored and I would calm down. I was like, you know what, let me see about this, let me do this. I don't know what I created or if I made anything, but I know my first thing I made was this dress. It was kind of like a baby doll, spaghetti strap dress. I made that first and my dad said, "You wear that dress out. Like that dress probably has an odor because you wear so much."

Lisa Woolfork  4:53  

Her dress can walk by itself now. You always have it on.

Unknown Speaker  4:55  

I know, I wore that dress out. I think it finally fell apart. Like it just fell apart, because I didn't really know what I was doing. But yeah, that was the first thing.

Lisa Woolfork  5:08  

I love it. I love that the first thing you made was something you loved so much that you wore it out. You wore it out so people could see it. But you also like, wore it to shreds because you just loved it so much. And so has that spirit of attraction to the work and the creative process, has that continued from you over the years?

Unknown Speaker  5:32  

Yes. Always, always. It's kind of like when I come into my sewing room, just to touch the fabric is like "Aaah!" The touch of fabric just is amazing. So yeah, the spark is still there.

Lisa Woolfork  5:45  

I love it. And the idea too, what you're the kind of uh, oh, it's like this divine inspiration, this kind of like the light bulb gets turned on for your creativity. And you're just like, ready to go. And all you need is to kind of get into that space. And you are ready. I love to see it. So now you've gone from someone who was like a surly sower in the beginning, the very beginning to someone who's a joyful Sower. Right. How do you get from like, oh, to yay. Like, what I don't know.

Unknown Speaker  6:18  

I mean, it just happened. It just happened. I just kept doing it. Because I'm like, the type of person if I like it, then I'm going to go, I'm going hard. Like I'm going hard. So I think it started with that one thing my mom used to sell. She used to sew her own clothes. And I never really like I remember one time she made a Barbie dress. And she made it in like 2.5 seconds. And I was like, Oh my gosh, like how did you do that? But I never wanted to like learn it all. It's just that one particular moment, like, I guess made it happen. But it was just, I just kept doing it. I kept doing it until my mom was like, Okay, well, I'm gonna get you a sewing machine. I think she got it from my birthday. And I was like, Yes. And you know, it was all from then I still have that sewing machine. That's like my favorite sewing machine.

Lisa Woolfork  7:07  

Oh my gosh, I love it so much. I love it. I love that you have been able to kind of have this love and maintain it. And now you're sharing with other people. Right? You've got your YouTube channel, you've got all the stuff you do on Instagram. I've been really loving your reels like the series you did where you're talking to a friend on the phone over so I don't know why. I guess I'm just calling it because I was cackling Yeah, girl she does. So with a one HC my big breath. That dress is gonna be on the floor like it was okay. I wonder if you could tell us about what made you decide on what she creating as a brand title. Like what about that phrase? Is something really like,

Unknown Speaker  7:50  

one day I think I was daydreaming, right. I was daydreaming and I just heard people yelling, "What's she creating!" I just heard that. And I was like, you know what? That should be the name of my company. And I was actually going to create, like, my intro video to say that by you know how to do it? Well, maybe one day I will. But that's kind of where you guys started. Because I don't know what it was called before. But yeah, wow.

Lisa Woolfork  8:23  

It just kind of struck you what she created. It's funny because I think of it as an invitation. Right? As I was saying, because I'm nosy and I'm like, I want to know what she creating. Right? But with the way that you say it, it's more like a cheer like a group of people like you know, your fans, and everyone is again going what she created, right? Like, it's much more like, it's not really a question as much as a you know, it's gonna be something hot.

Unknown Speaker  8:53  

Yeah. And and it's always been like that. Like, it's always been like that. You never know what I'll do. Like, I remember when I was a teenager, I would just come outside and look, Mama, look what I made. Or I do that to my husband. I'm like, look, look at this. And he'd be like you made that? Yes, so you never know. You never know. I could be painting I could be you know, so we could be doing anything. You never know. One of the

Lisa Woolfork  9:21  

things I admire about you and definitely want to learn more from you about this is I think, don't you work with industrial machines or semi industrial machine? Yes, yes, I do. One of my goals for 22 is to acquire and practice sewing on an industrial sewing machine. Some of my friends and people who know me say why and I say, Why do you choose violence and why can't you just be happy? And I feel like I've learned a lot about domestic sewing machines and your domestic sewing machines. We mean the kind that you can buy on Amazon, the kind you can even buy from dealers, the brands that you kind of know and recognize the Vikings and Jenome and Baby locks and Fox and Singer Bernina. All those are considered domestic machines because they're used in homes, right? As opposed to the industrial machines that are used in factories. Right? You tell us about like your approach to acquiring an industrial machine. When did you decide that the machine that your mom got you that you love so much, was not enough for the sewing you wanted to do?

Unknown Speaker  10:26  

Right? Right, that's so true. I always thought that I would kind of incorporate leather, like real leather into my bags. I always knew that my machine didn't handle the type of leather that I wanted to do for some of the custom bag products that I had. And I always knew, like, maybe 10 years ago that I wanted to purchase industrial, but back then I was on like real shoestring budget. So I couldn't really do that. But I decided to acquire it because my machine, the stitches started getting loose. And I was just like, okay, well, it's time to upgrade now. So the money came through, and I was able to, you know, acquire one at a local space in Atlanta. It's great. I love it. I love the way the stitches are so beautiful. It's like perfect.

Lisa Woolfork  11:17  

That's what I want to learn more about what were some of the big transitions you had to make, from sewing on a domestic machine to sewing on an industrial? What was some of the differences that, like if I for example, I been sewing on a domestic for 25 years? I know most of them pretty much I know how to thread them. I know that you turn them thing up in order for you to do this. I know that there's certain things that you have to do all those domestic machines thread pretty much exactly the same. Yeah, pretty much through the thread path up on the hook for protection, just down the myriad what are some of the things that you might need to think differently about when approaching an industrial machine.

Unknown Speaker  11:57  

First, the threading is different, right? I always have to look up a tutorial on how to thread and like a bobbin. Cuz if you don't like wind it correctly, it messes up really quick on you and I have my lb loopy. So you have to do that correctly. And you know, threading gate itself can be kind of weird. I always have to look at a tutorial for that to go through. I don't read thread it on light. I'm looking at it now.

Unknown Speaker  12:24  

How fast is it? Oh,

Unknown Speaker  12:25  

I mean, I have it set. You know, it's not super fast. Like, I can't be I know it can go up really fast. But I just set it to, you know, so it's probably as fast and as a domestic machine. But I'm sure I can go faster, right. I don't care. I'll take my time. Yes. You know, I don't need it to go like

Lisa Woolfork  12:47  

Hey, Chris, Hey, what are you doing on Thursday around 3pm or so? You got 30 minutes to hang out with Lachlan lustige. You got 60 is so come through for 30 minutes. Thursdays. Thursdays 3pm. Eastern Standard Time. You can chill with black woman stitch on Instagram Live or talk with us through the two way audio on clubhouse at 3:30pm. Eastern Standard Time. That's Thursdays for 30 minutes. Come hang out chill and have fun with us. See you Thursday.

What about the needles? How do the needles on the industrial machine? Look? Are they the flat back like we have in the domestic? Are they more like a cylinder all the way around? Because I've seen some some needles as well. Like

Unknown Speaker  13:40  

they're more cylinder. Okay, more cylinder and you have to insert it from the side instead of the front. Oh, thread is inserted from the side instead of the front of the machine. Wow.

Lisa Woolfork  13:52  

Oh my goodness. And then the presser feet themselves on the industrial machine. Like I see them sometimes they look they're really cheap, but they like them either. Not I mean, I just like are they? The feet had just been like any other regular feet?

Unknown Speaker  14:07  

Yeah, I mean, it feels like the same. Why? Once I set the speed, then it doesn't matter how hard I push the foot it's not going to do anything. It doesn't move. Like the other ones can move on you. This one doesn't move. 

Lisa Woolfork  14:22  

That's another thing I was thinking too about. I would absolutely speed control because I can be a lead foot. Machine, unfortunately.

Unknown Speaker  14:32  

So Right. It also has a thing for your knee and you wish you had a knee lift. It has that and I like that option.

Lisa Woolfork  14:42  

I am definitely thinking about a similar scenario. I've already identified the brand that I want. It's not a standard sewing machine company. The company I'm going to go with is the one that makes machines for sailors. For Paul so sales on ships.

Unknown Speaker  14:59  

So it already You got me?

Lisa Woolfork  15:01  

I'm gonna be sewing leather. I'm gonna be sewing canvas.

Unknown Speaker  15:08  

On a regular machine. Why do you choose violence?

Lisa Woolfork  15:11  

Nice? You're having a good conversation and having fun and you hear, iterate on my dream, but I'm just

Unknown Speaker  15:18  

saying I have any pieces of leather. Are you gonna use like two pieces of leather? Yeah. Any machine?

Lisa Woolfork  15:24  

No, I know that I can't. Because I have tried. I got that expensive old machine that I have, which I love knock wood. I don't I'm not buying another one anytime soon. But I tell you what, I spit in the 1000s for this machine, and not pleat four layers of leather. And so it? Wow, it won't do it.

Unknown Speaker  15:45  

So I guess I have a question for you, man. Yeah, I haven't bought I guess. $1,000 domestic machine. It was more than $1,000. I asked someone else this question too. Like, why wouldn't you just get a basic older machine? Like I guess like a faff, you know, I wanted those heavy duty. Like, why wouldn't you get like a heavy duty machine? Why would you spend your money like 1000 more dollars on like an electronic

Lisa Woolfork  16:10  

$1,000 as well. It was expensive. It was not 15,000 which is how much the top of the line machines this brand cost. It was a fraction of that. But it was not just about it was not just 1000. So here's why I got it. I got it because I love notions and features. Okay, machine has one foot of space between the needle and the side of the machine. Okay, it has stadium lighting. Oh, yes, data. That's good. That's my sports connection right there. My machine, medium lightning stadium lighting. That's my connection. It has stadium lighting, it has self threading. It has self nodding and backstage it has about 500 stitches built in. It has USB connectivity. Okay, as it's sewing and embroidery, it also has a ton of built in embroidery stitches, as well as about seven alphabets. Okay, and the hoop size for the machine for the embroidery portion is great. Like eight by 12. That is okay, hoop as you guys are for embroidery, right. So I like it because I like stuff. And I like gadgets. And I like things that make my life easier. Right? And I mean, really, it's so funny because I'm like, wow, my sisters that really look my sisters are wonderful people. And they're they're very into like, designer things. And when my sister's like practical professional shopper, and so like, they'll be like, they'll buy me design. Most of the designer bags I have are gifts from them. And I'm like, dang, maybe spending the money bindings behind some magnets like this, you can buy back to you one buys machines. So Miss modest in the sister relationship were really not miss modest UI designer. They are it's just about designers they've never heard of like, baby, and Bernina. Right, right. So that's what I like about my machine. I like how pretty it is. I like that it doesn't, it doesn't really beautiful stitch. I like all the built in features. It has a laser. So I can have the laser that sews in a straight line. I can also do echo stitching by having the laser follow the previous row of stitching. And I know my stitching will be straight. So there's tons of features that have. So that is the reason. But I think for me, what I've noticed is the more computerized things you have. And now this is an old machine, the new ones have Wi Fi. Yeah, right. And so I think in my opinion, the trade off for all the computerized material in the core of a sewing machine is less attention given to the power of the machine, right. Okay, the power of the belt to push through layer, the power of the belt, you know what I'm saying? Like, yeah, it looks like to me now, that's absolutely true, because it embroiders very fast. And so there's a lot of great things about it, except that I can't so four layers of leather through it. And I know what this machine that I think I'll be getting, I can now you might ask Lisa, what are you going to sew four layers of leather. And I will ask you, why don't you keep bringing up old stuff.

Unknown Speaker  19:29  

My determination for a new machine, if I'm going to continue to do bags, is going to be can it sew through four layers. Other than that, I don't care nothing about embroidery. I don't care about self-thread. I don't care about any of that. Can is sew through four layers? Okay, we good. Go ahead.

Lisa Woolfork  19:45  

That's the thing that I think that my new thing also, the industrial machines are much cheaper. Yeah, much cheaper than those big fancy embroidery combo computer machines. And that wasn't a surprise. so much, wow, I can pay just this much. And it'll do all this. So I think it's fine for me to have another machine. I feel like I deserve it. I feel like I do a lot. And I would get some use out of it. And enjoy. And I do believe in having the right tools for project, right, I love to be provisioned. So that, hey, I need actually speaking of provisions, you are embarking on a new journey in your brand, with our encounters where you are, you are provisioning people who may or may not have a bunch of you know, they might not have five sewing machines. So this is a poor babies, they might not have the ability to do all the things that they need to do for creative arts projects. Can you talk about that development in your brand?

Unknown Speaker  20:44  

I've always been kind of like a hostess, my parents had parties all the time, regardless of if people called or not. So I've always done that over life. And I was a school teacher. I taught high school for a while, and we always completed these type of fun projects, because why not? Right? Why not? They aren't gonna give you the money.

Lisa Woolfork  21:06  

And you can learn with fun, love it. Love does not have to be tortured. Learning can be wonderful in the life, right?

Unknown Speaker  21:12  

So we would paint things. And we would just create things. We'd have jewelry parties and make bath bombs and different things like that. And I was like, you know what. After I quit the job, I was like, you know what, I could probably incorporate this in my company. It's really small, intimate event art things, indoor or outdoor, for people, for families, for children, for groups, or corporate events, etc, etc.

Lisa Woolfork  21:41  

And so what are some of the projects that someone could do if they were going to have an art encounter? Would they get a chance to choose between like painting or embroidery or chalk work? Like, what are some of the things that you bring to families and communities or corporate events, when you bring your art encounters

Unknown Speaker  21:58  

on I have one project, it's a painted pillow project. So I create the pillow. And then we use like tape and different supplies and you can create your own custom pillow design. I'm gonna have one where it's like a planter or painted planter is so we decorate the outside painted into different cool style. I have like a herb or something and some soil and so we'll plant that and do I like this stuff. I think I have a jury making project, a wallflower Katie project and it's one other projects I have five of them for now.

Lisa Woolfork  22:33  

And that's great. And I love that flexibility as well like, well, you know, we're not so great with plants because I kill everyone that ever comes into the house, I probably choose a parent, I think that is so creative. And I really love how you are bringing that creativity, like you're combining your teaching, your creativity, sewing and hosting all in one.

Unknown Speaker  22:52  

That's right, antastic.

Lisa Woolfork  22:54  

That is really wonderful. I wanted to turn a little bit to talk about your YouTube channel and about the work that you do over there. Can you talk about like what has worked for you in terms of your philosophy towards your YouTube channel? Like what kind of things can someone do through a YouTube channel? And what kind of benefits have you been able to receive from like doing so much in that arena?

Unknown Speaker  23:19  

Okay, so I started the YouTube channel about six years ago, I just did it because I was like, you know what, maybe I should just start teaching online. This is before I was even teaching sewing classes or nothing. I was just like, let me just put this out here and see what happens. And it wasn't really doing anything. But then there was one lady that said, you need to change, like your keywords, if you change her. She was like, this is a great tutorial. And it helped me a lot. And if you just change your keywords, I'm sure that you'll get like a lot of feedback from other people because I've looked for an hour, and I couldn't find anything but when I found your video, it helped me and so I was like okay, well, let me keep doing it. And so I just I started teaching sewing in high school. And because I was a Family Consumer Science or HomeEc teacher so I will teach someone in a high school and I would use my YouTube videos to teach them and so I just kept doing it. And so a lot of the people that comment on the YouTube page, they that is clear, concise, to the point and it's easy. And so that's what it is. And that's the type of comments that are getting. They're like "blessings girl, blessings." They give donations, but I do make a monthly cash incentive for doing it. So it's grown, but that wasn't the point. I just put it out there and it's just been growing ever since.

Lisa Woolfork  24:52  

I appreciate that so much. I was just listening to someone talking about their work and they're, you know, in the social media space. So if you have a project that you're passionate about this and you know, you got to be passionate about it, because you're gonna work at it for a long time. And money is like the last thing that comes. Right. And I thought that so to hear you say that, hey, I started this channel six years ago. And you know, I was able to really measure the significant impact that my channel has had on people sowing by someone reaching out to say, Hey, this is great. I want more people to see it, change these keywords and then, you know, and then that's that. And then that has worked. I'm so delighted. That's really great news. And I really love the encouragement that your story represents. To keep going. Just keep putting one Just keep swimming. Like I say in Friday. Let's just keep going. We need to wrap up our time for right now. But you know what the slogan for the stitch please podcast is we will help you get your stitch together. Right? So I'm going to ask you Neci love Harmon. If you could share some words of advice, someone came up to a sneaky missing. How can I get my stitch together? Would you tell them

Unknown Speaker  26:03  

take out some wonderful fabric, make sure it's colorful and it's poppin like Lisa's dress that she has on right now with the hood. And it's two tone. Use some nice fabric that's poppin. Be you, and don't let nobody tell you nothing different.

Lisa Woolfork  26:20  

I love it. And on that note, missy, thank you so much. Oh my gosh, what a wonderful time. How can we find you on the socials? I'll be sure to include all your links. But why don't you tell us in your own voice so people can hear from you.

Unknown Speaker  26:33  

You can find me on Instagram and Niecy little Carmen or on what's she creating on Instagram on my on YouTube at what she creating. I'm on Tik Tok at Mrs. Harmon. And I think everything else in the apartment. So Facebook and everything else. So

Lisa Woolfork  26:51  

you check me out. Check her out. Thank you. Nice to see.

Unknown Speaker  26:55  

Thank you. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Lisa Woolfork  27:01  

You've been listening to the stitch police podcast, the official podcast of black women stitch the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at Black women stitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, pa t ar e o n and you can find black woman stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month you can help support the project with things like editing transcripts and other things to strengthen the podcast. And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do for those that have like a star rating or just ask for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us at this dish plays podcast that is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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