Thanks I Made Them! with Bianca Springer

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Featured in the following publications

Threads Magazine Holiday Guide

Sew Quick + Easy

Bianca says: I try to make things that are first, meaningful to me. If I share it and it connects, inspires, delights or motivates someone else, that is wonderful to me. From a business perspective, having exposure and visibility of my products on large platforms is important to spread the word. I appreciate it when it happens and will not turn those opportunities down. I have noticed however, that exposure does not necessarily drive sales. The individual customer who is excited about their order, the ease of use, the diversity of designs that are a reflection of their values, do. The story post, the unboxing post, the IG or Youtube videos showing their enthusiasm is contagious. They tell a friend and the cycle of kindness continues. I don’t ask for it and I know it takes work on their part. It is meaningful to me that customers go above and beyond to support me and spread the word.

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Thank I Made Them

Lisa Woolfork 0:15

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'm your host Lisa Woolfork and I am honored, thrilled, delighted and so happy to have the guest that we have today. I am speaking with Bianca Springer of "Thanks I Made Them" and it's very difficult to summarize, Bianca, and all the influence that she has provided and the leadership and the work that she has given to the sewing community. I will start by saying that she is a blogger. She is a writer, a pattern designer. She is an Etsy shop owner. She works and supports the international quilt show, she hosts sew in meetups, she is a connoisseur of vintage patterns. And she manufactures pattern weights, which holds a special place in my heart, because I think that pins are the agents of chaos. So I am so happy to welcome you here. Bianca, thank you so much for being with us today. Thank you and welcome.

Bianca Springer 1:54

Thank you so much,

Lisa Woolfork 1:55

Lisa,

Bianca Springer 1:56

I am excited to be here and to be talking with you. And yeah, I'm excited. And I am the introvert and this is not my wheelhouse. But this I am excited to do, and I'm excited to talk to you.

Lisa Woolfork 2:10

I am too. I am looking forward to it. So let's get started talking about your sewing journey. Where does your sewing story begin?

Bianca Springer 2:19

Oh goodness, I grew up in the Bahamas, and my mom sewed all the time. And functionally, though, or it felt that way it was such an everyday occurrence. The machine was set up, she would make my school uniform, she would make her clothes for work. She'd do home decor, whatever we needed, she would just whip it up and made it seem easy. I remember some watching her do the pleats. My sister and I went to private school and all of our skirts were pleaded. And she would just sit at the machine, no pattern, no markings and just fold the plate, fold the plate all the way around, and then whip on the back waistband and hem it up. And it just seemed so effortless. And that's what sewing was. For me. It was it looked effortless. It looked utilitarian. It was functional. But I didn't appreciate it as a creative outlet. It was just something we had to do. It was cheaper for my mom to make our uniform. So she did. So I appreciated it to some extent, but I didn't embrace it. I did, I would whip up a backpack just for the heck of it. She would make my costumes for the productions I was in. I was in drama, and I was in a clown troupe and she made my clown costumes.

Lisa Woolfork 3:46

You were in a clown troupe? I'm sorry, I don't know how I'm gonna be able to skip past that. You must tell us. I don't know how you thought you were just gonna slide by the word clown troupe. And think that I wasn't gonna say nothing. So please take a small digression to tell us what a clown troupe is.

Bianca Springer 4:05

Okay, so I went to private school, and...

Lisa Woolfork 4:08

That is not helping me learn about clowns. I know about private school. I did not realize that somehow clowning was an essential characteristic, but that's okay. Im gonna let you continue. You went to private school and then you joined the clown group. This is like a very complicated story.

Bianca Springer 4:25

It is. So I one of my one of my classes was drama. And I was in a drama class. And then one of our teachers who my homeroom teacher started getting kids together to do little skits. And we do little skits and perform the chapel and the assemblies at our school. And then she started to do, she took over the drama production of the school. And I got excited in seventh grade. I was in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Lisa Woolfork 4:56

Oh Wow.

Unknown Speaker 4:57

I was in the chorus. And my excitement for drama started there. And throughout junior high and high school, she created a group called Streetlights. It was a drama ministry troupe. And we would put on drama sketches for our school and go to churches and travel around the schools in the Bahamas. And then ultimately, part of that drama turned into a clown ministry, where we would perform for younger kids and schools at parties. And some of those parties actually funded trips to Cuba, and the UK and Wales. And yes, so we were doing...

Lisa Woolfork 5:41

Clowning was so lucrative! I would never have thought.

Bianca Springer 5:46

It really was.

Lisa Woolfork 5:47

I feel we have only been talking about five minutes, and I have already learned so much clown ministry, clown troupe, I need at clown revenue. And it's just very exciting. So you were in the troop. You were traveling. You were doing this ministry as part of your school, and you all needed outfits. So

Bianca Springer 6:07

Yes, yes. And so my mom made my clown outfits. And they were always really fun and cute. And I think I was maybe in 11th grade, when I started to understand that it was work for her. She enjoyed it, but it was work. And so I decided that the next costume I was going to wear I was going to make and so what I did was I repurposed a jumpsuit that she had made years ago, it was black and the color had started to fade, black and white polka dots and the colors and started to fade. So I'm like, you know what, let me deconstruct this. And I added a poet top that my sister had discarded, and I built a new clown costume for myself. And I came up with this whole new character. It was Domino, and she was, she had red hair, and she was wearing black and white. And it was a sophisticated clown if you can have a sophisticated clown.

Lisa Woolfork 7:01

My goodness. Of course if you were the clown, it would have to be a sophisticated clown. We know a little bit about you and your work, you are not going to just be an unsophisticated clown.

Bianca Springer 7:11

Oh, thank you.

Yes, so I started doing little things like that, where I recognize my mom is doing a lot of work. But also it starts to feel fun for me when I had a purpose to my making. And then I I went away to school. And it was cheaper to buy things. Coming from an island bought making was important because import taxes were so high. And it was, it was easier to make stuff. But when I moved to the states for undergrad, buying curtains from Walmart was just cheaper. And so my sewing fell off. I did pick it up a little when we were married. My mother in law bought me a sewing machine, I believe on the, for the first birthday that I was married. And I had it but I didn't use it very much. And goodness, six years later, maybe? No, yes. Anyway, a few. Several years later, I had my first child, my daughter. And I was an unexpected stay at home mom, because she was, I had a complicated pregnancy. And she was premature. And I had exhausted all of my leave time before she was prepared or strong enough to go to daycare. And I decided. Okay, this is what we prepared for this will be saved for so I stayed at home with her. And I would look at these wonderful, adorable clothes and these boutique stores and think $45 for that?

Lisa Woolfork 8:47

I know for a little tiny, it takes all of a quarter yard of fabric and the baby can't even walk yet to get it dirty. And they're growing so fast.

Bianca Springer 8:55

Yes. And one heavy burp and it's ruined. So yes,

Lisa Woolfork 8:59

yes.

Bianca Springer 9:00

I just certainly wasn't about to do that. And I was, many times I just said you know what? No, I can do it for less. And my mom was like, yeah, girl, come on. Let's go grab a paddle. Go do that. And so I started sewing for her. And that really got me excited and reignited with my love for sewing. She was so adorable. And she was so grateful for everything I made that it was great. Yes, yes. And so I was making for her and then I was making for me, and we'd go out and she'd be in her cute little dress and I'll be in my skirt with the coordinating fabrics and people would stop us Oh, you guys look so cute. And I'd always say thanks. I made them. And I was saying it so often, my friends, who at that point had asked me to teach them to sew, we would we'd hang out and we'd have our little sewing meetings at my kitchen table. And they said, eventually, they're like, you probably need to start a Etsy store or a blog or something. And I was reluctant. But they were all like, look, you just need to do this. And the name was a no brainer. They're like, what are you gonna call it? Like, thanks, I made them. So can you. I'm not making stuff for nobody.

Lisa Woolfork 10:23

There you go, I love it.

Bianca Springer 10:27

So that's how the teaching end came in too. So I told people, I am not interested in making things for you. I do. At times I do take commissions and do custom work for people. But that is not where my passion was. I love teaching people to sew. And that's where that part of it came in.

Lisa Woolfork 10:50

This is so beautiful Bianca and I want to trace back this beautiful sketch that you created for us. So you started with a vision of sewing, and something that was utilitarian, practical, money saving, but also based in care, right, your mom, the sewing machine was always set up, you need a uniforms, and it made more sense to make them rather than to buy them. And then you got to also see, when you said that you made your own costume, you had seen that what your mother was doing, even though it was something that she did all the time, it was an everyday type of thing, it was still work. And so that's something that I think might have, that what I can see, has shaped your own approach. And so when you said, I love this part, when you said, when you had a purpose to your making, and that you found the joy in it that way. And to me that felt like you were giving your mother a gift to say I'm going to make this myself that way you have less work to do. And I can do some of it for myself. And it's also I don't know, it just felt like a really beautiful story of kind of learning and being inspired. And now, and then when you started sewing for your daughter, who was so grateful and excited, you're like continuing that kind of tradition, you're continuing this cycle of mothers making four daughters making for mothers. I don't know, it's just a really beautiful story. So thank you so much for sharing that. And I love your name. And I love how organic and real it is. Because what I like about your name, "Thanks! I made them! Sew can you" is that it saying, It's gracious, It's saying thank you. I made this. And then the so can you part is you can do it to parentheses because I am making

Bianca Springer 12:36

Yes. Absolutely

Lisa Woolfork 12:39

I totally love it. I totally love it. So you had some friends who propelled you. They believed in you. They're like you're doing this already? Why don't you document what you're doing? And so is that when you started the blog?

Bianca Springer 12:52

Yes, I think yes. I actually I think I started to to go to pattern review. So in pattern review,

Lisa Woolfork 12:59

Yes. Oh, my gosh, that was back there. Like way back in like the 2000 and fours and fives and sevens. Like a long time ago. It's such a good resource continue.

Bianca Springer 13:10

Yes, Yes so I didn't know where to look. I didn't know where to start. I am not social media savvy. I am not a tech guru. And I didn't know where to look. And I found I liked PR because people were reviewing the patterns. They were saying this is what worked for me this is what didn't. And so I started sharing some of my makes there. And using flicker.

Lisa Woolfork 13:36

Yeah wow, I remember flicker. Oh my god.

Bianca Springer 13:40

Yes, I know. It's so embarrassing to go back through some of those pictures.

Lisa Woolfork 13:44

It's not embarrassing. It's kind of having an old school AOL email address.

Bianca Springer 13:48

Oh, I remember that. Yes. And so I started documenting on pattern review with a Flickr account. And as I was engaging more on the site, I saw other people had blogs and eventually said I would do that. But not in, I feel like I as I look at other bloggers, so as influencers, I feel like I was not an I am not as intentional as they have been in terms of building their brand. And so my blog is I don't have a website. I probably need to move into a website now. But my I still have a blogspot web blog. And it still serves me well. And so I feel like there are other bloggers like when you talk about sewing bloggers, I feel like I am a sewist with a blog as opposed to a sewing blogger, if that makes sense.

Lisa Woolfork 14:50

Yeah, because, so tell me more about that. So I'm trying to understand the distinction. So you don't call yourself a sewing blogger. You are calling yourself a sewist who happens to have a blog? Why, what? That's it? Why is that distinction important for you?

Bianca Springer 15:06

Because I feel like sewing bloggers have schedules, they have plans they have...they have built in sew-a-longs. They have tutorials, and it's so intentional. And my process is not that. I feel, I feel like I, I get creative inspiration, I come in my studio, I make something I write a blog post about it. I don't, you don't see a blog post dropping from me every Wednesday. I don't have a specific schedule that I meet. And I've and for me, that is constricting, that stifles my creative process. And I feel like sewing bloggers do well with that routine they do they take advantage of building a weekly schedule for people to follow. And that expectation is there and their followers, return to them for that. I am a little schizophrenic in my making. So I make what I want to make when I want to make it. And I will tell you about it when I do. I fell like that is, that is less business oriented than most people, than the sewing bloggers are Does that make sense?

Lisa Woolfork 16:30

Yes, it does. It seems like you are talking about the process, you're talking about... you don't have a schedule or routine that says, Okay, my blog, I have to make sure that I'm promoting, I have to make sure that I'm producing, I have to make sure that I make sure I'm posting here and there so people can come to the blog. You are talking about instead, you lead with the sewing instead of leading with the blog.

Bianca Springer 16:56

Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 16:56

And maybe that's the distinction. And so I really appreciate that. At the same time. No one else, well maybe someone, but I as a as, someone who reads your blog, I don't notice the process. All I see is the results. And when I look at the results, I'm like, Oh, that's a really cute little safari outfit she's got on! And look at all these, look at all these fabrics that she chose. That's really cool! Look at the projects that she's in. Those are the kind of things that I feel are indeed such an important contribution. So even if I don't know, so when you say that you are not a sewing blogger? Do you feel some sort of would you want to do anything differently? Or are you... I don't know, I don't see like why you would want to change or need to change.

Bianca Springer 17:49

Oh no, that's not a criticism of myself.

Lisa Woolfork 17:51

Ok good, I just wanted to make sure.

Bianca Springer 17:54

No, that is not. It's not an indictment of myself or those who follow the routine and those who have a set schedule. I appreciate that that's where they thrive. And they do well, I think, yeah, so my making that distinction is simply, hey, I'm gonna do what I want to do, my process is just more free flowing. And I appreciate that when people come to my blog, they will see a project that they are excited about because I'm excited about it. They're not going to see something that's posted just because it's Tuesday. I'm not going to just randomly share stuff with you to fill a quota or to try to get numbers up. That is just not me. I feel like the people who follow me, the people who appreciate what I do, appreciate that about me.

Lisa Woolfork 18:50

Yes, yes, absolutely. It's that and that's part of that connection. And it's also about community, and that people understand and feel like I want to support and I enjoy and appreciate what Bianca is doing. And she's working and offering all of this beautiful information and photographs and advice and counsel. And she's got to do that on her schedule. And I think that's the best way to get it because if it becomes too routine, sometimes that can sap the joy right out of it.

Bianca Springer 19:25

Yes.

Lisa Woolfork 19:27

Transition just a little bit since we're talking about the blog, if we could talk a little bit about some of the other writing that you've done. And for those who might not be aware, Bianca has written work for "Sew News", for "Creative Machine Embroidery", which is a magazine that I always enjoy because I do machine embroidery on occasion. And I always look at the magazine and I'm like "Oh I would love to do that one day but not tomorrow cause I want to make a dress tomorrow". I really like the projects in both of these things like one of the ones I thought was so sweet, of course, was the the citrus pillows.

Bianca Springer 20:03

Oh, yes

Lisa Woolfork 20:04

How perfect was that? Can you talk about what it means to write and contribute to go from blogging, which is as you said, it's something that you could do in a very organic way you sew something you write about it. What is the difference between that, which is driven by your own motivations and your own schedule, to writing for a publication like "Sew news", or "Creative Machine Embroidery"?

Bianca Springer 20:29

I think relationship is what's different. I was just sharing my projects on Instagram when the editor sent me a message. And I didn't know who she was, when she, as she interacted with my Instagram posts. But she sent me a message and said, Hey, I love what you're doing. Would you be interested in taking this project, my flower resist concept, and turning it into an article or tutorial for the magazine? And I was excited! I said, sure, why not? And so that initial project was something that was based off of a passion of mine that I shared. So the process of that, if you remember, it came from my Harvey dress. It was a dress that I made, while hurricane Harvey was ravaging our city, and we were stuck. And I was just using the fabric and the paint and the process, to get my emotions out and deal with five days at home, with my family watching waters rise and being terrified that it would come in my house. And so that very emotional project is what sparked that first contact with Amanda. And moving from that point, all of our follow ups were her suggesting "Hey, here's what we were thinking, are you interested?" And it's always an inspiration that I am given some freedom to work with. And so I feel like there is an organic element as well, because she will send a picture, there's a mood board that we look at. And I can say I want to choose, I usually submit several ideas from the mood board, and then she'll come back and tell me what, what she thinks will work best for me or what they need. And then I can come back and say "Hey, I looked at this mood board and I feel like something's missing. Can we do this instead?" And so the fact that she's open to new ideas from me, the fact that she will reach out to me for projects that I hadn't even considered, or will connect me with other people and other brands, makes it... it does not feel... it feels organic. It feels like I have some freedom to be creative. And so that relationship really helps. The fact that I can say, "I'm not feeling this fabric, I'm not feeling how this looks right now. Can I consider this instead? What do you think of that?" So having freedom and being able to comfortably say "Hey, I need a Black model. And I need her to have some nappy hair." And to have her say "We are on it. That's exactly what we were thinking." So being able to reach out and speak up and use my voice and feel like I'm heard, really makes working with both of those publications easy. She is the editor in chief for Sew News. And then there's someone else Kate, for Creative Machine Embroidery, but it's all the same company. I feel like having been able to speak up, have them listen, have them respond, have them come back with alternatives and feel like not just a machine knocking out projects. I feel like because it's a collaborative effort. It does not. It feels good. It's not... it doesn't feel forced.

Lisa Woolfork 24:06

Yes, that sounds really wonderful. I really love that because it does describe an organic process. Like you were being yourself this entire time. You were being yourself on your blog, you were blogging according to your schedule and letting the projects leave you. And then that got recognized by someone else on Instagram, who wanted what you did what you do, your work. Not to turn you into something, like to turn you into their employee, but to basically... your work and what you're bringing forward is really elevating their publications. And so I love this kind of collaborative energy that you're describing, because it allows your voice and your perspective and energy to shine through. So thank you so much for that. We are going to take a quick break everybody and when we come back and we continue this amazing conversation with the Bianca Springer of Thanks I Made Them! And Sew Can You. Stay tuned.

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Welcome back, everyone. You're listening to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I am talking today with Bianca Springer of Thanks I Made Them! Sew Can You. We're going to talk now about Bianca and sewing community and how she has these different meetups, how she gets involved with events, local events, like the international foot market and her Etsy shop. So here we go. Bianca, tell us about your sewing meetups. I read about one of them in Sew News. So can you talk a bit about writing that article and what you think is important about building a local meetup.

Bianca Springer 27:00

I found myself sewing alone in my house, but connecting a lot with people online and feeling very connected with my social media community. But felt like I was missing something. And I just I used... like I said, I started sewing with friends in my kitchen all those years ago. Yeah, but that fell off as we all had more kids and life got more busy. And so I just thought you know what! I know there are locals around here, there are people so in here, we've got Joanne's everywhere. Hobby Lobby, Michaels, all these stores. So there are people sewing, and I want to hang out with them. I want to meet them. So I I reached out on my Facebook and Instagram and just said, Hey guys, come I'm going to be at... we're going to rent well... not rented, I reserved some space at the local library and just said "It's free. Come on out, bring your machines, we'll talk we'll hang out." And this was also partially because I was teaching so many students that I realized that I was... they were learning for me, but I wasn't learning from anyone else. In a hands on setting.

Lisa Woolfork 28:21

Yeah.

Bianca Springer 28:22

And I felt I needed to continue to grow. And that would happen if I was around people, other people who sewed and who had different sewing perspectives. And I also wanted my new students to have a place to come and sew where they didn't have to pay. Because as a teacher, as their teacher. Yeah, you gonna have to ante up.

Lisa Woolfork 28:43

Yeah you're gonna be paying me. Like hashtag pay Black women, starting with Bianca Springer, who was teaching you how to sew.

Bianca Springer 28:51

There we go. And so I felt like there was a lot that one my older students could teach my younger students my newer people, but also it helps you to be connected with others. And so I reserve the space of the library, and we just show up, we bring our machines, anyone's welcome. They can come stay as long as they want. And we also connected with another group. So we're in pear land, which is more Southern to Houston proper. And there is a Houston group that was meeting at a local cafe. And so we connected with them as well. And then there's another group in Katy, that we've connected with. So there are several because Houston is so big. There are several little pockets of communities where people get together and... I just wanted to have a place down here where we didn't have to drive 45 minutes in the traffic and back and so it's been really great. There have been some people who've come once and leave others have been there from the beginning and continue. And I have... I hate PDF patterns, I will use them if I need to, but that is just not where my love is. But there are people in our group who have taught me to appreciate PDFs, have given me the connections to get them printed, and rightscale, showed me tips and tricks to cut them faster and better. And so it's amazing. I have there are people who who use the knee lift, I never used the knee lift on my machine. And they're using the knee lift, and I am like "Ah, that's amazing!" Then there was someone else who has a walking foot and she permanently has her walking foot on her machine. And just sews knits like a fiend. And so it's just amazing to learn from them. And just, and what's beautiful is everyone is... they don't realize how amazing their particular thing is. Until someone's " Are you kidding me? That's amazing!"

Lisa Woolfork 31:01

It's like "What are you doing oh my gosh! You're using dental floss to gather that?" "Oh, my goodness, thank you for telling me about that. You've changed my life."

Bianca Springer 31:10

Yes, yes, there's so many of those moments and you walk into the room and people flock to you. And they're looking, they're turning up your hands. And they're looking at your belt loops and just amazed at your pockets. And it's beautiful. Because you're in a space where someone really understands the work that went into that welt pocket. And they will High Five you and cheer for you.

Lisa Woolfork 31:34

Exactly! And thats one thing I really love about what you've said, and this is something that I think people don't really realize for... for teachers is that sometimes if it's not a reciprocal process, if you feel like you just... if you're just outputting and sharing and teaching, you need to have your batteries recharged. You absolutely need to because otherwise, at least for me, I feel really depleted after teaching, although I don't teach sewing in the way that you do. I feel tired. And when you said that, what I was doing all this teaching, but I wasn't doing a lot of learning that really hit home, because there's so much about sewing in the world that continues to grow and evolve and change. And if you don't have any inputs for that, if you're not able to have this wonderful exchange of information, how do you grow? And so I really like that about creating community as a way to funnel some of your energy around teaching so that you also benefit from it. So I think that's really beautiful. And I know that you have, in creating this space, and I've heard like I've heard about Houston traffic, te idea about being able to hop into the car and just drive 10 minutes to a place or something seems like a very difficult thing to do. But you've been able to do something like this. And you don't have to get in the 45 minute car ride to do it. It's really very local. And so I think that's really wonderful. And I really did enjoy reading about it. In that episode of the issue of Sew News. My friend Katrina was there. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, I know a famous person!" So this was... it's really wonderful. Let's talk a bit about the Houston International Quilt Show. I know that you were involved with them, or put you involved as a participant. And I'm just going to give folks my summary of the International Quilt Market or International Quilt Show. Y'all It is really difficult to underestimate the influence of what the International Quilt Market is. This is a national event and I'm sorry, an International event that takes place, is it every year in Houston? It is something you do every year. So in quilting there are certain shows, certain show or certain places that are really big. So when you say Paducah, for example, people know that you're talking about this really important show in Paducah, Kentucky, right? Is that where Paducah is, in Kentucky? I think I'm not sure.

Bianca Springer 34:07

I thought in California? I don't know.

Lisa Woolfork 34:10

No, I thought it was in Kentucky.

Bianca Springer 34:12

The Sew Expo?

Lisa Woolfork 34:12

Not the Sew Expo. Oh yeah. I was thinking about the quilt show that's always in Paducah. I know that some of the some of the some of the quilting people that I know, really thought that show was like the bee's knees beginning and end. So that was one and then the one that you just mentioned is another one but at least I've always seen the International Quilt Market as being like a combination of the Sew Expo and the Original Sew Expo, all of these things combined, are still not as big as Houston. That was my understanding. That it was like this huge, massive thing on a scale larger than anywhere else. Do you think that's true? Because I know there's a lot of stuff there.

Bianca Springer 35:00

It is the Olympics of quilting and sewing products. It is massive. It is definitely worth seeing. I live here. And I will tell anyone, if you have an opportunity to come in and fly and stay the entire week, it is worth your time. The quilt side of it is just beautiful. It is overwhelming the artistry that goes into the quilts. The categories are vast, the techniques are innovative. It is, I can't even I get... I am at a loss of words at how amazing it is. Yeah, it is a beautiful show. It is. It's just art. It is fiber art to nth degree. And that's just the quilt show part of it. There are classes you can take, throughout the week, learn all kinds of techniques, get acquainted with authors and artists who are being innovative in fiber arts. It is just amazing. Then there's the vendor side of it.

Lisa Woolfork 36:12

That is the part I am very interested in. I think that I would want to come and stay a week and go to the vendors.

Bianca Springer 36:19

Yes, and you need a week. You really do. It is so big. There are so many vendors, there are so many new products. There are some... the vendors come from all around the world. So there are opportunities to purchase fabrics from Australian companies, indigenous fabrics. I bought some South African fabrics last year. Indian fabrics, just, just fabrics that you would not have access to or would question the provenance of.

Lisa Woolfork 36:54

Yeah, yes.

Bianca Springer 36:56

So you're buying from someone. In some cases, the artist, the person who made it is they're selling it and it's just wonderful. There are tools and new irons, new machines, you can see. Oh, I mean, everything. It's... It's Christmas on crack. It is beautiful.

Lisa Woolfork 37:18

Oh my gosh. So tell me how did you get involved? Because I think that you were there as a support. Were you supporting for a vendor? Was this something that you... a project that you were working on? Can you tell us more about how you got connected?

Bianca Springer 37:30

Yes. So I went to...Okay, so International. The whole week is a two parter. So one part is a trade show called International Quilt Market. And that is not open to the public. And that's where the fabric design companies are presenting their new collections, the pattern company, some indie pattern companies, threads, machine embroidery threads, regular threads, all the people who supply the quilt industry, the fabric industry, they are on the market side of it. And I attended as a just a participant one year for festival and the festival is the part that's open to the public. And I was walking through and enjoying myself it was late in the day and probably maybe late in the whole festival. And I stopped at a booth for my for Cheryl Paradiso Designs. And she has a very eclectic boho style. And I was drawn to her patterns. They were so fun. The fabrics she chose were so cute. And she's just I walked up and I'm like, "Oh, these are really nice." And I was surprised because she's... there weren't, there aren't many sewing pattern vendors at festival. So that drew me to her, but also I liked her stuff. So we just started chatting. And she realized I was from Houston, and I was a blogger, and I bought some patterns from her and she gifted me some and we just stayed in touch. And over the course of the year, so I made her patterns and I blogged about it. And then the next year she was like, Hey, I'm going to be at festival and market. I'd appreciate if you come and help me out. So she hired me to help her for market and to stay on for festival. And the market side was completely eye opening to me. I did not know what to expect. As always, if you go to the festival in the beforehand, the preview of the quilts, you can peek in and see market happening but you're not allowed in. Okay, so the opportunity to be allowed in and see what that was about was appealing to me. And so I went to market and I helped her as a vendor and I helped her at her booth and just got... It was interesting for several reasons. One because all of the new products were being showcased. But I also saw a lot of quilting and sewing celebrities. And they were in their elements.

Lisa Woolfork 40:14

Exciting!

Bianca Springer 40:14

Yeah, yeah, it was really exciting. I got to meet several people that I had only seen on social media and had been enamored with. And so it was really eye opening. And so I've done that for, I did that for her for several years. And Oh, goodness, so at some point I transition... I met Latifah Saafir from she's an amazing quilter and just a fabulously dear person. Yes. And so it's funny because, Okay, and you, this is not a surprise to you. But it is not a diverse place.

Lisa Woolfork 40:28

That is not a surprise to me. You're right. That is not a surprise to me at all.

Bianca Springer 40:55

Yes. And so here I am. I was walking through to get back to Cheryl to relieve her and just say hello, and I'm walking through and I'm like, What? That's melanin over there.

Lisa Woolfork 41:07

Exactly. Like "I gotta go say Hi"

Bianca Springer 41:10

I was too intimidated. At first.

Lisa Woolfork 41:12

Really? Well, you are an introvert. So you're not gonna like just be like, I see this person. I'm gonna go right over.

Bianca Springer 41:21

Yes. And so I saw her our eyes connected. But I kept walking. And, but I was also documenting, on Instagram, and I was in my kaftan, my black and white striped kaftan. And I had at this market I had met Amanda for the first time we had been... I've been riding with Sew News for about a year at this point. But this was the first time for us to meet. And I had taken a picture with her and I shared it on social media and the Latifah responded to the message "I saw you today!" And I was so embarrassed. I was like "Yes, I saw you too. But I was so nervous." Because she was around a lot of people. A lot of people were talking to her. Yeah. And I was like, You know what? I can't. That's too much. It's too many people. And I was fan-girling so hard. But I told her I'm like, "Okay, I apologize. I should have said hello." And so the next day, we connected tea, and it was really cool. And so we just started talking. And then she had in that year. So after that market, she launched her new pattern line of sewing patterns for kids- Quilt Cadet.

Lisa Woolfork 42:35

That's right.

Bianca Springer 42:36

Yes. And I teach sewing to a lot of kids. And so I was like, Oh, this is going to be fabulous. And she was coming. She was coming on her own. So I said hey, I'd have to speak with Cheryl and figure out what she needed for me. She said that she didn't need any help that year. So I went with... I offered my time to Latifah. And so she and I worked and helped promote her brand. And, it's interesting, because she is obviously she's a superstar. But she's very down to earth and easygoing and she was so gracious she introduced me to so many people. And she really did a good job of talking me up in ways that were not necessary by any stretch. But she did such a good job of just, if it was relevant, if she was talking with a business that dealt with fabrics or anything that she thought would if there was a relationship that could be cultivated she did. She did the wonderful thing of, connecting me with some really awesome industry people. She is very down to earth. It is a very... oh what's the word? Okay, let me backtrack. When I go to market and festival I like to wear something fun and fabulous because, again, you're in the space where people are going to appreciate it.

Yes

And so one year I wore my yo yo Kimono and it's a full, or yo yo Duster, It was a kimono pattern. So that's why I still call it that. But the so this Duster made with 470 fabric yoyos. And so...

Lisa Woolfork 44:17

It's a marvel.

Bianca Springer 44:17

I had people pressing business cards in my hand all day long. Oh "We need to talk to you, we want to connect with you." And, pardon me, and it was a tremendous ego stroke and less a person would have let it get to their head. But but Latifa has been and was very good about, pardon me, about grounding me. And just giving me beautiful perspective without... good perspective without diminishing me. If that makes sense.

Lisa Woolfork 44:18

Yes, yes. That's what mentoring is meant to be, you know?

Bianca Springer 44:58

Yes, absolutely. And so market and festival are great opportunities to connect with industry people. If you, if they come to you. I certainly... it's not a place where I go to pursue anything. But, excuse me, but there are key people there. And it's been great. I've connected with a lot of people in person, and then again, through social media. And it is it's like taking, having the scales fall off. Because I think my understanding and approach to fabric design companies and what it takes to be taken on by a book, a publishing company, for sewing books, being able to talk to people about what is involved in those things has been really beneficial.

Lisa Woolfork 45:53

That's really wonderful. And I just wonder in our last bit of time, I absolutely have to talk about the pattern waves. But before we get there, can you talk about your own patterns. So now you are making patterns? What is that, like? Tell us about those please.

Bianca Springer 46:12

Okay, so I've written a few patterns. One for myself. So far, my Now You See Me tote which is a vinyl tote bag with a raw edge finish and interchangeable inserts, bag inserts. And I am all about making my projects do a lot of work for me. And that pattern is one of them, where all you do is you change your insert and you have a new bag, but also it's to separate bags. Because the vinyl bag is one that you can use for the beach or sporting events where you need visibility.

Lisa Woolfork 46:48

Yes.

Bianca Springer 46:49

And then when you don't need that visibility if you have the fabric inserts for a hobo or crossbody bag. And I finally decided to launch that on my own because I was writing so many bag patterns for Sew News and Creative Machine Embroidery, some projects with them, I use commercial patterns, but a lot of them are original designs that I've made for them. And so I'm starting to look at- Okay, one for them now, one for me. And so I'm slowly starting to develop my own separate line of patterns.

Lisa Woolfork 47:22

That is very exciting. And so can we find these patterns on your blog?

Bianca Springer 47:28

My Etsy store. Yes. And the bag patterns that I've made with Sew News are available. In the Sew Daily website. I also am doing some work with The Modern Quilt Guild.

Lisa Woolfork 47:42

Oh, wow. Awesome!

Bianca Springer 47:43

I've written a bag pattern for them. And that will be released at the start of the year.

Lisa Woolfork 47:48

Oh, this is so good. This is super exciting. Since you mentioned the Etsy shop, this gives me an opportunity to ask you about my favorite- the gold standard, I think of pattern weights, your pattern weights, I absolutely love them. I have loved them since the very beginning. I have three sets of them. And I don't just love them because you were amazing and created a set for the Stitch Please podcast anniversary, and have generously donated a portion of the proceeds to the project. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I love them because they are amazing and beautiful. Can you talk about how you got started with that? It feels, of course, again, another natural extension, another organic development in your sewing practice. Because Did you always use weights? What got you started manufacturing pattern weights?

Bianca Springer 48:39

Yeah, so thank you, Lisa, I appreciate your support from the very beginning. And as I was in my training wheels and developing a going over the last year and a half, I appreciate your support from the very beginning. And making your weights for the anniversary was a no brainer and an absolute pleasure on my part. So thank you for that. I am a vintage lover. And I was at an estate sale several years ago. And I found a set of June Taylor pattern weights and they are blue. They're a set of four and they have their metal and they're covered with this plastic. And they're heavy and they're cute. And I found them and I thought oh these are neat! Let me buy them and I bought them and then I came home and googled them and saw that they were no longer in production. And they were selling for a ridiculous amount of money. So it was a four was being sold for $120 on Etsy.

Lisa Woolfork 49:43

Goodnight!

Bianca Springer 49:45

And I was like wow, this is ridiculous! Especially because I had bought three sets at this estate sale. And paid nowhere near that.

Lisa Woolfork 49:53

Nowhere near $120?

Bianca Springer 49:55

And so I was as I was looking at it I was on my phone and I'm like this is ridiculous. They're so expensive, and I had shared them on Instagram and people were like, "Oh, I really wish I had those, or had something like that". And then people started to tell me about the janky stuff they were using as pattern weights.

Lisa Woolfork 50:13

Yes. Yes.

Bianca Springer 50:16

Andmy daughter actually said she's isn't there a way for you to make something like that? And I'm looking at this little eight year old thinking. What? She was like, why don't you just make something?

Lisa Woolfork 50:30

She's like "You make everything else! Why wouldn't you make that mommy you make everything else?"

Bianca Springer 50:35

Absolutely. And so I that cheap, that planted the seed. Up until that point, I was using pins, I was a rotary cutter and pin person. Or I would use you know, what was convenient? I had a soda, can I put that down? Or whatever.

Lisa Woolfork 50:49

That's right, coffee, mug of coffee? Whatever.

Bianca Springer 50:54

Yes, yes. And I'm always chasing a new idea, a new concept. And so when my local library shared that they had a laser cutter, I said, Oh, let me try this machine. And so I started playing with the laser cutter. And eventually that turned into the laser cut pattern weight designs. And it just slowly evolved from there. I started making a few thinking, Okay, this works. I like this. Let's see what happens. And you guys started to buy them and were excited about them. And it was doing really well. Excuse me. And then the pandemic hit. And the pandemic hit at the same time I was having knee surgery. So I had to rethink my business because I was going to be laid up. And then I didn't have access to the same tools. And so I had to, I had to rethink things I had I was... Have you read the book Who Moved My Cheese?

Lisa Woolfork 51:58

No, but I've heard of it. Of course.

Bianca Springer 52:00

Yes. And so it's a wonderful, small, quick, easy read about change and how you adapt or die. And I was laying in bed thinking, Okay, do I just not produce them the way I was before? Or do I need to rethink things. And so I started to read, rebrand, and rethink what these pattern weights were going to be. And I came up with a new concept. And I loved it. And it is thriving, and it is doing well. The designs are fresh, they're fun, they're inspirational, they're political. They are custom. So they can be whatever people want. Yeah, it's just been really exciting to make something that I feel is useful and important. But it has been so amazing to see people's response and support of it. It has, I've been shared and reposted and had people write YouTube videos, I've had you do IGTV posts, and just speak in such favorable ways about this product, that it has been so meaningful to me. And so moving to me, and it has moved my business along in ways that I certainly couldn't do on my own. And I appreciate every positive review. I appreciate every, frankly, anyone who does not say something bad. Thank you.

So that's bare minimum, to see people go so high above and beyond to say thank you has been tremendous to me. And it is it's such a... it's been an interesting case study, because I have had these weights shared on really big platforms. And I appreciate that. I really do. I appreciate the visibility that brings. But I will tell you, having my weight shared on a site to 30,000 has had less impact on my business than the one sincere customer with 500 followers who goes on and says these are the bomb.

Lisa Woolfork 54:15

That's right.

Bianca Springer 54:15

"I love this cute packaging and she got back to me and in my messages and this shipping was fast." That personal individual review does so much more. And it's startling to me. It is startling to me to see how on any given day, I remember one day someone with a really large following. Did a beautiful, really elaborate promotion at no no urging from me it was a surprise to me. I was so grateful and it was beautifully done. And I told my husband I was like "Look! So and so shared it and they did these things and it's amazing! Brace yourself. Brace yourself." And we braced ourselves and nothing happened. There was very little traction. And then a few days later, one individual with significantly less following. Maybe I'm trying to decide if that was the week you posted. It may have been your post and your review!.

Lisa Woolfork 54:18

Oh!

Bianca Springer 54:26

You did your review and my phone. It was ridiculous. And it's that personal touch of someone saying, this is why it's important. I read, I see my... myself in this image, this Afro chick with these glasses looks like me. And so...

Lisa Woolfork 55:36

Yes, Yes! Exactly, exactly that I had a friend, Naomi, who's also in Black Women Stitch, she was like "That's me, I have to get them because that's me." And I think that's just a great illustration of something that we've learned from our conversation today, as well as over... in your career overall, it's about community makes the difference. Community is the barrier between us and the larger world that does not prioritize us. And so for me, I'm not, for example, I'm not trying to be like the world's largest sewing podcast. My priority is talking to black women, girls and femmes, and promoting what we are doing and having and creating a soft space for us to lay in, a place for us to belong. And that's my priority. And so it makes total sense that I got this cute package from you in the mail. It's like, I gotta tell people, Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. And to save people from using pins, which is they're a menace, and no one should ever use them. I got stuck with enough pins as a kid and stepped on enough here to want to avoid them at all costs. This has been such a delight truly. And I know we could go on for another hour. But I am going to pause here and issue another invitation for you to come back and talk about vintage patterns. But for now, where can people find you on the socials?

Bianca Springer 56:59

Oh, @thanksimadethem on instagram. And Thanksimadethem.blogspot.com, and https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThanksImadeThem.

Lisa Woolfork 57:11

And I will be sure to include all of those notes. Thank you so much, Bianca, for being here for being here today. Thank you so much for taking the time and having this really delightful conversation. This was lot of fun.

Bianca Springer 57:23

Thank you, I enjoyed it.

Lisa Woolfork 57:37

You've been listening to the Stitch Please 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 Blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P-A-T-R-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 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 a star rating, or just asked for a few comments, if you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the Stitch Please podcast. That is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

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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