WILLIAMSBURG — If Tabitha Sewer’s life was carefully stitched together, it would be bright and boldly sewn.
The 36-year-old mother of two wore many different hats — and outfits she designed — before she created the DIY fashion empire and clothing business that bears her name.
After she served 10½ years in the U.S. Air Force, Sewer used the GI Bill to attend college at ECPI and Saint Leo universities to earn her bachelor and master degrees in business and become a college professor. It wasn’t long before she found a hobby that turned into a new career.
Although her mother — an avid sewer who attended fashion school in the Philippines — taught her the basics as a child, Sewer didn’t buy a machine and learn the art until eight years ago, when she was a stay-at-home mother in search of something to do.
“I practiced long and hard because I wanted to sew as well as my mom,” Sewer said. “Being able to make my own clothes is such a dream come true. I love making my own clothes because it’s custom-made for my body and because I love fashion.”
Two years ago, Brother USA, the sewing machine company that dates back to 1908, picked her up as a full-time Brother Sews and Crafts ambassador.
She recently joined Brother’s Side Hustle campaign which helps DIY crafters and sewists — a play on the word artists — take their hobby and turn it into a profitable business.
Ashley Guido, manager of public relations and influencer marketing at Brother USA, said the campaign celebrates its machinery and showcases how entrepreneurs, like Sewer, can start a small business.
“It can be a hobby, but it truly can turn into a small business and help empower people to take that next step,” Guido said. “Many people think of sewing as a little bit dated, but people are bringing it back, and it’s no longer just your grandmother or aunt.”
Today, Sewer spends her time sewing her own clothes on her Brother Stellaire Innov-is machine, designing patterns, providing fashion inspiration, and teaching tips and tricks as a content creator.
Sewer films and photographs new content weekly.
“I find designer things — from hundreds to thousands of dollars — and I show people how to recreate those things at a cheaper cost,” Sewer said.
She recently recreated a Cynthia Rowley dress that retailed at $400. Sewer’s take on the color block maxi dress cost less than $20.
“Not to toot my own horn, but I can recreate almost anything,” she said. “The majority of the people on social media said it was better than the original.”
Sewer has 47,400 worldwide followers on her Instagram account.
Her repertoire includes apparel, accessories, buckles and patterns (named for influential African American women).
In February, she launched a new line featuring playful and unique buttons. They are sold on her website, tabithasewer.com, and in 20 small brick-and-mortar stores.
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The pieces she designs are colorful and bright — just like her upbeat personality.
“I’m just a big kid,” Sewer said.
Three months ago Sewer decided to scale and expand her business. She and her two employees moved into a warehouse studio in Williamsburg.
Business picked up during the pandemic, because people have been eager to find things to do from home, Sewer said.
“I think crafting at home brings a lot of people joy and occupies their mind just to refocus on something more positive and fun,” she said. “And sewing is a skill that needs to be passed down; it’s really important.”