It's not unusual to be inspired by military spouses. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but we are a pretty amazing bunch. Not only are we strong, resilient and accustomed to nurturing our families as we move around the world, many of us also create our own mobile businesses that can move with us. One such military spouse who is Making It Work is my friend Erin Fangmann, the very talented seamstress and owner behind Dazzlin' Dresses. She has moved her business across the globe to Japan and, literally, set up shop in her military base house. I am so inspired by her studio and office that I knew I had to share it.
Frankly, I always think it's fun to get a peek into other people's homes, but is truly amazing to see how she has maximized limited space to create an area of her home completely devoted to her business and passion.
Erin's home is a one-story, three bedroom home on our base. Let me be clear: the homes are not big and there is little to no room to spare. Erin has transformed the eat-in dining area off of her kitchen into a fun, feminine and practical room in which to work.
The room makes the most of every inch possible with multiple desks to house her computer and sewing machines, a large embroidery machine and organized storage to hold her supplies. Two dresses create an island work space in the center of the room and double as fabric storage. There are also clear storage bins with type A-approved labels.
Making It Work
I love dressing my kids in handmade and personalized, embroidered clothes - it's more personal that way, and provides a real reflection of who they are - but before spending a day with Erin I had no idea of how much time truly goes into creating them. It's also pretty amazing to see the technology behind designing and producing something as small as a custom newborn onesie.
Erin designs and customizes embroidery patterns on a desktop computer. Once the design is ready, she transfers it to her embroidery machine on a thumb drive. Here's a peek at a 100 days of school design on the desk top screen and then the finished product.
Next, I watched on as Erin created a custom "Miso Cute" onesie. This is seriously the cutest design ever and is my new go-to baby gift.
But first, let's see how she gets to the final product. Erin is very much self-taught and perfected her technique through lots of trial and error. A few years ago, she realized that the embroidery is more clear, flat and basically better, if she separates the small onesie to allow the embroidery machine plenty of room to maneuver. To make that happen, she rips the seams of the onesie and them resews them after the embroidery is complete. This extra step (and extra work for her), is a great example of how much pride and effort Erin takes to make every piece the very best possible product.
Once the piece is ready to be embroidered, Erin picks embroidery thread and loads the embroidery machine.
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The result? The miso cutest onesie ever.
Dazzlin' Dresses Q & A
The Shopping Mama: Why and how did you start Dazzlin’ Dresses?
Erin Fangmann: The creation of Dazzlin' Dresses was purely by accident, though for a few years I had been trying to figure out what I could do from home to earn an income. I made a few dresses for my girls and posted a picture on Facebook to share with my friends and family, not thinking that 5 years later I would have this little business.
What’s the biggest challenge to working at home?
EF: Balance! I have had to learn how to walk away from a project that I have started to cook dinner or go on a field trip with either of my girls. It took a few years to learn this balance, it did not happen as fast as I would have hoped it would.
TSM: Your workspace is amazing with a great balance between being a functional small space and an inspiring studio. What motivated you when putting it together?
EF: Thank you so much. The motivation was the lack of space and knowing that everyone that came into our home would have to look at my workspace. It needed to reflect the care that I would give their item as I created it for my customer as well as be an inspiring environment in which to create.
TSM: What is your most popular piece?
EF: Hands down this Thanksgiving ruffled pants set has been my most popular item! It is colorful, girlie and yet so comfy!
TSM: Do you have favorite fabrics or designs to work with?
EF: I love fabric! It is not a good idea to send me into a fabric store without a list, I get a little silly, especially when there are polka dots involved. My favorite fabric designers are Michael Miller, Free Sprit and Amy Butler. As far as designs, I use patterns from www.pixiedustpatterns.com.
TSM: And what equipment is essential to creating your clothes?
EF: To create top quality items I feel like you should use a top quality machine. I was really lucky, when I started Dazzlin’ Dresses, to have a friend that sold me her grandmother’s Bernina sewing machine. Since then I have acquired another Bernina sewing machine, a Husqvarna serger and a Brother PR650 embroidering machine.
TSM: How does being a military spouse impact your business?
EF: I feel that it has benefited me in ways that I would never have imagined. I receive amazing support from my fellow military spouses. They realize how difficult it is to pick up and reestablish yourself each time you move and yet they support me no matter where I go!! The challenge is to inform the folks around you that you are new and would love to earn their business. I would like to say that there is little to no impact but that is just not the case. Each time we move it’s like starting my business all over again. You just have to learn to adapt.
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