Hillary Davis of That’s Sew Hillary is a maker, business owner, and a mom – a cool mom. She spent the past decade-plus as a graphic designer and creative director for a variety of companies. Most recently, she worked in higher education. She also roller skates, has a mini ramp in my garage, and you might see her rolling around town with her light-up wheels! Oh! and She sews!
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Tell us about the change you experienced
I moved to Frederick in 2017 and fell hard for this city. At the time, I worked remotely and always felt like I was missing out on everything Frederick has to offer. I was spending my time at my house working for a company in a different state. I started searching for community in 2019 when I started a little sewing group in Frederick. We began meeting occasionally for Stitch Socials. We hosted our first craft supply swap at the library, and then right as things were growing, the pandemic hit. To keep us somewhat connected, I began circulating a “destash box”. This was a giant plastic tub where people add fabric and craft supplies that they no longer want and pass it to the next person. We did a few virtual socials, but overall things were pretty quiet and I really missed this small community.
Meanwhile, I got pregnant, had my daughter, and started a new remote job as a creative director for a university. I should have been on top of the world. I had a bundle of joy and I had my dream job – but I was so incredibly depressed and miserable. The truth was that I was suffering from really bad PPD and like the rest of us, suffering because of the pandemic. I threw myself into creating some cut-and-sew dolls for my daughter. With this, I created something I was super proud of. For the most part, it worked pretty well to distract me from everything. I have never found a time in my life where sewing – or any kind of creating – hasn’t helped me cope or reset my mind. In a world of fast, sometimes we need a little slow to bring us back into ourselves.
So, I designed dolls and started therapy but was still not coping well with this new life of being a mom and having this high-stress job. I realized that other than the dolls, I hadn’t really sewn anything for myself since having my daughter. So, I quit my job without a solid plan in place. I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to be able to do that – but we’re not rich. My husband is a firefighter, and I needed to find some way to have an income. I gave myself a few months to figure things out and live off savings. If it looked like things weren’t going to work, I was going to find another design job. This was so scary. While it was also liberating, I felt incredibly insecure that I’d basically given up my career and put a strain on my family to follow this whim.
Soon after quitting, I met with an incredibly amazing and successful woman business owner in Frederick who talked me through options, numbers, and ideas, and told me that she believed that I could make it work. That is the moment that gave me the gumption to make my business happen for real. The community that I craved so much was starting to show up for me, and I recognized it. With the help of some generous women, I started teaching small craft classes in downtown Frederick businesses. I posted my business name and information everywhere that I possibly could. Eventually, I was able to rent a very small studio room to teach private sewing lessons and workshops. I turned the dolls into a product I could sell and started attending markets. Profits weren’t great, but I was staying above water and had a few students who kept me afloat.
After losing the room I was renting and moved to Give Rise Studio. I was able to start offering larger workshops on a more regular basis – and they took off. I was able to focus on building and cultivating this sewing and crafting community that had been inactive during the pandemic. We started the stitch socials back up. We’ve started having themed nights. We had a giant craft swap and received so many supplies that we were able to donate to local groups. I just launched a free sewing machine library where anyone can borrow a machine for 2 weeks at a time. All of the machines in the library were donated, so I’m putting them back into the community. I am planning project nights, retreats, and so much more. These types are things are what really get me excited – and I can’t wait to plan more.
My hope with my sewing workshops is to turn more people onto sewing and grow this community even more. My approach to teaching is informative but laid back. Sewing shouldn’t be scary, and I understand that there’s a mental and financial barrier to entry. I hope to break down the mental part by being a friendly teacher who doesn’t care about perfection. With that, I want to build as many avenues as possible to help people gain the supplies they need to start creating. I want to show up and be a helpful space for people to feel comfortable to slow down and create.
What has been the biggest challenge you have overcome?
As cheesy as this sounds, being a mom is really really really hard – especially without a support system or family nearby. The hardest part for me was losing my identity and having to find it again under the millions of pressures that society puts on moms. I gave in, I quit my job, I became a stay-at-home mom… but I didn’t let that be the end of it. For me, I needed to keep my identity outside of mom, and I needed to build a community to surround myself in that kept me thinking about what excited me.
You inspire us, but what/who are YOU inspired by?
So many people. Specifically, women who don’t pretend to have it all figured out. We’re all so fatigued by perfect social media lives – and as small businesses, we feel pressure to present ourselves that way so we’re attractive or look successful or make people want to be like us… or something. But this is real life, and we have real problems. The women and women-owned businesses who come out and talk about their actual day and actual life and actual struggles are so brave and paving a path in this digital world that I hope keeps becoming normal.
The stitch socials are every 1st and 3rd Friday at Give Rise Studio from 6-8:30 p.m. All fiber crafts are welcome, we have knitters, crocheters, needlepoint, and of course places to plug in your machine. I also have machines you can use.
You can rent a sewing machine from me on my website under “Sewing Machine Library” it’s completely free, and there’s no deposit – just a fee if you don’t return it or damage it.