Episode #16: Going Local with the Western Carolina Sewing Company

In the months since I started Thread Cult, I’ve found myself drawn to people and businesses cutting their own path in the world of craft, sewing, and textiles. This week’s episode is no exception. When I was in North Carolina a few weeks back, I had the opportunity to interview Libby O’Bryan, a textile artist and founder of the Western Carolina Sewing Company (a.k.a. Sew Co.), which operates out of The Oriole Mill (the focus of episode #15).

Sew Co. is a full-service cut-and-sew manufacturer of high quality clothing and other products. Basically, Libby and her employees work with designers on everything from pattern design to sourcing fabrics and notions to actually constructing small fashion lines. It’s a service most designers would have to look for in a big city (or overseas), but Sew Co. is doing it all from the bucolic setting of western North Carolina.

As I mentioned in my last post, North Carolina has a rich history in the textile industry, but many of those businesses have closed or moved overseas during the past few years. Like Bethanne, of The Oriole Mill, Libby is focusing her business on producing the highest quality goods, and she’s been able to pull from an amazing wealth of seamstresses and pattern makers already living in the area who were once employed by the big textile mills. (Those sewing machines up top, btw, all came second-hand from closed textile mills.)

If you happen to be interested in starting your own sewn product business, you might be interested in a class that Libby is teaching at Penland School of Crafts this summer. According to Libby, it’s a sort of boot camp for getting your business off the ground. (Penland, btw, also seems like a cool place to hang out for a bit.)

If you’ve been listening to the podcasts as they come out, I wanted to give a heads up that they’ll still be coming regularly, but a little more spread out. I’m stashing away episodes, like a squirrel hiding nuts for the winter, in anticipation of Baby Fish arriving sometime in early June. Because of this, I’m only going to post an episode every other week, so I’ve got enough to go around until mid-July. We’ll see how ambitious I’m feeling after that! Until then, look out for a great episode the week after next with Threads contributor Angela Wolf on sewing jeans!

Here are a few images from Sew Co.’s design room:

A few works-in-progress, made with Jacquard fabrics from The Oriole Mill.

I nearly dropped my camera when I saw this lovely shibori top that Sew Co. made. The fabric treatment was accomplished with woven shibori fabric designed and dyed with natural dyes by Catharine Ellis. This is a technique I’m hoping to cover in a later episode.

Fabrics from The Oriole Mill. Sew Co. actually sews all of the fine linens made at the mill.

I LOVE this door, which was designed by Brandon Pass Architect (they’re called the Acoustic Doors). I think I need one for my future dream home.

Happy listening!

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Notes from this episode:

Opportunity Threads

Handmade in America

Local Cloth

12 Bones

Raleigh Denim


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