It’s probably been four summers since I’ve been here. I was still living in Vail at the time. So on my days off, I would come up here and just camp out for three days at a time. I’d come in here, and it was half and half. I would work on the machines for half a day and then organize all the fabric for the other. So, that was really my drive, to come in here and just get familiar with the sewing machines and create more of a hands-on experience. To be honest with you, most of my knowledge around making bags, or being familiar with it, came from this place -- taking raw material and cutting it and all that. Even though I wasn’t here for that long, a few months maybe -- I think it was just for the summer. I had a spot up by Harvey Gap. I would literally pick up some food and go up there. I would stay up there for three days, come in here, do my thing and go back to Vail, then do my thing there. I had the drive to learn. I would definitely come in tired or groggy sometimes. At that time, I had a Honda Accord, so I didn’t really have the option of sleeping in my car or anything.
(And now you're making these bags, and you have your own business?)
It’s a small business, most of them go to friends and family. At some point my mom was sending me fabric in the mail and I was sending them back to her. She was giving them out as gifts and selling them for donations to give back to her friend Jeanie -- who had the furniture store, who gave her the fabric. I liked when she did that, because it kind of completed the cycle. I’ve shown up to Red Rocks or festivals and brought some bags -- it’s just something I like to share with the world. Of course, it is a dream that it’ll always get bigger. It’s a small business for now.
Sewing is an interesting thing because everyone always wants you to make something for them. And, of course, being a sewer, you get the most joy from creating stuff that you created in your own mind. You know what I mean? That’s the whole joy of it for me -- putting different color contrasts together, you know, and because essentially it expresses your individuality. If you’re a maker, the sky is the limit.
A lot of times it’s fun to create stuff by yourself -- if you can hone in on one product that you’re constantly making and throw in slight variations. It can get frustrating when you’re working with other people. You work so hard -- that’s the Catch 22. You’ll work so hard to create something through someone else’s eyes -- for an example, when you’re creating a prototype for them and they see it, and they’re like, “well, could you do this, could you do that, could you do this, and could you do that.” You’re constantly just trying to see it through someone else’s eyes through the creation process. Another project I just thought of was through a friend of a friend and he wanted me to create a jean blanket for him. His grandma had given him a jean blanket that he took to festivals or picnics and would just throw on the ground. He had had it for years. He wanted this jean blanket to be able to wrap or folded up into a backpack with different pockets and zippers. He wanted one side to be jean and one side of it to be like Teflon. I was having people send me jeans in the mail. I spent hours and hours --- and this was also when I was living in my shuttle bus -- so it was really tough to store all of this stuff in the middle of winter up in Leadville. Eventually, I had to tell him, “maybe you need to rethink what you’re doing.”
I moved out to Colorado in 2010, I believe. I ended up going back to school, to Colorado Mountain College, and eventually did an internship with Land Trust. This whole time I’m tinkering around with sewing and stuff. When I went back to school -- sustainability studies at the Edwards campus -- we had to do a project on creating. I think it was an entrepreneur class that kind of sparked my interest in creating my own sustainable small business. I thought, I kind of already have one going here. Basically I was scraping up material from thrift stores -- I was getting my dad’s old dress shirts and was just ripping the pockets off of those and then sewing them on. At that time, I was just hand sewing. So when that project idea came up, I basically created the company, Tuck and Roll. I started thinking, “I’m just making pockets on t-shirts -- what else can I make out of anything that’s re-purposed?” So then I started going to the thrift store and just finding whatever I could -- shower curtains, old shirts, old bags to rip the straps off of. I started going down to Denver, to go to the thrift stores where you buy by the pound. They’re incredible. There are three Goodwill Outlets down there and they just have these long bins that you roll out -- it was like 99 cents a pound. I just searched through fabrics -- kind of throwing stuff together. That project is really what sparked my interest in creating my small business. I did that and presented it to the class -- I was really nervous because it was a weird idea from the top of my head, but something I had a lot of fun doing. I still have fun doing it.
Later, I ended up going to Fort Collins and buying a Walking Foot off of an upholstery company that was going out of business. I thought, “you know, this thing could sew through my hand if I want it to.” I’m thinking my possibilities are endless. My mom started sending me upholstery fabric because I needed thicker fabric. She has a friend who had a furniture company -- constantly working and slinging furniture. She kept all the samples that they sent to her. There’s just boxes of this stuff sitting in my mom’s basement right now, and she keeps asking me when I want more. That’s really my favorite stuff to work with -- thicker fabric that’s re-purposed.
In a lot of ways, it can get frustrating working with people that aren’t familiar with how this stuff is made. How it’s put together. How much time and, you know, precision that it takes with your cutting and your stitching and everything. It’s extreme attention to detail, and over the years, it’s just become a very undervalued skill. Everything is shipped in from China, or shipped in from wherever they’re made -- the manufacturing industry is incredibly skewed in America now. Everything comes from out of the country. Our minds, not to judge anyone, but a lot of people’s minds are a little skewed on the actual work and precision and attention to detail that’s put into making anything really.
The whole design process -- envisioning in your head -- I have notebooks and notebooks of sketches, because that’s where it starts for me. When someone wants to prototype something, I’ll start drawing it out. From that, you have to create a pattern -- which blows my mind. There are computer programs that people can use to create patterns, which I’d like to get into one day – I just really like the hands-on work. The design process itself is pretty undervalued as well. It’s extreme -- it can be up and down. I’ve definitely found myself having to draw boundaries here and there, and taking jobs to support myself. A lot of the money I make goes into this stuff -- goes into sewing -- goes into advancing techniques and different materials. Whether it’s a binding attachment that goes onto my machine -- that I stay up all night trying to figure out -- it’s really a life commitment. If you really want to succeed in it, you have to change your mindset around sewing. It takes time and precision, and extreme amounts of patience -- even more so if you’re dealing with people who aren’t familiar with the whole process of sewing. It’s like a foreign thing now. It’s a lost craft.
I can go to Walmart and buy a pair of shorts for five dollars, or, you can go to someone like Sandy and she could make you a pair. She deserves twenty to thirty bucks though -- or maybe even more, depending on what she did to them. That whole mindset is a little lost with people in the world now. But, I’d like to think it’s kind of coming back. People are going to value something like that, and see that this is the more sustainable way to live life and approach business in general. When you’re supporting someone who put their time, and love, and care into that, and you’re not supporting a company that has abused stuff and people and is not sustainable for many different reasons. That is my hope and honestly, what drives me to do what I do -- hoping that it slowly drifts back and people take pride in handmade stuff, and supporting a local person. Hoping that people stop buying stuff that’s not sustainable, from wherever, that’s mass-produced. That they take more pride in the individual that’s making it, and where their money is going. It all connects together.