Below are some common questions I’ve been receiving regarding Sweet Potato, as well as a few others, and some well thought out answers. If you’re looking for a breakdown of costs regarding sewing, mending and alteration services, go to my Services page.
Do you offer sliding scale services? Do you ever do stuff for free?
Yes! Even though I have prices listed on my Services page, I’m willing to work within your budget if you cannot afford what I charge. It’s important to me that everyone has access to alterations and mending.
As for free, that’s a more complicated question. I’m a registered business with the City of Oakland, and not only do I have to pay my bills, I also have to pay city taxes, etc. I might be interested in organizing a donation based or pay-what-you-can pop-up or other event, however, to get mending and alterations out to more people who absolutely don’t have money to spend at all. If you have an ideas on where I could host such an event, get in touch with me!
How long have you been sewing?
I’ve been sewing since about the age of 4. I know that sounds very young to a lot of parents now a days, but you have to remember that I was making really easy things with felt. I began using a sewing machine when I was 10 so that I could make my own doll clothes.
Did you go to design or fashion school?
No, I did not, though a lot of people who work with clothing, sewing and fashion did. I went to Smith College in Northampton, MA where I studied women and gender studies, and minored in English literature. I think that in our society we have a lot of preconceived ideas about who has the ability to do what based around formal education. While I value education and the doors that it opens, I don’t believe that you have to attend fashion school to understand how to improve upon a garment, no more than I believe you have have to have a degree in women and gender studies to be a feminist. I’m a feminist and I take clothes apart, put them back together, draft my own patterns, sew whole garments for people, and design lots of beautiful things. I’ve taken apart hundreds if not thousands of items of clothing and put them back together again.
Why is feminism so important to your business? What does feminism have to do with clothes?
I could probably write a thesis on this subject so I’ll keep it as short as possible. I believe that our bodies are often the subject of exploitation, shame, misrepresentation, objectification, and scrutiny at the hands of those who are in power. What we put on our bodies becomes the direct representation of how we internalize the kyriarchy or fight in opposition to it. While not everything we put on our bodies is a political statement, what we put on our bodies is deeply personal to us, based on how we navigate a system that under-values and oppresses queer and transgender people, people of color, people with disabilities, fat people, and basically anyone not fitting into the white male value system at hand. Therefore, our clothing is emotional, and I seek to make dealing with clothing, especially clothing that is ill-fitted to our unique bodies, an empowering experience. Our bodies are not the problem, the system that creates clothing only for specific body types is the problem. I want to make your clothes work for you and whatever kind of body you have.
How is Sweet Potato Seamstressing environmentally friendly?
Whenever you alter something, or make something new, you’re going to have a run off of material. Everything at Sweet Potato gets turned into something else. I save every thread and scrap possible. Small scraps get turned into special little things and even smaller scraps I use as pillow stuffing. I try to source most of my notions and fabrics from local places attempting to solve some of the same problems like the Depot for Creative Reuse. When I can’t do that, I shop from locally owned fabric stores.
In addition, Sweet Potato is all about using what you have and improving upon it. One of the reasons why I love doing alterations, restorations, and repairs is because it brushes up against the fast-fashion mentality of buying more, using more, and wasting more. I believe that we already own can serve us with a little creativity.
Do you work with brides? Will you alter my wedding gown?
Aw, thank you for asking! I’m happy to work with local brides and engaged people who are looking for someone to alter their alternative, vintage, or non-traditional wedding dress or attire. I do not, however, work with designer gowns valued over $3000 as I don’t have the proper insurance to feel comfortable taking apart a dress that cost you thousands of dollars. It’s just a matter of personal preference and something I’ve thought long and hard about. If your designer gown needs a repair, however, that can be arranged. If you have a dress that you need help restoring, or your dress is not in the designer-cost-lots-of-money category, I’d be happy to work with you!
I’m also happy to work with you if you need some special little touches for your special day, like matching groomsman bow ties, bridesmaid’s gifts, etc.
Do you work with bridesmaids?
Absolutely! I love bridesmaids and their dresses. I’m also excellent for commiserating on the stress around being a bridesmaid.
How long have you lived in the Bay Area?
Over 5 years. Though technically I was born here, and our family moved away when I was little.