Shelia Rittgers

Sewist Spotlight: Meet Shelia

How long have you been sewing?


Say I started when I was about 10, so I would say 64 years.


How did you learn to sew?


How did I learn to sew, so my mother was a wonderful seamstress, but I actually learned sew in 4-H. I think the one thing my mother impressed me is that she never used a pattern. She was raised during the depression, they would go to town, they would see something in the window. Since there would be no way that they could afford it they would buy fabric and my mom would go home and recreate. She had 3 sisters and they picked out a piece of fabric and my mom would make patterns out of old newspaper and old wallpaper and she sewed for everybody. And not only that, after my grandfather died, he owned two suits. He was buried in one. And my grandmother gave my mother the other one. She took it apart and made herself a suit. I remember it to this day because it was brown and it had like a little red stripe running through it. I couldn’t have been like 3 or 4 when it happened. She was so excited and she found these pins that were 3 turtles and they had red stones on the back. I remember her wearing it But, the one thing that she did teach me was basically you have to baste. That was the rule back then. They sold specific spools of thread for basting.


What was the first thing you remember sewing?


I made a skirt in 4-H. We had to make a skirt and then we had a little fashion show My mom wouldn't help me. She said, “you have to learn to do this on your own”.


What do you like to sew?


I like to sew things for my grandkids and now we're having a new grand baby. So I'll do that.


What is your least favorite thing to do involving sewing?


Cutting out.


Any particular type of fabric you like to use.


Not really. I have used everything. I sewed with cork for the first time when I made my grandson a wallet for his birthday, it was wonderful. It has a fabric backing on it. I used a microtex 90/14 needle. You have to cut it out with rotary cutter. You'll never get straight lines if you try and cut it out with scissors.


What kind of sewing machine do you have?  Any other machines like serger, etc.


I have a Baby Lock Destiny 2 and a Triumph serger. I have a little tiny Pfaff Hobby Mate that I bought in the 1980s, it still sews great. I have a 1932, Singer that's in one of those round cases. I also have a Sashiko machine, I love it. I made a makeup case carrier and I quilted the fabric with the Sashiko. And a couple of years ago Al found the little featherweight for me, which I take when I travel.


What do you make that you are most proud of?


I made those doll suitcases for my granddaughter for Christmas and it wasn't hard, but it was a lot of different types of fabric and zippers.


How long have you been a Guild member? Why did you join the Guild?


I've been a Guild member for 10 years. And the reason I joined the Guild is that I started playing golf in a league and Kathy Frey was a member and we played together. She found out that I sewed and she said, you need to come and be a member of the Guild.


Biggest change in sewing over the years?


The sewing machines. You know, they can do so much more. When I learned to sew, I didn't have a zigzag until I bought my little Hobby Mate and I made all of my maternity clothes and everything when I was pregnant,


Best sewing tip for us?


Learning to use zippers by the yard and being able to put the zippers on. I think that that that's a game changer for me.


What sewing groups do you belong to; neighborhood or online?


Actually, since I'm the neighborhood group coordinator, I belong to all of them and, I follow quite a few Facebook groups.


Is there anything about you that you would like us to know?


The Guild has been like a lifeline for me after I retired. I’ve met so many wonderful people. And my sewing skills, I feel have improved tremendously from belonging to the Guild.

Shelia Rittgers