We met Aaronica B. Cole of the Needle and the Belle at QuiltCon earlier this year. Our friend and former Aurifil Artisan Porfiria Gomez brought her by to say hello and we got to sit down for one of those brilliant conversations when you know something fabulous will ensue. We were taken with her passion and excitement not only for our thread but for how it fits into the larger picture of sustainability within her creative practice.
We have mad respect for Aaronica– she left a job steeped in the traditions of corporate America to pursue a new future in support of herself, taking control of her own path rather than continuing along one designed by someone else. She started blogging, educated herself in online media, and built her brand from the ground up. She experimented with fashion and all areas of garment-making, building her confidence and empowering others to do the same.
We’re so grateful to have met her and are thrilled that we now get to present her very first curated thread set, a brilliant range of 50wt solid & variegated threads (her favorite)! The hues in Rustic Chic are designed to enhance a wide variety of garment construction and fit particularly well with Aaronica’s fabrics, now available via Spoonflower. We can’t wait to see what you make with this one! Thank you so much to Aaronica for taking the time to chat with us!
Welcome, Aaronica! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today! We know that some of our readers may be meeting you for the first time, so we’d love for you to take a moment to introduce yourself. Can you tell us a bit more about how you first got started in this creative, maker-centric industry?
Of course! Hi. I’m Aaronica Cole of The Needle And the Belle. I started hand-sewing when I was about 5 years old and would make those little patterns on the backs of the filler bags. When I was 13, my mom enrolled me in a sewing class where I made a drawstring backpack– I hated every moment of it. I stopped sewing with my machine and never learned how to read patterns so every time I would start sewing again, I would fail because there was just so much that I didn’t know or learn. In 2015, I really started focusing on learning how to follow patterns and understand fabrics. I committed to sewing for 1 hour daily as I taught myself (through lots of failing) to understand how sewing garments worked. I really started growing in our industry when I started testing patterns. I grew really fast skill-wise because of that too.
Who or what has been your greatest creative inspiration?
Much like many, Mimi G was one of my biggest inspirations in learning to sew. I love her style and that her body type was similar to mine (at the time). It was really cool because I really started to see myself as someone who could design and make a wardrobe that made me feel amazing.
What is your favorite thing to make?
I love trying new things but I think right now my favorite thing to make is clothing for my husband and son. Everyone says that sewing for men/boys is boring but I love it so much.
What inspires you to keep making and innovating?
I feel like I’m constantly evolving so my style is too. The more I learn about myself and as I grow as a person, it’s really reflected in my personal style which makes making something that really fulfills me. I love stepping more and more into my boldness with both designs and my personality.
Have you ever had one of those ‘aha’ moments when something just clicked and you knew exactly your best way forward?
Definitely! This happened with me with projector sewing. I’ve been using a projector to sew for about 3 years now. I joined the group on FB and was immediately overwhelmed with information. It was a major turn-off for me. But as someone who was testing patterns all the time, my paper waste was incredulous. Most people don’t know this but I’m an award-winning sustainability blogger so the amount of waste that I was producing was killing me softly. With the help of my husband, I got my projector set up done and as I talked more and more about how great it was, people would say they couldn’t figure it out, there was too much to read, they were overwhelmed with trying to figure out the best projector and more.
So I created a course. And then another one. I get that projector sewing isn’t for everyone, but the more people I help make the switch, I help impact the amount of paper waste from this craft I love so much. (Click HERE for tips on getting started)
How did you first get started with garment sewing?
I started out with failing a lot lol! After I had my second child, I couldn’t lose the weight. I was really shoving my body into clothes that just didn’t fit. And I was struggling mentally and emotionally transitioning to two children. I hated how I looked in clothes and wanted to see myself as beautiful. I didn’t like the clothes I saw out shopping and I had a sewing machine. I got a couple of tissue patterns and didn’t really understand them but I would use the pattern pieces and my imagination to make something I loved. I made a harem pant jumpsuit that people loved so much I ended up selling some.
We know you make your own garments and that you also sew for your kiddos– what do you love most about that process and why is garment sewing such an important skill?
I remember being a kid and not being able to find the trendy styles in my size and I hated it. I was teased for being chubby. I hated the clothes my mom would buy me. I hated always feeling like I wish I could shrink to fit in.
It’s important to me for my kids to know that they don’t have to shrink to fit clothes and that mommy will always be able to make their fashion dreams come true. Clothes aren’t superficial–there’s a psychology behind it. Having this skill set has equipped me with a tool that not only meets my needs but the needs of my loved ones.
Can you tell us more about projector sewing and how makers might get started on this practice?
Yes! Absolutely! In a nutshell, projector sewing is when you use your basic projector (like they have in schools) and use that to project the outline of your pattern onto your fabric. Some people project onto paper but my goal in using a projector is to be a little more sustainable so I opt out of paper period. I offer classes on projector sewing because sometimes learning new things can be intimidating and hard to wrap your mind around. I make it basic, to the point, and you walk away with tangible how-tos.
You are one of the featured designers with Know Me by Mimi G for Simplicity. How did this partnership come about?
OMG so exciting, right? I had approached Mimi about expanding her sizing with Simplicity. I’ve loved Mimi’s style for YEAAAARS. When she reached out to see if I would model for her, I was truly flattered.
During a photoshoot one day, she asked me if I would come on as a designer. In true “me” fashion, I cried as I accepted it. I think it is just the coolest that she and others think my style is something they would want to recreate!
Can you tell us more about your patterns?
Sure! My patterns with KnowMe are designed to create a capsule. These are patterns that can easily be made into really versatile pieces depending on your fabric choices. I’ve seen people turn these patterns into semi-formal pieces as well as loungewear and everything in between.
I always feel like the plus-sized girlies are just encouraged to wear shapeless sacks and I don’t like that! We have shape, curves, body that needs and deserves to be shown off so that’s what I design for.
When did you first discover Aurifil Thread and why do you love it for sewing & quilting?
When did I first fall in love with Aurifil… Such a good question! I think Kate from Tough Kitten Crafts was talking about it on Instagram. So I checked it out and fell head over heels with the variegated threads. These are my absolute favorites. And I’m a huge Tula fan. But I think the nail in my love coffin was seeing that my dear friend Porfiria had a collection and I really trust her opinions on things. That was it. Now I’m pretty sure all of my projects have a bit of Aurifil in them.
What is your favorite weight thread to work with? Your favorite color?
I’m definitely a fan of the 50wt. I also have quite a bit of the 40wt for my embroidery projects too. I don’t know if I can say I have a favorite color! They are really all so good!
Your debut collection, Rustic Chic, hit stores on September 1st and is a stunning range of hues in our 50wt thread. How did you go about putting this collection together?
I honestly just went with what I felt was right to me. This year has been a lot for me in my personal life so I’ve been embracing brighter colors to lift my spirits. Fall is typically associated with the mustards, rusts, navys, olives and while I LOVE these colors, I wanted to add some brightness too. I wanted the juxtaposition of the rustic (rust and olive) with the chic (chartreuse and orchid).
Your selected hues are truly the perfect partner to the new fabrics you’ve released via Spoonflower. What inspired those fabrics?
Again… Feeling! I’m such an emotional creative. When I was younger, I used to paint with watercolor and loved how fluid that made me feel. Right now that represents something that I need. And I’m pretty sure that anyone who knows me knows I love animal print. Making it feel like denim was really fun. But I wanted depth with frivolity as well.
Can you offer any key advice to makers just getting started with their own garment sewing journey?
Take risks. Fail. And never stop creating.
What are your plans for the coming year and where can we find you for more inspiration?
My fellow designer and good friend Julian from Julian Creates and I just launched our podcast The AudaSEWtea which has been so fun. I also have a pretty active newsletter called Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Style. My YouTube Channel is also updated frequently as well!
** Images by Aaronica B. Cole