When Bed-Stuy resident Lesley Ware left her full-time job at Girl Scouts national headquarters in New York City in 2011, she began to play the field: she tried on a bunch of different career paths related to her personal and professional interests, giving herself a full year to explore her options.
During that year period, she came across a Craig's List ad. An Upper East Side parent was seeking private sewing lessons for her 11-year-old daughter. Ware, 37, loved fashion and had been sewing since she was 4 years old at the footstool of her mother, who was a seamstress and hairdresser.
"My love for fashion was from growing up with a mom who's very fashionable. But she was also very technical, by the rules. I, on the other hand, liked to bend the rules a little more," said Ware laughing. "When I was little, we would go volunteer at the local rescue mission making clothes for people who'd lost their homes. One thing she taught me that I never forgot was how to quilt and piece together different scraps of fabric quickly to make something you could wear."
Ware had continued sewing throughout her adult life, so the Craig's List ad seemed like a no-brainer (and fun)!
Ware got the job and in no time, and her first client began referring her to other families. Now, with a small class, and a little more pressure to build a loose curricula, Ware began researching for DIY reference books on sewing for tweens:
"I needed a book; I looked everywhere and nothing! There wasn't anything that spoke to today's modern tween girl," said Ware. "So I just started writing it myself."
After Ware started teaching all of her girls on the Upper East Side, she was lucky enough to find and open a small studio in Gowanus where she set up a series of sewing classes for tweens, all the while working on writing her book.
"Every step of the way, I just asked my students for their feedback-- even the book's illustrator, I showed them a portfolio of different illustrators and asked them which one they liked the most," she said.
Two of Ware's students served as junior editors.
"I said 'Okay girls, sit down and read this manuscript. Is there anything that doesn't make sense, is there anything that is really off?'" said Ware. "They helped me make the content fresh, easy and approachable enough for young girls. And I paid them with "fashion points"—every time my students did something good they get fashion points they can trade in for gift certificates, nail polish, earrings, stickers, fun things they would love!"
Three years later, February 2015, Ware released her first book, SEW FAB: Sewing and Style for Young Fashionistas. Sew Fab is a luminous sewing workbook for girls (or boys), ages 8-13, packed with gorgeous illustrations by German-based artist Sabine Pieper, along with step-by-step projects, tips and fun sewing activities. Sew Fab is targeted to tweens who wish to find their style tribe; learn to sew, accessorize and make wearable art; and take their creative, DIY spirit to the next level.
Currently, Ware runs small business called The Creative Cookie, a boutique sewing studio in Redhook that she shares with her husband Kamau Ware, who is a photographer. She just finished her second book, loosely titled, "Fab Fashion: My Style File." It's the follow up to her first book, targeting 12- to 15-year-olds; it's what the girl who is reading Sew Fab would want a year from now.
Amazon selected Sew Fab as the "Best Book of the Month" for February. You can order Sew Fab online at Laurence King Publishing LTD., Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Ware's next book readings and appearances are on April 4, at the Rena Reborn Boutique in New York City, and May 2, at Brooklyn Museum's Target 1st Saturdays.