When you live in your design, it is from there that God shines. This is more than a slogan for Anita Morris. It is the guiding principle of her life, her business and even the way she sews. Besides serving as an ambassador for Baby Lock, Anita runs her online blog, website, YouTube channel and Amazon store under the Anita by Design moniker. You will thoroughly enjoy meeting this very busy woman of great faith, grace, and talent.
Anita by Design with Anita Morris
IN THIS EPISODE
ABOUT THE GUEST
Anita Morris is the creator of Anita by Design, a sewing blog designed to inspire style, confidence, and creativity for women of all ages. Her passion lies in encouraging, building up, teaching, and empowering other women in any way she can. She believes that when a woman discovers and embraces her own personal style, it boosts confidence and opens the door to amazing creativity with her wardrobe. When you add sewing to this equation and equip her with the tools needed to create her own garments — that’s where the magic happens. No longer is she confined to what the fashion industry tells her she should wear. She now has the power and tools to create fashion based on her own personal style and body type. She wants to share her God-given talent with anyone who will listen and learn.
Anita by Design, Anita Morris, beginner sewist, Sew Powerful, Anita by Design YouTube channel, Anita by Design blog, Step Into It book, grief, faith, Anita by Design tutorials
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Anita Morris
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
When you live in your design, it is from there that God shines. Today our Sew Powerful podcast guest is Anita Morris, author of that inspiring statement, Anita writes a very popular blog called Anita By Design, is a brand ambassador for Baby Lock sewing machines, has a beginner sewing course on YouTube, runs an Amazon store that offers great sewing notions, is a recent widow, Mom and woman of faith. Hello, Anita, how are you today?
Hi, Jan, I'm fine. Thank you so much for having me as your guest. Glad to be here.
We're so glad you are here. Before we get into your background and let me just say I can hardly wait to dig into this because I'm just so intrigued. So, describe what is Anita By Design - the business side, not Anita by design, the person that God made.
Yes, and Anita is a DIY fashion blog, and YouTube channel. I love to teach what I know. So as I'm learning I like to create content to share with the people who are in my audience what I'm learning so that they too can sew and enjoy and fall in love with this craft as much as I have.
What is your typical YouTube video like?
The typical video is sewing. I do sewing tutorials, I do sew alongs, I do pattern reviews. Yeah, that's, I do all the fun stuff. I make people happy. But you know one thing when I did start the channel, I decided I want to give people all of me. It's sewing, but when you come to my channel, when you when you come to my blog, you're getting Anita. That's why I call it Anita By Design, because the way God has created me is the way you're going to see me.
How did you come to sewing? What led you to become, do you say sewer, sewist, seamstress? What is your term?
I say sewist. I said seamstress, I said sewer, but sewist seems to be the term that I use the most.
Okay, so how did you come to become a sewist?
I was introduced to the sewing machine in eighth grade Home Economics. I enjoyed it, loved it, but I didn't follow it up after I left from middle school. Then in my, I think it was my mid 20s, I had a mutual friend, my best friend Tina had a friend Renee, and Renee sewed all of her clothes. Renee allowed me and Tina to wear one of her dress, two of her dresses. And when I put the dress on my body, I absolutely fell in love because I had never worn anything custom designed before. And from that moment, I decided I wanted to learn how to make my own clothes. I knew that I wanted to learn sewing.
I looked for a sewing class and I found a lady in Los Angeles who had her own private studio. So I went to her and took a few classes where she taught me the basics of sewing, how to read a pattern, how to cut the fabric, how to sew, how to use a serger. I used a serger in the very beginning days when I was learning to sew. And from there, so after learning the basics with her, I went out, Jan, and I just bought every book I could find to teach myself how to sew. I think I probably went to the library, too, and checked out books because at that time there was no internet. So that's where it all started.
Wow. Well, that's impressive. And so at what point did you decide to start the business? You've gone from a hobbyist to, now you're a professional, What was the impetus there?
Well, I, my friend introduced me to the Mimi G style blog in 2000, I think it was 2015. And I had never seen anything like that. I had heard of blogs but was not familiar. I hadn't, had never gone to a blog to read one. And when I went to her blog, I thought, oh my goodness, this is absolutely amazing. And I had already, I had taken a break after I learned to sew and I sewed for about a year I became engaged, got married, started having children right away. So sewing took a backseat for probably 16 years. And then,
Well, but you had sons, right, not daughters?
I had sons.
Daughters takes you on a different path.
Yeah. And occasionally over that 16 year period I would sew something here and there, like I would sew a costume or two for the boys, I would sew curtains for the house, I would sew a dress here and there for me, but nothing consistent.
That sounds like my story.
I have two sons also, and costumes were the only thing they allowed me to, that they would wear that I could sew for them.
Yes. So when I returned to sewing around 2014, and my friend introduced me to Mimi's blog, I became very intrigued. So I started following her and found out she was having a sewing conference. I tried to sign up for that year, but it was already sold out, sold out. So I made sure that I got my ticket for the following year and went to the conference and got to meet all of these women who sew, and I had no idea there were so many people still sewing. I was like, wow, there's a huge sewing community here. So I got to meet these women and talk about sewing. And it was just so exciting.
And I heard a few of them talking about the Facebook group. And I asked, Well, what, how do you get in? And they said that after you attend her conference, then you can get in. So sure enough, after the conference I got the invitation to join the Facebook group. And oh, just to be in that community with all the women showing their makes, talking sewing, I was home. And I started sharing my things. And you know, we would compliment each other and just celebrate each other. And the more I did it, the women started commenting, saying you should start a blog, you should start a blog. And that kind of put, planted the seed in my mind. And I thought, I don't know, we'll see.
And even at first I said, No, absolutely not. I have no interest in that. But eventually I said, ah, we'll see. So one day, I decided to just go ahead and push the button and with my husband pushing me in the background saying, Do it, do it, do it. So I decided to just give it a try. Not for business reasons, I just wanted to share what I was doing with people all over the sewing community. So that's how it started.
Well, and on your website, you focus on beginning sewers, right? Sewists, correct?
I'm gonna say sewists today. And so one of the things that you have people start with is making a circle skirt.
Yeah, so talk a little bit about making the circle skirt and why you started, why have people start with that item.
Okay, the reason I wanted to start with the circle skirt, it's because it's not a fitted garment. And it's, you know, when you're starting with beginners, I mean, even for us, intermediate sewers and above, fit can be very, very interesting. So I wanted to choose a garment where they only had to fit one part of their body, and that's the waist.
And because the circle skirt is a simple project, I thought they can do this. I'm going to walk them through it, and they can do it. So that's why I chose a circle skirt.
Mm hmm. And people, I see people that, all the time commenting, thank you for showing me how to make a circle skirt and then showing off the results. In your blog and on your YouTube channel you show the different pieces of clothing that you've made for yourself from all different pattern makers. Talk how you select a pattern, and are you affiliated with any of these pattern makers?
No, I'm not affiliated with any of the pattern companies. I choose patterns based on my style. When the new patterns would come out I would look through and choose what I like, what fits my personal style, and go from there. Now I used to buy lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of patterns. I had a really huge collection. I have since purged some of them because I was just overflowing But yeah, I just choose based on my personal style and go from there.
The dress that you're, is it a dress? We can only see the top half.
It's a dress. Describe the dress, and you know what pattern that came from?
This? You know what, I don't remember the, it's a Vogue pattern, I think, I'm not sure but it may be 8825. It was a very popular one that had a plunging V in the front. And it's a very loose fitting, flowy maxi dress. I had to adjust, alter the V neck because I don't wear the plunging neckline. So I found a video on YouTube on how to do that. And yeah, this is one of my favorites. I wear it all the time.
And what fabric is that made from?
This is, I think this is a, I think this is a rayon. It's a very lightweight rayon. I don't even remember, Jan.
It's very pretty and a very colorful floral.
I love it. I love it. So who are the typical, is there a typical person who subscribes to your blog? And where do you find new people? How do people find out about you, Anita?
Well, as far as the typical person, my target market is beginners, because that's mostly what I offer on my YouTube channel is beginning sewing. And sew alongs that are more, that tend to navigate toward the simple side. As far as, I don't, I don't think, I don't find them. They find me, Jan. And I think because I'm present in all of the social areas that they find me. So I can't say that I've intentionally gone out to look for supporters, they just kind of find me.
Well, that's wonderful. Why don't we take a quick break here. And when we come back, we're going to talk to Anita some more about some of her experiences. And Anita also knows a little bit about Sew Powerful and has supported us last year through Baby Lock. So let's take a break. And Anita, when we come back, we'll talk with you some more.
Okay, sounds good.
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Welcome back. We've been speaking with Anita Morris, who runs a very popular blog for beginning sewists called Anita By Design. And we've been exploring her background and it's just been so fascinating. Anita, tell us a little bit about your Amazon business. You have some very cool notions on there.
Yes. You know, that came as a wonderful surprise. I had actually applied to have an Amazon store, gosh, I think it was a year or two ago, maybe, but I was denied. And I just let it go. I was like, Oh, well, maybe I don't have enough followers, supporters, whatever. Then later on, they sent me an invitation to open a store and I thought, Oh, well, what changed? I don't know. So I just, I opened the store. And in the store, I've included all of the items that I have used or currently have in my in my studio. There may be a few that I don't, that I'm interested in, that I like. But yeah, I just posted all of the things. I have a page on there for beginners, where I've included items that you, that are very helpful when you're learning to sew. And I call that the beginner's sewing kit. So there's a sewing machine, there are all of the little notions that you need when you're starting, iron, those types of things.
And what is the name of your Amazon store?
Anita By Design. Oh, wait, I think it's Anita By Design. Yes, it's Anita By Design. Is it, Jan?
Yes, it is. So somebody could just go to Amazon and search for Anita By Design, and then we would find your store. And that sounds like, especially the beginner one, if you have someone in your family that wants to get started on sewing, sometimes they just don't know what tools they're going to need to get started. That sounds like a great asset.
So thank you. Thank you for doing that. So when you make a dress and follow a pattern, does that cause your followers to then attempt to do the same style of clothing or use that same pattern?
Yes. And, all the time, it happens all the time when I post a video. Well, what I've started doing this year, if I will sew a dress or whatever it is I'm sewing and I will post to my YouTube channel, a pattern review. So I will give them all the information about the pattern. I give them a look at the dress on my body to see what it looks like when it's finished. And just give them a bit of information, things I like, things I don't like about the pattern, and then I follow that up with a sew along video. So that for those who are interested, they can get their pattern and all of their supplies after watching the pattern review, and then come to the sew along to sell the dress with me.
And so how long is a typical sew along? Are you showing every stitch or just the beginning of putting in the sleeve, or? How does that work?
My videos, my sew alongs are pretty detailed. Now, Jan, in my beginner sewing course, the videos were typically about an hour, which is a long time, but I was walking them through every single detail because that's the way I learned, I don't want you to skip any steps. If I'm a true beginner, I want you to show me everything you're doing and I want you to explain why you're doing it. So that's what I did in the beginner sewing course. Now with the sew alongs I don't share every single detail, but they're still pretty, there's a lot of information in there and I share tips along the way. So my videos now, the sew alongs are, I'm gonna say about 35-40 minutes.
But that's not bad, because
you're, as you're watching, you're going to watch a little bit, stop the video, do this,
and then come back and get to the next step.
Right, that's what people do.
Yeah, that sounds very, very great. And what, do you have one that's more popular than others?
Sew along or just the videos in general?
My most popular video on my YouTube channel is the very first video in the beginners sewing course. And that video, I teach them how to go to the fabric store. And I actually take them to the fabric store and show them the different sections, the fabric section, the pattern section, the notions and how to buy those things. People absolutely loved that. And then I teach them how to read a pattern. And they, so many people have commented on that. That is my most popular video on my YouTube channel.
That sounds so creative and great. I guess I didn't watch it because I thought, well, I'm not a beginner. But it sounds like there's something to learn for everybody even if you've been sewing for a while. You've showed me a photo of a purse that you made for Sew Powerful. And I think, do you recall how you heard about Sew Powerful originally?
Yes, I was introduced to Sew Powerful through Baby Lock. And this was last year, 2019, when they launched the campaign to support you and what you were doing. And they asked us, their influencers and ambassadors, to join in by making a purse to donate for the cause.
Can you describe the purse that you made? I saw a photo; it was really pretty.
Yes. The purse, well, we received the pattern from you guys, we got the pattern from your website. And the purse I made, the outside was made of a thin corduroy and then the (it was burgundy), and the inside was made with a lightweight cotton with floral, pretty little white flowers. It was a blue and white, like an aqua blue and white. I can't remember the actual color, like a turquoise, blue and white checker with flowers.
And you put a little panel on the outside and you did you embroider the words on there?
Yes, I did. I wanted to play around with my embroidery on my Baby Lock Soprano, which I had never done before. So I thought that was a good time to give that a little test run. So yeah, I created a little panel for the front flap of the purse and put it on there.
Well, there'll be a girl in Zambia that will get a very special burgundy purse and you and I will know that, and our listeners, will know that it's from you.
So what do you see in the future for Anita By Design? Where do you want to take the business from here?
Well, I have a secret project that I'm working on. I'm not ready to share about it at this time. But I will say that I am in the process of taking Anita By Design to the next level.
And that's all I can say right now, Jan.
Okay, we will, we will. I want you to talk about your faith and how that guides you in your business. And if you can explain to us how you came up with your slogan, "When you live in your design, it is from there that God shines." Let's end our podcast with you explaining that for our listeners.
Okay. My faith in God is, it's my center. It's my foundation. It guides everything about me in every area of life. And I had shared with you when I started the blog that I wanted to make sure that I prayed and asked God to help me to honor Him in doing this. So when I chose the name Anita By Design, the reason behind it is that I wanted people to see the person behind the sewing machine. So when I'm sewing and posting the YouTube videos and sharing on the blog, I have had so many comments from people who say that, I came here for sewing, but I'm getting something much more, and deeper than sewing. And every time I hear that comment, Jan, my heart just leaps for joy, because I feel like God is, He answers my prayer from the beginning of, Help me to honor you, God. So I think that people are seeing Him through me. And it's not just Anita. So that was the reason behind the name.
And then the slogan, at the end, "When you live in your design, it is from there that God shines." That means when you live according to the way that you've been created, it is from that place that God will use you to bless other people. And for me, I had to come to be okay with showing up just as I am. There, the sewing community is huge. There are so many channels out there, so many sewing blogs. And in the beginning, I wondered, well, do people really want another sewing channel? Do people want another sewing blog? There's so many others out there. And they're all doing this thing. And I had to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who tells me, Yes, but you're Anita. There's not another Anita out there, and you're going out there, you're going to encourage other women in their sewing and in their faith.
Anita I have to thank you so much for your time. And it's just been a delight to talk with you and to get to know you. And I hope our listeners will check out your blog and your YouTube channels and your Amazon store and get to know you a little bit more because you certainly do shine through your design. So thank you very much.
You're welcome, Jan. Thank you. Thank you for having me. It's been nice to speak with you.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.