This week we talk to our Omaha, Nebraska Regional Coordinator, Laura Ostdiek. Laura has a fascinating life story, including a history of decorating floats for the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. This has to be one of the most unusual hobbies we have encountered. Listen carefully because Laura reveals a very surprising secret about float decorating that you wouldn't suspect just by watching the parade. Floats aside, we will explore Laura's passion for Sew Powerful, making purses and volunteering beyond her responsibilities as a Regional Coordinator.
Meet Regional Coordinator Laura Ostdiek
IN THIS EPISODE
Sew Powerful, sewing for charity, fighting poverty, Rose Bowl Parade, parade floats, volunteer, Kuwait, Middle East, Nebraska, Pixie Faire, Liberty Jane
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
Pixie Faire, https://www.pixiefaire.com
Tournament of Roses Parade, https://tournamentofroses.com/about/about-rose-parade/
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: Laura Ostdiek
Jan Cancila, Host 00:04
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.
Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Laura Ostdiek. Laura, as you may know, is the Regional Coordinator for Sew Powerful representing Omaha, Nebraska. But that's not the only hat that Laura wears, she has volunteered to serve on the Chapter Development Committee, and we'll chat about that in a moment. She was also one of the first people to sign up for the Speak Up for Sew Powerful training. And let me tell you, I think in the next version of this, Laura may end up being the instructor. She is a very gifted speaker. Laura has been working with Sew Powerful for a while, and we're going to delve in that including her very interesting background and what I just learned moments ago, the international locations where she's lived throughout her life. So welcome, Laura, how are you today?
Laura Ostdiek, Guest 01:12
I'm doing well, thanks, Jan. How are you?
I am fine. Thank you so very much. Let's just start out and talk about some of the places you've lived in your life. This is so fascinating. Where did you start out and sort of what happened here?
Well, I started out near Washington, DC, and then moved to upstate New York, and then Seattle. I went to college in Chicago and moved to LA. And then after a while I moved overseas to the Middle East and to Venezuela and then back to the States. So, I've been on East Coast, West Coast, kind of north, south and then overseas.
And now you're in the, almost the heart of the country, the very middle.
Wow. Well, and so which of these places did you find the most interesting?
Well, overseas is always an interesting experience because you learn a lot about yourself. You get exposed to different cultures and seeing them from the inside is always very fascinating.
And where did you live in the Middle East?
In Kuwait. And that was before and after the Iraq invasion, so we saw two sides of the country.
And as a woman living in Kuwait, how was that for you?
Kuwait is freer than some of the other countries, but you still dress very conservatively and mind your P's and Q's.
And so, what led you to make all these moves internationally?
My husband at the time was involved in the oil industry. And so those were two big members of OPEC. So, follow the money.
And were you working? Or were you just absorbing the culture while you were overseas?
I did have some jobs. One of them was working in the American School in Kuwait teaching computer literacy to the students, and some other odd jobs here and there, which again, is fascinating when you're working with the local people. A lot of the children were Americans, international students that was at the American school.
And, and you were teaching computer literacy. Do you have a degree in that field?
I have a degree in math, and then in Information Resources Management, which is kind of the link between the MBA and the very technical side of computers.
And so when you got back to the states, is that when you resumed your career?
Yes. And I worked as a software development project manager for years.
So for those of us who may not be into software development, what does the software development project manager do?
Mostly tell people when they need to have things done, kind of get people organized to all move in the same direction toward a similar goal.
So what are some of the examples of some kind of projects that you managed?
Well, we had a software package that handled the customer support and billing software for your cable company or your internet company. And so we would upgrade that as more features became available in those industries. And it's always interesting when you're trying to upgrade something that's already in place, you have to do a lot of regression testing to make sure you didn't break something that was already working.
Well, and, you know, having worked with you on a couple of different projects for Sew Powerful I can see how that background is applied here to Sew Powerful, and we're, we're so lucky to have found you. So speaking of which, when did you find Sew Powerful?
About 2017, I think. I was sewing doll clothes for granddaughter-to-be and I came across Pixie Faire and Liberty Jane, and then saw the purse pattern and just took off from there.
Yeah, lots of people come in through the Pixie Faire Liberty Jane door. So you mentioned a granddaughter. Tell us about your family.
Well, I have a stepson and stepdaughter and they're married, and each has two kids. So I've got three grandsons and one granddaughter, and they're lovely kids.
Oh, how nice. And do you get to use your sewing skills to benefit these grandchildren? Are they older than that?
Some of them. I've been making Batman capes and Superman capes, and then doll clothes, of course. And then curtains for bedrooms, things like that.
Yeah. How fun, how fun is that? I recently saw a picture of you that said, "Laura crafting". And I just got the idea that you do a lot more than sewing. Tell us what else you do besides using your sewing machine.
I work with paper. I borrowed my daughter-in-law's Cricut machine and had fun making some 3d paper flowers for a niece's bridal shower. That was lots of fun. Whatever catches my eye, I try. I do stained glass and things like that.
Oh, wow. I always wanted to try stained glass but have never really done it. So, you found Sew Powerful back in 2017. And what was it about Sew Powerful that resonated with you when you first heard about it?
The opportunity to help the girls get a better education.
Well, you have an advanced degree, I presume education is important to you.
It is, it is. And you know, I think girls get the short end of the stick with the whole period management thing. And we've had it very easy in the Western world. And anything we can do to make other girls lives easier in those lines; I think it's important.
So did you start making purses right away? Or did you think about it for a while?
Right in. You were hooked. So I always have to ask my guests: Are you on Team Strap or Team Webbing?
Depends on how much of the fabric I have. If it's a heavier fabric the strap it's often too cumbersome to turn. But I just ordered 11 bolts of webbing, so that's gonna be the next several purses.
Did you get multiple colors or one color?
Multiple colors. Isn't that fun?
So now I get to go find fabric that goes with all these.
Yeah, I know sometimes I spend way more time trying to find the matching color webbing. I bought this fabric, well, I hadn't bought it. It was in my cart at JoAnn's too. And it was this shade of purple that I loved and I was determined to find a strap that would go with it. And I must have spent 20 minutes in the webbing aisle holding all these different color webbings up there. And I think I picked black because I didn't like the purples that they had. Why don't we take a quick break and when we come back let's talk a little bit more about your involvement with Sew Powerful. So, listeners, please stay tuned.
Have you gotten the second edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original bestseller (4.9 out of five stars by the way) is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen, and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order, if you use smile.amazon.com and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.
Welcome back. We have been speaking with Laura Ostdiek, who is the Regional Coordinator from Omaha, Nebraska, who's been sharing some really interesting background information with us. And there was one thing that I meant to ask you before the break and I didn't, and this is so fascinating. I'm just gonna give a little background here. This past Christmas, Christmas 2020, all the Regional Coordinators were on a Zoom call, and we were all sharing how Christmas 2020 was going to be different than most others because of COVID. And we were saying things like well, we can't visit family or, you know, my selection at the grocery store is very limited or whatever. And then we get to Laura and Laura says, I'm not going to be able to participate in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California. And we're all like, what!? Tell us about what you do or have been doing for the Rose Parade, and how you got involved in all of that, Laura.
Well, close to 20, close to 30 years ago, I worked for a company that sponsored a float, and so they would give us time during that last week in December to work on the floats. And I liked it so much, I just kept going back.
Is this when you lived in L.A.?
Oh, okay. All right. Okay, so keep going. I'm sorry to interrupt.
So I just keep going back. I kept in touch with the right people. And I've been working with two particular crew chiefs for several years now. And so whatever float they're assigned to, I follow along with them.
And what is it that you do when you work on a float?
Mostly put the final touches on, the decorations. It's not just flowers, it can be seeds and leaves and rice and any natural material that gives the color and the texture that they're looking for on the float.
Okay, but is there a sketch that you're following? And glue? I mean, how does this work? I want to know the details.
So there's a huge steel structure and chassis that is the basis of the float and then that's covered with spray foam, or else kind of a paper mâché material that we can stick flowers into, or glue seeds and rice on to and it's painted. So, the part that's painted white is where we're going to put the rice and the part that's painted brown, maybe walnut shells, something like that. So, it's kind of like decorate by color, paint by number kind of thing.
But instead of using paint we're using natural materials.
And do they adhere with glue? Is that how you get them on there?
A lot of things adhere with glue. Some of the more hardy flowers are glued on but the more delicate ones like roses and irises are inserted into individual vials that are filled with water and Seven Up mixture; that sugar helps them stay a little longer. And then those are actually poked into the foam on the float.
You are kidding me. I look at those floats all the time and think now they couldn't have done that this morning because they wouldn't have had time. But yet the flowers all look so fresh. You have revealed a big secret here. So wow, that is incredible. And so, do you plan to continue to do that once travel restrictions are opened up?
Oh my gosh. So, have any of the floats you've worked on won any of the prizes?
Yeah, most of them have. We did Trader Joe's for many years, and those always won a prize because they're very extraordinary designs. But the last few years, it's been City of Hope, which deals with cancer patients. And those are really special because a lot of the people that have been involved with their recovery at City of Hope come to do some decorating. So that's pretty neat to meet them, interface with them. But I think my favorite was the Tuskegee Airmen float, because these gentlemen who flew in World War II are in their 80s and 90s. And they were there every day just to watch our progress and to greet the people. And they're just such accomplished gentlemen, it was a pleasure to meet them.
And then did they ride on the float during the parade?
No, you really have to work for the company that sponsors the float and have a special "in" for that. I have more fun sitting in the grandstands on New Year's Day watching all the floats. I think you get a better view of everything.
How nice. And have you ridden on a float?
And so I presume you have a very critical eye when you're looking at the float that those of us who just watch on TV don't have.
It's hard to be critical because they're all so beautiful.
Well, how nice. Okay, well, let's pivot a little bit and let's get back to Sew Powerful. You are serving on the Chapter Development Committee. And can you just tell our listeners briefly what we're trying to do on this Committee?
Well, we're trying to define what a Chapter might be: a gathering of people that get together to produce purses or note cards or both for Sew Powerful. So, we're trying to put a few parameters around that, that will encourage people to get together and increase our footprint, have more people join the Sew Powerful Purse Project.
Yeah. Okay. Well, and you volunteered to be the person to keep all the records for the Committee and I have to say, Laura has done an outstanding job. It's it's just really fantastic. You also signed up for Speak Up for Sew Powerful, which is a little six-part training program put together and led by Betty Johnson, who is one of our newer Regional Coordinators, but in Betty's former life she worked very closely with Toastmasters. So our program is loosely based on that, but of course oriented towards Sew Powerful. Why did you choose to sign up for Speak Up for Sew Powerful?
I thought it would be a good idea to have some practice and some canned speeches (if you want to call it that) some, like, 30-second and one-minute spiels that when people ask, What are you doing with the fabric? or What is this purse for? that I can speak very eloquently about that on the spur of the moment rather than hemming and hawing and trying to remember what it was I wanted to tell people.
Yes. And so during each of these sessions, all the participants give their 30-second or one minute talk. And then we do a blind voting and choose one of the talks to include in the training materials that are just the edited version of the class. And in the first class, Laura's talk was chosen. I think it was unanimous. It was really, really well done. Laura's a very eloquent speaker. And I'm very excited that you chose to sign up for this and that we have your example speeches. Your one-minute talk was also really very good. And so I think the progress of the course is, now we're about to do the two minute talk the following week. We have quite a few new members that joined Sew Powerful just today. We used to have four, five or six new people that joined the Facebook group. And today the list looked like 15 or more, maybe 20 people had joined. Do you have any thoughts about why we're getting more members joining our groups lately?
I hope that we're getting the message out there, that this is a really worthwhile project. I think people have been cooped up for a long time because of COVID-19 and they're looking for new things to do. And making purses is an excellent opportunity to use that fabric and also spend some time making something really, really cute.
Yeah, maybe this would be directed to people who are newer to Sew Powerful, but what is it that resonates with you? You talked a little bit about the menstrual health management portion of it. But can you elaborate on that a little bit?
That they're helping the the girls in Zambia, and not just the girls. That they're providing employment in their co-ops for the women who sew and make soap, the farming that they've started up, too. That's, it's more than just helping one portion of the population; it's spreading a lot farther than that.
Yeah, yeah. Okay. What purse do you typically make? Do you make the beginner or the intermediate or the combo? Or what do you do?
The combo. I graduated; I think mostly to the beginner pattern for the body of the purse but then I like to vary the flap. And I'll use any one of the designs for the flap.
And you have a go to embellishment or what do you like to do, Laura?
I have a whole stack of buttons that I've been given or found, and so there's all, usually a button. If not, ribbons and other things like that.
Okay, all right. Well, we will look for photos of purses with button embellishments. And we'll maybe know right away by seeing that, that's that that's a Laura Ostdiek original, a Laura Ostdiek original. So anyway. Well, Laura, thank you so much for your time today. It's been a pleasure speaking with you and learning about your fascinating background, your education, and the many ways that you volunteer for and support Sew Powerful. So, thank you so much.
Thank you, Jan, it's been a pleasure talking with you.
It's been fun talking with you as well.
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.