Meet Carla Robertson, co-founder and operator of the non-profit, Dallas Designing Dreams. This unique organization is a small business incubator, offering access to equipment and expertise to make entrepreneurs' dreams come true. Finding Sew Powerful brought Carla another opportunity to give back because her new Sew Powerful Chapter, Sew My Dream, meets in this studio and makes use of the fabulous array of equipment and creative space. Listen as Carla shares what motivates her to help dreams come true for her community and our schoolgirls in Zambia.
Dreaming Big in Dallas with Carla Robertson
IN THIS EPISODE
Sew Powerful, Dallas, Arthur Porter, leather, dreams, equipment, Carla Robertson, sewing, embroidery, digitizing, drones, Airbnb experience, studio, creativity, travel, teaching, forming a Sew Powerful chapter, oak cliff, sewing machine, wedding gowns, classes, purses
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.
Sew Powerful purse patterns: https://www.sewpowerful.org/collections/purse-pattern
Dallas Designing Dreams: https://www.dallasdesigningdreams.org/
Sew My Dream, Sew Powerful Chapter: https://www.sewpowerful.org/pages/sew-for-charity-dallas-texas
Arthur Porter’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/MrDallas1953
Airbnb Experience: https://www.airbnb.com/s/experiences
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: Carla Robertson
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.
Hello, Sew Powerful podcast listeners. I have a treat for you today. We are going to be speaking with Carla Robertson from Dallas, Texas. And Carla is a relatively new Sew Powerful Chapter Leader. But my goodness, Carla has been doing the most interesting things in Dallas. So similar in scope and objective to what we're doing with Sew Powerful that I just had to talk to her and you're going to love getting to know Carla. Carla, how are you today?
Carla Robertson, Guest 00:53
I'm doing great. How are you? Jan?
Oh, I'm fine. I'm fine. I sort of gave a hand but where are you?
I'm in Dallas, Texas, actually, at this moment in our studio.
Oh, okay. All right. We're gonna get to your studio in a little bit. And where are you from originally?
I am a native Dallasite. I know that's kind of unusual to meet people from the actual city but that's where I'm from.
Oh, that's fantastic. And so you grew up in the Dallas area? Is that right?
Yes, I grew up in South Oak Cliff.
So I lived in the Dallas area for about six years, a long time ago. And I'm sure things have changed a lot. But I know where South Oak Cliff is. So that's wonderful. Tell us a little bit about your hobbies and interests and I think this is all going to end up dovetailing into what we're going to talk about for your studio. But what kind of hobbies do you enjoy Carla?
Well, I often tell people how I really got started was I love sewing. And my mom taught me to sew when I was very young. And I thought I would be a teacher. And I thought I always wanted to travel. And somehow all of this has come together in my whole career. So, my interests include traveling, and I've gotten the chance to travel around, you know, different parts of the world. And this year at home I just love being around my family. I love doing different projects together and working together. And just being able to use our creative gifts. We're all in some capacity in the field of creativity. My mom's a piano teacher. My dad's a minister. My brother's a chef. My sister, she's an artist, and I have nieces and nephews, I have other brothers and sisters. They're all into the arts of some kind, as far as their hobby skills. So we have lots of fun just creating together.
Jan Cancila 02:53
Wow, what a fun family reunion that would be. That's fantastic. So, what kind of things do you like to sew?
Because I'm a custom dressmaker, I love working with clients on their wedding gowns, you know, their prom dresses, and then those who just cannot find what they want in the store. I love creating for those body types. So mostly clothes, but I get a chance to do quilting occasionally and things like that sort.
A custom clothing designer. Wow. Including wedding gowns.
What is your favorite? Do you like wedding gowns?
I don't know that I have a favorite. I just love sewing.
Well, before I joined Sew Powerful, I owned a business that was in the wedding related field and there's a lot of pressure to have everything about a wedding just perfect. So, I can really applaud you for taking that on. Now you mentioned the word studio. Now tell us what is this a studio for? Take us through sort of step by step so we can understand this.
In 1999, I felt this calling based on something that my pastor said. I've been in a church where Dr. Tony Evans is the pastor. And he talked about whatever it is that you know how to do you should pass it on to the next generation. And so, I thought that would mean I would have to start teaching classes about sewing because I was already designing clothes. And one of my first students was Arthur Porter, who is the co-founder of our studio, Dallas Designing Dreams. Well, he came into the class in 1999; we lost touch. 2006 my mom saw an article about a guy who was teaching kids about leather, and it was Arthur Porter. And so, I called him up to say congratulations and he said, "You need to come down here. We're starting something new. And I think it would be a great fit for you." But our studio is just an opportunity for people who have dreams or broken dreams, and they want to start something that they've always wanted to do. And they just don't know how to start it, or they think they don't have the money. And it's an opportunity for us to give them access to equipment, to give them access to knowledge, to learn how to do things themselves. And so, we have various activities going on in here at any given time to help people get started on their dreams.
Jan Cancila 05:22
Wow. And so, are these scheduled classes, or people just come in when they have time? Or how does this work?
Some of them are scheduled classes, but a lot of times, we just get people who drop in. They just want to know what we are doing in here. And from that moment, we get them to schedule a class by appointment. But there's just so many different things in here to do. There's not one particular thing that stands out over another. But we have so many different things like our drone simulator we have in here. So, somebody that wants to learn how to fly a drone, then they want to get their license, if they have an embroidery machine, but they want to learn how to digitize we have digitizing software, so they can come learn how to digitize and take that home and be able to use their embroidery machine. We are an actual Airbnb experience site. And this may be something some of your Chapters could do, too is you host an event for people to sign up for, like our event happens to be digital t-shirt design. So, they come in, and we teach them how to do some graphic design, then they create a t-shirt and they leave out of here two and a half hours to get their own custom t-shirt.
Jan Cancila 06:41
Okay, can you back up to the Airbnb experience? So, you're, it's not somebody lodging with you. It's somebody
Coming to take a class or experience an event with you.
Jan Cancila 06:54
Wow. Oh, my goodness. I've never heard about that before. And so, I presume that gets a lot of exposure, because there's a lot of traffic on that Airbnb site.
And it's something that you don't have to go and advertise for because it's being advertised for you on Airbnb.
Wow, what a tip. Chapter Leaders and people who are organizing sew days for Sew Powerful, we need to check this out: the Airbnb experience. Wow, that's wonderful. Okay, well, and you know, I can look over your shoulder. I can see there is a lot of equipment in this studio.
This is just one section. This is just the heat press section. You're looking at.
Wow. This is amazing. And so, did you start out with all this equipment? Or did you acquire it over time?
We've acquired over the last 16 years. So, we started out with one computer, one printer, you know, three or four used sewing machines that we've just grown to all this other equipment over the years.
Oh my gosh, well, that is fantastic. Now, haven't you been featured on local TV in the Dallas area?
Yes, I've been on Good Morning, Texas here, maybe two or three times. And then Arthur's appeared on several different programs that people have just come in and ask that they interview us to talk about what's going on in Dallas, or how someone can help others. So that's pretty much what our logo says is, you know, helping each other.
Let me back up. Tell us a little bit about your co-founder Arthur Porter, and his expertise with leather. What kind of leather are we talking about? What do people learn from Arthur?
Arthur Porter is the brainchild of Dallas Designing Dreams. He was given this vision to start. And so, Arthur learned and really taught himself how to work with leather. And so now he teaches other people how to create their own handbags and accessories. He doesn't teach sewing leather for clothing, but he does any type of handbags, accessories, or belts and things like that. And so, people come from practically all over the world take classes from him.
Oh, my goodness, well, that is amazing. That is fantastic.
He also teaches on a YouTube, his YouTube channel, and he uses that particular arm to let people learn how to do that. It's free of charge. But we also sell the patterns that he's teaching from so they get to have the pattern; they get to have the video of how to make it at the same time.
Wow, this is so intriguing. I am just amazed. Now Carla, don't you also own a business besides the nonprofit?
Yes, Jan. I have a business called C. Adele Creations which is basically my name Carla Adele.
Oh, now we know your middle name, right?
And I use it to schedule classes for sewing. So, I have a lot of beginner students who are just wanting to learn how to use their sewing machine. So of course, they can get started on their dreams.
I also use that as a way of people connecting with me when they want to get wedding gowns and proms and other types of projects that I get to do so.
Wow, you are a busy woman. This is fantastic. So, let's talk a little bit about Sew Powerful here. When did you first hear about Sew Powerful? What caught your eye?
Originally, I think in December, I was looking for patterns for doll clothes for my niece who want to sew doll clothes. And I didn't really connect Pixie Faire with Sew Powerful. But I was looking on my Roku channel to see what other podcasts I can look for. And I went on Spotify and saw Oh, there's something called Sew Powerful. I started listening and I thought,
Wait a minute. Wait, you're saying the Sew Powerful Podcast brought you to us? And now you're a guest on the Sew Powerful Podcast?
Oh, that's fantastic. Okay, go on. Sorry.
So that's how I found out about Sew Powerful is from the podcast. Let me check this out and see what it is. And it was so close to some of the things that I've had an opportunity to work with over the years that I thought this should be the next step for me. I've had a chance to travel and work in programs like this. But I've also been here at our studio, and we've had Giving Saturday where we make pillowcases for the homeless shelters, here in Dallas. So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to get Giving Saturday going again with a new project. And so, I just love the mission of what Sew Powerful is about.
Well, thank you so much for taking that next step. And you have taken a lot of next steps. You have formed a Chapter. And the name of your Chapter, I love your Chapter, is Sew My Dream, which is a little parallel to the name of your nonprofit, which is Dallas Designing Dreams. So, tell us a little bit about what motivated you to actually start a chapter rather than just send in a purse or two.
My church has a sewing ministry, and I used to be over it. And we used to always take on projects like this. And we were having downtime from productions. And so, I started talking to a couple of those ladies, and I was like, what do you all think if we got involved with this group and we made some purses. And they thought they were saying, "Yes, let's do it." And then I was talking to Arthur Porter about it. He said, "Yes, let's do it." And then I started looking more and more into it and I thought, well, there's no chapter in Dallas.
So, Arthur said let's be the chapter in Dallas.
Alright. Oh, I like Arthur. Every time you ask him a question, he says "Let's do it."
Yeah, that's him. So, he said, Let's do it. So, I went ahead and filled out all the paperwork. And I'm just glad to be able to be a, I guess, a conduit where people can come whether they want to just connect, or they want to actually sew together or just be a way to be able to say, you know, I want to drop my purses off, you know, to be mailed. You know, however, we can help with Sew Powerful project.
Oh, my goodness, that is so generous of you. And just so inspirational. That is just fantastic. Now, you've mentioned that you've traveled to several places in the world. Now has this been mission trips or personal travel or what's been the nature of your travel?
They were all short-term mission trips. Most of them were to Kenya. But I've also been to Haiti, South Africa, Nigeria, Papa New Guinea.
My goodness, you have seen the world, haven't you? And how has the last couple of years when things have been pretty much shut down with the pandemic? How has that affected you and your nonprofit and your business and your wanting to travel? How has all of that impacted you?
Of course, it kept me from traveling. But I was busier for the last few years than any other time. Of course, a lot of sewers ended up making masks and I ended up making masks. But during that time for me, there were more people who decided they were going to go ahead and get married in spite of the pandemic. So, it was probably the busiest wedding season that I've had in the last five years. There were there was just month after month, there were people saying oh I'm about to go ahead and get married. Even if I have five people at my wedding, if I have ten, I'm going to get married.
Oh, that is wonderful. Well, Carla, what would you say to people who might be thinking about maybe starting a chapter or maybe just even starting to make purses for Sew Powerful? What kind of encouragement could you give them?
First, I would tell them that it's a worthy cause. And I know that it's a worthy cause personally, because one of the trips that I went on, we actually took 1000s of pads with us. And at the time, I thought, you know, this is so many they're going to run out. But when I got to the school that they sent me to, there were probably 300 girls. And they were excited because they were going to get five pads. So to know that Sew Powerful is giving them something that will keep them in school, you know, ongoing that it won't, it won't stop after they get these five pads. That really impacted me and as women, we should want to help these girls so that they won't miss school.
That's fantastic. Well, Carla, it's been a pleasure speaking with you, and if you're listening, if you'll go to our website, I will have a link to Dallas Designing Dreams there so that you can learn more about Carla's nonprofit and she will be posting photos I'm hoping of different activities relating to Sew My Dream, her Sew Powerful chapter. And we're just so excited that you're part of the Sew Powerful family and that you have embraced us and given us all these great tips and ideas, too. So, Carla, thank you for your time today.
Okay. All right. We'll talk to you soon. Bye. Bye.
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 dot sew powerful.org That's SEWPOWERFUL 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, as the Region 8 Chapter Manger. 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