Some might say Tabitha Birmingham has found more than a hobby sitting at her showing machine.
The Oakdale mother of five, with children ranging in age from five to 14, has found the once popular craft to be both her passion, as well as therapeutic and now a thriving business.
“I love sewing. Sewing has been a big creative outlet for me,” Birmingham shared.
She noted that her crafting began with making hair bows over 15 years ago. Upon meeting her husband – also active in sewing – seven years ago, she began taking up the trade.
“He loves embroidery,” she explained. “He’s kind of a Jack of All Trades, so he can do a lot. It was with his love, support and encouragement; it was like, hey you can do this.”
And “do this” she has.
Birmingham’s business Sew in Love Creations began an upturn in business as many were beginning to decline a year and a half ago.
The crafter turned businesswoman shared she felt called to begin making masks when there was a shortage during the onset of the COVID pandemic.
“That helped build a lot of my confidence,” she said of her mask making, adding that people began requesting she make certain things beyond masks.
She began with little girl baby clothes. Enlisting the help of her sister-in-law she learned to make dresses for little girls. She finds patterns on line, as well as at craft stores and garage sales, including some vintage patterns.
Sew in Love Creations merchandise can be found on the website: sewinlovecreations.com, social media pages Sew In Love Creations13, as well as at the newly opened Cotton and Sage Boutique in downtown Oakdale.
“The following has been great,” she said of her 1,000 Instagram followers. “The support has been amazing from friends and family. The wholesale opportunity has started to kick off.”
The small business owner shared it was a longtime friendship with new business owner Ashley Cogburn of Cotton and Sage that resulted in the start of the wholesale business.
“I was a bit nervous about it, because it was a big order,” she shared.
As if juggling five kids, a growing cottage industry business as well as a household weren’t enough, the inspiring piece of Birmingham’s story goes up a notch when she speaks of her youngest child, Gunner, age five and the months which followed his birth.
The mother of five shared the story of losing her mom in October 2014, just two months before the birth of her fourth child. Three months later, she became pregnant with Gunner. Shortly following the birth of Gunner she learned she had cervical cancer. Emergency surgery was recommended and performed. A radical diet change and some life changes resulted in clear scans six months later.
When Gunner was a year old, Birmingham began noticing something wasn’t quite right with her son. At the age of 18 months he was diagnosed with autism.
“It broke my mom heart very much,” she said. “I didn’t know what autism was or how I would parent him. I was really afraid.”
She and husband Joshua began early intervention with their son. By the age of three he was officially diagnosed with severe autism at UC Davis.
“His four older siblings have been his greatest blessing,” the proud mom said. “Great role models.”
Two years ago, the fact of Gunner’s diagnosis brought the couple to the realization that she could not work. Gunner needed in home therapy that was 40 hours a week at the time. The cost of raising five kids, child care and especially one with special needs, made the notion of work not feasible.
“God gave me him and I realized it was so I could see life from a different perspective,” she shared, “from a different set of eyes. To understand gratitude, to understand joy, to understand the simple things in life. I’m incredibly blessed.”
Now, she feels good fortune has arrived in an unusual way.
“Sewing has been a whirlwind blessing,” she continued. “Did not expect it to take off the way that it has.”
Birmingham shared, contrary to the masses, as COVID was tough on many businesses as well as individuals, the time had the opposite effect on her family, thanks to the masks.
“People say that COVID was the most horrible thing that ever happened (by way of the shutdown),” she stated, “I say it was a blessing for me. It forced me to finally jump into something I had always been wanting to do, that I had been talking about doing. It forced me to dive into it.”
And, having made that decision to dive in, there is no going back.
“If you asked me 10 years ago, if I would want to sew, or have a creative mind for sewing, I would have said; that looks fun, but there’s no way I can do that,” she confessed. “I just love sewing.”