HoopSisters — Masters of “In-the-Hoop” Technique


Lynda Remmers & Annie Moody

Lynda Remmers & Annie Moody

In 2005, two sisters, Lynda Remmers and Annie Moody made their annual trek to a quilt show in Paducah, Kentucky with a group of friends. They rented a house; brought their sewing machines, fabric, patterns and projects.  For five days, they sewed, quilted and embroidered day and night. Lynda was digitizing a wall hanging for her family room and Annie was working on a crazy quilt (they only made it to the quilt show for one day).  They worked late into the night, figuring out how both projects could be created by quilting “in the hoop.” They were excited about the possibilities of accomplishing this new technique.
Lynda began teaching the “in-the-hoop” technique to her customers at her store — Sewing Concepts in Woodstock, Illinois.  As an Educator with Janome America, Annie also began teaching “in-the-hoop” classes across the United States. Their students were thrilled with this new twist for using the embroidery machine and the projects came out perfect every time! Their students were clamoring for new designs. The sisters took a leap of faith and started a new business based on the “in-the-hoop” concept.  They decided to name their new business the HoopSisters.

Did they always know they would end up in the sewing industry?

Lynda says, “My Grandmother taught me to sew and I loved it. She had a cool sewing machine in the neatest cabinet. The center of the cabinet had a handle that you could pull, and out came a sewing chair. The chair had all kinds of hidden storage places. I was fascinated with that cabinet.  I bought my first used sewing machine when I was 12, and when I entered a sewing contest at a local department store — I won!”

Unfortunately, Annie did not have the same early success with sewing. “In Junior High I tried to make a simple skirt in Home Ec class. The only thing I learned was how to use the seam ripper. The sad thing was I came from a family of sewers.  My grandmother sewed, my mother sewed and my sister Lynda was winning sewing awards!  When I was in my 30’s I tried once again, determined to succeed.  Eventually, I became a sewing educator and I cannot imagine what my life would be without sewing.”

The HoopSisters first products were embroidery designs created to make an entire quilt IN THE HOOP.  Annie says, “When creating a new product/design we first look for inspiration.  That might be a favorite traditional quilt design with our own unique twist.”

According to Annie, “Sometimes, a new product evolves out of a need, like our Battilizer (batting and stabilizer combination).  In the beginning, we would hoop a thin batting, along with a stabilizer. Although it did help to stabilize the stitches, it produced a somewhat crispy quilt.  At Quilt Market, we approached Quilters Dream and they were able to produce just the right product for us.  Late that night, we were in our room when we landed on the Battilizer name.  I felt sorry for the people in the adjoining rooms because we were pretty loud ….”

Double Wedding Ring, HoopSisters

Double Wedding Ring, HoopSisters

Another successful HoopSisters product, their trimmer, was developed because necessity is the mother of all invention. Lynda explains, “Martha, one of their best sample-stitchers, was working on our Double Wedding Ring blocks. Our written instructions said to pull back the top layer of the block, exposing the Battilizer and backing. Then, place a ruler along the fold and trim off the Battilizer and the backing. Martha had trouble (we did too) not cutting the fold of the block front, resulting in a hole!

Her husband George, saw her frustration and went to his workshop. He took a piece of aluminum siding material, crimped an edge, and gave it to Martha. It worked like a charm. They brought it to me at the store, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I called Annie and tried to explain it over the phone, not an easy task. When she saw it, she loved it!

Named the Trimmer by George, Martha and George were in the manufacturing business for a few years. Eventually, we found a USA manufacturer and updated the Trimmer by adding an acrylic ruler. Trimmer by George 2.0 sells like crazy.”

Sewn Seeds, HoopSisters

Sewn Seeds, HoopSisters

Their biggest success has been their EmbroidaBlock of the Month (EBOM) program.  Because of their unique backgrounds — Lynda being a sewing machine dealer and Annie a sewing educator — they decided to develop their EmbroidaBlock series as a program dealers could use to hold classes in their stores.  They just released Sewn Seeds, their 8th EBOM program for 2015.

Annie and Lynda both enjoy coming up with new designs, and they share the duties when it comes to designing the quilts, the embroidery, doing the digitzing, the test sewing, the tweaking, then more test sewing by sample stitchers. After they get it right, it’s on to the instructions, step by step photographs, videos, etc.

Aubrey Winkler, Annie Moody (C), Janet Brown

Aubrey Winkler, Annie Moody (C), Janet Brown

Lynda Remmers (L), Marie Wroga, Karen Beatty

Lynda Remmers (L), Marie Wroga, Karen Beatty

HoopSisters is unique because the two sisters live in different states.  The office in Ohio handles the sales and marketing. Annie has two employees who help with the marketing, website, sales, and customer service.

In Illinois — Lynda handles the operations side of the business.  Once she and Annie have designed and tested a block, Lynda passes it off to their sample stitchers. She prepares the fabric kits, instructions, etc.  She also takes care of the product inventory and shipping from a location near her store.

At this point, the HoopSisters have created over 50 individual quilt in the hoop embroidery designs and they are doing their eighth Mystery Quilt this June.  Eight hundred (800) dealers are handling the HoopSisters’ Embroidablock Of The Month program.

When asked what advice they would give to somebody who had a unique idea for a business — they said, “stand firm, have faith and don’t take no for an answer.”

Sewing Concepts:  www.sewingconcepts.com
HoopSisters:  www.HoopSisters.com

Lori Van Maanen – Girls in the Garden

Lori with Girls - and boys - in the Garden.

Lori with Girls – and boys – in the Garden.

In the summer of 2006, Lori  Van Maanen stumbled upon a few sewing and decorating blogs, which led to many hours at the computer.   She was hooked on the format, and she thought blogging would be a great way to keep track of her sewing projects.  She could look back on her posts and use the information to improve her next garment.

Lori lives and works on her Missouri family farm, and is very involved in the family’s agricultural business.  She works full time at their livestock market — so time to sew can be an issue.  And she had to think long and hard about making the commitment to writing her own blog.

She knew her area of blogging would be mainly sewing, but didn’t want to limit herself by putting sewing in the title.  One day, while weeding her flower garden with her daughters, she looked at them and the name of her blog came to her:  Girls In the Garden.  As the mother to four girls, it was perfect — close to her heart.

Although Lori does all kinds of sewing  — her passion has always been fashion sewing.  With so many girls in the house, there is always an occasion or event requiring a new outfit.  Lori is inspired by fashion magazines, fashion blogs and Pinterest.  Once she gets an idea for a garment, she likes to search Pinterest for variations and details to make it her own.

aMood_Sewing_Network_LogoLori is fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space — but it’s in an unfinished basement, tucked under the plumbing pipes and behind the furnace.  She doesn’t really have a “stash” of fabric (maybe 10 yards on hand at any one time).  When she is inspired to make a garment,  she goes online to buy the fabric.  The Mood Fabrics website is her favorite place for fashion fabric — so it was a huge honor to be invited to become a part of the Mood Sewing Network in January, 2013.

When asked about her favorite sewing inspiration, Lori said,  “When the twins were babies, I took a smocking class.  My favorite magazine was Australian Smocking and Embroidery and each month I would find at least one dress to make.  One issue had these smocked black corduroy coats with leopard faux fur — and I was hooked on those coats.  It is a wonder I didn’t wear out my magazine just looking at them.  AS&E offered kits with everything but the pattern, so I checked the kit price and the exchange rate.  With four young girls, money was tight and it  took me a week of debating if I should buy not one but two kits.  In the end, I did order the coats and never regretted the purchase.  I made the coats a bit bigger and since the shape was flared, the girls were able to get three winters’ wear.

Leopard Trench Coat

Leopard Trench Coat

The most recent thing I was inspired to sew was my leopard trench coat.  I saw several leopard trench coats on Pinterest.  I found the perfect fabric at Mood and had the perfect Vogue pattern.  I have worn this coat many times, it just goes with everything and it is one of those ‘feel good’ garments.” 

Your best sewing advice?

Whenever I am having a problem, the first thing I do is rethread my sewing machine and change the needle.  That solves the problem 90% of the time.  And don’t forget to change the needles in your serger, too!  My go-to sewing book is Sandra Betzina’s  Fabric Savvy.  It is an excellent reference book and I often refer to it.  I only use SCHMETZ needles, and I ALWAYS have a good supply on hand.”

What does sewing bring to your life?   

I cannot draw or paint but I can take a piece of fabric and turn it into a garment.  Sewing is my creative outlet and it gives me such fulfillment and joy with each garment I make.  Sewing has also brought many friendships with women both near and far.”

Lori’s blog:  www.girlsinthegarden.blogspot.com/

Mood Sewing Network:  www.moodsewingnetwork.com

Sarah Gunn – Life Force Behind Goodbye Valentino

Sarah Gunn at Edisto Island wearing Style Arc "Elle" slim leg pants and holding SCHMETZ needle packs.

Sarah Gunn at Edisto Island wearing Style Arc “Elle” slim leg pants and holding SCHMETZ needle packs.

Goodbye Valentino

Before she became the life-force behind the popular sewing blog, Goodbye Valentino, Sarah Gunn was a busy wife and mother with a successful career as the Executive Director of the Spartanburg Music Foundation.  One of the things she was really good at was shopping.  She was a big fan of Diane Van Furstenberg, Milly, Nanette Lepore, Lilly P., Kate Spade — anything at Nieman Marcus or Nordstrom’s. Her two twenty-something daughters, Katie and Mimi, shared her love of high end ready-to-wear and shopping was a joyful mother-daughter bonding activity.

At some point, Sarah felt like she was spending a lot of money on clothes, but had a closet full of nothing to wear . . . too many special occasion dresses and a lot of black and white. By August 2011, after a series of graduations, weddings and other special events, she’d been on a six month spending spree.

Her “ah-ha” moment came at a home “skirt party” she attended with her daughter Mimi. After trying on several styles, and looking at the fabric samples, they ordered three custom skirts. The bill was nearly $700. When the skirts arrived, Sarah looked at the simple skirts — and she KNEW she could have made them herself.

She felt such tremendous buyer’s remorse — that’s when it happened.   She snapped.

On that day — August 31, 2011,  Sarah vowed to go on a Ready-To-Wear FAST. Her intention was to not buy a thing for one year. She would sew her own clothes for one whole year. And, to hold herself accountable, she would blog about it. She named her blog, “Goodbye Valentino”. Initially, she didn’t tell anybody what she was doing.  She wasn’t sure she could do it, and she didn’t want additional pressure from her family.

PATTERN: Vogue 8750 FABRIC: Wool Houndstooth, Mood Fabrics leather upcycled from thrift store skirt.

PATTERN: Vogue 8750
FABRIC: Wool Houndstooth, Mood Fabrics leather upcycled from thrift store skirt.

Sarah dusted off her seldom-used sewing machine, reorganized her abandoned playroom — and started SEWING. Using an Amy Butler pattern and a Laura Ashley dress (circa 1987) from her closet, she made a really cute skirt.

Sarah had no way of knowing that she was starting a revolution . . . .

She learned to sew in high school and after college she sewed for herself for six or seven years. But after the birth of her first daughter, her focus shifted. Between her family and her career — she had little time to sew. Other than clothes for her young daughters, a few quilts or simple home dec projects, she had taken a 25-year break from garment sewing.

BGoodbye_ValentinoWhen she started Goodbye Valentino, Sarah had no idea about the sewing world that existed on the Internet. As it happened, she enjoyed writing the blog as much as sewing her new clothes. After three months, she told her husband what she was doing. He was incredulous and quickly became her biggest fan.  After five or six months of blogging, Sarah began to receive comments from other women who had been inspired to sew by reading Goodbye Valentino.

In JUNE 2012, after only TEN months of blogging, Sarah was invited to join the Mood Sewing Network. She was honored to be one of their original bloggers because the mission of the Mood Sewing Network is to inspire fashion sewing. When asked about the benefits of sewing her own clothes, Sarah answers thoughtfully, “I started the RTW fast to save money, and I celebrated with a trip to the Mediterranean at the end of my fast!  An unexpected benefit is that while

PATTERN:   Butterick 5683 FABRIC: Faux leather/ faux fur backing

Butterick 5683
FABRIC: Faux leather/ faux fur backing

sewing my own clothes, I learned how to fit myself. Because of that, I am much pickier about ready to wear. Also, I’ve discovered my own style which includes a love of color, a fondness for ruffles and classic feminine lines.”

“My sewing skills have also improved, and I’ve learned the little things can make a big difference in my end result. For example, I used to be one of those people who only changed my sewing machine needle if it broke! But now I actually enjoy sewing on knit fabrics because I know there is a specific needle for that purpose. Using a topstitch needle has made a huge difference in the quality of my garments. I’ve also developed a little finesse with the iron.”

Sarah Gunn has always been determined to live creatively, but the reaction to Goodbye Valentino has been more than she ever imagined.  During her first RTW fast, she made 64 garments, and it changed her life.  As it happened, it also changed the lives of thousands of other women who were tired of spending too much money on clothes.

BRTW-2014-LogoGoodbye Valentino convinced them that they could do it, too. In January 2014, Sarah decided she needed to go back on the wagon, so she started another RTW fast. This time, she invited her readers to join her — and 277 of them are along for the ride.  To follow their progress, there is a page on the blog, “2014 RTW Fasters”.

Sarah believes:  If you can read a recipe, you can read a pattern. If you can drive a car, you can operate a sewing machine. If you can shop, you can sew.


MyPad for Needles™

myPad-Close-Up-Large-Background1Don’t throw away a perfectly good sewing machine needle again! MyPad for Needles™ has brightly colored cells designating needle types and sizes to keep track of your slightly used needles until the next sewing project. Simply slip the needle into the appropriate cell on this super thick felt pad and you have it marked for the next time. Use the flower head pin to designate the needle currently in your machine. Almost every needle type is represented and there is ample space for you to designate unusual needles yourself with cloth and pen marker. You will love the way this product combines function with pleasing design. At last, the answer to our needle frustrations! Size:  6.75” x 6.75”.

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