Sew Much Fun

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Lisa Mayer makes it her mission to spread after-school fun, one stitch at a time.

By Beth Fhaner | Photos by Jody Tiongco

NBM_32_QA_Lisa Mayer_Sewing Class_By Jody Tiongco-58A replica of the Eiffel Tower that stands at the entrance to Lisa Mayer’s home-based business is a fitting welcome sign. Behind the front doors lies a room inspired by French ateliers, complete with toile de Jouy fabric, Paris knickknacks, a row of sewing machines, a cutting table and colorful bolts of fabric. The space is home to Angel Threads Sewing School, which Lisa started in 1994 after realizing that education systems lack the resources for teaching children about sewing.

Since being taught the craft by her grandmother at the age of 8, Lisa has used her skills to mentor youth of all ages. The small class sizes ensure that everyone receives individual attention during the two-hour afternoon sessions. Lisa also believes in giving her students creative freedom, so they’re allowed to work independently on projects like pajamas, tote bags and dresses.

Here, Lisa shares how she trains the next generation of sartorial savants and encourages her students to learn new skills that most traditional classrooms don’t teach.

NBM_32_QA_Lisa Mayer_Sewing Class_By Jody Tiongco-37Newport Beach Magazine: What is a typical session like?
Lisa Mayer: My key thing is that I want the classes to be fun. I want the students to come here and relax. They work hard at school, so I want this to be an outlet for creativity. … I make popcorn and snacks for the kids, and sometimes I put on a movie such as “Frozen” or “The Parent Trap.” My two dogs like to wander in, and they get attention from the students, too. People around here are very goal-oriented, and I respect that, but I want the kids to have fun.

What classes do you offer?
LM: I offer 12 classes per week, every afternoon, on a year-round basis. I try to work classes around the kids’ schedules. … I also offer adult classes a couple of times a week. My school focuses on … traditional sewing with patterns; I’m all about the style and the fabrics. I also offer a design class on an as-needed basis—it’s a pattern-cutting class. A girlfriend of mine who is a pattern-maker teaches it, and then the pattern is brought to my class and we sew it.

What are some of your sewing school’s success stories?
LM: I’ve had design students who want to go on to pursue careers in the fashion world. I encourage them to be realistic and even watch “Project Runway.” I’ve had four or five students go on to Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and another student who went to Parsons [Paris] to study. … I also had a local student who went on to start her own retail line.

NBM_32_QA_Lisa Mayer_Sewing Class_By Jody Tiongco-60What are the benefits of sewing?
LM: I grew up dyslexic and sewing helped me a lot. Sewing is very helpful for kids with a learning problem. You can’t skip steps and you have to slow down when you’re sewing.

What are your goals for Angel Threads Sewing School?
LM: I’d like to add another 20 students. … I’m always trying to grow my business, and I plan to keep doing this until I retire. I love that I can contribute to the students’ growth in any way.

How has your school impacted the Newport Beach community?
LM: I think it’s been very positive. I always get lovely feedback from people. I give away gift certificates to anyone who will ask and also give to fundraisers. It’s a positive thing when you give back. I’m offering something that is unique [to the community], and I routinely hear, “I didn’t know there is a sewing school in Newport.”

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