The Heart of Sewing

When Catherine Bell was a little girl, around seven years old, she began her career. This is the story of a little girl who stayed true to her heart and became a creator, an expert, a teacher, a mentor and a true inspiration.

Before Catherine was born, her father gifted her mother a sewing machine as an anniversary gift early on in their 40-something year marriage. Mom was not impressed. She didn’t know how to sew, and she thought that the money spent on the expensive machine, could have been put towards a much wiser purchase.

But the machine stayed, and the family kept growing. She soon taught herself and invested in some sewing classes and 11 babies later she was making most of the family’s clothes. Sewing sometimes all day and all night there was a constant whir in the house. The six girls and five boys were all taught to mend, hem and sewing basics, but only one of the eleven children, would sneak downstairs after bedtime to watch her mom sew and begin her life -long love of the art.

The eighth child of eleven siblings, Catherine had plenty of people to practice on. Mom would only allow her to hand sew at first, because Catherine kept readjusting the settings on the sewing machine! She learned how to sew a pillow and became obsessed, making every one of her friends a pillow! When she ran out of stuffing material, she got creative and did a little surgery on her stuffed animals and “borrowed” their stuffing to keep sewing!

In school she took every home economics class offered and when she ran out of classes to take, she became the teacher’s aide. After high school she attended Johnson County Community College receiving her associate degree in Apparel Design and Technology. She earned the opportunity while in college to intern in New York City and work with experts at J. Crew, Victoria’s Secret, Ralph Lauren and other prestigious brands, confirming that this was the career she was born to choose.

Catherine and her mother started taking in alterations and creating custom designs for her college classmates and soon formed PROPERWEAR, a custom apparel brand that promotes “high quality, modesty, and style”. She found that Lawrence, Kansas, where she was born and raised and worked with her mother, was where her heart was. So, she put down roots and soon the business grew; alterations, custom apparel and wedding dresses were soon being ordered and created.

One day she met a woman at the local craft store who inquired about private sewing lessons for her granddaughter. At first Catherine turned down the request thinking this was not the direction that the business wanted to take. But after meeting the woman’s granddaughter and seeing in her the same desire to sew that she possessed when she sneaked downstairs and begged her mom to let her stay up to sew, well she couldn't resist taking her on as her first sewing student.

Not long after, Sew Simple Sewing was born. A sewing program for children and adults to learn the art of sewing and designing. Catherine and her mother teach the students to understand the sewing machine, basic techniques, how to read patterns, and construct clothing. Sewing exclusively on Professional Baby Lock sewing machines (we are so proud), they complete projects, have fun and learn a life needed skill no matter the age! And who knows, there just might be a few up-and-coming Catherine Bells in the group! We can only hope!

The students are taught what Catherine tells us is the advice she would give to any budding sewist; take your time and be patient, and only buy the materials and work on one project at a time. Complete what you start! And guess what, the students learn to make pillows!

Catherine’s favorite personal projects are designing and creating outerwear and wedding apparel.

Her hobby and love of drawing brings her inspiration from everywhere: building structures, social media and even a crack in the sidewalk. These drawings often become prints for her own textile designs.

She has a self-professed love of lace and denim but loves all materials and says she always has her eye out for the next material that she can craft into a beautiful and unique garment. And speaking of unique, another one of Catherine’s loves is embroidery. She owns an embroidery machine and loves to put her own stamp on her garments with one-of-a-kind embroidery designs.

This talented 26-year-old is about to be featured in Sewn Magazine with three of her students. We might be buying up all the issues!

When we asked Catherine what sewing means to her, her answer was so perfect it would inspire anyone to want to learn the art of sewing. She told us that sewing is so much more than her livelihood. She gets to do what she loves every single day and inspire others to create. It is a career, but Catherine finds her actual work to be a stress reliever and mentally relaxing. Wow! Now that is a true testament to the quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

So, this is how Catherine Bell started her career at seven years old. A little girl who knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up has realized much more that even she ever dreamed for herself. We can’t wait to see what is next!

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Visit in Person

Simple Sewing and PROPERWEAR are located at 3115 West 6th Street Suite K Lawrence, KS 66049.

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JCCC Fashion Show

To see the end of my first fashion show line shows me that all the hard work was worth it! - Catherine Bell

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In Her Element

Catherine doing what she loves, teaching the next generation of sewers.

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