The apprenticeship begins this Thursday. After 8 months of hard work the date is upon us. And of course, there is so much to do – get the space ready, print out handouts, get the supplies ready, make a giant ironing board for ironing production quantities of fabric. The concept for the board came from my shirtmaking bible: David Page Coffin’s Shirtmaking: Developing Skills for Fine Sewing. If you’ve ever tried to iron a wide bolt of fabric on a regular ironing board, you know the tedium on ironing narrow swaths of a wide piece of fabric one strip at a time. The beautiful organic hemp cotton blend we are using for the 100 Blouses Project is nearly 60 inches wide – so this wide, padded board is a must. But like any good shirting making Brit writing from the 90s – Mr. Coffin included a list of obscure supplies – for example a pile of old wool blankets. I read this list – bewildered. How in the heck was I going to make this thing?

So I set out Saturday morning to see what I could find. First I hit the farmers market to gather some pumpkins and squash – some fall fun unrelated to the apprenticeship project. In Princeton shopping at the farmers market is as much about talking with your farmer friends as it is about buying squash. So I was chatting with people about the wool blanket conundrum and a very kind woman got very excited about our project and offered to ask her husband if they could donate their blankets (which it turns out they need because they have no heat and live in the mountains). Nonetheless, the community support was there and it carried me forward on my journey to build the giant ironing board.

Next I went to visit our local sewing shop – The Sewing Gallery – which oddly I had not yet visited with Covid, a full-time job and a business. I told the owner – a woman named Sue Hardin, who was on her second business with the sewing shop, about our 100 Blouses Project and the apparel line. Sue excitedly shared everything she could to help me succeed – her most cherished tools, her favorite muslin vendor, the things she has learned about owning a successful business, her secret to pressing a perfect shirt. And all the sudden it clicked. I am doing this with the community.

Princeton, West Virginia is a place that is intensely community oriented. That is something special that sets it apart from other places I’ve lived. People spend what may seem to visitors like an enormous amount of time and energy helping each other. It is just part of normal life to do a lot for other people. And here I was starting to experience this with my business. I am not doing it for the community and this vision I’ve held so dear. I’m doing it with the community. I am so grateful to see this clearly now and to have the opportunity to lean way into it in a way I’ve never felt comfortable doing before.

Please note: In the coming weeks I will open 10 spots for women interested in joining the Reid Miller Founder’s Circle, which gives supporters the opportunity to receive a custom fit blouse as part of the 100 Blouses Project while supporting our Custom Tailoring and Apparel Manufacturing apprenticeship program. Please email me to let me know if you are interested in learning more about the Founder’s Circle:

Go, fight, win