Back to Basics: Local woman fulfills dream of offering sewing classes

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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LAPLACE — Joyce D. Joseph works magic with a sewing machine, breathing life into each stitch as she transforms fabric into elegant clothing. For more than 15 years, she’s dreamed of passing her gift to a new generation to keep the art of sewing alive for years to come.

That dream is finally coming to fruition with sewing classes scheduled for four consecutive weeks in July. Joseph will instruct two classes of six to eight individuals, one meeting on Tuesdays and the other meeting on Fridays. Classes will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at Fear Not Printing, located at 2805 Highway 51 in LaPlace. The registration is only $60, encompassing all four sessions.

Aimed at beginners, Joseph’s sewing classes will bring students “back to basics” with an introduction to the sewing machine. Students will learn straight stitches and progress to sewing a simple piece of clothing for themselves or a loved one. While sewing machines will be available for use inside the classroom, students who already own one are encouraged to bring their own machines.

Joseph sees sewing as a creative outlet to express individuality.

“I want to give back something I feel God has given to me as a gift. I want to pass it on to other people because a lot of people are asking for it, and you don’t see too many places teaching sewing anymore,” Joseph said. “I want to bring back the basics in life.”

Joseph’s journey as a seamstress began when she picked up a needle and thread at 6 years old. She watched as her older cousin crafted tiny dresses for dolls and decided she wanted to do the same. At 12 years old, she made her first hand-sewn outfit, an orange dress that she proudly wore to church.

When Joseph was 14 years old, her stepfather bought her a sewing machine, opening up a new world of possibilities. By the time she enrolled in home economics class in high school, she had advanced far past the skill level of the classroom assignments. At age 17, she was sewing clothing for relatives, weddings and bridesmaids. At 19, her focus shifted to infant clothing as she lovingly designed dresses for her two baby girls.

At 26, Joseph obtained her first professional job as a seamstress at Macy’s, where she worked on men’s and ladies’ clothing alterations. Her talent guided her through several jobs through the years, including J Charles Bridal, where she not only altered but also redesigned wedding and special occasion dresses. She could transform a size 16 dress into a size four and use the excess fabric to design a matching purse.

She later worked for Pearl’s Place doing alterations on bridal clothing. Joseph spent another 15 years working off and on for Perlis on Magazine in New Orleans. The store did not initially have a bridal shop but created one after seeing what Joseph could bring to life with a sewing machine. When a customer requested a wedding dress that was not in their size, she could sew an entirely new dress to match the style. She also worked on custom-fit men’s shirts and specialty jackets, taking cuffs off, making the fit tighter, and adding pockets, among other alterations.

Joseph retired 10 years ago at age 54, but she has never completely left the sewing machine behind. In the meantime, she’s continued to do alterations and created pieces for a “Back to Basics” children’s clothing line.

Joyce D. Joseph enjoys creating children’s clothing.

Sewing has also become a way for her to give back on a global level by sending clothing to impoverished communities in Haiti.

“I sent about 10 boxes of clothing last year. Haiti is a place I started sending money to about 10 years ago, and it’s a place that I continue to help,” she said. “I’ve probably made about 300 or 400 T-shirt dresses.”

Joseph’s daughter, Tina Tumblin Fallen, is helping coordinate the sewing classes in LaPlace. It’s rewarding for her to see a long-term vision brought to life.

“I remember over the years she would talk about it from time to time, always wanting to do different classes. She’s always wanted to help people and has always been encouraging to other people,” Fallen said. “She’s a strong lady. She’s always been my hero from the time I was a kid. I want to see her do the things she wants to do.”

The sewing classes are filling up quickly. To reserve a spot, call or text 504-319-1882.