Shelby Honeycutt learned to sew when she was 10.
“I’d always aggravate my grandmother to teach me,” she said.
When Jane Troutman, Shelby’s grandmother, finally did teach her to sew, she insisted Shelby learn to do everything the right way. Shelby, now 21, Shelby said that was frustrating to her little-girl self, who wanted the quick “gratification of getting it done.”
But she’s glad her grandmother insisted on making her work perfect. Those sewing skills have enabled Shelby to start her own business, Shelby Jane & Co., creating simple, special, handmade dresses for little girls.
“I never picked sewing as a career,” Shelby said. “It found me.”
After two years of high school, which she did not enjoy, Shelby switched to homeschooling. With more flexibility in her schedule, she had more time to sew and decided to make a baby dress.
“I don’t know why,” she said. She didn’t know any babies, or anyone about to have a baby, and her younger siblings are both boys. But she bought some plain white cotton and made a simple dress.
A friend suggested she try to sell it on www.Etsy.com, an online marketplace for selling homemade items. The first month she sold a couple of dresses.
Working two jobs, Shelby saved enough money to buy a serger to give her garments a “finished look,” as well as a better sewing machine. Soon, she said, her orders skyrocketed.
Shelby is sewing full time now. Actually, she’s sewing all the time: usually 12 hours days, seven days a week.
Shelby Jane & Co. was keeping Shelby so busy that her father, Brian Honeycutt, quit his job to help her.
“He does a really good job now,” Shelby said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing without him.”
Search for Shelby Jane and Co. on www.Etsy.com, and you’ll see a collection of little-girl rompers, baby dresses, christening gowns and other items, each one unique and entirely handmade.
Shelby does everything herself, from designing dresses and buying fabric to taking photos for the website and shipping orders.
Although her entire operation is run from a building in her grandmother’s Mount Pleasant backyard, Shelby said only about 1 percent of her sales are local. Through her Etsy shop and website ( www.shelbyjane.com), she sends dresses as far away as Israel. But she’d like more local folks to know about her products.
She’d like to see her business continue to grow so that she could hire local people to help her while still keeping the “smallness” of providing custom, homemade, quality products.
Shelby, who calls herself an “old soul” and was thrilled when she got a butter churn for Christmas, said her favorite thing to make is still a hand-smocked baby dress, like the one that started her career.
She still has that first dress, which she says is “pretty sad-looking.” But with nearly 10,000 sales in three years, Shelby Honeycutt has come a long way.