Summer of Inspiration | Jessica from Sallie Tomato

Interview with Sallie Tomato

Welcome to week one of our Summer of Inspiration Series! If you didn’t get the update in my newsletter last week, I’ll give you all the details here (but you should definitely sign up for my newsletter so that you don’t miss anything in the future!): Each week this summer, I’m going to be interviewing a talented creative professional right here. I thought that this would be a great way for us to make some new friends and find some great inspiration for the summer. So grab a cup of iced tea, rub some mint around the rim and read on! I think you’re really going to enjoy this series!

creative professional interviews

Today we are headed to Wisconsin to chat with my new friend, Sallie Tomato! That’s not her real name of course, if you wanted to catch her attention at Quilt Market, you’d want to holler for Jessica. Yelling for Sallie Tomato might make you look a little silly…but then again, everyone there would probably understand!

I am so excited to get you this awesome interview with Jessica. She’s got a fresh take on bags, patterns, and materials. After about 3 seconds on her site and asking her these questions, I made sure that we’d get a chance to hang out at quilt market this fall—not only is her work amazing, but we are definitely kindred spirits! So, if you like me (and I hope you do!) you’re going to love her. Without further ado, let me introduce to to Jessica and her bag pattern company, Sallie Tomato:

Cork wallet sewing pattern

Where did you get your start?

I love learning about when and how people got their start in sewing. Often times it a sweet memory of mom or grandma (even grandpa) taking the time to sit down and teach! I love the communal part of sewing and creating, so I always have to ask. Like me, Jessica got an early start. She has been sewing since she was five years old! “I’d hand sew scraps from my mom’s stash together and make small quilts for my dolls.  My mom taught me how to sew and it’s become a true passion of ours,” she recalls. One point for team Mom!

When and how did you start Sallie Tomato?

“I originally opened my shop in 2014 as another source of income to fund my college tuition.” Jessica was majoring in Entrepreneurship at UW-Whitewater, which I think seems pretty fitting!  She began by selling items that she would sew herself, such as bags, table runners, and dog beds. I had been itching to ask about that name—I am terrible at business names (hello: Rachel Rossi Design) and I am always curious where inspiration come for the fun business names I hear! Apparently, I’m not the only one who is curious, Jessica said she gets a lot of questions about where the shop name came from: “It has a lot of special meaning to me.  The name of my shop was created around my middle name, Sallie.  Also, ‘Tomato’ was a perfect match for ‘Sallie’ because sewing is often represented by a tomato pin cushion.  Sallie Tomato is also a character from one of my favorite classic movies, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  So, there’s a lot of history to the name!”

How did you get started in pattern design?

While funding her college tuition with her sewing, the dog beds that Jessica was making were so popular that her mom encouraged her to write a pattern for them (point 2 for team Mom!). She accepted the challenge and soon realized how much fun pattern designing was. Her first pattern, the Puppy Pillow, was a huge success! Over 1,000 copies sold in the first month after release.  “Since then, I was hooked. Now I have a growing collection of handbag, home décor, and novelty patterns,” Jessica says.

What’s it like starting your own business as a young woman?

I often get a lot of strange (and suspicious) looks when I’m vending at a quilt show or approaching a new store owner because I look like I’m 15 years old. I took a chance and assumed that Jessica knows the feeling well, “Yes – I’m 23 years old,” she giggles. But I just had to ask! I don’t often come across such young entrepreneurs. Jessica goes on, “My business started out as a hobby, but I didn’t want to stop!  I knew that if I wanted to be happy in life, that I would follow my passion for sewing.  Now, I can’t imagine it any other way.” I get it Jessica, I really do!

Interview with Sallie Tomato

What all do you sell in your shop?

I’m a big geek about supplies and notions. Jessica not only has awesome patterns, she also has all of the supplies you need to make her patterns. From hard-to-find purse hardware, zippers, interfacing, notions, to *cork fabric* (hallelujah chorus). Jessica is all about customer service: “I know it can be frustrating when a pattern requires hard-to-find supplies, so I’ve made sure to have them all available.”

What is your favorite thing on the site?

I know we aren’t supposed to play favorites, but Jessica has so much delicious stuff on her site, I just had to ask! “Definitely my faux metal zippers! These zippers have a nylon coil with a metallic finish, which makes them easy to cut and sew.” Jessica replied enthusiastically. I’d have to agree…I always want to get the look of a metal zipper without the jag! If you thought that the faux metal was good, just wait! You can even coordinate the zipper tape color with your fabric and match the nylon coil color with your purse hardware! The coil is size #5, which is ideal for handbags, backpacks, totes, laptop carriers, or they’re even fun for exposed zippers on garments!

Magnolia Bag Pattern

And here’s a little teaser for you: Later this summer, I’m going to try out the Magnolia Bucket pattern and tell you all about it! I’m pretty excited about this bag, I think it’ll be the perfect summer project!

Why bags? What led you into this niche?

It’s always fascinating to see what makes a designer tick, when asked about it Jessica said, “It’s addicting to me to try and figure out how to put a bag together.  There are so many styles, features, and fun purse hardware that can be incorporated into a bag. I enjoy turning fabric into a functional, 3-D object.  Also, I’m looking to attract the next generation of sewing with my bag patterns.  I want them to make one of my bags and think – wow, I made this!” Oh boy, another designer trying to give the gift of sewing to the next generation…watch out world, we are coming for you!


You have a super fun blog—what sorts of thing do you like to post about?

“Thank you – I’m glad you like it! I post tutorials, new product announcements, pattern hacks, and sewing challenges. I try to make my blog a very inspiring spot on my website.” You guys should really check it out, it’s super duper awesome!

Now, I know what you’re thinking…

 I know, I know, there’s one of two thoughts running through your mind. You are either rejoicing that you found this awesome new designer for bags, and if you are go! Go frolic on her web site, it’s an amazing place to play! OR you’re a quilter, just reading this wondering why you would ever take on a project that isn’t a quilt. When I asked Jessica about how her patterns are for us quilters, she replied, “I try my best to write my patterns very clearly and include a picture for each step – making it easy for beginners as well as experienced bag makers to understand.  I have a variety of styles for different skill levels as well!” If you’re feeling hesitant, Jessica offers an awesome quilted table runner called Quilter’s Punch and a few free patterns to help you get started and used to her writing style. If you run into any problems or just have a question, she even has a group on Facebook that anyone can join!

Quilters Punch

Something Special, Just for You!

As if Jessica wasn’t already nice enough, she’s offering all of my readers 20% off of your first Sallie Tomato pattern! So, head on over to her shop, choose your very first pattern and use promo code SUMMERFUN at checkout!

Thank you so much for tuning in for this week’s dose of inspiration! It was such a pleasure to get to know Jessica better and I hope you’ll continue the conversation! Make sure to follow her on Facebook and ask some more questions!

I hope you’ll join us next Monday when I interview Linda, the President and founder of Quilts for Kids!

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