MULTI-TALENTED ANDREA SCHEWE
As pleasant and chatty as Ms. Schewe is, it is evident that her mind is always searching for more. More that she can add and give. Although she has her own personal interests and talents, she is very encouraging toward others. She does it in a “smart” maternal way; she just tosses an idea out there and then lets it go. It doesn’t take long to surmise that challenges are fun for her and failure does not dead-end her. She will find the detour and make a success of it. As busy as she is, it is also evident that her family is the centerpiece of her life.
Goose Mother: So you went from AmToy to McCall’s?
Andrea Schewe: Not exactly. I began making cold calls to the contacts at the companies my AmToy supervisor had given me. I was a bit nervous and awkward at first. I even went as far as writing a small script for myself to work from just in case I got too nervous. But, to my surprise, people were happy to be contacted and freelance work began to flow in. In the beginning, the majority of the work came from the toy industry; I’d say about 80%.
My first project for McCall’s was a baby’s room package. I didn’t design this, but I made all the patterns and samples. However, the projects I did for McCall’s were occasional. You see, the home sewing world is a bit different than the toy companies because the home sewing world is so small. I could work for as many toy companies as would hire me. The home sewing companies are more protective and one is only permitted to work for one pattern company at a time.
I had steady freelance work from Hasbro, Coleco, Toy Biz and other small toy companies for about two years with the occasional project from McCall’s. Then Halloween rolled around. My sons were 2 and 5 years old at that time. The neighborhood we lived in, in Brooklyn, New York, always held a big, annual family parade where everyone got dressed up in costume. We decided to join in that year. We invited my sister, nephew, and some other friends to join us. My older son was very into Ghostbusters, so I made him a Ghostbuster’s jumpsuit complete with a soft sculpture backpack for zapping ghosts. No one was dressing up toddlers at that time, so I didn’t even think about making anything for my younger son. But the day before Halloween, he noticed that we were all getting funny looking outfits to wear and started asking, “where MY caw-caw?”
I began rigging up the fastest thing I could think of. I took a too small, red, footed, all-in-one jammie and cut off the feet, (because it was too short), and it made it possible for him to wear shoes. I then added a red, hooded sweatshirt. I made and then sewed on a devil’s tail and horns and purchased a small pitchfork for him. Voila! He was a devil.
Andrea’s Improvised Devil Costume
He had so much fun! Never has a kid learned to say “trick or treat” faster than he did. He ran from house to house with his new found power to command goodies with three new words while wearing something fun to boot. This left me thinking that other preschool aged kids would like to dress for Halloween too. I presented the idea to McCall’s and they liked it. That improvised devil costume became the first design that had my name printed on the envelope. I can’t even tell you how exciting that was!! So, for the next couple years I made patterns for McCall’s. Some were designed and generated by other people at McCall’s and a few designed by me. Interestingly, the following year the other pattern companies published costumes for toddlers.
Goose Mother: That doesn’t surprise me. The pattern companies haven’t been very subtle in their competition with each other. However, I’m also aware that presenting unproven ideas to companies is not always an easy task, or a welcome one. You must have done a good job on that one.
Andrea Schewe: I have to admit that a few ideas I came up with came from just being Mom to my sons. My boys were getting older and more rambunctious. They loved to play make believe and they loved to wrestle. I had an idea to make a soft sculpture, padded armor with a big, soft sculpture sword, so they could dress up, fight each other and not get hurt. This project resulted in becoming my first Renaissance pattern. Little did I know that it was being used by people going to Renaissance Faires. I made it as a “just for fun” Halloween costume. In fact, it sold so well, the people at Simplicity wanted to find out who I was. Shortly thereafter, Simplicity made an offer I couldn’t refuse. (she laughs) This was about 1990.
At that time, all the toy design work hadn’t gone to China yet, so the majority of my work and income still came from making toy prototypes, but this was all going to change.
Improvised Devil Costume Published
Baby’s Room Collaboration
First Renaissance Costume
… To Be Continued…