A decision to teach herself how to sew western shirts like her late mother used to do leads to a thriving venture
Lacey Marshall of Rapid City, Man., started sewing slightly more than a year ago, compelled by her mom’s influence, her own determination, and the excitement of sharing a family tradition with her daughter.
A desire to sew some shirts for herself and her daughter, Maci, has become full-blown business with her Wildflower Stitchin brand of custom-made western shirts.
“My mom made all of our rodeo shirts when my sister and I were young,” said Marshall. “I thought it would be really cool if I could do the same for my daughter.”
While her mom, Kathy, was an accomplished seamstress, she died in 2015, before she had a chance to pass along her skills to Lacey.
Marshall’s father had died just a few months earlier.
But Marshall was raised in a horse and rodeo family that taught her the value of perseverance and hard work.
“My dad had three girls, so I learned at a very young age that there is nothing you can’t do because you’re a girl,” said Marshall.
Her dad was Terry Marshall, a well-known area cowboy and former National Hockey League draft pick of the St. Louis Blues, who also appeared as an extra in the movie Slap Shot with legendary actor Paul Newman.
In the three years following her parents’ passing, Marshall became a mother. While on maternity leave in September 2018, she decided to do a deep clean of her house in anticipation of returning to work as a hairdresser.
“I came across this bag of fabric,” said Marshall. It was a bag of fabric that my mom and I had bought. She was (always) going to teach me how to make my own western shirts.
“All my emotions were going crazy. I was having a really hard time missing my mom and not having her see my little girl grow up,” she said.
It was in that moment that Marshall decided to teach herself how to sew western shirts like her mother had done.
“I told myself, enough with this sadness, and I turned it into something beautiful and positive.”
She watched YouTube videos on how to sew, and pieced together some questionable shirts in the weeks that followed as she figured things out. Her mom and dad had instilled a “never quit” attitude and she persisted until she got it right.
“I spent a lot of time calling my grandma and aunties for help on how to do this or that. I made about 10 shirts before I posted something on social media,” she said.
And when she did, word began to spread — like wildflowers.
It was then she decided to come up with a name for her business. She looked to guidance from her mom once again.
“She loved wildflowers,” Marshall said. “She (always) had this beautiful garden with a ton of wildflowers and I thought it was so beautiful. I thought it (the name) was very fitting (as) I want my shirts to spread like wildflowers too.”
Just like that, Wildflower Stitchin’ was born.
Marshall’s new business and her serendipitous discovery of it, is the epitome of a wildflower as defined by Wikipedia as “a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted.”
Marshall said she got her first order in December and found it both exciting and worrying at the same time.
“Oh man, I was so scared. Was it going to fit? Was it going to be good enough? Was she going to like it? But (it was) so exciting.”
Her care and creativity started to pay off and before long she began to think that if she could just sell a few more shirts, maybe she could make enough extra money so she could stay home with her daughter.
“I didn’t think that this would become such an amazing opportunity,” said Marshall.
Nowadays, she works full-time at home sewing shirts at her kitchen table and marketing them on her Wildflower Stitchin’ Facebook page, while maintaining her career as a hairdresser in Brandon three days a week.
After the Christmas rush is over, she hopes to move to a dedicated sewing shop, which will help her better manage her work-life balance.
“This first year has been a whirlwind of a year,” she said. “I have so much excitement about this business, it keeps me up at night,” she said.
“I think the biggest turning point for me was when I went to my first big barrel racing (after I started selling shirts), and I was sitting with my family and we were like, ‘oh, that one is mine, and that one, and that one.’ It was truly an amazing feeling. I see pictures everywhere of that little black-and-white patch.”
She soon realized the satisfaction and pride for a job well done — similar to what her mom had revelled in all those years ago when she had sewed western shirts for her girls.
“I went from making one shirt every four days to making four shirts a day. Never did I think it would turn into an eight-week waiting list.”
Marshall has sold her one-of-a-kind shirts to women involved in rodeo and those involved in the horse industry in general.
“I love that each one is different in some way and I love picking out colours and prints to match someone’s (individual) personality,” she said.
Marshall recently posted pictures of two special shirts she had just completed.
The post reads:
“Today I did something special in honour of my beautiful mother. Miss Maci and I made Jerri-Lynn (her sister) and myself shirts out of fabric that was picked out by our mama! These two shirts have so much meaning to them and are made with a lot of love. Sept. 24 was four years since her passing. She is the reason I believed in myself enough to start doing this! My mama is an inspiration to me every day and (in) every shirt I make!”