Many parents try to minimize their children’s exposure to social media and screen time. So when Sarah Arndt of Edina searched through the website Etsy.com for handmade gifts, she found a perfect opportunity and alternative to screen time for her daughter Emma—sewing.
“I am impressed with her talent,” says Arndt, “I am not able to sew like that. If you have a passion for it and the time and inclination, it makes a difference.”
Emma is not your average teenager. Instead of spending time playing on a smartphone or tablet, she spends her time perfecting her creative talents.
“I want to live every day as productive as I can be,” Emma says. “I want to give other people joy in what I do, and I want what I do to have an effect on others rather than having my time sucked into media.”
This Providence Academy junior is a self-taught and accomplished seamstress and knitter. She is now presenting her craft to the world through the online marketplace Etsy.
“When I start a dress, from planning it to sewing the first pieces together, I can see the gradual accumulation of pieces, and it becomes a beautiful piece of artwork,” says Emma. “I buy patterns to make sure I have the right proportions, then I take bits and pieces to make it my own.”
Emma started taking sewing classes at age 8. During her family’s brief residence in New Jersey, she was exposed to the New York fashion scene. After returning to Edina, Emma didn’t know where to buy those runway-inspired styles. So at age 11, she decided to start making her own clothes. She received a sewing machine as a gift that Christmas. Soon after, Emma’s youngest sister, Anna, arrived on the scene and would become a significant source of Emma’s inspiration for patchwork toddler dresses. But the abundance of Emma’s creative ideas led to a dilemma—an abundance of dresses.
Emma figured she could just keep making dresses for Anna, but it eventually seemed impossible that Anna would be able to wear all of them. “My mom encouraged me to sell my dresses,” Emma says. “I owe it all to her. Since she is encouraging me, maybe [my own business] will be something I will do some day.” For Emma, sewing is not so much about selling as it is about improving her skills and expressing her creativity. But, she says, “I do hope anyone who does buy [my dresses] will enjoy wearing [them].”
Anna now serves as a model for Emma’s Etsy store, called EmmaMadeWithLove. EmmaMadeWithLove features patchwork dresses with lined pockets, cute buttons, puff sleeves, ruffles and other embellishments. Emma intends to also offer skirts for older girls, along with hand-knitted stuffed animals, by Christmastime. Her boutique-quality items are modestly priced, and within the year, Emma hopes a local shop will consider selling her creations. Emma also hopes to be a presence at the Edina Art Fair next summer. “People from Edina like locally made items,” says Emma.
Interested buyers should check out Emma’s creations before she heads off to college. There is a chance that her handmade dresses may become limited editions if she decides to sew wounds instead of clothes: although Emma is mindful of her entrepreneurial talents, she has dreamt of another profession since kindergarten. “I want to be a doctor: I want to do something that helps people, and I think a doctor would be a great way.”