Which is why Ocean Beach seamstress Mary Ann Haskell has taken the 11-year-old under her wing.
For the past two years, Austin's been taking two-hour weekly sewing lessons with Haskell, owner of Seams to Me at 1862 Bacon St. next to Nati's Mexican Restaurant for 14 years.
“I do want to be a sewer when I grow up because it's really fun – and I like it,” said Austin. “I like making clothes because it's creative.”
Austin's already got a lot to show from being Haskell's understudy.
“I've made dresses and a jacket,” Austin said. “I've also made a (stuffed) dog and teddy bear, an overnight bag and a car holder.”
A bartender-turned-seamstress who's returned to the craft she's been honing since childhood, Haskell's happy to have such an aspiring protege.
Talking about a new, more advanced project Austin has taken on, Haskell noted, “She's working on a project sewing a leather jacket with asymmetrical zippers like those that go crosswise on a motorcycle jacket.”
Caroline's mom, Karen, supports her daughter's calling. But she admitted though her daughter's aspiration seems “a bit retro when compared to the many kids who play soccer and other sports during their off-school hours.”
The Austins “popped in one day after lunch” to ask Haskell if she'd be willing to meet with Caroline and explore the possibility of teaching her how to sew.
“Now, two years later, Caroline is an accomplished seamstress in her own right,” Karen said. “She has sewn her own amazing clothes, outfits for her little dog, gifts like aprons and a Christmas tree skirt.”
Of Haskell, Karen Austin noted, “Mary Ann is a phenomenal teacher. She patiently guides Caroline, while never taking over the necessary hands-on experiences needed to learn how to sew straight lines, make-her own buttons, sew pleats and darts, put in zippers, et cetera.”
Caroline's mom characterized her daughter and Haskell's relationship as “unique and wonderful. It is priceless to see how eager Caroline is to be with Mary Ann, week after week. I know the feeling is mutual.”
A bartender in OB for 20-plus years, Haskell worked at the Sunshine Company and Pacific Shores. But having sewn since she was Caroline Austin's age, Haskell admitted she just couldn't stay away from the craft so she turned it into a business.
Tongue in cheek, Haskell credits “two drunk guys in a bar” as the ones who came up with her witty word-play business name.
Sewing over time has become something of a lost art. But Haskell noted recent TV shows, like “Project Runway” and “Project Runway Junior” for teens, has created a recent “resurgence” in interest.
But the sewing market is different today than it once was.
“Back in the day, when I started, you could create a dress for $3 that would cost $12 in stores,” Haskell said. “Today, someone in China can make a garment that sells ready-made in stores for what it costs to make it.”
So why sew?
“People sew to have something original, unlike other people, and you made it,” Haskell said. “It isn't just like 200 million (other) black dresses sold. It's (also) an art form.”
Noting patience is a virtue in sewing, Haskell pointed out aspiring seamstresses need to be “detail oriented,” she said, noting it's more important for students to “have the drive, the desire, to create something.”
Of her pupil Caroline Austin, Haskell said, “She has the initiative, she wants to do it, which she's exhibited from the very beginning.”
Having students like Austin “is more like fun than work most of the time,” Haskell said adding, “I do enjoy teaching, and am open to teaching other students, other people, who are interested.”
Contact Seams To Me at 619-225-0014.