When I (Gretchen) first met Juanita of Juanitas Handmade I was one of the hundreds of women drawn to (and mildy obsessed with) her colorful hand sewn bags. Each one is a little different, with unique combinations of fabric colors, zipper pulls and contrasting inserts - it's about as easy to become an addict of her bags as it is to become a Skida-addict. (I am wholeheartedly both) Her husband has also spent time in the military service so she can understand and relate to so much of what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship when we spend so much time away from our spouses and has become a dear friend in the time we've spent in Alaska so far. I am so excited to share the collection of bags and knits we put together.
Juanita was born & raised on the Canadian border in Northern Minnesota and has been based in Anchorage, Alaska for six years where she lives with her husband and four girls. She has been selling bags for 13 years. She says, "sewing makes me happy and it’s something I’d probably be doing anyway, so why not turn it into something that helps support my family".
2. What are your three favorite outdoor activities?
- Sitting around a bonfire
- Foraging for morel mushrooms & blueberries
- Tent camping with my husband and our 4 girls
3. What would you tell someone who wants to get into sewing but doesn't know where to start? (cough, me, cough)
When asked about getting into sewing I usually tell people to find a mentor, join a sewing guild or club, watch sewing tutorials online, ask questions at a fabric store or take a class. Just sitting down at the machine with the manual and a pattern isn’t going to be your best bet.
Also, I tell them to get their hands on a quality machine, not the cheapest one you can find.
Sewing opens up so many possibilities, but it does take a little practice to sew a straight line and get the hang of things. So mend your clothes, try make things you need around your house and just have fun learning a new skill.
4. Best advice you've ever been given as a businesswoman?
Put in the work. No one is going to do it for you.
5. What did you find unexpected about living in Alaska?
I was surprised that for how large of a state this is, that it really is just one big small town. I run into random people who have connections to other people that I know, or even people I know back home in Minnesota and it really has a small town feel here. It was definitely unexpected.
6. What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is picking out the fabric at the beginning of a project. I love putting colors and patterns together in combinations that I think other people wouldn’t think to do. It’s definitely the fun part before all the work begins.