Katrina Walker

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #52, April 2018. Written by Rita Farro.)

Katrina WalkerKatrina Walker has earned a reputation in the sewing industry as an exceptional teacher with a keen eye for design. She travels all over the country, teaching classes at consumer sewing shows and events. She especially loves teaching online and has classes with Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craft Daily, and Craftsy. She says, “Coming from an isolated rural upbringing, it is especially meaningful to me to share the love of sewing in homes where they might not otherwise have access to sewing education. It’s amazing to have students all over the world.”

So, how does a little girl who grew up on a remote wheat farm, loving clothes, and horses in equal measure — decide to become an investment banker? And after all that — how is it that she finds bliss making her living as a respected sewing professional?

What is Katrina sewing next?

What is Katrina sewing next?

Katrina says, “Nobody could be more surprised than me . . . “Sewing is part of my heritage; I guess you could say that sewing is in my blood. When I was young, I spent a lot of time watching my mother layout fabric and put garments together. She wasn’t interested in formally teaching me but she certainly provided an excellent example. I grew up on our family wheat farm in eastern Washington State, where roads drifted shut during the winter. I never thought of sewing as a special activity; it was something you did to pass the time enjoyably during the long, dark, winters.”

Katrina calls herself a clotheshorse. As a child, she often got in trouble for running out to the corral to hug her pony, wearing her best dress (but always in cowboy boots!) There is a picture of Katrina, age two, wearing her first “little black dress.” Her Mom bought it at Macy’s during a trip to New York, and she found black patent shoes with trim that matched the dress. Katrina insisted to the photographer that those shoes must show in the portrait.

In the ’80s, stirrup pants and knit tunics were all the rage, so Katrina used her mother’s new serger to whip up all sorts of trendy, stretchy clothes. She also had to sew skirts and blouses for various choir commitments, so she got a well-rounded introduction to garment sewing and fitting.

Katrina was probably the only student at Wellesley College who brought a sewing machine on campus — but it was after graduation when her machine got a real work-out, and her sewing skills were raised to a new level.

Katrina made this silk dupioni zonal waist (vest), tucked linen blouse and silk dupioni hoop skirt from Godey’s Lady Book.

Katrina made this silk dupioni zonal waist (vest), tucked linen blouse, and silk dupioni hoop skirt from Godey’s Lady Book.

After she moved to Washington D.C. to start a career in investment banking, she needed a high-end work wardrobe. But, even if she could afford to buy one, at 5’10”, it wasn’t easy to find clothes that fit. G Street Fabrics was nearby, so she found herself spending every weekend at her sewing machine, creating suits, blouses, and cocktail dresses. This was the beginning of her love affair with beautiful silk and wool fabrics.

Katrina never ever would have guessed she’d end up in the sewing industry, but the one thing she knew for sure was that she had no interest in being an investment banker. In 1997, she moved back to Washington State and found a job managing the Jefferson County 4-H program. 4-H has always played a big role in Katrina’s life. She grew up in 4-H raising hogs and competing with horses. As an adult, she was the superintendent or assistant superintendent of the state livestock judging contest for nearly 20 years. She also served on the State 4-H Fair Board and as superintendent for the State 4-H Fashion Revue.

In 1998, she attended her first Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. She learned about the Clothing and Textile Advisor program (CTA). She applied for training and graduated that year.

Her career path led from the 4-H program to teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, and then on to Nordstrom Product Group where she assisted in Technical Design and then worked as Raw Material Liaison. Throughout this time, she continued to volunteer as a CTA, little realizing how this involvement would change her life.

In 2003, Katrina entered the Make It with Wool competition. Much to her surprise — she won the state adult division. Then, she received a phone call telling her she had won the national adult competition.

Another unexpected phone call nudged her toward a future in the sewing industry. She received a call from Joanne Ross, the director of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. Joanne knew Katrina as a CTA volunteer. “Katrina”, she said, “I need a model [for the style shows].”

The freestyle shows were always one of the highlights of Sew Expo, and Katrina knew they hired professional models to walk those shows. Katrina was flabbergasted by Joanne’s phone call and responded that she did not have the necessary measurements for runway modeling.

Joanne said, “You’ll be fine.” Then, she told Katrina where and when she needed to arrive for fittings. It was clear that Joanne was not going to take no for an answer. Remembering that phone call, Joanne says, “I first met Katrina when she became a CTA volunteer. In 2004 we were short one model for our upstairs style shows. I knew Katrina was perfect for the position. She was tall and not only had the figure of a model, she had the swagger and personality. I was thrilled when she agreed to model because she added a whole new dimension to our fashion shows, and the sewing designers and celebrities loved working with her. She was as good as any professional model we ever hired.”

Because she was an exceptional seamstress with an excellent work ethic — she was soon also teaching classes for Sew Expo.

“I’ve watched Katrina blossom into an inspiring teacher, an author, and a textile artist. She is well known for her expertise and has written articles for many sewing publications. Most of all, Katrina is extremely creative and others are excited to learn from her.”

Katrina Walker's online classes: Threads/Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craftsy.

Katrina’s online classes: Threads/Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craftsy.

Katrina’s quite unexpected and improbable entry into modeling at Sew Expo would be her catalyst into the sewing industry. She modeled garments for the biggest names in the sewing world — McCall’s and Simplicity, Pati Palmer, Martha Pullen, Linda Lee, Eileen Roche, and Dana Bontrager, among many others. That first year, Katrina was also asked to make appearances in her winning Make It With Wool ensemble. The sewing professionals saw that she was a sewing enthusiast, as well as a model. Those first runway shows began professional relationships and mentorships that have lasted to this day.

As a result of those relationships, Katrina became a sewing educator for Quality Sewing and Vacuum, and was invited to attend conferences to represent “young sewing professionals.” Other opportunities followed, and she was asked to design projects and write articles for magazines, i.e., CraftStylish, Stitch, Sew News, Threads, and Creative Machine Embroidery.

In 2011, Katrina and her husband, Scott, moved to a small ranch near Spokane, Washington. A guest house on the property became her beautiful new sewing studio. They have a flock of natural colored sheep that are watched over by a team of loving and dedicated Livestock Guardian Dogs. Barn cats, a couple of horses, and a small flock of chickens round out their menagerie. They recently launched their online yarn store, Spoiled Sheep Yarn. You can see photos of their adorable flock and purchase yarn from individual sheep. People are amazed that the colors aren’t dyed. www.spoiledsheep.com

Katrina says, “I’m definitely inspired by textiles. Textiles are truly my great love; this is why I mostly work with silks and wools. Being ‘animal’ fibers, they really seem to have their own life energy. I prefer designs that emphasize and highlight the beauty of the fabric, rather than the design itself. Life is too short and precious to sew boring fabric.”

A glimpse into Katrina Walker’s country studio.

A glimpse into Katrina’s country studio.

Her beautiful country studio is clearly Katrina’s happy place — sewing on her beloved Pfaff sewing machines, now as a Pfaff Brand Ambassador. She continues to design and write for magazines and has been published over 40 times.

One of Katrina’s favorite quotes hangs in her studio: “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” – Edna Woolman Chase (former Vogue editor).

Katrina believes everyone should find their own “style” and not worry about fashion. That’s not to say that fashion should be ignored. Rather, that it’s best to pick and choose which trends work for you, and ignore the rest.

Katrina Walker on Needles

Katrina Walker on Needles