Sarah Tyau sat behind the steering wheel of her car, angry at God. It was just past 4 on a Thursday afternoon, and after dropping off her daughter for a piano lesson, she wished for perhaps the thousandth time that she could live a simple life.
A mistake in the description of a YouTube video she posted taunted her as she stared at her phone in an attempt to will the error to disappear. She tapped her screen. No Wi-Fi. She glanced at the clock, considering driving home, but there wasn't time.
And in that moment, in the tiny space of her car, Tyau felt impossibly thwarted and alone.
"Really?" she cried aloud, head tilted back toward the ceiling of her car, talking to God. "You told me to start a YouTube channel. Why is it this hard?"
Now, sitting on the couch in the basement of her house, legs curled up under a purple faux-velvet blanket, Tyau smiles at the memory. A calm comes over her just as it did that Thursday afternoon when a clear voice resonated in her head with an unforgettable promise:
"'I will make it so that it's as if you're putting your career first. Your sewing first,'" the voice said, reassuring her that as she prioritized motherhood, the rest would fall into place.
The deal was good enough for her.
A DIY blogger featured on People, MSN and Buzzfeed, Tyau, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is known nationwide for her uncanny ability to turn frumpy thrift store items into stylish remakes. She also has over 100,000 followers on her Instagram account and over 16,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel to date. And yet those numbers matter little to Tyau, who has pursued sewing in hopes of one day establishing an orphanage—a goal she acknowledges would be unrealistic without help from her Heavenly Father.
"Right after he (God) promised me that, I started getting all this publicity," said Tyau, who fell into sewing while taking a home economics class in high school where she turned out scrunchies, pajama pants and even the occasional Halloween outfit.
Tyau veered away from expensive brands as a newlywed to save her family budget, instead turning high school cast-offs into chic outfits. Posting her first refashion in what began as her family blog in 2008 (but which is now home to her current projects), Tyau found that the hobby was good not only for her wallet, but for her personal fulfillment as well.
"Every mom needs an identity outside of motherhood," said Tyau. "You always have to have your identity, know who you are, have your passion and hobbies."
Tyau's energetic 3-year-old son wanders in and out of the room during our interview, asking whether fruit-flavored candy can count as a healthy snack and promising his mother not to talk while the two of us chat. He's a stark contrast from his two older sisters, who are spitting images of their mother with their high cheekbones, chocolate-brown eyes and flair for fashion.
It's Tyau's love of children that compels her to keep sewing, hoping that her success in refashion will enable her to start her own clothing line with her girls and eventually establish an orphanage.
"No baby should need to earn love," said Tyau. Without warning, tears suddenly flow down her face. "They are born deserving of love," she continued.
Her hands are wet from tears, and she explains that as a mother, she desperately wants to help those who are without one and provide them quality education and health care.
The clothing line would just be a means to an end, and the concept for the dresses she plans on making is simple: "You look good, you feel good, you do good," Tyau said. Wishing there were more stylish, modest dresses available in stores today, Tyau's clothing line would tailor to individual body sizes and help women recognize their natural beauty.
"It's to celebrate the body that you have now, to make them feel beautiful so that once you get dressed, you can forget about yourself and you can focus on other people's needs," she said.
Focusing on the needs of those around her is something that comes naturally to Tyau. Even her sewing room with its lavender-gray walls and slick white countertops is not entirely hers. On the opposite side of the room is a Lego table littered with tiny toy trains, and there is no door dividing the two areas.
Clearly, Tyau is used to combining her two greatest loves — her family and her passions — on a daily basis, and it seems to be as natural to her as breathing.
It's this very setting that Tyau has designated for her mother-daughter sewing series with her two daughters. "I'm all about girl power and women entrepreneurs," Tyau said. "I think it's good for them to see that I'm their mom, but I'm also a person."
A self-proclaimed amateur, Tyau isn't bashful when talking about her need to Google terms like "thread tension" or "bobbin winder" for her YouTube channel sewing tutorials. In fact, she'll be the very first to admit that her sewing skills are very basic.
"People think since the refashion transformation is very dramatic, it requires a lot of sewing skills," said Tyau. "It's much easier to refashion than start something from scratch cause you're still keeping the button holes, the zippers, the darts. The sleeve is still there, you just make it smaller. So, mostly it's just straight stitching."
It's hard to think that the flowy, burnt orange dress with tan lace trim that Tyau modeled after an Anthropologie design requires only basic stitching. Same with the wide jean dress that she turned into a modern jumpsuit, or the plaid men's shirt that she transformed into an outfit for her daughter.
Part of what makes Tyau's approach so simple is that she executes each project by eye, cutting off large chunks of fabric without measuring. "What's the worst that could happen?" she asked me. As someone who has always been overwhelmed by sewing machines, I could give her several answers, but decide to hold back.
"It's just a piece of cloth," she continued. "Or, I just have to unstitch. If that's the worst thing that happens to me that day, it's not a big deal."
Tyau attributes her ability to refashion as being a gift from God. On some nights when her children are all tucked in and she is getting ready for bed, or when she's completely preoccupied and thinking about something other than sewing, Tyau said she receives visions in her mind's eye of the next project she should make.
"I'll just out of nowhere have a very vivid visual of the design, of a clothing item that I've never seen anywhere in every little detail," she said.
It's no different from any other talent which comes from God, she insisted. "As you follow the promptings of the Spirit or the inspirations then I feel like you get more strengthened, but still that talent comes from God."
At other times, when Tyau goes thrift shopping, she'll look at an old pantsuit or leather jacket and consider the quality of the fabric by touching it and watching it move — then within five to 30 seconds, she knows what to make. The process happens so quickly, she insisted that a higher being has to be involved.
"It honestly doesn't come from me," she said.
The social media sensation is different from most who have met with her kind of success: "I never base my confidence on social media," said Tyau.
And while she's grateful for the boost in Instagram followers she's had lately, it didn't make her as ecstatic as she thought it would.
"You never feel like you're good enough or worth it when you're basing your self-worth or confidence on worldly things," she said. "If you just rely on yourself, there's a limit. But if you have God on your side there is no limit whatsoever."
So for now, Tyau has decided to focus on simply doing her best. While not all endeavors have a tangible result, sewing does.
"With sewing, you see it right in front of your eyes," she said. "I love having a vision which is just in my mind but then making that into a reality. To me, I love seeing the end result. And see it come to life. To me, that's pretty magical."