June 10, 2022

Artist Spotlight: Jessica Barrera

Meet Jessica Barrera, founder of Sallie Tomato and bag maker extraordinaire! After starting the Sallie Tomato in college, Jess has grown her brand and made a significant impact in the crafting world with her beautiful (and did we mention easy to create) purse patterns. We are thrilled to have Jess joining the Missouri Star YouTube channel with her bag tutorials as part of a six month series! Get to know the maker herself by reading this exclusive interview.

Jessica Barrera


What is your favorite part of the bag making process?

  1. Honestly, my favorite part of the bag making process is adding the finishing touches! I enjoy adding hardware embellishments such as metal labels, rivets, and bag feet. I also like the extra details such as tassels, shoulder straps, and handles. Usually all of those extra components add a customized, professional finish to the project.

Who are your favorite fabric designers?

This is a tough question because there are so many talented fabric designers! Rifle Paper Co is definitely one of my favorite designers along with Carolyn Friedlander, Dylan Mierzwinski, Ruby Star Society, Create Joy Project, Zen Chic, and BasicGrey. I often find myself drawn to organic colors and jewel tones. I love all different styles of art including watercolor, digital art, hand-drawn art, and especially mixed media. Floral and geometric designs are most classic to me, but I do enjoy novelty prints that are meaningful to me.

What notion or sewing tool are you most dependent on?

Aside from all of the common notions and sewing tools, I'm always reaching for my stiletto, rotary punch, screw driver, hot ruler, turning and creasing tool, and double-sided basting tape. I've surprised myself by how reliant I am on my stiletto. It's very useful for feeding fabric through the machine and holding details and place that can't be pinned or clipped.


I'm constantly using my rotary punch and screwdriver for installing a variety of purse hardware. A hot ruler is super helpful for accurate pressing of hems on pockets and other features. I use my turning and creasing tool often for pockets, flaps, and corners of bags. And lastly, I always have a supply of double-sided basting tape in my sewing room which is super helpful for temporarily holding straps, applique, pockets, and zippers!

How were you introduced to sewing and quilting?

I’ve been sewing and crafting since the age of five. My mom taught me how to sew, and I’ve taken sewing classes at local shops. I’ve tried nearly every type of craft including scrapbooking, embroidery, paper piecing, crochet, needle felting, jewelry making, floral arrangements, and even welding.


I enjoy other crafts, but every time, I come back to sewing. There’s a magic about sewing – when you finish a project, the feeling is so rewarding. It’s a feeling unlike any other hobby. And the fabrics and supplies make it easy to customize projects and make exactly what you want for friends and family.

What was the most frustrating sewing project you ever worked on?

I was working on an embroidery project with a dense floral design and my project popped out of the embroidery hoop when I walked away for a minute! The machine had continued stitching so the embroidery was a mess! I ended up doing a lot of seam ripping. I rehooped the project and positioned the design so it looked like it was continuous. I don’t think anyone could tell that it ever popped out now!

What do you do to find inspiration/encourage your creativity?

Inspiration comes to me when I least expect it. I’m often most inspired when I give myself space and time to be creative, whether it’s simply taking a walk or more involved such as creating a mood board. I love watching classic black and white movies, so I often draw inspiration from vintage fashion and silhouettes. I also have an interest in architecture and home decor, so it’s interesting to take elements from those processes and apply them to sewing and bag design.

What occupation would you like to try if sewing/making wasn’t an option?

I have so many interests but I would love to either own a clothing boutique or be a full time photographer. In high school, I seriously considered going to fashion design school, but I figured the industry was too saturated and would be difficult to stand out. The same with photography. I’m truly grateful that sewing and Sallie Tomato have blended many of my other interests in one way or another. My business has also allowed me to be present for my two boys, which is so important to me! Perhaps someday I’ll pursue some of my other dreams!

Who is your favorite fictional character?

Nancy Drew is one of my favorite fictional characters! At the age of about ten, I was hooked on reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Nancy was unusually sensible, clever, and talented. Her bravery, style, generosity, and relentless desire to succeed made more of an impression on me than I realized at the time.

What fabric have you been hoarding/saving the longest?

Speaking of Nancy… I’ve been hoarding a small collection of prints from the Get a Clue Collection by Moda. I wish I had more and I haven’t even made anything with it yet!

Describe your perfect day.

I try my best each day to have time for personal care, creativity, and family time. I've learned how physically and emotionally challenging creating a start-up can be, so making time for a bit of exercise, reading, and home projects are very important to me. I do consider myself a bit of a workaholic so having time to operate my business and be creative helps me feel accomplished.


Family time is the highlight of my day! Time with my two boys, husband, and the rest of my family is so sacred. Each day is truly a gift and life is too short to not live each day to its fullest!

Be sure to follow Jessica on Instagram, Pinterest, and be sure to like her on Facebook as well. Don’t miss out on a chance to learn from her in her fabulous tutorials on YouTube and join her Facebook Group. More information can be found on her website at https://sallietomato.com/.



Shop our Sallie Tomato Collection

Published by Danae M.