“Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” – Bill Gates
School is in session! “I am a high school math teacher by day and one of my biggest passions is encouraging girls and historically marginalized people to go into STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields. A lot of clothing for girls is lacking in representing science and math, engineering and academics, while clothing marketed towards boys has been offering these designs for years,” explained Katy Rothenberger of What Katy Makes. “I love to give girls what I would have liked to have growing up. Math and puzzles were my jam, even from a young age, and I’m just stubborn enough to have pushed my way into math classes and a ‘field’ that wasn’t traditionally for girls. Some girls may not have that same stubbornness or a support system to encourage them to pursue their passions in those fields. I want to give them something that allows them to feel like they ‘belong’ in the STEM world too.”
The What Katy Makes apparel spoke to my (not so) secret inner nerd. The shop offers scholastically inspired clothing, including dresses, bummies, shorts, rompers, leggings and t-shirts for students of all ages (including adults). I love the series of #Squad t-shirts (like the “Children’s Author” design featuring Dr. Seuss and Beverly Cleary) and the shop’s academic prints. “My personal favorite fabric that I offer is my ‘Math Notes’ print, but I’m probably biased,” laughed the math teacher. “I have fabric designs exclusive to my shop that I have designed, including ‘Science Class,’ ‘Animal Astronauts,’ ‘Dino Time,’ ‘Bibliophile’ and ‘Roboto.’ The ‘Dino Time’ print is a customer favorite.” Rothenberger’s daughter Tess also influences many of the design styles. “My design inspiration for my fabrics comes from the STEM world and bringing that world to a child’s level and my design inspiration for styles that I offer is definitely my daughter. She loves twirly dresses for dancing some days and leggings and tees for digging in the dirt others.”
Rothenberger started What Katy Makes in 2012. “I was making a really wide variety of items, from pouches and bags to crocheted cowls and ear warmers. I had convinced my dad to start an Etsy shop to sell his woodworking and my friends called me out on it because I had been avoiding creating my own shop,” she recalled. “So, What Katy Makes was born. It morphed into what it is now (nerdy clothing and gifts) when I got pregnant with my daughter and I couldn’t find any math clothing for babies.” The shop’s evolution over the past seven years is a “sine” that Rothenberger is on to something. “I have grown significantly in my confidence and skills since I opened my Etsy shop…from grabbing remnants to make pouches with only straight line stitches to now using graphic design skills to design shirts and fabrics and the massive improvements to my sewing skills, I don’t even recognize the girl who opened that Etsy shop,” she said. (p.s. not all math puns are bad, just sum).