Sew how? Shannon makes gorgeous clothes. Want to know how? March 20, 2011 10:01 8 Comments
I am a big fan of Hungry Zombie Couture. Huge, in fact. And we have one or two things in common. Shannon sews lovely garments. (I don't. Not yet.) Shannon loves dogs. (That, we have in common.) She's not afraid to share her opinions, even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with sewing. (I share mine, too. I do. As you, dearest readers, know.)
Shannon is a dressmaking inspiration. She is. Absolutely.
I have been sewing for 23 years.
What inspired you to learn?
It was prom season in the late 80s and I had spent forever trying on dresses and, much to my chagrin, everything that tickled my fancy was prohibitively expensive. That was when I expressed an interest in creating my own dress. To Mother's credit, she didn't even blink an eye. She set me up on her vintage Featherweight sewing machine, helped me select a pattern and took me to an excellent independent fabric shop to pick out fabric and notions. I cut out the pattern and made a quick muslin. Content with the fit, I proceeded on to the actual prom dress. At no point did I even consider that maybe this was too difficult for a first project, and, thankfully, neither did anyone else.
Did your mother or grandmother sew?
My mom sewed a little bit for herself prior to my birth, but she was never very serious about it. My dad’s mother was apparently a phenomenal seamstress that sewed much of the clothing for the family (of six children!). Alas, she died before my birth, so I never met her.
How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?
In grade school, I had one family studies class in which there was a small amount of “sewing.” Unfortunately, most of the time at the machine was spent following shapes on paper sans thread. I wanted to shoot myself. So, I swore off sewing until prom season 1988. At that time, my mom showed me how to thread her machine and then cut me loose. So, I am mainly self-taught through trial and error, with a large dose of book (and more recently, but to a far lesser extent, internet) reading.
What was the first garment that you made?
My prom dress.
Did you wear it?
Darn right, I wore it. I loved that dress.
I was proficient at the basics (straight and curved seams, hemming, darts, zippers, buttonholes) pretty much from the beginning.
How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?
I was confident enough on my first try to wear the garment out in public. Maybe I was a naïve teen-ager, but I thought my prom dress was fabulous. However, over the last 7 years, I have become much more adept at fitting and interior finishes. Now, I’d be happy to let people closely inspect my work, inside and out.
Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?
Absolutely! Most often my wadders result from my attempts to wear a silhouette that looks great on other body types, but not on mine. I am envious of the women that can wear boxy, arty garments (a la Sewing Workshop), and I often get sucked in by their great results. This always leads to a garment that just never sees the light of day.
How many hours a week do you sew?
It depends on the time of year. During the school year, I sew five hours per week on average. During summer, Xmas and Spring Break holidays, I sew upwards of fifty hours per week. Of course, this is all mojo-dependent.
What are your five favorite sewing books?
My absolute favorite sewing book of all time is the Vogue Sewing Book (I have the 1975 copyright). I also love anything by Adele Margolis and Claire Schaeffer.
Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?
I’m not a huge fan of learning things via DVD. However, I did purchase Basics with Claire Schaeffer, but I have yet to watch it.
If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.
I am more of a book-learnin’ gal myself. When I do want to find internet info, I just Google specific topics.
What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?
I am not one to limit the beginner if she/he is feeling feisty. Try whatever gets the creative juices flowing. Even if it is unwearable, you will have learned many valuable lessons. If the beginner is less adventurous and wants to play it safe, I’d try a simple elastic waist skirt.
A fully lined coat? Again, whatever the beginner feels ready to tackle.
What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?
I have many garments that I enjoy. I am particularly proud of the garments I created for the Timmel SWAPs in 2007 and 2008. If I have to single out one item from all of those items, it would be the reversible coat for SWAP 2007. It is faux Persian lamb on one side and trapunto quilted silk dupioni on the other. I had never done trapunto work before, and I was pleased with the results.
What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?
My first prom dress.
1. Be brave in your sewing — throw caution to the wind.
2. Mistakes are not the end of the world.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others.
4. Do your own research — don’t expect other people to spoon feed you.
5. Take regular, frequent breaks for chocolate.
What's the last garment that you made, and are you pleased with it?
I made a pair of navy pants. They fill a hole in my wardrobe, so, yeah, I suppose they do make me happy.
Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.
No, although I own a few.
How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern? (I can dream, can't I?)
As soon as you feel ready for it. I was sewing tricky patterns right out of the gate because no one told me I shouldn’t. I think we often spend too much time second-guessing ourselves. So, c’mon Denise, just go for it. If all goes well, you can pat yourself on the back. If it’s an abysmal failure, you will still learn a ton.
Share your funniest sewing adventure, please.
Every time hubby and I visit the garment district in Toronto, we have to go to World Sewing Centre. It always ends in fits of giggles. World Sewing Centre is basically a fabric-laden death trap. They have textiles piled floor to ceiling in such a manner that the aisle ways are mere inches across. We fully contend that several patrons have been trapped under fabric avalanches over the years. At some point, a skeleton clad in a polyester leisure suit and several gold chains will be unearthed.
And your most exasperating or difficult.
I HATE tracing patterns. So, anytime I have to drag out the tracing paper, it’s not good. Hell hath no fury like a woman tracing a Burda pattern.
What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?
I don’t have one favorite pattern. Although, I will say that my favorite category of patterns to sew is formal wear. Ahh, give me a floofy, poofy dress anyday . . .
Do you sew vintage patterns?
Damn straight. I prefer vintage patterns to modern patterns. Give me a '50s or '60s pattern, and I’m in heaven. They have the coolest little details, and they always seem to fit my particular figure quirks better. Also, they never have drafting mistakes and the instructions are usually sewing lessons in a single sheet. Viva la vintage!!
Do you find instructions easier to follow on vintage patterns?
How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?
It depends on the person, on the technique, on how perfect they want the final product to be, etc. Being a scientist, I feel compelled to point out that there are too many variables to consider, so arriving at a specific number is near impossible. Yep, I’m a nerd.
I know. I promised you a Sewing Spaces this weekend. I did. But. Sometimes, I'm impulsive. Sometimes, I go with my internal flow. However. I know you aren't disappointed that Shannon shared a bit about sewing instead. You're not, are you? I needed a bit of inspiration today, since I made a a teensy, tiny error while knitting, and so far, haven't quite figured out exactly how to fix it. (Actually, I made two. I purled a stitch I should have knitted. And, when I unknitted the stitches, I made another error. I did. I suppose I'm not up to multi-tasking quite yet: I was watching "Police Woman" at the time. You vex me, Pepper!
Perhaps I'll run the Sewing Space tomorrow. Yes. Tomorrow. Perhaps.